17th Parliament · 2nd Session
The PRESIDENT (Senator the Hon. Gordon Brown) took the chair at 11 a.m., and read prayers.
– In view of the facts that increased supplies of superphosphate are now available, and that some of the danger to shipping has been removed, insurance rates having fallen as a result, will the Minister representing the Minister for Commerce and Agriculture inform the Senate whether the Government will make representations to the British Phosphate Commission for a reduction of the price of superphosphate used for agricultural purposes?
– I shall direct the question to the Minister for Commerce and Agriculture, with a view to ascertaining if the honorable senator’s request can be acceded to.
– On the 15th September, Senator Allan MacDonald asked certain questions relating to the ceiling prices of hay chaff in Western Australia, and subsidizing producers of that chaff. I promised on that occasion that a further reply would be given to the honorable senator’s question within the next day or so. I have now to state that, on the 14th September, the Commonwealth Prices Commissioner, announced an increase of £1 a ton in the maximum price of oaten and wheaten chaff in Western Australia, in keeping with increases in hay prices announced earlier in the same week. The Government agreed in principle to the payment of subsidy to producers of fresh milk, to compensate them against the increased prices announced. I shall forward a copy of the statement of the Prices Commissioner to the honorable senator for his information.
– On the 15th September, Senator James McLachlan asked the following questions, upon notice : -
How many A class men, who have served lit battle areas, have been released?
How many men have been released from the Militia for ‘civil occupations?
How many men have been released from the munitions factories and Defence Department for civil occupations.
What are the total numbers released for civil occupations in each State?
What ure the total numbers released for civil occupations in each electorate in Queensland?
I promised to obtain the information from the Minister for Labour and National ‘Service. The Minister has now informed me that neither the Army nor the Man Power Directorate keep statistics in a form which would enable answers to be given. Preparation of the material would require an exhaustive analysis of individual records, and it is not possible at present to undertake this work.
– In view of the small sowings of wheat this year, will the Minister representing the Minister for Commerce and Agriculture state whether the Government will lift the present prohibition under which licences are granted for people to grow wheat on certain areas only, so that it may be grown on areas where superphosphate is not needed?
– I shall refer that question to the Minister for Commerce and Agriculture.
– I lay on the table reports and recommendations by the Tariff Board on the following subjects : -
Bounty on Tractors.
Bounty on Sulphur.
Bounty on Wire Netting.
Ordered to be printed.
Debate resumed from the 26th September (vide page 1380), on motion by Senator Keane -
That the hill be now read a first time.
[11.7 j. - When the debate was adjourned1 last evening I was a,bout to deal with comments by the Leader of the Opposition (Senator McLeay) with regard to the wheat industry. He referred to certain statements by Mr. Teasdale, a member of the Australian Wheat Board, and cited certain figures as to prices received by growers. Undoubtedly Mr. Teasdale has had a long experience of the wheat industry, both as a grower, I understand, and in other activities associated with the industry. B!e has been a member of the board previously, and has been re-elected. I have no doubt as to his wide knowledge of the industry, but he is not the only person with such qualifications. When the present Government came into office, the Minister for Commerce and Agriculture (Mr. Scully) rightly decided that a certain policy should be pursued, and he gave to the growers in the industry additional representation on the board.
– The growers reelected Mr. Teasdale .to the board.
– There are ways and means of putting a representative back on the board. It is true that he was elected by a ballot of the growers, but .1 shall cite figures supplied by another member of the board who disagrees with Mr. Teasdale. I shall first refer to the. prices given by Mr. Teasdale, which were mentioned by the Leader of the Opposition. They gave the price of wheat for local flour as 5s. 2d. a bushel, f.o.b. ; wheat for breakfast food, approximately 4s. a bushel bagged; wheat for New Zealand, 4s. 10 3/4d. a bushel bagged, f.o.b. ; and wheat for stock feed, after including the government subsidy, 3s. 9£d. a bushel bulk, and 3s. ll£d. a bushel bagged. As a matter of fact, Mr. Teasdale was incorrect in those figures. Another responsible member of the Australian Wheat Board contradicts him. I shall state the facts. The price of wheat for local flour is 5s. 2d. a bushel, f.o.r., equal to 5s. 2 3/4da bushel, f.o.b. The price of wheat for breakfast food h 4s. 2-d. a bushel, f.o.r., equal to 4s. 3d. a bushel, f.o.b. Wheat for New Zealand is 4s. 10 3/4d. a bushel bagged, f.o.ib. ; wheat for stock feed, after including the government subsidy, returns 4s. 0$d. a bushel for truck lota, bagged, f.o.r., and 4s. a bushel for wholesale lots, bagged, f.o.r., equal to 4s. 1 1/2d. and 4s. 0 3/4da bushel respectively, say an average of 4s. Id. a bushel. It will be seen that Mr. Teasdale’s figures are incorrect to the amount of $d. a bushel with regard to wheat for local flour. With regard to breakfast food, his “ approximate 4s. “ should be 4s. 3d. He is correct with regard to the price of wheat for New Zealand, whilst with regard to wheat sold for stock feed, he is incorrect by aproximately lid, a bushel. The difference between Mr. Teasdale’s price and the actual price is not great, but, when figures are given by a responsible member of the Australian Wheat Board, he shoud be fair to his fellow members of the board. He should not cite figures unless they are correct. The fact that his figures lean all one way appears .to indicate a desire on his part to discredit his fellow members of the board.
– His attack was on the Minister for having told the board what to do.
– His attack was made not only on the Minister. I had experience of him when I attended a conference of the Wheat Board in order to endeavour to straighten out m’atters connected with the industry. I say nothing against Mr. Teasdale personally, but, when the Leader of the Opposition sets him up as an authority on wheat prices, he should be prepared to substantiate the figures used. When he was referring to the matter, an interjection came from Senator Gibson, who, I think, mentioned 52s. a ton in favour of Western Australia because of freight rates.
– I have more sense than to have said that. I said 2s.
– Even the figure of 2s. is wrong, because the freight advantage mentioned was the freight difference from Western Australia to some countries to which wheat -is exported. However, Australian wheat is sold for export f.o.b., and the freight is a matter for the huyer. In other words, the Australian Wheat ‘Board quotes on the Australian price for export, and the price in Perth is the same as in Melbourne or Sydney. It was stated that only a small portion of the wheat sold from our ports is going out under open market conditions. That is correct, and I do not deny it. But that is only another way of saying that a world market does not exist during a total war. The honorable senator knows perfectly well that we have had to adjust ourselves to the altered conditions. It is true that some small lots of wheat were sold at approximately 7s. a bushel. That, however, is not the average price.
– It is sold for pig feed cheaper than for bread.
– That is true.
– ‘Bacon, too, is needed.
– There are huge surpluses of wheat in the world. The crops in North America have been extraordinarily heavy, and it has been stated that supplies for all needs will be ample. Any one would be baffled if he were asked to say what the market price is, because there is no world market price. It is true that the Government is selling wheat cheaply for stock feed. That is a very good policy and is essential to our food programme. However, it became plain last year that an adjustment was desirable, and it is being made by the Minister for Commerce and Agriculture (Mr. Scully). It was decided that the return for feed wheat which is subsidized by 6d. a bushel shall be increased for Nos. 6 and 7 pools to the average return from those pools. ‘Some time must elapse before we shall know what the average will be, and consequently the amount of the increased payment. But sales will continue to be made, and the pool realizations will be found, as they have been with past pools. The necessary adjustment to raise stock feed sales to the pool return will then be made. This represents fair treatment of all concerned, and will ensure a reasonable return to the wheatgrowers for this wheat. The consumer, also, is being treated fairly. The great benefits conferred on wheat-growers, as well as on the rest of the community, by the price-stabilization policy, must be realized. Senator James ‘ McLachlan’s disagreement with Opposition members of Parliament who have condemned the Scully plan pleased me very greatly, because he knows the wheat industry far better than I do. During the stabilization period, the wheat-grower has had stability and an assured income. Senator
Gibson also commented on the position. I would mention only the absurdity of his statement that, by altering the wheat stabilization plan, we would have 13,000,000 bushels instead of 8,000,000 bushels under wheat. “When I was a member of the Opposition, I said that I would not approve of the reduction ‘of food production in this country. The Prime Minister declared late in 1941, or early in. 1942,. that if the question were one of saving this country from the enemy or ‘of producing sufficient food for export and for the civilian population, he would save the country first, and civilians would have to go without some of the things which they considered they needed. That was a wise policy. The honorable senator knows very well that, hut for the steps then taken for the mobilization of every man who could be spared for the defence of this country, our position to-day might be far different from what it is. “We took risks. As time passed and the danger receded, men have been released from the Army to engage in food production, in order to meet the requirements of not only the civilian population in Australia, but also our own forces and those of our allies, and the people of Great Britain. There should not be an attempt to make party political capital out of the reduction of food production.
– That has not been my purpose. But unless care be taken, there will be a shortage of wheat before it is realized.
– Maybe. But I remind the honorable senator that, despite the restrictions, the maximum acreage allowable under the stabilization plan has not been sown.
– The honorable gentleman knows the reason.
– The reason has been the shortage of man-power and superphosphate. The honorable senator has said that there is land in Victoria which would grow wheat without the use of superphosphate. His next request will he for the discharge of men from the Army so as to meet the requirements of the man on the land. As Senator Sampson has said : “ Are we to get out of this war? “ We have to do one of two things - either remain in or get out of the war. This nation has adopted a certain stand, and its full fighting strength will continue to be mobilized. I have stated that the Scully plan has the full support of the small wheatgrowers of Australia. I cannot say whether or not the big growers support it.
In reply to the remarks’ of Senator Brand, all that I need say is that when a question on the subject was asked 1 gave an appropriate answer in regard to the removal of the means test from social service legislation dealing with the pensions of soldiers. The Minister for Labour and National Service (Mr. Holloway), who represents me in the House of Representatives, undertook that if an amendment that had been moved were not pressed he would have the matter reviewed. That offer was not acceptable and the amendment was pressed, with the result that the Parliament decided what should be done. I remind the honorable senator that he was one of those honorable senators opposite who opposed that legislation when it was introduced in this chamber.
– I rise to order, I submit that the Minister has misrepresented me as having voted as did the Minister for Labour and National Service in the House of Representatives.
– There is no point of order in an honorable senator considering that he has been misrepresented. Senator Brand will have an opportunity to explain his position later.
– To misrepresent the honorable senator would be the last thing I would wish to do. As1 the Minister for Social Services, I introduced in this chamber legislation to give effect to unemployment and sickness benefits. Every honorable senator opposite voted against that legislation in division after division.
– The Opposition submitted an amendment, but the Minister would not agree to it.
– More than one amendment was submitted. The Opposition opposed the legislation tooth and nail, for the reason that it was not on a contributory basis. It having become the law of this country, the honorable senator now wants it to be amended so as to abolish the means test under certain conditions for the benefit of demobilized service personnel. There might be some merit in the appointment of a parliamentary committee to decide what shall be done on behalf of the men and women who are demobilized. A gratuity has been mentioned. I hope that we shall not have a bidding competition in this matter. The honorable senator named a. sum, whether or not for the purpose of “getting in first” I do not know. I consider that no monetary consideration would be sufficiently great. Senator Brand is aware of that. We want to do the fair thing, and neither side should endeavour to make party political capital out of the matter.
Senator James McLachlan raised the question of discharges from the Army in accordance with the instruction of War Cabinet and contended that South Australia had not received its quota of these men. Applications for the release of rural workers should be made, in the first instance, to the District War Agricultural Committee in the locality in which the farmer resides. Printed application forms are available, and may be obtained from any District War Agricultural Committee or National Service officer. Each application will be examined by the District War Agricultural Committee, and then sent on to the Man Power Directorate with appropriate comment. Should the man-power authorities consider that the release of the soldier is warranted, they will inform the Army accordingly, and, subject to certain Army conditions as to eligibility for release, the soldier will be discharged. Certain other conditions have been laid down by the War Cabinet. The following table shows the proportion of releases to the population of each. State in respect of the first 20,000 men discharged from the Army for work in industry: -
Senator McKenna, whom I congratulate on his exposition of the activities of my department, referred to two important subjects, namely, the serum laboratories in Melbourne, and the decline of the birth-rate. I shall give to the Senate some information showing what has been done, and what is contemplated, by the Government to stimulate the birth-rate. The Government recognizes the importance of a diminishing birth-rate in a young country like Australia, and as it desired to know all the factors associated with that decline, I referred the matter to the National Health and Medical Research Council, with a request that it should make a preliminary investigation and submit a report. The council now has this matter in hand, and will report on it at its next meeting, which will be held in November. The council has approached its task from several angles, and is obtaining from a committee, consisting of the Commonwealth Statistician, the Director-General of Post-war Reconstruction, and the Secretary of the Department of Labour and National Service, a composite report on the statistical, economic, and industrial aspects of the subject. It has also invited the women of Australia to state anonymously the reasons why they have limited their families. So far, about 1,400 replies have been received, and, speaking generally, the two most important reasons given are international insecurity and economic insecurity. The Government is attempting to grant some relief in the latter field by the introduction of legislation to grant greater economic security to the people. It has also requested the honorable member for Darwin (Dame Enid Lyons) and Lady Cilento to prepare a joint report on the advantage to women, in both health and happiness, of having a family and of the social benefits arising from family life.
– They are very competent women.
– An investigation is also being made of social disabilities attendant on family life. A strong medical committee has been appointed to investigate and report on the medical aspect of sterility, contraception and abortion, and the physical disabilities and dangers associated with child hearing. The assistance of the Australian Council for Educational Research has been invited, and a statement is being prepared on the educational aspects of .this problem. These reports will be dealt with at the next meeting of the council, and the Government will, after consideration of the evidence and the recommendations of the council, decide what further steps are necessary. This inquiry is by far the most comprehensive investigation which has been made into the subject, and it will doubtless prove to be a valuable contribution to this problem, which is probably the most important in the national life of this country. One of the questions which will arise will be the necessity for a complete review of maternity hospital accommodation and maternity services generally throughout the Commonwealth. The Government is also providing financial assistance to Dr. R. Mackey to proceed to the United States of America to undertake a course of study in obstetrics, and to become acquainted with the latest developments, with the object of introducing such improvements as are necessary and possible to relieve the physical distress of pregnancy, the suffering associated with child labour, and the prevention of injuries following on labour. He is under engagement to return to Australia and assume duties as medical superintendent at the Crown-street, Women’s Hospital, Sydney. The inquiries so far reveal that there is need to make some .provision for the considerable number of married couples who desire to have children but find themselves unable to fulfil their wish. The problem of involuntary sterility will need to be dealt with by such measures as are possible. In addition to these activities, the Government brought these matters before a recent conference of Commonwealth and State Ministers. At the conference the State Premiers agreed to accept a contribution from the Commonwealth Government. This is another step in the social benefits programme of the Government which will be presented to this Parliament.
Senator McKenna referred also to the Commonwealth Serum Laboratories in Melbourne. Honorable senators who have not yet visited these laboratories would be well advised to do so. I pay a tribute to the men associated with the laboratories for the great work they have done, especially during the war, not only to supply the requirements of the civil population as well as of the fighting services of this country, but also for their achievements in the production of drugs for export. In the preparation of antitoxins, and in other ways, the work of the experts has been most valuable. It may be well if I were to explain why the production of penicillin was transferred from South Australia to Melbourne. After I had investigated the position, I decided that, as the Commonwealth Government had its own well-equipped laboratories in Melbourne, the work of producing penicillin should be undertaken there, rather than in an establishment not under its control. A substantial building for the production of penicillin is now in course of erection in Melbourne. In addition, two officers have been sent to the United Kingdom and the United States of America respectively, to investigate the most up-to-date methods of producing penicillin and also to obtain first-hand information regarding the best use to be made of this valuable drug. Recently in the House of Representatives, the honorable member for Fawkner (Mr. Holt) asked for information regarding the production of penicillin. He wished to know why the Commonwealth should have a monopoly of its manufacture, and he expressed fears that the requirements of the nation might not be met. The production of this drug in the Commonwealth commenced about ten months ago, and since then the progress made has been beyond our wildest dreams. Australia is now supplying penicillin to New Zealand and New Caledonia. Recently I relaxed the restrictions on its use in civilian cases. As honorable senators know, Sir Howard Florey has come to Australia at the invitation of the Prime Minister (Mr. Curtin), and will give to us first-hand information with regard to the preparation and use of this drug. The Commonwealth Government does not wish to make a profit out of the production of penicillin, and, accordingly, the price of this drug in Australia compares most favorably with the price in other countries. It was in order to keep the cost of production down to a minimum that I disagreed with the South Australian venture for its production. No one is prevented from producing penicillin, but the decision to undertake this work in the Commonwealth Serum Laboratories was made in the belief that it was better to do so than to build up a large private business for its manufacture. The honorable member for Fawkner also referred to the cost of penicillin. The cost depends upon the quantities used, and the number of injections. A quantity of 100,000 units costs about 35s. Later in the week I hope to make a further statement on this subject. I pay a tribute to the men who, in the early stages of manufacture of this valuable drug, worked under improvised conditions and yet did a magnificent job. Already the lives of many of Australia’s fighting men have been saved by its use. I repeat the statement of Sir Howard Florey that this drug is not a cure-all ; it must be used in the manner that has been found to be most effective.
.- Last night, some of us were privileged to listen to an explanation by the CommanderinChief, General Sir Thomas Blarney, of the activities of the Australian Imperial Force, and I commend him for the clear and concise statement which he made. I also commend him for the warning which he gave against what I regard as wishful thinking, that is, entertaining the belief that the war against Japan will end soon. I have never believed that we had before us anything but a long and hard task in order to defeat the Axis powers, and this has been confirmed by recent events both in Europe and in the Pacific. The warning of the Commander-in-Chief was long overdue, and a statement to the same effect might well have been made either by the Prime Minister or some other Minister a good deal earlier. Nothing could be more dangerous than complacency at the present time. My only regret is that, when he was justifying the existence of base jobs and the retention of behind-the-lines men, he was not able to give an assurance that there was no waste of man-power in such positions. We are continually hearing statements from men serving in various parts of Australia that they have nothing to do, and we cannot but believe that there is waste of man-power. There is also a good deal of dissatisfaction that some A class men have not found their way into the front line, but are filling sheltered jobs.
I desire now to refer to the problem which has been created by men going absent without leave from the Army in large numbers. I do not condone this practice, of course, but the action of the men is, in some measure, understandable. When the expeditionary force was overseas in the Middle East, absence without leave was confined to an odd man out for a bit of fun who overstayed his leave by a day or two. However, when the hard, initial fighting in New Guinea had died down, and the men came back to Australia, many were posted to lonely, isolated districts. It was then that the absent-without-leave figures became serious. I do not propose to state the figures, although I know what they are, and I know that they caused unit commanders much concern. In some instances, men went absent without leave just from sheer boredom. In others, they knew that their parents were having a hard time carrying on with the faim, and they stayed to help. The problem has been much more serious in the Army than in, the Air Force, because the set-up is entirely different. In the Air Force the men are on their station and are in full training, while in the Army some men have comparatively little to do while in rest positions or in staging camps. I am convinced that very few of those who have gone absent without leave have any desire to shirk their responsibility for the defence of the country. It was evident from a recent statement of the Prime Minister, and from what the CommanderinChief has said, that the rest period for the Australian Forces is drawing to a close. I suggest that most of the men who are absent without leave would rejoin their units now if they were given an assurance that their offence would be overlooked provided they did not “ blot their copybook “ again. I have spoken to some, of these men, and they have told me that they have such big debits in their pay-book due to fines for being absent without leave that if they returned they would be soldiering for nothing for the next six months, and many of them are now in employment outside.
– Would their commanding officers accept them if they returned?
– In most cases the commanding officers would be only too glad1 to have their men return.
– I know one man who went back and they put him “ inside “.
– In every army there must inevitably be some black sheep. I am merely asking that men who have got themselves into an unfortunate position should be given an opportunity to start afresh. It may be asked, would this be fair to the man who has stuck constantly to his job, and never gone absent without leave ?
– Yes, that is the point.
– Well, there has been, talk of paying service men a gratuity when the war is over. In this connexion, I entirely endorse what has been said about the desirability of the political parties refraining from bidding against one another in the matter of gratuities. I give an assurance that there will be no such bidding so far as I am concerned, and. I think the parties should reach an understanding now to avoid anything of the kind. I suggest that the amount of the gratuity receivable by a man upon his discharge might be in accordance with his conduct while in the service, so that those who have stuck to the job will be rewarded. I repeat that it is not difficult to find excuses for men who have been absent without leave during the dull and uninteresting period of their service. While the average Australian is an excellent fighting man, he is not a good garrison soldier. Generally, he does not like soldiering for soldiering’s sake; but he is always prepared to fight for his country, and, as .a fighter, is second to none. However, many soldiers, after being four years in the services, have not yet been outside Australia, and have not seen active service. I have in mind many men who were sent to Western Australia in the early stages of the war. They have been longing to have a crack at the enemy, but so far they have not been given that opportunity. This dissatisfaction, combined with the fact that the men know that their homefolk are working under difficulties for want of manpower, and other reasons, have led many to go absent without leave. Gradually, they have incurred substantial debits in their paybooks. They now conclude that it is useless to return to their units, when they must wait six or twelve months, or even longer, before they make up the leeway in their pay. Many of the men now absent without leave would be glad to return under the conditions I have suggested. Otherwise, it will be very difficult to get a lot of them back to their units. Of course, some of them are caught, but after doing their period of detention, again go absent without leave, and further increase the debits in their paybook. Under my suggestion, they would be given an opportunity to start afresh, and, now that the future holds definite promise of action for the armed forces, many of them will more readily return to their units.
– A soldier who goes absent without leave is really punished in two ways; he suffers detention and loss of pay.
– He is fined, and sentenced to a period of detention; and he receives no pay during that period. Consequently, he is getting hopelessly into debt. Thus, a soldier may start off on front-line service with a debit of from £50 to £100 in his paybook. Generally speaking, of course, at the conclusion of the war, a King’s Pardon is granted in respect of all offences with the exception of very serious offences, and such debits as I have mentioned are wiped off. In any case, the Government is not likely to collect that money. Under my suggestion, it has at least a chance to obtain service from many soldiers now absent without leave. I urge the Government to give serious consideration to this matter
I now wish to refer to the Second Victory Loan which has just been opened. With every other right-minded Australian, I sincerely hope that this loan will be as successful as each of the previous loans. I shall give whatever help I can in that respect by investing what I can afford, and by assisting in the campaign generally. I shall do so for two reasons : First, because I recognize that this money is absolutely essential to enable us to carry on the war; and, secondly, because I do not know of any better investment than that offered by Government inscribed stock which bears interest at a rate of 34 per cent. However, I draw the attention of the Minister representing the Treasurer to what I believe is a very foolish practice on the part of the Taxation Department in respect of people who subscribe to war loans. I have had brought to my notice the case of a patriotic woman, who was so moved by appeals that she withdrew money from her savings bank account and invested it in one war loan. After she sent in her income tax return, in which she showed this additional money as having been invested in a war loan, she received a very abrupt letter from the Deputy-Director of Taxation in the State in which she resides asking where she got the money which she had invested in the loan.
– Has the department the right to ask for such information ?
– I do not know; hut it seems to me to be very foolish, when we are asking people to invest every spare penny in war loans, for officials of the Taxation Department to make inquiries of this kind. I ask the Minister representing the Treasurer to urge that such a practice be stopped. I can give the Minister the name of the person whose case I have cited. When it was brought to my notice, I rang up a senior officer in the Taxation Department, a personal friend of mine, and told him that I thought it was a very foolish practice when we were doing our utmost to encourage the people to invest every spare penny in war loans.
The Minister for the Interior (Senator Collings) and Senator O’Flaherty referred to the subject of land settlement for ex-service personnel. I was privileged to be a member of the Senate when the first Australian Soldiers’ Repatriation Bill was introduced into this Parliament. I have an intimate knowledge of some of the problems which arose after the last War in respect of not only soldier settlement, but also other schemes, including those for the settlement of migrants. We cannot expect that every scheme will be a 100 per cent, success.
However, the point I made is that after the last war the Commonwealth utilized the machinery of the State government to the fullest possible degree, because the States possess the requisite power in respect of such schemes. It is not correct to say that the Commonwealth Government at that, time bought huge tracts of land. It did not purchase any land for that purpose. It advanced to the States a certain sum in respect of each settler, based on the costs of subsistence, plant and machinery, and improvements to property. The selection of areas was left entirely to the State governments. The Minister for the Interior knows perfectly well that in Queensland the Land Settlement Board was responsible for the selection of areas for soldier settlement in that State. The Commonwealth hud nothing whatever to do with the selection of the Beerburrum, or Stanthorpe, areas. It would be almost ridiculous to suggest that officials at Canberra could decide upon the best land for this purpose. We must depend upon State instrumentalities. However, the mistake made by the States after the last war was that in their haste to get the men on to the land they did not investigate local conditions thoroughly.
– The point is not who was responsible, but the fact that in many cases, the soldier was badly let down.
– In Queensland the job was done fairly well.
– One or two settlements were complete failures, but other settlements were outstanding successes. The real test was the suitability of the land selected. For instance, in the Stanthorpe district a large number of exsoldiers were put on the land to engage in fruit-growing, and many of the original settlers, who have done well, are still there. However, even in that area there were many failures which were not due to the unsuitability of the land, but to the fault of the individual. Many of those men were not of the type who were prepared to wait for six or seven years for their orchards to come to fruition. However, those ex-servicemen who stuck to the job have done remarkably well, and to-day many of them have sons serving in the Second Australian Imperial Force. Another1 success was achieved in the settlement of ex-soldiers on virgin scrub in the Mackay district to engage in sugar growing. The point I emphasize is that more care should be exercised in the selection of land for the settlement of ex-service personnel, because it is so easy for settlers to fail on unsuitable land. This problem, however, is not confined solely to soldier settlement. I have seen pastoral areas cut up for closer settlement in the western districts of Queensland, and because the individual allotments were too small, many settlers had no chance of succeeding. Later, it was found necessary to merge three blocks into one holding. I suggest that the Government might consider the appointment of a parliamentary committee to inquire into and report on land settlement projects. The members of such a committee must have had considerable experience in primary production. They must have no axe to grind to the degree that they may be anxious to benefit certain towns, or districts, apart from the suitability of the land in those areas. They must be men who can be relied on to give a fair and unbiased report to the Government. I realize that the Army is doing a good job under its education scheme whereby it is giving the opportunity to many men in their spare time in the forces to prepare for their return to civilian life. Let us, instead of bothering about who was responsible for the mistakes made in land settlement schemes after the last war, profit from experience and ensure that mistakes this time shall be reduced to an absolute minimum by first ascertaining whether applicants for land are suitable and are likely to stay on their holdings.
The Minister for the Interior (Senator Collings) was in great form last night when he took us on a journey back into the “bad old days”. The honor’able gentleman talked about the “ old order “, the “ new order “, and all sorts of other orders, and he reached his zenith when he lectured us on the ethics of Christianity. I could scarcely believe my ears when I heard the honorable gentleman quoting from the Lord’s Prayer. As my amazement fell from me, however, T realized that the only line quoted by him was “ Give us this day our daily bread “. Another line which the honorable gentle man ought to have quoted is “ Forgive us our trespasses “. The honorable gentleman’s speech was typical of many of his speeches in this Parliament in that he depicted employers as evil men intent on breaking down the conditions of the workers, whereas, as he knows perfectly well, no politician, regardless of his party affiliations, and no employer, wishes to see in this country the conditions of suffering on which he dwelt so harrowingly, because all know that happy, well-paid, well-fed and well-clothed workers ensure a far better return than do down-trodden, un-co-operative, hungry and shabby workers. As honorable gentlemen know I have some experience of industry. One great industry in which I am interested in northern Queensland has expended about £1,000,000 on housing, refrigeration, barracks, a co-operative store, a wellstaffed hospital, and everything else needed to make the lot of the worker as comfortable as possible in that part of the State. The wise employer has profited from the errors of the unwise employers of the past, and realizes that if industry is to progress and the country is not to have socialism foisted on it by a socialist ministry, it is necessary to make the conditions of labour as attractive as it is possible to make them by means of good pay and healthy working conditions. Regardless of our political beliefs, that is what we all want to see. No one wants to return to the days described in the “ Song of the Shirt “ - the “bad old days” so vividly described by the honorable senator. He Ls not alone in his desire to see conditions improved, because every one realizes that any man or, for that matter, woman, who wants work and cannot get work is an economic waste.
The Government, ought to make clear what its attitude will be in relation to man-power after the war. The prospects are causing grave concern to industry. Even protected industries are short of skilled hands owing to the fact that the services and the Allied Works Council have been compelled by the exigencies of war to take practically all the skilled labour in the Commonwealth. From time to time, we hear of the huge governmental undertakings proposed for the post-war period - standardization of the railway gauges, and housing schemes, and other big public works - not only from Ministers but also from newly appointed heads of new departments. Does that mean that the Government, immediately the war ends, will start those works and retain under its control the skilled men whom it has taken from private industry in order to prosecute the war?
-=-The first thing that the Commonwealth Government should do after the war ends should be to return to private employment as quickly as pos-s/ible as many of the skilled men in the services, munitions factories, and the Civil Constructional Corps as is possible in order that the great industries of this country may get back again on to their feet. The industry in Queensland with which I am associated now has 800 men engaged, but could employ at least another 750 men as soon as the war ends. The position of private industry is becoming very grave for lack of labour, and the Government must take every possible step at the first opportunity to ensure that” the great private employers of this country, who stood by it in the’ early days of the war and supplied Australian requirements before the governmentowned munitions factories were in production, shall not be starved of labour for the benefit of government works. The Government should clarify the position by making a declaration of its intentions in regard to man-power in the post-war period. Its policy should be directed towards a return to private employment within the shortest possible space of time as many men as private industry can absorb. Only those whom private industry may not be able to absorb should be employed on government projects.
The Division of Import Procurement, which is administered by the Minister for Trade and Customs (Senator Keane), has grown to enormous proportions. Ithas had a colossal task to do. But we are now reaching the stage at which the conditions which necessitated the establishment of that division to ensure that the Government’s war requirements should reach this country from abroad are disappearing, and I hope that the division will surrender- to private enter prise the importation of all commodities required by the civil population as quickly as possible. The Division of Import Procurement has developed into a huge government-controlled warehouse for the importation of everything needed, but there exists in this country a solidly based system pf private importation which should be allowed to import our needs in the normal way rather than by means pf lend-lease.
-The Division of Import Procurement has done the job well.
– I do not detract in any way from the value of the division’s work. It has had a colossal task and it has done it well. This morning I was interested ito read the following article in Export Trade and Shipper-, published in the United States of America:-
U.S. Exporters Sat Government Action is out of Harmony with other Farts of Empire.
Sharp criticism has been aroused by the recent action of the Australian Government in arbitrarily cutting the rate of commission on lend-lease orders paid by American manufacturers to their regular, long established, authorized representatives in Australia, states American Exporter in its curent issue.
U.S. Government Rate
In the case of American hand, standard, small and precision measuring tools the American Government has decided on a flat rate pf only 1 per cent, pf factory cost as being the commission paid on lend-lease orders to representatives in Australia, far below the normal rate. American exporting manufacturers point out that Australia’s arbitrary action is out of harmony with the attitude of other parts of the British Empire. For when lend-lea.se was first inaugurated, most parts of the Empire, especially Great Britain itself, appeared to be fully cognizant of the necessity and justice of maintaining the legitimate position of the importing distributors or representatives of American goods. In view of the fact that a lend-lease order- is actually placed by the U.S. Government and represents an expenditure of money of the American taxpayer, naturally, the American Government can scarcely be expected to pay a commission or a profit to a foreign representative or distributor, for handling American goods supplied by the American taxpayer as part of the war effort. Therefore, at the beginning, the British Government, particularly, undertook to pay a profit or commission to the. regularly established representatives pf American manufacturers.
– il am coming to that. The article continues -
In many cases bids made under lend-lease by American manufacturers specified, “ If this order is for shipment to the British Isles through lend-lease, the price is to be suchandsuch per cent, less “, it being understood that the percentage so deducted would be paid by the British Government to the representatives of the American manufacturer in sterling.
The article criticizing the Australian Government’s action points out that the Australian Government is arbitrarily cutting the rate of commission stated, “ the lend-lease remuneration has been fixed at such percentage as will return the trade as a whole in one year, approximately twice the average annual commission earned during the years 1935 to 1939 and will represent adequate payment for the service rendered.”
That was set down by the Division of Import Procurement as a reasonable rate of commission for distributors in this country. The article continues -
But American manufacturers point out that there is a great discrepancy between the overall calculations made by the Australian Government regarding these commissions and the effect upon representatives of American manufacturers.
For example, one American manufacturer who paid his representative in Australia 74 per cent, commission in peace times and sold an average of $13,000 a year in that market, his representative thus receiving $975 commissions, has averaged $17,000 lend-lease orders, but his commercial sales have dropped to $200 a year. Thus on the basis .the Australian Government proposes this representative would earn $15 a year on commercial sales and $170 a year on lend-lease, or a total of $1 85. Instead of earning “ approximately twice the average annual commission earned during the years 1935 to 1939”, this particular representative will average only 19 per cent, of what he did previously.
In another case, the manufacturer’s total sales were only 1G per cent, last year of what they were in 1940, and this year they have been practically nil. Their representative has not even been given permission by the Australian Government to bring in necessary repair parts.
Interference with Commercial Shipments.
The feeling in Australia is, and this feeling is apparently shared by American manufacturers, that while some of the lend-lease figures are large, there has been such an interference with commercial shipments that the representatives cannot live on anything like a 1 per cent, commission paid on lend-lease orders.
Further objection is made in Australia, and again apparently shared in the United States, that inasmuch as British shipments are made entirely through commercial channels to Australia, and British manufacturers are permitted .to remunerate their representatives in the usual manner, the result of this situation is that American trade is discriminated against.
Thus, the Australian Government is placed in the position of accepting lend-lease aid from the United States and at the same time drying up the channels of American trade in Australia and turning the trade over to competitive manufacturers in Britain.
I direct the attention of the Leader of the Senate to that article, because I think that the statements it contains should be answered by him, particularly as it is suggested that we are using lend-lease in a discriminatory) way in relation to our trade as between Great Britain and the United States of America, whereas the Minister, who has administered the matter throughout, knows that an undertaking was given that nothing of the kind should occur under the lend-lease arrangement.
– That is so. The article continues -
Another aspect of the situation is, of course, that agreements made in good faith between Australian firms and American manufacturers are being arbitrarily interfered with by the action of the Australian Government, and it is reported that in the machine-tool trade instituted to test the validity of this interference. “Politically”, the article states, “the situation is most unfortunate not only as regards the Australian Government’s seeming to throw its weight against American manufacturers in favour of British manufacturers by playing into the hands of those American legislators who are somewhat hostile to the lend-lease programme in general, since it places the American Government in the unfortunate position of extending lend-lease aid to Australia, which at the same time results in drying up our channels of trade there. “ The whole situation is so fraught with possibilities of friction and injustice as to jeopardize the good relations it is so important for the American and Australian people to continue in the difficult post-war era of reconstruction and return to normal trade.”
I shall make the magazine containing the article available to the Minister, who I know will welcome the opportunity of replying to the statements which it contains. The Minister could suggest to the Department of Information that an answer be sent to the same magazine, which is widely circulated in trade circles in the United States of America.
I trust that the Minister will give particular attention to the question which I raised at the outset of my speech regarding certain lads, many of whom could be saved from themselves and brought back into the Army. If the Government regards the matter 83 urgent, and does something to reclaim these young men, the nation will benefit greatly.
.- My principal reason for taking part in the debate is to direct attention to the fact, which has so far not been mentioned, that ever since the Government assumed office on the 7th October, 1941, its policy upon all questions of major importance has’ been to have conferences and agreements, if possible, with the Opposition. I know of no government in the past that has done so much in that direction. There is first the Advisory “War Council, upon which ‘both sides are represented. In it, issues of major importance are discussed and decided, and recommendations are agreed to. .
– Does the council make decisions?
– It decides to recommend in regard to defence matters. That is as it should be, otherwise it would simply be a form of dictatorship to which I think both sides would be opposed. Failing to reach an agreement,, the Government has pursued the policy which I have described, rather than rely solely upon arbitrary or dictatorial methods of government. We, of course, know that the Government must make a decision if it considers that certain things ought to be done, and it has no alternative but to adopt arbitrary methods in order to give effect to its policy, and it must be prepared to stand or fall by the consequences of its own acts. That policy was tested as no other policy was tested before in the history of Australia, and the verdict of the people in August, 1943, was for all practical purposes unanimous. The people agreed that it was a good policy, not merely as the result of a process of abstract reasoning, but also in view of the satisfactory results achieved. That is why honorable senators opposite are in a minority. If it were not for that, the possibilities are that they would have a majority. Somebody said that we should use our heads. I agree, but some use their’ heads simply for the purpose of keeping their collars on, and consequently are not of much use, but when people use their heads for the purpose for which they are intended, they are generally able to show better re-, suits than others.
In December, 1942, the Government, continuing the policy which it laid down in 1941, organized a convention to discuss whether it was desired to include additional powers in the Commonwealth Constitution. It was unanimously agreed at the convention that the Commonwealth Parliament did not have enough powers to deal with what is known as reconstruction, and that fourteen extra powers should be included in the Constitution. Then the Premiers and Leaders of the Oppositions of the States, who were present, agreed to ask the State Parliaments to confirm those decisions. The obligations into which the representatives of all parties entered at the convention were not honoured by some, who repudiated their promises, or the decisions to which they were committed. Subsequently the provisions of the agreement were submitted to the people. We then found that those who had previously agreed to the proposed new powers being included in the Constitution were taking the platform and declaiming as vehemently as they possibly could against such powers being granted by the people. I had no illusions about the matter, because if the Opposition had its way we should not be in power to-day. We should not be in a position to exercise even the powers already in. the Constitution. It is, therefore, quite logical, and in conformity with the policy the members of the Opposition adopt, for them not only to prevent us exercising those powers, but also to oppose the granting of new ones. Honorable senators opposite have made all sorts of excuses in an endeavour to explain away their conduct in that regard. They have said that too many new powers have been asked for and that therefore the people could not give a reasonable decision. They do not take into account the fact that when the original Constitution was agreed to 39 powers were submitted to the people in one question, and agreed to.
The Leader of the Opposition (Senator McLeay) had something to say about “ political immorality “. I do not know exactly what he means by that term, but, if it means anything, it is that representatives of the people should honour their pledged word and their pledged promise.
Sitting suspended from 12.^5 to 2.15 p.m.
– This Government has done more than any of its predecessors did to facilitate the smooth management of the ‘Commonwealth. The principle upon which its policy is based is governed by mutual agreement rather than by the enforcement of arbitrary methods. When a stand must be taken, a government is compelled either to take appropriate action or be discredited in the eyes of the people. When such an occasion has arisen, this Government has never hesitated to act. But before doing so, it has always endeavoured to achieve agreement!), particularly where strongly conflicting opinions or interests had to be reconciled. The Government’s policy has been successful under war-time conditions, which constitute the acid test. They make it necessary for the Government to delegate to officials and others holding responsible positions power to act, as they deem fit, in an emergency. Some of the complaints which have been voiced against censorship and the dictatorial use of power by subordinates were justified. But when the matters were raised, Ministers have done everything in their power, in the circumstances, to adjust grievances or rectify anomalies. There is a. difference between government based upon the principle of mutual agreement, and government based upon the principle of a dictatorship. That difference causes at all times a good deal of discussion.
When the Leader of the Opposition referred to what he termed “ political immorality “, he did not attempt to define precisely what he meant by that expression. I interpret the phrase as meaning “failure to honour an obligation, or the pledged word “. If circumstances make it impossible for a person to honour an obligation, obviously the proper thing for him to do is to admit that he made a mistake or that the situation has passed beyond his control. That was never done in connexion with the referendum proposals. Many of the opponents of the referendum agreed at the Canberra Convention in 1942 to support the proposals, but some time later, they repudiated their promise. That action represents political immorality of the worse kind. Those persons are influenced more by political bias than by reason. In the same way, many employers consider that their dignity is lowered and their prestige reduced if they are obliged to meet the representatives of the workers on equal terms for discussion. They endeavour to operate on the principle that “ the King can do no wrong”. Their word on a subject must be final. When they yield, as they have yielded at times, to the pressure of circumstances over which they have no control, and are obliged to meet the representatives of the workers, they regard them as their mental and social inferiors, and generally, all their criticisms directed against the workers are influenced more by political bias than by a reasonable consideration of the issues. Instances of this attitude have occurred in this Parliament. In the House of Representatives, members of the Opposition, disregarding the fact that Australia has been faced by dangers unprecedented in its history, have been concerned more about minor matters than about major problems. Actually, they are mental pigmies, compared with what they should be. They cannot rise above their political or personal prejudices and rather than attempt to make common cause with those who try to serve their country, they concentrate on making a nuisance of themselves. Some people have a nuisance value, possibly in the same degree as the flea on the dog has a nuisance value. Other people have a utility value. But I fail to see in what way some members of the House of Representatives have a utility value, because even in war-time they are concerned more about minor matters than about major problems.
I know of nothing that is so grossly immoral from the political standpoint than the policy which the opponents of the Labour party introduced, of reducing men, women and children to the breadline. I was interested in the speech of Senator Foll, who referred to the bad conditions that existed in the past. When the Leader of the Senate (Senator Keane), Senator Sheehan and I entered this chamber in 1938, we appealed to the government of the day to do more for the unemployed than it was then doing. We did everything, except go down on our knees and beg, to induce the Government to take action. But we might as well have appealed to a wooden god. Our pleas passed unheeded. The Government knew just as well as we did the conditions under which men, women and children were existing. It knew’ just as well as we did, the effects of. enforced idleness and inadequate food, clothing and shelter. It knew just as well as we did that it had the means to provide adequate relief for those unfortunate persons. But beyond a few beggarly grants and some expressions of sympathy, nothing was done. So when some honorable senators opposite speak about political immorality, I regard their indifference to the plight of the unemployed a few years ago as being grossly immoral, and therefore, I am not impressed by their protestations that the acts of some other persons are politically immoral.
The defeat of the referendum does not relieve the Government of the obligation to prepare to deal with post-war problems. What proposals have been defeated ? Our opponents secured the rejection, first, of a provision for the reinstatement and advancement of ex-servicemen. We can assume from experience and from the actions of honorable senators opposite what they intend to do. When the Australian Soldiers’ Repatriation Bill was under consideration, the Opposition submitted an amendment designed to grant preference in employment to returned soldiers. That amendment did not guarantee employment to an ex-serviceman, because it contained the proviso that he must be competent, in the opinion of the employer. The “ employer “ could be either the Government or private enterprise. Neither the Government nor private employers would have been obliged to engage returned soldiers if, in their opinion, they were not com- petent. Obviously, that form of preference was not worth the paper on which it was printed, because those who are competent do not require legislation to secure preference for them. Preference automatically gravitates to them. Employers are always looking for the most competent man, because he is the most profitable type of employee. The amendment made no provision for the less competent men who were willing and able to work, but who were not fully qualified to take various jobs. The Parliament of South Australia passed legislation granting preference to returned soldiers, but imposed the limitation expressed in the words, “ other things being equal “. Precisely what does that mean? No two men or women are equal in every respect. But that proviso was inserted in legislation by men who have the audacity to say, as representatives of the people, that they desire to do justice to exservicemen. The Government realizes that, and has said so; but it does not make the slightest difference. The Government’s referendum proposals in respect o£ the rehabilitation and reinstatement of ex-service men and women amounted practically to a guarantee that full responsibility for this work would be assumed by the Commonwealth Government; yet honorable senators opposite and those associated with them who, theoretically are overflowing with sympathy, patriotism, and altruism, assisted to induce a majority of the people of this country to vote “ No “, and in effect to repudiate the claims that ex-servicemen have upon this country, However, the Government is still under an obligation to do all that it possibly can, despite the defeat of its referendum proposals, and I have no doubt that every member of the Government will do his best to ensure that the interests of ex-servicemen shall be protected and advanced in every way possible consistent with the existing powers of the Commonwealth, unless an agreement for the exercise by the Commonwealth of increased powers can be reached between the Commonwealth and State governments. If I am any judge, there is little likelihood of any such agreement, and the Commonwealth Government will have to act within the limits of the existing Constitution. That may mean the more drastic exercise of certain powers, namely, powers relating to taxation and banking. Those are two of the 39 powers specifically provided for in section 51 of the Constitution. I believe that a fuller use of those powers is desirable.
At ‘ the referendum the Government also sought power to legislate in respect of employment and unemployment. Honorable senators opposite, in what they believe to be learned speeches upon this subject, demanded to know the precise meaning of the phrase “ Employment and unemployment”, and because the explanation given was not to their satisfaction, they advised the people of this country to vote “ No “. That indicates to me that among honorable senators opposite, and the interests which they represent in this chamber, there is no genuine desire to effect any improvement of social conditions in this country. Due entirely to the application of the policy of anti-Labour administrations which held office prior to the advent of this Government, a state of affairs was created in which we had an army of permanently unemployed men and women living on the breadline. What was the reason? That army was kept in reserve so that it could be used as it has been used in every other capitalist country to keep costs of production in terms of labour time and commodities at the irreducible minimum. It is argued that this was necessary to enable Australia to compete in overseas markets, and so build up a. substantial export, trade. That sounds quite well in theory, and the explanation, may be accepted by individuals who are not sufficiently discriminating or intelligent to understand what is really meant ; but if it were possible, the interests represented by honorable senators opposite would have the majority of workers working in return for the dole. However, that is not economically possible, because production cannot be maintained at a high level without increasing the purchasing power of the workers to some degree at least. I am quite convinced that the referendum proposals were rejected because there was no. desire whatever on the part of a certain section of the community, to improve our social standards. The war has had the effect of convincing people that many theories which hitherto they have accepted unquestionably, are entirely false. Evidence of that is to be found in the changed outlook of many members of the House of Commons, who have had no regard whatever for the 2,000,000 citizens of Great Britain who before the war were existing at a starvation level. It was left to Labour men and to public spirited citizens outside Parliament to draw attention to this state of affairs, but until the war came, successive governments in the United Kingdom did not do anything worth while to alleviate this distress. Man-power which in time of peace had been plentiful became indispensable almost overnight. Men and women who before the war had been neglected and ignored, suddenly became necessary to increase war production and to serve in the armed forces. A direct result of the war in Great Britain has been that millions of the working population are better housed, clothed and fed than they have been for many years. If that can be done in time of war, it can be done also in time of peace. If it is physically possible in time of war to . provide the food, clothing and shelter necessary to maintain health and strength, it is more than physically possible to do this in time of peace. That is the germ idea that has been implanted in the minds of the people, individually and collectively, of all the Allied countries, including Australia. As that germ grows, that feeling which we know as public spirit will make itself felt in the legislative halls of the world, just as it is making itself felt already in the legislative halls of this country. Even now, we find that some individuals who hitherto have been disposed to ignore the claims of semi-starved men, women and children, are prepared to concede some measure of relief to these unfortunate people. They will attempt to take some credit for that changed attitude, but no credit is due to them, because they are merely making a virtue of a necessity. At heart they are just as callous as they have always been. My philosophy is based upon the principle that all things will yield to pressure. Where there is no pressure, there are no results. The pressure of war-time conditions has had the effect of making individuals who in the past, have been indifferent and callous as to the fate of their fellow beings, do things which they have not been prepared to do in the past. In Australia men of this type are prominent and vociferous. Some of them are in this Parliament, demanding all kinds of concessions from the Government, and at the same time, endeavouring to discredit the Government. I have no objection to these demands being made, provided that they are reasonable and can be justified, but I have the greatest possible objection to acceding to any demand that we should adopt a specific policy merely to please our political opponents. That will not be done. I say again that despite the defeat of its referendum proposals the Government has an obligation to do everything in its power to provide for the rehabilitation and reinstatement of ex-servicemen, and to improve social conditions in this country generally. It may be as I have said that existing powers will have to be used more fully than, has been the case in the past, but I should prefer to see the problem resolved by mutual agreement with the States. There is no reason why political leaders in this country should, not get together again as they did in December, 1942, and so avoid arbitrary action. We must not provide mere theoretical preference in employment for exservicemen. We must provide jobs for them, and if they are unable to do these jobs, we must provide opportunities for them to undertake the necessary training. We must also provide employment for the large army of workers who will be demobilized from war industries. That is a task that confronts the Government. Honorable senators opposite would have us believe that they are prepared to make common cause with the Government on certain matters. I, for one, shall be prepared to give to them every opportunity to do so, and to consider any plans which they may have formulated. But we must not deceive ourselves. When peace has been declared, the trade war which was the cause of the last war, and of this conflict, will continue. So far as I am aware, no proposals have been made for the cessation or abatement of that war, and. should it become intensified as seems likely, we shall have to defend ourselves in another world war. We must be prepared. We should see that Australia is made as self reliant and as independent as possible of supplies from overseas. We should not be influenced by the views of people like those who, prior to the last war, claimed that if we could buy cheaper goods from Japan and other countries overseas, we should do so. Provided that we have the man-power and the material resources at our disposal to build ships, aircraft, and most of the other things that we need, we should produce them in this country and use them to the best advantage. The present Government, in a time of unprecedented warfare, has done more to give effect to the policy of mutual trade agreements among ourselves than any previous ministry. It has achieved results which previous governments have been unable to obtain. I do not reflect on the undoubted capacity of individual members of the Opposition, but I do say that they have proved unable to accomplish the teamwork necessary to achieve the valuable results secured by the present Government. I have tried, to show that even greater success could be obtained. If the problems with which we are now faced, and the greater problems that will arise after the war, are approached with a view to achieving the best results in the interests of the people generally, rather than for the purpose of making political capital out of minor matters, we shall be able to do. even better in future than we have done in the past.
– J am pleased that the grants to be provided for South Australia, Western Australia and Tasmania are larger than those received previously, and show a slight increase as compared with last year; but the increase does not compensate those States for the loss sustained in consequence of the introduction of the uniform taxation system. The distribution made under that system was liberal to ohe State only. There was a slight tendency in favour of another State, but South Australia, Tasmania and Western Australia were practically robbed of a few millions of pounds. Commonwealth grants to the States in respect of disabilities were instituted so that no State might suffer under the financial agreement. No doubt that was the objective of the gentleman who recommended the amounts to be paid to the States, but a readjustment of the payments should have been made when the uniform system of taxation was adopted.
I regret that a financial arrangement has not been made to provide for immigration. This is a matter of the gravest concern to Australia, because of its vast area and the smallness of its population. We” have talked a great deal about migration, and we are still doing so, but Canada has ceased talking about it, and is now taking action to increase its population. We should follow the example of that sister dominion. I remind honorable senators that the best immigrant of all is the Australian-born baby. I have before me a booklet entitled The Nation’s Forum of the Air, which was alluded to by a member of the Senate a few days ago. I am surprised that the Australian Broadcasting Commission should allow its network to be used for the broadcasting of remarks such as those published iii that pamphlet, although it admittedly contains a report of what was said over the air in a discussion between four citizens on the subject of “Population Unlimited “. That booklet states, inter aiia–
Most living issues are controversial, and the commission recognizes that, if these sessions are to be pungent and real, they must he conducted in an atmosphere of freedom. No restrictions of any kind are imposed upon the speakers, except those elementary restrictions necessary in war-time in the interests of security.
Therefore, people may say practically anything they wish over the air, provided that they do not, infringe National Security Regulations. I was under the impression that, before statements could be broadcast, the script had to be submitted to the commission for its approval, hut in the case to which I have just referred, no restrictions of any kind were imposed on the speakers. Any man who would call his mother an irritable, cantankerous old woman is despicable.
– H - He is not human.
Senator JAMES McLACHLAN.No: such remarks should not be broadcast.
– The commission is doing a good job.
– I t I think not.
Immigration is a vital matter, because we are now engaged in a world struggle. Allies of various nationalities are fighting with us, and we are assisting them with men and war-like material. The position that will arise in that regard after the war should be defined. Are we to say to some of our Allies, “ We did not mind having your assistance while we were fighting for our existence, but we are not willing to have you in our country”. Our attitude to this issue should be decided, not in future, but now.
We hear a good deal about the housing of the people, and the prevalence of slums in the capital cities. Homes should be provided for the people at reasonable prices. About £9,000,000 has been allotted to the States for this necessary work. The time is most opportune for the Commonwealth authorities to grant assistance to the States in the building of homes for the people. Provision has been made for the granting of £1,500,000 for the establishment of hydro-electric works in Tasmania. The necessary manpower is to be made available through the Allied Works Council, which was established for the carrying out of necessary defence works. It was to build roads, aerodromes, and other essential defence works. Has that work been completed? Are no more roads or aerodromes needed? From 500 to 700 men are to be sent to Tasmania for the construction of a hydro-electric scheme.
– That is a national work.
Senator JAMES McLACHLAN.Yes. and so is the provision of housing for the people. I speak on this subject with confidence.
– But the Government which the honorable senator supported did nothing in the matter.
– The housing scheme in South Australia is superior to any others in the Commonwealth.
– Tasmania has an excellent scheme.
– The Minister appears to have changed his opinion. After inspecting the housing scheme in South Australia, he expressed sentiments in accord with my own. We all admit that the housing problem is acute, but, instead of sending 600 or 700 workmen to Tasmania, in order to erect works which will involve the use of much building material, would it not be better to employ those men in building 1,500 homes? We have the men and the materials, so why not get on with the work?
– It is a pity that previous governments which the honorable senator supported did not do more.
– The budget for 1942-43 provided for an expenditure of about £50,000,000 for the Allied Works Council. The AuditorGeneral was somewhat inquisitive, and wanted further information on the subject. It is significant that since then we have not been told what the Allied Works Council costs. This budget does not contain any information on the subject.
– The information has been published a score of times.
– The annual report of the Allied Works Council for 3943-44 is now in course of preparation, and will be available to the AuditorGeneral.
-We have been told by supporters of the Government that the budget is a wonderful document. That may be so, if we judge it only by the amount of money for which provision is made. Honorable senators on this side have never questioned the figures in the budget, but they have questioned the means by which money shall be raised and expended. We recognize the need to provide money for war and other purposes, but we do not necessarily agree with the Government’s means of providing it. I am rather concerned about the policy of the Government in using trust funds for war loan purposes; the practice reminds me of the man who robs the youngsters’ money box and puts an I O U in its place. I should like to know where the money is to come from when it is required for the purposes for which the trust funds were established. Should the answer be that it will be provided by the issue of treasury bills, I ask whether it would not be better to use treasury-bills now. One of the trust funds is the National Welfare Fund. As £25,000,000 has been taken from that fund and put into war loans, there is now only about £25,000 left; yet the Government tells us that it proposes to take £12,000,000 out of that fund during the current financial year, thereby leaving only about £18,000,000 to the credit of the fund. I do not see how that can be done, and I should like to have an explanation. Another trust fund account is that of the War Damage Insurance, the amount involved being about £14,000,000. Money from that fund also has been used for war loan purposes. I should like to know how the Government would meet a claim for war damage. Would it resort to treasury-bills? If so, why not use treasury-bills in the first instance? Treasury-bills issued now amount to about £343,000,000; they have increased by £84,000,000 during the last year. It would be better to take the money oUt of the Treasury in the first instance, rather than take it from trust funds and reimburse those funds later by means of treasury-bills. The present practice is leading to inflation. I admit that we cannot pass through a time of stress, such as the present, without some inflation, but the inflation must be controlled. I agree that price-fixing represents a measure of control. A country has more justification for adopting a policy of inflation in peace-time rather than in a time of war, because inflation used in peacetime produces something which we can use, or sell to others. In war-time it is used to produce wasting assets. In a time of crisis a nation should do everything possible to pay its way, and so prevent inflation.
– Why did not the honorable senator think of those things during the recent referendum campaign?
– I thought about them then; that is why I voted “No”. During the referendum campaign advocates of a “ Yes “ vote told the people that war-time controls would not be continued any longer than wasnecessary, and that as quickly as possible the country would revert to pre-war conditions, but in spite of that statement, the budget before us provides for ait extra £300,000 for controls of various kinds. Many new departments, which are by no means popular with the people, are to be expanded. Even the Taxation Department proposes to set up what is virtually a new department, because the proposal to check all income tax returns submitted by soldiers practically amounts to that. One would expect that, with greater experience, controls would be decreasing rather than increasing, but it would appear that the continuance of controls is to cost the country an extra £250,000 a year.
– A3 a majority of the electors of South Australia voted “Yes”, it would appear that the honorable senator is out of step with the people of his State.
– South Australia has been favoured with sensible governments, and in the light of their experience of honest and straight-forward dealing, the people of that State were prepared to trust any government. The people of New South Wales know many of the members of this Parliament, and that is why a majority voted “ No “. The same can be said of the people of Queensland. The unsuspecting people of South Australia and Western Australia, who have experienced honest dealings by State governments thought that it would be all right to vote “ Yes “.
– The Government of South Australia did not advocate a “ Yes “ vote, yet the honorable senator says that the people of that State trust their Government.
Senator JAMES McLACHLAN When an effort was made to ascertain what expenditure the Government had incurred in placing the “ Yes “ case before the people, no one seemed to be sure of the amount. The figures mentioned by Ministers did not agree with figures worked out by honorable senators on this side. Moreover, we could not find any entry in the Estimates to cover referendum expenses.
– In the budgets of previous governments, I could not find any record of secret funds concerning which there was a good deal of questioning later.
– The Minister for Information (Mr. Calwell) was good enough to tell us that the expenditure by the Government on the referendum came under the heading “ Post-war .Education “. Last year, the expenditure under that heading was about £5,000, whereas this year the amount is set down at £45,570. According to the Sydney Morning Herald, the Minister for Information said that the amount provided in the budget for post-war education was £45,570, and that a further amount would be provided for in the Supplementary Estimates. We do not know what that extra amount will be.
– The total expenditure was £50,504, of which £4,349 was expended in South Australia.
– Evidently we shall have to wait till the Supplementary Estimates are before us to ascertain the actual expenditure on the referendum.
– The honorable senator is quoting the remarks of the wrong Minister.
– I - I am quoting what the Minister for Information said.
– This is a financial matter which comes under the control of the Treasurer.
– During recent weeks I have spent some time listening to the debates in the House of Representatives. The Leader of the Senate has said that Parliament was responsible for the decision that a referendum be held, and, therefore, Parliament had sanctioned the expenditure incurred by the Government on the referendum. That is not correct. The Canberra Convention, about which we have heard so much, simply left to each of the States the decision whether it would pass legislation to transfer the fourteen proposed powers to the Commonwealth Parliament. Only two of the States did so. Consequently, the Government submitted to this Parliament the Constitution Alteration (Post-war Reconstruction and Democratic Rights) Bill; but at no stage did Parliament as a whole agree that a referendum should be held. Yet honorable senators opposite now try to justify the Government’s expenditure on the referendum by saying that Parliament sanctioned that expenditu re. 1 have been endeavouring to find a precedent for the Government’s action in that respect. The Minister for Information, speaking in the House of Representatives, cited as a precedent the referendum held in 1916; but the proposals then submitted to the people had nothing whatever to do with constitutional reform. In any case, if the contention of the Leader of the Senate bc correct, why has not the Government disclosed the total cost of the referendum ? To date, it has set that cost at the paltry sum of £50,000, whereas it is obvious that that amount does not cover the total expenditure. Has the Government anything to hide in this matter? Failing to find a precedent for the Government’s action in the history of parliamentary government is this country, I delved into the history of referenda held in other countries, and came across one which I thought bore a remarkable similarity to the referendum which the people of Australia so decisively defeated last month. Strangely, I found that precedent in Germany. After the death of Field Marshal Von Hindenburg, who was then Chancellor of Germany, Hitler, who was then President of the Reich, assumed both offices; and on the 19th August, 1934, held a referendum in Germany at which he asked the people to accept him as the nation’s leader. That was just ten years ago. The people of Germany accepted Hitler as their leader. It is, perhaps, strange that at that particular referendum fourteen proposals were submitted to the German people. The details of those proposals are given on page 187 of Mein Kampf. Many leaders displayed a strange attraction for the number “ fourteen “. Ex-President “Wilson of the United States of America submitted fourteen points at the Versailles Peace Conference. Hitler had fourteen points; and, as honorable senators know, the Attorney-General (Dr. Evatt) had fourteen points. I found also that the people of Germany paid for the referendum held in that country on the 19th August, 1934, and let mc add that they are still paying for it in September, 1944. ‘ Therefore, although the people of Australia will pay for the referendum held recently, we have the consolation that, thanks to their common sense, they will not be obliged to pay again for it still more dearly ten years hence.
I come now to the subject of monetary reform. Honorable senators will remember the speeches made by the late exSenator Darcey on this subject. He was a most sincere advocate on this subject. However, he held that banking consisted principally of book entries. Apparently,, the Government is now working along somewhat the same lines, because it transfers trust funds to loan funds and vice versa.
– I - Is that not the formula which has always been used?
– The honorable senator himself enunciated a formula under which the business of the country could he done solely with the currency of the country. I should like to know how the business of the country, which amounts to anything from £2,000,000,000 to £3,000,000,000 a year, could be adequately transacted by relying only on currency which amounts to only £197,000,000?
– W - We are doing that now.
– No; the honorable senator also said that the Government should not permit the issue of cheques.
– I - I said that the Government should control the issue of cheques, and that the private banks should not be allowed to issue them.
– Apparently, the honorable senator was not quite clear about what he really wanted to say. Much has been said about the transfer of a broadcasting licence in respect of station SKA, Adelaide. I thought that the Postmaster-General (Senator Ashley) would have taken an opportunity long before this to clarify that matter. I shall be very interested to hear his explanation, because the issues involved concern the integrity of a very reputable citizen of Adelaide, Reverend Forsyth, who controls the Central Methodist Mission. That gentleman has raised considerable sums of money for philanthropic purposes, and I cannot understand why he should make a gift worth £1,700 to the Labour party, in addition to concessions associated with the operation of that broadcasting station, unless some pressure had been brought to bear upon him in the matter. I am sure that he would rather utilize so substantial an amount to help forward the objects of his mission than assist any political organization, regardless of its party affiliations. I shall be very interested to hear what the Postmaster-General has to say with regard to that transaction.
The Leader of the Senate was rather annoyed that honorable senators on this side should have the audacity to criticize the coal-miners. He is quite right. I do not think that any honorable senator should do so, because, as the Leader of the Senate has said, none of us has been a coal-miner, and therefore cannot really understand the arduous nature of the miner’s work. However, we are entitled to criticize what the Government and ite supporters say and do about the miners; and on this matter honorable senators on this side have criticized not the miners but the Government. The Leader of the Senate took me to task for something which he alleged I had said about the miners. Since I have been a member of the Senate, I have not criticized the coal-miners individually. Whenever I have dealt with the industry, I have invariably dealt with it on general grounds. Another honorable senator opposite gave us a lot of sob stuff about the misery and poverty associated with the industry, and said that the miners had passed the limits of human endurance, and were worn out. All that 1 did when I was speaking on this subject was to show that other sections of workers had laboured just as strenuously as had the coal-miners, and, although they were tired and worn out, they had not gone on strike. That comparison still holds good. The Minister for the Interior (Senator Collings), who had much to say last night, indulged his usual habit of branding honorable senators on this side as inhuman. He said in effect that we were monsters.
– I did not use either of those terms.
Senator JAMES McLACHLAN.That was the inference to be drawn from the Minister’s remarks as a whole. In fact, he waxed so eloquent that he had recourse to the words of Holy Writ in order to express himself adequately. He quoted the Master - “ Suffer the little children to come unto me “ - and, glaring at honorable senators on this side, vehemently declared that thousands of children were starving, and that we were murderers.
– I said that, owing to conditions for which honorable senators opposite were responsible, thousands of children were destroyed in body and soul in the slums.
– A t any rate, the Minister claimed that we were responsible for that state of affairs. I wish that he had read further until he reached- the passage : “ He that is without sin among you, let him first cast a stone “. He could then have read on and. found a few more sayings of the Great Master. He might have discovered what He said about people who oppress the poor, the aged and the sick. He might even have given an illustration of a man holding the position of the Minister evicting a poor old pensioner from his home.
– The Master also enjoined us not to be bear false witness against our neighbour, but that is what the honorable senator is doing. I have never evicted anybody, pensioner or any one else. The honorable senator knows it, and if he says anything else he is lying.
– Order !
– Of course, I have only the daily press to go - by, but I still think that I am right. If my memory serves me aright, the Minister said in this chamber some time ago. that he had evicted a man.
– I did not.
Senator JAMES McLACHLAN.The Minister had better refer to Ilansard. He told us what he had done, how much the man owed, and how he tried to get it from him, but the man would not pay, and the Minister told us what happened.
– What did I do?
– The Minister asked, “ What else could I do?”
– I did nothing of the kind.
– Is the man still in the house ?
– Yes, of course, he is.
Senator JAMES McLACHLAN 1 am glad to hear it.
– Did not the Minister tell the Senate that the man could pay off the arrears over a long period of years ?
– What nonsense! The man was drawing an old-age pension, and owed arrears of rent, which was only ls. a week. Why not deduct it from his pension, and save all this humbug?
– If the Minister had done - that, the Opposition would have raised objections.
– No, I should like to ask the Leader of the Senate the following questions : -
How does the Government propose taking £12,000,000 from the National Welfare Trust Fund, and leave a balance of £18,000,000 when that fund has a credit of only £25,500.
How does the Government propose paying out any claims for war damage insurance when -the whole of the funds amounting to £14,000,000 are invested in war bonds?
How can the Government justify the extra expenditure of £300,000 a year for war-time controls of prices, man-power, rationing, &c, at this juncture?
Will the Government release from the Allied Works Council all men not necessary for defence work, or ensure that they are employed in the building of homes or in assisting primary producers?
Is the Government prepared to admit as an immigrant any member of the present Allied Nations?
– Does the honorable senator include the Chinese, and the inhabitants of India?
– I leave that to the honorable senator to answer.
– The first reading of this bill gives to honorable senators an opportunity to speak upon many subjects affecting the welfare of the Commonwealth, whilst the second reading and committee stages will afford occasion for dealing with the items in detail. Everyone who has spoken in the present debate has taken the fullest opportunity to discuss many and varied matters concerning the Government, and its numerous activities. Last night Senator Collett delivered an excellent speech which could quite properly have been made by any member of the Opposition. It was not destructive, but was a fair exposition by an Opposition member who wished to review the Government’s actions. In criticizing the arguments of some honorable senators opposite, he was not at all offensive. He even commended the remarks of other honorable senators. J was, therefore, surprised at the Minister for the Interior (Senator Collings) criticizing Senator Collett’s speech in a most caustic manner. The Minister in dealing with the war effort referred to the workers of Australia. He accused us on this side of being always unmindful of our fellow citizens. He said that we had no interest in them, and that we had always shown an utter disregard for the workers. He asked whence the soldiers came who defended this country, and said that Australia had to look to the workers for its soldiers. He also said that we looked to the workers for people to develop our industries. It ill becomes a responsible Minister of the Crown to point to one class as having made the greatest contribution to the war effort. The inference to be drawn from his remarks was that others, who were represented by honorable senators on this side of the chamber, had not played an equal part in this great struggle. It is most repugnant to me to have to refer to this matter, because I object to drawing distinctions between persons, but I must point out that the highest in the land have made great sacrifices. In this war, as in the last, men holding the highest positions in Australia have lost those dear to them, as have honorable senators generally. We have all made our contribution. Are we so hard pressed for argument that we must try to find something hurtful, and savouring of, class hatred, to cast at our political opponents? In this National Parliament, at a time of great crisis, are we so devoid of argument that we must stoop to such contemptible tactics as to say that the fighting men of Australia come from only one class? There is not an atom of truth in what the Minister insinuated. The sons of all are taking part in. the war. All have made their contributions.
– The honorable senator would do much better if he included the women of the services.
– I refer to both men and women. Does any honorable senator believe that our fighting men, whether they serve on land, or at sea, or in the air, ask one another whether they are workers, or whether they come from the supposed capitalist class of which we hear so much? They do not ask one another : “ Are you the son of a worker, or of the Governor-General ?” Such remarks, therefore, should find no place in the debates of the Senate. We all know that our fighting men come from all sections of the people. During the last great war entire sons of families of the richest people were wiped out entirely, and no doubt the same applied to some of the poorest families. I dislike making these comparisons, but such statements must be answered when made by a responsible Minister, to whose utterances people perhaps pay some attention. A member of the House of Representatives who was defeated at the general elections last year has six sons, all of whom are in the fighting forces, yet he was supposed to be one of the leisured class. I do not pay any more tribute to the man with six sons than to the man with one son in the service. Each has given his all. Honorable senators opposite have made their contribution equally with others, and I pay the same tribute to them. The Minister should be ashamed to tell the people on ,this side of the chamber that the men who have defended Australia come from the working class. There may be a greater proportion of the workers in the services, because there are more workers’ families to draw from, tout we are all sharing one another’s burdens in this great struggle.
A great deal has been said during this debate concerning the treatment meted out to returned soldiers, with special emphasis upon those who were settled upon the land. What was the position after the last war? The Minister for Aircraft Production (Senator Cameron) laid particular emphasis upon the alleged bad treatment of soldier settlers after the last war, and attributed the failure of many soldier settlement schemes to exploitation by land-owners and other so-called capitalists.
– The land-owners sold their properties to the Government at inflated prices.
– In most cases the negotiations were carried out privately between the soldier settlers and land-owners. The Government merely gave its final approval to the transactions. I recall having made an inspection of a large tract of country in Queensland which was being developed by the State Government for soldier settlement after the last war. When I visited the area many thousands of pounds had already been expended on clearing the land, which was to be subdivided for the growing of pineapples. I have heard since that the scheme was a complete failure, and had to be abandoned, due no doubt to unforeseen circumstances. It is entirely wrong to blame any particular individuals for such failures. The main cause of the inability of soldier settlers and many others who took up land after the last war to operate their properties on a profitable basis was the fact that their land was purchased at a time when values’ were booming, and. too high a price was paid for it, with the result that when the price of primary products dropped, the farmers were unable to make a living.
– The land values were boosted by agents.
– No. The price of land is based mainly on its productive capacity. Much of the land acquired for soldier settlement schemes was bought during a land boom.
– Who was responsible for that boom?
– The boom was due entirely to the fact that prices of primary products were high. There are, of course, certain other factors controlling the price of land. Eoi1 instance, in Queensland, where it is necessary for land to be licensed to grow sugar-cane, the fact that a certain tract of land has a licence is an important factor in determining its price, just as an hotel licence is an important factor in the value of an hotel. Fertile land surrounding a sugar-cane area may have a comparatively low value because it is not licensed for cane-growing. Another factor contributing to the failure of many soldier settlement schemes after the last war was the heavy cost of subdivision. For instance, it may be decided to establish a soldier settlement upon 500 or 600 acres of land in Tasmania, the fixed value of the land for taxation purposes being £10 an acre. If the property were to be divided into blocks of 100 acres, a farm house costing £500 or £600, and outbuildings costing perhaps £100, would have to be erected on each block. Then there would be the cost of fencing, which probably would amount to £100 or £150, so that actually the total cost of subdivision would almost equal the original value of the land. In that event, instead of the land being worth £10 an acre, its value would have increased to £16 or £1C an acre. This over capitalization caused the failure of many soldier settlers when the price of primary products dropped. However, land failures did not occur only with soldier settlers. They occurred all over Australia, with soldier settlers and ordinary farmers alike. There was, however, one difference: In the case of the soldier settler, a long overdue revaluation was made by the Government, and in some cases 50 per cent, of the liability was remitted, thus giving the settler an opportunity to make a reasonable living. The ordinary farmer, however, did not receive this concession, and when his equity in his property disappeared, there was nothing for him to do but to leave it. What does the Government propose to do to avoid the faults of soldier settlement schemes of the past? Surely it is not suggested that land should be compulsorily acquired at a price which, with subdivision and other improvements costs added, would still allow a soldier settler to operate on a profitable basis. That would mean acquiring property at less than its real value, and would be illegal, because the Constitution provides specifically that property may he acquired by the Commonwealth only on just terms. If the Government were to acquire land at its own valuation, a grave anomaly could arise. Farmer “A” might have his property compulsorily acquired by the Commonwealth at much less than its true value whereas farmer “ B “, holding an adjoining property which was not acquired, would be able to sell his land privately and thus be in a. much better position financially. It may be that sharp practices were indulged in by some vendors of certain properties acquired for soldier settlement after the last war, but I say without hesitation that the desire of the Government of the day, and of the repatriation authorities, was to do everything possible for the ex-servicemen. I agree with Senator J. B. Hayes that the problem of settling ex-servicemen on the land is one which must ‘be given the fullest possible consideration. Already the Commonwealth pays subsidies to almost every primary industry, and the difficulties of primary producers in the future do not seem likely to be any less acute than they have been in the past.
The Minister for Aircraft Production said that Australia should endeavour to make itself as self-supporting as possible, or in other words, that1 we should pursue a policy of intense economic nationalism. But . is it not generally accepted that economic nationalism is one of the greatest causes of war? I can understand a desire to abolish the international trade war which has been so evident during the last few decades, but what greater incentive could there be to a trade war than to endeavour to make a country independent of imports whilst at the same time endeavouring to force its surplus products upon overseas markets ?
– Senator Cameron did not mean that.
– I do not know what he meant, but he certainly said that Australia should endeavour to become as self-sufficient as possible. Hitherto we have depended mainly upon the markets of Great Britain to absorb our exportable surplus of primary products. In fact, Australian goods have had preference on the British market, just as British goods have had preference in this country. Due to war-time transport difficulties, the United Kingdom to-day is far more self-supporting than it has been for many years, and when the huge armies which are in that country now return to their own lands, the British people may find that their primary production is almost sufficient to meet their own needs. After the war,
Great Britain will have to provide employment for its own people. Agriculture has been resuscitated there on the scale that- obtained nearly a century ago, before Great Britain became the workshop of the world. In discussing the problem of the settlement of exservicemen on the land, we must remember that the valuable markets of Great Britain may not be available to our primary producers to the same degree that they were prior to the war. The closest attention should be devoted to the problem of soldier settlement. One of the first requirements is the purchase of the necessary land at reasonable prices. Much will depend on the suitability of the settler himself and the advice’ given to him. But, above all, it will be necessary to ensure that the properties- on which the men are placed are not over-capitalized, and that markets will be available for their produce.
– The internal market will improve.
– I hope that it will, but there is no indication of that at present. “Who knows whether the consuming population will increase or decrease? Production has substantially increased by the introduction of modern methods of farming and the use of fertilizers. Science has come to the aid of the fanner. We have been at our wits’ end to know how to solve the problem of the .wheat industry, and an attempt has been made to do so by the restriction of production, a. policy which should never have been adopted in a young country like Australia. Wheat is the staff of life the world over, and the time has already arrived when Nature is teaching us its lessons. Far from restricting the production of that commodity, for which the world is now clamouring, Australia would have been in a better position than it now is had its maximum production of wheat been maintained. We should have had a valuable asset with which to feed starving stock, and there would have been an abundance of wheat to send to people overseas who badly need it.
I do not know any ex-servicemen who say that Australia has given them a raw deal. The Minister for Repatriation (Mr. Frost) has voluntarily admitted that Australia has made better legislative provision for its ex-servicemen than any other country.
– There is still room for improvement.
– Of course there is;, but, 25 years after the last war, honorable senators opposite suggest that members of the Opposition have deliberately done great injury to exservicemen, and have been prompted by unworthy motives. The fact is that members of the Opposition have always paid the- highest tribute to those men for their noble work, and have always been in the forefront in providing assistance for them. The Opposition has been asked what the previous Government did for discharged soldiers during its term of office, but I could give the names of ex-servicemen of the present wai who complain that they have not had a fair deal. Cases have been brought to my personal notice of men who are sick and worried, and are suffering what seems to be an obvious injustice; but, under the law as it stands, they cannot prove that their present incapacity is due to war service. We should not attempt to exploit for political purposes the .treatment of ex-servicemen.
Discussion as to what supporters of the Government and members of the Opposition have done with regard to the referendum proposals will not get us far. It has been said by some honorable senators opposite that, had the proposed alterations of the Constitution been agreed to, the work of repatriating exservicemen would have been facilitated. If that be so, why did not the Government separate the proposals submitted to the people, and leave them free to make a decision regarding each of them? There is no doubt as to what the decision of the electors would have been on the proposal relating to the repatriation of ex-servicemen. But I do not believe that the Government will be embarrassed by any lack of power to deal with that problem. It has been said by supporters of the Government that the campaign was unfairly conducted by their opponents and that those who advocated a “No” vote adopted unfair tactics in order to bring about the defeat of the proposals. The Leader of the Senate (Senator
Keane) deprecated references during the campaign to rationing and other control measures resorted to by the Government, but those who live in glass houses should not throw stones. Is it not a fact that the advocates of a “ Yes “ vote told the people that, unless the proposals were agreed to, the Government would be unable to make proper provision for the repatriation of ex-servicemen, that widows’ pensions would be in jeopardy, that child endowment would disappear, and that the payment of invalid and oldage pensions would be endangered ?
– “We said that it was necessary to place the position with regard to widows’ pensions and child endowment beyond doubt.
– The Government does not say that to-day, for it has made provision in the budget for the provision of the usual social services. The invalid and old-age pensions, child endowment and the widows’ pension will be made available as before, and the Government will not be embarrassed with regard to their payment. Its difficulties, which were stressed during the referendum campaign, have disappeared like the morning dew, as they have on all previous occasions when proposals for alterations of the Constitution have been submitted to the people. I do not desire to pose as one who derives pleasure from saying, “ I told you so “. I do not claim to have the wisdom of Solomon. The Hansard record shows that I opposed the measure relating to the proposed constitutional alterations, and I had justification for doing so. I pointed out that no proposals for an alteration of the Constitution, except those of a minor character, had ever been agreed to by the people at a referendum since the inception of federation. Those proposals which were adopted related to an alteration to the date of Senate elections and the taking over by the ‘Commonwealth of State debts. The fourteen proposals last submitted to the people having been grouped together, I said that I doubted whether the Government desired their acceptance. The Minister for the Interior (Senator Collings) remarked to me by way of interjection, “If the proposals are defeated, the honorable senator will be very happy “. I replied that I saw no cause for rejoicing, for the proposals would certainly be rejected by the people, who were to be divided into two camps,- and £250,000 would be expended on a useless campaign.
– That was because the Opposition made it a party question.
– “We on this side were most generous to the Government. We advised it to separate the questions, instead of requiring the people to vote “ Yes “ or “ No “ to the whole of them. I prophesy that the Government will not introduce any further proposals to alter the Constitution for some time, and that, should it do so, it will act only after the fullest consultation with other political parties in an attempt to find a common meeting ground. I am confident that it will not again submit fourteen questions to the people to be accepted or rejected en Moe. The referendum was defeated, and all sorts of reasons have been given by the Government for its defeat. Opposition members have been paid a high compliment, in that Government supporters claim that the defeat of the Government’s proposals was due to their influence. It is strange that the same people who voted for the Labour party at tie last election rejected its proposals when submitted to them recently. When the people decided on a change of government about a year ago, we on this side accepted their verdict in the right spirit ; as good democrats, and as men who know how to play “ cricket “, we took our defeat as we would take a defeat in a game. Unfortunately, some honorable senators opposite are not “ sports “, and accordingly, they see something sinister in the defeat of the referendum proposals. It has been said that no experience is better than experience that has to be paid for, and I am confident that the Government will not again venture along the road that it travelled recently.
.- On the 13th September, I directed attention to the case of a foreman in a government munitions factory in Melbourne. At a meeting of employees a resolution was passed for his removal, because he pressed for a fair day’s work. The case was investigated by a representative of the Amalgamated Engineers Union, and a decision made in the foreman’s favour. Further comments are unnecessary.
I make a plea on behalf of exservicemen for whom the “Repatriation Commission can do no more. They are a “lost legion “ of which every State, every big city, has its quota. Of course, they can avail themselves of institutions such as benevolent homes which are maintained by State governments and charitable citizens, but as age is usually the qualification for admission to these homes, the majority of the ex-servicemen, in whom I am interested, are not eligible for admission. In every State the Returned Sailors, Soldiers and Airmen’s Imperial League of Australia has established a war veterans’ home. The accommodation is limited by the league’s resources, even when augmented by financial help from patriotic citizens. It appears to me that there is an opportunity for the Commonwealth Government to help these old soldiers by making a grant towards increasing accommodation in these war veterans’ homes. In connexion with each home there is a women’s auxiliary which is doing splendid work. The foundation has been laid for re-claiming ex-servicemen, and so giving to them a brighter outlook on life. The league is obviously the right organization to carry out this task. I have personal knowledge of the splendid work that is being done in Melbourne, where the accommodation in a home is limited to 72 inmates. The Lord Mayor of Melbourne has approved a public appeal next year for a war veterans’ home capable of accommodating up to 400 inmates. The league has already acquired from a well-known racing man, Mr. “ Sol “ Green, a property 30 miles from Melbourne. The existing buildings can be enlarged and made habitable, and there is ample acreage for growing vegetables, a large proportion of which could be marketed. Always interested in exservicemen’s welfare, Mr. Green has sold his property to the league at half the price he would accept from any other prospective buyer. No doubt, honorable senators have knowledge of veterans’ homes in other States, which, with some assistance from the Commonwealth Government, would be able to accommodate many more “ burnt-out “ war veterans who are in need of a helping hand. For every one soldier who is beyond reclamation, there are ten who will respond to sympathetic consideration. There is no justification to have a “lost legion” in this country, either from the war of 1914-18 or the present war. For many years the British Government gave an annual grant for the maintenance of a veterans’ home at Drysdale, near Geelong, and at La Perouse, near Sydney. The inmates of those two homes, which are now closed, were veterans of wars dating back to 1885. It may be too late for provision to be made in the Estimates for 1944-45, but my suggestion is worthy of consideration when the Estimates are being prepared for next year.
The speeches made by some honorable senators opposite indicate that their education in economics has been neglected. To say that because plenty of money can be provided for war, it can be obtained for peace purposes, shows that they do not pause to think. Holding that view, and proclaiming it, particularly during election campaigns, and not bothering to give any reasons, they merely lead the wage-earner up a blind alley. In the prosecution of a war such as the present, the surplus spending power of individuals and business concerns is transferred to the Government. The nation’s credit is extensively drawn upon. The money so expended has saved Australia from invasion, but the materials and goods produced for the prosecution of the war are so much waste. War is waste. In order to survive, we must keep on producing regardless of cost. Production costs for war purposes mean nothing. To win the war, the people of Australia will respond to any appeal for more money, provided it is wisely expended on our war effort. Does any sane person think that when peace comes, we can go on indefinitely pouring money into a war-time incinerator without disastrous results? Some honorable senators say that we can, and in so doing they deliberately mislead the working man. They overlook the fact that the production of peace-time consumable goods and the provision of services are at the lowest ebb. After the war the demand in this respect will be abnormal. The savings banks deposits of wage-earners and small salary-earners have increased by £246,000,000 since war was declared. What is wanted is not a continuance of the war-time flood of money, but a return to steady peace-time production. When money is plentiful to procure goods which are in short supply prices rise, with the result that the purchasing power of a working man’s pound note fails below its normal value. It is true that prices control helps, but too much of such controls leads to black marketing. Advocates of the expenditure of money in peace-time on the scale that it is expended in war-time mislead the people whom they claim to represent. Jobs are wanted, and for years there will be work for those who need it. With good prospects of Germany’s defeat, and with the Japanese driven well beyond even bombing range of Australia, the Government should be taking a bolder step in the direction of producing peace-time goods. At present the number of persons on Government payrolls is far too great; one-half of them are not earning their pay. During the referendum campaign, advocates of a “ Yes “ vote told listeners that if the referendum was not carried a depression was inevitable. I do not know the basis of their pessimism. If in the distant future jobs should not be as plentiful as in the immediate post-war period, that will be the time to draw upon the nation’s credit to undertake big national works, such as the standardization of railway gauges and the conservation of water on a large scale. There is no need for additional constitutional powers to carry out such undertakings. The States have no money for these projects, and would be glad to co-operate as a means to solve temporary unemployment. No difficulty was experienced in carrying out the Murray River water scheme, at a cost of £5,000,000. New South Wales, Victoria and South Australia each contributed £1,000,000 and the Commonwealth Government granted the remaining £2,000,000. Honorable senators opposite, who want to know why, if money can be provided in abundance for destruction, it cannot be obtained for construction, should have a talk with the Treasurer (Mr. Chifley) on the subject. He could explain to them, better than I could, the fallacy of such a belief. On the whole, he and the Commonwealth Bank Board have done a good job, especially in keeping down war-time interest rates and ensuring the judicious use of the nation’s credit to finance our war effort.
The progress made in the European theatre of war has exceeded all our expectations. Those people in Australia who screamed for a second front two years ago, have had their answer. Those who marked down all British generals as second-raters, or looked upon the fighting quality of “ Tommy Atkins “ as a myth, have been well rebuked for their cocksureness and anti-British outlook. In conjunction with the United States of America and our Dutch allies, these same “ Tommies “ will, when the European situation permits, help to give Japan such a thrashing that for generations to come the Japanese will never think of invading Australia. The Canadians, South Africans and New Zealanders will be there, also. So will our small but very efficient Navy, and the gallant members of the Royal Australian Air Force. According to a statement made by the Minister for the Army (Mr. Forde) on the fifth anniversary of the formation of the Second Australian Imperial Force, the Army is to lend a hand.. No indication was given in that statement as to whether the Government intended to amend the Defence (Citizens’ Military Forces) Act which imposes a limit beyond which the Militia may not operate. Many Militia units have met and beaten the Japanese in parts of New Guinea. These young soldiers are anxious to prove again their mettle alongside the more experienced Middle East units farther afield. The majority of the people of Australia would applaud the removal of existing operational limits. It will take many years to remove this blot on our national prestige. The Minister for the Army stated recently that 82 per cent, of Australia’s land forces were now in the Australian Imperial Force. If that statement be correct, there is little to cavil about. Are the thousands who are doing necessary home-front duties, and who wear the “ Australia “ metal .badge and the overseas colour patch on their shoulders, included? If so, the statement is very misleading, and has been made merely for some political purpose. Until this personnel is embodied in an
Australian Imperial Force unit, or in an Australian Imperial Force reinforcement camp, they should not be permitted to wear the insignia of overseas service. When the stage is set for more extensive operations against the Japanese, the Australian Imperial Force divisions will be allotted definite and difficult tasks, harder than any yet undertaken, but commensurate with their reputations. No one will have cause to fear that they will not maintain the high standard which they achieved in the Middle East and New Guinea campaigns. What is to be feared is that these divisions will not be kept up to full strength by a continuous flow of reinforcements. It is the duty of the Government to ensure that reinforcements are sent forward as required. Releases from the Army for food production and certain essential post-war reconstruction duties should be replaced by transferring employees of military age in munitions and other factories, and in services where full staffs are no longer essential to more important duties. After a certain amount of training, many could be allotted garrison duty in New Guinea, and thus give to the members of the Militia who have volunteered for service with the Australian Imperial Force an opportunity to serve where required. Apart from supplying the reinforcements required to fill gaps in the ranks caused by battle casualties and other wastage, the question of discharging from the Australian Imperial Force those who have served continuously for four years or more also arises. They have done their war job and arc entitled to rehabilitate themselves in positions which are at present “ collared “ by others who have not made any sacrifice whatever. Failure to maintain these divisions at full strength in the field will create an impression in the minds of the other Empire divisions, as well as United States of America troops, that Australia is not putting forth its maximum strength to defeat Japan.
.- Honorable senators opposite appear to be very coy. At the beginning of this debate, the Leader of the Opposition (Senator McLeay) made certain grave charges with respect to the administration of the Postmaster-General’s Depart- ment, but not one word has been said by any Minister in answer to them. I should have thought that any self-respecting Minister would have sought the first opportunity to answer charges of this kind, which are probably among the gravest that could be levelled against a Minister, and to rehabilitate himself in the eyes of honorable senators and the people. No graver charge could be made against the administration of an individual Minister than that he misused his ministerial position in order to benefit his own political party, but we have not heard one word from a Minister in answer to those charges. The Postmaster-General (Senator Ashley) has not uttered one word to refute the charges made against him. The Leader of the Senate (Senator Keane) rose simultaneously with me, and I presume that had he received the call he would have closed the debate. I was hoping that I should not have occasion to repeat any of the charges made by the Leader of the Opposition, but that the PostmasterGeneral would be able to clear himself entirely. The charges made by the Leader of the Opposition form the very basis of the debate which has taken place, and the action of the Postmaster-General in ignoring them is one of the strangest I have experienced in the whole of my parliamentary career.
– Is not the PostmasterGeneral entitled to hear the whole of the alleged charges against him?
– A very clear case has already been made out against him. Had the Postmaster-General refuted these charges, I should not have referred to the subject at all. However, I shall deal fully with the matter a little later.
When concluding the previous debate, the Leader of the Senate gave a magnificent display of shadow sparring. He emphasized particularly that the Government was getting coal and said, in effect, “For goodness sake do not raise this issue at all. Do not wake up the baby, or it will turn into a tiger “. For a few days every mine was working, but to-day’s press reports that six mines are idle. However, if the Leader of the Senate is satisfied that the Government is getting coal, can he say when normal train services will be re-established, and sleeping berths restored to trains travelling to and from Canberra. Can he say when sufficient coal will be available to enable ordinary services to be re-established? Until sufficient coal to conduct the normal services of the community is obtained, I am afraid that we cannot adopt a “ hush-hush “ attitude in this matter, because of all the things that the Government has done, or omitted to do, its failure to. deal effectively with the coalmining industry is probably the gravest. The Leader of the Senate seems to think that the position is most delicate. He says, in effect, “For goodness sake, do not raise this question, because if you say a harsh word against any one associated with the coal-mining industry you will only make matters worse “. He declared that the Government cannot do better than it is doing at present. He says, in effect,. “ Let this subject die. Let the people forget it. When an honorable senator travels on a train to- and from Canberra, and cannot get a wink of sleep, for goodness sake, let him not say a word against the miners. I know that the Government has failed, and you must blame the Government, but do not blame the miners”. I listened attentively to the speech made by the Minister for Aircraft production (Senator Cameron). He made the most extraordinary rightabout turn that I have ever seen. After years and years of preaching class hatred and discontent, upon which he has- lived all his life, he now says that it is the object of the Government and himself to have long conferences with the Opposition, and- that we are to have government by mutual agreement. All of the first portion of his speech was based upon that admirable suggestion. I have never heard of any conferences, no-r have I been invited to attend one of them-. Any little criticism or advice that I have offered has been resented by the Minister and other honorable senators opposite as- if it were so much poison. I have not seen any evidence of amity. All that I have ever heard when the Minister rose was the preaching of class hatred. Now he has turned over a new leaf, and is preaching the gospel of friendship and government by mutual agreement. The most comical amd ironical part of his. speech was his appeal to every one in the chamber to rise above political bias. I could hardly believe my ears. I said to myself, “ Bless my soul, here is some one newly born; I wonder whether he will keep it up But the honorable senator did not do so. In the middle of his speech he put sand into the bearings, in order to create as much, heat and irritation as he could. Then he concluded by again making- a plea for government by mutual agreement. It is. one of the landmarks in the history of any Parlia-ment. When we hear a leading Minister contradicting everything that, he has said for the last 40 years, we are naturally completely astonished.
One statement, however, which I thought I had absolutely quashed some time ago, has been repeated, and I am afraid that I must reiterate my denial of it. The Minister said that the employers of this country believe in having a reserve army of unemployed in order to be able to reduce wages to the minimum, and build up a big export: trade, which would cause a. trade, war, which again in its turn would, be the cause of war itself. Of course, all’ these statements are absolutely untrue..
– I said that wars had their origin in trade wars-.
– The honorable senator said that the’ employers, were building up a new trade war, and that trade wars were the cause of international conflicts.
– Then the Minister wanted every country to iba selfcontained, the main, cause of wars.
– He did. The statement about the reserve army of unemployed is untrue.
– It is true of the past, but I hope that it will not be true of the future.
– It has never been true. The Minister reproached us with being in business to earn profits, which he said were the curse of mankind. Employers do like to make profits’; that, is how they live, and provide jobs. If they do not make profits, there will not he any jobs available. If the men do not receive wages, or are not well paid, there will not be any markets for the products of the employer, with the result that there will be no work and no products. After all, an industry lives on what it produces. What it produces it must sell, and if there is no market for its products it cannot carry on. A manufacturer cannot go on making goods if he cannot sell them. His market is provided by the expenditure of the money distributed in wages and in other ways. An employer cannot engage men at a figure “ right down to the bare bones “, as the Minister suggested, because he cannot pay less than the rates fixed ‘by the court. So long as he has a market for his goods, he likes to pay the highest wages, because he knows that the money will come back to him in an indirect manner.
– And he knows that he will have a better class of labour.
– Yes. The claim, which is repeatedly made, that the employers want a big reserve of unemployed, is one of the silliest that I have ever heard, and I hope that I shall hear no more of it.
Honorable senators opposite have lived on the gospel of discontent. Now they have to be discontented with themselves. When we were in office, they could be discontented with us and point out all our alleged faults and failures, but now when they are blamed for their own failures, they do not like facing facts. Their latest cry of discontent relates to soldier settlement, which they say cannot be carried out effectively owing to the defeat of the referendum proposals. I have never heard so many “democrats” condemning the verdict of the people which they should accept.
– Then why not accept us, seeing that the people placed us in power ?
– We accepted the verdict of the people, but I doubt whether the electors have realized the extent of their mistake, especially in the case of the honorable senator. Twelve months ago, a majority of the people were willing to take the advice of those who now occupy the treasury bench, but the results of the referendum disclose that they have now lost faith in them. These so-called democrats cannot acceptthe verdict of the people who put them in power.
Senator Grant interjecting,
– I cannot understand the honorable senator. Will you, Mr. President, act as an interpreter?
Senator Grant again interjecting,
– I ask Senator Grant not to interject. I shall name him if he continues to interrupt me when I am calling him to order.
– The Government in its endeavour to raise war loans has no scruples about using trust and other funds. At the end of a war loan campaign, the people are told that a loan has been fully subscribed, but not until the budget is tabled are they informed - and even then it is fairly well hidden - that a good deal of the money which helped to make the loan a success actually came from trust funds. It is improper to put trust funds into war loans. It is noticeable that the estimated expenditure for 1944-45 of almost every Commonwealth department shows an increase over actual expenditure during the last financial year. This is a remarkable state of affairs in view of the fact that our war position to-day is not nearly so serious as it was. I shall refer specifically to one astounding phase of this increased expenditure. It is proposed that during the current financial year expenditure on air raids precautions work shall be three or four times higher than it was when there was a real need for that service. Recently, some workmen went to” an employer in South Melbourne and asked for permission to enter his premises. They said, “We are going to install equipment for an air raid siren “. The owner laughed and said, “What, a new air raid siren at this stage of the war ? “ However, the men secured admission to the premises and installed the equipment. Surely such expenditure is very belated. A month or two ago I received a long illustrated account of air raids precautions activities, which must have cost many thousands of pounds. What justification is there for such work at this juncture? The people of this country do not complain about war expenditure so long as their money is expended judiciously, and we on this side of the chamber will not refuse to sanction the expenditure on legitimate war work, but throughout the community an impression is being created that the Government is not paying due regard to economy; that it is making a “ welter “ of it whilst the war lasts. It is obvious that the need for air raids precautions work in this country has largely disappeared and the Government will have some difficulty in explaining to the people the reason for this increased vote.
– Air raids precautions expenditure is not increasing. I represent the Minister for Home Security in this chamber, and I know that the honorable senator is entirely misrepresenting the position.
– I am referring to air raids precautions expenditure by the Postmaster-General’s Department. Whereas expenditure on this work last year was £25,708, the estimated expenditure for 1944-45 is £60,000 - an increase of approximately £34,000. What is the use of the Minister for the Interior (Senator Collings) saying that air raids precautions expenditure is not increasing when these figures show definitely that it is.
– The fact is that air raids precautions expenditure is being decreased. The honorable senator is referring merely to the air raids precautions work of one particular department.
– There is being created in the minds of the people of this country a belief that the Government is not adhering to the standards of conduct to which ordinary citizens are expected to conform. As an illustration of that I shall refer to something which occurred in the Department of Munitions. Certain machines most of them obtained under the lend-lease arrangement, were hired by that department to manufacturers, at an annual rental of 10 per cent. The contract under which the machines were hired provided that the rental should, be paid three months in advance, but in accordance with ordinary business practice, this money has been paid not on the first of each month on which it became due, but some time during the month - probably about the twentieth, when the ordinary accounts were being handled - so that, in effect, the hirers of the machines have been approximately three weeks behind in the payment of three months’ advance rental. Some time ago the Government decided that a rental of 10 per cent, was not enough, and that 20 per cent, would be charged. When the hirers were notified of the proposed increase, they protested, and claimed that the contracts under which they were working specified 10 per cent., but the reply was that as the advance rentals had not been paid on the due date, the contracts had been broken. This action by a government department savours of sharp practice, and has created considerable bad feeling. Another case of inefficient administration which has been brought to my notice concerns the Department of War Organization of Industry. A friend of mine, who is a commercial artist, decided to produce some coloured drawings which he proposed to supply to shops for sale at Christmas time. He applied to the Department of War Organization of Industry for permission to produce these drawings, giving an assurance that they would not contain printed matter. In reply he received a letter stating that his application had been approved. He produced the drawings and sold quite a number of them to shopkeepers. I saw the drawings, and I can assure honorable senators that they were quite innocuous. However, after they had been on display for two days, representatives of the Department of War Organization of Industry instructed shopkeepers to remove them. Here we have an example of a department speaking with two voices. In the first place it sanctioned the production of the drawings, and, in the second place, withdrew its approval and compelled shopkeepers who had exhibited the drawings to remove them. This action resulted in a considerable financial loss to the artist. It is a small matter, I admit, but it is typical of what is happening in the community to-day.
– Did the honorable senator bring the matter to the notice of the Minister for War Organization of Industry ?
– The matter was brought to the notice of the Minister but he could not be prevailed upon to change his mind.
I return now to the charges made by the Leader of the Opposition (Senator McLeay) against the action of the Government in granting a broadcasting licence to a certain South Australian station. In my opinion, the charges were sufficient to warrant an immediate reply from the Postmaster-General, but that honorable gentleman has not attempted in any way to justify his administration. Apparently the Government is adopting the same attitude towards the charges levelled against it in connexion with the expending of public money upon the “ Yes “ campaign at the recent referendum. lt says, ‘* We are in power and we shall do these things”. The crux of this matter is that the Labour party in South Australia received a one-fifth share in a broadcasting station, the purchase price for which, was £8,500, and in addition, free broadcasting time, worth probably £3,000 a year. So far as we are able to ascertain, the Labour party has not paid a penny for these concessions. If so, why were they given? Usually, valuable concessions such as these are not granted without some consideration being given in return.
– Recognition for services rendered.
– Probably that is so. The gentleman who represented both the vendors of the station and the Government made some interesting statements. Obviously, an organization would not pay £8,500 for a broadcasting station unless it was certain that a licence to operate that station would be obtained. It appears that the purchasing organization was informed that if it were prepared to grant concessions to the Labour party the issue of a licence would be assured.
– Who told the purchaser that?
- Mr. Alderman. And the licence was duly granted. What inducement was held out to the Central Methodist Mission to grant a one-fifth share in the broadcasting station and free broadcasting time worth probably £3,000 a year to the Labour party?
– It may have realized that the Labour party had not been getting a fair “ trot “ on the air.
– But the Labour party already has stations in Victoria, Western Australia and New South Wales.
– Not Victoria.
– It has station 3KZ in Victoria.
– The Labour party has one hour a week broadcasting time on that station.
– Apparently, in this case, the Postmaster-General granted the licence knowing well what conditions were stipulated in the agreement. I am sure that the Postmaster-General will not deny that, because in considering the matter he obtained the advice of the Solicitor-General, Sir George Knowles. He has on the departmental file the notes of the Solicitor-General, who said -
I may add that it appears to me not to be in the public interest that broadcasting licences should be the subject of bargaining.
The Minister had both a memorandum from the Acting Director-General of Posts and Telegraphs explaining the agreement, and the comments by the SolicitorGeneral. Therefore, he cannot plead that he was ignorant of the whole matter. The Solicitor-General told him that this matter had been a subject of bargaining. What could the Minister bargain about except one thing, as to whether the Labour party in South Australia was to have a one-fifth share in the station without charge, one-fifth of the control of the directorate, and one-fifth share of the profits? Surely the Postmaster-General, after those comments by the SolicitorGeneral, and the fact that he had on the file the comments of the Acting DirectorGeneral of Posts and Telegraphs, would not say now that he was altogether ignorant of the matter, and that the transactions bad taken place without his knowledge.
But the matter did not end there. Bargaining of a similar kind occurred with respect to another broadcasting station in New South Wales. Mr. Alderman, who appears to represent both the Government in various capacities, and the vendors of these stations, proceeded to sell the station 2HD at Newcastle. He got into touch with the Bishop of Newcastle, and offered to sell it to him, but certain conditions were attached. It was stipulated that, provided he did certain things he would not get the licence, but that if he did certain other things, he would have a good chance of receiving it. No one would buy the equipment of a broadcasting station unless he could also secure the licence, and the inducement was offered that the buyer could get the licence if he gave to the Labour party one-fifth of the shares in the company. Those shares were worth £1,700 odd, and the Labour party was to .get free broadcasting time worth over £3,000. When something of value is passed over., and practically hawked around by saying: “ You can get this licence if you agree to give to the Labour party a one-fifth share, but you cannot get it if you do not make that gift”, what could anybody think about the matter? In view of the charge made both in this chamber and in the House of Representatives, the Minister should have risen instantly to refute it, and clear his reputation in the eyes of the people for fair dealing with all sections of the community. The fact remains that the Labour party in South Australia got £1,700 odd for a concession for which it did not pay a penny. The only consideration that could be given for that concession was the granting of the broadcasting licence, which was in the hands of the Postmaster-General. That licence was issued, and a prompt and full explanation is due from the Minister. An assurance is also due that nothing of that character shall occur in any other negotiations for the purchase of ,a broadcasting station.
The public life of Australia, thank God, has been fairly clean over a long period, and the people do not desire a repetition of incidents of this kind. That is the wason why the Opposition asks for an explanation. I suppose that the Minister will give one, and I ask him to concentrate on the aspect that something which was worth a good deal of money was passed over to the Labour party without cost But the only consideration possible was the licence. What is the answer to the warning that the Solicitor-General gave to the Postmaster-General that it was not in the public interest that broadcasting licences should be the subject of bargaining? J hope that the Minister will .give an assurance that in any further negotiations for station 2HD Newcastle, the transaction will be clean and above board, and that there will be no passing over of favours to somebody who has not earned them, but who expects to get them because his own particular political party fs in power.
– The Leader of the Opposition (Senator McLeay) and the Deputy Leader (Senator Leckie) in their ^contributions to this debate have -concentrated upon the issue of licences to commercial broadcasting stations in Adelaide, Port Augusta and Newcastle. I propose to give as briefly as possible the history of the transactions as far as my department is concerned. In doing so 1 shall speak as dispassionately as possible, because I bear no ill will against any honorable senator or any honorable member in the other branch of the legislature, who has made allegations against me. This matter has had a good deal of publicity, and I hope that as much publicity will be accorded to my explanation of the history of the transaction and the records on the files of my department, as has been given to the adverse criticism of the department and myself. The commercial stations 5KA Adelaide, 5ATJ Port Augusta, 2HD Newcastle, and 4AT Atherton were put off the air early in January, 1941. I think that the date was the 8th January. The order was issued by the then Postmaster-General, Senator McLeay, on the 7th February, but the first order was issued by the Naval Department on the 8th January. On the day following the closing down of those stations, Mr. Richards, the Leader of the Opposition in the South Australian Legislative Assembly, telegraphed to the attorney acting for Jehovah’s Witnesses, who then owned those stations, asking for an option over them.
– Were they not frozen by the Government?
– That is .not correct.
– They were frozen in 1943.
– No. If the honorable senator will accord to me the same latitude as I extended to him, I hope that I shall clarify the position to his satisfaction as well as to my own. A few days after receipt of the telegram, Mr. Alderman met Mr. Richards, and an option was given to him over the two South Australian stations - one in Port Augusta and the other in Adelaide. Some disagreement occurred as to the price which, should be paid for them, Mr. Richards contending that as Jehovah’s Witnesses were members of a banned organization, they had nothing to sell, and that the price of £8,500 was too much for the shares in, and the equipment and assets of, those two stations. For some time the disagreement continued between the attorney for Jehovah’s Witnesses, and the representative of the shareholders. During the interval between the date when the option was secured early in 1941, and February, 1943, when a company was formed consisting, of two bodies in Adelaide,, namely, the Workers’ Weekly Herald and the Central Methodist Mission, Mr. Richards had endeavoured to deal with other people with regard to his option. I presume that he did not have the money to finance the stations himself. Evidence,, which I shall produce later, was given, before the Broadcasting Committee. Eventually, Mr. Richards reached agreement with the Central Methodist Mission, and the Workers’ Weekly Herald to take over the shares and the equipment of the two stations,, on the terms which; have been related by Senator Leckie- Those terms were that the Central Methodist Mission would hold four-fifths of the shares and the Workers’ Weekly Herald company one-fifth of them. A condition of the transfer of the option to those two bodies was- that the Labour party was to get free time on the basis1 which had been set out by Senator Leckie. As to the time which would be utilized, and the value of that time, I have not been in a position to question whether the £3,000 mentioned by Senator Leckie was, or was not, a reasonable sum, but I should regard it as somewhat extravagant, excepting in an election year, when more time would be provided. When Mr. Richards endeavoured to interest private enterprise in these stations he approached various business interests, but they did not desire to be Jinked with any political party, for reasons which will be obvious to every honorable senator. Later,, the Reverend S. Forsyth and the Reverend G. N. White waited on me in Adelaide, when I visited that city in April in connexion with a loan campaign, and requested the granting of a licence to the new company,, or the restoration of the licence which had been revoked. A record was taken by my department of what transpired at that deputation. I now read from the official file -
The Honorable 11. S. Richards, Leader of the State Opposition, accompanied by the Reverend S. Forsyth and the Reverend G-. N. White, representing the Adelaide Central Methodist Mission, waited on the PostmasterGeneral to-day and stated that a company comprising two bodies in Adelaide, namely, the. Workers’ Weekly Herald and the Central Methodist Mission, had .been formed and had acquired the interest of Sport Radio Broadcasting Company in broadcasting stations 5KA and 5AU. The deputation mentioned that an application had been made for the issue of a broadcasting station licence and inquired whether the Minister was in a position to ultimate whether the licence would be granted. During the course of the discussion the Minister asked the members of the deputation whether they had consulted with the Anglican and Catholic Church authorities and, if so, whether the latter were associated with the proposal. In this connexion the Postmaster-General invited the attention of those present to paragraphs 181 and 182. of. the first report, of tie Parliamentary Standing Committee on Broadcasting which was recently presented to Parliament and, in particular, to the committee’s recommendation that where applications have been made for broadcasting station licences by the churches, such licences should be allocated (when it- becomes practicable to issue- them-) to the three groups in each State,, namely, (a) the Church of England, (6) the Catholic Church and (o) a committee representing other Christian denominations. In reply, the Reverend Forsyth’ pointed out that in the agreement which had been entered into, programme time would be available to all denominations, and in this connexion he invited attention to clause 10 of the agreement. The Minister stated that he would be prepared to give favorable consideration to the issue of a licence,, provided, of course, he- had some assurance that the Anglican amd Catholic authorities and also other church authorities acquiesced in the proposed plan. The deputation agreed to examine the matter further and in due course to apprise the Minister of subsequent discussions.
Under the agreement which was made between the vendor and the purchaser-
– When the Minister speaks of vendor, does he mean Jehovah’s Witnesses ?
– I mean either them or their attorney, Mr. Alderman. As to the agreement which was made for the- sale or transfer of certain assets from Jehovah’s- Witnesses to the new company I am not concerned; it is not a matter which affects my department, or myself as Minister; it is solely a matter between individuals - the vendor and the purchaser. When the parties to the agreement had reached the stage that they were ready to apply for a licence, I stipulated, as I have already indicated, that they must comply with the conditions laid down by the Broadcasting Committee. Paragraph 19 of the agreement which was entered into reads -
It shall be the policy of the companies to broadcast, free of charge, religious services Over the stations twice on each Sunday, and such church speakers on such other occasions as the directors of the companies may fro time to time determine, giving to all recognized religious denominations a reasonable opportunity to share in the broadcasting of such services and meetings, but not so as to be likely to prejudice the companies’ commercial success.
As that agreement has been brought into question, I point out that it was an agreement entered into for the sale of the stations, and that I took no cognizance of it whatever.
– The Minister knew nothing about it?
– Not until within the last few days, when inquiry was made about it - not until I got the file. I give that assurance to the Senate for the reason that I do not think that any honorable senator who knows me would believe that I would for one moment mislead the Prime Minister in this matter. I do not say, nor do I suggest, that the Leader of the Opposition in the House of Representatives (Mr. Menzies), when he saw that agreement, did not think that it was the agreement upon which I had issued the licence. Following the deputation in Adelaide to which I have referred, a memorandum of agreement was sent on to my department, and the department, with a full knowledge of what took place at the deputation, forwarded a copy of the agreement to me. That is the agreement that I called for a few days ago. A copy of it has already appeared in Hansard. In it there is no reference at all to free time for the Labour party.
– Does the Minister say that he knew nothing about it?
– I did not know about it when I was questioned about free time. I knew none of the details of the transaction between Mr. Richards and the Central Methodist Mission and the attorney for Jehovah’s Witnesses.
– Did the Minister know that the Labour party had onefifth of the shares?
– I did not. That transaction was no concern of mine.
– The Minister did not know of it?
– No ; I did not know of it. But had I known of.it, and also that the Central Methodist Mission had complied with the recommendations of the Gibson Committee, which was endorsed by its successors, I should have had no hesitation in issuing the licence, despite the fact that free time for the Labour party was provided for. I repeat that that is a matter between the companies and is no concern of my department or myself. Senator Leckie referred to the fact that the Solicitor-General, Sir George Knowles, commented unfavorably upon the agreement. I point out that the original licences for these stations, which had been withdrawn, were held by the Jehovah’s Witnesses organization. When the attorney representing that organization forwarded the agreement, dated the 7th February, the department submitted it to the Solicitor-General; and the reason for so doing was set out by the Director-General of Posts and Telegraphs as follows: -
Reason for submitting to Sir George Knowles the memorandum dated the 5th February, 1043, covering the conditions of sale of stations SKA and 5AU was for the purpose of obtaining legal advice on the departmental position in the matter. The stations concerned were owned by Jehovah’s Witnesses which had been declared an illegal organization and at the time the agreement was submitted to the department the High Court’s judgment in the proceedings instituted in the Jehovah’s Witnesses against the Commonwealth had not been delivered!. In these circumstances, therefore, it was considered necessary to ascertain the precise legal position as consideration was -being given to the matter of the issue of licences to the stations concerned.
– The licences were frozen and an option could not be given until the High Court announced its judgment.
– I raised that point to-day with the Attorney-General (Dr. Evatt), and he informed me that the licences were not frozen. If, immediately after the court gave its judgment in favour of the Jehovah’s Witnesses organisation, it had applied for the renewal of the licences, I doubt whether the Commonwealth could legally have refused to re-issue the licences to it.
– The Government would have had no moral right to refuse to do so.
– That is so; but the point I make now is that grave doubt existed as to the legal position.
– Did Mr. Richards pay anything for the option?
– I am not in a position to say whether he paid anything. But let me now deal with the option. I took advantage of each opportunity presented to me to listen to the debate in the House of Representatives on this subject. During that debate, the point was raised as to whether Mr. Richards really had an option or not. I got in touch with Mr. Alderman, and asked him to telegraph particulars of the option. He. said that he would do so, and I received the following telegram from him. this afternoon: -
Pursuant to promise made by me to Richards early in February, 1941, following his wire to me in Melbourne in January, 1941, and following valuations and long discussions as regards price I gave written option to Richards on 5th October, 1942. That is before me now. I promptly informed several other business and religions organizations in Adelaide who had approached me about the station and to whom I had mentioned that Richards had been promised first option. Richards exercised option by wire from Adelaide to me in Sydney on 18th or 19th October, 1942 (wire not in front of mc) and I acknowledged receipt of that acceptance by wire dated 19th October, 1942, which is in front of me now. Thereafter Richards and various other interests negotiated direct and eventually Richards and Methodist agreed cm terms.
I point out that in February, 1941, in case the fact has escaped the memory of honorable senators opposite, the Menzies Government was in office, and the Leader of the Opposition in this chamber (Senator McLeay) was the Postmaster-General. I had asked when the option was given, and I was particularly concerned as to when it was given in writing. I also contacted Mr. Richards with respect to the option. No honorable senator will deny that Mr. Richards’ reputation stands very high in South Australia. He has been Premier of that State, and at present is Leader of the Opposition in the
State Parliament. Honorable senators generally have eulogized Mr. Richards, the Reverend Mr. Forsyth, who is president of the Central Methodist Mission in South Australia, and the Reverend Mr. White, who is the secretary of that body. The two last-named gentlemen approached Mr. Richards to inquire into the possibility of securing these two stations. Mr. Richards has also told me that he was approached by the representative of a newspaper organization which was prepared to pay more than the sum of £8,500 for his option and, in addition, to give as much free time on the station to the Labour party as was to be given to it by the Central Methodist Mission, as well as a one-fifth share of the assets. But Mr. Richards declined to do business with that concern. I have only learned of these aspects since this subject was raised in Parliament. I repeat that the transactions between the attorney, acting for the shareholders of these stations, and Mr. Richards, who held the option, are of no concern directly to my department. My only concern as Postmaster-General in the issue or re-allocation of broadcasting licences is that the applicants be of good character, and undertake to fulfil the recommendations of the Broadcasting Committee. In this case I have endeavoured to adhere strictly to the letter of those recommendations. The Leader of the Opposition said last night that the only church organization outside the Central Methodist Mission that had been considered in the matter was the Catholic Church. That is entirely incorrect. I can only assume that the Leader of the Opposition made that statement in ignorance of the facts. On the 21st April, 1943, the Bishop of Adelaide forwarded the following letter to the attorney of the Central Methodist Mission: -
Dear Mr. Waterhouse,
I am sorry to have kept you waiting for a reply to the proposal you made to me on 13th April. 1 have had to wait some days for an opportunity to consult the particular person whose advice I need.
My reply is as follows: -
In reply to the proposal made to me on Tuesday, 13th April, by representatives of the Central Methodist Mission in reference to a wireless station, I write to say that I as head of the Church of England in the Diocese of Adelaide, will raise no objection to the granting of ‘a licence for such a station to the Methodist Central Mission, and that the
Church of England does not desire to be in any way associated with the control, or management of such a station.
The Church of England can give no undertaking that it will not at some future time apply for a licence for a station of its own.
Meanwhile, the Church of England would wish to be given the right, on, a similar basis to that accorded to other denominations, to broadcast if it so desires, after due and satisfactory notice. to the management of the station, or on any or every Sunday evening from 9.30 p.m. to 10 p.m., or at some other suitable time to be agreed upon.
Yours sincerely, (Signed) Bryan, Adelaide.
Sitting suspended from 6 to 8 p.m.
– The following letter was sent .by Mr. Waterhouse, the attorney for the Central Methodist Mission, to the Bishop of Adelaide: -
I wish to acknowledge and thank you lor your letter of the 21st April.
I note your reply with reference to the proposal made by me on behalf of the Central Methodist Mission concerning SKA wireless station.
In the event of a licence being granted to the company in which my clients are interested, the Mission undertakes that there will be made available to the Church of England, free of charge, a half hour for broadcasting on Sunday evenings from 9.30 to 10 p.m. or at some other suitable time to be agreed upon.
The bishop’s reply was as follows: -
Thank you for your letter of 7th May. I would like you to express to your clients, when opportunity offers, my appreciation of their readiness to make free time available on Sunday evenings for the Church of England in the event of their being granted a licence for the proposed wireless station. When the matter develops further we can confer again about this.
A letter was sent by the attorneys for the stations to the Director-General of Telegraphs, confirming the correspondence in the following terms: -
We refer to our letter of 23rd March herein and your reply of 29th March. Since that correspondence, we understand that the purchasers of the shares in the companies in question had an interview in Adelaide with the Minister and the Director-General.
As a result of the suggestions made by the Minister, discussions followed with the Archbishop of Adelaide and the Bishop of Adelaide. Agreement has now been reached with the two ecclesiastical authorities, whereby certain “ free time “ is to be made available to both churches and, as a result, no objection is being raised to the renewal of the licences.
These arrangements have been- committed to writing and we enclose for .your informa tion and for the information of the Minister the documents which evidence the arrangements.
So far as the Archbishop of Adelaide is concerned, there is a memorandum between His Crace the Archbishop and the representatives of the Central Methodist Mission and the Workers’ Weekly Herald. The arrangement with the Bishop of Adelaide is embodied in correspondence passing between His Lordship and Messrs. Povey and Waterhouse, the solicitors acting for Central Methodist Mission. The correspondence is enclosed. We might add our assurance that the arrangement with the Bishop of Adelaide has the ‘complete approval of Workers’ Weekly Herald.
Will you be good enough to let us know as soon as possible whether the licences in question will now he renewed?
Those letters bring the matter up to the stage at which the licence was duly issued. The Broadcasting Committee visited Adelaide on the 28th June, 1943. In confirmation of the statements which I made in the Senate this afternoon, I quote the evidence given by Mr. Alderman, beginning with this paragraph: -
The history of station 5KA is this: The Government put Jehovah’s Witnesses off the air. As soon as that happened, I went over to Melbourne. When I arrived there I had a telegram from the Leader of the Opposition in the South Australian Parliament, Mr. Richards, asking whether he could obtain the licence for the Labour party. I told him that I expected the station to go !back on the air, hut I promised him that if ever the shares in the, station were to be sold, and I was connected with the transaction, the sale would not be effected without an opportunity being given to him to participate in the deal.
He then went on to speak of Mr. Waterman, a motion-picture proprietor, in Adelaide, and continued -
For some time I took no steps at all to negotiate for the sale of the stations, hut many people approached me from time to time with a view to purchasing shares.
I quote that to show that I have documentary evidence in support of everything I have stated this afternoon. Mr. Alderman’s evidence continued -
To four of them if not five, including the Methodist Church, I gave a promise - each one knew about the others - that the station would not be sold without them having a chance of being interested. When I finally reached the stage of negotiations, I decided that the only way in which I could handle the matter was to give the option to one person at a figure, so I gave the option to Mr. Richards, who was the first person that I had dealt with, to purchase stations 5KA and 5AU - the subsidiary station at Port Augusta - for £8,500, provided that he should not exercise the option on behalf of or in collaboration with people who would not be acceptable to myself, to the Postmaster-General or to this committee.
One newspaper company was willing to pay me much more than £8,500 for the stations, and I understand that it was agreeable to allowing the Labour party a one-fifth interest in the stations, plus the same free time on the air that it had previously, but insisted that the company itself must control the station. However, I knew that newspaperowned stations were not exactly popular with this committee, and I visualized the possibility, if not the probability, of the agreement coming before the committee for ratification.
The Methodists said that they wanted the station and they agreed that the price was quite reasonable, not for the assets alone, but also for the goodwill of the station and for the increased chance they would have of obtaining a licence if they owned the shares. I point out that it is not merely a question of valuing the assets in cold blood, because T do not think that the Commonwealth would ever have power, even in war-time, to acquire the assets for the purpose of selling them to some other private concern.
After all, the only real test of value is what a purchaser is prepared to offer. Therefore, the valuing of assets alone as such is quite irrelevant.
I went to a lot of trouble in an endeavour to get other business people to come in. Some of them said that they would come in if they could control the station, and others were a little bit afraid of being publicly connected with a religious body. For instance, a furniture manufacturer feared that if he held equal shares with the Methodist Church and a situation arose in which public opinion was turned against the station, his business interests might be prejudiced.
The Central Methodist Mission then applied for consent to borrow the money. Approval was granted and we applied to the PostmasterGeneral for the renewal of the licence, or the issue of a new licence. The PostmasterGeneral wanted to be satisfied that all churches were happy about the arrangement, and, acting on his own initiative, he requested the Church of England, which is not a member of the Council of Churches, and the Catholic Church, to intimate their willingness. Eventually, these people agreed that no objection would be taken to the issue of that licence in view of the undertaking that certain free time would be given to them when required, and subject to their own freedom to apply for a licence. At the moment, it appears to me that the Church of England in South Australia is not inclined, immediately to make use of that time, but that the Catholic Church is very keen to use the. half hour from 9 p.m. to 9.30 p.m. on. Sundays. When the High Court judgment was given, it was announced in the press in Adelaide that, with my consent and approval, this transaction was going to take place. Not a solitary word of protest was made in the press, to the PostmasterGeneral, or to me - not even by the Liberal party in South Australia. Therefore, the Postmaster -General intimated last Friday that the licence would be issued.
That is the position as I stated it this afternoon. After the deputation waited upon me in Adelaide, the memorandum of agreement which is already incorporated in Hansard was made. During the discussion on these licences a great deal of attention has been directed to the introductory paragraph of the agreement. It is significant that, although the agreement is already incorporated in Hansard, last night the Leader of the Opposition in the House of Representatives had only the first paragraph inserted in Hansard. I will show the Senate his reason. That paragraph of the agreement provides -
In contemplation of the renewal by the Postmaster-General of the broadcasting licences for 5KA and 5AU, and in further contemplation that is what the Opposition is basing its case upon - of the completion of a certain agreement whereby Adelaide Central Methodist Mission and Workers’ Weekly Herald become the legal owners of all the shares (except one) in the companies to which the said licences were hitherto issued the parties hereto are agreed as follows: -
The obvious reason why the Leader of the Opposition quoted only the first paragraph was to suggest that the words “ in further contemplation “ referred solely to the agreement of the 7th February. To clear up this matter, I invited the Solicitor-General to my office this morning and asked him to give me an interpretation of that paragraph. He said that it meant the completion of the previous agreement of sale, that no money would be paid, and the other conditions would not be complied with unless that agreement was completed.
– My point was that that reference was to the agreement which contained a clause giving free time to the Labour party..
– I never denied that as the Leader of the Opposition would have known had he been here this afternoon. No doubt business detained him, but he had a very able deputy in his place. Had the memorandum of agreement which was made and sent to me, as the result of the reply which I gave to the deputation in Adelaide, contained a paragraph stating that the agreement between the Central Methodist Mission of .South Australia and the Workers’ Weekly Herald on the one hand and the company on the other provided for free time for the Labour party and for the transfer of shares to the party, I should not have hesitated to issue a licence, because I cannot see any valid reason why the Australian Labour party or the Nationalist party or the Liberal party of South Australia should not have an agreement with the Central Methodist Mission or any other organization if it so desires.
– The Liberal party had applied for the licence.
– Yes, but it did not buy the assets of the station. Had it done so it would have had first consideration from me in respect of the licence so long as it complied with, the recommendations of the Broadcasting Committee.
Following the deputation which waited on me in Adelaide, the agreement dated the 17th May, 1943, was forwarded to the department and a copy was sent on to me. That is the only agreement with which I am concerned. I am not concerned, nor is the department, with the agreement of sale, which is purely an agreement between the vendor and the purchaser. If I were to seek to impose conditions in regard to the sale .of the assets of the two stations as between the vendor and the purchaser, honorable senators opposite would declare that the Postal Department was interfering with private enterprise. When I read the agreement I was satisfied that the conditions laid down by me had been complied with, and I had no hesitation in granting the licence. In support of my case, I have here the letters received from church organizations, apart from those directly connected with the purchase of the station, and they are unanimous in their approval of the arrangement. It is strange that although the licences for these stations in South Australia were issued ten months ago, there was no protest until the matter was raised in this Parliament last week.
– We did not know that ‘the licences had been issued.
– There were representatives of the United Australia party on the Broadcasting Committee, and that committee was fully conversant with the circumstances in which the licences were issued. The committee was aware also that a condition of sale of station 5KA was the granting to the Labour party of an interest in it, and of free broadcasting time ; yet, as I have said, no protest was made until the matter was raised in this Parliament purely for political propaganda and advantage. The only conditions that I imposed upon the applicants for the licences were in conformity with the recommendations of the Broadcasting Committee, namely, that free time should be granted to church organizations’ other than those participating in the purchase. The agreement between the Central Methodist Mission and the Catholic Church on the one hand, and the Central Methodist Mission and the Workers’ Weekly Herald on the other, was a common-sense business arrangement. These organizations got together and agreed to work in harmony. They were satisfied with the conditions imposed by the vendors. It was purely a business arrangement, and did not concern me as Postmaster-General. I was dealing only with two companies whose licences previously had been revoked. The whole matter is a splendid example of tolerance between religious bodies, but it has been misconstrued for political gain. No doubt honorable senators opposite believed that if they threw enough mud- some of it would stick. Emphasis has been placed upon the fact that free time has been granted, to the Labour party and various estimates of the value of that time have been made by honorable senators opposite. One honorable senator placed the figure al £3,000 per annum. I have not had an opportunity to examine the matter closely enough to enable me to form an estimate of the value of the broadcasting time, but I draw attention to the fact that the Workers’ Weekly’ Herald, a shareholder in the company, does not have to pay f or broadcasting time on the station. In fact, shareholders other than the Australian Labour party, have double the free time that is given to the Labour party, but no reference to that fact ha3 been made by honorable senators opposite. Would it not be just as logical to say that because the Central Methodist Mission, on the basis of calculation adopted by the Leader of the Opposition, had free broadcasting time valued at ?6,000 a year, there was something corrupt about this transaction? Although honorable senators opposite have scrutinized the matter very closely in their endeavours to find something to turn to their own advantage, regardless of whose character would bo besmirched in the process, there is another significant provision in the agreement of which no mention has been made. It is that the shares allocated to the Workers’ Weekly Herald were subjected to the condition that upon the dissolution of either or both companies those shares should not participate in a capital distribution until such time as the Central Methodist Mission had received the sum of ?8,500, the purchase consideration provided in the first instance. That was a precaution against the enterprise being unsuccessful. I stress again the significant fact that no complaint about the granting of the licences to the South Australian stations was made prior to the issue being raised here a few “days ago. That is very hard to understand, and as such wide publicity has been given to this matter in the press, it might be pertinent for me to ask if the granting of licences to South Australian stations has been brought to light because of the interest of the Labour party in a certain Newcastle station which has far greater commercial value than the South Australian stations. J. understand that the first option on the purchase of 2HD Newcastle was given to the Trades and Labour Council and the Hunter Electoral Council. That option was for ?17,500, and was not exercised. The next option, also for ?17,500, was given to Bishop Batty on behalf of the Church of England, and once again it was not exercised. I believe that a counter offer was made by Bishop Batty of ?15,000, and that the offer was rejected by the vendor, through his attorney.
– A supporter of the Labour party.
– I am not concerned whether he is a supporter of the Labour party or the United Australia party. I have already explained that the selling of the stations had nothing to do with me at all. I was concerned only with the applications for the licences. It is my duty to ensure that the successful applicants shall be’ individuals of reputable character, and shall comply with the conditions laid down by the Broadcasting Committee. Nothing that has been said here this afternoon or anywhere else will alter my decision. When this issue was first raised, the charge was that there had been corruption in the deal between the vendors and the purchasers of the South Australian stations. Since then the charges have changed almost daily. The next accusation was related to a mythical ?3,000. That charge brought from the Prime Minister (Mr. Curtin)’ a clear declaration, and a challenge which has remained unanswered. To-day in this chamber I have been charged with maladministration. Immediately it was found that the first charge might have serious political repercussions from religious bodies in South Australia, the individuals who made it altered their ground. Another charge was formulated, implicating myself, the Prime Minister and the Treasurer (Mr. Chifley). I pay due credit to the Leader of the Opposition in the House of Representatives (Mr. Menzies) for the statement which he made in that House yesterday. A. press report of what occurred states -
The atmosphere in the House was tense when in the early hours of the morning, and with Mr. Curtin back, Mr. Menzies declared: “ Nobody in the course of this debate has accused the Prime Minister of personal corruption in any form and lie knows it. There was not one suggestion that the Prime Minister had himself secured some personal advantage.
Tension in the House relaxed when Mr. Curtin added that he gathered now that no charges of the nature he had in mind had been contemplated with regard to himself, the Treasurer or the Postmaster-General.
Mr. Menzies. Certainly
The attitude of the right honorable member for Kooyong is that of a hig man. I believe that he made his charges in relation to the first agreement honestly believing that they were justified, and without wishing to besmirch the character of any person. In view of the explanation that I have given, I trust that no member of this Parliament, nor any person in this country, will suggest that I or any officers of my department have been guilty of maladministration. Since I have been a member of the Senate - and I have been in public life for many years before I came into this chamber - I have never, made statements which I did not believe to be correct. I have done my utmost to deal fairly with every honorable senator, and every member of the other branch of the Legislature, from ex-Prime Ministers to the humblest members. I have given the best service that I could as a Minister, and 1 sincerely regret that a misunderstanding has arisen, and that the imputation has been made that I have misled the Prime Minister,
.- I do not propose to analyse the remarks of the Postmaster-General (Senator Ashley), who has made a cool and calculated statement with regard to broadcasting matters. I was PostmasterGeneral for about seven years, and I think that that is a. longer period than any other member of Parliament has occupied that position. My practice with regard to the issue of broadcasting licences was to do exactly as the present Minister has done. As long as I was satisfied that the person who applied for a. licence was a fit and proper person to receive one it was granted to him. I did not even submit matters of that kind u Cabinet, but I dealt with, them, departmentally, as the Leader of the Opposition (Senator McLeay) no doubt did’ when he was Postmaster-General. I did not issue many licences, because I held the view that in the early stages of broadcasting a person who received a licence was granted a concession which might become of great value, as has proved to be the case. I did not grant more than twelve licences, but at present there are about 100. I discouraged the transfer of licences because I realized that that would- be granting a concession, which could be sold at an enhanced value. I told the applicants for licences to buy a station, and, if I regarded them as fit and proper persons to carry on those stations, licences would be granted to them. I think that the PostmasterGeneral has justified his action in regard to the matter under discussion, and I have no hesitation in saying that, in similar circumstances, I should have done what he has done. He was not to know what arrangements the Central Methodist Mission authorities had made with any outsider. That was no business of his, but I think that the statement of Mr. Alderman was most indiscreet, seeing that he was legal adviser to the Government and acting also for Jehovah’s Witnesses. It was wrong of him to tell the organization that it would have a better chance of getting a licence if it conferred a benefit on the Australian Labour party. There is no doubt that he made such a statement. Jehovah’s Witnesses were only a temporary client of his, but the Commonwealth Government was almost a permanent client and he wished to obtain a concession for the Government if he could. I have no doubt that the statement was made without the knowledge of the PostmasterGeneral.
– I could not control that.
– Of course not. I now turn to another subject, and hope that I shall not be accused of descending from the sublime to the ridiculous.
I understand that the Government proposes to release 10$000 persons- to work in the dairying industry, but not one of those persons could be absorbed, because the wages of milkers in the industry have been fixed, under a rural workers’ award a,t £5’ 12s. 6d. a week. The award provides in paragraph 8 that, notwithstanding -the terms in, any agreement or contract whereby an employee is engaged on any piece-work, or payment by results, the wages shall be £5 12s* 6d. a week. That amounts to £294 a year. The employee must milk seventeen cows night and morning; and each cow must return £20 a y,ear. The dairyman has also to provide £40 interest on the cost of the cows- and the land on which the cows are depastured, making a total, of £34,4. Allowing £6 a. year for rates, the farmer’s costs total exactly the same amount as the wages. Would any honorable senator opposite say that a person could milk more than seventeen cows ?
– If I had a milking machine, I could deal with more than seventeen, but 90 per cent, of the labour is supplied by the farmer’s family.
– No farmer could employ milkers at £5 12s. 6d. a week and conduct a -dairy at a profit. The bounty paid to the dairying industry of £7,500,000 has proved a great value to it, because it has provided the dairyman and his family with assistance not previously enjoyed, but the only satisfactory way to place the industry on a sound basis would be to increase the price of butter-fat immediately bv 4d. a pound.
– How could the oldage pensioner buy butter at the increased rate that would then operate ?
– I am speaking of the working man who, together with the other butter consumers, are providing the subsidy of £7,500,000. If the dairymen are given an opportunity to pay a fair wage to their employees they will do so, but they cannot comply with the arbitration award, because it would absorb the whole of their profit. The average dairycow does not return £20 a year. The average milker is an adult and must receive the full wage. The dairymen could only escape the payment of the award rates by employing incompetent persons who were allowed to work at a privileged rate because they were blind, crippled, ot in some other way physically incapacitated. ‘
– The dairyman has had an “ open go “ on wages for years.
– The price of labour has been pegged at a rate that the dairyman cannot afford to pay, and the industry will continue to decline and become merely a family industry. The drought affects the wheat-growing and ‘ other areas, but those engaged in the dairying industry are not affected by drought. Thousands of share farmers in Victoria have done well in conducting dairies as a family concern, but with the wages of milkers fixed at £5 12s. 6d. a week share farmers can claim from the land-owner the award rate.
– They have not done so yet.
– But they will. I have asked the Department of ‘Commerce and Agriculture and the AttorneyGeneral to define the position created by the arbitration award, and the only reply that I have received is, “ Bring up specific cases “. I am convinced that, if a share farmer fails to earn £5 12s. 6d. a week, the liability rests on the farmer by whom he was engaged to make up the difference. The Government should at least define the meaning of the award.
– What did the farmers previously pay?
– The farmers employed the members of their families and they were poorly paid. As I have already indicated, the only remedy is for the Government to increase the price of :butter-f at by 4d. a pound. The present bounty does not nearly provide for that. The Government should see that the industry does not go by the board, because it will certainly be destroyed unless action be taken to prevent its decline.
– The Broadcasting Committee, of which I have been a member since its inception, has considered the matters that have been raised with regard to stations 5KA Adelaide and 2HD Newcastle. It has not been able to deal with station 5KA Adelaide because Mr. H. G. Alderman had a complete power of attorney from Jehovah’s Witnesses, and was in a position to dispose of the physical assets of the company. A court case was pending and nothing could be done because the price offered, according to Mr. Alderman, was less than his clients would accept. He waited until the High Court had determined that the previous decision that Jehovah’s Witnesses were an illegal body was wrong, and the status quo was restored. No member of the committee could decide what should be done with the licences that had been revoked, but it was known that the physical assets of the organizations concerned were valuable. Valves and crystals required for broadcasting purposes were difficult to obtain, and, because those stations had been off the air for a considerable period, their equipment had a longer life than that which had been in constant use. The committee had been advised by Mr. Alderman to suggest the transfer of the shares in the company from Jehovah’s Witnesses to the
Central Methodist Mission and the Workers’ Weekly Herald in Adelaide. “While in Newcastle, the committee heard evidence from all sections with regard to station 2HD in that city. The people there were anxious to establish an extra studio for the purposes of a commercial station and also an extra studio for the national broadcasting system. It was thought that station 2HD should be put on the air so that an outlet would be provided for Newcastle broadcasting talent. There is a greater population within 25 miles of that city than in the whole of Tasmania, and in view of the number of stations in Tasmania, Newcastle was considered to be entitled to another. It was pointed out that the Treasurer (Mr. Chifley) had visited that city in order to broadcast in connexion with a war loan, but was unable to speak there because of the poor facilities provided. All kinds of people have asked the committee for a broadcasting licence, but it was pointed out that unless they possessed the necessary physical assets, their requests could not be granted. As time went on, the committee had to abandon the idea of further investigation with regard to station 2HD, because Mr. Alderman gave evidence in Canberra that he was endeavouring to dispose of the shares of the company to the Church of England authorities, and he was having difficulty in inducing that body to pay the price demanded by him. He pointed out that there had been an offer of £10,000 for the station and that Mr. Sheedy of the Newcastle Herald had offered him £1-7,500’. He had refused the offer by Fuller’s circuit because he was prepared to sell the station to the Church of England for that sum. He then reported that Bishop Batty was not interested, and that he had said that if given the licence he would not make time available, to the Labour party.
– That is what put an end of the negotiations.
– Mr. Alderman refused to negotiate further with Mr. Sheedy of the Newcastle Herald, because he, too, refused to give time on the air to the Labour party. Mr. Alderman gave to the Broadcasting Committee his views in this connexion, particularly in relation to the Adelaide station. In giving evi dence before the present Broadcasting Committee on the 20th June, 1944, he said -
Holding the view that the Labour party is at least a very useful institution, even if it is not always right, it undoubtedly colours my view that the Labour party ought to have a voice on the air, but I add to that my belief that every major recognized and orthodox political party ought to have a voice on the air also. I think my view regarding the Labour party would be likely to influence my feelings with regard to the disposal of any station in Tasmania in which the Labour party is seeking an interest. When the station in Adelaide was to be sold, 1 stipulated that the Labour party should be’ given a chance to purchase an interest in it because there was only one station being sold at the time, and the Advertiser, which is Murdoch controlled already had station 5AD, probably the best Commercial station in South Australia. I say that at the risk of offending my friend, Mr. Randall White, of 5DN. Besides that SAD has also several regional stations. That station has shown that the political interests opposed to the Labour party have a voice in it, and the Premier of South Australia had a certain time on the air every Friday, a privilege which had never been given to the Leader of the Labour party, who was Leader of the Opposition.
There has been no complaint about Mr. Playford, the Premier of South Australia, having the right to speak over the air to the people of South Australia every Friday night, but great concern is exhibited when a somewhat similar privilege is given to the Labour party.
– Does not the honorable senator think that it would only be fair to grant to the Liberal party equal time to that to be made available to the Labour party?
– The Leader of the Opposition (Senator McLeay) pays too little attention to facts. He merely says: “Don’t you think you ought to do this or that?” The report of the Broadcasting Committee which was tabled last week, recommended that, where licences were being transferred, equal opportunity should be given to all recognized political parties to secure an interest in them. The Parliament has decided that the report be printed, and it is now a matter for- the Government to deal with. I believe “that the Government will give effect to that recommendation.
– As chairman of the committee, will the honorable senator see that that is done in connexion with the Newcastle station?
– The terms of reference to the committee do not cover that matter.
– But as chairman of the committee the honorable senator has considerable influence.
– I shall refer to that matter later. To-day the United Australia party met and devoted some time to discussing the members of the Broadcasting Committee. Afterwards a statement was given to the press. I wonder how many members, past or present, of the Broadcasting Committee were at that meeting. A press report of the meeting reads -
The Prime Minister’s proposal that the questions that have arisen in relation to 5K.A Adelaide and 2HD Newcastle should he referred to the Parliamentary Committee on Broadcasting is utterly unsatisfactory to the Opposition. The committee contains a government party majority, has already had some contact with these matters at an early stage, and is in no sense a proper body to conduct an impartial investigation into matters of the kind raised by me in yesterday’s debate. It is hard to believe that the Government can seriously intend to resist the demand for a royal commission.
The Broadcasting Committee was appointed to investigate broadcasting in Australia. Because of the desire of the Government to introduce legislation in connexion with broadcasting, the committee submitted an early report. That report was unanimous as has been every report submitted by the committee to Parliament. Since I have been chairman of the committee in only two instances have reports not been signed by every member. In one instance, the report dealt with a matter about which there was a division of opinion, and only five members signed it. The other instance was the report tabled last week. It was not signed by every member of the committee because, unfortunately, ex-Senator Darcey died, and Senator Allan MacDonald had resigned from the committee, before the report was ready for presentation. The last report was signed by every member of the Opposition who was associated with the committee. That report recommended the removal of a station from Derby to the Midlands district of Tasmania. The question that has been raised in the Parliament was ventilated before the committee, beeause there was an application by the
Labour party to purchase 50 per cent, of the shares in a particular station. The committee was unanimous that it had no power to deal with the physical assets of the company concerned, its view being that the company could dispose of its assets as it thought fit, provided that the purchaser was a reputable person acceptable to the Postmaster-General’s Department. When the committee was dealing with station 2HD, it recommended that the licence be granted to the Newcastle Federal Electorate Branch of the Labour party and the Trades Hall as joint licensees. In order to offset that recommendation, the then member for Boothby, Dr. Price, who was a non-Labour member of the committee, suggested the following amendment: -
If no religious or educational body is prepared to purchase the plant of station 2HD, and reopen the station forthwith, we consider that, in the special circumstances of Newcastle, the Trades Hall and the Australian Labour party should be given the opportunity. This recommendation is subject to the Post Office being able to make available the channel used by station 2HD or some other channel.
However, the committee adjourned, and the matter was not proceeded with further. Now it is said that the policy of the Government is “ spoils to the victors “ and that the committee is so biased that it does not deal with matters on their merits. I give to the right honorable member for Kooyong (Mr. Menzies) and his fellow members of the United Australia party the lie direct. In all cases, the committee has paid due regard to the point of view of witnesses. However, we do not accept merely the say-so of any witness. We do not take evidence on oath; but we check up on all evidence given to the committee. In connexion with the Tasmanian case we called evidence from representatives of the Australian Labour party and the United Australia party.
– Did the committee consider the United Australia party in the Newcastle case?
– No evidence was given to the committee on behalf of the United Australia party in that instance. However, the sittings of the committee in Newcastle were advertised a week ahead in all newspapers in Newcastle, and the surrounding districts, and over the national and commercial broadcasting stations. The United Australia party did. not respond to the committee’s invitation to give evidence. Therefore, all this talk about the Broadcasting Committee being a vicious body, unable to make a fair report, is so much twaddle. It makes me wonder at the mental makeup of honorable senators opposite who are prepared to insult their colleagues who are members of the committee in the way I have described. Using the same argument, one could say that the Advisory War Council and all parliamentary committees must be biased in favour of the party which has a majority on each of those bodies, and, therefore, each of them is unable to consider any matter fairly. However, that argument could equally be applied in respect of all committees which operated during the regime of antiLabour governments. This attack is an attempt by vested interests, through their representatives in Parliament, to discredit the Broadcasting Committee. Only yesterday Senator Foll asked the Government to appoint a parliamentary committee to consider the payment pf war gratuities to soldiers, and other matters affecting the welfare of ex-service personnel. Yet the honorable senator’s colleagues in their party room passed a resolution declaring that all parliamentary committees are biased because the Labour party has a majority on those bodies. I repeat that the Broadcasting Committee gave an opportunity to every party interested to secure a licence in respect of station 2HD, provided applicants were able to purchase the physical assets. Both the Gibson committee and the Calwell committee laid down the principle that religious bodies should have first priority in the issue of broadcast licences. Under our present system which provides for 99 channels for the use of commercial stations and 23 channels for national stations, it is not possible to provide additional channels. Therefore, any new licences granted must be given on the condition, that the recipient shares a channel which may be already shared by two or three stations. I trust that in the near future we shall be enabled to give to every section in the community, to each church organization and each political party, and public bodies, such as those representing returned soldiers, a separate station. That is what we aim to do, but it is not practicable to-day. However, the PostmasterGeneral’s Department is already making plans in that direction. I am not concerned with the making of profits by radio stations. My main concern is that each section of the community shall be enabled to .render .service to the community as a whole ; and I sincerely hope that all privately-owned stations will have as their primary objective the improvement of the cultural standards of the community. However, the Opposition in both this chamber and the House of Representatives has done nothing but sling mud in this matter in the hope that some of it will stick and discredit the Government. I listened with pride to the speech made this afternoon by the PostmasterGeneral (Senator Ashley). He completely vindicated his department. The Opposition, in its vicious campaign of mud slinging, was not satisfied to attempt to discredit the Prime Minister, the Postmaster-General and the Treasurer ; it also sought to discredit smaller fry by attacking the Broadcasting Committee. The Opposition has declared that that committee is not capable of bringing in an unbiased report. I throw back the lie in the teeth of honorable senators opposite.
– The Leader of the Senate (Senator Keane), when speaking yesterday, was not his usual placid self. His speech was hot a happy one. I did not think the day would come when my old friend would squeal, as he has squealed about the referendum. His attempt to justify the expenditure of public moneys on the “ Yes “ case was very weak indeed. The Minister for the Interior (Senator Collings) was, as usual, all sound and fury. The referendum is more or less dead and buried. Whether the Government likes it or not, the people have rejected its proposals. However, the Government’s action in expending public funds on the referendum campaign sets a dangerous precedent. Professor Dicey says- r
There are two things about which any government professing to govern impartially - that is to say to observe strictly the principle ‘of justice - must be scrupulous about: First, it must never use its privileged position to gain a sectional or party political advantage, and, secondly, it must never use, or allow to be used, public moneys for an end not intended by the electorate.
I agree entirely with that view. The legitimate expenditure sanctioned by Parliament in respect of the referendum campaign was confined to the publication of the official pamphlet setting out the cases “ For “ and “ Against “ ; but the expenditure incurred under the heading of “ Post-war educational campaign “ in these estimates cannot ‘be justified. In spending many thousands of pounds in presenting one side of the case only, the Government has ignored a safeguard for the preservation of public funds. It has opened the door to many abuses. Ministers have taken refuge in the sophism that because the parliamentary majority had decided to submit the proposals to the people, the Government was entitled to overwhelm the views of the minority by a lavish expenditure of public funds. That is quite unjustified, for once such a principle is admitted it is only another step to invoke it in respect of election campaigns. In establishing a precedent of that kind, the Government has done something which may have very serious repercussions. It is true that in the campaign the Government from its own viewpoint was very unlucky. Senator Clothier spoke about the new Messiah who had saved Australia. It was bad luck for the Government that its leader drew out of the campaign. He was reported in the press as saying, “ It is not my referendum “. In any case, the manner in which the Government’s proposals were submitted to the people was an insult to their intelligence. Had the people been given an opportunity to use their judgment and say in respect of each proposal whether it should be granted to the Commonwealth Parliament, many of the proposals would have been agreed to; but when the Government insisted that the fourteen proposed powers and the three alleged guarantees were one and indivisible, and must be agreed to or rejected en bloc, it insulted the intelligence of the people. That was a stupid blunder on the part of the Government. Apparently, the Government, after its great victory in 1943, swollen with arrogance and vanity, thought’ that it could get, away with any thing ; but it has learned its lesson, and the least said about the referendum now the better. “When I was learning to “box I was taught never to squeal ; but Ministers in this chamber yesterday gave a deplorable exhibition of squealing. The Minister for the Interior (Senator Collings) twitted me with respect to my statement that I was not a socialist because I wished to be a free man. I said that in order to embrace socialism one must surrender one’s freedom. It will not work in any case, but to give it any semblance of existence it would be necessary to surrender our freedom. The great question is: Who is going to do the ordering and pushing about? The Minister for the Interior gave to the Senate a definition of socialism, but one can draft quite a number of definitions if he sits down with a pencil and paper and gives the matter a little thought. I jotted down these during the afternoon - “ Socialism signifies resolutions passed by a committee as a substitute for work “. “ Socialism is of necessity the creed of the disgruntled - a mile post on the road to confiscation”. “Nature is forever trying to eliminate the parasite, but socialism is eternally howling through the wireless for the survival of the unfit “. You, Mr. President, have taken advantage in days of yore of the opportunity to speak on the first reading of an Appropriation Bill. In fact, we have all done so. The first reading of a money bill is a great opportunity for the rank and file, because a speaker can roam from Shanghai to Peru. I believe that it is laid down, more or less unofficially, that one can talk about anything except the bill, if one so desires, but I wish to touch on one or two matters contained in the bill before I conclude my speech.
Quite apart from the war effort, the Government has insisted on doing a multitude of things which have nothing to do with the prosecution of the war. When one studies the Estimates and also the Commonwealth Bank returns he begins to do a little thinking. Many of the things being done by the Government are things which create potential and ultimately uncontrolled inflation, but I have not heard any Minister or supporter of the Government suggest a way of saving the people’s money, although it is being squandered in the most reckless manner in many directions. I happen to be a member of a committee which has been doing some investigations, which have brought home to us what is happening. The latest idea of the Minister for Information (Mr. Calwell), the Estimates of whose department contain the camouflaged business of the money recently expended by the Government on the referendum campaign, is to hire and let loose in Great Britain and the United States of America a swarm of press agents to expand overseas publicity, is one of the most stupid that I have heard of during a time of war. These press agents are to have fancy titles, and some £30,000 is to be “blown” on this very stupid proposal. We shall get plenty of publicity and advertisement in the United States of America and also in the Homeland from the hundreds and thousands of fighting men who have been in this country. Most of them will eventually return to their own lands, and will be great advertisers of Australia. The policy of the Government is to spend and go on spending. It should remember that one can bet on credit, but there must be a settling day sometime. One ominous indication of what 13 happening, as has been stated by other speakers, is the state of the National Welfare Trust Fund. The total cash balance was at one time £25,525,000. Of this, £25,500,000 has been invested in treasury-bills, which are I O U’s, leaving a cash balance in the fund of only £25,000. That is the socalled trust fund from which we are to finance our social services programme. Some inflation was unavoidable in our total war effort, and it is here to-day, but the most casual observer as he moves around the country can now see flagrant and unashamed waste of public funds in worked-out war-time jobs. I suggest that ihe expenditure and wastage of money is in excess of the taxation collected from the people for war C03ts, and the excess is being financed on borrowed money and on bank credit. That is the only way we can do it. up to a point, but it is the bank credit in particular which constitutes a danger to the whole of our price and credit structure, because it represents an injection of stimulating spending power into an economic system already supercharged with spending power in relation to the diminished quantity of goods and volume of services available. To-day it is not a question of shortage of money with many of us as it is a matter of a shortage of coupons. By means of coupons we are able . to restrict to a certain extent trading in certain lines of goods. The bank credit or treasury-bills debt on the 31st of August was £365,000,000 - a colossal sum. In addition the savings banks are holding great quantities of war bonds, much of which it might be necessary to sell later if the depositors after the war decide to withdraw their money wholesale and spend it. These savings bank investments in war loans have inflationary dangers not possessed by direct investment in war loans by depositors themselves. The Commonwealth Savings Bank alone has something like £234,000,000 invested in Commonwealth loans, an increase of £S0,000,000 since last year.
The Government talks quite a lot about the danger of inflation and the need for prices control, but I suggest that it has avoided all issues which have been brought up concerning the waste of money, man-power and materials in government undertakings and departments, as well as in cost-plus jobs. It still continues to make political appointments to the Commonwealth Bank Board, which is the centre of gravity of the financial side of our war effort. Not long ago the Prime Minister was recklessly urging the use of more and more bank credit after the war. I do not think that he is doing so to-day, but he was a little while ago, even though the existing bank credit represents the sharp point of our inflation danger.
Still full of cheek after its referendum hiding, the Government continues to talk of its need for control over prices in the post-war period. No doubt there is need for the continuation of certain controls for a year or perhaps longer after the war, but I suggest that those controls if administered in the wrong way will merely hide the swelling inflationary tendencies. It is here with us to-day, and it must be remembered that the artificial legal controls which may be exercised do not kill inflation, but merely delay or spread it more evenly over a longer period. To me there is not the slightest indication that the Government is aware of the fact.
One of the dangers of granting prolonged price-control powers is that a government which is really creating inflation is encouraged in its basically wrong financial policy for the time being. The result, by the time that prices control breaks down, as it must where the causes go unchecked, is that the stream banked up becomes a flood, and we shall find ourselves in a shocking mess through it.
The argument of the Government is that the people having rejected the referendum and refused to grant the post-war powers, have left themselves open to the ravages of post-war inflation. I suggest that the Government’s attitude throughout the referendum campaign was one of bluff and trickery. The AttorneyGeneral, the learned Dr. Evatt, put out one policy pre-referendum and another post-referendum. The Govern.ment’s motto was: “Heads, we win; tails, we can blame the people for not giving us the powers “. What was going to happen was obvious long before the campaign started. If the penny came down tails the Government would really win, because it would blame the people for its own incompetence. Any trouble that resulted could be put down to that, wonderful state chaos, about which we have heard so much.
– We shall not blame the people. We shall throw some of the blame upon the Opposition.
– -We shall not worry about that. Personally, I had a most happy time during the campaign. T have never enjoyed one more. If the Government intends to blame the loss of the referendum proposals to the danger of post-war inflation, that is a line of propaganda which will be ineffective. The people rej.eot.ed the request for increased powers because they mistrusted the Government’s ability and sincerity. 1
– The honorable senator must not forget that, he was a member of the 1942 convention.
– I know all about it. I shall not go over the old ground again, but if anybody wants to know what happened a copy of the report of the proceedings can be obtained. The decisions of that conference were misrepresented from start to finish during the campaign. Unless the Government shows that it fully realizes the dire urgency of our financial problems by cutting out political waste, which breeds inflation and helps it to grow, the sooner it is brought face to face with the country’s problems in the hard way, the better it will be for Australia in the long run.
We ave now embarking on another war loan campaign. I sincerely trust that it will be a much greater success than past loans. Apparently the Government believes that it is necessary to stop appeals on behalf of the Australian Bed Cross, the Australian ‘Comforts Fund, and other such organizations during war loan campaigns. I suggest that attention should be directed also to the suspending of lotteries. Last year 123 lotteries were drawn in New South Wales.
– I challenge the honorable senator to make that suggestion in Tasmania.
– I have made it in Tasmania. I have never hesitated to say what I believe should be said. Ilost my seat in this chamber in 1937, possibly because of my outspoken views on compulsory military training. I am not worried about threats. The weakness of this Government, is that it is not game to do the right thing if it is unpopular. I am not in this chamber to tickle the ears of this fellow or that fellow. I have to live with myself, and if I cannot respect myself I cannot expect any one else to respect me. This Government has failed the country repeatedly by its concern for the vested interests of Labour politics. Politically, the rights of the individual are not rights at all unless they suit those interests. So, we have had the injustice of Portland, the flagrant strikes, the “ waiting time “ paid to unionists, the unrepentant waste of public money under the heading of “ wa r expenditure “, the necessity to work wharves with labour drawn from the services, the divided control of our Army, the lopsided taxation policy pursued early in the war with Japan which gave inflation its first impetus, and the dismal’ failure on the food production front.
Before concluding, I wish to refer to a matter which comes very near to the hearts of many of us. Events in Europe bring a flood of memories to we old ‘ diggers “ for they parallel in a host of different ways the events of 1918 when “ Fritz “ began to crumble ; but so far as Australia is concerned, there is one important difference which has many thousands of the Second Australian Imperial Force gnashing their teeth. In 191S, we were associated with worldshaking happenings. We had five divisions in France, and what divisions ! The Australian Imperial Force had been the rock on which the great German offensive of March, 1918, had smashed itself to a stand-still. It had been the spearhead of the counter-offensive of the Sth August - Germany’s “black day” according to Ludendorff, who at last clearly saw defeat looming for the German armies. To-day there is not an Australian slouch hat in France, and it is hard to understand why. All chance of the invasion of this country disappeared more than a year before “ D “ day. We could have shipped a force to Europe for the big show; but Australian Imperial Force divisions, thirsting for action, have been kept in Australia. - divisions like the Armoured Division which even now might have been racing across France in fulfilment of the role for which it was recruited, equipped and trained, but which it has never had an opportunity to play. Such participation in the European war would have had much more than a mere sentimental value to us. Australia cannot afford to forget the fact that to the principal adversaries in this war, Europe has always been the principal theatre of war. There is a strong body of opinion overseas which has never appreciated the Pacific war. This is one reason for the lack of publicity about which we complain constantly. These people are only too eager to forget the part played by the Australian Imperial Force in Greece, Africa, and, of course, Malaya. This lack of appreciation of what Australia has done in the war has been heightened by events which have been seized upon as proof that we are interested only in ourselves. Take, for instance, the departure from London of the Prime Minister almost on the ev& of “ D “ day. In effect, he turned has back upon- history and hied back home when his presence in Great Britain might have been at least some sort of an answer to those people who had noted the absence of Australian troops in the invasion. In America and Europe, the Anzac pact had repercussions which were anything but flattering. The net result of such actions has been that, because it suited Australian political leaders to hold themselves aloof from the final phase of the war in Europe, Australia has been forced to answer charges of isolationism which could never have been made had the Australian Imperial Force been handled with the vigour and insight which characterized Australia’s part in the 1914-18 war. The “diggers” are not in Europe now, but that is not the fault of the Australian Imperial Force, or of the Australian people. It is the fault of a Prime Minister devoid of imagination, vision and courage. That is a great pity, and it will not help us when we take our place at the conference table when the war is over.
– The remarks of Senator Sampson brought forcibly to my mind the remarkable change that has taken place in this chamber since I had the pleasure and honour of making my maiden speech in it just six years ago to-day. At that time, the Labour party was in Opposisition, and honorable senators opposite were in occupation of the treasury bench. I said then that to me the event was a memorable one, because I realized that I was entering a legislature which since federation had had as its members men who at least were great Australians;, men who visualized the future of this country and who could give expression to its aspirations. ‘ I do not know of any time in the history of this Parliament when the tenor of debates was so low asit has been to-day. I have listened closely to the speeches made by honorable senators opposite, and I have not heard anything but reiteration. It hasbeen the same story for the past fortnight, notwithstanding the fact that every argument that has been advanced has- been exploded, not once, but a dozentimes. The- record of debates- in this* chamber during tie current period of tie session will show that the subjects under discussion have been very limited indeed. First, there has been the referendum and the reasons for its defeat. Honorable senators opposite have welcomed the defeat of the referendum proposals as manna from heaven. They realize, of course, that their own record as a government is so uninspiring that the people of this country will not be disposed to return them to power for many years at least. Because the people defeated the referendum, they seemed to gather fresh courage. JA was not surprising that the proposals were defeated. The Fisher Government submitted proposals for alterations to the Constitution soon after it was elected, and they, too, were defeated. Anti-Labour governments have held referenda at various times, and again the people have registered a negative vote. Honorable senators opposite suggest that the electors who voted for Labour -candidates twelve months ago have lost faith in us, but my opinion is that the people voted “ No “ at the recent referendum because of an unjustified fear of certain political action.
In considering the personnel of this chamber during the last six years, I had thought that men could be found on the Opposition side who could give expression to some original thought and that they would not be found reading extensively from notes obviously prepared by somebody else, but incorporated in the official record as expressing their own ideas. This practice has shown a marked increase in the last few days, and contrasts strongly with the practice of honorable senators on the Government side, whose telling speeches invariably express their own thoughts. “We have had the spectacle in the last few days of charges made by innuendo against Ministers who have been entrusted by the people to carry on the government of the country. I trust that the magnanimous attitude adopted by Senator Gibson, an exPostmasterGeneral, will put an. end to that kind of criticism once and for all. and that no further attempt will be -made to besmirch the characters of, not only responsible Ministers of the Crown, but also ministers of religion and the people whom they serve. The charges made in this and the other branch of the legislature with regard to broadcasting stations in South Australia and New South “Wales are the most paltry that have ever been ventilated in this Parliament. Last week, those who made the charges in the House of Representatives soon realized that their accusations were likely to rebound against themselves, and since that time they have been at great pains to manufacture arguments calculated to divert attention from themselves and their own political mistakes to the Government. Those who made the charges have had considerable assistance from certain sections of the daily press, which give political support to the Opposition, by the manner in which news of the proceedings of this Parliament is conveyed to the public. The fact that a- charge of corruption had been levelled against a great religious denomination and a minister who served it was skilfully concealed, and it was made to appear that the Labour movement was on trial. After the effective explanation given without heat or passion, and with great attention to detail, by the Postmaster-General, I trust that criticism of that kind will cease. One honorable senator said that there was a ghost which should be laid, but it has now been laid at the door of the Opposition. Honorable senators opposite can have its company for a considerable time, and they will regret having ever introduced it.
Several other matters have been mentioned in this debate with a view to kudos being gained by the Opposition. I was surprised to hear Senator Gibson discuss the position of the dairying industry. He aptly made the suggestion that he was descending from the sublime to the ridiculous in doing so. There is no doubt that his remarks about the broadcasting charges were sublime, but when he reverted to the dairying industry, he descended to the ridiculous. He complained that it was useless for the Government to release men from the armed forces to assist in the dairying industry, because dairy-farmers were compelled to pay a living wage to their employees. We remember the position that prevailed in the industry prior to the advent of the present Government. The conditions on dairy-farms were then a disgrace to any civilized community. The industry was being built up at the expense of little children. We had frequently heard complaints by school-teachers in country districts that children fell to sleep at their desks, because they had to rise early in the morning, milk cows, and attend to other duties on the farm, after which they travelled miles to school. On their return to the farms, they had similar duties to perform. We do not blame the dairy-farmers, because they have been working under adverse circumstances. They have had to compete in the markets of the world, and they have been ruthlessly exploited by middlemen, because they have had no guaranteed price for the product of their labour. Therefore, the Government decided that the conditions in the industry must be altered. The rates of wages to be paid in the industry were arrived at after an investigation by the Dairying Industry Advisory Committee. That body travelled extensively and took evidence from people engaged in the industry. It recommended that certain wages should be paid, and the Government agreed to subsidize the industry to enable the employees to receive those rates. In the granting of the subsidy, no distinction was made between the members of the family of the dairyfarmer and other employees. If the farmer employed no labour, the members of his family were entitled to that remuneration, and I hope that dairymen who have young sons and daughters assisting them on the farms will ensure that the .prescribed remuneration is given to them. The inducement was held out that that would encourage the young people now on the farms to remain in the country districts. That was done in order to retain as large a population as possible in those areas, to prevent the drift to the cities, and to further the policy of decentralization. In addition, the Government has made available to dairy-farmers a large number of prisoners of war to whom only f i per week has to be paid. I deprecate the action of Senator Gibson and others who have spoken disparagingly of the Government’s treatment of primary producers because this section of the community has been paid guaranteed prices for some of their products, and has been granted subsidies in respect of wheat and other foodstuffs. Moreover, the Govern- ment has organized machinery pools, which are of considerable advantage to many farmers operating in a small way who would find it impossible to purchase the costly machinery which is so necessary in modern farming. The Government is entitled to the credit for doing those things. The stagnation which existed in primary industries in the past was due almost entirely to the maladministration, or lack of sympathy on the part of governments consisting of the United Australia party and the Australian Country party representatives. What has taken place in this chamber has been due to a desire to gain some party political advantage. The most glaring example of insincerity was that of Senator Sampson, who suggested that something should be done to assist the second Victory loan, and hoped that the number of subscribers would be more than on previous occasions. The honorable senator made that suggestion immediately following wholesale misrepresentation of the financial policy of the Government. He suggested that the Government was guilty of gross extravagance and of careless administration of the finances of the country. What greater incentive could there be to people to refrain from investing in the loan? Yet men of his ilk pose as great Australians. It was sheer hypocrisy for the honorable senator to express a desire that Australian soldiers should fight in France. when he had charged the Government with extravagance in connexion with its war expenditure. The honorable senator’s suggestion was unworthy of him. In its conduct of the war the present Government has always associated itself with men trained to conduct wars - the chiefs of staff not only of Australia but also of Allied nations. The honorable senator’s slighting reference to the Prime Minister was unworthy and unjustified. Does he suggest that the Prime Ministers of the other dominions should have remained behind at the conclusion of the Imperial Conference? The honorable senator should have known that even persons m close contact with the chiefs of staff did not know the exact time of the invasion of France; and for him to say that the Prime Minister of Australia had been lax in his duty because he did not linger longer in Europe is unworthy of any honorable senator.
– Did not the Prime Minister say that he knew that the event wa3 about to take place ?
– Y - Yes ; everybody knew that.
– Did he not also know when it would take place?
– No ; only a few men. knew that.
– “What could the Prime Minister have done if he had remained ?
– He would only have been in the way. People who had other duties to perform would have had to be detailed to assist him. The war record of the Curtin Government is unparalleled. I well remember a discussion which took place in this chamber about six years ago when, although war had not been declared, it was very close. The Parliament was then devising ways and means to protect Australia. Unfortunately, suggestions and warnings which were then made from the Labour benches fell upon deaf ears.
– I suggest that the honorable senator should read a speech made at that time by the present Minister for the Interior.
– I am mindful of the speeches made by various members of this Parliament. “When France and Holland fell, the Menzies Government was warned of what was likely to happen in the Pacific, but it took no notice. Instead, it misrepresented the defence policy of the Labour party. Honorable senators opposed to the Labour party ridiculed our suggestions that for the successful defence of Australia air power was needed. They said that so long as the British Navy was afloat Australia had nothing to fear. The Government of the day pinned its faith on the Singapore naval base, and ridiculed Labour’s advocacy of a strong air force.
– Did not the Empire Air Training Scheme commence at that time?
– Unfortunately, it commenced too late. Had the policy of the Labour party been given effect-
– “We should have had no air arm.
– That .is not so. On the contrary, a good start could have been made long before the present war began. Labour’s policy for the defence of Australia which the Curtin Labour Government is giving effect, will go down in history as the correct policy for this country. It is regrettable that at a time when we have reason to believe that Australia has been saved from invasion, Senator Sampson should engage in carping criticism of the Government and refuse to give credit where credit is due. Instead, he has indulged in petty party political tactics, and has allowed minor considerations to obtrude into big national problems. He has refused to acknowledge what the present Government has done. He has- shut his eyes to the fact that we met in this chamber free from liability to attack; that the lights are burning throughout the Commonwealth to-night because the resources of this country have been efficiently organized for war. Had not that organization been prompt and skilful, we should not be here in this chamber tonight. Unfortunately what I visualized in regard to this Parliament has not materialized. I expected to find here men prepared to do big things for Australia, but, instead, I have found only too many whose chief concern is to gain a party political advantage. Honorable senators opposite are desperate. They know that they’ have almost run their course, and consequently they charge others with inefficiency and corruption. They belong to parties which have masqueraded under many aliases. Within the last few days, in a desperate attempt to regain some of its lost prestige, an old name has been revived. I hope that in the near future there will be an amelioration of the conditions of many people in this country. I hope, too, that when next year’s budget is before us we shall find that great advances have been made in the conditions of the people generally. I believe that the people are satisfied with the present Government, and that its financial proposals will be readily agreed to. As the war recedes further from our shores, and we are able to return to more like peace-time conditions, we shall be able to concentrate on the problems of peace, which are just as vital as are those of the war. I ask honorable senators opposite to do something towards unifying the people, so- that, they may unitedly face the problems of peace. Although we are proud, of the success that has’ attended our efforts in the field, the war is not yet over, and it will be necessary f-or the Australian people to sustain their magnificent efforts’ of the last five years. They should support by every means in their power the efforts of the ‘Government, land, of the young manhood and womanhood of this country, to ensure that Australia shall’ remain inviolate. T. hope that while the Government is appealing to- the people- to play their part in. this- great struggle and in seeing that the war is prosecuted to a successful conclusion, there will be no further speeches like that of Senator Sampson.
Senator COOPER (Queensland) [10,14). - Senator Sheehan was labouring under- a- misconception when he criticized Senator Gibson’s speech on- the dairying industry. Senator Gibson was simply emphasizing the present serious position: of the dairying industry. He was not grumbling about the payment of a fair wage in the industry. Being a practical man, who has worked in the industry, he was able- to cite- costs to show that- it was impossible, with the price of butter at its present level, for the dairyman to recover his- cost of pro.duction, and, at the same- time, pay the award wage- of £5 12s. 6d. Therefore, it was impossible for the industry to maintain’ production. He estimated that one mam would be fully employed to look after seventeen cows ; and the wages’ for that one man would amount to £292: 10s. a year. A conservative estimate of the capital cost of the- seventeen- cows, and the land required to. run them, namely,, 34 acres in Victoria, would, be £1,000 ; and allowing for interest charges on that capital, at 4i per cent.,, the- farmer’s: total cost, including- rates,, would be £345 a year, and his total income from production £340> which is made up as follows :; - Milking seventeen cows bringing in £20 per cow pes year butter, fat, which- shows £$ less than the cost of production!. Senator Gibson, endeavoured to show that it was impossible- for farmers to. carry on under those- conditions which, would result in the employment in an ever increasing degree of child labour. That was the very evil which Senator Sheehan deplored. At present, about 50. per cent, of the dairy-farms in northern New South Wales are worked on the share basis. A share farmer, unless he employs his wife and family, cannot make his proposition pay on the present price of butter. Senator Gibson suggested that the price of butter be increased from 4d. to 4id. per lb. in order to enable the industry to carry on at a small margin, of profit. I recognize that this budget provides for the payment of subsidies to the dairying industry amounting to £7,500,000; but that is not sufficient. Honorable senators opposite have claimed that the Government has done- a wonderful job. for the workers, but the facts given by Senator Gibson show that the dairy-farmer does not enjoy anything like the conditions enjoyed by workers in secondary industry. Only a few days ago the Prime Minister (Mr. Curtin) warned the country that we shall be called upon to treble our present war effort in the production of foodstuffs. The dairying industry is absolutely essential to the successful prosecution of the- war. Without food a soldier is useless. Therefore, the food production front must be our primary consideration. However,, man-power has been allowed- to drift from rural industries to factories in the cities owing, to the attraction of higher wages , and better living, conditions^ whilst, at the same time, many thousands! of young men formerly employed in, rural industries’ are now in the armed- forces. The Government was warned, two years ago that this trend would result in a- serious decrease of production. Only to-day I asked whether, at an. aeroplane production factory, at Rocklea, in Queensland, it was not a fact that some thousands of men simply clocked on every morning and clocked off every night, and had practically nothing to do. . If that is, the case in one factory, a similar state of affairs can exist in other factories. Instead of directing man-power to essential industries’, the Government has allowed thousands1 to drift from- the country- to the cities. The latest summary issued by the Commonwealth Bureau of Census and Statistics, dealing with the position of the dairying industry is “both illuminating .and alarming, lt shows that since the outbreak of the war 5,700 farms have gone out of production, and of that number 3,700 have gone out of production since July, 1942. This represents a decline of one-third in milk production since the outbreak of the war.
– Does the honorable senator realize that the Australian farmer does not produce half as much butter fat from each cow as is produced in Denmark? The industry is inefficient.
– I shall prove that the Government has shown itself to be inefficient in its handling of this industry. The decline in the number of farms since the outbreak of the war is due to the fact that, owing to lack of man-power, many dairy-farmers have changed over to grazing. In many cases, the fathers and mothers of boys now in the armed forces have felt the long hours and constant work involved in dairying to be too “great a strain. Consequently, they have turned their attention to grazing, going in for either calves or beef breeds. Milk production for butter making has declined from 983,000,000 gallons in 1939-40 to 737,000,000 gallons in 1943-44, or a loss of 246;000,000 gallons.
Sitting suspended from 10.30 to 11.15 p.m.
– I have shown that the milk supply for butter production has decreased since 1939-40 by nearly 246,000,000 gallons. That, however, does not, really represent the actual position of milk production, because quite a number of dairy farms have .ceased producing butter ;and are .supplying milk for other purposes. The total milk production, in 1939-40 was 1,253;612,000 gallons. In 1943-44 it was 1,071,315,000 gallons, or ,a reduction of 182,297,000 gallons, which shows that there was a steady decline in production during those years. This year the loss so far has been 58,000^000 gallons.
The Department of Commerce and Agriculture in an endeavour to stimulate production set a goal for the year 1943-44 of 1,210,000,000 gallons, but the actual production ‘for that period fell below the goal by 140,000,000 gallons. In the present condition of our food supplies, and in view of the position with which we are faced, that indicates a very serious menace to future production.
– How would the honorable .senator improve it ?
– I shall suggest improvements as I proceed.
– We released 9,000 men for the dairying industry alone. It was given priority over all other industries.
– The trouble is that the Government is only now realizing the serious position into which the industry has fallen. I quite admit that when Japan entered the war a certain number of men had to be called up from the industry and that the Government in in its wisdom probably did what it thought best, but many of .the men who have been released could have been discharged twelve months ago, which would have greatly improved the position .of the industry. Although so many men have been released, it is problematical whether the whole of them will come back to the industry. :Senator Courtice. - Senator Gibson said that they could not be absorbed into the industry because -of the wages.
– The returns from the industry are not sufficient to encourage men to go back to it.
– The .price of butter, which has been stabilized, is the highest for a long time, and. the price “of whole milk is also high.
– :Butter was at a higher price in 1920 than it is to-day.
– For about .six months. -‘Senator COOPER. - The present price is not the highest, but price is not the only factor which enters into the case. We ‘are engaged in war. We need butter, and the dairying industry has been given priority. We must, therefore, explore every avenue to increase production. The latest figures show that the decline in the industry has not been arrested. The decline was greater for the twelve months ended 30th June, 1944, than for the twelve months ended 30th June, 1943. The actual production of butter in 1939-40 was 211,987 tons. In 1943-44 it had decreased to 157,498 tons, a decline of 54,489 tons, or over 25 per cent. The production goal for 1943-44 was 175,000 tons, but production is 17,500 tons below that figure.
– The honorable senator knows that the goal is problematical.
– It may be, but that goal was carefully calculated by the Department of Commerce and Agriculture, which expected it to be near the actual result. The taxation authorities arc able to make reliable estimates, and I presume that the Department of Commerce and Agriculture has experts who, having all the data, fix a goal which they consider to be the minimum and not the maximum.
– But they cannot take the seasonal conditions into consideration.
– Australia had a good season in 1943-44. There were, of course, bad patches, but the industry is carried on in every -State, although to a greater degree in some than in others. The shortage has not affected Australian consumers so much as it has the exports to the United Kingdom. The United Kingdom, as the Leader of the Senate said, is very short of foodstuffs and we must strain every effort to see that it gets supplies. The total exports in 1939-40 were 117,000 tons, chiefly to the United Kingdom. In 1943-44 they were reduced to 47,000 tons.
– Because of the shortage of shipping.
– No. Shipping was available. A Minister of the United Kingdom Government said that he could supply all the necessary ships with refrigerated space to carry all our surplus foodstuffs. The fact is that we did not have the butter to export. The quantity of butter that we contracted to ship to the United Kingdom in 1943-44 was 70,000 tons and 10,000 tons of dried butter fat, making 80,000 tons in all, but unfortunately we were able to supply only 47,000 tons, or a little over one-half.
It has been said that many dairies have switched from butter to cheese; but we find a similar position in cheese production. In 1943-44 the production goal for cheese was 45,000 tons, but the actual production of 36,000 tons showed a decline of 9,000 tons, or 25 per cent, below the goal fixed for the year. Everybody will admit that butter is an essential commodity.
– We are rationing it more severely than any other country except Great Britain.
– Australians have a 6-oz. ration, as against 2 oz. in the United Kingdom. I do not think that anybody complains of the rationing of butter. I am trying to show that we can produce more and would have been producing more had the man-power position been handled differently. Had the Government heeded the warning given to it as far back as two years ago by members of the Australian Country party, the dairying industry would not have been in the present unsatisfactory position. It is not an. industry that can recover within six months. Many of the herds have to be built up again. The younger cows must grow before they can produce milk, and we are faced with probably a greater shortage next year than at present.
Another problem is the shortage of man-power in the sugar industry. That industry has been short of labour for the last three seasons and a serious decline has taken place in the output. Many men have been released from the fighting forces in the last few months in an endeavour to provide cane-cutters and other labour for this most important industry, but the position is still difficult and dangerous. I quote the following paragraph from The Australian Sugar Journal of the 12th September last: -
The man-power position has shown a slight improvement during the month, but is still far from satisfactory. Though the cutting strength has been sufficient to enable the mills to opera.te at an overall average crushing rate of approximately 70 per cent, of normal, and in some cases appreciably to exceed 70 per cent., there are a number of mills that have so far failed to reach that figure and, in two or three instances, the best performances have been between 50 and 00 per cent, of their normal rates. Only a few additional men have lately been available for cane-cutting, and as the wastage factor may be expected to increase with the coming in of the hot weather, the outlook is not promising. There seems no prospect of obtaining sufficient labour to establish the 85 per cent, crushing rate which was stated to be the objective of the War Cabinet in its direction to the man-power authorities.
I know that a number of men released for the industry have not turned up. The supervision has not been sufficiently strict to ensure that the men, on release from the Army or the Civil Constructional
Corps, report to and work in the industry. That is an instance where manpower has fallen down on its job. In other cases men have been released, and instead of being able to work on their own farms have been sent away to others farther north.
– “Whoever wrote that paragraph in The Australian Sugar Journal is lying. “We poured men, including aliens, into the sugar industry by thousands from everywhere, even from the centre of Australia.
– Is the Minister certain that the men reached the industry?
– Of course they did.
– The honorable senator is not quite sure of his facts. Many men released from the forces did not reach the industries for which they were released. I am giving the Minister for Trade and Customs a tip, and suggesting that closer supervision might be exercised in this regard. I have here a letter relating to the release of a man from the Army. It is as follows : -
To Mr. S. H. Tait,
Secretary, Chamber of Commerce
In yesterday’s report of the meeting of the Chamber of Commerce I read where you would like to know of a case of a farmer’s son being released from the Array and sent north to cut cane.
For twelve months I have tried to have my son, Private Weedon, Q3G247, B. Platoon, 127th A.C.T., Brisbane, released to work on my cane farm.
My application through the D.W.O.C. was refused.
I wrote appealing to Mr. Walsh, M.li.A.
His request for release was refused on the ground that my son was key personnel.
A fortnight after that refusal he was released and sent north to report.
On finding that he was to cut cane for Mourilyan Mill he refused and returned to his unit.
I wired Mr. Walsh again stating he was released and urged that ho he allowed to worK his own farm. My request was again refused as no individual releases were to be made.
I am a widow. My late husband left debts which I have promised to meet. The son concerned is the potential owner of this farm and desires to be at home to work it. Because I have not been able to keep the cane planted up I have lost 2 acres assignment when the farm was transferred to me.
This statement is true in every detail and you may use it in way you desire.
I may mention that this son has been released for the last twu crushings to cut my cane.
Yours faithfully, (Signed) Myra M. Weedon.
– Yes, but the Minister was quite sure that every man released from the services for certain industries had been accounted for.
– I did not say that. I said that everything possible had been done for the sugar-growers.
– I am afraid that the Minister does not quite understand my argument. I am not asking for wholesale releases of men from the services. I am asking that proper supervision be exercised over the men who are released.
– “When the referendum campaign was being conducted, honorable senators opposite talked of the danger of industrial conscription; but what is the honorable senator suggesting now?
– Definitely, I am suggesting conscription of labour, but for war purposes. Apparently, the Minister does not like these facts being brought to light.
– The views that are being expressed by the honorable senator are not those of the sugar-producers.
– The position is set out in the Australian Sugar Journal. In view of the changing war situation, our man-power allocation should be thoroughly overhauled to ensure that all available labour shall be employed to the best advantage. Foi instance, certain war industries are now reducing their output. The men who are becoming redundant in those industries should be diverted to other essential undertakings. A review of our man-power situation is an urgent necessity, especially in view of the fact that in the near future our war commitments, particularly in regard to the supply of foodstuffs, may be increased greatly with the opening of a full-scale campaign in the Pacific area.
– I cannot allow certain statements made by honorable senators opposite in the course of this debate to pass unchallenged. Much has been said about the dairying industry, particularly by Senator Gibson and Senator Cooper. To be fair, those honorable senators should have traced the history of this industry over ,a period of years. For a decade prior to the advent of a Labour government, the dairying industry in this country was povertystricken. All that has been said to-day about the use and exploitation of child labour in this industry is quite true. It is also true that no attempt was made by successive anti-Labour administrations to rectify that matter. That task was left to a Labour government. Production in the dairying industry to-day is declining for three reasons. First, when the Pacific war reached its crisis in 1942, every available man in this country was called up for military service so that there is now .a man-power shortage; secondly, other phases of mixed farming were more attractive than dairying, and, thirdly, as I have said, the industry was povertystricken. I can .speak with some authority on this matter, because I was a member of the Rural Industries Committee appointed by the Curtin Government to inquire into this and other rural matters. It was not until that Government received the reports of that committee, that anything was done to remedy the position. It was this Labour Government. which gave to dairy-farmers their first increase of Id. per lb. in the price of butter-fat for ten years. That increase was authorized by the Prices Commissioner. The next step was to grant a bounty of £1,500,000, and then one of £2,500,000. Later a bonus of £7,500,000 was paid, plus another £1,000,000 for whole milk, making a total of £8,500,000. But not one honorable senator opposite mentioned the relief given to this industry by the present Government in an effort to correct the drift which set in long before it assumed office. It is true that the drift has occurred during the war. The Government knew the position which faced the dairying industry in 1942 and that something had to be done to correct the drift in that industry. The Government and honorable’ senators opposite know that that drift started long before the Labour Government came into office.
Senator Gibson, who criticized the award made to cover the dairying industry, claimed that it was impossible for dairy-farmers to pay award wages at the price they were .receiving for their products. What the honorable senator did not say was that since this Government came into office the price of ‘butter-fat has been increased by 6£d. or 7d. per lb., of which 5-)d. or .5$d. per lb. is due to subsidies. The honorable senator claimed that a further 5-)d. per lb. would be necessary to place the industry on an equal footing with other primary industries, but can any honorable senator opposite deny .that dairy-farmers to-day are in a position to pay award wages out of the extra 6-Jd. per lb. which they receive for their butter-fat? I am not talking with my tongue in my cheek because I was one of those who produced butter-fat for 6-Jd. per lb. In those days that was the top price paid by butter factories, and that, was for choice butter-fat only. I understand that similar conditions prevailed all over Australia. Compare that to talty inadequate remuneration with the price that the dairy-farmers are receiving to-day owing to the assistance given to the industry by this Government ! When honorable senators opposite are dealing with the dairying industry they should be fair, and should present both sides of the picture. They know well that this Government has endeavoured to place the dairying industry on a stable footing.
– Production is still falling.
– I have already told -the Senate the three main causes of the decrease of production. The honorable senator knows quite we’ll that a heifer cannot be bred and milked on the next, day. A perusal of the Estimates shows that the Government intends to continue its assistance to the dairying industry. In regard to man-power the Government has done everything possible. Honorable senators opposite have said quite a lot about the position of the dairying industry to-day, but they have not produced figures showing what they claim to be a fair price for butter. They have merely made wild broad statements.
– Senator Gibson quoted figures.
– Senator Gibson did not mention costs. When I asked him ‘what the dairy-farmer paid for labour prior to the introduction of the award, he said that they, did not pay anything because they did their own work with the assistance of their families. However, now that an award is in operation, apparently production is carried out almost entirely by hired labour. I contend that the increased prices which have prevailed as a result of the assistance given to the industry by this Government have more than offset any increased labour costs which have to be borne by the dairy-farmer under the award. If honorable senators- opposite offered constructive criticism, such as a suggestion for the revaluation of properties which are now valued beyond their productive capacity, some good might be- done. Senator J. B. Hayes referred to the plight of ex-servicemen after the last war, because of the conditions under which they had been settled on the land, and he coupled his observations with the recent referendum proposals. ‘Can any honorable- senator tell us how exservicemen can be guaranteed security on- the land unless this Parliament has power to control- the prices of their commodities, and guarantee markets for their products? Honorable senators opposite express views in this chamber which are- not consistent with their speeches and actions elsewhere. After the last war, farms were purchased at inflated prices, for the settlement of ex-servicemen, because, certain people who had properties to sell1, were acquainted with land valuers, appointed for the purpose of valuing land for soldier settlement. From 1916 to 1922 Senator Herbert Hays waa a member of ‘ a government in Tasmania that introduced a scheme in> that State for the settlement of soldiers^ on the land. Certain gentlemem had large holdings which were being worked at- from only 15 to. 20 per cent, of their productive capacity, and when those, properties were sold for the settlement of ex-soldiers although they were valued for municipal1 purposes at, say, £5 ian acre, they were passed by government valuators for sale at probably £10 or £15 an acre.. They were then cut up into blocks for closer settlement, and houses were ‘built on them for ex-soldiers with the result that the values were hopelessly inflated. That policy was adopted by a government of which Senator J. B. Hayes, and Senator Herbert Hays were members. Those honorable senators supported a. policy of inflated prices and returned soldiers were expected to take over properties at such inflated valuations that it was impossible for them to carry on-.
– That is in- ‘ correct.
– “When those men could not meet the heavy charges with which they were faced, they were forced off their properties, and non-returned soldiers were placed on the holdings after the debts that were outstanding had been written off.
– -That was done twenty years afterwards.
– Yes. For twenty years the people of Tasmania had to put up with a government -that saw exservicemen forced off their holdings, and not until the Ogilvie Government was re: turned to office were the properties revalued and the debts written off.
– The revaluations were made at the time of the depression.
– It is. fortunate that a government came into- office in Tasmania which had sympathy with the ex.-servicem.en, many of whom had been so badly treated that they had. to line up in queues for the dole. We hope that we shall not witness a repetition of that spectacle after the present war. We should ensure that the capital value, of the land on which ex-servicemen are settled will be the productive value, and not the inflated value which prevailed after the last war.
– Did I not say that in my speech?
– The honorable senator may have said it, but I have shown that something entirely different happened when a government of which the honorable senator was a member was in office. If he admits that a mistake was made at that time, I am glad. The only way in which to- keep ex-servicemen on the land is to guarantee them economic security and markets for their products at payable prices. Despite what happened after the last war, the- honorable senator claims that this Parliament now possesses all of the powers needed for the successful settlement of ex-servicemen on the land.
Senator Cooper referred to the position of the sugar industry, and Senator Foll said that he agreed that 500 men had been released to work in it; but Senator Cooper remarked that, although that number of men was supposed to have been released for that purpose, they had not found their way into the industry.
– -Speak the truth. I referred to percentages only.
– If all industries had had as fair a deal with regard to the release of man-power as has the sugar industry, there would be fewer complaints than have been heard in this chamber.
– Speak the truth.
– If the honorable senator had done that, I probably should not have mentioned this matter at all.
Now I turn to the remarks of Senator Sampson, who, I notice, has disappeared from the chamber. He reminds me of a school-boy who, having made an incorrect statement to his teacher, runs away. The honorable senator knows that what he has said is incorrect, and he has made himself scarce. First he complained that not one Australian soldier had been sent overseas to fight in France, and that Australians had been brought back from Italy. Does he want troops of the United States of America to do all the fighting in the Pacific region? Does he desire that Australian troops should be sent to the European war zone at a time of the gravest crisis in Australian history? Would he have sent them overseas when the Japanese fleet was probably steaming towards Townsville? He complained about the Prime Minister (Mr. Curtin) not remaining in England until the invasion of France took place. Are the interests of this country to be brushed aside, or should the Prime Minister attend to the affairs of this nation? The right honorable gentleman went overseas to do a certain job, and, unlike some honorable senators opposite, having done it, he did not remain in Great Britain to enjoy himself. When he was there, nobody knew on what date the invasion of France would commence. Did the Prime Minister fail to achieve the purpose of his mission abroad? Of course, he did not. Honor able senators opposite remain silent, because it is generally recognized that in his work in Great Britain he served Australia and the Empire well. Immediately he returned to this country a great deal of work had accumulated for him, and he has been attending to his arduous duties here ever since. Honorable senators are peeved because the Prime Minister on his return to Australia did not leave the fighting in the Pacific to the Americans and send Australians to fight in France. I ask where were the ships to convey Australians to France? The honorable senator knows that sufficient ships are not available to take necessary food to Great Britain, and to our fighting forces overseas, yet he talks of sending more men to France. His suggestion is ridiculous. I am astonished that such a statement should come from a man who was a colonel in the last war. When he talks of men occupying “ cushy “ positions I am reminded of the time when he was rejected by the electors. Almost immediately a “ cushy “ job in the Army was found for him, and he remained in it until he was re-elected to this chamber.
– Senator Sampson has a better war record than has the honorable senator who criticizes him. Moreover, he has two sons fighting in this war.
– I did not say that he had not been a gallant soldier.
– The honorable senator is not fit to wipe Senator Sampson’s boots. He should be ashamed of himself.
– I offered my services in this war. Did the Leader of the Opposition do so?
– What did the honorable senator do in the last war?
– I was too young then to fight, as the honorable senator knows.
– The honorable senator should not criticize a man with a good war record.
– I have never criticized Senator Sampson’s war record; I have never said anything against him as a soldier. I believe that he was a good soldier. I am dealing with the honorable senator’s remarks here to-day when he suggested that members on this side were implicated in some fraud in connexion with a radio broadcasting station. The honorable senator would do well to refrain from criticism of the Government, in view of his association with the Tasmanian Rights League, which be organized’. He should clean his own doorstep before he throws dirt at others. I remember the time when the honorable senator toured Tasmania and addressed various municipal councils in an effort to form a Tasmanian rights league. His slogan was “ Justice for Tasmania”. Membership of the proposed league was obtainable on payment of 5s. The honorable gentleman collected 5s. each from many citizens of Tasmania, aud from time to time he published a list of subscriptions in the press. The league was supposed to be nonpolitical, but before his tour was over, the honorable gentleman announced his candidature for the Senate as a representative of the IS’ :i;ionalist party. No one has ever seen a balance-sheet of the Tasmanian Rights League. What became of all the money that the honorable gentleman collected by way of subscriptions to that body? I do not think that any one is likely to hear what became of it. The only person who knows anything about it is Senator Sampson. Some day he may give an explanation of what became of the money he collected. Let us follow the honorable gentleman a little further. He complained of the Government offering I 0 U’s for £300,000,000 and said that inflation would follow its action. But he did not put forward one constructive suggestion to show how the war could be financed by other means. It is easy to criticize the Government. Whenever I do so I make a constructive suggestion. When Senator Sampson complains about the issue of I O U’s by the Government, I remind him that Lord Semple openly states that some form of credit will have to be issued free of interest after the war. Surely he knows something of what he is talking about. The only difference between the Commonwealth Government and Lord Semple is that the Commonwealth Government is two jumps in front. There will be no danger of inflation so long as the Government controls prices. The honorable senator, who professes to fear inflation, shows that he wants in- nation to take place. That is shown by the ridiculous argument that he used to defeat prices control. During the recent election campaign the honorable senator did everything possible to upset the control of prices and to belittle the Government and parliamentary institutions.
I desire to correct a statement of Senator James McLachlan, that the present Government was giving to Tasmania the sum of £1,500,000 in order to build hydroelectric works in Tasmania. I remind him that hydro-electric works have existed in Tasmania for many years ; they were carried out and financed by the State. It is true that, through the Loan Council, the State Government approached the Commonwealth for finance; but long before the Loan Council was established hydro-electric undertakings in that State were in operation, and I predict that they will continue for many years. The money is part of a State plan which has been in operation for many years, and is likely to continue. It is an entirely State project. The honorable senator should know that more money than is being given to Tasmania is being made available to other States. The sum involved is considerably in excess of £1,500,000. In Victoria, more money is being expended to establish the aluminium industry than is being expended in Tasmania on the hydroelectric power scheme.
I desire now to refer to the Department of War Organization of Industry, which shows an increased expenditure over that of last year. As the war recedes further from Australia’s shores, one would think that the vote for this department would decrease instead of increase. Therefore, I hope that a satisfactory explanation of the proposed vote will be given to us. Although the increase is small, I point out that certain expenditure, which I think is unnecessary, is forced on the public. For instance, if a person wishes to secure the release of certain articles it is necessary for him to get a doctor’s certificate and to produce it to the Deputy Director of War Organization of Industry, before a release will be granted. Although that officer may be convinced that the release is justified, he still says, “ If you supply a doctor’s certificate the release will be approved “. The onus should not be placed on the applicant, and he should not be required to pay 10s. 6d. to get a certificate from a doctor. Many persons can ill afford to pay doctors’ fees. It would be easy for some people to get 100 certificates from doctors. If the investigator were to go to a doctor, he would gain more information than is obtainable from any doctor’s certificate. Not only would the investigating officer benefit, but also the people who will be put to the expense of obtaining a doctor’s certificate would be helped. I suggest that the department may also give greater consideration to workers who want homes built. Instead of building luxurious mansions for a few people, the Government should do more to provide homes for ordinary people. In certain parts of Australia large houses ure being remodelled. These undertakings should wait until after people without homes have their needs met. I suggest that this is a matter which should be taken up by investigating officers. If that were done the department would not be subjected to so much criticism. I realize that the Minister must be guided by his officers, but the Minister is in a position to ensure that the public is treated fairly. We look to. him to see that the people generally are given a fair deal. Some of the money now expended by the Department of War Organization of Industry could be used to much better advantage. I suggest that Senator J. B. Hayes, who I understand is to follow me> should, instead of following the example of his colleagues in offering carping criticism of the Government’s efforts to help the dairying industry and the sugar industry, and holding a post mortem on the referendum, should offer constructive ideas which will help the Government to do even a better job than it is now doing.
Thursday, 28 September 1944
– Senator Aylett has just advised me not to offer carping criticism of the Government. Since I have been a member of this chamber I have never indulged in carping criticism. I do not speak very often, but I should be ashamed to make statements similar to those made by Senator Aylett to-night. I regret that
Senator Sampson was not present to hear his remarks with regard to the Tasmanian Bights League. However, I am sure that my colleague will reply to those statements at the first opportunity. I cannot understand why an honorable senator should go back twenty years in order to find a subject with which he could deal in a manner unworthy of an honorable senator. What has the Tasmanian Bights League to do with the budget now before us? Senator Sampson was the organizer for that league, and I am sure that he accounted for everything that he received on its behalf.
– I did not say that he did not.
– The honorable senator mentioned the collection of a subscription fee of 5s., which might be construed as a reflection on Senator Sampson. I was sorry to hear the honorable senator make such a statement. I wish now to deal with his attack upon the administration- of soldier settlements in Tasmania after the last war. For a brief period I was the Minister in charge of those projects, and I know that his statements are incorrect. As in other States, the land bought for soldier settlements in- Tasmania was purchased at boom prices. Only yesterday, when I addressed myself to this subject, I urged the Govern ment to avoid that mistake in any scheme it undertakes for the settlement of ex-service personnel after this war. Senator Aylett knows that the cost of the land, improvements and stock was very high, and that a few years later there was a general fall of prices with the result that many settlers could not make a living. But I remind him that many private people also purchased land at that time at boom prices, and met with failure for the same reasons. The State was morally obliged to give a just price for all land purchased. In Tasmania, owing to the fact that no large estates were available, the Government found it necessary to purchase individual private farms for the purpose of settling exservicemen. In cases where disputes arose over valuations, the matter could be determined by independent tribunals. I repeat that the cost of improvements, including houses, was too high. That was another reason why the Government in Tasmania purchased private farms as going concerns. However., it could not resume such properties compulsorily. lt was obliged to give the ‘Owners a fair price. During the period I was associated with soldier settlement in that State, I did my best in the interests of the ex-servicemen to keep prices down. The Government appointed a SoldieSettlement Board, every member of which was a practical farmer. Under the Tasmanian Soldier Settlement Act, the Government could not purchase any farm without the approval of -that board. When a .fruit farm was being purchased, the property and. valuation had to be approved by fruit experts in the Department of Agriculture. In order to arrive at the true local values I asked municipal councils to appoint .special committees consisting of local farmers to inspect properties offering in their districts, and to give valuations. All valuations of properties of this kind were checked, and counterchecked, before they were purchased. Every precaution was taken to arrive at a just price. I should like to know what method “Senator Aylett would propose to compensate owners of farms whose properties -were taken over for the purpose of soldier settlement. Everything was ‘done to obtain farms for this purpose at their fair value. It is all very well to say year si .afterwards that this or that should’ have been done. Senator Aylett .said that the Tasmanian Government had put soldiers on unsuitable land. That Government did not put soldiers on any land. One of the .great problems of the .time was that it was very difficult to “keep soldiers off the land. For that reason, the Tasmanian Government stipulated under its soldier settlement scheme that all applicants had to be practical farmers. No new chums were put on the land. Every applicant had to prove that he knew something about farming. That being the case, the settlers knew the true value of the land, and need not have accepted any farm for which, the price asked was unreasonable. However, so great was the desire on the part of these men to settle on the land that even in cases where offers of properties were rejected owing ito the price being too high, soldiers pestered the Government to purchase the properties at the price asked for them, and in such cases enlisted the aid of members of Parliament to press their requests. This happened in some cases where the price asked for was from £500 to £660 in excess,of a fair value. I recall one case in which the Soldier Settlement Board valued a .property at £30 an acre, whilst the owners asked for £36 an acre. As the Minister in charge of land settlement at that time, I refused to purchase that property. However, the prospective settler provided the balance himself, and insisted on purchasing the land at the owner’s figure. Some .years later the same land was .sold for £20 an acre. I have no .regrets individually so far as my .administration of land .settlement in Tasmania is concerned. The greatest care was exercised to ‘ensure that faim: were suitable for the prospective .settlers and the prices asked were fair. I, personally, “inspected farms and .refused to pay the price asked for them.; and, afterwards, the same properties were sold at a much lower figure. I and my colleagues did all in our power to keep down the price of land at that time. It is ungenerous for Senator Aylett to -say that owing to .mistakes made -by the State Government of which I was a member the settlers had to be compensated by other governments. Most of the failures occurred during the depression, and, of course, it was then impossible for any government to provide for such compensation. Only yesterday I warned this Government ‘that if it buys land at boom prices and provides improvements at the present high levels, including houses, at prices from 50 per cent, to 60 per cent, higher than those ruling five years ago, or the prices that will be iuling five years hence, it will inevitably be confronted with an irresistible demand on the part of settlers to write down values. Every one realizes that fact. Senator Aylett may regard the statements he has made on this subject as good electioneering. Apparently, he wishes to imply that this Government is the only government which will treat settlers fairly. However, 90 per cent, of members of this Parliament, regardless of party, are anxious to do their best according to their lights in the interests of the community as a whole. Honorable senators on this side are just as humane and honest, and just as anxious to do the fair thing by exservice personnel, as are honorable senators opposite. I express sincere regret that Senator Aylett has made statements of the kind which he made to-night.
– Some honorable senators opposite, have criticized the Government’s attitude towards the dairying industry. I wish to deal briefly with the Government’s policy in that respect. Just prior to the outbreak of the war, the dairymen as a whole were greatly perturbed concerning the conditions in the industry, and requested the Menzies and Fadden Governments to improve their position. Those Governments rejected a proposal to hold an investigation into the industry generally. The dairying industry has been the Cinderella of our rural industries. I remind honorable senators opposite that for a period of ten years, governments which they supported had a majority in both Houses in this Parliament, failed to improve the position of the dairymen in the slightest degree.
– The honorable senator does not know anything about dairying.
– I have had a lifetime’s experience in rural industry whilst Senator Foll has not had one day’s experience in that field. I remind him that for many years I was a member of the Rural Advisory Board in Queensland, I know that whatever improvement has been effected in the position of the industry has been due not to the efforts of the Australian Country party or of the United Australia party, but of the Labour party. What has been the experience of the dairymen since the outbreak of war? Immediately the Curtin Government assumed office it reviewed the industry. The Prices Commissioner granted an increase of Id. per lb. in the price of butter and 1-Jd. per lb. in the price of cheese, and these were the first increases of price granted to the industry within a period of ten years. During that period, anti-Labour governments were in office, and turned a deaf ear to all appeals .by the industry for assistance. The Menzies and the Fadden Governments must have been aware of the plight of the industry, but they did nothing to help it. Since the Curtin Government took office, subsidies amounting to nearly £8,000,000 have been granted to the industry. The price ruling after this Government took office was nearly 50 per cent, higher than that ruling previously. Before the subsidy was paid, the industry was in a sorry plight. In the very nature of things it was neglected by governments in the past. The Dairy Industry Advisory Committee, of which Mr. George Howie, president of the Australian Dairy Farmers Federation, was chairman, submitted its interim report at the request of the first Curtin Government in the early part of 1942. In October, 1942, the Government brought in the Dairying Industry Assistance Bill by which a subsidy of £2,000,000 was to be paid to dairy-farmers. That was recommended in the committee’s interim report, and soon became law. It had the effect of increasing the return on commercial butter to ls. 4d. per lb.
– Does the honorable senator favour an increase in the price of butter to the consumer ?
– What price should he pay?
– Sufficient to enable those engaged in the industry to get a fair return for their labour.
– What price does the honorable senator suggest?
– Order !
– I have a right to ask a question.
– -The honorable senator is not in order in crossexamining another honorable senator during the debate.
– I have every right.
– If the honorable senator persists in challenging the authority of the Chair I shall name him.
– You can name me if you like.
– Then I name the honorable senator, and ask the Leader of the Senate to take the necessary action.
– I ask Senator Foll to withdraw the offensive words to which you, Mr. President, have taken exception. I am sure that his good sense will prevail. He was probably irritated at the time, but he should recognize that he owes it to you and to the Senate to withdraw the offensive expression and apologize. I ask the honorable senator to do so.
– I have been a member of this chamber for 27 years and have never been placed in a similar position. I made two or three interjections to-night, and interjections have been very freely made on both sides. I think that you, sir, were very quick in naming me. I recognize that I was critizing a colleague of yours from Queensland, and consequently I was named fairly promptly.
– Order ! The honorable senator is quite wrong in suggesting that, because Senator Courtice, who represents Queensland, was addressing the Senate, I adopted an attitude different from that which I would have adopted had Senator Courtice represented another State. 1 asked him several times to keep order, but he refused. I have named the honorable senator, and unless he apologizes I shall ask the Leader of the Senate to take the necessary action.
– To whom have I to apologize?
– The honorable senator must apologize to the Chair.
– For what have I to apologize ?
– Order !
Motion (by Senator Keane) put -
That Senator Foll be suspended from the sitting of the Senate.
The bells having been rung,
– I spoke under great provocation, but in deference to the Chair I am prepared to withdraw and apologize. If I am too late in doing so, I shall accept the decision of the Senate.
– If the President is to be respected, honorable senators must obey his call to order. If they persist in interjecting after he has called them to order, he is in duty bound to name them, and the necessary action must then be taken. I realize that at this late hour honorable senators may become irritated, and do things which they would not otherwise think of doing. I accept the honorable senator’s apology, and hope that in future he will obey the Chair.
Motion - by leave - withdrawn.
– Mr. R. C. Gibson, the president of the Primary Producers Union, which represents principally dairy-farmers, commended the Curtin Government for its decision in these words -
The new subsidy recognizes the principle of long-range stabilization of the dairying industry. We have been striving for this for many years.
I do not want to be uncharitable in my criticism of previous governments, or to be unfair to the members of the Australian Country party, but I refuse to let it be said in this chamber that the Government is not prepared to do all it possibly can to place the dairying industry on a reasonably businesslike footing. I am satisfied that it is the policy of the Government to do so, and I believe that the steps already taken have gone a long way to put it on a much more satisfactory basis than ever before. I realize that it has suffered in regard to man-power owing to the war. I shall not go into that subject because all industries have made sacrifices in that regard. Some irresponsible remarks were made in relation to man-power in the sugar industry and its war. effort. Any honorable senator who really understands the contribution that the sugar industry has made and is making in its war effort will praise it instead of criticizing it.
I believe that the dairying industry is on the way to a more stabilized position. At the same time, there is a great deal of room for improvement within the industry itself. There is much inefficiency in it, and many members of Parliament have not the courage to go into the rural districts and tell the dairymen of their inefficiency. A great improvement can be made in dairying methods and practice, and if time permitted I could quote instances in which the Government has been prepared to give the assistance necessary to enable the industry to work on a proper basis.
– I never thought that the honorable senator would develop into a “ party hack “.
– “Wherever I have been in public or private life it has always been recognized that I have the courage of my convictions and am prepared to say what I think.
– The honorable senator used to be.
– The honorable senator is probably still smarting under what happened a little earlier.
– I think of the honorable senator as I used to know him.
– I like to think of the honorable senator as I know him now. I .trust that the bill will be passed without delay.
– in reply - I do not think that on this occasion we shall have any complaints from the Opposition that it has not had the opportunity of a good general discussion of the activities of the Government. Its members have taken full advantage of the liberal standing order which applies to the debate on the first reading of the bill. Senator Leckie will not be able to allege on this occasion that there has been no work for him to do, and that applies to honorable senators on both sides.
Probably the star item of the debate was the “ dud “ attack regarding several wireless stations, which I suggest was badly handled in the House of Representatives, but dealt with most effectively in this chamber by the PostmasterGeneral (Senator Ashley). I shall make no comment on it, except to say that to me it was a topic which was distorted in a despicable way by the press. Innuendoes and charges were made public in the press, but the case for the Government was hardly commented on. We are used to that, but why the press gallery over the chamber is occupied by journalists day and night, and not a line is published about the proceedings of the Senate, is beyond me. There must be some employment in which they would be of much greater use. Any report emanating from the press gallery of this chamber is usually garbled. The few that are published are certainly not indicative of the work done by the representatives of the people in this chamber.
I make no further reference to the referendum, upon which I have already given my views.
Senator Brand referred to the case of the disabled soldier. I go the whole way with the honorable senator on that subject. There are many men in every par.t of Australia, largely men who served in the last war, who have never settled down into civil life. They have probably given way to some excess, perhaps drink, and are sub-normal. They do not receive pensions, and I ‘suggest that the only refuge for them is in certain homes throughout Australia. I intend to bring their case to the notice of the responsible Minister, in order to ascertain whether anything can be done for them. It is of no use to give them pensions, which would probably lead to their further degradation. They certainly represent an appalling omission from our repatriation legislation. Senator Cooper dealtat length with the dairying industry. I asked him what was his solution of the problem, and he told me that he would answer that question later. I waited, but no answer was given. I remind the honorable senator that the Government is paying a tremendous subsidy to that industry. Last year it was £7,300,000, and this year it will be £7,500,000. In addition, there will be a subsidy on whole milk amounting to £1,500,000. In nineteen months, we have subsidized this industry to the amount of £16,346,000, and, in addition, subsidies have been paid upon grain used as stock food, and prices have been guaranteed for pig meats. The dairying industry has had a high priority for labour released from the armed forces. The -fact that butter production has not reached the goal is calamitous, and is due partly to man-power difficulties, and partly to the drought conditons which are being experienced throughout Australia.
Senator Cooper referred also to the scarcity of man-power in the sugar industry. That is a matter which comes within the province of my department. More attention has been given to the sugar-growing industry than to any other phase of primary production. Every effort has been made by man-power authorities to provide the labour required. Men have been brought from alien internment camps and from every other known man-power source to work in the industry. The Government pays a subsidy of £19 a ton on all superphosphate used in sugar-growing. That superphosphate is being brought to this country despite acute shipping difficulties. Many people want to know why the price of sugar in this country is so high compared with the export price.
– What does Senator Courtice say about that.
– Sugar is cheaper in Australia, than in any other country.
– The people of Australia have supported this industry for many years without complaint. Stories of grievances in the sugar industry are without foundation. Every possible assistance is being given to that industry. Senator Sampson made a most provocative speech. He said that in his opinion the men of the Australian Imperial Force should all be fighting, in Europe to-day.
– He did not say that.
– Members of the Australian Imperial Force were brought back from the Middle East with the acquiesence of Mr. ‘Churchill and President Roosevelt, and we were only able to bring them back because of the magnificent work of the British Navy. They were transported in 63 ships, and the Government was very worried indeed whilst the men were on their way. It was a statesmanlike act. It is no use Senator Sampson indulging in that old sloppy stuff, and saying how happy he would have been if Australians had been in France, taking part in the final phase of the war against Germany. I remind the honorable senator that in the last war 66,000 Australians lost their lives and 100,000 were wounded. Does the honorable senator believe that the interests of the Old Country are the only ones to be considered? Our troops were recalled from overseas when this country was in grave danger. During the last war Australia was never in danger. Unfortunately, when our Australian Imperial Force men were brought back from the Middle East in 1942, many of them had to be sent to New Guinea almost immediately to defend the shores of Australia from invasion. Some of these men are still fighting there, and we hope to be able to give them early relief. Obviously, the Government cannot discuss future movements of Australian troops at an open session of Parliament; but I point out that there are 28,000 Australians in prisoner-of-war camps, and it is not our intention to permit the fighting forces of other nations to free these men whilst we still have an army. Apparently, Senator Sampson is bitten by the military bug. On this occasion he made wild charges without bringing specific evidence to support them. Almost every speech he makes in this chamber is a reflection upon some honorable senators and upon the Australian people. I challenge his statements, and say without hesitation that, in any field, Australians are equal to the citizens of any other country.
The charges made by Senator Leckie have been disproved satisfactorily, and I trust that to-morrow’s newspapers will give excellent defence of the PostmasterGeneral (Senator Ashley), good publicity. . I regret that it was not possible for him to state his case in the House of Representatives where the charges originated.
Senator Collett’s speech was excellent, but I challenge the honorable senator’s version of the allegedly wonderful treatment given to returned soldiers after the last war. I was a member of the executive of the waterside workers’ strike when I was associated with a railways union. I have always fought against strikes, but when the waterside workers regulations were introduced the Bruce-Page Government put 1,200 “ diggers “ on the sidewalks for two years. Did Senator Brand or Senator Sampson raise a finger to assist those men? No; they let them starve with the rest of the unemployed. The only friends that those unfortunate men had were in the Labour party. As was the case after the last war, the great majority of men who have enlisted on this occasion are unionists, and will continue to be unionists when they return.
Senator Foil’s suggestion in regard to the treatment of soldiers undergoing punishment for absence without leave is a good one. These men are doubly punished. First, they undergo a period of detention, and secondly, their pay is stopped. As Senator Foll pointed out, at the end of a war the usual practice is to extend a pardon to these men, so why not say to them now, “ Get back to your units “. The Minister representing the Minister for the Army has noted the honorable senator’s suggestion, and will bring it to the notice of the Minister for the Array (Mr. Forde) at an early date.
Senator Foll read an article from a magazine in which it was stated that machine tool interests in America had not been paid an adequate commission on machine tools sent to this country. This matter has been the subject of discussion for many months. It is not only applicable to American suppliers, but also to Australian agents of both British and American machine tool makers. Prior to the war these agents handled the importation of machine tools and were paid a commission of 22-J per cent. “When the war broke out the machines were imported under the lend-lease agreement, but the agents still claimed a commission of 22-J per cent., despite the fact that most of the work was done by the Import Procurement Division of the Department of Trade and Customs. “We fixed the commission at 5i per cent., but that has not been acceptable, and for some extraordinary reason considerable agitation has developed in America. I point out that in the “White Paper providing for lend-lease supplies to Australia and forty-six other countries, President Roosevelt stated that profit was not to be made on those goods. I assure the honorable senator that I shall make a statement on this matter at the earliest possible date.
Question resolved in the affirmative.
Bill read a first time.
– I move -
That the bill be now read a second time.
This measure provides for the appropriation of revenue for the ordinary services of the various departments. The expenditure proposals of the Government have already been covered in the budget debate and it is not proposed to deal now with the various items in detail.
Any explanations that may be desired by honorable senators will be furnished at the committee stage. The bill provides for an appropriation of £130,904,000 for the services of the year 1944-45 to which should be added the amount already granted under Supply Act No. 20 of 1944, namely £51,959,000 making the total amount £182,863,000, which is the estimated expenditure from annual appropriations for ordinary services for the year 1944-45, as set out in detail in the second schedule of the bill.
Question resolved in the affirmative.
Bill read a second time.
Clauses 1 and 2 agreed to.
Clause 3 (Issue and application of £130,904,000).
– The carrying of clause 3 will virtually commit the Senate to the total appropriation involved in the bill. What method is proposed for the consideration of the measure? In view of the huge sums of money involved, I suggest that the bill he dealt with page by page, and I ask that consideration of the clause be postponed until after consideration of the Schedule.
, - It would be most unfair to ask the committee to agree to the clause now, because that would involve agreement as to the total appropriation. The usual practice is to postpone clauses such as this until the schedules have been agreed to.
– That is not the practice, but I shall not object to the postponement of the clause.
Clause 4 agreed to.
– The first schedule sets out the total amount of the items in the second schedule, therefore consideration of the first schedule should be postponed until the committee has had an opportunity to discuss the second schedule.
– The first schedule could be recommitted if any alteration of the second schedule were made.
Schedule agreed to.
Proposed vote, £182,000.
– Several weeks ago, Senator Grant referred to the condition of the air in the Senate chamber, and said that on account of the stuffy atmosphere he found it difficult to do his work properly. He has made one or two speeches since then, and apparently, because of the atmosphere in the Senate, he has not been “ all out “. When the matter was raised by him the President of the Senate endorsed his remarks and the Leader of the Opposition (Senator McLeay) also stated that he thought the air in this chamber was not conducive to the beet efforts of honorable senators.
– The “ hot air “ is responsible for the trouble.
– I take it that the Leader of the Senate (Senator Keane) supports the request of Senator Grant that the air in the chamber should be regulated. The matter is now in the hands of the President, Mr. Speaker and the Joint House Committee. The President gave an assurance that action is to be taken to improve the atmospheric conditions in Parliament House generally. I should like the President to tell the committee what action he has taken since Senator Grant mentioned this important matter. Has he approached the Government for an appropriation of funds to provide for the better airconditioning of this chamber? I think that the Minister for the Interior (Senator Collings) stated that the expenditure of about £25,000 would be required to improve the atmospherics of the Senate. Judging by the rate at which the Government is expending public money at present, I should say that £25,000 would be regarded as a petty cash item. Will the Minister state whether the President and Mr. Speaker have had a consultation regarding the expenditure that would be involved?
– The matter is under consideration by the Department of the Interior.
– The Minister has no control with regard to such a matter, but must take second place to the President and Mr. Speaker. Since Senator Grant has been « member of this chamber he has said that the atmosphere is such that he has almost fallen asleep in the chamber, but the electors do not send him here to sleep while the Senate is sitting.
– I shall ask the honorable senator to resume his seat, unless he discusses the item before the Chair.
– One of the reasons why I have not unduly rushed the President is that I desire to give him an opportunity to collect his thoughts on the matter. With those few introduc-to ry remarks-
– I - If the honorable senator continues to be facetious, I shall ask him to resume his seat.
– I do not think that the Chair should reflect on honorable senators.
– Order ! I ask the honorable senator to resume his seat.
– I was pleased to hear from my friend from Queensland, Senator Foll. It is most appropriate that he should speak about “ hot air “. I have made inquiries regarding the atmospheric conditions both in this chamber, and in other parts of Parliament House. Figures have been obtained as to the cost, but I have not them with me now. The Clerk of the Senate, Mr. Edwards, and the Secretary of the Joint House Department, Mr. Tregear, have been most helpful. The cost of installing a suitable aid-conditioning plant would be about £25,000, but at this stage that work cannot be contemplated. When, the AttorneyGeneral (Dr. Evatt), was in the United States of America he made inquiries in regard to heating and air conditioning systems, and found that the cost of many of them is prohibitive. Further inquiries will be made, and all that is possible will be done to meet the wishes of members whose comfort should be given every consideration. There is no reason why we should work in an unduly warm atmosphere. The presiding officers recognize their responsibility to the representatives of the people who are doing the country’s work and are deserving of every consideration. Senator Foll can rest assured that I shall do everything in my power to see that senators work in a suitable atmosphere. If not unduly costly, an airconditioning system will be installed.
– Under the heading “ Miscellaneous “ the sum of £74,500 is to be provided. This sum represents £53,500 for the conveyance of the members of Parliament and others, and £21,000 for the maintenance of rooms in capital cities for Ministers and members, and for the salaries of attendants. Can the Minister supply any further details?
– The item “ Conveyance of members of Parliament and others, £53,500 “ covers gold passes, life passes, amount payable to Commonwealth Railways for the conveyance of members over the Queanbeyan to Canberra line, estimated amount to cover journeys over the trans-Australian line, estimated cost of special trains from Goulburn to Canberra, official transport, hire of cars, and conveyance of wives and families of members. The proposed vote of £21,000 for the maintenance of rooms for Ministers and members in capital cities includes rent £4,650, telephones £8,700, cleaning £400, stationery £560, electric light and water supply £280, miscellaneous £570.
– The vote for the conveyance of members of Parliament and others is £53,500 compared with £46,500 last year. Can the Minister say whether this increase represents additional facilities for members, and if so will he give details? It is the duty of the Government to provide comfortable travel for members so that they may do their work efficiently. I suggest that something more up to date than the present means of travel should be provided. “Would it not be possible to convey members to and from Canberra by air? Rather than face the long journey from Melbourne by train without a sleeper, I paid for a seat on an aeroplane when travelling to Canberra a few weeks ago. I arrived less tired than if I had sat up all night in the train. If provision were made to convey members by air, I should expect the amount payable to the Railways Depart ments to be reduced. I understand that Tasmanian members already travel by air.
– They are allowed only two trips a year.
– I should be satisfied if provision were made to convey members by air at the beginning and end of each sessional period. I realize that travelling conditions are now exceptional, but apart from that, the time has arrived for improved travelling facilities. Members of Parliament, who are the directors of the business of the nation, now have to take second place to all sorts of other people. I shall be content if the Minister will undertake to look into this matter with a view to improving the travelling conditions of members. It should be possible to devise a satisfactory scheme which would not represent a greatly increased expenditure.
– It is unfair that because of the exceptional circumstances which now exist members of Parliament should have to be accommodated in what are really second-class carriages. The carriages which are in use on the line to Canberra are far inferior to those which operate between Albury and Sydney. I realize that if sleeping cars cannot be provided for the general public they cannot be made available for the use of members. However, the present facilities leave a very bad impression upon visitors to the National Capital, particularly when they find themselves boxed up in carriages which are far inferior to those used on the main line from Sydney to Albury. The passenger carriages on trains running to and from Canberra should at least be equal to the standard of those used on the main line.
– I shall look into the matter raised by the honorable senator.
– I wish to refer to the difficulties under which honorable members and honorable senators labour when they are obliged to meet all expenses incurred in attending sittings of the Parliament out of their own pocket. Very few members of the general public realize that the allowance of £1,000 a year paid to members of the Parliament is subject to income tax at the rate applying to all incomes in that range.
– Nine out of every ten persons’ believe that members of Parliament do not pay tax on their allowances.
– That is so. I do not blame this Government in this matter. Indeed, previous governments should have faced up to this problem. “Whilst members of the Commonwealth Public Service, Ministers of the Crown, and private employees receive out-of-pocket expenses when travelling on official duties, the rank-and-file members of Parliament have to meet those expenses out of their own pockets. Ordinarily, honorable members and honorable senators have to incur heavy expenditure on that account, but those who desire to bring their families to Canberra with them are severely penalized. The rank-and-file member of Parliament has to pay the whole of the expenses he incurs in attending sittings of the Parliament in Canberra, which is off the beaten track, out of what is left of his allowance after one-third of it is taken in income tax. I have had a long experience as a member of the Senate, and I say without hesitation that the position of rank-and-file members of the Parliament in this respect was never worse than it is to-day. Many people imagine that members of this Parliament do not pay income tax on their Parliamentary income. I shall go so far as to say that a member of Parliament who has a family to support, particularly when he is obliged to attend regular sittings of Parliament in Canberra, cannot get from his parliamentary income of £1,000 very much more than the basic wage. Such treatment is not just. After all, this is the highest legislature in the land. Many members of the public also imagine that when attending sittings of the “Parliament in Canberra, members are provided with meals free of charge. They think that members receive everything free of charge while in Canberra. It is about time that the people were told that the rank and file member of Parliament pays for everything he receives when he is in Canberra.
– Or anywhere else.
– That is so; and it is well to remember that senators from the larger States are obliged to travel over extensive areas, whilst some honorable members who represent large electorates in the House of Representatives almost equal in area to Tasmania, are also obliged to travel extensively. Not onehalfpenny of that expenditure is reimbursed to them. Much is said to-day about the necessity to attract men of the best type to stand for Parliament. But what inducement is held out to them ? Of course, the desire to render service to the community is the first consideration; but members of Parliament must live. Should the difficulties confronting members in this respect increase, it is possible that only persons with independent means will be able to afford to stand for Parliament. I realize that I may leave myself open to criticism for these remarks, but I do not mind that. In this matter, I am prepared to “ bell the cat “ because it is about time that some one spoke plainly about our position. I do not suggest that the allowance of members of Parliament should be so high as to form an attraction in itself; but we should enable the average citizen to avail himself of the opportunity presented in Parliament to render service to the community. Unless we do that, we shall reduce parliamentary representation to what one might describe as the odds and ends of the community. The present payment of £1,000 a year was fixed over 20 years ago. At that time the purchasing power of £1 was 20s., whereas to-day, owing to the increase of cost of living, it is only lis. Furthermore, at that time, very little income tax was levied on salaries of that amount. In addition, members of Parliament are continually called upon to make donations to all sorts of funds and organizations.
– The honorable senator will not be in order in pursuing that subject further.
– I sincerely hope that the Government will give consideration to the matter I have raised.
– The Minister for the Interior (Senator Collings) will give consideration to the matters raised by Senator Leckie and Senator Herbert Hays. The suggestion made by Senator Foll is thoroughly justified. It has been made on numerous occasions in the past in the House of Representatives, but for some reason no government has acted upon it. 1. agree entirely with the suggestion. I agree with Senator Foll that the average outsider thinks that members of Parliament receive £1,000 a year clear of all charges, have everything that they want to eat and drink, are housed for nothing, and are supplied with motor cars whenever they want them. That is a completely mistaken idea. When I was a member of the House of Representatives, I submitted a list showing where my allowance of £1,000 a year went in the year 1929-30, and that I was receiving only £6 a week. The week following the publication of that list in Hansard, I had a very heavy mail. One writer remarked : “ Knowing you as I have for a number of years, I have no reason to doubt your veracity when you say that you receive only £6 a week. All I can say from a close knowledge of you is that it is a damned sight more than you were ever worth.” I shall take an early opportunity of having the subject considered by the Government.
– I draw attention to Division No. 7 relating to the Parliamentary Standing Committee on Broadcasting. I should have preferred the Postmaster-General (Senator Ashley) to be present to hear what I have to say, but I shall mention- the matter now, because it may cause honorable senators to think about it and it may get us somewhere in the early future. I suggest that the Standing Committee on Broadcasting be requested by the Postmaster-General to consider the desirability, practicability, and cost, of broadcasting all the proceedings of both Houses of the Parliament. That is done now in Now Zealand, where the proceedings in either House are broadcast, and I understand that the service is very popular. Microphones are suspended at appropriate places in the two chambers, and the public can hear a member regardless of the place from which he speaks. If our proceedings were broadcast, the general pub-lie would be given a much better idea of what happens in Parliament, and of parliamentary practice and procedure, and would understand better how the country is governed. I am inclined to think that if members knew that the listening public would hear them, it would make them shorten their speeches and be much more careful in their preparation. The people would gain a much better knowledge of Parliament, which would in time result in their getting better parliaments. Many people who have been in this building for the first time have told me that they gained quite a different, idea of parliamentary practice and procedure as a result of their visit. The press does its best to report the proceedings, but newspaper space is limited, and at best the public can get only scrappy reports of what is said here. I have often thought that speeches made here were worthy of a bigger audience. That does not apply to the speeches of one side only. I understand that in New Zealand a special station is used to broadcast Parliament, and that there is no limitation of time. The broadcast begins from the time the presiding officer takes the chair and continues until the House adjourns. Everything that occurs in the interval is broadcast. A New Zealander who knew all about the subject told mc that members vie with one another to speak at popular times, but that simply goes to show how popular the service is. I believe that it would be -just as popular in Australia. Even if it cost £100,000, that would be only the cost of an election or a referendum. If such a service gave the people a knowledge of what really happened in Parliament, it would be well worth the cost. I hope that the Government will consider my suggestion favorably. If the Government endorses it, I believe that it will have sufficient support in this Parliament.
– I support Senator J. B. Hayes’s request to the Government to consider favorably the broadcasting of the debates of this Parliament. Whatever side we supported in the referendum campaign, we were all convinced of the average elector’s deplorable lack of knowledge of constitutional matters, and of the circumstances surrounding the referendum proposals. Perhaps it would not be necessary to broadcast the proceedings at all the sittings, but if some of them were broadcast the people would become much better acquainted with political affairs. It would be of great advantage to Parliament and the people if the people knew more about the bills that are introduced. Many people would be made more politically minded than they are at present.
– Be brief.
– I strongly resent the continued interjections of Senator Grant. He persists in asking me to be brief. I have a big responsibility as a repre- sentative of the State of Queensland, particularly in the consideration of the year’s Estimates, and I shall not curtail my remarks at the honorable senator’s request. Seeing that he represents a State which contains 40 per cent, of the population of Australia, it would better become him to follow my example and go through all the items seriously than to be continually pointing his finger at the clock.
– Order! I hope that the honorable senator will confine his remarks to the vote under discussion.
– I do not intend to be thrown off the subject by disorderly interjections. I am sure that once the people become accustomed to listening to Parliament at work, they would look forward to the sittings of Parliament. If there is one reason why the public has a grievance against the Government it is that Parliament is not called together more frequently. They resent the long recesses that take place. Once the broadcast of speeches was introduced, the public would not be satisfied with the long recesses that the Government forces upon Parliament and the country.
– The Government of which the honorable senator was a member was responsible for long recesses.
– The Minister is quite incorrect. If he cheeks the record he will find that Parliament met much more frequently and had longer sessions than hag been the case since the present Government took office.
– The country is at war.
– Our party was in office during the first two years of the war, but Parliament met much more regularly then than it does now. Not long ago the Prime Minister (Mr. Curtin) gave an undertaking to the Leader of the Opposition in the House of Representatives that Parliament would meet at not less than six-weekly intervals. I think that I am correct in that statement.
– I rise to order. I submit that the honorable senator’s speech has a very remote connexion with the vote under consideration.
– Order! It is the responsibility of the Chair to decide that point.
– Instead of Parliament meeting every six weeks, it is called together hurriedly, as it has been on this and the last occasion, and business is rushed through in the middle of the night. Nothing is more important than the financial programme of the Government, which includes the various items of the expenditure of the departments.
– The Government to which the honorable senator belonged rushed business through for years.
– The Minister’s only defence against the case I am making is to say that for many years we did the same. I believe firmly that if the suggestion made by Senator J. B. Hayes for the broadcasting of the proceedings of this Parliament were adopted, we should succeed in making the people of this country much more conversant with the work of Parliament, and when the electors were called upon to cast their votes at elections, or at referendums, they would know something of the issues involved. Senator J. B. Hayes, who is an ex-Premier of Tasmania, has had extensive political experience, and his suggestion is worthy of the most serious consideration. Honorable senators will recall the criticism made by Senator Amour of a broadcast on the subject of -birth control by Dr. Norman Haire. Surely, if the Australian Broadcasting Commission is prepared to devote valuable broadcasting time to such discussions, it will appreciate the far greater importance of making its facilities available for the broadcasting of the proceedings of this Parliament. Such broadcasts would have great educational value.
– It may interest Senator J. B. Hayes and
Senator Foll to know that representations have been received from various parts of Australia in regard to the broadcasting of proceedings of the National Parliament. The Government will give earnest consideration to the suggestion.
– I draw attention to the fact that whereas the vote for the Parliamentary Standing Committee on Public Works was £1,800 for the year 1943-44, and the actual expenditure in that year was £1,898, the proposed vote for the current financial year is only £1,000. As this committee can save the country many thousands of pounds, and in view of the fact that vast post-Avar building projects are in view, I should like to know whether this reduced vote means that the activities of the committee are to be restricted in the future.
– One reason for the difference between last year’s expenditure and the proposed vote for this year is the fact that the sum of £760 had to be paid, to the retiring, secretary of the committee. I think that the honorable senator is aware that certain projects will be referred to the Public- Works Committee in the nearfuture. It is expected that the work of the committee will increase.
Proposed vote agreed to.
Prime Minister’s Department
Proposed vote, £1,200,900.
– The sum of £260 is included in this vote for “National broadcast by the Prime Minister and other Ministers “. I should like the PostmasterGeneral (Senator Ashley), to tell the committee in what way this money will be- expended. The amount is small, I admit, but a matter of principle is involved. It is important that the Prime Minister should be able at any time to broadcast to the people of this country on matters of importance, and I see no reason why a payment should be made to anybody in respect of such broadcasts. I have felt for some time that our national broadcasting facilities have not been used as freely, as they should have been by the Prime Minister. From time to time, I have complained in this chamber that much more information in regard to Australia’s war effort could have been made known to the nation in national broadcasts. In my first-reading speech on this measure I referred to a most commendable broadcast made by the Commander-in-Chief of the Allied Land’ Forces in the South-West Pacific Area, General Sir Thomas Blarney. I believe that much of the information given in that broadcast could have been made known to the people of this country by the Prime Minister in national broadcasts. What national broadcasts are we likely to have for the paltry sum of £250? My impression was that broadcasting stations, both national and commercial, were available to the Prime Minister at any time. In fact, I understood that provision for such broadcasts was included in the agreement under which licences are issued to commercial stations. The Prime Minister should not hesitate to use all available broadcasting facilities to tell the people of this country what is going on. However, we- should not be compelled to listen to broadcasts by Ministers on matters of relatively minor importance, as was the case when this Government first came into office. I am sure that the people of this country are prepared to listen to the Prime Minister with interest at all times. After all, he is the head of this nation and the leader to whom we look for information and guidance. In my view too little information has been given to the Australian people about our war effort. There has been too much “ hush hush “ in relation to our national affairs, and that policy is one of the prime causes of the complacency which was so much deplored by the Commander-in-Chief in his broadcast.
– Arrangements were made in October, 1939, for the cost of national broadcasts by Commonwealth Ministers to be- met from funds under the control of the Prime Minister’s Department, and the provision covers charges made- by the
Postal Department for the use of telephone lines and equipment and for the provision of staff for broadcasts.
– That explanation is unsatisfactory to me. The Postmaster-General’s Department is making profits amounting to millions of pounds a year, but when the Prime Minister of Australia uses the national .broadcasting network in order to deal with matters of international importance relating to the war effort, the Prime Minister’s Department receives a bill for the use of that service.
– The remarks of Senator Foll are most unfair. He has had a long experience in this Parliament, and has been a member of a government. He must know that, irrespective of the fact that the Postal Department is making large profits, the usual practice is for one department to charge another for all services rendered, even though the charges involve only book entries.
– “I accept the Minister’s explanation.
– I should like to know why £140 is to be voted as a special allowance to a motor driver. That is rather a novel item. Another item to which I drawattention is a proposed vote of £15,724 for “ Officers on unattached list pending suitable vacancies “. Does that mean that men are being paid for being idle pending appointment to suitable positions?
– A special allowance is paid to motor drivers for extra hours worked. Officers are made available for extra duties arising out of the war and to take the place of officers absent on war service. The officers to whom the honorable senator has referred are mainly required for work in the Cables Branch, and they are now on temporary transfer. There is no actual increase of expenditure.
– There is a proposed vote of £5,000 for “Payment to GovernorGeneral on retirement from office “ ; £6,900 for passage allowances; and £1,300 for incidental and other expenditure. Will the Leader of the Senate state whether it is customary on the retirement of a Governor-General to grant a retiring allowance as large as £5,000 and whether that was a grant to meet special expenditure which Lord Gowrie has incurred?
– Provision is made for the payment of fares, car hire, travelling allowances, &c, for official travelling by the GovernorGeneral and his staff. The GovernorGeneral provides cars in connexion with many official functions, but it is often necessary to engage additional cars for the staff or in connexion with special functions. I shall now state the reason for the payment to the Governor-General of £5,000 on his retirement from office. Lord Gowrie was sworn in as Governor-General in January, 1936. On the 30th November, 1937, it was announced in Parliament that, with the concurrence of the Government, His Excellency proposed to proceed to England on six month’s leave commencing about the 20th March, 1938. When Sir Isaac Isaacs visited the United Kingdom after the termination of his office as Governor-General, the Commonwealth Government provided passages for Sir Isaac and Lady Isaacs, together with two servants, and also an allowance for expenses at the rate of £75 a week for approximately six months. In view of the special circumstances in the case of Lord Gowrie, namely, the extension of the term of his office from 1939 to 1944, and the absence of any leave outside Australia since 1938, some recognition was warranted, and payment in lieu of six months’ leave was granted.
In explanation of the item for passage allowances, I may say it was agreed at the Imperial Conference held in 1930 that the appointment of a Governor-General was a matter for advice by the relative Dominion Ministers, and expenses in connexion with the appointment may, therefore, generally be considered to be a matter for the dominions concerned, and not the United Kingdom. When passages of GovernorsGeneral were payable from the United Kingdom funds, basic rates were as follows : - Canada, £800 ; Australia, £2,000; New Zealand, £1,500; and South Africa, £1,500. But those rates were subject to an addition of 50 per cent, in consideration of increases of the cost of ocean passages since the war of 1914-18. The Government has agreed to contribute the following amounts : -
Department of External Affairs
Proposed vote, £233,900.
– I believe that the Secretary of the Department of External Affairs is receiving a salary of £1,400 a year, which is considerably below the sum which should be paid to the head of a department of such importance, having regard to the nature of the work involved in connexion with foreign affairs.
– Recently a sub-committee of Cabinet considered the salaries of all of the permanent heads of the departments, including the head of the Department of External Affairs, who, we all recognize, is an excellent officer. The sub-committee made a recommendation to Cabinet which was adopted, in view of the fact that some of the officers had had allowances owing to the extra work undertaken resulting from the war; but, owing to the fact that the Government had pegged the wages of the workers, it was not prepared to grant an increase of salary to the heads of any department. The Government thought that that decision was necessary in order to be consistent.
– Will the Minister explain the item : “ Temporary and casual employees, £21,000 at the Australian Legation in the United States of America”? This seems to he a large sum for temporary employees.
– This item covers the salary and allow ances of an acting Third Secretary, amounting to £970, and the salary of the locally engaged staff. The provision of assistance to the various attaches and delegations has necessitated an increase of the locally engaged staff of over 100 per cent, and the special nature of some of the work makes it essential to secure carefully selected Britishborn subjects. There is a keen demand for suitable staff, and consequently the legation has been forced to meet considerable wage increases. Moreover, the cost of living in Washington has risen considerably, necessitating salary increases. A recent statute of the United States of America makes payment for overtime obligatory for officers receiving less than $3,000 per annum and provision for such payments must be made. The Estimates provide for a staff of 28 locally engaged officers.
.- Will the Minister say whether Australian High Commissioners in Canada, India and New Zealand pay income tax in the Dominions, or in Australia ?
– They pay the income tax imposed in Australia.
– Recently, the AttorneyGeneral (Dr. Evatt) announced in the House of Representatives that the Government intended to appoint press attaches to the various Australianlegations. I commend the Government on that decision, as if will enable the people of other countries to learn more about Australia. There is no provision in these Estimates for the payment of these men.
– Their salaries will be paid by the Department of Information.
SenatorFOLL. - Why was not an announcement similar to that made in the other branch of the legislature made in the Senate?
– I did not know that such an announcement had been made.
– The Minister’s interjection shows how unfairly the Leader of the Senate is treated by his colleagues. If any injustice is done to him, he will always receive my support. I appreciate the interjection of the Postmaster General (Senator Ashley), and now ask him whether the press attaches will be attached to the Department of Information or to the Department of External Affairs. In my opinion, the publicity aspects of Australian activities abroad should be divorced from ambassadorial aspects, and therefore I favour the attachment of these men to the Department of Information rather than to the Department of External Affairs. It will give to them greater freedom of action. As other legations are established from time to time, I hope that press attaches will be appointed to them also.
Proposed vote agreed to.
Department of the Treasury.
Proposed vote, £2,172,600.
– I suggest that progress be reported.
– In view of the Minister’s objection, I move -
That the Chairman do report .progress and ask leave to sit again.
It is highly improper that we should be asked to continue after having sat since 11 o’clock yesterday morning. If the motion be agreed to, we could, if necessary, resume the sitting at 10 a.m. to-day. Unless we adjourn now, we shall not have other business to do to-morrow.
– Other business has already reached the Senate from the House of Representatives.
Proposed vote agreed to.
Proposed vote, £345,500.
– It is proposed to increase the provision in respect of the Commonwealth Investigation Branch from an actual expenditure last year of £33,182 to £34,700, an increase of £1,618. I should like to know the reason for that increase. Is this investigation work in respect of security matters only or does it also refer to Treasury matters, rationing matters, or censorship? Is this a special investigation branch, and do similar branches exist in the other departments which I have named ? I can hardly imagine that this amount would be sufficient to cover the total expenditure incurred by the Government upon investigation work. If we believe what we see and hear, a much greater expenditure is involved in the investigation of the private affairs of the free people of Australia than is justified. Has the Rationing Commission its own particular snoopers ?
– The total expenditure in respect of all of the Government’s official snoopers must represent a tidy sum. In this matter, the Government’s policy is distasteful to a free people. I am afraid that in setting up so many special investigating branches it is imitating the example of dictatorship countries. I cannot understand the official policy of providing money to official investigators to induce people to break the law. Honorable senators will recall a recent case in which a government department provided money to effect the purchase of a motor car at a price beyond the legal selling price. Whence came that money? Is it drawn from a secret fund, the purpose of which is to provide agents provocateurs with money to induce citizens to break the law? I should say that this amount is a very small proportion of the Government’s total expenditure on investigation work.
– An amount of £128,000 is provided elsewhere in the Estimates in respect of the administrative expenses for the Security Service.
– Do the two amounts of £128,000 and £34,700 represent the Government’s total expenditure in all departments in respect of investigations ?
– The Government must be expending a vast sum in this direction.
– The Rationing Commission and Prices Branch make their own provision for their investigation work.
– I am sorry that the Government has such a poor opinion of the general public. I am afraid that the enthusiasm of the Leader of the Senate to make malefactors out of free people is running away with his discretion. The people would be shocked to know of the vast sums which the Government is expending on investigation work. I should have thought that expenditure in this direction would be reduced having regard to our present security requirements. I express amazement at the magnitude of the vote for the Commonwealth Investigation Branch, and believe that other vast sums are concealed elsewhere.
– I rise to order. This farce should be stopped. The honorable senator’s remarks are not related to the item under discussion.
– The The honorable senator has exhausted his time.
– Ministers should not become petulenbecause honorable senators on this side of the chamber seek information about these Estimates.
– The honorable senator has been given answers to his questions.
– My complaint is that when Senator Leckie sought information about the Commonwealth Investigation Branch, the” Minister for the Interior (Senator Collings) rose to order and complained that the honorable senator’s remarks were irrelevant. The Minister’s display of bad temper was ill-timed. Senator Leckie should be given the information that he seeks.
Senator LECKIE (Victoria) [3.5 a.m.J. - My request for information about the Commonwealth Investigation Branch - this department of snoopers - has not been satisfied. The big majority of members of that staff would not be permanent public servants, and I hesitate to think that a permanent staff would be employed fully on this kind of work. The proposed vote of £34,700 is only one-tenth of the expenditure incurred by this branch. The people are alarmed at the growth of its activities. I should like. to know whether the staff will be increased, and the total expenditure by the Government on it.
– I direct the attention of Senator Leckie to the fact that an additional £128,000 is provided in the Estimates of another department and with the vote for the
Commonwealth Investigation Branch, makes a total of £162,700. As I have already explained, the Prices Branch and the Rationing Commission have separate votes.
– The Censorship ‘Committee discovered immediately it began its inquiries that prosecutions were being launched against individuals for minor breaches of the rationing regulations. For example, a soldier in north Australia sent to his girl friend a few coupons to enable her to purchase a pair of stockings. His letter containing the coupons was intercepted by censorship and forwarded to the Rationing Commission. The “ offender “ was prosecuted. The Minister for Trade and Customs (Senator Keane) stated that proceedings would be instituted against people who committed breaches of the rationing regulations.
– That is correct.
– One of the witnesses before the committee was Mr. Cumming, the Director of Rationing. He was a courteous witness., answered every question very clearly and did not seek to conceal any information. He declared that the Rationing Commission did not hesitate to use censorship for the purpose of obtaining evidence relating to breaches of the rationing regulations. The committee recommended, inter alia, that, this practice should be discontinued. I ask the Minister whether that’ recommendation has been given effect?
– I was not associated with the Censorship Committee, but I know that some breaches of the rationing regulations were not so innocuous as the one which Senator Foll described. A girl in Melbourne stole coupons from her place of employment, but she was not dismissed. A letter describing the matter was intercepted and photographed. It was a shocking case, but as the result of the recommendations of the Censorship Committee, no prosecution was launched. If I had had my way, the offender would have been prosecuted.
Investigation officers are employed in the Prices Branch, the various branches of the Rationing Commission, and the
Excise Division of the Department of Trade and Customs. Sometimes cases are referred to the Commonwealth Investigation Branch for inquiry. The officers of that branch are an especially selected body of men. We have endeavoured to obtain the services of men of high calibre for the Rationing Commission and the Prices Branch. I consider that the blackmarketer and the racketeer should be shown no mercy, and I am not satisfied with the recommendation of the Censorship Committee.
– Is the Minister obeying that recommendation?
– Unfortunately, yes.
Proposed vote agreed to.
Department of the Interior.
Proposed vote, £590,000.
– I draw attention to the proposed vote: “Forestry Branch, £10,900”. What is the position of this branch, which from time to time has been the subject of a good deal of discussion? How many cadets are being taught there, is it receiving the support of the States, and from what States are the cadets selected? When the Forestry Bureau was established at Canberra, we expected it to be the centre of forestry training for the Commonwealth. I understand that that is not the position, but that each State has its forestry department and school’,, and instructs its own cadets. Is the Government attempting to make the school at Canberra attractive, and is its usefulness being extended? Is its existence justified by the number of cadets attending it, and is it recognized as the forestry school for the nation, as was intended?
– The number of students at present at the school is eight. The number was greater, but at the outbreak of war young men, on reaching the age of eighteen felt it their duty to enlist, and did so. The estimate of £5,900 provides for the salaries of permanent officers in Canberra and at the Mount Burr research station, South Australia. Twenty permanent positions are provided for, which number is one more than was included in the vote for 1943-44. The proposed new position is that of principal, Australian Forestry School, with salary of approximately £900 per annum. The necessity for this position will be brought about by the retirement during the year of the Inspector-General of Forests, who now performs the duties of principal in addition to his own without extra remuneration.
Another item provides for the employment of temporary and casual employees and for the payment of honoraria to lecturers for courses on entomology and statistical methods, one scholarship, the employment of students during the long forestry school vacation, and relief for officers on war service and on loan to other departments. The expenditure during 1943-441 totalled £7,925.
– Although the number of cadets is only eight is the staff the same as that maintained prior to the war ? Is it a fact that a new appointment has been made during the year? Was there any justification for making such an appointment, seeing that the number of students is down to an almost irreducible minimum? Must we maintain this big establishment while the pupils are so few in number? Why was an additional appointment made when there was an opportunity to save £900 ? Would not the proper course to follow be to reduce the cost of management until after the war, or until such time as the number of cadets in attendance increases?
– The same staff is at work now as previously. That is an inescapable necessity because of the different subjects that have to be taught. All the students are not in the same stage of advancement.. There must be the same staff for the smaller number, because the number of subjects is the same, and these require expert teachers. I am sure that Senator Herbert Hays is not offering carping criticism of the vote for the branch. We hope that, when the war ceases and a calmer atmosphere prevails in regard to these cultural matters’, we shall be able to increase the number of students and generally extend the work of the school.
– The Commonwealth Forestry Bureau has rightly or wrongly been the subject of a good deal, of criticism from time to time because it has not fulfilled the expectations of those who have so long supported it. It has been in existence for twelve or fourteen years and a DirectorGeneral of Forests has been appointed at a high salary. Are we to understand from the Minister’s reply that for each cadet now being trained one instructor is provided?
– Nothing of the kind.
– The school has the same staff as if there were 15 or 20 cadets. What was the maximum number of cadets before the war? While the number of students is so low why cannot the members of the staff, or some of them, be detailed to assist the State Forestry Departments? Forestry will play a most important- part in the future of Australia, and anything that we can do to encourage the development of our forests should be done, but the Canberra branch has never been a very attractive one. We do not know whether the bureau has been held back because of the lack of desire on the part of the States to co-operate, but while it is at a low ebb it is a waste of energy and money to employ a full staff without trying to provide some other avenue of employment for its members.
– All I can tell the honorable senator now is that the number of students does not affect the number of different phases of forestry education which have to be dealt with. Consequently, there must be just as many lecturers to teach the different aspects of forestry education as if the number of students were two or three times greater than it is. It is a case of one teacher one subject, and all the subjects have to be taught to all the students. There is no sanity in the suggestion that the work should be farmed out to the forestry departments of the States. The Canberra school is recognized by all State departments as the principal forestry school in Australia.
– Are all the States “ playing ball “ now ?
– All the States are co-operating, which is, I know, an improvement on the condition that prevailed when Senator Foll was Minister for the Interior. The importance of forestry is not .being overlooked. That the vote is not larger is due entirely to the fact that, owing to the war, we have had to pare the Estimates as much as possible.
– I shall be glad if the Minister for the Interior (Senator Collings) will give some idea of what is being done by the department in relation to the subject of migration. Within the last few days, an advertisement has appeared in the press and in the Commonwealth .Gazette, inviting applications for the position of Controller of Migration. In earlier debates reference was made to the need for a definite scheme of migration to this country, and the smallness of the vote was rather deplored at the time. There is adequate machinery in the department, although possibly it has not been used within recent years, for the handling of migration problems. While I was Minister, there were some very capable officers. Whether they are still in the department, or are engaged on other war work, I do not know. I hope that they will be available to the Minister when a scheme of migration is launched in the not too distant future. The honorable gentleman who succeeded me in the department will probably recollect that, just prior to the war, we had succeeded in making migration agreements with the Governments of Holland and Switzerland, and had also done a good deal, through various bodies, like the Big Brother movement, for the absorption of migrants from the Motherland. In the early stages of the war, the officers of the department handled a large number of British children who came to this country in order to escape from the horrors of bombing. I remember quite well that when an appeal was made through the department for housing of the children, the response of the people of Australia was magnificent; within a few days, accommodation had. been offered which would have met the needs of 30,000 children from Great Britain had we been able to bring them to this country. Unfortunately, a vessel carrying children was lost on the way to America, and ‘ the scheme was abandoned after one ship-load had arrived here. Whatever may be our politics or past views on the subject of migration, everybody recognizes that, if this country is to be held by the white races of the British Empire, its population must be increased substantially in excess of the natural addition, by the implementation of an adequate scheme of migration. It is not too soon for initial preparations to be made so that, when migration can be resumed, we shall not find that we are lagging and that many desirable settlers who wished to come here have been lost to us. I should like the Minister to state what preliminary preparations have been made in relation to settlement, and what encouragement has been offered to our own servicemen as well as to those from other parts of the Empire and Allied countries, who may be located temporarily in the SouthWest Pacific Area. I should also be glad to have an outline of the Government’s policy in regard to the introduction of people to this country. A good deal of discussion is bound to occur in connexion with the White Australia policy. That policy should be explained. It is not intended to offend any race whose colour is different from ours. We do not lack respect for such people or honour them less. Australia embraces a ‘ huge area, and contains only a com.parati very sm all number of white people. The problem is an economic one. Nevertheless, greater concessions should be offered to our comrades in China and India, than have been offered in the past, whilst retaining the right to develop according to the standards that have been observed since the inauguration of federation.
– I am sure that Senator Foll understands that migration has been at a complete standstill because of the war. It is impossible to bring migrants to this country so long as the present state of affairs continues in the world. Despite that fact, however, the matter is of such importance that an inter-departmental committee, consisting of representatives of the Departments of the Interior, Treasury, Post-war Reconstruction, Social Services, Labour and National Service, Information and External Affairs, has been appointed by the Government to consider every phase of it and to keep the Cabinet informed of the position so far as it can be ascertained. While the Prime Minister (Mr. Curtin) was abroad, I took occasion, as Minister for the Interior, to advise him of the degree to which the committee had arrived at definite conclusions. All phases of migration are being studied closely by the committee, and as it reaches conclusions on various aspects of the matter, its advice is made available to the Government. The Government’s policy in regard to the whole question of migration will bc announced as soon as inquiries essential to the formulation of a complete policy are completed.
– I should like to know what instruction has been issued by the Government to the Migration Committee as to the lines on which its investigations should be conducted. I remind the committee that migration schemes were in operation in this country some years ago, and that many thousands of migrants were brought from overseas, particularly Great Britain. I understand, however, that 75 per cent, of the migrants who came to Australia in those years subsequently returned to their native lands, in some cases the money for their passages being provided by the Government. We must profit by experience and avoid a repetition of that state of affairs. The appointment of a committee to investigate migration problems generally is an excellent scheme, but I should like a little more information in regard to the terms of reference of that committee.
– I am well aware of the migration schemes to which the honorable senator has referred, but I am afraid that his percentage is a little astray. It is true that a large number of migrants did return to their own lands, but the figure is not nearly so high as 75 per cent. The events to which the honorable senator has referred occurred during the term of office of anti-Labour administrations. For reasons which I am sure will be appreciated by this committee, there is no further information on this subject which I am at liberty to disclose. Recently, I made a statement with regard to one phase of this work, hut it was misrepresented by the press to such a degree that there has since been a flood of correspondence relating to utterances attributed to me, but which I did not make.
– I have no desire to embarrass the Minister for the Interior (Senator Collings), or the Government by seeking the premature disclosure of information. All I ask is that steps be taken to avoid a repetition of the unfortunate state of affairs to which I have referred.
Proposed vote agreed to.
Department of Civil Aviation.
Proposed vote, £391,300.
– A statement of the Government’s policy in regard to post-war civil aviation should be made at the earliest possible date. The Department of Civil Aviation is a “ Cinderella “ department. Many of its activities are hidden. Recently, it was disclosed in the newspapers that an order had been placed with American aircraft manufacturers for the supply of airliners for use in this country. It came as a shock to the people of this country to find that air-lines in Australia were to be operated by aircraft not manufactured in Great Britain. There seems to be a general increase of expenditure on all branches of the work of the Department of Civil Aviation, and an explanation of the Government’s intentions at this stage would be timely. After the war, this department will be most important. Aeroplanes will provide the transport of the future. “We are all eager to know in what manner Empire Air Services will be conducted after the war, and what negotiations will be entered into with other’ nations for permission to fly over their territories, or to make intermediate stops at their aerodromes-. From the amount’ of the proposed vote it would appear that the Government has in mind considerable developments. Therefore, it is only right that the Minister should state the Government’s intentions. “We are asked to vote a very large sum of money, and the people expect us to scrutinize every item very carefully. This requires that we ask a number of questions, but I assure the Government that any representations which I make are not influenced by party considerations.
’. - I - I should like to hear from the Minister a statement on the Government’s policy regarding the control of civil aviation in the future. “We are asked to vote £391,300, which is a large amount for a new department. We are entitled, therefore, to ask for information about the activities of the department. I am not complaining of the amount of the proposed vote. I recognize that great strides have been made in civil aviation in recent years. I know what valuable work has been done by civil pilots flying aeroplanes belonging to civil aviation companies in the course of this war. This was particularly the case when they wereengaged to carry men and material to New Guinea at a time when military aeroplanes were not available. When the story of the part played by civil aviation in the- war comes to be written, I hope that justice will be done to the civil pilot who landed his aeroplane in hostile territory to take out fifteen white people - all who remained in that area - from under the noses of the enemy. When the war is over, such men will, I hope,, receive due recognition.
I should like to be informed of thepolicy of the Government .towards thegreat companies which pioneered civil aviation in Australia. The Minister for the Interior (Senator Collings) knows, the small beginnings of the Qantas Company which was formed by a handful of western men in Queensland tomake travel easier- in distant areas where roads and railways did not exist. We owe a great deal to an early pilot of thiscompany, Mr. Hudson Fysh, and to the pastoralist, Sir Herbert MacMaster, who. took such a prominent part in the formation of the company. Qantas is now one of the great airline companies of the world. It was one of the first airlines to carry mails and passengers between Australia and Great Britain, and it has now linked up with Empire Airways. There is another company which began by running a few aeroplanes across Bas3 Strait between the mainland and Tasmania. This developed into Australian National Airways, which was pioneered by the Holyman family, well known in shipping circles. It is now a great enterprise, developed entirely without Government subsidy, and it stands as a monument to the men of vision who pioneered it. The company employs thousands of persons, and has great, modern aeroplanes travelling between the capital cities, along the coast from northern Queensland to Tasmania, and as far west as Perth. An organization has been created, which, we hope, will not be wrecked by socialist interference.
– Does the honorable senator think that this company will ask for a subsidy in the future?
– I do not think that it will. I think it will probably prefer to retain its freedom of action. The Ansett Company has also done very valuable work. Besides the civil aviation companies, individual pilots have rendered notable service. We have had such men as Ross Smith, Sir ‘Charles KingsfordSmith, Hawker and Hinkler, men who have been world pioneers in aviation. Australia has every reason to be proud of its flying men, and of its flying women, too, such as Mrs. Bonney and others. Therefore, I should like to hear from the Government what are its intentions regarding the future control of civil aviation. Rumours are going about that the present organization is to be wrecked, and that the Government proposes to control the airlines. All the Ministers are somewhat socialistically inclined, but there is one, the Minister for Transport (Mr. Ward), who has been very badly bitten with the socialist bug. He would socialize everything, from the Commonwealth Bank to the aviation companies. Will the companies be allowed to continue to provide the up-to-date services which they supply at present, or will civil aviation become a plaything of governments? Will the Minister give an assurance that the operations of the companies will not be interfered with?
– The honorable senator is asking for too much information.
– I merely desire an indication as to the policy of the Government. Members of the Opposition have every right to seek information.
– Does the honorable senator consider that the position of the companies has ever been threatened?
– Can the Minister give an assurance that no attempt will be made to interfere with them?
– Yes, but the policy with regard to national air services has not yet been considered by the’ Government. That will be’ the subject of a conference at an early date.
– Will the Government give an assurance that it does not favour government ownership and control of civil aviation services in Australia.
– I do not know that the Government wishes to own the services.
– All that I desire is an outline of the present policy with regard to the control of civil aviation in this country.
– I hope to be able to satisfy the curiosity of the honorable senator. His interest in the subject of civil aviation is much appreciated by the Government. The proposed vote does not cover expenditure which may be regarded by the Government as necessary, and which, as indicated by the Leader of the Senate (Senator Keane), has not yet been determined by the Government, in respect of either internal or external aviation. I trust that that is a concise and convincing answer to the honorable senator. I agree entirely with Senator Leckie, who has always been a champion of Australian interests, that aeroplanes should be built in this country. Operational planes have been produced here under conditions that at times were most difficult, and the results have, indeed, been gratifying. Senator Foll has shown that he is not as well informed on aviation matters as might be expected of a man of bis enthusiasm for the subject and his ability to undertake research work. The Government has provided large subsidies at one time or another to every aviation company now operating in Australia. When the honorable senator said that the Government’ had not subsidized the companies, he was not correctly informed.
– Does the Minister refer to a mail subsidy, or to a direct subsidy on a mileage basis?
– I am advised that every company has received the subsidy on a mileage basis, but they are not all receiving it now. Others have been paid a subsidy for the carriage of mail.
– Is the Minister able to outline the conditions under which air transport between the States is controlled? A proposal has already been submitted to the people at a referendum for the granting of power to this Parliament over aviation matters throughout the Commonwealth. What arrangement was made for the control of civil aviation when the Commonwealth failed to get the power?
I should like to know under what system the Department of Civil Aviation allocates money for the improvement of aerodromes. It seems that the department will make money available only if local councils contribute large sums or if enthusiasts in the community make large donations. That has been the experience in Tasmania. There should be a uniform policy for the provision of new and the improvement of existing aerodromes throughout the Commonwealth. Civil, aviation is in its infancy in comparison with what it will be after the war. I visualize the day when all passenger traffic between Tasmania and the mainland will be by air. Indeed, I think that almost every hour mail and passenger aircraft will be leaving capital cities for other capital cities on regular and frequent schedules. The machines on the interstate services will be larger than we have seen so far in this country. The terminal airports will be extensive. Smaller aircraft will carry intra-state passengers and mails. Therefore the Commonwealth Government should formulate a progressive policy for civil post-war aviation which will embrace the granting of liberal assistance for the establishment of aerodromes. I think that there will be necessity, in view of the failure of the Commonwealth Government to obtain full authority to control aviation, for there to be complete co-operation between the Commonwealth and the States.
– Passenger aircraft are now under private control, subject to civil aviation regulations. ‘ The improvement of aerodromes and provision of new aerodromes is covered in the Works Estimates and I suggest that the honorable gentleman raise the matter again when those estimates are under consideration. The honorable senator has shown remarkable concern about the control of civil aviation in view of his active and eloquent part in defeating the Government’s proposals for the Commonwealth control of civil aviation. As the referendum proposals in that connexion have been rejected by the people, the control of civil aviation is still a matter for future consideration. I trust that in the interests of the people, agreement will be reached with the States, if that method of approach be adopted, for more effective control than exists at the moment.
– Are we to understand that there is no agreement between the Commonwealth and the States for the control of civil aviation? If there is an agreement its terms have never been revealed to the Senate.
– I am advised that the States have already conferred some powers on the Commonwealth, but I am not in a position to specify their duration.
– -For national security reasons, or because the Minister is unable to do so?
– National security reasons are influencing me at the moment.
– In many parts of Australia aerodromes, landing grounds and air-strips, built by the Allied Works Council and the services, are being vacated by the services because the war has moved farther from Australia. Some are in areas where there are great variations of climate - wet seasons after which the growth is rapid and long dry seasons - which may cause damage unless great care is taken. I am anxious to know whether when areas are vacated by the services those which are likely to be of permanent value to Australia are adequately maintained. What is the Government doing in that connexion ?
– The air-strips referred to by the honorable senator are not included in these items, but their future is a matter which is not being lost sight of.
– Have I the Minister’s assurance that, although no decision regarding their future ownership has been made, adequate care is being taken of them?
– I can assure the honorable senator that care is taken of all the assets of the Government.
– Prior to the war two passenger steamers plied between. Tasmania and the mainland, providing five trips each way during the summer months. Early in the war one vessel was removed from that service, and since then the remaining vessel has been used to convey both civilians and servicemen: at times the number of troops carried has made it necessary to exclude civilian passengers. This has thrown a heavier burden on the civil aeroplanes trading with Tasmania, causing long delays to intending passengers. Australian. National Airways has rendered valuable service in the conveyance of passengers to and from Tasmania, but as the company has a long waiting list, delays are inevitable. Further encouragement should be given to that company in order that increased travelling facilities between Tasmania and the mainland may be provided.
– The shortage of transport facilities, by both sea and air, is due almost entirely to war-time conditions. I assure the honorable senator that the Government has done everything possible to provide adequate transport by air. The difficulty has been . to secure sufficient aeroplanes. Recently, twelve additional machines were obtained, and they have since been distributed along routes where the demand has been greatest. The Government appreciates the difficulties of Tasmania, and will do all that it can to provide additional air transport to and from that State.
Proposed vote agreed to.
Department of Trade and Customs.
Proposed vote, £700,000.
– Can the Minister for Trade and Customs (Senator Keane) inform the committee of the future policy of his department with respect to the Division of Import Procurement? Will this instrumentality function as a huge Government warehouse, or will it merely be a distributing house for goods entering Australia? Persons and companies which in normal times are engaged in the distribution of goods from overseas fear that this Division may become a permanent warehouse instead of being a channel for the distribution of goods.
– The Division of Import Procurement undertakes three classes of work. First, it handles imports under lend-lease arrangements. These imports consist of various items such as clothing, machine tools, aeroplane parts and motor car parte. Wherever possible, these goods have been distributed through the ordinary trade channels, at a commission fixed by the Minister. That is necessary because under the White Paper relating to lendlease no profit may be made out of lendlease goods. Early in 1942 about 190,000 tons of refugee cargo reached Australia. The department took over warehouses in the various capital cities and transferred the goods from the ships to them, thereby releasing the vessels for the carriage of other goods. Some of the goods obtained in this way were not accompanied by invoices or manifests. That material had to be catalogued, priced and sold: and that was done through the ordinary trade channels. The licensing system which is worrying the community at present was introduced because no private importer, without the sponsorship of the Government, could obtain anything overseas. For instance, an importer who wanted 1,000 yards -of material could not place his order in the United Kingdom or the United States of America because in all countries the requirements of the services have first priority, and orders for anything outside those needs must be sponsored by a government, which placed them with the manufacturers, arranged for transport to the seaboard, and, when ships were available for loading from the United Kingdom or the United States of America, they were to be convoyed to Australia. That system must necessarily be abandoned as soon as Ave are able to do so. I agree with Senator Foll that the Government does not want to manage the business of private enterprise. It has a. tremendous job without doing that. Goods obtained under lend-lease, or imported under licence, are distributed to the people who, in 1939, were importing the particular class of goods. I assure the honorable senator that the matter to which he has referred is receiving careful consideration. I hope that, as the result of a journey which I shall make at a a’ery early date, the position will be cleared up at the other end.
– Large quantities of synthetic wool are being imported into Australia. I recognize that we are short of material for making up. However. I wish to know the conditions under which synthetic wool is being imported, and whether it is being made up into wearing apparel. Is it compulsory to brand synthetic wool so as to enable purchasers to know what they are really buying? I should like to know whether any necessity to import synthetic WOOl really exists, and whether the volume of imports is in excess of our minimum requirements. Those are important questions, first, to prevent purchasers from being misled, and, secondly, because of the threat of synthetic Wool as a competitor in natural wool. Australia grows the best wool in the world
The clothing coupon scale is barely sufficient to meet the needs of the average citizen, particularly in the case of families. Because of rationing, it is all the more important that the material made available to the public be of the highest possible quality. However, I have received complaints that not only are clothing materials in short supply, but also they are of inferior quality. I have been informed by one of the leading clothes manufacturers in Melbourne that the greatest anxiety exists in the trade concerning the future for Australian tweed, which. he said, was previously made to a very high standard. I understand that, to some degree, the shortage of man-power is responsible for these facts; but the Government should realize that man-power would really be conserved by the manufacture of superior quality suitings having twice the life of cloth of inferior quality. The manufacturer explained that he desired to use Australian tweeds, and asserted that the policy of manufacturing poorer quality tweeds was detrimental to the best interests of the Australian industry.
– A better quality material is being issued now.
– But only a limited supply. Action should be taken without delay to restore to the Australian market better quality tweeds for suitings.
My remarks about the quality of clothing apply equally to footwear, particularly children’s footwear. Coupons have to be tendered for boots and shoes, but the quality of the footwear has deteriorated considerably. Before 1939, Australian footwear compared favorably with that manufactured in any other country. I ask the Government to give attention to these matters.
– The allegation that synthetic wool was being sold in Australia was first made to me by some members of the Labour party. I asked them to support their complaint with evidence, because to my knowledge the only synthetic products coming into Australia are artificial silk and rayon, which do not contain any wool. Senator Herbert Hays urged that Australian wool shall be used in the manufacture of Australian materials. Wherever possible^ that is now being, done, but we are tremendously handicapped by the shortage of man-power and woman-Dower in the industry. I invite the honorable senator to give to me any information in his possession about the importation of synthetic wool.
Single weft cloth was made as tie result of shortages after the outbreak of the war. The Minister for War Organization of Industry (Mr. Dedman) was harshly criticized when this cloth came on the market. As a matter of fact, it is a very good cloth, but not so good as the double weft cloth. ‘The production executive of ‘Cabinet a month ago decided to authorize the manufacture of a better class of Australian cloth, equal in quality to that of imported cloth. In July, 1943, I placed a ban on the importation of English materials, but these materials continued to arrive in Australia for some time after that date because they had been ordered before the imposition of the ban. I see no necessity for purchasing any of these materials abroad, when Australia can manufacture excellent cloth.
The Controller of Footwear, Mr. Rosevear, has been called upon to provide boots and shoes not only for civilians but also for the three services. Within the next few months, 45,000 men will be discharged from the Army and will require clothing, footwear and hats from the civilian pool.
– I complained not of the quantity but of the quality of the footwear.
– A big percentage of our leather has been used in the normal bootmaking trade, but people are buying more boots and shoes than they did a few years ago. Many complaints have been received about the poor quality of children’s footwear. I warn honorable senators that if we cannot get man-power and woman-power for the textile and clothing industries, the ration scale for clothing must be further restricted. The shortage has been abnormal. Orders for 38,000,000 yards of textiles have been placed in the United States of America and we are getting a big issue each month. The quality of some of the material on the market requires a brief) reference. Some inferior linen goods were imported, not by the Government, but by private enterprise which acquired them in the .bazaars of India. The quality was dreadful, and the price was exor bitant. Some of the material obtained from the United States of America under lend-lease was below standard. Our inquiries in London disclosed that many women in Great Britain have no underclothing at all. The quality of most of the material on sale here is satisfactory in war-time.
– I desire to make it clear that I made no complaint against rationing generally. My purpose in speaking was to emphasize that as restrictions have been placed upon the quantity of civilian goods that can be supplied, every precaution should be taken to ensure that purchasers shall get the best goods available for their coupons.
– Who was responsible for hundreds of dozens of pairs of flannelette pyjamas arriving in bales, unpressed, and quite unsuitable in their then condition for the Australian market, thus necessitating the Department of Trade and Customs to seek the help of steam laundries in the capital cities to press and clean them before they could be made available to the public ?
– Owing to the shortage of man and woman power ito make men’s pyjamas inquiries were made in the Indian market, and this line was the only one obtainable. Frankly, we grabbed it with both hands. As the honorable member said, the garments had to be pressed when they came here and had to be sold at a reasonably high price to enable the department to recoup itself.
– Have they been marketed?
– It will be realized as they are finished, because there is a big shortage of men’s underwear, and there will be a bigger shortage when the men are discharged from the Army.
– Is it really necessary to continue the rationing of sugar in Australia? The rationing is so liberal, .taking into account the special allowance made from time to time for jam-making, that very few people would he likely to buy in excess of the quantity now allowed. Does the quantity of sugar saved justify the cost of the rationing?
The meat problem is causing grave concern to the public, because so many rumours are current and so many conflicting statements are being made. I read recently that one of the executive officers of the Master Butchers Association had stated that meat was so scarce that meat coupons would not be necessary, because the butchers could not have enough meat on hand to supply all the customers who came to them with ration books. He added that the butchers would have to ration their customers themselves. Another problem causing great concern is that the employees in the meat industry have decided for themselves how many days a week they shall work, even though their award prescribes the hours of labour in butchering establishments. In South Australia there has been a definite breach of the award by the butchers refusing to open the shops on Wednesday afternoons. An ultimatum has been delivered to the master butchers that the employees do not propose to work on Saturday, which is the only day on which many men and women in munition and other factories can purchase meat. The same applies to women who work five days a week. The meat situation is causing serious concern to the Minister and the public. What is the actual position regarding the serious threat of a meat shortage, and what is the cause?
– Has the Minister any figures to show by what quantity the consumption of meat has been reduced since rationing was enforced? I am informed by a man in the trade in Tasmania that, although rationing causes additional inconvenience, all that it means to him is that he sells an additional beef carcass each week. He added that the position really was that those who had coupons were always ‘spending the whole of them, and thought it right and proper to do so, whereas in the ordinary course many of them would not purchase anything like the same quantity of meat. Is the department keeping a close check on the results of rationing for the twelve months during which it has been in’ operation? Has it any information to show whether the system has made available extra supplies of meat for export to our kinsmen overseas? Has there been any reduction of the quantity consumed in Australia ? Has the cost of the rationing system been justified by the results achieved? This is an appropriate time for the Minister to tell the committee the results of a year’s experience of meat rationing.
– I understand that the Prices Commissioner has reduced the price of lambs to the producers. Owing to the disastrous drought now prevailing in many parts of Australia, there will be a great shortage of lambs, which will be much fewer in number than in normal years, and the farmers will want to get all they can for them. Why is the Government reducing the return to the grower when there is such a shortage of fat stock?
– The vexed question of rationing has caused the Minister a good deal of anxious thought, and the system has been received with much dissatisfaction by the public. Is it the intention of the Government to extend the principle that has been adopted in regard to clothing, by allowing a carry-over in the case of other articles which at the moment are rationed ?
– The answer to that question is “ Yes “.
– I am pleased to hear that reply. It will remove a good deal of the dissatisfaction which exists. If it is proposed to introduce that system, it should be done as quickly as possible.. Last week-end was the close of a period for the purchase of the essential commodity of butter. At such times, those who up till then have not used all the coupons available to them purchase to the limit and use the commodity more extravagantly than they would if they were assured of being able to purchase according to their needs. An excellent system would be one which assured the people of a specified quantity within a period of a year, because they would not be induced to deplete the market of foodstuffs that are urgently required, by making extravagant and unnecessary purchases.
The statement which the Minister for Trade and Customs (Senator Keane) made concerning material for men’s suitings, namely, that there is now on the market a better class of cloth, may cause some confusion, because many persons may consider that their tailors are withholding this cloth until they have disposed of stocks of shoddy, which have been retailed for so long. I believe that an attempt is being made to provide cloth of better quality, but my inquiries have not proved that much of it is yet available. In the interests of the purchasers of suits, as well as of the tailors who make up the cloth, the quantity that is available should be disclosed by the Minister. Some tailors have declined to make clothes for clients, on the ground that it would not be fair to accept either their money or their coupons for the quality of material that they have had to handle. Some manufacturers have not been manufacturing cloth up to sample. Regardless of the future of the textile industry in this country, they have taken advantage of what they regarded as an opportunity to dispose of shoddy. All of us appreciate the difficulty of policing every manufacturer who is engaged in this trade. As a better class of material is now coming on the market, more information concerning it should be given in order that the position may be well known to every one affected. I shall be surprised if the bulk of the community will be able to obtain it in the near future, owing to the demand that there will be for it.
The complaint ventilated by Senator Herbert Hays in regard to boots, has largely been met by the action which the Government took against the manufacturers, and for this it deserves every credit.
I should like the Minister to state whether or not it will be possible to introduce the new system at an early date?
– Senator Foll asked why the rationing of sugar cannot be abolished. That is not possible, because the sugar crop is con*siderably below requirements, and 100,000 tons has to be exported annually to the British Supply Commission, as well as to New Zealand and Canada. When the Prime Minister (Mr. Curtin) noticed the plight of the people of Britain during his recent visit to that country, he offered to supply 100,000 tons of sugar, but the offer could not be accepted because shipping for its transport could not be provided. Every Australian is entitled to 1 lb. of sugar a week, and there have been three additional issues for jammaking, each of 6 lb. I was amazed to learn that a check, made in six federal electorates in Victoria at the expiry of the last rationing year, disclosed that only 1 per cent, of the sugar coupons issued had not been used. So long as coupons are current, the owners will make use of them.
– Might not a saving be effected by not issuing coupons ?
– No. Rationing provides the only means by which an even distribution can be made. The coupon system cannot be used in connexion with the distribution of tobacco supplies, because non-smokers would be entitled equally with smokers to a share in the distribution. I am the only smoker in my household, which consists of eight persons. The coupon system has worked reasonably well where it has been applied.
The position in regard to meat is alarming. The saving anticipated has not been made, the deficiency totalling many thousands of tons. Various reasons can be assigned. More meat is being used in the form of sausages, for which coupons are not required, and there is some leakage at the slaughtering base. In order to correct that position, the direction has been given that weighbridges must be installed at all abattoirs, and meat will have to be weighed when entering and leaving. This will necessitate some expenditure. At Kyogle, a butcher said, “ You can plan what you like. One farmer kills a sheep this week, and shares it with his neighbours, and next week a similar process is followed by another farmer”.
– Has the saving justified the administration?
– Completely. Australia’s meat production goal was 1,100,000 tons, but it has been cut to 1,000,000. We have to provide meat for the people of the United Kingdom, for the United Kingdom forces, for our own services, for our canning requirements, and for our civilian population. Up to three months ago there was a shortage of 50,000 tons in the expected saving of our civilian meat supplies. I understand that it has been improved slightly since then. In Victoria, owing to drought conditions, much stock will lose condition if it cannot be transported to the markets. The same position exists in other States. The matter mentioned by Senator Foll is applicable also to Sydney. The slaughtermen simply are not- doing the slaughtering that we think they should do. The Minister for Labour and National Service (Mr. Holloway) is actively engaged on this -matter now. This trouble has not occurred in Victoria. Senator J. B. Hayes asked why there had been a reduction of the price of lamb. This is purely a seasonal variation, the introduction of which was delayed considerably this .spring owing to poor conditions. Senator Sheehan referred to the overlapping of the periods for which clothing coupons are valid. As the honorable senator is aware the Rationing Commission has already considered this matter, and has agreed that all clothing coupons shall have a currency of twelve months. That should eliminate the wild buying rushes that have taken place in the past.
, - Under the heading “Working Capital - For Payment to Credit of Import Procurement Suspense Trust Account “, £1,500,000 was voted last year, and the expenditure for that year totalled £4,001,000. No provision is made for expenditure under that heading in the current financial year. I should like to know what was the reason for the substantial increase of expenditure over the amount voted last year? Oan the Minister for Trade and Customs (Senator Keane) say what this large sum of money was required for? Does it represent an advance for purchases, and if so was the money advanced out of revenue or from loans ?
– The payment of £4,001,000 in 1943-44 was required to finance the purchase of goods by the Division of Import Procurement in Australia, the United Kingdom and North America. Every effort is made to obtain Australian requirements under lend-lease, but in certain instances Government purchases of goods from pool stocks and other sources overseas is inevitable. Funds were also required to meet cash expenditure incurred in Australia on lend-lease and other goods in the way of overseas freights “ collect “, interstate freights and other shipping charges, cartage, storage, &c. Eventually the whole of the expenditure under this item will be recovered from the sale of the goods upon receipt and disposal in Australia.
– I am still rather puzzled about this matter because it seems to me that this money does not have anything to do with lend-lease. Lend-lease goods come to this country without any payment being made for them. Lend-lease goods which are not war materials are sold immediately to the consumers and the payment is received on the spat. There should not be any expenditure on lend-lease’ goods. In fact, a substantial surplus should be derived from the sale portion of these goods. I should like to know just where this money goes, and under what item it is included in the budget.
– It goes into the Army Account.
– Is that money used to purchase .goods for despatch to the United States of America under reverse lend-lease?
– Then what happens to the money after it is paid into the Army Account?
– It is taken into the Treasurer’s Account, but it is not specifically shown in this balance-sheet. When I was in New Zealand I noticed that the practice there was to show these moneys as totals paid in and paid out.
– I think that that should be done here. I have never been able to ascertain from the budget just where these large sums of money go. I am quite sure that the money is not lying idle. It must be going somewhere, and a proper balance-sheet would reveal that. I suppose that it would be legitimate to purchase reverse lend-lease goods with it, but if it is not being used for that purpose what is happening to it?
– The honorable senator must bear in mind that the money voted under this item was required for the cash purchase of goods in Australia, the United Kingdom and in North America. For instance, we obtain 18,000,000 Vb. of tobacco from North America annually and payment for that is made in cash.
– It is strange that, for a department such as the Division of Import Procurement, which has been in existence for some time, an amount of £4,001,000 should be required to finance its operation. Some of the figures supplied by the Minister regarding the extent of lend-lease and reverse lend-lease operations are remarkable, and the Government and Australian manufacturers have reason to bo proud of the record. When we see such impressive figures as 8,500,000 pairs of socks, and 1,661,000 blankets, we realize what enormous quantities of goods are being supplied. It is difficult to make an effective comparison because the figures regarding goods supplied by the United States of America are available only up to September, 1943, while the figures for Australia are up to the end of the financial year 1943-44. Nevertheless, it appears that Australia comes very well out of the comparison.
– For security reasons, it was not possible for a long time to reveal the figures.
– I can understand that, and probably all the figures are not yet being disclosed. At the end of the war, some sort of a balance-sheet will have to be struck, or there will be controversy on the subject between the Governments of Australia and the United States of America. When we take into consideration the population of Australia, and the number of men in the forces, the figures show that a remarkable job has been done.
– The figure has now reached a total of £169,000,000.
– Tes, and the value of the goods supplied by the United States of America amounts to $741,000,000. With the $1 at three and a half to the £1, there is not so great a margin in favour of the United States of America. The Minister has not yet explained just where the money goes which is received for goods supplied under lend-lease. I know that immense sums are received immediately the goods arrive in Australia, and I am curious to know what happens to the money.
– For security reasons, we have not been showing those amounts. They are taken as a set-off against the expenditure of the departments of the Navy, the Army, Air, and the Munitions Department, which is shown in one total on page 63 of the Estimates.
– I have no wish to pry into matters which are being kept secret for security reasons, but as the corresponding figures have been published in Great Britain and in New Zealand, I could see no reasons why they should not be available here. I do not impute that there is anything wrong. It merely occurred that the figures should appear in some part of the national balance-sheet.
Proposed vote agreed to.
Department of Health.
Proposed vote, £202,100.
– During the debate on one of the bills dealing with social services, I drew attention to the treatment of persons suffering from tuberculosis and cancer. Attention has been directed recently to the serious shortage of hospital accommodation for these unfortunate people. I do not blame either the Commonwealth or the State Governments for this position, but action must be taken to meet their needs. The necessary funds and hospital accommodation should be provided by the Commonwealth, or the Commonwealth should give to the States the financial assistance required to enable them to do the work. A few days ago it was reported in Sydney that accommodation is required’ for both early and advanced cases of tuberculosis, and that in certain cases hospital treatment had been so long delayed that the patients had become incurable. This matter can no longer be left entirely in the hands of the States, but a general policy directed from the Commonwealth Health Department should be laid down. Incurable patients should be accommodated and made as comfortable as possible, and all possible steps should be taken to cure patients who are suffering from the disease in its early stages. Scientific research should be fostered, and suitable men should be sent to Great Britain, the United States of America, or any other country where the best training for the treatment of tuberculosis could be received. Close co-operation between the Commonwealth and the States is essential. We know that a limited amount of revenue is available to the States, and in view of the danger to the community arising from the presence of many people suffering from tuberculosis, the scourge should be under the direct control of the central Government. Will the Minister for Health indicate whether the Government has any plans regarding the matter ?
– I hope that legislation will be introduced during the next Parliamentary sittings to give effect to the Government’s policy in respect of hospital treatment. At the recent conference of Commonwealth and State Ministers, certain proposals relating to health matters were submitted by the Commonwealth and accepted by the Premiers of the States. One of them was that the Commonwealth should provide a subsidy of 6s. in respect of each patient in a public ward in all hospitals, and that no means test should be applied. The Government will contribute that sum towards the cost of accommodating patients in intermediate and private wards, but they will have to pay the difference between the amount provided by the Government and that charged by the hospital. The Government also intends to give attention to the treatment of tubercular patients. It will advance to the States up to £50,000 on a £l-for-£l basis for diagnostic clinics, and the same principal as that applied to ordinary patients will be observed regarding the after-care of the tubercular patients. The Government has not yet decided what sustenance allowance will be paid to the patient and his dependants during the period he is accommodated in a sanatorium. At the meeting of Commonwealth and State Ministers next week more will probably be heard of this matter. Details of the scheme will probably be considered, and I hope that during the next period of this session, legislation will be presented to give effect to an agreement reached between the Commonwealth and the States. The States themselves have a responsibility in the matter of hospital treatment. The Commonwealth Government holds the view that, having regard to the accommodation required in the States, the Governments of the States should co-ordinate their plans for the extension of existing hospitals, including maternity hospitals, and regarding priorities for some of the most necessary works, including the erection of hospitals other than mental institutions.
– I appreciate that hospitals are under the control of the State Governments, but I understand that there is a tendency on the part of the hospitals to refuse to accept as patients those who may have protracted illnesses such as epileptic strokes. Such persons find it difficult to gain admission because, it is alleged, of the lack of staff. Seeing that the States have agreed to the Commonwealth’s proposal to pay a subsidy of 6s. a day in respect of each hospital bed occupied, I should like to know whether there is any way in which the Commonwealth Government can insist that hospitals which accept the subsidy shall also accept all classes of patients. Is it also possible for the Government to insist that hospitals which accept the subsidy pay fair wages and grant good conditions to nursing and other staffs? We hear a good deal about the disabilities that hospitals suffer because of the lack of staff, but I am satisfied that the main cause is the abominable conditions that have existed in public hospitals for a long period. Unfortunately, the nurses have not been helpful to themselves, because they have refrained from organizing in the same way as other workers have organized but I think that the Government, in view of the steps which it has taken and proposes to take, should insist in the interests of the patients and staffs, upon the observance of certain conditions before the subsidy is paid.
– It was made clear at the conferences of Ministers for Health of Commonwealth and Spates that the ‘Commonwealth Government would not interfere with the administration of hospitals. All that the Commonwealth Government will do will be to set, in co-operation with the State Governments, a standard for public and private hospitals.
– That is in regard to buildings?
– Yes. I believe that the wage and working standards of nurses should be raised, but that is entirely a matter for the State.
– Provision is made for two senior medical officers, Grade I., and one senior medical officer, Grade II., whereas last year there was no provision for a senior medical officer, Grade II., and there were only two Grade I. What is the reason for the increase?
– Probably extra medical officers will be needed to confer with the States on the standardization of hospitals.
Proposed vote agreed to.
Department of Commerce and Agriculture.
Proposed vote, £358,000.
– Last year breeders of early spring lambs for the local market in Tasmania and, I assume, other States, were subjected by the ‘Commonwealth Meat Controller to an injustice which, I hope, will not be repeated this season in that regulations were issued without warning by the Commonwealth Government to prohibit the slaughter of lambs except for sale to the Government. The injustice consisted in the fact that, whereas on the local market the weight of lambs has no bearing on the price, a certain price wa3 ,paid by the Government for lambs up to a certain weight, after which the lower price fixed for mutton was paid. As the season progressed and the ban on the killing of lambs was lifted, some of these people were left with heavy-weight sheep on their hands. Had they been allowed to sell the heavy-weight lambs in the local market, they would have received for them a price which was not regulated by their we’ight. The arrangement to which I have referred applies only to Tasmania and is an injustice to the producers of lamb in that State. Can the Minister give any indication of the policy that will be followed this year? The growers should know in advance the Government’s intentions.
– I understand that the procedure this year will be the same as last year.
– The Estimates do not show the losses on the operations of the Apple and Pear Board in Tasmania and Western Australia. I should like the Minister to supply .particulars of the losses associated with that body and to say what it is likely to cost in the future. Last year, the expenditure was £371,521, and the estimated expenditure this year- is £725,000. Is it’ expected that there will be a bigger crop this year; if not, what is the reason for the estimated expenditure being nearly double that of last year? There is something wrong when people are charged 8d., 9d. or lOd. per lb. for apples at a time when millions of bushels of apples are going to waste. Before there was an Apple and Pear Board, the average price of apples, even at this time of the year, was about 4d. per lb., and my recollection is that they were of superior quality. There should be some way to bring apples from Tasmania to the mainland.
– I - In South Australia, where there is no Apple and Pear Board operating, apples cost 9d. per lb.
– Ordinarily, Tas.manian apples would be sent to South Australia and would keep the price there fairly level.
– G - Growers were not allowed to send apples from Tasmania to South Australia.
– The Constitution provides that trade between the States shall be absolutely free. It is wrong that millions- of bushels of apples should go to waste in Tasmania when in other parts of the Commonwealth people cannot get apples except at high prices.
– The growers in Tasmania are paid for them.
– There is something wrong. Wheatfarmers in Western Australia are paid 12s. an acre in respect of land on which wheat is not grown. The arrangement is profitable for them, but the system is uneconomic. I should like to know how long the farce associated with the Apple and Pear Board is to be continued.
– Many Victorian growers of apples would like to have the board operating in that State.
– That is not so. The growers there are doing very well. I know that the Minister will say that apples cannot be brought from Tasmania because of lack of shipping facilities, but I remind him that apples are not difficult to transport. A refrigerating chamber is not required to bring them from Tasmania; they can be carried as deck cargo. The apple and pear marketing scheme is costing a vast sum of money. At the same time, the average person finds it difficult to purchase apples. Can the Minister give an assurance that this position will be remedied, and that in future apples will be reasonably plentiful and cheap, and of a better average quality?
– The apple and pear acquisition scheme was introduced by a government supported by Senator Leckie at a time when the export trade to the United Kingdom was suspended because of war conditions. In the first year of the scheme a loss of £1,500,000 was incurred, but that loss has been reduced to less than £500,000. The scheme has saved the industry in Tasmania and Western Australia, which are the principal exporting States. When I was administering it, on behalf of the Minister for Commerce and Agriculture (Mr. Scully), certain interests endeavoured to gain control of the metropolitan markets to the exclusion of the growers who had lost their export market. One feature of that attempt was an extensive campaign in which unfavorable publicity was given to the retail prices of apples. The Apple and Pear Acquisition Board has done a remarkably good job. It saved the industry in Victoria. Admittedly, serious transport difficulties confront the industry. Senator Leckie’s suggestion, that apples could be shipped from Tasmania to the mainland as deck cargo, is too silly for words. However, despite transport difficulties, thousands of cases of apples havebeen shipped from Western Australia to the Sydney market I remind honorable senators that even in normal times, considerable waste in the industry was unavoidable. I draw his attention to the following passage in the Treasurer’s budget speech: -
Owing to good yields, the apple and pear crops in Tasmania and Western Australia aggregated approximately 10,250,000 bushels. It is estimated that because of shipping difficulties it will be impossible to place about 5,175,000 bushels of thesecrops in areas where they may be consumed, and this accounts for the estimated loss of £725,000 to the Commonwealth on the 1944 crop.
Proposed vote agreed to.
Proposed votes - Department of Social Services, £476,000; and Department of Supply and Shipping, £271,000 - agreed to.
Department of External Territories.
Proposed vote, £29,700.
SenatorFOLL (Queensland) [6.10 a.m.]. - I should like the Minister representing the Minister for External Territories to explain the policy of the Government regarding the future employment of native labour in the territories. After his recent visit there, the Minister stated that the recruiting system of labour must cease in the mandated territory of New Guinea and also in Papua. I am curious to know whether that statement means that the granting of permission to natives to enter into indentures for employment will be abolished. The indenture system affords a great deal of protection to native labourers. Strict ordinances have been passed relating to the employment of native labour, which is essential to the conduct of the plantations and mines. If the Government abolishes the system of indentured labour, does it proposeto allow only the casual hiring of native labour? If so, natives will be prevented from entering into a contract to serve a planter, mineowner or storekeeper for a prescribed period. If the Government is not careful it may find that its policy will not benefit the native population.
The indenture system affords a native the opportunity to “ sign on “ for twelve months, with the right of re-engagement at the expiration of that period. Some natives have worked for the same mineowners and planters year after year. One reason why objection is raised to the recruiting system is that too many young men have been taken from their villages to places some distance from their homes, and consequently, the native life has been upset. The opportunities provided for the employment of native labour in the territories have resulted in the improvement of the health, standard of living and morale of the population. Sometimes the “ boys “ are given a month’s rest and nutritious food to improve their physique before they are asked to work. The late Sir Hubert Murray, a former Administrator of Papua, dearly loved the natives, and would never have tolerated the infliction of any injustice upon them. That feeling towards the population of the territories has been inherited by his nephew, Mr. Leonard Murray, who succeeded him. I hope that Mr. Leonard Murray will soon return to his post as Civil Administrator. I suggest that before the Government makes a rash decision to change the present policy, it should conduct a full inquiry into the matter, and obtain the views of Mr. Murray and Brigadier-General Sir Walter Mcnicoll, who was Administrator of New ‘Guinea before J apan entered the war.
– The Minister for External Territories (Mr. Ward) has already announced in the House of Representatives that it is proposed to abolish indentured labour. The system to be substituted is under consideration.
Proposed vote agreed to.
Defence and War (1939-44) Services.
Proposed vote, £139,141,000.
– On a previous item, I found fault with the Minister for the Interior (Senator Collings) for saying that the vote for air raids precautions had been reduced. I thought that it had been increased, but I was misled by figures appearing in the vote for the PostmasterGeneral’s Department, and I wish now to apologize to the Minister for the Interior for what I said. I see by the figures in this division that the vote has been reduced, as the Minister said. I still think that the amount proposed to be expended, although it has been reduced, is a considerable sum to pay for air raids precautions. The sooner we can be relieved of that sort of service the better it will be.
– I draw attention to the vote for Security Service, which this year is £12S,000, which is nearly £7,000 more than for the previous year. May I have any details of this matter 1 I understand that a good many of the internees have been released for work and other purposes. Why is the vote increased when the expenditure must have decreased?
– Although the war position has improved, extra expenditure is necessary because greater cost is incurred in supervising internees when they are scattered throughout the country than when they are in internment camps.
– I draw attention to the vote nf £160,000 in respect of “Flax millsconstruction”. The amount expended last year was £87,970. The flax industry has been carried on for a number of years, and two or three years ago, approximately £500,000 was expended on mills and plant in various States. Is the amount now provided to be used for the further construction of mills or does it represent the loss on the flax industry?
– The amount of £160,000 is for the construction of new flax mills at a cost of £14,000 each, and for other miscellaneous items which are necessary in connexion with the mills, such as incinerators and accommodation for employees.
– Where are the new flax mills to be erected? A colossal amount of money has been already expended on flax production in Australia, and from what I can understand the taxpayers of Australia are carrying a fairly big burden in consequence. We are producing flax for war .purposes and sending it overseas; but, if the industry is not to continue after the war, the taxpayers of Australia should not have to pay the whole of the loss. The Government should, in that case, ensure that those countries for which we are producing flax recoup Australia at least the cost of production.
Senator HERBERT HAYS (Tasmania) f6.2r7 a,m.]. - I direct attention to the proposed expenditure of £500,000 this 3 ear on the aluminium industry.” How is the money to be expended, and what is the purpose of increasing the vote?
– I understand that a bill is to be introduced in the House of Representatives dealing with the aluminium industry. The honorable senator will get all the information he requires when the bill is before the Senate.
– I should like to be a little clearer on this matter. A certain amount of money has been expended’ on the aluminium industry in Victoria in setting up a plant or annexe. The name “The Aluminium Company of Australia “ is on the gates of the establishment, where I understand a considerable amount of money has been expended. Is this £500,000 additional money to be expended on that plant or is it to be used on a new- plant to be established in another State?
– This is a new division, and it is impossible at this stage to effect any dissection of the proposed vote. The estimate is intended to cover the cost of the purchase of land, the construction of buildings, and the procurement of plant. The total amount to be set aside for the establishment of the ingot aluminium industry is £3,000,000, one-half of which is to be provided by the Government of Tas mania. The amount of £500,000 is a token amount only, and is subject to considerable variation.
– The general expenses in connexion with flax production are estimated at £1,488,000, less £1,064,000 which is expected to be recovered from the sale of flax fibre. Thus the loss for the year, it is estimated, will be £424,000. Last year, the estimated loss was £10,000, and the actual loss was £155,000, or fifteen times as much. Is the estimate likely to be equally inaccurate this year? The provision in respect of machinery and plant for the mills to process flax straw is £122,000. The question arises, whether or not it is wise to proceed with the installation of machinery and plant in mills for the processing of flax straw. Is the Government satisfied that the industry will be a permanent one after the war?
– I hope so.
– Does the Government consider that our flax straw will be able to compete with that produced in other countries in which it was produced before the war? The information that I have - the correctness of which I do not guarantee - is that the cost of producing flax in Australia is so much greater than it was pre-war that the industry will not be an economical one after the war. I cannot criticize the Government for having established the industry during the war. Probably it has done “a good service in having supplied what was urgently needed. I make no comment upon the establishment of the industry, or even upon the loss that has been made, even though it may have been due to mismanagement. I should like to be assured that the Ministry is satisfied that the prospect of the continuance of the industry after the war makes worthwhile an expenditure of £122,000 this year on plant and machinery. If the Minister can give the necessary assurance, and figures in support of it, I shall be satisfied. I do not want to be misled by extravagant hopes into believing that we can take it for granted that the industry will persist, and that we can afford to expend hundreds of thousands of pounds on its establishment. The estimated loss of nearly £500,000 is very considerable, even in these days of colossal figures.
– The Government is to be commended for having attempted to supply the needs of the British Government, when supplies were discontinued from the European countries which had previously produced flax. Unfortunately, the seasons in Tasmania have not been favorable, and operations have had to be curtailed. The prices offered in the first place were not nearly sufficient adequately to reward the producers of the crop.
– The Government compensated them for the loss of crops.
– A partial compensation of approximately 2s. 6d. an acre was made. Previously, most profitable crops were grown on the same country. The industry had to be established quickly, with the result that a good deal of waste and loss occurred. I have never been sufficiently encouraged by the results to believe that the industry will ‘be of any importance. I am now more than ever convinced that the intended production can be discounted by 75 per cent. It is idle to contend that we can produce flax fibre in competition with European countries which have engaged in it from time immemorial. Parts of Russia and much of the Scandinavian countries have been producing flax through the ages. This is an appropriate time for a stocktaking of this industry in order to determine its future. Although flax may be grown profitably in some parts of Tasmania and Victoria, generally speaking costs of production throughout Australia are too high to enable the industry to be maintained upon an economic basis. The industry had to be established here to meet the needs of the British Government. We have played our part, but when the war is over I believe that 75 per cent, of the money invested in the industry will have to be written off.
– I am one of those who believe that the flax industry in this country must be considered as a post-war undertaking. I saw flax grown in this country many years ago when the crops were processed on the farms. The industry was not highly remunerative then, but it enabled the farmers to make a small profit. At one time flax farmers in Gippsland, Victoria, were receiving £5 a ton for their product. As Senator Herbert Hays has pointed out, the Commonwealth Government undertook the establishment of flax growing in this country as a war-time measure to meet the needs of the British Government. I do not blame the Government for anything that it has done, but it is time that we had a showdown and a stocktaking of the industry. I suggest, therefore, that a comprehensive statement should be given in this chamber, if not now then as soon as possible. The Estimates are very confusing. In one place, there is an item showing a loss on flax production of £424,000, and, in another place, expenditure of £122,000 on machinery and plant. Also, there is provision for the expenditure of £160,000 on constructional work on flax mills. If it is thought that the industry has no chance of surviving in the post-war period why is it proposed to spend £160,000 on constructional work? In Tasmania, the flax industry met with considerable misfortune. In the first place three or four bad seasons were encountered, and figures showed that the average yield was only about 14 cwt. to the acre for last year. Keen competition has been offered by other industries, such as vegetable growing. The last vegetablegrowing season was good’ and the production budgeted’ for by the Government was exceeded by a substantial margin. However, had the season been unfavorable,, the quantity of vegetables produced probably would have been inadequate to meet all requirements. The flax industry suffered because it is not so profitable as vegetable growing. However, I believe that every endeavour should be made to maintain flax production in this country after the war. The industry should not be thrown on the scrap heap. If the Minister representing the Minister for Commerce and Agriculture has not sufficient information at his disposal now to make a comprehensive statement on the flax industry, he should do so as soon as possible so that we may all know what is likely .to happen. Those of us who are interested in the industry are willing to help the Government inwhatever way possible.
Senator FRASER (Western Australia - Minister for Health and Minister for Social Services) [6.45 ,a.m.”. - The estimated total expenditure on flax production is £1,488,000. The estimated recovery from the sale of flax is £1,’064,000, leaving a balance of £424,000. ‘Cabinet has endorsed proposals whereby the United Kingdom and the Commonwealth Government will share profits and losses both in respect of operating costs and on realization, and covering the charging into production costs of interest on capital at the rate of 3 per cent, per annum. The estimated maintenance expenditure for 1944-45 is shown at £1,488,000 against estimated, revenue of £1,064,000. The difference is due -partly -to the greatly increased crop anticipated for 1944-45, on which considerable expenditure will be incurred before 30th June, 1945, but from -which the revenue will be received in the following year, and partly to the fact that, with certain plant in its present location, it is not “being employed to full capacity. When this plant is transferred to .more suitable places, as provided for in these Estimates under the item “ Office Management, Storage, Seed Cleaning, &c”, a greater output can be anticipated. It is estimated that at 30th June, 1945, the value .of work in progress on crops not -completely processed will be about £450,000 in excess of the corresponding item at 30th June, 1944, so that, even without any stepping-up in output through .the mills, the revenue on ,a profit and loss account basis will exceed the expenditure. That this anticipation is not -unduly optimistic is borne out by the result achieved in .the six months to the 31st December, 1943, and by the fact that production costs par ton of fibre -have been reduced from £2S3 in the first year of operation to £178 in the six months mentioned, notwithstanding increases in -the price .of standard straw - £5 to £8 per ton - increases in wages, provision -of better .conditions for employees, and difficulties experienced in -obtaining suitable habour for mill operations.
Sales of flax fibre to Australian spinners are still made, .by ministerial direction, ,at the prices charged prior to the increase in price of flax sold in the United Kingdom. This action is taken in accordance with government policy, and application has been made for ^payment of a treasury subsidy to cover the difference of £61 10s. The subsidy on sales estimated on figures shown under “Details of Estimated Revenue “ would amount to £92,3S9. Of course, if the Treasury agrees to the payment of this subsidy the estimated revenue figure -would he increased accordingly.
An exhaustive survey of all mills has been made with a view to determining those most suited for conversion to tank retting. This conversion is a natural step forward in the progress of the industry, but will only .be undertaken at mills which are likely to continue in operation as effective units after the war. Conversion is at present under way at four mills, and provision at a cost of £12,000, with estimates for one additional conversion at a cost of £12,000, with £4,000 for effluent treatment and £6,000 for boiler .treatment is being made. In addition retting pits at Colac, Victoria, which belong to the undertaking conducted by Flax Fibres Proprietary Limited, and are now in course ‘of acquisition by the Commonwealth Government, are being modernized at an estimated cost of £3,500. Installation of new tanks would “have cost approximately £12;000.
An important -necessity in the production of “flax fibre is the proper conditioning of the -straw and the fibre. It has been estimated that the Commonwealth Government’s flax enterprise is losing £100,000 per annum because of lack of conditioning facilities. An engineer has been appointed to investigate the problem and to install the necessary plant, -and provision of dE’2,-000 for plant and equipment is made in these Estimates.
As a result of experiments on the 1943-44 crop, it has been definitely proved that the mechanical “harvesting equipment designed to the order of the committee will enable very ;great savings to ibc made in .costs of production. Ministerial approval w.as ,-given .to the expenditure of £5,0,000 on additional plant -of .this nature, and this- plant has. been ordered. Since the approval was given, increases in price of some of the plant will increase the- total cost of £60,000,. and. provision has, therefore, been made for an additional £10y0.00 under “Plant and Machinery “.
As the acquisition of the assets of Flax Fibres Proprietary Limited,, for which provision was made in the 1943-44 Esti- mates. has not been completed, by the Surveyor-General, amounts of £15,000 under “Buildings, and Works” and £24,000 under “ Plant and Machinery “, are. again provided. Provision is also made, for crediting the sums-, which it is estimated will be received for insurance on buildings and plant destroyed in the bush fires in Victoria in January and February, 1944.
’. - I - I thank the Minister for hia explanation. The fact which emerges from it is that the cost of producing fibre has been reduced from £283 to £178 a ton. The cost of production, is- high considering the pre-war figure of £100 a ton, hut it is not altogether outrageous, and no doubt it can lae reduced.
i.: - - ‘Oan. the Minister state the natura of. the agreement between the Commonwealth Government and the United Kingdom. Government regarding the purchase of flax? What quantity has been contracted for, and what isi the price? Does it provide far the shipment of flax to Great Britain for a period after the war as- has been done in the case of meat.? If the contact does not cover some part of the post-war period, the industry may go1 out of existence in Australia after so much money has been, expended on it,’ because the Australian market cannot absorb more- than. 50 per- cent. o£ what we are now producing.
.: - - I am not now familiar with the details, but I understand that the contract is from year to year.,, and waa the- case- when we were exporting 5.0-,000 tons a year-..
Senator LECKIE. (Victoria.) 6’.5S a.m.].- The Estimates provide £588^000 this year for the construction and operation, of power alcohol distilleries. Is it worth-while spending, this money at a time when we have, insufficient wheat to process? The crop this year, together with what wheat is in store will amount to less than, a normal crop, and it has to do us’ for flour and stock-feed. Is it suggested that we are to- waste some of the grain - for that is practically what it amounts to - by converting it into pOwer alcohol? I should like to. know if the Ministry is irrevocably committed to- the expenditure of nearly £600,000 this- year- on this; project.. Is there any way in which expenditure can be. slowed down?’ By the time there is wheat enough to distil the war may be over. Is the Government committed to this expenditure, and’ does- it intend to destroy necessary foodstuffs? In a normal wheat season the manufacture of power alcohol from wheat might be justified, but I consider that the project should be delayed or should, cease, because if seems to me that it cannot be of use during the war.
.: - I am not in a position to say whether sufficient wheat is available for the manufacture of power, alcohol. The programme- provides for the: erection of four dis- tilleries, one- in each of the States of New South. Wales,, Victoria, South Australia and Western Australia.. The New South Wales distillery has been, in pro:duction for months. The Victorian plant has been, completed and will be producing in the near future. It is anticipated, that the distillery in Western Australia will commence operations shortly- and1 that- the distillery in- South Australia’ will1 start operations about January; 1945.
!. - The proposed, votes f.or price stabilization, subsidies amount to £2,7.50,000 in respect of. potatoes; and £2,250,000 in respect of tea. Do the wholesale prices show that it is- now necessary for these subsidies to. be, continued? I also desire to. know the principal, items in. the- proposed vote of £5,000,000i for, “other items,” the subsidies, for which amount to nearly as much as those in respect of potatoes, whole milk, and the basic wage adjustment. What proportion of the £5,000,000 provides the tobacco subsidy? .
– Price stabilization is provided for so that the producers will receive a fair price and the consumers will not be called upon to pay an unnecessarily high price. But is not the Government going too far in this matter? The producer of potatoes deserves all that he gets for his commodity, but the subsidy of probably £6 or £7 a ton must be met from revenue. The question arises whether the consumer could not pay a little more and a little less be taken from revenue. Taxes are so high at present that people hesitate before they invest their capital or enter into business. ‘ The object of the Government should be to reduce taxes within reasonable limits in the near future. At present nearly half of the value of potatoes is paid for by subsidy which comes out of taxation.
That does not indicate that production costs are too high, for the farmer does not get too much.
– The stabilization subsidy on potatoes formed part of a general plan to stabilize wages at the level of April, 1943, and to peg the basic wage at the level prevailing at that date. The subsidy on tea amounts to1s. 2d. per lb. Potatoes were selected because they have an important bearing on the basic wage, but the absurdity of that is shown by the fact that a commodity as scarce as potatoes stills plays an important part in the determination of the basic wage. The Government reduced the sales tax on clothing by 5 per cent., because it had been increased 75 per cent, during the first three years of war. The wisdom of increasing the prices to the consumer of potatoes, butter, and other commodities is being extensively canvassed by the Prices Commissioner, but we do not favour that. We prefer the granting of stabilizing subsidies so that wages can be pegged. The real benefit of price stabilization is its valuable effect in regard to government costs, Commonwealth and State. Prices are fixed and at last wages will be stabilized reasonably well, but I am still dissatisfied with the system on which the basic wage is determined. The price of rice, for instance, is taken into consideration, but the people have not been able to obtain that commodity for years. The basis of calculation needs to be overhauled.
asked whether the wholesale prices of potatoes and tea showed that the prices stabilization subsidies were no longer necessary. He also asked what proportion of the £5,000,000 proposed to be voted in respect of “ other items “ was earmarked for the tobacco subsidy. Theenumerated subsidies would be in respect of various commodities and services ranging from firewood to gas and electric supplies.
– Is tobacco included ?
– No, the price which the BritishAustralasian Tobacco Company was paying for imported leaf had risen, but no portion of the increase had been passed on to the public. The company had the right to a subsidy, provided it did not increase its price to the public. The Government did not give it assistance on the same lines as with regard to tea and other commodities, but granted a rebate of excise to the amount of about £750,000. The. position is being examined each month to see that the figures are not understated or overstated. That necessarily is some departure from the ordinary procedure, but it is a part of the stabilization plan. The investment of £12,000,000 on price stabilization subsidies should prove to be an excellent investment. The system has worked well in Great Britain and Canada, and we anticipate that it will work equally well in this country.
Proposed vote agreed to.
Proposed votes - Miscellaneous Services, £1,120,000; Refunds ofRevenue, £5,000,000; Advance to the Treasurer, £6,000,000; War (19.14-18) Services, £1,082,000 ; Commonwealth Railways, £2,658,000 ; Postmaster-General’s Department, £19,993,000; Northern Territory, £251,500; Australian Capital Territory, £460,500; Norfolk Island, £4,000- agreed to-
Postponed clause 3 agreed to.
Preamble and Title agreed to.
Bill reported without requests; report adopted.
Motion (by Senator Keane) pro posed -
That the bill be now read a third time.
– I protest against the action of theGovernment in forcing not only Opposition senators, but also Government supporters to pass the Appropriation Bill during an all-night sitting. A few of us on this side have endeavoured to elicit information in relation to the various departments. No party heat has been engendered. We have sought and received valuable information from the Government. I believe that a debate of the kind that we have had in the last ten or twelve hours is worth while, and is of more benefit to the country than are some of the debates on the first reading of appropriation bills. It gives to Parliament an opportunity to obtain information difficult to obtain in any other way. I hope that on future occasions instead of forcing honorable senators to sit up all night to discuss the votes for the various departments, the Government will set aside one or two days for that purpose. I do not entirely blame the Leader of the Senate (Senator Keane). Every year the Estimates are held by the House of Representatives until the last minute, and arc then thrown to the Senate in an appropriation bill which we are compelled to rush through. That applies not only to this Government, but to previous governments.
– in reply - Arrangements were made to conclude the consideration of the Appropriation Bill at a reasonable hour but the Opposition adopted an extraordinary attitude. Sufficient time has been given for the consideration of the bill, and all the information sought has been supplied. At long last Senator Leckie is satisfied that we have not brought him here to be idle.
Question resolved in the affirmative.
Bill read a third time.
Motion (by Senator Keane) agreed to -
That the Senate, at its rising, adjourn to this day, at 2 p.m.
The following papers were presented : -
Air Force Act - Regulations - Statutory Rules 1944, No. 134.
Commonwealth Public Service Act - Regulations - Statutory Rules 1944, No. 138.
Defence Act and Naval Defence Act - Regulations - Statutory Rules 1944, No. 141.
National Security Act -
National Security (General) Regulations - Orders -
Taking possession of land, &c. (17).
Use of land (2).
Regulations - Statutory Rules 1944, No. 137.
Naval Defence Act - Regulations - Statutory Rules 1944, Nos. 142, 144.
Senate adjourned at 7.17 a.m. (Thursday).
Cite as: Australia, Senate, Debates, 27 September 1944, viewed 22 October 2017, <http://historichansard.net/senate/1944/19440927_senate_17_180/>.