17th Parliament · 3rd Session
The President (Senator the Hon. Gordon Brown) took the chair at 3 p.m., and read prayers:
Supplies of ATEBRIN
– Representations have been made to me that supplies of the drug known as atebrin should be made available to members of the mercantile marine who trade in tropical waters. I understand that this drug is difficult to obtain. I now ask the Minister for Health whether he will have investigations made with a view to ascertaining whether members of the mercantile marine can get supplies of this drug!
– I shall have inquiries made in order to ascertain whether it is possible to allocate some atebrin to the members of the mercantile marine.
Senator ALLAN MCDONALD.I ask the Minister for Supply and Shipping, who recently visited Western Australia, if he is satisfied that an adequate shipping schedule is in operation between ports in the eastern States and Fremantle for the conveyance of essential goods to ‘Western Australia? If he is not satisfied with the existing schedule, which I consider to be quite inadequate, will he cause a survey to be made with a view to making available additional shipping space for the transport of goods required by the people of Western Australia?
– The question as to whether adequate shipping facilities exist for the conveyance of goods to and from Western Australia, is a matter for determination by an authority which has been set up by the Government. During the time that I was in Western Australia, I ascertained that certain commodities including coke, were in short supply, and on my return to Melbourne I arranged for increased shipments of this commodity. I took up with the Director of Shipping, Sir Thomas Gordon,the matter of increased shipping facilities with Western Australia, and I understand that since then there have been no further complaints. The honorable senator will understand that the shipping shortage applies to all portions of Australia. Ports in New South Wales and Victoria are now getting only a fraction of the service that they enjoyed before the war. Western Australia, like other parts of the Commonwealth, must accept its share of the inconvenience caused by existing conditions.
– I direct a question to the Minister for Trade and Customs relating to the housing of returned soldiers, and shall preface it by quoting a typical ease which has come to my notice. A returned soldier who took the precaution to buy. a house for himself before he enlisted, has since been discharged from the forces. He is married, but is unable to obtain possession of his home. Can the Minister say whether the Landlord and Tenant Regulations have been examined with a view to meeting such cases, and if so, when does he expect to make an announcement on the subject?
– Recently, there was a complete review of the Landlord and Tenant Regulations. At the moment, they are in the hands of the Government Printer, but the heavy aggregation of work inthat department has caused some delay in printing them. I shall acertain what the present position is, and let the honorable senator have an answer to-morrow.
– by leave - On the 5th June, Senator Aylett asked me if it was a fact that members of the Permanent Military Forces who during the war had been promoted to higher ranks than those which they occupied previously, will revert to their former status when the war is over. I now inform the honorable senator that the rank held by former members of the Permanent Military Foroes while serving in the Australian
Imperial Force does not entitle them to retain that rank in the Permanent Military Forces on the termination of their war service. With the cessation of hostilities and the demobilization of the Australian Military Forces there will be many former members, both of the Permanent Military Forces and the Citizen Military Forces, who will have held rank in the Australian Military Forces during the war above that held by them in their former military units. It will obviously not he possible for these members to retain their higher ranks as a matter of course, because the size of the military force which it is necessary to maintain in war-time is out of all proportion to the post-war Army organization, the establishments of which must make provision for units with a due proportion of officers and other ranks on a properly balanced scale. The position, however, is one that is under complete review at the present time, and in due course a statement of the Government’s policy in regard to” these members will be made.
– On the 5th June, Senator Foll referred to the decision of the High ‘Court affecting interstate travel priorities and asked whether the Government proposed to refund the fines inflicted on persons contravening the illegal regulations, and whether compensation would be paid to persons who had suffered from wrongful prosecution. In the recent case, Gratwick v. Johnson, the High Court decided that clause 3 a of the Restriction of Interstate Passenger Transport Order made under the National Security (Land Transport) Regulations was invalid. That clause provides that, except as otherwise provided in the order, no person shall without a permit travel by rail or by commercial passenger vehicle from any State in the Commonwealth to any other State therein. The High Court did not declare invalid any of the National Security (Land Transport) Regulations. It is not proposed to make any refund of a fine in any case where a person has been prosecuted and fined for travelling without a permit contrary tothe order. That would involve the repayment of fines imposed some years ago. It has not been the practice of theCommonwealth to make refunds of fines where the acts or regulations under which they were imposed have subsequently been held to be invalid, or to pay compensation in such cases. There does not appear to be any reason for altering such a long-established practice at this stage.
Lease of Factory at Rutherford.
– On the 5th June, Senator Gibson directed the following question to the Minister for the Interior : -
The Minister for Post-war Reconstruction, to whom the question should have been directed., has now supplied the following answers.
– On the 11th May, Senator Foll asked a question concerning the sale of goods by the Commonwealth Disposals Commission at prices equivalent to 300 per cent, of those obtainable had the goods been submitted to tender. The honorable senator added that the report referred to razor blades and winding machinery for barrage balloons. I now inform the honorable senator that the p rices of goods sold by the commission are regulated in accordance with the principles of the National Security (Prices) Regulations. No razor blades were sold at that time, and the winding machinery for barrage balloons included a winch, winding drum, cable, gear boxes and parts of a V8 engine.
asked the Leader of the Senate, upon notice -
In view of the protests in Australia and New Zealand against the commercialization of Anzac Day by the broadcasting of Victory Loan appeals over B class radio stations, will the Government give an assurance that no such appeals will be broadcast on that day in future?
– The answer to the honorable senator’s question is as follows : -
The Victory Loan appeal on Anzac Day was arranged by the B class stations themselves in theirown time, which was given free to the Commonwealth to assist the Victory Loan. The Treasurer cannot agree that an appeal to help the nation in its war effort is commercialization of Anzac Day.
Debate resumed from the 6th June (vide page 2564), on motion by Senator Keane -
That the bill be now read a second time.
– When the debate was adjourned last night, I was dealing with the special significance of pensions paid to ex-service personnel in respect of disabili ties; and I urged that that pension should not be taken into account when computing the allowance to be paid to trainees during the period of their vocational training. I also contend that the pension should not be taken into account in computing the rate of re-employnnent allowance; and that in addition to the re-employment allowance, recipients should be allowed to receive benefit payments from friendly societies up toan amount of 22s. 6d. a week. I believe that I have already said sufficient on that point to make my views clear ; and I trust that the Government will amend the relevant provisions in the direction I have indicated.
Much has been said with respect to the grant of up to £1,000 to ex-service personnel who intend to settle on the land. I understand that the acquisition of the land will be undertaken by the States, and that the States are anxious that the Commonwealth Government should enact legislation to cover that point. I believe that in respect of soldier land settlement, the States will proceed on the principle of first things first. I believe that they will acquire only land which is suitable for this purpose, and that they will make some provision with respect to improvements to individual properties such as fencing, &c. I suggest that before an allotment is handed over, the authority concerned should erect a home on the property. However, this grant of up to £1,000 is to be made available by the Commonwealth, and it represents a very gracious gesture on the part of the Common.wealth. The advance should be made at a very low rate of interest. The Government might take advantage of the opportunity offering in this respect to increase our population in rural districts by providing for the redemption of the loan on the basis of that on the birth of the fourth child to a recipient the total loan would be waived. By that method we could rapidly build up our population in rural districts. All of us admit that most of our problems arise from the fact that our present population is insufficient to develop this vast continent. I sincerely hope that the State authorities will not permit bartering in land which was so evil a feature of soldier land settlement following the war of 1914-18. I know of an estate near Casino where many exservice personnel were settled for the purpose of carrying on dairy-farming, but the land selected was entirely unsuitable for this purpose, and in 1937 all of those settlers were receiving the dole at the Casino Police Station. In another settlement, Milperra, owing to high capital costs, ex-servicemen failed completely to make good on the land, and I doubt whether to-day one could find two of the original settlers in that district. If the mistakes made in the past are obviated, I can see no reason why we should not make a complete success of our efforts to settle exservicemen of this war on the land. Senator Allan MacDonald said that existing legislation made adequate provision for the immediate settlement of exservicemen on the land. The problem of the re-establishment and rehabilitation of ex-service personnel falls into four sections, two of which are covered by the Australian Soldiers’ Repatriation Act and the Unemployment and Sickness Benefits Act, whilst the other sections will come within the scope of the Department of Labour and National Service and the Department of Post-war Reconstruction. The last mentioned department is charged with the responsibility of plan- ning the works which will form the basis of re-employments. We should be very unwise should we allow members of our fighting forces to be demobilized, and attempt to change from a war economy to a peace economy, without first undertaking the essential planning involved. The works in view include the construction of roads, the damming of rivers, the extension of sewerage schemes, and various projects which will strengthen our defence preparedness in the future. Recently, I visited the Riverina and inspected the Mulwala channel which provides irrigation for settlers between Mulwala and Deniliquin. It is proposed to extend that scheme. Similar irrigation schemes should be undertaken in low rainfall areas. The farms I saw at Deniliquin are the equal of any I have seen elsewhere in the Commonwealth with the possible exception of the Werribee farm. In anticipation of the extension of irrigation schemes, land’ which now carries only one sheep to every ten acres, is being sold along the irrigation strip at £8 an acre, whilst the cost of grading the land before crops can be planted is £5 an acre, making a total initial cost of £13 an acre. Such a cost, I suggest, would be too great bo expect ex-servicemen to shoulder in any land settlement scheme.
– What will they grow in such districts?
– Podder. On a farm situated fourteen miles from Deniliquin I saw the best lucerne and the best dairy cows I have ever seen. It is owned by a man named Hetherington who is making a comfortable living supplying fresh milk to the Royal Australian Air Force Station at Deniliquin. . We should establish more farms of that kind for our ex-servicemen. In the selection of ex-servicemen for settlement on the land, first priority should be given to the sons of farmers who have a knowledge of farming. The Leader of the Senate (Senator Keane), in his second-reading speech, pointed out that dwellings on holdings would be constructed by the War Service Homes Commission. That programme of home construction should he entirely separate from work to be undertaken by housing authorities in the various States. In this matter, particular attention should he given to low rates of interest. The impossibility of shouldering interest at 4 per cent, has driven many ex-soldiers of the last war to an early grave. Finance should be made available to settlers on the easiest possible terms; and in view of the legislation now before the House of Representatives I am confident that that will be done. “Widows of servicemen should be given the right to apply for war service homes, and homes constructed by State authorities, on a basis of repayment at a rate not exceeding one-fifth of the widow’s income. I commend that suggestion to the Government, because I believe that a woman who has lost her husband in the war and has to struggle on as the breadwinner of her family, is entitled to some consideration beyond a pension. Obviously, a pension is quite inadequate to pay rent for a good house, with the result that she has to seek accommodation in second-rate establishments where the surroundings are most unsuitable for the upbringing of children. Her husband has sacrificed his life for his country, and his country owes something to her. I recall that several years ago this Parliament voted an annuity of £1,000 to a widow. Many widows of ex-servicemen have children to bring up, and they will be denied a father’s love and care. Some compensation should be given for that loss.
I suggest that the Repatriation Department should establish a large home or homes in each State to care for the mentally sick - the lost legion. At present these people are housed in cottages within asylum grounds, and are left to wonder how long it will be before they are moved “ over the river “ to the asylum itself. The present method of caring for the sick adopted by the Australian Red Cross is excellent. Institutions have been established at places such as Exeter, Picton, and Armidale. I myself was a patient at two or three of these places after the last war, and they are very well kept indeed. They give to the ex-serviceman, all the care and attention that is possible within the limit of the available funds. That work should not be left to the Australian Red Cross. It is a repatriation matter, and the Repatriation Department should build homes, complete with all necessary amenities. The buildings should be large enough, and the grounds sufficiently expansive, to enable the provision of amenities such as gymnasiums, card rooms, reading rooms, billiard rooms, croquet lawns, bowling greens, cricket pitches, football grounds, and large vegetable and flower gardens. Regular motor tours should be conducted, so that the patients could be taken away from too familiar surroundings, thus assisting their return to normal health. It is important that the nation should look after these men. Many exservicemen to-day are “ bomb happy “ as the result of their experiences in battle, and it may take years to restore them to normal health. This measure provides also for the establishment of partially disabled men in employment. That, too, is a national responsibility.
The bill covers not only ex-servicemen but also certain civilians, such as employees of the Allied Works Council and workers who served in essential industries. An employment service is to be established’ throughout the country, and it will be the job of the bureaux set up as part of that service to provide employment for ex-service men and women who happen to be out of work during the transition period. Provision is made also for the payment of unemployment and sickness allowances. The grouping of all these services in one measure is most important, because it will facilitate decentralization. Instead of men living in suburban areas having to go into a capital city to receive attention, they will be able to go to their local bureau. Obviously, a person who is out of work has not spare cash to pay tram fares.
All I have to say about the preference provisions is that I hope that they will never be required. I trust that this measure, together with the legislation which to-day is being debated in the House of Representatives, will enable the implementation of the policy of full employment outlined in the White Paper tabled in this Parliament recently. What the exserviceman wants, and what his parents want for him is a guarantee of full employment. I believe that this Government is tackling the problem in an efficient manner, and that as the result of its efforts, work will be plentiful. I am sure that no man who has been prepared to give his life for his country, and has seen battle,, wants to score off his fellows when he returns to civil life. He will not want preference; lie will want an assurance ‘of continuity of employment. The implementation of these preference provisions will mean that there is unemployment, because if there are jobs for all there will be no need for preference. The Government’s aim is to be able to say to ex-service men and women, “We shall train you for an avocation, and at the end of that training, there will be a job for you. If at the end of twelve months, when your training has been completed, work in that particular avocation is not available, you may have to be prepared to undergo further training in another job “. During the period of training, of course, the provisions of this measure relating to the payment of trainees will apply. In .a condition of full employment, there will not be any need for preference because the services of every man and woman will be required. Most of the talk about preference comes from those who know that after the last war preference to returned soldiers was necessary for political purposes. In those years, thousands of men were tramping over the countryside looking for employment.
– Hundreds of thousands.
-‘-That is true. They marched up and down until they were tired of marching. They were used for political ends, In fact, some of the lowest political actions of which I have ever heard, took place in those years. The Stevens Government of New South Wales went so far as to pay the fares and expenses of ex-servicemen living in the country, so that they could attend an Anzac Day celebration in Sydney. They attended that celebration, who would not ? That was merely a political stunt. Surely to God there are greater things in life than making a political football of men who offered their lives in the defence of their country! I hope that I shall remain in this Parliament long enough to assist in the provision of continuity of employment for our ex-servicemen so that never again will they have to beg for .a job. It is most humiliating for a soldier who has seen front-line service to have to plead for work on the ground that he is a returned soldier - to beg a lousy job in a country which is too lousy to ensure that he shall have employment without having to search for it. It is my hope that this bill, and the banking legislation which will come before the Senate shortly, will ensure continuity of employment, and a remuneration adequate to purchase all necessary food and clothing, not only to men who fought with our Navy, Army and Air Force, but also to those who served the nation in food production, in the munitions factories, and in the Allied Works Council. The Acting Leader of the Opposition (Senator Leckie) opposes portions of Ais measure, fearing no doubt that it will succeed in providing employment, where governments of which he was a member failed. I hope that in future it will be improved so as to provide even greater social and economic benefits for Australian workers.
– I listened with a great deal oft interest to the speech of the Leader of the Senate (Senator Keane) and I agree with his statement that this bill is of national importance. It will affect the welfare and living conditions of the whole community for many years to come. For that reason alone, it should be debated on non-party lines, and I shall endeavour to maintain that standard of discussion. The Minister said that the bill is designed primarily to fulfil the Government’s obligation to re-establish in civil life members of the fighting services and their auxiliary organizations after being engaged in the greatest war of history. It is the desire of all honorable senators to give a fair deal to ex-service men and women when they return from the war. However, there are differences of opinion as to the best methods of doing so. The title of the bill states that it is “to provide for the reestablishment in civil life of members of the- forces, for facilitating their employment, and for other purposes”. At first glance one is likely to conclude that the bill relates only to members of the forces. At second glance, one realizes that it will also apply to other sections of the community.
– The words “ and for other purposes “ are usually included in the title of every bill.
– But the phrase indicates that the bill can be made applicable to sections of the community other than ex-service men and women, tt would have been better to have had one bill dealing with the rehabilitation of members of the fighting services and another measure for any other purposes which the Government had in mind. However, many divisions of the bill have valuable features which will be of. great benefit to the whole community and to ex-service men and women in particular, t commend the Government on those provisions, to which it must have given a great deal of thought. Nevertheless, some provisions will operate to the disadvantage of ex-service personnel. T refer to Division 2 of Part II., containing clauses 22 to 33 inclusive, which relates to preference in employment. After carefully reading this division it appears tj me that the Government has compromised between the demands of different sections of the Labour party. Some members of the party believe in exclusive preference to ex-service men and women, whilst others do not. The result is that the bill provides a sort of half-hearted preference which, owing to the wide field which it covers, will be of very litle value.
– Yet the honorable senator commends the bill.
– I commend those divisions which I consider will be of very great advantage to the community in general. Division 2 of Part II. will not be of much value. It is evident that this group of clauses will provide for preference in employment, not only to returned soldiers, but also to others. The general attitude of the Labour party towards preference to exservicemen in the past has been negative. Throughout the history of the party the only kind of preference in employment which it has sponsored has been preference to trade unionists, and many influential members of the party still believe that this policy should have precedence to-day. In support of my statement, I refer to the attitude of Mr. J. P. Clarey, M.L.C., president of the Australasian Council of Trade Unions, which is one of the most powerful combinations of industrial organizations in Australia. I draw attention to the remarks which he made in a session sponsored by the Australian Broadcasting Commission, entitled “Forum of the Air”, during which the subject of preference to returned soldiers was debated by two teams of speakers. Mr. Clarey took a leading part in the debate in opposition to preference. Other leading members of the Labour party have expressed views similar to those which were so definitely stated by Mr. Clarey. No valid argument can be given against the principle of preference to ex-servicemen. On the 28th January, 1943, a committe consisting of six returned soldier members of this Parliament, three representing the Labour party and three representing the Opposition parties, was appointed to inquire into, examine and report upon the Australian Soldiers’ Repatriation Act. The committee presented a unanimous report to Parliament. Paragraph 51 of the report stated -
Preference in employment must be given to members of the forces.
Evidently, there is dissension within the Labour party on the subject of preference, and up to date the Government has not given effect in full to that recommendation. Clause 31 of the bill provides for the establishment of a Central Preference Board. Sub-clause 1 states -
The Minister may appoint a Central Preference Board and, in each State and Territory of the Commonwealth, one or more regional Preference Boards.
Under the provisions of the bill there can be no question about the eligibility of ex-servicemen for preference, but there will be some question as to the eligibility of other people. I presume that these preference boards will be appointed to decide who shall be entitled to share with the ex-service men and women the bene’ fits of preference-. Thus, a group of persons outside Parliament will have power to determine the extent of the application of one of the greatest concessions that Parliament oan give to anybody. The loophole is so large that the boards will be able to extend the preference provisions to anybody at all. Either we believe in preference to ex-servicemen or we do not. This clause leaves the final decision in the hands of outside bodies. The preference clauses confer no new benefits on ex-service men and women. As a matter of fact, they take something away and give no compensating benefits in return. Clause 22 will repeal all existing legislation, Commonwealth and Stale, relating to preference. Only recently, the Queensland Government enacted a soldiers’ preference bill. That measure met with a great deal of approbation and was regarded with satisfaction by the Returned Sailors, Soldiers and Airmen’s Imperial League of Australia.
– This bill will not repeal the State legislation; it will simply suspend it.
– I am aware of that. The point is that the State law, which has no preference time limit, will become inoperative when this bill is enacted. That is tantamount to repealing it and the result will be that returned soldiers in Queensland will not benefit from it. The bill also repeals section 83 of the Commonwealth Public Service Act, which provides for preference to returned soldiers in employment in the Commonwealth Public Service. That section came into operation in 1917 and has benefited tens of thousands of men who returned from the war of 1914-18. It has not only benefited returned soldiers, but it has also set an example to employers, and it has been accepted as a basic principle by which they should be guided. Some months ago a former member of this chamber applied as a returned soldier for a certain position, but the job was given to a man who was not an ex-serviceman. The ex-senator took the matter to the High Court, and, although it did not rule that he was entitled to the appointment, it stated that the reason for its decision was that the appointment had not been made to a position in the ‘Commonwealth Public Service. The court did saY. however, that the principle of pre ference to returned soldiers had been laid down, and that, if the appointment had been a Commonwealth Public Service one, the ex-soldier would have been entitled to it. A strong protest has been made by the organizations of exservicemen against the repeal of the preference provisions, because they consider that in any new legislation further benefits should be conferred upon ex-service personnel rather than benefits already enjoyed removed. The repeal of this clause takes away from an ex-serviceman after the seven-year period outlined in this bill expires the preference he has enjoyed in employment in the Commonwealth Public Service over the past 28 years.
Clause 33 gives preference for seven years only. I presume that after that period ex-service men and women will be left to “paddle their own canoe”. Personally, I consider that if preference is to be given at all, it should be granted without a time limit. The reason advanced by the Minister for the sevenyears provision is that a new generation will then have come into the picture. I admit that, but we should examine the matter closely. We have been informed that a total of about 900,000 service men and women will have to be dealt with at the cessation of hostilities. The majority of them will be under the age of 30 years, and a certain number is being released from time to time. As far as I can ascertain, roughly 7,000 have been released monthly since October last. A great many members of the services will rehabilitate themselves, and a great many more will return to positions which they occupied prior to their enlistment. Therefore, the preference provisions will apply to a much smaller number than 900,000.
Many men were called up for service when between the ages of eighteen and 23 years, and seven years after the cessation of hostilities their children will probably be from two years to eight years of age, whilst older members of the forces will probably have children between the ages of seven and sixteen years. The new generation will not be competing with their fathers, uncles or elder brothers, as has been suggested. They will be taking up junior positions in industry, probably as apprentices, and many persons now in employment will have passed out of industry because of old age or invalidity. Therefore, the members of the young families of ex-service personnel will have a good change of employment and the period of seven years is far too short, having regard to the length of service of many members of the forces and the time they have been absent from civilian life. They have rendered valuable service to their country and have faced great danger. Therefore anything that can be done in their interests should be done. It has been necessary for many others to remain in industry and in other positions for which they have been best fitted. Many of them have worked for long hours at monotonous jobs. Undoubtedly, they have given of their best and have clone good work to assist in the prosecution of the war, but they have not been exposed to the risks and discomfort experienced by servicemen in the front line. Nor have they lost touch with civil life. Therefore, the preference to be granted to service men and women should be regarded as a gift and a gesture of appreciation from the whole of the community.
The Government is to be commended for the provision in the bill relating to educational training. Many returned nien will need to be retrained after the war and this matter will require sympathetic handling. In many cases the men’s nerves will have been shattered for the time being, but proper and sympathetic treatment will go a long way towards their successful rehabilitation. The benefits of the scheme should be made available to other than those members of the forces who were under 21 on enlistment. The age limit should be increased to at least 2-5 years. That would give an opportunity to young men who were fifteen or sixteen years of age, oi- bad just left school during the depression period and had had no opportunity to receive a higher education. The Government, can afford to be generous in this matter. If the age limit were raised, the number of men to be trained would not be increased considerably and the Government’s generosity would be repaid handsomely. Men between the ages of 25 and 30 years would welcome an opportunity to obtain higher education which they were prevented from getting about ten years before .the commencement of the war.
– Why not remove the age limit?
– That would be preferable, but, even if it were increased to 30 years, an ex-serviceman might ibo too old after the war for re-education, but a man or woman who on discharge from the services was, say, 32 years of age would still be young enough to start civil life again and make a good job of it. If the Government would remove the limit, that would be acceptable to me.
Land settlement is a most important feature of rehabilitation, and I under-, stand that it will be dealt with in a separate bill. After the last war there was a strong demand by ex-servicemen to be settled on the land. I admit that many mistakes were made, but many successes also were obtained. If we can benefit by the experience gained of land settlement after the last war we should be able to evolve a satisfactory scheme. One of the main requisites is suitable land at a reasonable price, and markets for the products must be assured. It is essential to train the men for farming work before they go on the land.
– They should be landminded.
– Yes. After the last war, many men took up land but had no idea of what was required of them. As there may be a similar experience again, some board should be entrusted with the task of deciding whether the applicants for settlement are adequately equipped for rural pursuits. After their discharge, most ex-service men and women will look for jobs to keep them going and comfortable homes in which to live with their families.
As I have travelled throughout the States I have found that many organizations of returned servicemen appreciate greatly the free legal advice which is available to them, and particularly the information contained in the booklet issued by the Attorney-General (Dr. Evatt) entitled Legal Assistance to Members of the Forces and their Dependants. The booklet sets out clearly the nature of the advice to which they are entitled, and I have heard many expressions of appreciation of the action of the Government in this connexion.
I had intended to refer to the allowance to a disabled member of the services while awaiting re-employment, but as I understand an amendment is to be introduced to rectify the existing anomaly, I shall not deal with it now, except to say that any pension granted to a member of the (fighting services should not count against his earnings, either when he is undergoing vocational training, or, later, when he is fully qualified to accept work at award rates.
I have made only a brief survey of the bill, as I consider that most of its provisions can .be best dealt with in ‘committee, when the separate clauses are before us. I hope that in committee the Government will accept some of the amendments which have been foreshadowed, for I believe that their incorporation in the bill would improve it.
– I am happy to be associated with this bill, and would have been content to show my appreciation of it when I recorded my vote, but I have been impelled to speak at this stage because the Acting Leader of the Opposition (Senator Leckie), mentioned me by name when he said that I and others had stated clearly that we were opposed to preference to ex-service men and women. The honorable senator was fair enough .to say that we gave our reasons for that opposition: I give him credit for that, for without that additional statement the position would have been left in the air. I am sorry that some members of the services who were in the visitors’ gallery a short while ago are not here now to hear my reasons. I admit that I was uncompromisingly opposed to preference, and I could not help feeling that Senator Cooper’s reference to the subject was an echo of a previous statement that, in the main, the Labour party adopted a negative attitude towards preference. That was so, after members of the Labour party realized that the provisions of previous acts relating ,to preference had served their purpose. For myself, I explained that I was opposed to any form of preference, because I was convinced that the Labour party would be able to implement its policy to ensure economic security for all, in which event there would be no need to grant preference to any section of the community. I do not believe that servicemen, desire any form of preference; all that they ask for is a fair chance. This bill will provide them with that chance. There may be a few blemishes in it, but, if so, they can be removed in the near future. I did not believe in preference to servicemen generally until provision was made for a time-limit to that preference, because I knew what happened after the last war. Preference to soldiers who served in the war of 1914-18 has continued until the present time. I know of an instance in which a man who had failed on five occasions to pass examinations in accountancy managed to secure a pass this year by scraping through with a 51 per cent. pass. He then presented his certificate, and demanded a job in preference to youths much better qualified for the position.
– How’ old is the man?
– He is of a fair age, and lives at Canberra. There is no doubt about the truth of what I have said, because I have seen the records. They i are irrefutable. Any system which can operate in that way is damnable. I can back up that instance with other cases which have come to my notice. I have in mind a bread-winner, only eighteen years of age, who had to support his mother who was the widow of a soldier who lost his life in France, and her four children. He was cheated out of a job to which I sent him by his own uncle - a single man with no responsibility for any one but himself. His uncle presented his returned soldier’s badge and claimed preference. Instances like that are sufficient to make any decent-minded man adopt a negative policy towards preference. The continuous preference which Senator Brand and others advocate is not justified; we have no right to penalize children who were not born when the last war was being fought. The man who claimed the accountant’s position claimed it over youths who were not bom when he fought.
Sena/tor Mattner. - That case is not typical of returned men.
– No. I san not in the habit of condemning the community for the sins of one individual, or vice versa, but a system which will permit that to be done is entirely wrong. It would be much better to ensure economic security for all than to give preference to some.
Senator Leckie waxed eloquent when lie referred to the scheme for the training of ex-service men and women. He seemed’ to be particularly concerned about the ability of men to join unions after the completion of their training. At one stage I wondered whether the acoustics of the chamber, or emotion rendered his voice almost inaudible. Finally, I concluded that the trouble was due to the acoustics of the chamber, because I recalled his attitude towards unions over the years, and realized that li is concern for them was not deep-seated. 1 1 seemed to me to be rather strange that hh honorable senator on the Opposition benches should express so much concern that the ranks of the unions should be open to these servicemen, because I had always thought that honorable senators opposite were opposed to trade unionism.
– The conversion of honorable senators opposite must have taken place recently. I know how concerned honorable senators are about certain unions - the British Medical Association and the Law Institute, which will come under review at a later stage - but I have not previously known them to express sympathy with the men and women who, at times, are forced to take up a two-edged weapon knowing it to be two-edged. Men only strike when they become desperate: I say that as an old trade unionist.
Senator Brand said that during the referendum campaign the Labour party stressed ite inability to provide satisfactorily for the re-establishment of service men and women unless the proposals of the Government were agreed to. Without this legislation the Government’s ability to deal satisfactorily with returned service men and women would be confined to appointments to the Commonwealth Public Service, except with the concur rence of the States, and therefore we were justified in saying that our style would be cramped, because the measure of our ability to do justice to these people would be the degree of cooperation shown by the States. The honorable senator also said that the best counter to communism was a state of affairs which ensured happy people living in happy homes. I do not know, but I think that Communists would endorse that statement, because communism and socialism aim at providing happy people in happy homes. Such a state of affairs is a counter to anything. What Senator Brand does not know about various “ ism E “ would fill many volumes. He just did not know what he was talking about, when he said that happy people in happy homes would be the best counter to communism. The Government is doing its best to ensure that objective. That will be the aim of several measures yet to come before this chamber, and in view of that fact, we will be justified in hoping that honorable senators opposite will support those measures. I say emphatically, as I have said on the hustings in. the Sydney Domain, speaking to an audience of Communists, “ When the Labour Government implements its policy of social security, ultimately guaranteeing economic security to all our people, it will make the existence of communism unnecessary”. The Communists arose in order to give effect to a policy for which the Labour party stands, but, up to date, had failed to implement, because whilst in the past it has been in office in this Parliament, it has not been in power. Now, a Labour government has a majority in both the House of Representatives and the Senate. It has power, and it will implement Labour’s policy. Thus will disappear the justification for the Communist party, or any other political party as a separate entity.
– Including the Liberal party.
– There was never any justification for the present Liberal party. I recall the occasion when in 1910 I was studying the results of the elections in that year being posted up in Martinplace, Sydney, and, noting the splendid sweep then made by the Labour party led by the late Mr. Andrew Fisher, I said to a friend beside me, “ That is the end of the Liberal party “. It is a coincidence that the political predecessors of honorable senators opposite in New South “Wales at that time called themselves Liberals. Since that day, of course, they have changed their name over and over again. I prophesy that the political fight of the future will be solely between moderate Labour and militant Labour. That prophesy would have been fulfilled long ago, but for the fact that the -war of 1914-18 intervened, and gave rise to the issue of conscription which split the Labour party from top to bottom-
– ‘And blew out the Labour party’s brains.
– Evidently, the Labour party has a new set of brains, because with a majority in both Houses it now enjoys the confidence of the masses of the Australian people, and we intend to implement our platform in spite of the most virulent press campaign yet waged against our party in this country. “When we have given legislative effect to our platform, I am satisfied that the Australian people will be sufficiently intelligent to return this Government to office. The moment we place happy people in happy homes we can say that our job is done. Subsequently, our duty will be to attend to the machinery, and act as watch-dogs keeping off the wolves. In those circumstances the democratic future of Australia, will be assured.
– I do not believe that the honorable senator really means to describe those on this side as wolves.
– Honorable senators opposite believe in the policy of “dog eat dog “ ; the policy of cut-throat capitalism. I have heard them express regret that a man should not be allowed to do what he wishes with what is his own. The result inevitably would be anarchy, which would be worse than anything honorable senators opposite can ascribe to communism. All of us stand for the principle of individual liberty; but when others use their liberty to menace my liberty I must take appropriate action. For instance, one can give liberty to a lion only at one’s own risk. That is the form of liberty which honorable senators opposite advocate. And should we delve a little deeper into economics, and analyse the origin of what is meant by what a man can call his own, considerable doubt arises as to what any individual can be said properly to own. However, I did not intend to deal with the details of this measure, because in principle, the proposals embodied in the bill are interwoven with the Government’s banking proposals. The schemes outlined in this measure cannot be properly implemented until the Government gains control of finance. I shall have much to say on the banking measures when they come before us. It was not my intention to speak on this measure, but for the references made by the Acting Leader of the Opposition (Senator Leckie) to myself, and, at this juncture, I have endeavoured to answer his remarks in that respect.
Senator FOLL (Queensland) [4.36J.- This debate takes my mind back to the first repatriation measure introduced into the Senate by the late Senator E. D. Millen about 28 years ago. On that occasion, circumstances were very different from those existing to-day. That was the firstoccasion on which a government had been called upon since federation to provide for the repatriation and rehabilitation of ex-service personnel. The Government of the day had had no previous experience to guide it; and I believe that the work performed by the late Senator Millen in handling that legislation as the then Leader of the Senate will stand as a. memorial to his name for all time. No one can suggest that that legislation was free from error. That was not to be expected, because the Government of that day was breaking entirely new ground. However, it is most regrettable that the present Government has not been guided by the experience gained by trial and error as the result of that legislation. This Government appears to have learned nothing from that experience. It has now submitted this measure which is a hotchpotch affair, and does not please anybody, not, even the Government itself. The Government itself has not complete faith in the measure. That is evident from the last clause to which the1 Acting Leader of the Opposition (Senator Leckie) referred. That clause gives to the Executive power to alter the measure, rebuild it, scrap it, or do anything he likes with it. The Government’s bright idea of including the last clause reminds me of the orator who was standing for Parliament some years ago, and after having made an impassioned appeal to his audience in which he set out his policy line by line and paragraph by paragraph, said to his listeners, “ Ladies and gentlemen, you have heard my sentiments and if you do not like them I will change them “. At the recent referendum the AttorneyGeneral (Dr. Evatt) stated repeatedly that unless the referendum were carried the Government could not give effect to its policy for the rehabilitation of ex-service personnel. There can be no doubt that that was the main contention of advocates of a “ Yes “ vote at the referendum. If that were true, then on the Government’s own showing either the proposals embodied in this measure are largely unconstitutional, or the AttorneyGeneral was simply using the argument to which I have referred as a means of obtaining a “ Yes “ majority at the referendum. Eminent lawyers have expressed the view that a government which under the Commonwealth’s defence powers can change a civilian into a soldier has corresponding powers under the same heading to change a soldier into a civilian and to provide for his rehabilitation. I am hopeful that the misgivings that I have entertained in relation to the Government’s intentions may not be as bad as I fear. However, I am grateful to know at any rate that it is quite possible that by the time this measure is implemented the present Government will have been succeeded by a government composed of the Opposition parties. I support the speech made by Senator Cooper. I. believe that the Government has overestimated the magnitude of the task confronting it so far as the numbers of exservice men and women who will require rehabilitation and re-establishment are concerned. One honorable senator referred last night to a round figure of 1,000,000. I shall be very surprised, in view of our experience following tha last war, if the total number likely to be affected under this measure reaches onefourth of that figure. Provided that the Government acts sensibly towards those who at all times provide SO per cent, of the employment in- this country, namely, private enterprise, I do not believe that the Government is likely to be required to rehabilitate more than 250,000 exservice personnel. A wise government which wishes to make a success of this task will remove the shackles’ from private enterprise as quickly as it can, and reduce the burden of taxes now carried by private enterprise. Such relief will do more to achieve the rehabilitation of ex-service personnel than any blue-prints now being turned out by academic gentlemen, some of whom will be in charge of the administration of this measure, and some of whom have displayed definite Communist tendencies. The Government will achieve more by giving to private industry an opportunity to provide employment for individuals than by relying solely on governmental activities.
It is very difficult to know exactly what the Government is aiming at, because one day we read reports in the press that the Minister for Information (Mr. Calwell), speaking at a meeting in Melbourne, forecasts that the Government is going to take complete control of our banking system. A few days later we read that the Postmaster-General (Senator Cameron) has stated publicly that he wants to take over every wireless broadcasting station in the country and place the whole of our broadcasting system under government control. And only a week ago the Minister for Labour and National Service (Mr. Holloway) made a threat that unless certain things happened it might be desirable to socialize the Colonial Sugar Refining Company Limited. Ever since I was a small boy I have heard members of the Labour party talk about socializing the Colonial .Sugar Refining Company Limited ; but just prior to the commencement of the San Francisco Conference, we heard another side of the story from the Deputy Prime Minister (Mr. Forde). After telling the people of Great Britain that the arrival of the British Navy in Australian waters had put Britain on the map so far as Australia was concerned, the right honorable gentleman made a plea to financiers in England to invest their capital in industrial undertakings in Australia. He said that the Government of Australia was looking to big business to assist in the re-establishment of ex-servicemen, and in the building up i’ this country after the war. The right honorable gentleman went so far as to urge the people of Great Britain to put their shoulders to the wheel and get into the Pacific War. John Bull is far too polite to laugh in the face of a visitor, but he must have smiled when the visitor left. On his arrival in the United States of America the Deputy Prime Minister again let himself go. He urged the representatives of American private enterprise to go to Australia, and) again emphasized’ that it was to private industry that the Government of Australia looked for assistance in its reconstruction work and in the re-establishment of ex-service personnel. Apparently to hide the weaknesses of this bill, and in an endeavour to please every one when in fact it is not pleasing any one, the Government hae adopted a new cry - full employment. I should like to know just what the Government means by those words. Does it mean that it will be in a position to offer jobs to everybody in the community? Does the Government hope to provide jobs for the doctor, lawyer, accountant, butcher, baker, greengrocer, milkman, farmer, plumber, ‘bricklayer, carpenter, electrician, radio engineer, shearer, cane cutter, press reporter, shop assistant, clerk, transport worker, and the hundred and one other members of the community?
– And, of course, the union secretary.
– We know quite well that if anybody gets a job it will be the union secretary. In. my opinion the average sailor, soldier and airman, after years of regimentation and discipline in the fighting forces, does not. want to be regimented in a humdrum governmentcontrolled job in which he will have little opportunity for advancement even by using his brains and initiative. Earlier I stated that there was an urgent need to give industry a chance to provide jobs by removing war-time shackles. According to a statement made recently by the Director of the Australian Chamber of Manufactures, Canada and Great
Britain have already relaxed government control of many items. Unfortunately, the war has created in this country a new type of vested interest, namely, the new government departments which are now controlling the lives of the people, and enjoying doing it. These departments will always be able to show a weak Minister reasons why controls should be continued. These controls should be dispensed with as fast as possible. My belief is that the only restriction necessary in the immediate post-war period will be control over certain supplies to ensure equitable distribution. I should like to quote an article which appeared in a Labour newspaper published in New South Wales only this week. I refer to Mr. Lang’s journal, The Century, which claims, in fact, to be the only Labour newspaper published in New South Wales, and consequently we must take some notice of its opinions. The article is headed “ Dedmanism hangs on and it states -
We Australians are frequently charged with being insular and isolationalist in our outlook towards the rest of the world. It is said this is due to our lack of contact with other countries and our geographical position. But why is it that when every other country involved in the war is rushing back to democracy we remain isolated in a condition of war-time fascism? That isn’t due to any geographical situation. War-torn England, with all the danger of an explosive post-war situation in Europe, is holding a general election. She is divesting herself as rapidly as possible of her war-time regimentation.
Canada, whose Pacific coast is closer to Japan than we are, is also dipping her wartime administration in the well of democracy with a general election. She is getting rid of her war-time restrictions and has gone so far as to announce the end of petrol rationing.
The United States has let it be known that she is willing and in fact expects to be allowed to fight the Japanese war alone. But even with such a major war on her hands she it divesting herself of her war-time set.
Her Government has announced that in six months, war-time restrictions will be abolished. Eer great manufacturing industry has turned to civil production. Even now she can announce how many motor cars, how many radios and other things will be available to the civilian market before Christmas.
In every country there is an acceptance toy the Government that the time for rigid war economy has ended. Every country has indicated by its actions that it has a fair idea when the Japanese war will end.
That applies to every country except Australia. So far as Canberra can see, nothing lias happened to ease the situation. Minister alter Minister has told us that our system nf war-time fascism must continue until the end of the Japanese war and they say Heaven knows when that will end.
Ministers are overwhelmed in an orgy of self-pity, and professors are positively enraged that an early end of the war is inevitable and with it an end to all the schemes and plans they had for our regimented happiness.
Ministers have been so long absorbed in an atmosphere of total war that they now seem incapable nf visualizing any condition other than one of total war.
The attitude of the Government was summed up by Minister Dedman in the House this week.
He passed a bill dealing with post-war employment. It contained a clause giving the Government power to alter any of the provisions of the bill. That, of course, is in keeping with the war-time fascism that we have had for so long. But the Minister’s reply to objections is what is important.
He said that the subject of the bill was complex and he didn’t want to be bound because he didn’t know what situations might have to be met hurriedly.
In other words he couldn’t legislate because he didn’t know what was ahead so all he wanted was the right to make regulations. That is the trouble at Canberra. They can’t visualize what is ahead so they leave everything as it is.
Overseas cars, overseas textiles, overseas clothing, all kinds of overseas manufactures will be ready for the Australian market long before our own people will be ready to claim their own market. .Soldier settlers and some from overseas will be clamouring for long before the Government has any plan for them.
Not the competent State departments. They have been ready for years. Some of them have given up in disgust at the federal inattention to the problem.
Dissatisfaction with the manner in which some Commonwealth Ministers have handled the affairs of the nation is not limited to the State in which that newspaper is circulated. In Queensland State departments, there is considerable dissatisfaction in that regard with some of the actions of this Government. The Queensland Government is of the same political complexion as this Administration. That dissatisfaction was largely responsible for the huge “No” vote registered in Queensland at the referendum. The article continues -
Every country in the world is getting a hig start on Australia in post-war reconstruction and that is a - very serious thing for this young country.
If England can relax, if Canada can relax and America, who is still fighting a first-class war, can relax, why can’t Australia? Surely it can’t be said that they are all fools and we and our professors are the only wise ones.
It is well known that a war-time Government, or Parliament for that matter, is not competent to handle the post-war years because it is too steeped in the methods of the anxious years that have just closed.
It is doubtful if this has been so exemplified as it is at Canberra to-day. It’s a pity for Australia.
– What does Mr. Lang suggest?
– He suggests the very thing that I am suggesting and that has been suggested by the people of this country, namely, that instead of being “ led by the nose “ by these new depart-ments and controlling authorities, the Government should relax its grip on industry and give to the people of Australia an opportunity to enjoy the freedom for which they have been fighting. I believe that the Leader of the Senate thinks as I do, but like many others he is a victim of circumstances.
– I assure the honorable senator that action on the lines which he has suggested is under consideration now.
– I hope that the action will be more rapid than some of the ‘Government’s actions in the past. T believe that the solution of most of our post-war problems lies in giving to individual industries, large or small, an opportunity to operate free from Government control.
– The honorable senator would not have said that a few months ago.
– I have always said it. Private industry does not want depressions. Of what value are unemployed people to the local storekeeper, butcher or greengrocer?- Of what use to the retail trader is a man who has no spending power? A reduction of taxes is essential for post-war development. It, should be possible also to reduce expenditure in many directions. To some degree^ war production could be turned over- to. civil use. Only yesterday, I found that a. certain firm - I shall not give its name for obvious reasons - is still turning- out articles which are not required for the war effort, but are being sent straight from the factory to the “War Disposals Commission for sale to the community. If that be the position, the firm should be allowed to sell the articles through the normal channels or to return to civil production. The honorable member for Corangamite (Mr. McDonald), speaking in another place, referred to the disposal, for housing purposes, of army huts which have been declared surplus, although they are still being manufactured for the Government in thousands.
– And sold at one-tenth of the cost of production.
– That is true. How, then, can we expect an early return to the sound economy which is necessary for the re-establishment of our ex-soldiers in industry? I refer now to preference in employment. One would imagine from the speech of Senator Large that the difficulties which arose in connexion with one case applied generally. That is not so. Preference to ex-servicemen does not mean that somebody will be thrown aside to make way for somebody else. Some of our young men and women have been in the fighting services for nearly six years, and therefore, they know nothing of the strides that have been made in industry and of the changing circumstances in certain trades. Some of them have been wise enough to take advantage of the educational service provided by the armed forces, but many of them have been unable to do so because of the conditions under which they are serving. Some men, who went away as boys, will return without having had the same training and experience as their contemporaries in civil life. A few days ago a case came to my notice of a lad who had been working as a junior in the accounts section of a company, and who enlisted when he became eighteen years of age. He has done remarkably well in the Army and now, at the age of 24 years, holds the rank of lieutenantcolonel in a Field Pay Corps. When he returns to civil life he will not be able to obtain a position appropriate to his age. unless he is given some form of preference. He will need additional training and he will have to be subsidized during the training period until he is able to take up employment at the level at which he would have been had he remained in civil life. There must be many cases similar to his. The subject of preference does not relate only to men applying for jobs. Every Minister knows, that from time to time, Commonwealth Government departments advertise vacancies and call for applications which are often submitted by public servants in other departments. In these cases, the question of promotion within the Public Service is involved. If two men having equal qualifications, apply for such a job, and one happens to be an ex-serviceman, he is entitled to preference under the present provisions of the Commonwealth Public Service Act. When I was Minister for the Interior, a number of such cases came to my notice. At times, a man who is not a returned soldier claims to have higher qualifications than a returned soldier applicant. In such cases it is necessary to investigate the position very closely, and I know that the Public Service Board does so and endeavours always to fulfil the requirements of the law relating to preference to returned soldiers..
– This bill will wipe out the preference sections of the Commonwealth Public Service Act.
– Yes. It is unfortunate that that protection, which is not, subject to a time limit, will be removed. Any protection that this bill will afford will apply for only seven years. We are in complete disagreement with the Government over the time limit. I know that, when the subject of preference first arose, there was considerable disagreement in the ranks of the Federal Labour caucus, the Australian Labour party and the trade unions. Although the Government made definite promises at the last, elections to apply preference to exservicemen, those promises have been whittled down as the result of pressure on caucus from outside organizations and consequently pressure on the Government from caucus, so that preference is now intended to last for seven years only. I have raised the subject of preference on numerous occasions in this chamber bv means of questions directed to the Minister representing the AttorneyGeneral, and the assurances given by the Attorney-General that the Government’s policy was to apply preference to returned soldiers are on record in Hansard. During the last election campaign, when the Labour party was seeking the support of the people, the Prime Minister (Mr. Curtin) and all of his supporters said that they favoured preference to ex-servicemen. No mention was made then of any seven years limit. The promises made at that time led the public, and the servicemen in particular, to believe that the Government would implement that policy although it had opposed preference to exservicemen ever since the principle had been established by an anti-Labour government after the last war.
– But preference was never carried out.
– The honorable senator knows that his statement is not correct. Preference has been applied ever since it first came into operation. I remember an occasion during the regime of the Scullin Government when a terrific dispute occurred in this chamber because the Government proposed to remove a clause from all government contracts providing for preference to returned soldiers and to replace it with a provision for preference to unionists. Because the Opposition had a majority in the Senate at that time the Government’s proposal was defeated.
– We had a very hasty caucus meeting.
– That is so. The Minister well remembers the occasion. At any rate, the clause was reinstated in the contracts. One important reason why preference should not be limited to seven years is that, in many cases, it will be of no value to ex-servicemen until more than seven years have elapsed after the end of the war. As a former Minister for Repatriation, I know that very often war disabilities do not become apparent until the victim becomes advanced in age. The Repatriation Commission is still frequently called upon to deal with applications from ex-servicemen who have been attacked after many years by the effects of injuries or hardships suffered during the war of 1914-18. Knowing the circumstances in which Australian soldiers have fought in this war, we must expect that, years after the time limit has expired, many of them will begin to suffer from disabilities arising from war service. Australian soldiers, sailors and airmen have served in many theatres of war where climatic conditions have been very severe. I am safe in saying that Australian soldiers have had to do some of the “ lousiest “ jobs that have had to be undertaken in this war, and they have done them well, as we knew they would. Years may pass before the effects of injury and exposure make themselves felt. Therefore, the Government’s provision for a limit of seven years on the operation of preference is a sham. Senator Large made a statement, the significance of which I believe he did not appreciate. He said that he believed in economic security for all but preference to nobody. If that be true, he does not believe in the principle of preference to unionists. However, everybody knows that the policy of the Labour party includes preference to unionists. Our policy is definitely preference to ex-servicemen. That is where there is a great division between the Government party and the Opposition. The policy of preference to unionists is not new. In 1914, a double dissolution occurred in this Parliament as the result of disagreement on the subject. The subsequent election was not fought on that issue, however, because the war intervened and became the major Issue. I endorse the statements of previous speakers regarding the value of the work that has been done in various war industries, such as the munitions factories and civil construction undertakings in all parts of Australia. That work has been done well, and men have worked long hours. Although conditions in some munitions factories have recently been criticized, those establishments have done a great job in the production of war materials. But men and women who have been engaged in the manufacture of munitions have not been exposed like the fighting men to danger from the enemy and from disease. Many of them have been employed at their peace-time occupations and have been earning good wages and at the same time gaining more experience in their trades. In the early days of the Japanese war, I frequently visited Lithgow in the course of military duties. In factories there, there were large numbers of young men who had come from farms, many of them preferring munitions work to service in the armed forces. Many of them preferred to work in munitions factories and they received high wages continuously. I admit that they worked hard, but they lived under congenial conditions, and were in a very different position from men who left their farms and other work in order to serve in the Middle East or New Guinea. Yet this bill places all of them in the same category with regard to preference in employment. I shall give an example that has come to my personal notice. In certain Royal Australian Air Force establishments, members of the Women’s Auxiliary Australian Air Force have been doing exceptionally good work at low rates of pay. On occasions it has been found necessary to employ additional clerical assistance, and civilians have been employed temporarily for that purpose. Whilst the members of the Women’s Auxiliary Australian Air Force are paid only a few shillings a week, the other girls, who have not enlisted, receive up to £5 a week. Yet the latter have the same opportunity to claim preference as enlisted personnel who could be transferred to any part of Australia.
– Under this bill, the civilians will have no chance.
– If that is the position, I cannot read the King’s English and do not know what the bill means.
There should be an immediate reduction of personnel in both the Royal Australian Air Force and the Army. A few days ago, I read in the press a statement by the Acting Prime Minister (Mr. Chifley) that 70,000 men are to be discharged from the forces, and that certain committees have been appointed to determine the best means by which this can be done. Many people behind the lines will not welcome the Government’s decision.
– That is human nature
– Yes, but the time has arrived when action has to be taken in that direction. I firmly believe that the personnel of the Army and of the Royal
Australian Air Force could be reduced by one-third without impairing the striking power of either.
– Does the honorable senator refer to the combatant services?
– No; I am referring to both the combatant and the noncombatant services. I was pleased to read the statement of the Government that men with five years’ service or mort1 would be given an opportunity to secure a discharge if they so desired. That action is long overdue. When travelling by train to Brisbane last week, I discussed this matter with a young member of the Air Force, who said, “ 0U show is getting so top-heavy now thai it threatens to topple over and crush us “. Having regard to the termination of hostilities in Europe and the return of many members of the Royal Australian Air Force, the whole outlook in Australia has changed, and drastic reductions of personnel must be made, but I know thai service people will fight against any reduction of their establishments. The word “ establishment “ is as sacred to them as that “ blessed word Mesopotamia “ No doubt, they will contend that if the establishments were not maintained al a certain level there could not he so many group captains or wingcommanders as there are at present. The Government has to contend with that opinion, and I am glad that it intends to take strong action.
An attempt is being made to maintain too many divisions in the Army, having regard to the number of troops available. Many of them are only skeleton divisions. They are below strength and cannot be raised to the established strength. The steady discharge of men who are not required in the fighting services could proceed, and that would assist enormously ‘in solving the problem of postwar rehabilitation. Many men have jobs waiting for them. Every honorable senator receives letters from members of the services, or from their relatives, asking for their release, and often the release is sought of B2 men. The men themselves frequently say that they cannot understand why they have not been released. Many of them have their own properties which are waiting for labour.
We seem to be thwarted by some authority which refuses to make any members of the services available to the civilian economy. Months ago a definite announcement was made in Canada as to the number of men to be released from the fighting services of that country, and similar action was taken in Great Britain.
I support the provisions of the bill relating to the training of ex-service personnel. There will be a big demand for artisans and skilled workers, and ample work will be available for men associated with the building trade. The war having continued for nearly six years, some jobs may have been held by two or three men, and the bill provides that the employer, when determining who is entitled to reinstatement, shall take into account the area in which each man served and his length of service. What method will be adopted to enable the employer to discriminate between them? A soldier’s discharge shows only his length of service and whether his conduct has. been satisfactory, but it gives no, indication to an employer as to whether the man served overseas or whether he left Australia at all. A rigid rule of the Army is that information regarding the nature of the service shall not be supplied.
– His ribbons will show whether he has served overseas.
– Two men who have served overseas may apply for the same job. and the bill states that the length of service of the applicant shall be taken into consideration by a prospective employer.
– Is the honorable senator positive that the discharge does not show the nature of the service?
– It shows his length of service, but does not indicate the period of service overseas, or the particular theatre of war in which the service was given.
– Does it not show the date of embarkation?
– I understand that it does not. The Government may decide that in such cases details of the service of rival applicants for positions should be made available to employers.
As Senator Cooper pointed out, one of the most unfortunate features of the bill is that it repeals legislation providing for much greater privileges than those proposed to be conferred. I refer to benefits granted to ex-servicemen under State acts. Preference legislation was passed recently by the Parliament of Queensland, but Commonwealth legislation supersedes that of the States. The Queensland act was the result of great effort and organization on the part of the Returned Sailors, Soldiers and Airmen’s Imperial League of Australia, and was endorsed by the members of all political parties in that State.
– Does the honorable senator approve of that act?
– I have no choice to say whether I do or not. As far as I know, the Queensland act meets the wishes of the returned soldiers.
– The honorable senator may not know that this bill is based on the Queensland Act.
– The Queensland legislation does not provide for a limitation of seven years.
– ‘When this act ceases to operate after seven years, the State acts will again come into operation.
– They will be only temporarily superseded.
– Does that mean that the Commonwealth Government only proposes to take over the responsibility for the welfare of service men and women for a period of seven years, and then to turn them over to the States?
– The honorable senator may interpret what has been said in that way if he likes.
– I have endeavoured to discuss the bill on its merits, but the Government has the num!bers and I know that it will be passed with only such amendments as the Government thinks fit
Senator Amour said that he hoped that the War Service Homes Commission would set about building huge settlements of houses for returned men and their families to live in. I sincerely hope that it will not do so. The commission it doing an excellent job in supervising the construction of homes, and in protecting owners of houses. Should they fail to make the statutory payments through no fault of their own the commission treats them generously. I have a recollection of what happened when we started on a big housing programme after the last war. Although I was a supporter of the then Government, I opposed its action in buying large tracts of forest land in Queensland at high prices. The Government also purchased a huge sawmilling plant which was eventually sold back to, the original owners at a very much lower price than the Government paid for it. I know, too, that hundreds of baths and sinks, and large quantities of other hardware were purchased, and practically thrown away later. The result was that millions of pounds had to be written off the cost of various ventures embarked upon in the interests of returned soldiers. The greatest failure arose in connexion with homes built in what may be called settlement areas. The War Service Homes Commission owns about 4,000 blocks of land in various parts of Australia which are available for the building of homes for servicemen. The commission has been wise to retain those allotments. Although they have appreciated in value, I hope that they will be made available to servicemen at cost price, plus any upkeep charges that have been incurred in the meantime. I hope that the War Service Homes Commission will not again embark on huge settlement schemes, because the men now in the forces do not wish to be segregated from the rest of the community when they return. ‘That system was found to be a failure after the last war. After all, a man serving with the forces is only an ordinary member of the community who for a time is in uniform.
– Most of them are good unionists.
– Some of them are - there is nothing wrong with that. I was once a member of the Australian Workers Union, and I am not ashamed to admit it. That union was the body which looked after the interests of pastoral workers, the calling in which I was then engaged. I could not see any prospect of becoming secretary and I did not remain in the industry.
I hope that the Government’s housing scheme will follow the lines which the War Service Homes Commission has successfully followed for the last 25 years. [Extension of time granted.] We should benefit from our experience, and in our housing programme, utilize the services of men who know how to build houses. I realize that for some time the quota system will have to operate in regard to building materials. I should like to see trained men - master builders, including sm’all builders and artisans - brought into the scheme to do the actual contract construction work. In spite of the criticism which may be levelled against the War Service Homes Commission, there are thousands of men in Australia to-day who own their homes only because of what the commission has done.
In committee the bill will be subjected to more detailed examination. As I have said, the Government has the numbers, and the bill will emerge from the committee in the form which the Government desires. I hope that one of the first jobs which members now on this side will undertake when they form a government in about a year’s time will be that of giving full preference to service men and women, instead of the hotch potch preference provided by this measure.
Sitting suspended from 5.S9 to 8 p.m.
– I was agreeably surprised to note that during the debate on this measure, which affects the interests of thousands of members of the fighting forces, and consists of 136 clauses, honorable senators opposite could offer only feeble criticism with respect to ten clauses. I expected that Senator Foll, who has been a member of the Senate longer than most members of the Opposition, would make a very valuable contribution to the debate. The Senate granted him the privilege of an extension of1 time, but he used practically the whole of his time merely in order to secure limelight by attacking the Government because it refuses to lift wartime controls. Do not all of us desire at the earliest possible moment to lift the present war-time restrictions? The Government does not wish to continue these restrictions for one moment longer than they are necessary. But they must be continued in order to enable us to prosecute the war in the Pacific to a successful conclusion. One would think from the remarks of honorable senators opposite that the war in the Pacific is practically over, and, therefore, the Government should release thousands of members of the fighting services, just as private enterprise feels disposed to absorb them in industry. The honorable senator had much to say on that point, and from his remarks one could only draw the conclusion that he was trying to steal the thunder of the Government, which has already announced that it is prepared to consider favorably the release of 50,000 service personnel for employment on the food front and in essential industry to enable us better to wage the war against Japan. The honorable senator sought cheap publicity; and, I am afraid that he will be given quite a lot of space in the press which so ably “ writes him up “. He quoted extensively from the Century I was surprised to hear him do so, because that paper belongs to our old friend “Jack Lang”. Apparently Senator Foll has now taken “ Jack Lang “ to his bosom, although until very recently he was the one man whom honorable senators opposite would have liked to place behind iron bars. I am wondering whether the Century will give as much publicity to the honorable senator’s remarks in support of its views on this matter as will be given to them in the Sydney Morning Herald and the Sydney Daily Telegraph, to which the honorable senator habitually plays up. The honorable senator said that he had definite evidence that our fighting services were overloaded so far as personnel is concerned, that thousands could be released immediately for primary industry if the Government had the will to effect such releases. I wonder how much thought he has given to the problem of placing such personnel in industry at the moment? Very few secondary industries would be able immediately to absorb any great number of ex-service personnel. I have been associated with secondary industry for many years, and I know that very few industries to-day would be in a position to absorb any substantial number if Senator Foll had his way. In any case, as I have said, the Govern ment has announced that it is prepared to give favorable consideration to the release of 50,000 personnel, and in view of the fact that the Pacific war is still at our doors this is a great concession. In to-day’s press, we read that the Japanese have been assembling fleets of aircraft within handy bombing range of Darwin. Despite these facts, honorable senators opposite plead the cause of the people who would be prepared to sacrifice our war efforts in order that they might be enabled to return to the comfortable conditions of peace-time. So soon as the time arrives when the Government can lift war-time controls, I have not the slightest doubt that it will not retain any of them for one moment longer than is necessary. Senator Foll also urged that the present was an opportune time to give relief to those engaged in industry in respect of taxes. Obviously, that is a catch-cry. The honorable senator apparently ignores the commitments to which the Government is committed with respect to the prosecution of the war, war pensions, war gratuities, unemployment and sickness benefits, invalid and old-age pensions, widow’s pensions, and social services of all kinds. Remembering, that we have a population of only 7,000,000, and are committed to this tremendous expenditure, it is useless for Senator Foll, or anybody else, to ask the Government to reduce taxes.
In addition to the items I have already cited, the Government is committed to an expenditure of £60,000,000 in respect of deferred pay to members of the fighting forces immediately upon their discharge, and also an expenditure of £75,000,000 in respect of war gratuities. In view of these facts, honorable senators opposite can only be seeking limelight when they claim that taxes should be reduced. So soon as the Government sees fit to give relief from taxes, particularly taxpayers on the lower ranges of income, I have no doubt that it will do so; but in any event I cannot see any prospect of relief being given to those who are living in comfort. By far the greater proportion of the money necessary to honour our heavy commitments will have to come from revenue. So long as that situation continues, our taxes cannot be substantially reduced, and every right-thinking Australian agrees with that view. The cheap gibes levelled by Senator Foll and his colleagues against trade union secretaries may sound amusing to them. It is all very well for honorable senators opposite who have not had any experience whatever in the industrial movement to talk in that strain. I understand that Senator Foll was almost a lad when he was first elected to the Senate, and since that time he has occupied a “ cushy “ job. Yet he has the audacity to criticize the work of trade union secretaries. I have had experience as a secretary of a trade union, and I know that a man cannot aspire to such a position until he has undergone years of preparation and given years of effort in the fight to uplift the standard of living of those engaged in secondary and primary industries. And we must not ignore the fact that such a man must first win the confidence of the workers. The trade union secretaries in this country have played as great a part in the successful prosecution of the war as has any honorable senator opposite. The majority of them have the interests of the country at heart. They are fighting for the salvation of democracy, and spare no effort to keep the wheels of industry moving. They have given ample proof of that fact since the outbreak of the war. I feel confident that the leaders of the industrial movement in Australia to-day will continue to play their part until we achieve victory against the Japanese, and until such time as the workers who have made so magnificent a contribution to our war effort receive a fair share of the rewards of industry.
As I have already said, honorable senators opposite have criticized only ten of the 136 clauses which comprise the bill. The ! only fault which Senator Foll could find with the measure was in respect of preference in employment to ex-service personnel. I also can find fault with the preference proposal embodied in the measure, because I believe that it goes too far. Under this measure it is proposed to give preference to many simply because they happened to wear a uniform. I have stated elsewhere, and I now repeat that we should give the maximum pre- ference possible to fighting personnel ; but it is absolutely wrong to give preference to those who have lived in “ cushy “ jobs in the services, perhaps the best jobs they have ever had in their lives. It is absurd to say that such men are entitled to preference over men who have been pegged in industries for five years, working excessive hours, in order to produce war materials. However, that is the proposal embodied in the measure. Much has been said in condemnation of the proposal because it limits the preference to a period of seven years. No other country in the world has gone nearly so far as has Australia in this matter. Let us see what happened in this respect after the war of 1914-18. The only preference which the Commonwealth Government could provide on that occasion was limited to the Commonwealth Public Service; and it was left to the States to determine what preference they would give to exservice personnel in their respective spheres. Almost every State had different forms of preference, but in no case did the preference provided work out in actual practice to the advantage of the returned men. In nearly every instance, preference was then provided on the basis of other things being equal, and that condition rendered the provision practically useless, because the great majority of ex-service personnel could not hope to claim equality a.= artisans with men who had remained on the job while they themeslves were fighting in the defence of their country. This bill is an honest attempt to make preference to ex-service personnel uniform in all States. There was no provision in the preference legislation passed after the last war compelling private employers to re-engage former employees who had been on war service. If an employer did not wish to re-engage .a returned soldier employee, no power on earth could compel him to do so. The result was that thousands of exservicemen were walking the streets seeking work.
– Hundreds of thousands. ; Senator FINLAY. - Yes. This measure provides that an employer shall. engage a former employee who has given war service, providing the employee desires to return to his former occupation. Critics of this provision have asked how an employer can be forced to re-engage a former employee. To these people I say let this measure be passed, and the Government, very soon, will ensure that there is ample authority to compel an employer to honour his obligation to re-engage former members of hia staff. The bill provides for the setting up of tribunals whose job will be to ensure that the legislation shall be administered correctly. “What is wrong with enforcing preference for a specified period of seven years? It means that for seven years, every ex-service man and woman shall be assured of reestablishment in industry. When the seven years have expired, will there be anything to prevent State governments from passing legislation to continue preference? Will there be anything to prevent the Commonwealth Government from passing legislation providing adequate protection for ex-servicemen in the Commonwealth Public Service? Of course not; then why all this humbug about the limit of1 seven years rendering preference valueless? If the Government succeeds in providing effective preference to exservicemen for seven years, it will have done a magnificent job, and one which the ex-servicemen themselves will applaud. Why has the time limit been imposed? Every year, thousands and thousands of boys and girls leave school and seek employment in industry. Has this country not a moral obligation to safeguard the interests of these important citizens by ensuring that they shall have an opportunity to engage in whatever occupations are most suited to their qualifications? No one will deny that there is such an obligation. There is not a soldier worthy of the name who would deny to these children the right to be trained in some avocation, even if it meant that the soldier himself would be denied preference. Apparently honorable senators opposite would rather have the type of preference given after the last war,- which in effect was not real preference at all. We have nothing to fear in regard to this measure. If at the end of the seven-year period some ex-servicemen are not fit to take their places as working members of the community - some are never likely to be fit - they will be taken care of under other legislation passed by this Government. Not all returned soldiers are obliged to seek re-employment in industry. Unfortunately, thousands of them will never have an opportunity to go back into industry because of war-caused disabilities, but they will benefit under certain other legislation which in many respects is even more liberal than this measure.
The Acting Leader of the Opposition (Senator Leckie) had ten specific objections to this bill, and I shall deal with them in order. His first abjection was to th,e title of the measure, which he claimed was all wrong and should be altered; but whatever the title of the bill may be, the fact remains that the privileges and benefits which it will confer upon ex-servicemen, represent an honest attempt by this Government to give protection to former members of the fighting forces. The honorable senator referred next to clause 27. That clause relates to preference which I have already dealt with and I shall not delay the Senate by referring to it again. The Acting Leader of the Opposition objected next to clause 33 which imposes the time limit of seven years upon the operation of the preference provisions. 1 contend that so long as the preference provisions remain in the bill in their present form, no valid argument can be advanced against the retention of clause 33. Some time limit must be fixed for the operation of the preference clauses.
The honorable senator then passed on to clauses 75 and 76. In connexion with clause 75, I believe that the Leader pf the Senate (Senator Keane) may have something to say later and therefore 1 do not propose to discuss that clause at the moment. I am not quite happy about paragraph a of clause 76, and I am hopeful that something may be done in that respect also. I point out that in some cases, several pensions’ might be coming into the household of a returned soldier who is in receipt of a re-employment allowance. However, 1 shall leave further discussion of thai clause until the bill reaches the committee stage. The next clause to which objection was taken is clause 95, sub-clause 2 of which states -
In determining whether a loan should be made or a guarantee given to an applicant, the prescribed authority shall take into account . . .
where there are limited opportunities for the establishment of a business, practice or enterprise of a particular type or in a particular locality the applications of other eligible persons and the effect of the establishment of the business, practice or enterprise on other persons conducting businesses, practices or enterprises of the same such business, practices or enterprises by reason of circumstances attributable to the war.
It will be recalled that when the Acting Leader of the Opposition was dealing with this matter, I said by way of interjection, that that provision was a protection against “go-getters”. Exservicemen of the last war know what happened on that occasion. Many people had businesses to sell to ex-soldiers, who, with their war gratuity, deferred pay, and in some cases, a loan from the Repatriation Department, had plenty of money to invest. Some of them were suffering war disabilities of a minor character, and although they were not in receipt of a pension, they were not able to undertake the hard work which they had done before the war. Naturally, they looked for small businesses as a means of earning a livelihood. Unfortunately, many of them knew little about business with the result that they lost all the money they invested and the business as well. The object of this measure is to protect ex-servicemen from exploitation of that kind.
– It goes farther than that.
– Yes. , In a particular locality there may be quite a number of businesses of the type in which a returned soldier wishes to engage and an investigation by a competent authority may disclose that not one of these businesses is sufficiently prosperous to provide a reasonable living.
– If the investigation were carried out by a competent, authority it would be all right.
– I am sure that the honorable senator will give the Government credit for wishing to do its best in the interests of ex-servicemen. It is not likely that the Government would engage an officer for this work if it were not convinced that he was thoroughly competent to do the job. It is the Government’s intention that before an exserviceman is granted a loan to enable him to engage in a small business, steps shall be taken to ensure that he shall be adequately protected, and will get full value for his money. 1 am sure that no honorable senator would suggest that that safeguard should be deleted from the bill. It is a vital clause for the protection of ex-servicemen wishing to engage in business.
– My objection is to the words “ and the effect of the establishment of the business practice or enterprise, on other persons “.
– That is what I intended to convey when I said that quite n number of people might be engaged in the same business in the same “ locality. What would be the use of setting up a soldier in a business in which there were already too many competitors?
– But this clause goes further than that; it is to protect a person who has a business in such a locality and does not want competition.
– No. The Government does not seek to do that. It merely wishes to protect the exserviceman against entering business in a locality already over-burdened by a particular type of business. I am confident that the Labour party will be administering this legislation for many years and therefore the soldiers will receive all the protection that they need. Senator Leckie’s final objection was to clause 136. Apparently, he fears that the Governor-General, acting under advice from the Government, may ride rough-shod over the bill.
– That is why the clause was inserted.
– No government would veto any legislation for the benefit of ex-servicemen unless the reason for which it was enacted no longer existed.
– And this chamber has the right to disallow a regulation.
– No government would be prepared to face the criticism that would be aroused if it vetoed any legislation designed to protect exservicemen.
– What does the Government want this clause for?
– -Neither the honorable senator nor I can see into the future; the clause provides against unforeseen contingencies which may arise before the seven years period of operation of preference has expired. In the event of an emergency, the Government could, by regulation, do anything necessary in the interests of returned soldiers.
– That could be done by act of Parliament.
– While the war continues, government will continue to be conducted largely by regulations, but when the war is over, those restrictions will be removed, and any government would hesitate to legislate by regulation when it could give effect to its wishes by legislation. After criticizing many of the 1.36 clauses in the bill, Senator Leckie concluded by commending the Government for the fine job that it had done in preparing the measure. I am glad that he ended on such a congratulatory note. He said that six clauses required further investigation, and it is possible that one or two of these may require amendment. I shall now deal with that “ brass-hat “ supporter of the soldiers, Senator Brand. It must be said in the honorable gentleman’s favour that he was very consistent in that he uttered not one word in praise of the 136 clauses. Nevertheless, he mentioned only four or five as being deserving of criticism. I shall deal with his objections to those, clauses. First he criticized el a imp 1.2 which reads - (1.) Any person who has completed a period of war service may apply to his former employer for reinstatement in employment. (2.) An application under the last preceding sub-section shall lie made not earlier than fourteen days prior to the completion of the period of war service and not later than one month after the completion of that period, or prior to the date to which the period during which the application may be. made has been extended by a Reinstatement Committee in pursuance of -section twenty-one of this act.
The clause provides that a soldier may have fourteen days of clear leave before having to worry about a civilian job.
Then he is protected by the establishment of a reinstatement committee. This committee will be empowered to make any extensions beyond the maximum period of four weeks mentioned by Senator Brand. The honorable gentleman might have mentioned that fact instead of leading the Senate to believe that a soldier would have only four weeks in which to apply to his previous employer for reinstatement. Nothing could have been further from the truth, as the honorable gentleman must have known. Had he bothered to read further, which he probably did not, he would have found that clause 13 makes the following provisions : - (1.) A person making application under the last preceding section may specify in the application a date, not later than two months after the date of making the application, as the date upon which the applicant will be available for employment. (2.) Where the applicant does not so specify a date he shall, by notice in writing served personally or by post on the former employer, within the period of two months after the date on which the application was made, or prior to the date to which that period has been extended by a Reinstatement Committee in pursuance of section twenty-one of this Act. specify a date during that period or extended period as the date on which the applicant will be available for employment.
This provides for a soldier who wants to recuperate after discharge before resuming his civil occupation. If his financial position is such as to force him to return to the hard work of industry within a fortnight, he can make application for immediate re-employment, but if he desires an extended period of leave he may be granted up to three months, and even then, if he is unable to report for duty, the reinstatement committee will look after his interests.
– The position is that he must make his application within a month of his discharge, and then the other provisions will be applicable. Unless he makes his application within the month, the other provisions will be of no avail. If he has not made his application-
– Order! The honorable senator must not cross-examine the honorable senator addressing the Chair.
– The soldier is not. o’bliged to report for duty one month after the termination of his war service.
He may secure an extension of leave up to three months, or even longer if the reinstatement committee considers that his case justifies a further extension. I have already dealt with the preference provisions contained in clauses 22 to 33 and with clauses 75 and 76, and therefore it is not necessary for mp. to answer Senator Brand’s criticism of those clauses. The honorable senator sought an amendment of clause 99. It seems that, like Senator Leckie, he should have directed his criticism to clause 95, which relates to financial assistance in placing an ex-serviceman on a farm or in a business undertaking. I am pleased that Senator Allan MacDonald had little fault to find with the measure. Actually, he went so far as to applaud the Government for taking such early steps to re-establish ex-service men. and women in civil life. His remarks alone were sufficient to refute Senator Brand’s charges of procrastination by the Government. The only serious criticism which Senator Allan MacDonald made related to preference in employment. In view of the facts which I have stated, we can support the. measure wholeheartedly in the knowledge that it is aimed at giving ex-service men and women the right to. re-establishment in civil life and to re-employment payments until such time as they can be placed in Suitable occupations.
– I compliment Senator Finlay on his vigorous fighting speech. He delivered it with the sincerity and intense conviction that one expects from a returned soldier. In his second-reading speech, the Leader of the Senate (Senator Keane) referred to the national importance of this mea. sure.. He pointed out that it is designed primarily to restore ex-service men and women to civil life. In my view, the bill represents a broad, courageous, and generous, approach to, a vast and complex problem which has become- more imminent with the recent termination of the. war in Europe. When the redisposition of allied forces in the Pacific war area is considered, it is possible that Australia will be assigned- a new role - that of providing bases and supplying foodstuff? and other commodities for the allied forces. In that event, there will he considerable releases of personnel from the fighting forces, and many men will be required to take up their civilian occupa-tions again. In anticipation of this, the problem looms even closer. In the course of two world wars, Australia has shown its readiness to fight for democracy and freedom. There can be no doubt abou that in the minds of other nations. Very recently, at San Francisco, Australia’s representatives demonstrated the nation’? willingness to fight <for world security. I do not subscribe to the view that Australia must have large fighting forces in the field when the war ends if it wishes to be given an effective voice at the peace table. I think that that is not true, and that the maintenance of the fighting forces to the limit of our capacity is not required to give us an effective voice at the peace table, particularly a,t this stage of the hostilities. The problem we are now faced with is far vaster and more complex than that which con* fronted the government of the day at the conclusion of the last war. There was not then the same difficulty in restoring exservice men and women to civilian occupations. When the present war began the government of the day had in mind that there would be a repetition of what had happened after the last war. I well remember, and, no doubt, many honorable senators will recall, the slogan with which the then government embarked on the war. The slogan on that occasion enunciated by the then Prime Minister and many of his associates was “ Business as usual “. It would have been a happier day for Australia, and it would have prevented a great deal of anxiety, had the slogan, been “Defence of Australia “.
In approaching the subject of the reestablishment of servicemen one must get a picture of the position during the war years to realize the extent of the problem that will await us on the termination of hostilities. Prior to Japan entering the war in December, 1941, Aus- . tralia’s contribution to the war effort was. the sending- of fighting forces overseas and the supply of primary produce, particularly to Great Britain; but,, after Japanese action in the coastal and nearAustralian waters, we were reduced;. practically, to a state of blockade, and we had to make intense preparations for defence in all phases. Men and equipment were required urgently, and they had to be provided by Australia at the expense of the normal economy, both present and future. We had to be prepared to mortgage the future, and even to mortgage the supplies that might be required for th« nourishment and sustenance of our own people. Vast defence works had to be undertaken, particularly in the north of Australia. Economic controls of every conceivable kind’ had to be applied throughout the community. The war expenditure amounted, to colossal sums. There were all kinds of restrictions of the ordinary liberties of the people. There were man-power directions, rationing, and restrictions on travel, transport, investment, building, and many other activities which I could mention.
It would probably be well to have regard for a moment to the word “ liberty “. There is no such thing as liberty, as one word embracing all ideas. Our life is made up of a number of little liberties, and each must be exercised in relation to its effect upon the community and with regard to the similar liberty that other people are entitled to enjoy. A clear instance of that would be this: If I were to stand outside a public hospital, say, in Sydney, at 2 a.m., and began to extol the virtues of the Government of the day over a loud-speaker, I should soon find that I had chosen the wrong place, time, and method, and I believe ‘ that I should speedily find myself in the hands of the police authorities and facing a police magistrate later in the day. That is an instance of a little liberty that must be sacrificed in the interests of bigger liberties and of the community as a whole. Australians have experienced these restrictions, and have bowed to them. They have been prepared to sacrifice minor liberties in favour of the one great liberty - the right to live as free people in their own country. That is the great, liberty for which we have been striving, and, thanks to the services of our fighting forces, and the magnificent help that we have received from Great Britain and the United States of America, that liberty has been preserved, and, at the moment, is not. in jeopardy.
All of these controls have had their effect, even upon little children. Young children have had additional burdens cast on them individually, owing to the restrictions on the delivery of goods to their homes. Many of them have had M take up a burden formerly borne by motor cars and beasts of burden. Since 1939, there has been a gradual gearing up of the whole of the economy, to enable Australia to wage total war on the same scale as it was waged, against us. On the termination of the war that process has to be put into reverse gear. We shall be faced with the prospect of having to return about 1,500,000 people to civil avocations, and to restore to them something like their former status.
In looking at the bill before us wu find both old and new provisions. The provision relating to reinstatement in civil employment is not new. That has been provided for in regulations promulgated under the National Security Act, as are also vocational training, legal aid and other provisions. But the ball provides many new benefits’ to ex-servi.ce men andi women. I refer particularly to preference in employment, modification of conditions of entry into employment, the establishment of the Commonwealth Employment Service, and the provisions relating to disabled persons, demobilization, re-establishment assistance, servicemen’s settlement on the land and housing. These are new f eatures in a bill comprising 136 clauses and covering 55 pages of printed matter.
I wish now to deal with what I conceive to be the most contentious’ provision of the bill; that relating to preference in employment to ex-service personnel. At the recent referendum, members of the Opposition opposed the Government’s request for the fullest powers to be conferred on this Parliament to enable it to deal with the rehabilitation and re-establishment of exservice men and women. They claim that this Parliament already had that power and had always had it, and that under the defence head in the Constitution the Commonwealth could do anything necessary to unwind the war effort. If that were (he view of the Opposition at the time of the referendum, I point out that the political parties composing it were in power in this Parliament for at least twenty years after the last war, and during that period they did nothing to give effect to the principle of preference, except in the Commonwealth Public Service. That showed a lack of courage to impose the principle of preference upon private enterprise, and it also manifested a lack of goodwill to the ex-service men and women. I may be wronging honorable senators opposite and members of the government of the day. I am prepared to believe that they had doubt about the legality of provisions imposing on private industry an obligation to give preference; but if in fact they did have that doubt they stand convicted of the utmost insincerity in the advice they tendered to the electors at the referendum. Either they lacked the courage to impose preference on private enterprise or they lacked sincerity when they tendered their advice to the electors on this vital matter.
– There were many other factors.
– I am giving them a third alternative. It may be Chat they should be convicted on all three counts. I say frankly that I have some doubts about the legality of several of the provisions of the bill now under consideration. These doubts are well founded, when one has regard to the fact that the High Court, in a period when the war was at its greatest intensity and when the production of goods was vital to the furtherance of the war effort, held that regulations designed to provide for better lighting in factories, which would lead to increased production, were invalid. It held that those regulations had no direct bearing on defence. The court readily admitted that they had an indirect bearing. There is one example of a limitation upon the defence power of this Parliament, even in time of gravest emergency. We have had another example in the course of the last few days. I had the advantage of reading the judgments delivered by the five judges in the railway transport case, which was adjudicated on recently with regard to travel without a permit from New South Wales to Western Australia.
The judges unanimously held that section 92 of the Constitution, which provides that trade and commerce between the States shall be absolutely free, governs the power of this Parliament even in relation to the defence power, and the court declared that the regulations relating to the granting of rail priorities were invalid. Happily, there is a solution of that difficulty in which the Commonwealth finds itself. I have adverted to those two cases to point out that there are grave limitations on the defence power even in war-time, and one must await the decision of the High Court in relation to a matter such as preference extending into many peace years, and, as some would have it, indefinitely. I personally have grave doubt that the court would uphold the validity of legislation of that kind. That is no reason why this Government should lack the courage, which was not shown by their predecessors in office, to enter that field of legislation.
Much criticism has been heard of the limitation of the preference to a period of seven years, but there are two strong and excellent reasons for that limitation. There is a far greater chance, if the validity of this provision is attacked in the High Court, that it will be largely a preference granted for a limited period in the years immediately after the war than if it is to be extended to a period of either more years or indefinitely. That is one strong reason, but there is also a practical consideration. We are not gifted with the powers of pre-vision and at this stage are not able to see the bounds and limits of this problem. At the end of seven years from the cessation of hostilities many men will have found their way back to their own jobs or to the businesses which they left to join the forces, and so a large part of the problem will have resolved itself. Moreover, in seven years we shall have the light of much experience, and the problem will then have diminished in size. It will be possible to look at it in the light of the facts, not with the eyes of the pseudo prophet. A limit of seven years has the advantage that we shall know who will still need preference and be entitled to it. We may rest assured that those who are affected will raise the matter acutely, and it will be disposed of in this Parliament as inevitably as it
I must arise after the sevenyears period has expired. That is an infinitely better and more psychological approach to the problem than to give to the men now in the forces indefinite preference at this stage, finally to out it off at some earlier period. I agree that the problem is difficult. Any government with a sense of responsibility must have some regard to the people who were too young to enlist or to fight, or were too old to do so, and also to the position in the national economy of men who were not allowed to enlist but were pegged in essential industries. Those are all factors of which some account must be taken when the question of preference is reviewed. I was exceedingly astonished to hear the Leader of the Opposition in the House of Representatives (Mr. Menzies) put as the basis on which preference should be granted solely the economic disadvantage that servicemen suffered during their period of service. He made it plain that there should be no element of reward or recognition in the grant of preference. I regard that as an illogical as well as a soulless approach to this problem. It is illogical because, if the question of economic disadvantage suffered is a guide in the matter of preference, regard must be had to the many cases in which members of the forces have derived far greater advantages than they would have enjoyed bad they remained in civil life. It certainly is true that many of them, with their families, have fared very much better financially. It is true, too, that many of them have been trained in crafts and trades and will have that advantage from their war service. If the principle of economic disadvantage is to apply, those who have gained an economic advantage from their service should be handicapped if we are to be logical. But nobody would argue that that should be done. Again, many civilians who were unemployed, such as retired men, have found useful employment. There are certainly many who have dene better under war conditions than they did in pre-war years. That approach to the problem is soulless because it ignores the fact that the men in the services h’ave been cut off from their families for years; that their careers have been interfered with during the most vital period of their lives - they are mostly young men - and that they have risked their lives to preserve Australia and its people. It ignores also the deep sense of gratitude aud appreciation that I believe every true Australian feels towards service mon and women who have interposed themselves between the enemy and us. For those reasons I think that that is an illogical and soulless approach to this problem. I like to think that in the grant of preference, and also in the other benefits of this bill the servicemen will be shown plainly that Australians not only know what they have done, but also appreciate it generously.
I am disposed to be critical of a few clauses in the bill. I should like to see a provision added to clause 27 which would oblige private employers, except when engaging casual employees or when the work is of a purely casual character, to advertise vacancies which may be falling due so that persons entitled to preference may have some knowledge of the fact that opportunities for their employment are available, and may be aware of it in time to apply for the positions. Dealing with preference, I turn now to clause 32. which has been canvassed a good deal. Sub-clause 1 of clause 4 defines “ war service “ to mean -
As one honorable senator said, that lets in, for the purpose of the definition of “ war service “, organizations other than those of members of the fighting forces. But that is not the condition or the provision which controls the question of preference. In clause 25 there is an entirely different definition : “ person entitled to preference” means -
So far, that is confined entirely to members of the forces.
Clause 32 provides that any person who considers that, having regard to the service performed by him in relation to the war, he is entitled to receive the benefits of this provision, may apply to the Central Preference Board to be registered for preference. One may say that that would let in all kinds of people, but let
U3 look at the controls that are provided. Clause 31 (8) provides -
Unless in any particular case the Minister is satisfied that it is not practicable, a majority of the members of a Preference Board selected from panels shall be persons who have been members of the Forces.
As Opposition senators have pointed out, it would be unlikely that the Minister would find a panel which would not include servicemen. And so the question resolves itself into this: That the person who will say whether those outside the service are to bo given preference will in practical effect be ex-servicemen themselves. One cannot imagine them granting preference to, say, a member of the Home Service, or to a member of the Australian Women’s Land Army. But we could imagine a body of ex-servicemen saying to a merchant seamen whose ship had been torpedoed several times, and who had been subjected on a number of occasions to bombardment from the air: “ You, indeed, have run all the risks that we have run, and more, and you certainly are entitled to preference.” When we consider what might be called the loop-holes presented by clause 32, the safeguard is that in the board which will control the matter we shall have none hut ex-servicemen. They will decide who is entitled to preference and who is not. That is an adequate answer to that objection.
– Where is there provision for such a board?
– I have quoted sub-clause 8 of. clause 31.
– The honorable senator said that all the members of the board would be ex-servicemen.
– In practical effect control will be in the hands of exservicemen. That is my point. I should like to congratulate the Government on the provisions of Part IV. of the bill dealing with disabled, persons. The bill establishes a register for such persons and provides that they shall be trained and that it shall be the duty of the Minister to find employment for them so long as they have any need for it. There is also provision for granting to them an allowance for a period up to six months. I am particularly interested in clause 60, which enables the Minister to compel the captains of industry to take on specified numbers of disabled persons. When I read that I was reminded of a book which I read about twenty years ago - My Life and Work, by Henry Ford. The book was published in 1923, and can he obtained .from the National Library. If honorable senators are interested to see what was done in 1914, they may refer to pages 106 to 109. I do not propose to read quotations from the book, but only to give a brief resume. In one of the most interesting parts of his book, Henry Ford said that, in addition to a minimum wage of $5 a working day of eight hours, it was also decided that no person should be debarred from employment solely on the ground of hia physical condition. He took the view that a cross-section of employees in any large industrial enterprise would be a fair reflex of the community at large and so he said that as the community would always include a number of maimed and halt and blind, a place should be found for such persons in industry. He, therefore, ordered a survey of the various jobs in the factory to be officially analysed in different ways. That was done in respect of 7,882 different jobs. On page 108 of his book he states -
Of these, 049 were classified as heavy work requiring strong, able-bodied, and practically physically perfect men; 3,338 required men of ordinary physical development and strength. The remaining 3,595 jobs were disclosed as requiring no physical exertion and could be performed by .the slightest, weakest sort of men. In fact, most of them could be satisfactorily filled by women or older children. The lightest jobs were again classified todiscover how many of them required the use of full faculties, and we found that 679 could be filled by legless men, 2,637 by onelegged men, 2 by armless men, 715 by onearmed men, and 10 by blind men. Therefore, out of 7,882 kinds of jobs, 4,034 - although some of them required strength - did not require full physical capacity.
The example of the Ford organization . was followed by other industries and, I am glad to say, also by certain Australian industries of their own volition. It has been found that the policy has paid, and that there is no need for charity when dealing with a matter of this kind. It was found that, when properly trained, disabled persons could earn award rates in competition with persons who came within the category of able-bodied workmen. Ford gives a very interesting instance of a blind man who was put on to count bolts and nuts for shipment to branch establishments. Two other able-bodied men were already employed on this work. In two days, the foreman sent a note to the transfer department releasing the able-bodied men because the blind man was able to do not only his own work, but also the work that had formerly been done by the two able-bodied men. One can readily appreciate that a blind man would have less distraction than the other two employees, particularly when tho work was of a monotonous character. I applaud the inclusion of this provision in the measure. I hope that the Government will receive the fullest co-operation from industry in endeavouring to provide useful work for disabled personnel who, industry will find if it has the courage to employ them, can discharge some duties with, even greater efficiency than can able-bodied persons.
– That should be our objective.
– Yes; our objective should be to restore those disabled persons to self-sufficiency and eliminate entirely the element of charity in their employment. It was found in Ford’s establishment that even men sick in hospital could work when they were convalescing and that their . recovery was hastened by such employment, because the work took their minds off their illness. T am not suggesting that we should drive our disabled personnel quite as hard as that. However, very useful thoughts may be gleaned from a perusal of the book to which I have referred.
– In his aircraft works Ford is employing dwarfs on the wiring of the wings of aircraft.
– He goes even farther than that. He believes that it is not important whether a man graduates from Sing Sing or Harvard.
So long as a man wants work there is a place for him in Ford’s organization.
I intended to say something with respect to the broad constitutional aspects of this measure, but I think that it will be more opportune to deal with such matters at the committee stage as those issues are raised. However, several of them will have to depend upon the appropriation power which has not yet been tested in the High Court of Australia; and one of these days we may have to fight that issue. I have made several suggestions to the Minister for Post-war Reconstruction (Mr. Dedman) with respect to minor provisions in the bill, and I hope that my representations on such matters will bear fruit. I suggest that when the bill is passed the very widest publicity concerning its provisions should be given in simple form among service men and women and also exservice personnel. The bill is technical and complicated. Only persons fairly familiar with legal diction can follow clearly the moratorium provisions. A publication encompassing all these points in simple form would be of -great advantage to the men and women of the fighting services who are now urgently concerned about their future. At the committee stage I shall deal with several matters to which the Acting Leader of the Opposition referred. Senator Finlay has already touched upon some of them. At this juncture, I shall advert to one remark which the Acting Leader of the Opposition made at the beginning of his speech. He said that the bill is designed to preserve the privileges of those who did. not fight. That is an exceedingly broad statement which the honorable senator made not the slightest attempt to justify. It is unjustifiable. It is incorrect, and ungenerous; and, I submit, unworthy of the honorable senator. The Government, the Minister who introduced the measure, and his officers, and the draughtsmen who have been responsible for this very comprehensive bill, have made a very courageous and broad approach to a problem which literally bristles with difficulties.
– My approach to the problem of the re-establishment of the members of our armed forces in civil life is one of trepidation and anxiety. I have given anxious consideration to this problem, not merely for days, but for many months. I have endeavoured to arrive at a solution of some of the difficulties involved in the repatriation of the men and women of our fighting services. In addition, we must do justice to the claims of our civilians who were pegged in industry. However, I am most concerned with the interests of those who actually came into physical conflict with the enemy. This problem bristles with difficulties. Regardless of the political affiliations of the Government of the day, any measure dealing with this problem would not find universal approval. Tt would be subject to criticism, and, as in all things human, it. would not be perfect. I address myself to the measure in the belief and. hope that, despite our limitations as individuals, every one of us, perhaps, can make some little contribution towards the solution of this problem. I take it that all honorable senators are prepared to approach the measure in that way, each of us resolved to give it his best consideration, and asking himself, “ How best can I, personally, repay my personal debt - for it is a personal debt - to the men and women of the fighting services for protecting my home, my wife, and my family in Australia ? “ I have seen service in this war, both abroad and in New Guinea. The task of the serviceman in this conflict differs greatly from that of the soldier in the war of 1914-18. Although, perhaps, he has not been subject to the terrific bombardment and the fighting for day and days on end as was the case in the last war, the soldier in this war, particularly in New Guinea, faces a completely new set of circumstances. I believe that fighting in New Guinea calls for greater individual moral courage and self-determination, particularly when troops are going through the jungle in which one can hardly see ahead, and knowing - and this frequently happens - that, the first man to make contact with the enemy may never see the light of day again. That is a terrific strain. In addition, soldiers in New Guinea are fighting under different climatic conditions, amid mud, filth, and horror, of which we in Australia have no concep- tion. We owe a great debt of gratitude to these men and women for protecting us, and enabling us to enjoy everything that is good in our homes in Australia. Let us view the problem of the repatriation of our service personnel always with that picture at the back of our minds. I am very deeply concerned to protect the interests of the fighting man. He should be our first consideration. I am not forgetting the claims of others who have served to the best of their ability in whatever sphere they were allotted. I do not forget that we are facing a much more complex task to-day in respect of the repatriation of our service personnel than was the case following the war of 19.14-18. During this war, civilians have been called upon to play an important part in our war effort. They have had to submit to a degree of regimentation and dislocation of business, involving shortage of labour and long hours of work; but, surely, we are not a nation of squealers. I know that all of us grumble at times, but I often think that this grumbling is a cloak for our inward happiness. I ask leave to continue my remarks at a later stage.
Leave granted; debate adjourned.
Au.8tkat.iab Army : Payment for Civilian Clothing.
Motion (by Senator Keane) proposed -
That the Senate do now adjourn.
.- I wish to bring to the notice of the Acting Minister for the Army (.Senator Fraser) several complaints regarding the nonpayment of claims in respect of clothing and necessaries taken into camp upon enlistment during the early months of the war. It appears that when recruits were passed through the recruiting office and declared medically fit, they were given a notice stating when and where to report. They also received a printed or typed list of articles which they should bring with them. The list was as follows : -
Civilian suit, pair shoes (‘tan), hat (civilian), piece of soap, shaving soap, padlock and key (for kit bag when issued), comb, tooth paste, two pairs braces, three pairs woollen underpants (long), three shirts, .three pairs socks, two towels, hair brush, tooth brush, shaving brush, razor, enamel plate, table knife and spoon, enamel pannikin, sweater.
The reason for that instruction was that although contracts had been let for the supply of these goods, there would be some delay in fulfilling them, probably extending over two or three months in the case of some items. The Army authorities indicated that private articles brought in by recruits would be paid for at specified rates. So far, no such payment has been made. When the soldiers later applied for reimbursement, they were told that the records had been lost. This appears to be a clear case of repudiation. The majority of these recruits came from working-class homes. They had to purchase many of the articles which the Army authorities ordered them to bring into camp. The call-up notices promised reimbursement at fixed rates. Reimbursement cannot be refused merely because the Army has lost the records. If no records are available, surely a statutory declaration could be obtained from each soldier setting out what he brought into camp. One declaration in my possession shows a claim for £11 9s. 5d. The claim is not for all the articles on the list, but only for those which were too dilapidated or worn out to be packed and sent home prior to embarkation. I hope that the Minister will consider this matter and ensure that the promise made to these men shall be honoured.
– I shall bring to the notice of the Acting Minister for the Army (Senator Fraser) the representations that have been made by the honorable senator, and will ask that a reply be furnished to him.
Question resolved in the affirmative.
The following papers were pre sented : -
National Security Act -
National Security (General) Regulations - Order - Fly and insect sprays (Revocation ) .
National Security (Land Transport)
Regulations - Order - South Australia (No. 13).
Senate adjourned at 9.32 p.m.
Cite as: Australia, Senate, Debates, 7 June 1945, viewed 22 October 2017, <http://historichansard.net/senate/1945/19450607_senate_17_182/>.