17th Parliament · 3rd Session
The President (Senator the- Hon. Gordon Brown) took the chair tit 3 p.m.-, and read prayers.
– by leave-On the motion for the adjournment of the Senate on the 10th- April, Senator Nash drew attention to certain applications for assistance under the provisions of the War Service Homes Act at Norseman, Western Australia, and. referred particularly to a case brought to his notice by Mr, A, Morton pf that centre. The Minister for Works and Housing (Mr. Lazzarini) advises that inquiry lias been made in conjunction with the War Service Homes Commission, and this has elicited that about seven applications are lusted from ex-servicemen who are desirous of erecting or otherwise acquiring homes at Norseman, and that the Workers Homes Board, which acts as the Commission’s representative in Western. Australia, is doing everything possible to obtain finality in respect of those applications, as well as in regard to others submitted to the board in that State. The application mentioned by Mr. Morton is in respect of an existing dwelling which an applicant, Mr. 1ST. B. Morton, desires the board to purchase on his behalf. Fees for the necessary inspection and valuation and search, against title were collected on the 25th February, but inspection w as not made until the board’s officer visited the district on the 26th March. The property is occupied by a tenant, and on the 4th April the applicant was informed that his .application was approved for the loan of £750 applied for. He was also advised that the board had been incommunication with the solicitor for the vendor’s estate regarding vacant possession and arrangements being made for settlement. Mr. Morton advised that vacant possession was not yet available, and the solicitor indicated that, as it is necessary for certain matters to be determined by the beneficiaries, he is not. yet able to complete the matter. In these circumstances, it is not possible for the Workers Homes Board to proceed further at. present. However, the board advises that the matter is being kept under review, with the object of completion immediately the solicitor for the estate of the- vendor is in a position to settle and to give Mr. Morton vacant possession of the ‘dwelling.
– I present the third report of the Printing Committee.
Report - by leave - adopted.-
Senator ALLAN MacDONALD.Will the Minister for Trade and Customs ascertain whether there are any diffi culties in the way of the restoration of deliveries of retail purchases, such as meat, vegetables and other domestic goods, and will he advise the Senate how soon the system which operated prior to the war is likely to be restored?
– I shall make inquiries, as suggested by the honorable senator, but I doubt whether the Commonwealth Government has any authority to order the restoration of deliveries on the pre-war basis.
– In last Tuesday’s Melbourne Herald there appeared a statement to the effect that a butcher in Hawthorn, Victoria, had stated that his business had grown considerably because he was delivering meat to householders. In yesterday’s issue of the same newspaper it was reported that he had been called upon by the rationing authorities to explain where he had obtained the meat to serve “to his customers. Will the Minister for Trade and Customs say whether it is the desire of the govern- ‘ ment to prevent the delivery of goods to householders, and, if not, will he tell the Senate what is the object of those who would prevent the tradesman referred, to from delivering goods?
– At the moment, I shall not answer that portion of the honorable senator’s question relating to the action of the rationing authorities in inquiring where thebutcher referred to obtained his meat, but I point out that the delivery of household goods is a matter for the State governments.
– In. view of the decision of the Government to discontinue the apple and pear acquisition scheme, will the Minister make a statement to the Senate on the matter? As the control’ of shipping is largely in the hands of the Government, will the Minister say what the Government proposes to do with the big surplus of fruit which will be available for export in the season following the present one?
– As I indicated yesterday, it may be necessary to promulgate other regulations in lieu of the National Security Regulations, which will not have effect after the end of this year. I, too, am concerned about what will happen to the fruit industry. I shall endeavour to get information on the subject, and when it comes to hand I shall make a statement to the Senate; but I reiterate that it may be found that the Commonwealth Government has no power to continue to acquire fruit in two States. In the circumstances, I advise the honorable senator to support the referendum in favour of the organized marketing, of primary products.
– I understand that the “Wheat Stabilization Bill provides for the control of the wheat industry. Why cannot similar action bc taken in regard to the disposal of apples and pears?
– I remind the honorable senator that wheat control operates in every State of the Commonwealth whereas the apple and pear acquisition scheme is confined to Western Australia and Tasmania. Again I suggest that if that honorable senator is serious in the views that he expresses, he should support the proposal to confer upon the Commonwealth power to legislate for the organized marketing of primary products.
– In view of the answers that have been given to the questions asked by Senator Herbert Hays, will the Minister say definitely whether or not the Government has decided to discontinue the apple and pear acquisition scheme?
– I shall bring the honorable senators question to the notice of the Minister for Commerce and Agriculture.
asked the Minister for Supply and Shipping, upon notice -
In view of the improved liquid fuel position, as indicated by the Minister’s recent announcement of a 33^ per cent, increase in the monthly allowance to private motorists, will the Minister approve of a similar increase in the amount of petrol allowed to motor trucks engaged in the collection of milk and cream, so that the dairying industry may be able to function in accordance with its normal practice?
– As part of the plan already announced covering increased supplies of liquid fuel to certain users, arrangements have already been made for special consideration to be given to the dairying industry which up to the present has had fuel supplies based on a rationalization plan which restricts milk and cream deliveries within defined zones. Reasonable increases will be granted by Liquid Fuel Boards based on a much less rigid plan of collection and delivery.
asked the Minister representing the Prime Minister, upon notice -
Owing to the rapid spread of the buffalofly pest from Northern Australia during the past few months, and in view of the fact that it has now become a Commonwealth menace too far-reaching as a State liability, will the Government take immediate steps to check the further progress nf this serious pest to the cattle industry by assuming full responsibility?
– The Prime Minister has supplied the following answer : -
The Council for Scientific and Industrial Research first undertook investigations in 1026 when a survey was carried’ out to determine the limits of distribution of. the buffalo-fly, which at that stage was restricted to Western and Northern Australia.
Endeavours were made to prevent its spread to Queensland by establishing buffer areas, but by 1931 it was found that the fly had spread well into Queensland and by 1943 had reached the coast. In the light of these endeavours, it is considered therefore, that it is not possible, by the adoption of quarantine measures, to prevent its spread in a southerly direction and it must bo expected that the fly will ultimately reach the limit of favorable climatic conditions which may extend as far as the limit of summer rainfall in New South Wales.
The question of control of the fly, therefore, is largely one of treatment of cattle by toxicants. In this connexion the Council for Scientific and Industrial Research has recently conducted an experiment on the property of Messrs. Wilson and McDouall in Central Queensland, which indicates that by spraying or dipping with D.D.T. preparations, buffalo fly can be effectively controlled on individual properties.
Work has also been done by the Council for Scientific and Industrial Research in developing a. new type of trap based on the American horn fly trap used in that country for the control of tb at pest.
The practical application of the results of these experiments is a matter principally for the State Departments of Agriculture and for the individual station owners.
– On the 20th June, Senator Herbert Hays asked me a question without notice concerning footwear.
I desire to inform the honorable senator that footwear can only be manufactured by firms registered under the Control of Footwear Order which prescribes that all footwear must comply with the samples approved under the control. Production of factories is continually under the supervision of inspectors to ensure that a minimum quality is being maintained. Any specific instances of shoddy footwear should be brought to the notice of the Controller of Footwear in Melbourne or his deputies in other States who will take such steps as are appropriate in the particular case.
All prices of footwear are controlled bythe Prices Commissioner to whom any instances of unduly high prices should be reported.
asked the Minister representing the Acting Attorney-General, upon notice -
Is it a fact that the numerous hold-ups in Australian industry are the result of the incentive action of avowed Communists? If so, does the Government propose to take any action to prosecute these trouble makers under the powers of the Crimes Act or any other legislation ?
– The Acting Attorney-General has supplied the following answer : -
Hold-ups in Australia are not invariably the result of incentive action of avowed Communists. Some hold-ups have been caused by the provocative action of employers. The honorable senator may be assured that, if sufficient evidence is forthcoming to justify, the institution of criminal proceedings under section 30j or section 30xc of the Crimes Act against any person, whether employer or employee, such action will be taken. It must be remembered, however, that, although sections 30j and 30k were inserted by the Bruce-Page Government in l!)2(i, no action against any employer or employee has ever been taken thereunder.
Bill received “from the House of Representatives.
Standing and. Sessional Orders suspended.
Motion (by Senator Ashley) proposed -
That the bill be now read a first time.
– Consideration of money bills, which cannotbe initiated in the Senate, affords us the opportunity to discuss any problem which we believe calls for attention by the Parliament. The civil war which, exists in industry at present is worse than any unrest yet experienced in this country. Continuous strikes as the result of action by fanatics, extremists and Communists demand the urgent attention of the Parliament. Therefore, I propose to deal mainly with that problem in the hope that the Government will summon sufficient courage to take prompt action to remedy the present unrest.
We must first realize that the war which has just concluded has been most costly to Australia. Far too many members of the Parliament and of the community generally have the idea that having won the war we do not have to pay for the cost of victory. The national debt as at the 30th September, 1939, was approximately £1,300,000,000, and at the 3.1.st December, 1945, this debt had increased .to £2,765,000,000.- That is an increase of 113 per cent, in six years. In addition to that obligation, we must meet the interest and other charges associated with it, which will be a very important commitment in the budget. Our financial problems are very closely wrapped up with our. industrial and economic problems. It is interesting to study a copy of estimated expenditure for the year 1946_47 which has been made available by the Treasury. Interest, sinking fund, war pensions and repatriation expenses associated with World War I. are expected to cost £20.000,000. The same items in respect of World War II- will cost £80,000,000. Soldier settlement and the expenses of Unrra will amount to £7,000.000. Social services alone will cost £77.000,000. Payments to States will amount to £17,000.000, and subsidies and miscellaneous items will cost £39.000.000. Tax reimbursements to the’ States” will total £34,000,000, and defence expenditure will amount to £60,000,000. This means that, apart from loan and other expenses, the Commonwealth Government is committed to the expenditure of the colossal sum of approximately £334,000,000 next financial year. Expenditure under the same headings for the year 1938-39 was only £95,000,000.We must give serious consideration to our liabilities in respect of defence in the future, having regard to the financial assistance that Great Britain will be able to give to us. In this part of the world, 7,250,000 Australians and 1,750,000 New Zealanders must bear a very grave responsibility for the defence of Empire possessions on behalf of future generations. “We must not lose sight of this great obligation. Apart from all political considerations, it must be obvious that, after six years of war, we must have many serious economic problems arising from our financial obligations and the necessity for producing essential goods, the manufacture of which was restricted during the wearyyears of conflict. Everybody knows of the serious shortages of coal, houses, ships, steel and many other things that are urgently required. Recently my attention was drawn to the serious position of the sheet-metal industry in South Australia. Important companies in that State have made plans for the increased production of motor car bodies, refrigerators, and other articles. Their representatives have informed me that Australia’s capacity to produce sheet steel next year is equivalent to only one-half of the requirements of industry for that year. The latest reports from the United States of America indicate that it will be impossible to secure much steel from that country before 1948. As the result of this shortage, a. number of skilled workers will be thrown out of employment in South Australia. It would be a waste of time for me to direct attention to the deplorable position in relation to housing, hospital accommodation and so on. What is the Government doing to solve these problems? The solution obviously must be increased production, and the use of more efficient methods to secure lower costs. If we study the records of the last year or so and note production figures and the number of strikes that have occurred, wehall realize that this country is not making as much headway as it should. In addition to loss of production, Australia is faced with another problem that affects all countries. Australia obtained favorable results by its control of prices until the end of the war, but the more rigid the control and the larger the amount of money that is held back, the more acute must the problem become. The Treasurer (Mr. Chifley) and others are greatly concerned about the danger of inflation.
Mr Justice Davidson stated in his report that the temporary adoption of Saturday work in the coal mines would result in the production of an extra 1,400,000 tons of coal per annum, but, because of the action of certain militants, who appear to have the Government bluffed, nothing was being done in that direction. We should remember the great burden that increased costs impose on the community, particularly upon ex-service men and women whose wages did not increase in keeping with the rising prices during their six years absence at the war. Mr. F.R. O’Connell, manager of the Melbourne Timber Merchants Association, made the following statement on the 7th August, 1945:-
The cost of labour is the biggest single item in the cost of building, and this could be reduced appreciably if workers could be induced by their union officials to do a fair day’s work for a fair day’s pay. For the last three or four weeks, however, certain union officials have been prepared to adopt “goslow “ tactics on works being carried out under the Government. On one important work the workers are going so slow that they have almost stopped. These go-slow tactic* are the union’s attemptto get even with the employers, because Judge Kelly cancelled the defence workers’ award.
According to a survey by the building section of the Directorate of War Organization of Industry, a house which cost £913 to build in September, 1939, would have cost £1,267 in March, 1945, an increase of 38 per cent. Of that increase, £106 represents labour costs, comprising £30 for increased wages and £76 because of the reduction of the output by each man employed. Are those increased costs, which have been supplied officially, correct? Is the Government sufficiently courageous to take action againstthose responsible for forcing workmen to go slow on the job of building homes? I hope that the Minister for Supply and Shipping (Senator Ashley) will reply to my criticism at the appropriate time.
Between 1940 and 1944 the coal output per man-day decreased from 3.40 tons to 3.09 tons. For the same period salaries and wages increased from £4,000,000 to £6,000,000. When the Prime Minister (Mr. Chifley) was in South Australia he complimented the people at Whyalla on the work that they had done in the construction of ships. The Menzies Government was first to obtain plans and the services of experts from Scotland for ship construction, in order to engage in the construction of vessels in Australia, particularly ships for commercial purposes. Prior to the wai-, Australia was able to produce steel at a price competitive with that ruling in Great Britain. I ask honorable senators who support the Government why it costs £64 a ton to build 9,000 ton vessels in Australia when they can be built in Scotland for £84 a ton and in Canada for £4.4 a ton. Those figures wore supplied by the Prime Minister himself, so the facts I am presenting cannot be disputed. I hope that the problems confronting us will be dealt with from a plane above that of party politics, and that appropriate action will be taken to check the evil work of those who are “ white-anting” the industrial and economic life of this country. Our real problem is due to reduced production and rising costs. The. solution lies in increased and more efficient production, low-cost production and fewer strikes.
– The workers annot solely responsible for the fact thai production is being retarded.
– If the honorable senator can prove that the employers are not pulling their weight, the Government should take appropriate action against them. It is idle for the Government to lay the blame for the present position on the shoulders of their political opponents. Honorable senators opposite are content, merely to ask the Opposition what it did when it was in power. Let us consider some of the factors that are retarding production. The Minister for Labour and National Service (Mr.
Holloway) recently mentioned the following figures, showing how ma.ny strikes that had occurred, and the number of working days that had been lost from 1939 to 1945:-
– We know the malady, but not the cure.
– The Government so lacks imagination and is so afraid to take appropriate action that it follows a policy of inaction, defeatism and despair. The three evils of strikes, “goslowism “ and communism are evils that we cannot afford to ignore any longer, People are crying out for “ homes and farming machinery and other things which are necessary for the economic stability of Australia. How can we produce the food necessary to increase supplies to Britain and feed the starving millions in the world with things as they are? If the Government and its supporters are afraid to take action for fear of losing ‘ votes at the . next general elections, it is time that the people of Australia woke . up and exercised their democratic right to put an end to the dreadful 3tate of affairs that now exists. I had an opportunity recently to study a report from Queensland which tells a terrible story of union tyranny in that State. The report states that four employees of Evans, Deakin and Company Limited applied to the Queensland Court for relief from penalties imposed on them by their union. The men had been fined £30 each by their union for fitting more than J 71 rivets a day. The union had previously passed a resolution that the darg, or day’s output, was not to exceed 171 rivets, but these men had fitted 20fi rivets in ?. hours on the 4th July, on the fallowing day 353 rivets in 8 hours, arn I ‘>n flu- (1 t11 .July. 537 rivets in ten hours. It is almost impossible to believe such a state of affairs could exist, when we reflect that this country is greatly in need of ships and that everything possible should be done to keep down costs. We are frequently asked’ the reason for the high costs of various undertakings in this country. Here is the answer. I do not want honorable senators to think that that report was made by a political opponent of Labour, and so I point out that it was made by an independent Judge of the Queensland Arbitration Court. Queensland has passed legislation providing for preference to unionists, and when the union to which these men belonged found that i hey would not pay the fines imposed on them, it declared the men unfinancial and, therefore, no longer members of the union. It then approached their employers, demanding their dismissal, as non-unionists. These four men had the courage to take the matter to court. I emphasise that these things occurred as recently- as March last. Yet the Commonwealth Government stood idly by and took no action.
– The honorable senator knows the reason.
– What unions, were involved ?
– The Boilermakers Society and the Federated Iron Workers Association. The court found that the fines were illegal and should not be enforced. It went on to say that if the Executive desired its . decisions to be observed it should refrain from issuing orders .that decent men would find it impossible to obey. I emphasize that when that darg of 171 rivets a day was introduced in 1945 this country was still at war and was short of ships. Honorable senators opposite talk a lot of nonsense about the lack of power vested in the Commonwealth Government, but T remind them that the Attorney-General (Dr. Evatt) has stated that under the National Security Act and Regulations, which will remain in force until December, 1946, the Government possessed all the powers required to deal with such a matter. T point out, too, that when trouble arose in the coal-mining industry, the Government passed reflations which over-rode the State Arbitration laws.
The Government lacks the courage to act in circumstances such as those just mentioned. I repeat that strikes, “ go-slowism “ and Communist influences are preventing the rehabilitation of servicemen, the construction of homes and other important works, and is retarding the progress of Australia.
– Will the honorable senator tell us what should be done with the Communists?
– At the appropriate time I shall answer that question, but I remind Senator Nash that the Menzies Government took action to deal with Communists, and .that later a Labour Government, on the eve of an election, when Communist votes were required, removed the ban. Ever since then Communists have been a menace to this country. Avowed Communists are in control of the Seamen’s Union, the Waterside Workers Federation and the unions associated with the coal and steel industries, all of which are key industries. I have no quarrel with the decent working man; I believe that 99 per cent, of employees in industry are decent, honest men, but the remaining 1 per cent, consists of fanatics. What I do object to is the fact that our industrial trouble to-day is being caused by a few fanatics. Ever since the Minister for Supply and Shipping has held ministerial office, these individuals have menaced him and harassed him day after day, week after week, and year after year. “ Senator Ashley. - Did they not harass the Government of which the Leader of ti ip Opposition was a member?
– Yes, and by God we did the right thing by them. We declared the Communist party an illegal organization, and interned some of its members. Now that the war is over, the Government has an excellent opportunity to take action against these .people.
– Has the Leader of the Opposition ever been called a fanatic.
– If Senator O’Flaherty. wants to associate himself with the Communists and their tactics, that is his business; but I suggest that he should not sit in this chamber sneering and jibing when I am endeavouring . to exercise my right as a democrat to put my point of view.
– This is a free country.
– The honorable senator is a. cynic who is prepared to flirt with the Communists instead of taking his courage in his hands, and telling the people just where he stands. Who are these people who have such a disrupting influence upon this nation? First there is “ Comrade “ Miles, who joined the Communist party in 1920. In 1932 he contested a federal byelection in East Sydney and received 594 votes. The group to which Miles belongs is so small, despite its dreadful power, that I am amazed that the Government is frightened to tackle it. Miles is the generalissimo of the Communist army in Australia. His responsibility is to stir up class hatred, organize Communist cells in trade anions and industry, to educate comrades, in the revolutionary doctrines of Marx, Engels and Lenin, and to direct the lesser pawns of the party to incite revolution for the speedy establishment of a dictatorship of the proletariat. Then there is “ Comrade “ Sharkey, president of the Communist party in Australia, and controller of the party’s political bureau. He completed a course of study in Moscow in 194’5, and was elected to the executive of the Internationale. He is a Soviet-taught propagandist and is best known for his writings. Here are a few examples of the efforts of this so-called “ Australian “ -
Communists regard the State-controlled arbitration system as a pernicious, antiworking class institution whose objective is to keep workers shackled to the capitalist State.
Strikes develop the Labour movement organizations, unite the workers and win the intermediate social strata to the side of the revolution.
In a revolutionary situation, shop committees would be one of the chief instruments for drawing the whole of the working class into the fight, into the street as a general revolutionary struggle.
Strike-breakers must be resolutely dealt with during strikes. But also, correct measures’ should be taken in connexion with them when the strike is over.
Our party would call for such stoppages only in the most favorable conditions, particularly in a revolutionary or near-revolu tionary situation. Usually, in ordinary situations, our tactics are a one-day general stoppage, or a series of such one-day stoppages.
Next, there is “ Comrade “ Dixon, the assistant general secretary of the party. He is the leading theorist of the organization, having spent two years in Moscow studying communism in theory and practice. He is skilled in the jargon and cant, slogans and dogma so necessary for hypnotizing the unsuspecting tools of the revolution. In 1939-40 he edited the Communist Review and wrote a series of pamphlets. Before accepting revolutionmongering as a career, he was a relieving porter and parcels office assistant in the New South Wales railways staff.
The next man to whom I shall refer brings the matter a little closer to home. He is “ Comrade “ Thornton, who was in Canberra yesterday fraternizing with the Government. He was selected by the trade union movement of Australia, and sponsored by the Curtin Government, to attend the world trade union conference.
– A Liberal party member of Parliament wai sent with him.
– That may be, but I cannot understand a government which professes to be anti-Communist and opposed to Communist tactics, permitting Thornton to attend a world trade union conference.
– Perhaps we wanted to get rid of him.
– If that were so, why did the Government not make it impossible for him to return to this country when he was sent to Russia? We would then have been rid of him completely, and Australia’s industrial position would be much better and brighter than it is to-day. At the Australasian Council of Trade Unions conference in 1940, Thornton opposed a resolution of the trade union movement supporting the Australian war effort. He is the Communist’ plenipotentiary at large, diplomat,. representative abroad of Australian revolutionaries, and the leader of the party’s industrial wing in Australia. “ Comrade “ Thornton had publicly denounced the White Australia policy so dear to the hearts of Labour trade unionists. As secretary of the Amalgamated Ironworkers and Munitions Workers Federation, Thornton controls an annual income from industrial unions of £150,000. Finally, here is a l ist of other prominent “ comrades “ who are committed to the disruption of Australia’s economy by infiltration, with the ultimate objective of industrial revolution -
ComradeH. Wells, leader of the Miners Federation.
Comrade E.Bulmer, secretary of the Building Workers Industrial Union.
Comrade Leo King, leader of the rural section of the party.
Comrade Stan Moran, treasurer of the Waterside Workers Union.
Comrade G. Irvine, of the Pastoral Workers Union.
Comrade Bella Weiner, in charge of the party’s youth activities.
Comrade W. E. Gollan, head of the Communist Educational Committee.
Comrade E. England, of the Brisbane waterside workers.
Comrade A. L. Grahame, of the Brisbane Communist party.
Comrade Norman Jeffery, editor of the Communist organ Tribune.
Comrade Harry Gould, joint editor of the Tribune.
I take this opportunity to deal with this matter fully because it is a problem which, if not tackled, will destroy not only this administration, but also any honest government in this country. The people to whom I have referred are out to destroy peace in industry, and our present economic, social and political system. I cannot understand why intelligent people are prepared to go on day after day, tolerating this handful of revolutionaries without talcing proper action against them, First, the Government should do all in its power to. preserve the Arbitration Court by enforcing the court’s decisions and taking appropriate action against those who break our industrial laws. This afternoon the Minister for Health (Senator McKenna), replying on behalf of the Acting Attorney-General to a question which I asked withrespect to the activities of Communists, again put up the old smoke-screen that it was not the Communists but the employers who were responsible for industrial unrest. If it can be proved that any employer is responsible for industrial disputes, or is in any way retarding our efforts to reconstruct industry, it is the duty of the
Government to take action against him. It has full power to do so. It is interesting to look at some of the propaganda published by Communists in this country in January, 1926, that is, twenty years ago. I take the following quotation from Volume No. 1 of the Australian Communist, published in Sydney : -
The Communist programme urged - “ Forming groups of its members in every mill, factory, workshop andfield so that it is always in a position to direct and control through its members every industrial dispute and disturbance of the workers, keeping always in mind the same end - social revolution - and trying to utilize every spontaneous action’ of the workers for one end. “ Directing its members to take an active, and, wherever possible, a leading part, in every craft or industrial union, and endeavouring to have its members elected into the executive bodies of these organizations, so that these organizations also are directed in their activities towards the same one end of complete social revolution. Endeavouring and actively working to replace the existing craft unions’ by more up-to-date efficient industrial unions, which would be more advantageous for social revolutionary mass action, as well as an important factor in the Communist reconstruction of society “.
I make my position on this matter perfectly clear. Recently conferences of representatives of the United Nations laid down the principle that every country must be allowed to work out its own political salvation. On no account should the Government, or citizens of any country, be allowed to stir up industrial trouble in any other country with the object of foisting their ideologies, or conception of a way of life, upon other peoples. Australians in common with all British peoples glory in the fact that they enjoy democratic government. On. this score I have no quarrel with Russia or the representatives of Russia. It is for the Russian people to work out their own political salvation. My quarrel is with this Government because it is so spineless that it allows people to come into this- country and cause industrial unrest.
– They are not Russians.
– I do not care whether the people I have in mind are Russians or Australians. By causing industrial unrest they are preventing the community from providing homes and other essential amenities for our exservice personnel ; and I shall fight such disruptionists. anywhere and at any time. When they are opposed their only defence is to turn round and point to what Russia did in the war. Russia did a splendid job in the war at the cost of millions of Russian lives. But. what attitude does Russia itself adopt towards fanatics of this kind who would attempt to interfere with Russian industry? They are given short shrift in Russia. They are liquidated overnight. I am not in favour of such methods; but whilst such disruptionists would not be allowed to exist for an hour in Russia, they are treated nobly in this country. What is the policy of this Government towards these extremists? It has failed to uphold the authority of the Arbitration Court, although it professes to stand for arbitration. Recently the Australian Labour party declared, “We do not want the Commos”. That is mere sham-fighting on the part of the Labour party. Despite the profession of the Labour party that it stands for arbitration, the Government has let down the’ court and tribunals, and in some instances, in order to appease the unions, has dismissed officers and appointed political stooges in their stead.. For instance, it appointed an ex-secretary of the Australian Labour party to fix wages and conditions in the coalmining industry, thus, in effect, overriding decisions of the Arbitration Court. The result was that the position in the industry worsened. The Government . said that, provided it was given power to take control of mines, it would be able to maintain .peace in the industry ; but two years after that power was given to it production in one mine taken over by the Government decreased, and operations under government control showed a loss of £69,000. I have not sufficient time at my disposal to give to the Senate all of the evidence which I have available in support of my charge that the Government has failed to stand by the Arbitration Court. Recently, the Stevedoring Commission, which was appointed by this Government, gave a decision with respect to the doubledumping of wool; but the Minister for the Army (Mr. Forde), who was then Acting Prime Minister, overrode the commission and met the demands of the waterside workers. In such circumstances, how can the Arbitration Court and industrial tri bunals have any faith in the Government? On the 5th May, 1945, Judge O’Mara, of the Arbitration Court, said -
It is not likely that 2,000 strikers will resume work if the3’ have already disobeyed an order made by Conciliation Commissioner Morrison. I can only make an order’ for these men to resume if the Commonwealth .is prepared to prosecute under the National Security Regulations.
Time and again the Government has failed to enforce decisions of the .court by the issue of summonses. The AttorneyGeneral (Dr. Evatt) refused to take such action. He preferred to appease the coal-miners. As the result of that policy we find that twice as many more strikes occurred last year than in 1939. Further evidence of the Government’s attitude towards arbitration is to be found in comments made by Mr. Justice Davidson, who .has had 30 years’ experience in handling the problems of the coal-mining industry.. His ability has commanded the respect of Labour and non-Labour governments alike. This Government recently appointed him to inquire into the problems of the coal-mining industry. His report is a sad reflection upon responsible government. - The holding of compulsory secret ballots to determine whether or not strikes should be called or, if in progress, continued is urged by the judge in the report. Emphasis is placed on the fact that, although penalties against strikes and lock-outs exist, governments have failed to enforce them. Lack of support by- governments for their tribunals is stated to be “ the most paralyzing defect “ in the arbitration system. Costs of production since the outbreak of the war have been excessively increased, whilst the output per man-shift since 1942 has progressively declined. A pre-requisite to retrieving the present perilous position and averting a threatening crisis is discipline. There could be no stronger charge against any government than the findings of the judge. What is the Government’s policy? As recently as the 21st April, 1946, the then Acting Prime Minister (Mr. Forde), addressing the Victorian Labour Conference, said -
Industrial strikes are the “ Achilles heel “ of the Federal Government. A succession of industrial stoppages in important industries turning nut urgently required materials, or stoppages within the transport services, would have ii disastrous effect on the election result.
The Labour Government let the Communists loose before the last Commonwealth elections, and is now letting them have full sway until after the coming elections. While this goes on, people go without homes and without many other important things. If the nation is allowed to continue drifting in this way, it will take us years to restore economic stability, to meet our financial obligations and to make the progress that we are capable of making. When I was abroad recently, people in other countries said that no nation had a greater prospect of development than Australia. We have markets for every thing that we can produce. Nevertheless, for ten months the Government has allowed the country to stay in reverse gear with the result that chaos reigns. We, as members of the National Parliament, should show ourselves to be worthy of the men who sacrificed their lives for the safety of the nation during the war. Those who took the risks of. war and survived now look to us to solve the problems I have mentioned as quickly as possible. For months I have tried to the best of my ability to persuade this Government, the employers and others to secure peace and cooperation in industry, but while members of the Government and their supporters continue to place votes above principles Australia will remain in a state of chaos instead of taking the road of progress. Finally, I answer the question asked by interjection so frequently from the Government side of the chamber: “What would an anti-Labour government do?”
– What did it do?
– It declared the Communist party an illegal organization. Although the world is at peace, we still have legislation on our statute-book empowering the Commonwealth Government to deal with Communists. I urge the Government to take courage, root out these few fanatics, and thus make a name for itself and earn the gratitude of the people. The Government claims that it lacks power to deal with the Communists. I refer it to the Crimes Act 1914-1932, sometimes known as the “ dog collar act “. It maintained peace in industry for a long time. This Government should realize its responsibilities, take a firm stand and insist that the law be obeyed.
The act was enforced in 1926, when the Communist menace was threatening the country as it is to-day.. Section 30j of the act is as follows: - (1.) If at any time the Governor-General is of opinion that there exists in Australia a serious industrial disturbance prejudicing or threatening trade or commerce with other countries or among the States, he may make a Proclamation to that effect, which Proclamation shall be and remain in operation for the purposes of this section until it is revoked. (2.) Any person who, during the operation of such Proclamation, takes part in or continues, or incites to, urges, aids or encourages the taking part in, or continuance of, a lockout or strike -
Action must be taken sooner or later to prevent a small group of Communists from sabotaging Australia’s economic future. I appeal to the Government to take action to bring about peace in industry so that employers may obtain a fair day’s work for a fair day’s pay, thus enabling the nation to meet its financial obligations and increase production along efficient lines. The Government should make the people realize that, in times of emergency such as the present, the nation must increase production to a most pronounced degree.
– I have a number of requests to make to the Government on matters of vital importance to Western Australia. The first relates to the future of our gold-mining industry. Australia has never been in greater need of external credit than it is to-day. One of the quickest methods of establishing credit overseas is to permit the unlimited export of gold. We all know that gold is still the most easily negotiable but nevertheless the most stable standard of exchange in the world. In the United States of America particularly, gold is readily purchased, and by this means Australia could establish its exchange in the dollar pool to finance the purchase of many urgent requirements. Therefore, every encouragement should be given to the unrestricted development of the goldmining industry. As Western Australia produces more than three-fourths of the gold mined in Australia, this industry is of the utmost importance to the internal economy of that State. It represents at least one-third of that State’s economy, and hence my earnest desire that everything possible shall be done to “help it. The Commonwealth Government, and particularly the Treasury, could give great assistance to the industry in several ways. The first means of helping it is thE abolition of the war-time gold production tax. Immediately on the outbreak of World War II. this tax was introduced, and all producers of gold were compelled within 30 days of the .production of the metal to lodge their gold with the Commonwealth Bank as the agent for the Commonwealth Treasury. On that production, with certain exceptions, such as small prospectors and certain low-grade marginal mining companies, the Government received, in the form of a gold tax, 50 per cent, of the increased price over and above the price of £9 per oz. ruling in 1939. When the tax was instituted it was understood that it would operate only for the duration of the war. A definite promise was given that it was purely a war-time impost which would be removed ou the cessation of hostilities, but the Government still imposes this tax, which causes a heavy drain on Western Australia. From 1939 to 1945, gold producers in that State have .paid tax amounting to £3,550,150. Certain refunds have been made to prospectors and low-grade marginal producers of gold, but the actual impost is about £3,000,000. This is the only industry in Australia which during the war was called upon to pay this selective tax. The abolition of this impost would help the industry and the State considerably; It would give encouragement to prospectors and to small mine-owners.
Another way in which the gold-mining industry could be assisted in Western Aus tralia and Victoria, would be by a review of the operations of the capital issues branch of the Treasury, especially with regard to the limits imposed on share transactions through- the various stock exchanges. Certain people in Australia and abroad have the courage to invest their money, often their savings, in the promotion of gold-mining companies. That form of investment has a great attraction to many people. Whilst much profit has been made as the result of that investment, a great deal of money has also been. lost. Yet people are willing to invest their capital in this way, and if they are given more encouragement than at present the industry will expand. With an increased volume of investment in the industry, and fewer restrictions on the movement of share capital, more work will be available for the many men who are waiting and prepared to undertake it. I speak with some knowledge of the present position of the industry as the result of a recent tour which I made of the Murchison gold-fields. Restrictions on the investment of capital is not conducive to an expansion of the industry,- and a partial lifting of the restrictions would be a. further means of assisting it. The. easing of the tax burden is essential because of the increased cost of commodities required in the production of gold. These costs increased at; a rapid rate throughout the war years, and the fact that the technical engineering experts in the industry were able to improvise during the war years did not reduce the costs of production, although it illustrated the ability’ and resourcefulness of the technicians engaged in the industry. . They can cope ably with most of their difficulties, but a problem with which they cannot deal is that due to the rising production costs. The abolition of the gold tax would be a means of reimbursing the industry for the increased costs of production.
Reverting to my recent visit to the Murchison goldfields, the action of the present Government .has retarded the industry in certain areas during the last eight or nine months. Some time ago I asked the Vice President of the Executive Council (Senator Collings) to make inquiries as to when gold producers would be given back the machinery which the
Government impressed during the war for so-called more urgent industries than that of gold-mining. I visited a number’ of mines in the Murchison district from which motor-power engines had been taken and shipped to different parts of Australia, such as King Island, Adelaide and Darwin. The most glaring case I discovered was that on© of the engines from the Big Bell mine was shipped to Darwin and was left there for the greater part of three years. Not a nail was removed from the crates in which it was transported. An inquiry should be made as to who was responsible for this shocking mismanagement. Whoever is responsible should not go unpunished. People engaged in the mining industry gladly acquiesced during the war years to allowing their engines to be sent to more urgent war-time industries, but at the first sign of the conclusion of the war - on the collapse in the European theatre - steps should have been taken to arrange, for the return of this valuable machinery immediately.
Last October the Government of Western Australia urged the Big Bell Mining Company to re-open its mine, so as to absorb men who were unemployed. The owners did so, on the understanding that the machinery impressed by the Commonwealth Government, assisted by the Government’ of Western Australia, would be returned immediately. When I was at that mine a few weeks ago, the machinery had not been returned. In the meantime, however, the company, acting in good faith, re-employed many of its men, as. well as new hands, who were mostly working underground and doing more exploratory work than was necessary, hoping from week to week that the machinery would arrive. I understand that’ some of the engines will reach Cue this week, but that is a long time for any government to keep a private mining company, and a company using foreign capital at that, marking time from week to week, merely to oblige the Government. At Reedy’s mine much the same story could be told, but in that instance the machinery had been sent to King Island for use in the scheelite industry. Married ex-servicemen were seeking work in Western Australia, but the manager of that mine could not employ them because the machinery taken from it. had not been returned. Empty houses capable of accommodating 85 single men for whom work was available were, awaiting tenants, but because of the lack of adequate machinery the men could not be employed and consequently the houses remained vacant. The Government has a charge to answer. One of the engines from the Big Bell mine was sent to Adelaide for use in the cellulose1 industry. As far back as the 25th Feb-‘ ruary last, arrangements could have been made to replace it by an engine from Melbourne. Had action been taken then the Western Australian engine which had been impressed could have been returned and again set to work at the mine. When 1 was at the Big Bell mine a few weeks ago the engine had not then left Adelaide. Such inaction on the part of the Government is retarding the development of this industry and is causing discontent and doubt in the mind.-1 of those who are prepared to invest molle’ in it. Encouragement, not discouragement, of industry by the Government is called for. I urge that an inquiry be made, probably through the Department of Munitions, to ascertain who was responsible’ for the non-return, or the la ti’ return, of that machinery. Australia requires credit in Britain and ‘ in foreign countries for the purchase of essential goods not manufactured in Australia. Here is a chance to provide it. Everything possible should be done to encourage this industry to expand, because within -a comparatively short period the value of the output of’ this industry could be increased from about £9,000,000 per annum to £15,000,000 or even to £20,000,000 per annum.
Earlier to-day I asked the Minister for Trade and Customs (Senator J. M. Fraser) a question relating to the control of deliveries of foodstuffs. The reason why I asked him to have the matter investigated - a request to which I am pleased to say the Minister readily agreed - is that there is some doubt as to how adjustments of the costs of delivery are to be made .by retailers such as butchers and greengrocers. This is a matter which I trust will speedily, be resolved, because medical testimony from all parts of Australia is to the effect that the carrying of heavy burdens, which the non-delivery of foodstuffs involves, is harmful - to housewives. The sooner that women are relieved of this daily burden the better for their health. I hope that the Minister will make an early announcement of the settlement of the problem of the additional costs involved in delivering foodstuffs.
Yesterday the. Senate discussed the position in the coal-mining industry. All thinking Australians, regardless of party affiliations, must be seriously perturbed :it the menace which frequent stoppages in industry mean. .In my opinion, the proper place for the Attorney-General (Dr. Evatt) at the present time is in Australia, because it will be his responsibility to supervise the drafting of the legislation which has been foreshadowed to deal with ‘the coal-mining industry. .
– The AttorneyGeneral cannot, be in two places at once, lie is doing a good job where he is.
Senator ALLAN MacDONALD.Responsible ministers should be in Australia dealing with the industrial crisis here, instead of interfering with the domestic affairs of other countries. There is ample scope for the exercise of the ability and skill of the Attorney-General in Australia. Instead of attending to matters vitally affecting Australia, the right honorable gentleman is interfering in the domestic affairs of Spain, which has a government -of its own making. It is not the business of any Australian to tell the people of Spain what k;nd of government they should place in power. J regard intrusion into the domestic affairs of any other country by a prominent Australian Minister of the Crown a.s an action which borders on the impertinent. I strongly resent the continued sniping at the Great Powers in which the Attorney-General seems to delight. He challenges their right to exercise the power of veto, but I point out that Australia, as a part of the British Empire which also has the power of veto, has the same powers of veto as have the United States of America and Russia. The speeches of the AttorneyGeneral on the subject of the veto constitute either a reflection on the Government of the United Kingdom or a total disregard of the fact that Australia is an integral part of the British Empire and, as such, enjoys . with the other Great Powers the .right to exercise the power of veto’. The Attorney-General seems to enjoy the role of championing the cause of the allegedly down-trodden small nations, most of which contributed nothing to the winning of the war. In my opinion, the right honorable gentleman should be at home minding Australia’s business. The tasks which await his attention in his home State of New South Wales surely a.re serious enough, because if something be not done soon to cope with the situation, an industrial crisis must assuredly come; and such a state of affairs would transcend in importance many problems which might arise at meetings of the. Security Council of the United Nations. As an elected representative of the people, I say that the Attorney-General should allow the Spaniards to decide for themselves what form of government they shall have,’ just as we in Australia insist on deciding for ourselves the kind of government that we shall have, and return to Australia as quickly as possible. “Senator TANGNEY (Western Australia) [4.43]. - I regret that the Leader of the Opposition (Senator McLeay) was not present .during yesterday’s debate on the coal-mining industry, because I consider that his contribution to to-day’s discussion in this chamber could more appropriately have been made then. We are getting tired of hearing diatribes against the Government because it has not prevented industrial disputes. The settlement of such disputes is a difficult task for any government. Some years ago the parties now in opposition walked out of office rather than face the problems which they now say the present Government, should solve. That action led to the formation of a Labour government at a time when the Labour party did not have a majority in either House of the Parliament. Since Labour came into power its chief concern has been the successfulprosecution of the war’. It is true that hostilities ceased about ten months ago, but there are still serious problems confronting this country. I do not condone anything that the Communists have done. In Western Australia there has been no more fierce opponent of communism than
I since my entry into political life; but there is another side .to this question. Communism could not flourish in this country -if there had not been in ‘our society some germ of discontent. I regret most sincerely, as do all supporters of the Government, that so many people have allowed themselves to be swayed by the fanaticism of .so few, but fierce diatribes against the Government contribute nothing to a solution of the problem. We look to members of the Opposition for constructive criticism and suggestions that might assist the Government in its approach to this problem. The assistance of honorable senators opposite in this regard will be welcomed by Labour leaders both in the political and industrial world.
I am not conversant with conditions on the New South Wales coal-fields, but I do know something of conditions on the coalfields in Western Australia. About this time last year there was a dispute on the Collie coal-fields, and for some days the metropolitan area of Perth ‘and the suburbs of that city were thrown .into darkness because of a complete failure of coal supplies. Industry and employment were brought to a standstill. I went to Collie to see for myself the conditions that had brought about this state of affairs. I found that the fault was not entirely on the side of the miners. They had been very patient. The industrial record of Western Australian workers is second to none so far as output and industrial endeavour are concerned. Therefore, I sought the real cause of this unprecedented stoppage of production. I found that whilst members of the unions subscribed fully to the principle of conciliation and arbitration, they had waited for more than two years to have their case heard, and after the case had been heard by the local Coal Commissioner, and certain recommendations had been made in the previous November, by May of last year nothing had been done to implement those recommendations. I intervened in that dispute, as Judge Drake-Brockman took good care to tell the people of this country. I talked to the men concerned and got in touch with the Minister for Labour and National Service (Mr. Hollo-way). Within half a day the men returned to work, and the coal-fields re- sumed full production. Because I interfered in that dispute, Judge DrakeBrockman said that I should mind my own business and that I had interfered in a matter that did not concern me. It is rather paradoxical that when a federal member of Parliament intervenes in a dispute and brings about a settlement, she should be told that she is interfering in a matter that does not concern her, whereas if one does not intervene, one has to endure the odium that has been heaped on this Government because disputes have not been settled on the New South Wales coal-fields. In this chamber yesterday, the question was asked why the majority of industrial disputes occurred in New South Wales. The answer, of course, is quite simple. New South Wales has Australia’s greatest concentration of industry. The other States depend so much upon coal and other industrial requirements produced in New South Wales that when industrial disturbances occur there, the dislocation is much greater in the other States than it would be if outbreaks of industrial unrest actually occurred in those States.
I regret that in his contribution to this debate to-day the Leader of the Opposition could only castigate the Government, and could not offer any constructive suggestion for the solution of our industrial problems. We can look forward to a happy and prosperous future in this country only if we are united in our efforts to overcome the. many difficulties .that exist to-day.
There has been a great deal of talk about the tobacco shortage in Australia. I am informed that there is sufficient tobacco leaf in Australia to meet requirements, but that the supply of female labour in the tobacco industry is inadequate. I have visited several tobacco factories recently and I do not blame women for not wishing to work in the tobacco industry if they can get more congenial employment elsewhere. I suggest to the manufacturers that they make way in their establishments for male labour. I was amazed at the disproportion of male to female labour in the tobacco industry. Is this just another instance of the exploitation of cheap female labour? If there were a genuine desire to overcome the tobacco shortage, more use could be made of male labour. “We are told that men’s fingers are not so facile as those of women workers. It may be that men are more clumsy, but it seems to me that they could do the job if necessary. Men who are dying for a smoke might lose. quite & lot of their .clumsiness if they were set to work on this job.
I wish to refer now to a very important section of Australia which it was my .privilege to visit, quite recently. I refer’ to the vast north-western portion of Western Australia. So far as many Australians are concerned, this part of the Commonwealth simply does not exist, or is of no consequence. They have heard perhaps of Geraldton and Carnarvon, and know something of the pearling industry at Broome, but the rest of the north-west is to them a closed book. Yet this is a most important territory, not only for its intrinsic wealth, but also from the point of .view of defence. When the Japanese entered the war, residents of the northwest of Western Australia found themselves only a couple of flying hours from Japanese bases.. I travelled along the north-west coast, and from North-west Cape to Wyndham I saw signs of Japanese air attacks upon this country. I only wish that every member of the Senate could visit that area and see for himself how close Australia was to invasion, and how very fortunate we were to have been saved from it. The north-, west is a very extensive area. Between North-west Cape and Wyndham there is a tract of country as large as New South Wales. It is valuable land, rich in mineral deposits, and the coastal waters abound with pearls. The potentialities of the fishing industry are great, and the hinterland is noted for high-quality cattle: but there is a. big tragedy in the north-west. I went right through that district and met only one resident owner of a property. Like the gold-mining companies, cattle-owners have taken a great deal of wealth out of Western Australia and have put very little back in the way of development or of amenities for the people living there. I was very pleased” to find amongst the people of that territory an ever-increasing desire for intervention by the Commonwealth Government in their affairs. They had not seen a senator for many years, and were most interested -in my visit. They devoted many hours of their time to discussions of their problems with me. Although the north-west is an integral- part of the State of Western Australia, it is most difficult for the Government of that State to exercise adequate control over or provide services for such a large and remote area. After all, the entire population of Western Australia amounts only to one-third of the population of Sydney or Melbourne. That is why, in the- realms of both health’ and education it is most difficult to provide for the people of that State what they deserve. Besides inadequate housing, medical and educational facilities, another big problem in the north-west is that of the aborigines. Because there are not many natives in New South Wales and Victoria, many people are inclined to close their eyes to the fact that the aborigines of this land are a national responsibility. I remind honorable senators that a couple of years ago when the Commonwealth Government asked the’ people of Australia for a mandate in regard to the aborigines, it was refused, with the result’ that the only natives over which the Commonwealth Government has control to-day are those within its own territories. I found that aborigines are being exploited - I use the word advisedly - in the northwest by the big land-owning companies and absentee owners who are employing them at a few shillings a week, and not even providing shelter or sanitation for them. Within the last fortnight, we had the spectacle in Western Australia of some aborigines who had tried to organize themselves to demand 30s-. a week, being- imprisoned because they dared to stand up for their own rights. On the other hand, we have the Commonwealth Government extending child endowment benefits only to those natives and half-castes whose standard of living approximates that of white people. We have many thousands of half-castes in this country, and it is they, and not the natives, who constitute the biggest problem. The two States in which aborigines are found cannot be left to handle this problem by themselves. It is a national work to which the National Parliament must address itself, if we are to do justice to the original inhabitants of this country.
I followed closely the remarks of Senator Allan MacDonald concerning - price control and the delivery of goods to homes. I have had the experience of shopping and carrying home my own parcels, and I know the inconvenience which women suffered in this respect during the war. However, I also know that the Commonwealth is powerless to do anything in this matter, because individual shopkeepers cannot be forced to use their staffs in this way. The honorable senator spoke of the increased cost of delivering goods. Nc increased cost, was charged to householders for delivery before the war, and there was no talk at that time of increasing the cost of goods to the consumer on that account. I sincerely hope that Senator Allan MacDonald has not put into the heads of storekeepers the idea that when they resume deliveries they should make a special charge. The resumption of deliveries will be in the interest of many workers. For instance, many members of the transport workers union are now unemployed because their previous , employers, are not delivering goods. Whilst the Commonwealth Government can do little to rectify the position, I hope that the competition which will result when some firms resume deliveries will bring about a general resumption of this service to homes because considerable hardship has been inflicted upon housewives during the war in being obliged to collect their goods. That is particularly so in the case of mothers with young children, and everything possible should be done to ameliorate their difficulties. However, the matter is unfortunately outside the ambit of the Commonwealth’s powers.
I turn’ now to the subject of social services. Unfortunately, I have had a good deal to do recently with doctors and hospitals. I have discovered i that after the Commonwealth provided the allowance of £2 2s. to patients in hospitals, many hospitals, with the permission of the Prices Commissioner, immediately raised their fees. ! was a member of the Social Security Committee which recommended the provision of that allowance for hospital in-patients. The purpose of- the allowance was to assist the patient, not the hospital. Recently
I visited a’ large maternity hospital of which the matron, who has a Commonwealthwide reputation for her work in maternal welfare, ‘ informed me that an amazing number of doctors had set up as specialists in obstetrics following the increase of the maternity allowance. This practice is defeating the intention of the Parliament. It is strange that throughout Australia there is no standard for specialists in any branch of surgery and medicine. Attempts have been made in Queensland and Western Australia to provide a standard for specialists, but no such standard has been established. Even in Brisbane and Perth every one is still wondering what makes a medical man a specialist. Apparently, any medical man who obtains a room in Macquarie-street in Sydney, on Wickhamterrace in Brisbane, or St. George’s Terrace iri Perth, and sets up a brass plate, is qualified to charge a fee of £2 2s. for each consultation- for which a fee of 10s. 6d. would be charged if the consultation took place in a suburban doctor’s surgery or in a private home. This is a very vital matter. The Parliament also provided an allowance of 25s. a week to expectant mothers in respect of a period of one month before and after confinement, but I find that this payment is being made in a lump sum after the confinement. This allowance should be paid weekly to the expectant mother for a month before confinement in order to enable her to obtain assistance in the home to help her through a difficult time. I am informed by matrons of maternity hospitals that in nine cases out of ten all of this money is being grabbed by specialists for payment of their fee. I am not making an attack upon doctors. I have some fine friends among them. The profession as a whole has done a wonderful job for the’ community not only in peace but also during the war. I fully recognize the value, of the free service which they render in hospitals. But in any profession, as in any group of men and women, one will always find some black sheep who are prepared to make something out of the sufferings and disabilities of others: A specialist told me that in Perth some specialists attended at their rooms on only three days a week. He said that they took the view that if they worked on other days of the week they would he working only for “Ben” Chifley. The Sydney Sunday T olograph, dealing with this matter in its latest issue says -
Refusal of doctors to attend emergency sickness cases had reached a disgraceful stage, Sydney hospital matrons and ambulance officers said yesterday.
Hoa pi bil s and ambulances were constantly having “unloaded” on them critically sick people who had come to them as a last resort, they added.
Matrons and ambulance officers alleged that the main reason for the situation was the reluctance of doctors to add to their income for the current financial year, thus increasing their taxation rate.
Is there any difference between a doctor refusing to do this job fully because any increase of bis income will increase his rate of income tax and the coal-miner refusing to go to work for the same reason? [ disagree with that attitude of mind in both cases. It is deplorable, but is much more so in the case of a professional man who has within his grasp the means of saving a life. Therefore, if this report be true - and so far I have not seen it refuted by any spokesman for the medical profession - it is time that something was done to rectify the position. Under the measure, supply will be provided for only four months. When the next budget is presented to Parliament we shall have an opportunity to discuss fully some of the problems which will confront the country at that time.
– I compliment Senator Tangney upon her comprehensive speech, and I hope that the press of Western Australia will show more consideration towards her when reporting her remarks than the press in other States display towards the reports of their States in the Senate’. The people are interested in the part being played by their representatives in the -Parliament and wish to learn their views upon the various problems which are discussed here. It is regrettable, however, that many newspapers now tend to report speeches by members who do not come from the State in which those newspapers circulate, while totally ignoring speeches made by the representatives of the States in which they are published. For this reason the reading public are given the impression that many of their representatives have very little to say in the Parliament.
– The honorable senator will be beard over the air next week when proceedings in the Parliament are broadcast.
– Possibly, the broadcasting of proceedings in the Parliament will cause the press of this country to give greater publicity to the activities of members. I am certain that at least one utterance made by an honorable senator in this debate this afternoon will be given prominence in the press. I refer to Senator Allan MacDonald’s remarks dealing with the attitude of the AttorneyGeneral (Dr. Evatt) on the vexed, problem of the Government of Spain. Deliberations of this Parliament deserve some recognition. The people are entitled, to know what goes on in both Houses.
Undoubtedly, the Leader of - the Opposition (Senator McLeay) began his oration this afternoon with his thoughts upon the forthcoming elections. No doubt, be believed .that if he could place some stigma upon the Government because of the existence of- industrial trouble, his propaganda would receive prominence in the press and possibly gain some advantage for his party on the- hustings.’ He referred at length to the fact that there were in this country people known as Communists, and- he urged the Government to destroy these people. If there is one section of the community that is more responsible than any other section for the growth of communism in Australia, it is the capitalist press which deliberately ‘ refrains from informing the community of the views of the Parliament as a whole. So long as the people are denied knowledge of what is happening, in the Parliament the propaganda of the Communists will be assisted. By this process, and by constantly featuring . the activities of the Communist party people are being led to give a better bearing to the Communists and tend to believe that the Communist party is the only party which has a solution of the problems confronting- the workers of this country. However, the Leader - of the. Opposition exaggerated the importance of the Communist party, because in the course of his remarks he drew attention to the fact that on the rare occasions when the people have had an opportunity at the ballot box to express an opinion concerning the policy of the Communist party tire Communist candidates have not polled very many votes.
– But Communists hold very prominent positions.
– I do not deny that fact; but neither do I deny to the Communists, or the adherents of any party, the right to express their opinions. [ believe in democracy. The people should have the right to choose whatever form of government they desire.
– Do the Communists believe in democracy?
– I believe that, if a government with communist tendencies is elected by universal franchise, that is the form of government the people want. Of course, I would consider the people doing so to be foolish, just as I consider people who .vote for honorable senators opposite to be foolish. ‘ The struggle of the workers for recognition of their rights has been a long one. Strikes are not the product of modern conditions only. They have occurred ever since the workers began to organize themselves. Turmoil nas existed in industry since before the* industrial revolution. All progress that has occurred since the days of feudalism lias been the result of agitation and revolt in one form or another. By this means we have arrived at our present position. The theories of honorable senators opposite, which to-day we consider to be moat conservative, are far in advance of the theories advocated by their predecessors. It appeared ironical to me when an article in an -illustrated _ newspaper dealing with political parties in Australia gave to the - Opposition parties credit for many of the reforms that have been achieved in this country. Honorable senators opposite, despite the fact that they parade before the country as members of the Liberal party, are in fact the successors of the reactionary parties that were obliterated many years ago. We still find rare specimens’ surviving from those days in this Parlia ment. The Leader of the Opposition (Senator McLeay) failed signally in his efforts to attach some odium to the Government. He mentioned the fact that the Government will be expending many millions of pounds for. the defence of the Pacific area, and said that the British Government would also be called upon to contribute to the cost of security in this zone. We all detest the fact that we have to expend large sums on defence. We would prefer the nations to settle their differences by some means other than war. After World War I, we were very hopeful that the League of Nations would bring about a new state of affairs and that “ the war fought to end war “ had accomplished its objective. But, alas, our brightest hopes were dashed. To-day we have another organization of nations - -the United Nations - and we hope that it will evolve a scheme which v.1 ill guarantee peace and security in the world. Nevertheless, we can see conflicting interests amongst the Allied Nations. Capitalism dies very hard, and the desirefor profit still remains, and we are doubtful whether this new organization will be. successful,, despite the loss of millions of lives and the unprecedented waste of money and materials. The future of the world may he made secure through the perfection of the control of atomicenergy, hut at the moment we have not seen any tangible evidence that this will be achieved. Therefore, Australia mustplay a more important part in world affairs than it has played in the past. In my opinion, this country has not been given due credit for the very important part which it did play “in the two world wars. Perhaps in future, as the result of conditions existing in- the East, Australia’s responsibility in this part of theworld will be given due recognition. Much as I deprecate the fact that we are called upon to expend a great amount of money on defence, I realize that this is unavoidable. The fact is that, as the result of the magnificent stand by the Bri tish people in World War II., they are having great difficulty in reorganizing themselves. At the moment, Great Britain’s overseas trade is endangered by ‘the actions of its former allies, and, now that the world’s markets are open again, every effort is being made to regain pre-war trade. These things make it necessary for Australia to play a more prominent part in the South-West Pacific Area than previously. In recent weeks, and particularly in this debate, a determined effort has been made by the opponents of the Government to induce the people to withdraw their support from it. Use has -been made of catch-cries, and we have beard talk of reducing taxes; everybody is beginning to say that a reduction of taxes is necessary. The Leader of the Opposition said that Australia should increase production. Everybody agrees with that, and the opportunity to do so exists to-day. However, he said that existing high taxes were retarding production. If one studies information which is published in the newspapers, not for propaganda purposes, but with the object of giving the investing public an indication of the .best means of investing surplus funds - despite the ravages of taxation there are still surplus funds to be invested - ohe finds that there are many giltedged investments in Australia. Profits have increased. The chief complaints of the manufacturers, apart from this taxation propaganda, are that they’ cannot secure building materials in order to increase the capacity of their factories and that they cannot secure sufficient labour to- extend their operations. - Therefore, if appears to me that this clamour from certain sections of the community for a reduction of taxes is so much “ eye wash “. I agree that there must be a reduction of taxes on lower incomes. In order to finance the war, taxes were levied upon a section of the community which could ill afford to bear them. For that reason, I appreciate the Government’s intention to reduce taxes, especially on lower incomes. I am pleased to note also that the Government is prepared to reduce indirect taxes, through the sales tax, and to give important social services to the people.
– So is the Opposition.
– I am afraid that if the people who are in need of social services have to wait for the Opposition to give them benefits they will have to wait for many years. They recognize that they will secure the greatest help from a Labour government, which springs from their ranks. This clamour by wealthy interests for a reduction of taxes contrasts strangely with the promises made by them’ a few years ago, when a Labour government was entrusted with the task of organizing the community and piloting it through the greatest crisis in its history. In those days, representatives of the wealthy sections of the community held up their bands and said: “ We do not’ care if you take all of our money, so long as you leave us our assets. We will give all ‘ in order to win this war “. Well, the war has been won, and to-day those people are forgetting their promises. Evidently they made them only because of a fear that they would lose everything and that their opportunity to exploit the people would be lost for ever. Apparently, they decided that they would: keep what they had as long as they possibly could. What is the reason for the present high taxes? It is because Australia, passing through a great crisis, had to incur phenomenal expenditure. We made promises to the men who fought in the war. We pledged ourselves te- make certain payments to them and to rehabilitate them, and we undertook to engage in housing projects. We cannot have our cake and eat it. If we were sincere a few years ago in saying that we were prepared to surrender our all in order that Australia might remain free and able to work out its own destiny, then we should not cavil to-day because the nation is committed to heavy expenditure which necessitates the imposition of heavy taxes. I believe in taxing those best able to bear it. All of. this’ clamour for a reduction of taxes, in the hope that some odium may attach to the Government, is just political propaganda. Honorable senators opposite, in conjunction with their henchmen, the press, frequently refer to the prevalence of industrial disputes. One might think that no such trouble had ever previously been experienced in Australia.
– The Premier of Tasmania has- stated that there should be an increased output by the workers.
– Yes, but honorable senators opposite desire increased production at the expense of the workers. ‘ I. have never heard any supporter of the present Government contend that the workers should be paid according to their output, but the Opposition has declared that they should be paid by results, under a piece-work system.
– A fixed rate, plus an additional payment based on their production.
– There is a eatch in that, because the employers would want the piece-work rates reviewed from time to time. That would be merely a method of speeding up the workers for the benefit of factory owners and the suppliers of raw materials. By this subtle means, a worker who showed that he could produce more than his fellow employees would suffer a reduction of his rate of pay, and his physical strength would be impaired.
– Should the shearers be paid a daily rate or a contract rate?
– They are in a different position, because the number of sheep available for shearing is limited. When the shearer’s task has been completed, he follows other avocations, but the ordinary worker in the factory, the workshop or a mine has no security of tenure. He is available to be hired -or “ fired “ at the sweet will of the employer.
No honorable senator opposite who clamours for increased production has referred to the fact that we could have over-production and under-consumption As the result of the introduction of labour-saving devices in many industries, the worker has been able to increase his output 10, 20, 30, 50 and even 100 fold. Who has reaped the benefit of that overproduction? Certainly not the worker. The present living standards of the man on the basic wage are little higher than they were before the outbreak of the recent war. Even when the Harvester judgment was delivered, it was resisted by the political parties represented by honorable senators opposite. They declared that industry would go out of existence if the basic wage then fixed were paid, but Mr. Justice Higgins told’ the employers that, if they were incapable of managing their industries .at a profit, it would be better to close them than have the workers living under conditions little better than those of slavery.
Are honorable senators opposite prepared to recompense the workers by supporting the introduction of shorter working hours ? What was their attitude when the Labour party introduced a measure inviting the people to confer on this Parliament power to legislate regarding industrial matters ? What will be their attitude on the hustings shortly regarding that proposal ? They will ask the people to decline to grant power to this Parliament to legislate regarding industrial conditions, because they are afraid that the workers might get the benefit of the result of their labour. They will say “ If a Labour government is returned to power, it will introduce a 40-hour week, and that will increase the basic wage “.
– And increase the cost of living.
– For the first time I have heard an honorable senator opposite solicitous as to the cost of-living. The Labour party has come into power as a protest by the people against the attitude of its political opponents to the workers. In Great Britain a political revolution has occurred. The House of Commons contains an overwhelming proportion of members of the Labour party, although in the Mother Country they are called Socialists. Why did the people of Great Britain turn to the. Socialist party, despite the wonderful war effort of a leader such as Churchill? Simply because they recognized that if they placed in power the party of which Churchill was a typical representative, they could expect a depression at an early date. They feared that the big manufacturing companies would try to recoup the losses sustained by them during the war years by placing the burden on the masses of the people. Honorable senators opposite are afraid that if a Labour government is again returned to office they will be denied an opportunity to recoup the losses of the class which sent them here.
– The honorable senator told us that the employer? had made profits.
– They are net making so. much profit as they formerly did, because of the taxes now imposed en them. If by some mischance the people’s memory is so short at the next general elections that they forget the conditions prevailing in Australia during the regime of anti-Labour governments, and the present Ministry is forced out of office, certain legislation sponsored by the present Government will be rescinded, according tu the Leader of the Opposition in the House of Representatives (Mr. Menzies). He would reduce the taxes of the big man, but not those of the nian : with a small income.
The more honorable senators opposite clamour for the Government to take action to prevent industrial strife, and the more they ask for increased prices for . primary products, the more certain it is that the electors generally will appreciate the limited nature of the power* of this Parliament and the necessity for granting to it power to legislate regarding the industrial conditions of which honorable senators opposite complain. How can we consistently ask the Government to settle industrial disputes on the coal-fields and elsewhere, and at the same time urge the people to refuse to. give it power to do so by an amendment of the Constitution. Such arguments are illogical. I’ am not afraid that any speeches from the Opposition side will afford the opponents of the Government a prospect of winning the coming elections. I am sure that their attacks upon the Government will not achieve their purpose. I congratulate the Government upon its intention to reduce the taxes of the people.- As the war period recedes the present Ministry will bring about a condition of stability in Australia that Will afford great satisfaction to the people.
.- Last week I asked -the Minister representing the Minister for Commerce and Agriculture (Senator- J. M. Fraser) the following question, upon notice: -
Is it a fact that many ex-servicemen, whose fathers had given them, or are prepared to give them, tracts of land suitable for wheatgrowing, have been refused a licence to grow wheat; if so, will the Minister direct that such licences be grunted as a means of rehabilitating these men?
The answer was -
It is not a fact. Licences have been grunted freely, both last season and this season. The lifting of restrictions for the 1945-46 crop was announced in October. 1044, and for this year in May, 11)45. This season alone, in Victoria, licences for 900,000 acres of excess acreage have been issued, and ex-servicemen can secure licences on application for the area they desire.
I have made further inquiries, and have found that, this answer is not altogether correct. Applications have been made, yet no licences for farms have been issued. As indicated in my question, the land has been given by fathers to sons; in some cases the land adjoins the father’s property, or is in the district where the ex-serviceman has lived all his life. One would think that the Government would have been grateful to be relieved of the cost of rehabilitating these young nien on the land. Instead, the donor has-been compelled to pay gift duty. The least the Government should do is to exempt such gifts from duty.
It is clear that for numbers of exservicemen the present rates of war pensions are too low, and that if hardship is to be relieved some acceptable formula will have to be devised to provide a more adequate payment. The present rate for a man totally, but temporarily, incapacitated is £2 10s. a week - an increase of 8s. a week on the amount decided upon in 1920. In that year the invalid and old-age pension was 15s. a week; it is now 32s. 6d. a week, an increase of 17s. 6d. a week. It is true that a war pension for totally incapacitated soldiers is static, whereas the invalid and old-age pension fluctuates with living costs, but is hardly likely, when economic conditions become stable, to fall below, say, 28s. a week. On that assumption, the invalid and old-age pensioner would: be better off than the war pensioner. Those who wish to find an excuse for retaining the present war pension rate usually turn the spotlight on the war pensioner in comfortable circumstances, leaving the struggling “digger.” in the shade. There is need for another overhaul by a special committee of repatriation benefits ‘ and administration.. No government department is faced with such difficult and complex problems as is the Repatriation Department. I - believe that its officials would welcome another committee. It could inquire into many questions besides war pepsions, such as war widows’ pensions. t -j abolition of the means test for pensions to dependent parents of deceased servicemen, and other matters which are left too much to the discretion of the commission and appeal tribunals.
I now come to a matter which is disturbing the minds of ex-servicemen from one end of Australia to the other.. They ask : “ Is preference a dead letter ? “ Why was it not plainly stated in the hooklet Return to Civil Life, by the Minister for Post-war Reconstruction (Mr. Dedman) that government departments are exempt from any of the penalties laid down in the Re-establishment and Employment Act 1945? If that be not the view of the Government, why did it brief a lawyer to defend two officials of the Munitions Department against an exserviceman whom it had dismissed in contravention of section 18 of that act? Whan the Re-establishment and Employment Bill was before this chamber it was referred to as the serviceman’s “ charter “, designed to give legislative expression to Australia’s sense of obligation to its fighting forces and to their auxiliaries, for the part they played in the war. The charter was intended to give to them a fair reward for having, beyond any comparison, done their country the greatest of all service for its survival. Opposition senators, during the debate, moved certain amendments for the improvement of the bill, so as -to remove any possible doubt that the Government desired to distinguish between those who had been engaged on the perilous tasks of war and those who on the home front lived in comfort, luxury and safety. However, the Government had the numbers, and as its followers obeyed their instructions from outside pressure groups, the amendments were lost. If the Government is really sincere, it should bring down an amending bill this session to block all loopholes in the act, so that no court could give a judgment prejudicial to the ex-serviceman. It is the Government’s bound en duty to set an example- to private employers, and honour the promises made to those who risked their lives during six years of war.
In this Supply Bill, authority is sought for expenditure by the various departments, including the Department of Works and Housing. Though not specially mentioned, no doubt the pre- liminary cost of certain works is contemplated. Never before has it been found so necessary to watch expenditure, especially on major works. During the war period Ministers and heads of departments were prodigal in the expenditure of public money. This tendency to extravagant war spending in peace-time must be curbed. That can be done only if departmental expenditure is constantly and thoroughly checked by an independent body, unhampered by restrictions in the scope of its investigations, and responsible only to the Parliament itself. For that purpose the Cook Administration in 1913 established a Public Works Committee, composed of representatives of all parties in both Houses of the Parliament in order to supervise Commonwealth works commitments. The committee rendered good service in countering departmental extravagance and eliminating any possibility of graft. The committee has been criticized on the ground that it takes too long to complete its investigations, and incurs unnecessarily heavy travelling expenses. As chairman, vice-chairman or a member of the committee over a period of ten years, I say that there is no foundation for such criticism. It is true that in some instances the investigations have been prolonged, but that has not been the fault of the committee; it has been due to circumstances . over which it had no control. Experience shows that the committee . can handle references ‘ faster than they can be prepared by the departments. Moreover, the cost of investigations is infinitesimal compared with the amounts saved in ‘the pruning down of proposed expenditure. Some Ministers welcome the opportunity to entrust to the committee the task of probing a projected major work costing over £25,000. They wish to be convinced that the work is necessary, that the department has not over-estimated the cost; and that the requirements cannot be met at a lower cost. Reference of a proposed work to the committee enables a government to ascertain the views of non-government experts who can be asked to suggest anything for the improvement of the project as the result of their experience in civil life. A Minister cannot gather such evidence himself, but the committee can do so by calling any one, either in or out of the government service, to give evidence on oath. The Public Works Committee Act 1913-1920 made it obligatory for a Minister to refer to the committee for consideration and report any public work, the estimated cost of which exceeded £25,000. It was also possible for references to be made by the Executive Council during a recess. The act was amended in 1936, and it is now optional for a Minister to do so. Should he desire ‘ the committee to investigate a work estimated to cost over £25,000, he must obtain a resolution of the House of Representatives; usually that ‘ is a formal matter. Should the House be in recess, as it sometimes is for months, the projected work is held up until the next session. That procedure causes delay, and the result is that either the Minister is denied an early opportunity to. gather evidence on oath in order to satisfy himself that a major work is necessary and the expenditure justified, or he takes upon himself the responsibility of going ahea’d with a project involving the expenditure of thousands of pounds. I suggest that this is not fair to the Minister or to the taxpayer. I hope legislation will bo introduced at an early date to amend the Public Works Committee Act 1913-1936 to make it mandatory for all works projects involving an estimated cost of over £50,000 to be referred to the committee for investigation. That sum is mentioned as it is approximately equivalent to £25,000 in former years. If expenditure on public works is to be kept under control, an independent body of scrutineers is necessary. The time seems opportune for re-constituting the Public Accounts Committee, which rendered such good service in former years in policing governmental expenditure, other than major works. Had such a committee been in existence, a close scrutiny would have been exercised over the expenditure of the Department of Transport, whose expenditure rose rapidly from £15,000 in 1941-42, the. first year of its existence, to £153,000 in 1945-46, a peace year. I hope that these suggestions will receive careful consideration by the Government.
– I was particularly impressed to-day by the repeated use by the Leader of the Opposition (Senator McLeay) of the word “ action “. He. wanted “ action “ by the Government against the miners. I recall the occasion, during the term of office of a government formed by the parties now in opposition, when the then Prime Minister (Mr, Menzies) took what he regarded as suitable “ action “ against the coal-miners who had been on strike for ten weeks. The right -honorable gentleman went to the coal-fields, but that was the end of. his “ action “. On a later occasion the same right honorable gentleman is reported to have said that it would be better if. the industrial life of Australia were .disorganized for three months by a strike so long as a definite’ end to our industrial troubles was achieved. The “ action “ advocated by honorable sena- ~ tors opposite against the coal-miners, namely, the imposition of fines and other penalties for stoppages of work, would cause only1 bitterness and further unrest.
The Opposition criticizes this Government also for not taking action to solve the housing problem, but what action did governments of which they were supporters take in years gone by when ample supplies of building materials, including well-seasoned timber, and interior fittings and decorations were available ? . Few. houses were built in those’ days because’ allegedly . there was not sufficient money available for that work. How then -can honorable senators opposite criticize thisGovernment? Timber for home construction must be well seasoned. During the war, in the words of the late Prime Minister, Mr. John Curtin, timber was more urgently required hy o’ur fighting forces overseas than for the building of homes. That is the reason for the lag in the building industry to-day. There is a shortage of seasoned building timber even in Western Australia, which produces huge quantities of jarrah for homebuilding. Owing to war-time demands, it was inevitable that we should be without adequate supplies of well-seasoned timber when the war ended. ‘When I was first elected to the Senate there was a shortage of 365 houses in Canberra. To-day that figure has reached nearly 1,000. That has been unavoidable. I congratulate the Government on its efforts to make up the leeway in the building industry and to provide homes for the people of this country, particularly rural dwellers. The Leader of the Opposition failed to give this Government any credit at all for .what it had accomplished in that direction.
I fake this opportunity also to congratulate members of the Labour Government for their untiring efforts during the war years. When Labour assumed office, there was great leeway to be made up in providing for the adequate defence of this country. It was a good thing for Australia that when war broke out in the Pacific, Australia had John Curtin as its leader. British newspapers of those days’ printed eloquent tributes to the a’bility of our late Prime Minister. To-day we have another great man, Mr. Chiflley, leading us. and doing an excellent joh,
I draw the attention of honorable senator’s to the following paragraph that appeared in a recent issue of the Canberra Times: -
Australia .has clone a better job of controlling inflation than any country of the world declared the vice-president and general manager of Goodyear Tyre and Rubber Export Company (Mr. A. G. Cameron), who has visited Australia three times during periods of social and economic readjustment.
Mr. Cameron praises the Australian Government for the wisdom of their fiscal policy, which is administered by high tax rates and determination tq pay as they go rather than financing- their operations by foreign loans.
Whilst the present Opposition parties were in occupation of the treasury bench, J advocated on many occasions an improvement of postal facilities in Western Australia, including the provision of a new post office at Inglewood. Plans and specifications for the new office . were prepared, I think, when Senator Collett was Postmaster-General, but although this was regarded as a priority job, and the cost of the new building was not to exceed £2,000, the project was shelved. As the Inglewood post office serves Maylands, a large and growing district of Perth, a new building should be provided sr= early as possible.
– I shall hold the Postmaster-General (Senator Cameron) to that promise. Like the other States, Western Australia is suffering also from a lack of telephone equipment. The Deputy Director of. Posts and Telegraphs in Western Australia has ‘informed me that there are plenty of telephones available, but that the apparatus in the various cities is inadequate to carry additional lines. I understand that some equipment has to be imported.
– We have that.
– Then there is no occasion for further delay in making new telephones available.
Another- important matter to which .1 wish to refer is the holding up by certain individuals of various materials urgently required by the community. That, 1 believe, is being done either in the hope that there will he a substantial reduction of taxes, or with the intention of turning the public against the Labour Government.
– To what materials is the honorable senator referring?
– Soap particularly! lt is very difficult to get soap in Western Australia; yet the bulk stores are stacked with it. The same applies to biscuits.
The record of this Government stands high with the primary producers of Western Australia. I have talked to many farmers, and I have yet to meet one who does not congratulate the Government upon the work it has done for the man on the land.
– The honorable senator cannot have travelled very far.
– I have travelled probably more than most honorable senators opposite, some of whom. 1 know, are St. George’s Terrace or Collinsstreet farmers.
The people of Western Australia are encountering great difficulty in travelling to and from the eastern States by rail. *My usual practice, and that of some of my colleagues, is to make application for bookings from Perth to Canberra three weeks ahead; but when’ railway officials at Perth telephone to Melbourne for bookings on the Spirit of Progress .and., from
Albury to Canberra the reply is that we must apply at Spencer-street, Melbourne, For our bookings from that city to Canberra. On the last occasion. Senator Nash and I put our heads together and decided that that practice was not good enough. We were of the opinion that as we were travelling all the way from Perth to Canberra, we should be able to make our bookings right through. We sent an urgent telegram to Melbourne with instructions to forward a reply to me at Adelaide railway station. When we reached Adelaide, the reply was there, together with our bookings. All we had to do was pick up our tickets at Spencerstreet. The necessity to wait until reaching Melbourne to make bookings before proceeding north is an inconvenience suffered by all travellers from Western Australia. One transcontinental train carries 140 passengers and the other 160, yet only twelve seats on the Spirit of Progress and twelve sleeping berths from Albury north are provided for those passengers, 50 per cent, of whom travel to Sydney. In other words, for 300 travellers from Western Australia there are only 24 seats on the Spirit of Progress, and 24 sleeping berths from Albury. That is most unfair.
– That is the fault of the Minister for Transport.
– No, it is a State matter. A similar state of affairs exists on the return journey. Whilst I was making my booking for my journey to Canberra on the last occasion, a man came into the booking office in Perth and asked’ for tickets to Sydney for his wife and three daughters. When he was told that he would have to make further bookings in Melbourne and possibly might be delayed in that city for a day or two, he said “ Cancel the tickets. I shall go by aeroplane.” That indicates the urgent necessity for the provision of a standard-gauge line from Perth to Brisbane. Recently I had staying at my home in Western Australia two Army lads who had travelled from Sydney. Although they both left Sydney at the same time, one reached Perth a fortnight before the other. When one said, “ How did you get home before me? “, the other replied. “ Pay a couple of ‘ quid ‘ and you will get right home.” Everybody knows that that is done, and I do not care what publicity is given to my statements. I have nothing to fear, because I travel on official business :a.nd have to be given a booking. I have seen money handed over to train conductors at Albury station to get seats to Sydney. I could have made a complaint, but that is not my practice. If I cannot do a man a good turn, I leave him alone. We in Western Australia are most anxious to have the standardization programme carried out, and I congratulate the Minister for Transport (Mr. Ward) on the fight that he is putting up for this work. I understand that some agreement has been reached with all States concerned, with the exception of Western Australia and Queensland. It is interesting to note that £S2,000 is being expended in Western Australia, on a survey of the track from Fremantle to Kalgoorlie. Surveyors appointed by the Western Australian Government are engaged on that work. That is evidence of the need for this project. Regardless of the need for a standard railway gauge for the quick movement of troops and supplies in time of war, ii; is equally valuable in the transportation of our primary products. For instance, tomatoes which can be picked at Geraldton much earlier than in any other part of Australia could be despatched expeditiously to the large cities before supplies became available in the eastern States. I cannot understand why .any opposition to the standardization of railway gauges should exist in governmental circles in Western Australia. This work will provide employment for thousands of men in that State for a period of eight years. It will not be merely pick-and-shovel work, because the most modern machinery- will be used. Some idea of the magnitude of the project is given in a brochure issued by the Minister for Transport, from which T take the following: -
Hero arc some important aspects of the project -
The conversion, of gauges and new Tine construction recommended would take approximately eight years to complete, and the Northern Territory line an additional three years.
The plan involves the conversion of 8.466 miles nf existing railways and the construction of 1,597 miles of new railways, the building of approximately GOO locomotives and 10,000 items of rolling-stock. In addition, 400 locomotives and 26,000 items of rolling-stock would he converted.
Man power required by the railways to carry out the work, in addition to their existing staffs, is estimated at 103,000 man years, spread over the eleven-year period referred to. The maximum number directly employed in any one year would be 18,000 men, and it is estimated that a further 18,000 would be employed indirectly.
In this respect it might be said that something like 850,000 tons of steel would be required for rails and fastenings, steel sleepers, rolling-stock construction, &c… as well as 12.000,000 timber sleepers.
That is a very big contract. The cost will be borne jointly by the Commonwealth and the States. On a per capita basis Western Australia’s share of the cost will amount to only £7,000,000. That is another factor which should commend the scheme to the people of Western Australia. I realize that the scheme is not looked upon favorably in governmental quarters in Western Australia. However, I have made my opinion clear. In addition, the new railway will provide amodern service connecting Western Australia with the eastern States. I am certain that people who have not travelled by Tail from Perth to the eastern States do not realize the great inconvenience caused to travellers making that journey to-day.
. I was very interested in the remarks of Senator Tangney dealing with her visit to north-western Australia and her advocacy of a better deal for the aborigines. I was also interested in her lament that the people, by rejecting the Government’s proposals at the last referendum, declined to give to the Commonwealth power to take complete responsibility for the welfare of all aborigines in Australia. I point out, however, that the reason why the people rejected that proposal was that they were obliged to ‘give one answer to fourteen questions, all of which were granted. They had to swallow all of the proposals or reject the lot. However, it is arguable whether Commonwealth responsibility for the welfare of all aborigines would be a good thing for the aborigines, because I am aware of the excellent work which has been done under the control of the Protector of Aborigines in Queensland during the last twenty years. These natives are still in the stone age; and it is utter nonsense- to advocate, .as various associations’ and societies have done, that these people should have their own parliament and should govern themselves. We must recognize that the process of developing the aborigines to a stage when they will be .capable of living in a civilized manner will take centuries.
I propose to deal mainly with some other aborigines who also are, comparatively, in the stone age. I .refer to the native races of Papua and New Guinea. Exactly a. year ago to-night’ we passed the Papua-New Guinea Provisional Administration Bill. At that time we were still at- war with the Japanese. The war, of course, disturbed the peoples of all countries ; but I do not suppose it caused greater disturbance to any other peoples than to the natives of those territories for which we are responsible. I was intensely interested in that legislation. The intention of the measure was excellent, but I disagreed with many of its provisions. I do not pose as an expert on Papua and New Guinea. I have visited those territories only twice, and each of my visits was only brief. But for many years I had a host of friends in those territories, including one kinsman. Many of them perished during the war. I should like to deal with recent events in those territories. I receive quite a number of letters from men who have recently been allowed to return to Papua and New Guinea. I have in mind one man in particular who- remained in New Guinea all through the war. He is now living in New Britain. Recently, T listened to a very interesting debate in the “ Forum of the Air “ session dealing with the control of the native races of Papua and New Guinea. The speakers were Colonel John Kerr, who had administrative experience in the Pacific islands; a missionary named Bunson who had worked for 30 years in Fiji. Mr. Robson, the publisher and editor of the Pacific Islands Monthly, and Mr. Rentoul, a planter, who has lived in New Guinea for 30 years. The debate was most informative. When the Papua-New
Guinea Provisional Administration Bill was before us last year, I was of opinion, as I still am, that the .Minister for External Terrtories (Mr. Ward) “conceived the measure in the conviction that the natives of those territories had been oppressed, down-trodden and exploited by the Europeans living there, and that the natives suffered great hardship whilst their village life had been disrupted as the result of the Japanese invasion. I am quite sure that that is what was in the Minister’s mind. I propose to show that he was in error in holding that view. His policy as contained in that legislation, and which will, apparently, be forced upon the provisional administrator, Colonel V. K. Murray, is apparently to pamper the natives while ignoring the European residents. When the war broke out there were in Papua and the Mandated Territories of New -Guinea about 6,000 Europeans and 1,200 Chinese, and, on the best estimate that could be made having regard to the large unexplored areas, about 1,000,000 natives. With regard to the Europeans and Chinese we must remember that their villages and homes were broken up and their means of livelihood destroyed, because plantations will not remain productive unless they are cared for constantly. The Europeans, including officials, were scattered far and wide; and during -the war hundreds of them were killed. We have very vivid recollections of the shocking “ show “ in Rabaul, where the great bulk of the civil servants who had not been evacuated were lost. As we have learned since, about 300 of them perished on Montevideo Maru. Except that compensation is payable to these Europeans by the War Damages Commission, for which the Government cannot take any credit because the commission makes payments from an insurance fund, all these people are economically ruined. Hundreds of them fought with distinction, either in the New Guinea Volunteer Rifles, or in the Australian Imperial Force, Royal Australian Air Force, and Other services. They suffered far greater losses, both personal and economic, than did the natives, ye/, it is a notorious fact that, ever since M>. Ward became Minister for External
Terri tories, the Europeans have been ignored, rebuffed, and I should say humiliated in many ways. At the same time the department has gone to extraordinary lengths to assist the natives. I have no quarrel with that at all, because the administration of the native peoples is a trusteeship and that is what we are bound to do if we believe in a fair deal and in a Christian way of life. But there is no reason why, because we are trying to assist the natives, we should fail to give Europeans a fair deal. I believe that, during the last three years the Minister for External Territories has been so intoxicated with his plans for shifting natives from the stone age to the machine age within five or ten years that he has become almost incapable of thinking about the rehabilitation of the European settlers and their industries. I suggest that the return and rehabilitation of European settlers has been unduly delayed because the Minister has surrounded himself with “ Yes men “ and allowed himself to be guided by well-meaning sociological planners, and missionary theorists. Missionaries have some “lovely” theory that, within about five “minutes, they can change a raw head-hunting savage into a thoughtful decent, well-behaved person. That cannot be done. Various kinds of other cranks have also had their say about what we should do with New Guinea and how we should control it. I know something about native races, because I lived amongst them in Africa, administering the Matabele and Mash onas. I do not pose .as an expert, but I do know something about them, and practical experience of natives is much more valuable than information gained from books. Had the task of restoring Papua and New Guinea more or less to pre-war conditions been handed over to experienced men who had lived in the territories, I believe that supplies of copra and rubber which we badly need would be available to-day. If copra production does not satisfy expectations, the Government might be well advised to review the new controls imposed cn the employment of native labour. Native workers are needed in tens of thousands at the present time to work the copra and rubber plantations. The Administrator of New Guinea. Colonel
New ordinances give them (the native labourers) wages of las. a month. Formerly they received 5s.
That gives- the reading public an entirely erroneous impression of the old labour system in Papua and New Guinea. A check of-700 pre-war contracts of service at Lae showed that the average native wage was 10s. 9”d: a month. The wage was never down to 5s. a month. In any case, money does not mean anything to the natives, as anybody with experience of the territories knows. I am amazed by a
Statement, which has been given great publicity, ‘that ‘the Port Moresby natives have been informed that their villages will be rebuilt with European materials oh modern lines at ah estimated cost of about £ 16S,000.
– With all “mod. cons.” !
– Of coursewith electric light and everything else! I have never heard such stupid, silly nonsense as that in all my born days. Anybody who lives in that territory knows that a native-built house, of native materials, with a beautifully thatched roof is ideal for the climate. Such houses are cool in the hottest weather, . and are much better than the bungalows erected for Europeans. These stone-age natives would not live in model houses. They would stay in their own huts and let their pigs and fowls live in the wonderful new buildings with electric light and all the other, conveniences. I had an experience of that sort of thing in Zululand King Dinizulu was brought back from exile at St. Helena, and the Natal Government built him n brick house with about a dozen rooms. Bishop Colenso’s wife and two daughters had even gone to St. Helena to convert Dinizulu to Christianity and teach him to play the piano, so the Government also installed a grand piano in the building. When !I visited Dinizulu with a couple of troopers, he was delighted to sec us. But he was not living in the house. He had erected about a dozen huts in the coinpound at the rear for himself and his many wives. The beautiful brick house was occupied by pigs and goats, find fowls were roosting on tho piano. In cidentally, Dinizulu was paid £800 a. year by the’ British Government and he spent most of it on white man’s bread, golden syrup and “ square face “. He scorned his house just as he scorned hi3 top hat and - frock coat when he was taken to London. If we are to be so stupid as to waste the taxpayers’ money on building a modern town for the Port Moresby natives, all I can say is, “We ought to have our heads read “. I believe that the Minister has been ill-advised by impractical people, visionaries, and selfopinionated bureaucrats and they are letting him down very badly-. Whatever real progress has been made in Papua and New Guinea is duo in a very large measure to the foresight and energy of well financed companies. That seems to be forgotten in these days when demagogues rant and spout their endless cranky, theories. I do not want to see these stupid theories attempted to be put into, practice, because they will do incalculable harm. A production control board is to be established, and I believe that it is to be the agency for repatriation, rehabilitation, and the disposal of surplus stores. This must mean that the board is to become the Government’s chief instrument for developing and’ settling the . territories. It will have a tremendous task to perform. The possibilities fA.. the development of the planting and mining industries in New Guinea and Papua are tremendous. The surfaces of the territories has scarcely been scratched as yet and we do not know what may happen in the future. Perhaps oil will be discovered, which would be a very good thing for Australia. Apparently the production control board will have to exercise complete power over the supply of labour and transport and finance. If not, it will be necessary to hand over the tasks of marketing and providing finance and transport to private enterprise, in the form of the big firms which operate”! there prior to the war. The production control board must either go on and grow bigger and bigger, or else go out of existence. Under the administration of the present Minister for External Territories I believe that it will remain in existence. There has been much talk of encouraging planting and trading by group? of natives. That was one of” the features of a statement made by the
Minister last year. There would have to be some agency to handle the business for the natives because, in their present state of development, they would be incapable of doing so for themselves. I assume, therefore, that the production control board would market their products and handle the whole problem. There would have to be some connexion with the “ outside “, as the natives call any place outside their own villages, through which they could sell and buy. This connexion will have to be provided by the board or by the big firms. I received a letter dated the 20th May, from a man who knows the country well and who served in the early days of thePacific war against the Japanese with groups of Europeans who made their way across country and eventually formed a portion of the New Guinea Volunteer Rifle Brigade. Later this man was of great value as a member of the Allied Intelligence Bureau. He worked with small parties of natives in New Britain. Equipped with portable wireless sets, these parties took the greatest of risks in spying on the Japanese and keeping General MacArthur informed of events there. My correspondent, who is now only about 35 years of age, is much concerned as to the effect that , the contact with Europeans during the war has bad on the natives generally, particularly those who saw the white man in the hands of the Japanese for two or three years in New Britain, in parts of the Solomons and in New Guinea. The repercussion on the natives has been tremendous, and the prestige of the white man has suffered, notwithstanding the fact that evenutally the white man conquered the Japanese. He is concerned about what is happening among the Papuans and the New Guinea natives who were formed into battalions which made up the Pacific islands regiments. The following are extracts from a letter dated the 20th May, which I have received from the resident of the territory to whomI have referred : -
The fact is there have been some nasty mutinies among the New Guinea Infantry Battalions (Native) of the Pacific Islands Regiment.I predicted this when I was in New Britain, as the Army, with its usual lack of imagination, kept posting young Duntrooners. and O.C.T.U. graduates (totally lacking experience of natives) to these battalions.
The units were hurriedly formed, many of the natives being more or less railroaded into the Army. On top of this, they were not soundly grounded in war history as follows: -
Japanese treachery and overwhelming strength in the initial stages.
The necessity for the Europeans to evacuate, go south and make weapons of war.
The heavy Australian Imperial Force losses in the New Guinea campaigns, particularly Buna. (We showed our coons photographs of the war cemeteries to destroy the myth that the “Aussies” always run away.)
The natives’ role of scouts was never fully explained.
The Armyattempted to use them in roles for which they were unsuited.
In close contact with poor types of Australians (particularly Militia units, untried with poor discipline), the boongs naturally had a contempt for the “white coolie”.
Often there was the spectacle of the Pacific Island Regiment training in close proximity to places where white Australians were doing heavy navvy work on roads and unloading ships; - another blow to our prestige.
I refer you to the Pacific Islands Monthly of the 16th April, pages 17 and 18. A similar sequence of events occurred at Tol in June, 1945, also at Nadzab and Lae, among the New Guinea Infantry Battalion unit and A.N.G.A.U. natives there. Only the good discipline and trustworthiness of our A.I.B. boys eventually shamed the others into settling down and conforming to the “rules”.
WhatI say now happened will happen repeatedly if the Pacific- Island Regiment is not disbanded and the local constabulary strengthened with the very best of natives. The New Guinea Infantry Battalions were spoilt from the outset, and therefore got an exaggerated idea of the part they played in the Pacific war. Actually theRoyal Papuan Constabulary and A.I.B. boys, though numerically smaller, accounted for ten times as many “Nips” as the New Guinea Infantry Battalions. But what stuck to us was the fact that the Europeans went everywhere with the “ boys” the role was a guerrilla one, to which the native was admirably suited, and betterstill, wehad full control and werenot hampered by redtape. Inenemy-occupied territory, desertion and betrayal of one’s comrades meant only one thing - death. Had this firm stand not been taken we would have been poor troops and our boongs would have held us in contempt, and the whole show would have developed into a brothel of a turnout. Weakness, shilly-shallying, uncertainty, fussy dis-, cipline and trivial punishments for serious offences means loss of support and loyalty from the good native.He wants to see the bad B– , the willing”Nip” collaborators summarily dealt with. .
I am getting a bit off my chest but you will soon realize that I am not talking through my hat. Events in the Mandate are working up for another Indonesia. We can expect plenty of trouble, and strong men willbe neededamong the coons.I hope that
.- I did not. think that I should ever hear in this chamber such a speech as that which Senator Sampson has just delivered. He has spoken contemptuously of a race of people who saved hundreds, perhaps thousands, of Australian lives in the war of 1939-1945. The honorable senator objects to the expenditure of £16S,000 to benefit those native people and repay them in some measure for the great service that they rendered to the Allied cause. The whole of his speech indicated that, in his opinion, the natives of New Guinea should be kept under conditions .applicable to the stone age, and not be allowed to benefit from ‘advances made in the realms of science and industry. The honorable senator knows that New Guinea is the northern door-step to Australia, and that had it not been for the assistance of its native people the J apanese hordes might have succeeded in gaining a footing on Australian soil. Indeed; but for the assistance of the New Guinea natives future historians would have bacl a different story to tell. In view of the part that, the people of New Guinea played in the war, and particularly of the Australian lives that they saved, such a speech as that to which, we have just listened is greatly to be deplored. When I refer to the saving of lives by the New Guinea natures I speak on the authority of men who served in New Guinea, among them my own son, and many of my nephews and cousins. Should the honorable senator repeat what he has said here to-night in any company of men who fought side by side with New
Guinea natives, they will tell him what they think of him.
I come now to the speech of the Leader of the Opposition (Senator McLeay). The honorable senator said that there was much industrial unrest in’ Australia, but I’ point out that that state of affairs is not peculiar to Australia. Fortunately f or us, the unrest here is not so great as in other countries,- particularly the United Kingdom and the United States of America. Nor is the unrest at the present time greater than in normal years. The Leader of the Opposition spoke of civil war. I do not know whether he bad in mind industrial troubles in Australia, or was referring to the unhappy conditions which exist insuch countries as Greece and Spain. Possibly, he had in mind the Communists, who he said should be banned. If it be proper to outlaw the Communist party because it is a’ political organization, why should not other political parties as, for instance, the Liberal party, also be banned? I regard the Communist party as a political organization, just as the Liberal party is an organization. Communists are no friends of mine, political or otherwise in it.
– We are not :>s bad as that.
– Some members of the Liberal party are as bad - as is any member of the Communist party. The only difference is that the two organizations use different methods in their attempts at sabotage. They have a different approach, but their aim is the same. Some Communists use underground methods in their work among industrialists whereas some Liberals seek to accomplish similar results by making mis-statements at meetings and publishing erroneous statements in the press. As I have said, both organizations have political objectives, which they seek to achieve by different methods. Some of the things printed and published by the Liberal party arc designed to inflame the minds of the people- Unfortunately, the persons responsible frequently get away with their nefarious work. Yet members of that party have the audacity to say that the Communist party should be banned as an illegal organization. The Leader of the Opposition should know that at a recent conference of the Liberal party held in New South Wales a motion to declare the Communist party an illegal organization was easily defeated. It was said at the conference that the banning of the organization would only drive its members underground. Some realists in the Liberal party took the view that if the Government had the power to declare the. Communist party illegal, it could exercise the same power to declare the Liberal party, the Australian Country party, or any other political organization to be an illegal body. It will be seen,therefore, that when honorable senators opposite advocate the banning of the Communist party as an illegal organization they a’re “ talking through their hats “.
The Leader of the Opposition then went on to describe the present Government as a weak-kneed administration. He advocated the placing of Communists in concentration camps. We know that when anti-Nazi elements in Germany were placed iri concentration camps, the movement was driven underground. Similar things happened in Spain, in which country many thousands still exist in political concentration camps. Would the honorable senator who advocates placing his party’s political enemies, in concentration camps like to be put in a concentration camp with Communists merely because of some statement that he might make? ‘ The Leader of the Opposition accused the Government of being weak-kneed, but let us see who really has been weak-kneed. In 1938-39, when it was clear to all thinking people that, war was inevitable, a previous government allocated only £S,493,000 for the defence of Australia.
– Who opposed the vote?
– Members now on the Government benches, who were then in Opposition, took except ion to the stupid methods proposed by the then government. . The Labour party, which was then in opposition, was not opposed to expenditure on defence; it objected only to the way in which it was proposed to expend the money. The then Leader of the Opposition, the late Mr. Curtin, in his policy speech outlined Labour’s proposals for the defence of Australia. In the course of his speech on that occasion he issued a warning that war was inevitable, and that therefore preparations for war should be made. Yet, with war almost upon us, only £8,493,000 was allocated for the defence of this continent. The Labour party was never prepared to capitulate as was a previous non-Labour government. It will be remembered that the then government was prepared to retire to the Brisbane-Adelaide line because it knew that Australia’s defences were deplorably weak. It was prepared to allow the enemy to occupy a large portion of Australia.
Let us now see what the parties now in opposition did for primary production when in office. In 1938-39the primary producers of Australia, particularly dairy-farmers and wheat-growers, were in a precarious position. Many of them were on the verge of ruin, others left their holdings. To meet that desperate situation £215,000 was allocated to save them from ruin ! That was the measure of assistance which a nonLabour government was prepared to offer to primary producers. Yet those who supported that government and hold similar political views now say that the present Government is not treating primary producers fairly. They advocate the payment of subsidies to primary producers, overlooking the fact that £50,000,000 a year is already beingpaid to subsidize primary producers. In the light of these facts it is proper to ask whether the parties in opposition, rather than the parties in office, are not weakkneed. But the present Government was not prepared to stop there. Knowing the position of the primary producers, it decided to control production and to offer a guaranteed price for certain primary commodities. I compliment the Government on its decision not to dispense with control or a guaranteed price in respect of potatoes, but to continue both control and. a guaranteed price for next season’s crop. It is regrettable that the Government cannot also see its way to continuethe apple and near acquisition scheme, because unless ships to take the fruit away can be provided the result will be disastrous to many orchardists, par ticularly those in Tasmania and Western Australia. If ships were available, Tasmania could compete with mainland producers in the fruit and vegetable markets of Australia, but the sales that would be effected in those markets would not absorb the whole of the Tasmanian apple crop. The position therefore is that unless ships are provided to take Tasmania’s surplus fruit to markets overseas, orchardists there will be in a bad way indeed. Tasmanian growers have the support of the Australian Country party for a continuance of the controls, but the Liberal party, which accuses the Government of being weakkneed, is opposed to the granting of assistance to fruit-growers. Itis also opposed to any alteration of the Constitution which will enable help to be givento fruit-growers. Unless the Constitution be altered as desired by the Government, the position of many primary producers will be disastrous. The full weight of the burden might not be felt so soon after the war, but in, say, four or six years’ time, when the law of supply and demand is again in operation, exploiters will take charge of primary products in markets controlled by private capital, to the disadvantage of the producers. Under a system of controlled marketing excess profit-making would be eliminated, because all money over and above that necessary to finance the administrative authority, would go to the primary producers.
– What would happen to excess products?
– That is an entirely different matter. Everybody knows that seasonal conditions cannot be controlled. Should a lean season occur and production be below requirements, ins tead of the consumers’ being exploited by having to pay trebled prices for goods, a fixed price would rule. The consumer would purchase commodities at a reasonable figure, and’ the producer would receive a reasonable return for his product. In the event of an exceptionally favorable season resulting in surplus production facilities should be available to manufacture commodities into finished products, to be stored and exported. If that could not bedone, the Government would l.i a to do the next best thing, and carry part of the loss. My opinion is that we should retain the processing factories in existence to-day, including ‘ Canning factories and dehydration plants. These undertakings should not be given away as certain anti-Labour administrations in past years gave away our Common.wealthowned ships and woollen mills. Retention by the Government of food processing plants would enable the conversion of surplus primary products into manufactured foodstuffs, for export to countries that urgently require them.
– The Government is giving away the flax mills now.
– If the honorable senator were to cast his mind back to the circumstances surrounding the establishment of the flax industry in this country, and recall all the bungling, muddling, and racketeering that occurred when the original agreement with Flax Fibres Limited was made, he would nol ask that question. I .am sure he does not want live to draw attention in this chamber to th’e state of affairs unearthed by the Rural Industries Committee when ii investigated the legislation passed by the previous administration for the establishment of the flax industry. Had that industry been placed Upon a sound basis originally, probably there would be a different story to tell to-day. The honorable senator is well aware that in the early years of the war flax was urgently required by Great Britain, but that as th( war proceeded, other products became more urgent and more payable to the producer. Naturally primary producers turned to the crops that returned the greatest remuneration.
Bound up with the question of finding foreign markets for our produce, is the equally important question of increasing our home markets. I suggest to Senator Herbert Hays, who seems so anxious n bout the fate of surplus primary products in this country, that by inaugurating a scheme of migration to Australia as this Government intends, the home market for our goods can be expanded, considerably. One of the most statesmanlike utterances 1 have ever heard was made at the recent Dominions Con.ference in Great Britain. by the British Prime Minister, Mr. Attlee, who said that in view of the vulnerability of the British Isles, and their liability to overnight attack by devastating modern scientific weapons’ of war, the time bad arrived when consideration should be given to the removal to the dominions of many of the heavy industries now located in the United Kingdom. Naturally, the transfer of huge industrial undertakings would also involve a mass migration of population. Mr. Attlee has sufficient intelligence to realize that if Great Britain is to survive it must have a second line of defence in the dominions.
That the United States of America has great ambition to control the fiscal policy of other nations is evidenced by that country’s insistence upon the adoption of the Bretton Woods agreement. When the proposed American loan to Great Britain was debated by the Senate of the United States of America, all the tags attached to the proposal were brought to light. One was that Great Britain had to agree to the Bretton Woods plan. Another was that the United States of America had to be given bases in whatever part of the Pacific it considered necessary to have them. My greatest objection of course, is to the adoption of the Bretton Woods agreement, which would mean that American financial interests would have in the palm of their hands, the fiscal policy of Great Britain, the British Dominions, and most other countries. I hope that the Commonwealth. Government will never permit itself to be trapped in that way. I trust that if ever that agreement is brought before this chamber for ratification, its rejection will be more rapid than its introduction. For the present, it has been shelved and I hope it remains shelved. I give to the United States of America due credit for the assistance that that nation gave to us, and to Great Britain during the war; but people should not run away with the idea that America bore the brunt of war finance.
– America paid its share.
– Yes, but it is interesting to note that the British Dominions gave to Great Britain, in cash or kind, much more assistance than was given by ihe United States of America. According to figures given by Lord
Beaverbrook, whereas America’s assistance to Great Britain amounted to £2,729,000,000, the contribution by the British Dominions was £3,845,000,000. I repeat that the adoption of the Bretton Woods agreement would mean American domination of the overseas trade policy not only of Great Britain and of the Dominions, but also other countries.
Coming nearer home, I wish to draw attention to a state of affairs which is not consistent with the progressive age in which we live. “ At present usually two days are required for the carriage of mails between centres of ‘200, 300 or 500 miles apart. More use should be made of aerial services. A journey which occupies 24 hours by train, takes only about 2 hours by air, and a journey of 36 hours by train can be accomplished by air in 3 hours or less. The time has arrived for the Government to give serious consideration to the transportation of all our firstclass mail matter by air. I am sure that if a careful examination.be made of this proposal, it will be found that the cost will not, exceed id. a letter. As the letter postage rate was increased during the war by an emergency tax of £d., I am sure that the people of Australia would be more satisfied if the letter charge were not reduced, but instead mail services were speeded up in the manner I have suggested. I understand that the Department of Civil Aviation has received many applications for permission to operate short aerial routes as feeder services to the main lines. As I have said, the transport of passengers over long distances by rail is becoming a thing of the past. We must keep pace with other parts of the world -in that regard. Trains cannot compete with aeroplanes travelling across the vast spaces of this country. Anybody who does not realize that is living in the stone age as “are .the natives to whom Senator Sampson referred. The feeder aerial services which I have mentioned could carry, not only passengers, but also mails. I trust that the’ PostmasterGeneral (Senator Cameron) will note my remarks, and endeavour to keep Australia abreast of the times by taking advantage of the rush of applicants for aerial service licences. The inauguration of feeder routes would aid the development of remote parts of this Commonwealth, and render a great service to the people of Australia. Finance does not come into the picture. Those air lines will pay their own way if they be allowed to develop. I am opposed to financing developmental projects by the raising of loans. Such work should be financed through the Commonwealth Bank. Reproductive works create assets ; for every £1 of expenditure an asset in excess of that value is created. Thus ample security for this expenditure is brought into existence. Therefore, if the Government is obliged to raise finance it should arrange for. the Commonwealth Bank to take up the whole of any loan that it may require; and the interest paid in respect of . such loans will help to strengthen the Commonwealth Bank, which is the people’s bank. For these reasons, I hope that the Government will not go on the open market for any money which it may need to finance developmental works in the future, whether the works be undertaken by the States or the Commonwealth. It has been said that the existence of the Loan Council will prevent the Government from financing developmental works in this way. ‘ I believe that any such difficulty can be overcome. . The Loan Council consists of the- Commonwealth Treasurer and- the State premiers; but the Commonwealth is responsible for floating-. all loans on behalf of the council. I can see no reason why any loan which may be required to finance developmental works in the future cannot be underwritten by the Commonwealth Bank, and the bank, if. it desires, can supply the full amount of the loan. I am not saying that social services should be financed in this way. I advocate this method only in relation to the financing of ‘ reproductive works which create national assets and are essential to enable us to develop the country’s resources. By following this method we shall avoid increasing the huge burden of interest which we now have te bear, and which following generations will be obliged to pay. It is useless to say that the method I advocate cannot be followed when we realize that credit to the amount of £350,000,000 has been issued for war purposes. To-day, we have no assets to show for that expenditure, apart from the fact that it helped to save this country from invasion. If .we can issue credits in order to finance a war, that is, for the. purpose of destruction, surely, we can issue credit against the nation’s assets for. the financing of reproductive works which will create assets and . help to develop this nation which is only .in its infancy.
– I propose to address myself to a matter upon which I asked questions yesterday and to-day. I refer- to the apple and pear acquisition scheme which is of vital concern to Tasmania. I arn. disappointed with the replies furnished to my questions by the Minister for Trade and Customs (Senator J. M. Fraser) on behalf of. the Minister for Commerce and Agriculture (Mr. Scully). T asked whether the Government had decided to discontinue the apple and pear acquisition scheme, and. if so, what arrangements, if any, was it making to obtain adequate shipping for the export of the Tasmanian apple and pear crop. It is estimated that- this season’s crop in that State will be from 6,000,000 to 8,000,000 bushels. I do not suppose that it will be possible to export more than 1,000,000 cases, whilst it is problematical what proportion of the crop - a very small proportion, if any - will be marketable on “the mainland. Whilst I do not accuse the Minister of being evasive, his reply was entirely unsatisfactory. He said that that; question involved a. matter of Government policy and that it was not customary to deal with such matters in answer to questions. The Minister will not overcome the problem in that way. I remind him that during the forthcoming general elections the Government will have to declare frankly what it proposes to do in this matter. I believe that it was fair and reasonable to ask whether the Government, through the Shipping Board, was taking steps to ensure the provision of adequate shipping for the export of the Tasmanian apple and pear crop. The Minister replied that if I and my colleagues persuaded the people to agree to the Government’s proposal for the alteration of the Constitution in respect of the marketing of primary products it would, be enabled to ensure that the apple and pear crop would, be marketed. Apparently, the Minister thinks that 1 and- my colleagues are simple-minded. The carrying of the Government’s marketing proposal .at the forthcoming referendum has no relation whatever to the matter I raised. The Minister knows very well that the Government exercises all the control necessary for the marketing of the wheat and potato crops in respect of which it guarantees prices to the growers. Surely, he does not believe that Tasmanian orchardists are so innocent as to be satisfied with his reply. The apple and pear crop, under existing orderly marketing arrangements, has been successfully marketed for many years. Tasmania has built up a very big trade connexion for apples and pears, which compares more than favorably with results achieved in the marketing of other products. It would have been proper for the Minister to say that the Government - if this he so - intended to discontinue the . acquisition scheme and had every reason to believe that adequate shipping would be available for ‘ the export of the season’s crop. The Minister will never persuade the people of Tasmania that the carrying of the Government’s marketing proposal at the forthcoming referendum has any relation to this matter. I sincerely hope that before the session concludes the Government will reconsider its decision to discontinue the scheme. The marketing of apples and pears means a big thing to the primary producers of Australia, particularly in Western Australia and Tasmania, the two .States which are working under the scheme. The scheme provides them with their only opportunity to export their crop. The whole problem rests upon the provision of adequate shipping. I notice that shipping, which is controlled by the Shipping Board, is diverted for the transport of potatoes to States where a shortage of potatoes occurs. However, the same policy is not- followed in respect of the lifting of fruit from Tasmania, and, consequently, the fruit has to be dumped. Every honorable senator realizes that the marketing of the Tasmani’an fruit crop contributes substantially to the building up of our credits overseas. I repeat that the Government’s proposal for the amendment of the Constitution with a view to obtaining greater power in respect of organized marketing of primary produce has nothing to do with this matter. The Constitution alteration proposals are still in the air; and the Minister cannot point with certainty to any advantage that will accrue to primary producers even if the proposal be agreed to by the people. I know, of course, that the Government would like the people to believe that the adoption of ‘ its proposals would change the whole basis of marketing our primary products.
Senator Aylett talked about production. Primary production is controlled to-day, and has been controlled for some time. The honorable gentleman cited figures for the year 1938 and compared them with figures for the present year. No such comparison would be fair. In 1938, production was not so urgently required as it is to-day. When overseas forces were brought to Australia during the war, a drive was made for increased production. As the result, the potato crop in Tasmania increased from slightly over 30,000 acres to 90,000 acres following the introduction of a guaranteed price. A similar increase of production occurred in other vegetable crops. Most of this output’ was needed fo.r the fighting services. It was necessary to produce in excess of requirements so as to establish a margin of safety against dry seasons.
I refer now to an important matter which has been the subject of considerable discussion in this chamber recently, namely, the unsatisfactory position of. the coal-mining industry. Adequate coal production is vital to the welfare of Australian secondary industries, and we must develop these industries to make, the nation prosperous, ‘ to reduce the cost of living, to prevent black marketing, and r,o dispense with the restrictive regulations and rationing schemes which are a source of great annoyance to “the people. Increased production in secondary industries is governed principally by the availability of fuel to provide .power. I believe that the Minister for Supply and Shipping (Senator Ashley) has done all
Senator Herbert Hays that he can to relieve the coal shortage and bring about peace in the industry. However, I was disappointed, as many other honorable senators must have been, at the Minister’s summing-up of the situation in yesterday’s debate on the coalmining industry. As the Minister pointed out, the demands of our secondary industries for coal supplies have continually increased over the years. The Minister also made the candid admission that the men engaged in coal production are weary of the industry. The older miners find it an unattractive and hazardous occupation, and therefore they persuade their sons not to engage in it. Other young men, because they know what the miners have suffered, are looking elsewhere for employment. It must be clear to every honorable senator that we can no longer regard the coal-mining industry as anything but a diminishing source of power for secondary industries. In the interests of the future prosperity of the Commonwealth, we must seek some other methods of generating .power. Some years ago, Australia carried on an enormous volume of trade with South America, and even exported large quantities of coal to that continent. However, coal supplies became unreliable as the result of strikes and other interruptions, and the trade gradually decreased, until to-day I venture to say that it has practically disappeared. It is well known that not long ago South Australia had to import coal from Great Britain. The encouragement of secondary industries is not a matter of party politics. It is a subject of great importance to all of us, and the duty devolves upon us to find some reliable means of providing adequate power supplies for the establishment of new industries. This matter is of grave concern to State governments, but it should not be regarded as a matter for them alone. It is really a matter of great national moment, involving this Parliament. Failing reliable supplies of coal, we must look to the use of oil or waterpower to provide us - with electricity. In this connexion, I refer to a scheme which ought to commend itself to every publicspirited man, namely, the use of the Snowy River waters to generate power. The scheme was outlined yesterday in the
Melbourne Herald. The plan has been under consideration for years, and the time has arrived when the Commonwealth Government should take an active interest in it.’ It is useless to argue about the wrongs suffered by the coal-miners and the tactics of the mine-owners. We must face the fact that men no longer want to work in coal mines if they can engage in other occupations. Every State, with the exception of Tasmania, is
At present dependent on New South Wales for coal supplies. Therefore, in view of the deteriorating situation, the Commonwealth must investigate other means of generating, power. In Victoria, there are abundant supplies of brown coal, which can be obtained from open-cuts. I believe that South Australia has similar deposits, and that Western Australia also has some resources. Tasmania has a superabundance of power resources, both developed and undeveloped. The Commonwealth Government should assist Tasmania to develop its potentialities in this respect. By doing so, it would benefit the nation as a whole. The possibilities of producing power cheaply are greater in Tasmania than in all of the other States combined. Furthermore, the development of hydro-electric plants in Tasmania’ would be in accordance with the generally favoured policy of the decentralization of industries. Perhaps, if the Commonwealth Government acts promptly and effectively, we may soon have great iron works and other establishments using cheap electricity, generated by oil or water power in all parts of the Commonwealth, and particularly in Tasmania. Honorable senators on the Government side of the chamber frequently refer to what, was done by theOpposition parties when they held office. There has been no unwillingness on the part of the Opposition during the last five year’s to give the fullest co-operation to the Government in any scheme to improve the conditions of men engaged in the hazardous calling of coal-mining and to increase supplies of coal to the nation’s major secondary industries. It is a reflection on this Parliament that this young country should have secondary industries at the point of extinction owing to the lack of ‘ a little common sense and goodwill. Honorable senators -opposite claim that the Opposition is antagonistic to the workers and is anxious to exploit them. That is contrary to fact. I say without hesitation that, if honorable’ members on both sides of the Senate attacked these important problems in a spirit of goodwill, losing sight of petty political differences, most of our difficulties could be overcome. It might be possible to reach a satisfactory arrangement with regard to coal production if the Prime Minister (Mr. Chifley), the Leader of the Opposition 11 the House of Representatives (Mr. Menzies) and the Leader of the Australian Country party (Mr. Fadden), together with the Leader of the Senate (Senator Ashley) and the Leader of the Opposition in this chamber (Senator McLeay) met in conference with representatives of the mine-owners and the miners. If that were done perhaps a. better understanding would be gained of the difficulties in which industries generally are placed because of the shortage of coal supplies. This would prevent the breeding of ill will and almost hatred at a time when the people of this country should be united. I am not a carping critic. Yesterday the Opposition drew attention to the serious position of industries in Australia because of the coal position. Its sole- desire is to assist the Government to improve the situation. Ministers and their supporters appear to be unable to believe that the Opposition is willing to assist in the solution of the problem. The Minister for Supply and Shipping (Senator Ashley) has stated that the difficulty could be overcome under State* laws’, but that is a false hope. Our industries are languishing because of the lack of coal, and manufacturers cannot take orders when they do not know from day to day whether they will have sufficient supplies to enable them to carry on their undertakings. This problem will never be solved by political recriminations about recent occurrences, or what happened 20. 30 or 50 years ago. Power will have to be provided for the development of our industries, and we shall be deceived if we imagine that we can depend entirely on coal. In countries such as the United
States .of America, Russia, Norway and Sweden, oil and hydro-electric power are used extensively. If all parties work in close co-operation and with goodwill, the problems mentioned can be solved.
– I have listened attentively to the remarks of honorable senators opposite, particularly the Leader of the Opposition (Senator McLeay), and I am forced to the conclusion that his remarks are based on undiluted fictitious reasoning and supposition. As Senator Sheehan remarked, he spoke with his ear to the ground with regard to the forthcoming general elections. I do not desire tu indulge in recriminations, . but nobody anticipated that the war would end as soon as it did. The whole of the United Nations were compelled to take immediate action to implement machinery for a change-over from a war-time to a peacetime economy. Our own .personal reaction to ‘ the cessation of hostilities and everything that that meant to the peoples of the United Nations’ can never be erased from our memories. We shall ‘never forget when we first heard the news that the war was likely to end. How patiently and expectantly had we waited, hour after, hour, day after day, until peace? was finally and officially announced. We shall never forget V-P Day, and the huge and enthusiastic crowds that assembled throughout the Commonwealth, in every town and village, for the specific purpose of celebrating victory in the Pacific. We know now from actual experience, regarding that period in retrospect, that beneath the wave of righteous joy and exultation lay a deep and abiding sense of thankfulness, relief, sorrow and wonder. Thankfulness and relief because the war had ended sorrow for those whose loved’ ones had paid the supreme sacrifice, and wonder as to what the advent of the atomic bomb has in store for civilization. Even in the midst of our celebrations we could hardly realize that hostilities had really ceased after nearly six years of war, and . that wc were then faced with a position falling for immediate action to implement the post-war plans and those principles in which we believe and which we told the members of the fighting services they were really defending. I refer to principles such as those embraced in the Atlantic Charter, namely, freedom from fear, freedom from want and economic security to the peoples of all nations-
The war having been brought to a successful conclusion, the - task of winning the peace remains. If we lose the peace everything we prize to-day will ultimately go by the board and the whole of the sacrifices made during the war will more or less have been made in vain, lt is essential for the United Nations towin the peace if civilization is to survive,, and the peace can be won only by concerted action. As one small nation Australia can accomplish little, but if all of the United Nations are prepared to pull’ their full weight “the outcome will be a foregone conclusion. It will be only a matter of time before our efforts will be rewarded and a lasting peace .fullyrealized. We must never forget the word? of the late President of the United Statesof America, Mr. Roosevelt, who, a. month before the attack on Pearl Harbour,, said that in working and fighting: for victory wc must never forget the goal that lies beyond victory,, and must. ‘ plan 110”’ for the newworld we aim to build. A month after Pearl Harbour was bombed he also said that, from the practical standpoint of putting first things first, at a time when there were not enough hours in the day and when every minute counts, a people’s war and a people’s peace were a part of the same job, and one in which we must not fail. The late President Roosevelt and the late Prime Minister of Australia, Mr. Curtin, were truly war casualties and their name? will be always remembered and revered. They will go down in history when the full story of the recent world war is finally and officially recorded.
We must never forget 1941, when the Japanese first struck treacherously in the Pacific, and were advancing southwards at a rate almost bewildering. At that time we called on the United States of America for assistance- That help was not only forthcoming,, but it came in time, and as the result of a direct appeal by the late Mr. Curtin, who undoubtedly saved this country. Every honorable senator can readily visualize what would have happened to Australia had that appeal not been made, and had assistance from the United States of America not arrived in time. Australia was then being defended from an outer .screen through New Guinea, the Southern Solomons, New Caledonia and Fiji. It was realized that if the eastern part of that screen could be held the eastern portion of Australia could be defended from the Owen Stanley range in New Guinea. That was the strategy successfully adopted to keep the eastern part inviolate against the ravages of war. We were to keep the enemy at arm’s length and not permit him to gain a foothold in Australia. As to the northern and western parts of Australia; it was realized that sooner or later battles would have to be fought in Timor and the adjacent islands, because they are situated in the South- West Pacific area and were absolutely essential for our defence. Because of its very nature this area became a series of military islands and the movement of troops, supplies and equipment to and from each island created grievous transport’ problems. Mobility because a matter of extreme difficulty. The Government, led by the late Mr. Curtin, faced the position as realists in the light pf the then existing circumstances. Because of that, we were able, by a narrow margin, to avoid invasion by one of the most ruthless of the Axis partners.’ Only a Labour government could have done the job that was required to gear the nation for total war. Realizing that our very existence was in the balance, the people of Australia stood four-square, behind’ the Government. Every means of waging war more effectively was investigated and utilized to the fullest possible degree. The Vice-Presi-dent of the Executive Council (Senator Collings) has already told U3 the story’ of the Allied Works Council - how it was constituted and how, with no precedent to guide it, marvellous things were accomplished. Men from Adelaide, Melbourne and Sydney and other capital cities who previously were accustomed only- to use pens were issued with picks and shovels and sent to Darwin and other parts ofthe Northern Territory, or wherever their services were required. Within a few months they built aerodromes^ storehouses, munitions factories, and annexes for the manufacture of aircraft in different parts of Australia. The Allied Works Council also built roads, docks and airstrips capable of handling the heaviest aircraft. All these things were done, notwithstanding that the great majority of the men of the Allied Works Council had previously been rejected for service with the fighting forces because of various physical disabilities. However, they carried on and did the job. The greatest credit is due to the Minister and his administration, for assisting to lay the foundation for the defence of this country in Australia’s darkest hour. However, the Allied Works Council was only one part of our war activities; there were dozens of others, and each of them played its part well.
Another phase of our war effort that earned the praise of every, one who came in contact with it was the part played by women in all spheres of our national economy. Wherever there was a difficult job to do women played their part magnificently. They were never found lacking in enthusiasm when something had to be done. Other women and girls rendered magnificent service as members of the Women’s Land Army. They did much to assist Australia’s primary production.
– They did a wonderful job.
– There is no doubt’ about .that. Many stupendous problems were faced courageously and overcome. The feeding of many thousands of Allied service personnel, as well as the whole of the civil population of Australia amounting to another 7,000,000, was no light task; how well they succeeded is known to us all. However, as I have said, the war has been brought to a successful conclusion, and we have reached the post-war period. The re-establishment of members of our fighting services, together with the rehabilitation of workers from war industries, constitutes a colossal task. The Government realizes this and in co-operation with the States is doing everything humanly possible to implement a policy designed to ensure that the whole of the resources of the Commonwealth shall be utilized to bring about the smooth transition of our national economy from a war basis to a peace-time footing.
The Government’s policy of full employment is an essential part of its general programme. It is designed, not only to ensure that work will be available for everyone, but also that such work shall be adequately rewarded and directed towards rising living standards, with freedom from basic economic worries, and the right of all to bring up healthy, happy, ‘well-educated families. The stupendous problems facing the Government in the change-over from a war economy to a peace economy can readily be visualized-when we take into consideration that work for more than 1,000,000 men and women must be found as soon as they become available for employment. These men and women were drawn from their normal avocations for the specific purposes of prosecuting the war. Already the great majority of the members of the fighting services have been demobilized. Of that number, less than 1 per cent, has applied to the Government for assistance. That, in itself, indicates the job that is being done by the Government in respect of demobilization and rehabilitation. However, there are many others still to be demobilized, and those men and women also will need homes and jobs, and, in some instances, special training during the period of their psychological and physical readjustment from the strenuous days of war to (he tense experimental days of peace-time employment. Many men and women who are now being demobilized practically went straight from school to war work of some kind or other. During the most impressionable period of their lives their minds absorbed only those things pertaining to the most effective means of staging war - things which are more or less useless in peace-time life. To many of them technical instruction in classrooms and workshops will be irksome, but petty laws and unnecessary restrictions will not assist them ; on the contrary, it will only antagonize them. For that reason, it is essential that there shall be sympathetic understanding on the part of those who administer the rehabilitation legislation until such time as these men and -women settle down in peace-time avocations. University students who enlisted in the middle of their courses will probably find it difficult on their return to concentrate on their studies; and apprentices returning to civilian production will probably find routine jobs monotonous. Ex-service men and women cannot be expected to make the change from the ordered life of the Army after years of service to a factory or office or a domestic job without some difficulty being experienced. These are some of the many problems which must be given sympathetic consideration by an understanding administration if rehabilitation is to be successful. Obviously, a return to the status quo will not suffice to deal effectively with the situation. Every avenue must be explored with a view to obtaining the best results. The policy of the Government in regard to full employment must be relentlessly pursued if there is to be economic security in the future. The Government’s policy is not one for the dim and distant future; it is based on the knowledge that the great army of men and women now returning to peace-time production are bringing to their tasks the same courage,’ determination and strength of purpose as they displayed so effectively in all theatres of war over a period of nearly six years. The men and women now being demobilized practically sacrificed the best years of their lives in a war which, for the first time, seriously threatened Australian territory. The gallant efforts of the men who placed their bodies between us and the enemy saved this country from invasion. How close we came to actual invasion is now comprehended in some degree, but tie narrowness of our escape will not be fully realized until the history of the war has been recorded officially. There can be no doubt that to these men and women Australia owes a debt of gratitude that can never be repaid. Recognizing that debt, the Government’ is doing everything humanly possible to ensure that they shall be given e/very opportunity to take their proper place in the life of the nation, under a social system which is in accordance with the high ideals and principles that they fought so tenaciously and heroically to maintain. Honorable senators know that legislation has already been passed to assist in their reestablishment. A decentralized employment service has’ been set up, and the same organization is being utilized to give effect to the Government’s scheme of social service benefits,’ particularly in respect of sickness and unemployment. In addition, the Commonwealth’s reconstruction and training scheme is being continued and expanded; it provides for the payment of allowances and expenses to trainees. In addition, loans up to £250 are available to assist ex-servicemen in re-establishing private businesses. That sum may be increased to £500 if, after investigation, the Government is of the opinion that that would be a more appropriate limit. Moreover, 50 per cent, of the homes being built under an agreement with the States must he allocated to ex-service personnel. These things, and many others, are embraced in legislation designed for the express purpose of giving effect to our sense of obligation to the members of our fighting services. The effective re-establishment of members of our fighting services is of paramount importance to the future welfare of Australia,’ because with their assistance we can attain that production mentioned by the Leader of the Opposition, and achieve a standard of living never before reached in the history of mankind. But, the standard of living and the degree of human happiness that we can enjoy in this coun-try is in our own hands, and to a large degree at present, is wrapped up in the three questions that are to be submitted to the people by the Government < at the forthcoming referendum.
A wise man once said that the price of freedom is eternal vigilance. That is indeed a truism so far as the Labour movement is concerned. Many times when we have thought that the flowing tide was in our favour, the tide has ebbed leaving us high and dry on the waste shores of disappointment and disillusionment. Many times the Labour movement has been coin polled to fight the same battle twice and then to turn around and fight it all over again. The people of this ‘country in the very near future will have an opportunity to join in this battle, and if they play their part as it .should be played, they will be able to say that they have done everything humanly possible to further the interests of this great and glorious Commonwealth.
– It had not been my intention to refer to-night to events in this country during the war from which we and our allies have emerged triumphantly only so recently, but I feel it incumbent upon me to refute some disparaging statements made by honorable senators opposite. 3 have no wish to withhold from members of our fighting forces the credit that they so richly deserve for the magnificent part they played in the defence of the Empire, but I believe it is only fair to say that the government that held office in this country when the war started laid the foundations of our war effort. When a Labour administration came to power late in 1941, the production of munition? and implements of war was in full swing, and all the initial difficulties associated with such a vast industrial undertaking had been overcome. The new Government was able to, and did, build on the solid foundations laid by its predecessor, and carry on Australia’s war effort on the lines already established.
I cannot refrain at this stage from saying a word or two in praise of those men who volunteered for overseas service, and left the shores of this country in the early days of the war. They. were scoffed at by certain members of ‘the then Opposition in the House of Representatives; but when we look back on those anxious days of 194Q and particularly 1941, when our brothers from the United Kingdom- and cousins from the other dominions stood alone against the might of Germany and Italy, we realize that had it not been for our soldiers who fought in Greece and Crete, the course of the war might have been changed considerably. It was those battles that ensured the safety not only of the British Empire, but also of the entire civilized world. Had the Empire troops not stemmed the tide of the enemy advance in Greece and Crete, the Germans and Italians undoubtedly would have gone right across to Africa, through Egypt, and eventually to India, and we would never have been able to push them back as we did in later years. In all fairness therefore, I ask that these things be remembered and that the -part played by Austra’ian troops in those early days of the war he given full recognition.
I bring to the notice of the Minister for Supply and Shipping (Senator Ashley) a matter of considerable interest and great importance to country residents, especially people living in the remote regions of the Commonwealth. I refer to the desirability of standardizing the price of petrol throughout Australia. The price in the capital cities of Australia to-day is 2s. 6£d. a gallon, and city dwellers have other means of conveyance at their disposal. They may travel by taxis, trams, buses or trains, and some of them live so close to their places of employment, that they .can walk to and from work. But the position in the country is entirely different. In most cases, motor vehicles are the only means of transport, and in the event of sickness, food shortages, or ether emergencies, outback residents may have to travel 50, 100, or, in some cases, hundreds of miles to get assistance or supplies. I fail to see any -justification for charging these people more for petrol than is paid by city residents.” I took up this matter .with the then Minister for. Trade and Customs, the late Senator Keane, on the 14th January, 1946, and on the 31st January T received the following reply from the present Minister for Post-war Reconstruction : - 1 referred your letter to the Commonwealth Prices Commissioner, who has advised me that the calculation of a unifom price for petrol would not be a very difficult matter in itself; it is not the main problem. A uniform price implies a uniform system of distribution, both in city and country areas. Such, however, is not the case. There is, for example, the existence of freight differentials. No one oil company could afford to distribute and sell petrol ii r, an average price because it would be undercut by competitors who sell only on the coast. This is the peace-time problem. . Competition will not permit a uniform price. Because of coastal price-cutting, those companies selling inland would either have to cease inland sales or add freight costs. To obtain a. uniform Australian or State price it would be necessary to have either a complete private monopoly or nationalization of the industry.
Differentials were part of the oil industry price structure which existed long before the war and the Commonwealth Prices Commissioner has not taken action to alter them for thu reason that it would involve drastic change in the pre-war price structure. The view1 point of the Commissioner is that he is not justified in compelling a departure from a practice which was established before the advent’ of price control. Such practice has been recognized in the various Prices Regulation Orders issued from time to time and has not been departed from without good cause.
A very strict control over petrol prices and profits is, however, maintained continuously; adjustments have been made in the overall prices for petroleum products, b’ut no upward variations have been permitted since 11142. Savings in distribution costs resulting from pooling have been taken into consideration and downward adjustments in some prices have already been effected, the last being on the 5th September, 1945, when a general reduction of Id. per gallon in the price of petrol and range fuel was effected.
John J. Dedman .
I understand that since that time further reductions have been effected, but even now there i3 such a great disparity between the price of petrol in the capital cities and in the remote portions of the Commonwealth to which I have referred, that I decided to bring this matter to the notice of the Minister for Supply and Shipping. I have been able to ascertain the price of petrol in some of the outback districts of Queensland. I am informed by the shire clerk of Camooweal that the price of petrol in that town is 3s. lOd. a gallon bulk, and 18a. for a 4-gallon tin, which works out at 4s. 6d. a gallon. Residents of that district do not use just a couple of gallons of petrol for a 20 or 30-mile trip, or a jaunt to the seaside on Sundays. The nearest railhead to Camooweal is Mount Isa, 200 or more miles away, and that would be a very costly run indeed. At Boulia, 245 miles _ from the nearest railway, the price of petrol at the bowser is 4s. a gallon, in drums 3s. lid. a gallon, and in cases 4s. lid. a gallon. There, the bowser price is ls. 5£d. above that ruling in the capital’ cities. At Stonehenge, which is certainly more than 100 miles from Longreach, petrol costs 3s. lid. a gallon, or ls. 4-^d. more than in capital cities. At “Winton the price is 3s. 3-d. a gallon cash, plus a charge of 3d. a gallon if booked. At Mount Isa the bowser price is 3s. 6£d. a gallon, or ls. a gallon more than the. price in the capital cities.. At Cunnamulla, which is near the New South Wales border, the price is 3s. 3d. a gallon cash, with a booking charge of a 1/2d. a gallon, or 8£d. a gallon more than the price in the capital cities. I do not agree with the Minister when he says that it is not possible to standardize the price of petrol throughout the Commonwealth. The Government receives considerable revenue from excise and import duty, and under the Federal Aid Roads Agreement brought in by the Bruce-Page Government in 1923, some of- this money is allocated for the purpose of building main roads. I suggest that an equalization scheme, even if it involved increasing the retail price of petrol in the capital cities, could be devised; or some arrangement could be made for the establishment of a pool for the purpose of relieving settlers in outback districts of the heavy burden of paying these high prices for petrol. These people are carrying on industries vital to the development of the Commonwealth. This problem is not insurmountable. I am confident that if the Government fully recognizes the need to do justice to the man outback in this matter it could find ways and means of standardizing the price of petrol throughout the Commonwealth. Taxes are standardized throughout the Commonwealth, and the mau outback pays tax a.t rates fixed on a basis applicable to all taxpayers; but whilst the people who reside in cities enjoy all the amenities and comforts that it is possible to obtain, the man outback has to. fend for himself and is placed at a. very grave disadvantage in having to pay additional costs for the necessaries of life. Since the present high rates of tax were imposed, graziers and farmers have found the high prices of petrol a heavy impost. The average settler is obliged to travel considerable distances weekly in carrying out his daily tasks; in some cases in the “far back areas, he travels 50 miles or more to collect his mail. Therefore, I urge the Minister to give urgent consideration to this matter with a view to relieving the settlers of some of this burden. The amount of petrol used in the outback areas is very small compared with the quantity used by residents in the cities, where the great bulk of our population lives.
I again emphasize the growing danger of the dingo- menace. I- assure honorable senators that the position has become very much worse since I spoke on this matter four months ago. I have found that the menace is serious in all States. This is a national problem, because it does not affect only one State, although it affects some States more than others. The dingoes are now coming closer to areas which are more closely settled, and are killing sheep and calves in areas which had been free of the menace for many years. Dingoes, if not disturbed, breed at an alarming rate. The dingo is threatening settlers in outback areas in all States. Therefore, it can be effectively combated only on a national basis. The menace is particularly grave in the border areas adjoining the cattle country. I am reliably informed that sheep breeders have abandoned 1,000,000 acres, used for sheep pasturing purposes, in north-west Queensland since the beginning of this year, because their flocks have simply been eaten out by the dingo. Many settlers in the bad areas have not been able to get a lambing for the past three or four years. Should the menace increase it will not be long before many more flocks are eaten out. This problem affects the population problem, of this country because many affected are small settlers in areas where large holdings have been sub-diyided and the individual properties improved for the carrying of sheep. In many cases the holdings are worked by the owner and his wife and family, who possibly employ one or more hands. If these settlers are driven off the land their properties are often reabsorbed in large holdings, and are then controlled in many cases by a boundary rider, with the assistance of two or three men in the mustering period. Many of these areas are too small to enable the settler to run cattle. They have been developed primarily to run sheep, with the result that settlers cannot turn to cattle-raising at a moment’s notice. Every one will agree that the small settler is the backbone of the country districts, and that when they are forced off their properties the nation suffers severe loss. Owing to the ravages of the dingo many of these settlers are barely hanging on. The job of combating the pest is too big for the individual settler. ‘
Another important factor in this matter is the need to provide adequate supplies of wire-netting. Over £1,000,000 has been expended in Queensland in dognetting these areas. During the war, however, netting has not been available, with the . result that many fences have fallen into disrepair. I urge the Minister to make every possible effort to make available supplies of wire-netting to enable settlers to repair the dingo-proof fences.
– Will wire-netting keep out the dingo?
– Yes. The fences are specially constructed 6 feet high with 6 inches of netting in the ground and many have been erected under the scheme whereby the cost of netting is payable by the settler over a number of years. But the settler cannot procure wirenetting at present. In the channel country the fences are washed down whenever a flood occurs, and many fences have been washed away so often that to-day it is impossible to re-erect them as effective barriers against the dingo. On a previous occasion I suggested that a bonus of £1 a scalp should be provided. Varying rates of bonus are provided in different areas. The average rate in the districts which I know best is about £2 35s. a scalp, plus the award rate and keep. If the sura of £200,000 for the first year were allotted to deal with the menace on a national basis I am sure that many young ex-servicemen who know the bush, and are now looking for an adventurous life, would readily accept the opportunity to make a living by cleaning up the packs on Crown lands in the cattle areas in the Northern Territory, in the sandhills bordering South Australia and many other rough areas where the dingo lives and finds a home in which to breed. The scheme could easily bo financed from the £7,000,000 held by the Government from the sales in the United Kingdom of shorn wool tops and other wools. Although the settler in the inner districts would not derive any substantial benefit from these operations within the first twelve months, he would ultimately derive real -advantage as the menace would be attacked from both the front and the rear. I urge the Government to give this matter urgent consideration, because the losses caused by the ravages of the dingo affect not only individual graziers, but also constitute a loss to the nation. While the grazier is losing his sheep and calves, bc will not be able to pay as much tax as he would be able to pay if he could carry on his industry profitably. Many properties on the fringe of the dingo country are not showing any profit at all. It is not yet too late to save the situation, but the danger is rapidly getting out of hand. Even within the last six month.I have seen properties which were though i to be free of the pest advertising for trappers and doggers. All the time the dingo is working closer to the more . densely settled areas. The job is too big for the individual, although be is putting up a great fight against overwhelming odds. If the Government does as I suggest the dingo menace will be greatly reduced, if not eliminated, within a few years. I ask the Leader of the Senate to give serious consideration to my representations.
– I deplore the references made by Senator Allan MacDonald to the Minister for External Affairs (Dr. Evatt)’. The Minister is held in very high esteem overseas, and it ill becomes a member of this Parliament to endeavour to discredit him. Many of Australia’s sons and daughters gave their lives for the country in World War II. Does Senator Allan MacDonald suggest that, now that hostilities have ceased, Australia should not enter into the international field “to help make secure the peace which we all desire so much? I am sure that the Leader of the Opposition (Senator McLeay) would not subscribe to the sentiments expressed by Senator Allan MacDonald. He has frequently indicated his desire for the establishment of a Senate committee to deal with international affairs. Australia must be represented in the international sphere. As a member of this Government, and as a representative of Australia, the Minister for External Affairs has taken his place at international gatherings and done a great deal, to bring about permanent peace for civilization. -Senator Allan MacDonald also referred to household deliveries of goods. I have investigated this subject, and I have found that it would be very difficult for the Commonwealth Government to exercise any control, either by using National Security Regulations to increase the prices of delivered goods or by any other means. lt would be impossible to control a price- fixing regulation such as he suggested. There would bc no reasonable chance of checking the system. Returns WOn k he made in respect of deliveries that had never been made, and the result would be merely an increase of prices without any corresponding benefit to consumers. I do not see any way out of the difficulty, unless the State governments intervene on their own account. Senator Tangney raised, the subject of increased hospital fees. This is a matter for the Prices Commissioner. There have been instances in which the Commissioner has permitted an increase of fees after making a thorough examination. Some members of the medical profession have also increased their charges as the result of the introduction of the Government’s hospital service scheme. In these cases is is difficult to obtain concrete evidence of increases, but where such evidence has been obtained the attention of -the Prices Commissioner has been drawn to it.
As one who had the privilege of touring the territories of Papua and New’ Guinea in 1943 and in 1945, I disagree entirely with what Senator Sampson said about their administration. The part played by the natives of those territories in assisting Australian and American troops during the war was such that whatever praise I might extend to them would be inadequate. Therefore, it ill becomes Senator Sampson to- criticize anything that may be done by this Government or any other government to render fair treatment to the natives. There can be no doubt that they have been exploited over the years. It is true that a former Administrator, the late Sir Hubert Murray, did a great deal for them, hut much remains to be done. The efforts nf the Minister for External Territories (Mr. Ward) to provide higher standards of living for the natives should receive I he encouragement of the people of Austtralia
I am sorry that Senator Herbert Hays is not in ‘the chamber, because
I wish to reply to a point raised hy him. I had no intention of evading the question which he asked yesterday and repeated to-da,y on the subject, of the apple and pear acquisition scheme. The. honorable senator asked whether the Government’s decision to discontinue the operations of the Apple aud Pear Acquisition Board, which was causing great concern i-n Tasmania, might be regarded as an indication that the Government had made, or intended to make, arrangements with overseas shipping companies to provide shipping accommodation to enable growers to export their surplus fruit. Everybody must be aware of the shipping difficulties that we are experiencing. Two or three years may elapse. before we are able to resume our normal fruit export trade. In answering the honorable senator’s question I said that it, was not usual to make statementsof government policy in answer to questions. As far as I know the Government has made no decision regarding the apple and pear acquisition scheme. As 1 pointed out to the honorable senator, he should support the Government’s request at the referendum to be granted power over the organized marketing of primary products. The honorable gentleman, of course, claims that the granting of such power is not necessary and that the Government, already has power over the wheat and the potato industries. I remind him that the fruit acquisition schemeapplies to only two States, and that the powers under which it has operated will cease at the end of this year. In due course there will be a debate in this chamber on the. wheat bills that have been introduced in the House of Representatives. Subsequently, complementary legislation will have to be passed by each State parliament to ratify the agreement with the Commonwealth. The Commonwealth Parliament would not have power to enact legislation in respect of the acquisition of. fruit in only two States, i do not want to do the honorable senator an injustice, but I point out that he voted against the Government’s proposals when the Constitution Alteration (Organized Marketing of Primary Products) Bill came before this chamber. I am just as much concerned about the future of apple and pear growers as is the honorable senator. The acquisition scheme was introduced and paid for by the Commonwealth in order to save the industry. I fear for its future if the Government fails to secure the necessary power at the referendum. Unless the Government secures the power which it seeks, it must find some other means of helping the industry, and this may not be possible. I suggest to the honorable senator that he support the Government’s referendum proposals for organized marketing in the. interests of the fruit-growing industry. He is no more anxious about its future than I am.
I listened yesterday to a great deal of discussion about the coal-mining industry. I admit that I do not know very much about it, but many honorable senators opposite know even less about it than I do. The speech made by the Minister for Supply and Shipping (Senator Ashley) on this subject was very effective. The only constructive suggestion from honorable senators opposite as to the best method of dealing with the coal shortage was made by Senator Herbert Hays this evening. He suggested a meeting between the Prime Minister (Mr. Chifley), the Leader of the Opposition ‘in the House ofRepresentatives (Mr. Menzies), the Leader of the Australian Country party (Mr. Fadden), the Leader of the Senate (Senator Ashley), the Leader of the Opposition in the Senate (Senator McLeay) and representatives of the miners. So far as I can recall he said nothing about the mine-owners, and the implication was that all the trouble on the coal-fields was due to the miners. He admitted that the Minister for Supply and Shipping had done his best to solve the problem. Like all honorable senators, I regret these stoppages on the coal-fields. However, I cannot agree with Senator A. J. Fraser that the “upheaval”, as he called it, has. practically wrecked Victorian industries. The honorable senator even claimed that the shortage had stopped the supply of superphosphate. That is nonsense. One of the reasons for the shortage of superphosphate is that supplies are not coming from the usual source.Production at Nauru and Ocean Island has not returned to anything like the normal level.
Consequently a shortage of superphosphate has occurred, but that is not associated in any way with the shortage of coal. Any shortage of railway trucks for thecarriage of coal should be referred to the State authorities.
A question has been addressed to me by Senator Gibson regarding wheat production. Despite the cry that has been raised that wheat production has been retarded, I draw attention to the acreages licensed for the planting of wheat for grain this season. The areas for the various States and the Australian Capital Territory are as follows: -
Those figures do not include the area sown for hay, and, of course, farmers may now sow with wheat all land licensed for that purpose. The average areas sown for wheat during the five years ended 1938-39 were as follows:-
The reason why wheat production in Western Australia was curtailed during the war was that adequate supplies of fertilizer could not be obtained. I intimated earlier that Ocean Island and Nauru are not yet producing supplies of superphosphate on the scale operating prior to the entry of Japan into the war, and some time will elapse before normal production is resumed. Senator Gibson has stated repeatedly that in some parts of Victoria superphosphate is not required. The Government has done nothing to retard wheat production, but on the other hand is endeavouring to encourage it. Of course, the general elections are approaching, and honorable senators opposite have resorted to the old trick of creating socalled grievances for party political purposes. When the present Government appeals to the electors it will be prepared to stand or fall on the record of its achievements. I do not deny that the anti-Labour government which was in power in the early stages of the war did some of the foundational work necessary for the defence of this country, but what it did was far short of the nation’s requirements, having regard to the fact that Japan was associated with the Axis powers. The government of the day must have known that sooner or later Japan would become our enemy. The achievements of the present Government during the last five years, both in war and in peace, will withstand any test at the next elections. It is remarkable that those who become members of this chamber in the way in which Senator A. J. Fraser augmented the ranks of the Opposition usually remain for only a brief period. I forecast that the honorable senator will be defeated at the next elections. I know something of his reputation as chairman of the Liquid Fuel Control Board in Victoria, when I was assisting the Minister for Supply and Shipping.
SenatorMcLeay. - Senator A. J. Fraser did a good job in that capacity.
– Whether his record in that regard will be to his advantage at the next elections hasyet to be proved.
Debate (on motion by Senator James Mclachlan) adjourned.
Motion (by Senator Ashley) agreed to -
That the Senate, at its rising, adjourn to to-morrow, at 10 a.m.
The following papers were pre sented : -
Commonwealth Conciliation and Arbitration Act - Regulations - Statutory Rules 1946, No. 99.
Customs Act - Customs Proclamations - Nos. 652, 653.
National Security Act-National Security. (Rationing) Regulations - Orders - Nos. 124-128.
Superannuation Act-Superannuation Board - Twenty-third Annual Report, for year 1944-45.
Senate adjourned at 11.24 p.m.
Cite as: Australia, Senate, Debates, 27 June 1946, viewed 22 October 2017, <http://historichansard.net/senate/1946/19460627_senate_17_187/>.