18th Parliament · 1st Session
The President (Senator the Eon. tordon Brown) took the chair at J* p.m., and read prayers.
Motion (by Senator Cameron) - by leave - agreed to -
That, in accordance with the provisions of the Parliamentary Proceedings Broadcasting Act 1046, the following senators be appointed members of the Joint Committee on the Broadcutting of Parliamentary proceedings: - The President of the Senate (Senator Brown), Senator Arnold and Senator James McLachlan
– Has the Minister for Supply and Shipping read a cabled report appearing in the Adelaide Advertiser on the 30th October, to the effect that a strike by some 600 workers took place in a factory at Mosbach, in Germany, on the 29th October last, and that it was settled in 30 minutes? If the Minister has not seen the report, will he take steps to obtain it? In view of the fact that much of our legislation is being patterned on Russian laws, and the fact that the locale of this strike is in Russiancontrolled Germany, will the Government take steps to secure the formula used by the Russians in their strike settlement plans, so that Australian transport and industry may not continue to suffer lengthy disruption?
– I have not read the report to which the honorable senator has referred. I do not intend, nor does the Government intend, to adopt the suggestion made by the honorable senator.
– In view of the fact that the telephone trunk lines between the capital cities are hopelessly overloaded and that subscribers have to wait hours for trunk line calls, is’ the Postmaster-General in a position to inform the Senate when relief from such conditions is likely to be granted? Further, can he say what progress has been made towards supplying new telephones to the thousands needing them?
– Considerable progress has been made in the direction of providing an improved trunk-line service between the capital cities; during recent months telephone business between Sydney and Melbourne and between Adelaide and Melbourne has doubled. In this connexion, the Postal Department is working under great difficulties; whilst supplies of materials are coining forward fairly satisfactorily, the work is being held up because of the need for additional buildings for exchanges. I assure the honorable senator that as supplies come forward the work will be undertaken as expeditiously as possible.
Operation of Australian Broadcasting Act 1946
– During last session Parliament passed the Australian Broadcasting Bill which contained very important amendments of our broadcasting legislation. The Royal assent has been given to that measure, but I understand that because of some hold-up it will nor. become operative until the beginning of next year. “Will the Postmaster-General who introduced the measure ascertain who is responsible for delaying the promulgation of certain sections of that measure, and what is the reason for such delay?
– At the moment I am unable to inform the honorable senator of the cause of the delay. I shall have inquiries made immediately, and supply the information he desires.
Western Australian Services- - Building Materials
– In view of the continued shortage in “Western Australia of articles urgently required for home construction, particularly builders’ hardware, roofing iron, guttering, and other building requirements, will the Minister for Supply and Shipping advise the Senate what steps he has taken to supplement shipping services from the eastern States where most of these articles arn obtained to meet Western Australia’s requirements? Will the Minister also say when we may expect the shipping service from the eastern States to Western Australia to be augmented in order to ease the situation ?
– Since the last Parliament was prorogued steps have been taken to lift cargoes of building requirements which had accumulated at Newcastle, where most of the articles mentioned by the honorable senator are manufactured. I took the first opportunity to effect the transfer to Newcastle of a number of men from Brisbane during a slack period at that port, and as the result the back lag of cargoes was cleared within five or six weeks. Theref ore, any shortage of these materials in “Western Australia does not arise as the result of inadequate shipping services.
– During the last few months many statements have been published in the press regarding certain rocket tests which the Government proposes to carry out in Central Australia in connexion with defence requirements. As these statements have alarmed various sections of the community, will the Leader of the Senate make a statement as soon as possible clarifying the Government’s intentions with respect to these tests?
– I shall bring the honorable senator’s question to the notice of the Minister for Defence, and supply the information he desires.
Me a t - Price-fixing Methods - Houses and Motor Cars.
Senator JAMES McLACHLAN.Will the Minister for Trade and Customs indicate his attitude to the demand by Australian housewives for an inquiry into the recent increases of the price of meat? “Will he also state whether an application was made to the Prices Branch for that increase, and if so, by whom ?
– The trend of meat prices at present is causing some concern, but my personal belief is that if the present position can be maintained we shall be doing reasonably well. If the honorable senator will place his question upon the notice-paper, I shall furnish him with a reply at a later stage.
– Is the Minister for Trade and Customs satisfied with the present practices of the Prices Branch in determining prices? Will he undertake bo have a review made of those practices and of the formulas adopted in price fixation?
– I ask for notice of the question. In the meantime, I assure the honorable senator that I shall have the whole question of price control thoroughly investigated.
– Will the Minister for Trade and Customs urge upon the Government the necessity for the fixed prices of homes built prior to 1940 and of motor cars purchased prior to that date, to be increased to figures more in conformity with the very high prices now being charged for new houses and motor cars, as present ceiling prices offer an inducement to indulge in black marketing ?
– I shall bring the honorable senator’s representations to the notice of Cabinet.
– I ask the Minister representing the Minister for Transport whether steps will be taken by the Commonwealth Government to provide for trans-Australian railway passengers, who, owing to the dislocation of train services because of strikes, are stranded at Adelaide and are unable to find accommodation in that city? It seems to me that there should be some proper apportionment of responsibility between the Commonwealth and the States for getting these people to their destinations.
– I shall bring the honorable senator’s question to the notice of my colleague the Minister for the Interior in whose jurisdiction administration of the trans-Australian railway lies.
– Now that the full Bench of the Commonwealth Arbitration Court has declared in favour of the principle of the 40-hour week, will the Government ascertain whether the Commonwealth Public Service Arbitrator can now proceed with the hearing of the claim by certain trade unions for a 40- hour week for Commonwealth railway employees ?
– I shall refer the honorable senator’s question to the Minister for Labour and National Service.
– Is the Minister for Supply and Shipping yet in a position to assure the Senate that a plentiful supply of tinned plate will be available for canning fruit, meat, milk, &c, in order that a loss of food stuffs may be prevented and unemployment in canning undertakings avoided ?
– In view of the world shortage of tinned plate, the Government is not in a position to give an assurance that all requirements of that commodity will be fully supplied. Steps were taken by the Government to overcome the difficulty some months ago, and a mission was sent to America and Great Britain with a view to obtaining greater supplies of tinned plate.
– The mission is back, but it did not achieve anything.
– If the honorable senator will have patience I shall give him all the information that I have. The result of the mission was not so good as the Government expected. In America, for instance, tinned plate was rationed, whereas it was not rationed in Australia. Consequently, restrictions had to be imposed on the use of tinned plate in Australia. The Government hopes that ample provision will be made for essential services such as Senator Leckie has mentioned. In view of the worldwide shortage, the Government cannot guarantee that supplies will be available, but it is endeavouring to provide for the requirements of food processing companies.
Motion (by Senator Ashley) agreed to-
That the days of meeting of the Senate, unless otherwise ordered, be Wednesday, Thursday and Friday of each week; and that the hour of meeting, unless otherwise ordered, be 3 p.m. on Wednesday and Thursday, and 10.30 a.m. on Friday.
Motion (by Senator Ashley) agreed to-
That on all sitting days of the Senate during the present session, unless otherwise ordered, Government business shall take precedence of all other business on the noticepaper, except questions and formal motions, and except that general business take precedence of Government business on Thursdays, after 8 p.m.; and that, unless otherwise ordered, general orders of the day take precedence of general notices of motion on alternate Thursdays.
Motion (by Senator Ashley) agreed to-
That, during the present, session, unless otherwise ordered, at 3.45 p.m. on Fridays the President shall put the question - That the Senate do now adjourn, which question shall not be open to debate; if the Senate be in committee at that hour, the Chairman shall in like manner put the question - That he do leave the chair and report to the Senate; and upon such report being made the President shall forthwith put the question - That the Senate do now adjourn, which question shall not be open to debate: Provided that if the Senate or the committee be in division at the time named, the President or the Chairman shall not put the question referred to until the result of such division has been declared; and if the business under discussion shall not have been disposed of at such adjournment it shall appear on the noticepaper for the next sitting day.
Motion (by Senator Ashley) agreed to-
That, during the present session, unless otherwise ordered, the sittings of the Senate, or of a committee of the whole Senate, be suspended from 12.45 p.m. until 2.15 p.m. and from 6 p.m. until 8 p.m.
– I have received letters from the Leader of the Senate and from the Leader of the Opposition in the Senate nominating, in accordance with Standing Order 36a, Senators Arnold, Large, Nash and Tangney, and Senators Cooper, Herbert Hays and Allan MacDonald, respectively, as members of the
Standing Committee on Regulations and Ordinances.
Motion (by Senator Ashley) - by leave - agreed to -
That a Standing Committee on Regulations and Ordinances be appointed, to consist of Senators Arnold, Cooper, Herbert Hays, Large, Allan MacDonald, Nash and Tangney, such senators having been duly nominated in accordance with the provisions of Standing Order 36a.
– I move-
That the following Address-iii-Reply be agreed to: -
To His Royal Highness the GovernorGeneral.
May it please Your Royal Highness:
Wo, the Senate of the Commonwealth of Australia, in Parliament assembled, desire to express our loyalty to our Most Gracious Sovereign, and to thank Your Royal Highness for the Speech which you have been pleased to address to Parliament.
I submit this motion with feelings tinged with regret at the impending departure from Australia of Their Royal Highnesses the Duke and Duchess of Gloucester. During the last two years they have travelled extensively throughout the length and breadth of Australia, and have come to know the people of this country both at work and at play. They have met the people in some of the remote parts of this continent, as well as those in the capital cities, hut I regret sincerely that the time at their disposal has not enabled them to visit the vast northwest portion of Western Australia, which h important, not merely because of its intrinsic wealth, but because of the active part it played in the war effort. It was that portion of Australia which most directly felt the impact of Japanese aggression. I regret greatly that Their Royal Highnesses did not have an opportunity to meet the people of that remote area and assess its importance.
I shall deal first with the problem of defence. I offer no apology for discussing that subject, because, being a woman senator, I was proud, during the years of war, to observe the invaluable part that was played in the defence of the Commonwealth by the women of this country. They released many thousands of men for active front-line service. I refer to the various women’s auxiliaries and nursing services attached to the Navy, the Army and the Air Force. There were also the members of the Australian Women’s Army Service in the military hospitals. Many servicewomen went into the front line, and experienced battle conditions. They proved their worth both in the fighting forces and on the home front. The problem of defence is a practical one Women are essentially practical, and’ therefore the problem vitally concern* them. They have given a great deal of thought to it, and one of the conclusion* reached by them is that in the postwarperiod adequate attention must be given to the preparation of co-ordinated defenceplans.
After World War I., we cherished the hope that a war had been fought to end wars, but in the following 25 years Australia was lulled into a false sense of security. No matter how high our hopes may now be for a lasting peace, we must approach the problem of defence in a practical way, and ensure full co-operation between the Navy, the Army and the Air Force and the various supply departments, so that there shall be a coordinated scheme of defence operating in the best interests of this island continent. I am not sure that such a co-ordinated scheme was in existence in Australia before September, 1939. Twenty-five or 30 years ago, when the defence policy of the nation was being formulated, most of the men in charge of national affairs were more army-minded than defence-minded. They apparently forgot that Australia is an island continent, that our forebears came from over the seas, and that those who wished to attack us would also come by sea. During the first world war, for every 100 men in the Australian Imperial Force there was only one man in the Royal Australian Navy. Those in charge of defence matters thought that Australia’s best contribution to its defence was to have a large army, and to allow others to attend to other phases of the defence policy. Of course, we have realized the fallacy of that idea. Without wishing to detract in the slightest degree from the magnificent achievements and heroic sacrifices of our land forces, and the* suffering of our soldiers in the islands from Borneo to Bougainville and beyond, we must recognize that the turning point in the war in the Pacific was the naval successes achieved at the battles of the Coral Sea, Midway and the Solomons, and that the final conflagration in the Philippines produced victory in the Pacific war zone. We must not allow those facts to be forgotten, and I hope that the defence policy of the Government in the post-war years will provide for the development of the Navy, the Army and the Air Force, and their co-ordination with the Departments of Munitions and Supply. I represent a State which has the longest coast line of any of the Australian States, and therefore the development of the Navy and the Air Force is a matter of vital importance to Western Australia. Many portions of that State can be reached only by air or by sea. Even the maintenance of communications between Perth and the outside world in times of peace is dependent largely on the maintenance of sea and air communications. The development of air and sea transport and the building of ships is a definite part of a wise post-war programme; it is a sound policy for peace as well as being an integral part of the nation’s defence scheme. That is why I view the entry of the Commonwealth Government into air transport by the establishment of TransAustralian Airways, not in competition with private enterprise, but as a farseeing project for the defence of this country in the years to come. I hope to see shipbuilding extended in the north and north-west districts of Australia so t.hat the waters around the Australian coast may be filled with Australian ships, trading not only between Australian ports but also to neighbouring islands and particularly to countries in the Near East, where there are potential markets for the primary products which Australia can provide. In this connexion, [ cannot see any reason why in times of peace the ships of the Royal Australian Navy should not be used, as they were during the last -two or three years of the war, as supply ships, taking goods to the people in the north-west and northern areas of the Commonwealth and to the Pacific islands, and also engaging in goodwill missions to the friendly peoples who live in the islands of the Pacific. I commend the Government for having sent
Arunta to the Philippines in July on the occasion of the celebrations associated with the independence of that country. That was a step in the right direction, and I hope that similar actions will follow in the years ahead. We must remember that our forebears came here by sea, and that from the sea we were threatened with invasion. During the war our capital cities were attacked hy submarines from the sea, and in the future a challenge may again come from the sea. It is to the sea and the skies that we must look to meet that challenge.
Turning now to foreign affairs, I congratulate particularly the Minister for External Affairs (Dr. Evatt) upon the wonderful part that he has played in gaining for Australia a place of recognition in, the highest world councils. Australia has gained a voice in international affairs, not only because this country has sent forward such brilliant statesmen as the right honorable gentleman, but also because of the blood, sweat, and tears of its men and women during the last six or seven years. In the gatherings that have taken place in Europe and the United States of America during recent years Australia’s voice has been impregnated with substance. The Minister for External Affairs has fought hard in the cause of human rights. Surely those who live in this part of the Empire can see what other small nations would have to endure at the hands of the big and strong nations had not big men, such as the right honorable gentleman, expressed their views at international gatherings. We in Australia can scarcely realize the need for these basic human rights because we are so used to the exercise of them. We are accustomed to the freedom of the press, freedom of speech, freedom of religion, and freedom to organize and to have our trade unions and other political bodies. We are so accustomed to these privileges that we can hardly conceive a state of society in which such things are not permitted. It is to the credit of the Minister for External Affairs that he has taken up the cudgels on behalf of the smaller nations, and has voiced their claims in international councils. We in this country are remote from the large centres of population in the world, but, thanks to science and to our statesmen, that remoteness is becoming a thing of the past. Australian statesmen take their place in these gatherings without any apology, but because of the work that the people of Australia have done. It is for that reason that such good results have been obtained. I regret that some criticism has been levelled at the efforts of the Minister for External Affairs, but I hope that it will be disregarded by him. He has behind him the goodwill of the vast majority of the people of Australia. i come now to our nearer neighbours, particularly the people of Papua and the Mandated Territory of New Guinea, and other native peoples in the Pacific who have felt the impact of war perhaps more than have people elsewhere because they have seen, almost overnight, all that they have built up razed to the ground. Mission stations have been destroyed, infantile and maternity mortality has increased, and they have been denied supplies of food and medicine. As I have said, everything that they had built up was destroyed by the Japanese. “We in Australia owe these native peoples a great deal for the loyalty displayed by them during the war years, and for what they did for our men when they were engaged in deadly conflict. If we do not discharge our debt to them we shall for ever stand condemned by our consciences. The 7,000,000 Australians who inhabit this continent have a duty, not only to the Australian aborigines, but also to the 1.000,000 natives in Papua. If we are to restore their faith in civilization we must do something tangible for them. I maintain that that can be done only by the Department of External Territories and its Minister (Mr. Ward) continuing to co-operate with earnest Christian missionaries of all denominations who during the last 40 or 50 years have made many sacrifices in an endeavour to bring Christianity and civilization to the natives. Much more should be done in this connexion, and there is need for the fullest co-operation between government departments and those experienced missionaries who have worked in the islands for many years and know the natives and are trusted by them. A better understanding will come by extending Christian principles rather than by the utterances of agnostic university professors and others. Only Christianity can fill the vacuum left in native minds by the destruction of invading pagan cults. I commend the Minister for External Territories for what he has done. I was pleased to note recently that the leaders of the various Christian denominations who have worked in the Pacific islands have been loud in their praise of the efforts of the Minister. I hope that his proposals in respect of the natives in those Pacific areas for which Australia is responsible will be extended and developed . during the lifetime of this Parliament.
Whatever its record in international affairs the Government would still be failing in its duty if it did apply in the domestic sphere the same principles of human rights in its dealings with the people within the Commonwealth. I commend the Government for what it has endeavoured to do in this connexion during the past three years. Three years ago, when I was first elected to the Senate, I also had the privilege of moving the adoption of the Address-in-Reply to the Governor-General’s Speech. On that occasion a great deal of legislation was proposed, but then we had first to contend with the war. We were still a nation at total war; yet, in spite of the fact that we proceeded unflinchingly with our war effort, a great deal of the legislation then proposed has already been put on the statute-book despite the onerous commitments devolving upon us in order to bring the war to a successful conclusion. Just as we looked forward at that stage to a domestic policy to bring social security to the people of Australia and can now look back with satisfaction at what has been done during the past three years, we now look forward to the programme outlined in the GovernorGeneral’s ‘Speech which includes legislation of all kinds dealing with Australian life during the next three years. During the past few months we have read of what happened in the United States of America following the lifting of price controls, and learned how such action staggered American life and struck a blow from which it will take the American people a long time to recover. Therefore, whilst the Government proposes to ease controls gradually, I urge it to maintain h balanced economy in order to ensure that Australia will not descend to a welter of inflation, or deflation, and thus cause another depression for which other nations seem to be heading without any ordered sense of reaching a period of post-war stability.
A good deal has been said in the press regarding industrial unrest. Hence it is the duty of the Government to implement a policy wherein the human element must be paramount. Only when that is done can we establish peace in industry. Only when those in charge of industry in this country place the same value upon the human beings who produce goods as they do upon the machines which those beings tend shall we establish industrial peace in the community. I have seen a fine example of what can be done when big industrialists realize the importance of the human factor, and, consequently, provide conditions, housing and amenities for their employees to which they are entitled, realizing that it is a sound economic investment to treat their employees decently. I refer to the Zinc Corporation Limited at Broken Hill where the employers seem to have found the answer to industrial unrest by giving a fair deal to their employees. In that area there is a minimum of industrial unrest. If that example were followed in other industrial activities we should achieve the same result, and reduce industrial stoppages to a minimum. In “Western Australia a great deal remains to be done in this sphere. I refer particularly to the Collie coal-mine and to conditions in the textile manufacturing industries. We can no longer have the war as an excuse for failing to provide decent amenities and conditions for the workers. Too often during the last few years the workers were told that they were not able to get this, or that, because of the war. Now, the war is over; but the war against poverty, ignorance and oppression must still be fought. We must give to the workers the very best conditions in order to enable them to live as they are entitled to live.
During the last session of the Parliament a successful attempt was made by the Government to stabilize primary production in Australia. Primarily this country depends for its existence upon the workers in both primary and secondary industries. During the last few months I have come in contact with people in outback areas, and, almost without exception among the real farmers, 1 have found little opposition to the solution of their problems presented by the Government through its stabilization proposals. Every worker, whether he be a farmer or a worker in industry or in an office, has a right to obtain a fair return for his labour. World conditions seem to portend that very good prices could now be obtained for primary products, but the farmers still have tragic memories of the early thirties when they were producing in great abundance but prices were so low that they were unable to redeem their debts and mortgages. To-day, 1 find that in most cases the farmer is willing to forgo the short term advantage’ which present high prices would give in favour of stabilization based on lower prices over the next few years. The Government has gone far in stabilizing prices, but it must go further if we are to develop our primary industries. It must see that the conditions of life in rural areas are also considerably improved. That can only be done by providing decent housing, improved educational facilities and modern health services, and, still more important, by decentralizing secondary production, by establishing units of secondary industries in country districts so that the children of farmers can find work near their homes without having to drift to the cities. The drift of population to our capital cities is one of the major problems confronting the nation.
It was also my privilege recently to visit the group settlements in the far south-west, of Western Australia. This brings me to the problem of migration. Much is being said about bringing settlers to this country, but I urge the Government to learn thoroughly the lesson of those abortive settlements. Until that lesson is thoroughly appreciated by the Government no further attempt at mass migration should be made. I have spoken to the women who have toiled in those group settlements during the past 25 years. I found that because settlers came to this country without training, to work in areas where there was no settlement, and on land which had not been prepared for them, and because they were not prepared for the type of life they were called upon to lead, they have struggled on highly over-capitalized holdings. It is only during the past five or six years that they have been able to see a way through. Many of the less hardy souls walked off their holdings in the thirties. Many are still there, but they have had to put up with the very worst of conditions. What amazes me as I travel throughout Australia is to find the vast areas being held, and no attempt being made to develop them, by large land-holding companies and large land-owners. Bich, lands handy to transport facilities and enjoying; a guaranteed rainfall are not being, utilized to the fullest degree, whilst, at the same time, those on smaller holdings are being forced to settle in marginal areas where they must work many years to get a fair return for their labour. Therefore, in tackling the problem of migration one of the first things the Government must do is to tackle, the land problem, by ensuring that all our land will be used to the best advantage, and thus remedy the position under which some of our best land is simply being tied up. The Government, in the interests of the nation, must see that that land is developed to its fullest capacity. It should be sold, or rented, to those who will develop it and provide a livelihood, for themselves and their children. We talk a lot about getting back to the land, but we. cannot expect to get back to the land, when settlers have to live under primitive conditions. In such circumstances we cannot attract people from the cities where they enjoy all amenities and dump them in unproductive areas, particularly in areas which are over-capitalized and which settlers will never come within an ace of owning.
During the past few months we witnessed the spectacle of our people being loudly wooed by those who offered them reduced taxes and all kinds of financial inducements to defeat the Labour Government. I congratulate the people of Australia on not being hoodwinked. The Opposition parties promised substantial tax cuts and the fact that their promises went unheeded by the people of Australia, says a great deal for their loyalty and common sense. One frequently hears people complaining about the present high rates of taxation. T.hay say that whilst they were prepared to pay substantial sums in taxes during: the war because they realized that every, penny was required at that time, they see no reason why high rates should be maintained now that the war is over. We are all prone to grumble this way, because it is only human, but I should like to draw attention to some aspects of the other side of the ledger. During the three years that I have been in this Parliament,, it has been my privilege as a member, of. a parliamentarycommittee to visit most of the big military hospitals in Australia. No doubt 18s. 6d. in the £1 was a heavy burden of tax, but even those who. were called, upon to make this contribution at. least have a few shillings left to carry on. The wareffort of any Australian citizen in terms of pounds, shillings and pence paid intaxes is of little importance when one realizes the sacrifices made by those for whom the war will never ba over - men blinded, maimed, injured, or mentally deficient as a result of their war experiences, and looking beyond,, there are themany thousands who made the supreme sacrifice. No payment that the- people of Australia have been, called upon to make can be compared with the physical sacrifices of so many thousands of Australian citizens. Therefore, if taxation, at higher levels than operated before the war be necessary in order that we may- keep our pledges to those who offered their lives for us; if money be required to extend repatriation benefits, including -pensions, deferred pay and so on to men and women of. the fighting forces, I say that we should all he prepared to play our part willingly in the interests of this nation. Everybody including, I am sure, the Prime Minister (Mr. Chifley), hopes that it will be possible to reduce taxes ; but, to- meet the huge commitments undertaken during the war, vast sums of money are necessary, a.nd we cannot hope for a return to pre-war taxation levels. This is the first time in my life that I have ever had an income requiring the. payment of very much tax. It would he my luck to ba in. Parliament, at such a. time, but I am not. doing very badly out of it, and there are many thousands of others in a like position. In any case, high taxes are necessary, not only to keep the promises made to the men and women of our fighting forces, but also to maintain the economic stability of the country. I am confident that the people of Australia have sufficient faith in the Chifley Government - their faith was amply demonstrated a few weeks ago - to realize that the Prime Minister has been honest with them and that taxes will be reduced as soon as the opportunity arises. The people of Australia have shown clearly that they have no time for financial baits offered by political parties in the hope of winning elections.
I am pleased to note the announcement in the Governor-General’s Speech that a conference is to be held in London on the question of the nationality of married women. During the concluding session of the last Parliament, the Minister for Immigration (Mr. Calwell) convened a conference, of which I was chairman, to discuss ‘ this vexed matter of the nationality of women who are married to aliens. I understand that this is the first occasion on which Australia’s policy on a matter such as this has been fully and frankly discussed prior to the holding of an international conference. I extend my thanks, and the thanks of the women of Australia to the Minister for his courtesy and consideration in enabling representatives of women’s organizations throughout the Commonwealth to meet and discuss the matter. The result will be that Australia’s representatives at the international gathering will be assured that their submissions to the conference will have the endorsement of the major women’s organizations in Australia.
No speech from me would be complete without some reference to social services, which, of course, has been my forte during my tenure of office in this chamber. The Government is to be congratulated upon its achievement in introducing a comprehensive scheme of social services despite the fact that this country was engaged in the cruellest war in its history. But much remains to be done, and I would refer particularly to the work still remaining in the realm of tuberculosis. This disease is one of the really great evils in Australia to-day. During the 25 years between the two world wars, tuberculosis took a greater toll of life in this country than did the wai- of 1914-18. I have found from my inspection of sanatoriums - I have visited many during the last three years - that amongst tuberculosis sufferers generally there is a fear, not of their own future, but of the economic future of those depending upon them. This fear is a factor which prevents quite a number of sufferers from undertaking treatment in the early stages of the disease. Therefore, 1 believe that the Commonwealth Government’s decision to make payments, in conjunction with the States, to dependants of tuberculosis sufferers undergoing treatment is most laudable. I regret, however, that up to the present, no workable basis for these payments has been reached. I have gathered from recent visits to sanatoriums that this vexed problem is worrying patients considerably. I commend to the Minister for Health (Senator McKenna) the necessity to find an early solution of this problem. I realize that he will be confronted with heavy calls of duty within the next few months, and will have to grapple with many important problems; but I am certain that there is no pro bien more worthy of speedy solution than that of tuberculosis sufferers, particularly as the Commonwealth Government has already passed legislation providing relief for these people.
Throughout Australia to-day there is a growing consciousness of a need for improved standards of education. We speak of equality of opportunity in this country, but there is no such thing as equality of educational opportunity. Educational opportunities are limited by geographical considerations. They vary from State to State. Take for instance Western Australia, the State that I represent in this chamber. It has a huge area and a very small population. The total taxable income of Western Australia, therefore, is very small compared with that of more densely populated States, particularly New South Wales and Victoria. I believe that there is indeed a case here for federal intervention in the educational sphere.
After all, we are, all Australians. This Parliament -should lay down an educational policy which would ensure to every Australian, irrespective of his place of residence, the right to a truly Australian education, without cheeseparing restrictions. I stress, therefore, the need to find means within the next few years to develop a scheme of Commonwealth assistance for educational purposes so that all Australians may have equal opportunities in this field.
I thank the Senate for this opportunity to move the motion for the adoption of the Address-in-Reply to the Speech of His Royal Highness the Governor-General. I believe that the privilege has come to me on this occasion not merely because I am a woman. It is true that I performed a similar duty at the beginning of my first term of office in this chamber, but that was because my position was unique at that time. In the recent elections I had the honour to lead the Labour Senate team to victory in Western Australia - it is the first time in history that a successful Senate team has been led by a woman - and I regard my choice to make this speech as a tribute to the womenfolk of Western Australia and of Australia generally. If we are to progress along the ways leading hack to peace, we must show that spirit of co-operation and sacrifice that was evident during the war. In the darkest days of the war, all personal differences were forgotten and people were willing to sacrifice a great deal for the common good. Then, our own physical safety was at stake; now, the actual fear of physical danger has passed, but the necessity for co-operation is no less if we are to win the battle for peace. In seven years we saw the results of 50 or 60 years of civilized progress completely destroyed. That loss to humanity cannot be restored within a month or a year; careful planning is needed. We must proceed slowly, but nevertheless steadily. We must not remain stationary The march of progress must not be delayed even for a year. Therefore, during the next three years this Parlialiament has a momentous and difficult task to perform. We must call upon all of our resources, and all men and women, not only in this Parliament but also throughout Australia, must help the nation to return to the ways of peace. We must ensure that the full doctrine of human rights which we have espoused so strongly on behalf of other peoples shall be implemented for every person in the Commonwealth.
– I deem it a great honour, as a new senator and as a representative of Victoria, to second the motion for the adoption of the Address-in-Reply to the speech of the Governor-General. Yesterday was the last occasion on which His Royal Highness the Duke of Gloucester would address this Parliament as the Governor-General of Australia. During the last two years, His Royal Highness and the Duchess of Gloucester have travelled extensively throughout Australia, and during their tours they have endeared themselves, by their, kindness and courtesy, to all those with whom they ha.ve come in contact. I know that I express the feelings of the people when I say that we shall regret their departure from Australia. More important engagements require them to return to their own country, and I am sure that, after their experiences in this country, they will be ardent ambassadors for Australia. During a portion of the term of office of His Royal Highness, the nation passed through one of the most trying periods in its history. We are glad that the awful carnage of the world-wide war has ended. Our job now, as representatives of the people of Australia, is to work in the interests of the men who were prepared to give their all for the welfare of their fellow Australians.
I compliment Senator Tangney on the very capable way in which she delivered her excellent address. She dealt with almost every subject that could be dealt with on an occasion such as the present. I also congratulate the Government on having ‘been returned to office. It has received from the people a mandate to continue administering the affairs of Australia, as it did when the nation was at war. I am sure that when the programme outlined in the Governor-General’s Speech has been implemented, the people will have no cause to regret the result of the elections. Before the war, and also during the early days of the war, the Labour party was strongly criticized by its opponents for its defence policy and later for its plans for the reestablishment of service men and women. The party was held up to scorn, and its members were described as irresponsible people who would leave the country undefended, merely because the Labour movement is essentially a peace movement. We realize that the masses of the people have to fight all wars and suffer in the carnage and chaos of modern battles. The womenfolk and children of the soldiers have to bear the sadness of waiting and hoping for the return of their husbands and fathers. And when those who survive do return, they have to assist in the reconstruction of the nation and pay for the costs of war. That is why one of the great aims of the Labour party is to promote a universal agreement designed to maintain world peace. However, no matter how eager we may be to secure peace, obviously we have no power to bring about world disarmament. At best, we can only lend our support to international movements designed to achieve that objective. Any such move will be eagerly welcomed by the Labour party. Nevertheless, whilst endeavouring to propagate the ideals of peace, we do not deny the right of Australia to defend itself. The Labour party has always been in the forefront of the struggle to create and maintain national institutions and ideals, and it will not sacrifice them to the first barbarian race that might threaten our shores. Therefore, I am pleased to know that the Government has a comprehensive policy for the future defence of Australia, particularly in the Pacific area.
I am also pleased that the Government has a comprehensive plan to rehabilitate our ex-service men and women in a way that will be satisfactory to everybody concerned, whether they be engaged in primary production, in secondary industries, or in other fields of enterprise. As a farmer, I am particularly interested in the Government’s rural programme. The Labour party has always recognized that the welfare of Australia is closely associated with the soil. The prosperity of the nation depends largely upon the success or otherwise of the man on the land. Nobody has a greater claim to be described as a worker than the man who tills the soil, and nobody is more entitled to participate in governing the affairs of the nation than the members of that large and influential class known as primary producers. The Labour party’s platform gives recognition to the importance of primary producers and their problems. While farmers and other rural citizens consider themselves to be inadequately remunerated and neglected, there can he little progress towards the expansion of primary industries. As the result of many disabilities such as inflated land values, high rates of interest, bad seasons, and fluctuating prices, thousands of families have been forced to leave the land in the hope of gaining in the cities higher remuneration in return for their labour and better educational and social facilities for their children. During the financial depression not so long ago, thousands of farmers were forced even to join the ranks of the unemployed, and many of them ended their days on the dole. We must guard against a repetition of such a state of affairs in the future. I am sure that the Government’s policy will make the position of the man on the land much more secure than it has been in the past. We must realize that the advancement of our rural communities is not a matter of sectional interest but is of national importance. The benefits of rural development are not confined to the country districts. Our commercial and manufacturing organizations and our shipping and railway services depend upon the success or otherwise of the man on the land. If the farmer is to be successful, he must be assured of economic security. Whilst I regret that the proposals submitted to the people for the stabilization of prices and the orderly marketing of primary products did not receive the requisite majority of the votes of the electors, I hope that the Government will persevere with the policy laid down in the Governor-General’s Speech and have no hesitation in doing its utmost to bring about the desired result.
Other rural proposals are the decentralization of industry, the establishment of additional water supply schemes and! re-afforestation. To enable secondary industries to be established in country districts, adequate supplies of water must be made available. Apart from the coastal fringe, Australia is a semi-drought stricken country, and unless adequate water storages are provided in inland areas increased settlement cannot reasonably be expected. I hope that the Government will realize that one of the major matters calling for attention is the provision of water storages for irrigation purposes. Another important requirement is the provision of good roads, and particularly cross-country roads. I hope that the Government will assist the States in the construction and maintenance of roads which are essential for the purpose of opening up the country lying between railway lines.
The provision of postal and telephonic facilities should receive the close and earnest consideration of the Government. In the district in which I live, mails are received only three times a week and the telephone service is available for only a few hours daily. If we wish to encourage people to remain in outlying country districts we must provide them, as far as practicable, with the amenities enjoyed by city folk. The Government has received a mandate from the people, and I trust that it will discharge that mandate by introducing the legislative measures indicated in the GovernorGeneral’s Speech. If it does that, I am sure that the people of this country will have economic stability and security for many years.
Debate (on motion by Senator McLeay) adjourned.
Message received from the House of Representatives intimating that the following members had been appointed members of the Parliamentary Proceedings Broadcasting Committee : - Mr. Speaker (Hon. J. S. Rosevear), Mr. Bernard Corser, Mr. Fraser, Mr. Haylen, Mr. Holt, and Mr. Sheehan.
Motion (by Senator Ashley) agreed to-
That the Senate, at its rising, adjourn to Wednesday next, at 3 p.m.
The following paperswere presented : -
Aluminium Industry Act - First Annual Report of the Australian Aluminium Production Commission, for period 1st May, 1945, to 30th June, 1946.
Australian Barley Board - Income and Expenditure Accounts and Balance-sheets of Nos. 4, 5 and 6 BarleyPools,for period ended 30th April, 1946, together with General Manager’s report.
Australian Wool Board - Tenth Annual Report, for year 1945-46.
Canned Fruits Export Control Act - Twentieth Annual Report of the Australian Canned Fruits Board, for year 1945-46, together with Statement by Minister regarding the operation of the Act.
Common-wealth Public Service Act - Appointment - Department of DefenceF.O. Chilton.
Dairy Produce Export Control Act - Twenty-first Annual Report of the Australian Dairy Produce Board, for year 1945-46, together with Statement by Minister regarding the operation of the Act.
Lands Acquisition Act - Land acquired for Postal purposes - Junee Reefs, New South Wales.
National Security Act - National Security ( Capital Issues ) Regulations - Order - Exemption.
Northern Territory Acceptance Act and Northern Territory (Administration.) Act-
No. 6 of 1946 (Medical Benefits and Hospitals).
No. 7 of 1946 (Darwin Short Term Leases) .
Regulations - No. 2 of 1946 (Medical Benefits and Hospitals Ordinance).
Post and Telegraph Act - Regulations - Statutory Rules 1946, No. 149.
Postmaster-General’s Department - Thirtyfifth Annual Report, for year 1944-45. River Murray Waters Act - River Murray Commission - Report for year 1945-46.
Seat of Government Acceptance Act and Seat of Government (Administration) Act-
No. 8 of 1946 (Liquor).
No. 9 of 1946 (Theatres and Public Halls).
No. 10 of 1946 (Hospital Tax Ordinance Repeal).
No. 3 of 1946 (Building and Services Ordinance ) .
No. 4 of 1946 (Workmen’s Compensation Ordinance).
No. 5 of 1946 (Building and Services Ordinance) .
Wine .Overseas Marketing Act - Eighteenth Annual Report .of the Australian Wine Board, for year 1945-46, .together with Statement ‘by Minister ‘regarding the opera:tion of .the Act.
Senate adjourned at 4.20 p.m.
Cite as: Australia, Senate, Debates, 7 November 1946, viewed 22 October 2017, <http://historichansard.net/senate/1946/19461107_senate_18_189/>.