19th Parliament · 1st Session
The President (Senator theHon. Gordon Brown) took the chairat 11 a.m., and read prayers.
-Will the Minister representing the Treasurer inform the Senate whether he observed the following advertisement in the Sydney Morning Herald of the 3rd December, 1949: - ( Advertisement. ) FACT FOR VOTERS WHO THINK £ NOTES.
In June, 1939, there were £47,530,124 Australian Notes in circulation. At June 30th last, they had increased to £212,854,932.
Why has there been this huge increase?
The average Australian now has touse nearly five times as many notes to buy the same amount of things.
That is inflation.Your money has lost its value.
That is one of the aims of Socialism.
Stop Chifley Before it is too late. (Authorised by A. Hannam, 50 Mooramie Ave., Kensington.)
Is the Minister aware that, according to the Commonwealth Statistician, at the 31st January, 1951, ..there were £252,520,000 Australian notes in circulation, and will he say why there has been the huge increase of £39,665,068 in eighteen months?
– I did not see the advertisement to which the honorable senator has referred, although I have seen similar advertisements in the press. I do not know who was responsible for their insertion. I think that it is fair to say - and I think the Australian people will agree - that during the regime of this Government there has been a great era of prosperity throughout Australia. There is a lot of talk about rising prices and higher costs, but the fact is - and the1 Australian people realize this fact - that the average person in Australia to-day has more money left in his pocket after buying the necessaries of life than he has ever had before. This Government takes great pride’ in the knowledge that never before in Australia’s history have wages been increased effectively to a greater degree than they have been during the life of this Government.
– Has the attention of the Minister for Trade and Customs been directed to a news item in to-day’s press which states that a resolution for the revaluation of the Australian £1 was carried by a large majority at the annual conference of the Southern Riverina Graziers Association despite opposition by Mr. D. E. Fairbairn, M.P., a member of the Australian Country party, who. said that appreciation of the Australian £1 would mean big subsidies for the sugar, dairying and dried fruits industries, and that ‘higher income tax would be needed to pay the subsidies! Is it not a fact that the barrage of propaganda about a double dissolution, which has emanated from .Government circles is intended as a cover up for the division and dissension in the Cabinet on the subject of revaluation that resulted from the foolish and irresponsible statement made by the Leader of the Australian Country party, Mr. Fadden, during the general election campaign in 1949 that, as far as the Australian Country party was concerned, revaluation of the Australian £1 would be achieved only over his dead body? If revaluation of the’ Australian £1 will make such a major contribution to the economic welfare of. the’ majority of the Australian people, as has been claimed, does the . Government intend to ignore the embarrassment that revaluation would cause to Mr. Fadden and his party and proceed to carry out the wishes of the ‘ Southern Riverina Graziers Association ?
– Apparently it is necessary for me- to repeat, the warning, that I issued yesterday to Opposition-, senators about basing their comments and questions on- statements’ that are published in the press. I do not propose to deal with the honorable senator’s questions in detail. I merely remind him that Mr. Fairbairn, M.P., is. a member, not of the Australian Country party, but. of the Liberal party.
– Is the Minister representing the Minister for National Development able to s>tate whether the virus disease, myxomatosis, bias been introduced to the rabbit-infested areas of Western Australia? If it has been, oan the Minister alao state through what department in “Western Australia the virus is being distributed and whether it 18 available for the use of farmers generally?
– I am unable to give a definite reply to the honorable senator’s question. My recollection is that so far the experiments have been conducted only in the southern portion of New .South Wales and the northern portion of Victoria. I am not certain that that is correct, but I shall consult with the Minister for Nations! Development in order to ascertain the Tacts. I shall also inquire into the .possibility of such experiments being earned out in Western Australia, provided that the Commonwealth scientific officers aire satisfied with the results already achieved. I understand that they are ‘satisfied that the effects of myxomatosis represent one of the greatest advances mode in the eradication of the rabbit pest. That, of course, is but another example of the efficiency of thos Government.
– I preface a. question to the Minister representing ‘ the Monaster for Supply by stating that many Tasmanian farmers are without tyres for their motor tractors. Having disposed of their horses, their farming operations are consequently ait a standstill. I have been informed that such tyres” are being held in expectation of a rise of prices, but I am not certain whether that as so. Wolli the Minister cause a search to be made for the purpose of ascertaining whether there are motor, tyres stored in factories, warehouses amd other places? If the search should reveal that that is so, will he take the necessary action in order .to have such tyres distributed to farmers and other primary producers who are desperately in , need of them?
– I shall be pleased to bring to the notice of the Minister for Supply the question asked by the honorable senator.
– Is the Minister for Fuel, Shipping and Transport aware that it was announced in this morning’s press that the price of petrol would be increased? In the Sydney Morning Herald there is confirmation of the threat by the major oil companies to the State Prices Ministers that if the application for an increase of 3d. a gallon was not granted Australia would face its worst petrol shortage since 1943. I am not sure that 1943 was the period when Australia was desperately short of petrol. I think the worst shortage occurred somewhat earlier, -when the Curtin Government had to import petrol from the United States of America in 40-gallon drums. Will the Minister tell the Senate what stocks of petrol are held in Australia, and what is being done to prevent the oil companies from enforcing their threat?
– Stocks of petrol are held in Australia for defence purposes and, in addition, certain stocks are held for trading purposes. A dispute or misunderstanding has occurred on the subject of the price of petrol, a matter that is within the authority of the State governments which, I am sure, will allow the oil companies a reasonable profit. Obviously, we cannot expect the oil companies to sell petrol in Australia at a loss, and we must remember that oil supplies are controlled very largely by interests in other parts of the world. The Government is watching the position carefully, and I am confident that present difficulties will be overcome.
– In view of the serious and detrimental effect that the present high cost of petrol is having on the development of industry in country areas, will the Minister for Trade and Customs give serious consideration to allocating, from the very considerable revenue derived from the sale of petrol in country areas, a certain sum for the purpose of subsidizing the price of petrol in those areas?
– Is the honorable senator suggesting that the price of petrol throughout Australia should be made uniform?
– I am not so much concerned about obtaining uniformity of price, as I am in obtaining some relief for country purchasers of petrol. Because of the very large revenue derived from, indirect taxes, I think that it would be only fair for the Government to allocate some of that revenue in order to reduce the price of petrol to industrial users in country areas.
– The suggestion made by the honorable senator is well worthy of consideration. Senator Courtice was formerly Minister for Trade and Customs, and I feel sure that the suggestion that he has now made must have been present to his mind when he was the Minister.
– Hear, hear !
– However, the honorable senator will also realize, because of his experience as a Minister, that there are certain practical constitutional difficulties to be overcome before effect can be given to his suggestion. If the honorable senator has any specific proposal- to place before me that will overcome those difficulties I shall be happy to consider it. I repeat that his suggestion is worthy of the fullest consideration.
– I preface a question to the Minister representing the Minister for National Development by pointing out that difficulty is being experienced in obtaining sufficient tankers to transport supplies of oil and petrol to Australia from abroad, and that in the event of a third world war Australia would be unable to obtain supplies of oil and petrol from overseas. Will the Minister inform the Senate whether steps are being taken by the oil companies or by the Government to further the search for oil in Australia and New Guinea, as supplies from such sources would be invaluable to Australia at a time of national emergency?
– I assure the honorable senator that a considerable amount of .money has already been expended on the search for oil, and the Government has offered every encouragement to people interested to continue the search. We hope that, in the not far distant future, their efforts, particularly in New Guinea, will be successful. I assure the honorable senator that the search for oil in this country is now more active than ever before.
– Will the Minister for Fuel, Shipping and Transport inform the Senate whether the Government has reconsidered its decision to close the Glen Davis shale oil undertaking ? Was the original decision to close thatundertaking made because of pressure brought to bear on the Government by the oil companies? Of course, I expect the Minister’s answer to be “ No “. Does the Minister agree that in the event of another world war developing, there is at least a possibility that Australia would be cut off from its present sources of supply of oil, and that that possibility should be guarded against ? If his answers to these questions are is the affirmative, does he further agree that the value of locallyproduced .petrol could not be measured in terms of pounds, shillings, and pence ? In view of the disturbed international situation, will the Minister assure the Senate that the Glen Davis shale oil undertaking shall be permitted to continue ?
– Such a silly question could only be asked by an honorable senator with’ a warped mind. ‘
– It is being answered by a silly Minister.
– Order! These recriminations should cease. The utter.ings of such -futilities does not add to the reputation of the Senate.
– I rise to order. The Minister’s observation is objectionable to me and I ask that it be withdrawn.
– I ask the Minister to withdraw the statement to which Senator Sandford objects.
– As my remark was apparently offensive to the honorable senator, and in deference to the Chair, I withdraw it.
– Can the Minister representing the Minister for the Army say how many Japanese or other enemy subjects still await trial on charges arising out of the war in the South-West Pacific area, and when will all the trials be completed ?
– The Minister for the Army has informed me that two (rials are now proceeding, and that three others are yet to take place. It is difficult to estimate how long the trials will take, but it is hoped that they will be all concluded by the end of this month or early next month.
– In view of the negotiations that are proceeding between the Australian Government and the Bulolo Gold Dredging Company, of New Guinea, with a view to working the Bulolo timber stands in partnership, will the Minister representing the Minister for National Development investigate the possibility of transferring some of the dredges now being used for obtaining gold at Bulolo to the rich alluvial tin-bearing areas at Dorset, in the north-east of Tasmania, and so permit the production of that valuable metal to be increased considerably? I understand that orders recently placed overseas for tin were based on a price of £1,870, whereas Tasmanian producers receive only £840 a ton, and that, because of the poor facilities available in tin-bearing areas, many miners are leaving those areas to live in the cities. I ask the Minister to consider the matter as an urgent one because of the growing need for this very valuable metal.
– Arrangements for the working of the timber stands in New Guinea are under the control of, not the Minister for National Development, but the Minister of External Territories. These arrangements, which have been announced in the press, contemplate the formation of a company in which both the Australian Government and the Bulolo company will have an interest. This development represents an extension of the activities of the Bulolo company. The fact that the company is extending its activities to cover the production of timber appears to me to have no bearing on its gold-mining operations. I do not think that it is at all likely that because the company has extended its activities to the production of timber it would have any less work for its gold-dredging plant. If I am correct in that assumption, its dredges would not be available for use in Tasmania.
– In the presentation of the “ records amd performances “ of the various “ rummers “ for Cabinet rank, is it a fact, as has been stated in an .article published ‘in ‘the Daily Telegraph, that the special qualification of one candidate, known as “ Calamity “ Cramer, a former member of the Sydney County Council, ds1 that the resignation of Dame Enid Lyons has left the Cabinet without a representative of the Catholic Church? Is it a fact that, owing to the numerous applications, amd because under this new technique no Protestant need apply, there is a suggestion that the Go remittent moy ‘avoid embarassment by increasing membership of the Cabinet from 19 to 21?
– I am sure that all honorable ‘Senators will agree that to ask & question of that kind is a gross abuse of the privileges of the Senate, calculated to injure the prestige and dignity of this chamber.
– I take exception to the Minister’s- reply. I asked Mm whether the report that I cited was true. He should answer “ Yos “ or “ No “.
– Sometimes questions are asked in this chamber which provoke considerable resentment. A Minister may answer such questions as he pleases, provided that he does not contravene the Standing Orders.
– As the need for a revision of the Commonwealth Constitution is at present a matter of wide public discussion,, can the Attorney-
General say whether it is, the intention of the Government ‘to convene a meeting of a representative body of citizens to examine the Constitution, calmly and objectively in the light qf the experience of 50 years of federation ? The AttorneyGeneral will agree that the people “ of Australia are much concerned about this vital matter, and that their approach to the problem is vastly ,, different from that of the press. As ‘the Senate represents the States which will be expected to relinquish power to the Commonwealth, I believe -that a statement of the Government’s intentions should he made in this chamber
– I have no statement to make on that matter at present, but, as the Prime Minister has stated, the limits of power disclosed by the decision of the High Court on the Communist Party Dissolution Bill do call for some consideration of the need to seek further power for the Common wealth in matters of that kind. Just how far it may be necessary to go in that direction, depends on careful consideration of long judgments and it will take some time to analyse the position completely. The remaining part of the honorable senator’s question is, I suggest, directly concerned with Government policy, and since it is not customary to answer such questions in this chamber, I am not prepared to make any further statement.
– My question did not arise directly out of the recent decision of the High Court. I have in mind a number of decisions of the High Court during the 50 years since federation. I was endeavouring to ascertain from the Minister whether the Government would consider calling together a body of persons quite apart from party politics to examine calmly and dispassionately the ‘ shortcomings of the Constitution, so that a united approach could be made to the people in any appeal to clothe this Parliament with greater authority. .
– Again I suggest that the honorable senator’s question relates to a matter of policy, on which I do not propose to make any declaration at this stage, other than to say that people who suggest that these questions should be considered by some other body with a view to reaching some kind of agreement about Constitution alterations, are apt to overlook the fact that they can never avoid the necessity for the proposed alterations to be endorsed by the. Parliament. Until the constitution of the Senate is such that questions proposed by the Government will receive dispassionate and fair consideration by the Opposition, it is unlikely that we could look for success in that direction.
– Is the Minister representing the Minister for Supply aware of the statement made by the Dundas Road Board in “Western Australia that the Australian Government has apparently shown no interest in the development of the Norseman pyrites deposit for the manufacture of superphosphate? In view of the importance of the pyrites deposit to Western Australia and of the value of superphosphate to farmers throughout Australia, will the Minister examine the prospects of exploiting the pyrites deposits at Norseman in the interests of national development?
– I shall be pleased to submit the honorable senator’s question to my colleague, the Minister for Supply, and obtain a considered reply for her at an early date.
– Is the Minister for Fuel, Shipping and Transport aware that the shipping facilities at present provided by the State shipping service in Western Australia are inadequate to cope with the passenger and goods traffic that is available in the north-western ports of that State? Will the Minister advise the Senate what steps he has taken to improve the shipping facilities available for people living in the remote north-western part of the State?
– Although the Commonwealth is very short of ships at present, it has lent one on charter to the Western Australian Government for use in the service mentioned by the honorable senator. In addition, the Commonwealth has sold Dongara, which is nearing completion at the Newcastle dock-yards, to the Western Australian Government at a special price, in order to assist that Government. I am given to understand that when the new ship is delivered in about a month’s time it will be able to cope with requirements in the north-west of Western Australia, provided that we leave here the one vessel that is already operating under the charter, but which is asked for so often by representatives of Tasmania. We will do our best to see that the people in the north-west of Western Australia are adequately catered for.
– In reply to a question that I asked yesterday in connexion with war neurosis patients, many of whom are being treated in civilian hospitals, the Minister for Repatriation referred to the high priority for home building materials needed for the construction of suitable buildings in which to house these men who are suffering as a result of injuries received in the defence of this country. I now ask whether the required materials could be made available by the Government irrespective of priorities, in order to expedite the transfer of these patients from civilian mental hospitals to appropriate buildings?
– I appreciate the interest of the honorable senator in this matter, and I assure him that the Government is most eager to provide every facility for war neurosis sufferers as soon as possible. Every effort will be made by the Repatriation Department to obtain the required new buildings at the earliest possible date. However, I remind the honorable senator that the matter of priorities for building materials does not come within my complete jurisdiction, and that consideration must be given to the defence requirements of this country.
asked the Minister representing the Minister for Immigration, upon notice -
– The Minister for Immigration has supplied the following information : -
There has been no general departure from the policy of requiring migrants who have come to Australia under the displaced persons’ resettlement scheme to serve for a period of two years in employment named by the Government. This policy has, however, been departed from in certain individual cases where circumstances have warranted special consideration being given to release from the employment undertaking. These cases are each considered on their merits and the following are several instances where this action has been taken: - (i) where the migrant is a single woman who lias married an Australian who can maintain her and provide a home for her; (ii) where the migrant is a married woman and no approved employment is available for her at the place where her husband has been able to provide suitable accommodation where they can live together; (iii) where a migrant, having served for a period in approved employment, desires to undertake on his own behalf some activity which is obviously to the benefit of the national economy; (iv) where a migrant, having served for a period in approved employment, and possessing the required professional qualifications, is accepted for a professional course at an Australian university.
It is a fact that certain migrants are leaving their jobs without permission. At the present time there are over 80,000 persons in Australia who arc subject to contractual arrangements, and of these it has been reported that approximately 1,750 have left their allocated employment without authority. Eight hundred and seventy of these cases were in New South Wales.
The department does view very seriously failure to fulfil employment obligations and takes all possible action to induce any migrant who absconds from approved employment to return to such employment. However, the only powers possessed by the department in this matter are, firstly - that a migrant who fails to notify the department of any change in his address and/or occupation renders himself liable to prosecution under the Aliens Act, and, secondly, to recommend deportation, which is done only in those cases where there are no mitigating circumstances and the refusal to abide by the employment obligations is wilful. Up to the present time, deportation action has been taken, for failure to fulfil employment obligation, in approximately 50 cases.
The Government is satisfied that the vast majority of displaced persons under employment obligation have fulfilled and are fulfill inn their obligations. It is considered that 1 00 ‘ per cent, fulfilment of obligation cannot he expected without a greatly increased supervisory staff, but every possible action is, however, being taken to ensure that displaced persons under contract abide by their employment obligation.
asked the Minister representing the Treasurer, upon notice -
– The Treasurer has supplied the following answer : -
The only expenditure to be incurred by the Commonwealth Government is for transport costs of the band in travelling to and from Canberra for a display on the 30th March, 1951. This expenditure will be met from funds provided for the jubilee celebrations.
Report oi? Public Works Committee.
– As Chairman I present the report of the Public Works Committee on the following subject: -
Proposed Erection of the Irwin Automatic Telephone Exchange at Perth, Western Australia.
Ordered to be printed.
– I present the report of the Select Committee on National Service in the Defence Force, together with minutes of proceedings.
Ordered to be printed.
Debate resumed from the 8th March (vide page 165), on motion of Senator Spicer -
That the bill be now read a second time.
– The members of the Opposition appreciate that one of the grave responsibilities of the Australian Government is to provide for he defence of this country. They .are desirous that the defence preparations made by the Government should be adequate and the best possible that oan be provided by both the financial and the physical resources of the country. While the Opposition does not propose to reject this measure, it considers that its .presentation to the Parliament, the value of it to the people, and the deficiencies contained in its proposals are open to severe criticism. Government supporters in the House of Representatives who were prepared to speak their minds on this matter, subjected the bill to criticism much more severe ‘than that which has been levelled at it in this, chamber. They did so despite the fact that Ministers have chided and insulted Opposition senators for allegedly holding certain views in relation to the defence of this country and the legislation introduced by (the Government. During the -last few days Ministers have made statements in this chamber for no other purpose than that of propaganda. A wellsustained campaign of propaganda has been conducted in an. .effort to indicate to the people that the Senate has been dilatory in its handling of certain legislation and that the Opposition in this chamber has delayed the passage of the legislation. Despite the fac that the Government was not really eager _ too have its legislation enacted, that propaganda was disseminated. Statistics reveal that of 78 pieces of legislation presented to the two Houses of this Parliament, 75 have been passed by the Senate and three are in dispute. Moreover, it will be. found. , that the average time occupied in discussion of each bill was four hours in the House of Representatives and one hour 40 minutes in the Senate. The Government has juggled with -the business before the Parliament without any regard whatever for the welfare of the country. This bill was declared an urgent measure when first introduced,”but later it was stood over so- that Ministers might indulge in political propaganda. When the bill was before the House of Representatives, the honorable member for Henty (Mr. Gullett) pointed out its deficiencies to the Government, but his remarks went unheeded. Although he is Government
Whip in the House of Representatives he is not, apparently, sufficiently influential to induce the Government to withdraw this anaemic legislation, forget its political propaganda, and remember its duty to the nation.
If the Government’3 defence efforts were judged by the amount of money being spent we might assume that it was doing a great deal. Expenditure has been extravagant but there is very little to show for it. The Labour Government, which collected less revenue, was able to show a surplus at the end of each financial year, but this Government, for the first eight months of the present financial year, has expended £38,000,000 more than it has collected, and that does not include war service payments, apart from pensions. The receipts, however, include a considerable proportion of the wool tax grab. The Government has felt impelled to offer the public an explanation of the financial position, but the statement was not made to the Parliament. The Government has been shilly-shallying while we have been trying to extract from it information to which we are entitled about matters of national concern. Members of the Government have behaved in as dictatorial manner as ever Hitler did. They have refused to agree to the appointment of parliamentary select committees which could elicit information that would enable legislation to be drafted in the best possible form. The Government has done nothing to prevent the rise of prices or to curb inflation. It boasts, however, that it has expended £50,000,000 out of this year’s vote. That represents more than one-third of the total vote, but very little has been done to promote the defence of Australia.
– Why are there so few enlistments?
– Because conditions in the forces are not satisfactory. Officers are travelling about the country under very pleasant conditions trying to obtain recruits, and the bands play in an endeavour to arouse enthusiasm and encourage young men to enlist. Some of my young relatives enlisted in the forces, and were issued with very inferior equipment. For instance, they were given second-hand boots still bearing the names of the previous users. Admittedly, it was not stated that the previous owners were deceased, but they could well have been, judging by the condition of the boots. They were also issued with second-hand uniforms bearing the names of previous users. Obviously, the country has not received value for the £50,000,000 expended this year on defence, although there is plenty of publicity and glory for the officers who travel around on the recruiting campaign. No doubt they are doing their best, but they are not getting results because conditions in the services are not satisfactory. Those who enlist must be prepared, if need be, to sacrifice life or limb in the defence of their country. There may be glory for those who come back, particularly if they hold high rank, but there is nothing for the boys who finish on the field. Such sacrifices are expected of those who enlist, but what does the Government say to the employers of those lads? We know that loyalty cannot be measured in cash, but the Government has gone no further than to say to the employers that they may, if they choose, makeup to those of their employees^ who enlist the difference between ‘ their “ civil and military pay. There is to be no compulsion about it, but under this legislation the boys are to be told that they must go into the forces.
Members of the forces should receive proper training. I was in the first world war, and I know that the training given in this country was poor. Of course, men were given some elementary training in parade ground drill, and they were taught bow to take cover according to the methods in vogue during the Boer war. They were given some idea of discipline, hut apart from those things all the training was out of date. Recruits had to get hold of up-to-date military manuals in order to learn anything about modern weapons and campaigning. “When the last war broke out, no military commander in Australia of any rank possessed an adequate knowledge of jungle warfare. But for our sad experiences in Malaya which resulted in severe criticism of some of our army commanders, particularly when the capitulation of our forces at Singapore was a forgone conclusion, our troops would not have received any training in jungle warfare. We had to overcome the attitude of the Colonel Blimps who knew nothing beyond what was contained in the .Army Manual of Training. They were concerned solely with the proper handling of a rifle; they knew nothing of modern methods of warfare in which automatic weapons are used. I gave that sort of training to troops under the syllabus which was supplied to me, but which was completely inadequate to meet present day circumstances. Unless in this scheme the Government has made better preparations for the training of troops than it did for the training of troops in the early years of World War II., the scheme must fail. It will be nothing more than a flagflapping gesture which will not in any way prepare the nation to meet the grave circumstances with which it is faced. This scheme was perhaps best described by the honorable member for Henty (Mr. Gullett) in another place.
– What the honorable senator is saying is pure tripe.
– Looking at the honorable senator . who has just interjected I should say that he should be a good judge of tripe.
This bill, which provides for the calling up of the youth of Australia for defence training, provides for one way into the forces and for many ways out of them. No provision has been made in the bill for the establishment of an independent tribunal to consider applications for exemption from national service. The provisions relating to exemption will be administered’ solely by the Minister for Defence. It is obvious that these provisions leave the way open for the exercise of political patronage 1 which is much to be deplored. This bill should be administered solely by those who are responsible for the training of our young men. It should include a provision granting to applicants for exemption the right of appeal to an independent tribunal against the decision of the Minister. Administration of the legislation should be divorced from political control. Only if an independent tribunal be established to consider applications for exemption or deferment will this legislation be successful and operate in the interests of the community.
I speak on this bill at a very great disadvantage because no t,- one Minister is present in the chamber to take note of my remarks. The absence of Ministers during the discussion of a measure of such importance as this is constitutes an insult to the Senate. I observe that one of the ministerial secretaries is standing at the doorway looking into the chamber. Perhaps he has been directed to take notes and to inform the Minister of the matters raised during this debate. What sort of conduct is that on the part of Ministers who are always talking about the dignity of the Senate! When Labour governments were in office Ministers did not leave the Senate unattended. For many years during Labour’s administration this country was engaged in a total war and Ministers were preoccupied with important matters that required their closest attention, but they upheld the dignity of the Senate and ‘ always arranged for at least one Minister to be present during the sittings of this chamber. At that ‘time we were engaged, not in .a “ Bob Menzies war “, but in a total war. Apparently members of this Government are more concerned about ‘the possibilities of a double dissolution and its effect upon their future than about the ‘dignity of this Senate and their obligation to be present daring its deliberations.
Honorable senators opposite have asked what deficiencies we find in this measure and whether we are competent ito criticize it. As laymen with a reasonable knowledge of military affairs, Opposition senators ‘are qualified to offer general criticism of it. For the benefit of the Government and of those young men who will be called upon to train under this scheme, we established a select committee for the purpose of getting expert advice on this proposal. Had the Government seen fit to appoint representatives to that com,mittee and to permit the service chiefs and departmental heads to give it the benefit of their advice, the Senate would have been in a much better position to gauge ‘the effectiveness of this proposal. We should seek to avoid the defects that were inherent in the earlier compulsory military training scheme. We want to know why the Government introduced this measure and whether a satisfactory scheme of (military training could not have been instituted under the provisions of the Defence Act. If there were defects in the provisions of the Defence Act which rendered necessary the introduction of this bill the Government should have advised us of them. This scheme has been criticized outside the Parliament by high military authorities, including supporters of the Government. In spite of that criticism, the Government refused to co-operate with the select committee and denied it expert information on which it could have advised as to the efficacy or otherwise of the scheme. The Government has displayed a callous disregard not only of the dignity of the Senate - about which we. shall have more to say later - but also of the rights and privileges of the young men who will be forced to don a uniform and undergo training in the defence force. It has paid scant attention to the welf are of the trainees and to the efficiency of the training which they will undergo.
No statement has been made to the Senate about the economic effect of this measure on industry and on the young men who will be called upon to undergo training. Unless provision is made for almost unlimited exemptions, this measure will cause a ‘tremendous upset in industry. Young lads who are in the course of completing apprenticeship training will have to seek deferment or be called up for service forthwith. Most of them would probably be able better £o serve their country ais skilled tradesmen than as members of the forces, particularly in times such as this when war has become such a highly scientific and technical undertaking. Australians ‘have never favoured compulsory enlistment in the armed forces, but they have as good a record as the peoples” of any nation in rallying to the defence of their country when war has come. I do not say that the Government will not get the number of recruits that it requires under the present scheme, but I believe that much better results would be obtained if the Government were to say to the conscripts, “ If you fulfil your obligation as citizens the community will meet its obligation to you by ensuring that you shall not lose financially through your enlistment in the defence forces “.
Apparently, while every consideration has been given to conscripting the youth of this country, no consideration has been given to compelling employers to make up the pay of employees who are called up for compulsory military, service. Surely that is a matter that should have been considered most thoroughly. I should like to know how far the Government 13 prepared to go in imposing upon the employers an obligation consonant with that which this measure will place upon young Australians. I believe that this bill should compel employers to make up the pay of employees who are serving in the defence forces, and should subject defaulting employers to the same penalties as are prescribed for conscripts who do not comply with the terms of the national service proposals. I recall that, when I was a member of the defence forces, I became ill while in camp. I was sent to the camp hospital, but the facilities for treatment were totally inadequate. I was examined by two doctors and found to be unfit for further service at the camp. I was excused from attendance for the remaining period of the camp, and sent home. When I had recovered sufficiently to return to work,” I reported to my employer, who told me that as far as he was concerned, I was still a member of the forces. The matter was in dispute for some days, during which I remained at home and lost wages. Finally the wages that I had lost were made up to me by the defence authorities, but only after considerable delay and the filling in of forms. Can we expect conditions to be any better now? I submit that we cannot. We should provide therefore that the pay of every lad who is called up for military service shall be made up to him by his employer.
– Why not have the Commonwealth make it up?
– Whatever is done, the employee should not lose. Why did the honorable senator not make that suggestion when this measure was under consideration by the Government parties ? I am inclined to wonder whether the bill was ever thoroughly considered by honorable senators opposite before being introduced into the Parliament. If the responsibility to make up the pay of conscripts is to rest upon the Commonwealth, then why not provide for both military and civil payments to be mad a at the one time, thus saving delay and unnecessary work? Senator George Rankin should place his idea before his colleagues at a party meeting. I am concerned only with the principle that no conscript should lose money because of his service in the defence forces. As there is no Minister in the Senate at present, 1 should be greatly obliged if Senator George Rankin would urge upon the Government the advisability of ensuring that youths undergoing compulsory military training should not suffer financial loss.
– I have been . advocating that for years.
– Then the honorable senator is in an excellent position to impress his views upon the Government. The Opposition will support wholeheartedly any representations that he may make. I am glad that the honorable senator agrees with us on this matter at least.
We are told that the conscripts will be permitted to express their preference for service in the Navy, Army, or Air Force, but Senator O’Byrne has drawn the attention of the Senate to- the case of a young man who sought voluntarily - he was not a conscript - to enlist in the Air Force, but he was told that h>was not eligible. Apparently the con scripts are to be asked in what service they would prefer to enlist, but, ultimately, they will have to go where they are sent. Every endeavour should be made to ensure that conscripts shall be drafted to the. units to which they are best suited. That apparently is something to which the Government has not given any consideration. It is deplorable that, if the danger of war is as great as has been suggested by honorable senators opposite, the Government of this country should once again be in the hands of the parties which, in time of actual war, could not remain united because of personal and party jealousies. -That is not merely a charge; by the Labour party. It was made by the present Prime Minister (Mr. Menzies) against the present Treasurer (Mr. Fadden). It was also made by the right honorable member for North Sydney (Mr. Hughes) against all members of the then Cabinet. Although we are not at war, this measure conferring wide powers upon the military authorities has been introduced into the Parliament without the advice of competent authorities. We are told that the exigencies, of the international situation are such that the bill must be passed.
The claim that the measure offers to conscripts the right to choose the service in which they wish to serve reminds me of the story of the Communist orator, who, addressing a public meeting, said, “ When the day of freedom comes you will ali have motor cars, yachts, and palatial houses at Rose Bay “. One member of the audience said timidly, “ I do riot want a beautiful house at Rose Bay or a motor car or a yacht ; I only want my civic rights “. The orator looked at him and said, “ My boy, when we get you, you will do as you are told and live where we put you “.
Clause 26 of the bill provides - (2.) A person shall not be called up for service with the Citizen Naval Forces or with the Citizen Air Force unless lie has volunteered for service beyond the limits of Australia.
That is understandable and it should be wade clear to recruits. The clause continues - (3.) Where the Minister of State for the N’avy or the Minister of State for Air, by notice published in the Gazette, declares that persons may be called up for service within the limits of Australia with the Citizen Naval Forces or the Citizen Air Force, respectively, a person may, whether or not he has volunteered for service beyond the limits of Australia, be oi> lied up for that service. (4.) A notice served on a person under this section shall specify the time and place at which, and the authority to which, that person is to present himself for service. (5.) In determining in which part of the Citizen Forces a person is to serve, account shall be taken of any preference indicated by that person in the prescribed form of registration and, as fur as practicable, effect shall be si vell to that preference.
The number of recruits received by the armed services during the recruiting campaign has been most disappointing. During the period from the lst October to the 28th November, 1950, the number of persons who volunteered for training in the various States was as follows: New South Wales, 890; Victoria, 559;
Queensland, 548; South Australia, 220; Western Australia, 210; Tasmania, 119. Those figures do not take account of the fact that many of those who volunteered were subsequently rejected because they were medically unfit or for some other reason. I understand that 119 applicants were rejected as medically unfit, and 45 volunteers were not even medically examined. The number of volunteers accepted was only 1,202. The experience of the lad mentioned by Senator O’Byrne, in the course of his speech, is, I have’ no doubt, typical of the experience of many young men. That young man asked to be enlisted for national training in his State in a particular service, but he was told that he could not be allocated to that particular service because the requisite number of recruits for that service had already been obtained in that State. The treatment of that young man reminds me of the treatment promised to the young man by the Communist orator in the little story that ‘ I have just related. The young men of this country have been offered all .kinds of attractive inducements to enlist for voluntary service, but as soon as they express a preference for a particular form of training they are told that they must go where they are sent and do what they are told, or else they will not be wanted.
In national service training the admission of trainees to various services should be placed on a proper basis, and the allocation of men who enlist to various services should be left to statutory bodies and removed as far as possible from improper influences. The element of patronage, or the old slogan of “ First come, first served “ should not be allowed to enter into consideration. The allocation of recruits to various services is one of the matters that the Select Committee on National Service in the Defence Force could have investigated if the Government had not obstructed the Senate by stultifying the work of the committee.
I notice, incidentally, that very generous provision is made in the’ bill for the treatment of conscientious objectors. The only obstacle placed in their way is that they will be called upon to appear before a board in order to substantiate their claims for exemption from national service on conscientious grounds.
– We had a lot of people who did not want to do their duty during World War I., and we got over the difficulty by providing for their exemption as conscientious objectors.
– Of course, that waa so; but Senator George Rankin should not forget that amongst those who escaped from their duty were many highly placed persons. For instance, a certain gentleman, who is now very well known and who then held a captaincy in the Citizen Military Forces, succeeded in obtaining an exemption from military service. Instead of receiving a war medal he received a diploma.
The period of training provided for national service trainees in the bill is 176 days, and I think that that is an improvement over the former system of training men at nights and during week-ends. I should like to be assured, however, that really efficient training will be given to national servicemen, and I hope that the Government will instruct the defence authorities that those called up for service should receive adequate training not only along text-book lines but also of a kind that will fit them to act promptly in the event of an emergency. It is also most important that trainees should be impressed with the need for proper co-operation between the three services, and that they should be made aware of the inter-relation of the several arms of each of those services. They should be made to realize that an important part of their duty in defending this country will be the care and protection of the civil population. Although we all have some idea of the horrors of atomic warfare, we are told by competent authorities that the actual impact of atomic warfare on our civilization will be even more frightening than we imagine. If Australia is so unfortunate as to be subjected to attack by atomic weapons our civilians will need the fullest protection and . the most capable leadership from the armed forces.
Another matter about which I am greatly concerned is the safeguarding of the civilian rights and privileges of young men who have to leave their employment in order to receive national service train ing. I hope that special consideration will be given to the position of young men in temporary employment who are called up for national service. Many of those’ young men will ordinarily be entitled to obtain permanent status in their employment but for their absence to receive military training. I hope that they will not suffer, at such an important period of their careei’3, and that their future livelihood or prospects will not suffer because of their enforced absence on national service training. I am particularly concerned about the position of apprentices, and I trust that the Government will safeguard their rights. It is also important that full protection should be given to all young men who are called up for service training insofar as their absence may affect their rights and privileges to sick leave, long service leave benefits, superannuation payments and similar rights. It would obviously be a hardship to expect young men who will receive only nominal pay while they are absent on service training to continue to make contributions to superannuation and provident funds at the same rate as they do when they are receiving their full civilian wages. Action had to be taken during the recent war to protect the welfare of servicemen in that respect. Unfortunately, in times of peace, governments are apt to forget their responsibilities in such matters. No individual who is called upon to leave his employment in order to receive training for the defence of this country should be treated ungenerously.
The measure provides certain penalties for employers of national service trainees who victimize or unfairly treat their employees. This is a very serious matter and although many people may contend that it does not occur, I assure the Senate that it does happen. In many instances a lad who had been absent on military training proved to be a financial liability to his employer when he returned to his civil employment, because in the meantime, the employer had trained younger boys to do his work. Sub-clause (2.) of clause 43 provides - .
In proceedings for an offence against this section, the burden shall be upon the employer to prove that he had reasonable cause for terminating ‘or varying the employment.
Sub-clause (1.) refers to the termination of employment of employees after reinstatement, but makes no reference to apprentices. It is regrettable that it has not been possible for a select committee to examine people who have a thorough knowledge of these matters. I doubt very munch whether supporters of the Government possess’ the necessary knowledge. They have treated .this matter in a cavalier f fashion in this chamber, without making any attempt to get to the foundation of the subject. A select committee could have questioned responsible people in the industrial field, as well as the military authorities, and its report would have proved invaluable. If an apprentice returns to his apprenticeship, he is a registered person who is entitled to the protection of ‘ the court. If an apprenticeship was interrupted the Government .would probably assume responsibility to have the apprentice transferred to ‘another employer. The underlying reason for an employer becoming dissatisfied with an apprentice may be that in the meantime the employer had obtained the services of another boy who had been able to obtain exemption from military .training. If the court directs that the apprentice should be transferred to another shop, the boy is merely a chattel and -must obey. Let us compare the position of an apprentice with that of a lad employed on a milk cart for £7 or £9 a week. The milk carter lias certain statutory ‘rights. Furthermore, the court could award him a portion of the £100 penalty provided in clause 43. I consider that full consideration should be extended to all sections of workers. Journeymen are a distinct asset to the community, yet if an .apprentice considers that he has not progressed as well as he should have done, because of the interruption of his apprenticeship for military training, he has mo redress. Clause 59 provides -
A person on whom a notice is served under section nineteen, twenty-two, twenty-six or fifty-two of this Act and who is travelling from his place of residence or place of work to the place specified in the notice or is returning from the last-mentioned place to either of the first-mentioned places shall, while so travelling, be deemed to he an employee within the meaning of the Commonwealth Employees’ Compensation Act ] 930-1.948,
I do not consider ‘that this provision goes far enough. A lad called up for military training should be given protection similar to the protection that is provided for a soldier who enters camp for training or .any other ‘military purpose. Compensation should be provided in relation to any disability suffered or any sickness contracted in the camp, and hospitalization and repatriation benefits, also, shall be provided. I think that the Minister for Repatriation (.Senator Cooper) will agree that a high percentage of persons who are receiving repatriation benefits were not injured in combat or front-line service. They were behind.theline men, or reserves, the category in which these boys will be placed. I consider that the widest possible attention should be given to this aspect of the matter and that the Senate should be assured that these boys shall be thoroughly protected. I recollect being marched out of camp medically unfit some years ago. Although I only had influenza, there were insufficient hospital beds available at the camp, and I could not be sent to a public hospital from a military establishment. I remember one of the officers saying, “ “We must make you a citizen as fast as we can “. I was thereupon relieved of my arms and accoutrements, lock, stock, and barrel, and marched out. I consider that the Government should place a national service trainee on the same footing as a soldier who will be utilized in military action. In this way valuable training would also be provided for nurses and medical orderlies. We have been very fortunate in the past to be able to draw on civilian hospitals, the Red Cross, and kindred organizations, for military purposes. I consider that we should train nurses, orderlies, and medical assistants, in conjunction with this scheme. I am very disappointed that the Government has failed to place full information before honorable senators in connexion with this bill, and that it directed not to give evidence before a properly constituted select committee of the Senate persons who were well qualified to tender advice in connexion with defence measures.
Sitting suspended from 12.J/S to 2.15 p.m.
Debate (on motion by Senator Arnold) adjourned.
Bill received from the House of Representatives.
Standing Orders suspended.
Bill (on motion by Senator Spicer) read fl first time.
– I move -
That the bill be now read a second time.
This is a very small and simple measure which is designed to enable the Government to extend the term of office of the present Chief Conciliation Commissioner until he attains the age of 70 years. The Conciliation and Arbitration Act at present provides that conciliation commissioners in normal circumstances will retire upon attaining the age of 65 years, but provision is made, in the relevant section, for the term of office to be extended for two successive periods of one year each. It is, therefore, possible for a conciliation commissioner to retain his office until he attains the age of 67.
The present Chief Conciliation Commissioner, Mr. George Mooney, will attain the age of 67 next May. His term of office has already been extended on two occasions since he attained the age of 65. Mr. Mooney has had considerable experience in conciliation and arbitration work. He was appointed as a conciliation commissioner, in the first instance, by the Menzies Government in 1940, and subsequently he was appointed by the Chifley Government as a commissioner under the act, and he became the Chief Conciliation Commissioner. I feel certain that every honorable senator who knows Mr. Mooney appreciates that he has rendered great service to the community in the performance of his functions, both as a conciliation commissioner and as Chief Conciliation Commissioner in more recent years. It is considered that it would be a pity at this time to lose his services and the benefit of the experience that he has gained during the formative years of the conciliation and arbitration system merely because he will attain the age of 67 next May. The sole purpose of this bill is to give to the Government power to extend his term of office until he attains . the age of 70. The bill applies only to the Chief Conciliation Commissioner who at present holds the office, and it is frankly designed to enable the Government and the public to continue to have the advantage of Mr. Mooney’s valuable services during the next three years. I understand that the Opposition does not oppose this measure and I trust that it will receive a speedy passage through this chamber.
– Not only does the Opposition not oppose this measure, but it also has great pleasure in supporting it. Mr. George Mooney appears to be the miracle man of this generation in that he has won the approval of both Labour and nonLabour governments. That alone is a feat of no mean distinction, and proves beyond doubt his ability, at least as a conciliator. I am able to speak of Mr. Mooney not only from my personal knowledge of him over many years, from the time when I first met him in the legal profession in Melbourne, but also from more recent association with him when I was acting as Attorney-General in the absence of the right honorable member for Barton (Dr. Evatt). During that time I had a good deal to do with Mr. Mooney in his official position. I consider that he is very bright and vigorous at 67. He has played a vastly important role in co-ordinating the work of the various conciliation commissioners which-, in itself, is no mean accomplishment. There are some eighteen or nineteen of those commissioners. They are vested with plenary powers, are involved in very difficult situations and are allocated to industries which do not immediately interlock. Without some wise overall ‘ guidance, those commissioners might easily have diverged from a straight path, thereby creating anomalies that might have caused vast industrial disruption in this community.’ That the system of conciliation commissioners did not lead to such disruption is, I think, in the first place, a tribute to the Chief Conciliation Commissioner, Mr. Mooney.
The Opposition believes, with the Government, that it would be unfortunate for the community if this gentleman’s services were not retained. The bill deals only with him and his position, and it enables the -Government to extend his term for a period not exceeding three years. I assume that if the Government wishes to do so it may curtail that period. I trust, however, that whatever government is in power it will not take that course. The Opposition has much pleasure in paying a tribute to Mr. Mooney for the fine work that he has performed in the cause of conciliation and arbitration, and also in supporting the measure.
Question resolved in the affirmative.
Bill read a second time and passed through its remaining stages without amendment or debate.
Bill received from the House of Representatives.
Standing Orders suspended.
Bill (on motion by Senator Spicer) read a first time.
– I move -
That the bill be now read a second time.
The purpose of this bill is to amend the Conciliation and Arbitration Act in order to clarify and restate the powers and functions of the Commonwealth Court of Conciliation and Arbitration in relation to the enforcement of awards and orders made by Commonwealth industrial tribunals. The necessity for the amendments proposed in this bill has been made clear by the events of the last few weeks, in particular by doubts which have been cast upon, and gaps which have been shown to exist in, the powers of the industrial authorities of the Commonwealth. The purpose of this bill, broadly stated, is to confirm that the Commonwealth Arbitration Court, the supreme body in the Australian system of arbitration, has, for the enforcement of its awards and orders, all the powers which it was fully believed that the court had and which it has exercised or purported to exercise since 1947. The first provision in the bill is an amendment of section 29 of the act. That section gives the court various powers which are usually possessed by judicial tribunals, including the power to impose penalties, to order compliance with an award, to grant injunctions, and to give interpretations. Paragraph (c) of that section gives power “ to enjoin any organization or person from committing or continuing any contravention of this act “.
In the metal (trades cases and the gas employees’ case last year, a majority of the Commonwealth Arbitration Court granted injunctions restraining the unions concerned from continuing overtime bans, in contravention of the relevant awards. By prohibition proceedings in the High Court, the unions challenged the power of the Commonwealth Arbitration Court to issue those injunctions. The High Court recently upheld that challenge. The majority of the court held that, as a matter of interpretation, the act draws a distinction between contraventions of the act itself and contraventions of the court’s orders or awards. Section 29 (c) authorized the issue of injunctions to cover the former, but did not cover the latter. In the Government’s view, a power to enjoin breaches or non-observances of awards can, in proper cases, be a most effective means of securing obedience to awards, and so of promoting the efficacy of the arbitration system. Like the majority of the Commonwealth Arbitration Court itself, the Government had regarded the act as already permitting this, a breach of an award being, so it thought, in itself a contravention of the act, and so within the terms of the injunction power. The High Court having held that the present wording of the paragraph is ineffective to secure this result, the Government proposes by clause 3 of the bill to amend the section accordingly, and make the Parliament’s intention clear. The bill also makes clear that, in addition to the parties to the award, the AttorneyGeneral of the Commonwealth may apply, in the public interest, for an order of the court under this section.
The other main provision of the bill, contained in clause 4, is intended to clarify and establish the powers of the Commonwealth Arbitration Court to punish contempts of its own power and authority. In the Government’s opinion this clause is fully in line with what the Parliament set out to accomplish when, in 1947, it altered the previous law on this subject. At common law, superior courts of record have inherent power to punish contempts of their power and authority. Before the 1947 amendments, the Commonwealth Arbitration Court was not designated as a superior court of record. There was, however, a special section which gave to the court the power of a superior court of record to punish by attachment and committal any person whom it found to have been guilty of contempt of the court. It was held by the High Court in John Fairfax and Sons Proprietary Limited v. Morrison (1945 Argus L.R. 297) that the Commonwealth Arbitration Court did not have any powers to punish for contempt other than those specified in that section. Accordingly, it could punish by attachment and committal, but not by fine, and therefore could not punish a corporation at all.
By section 17 of the 1949 amending legislation, the court was for the first time specifically created a “ Superior Court of Record “. The former specific, and limiting, provisions were omitted. Clearly, the underlying idea was that the court would have all the inherent powers to punish for contempt that flowed ‘at common law from its- declared status as a Superior Court of Record. On a number of occasions since 1947. the court has exercised these powers to punish for contempt. In 1949, under the National Emergency (Coal Strike) Act, our predecessors in office invoked these powers in proceedings against certain organizations and persons for breaches of orders made by the court under that act.
In the metal trades cases last year, the Commonwealth Arbitration Court also relied upon its inherent powers in imposing on an organization a fine of £100 for disobedience to an injunction issued under section 29 of the act. The organization challenged the court’s power to do so, and recently, in the judgment referred to, a majority of the High Court upheld the challenge. This judgment has only limited application. It does not seem to impugn in any way die count’s power, as the act stands, to punish the most ordinary classes of what are known ‘as criminal contempts - i.e., contempts committed in ‘the face of the court, or the publication of matter calculated to interfere with the due administration of justice by .the tribunal. The view of the majority in the High Court, however, was that, because the Conciliation and Arbitration Act contains specific procedures for punishing disobedience to the court’s orders or of awards, it ought to be construed as impliedly prohibiting the use by the court of its inherent powers to punish contempts in this particular field.
From this judgment, it is clear that the act as it stands is not expressed in such a manner as to achieve the result which the Government thinks was contemplated in 1947, when the present act was passed. In clause 4 of the bill, therefore, the Government1 proposes that the Commonwealth Arbitration Court should be clearly vested with all the inherent powers of a’ Superior Court of Record, ‘notwithstanding the existence of other .means of enforcement of its orders and awards. The existence cf other remedies, and their efficacy, arc matters which the court will of course take into consideration in deckling whether or not to exercise its powers to punish for contempt. But the Government thinks it is essential that the court should have the fullest and clearest authority to secure compliance with its orders and awards. The Government regards these powers as an essential part of the whole system of conciliation and arbitration machinery which the Commonwealth has set up, with the assent of all political parties and the overwhelming support of the Austraiian people.
Let us be quite clear about this. The court’s power to ‘issue injunctions is discretionary. It may decide in a given set of circumstances- that ian injunction should not issue. And where an injunction is disobeyed, the punishment awarded in any subsequent contempt proceedings is again in the discretion of the court. The injunction and contempt processes are no novel conception. The Commonwealth Arbitration Court has been specifically created by this Parliament a “ Superior Court of Record “ and as such should have the same power of enforcing its orders as any other Superior Court of Record has always possessed under our law. The provisions have been criticized on that a court clothed with the powers proposed in this bill could impose amy punishment thought fit. In reply to that I point out that every superior court in the land has such power to-day, and frequently exercises it. The power is exercised with discretion, and ‘He suggestion that outrageous penalties are likely to be imposed if the Commonwealth Arbitration Court is given this power are unfounded. The issuing of the injunctions is at the discretion of the court in the first place, and if the injunction is disobeyed the kind of penalty imposed is also at the discretion of the court. So that no doubt may be thrown upon the position in the past, the Commonwealth Arbitration Court is declared by clause 4 to have had at all times since the commencement of the 1947 act the same power ito punish contempts of its power amd authority as is possessed by the High Court itself. Subclause (2.) is inserted to make clear that nothing in the bill will override or disturb judgments in amy past or pending proceedings.
I return to my opening remarks. The need for the amendments proposed in this bill springs from, the decision of the High Court in the cases to which I have referred. The need also arises from the examination that had to be made by the law officers of the Crown and the Government of the measures that were open to the Government to deal with the recent waterside and coal-mining .industry disputes. While the waterside dispute has now been settled, and the coal-mining dispute seems on the way to settlement, it would be entirely rash to imagine that we face a period of industrial peace, and that the Communists will not at an appropriate stage create a new industrial situation as part of their general plan to disrupt the Australian economy.
The fact that we have not to consider the measure now before the Senate against a background of existing crippling disputes in industry, enables us to view the amendments calmly and dispassionately. If honorable senators will look at the measure quite objectively they can find no departure in principle in the bill from the existing processes and functions of the Commonwealth Arbitration Court. We are doing no more than to clarify and to restore a power which the court believed it possessed and which the Government feels it was always the intention of this Parliament that the court should possess. There have been, before the applications made in the gas case and the metal trades case, applications to the Full Court for the issue of orders of injunction under section 29 of the act.
I emphasize that the injunction process and the consequential contempt proceedings were clearly regarded by the party now in opposition when it occupied. the Government benches as appropriate to be exercised by the Commonwealth Arbitration Court. I need only refer to section 9 of the National Emergency (Coal Strike) Act which specifically confers on the court power to issue injunctions.. Such injunctions were in fact granted by the court during the course of the coal strike and subsequently were followed by contempt proceedings initiated by a Commonwealth officer. Secondly, I refer honorable senators to section 96h of the Conciliation and Arbitration Act itself, which was included among amendments brought down by the present Opposition when on the treasury bench to deal with disputed elections. In section 96h, not only is the court specifically authorized to grant mandatory injunctions, and a penalty specifically indicated for failure to comply with injunctions, but the section also goes on to make quite clear that the powers and functions of the court in relation to contempt are not affected by the provision for penalties.
If we read these sections that I have mentioned, along with section 17 of the act, which by the 1947 amendments made the court for the first time a “ Superior Court of Record “, honorable senators cannot possibly have any doubts that the Labour party when it was the Government intended to clothe the Commonwealth Arbitration Court with all the powers of a Superior Court, including the contempt power which it could exercise if its awards and orders were disobeyed. I commend the bill to honorable senators as a most necessary piece of legislation to ensure, not only that our arbitration system, which is supported by all parties, shall be respected, but also that it shall in fact work effectively for the common good.
Debate (on motion by Senator McKenna) adjourned.
Debate resumed (vide page 516).
. - All honorable senators are agreed on the need for adequate defence, but there is a difference of opinion between the Government and the Opposition as to what defence measures should be employed. Defence policy should be continuous, and unaffected by party political considerations. Australia is an enormous country with a coast line of 12,000 miles, but with the population of only 8,250,000 people. Its defence problems differ in many important respects from those of other nations. Unless members of the Parliament are given access to proper information, and are advised from time to time of the Government’s plans, the Government cannot hope for the cooperation of the Opposition. Some time ago, I suggested that the Senate could, with the advantage of the people, play a more important part in the government of Australia. I was heartened by an early speech of the Prime Minister (Mr. Menzies) in which he said that it was intendedto set up a joint committee on foreign affairs. The appointment of such a committee would have been a step in the right direction, but I regret that nothing further has been done about it. The elected representatives of the people should work together to put into effect appropriate defence plans, and to that end the Senate should appoint a joint committee to give its attention to defence problems. We must preserve continuity of defence policy so that the people may be assured of the protection to which they are entitled. When a bill of this description was introduced we would not then be looking around for information in an endeavour to inform our minds of the best manner in which to tackle this problem. No honorable senator would contend that-all of us are not trying to the best of our ability adequately to provide for the defence of Australia. The first problem that we have to solve is how best we can defend ourselves. We all have our own views on that subject, and although some of us are better informed than others, we all are imbued with the desire to provide the utmost protection for Australia. When the Government asks us to accept a scheme such as this without prior examination it is only to be expected that we shall offer some criticism of the proposal. The first problem that presents itself is to determine what are the essential requirements of an Australian defence programme and against whom we have to protect ourselves. Do we fear aggression on the part of a nation which is geographically close to us? Are we safe in assuming that we shall not be attacked for, say, twenty years? What type of protection does the nation need? On all of those questions we seek enlightenment. The Prime Minister has informed the nation that at the most it has three years in which to prepare; but General Eisenhower, the commander-in-chief of the forces of the western democracies in Europe, has said that within twelve months the threat of war will have disappeared. It is most difficult for members of the Opposition to obtain information on which to base plans for the defence of Australia. Should we prepare for war years in advance of the likelihood of its possible outbreak? Is it possible that we may be involved in war in five years’ time? Is the placing of the nation on a war footing an urgent matter, or will the threat of war probably be dissipated in twelve months’ time? These questions continually agitate the minds of honorable senators on this side of the chamber. If we could obtain a clear answer to them many of the difficulties that confront us to-day would disappear.
– How can we possibly obtain a clear answer to them?
– Senator Hannaford might well consider the suggestion that I made at the commencement of my address that we should establish a joint committee to plan our defence programme. Such a committee could keep abreast of world developments and it would have at its disposal at all times the advice of defence and economic experts and be able to recommend to the Parliament what measures should be taken for the defence of Australia. The sooner such a committee is appointed the better will the government of the day and the nation be able to provide adequately for the defence of this country. I ask the Government to give earnest consideration to my suggestion. I realize that many difficulties may arise in the establishment of such a committee, but I believe that once those difficulties had been overcome the benefits that would flow from the advice tendered by the committee would be so apparent to governments that they would never allow it to fall into the discard.
We should endeavour to determine what is the best method of preparing this country against aggression. We should also endeavour to assess the danger that threatens our security and from what source aggression may come. The people of Indonesia, for instance,
Could not make a successful aggressive move .against Australia for very many years to come even if they desired to do so. None of the countries to the north of Australia except, possibly, Japan, could concentrate the necessary forces to enable them to menace the safety of Australia for many years to come. The people of Australia have every reason to be fearful of Japan because they recall how, but a comparatively few years ago, Japan constituted a very grave threat to the safety of this country. We oan only hope that Japan will not again be placed in the position in which it can menace our safety. In that respect we come into conflict with the Americans who seem to be determined to rearm Japan. They may have very good reasons for doing so, but as an Australian, whose sole concern is for the safety and security of his country, I am gravely concerned _ at the possibility that Japan will be permitted to rearm. I well remember what happened in Europe after World War I. when the victorious allied nations, after having determined to keep Germany disarmed, gradually abandoned their determination and permitted Germany not only to rearm but also to menace the safety and security of the world. I warn the people of Australia that if Japan is allowed to rearm that country will again become a menace to the safety of Australia in the not distant future. Having eliminated Japan as a probable aggressor,, what other country close to our shores could make an aggressive move against us in the immediate future? I know of none. If my assumption is correct we must plan our defence programme with that knowledge in mind. I think that we are justified in believing that war in Australia or the threat of war against Australia, is not imminent. If that be so; should not our first task be to prepare against an attack that may be launched against us in the years to come? If Australia were attacked to-day, what resistance could it offer? What capacity have we to supply our armed forces with al] the things they would need to resist an aggressor? Oan we manufacture tanks and aircraft in sufficient numbers to repel an invader? Can our industrial potential be rapidly diverted to war production? It has been said that the small arms factory at Lithgow is not now engaged in war production. Last week I asked the Minister representing the Minister for Defence (Senator Cooper) whether that report was correct, but I am still awaiting his reply. Surely, if there is any substance in the warning of the Prime Minister that, at most, we have but three years in which to prepare for war, should not the small arms factory at Lithgow immediately revert to the production of war materiel?
Defence preparations involve not only the taking of men out of industry an:d their training in the defence force but also the gearing of our industries for war production. If we are to field an effective defence force we must be able to equip it with all the modern weapons of war. As an island continent we face the threat of an interruption of our communications with overseas countries. During World War II. our overseas lines of communication were threatened and we had difficulty in obtaining supplies of arms and equipment. Having regard to that fact should we not give very serious consideration to the development of our secondary industries and concentrate on the completion of projects of high defence significance, such as the Snowy Mountains scheme, the construction of defence roads and the like? Unless we are able to ann and equip our defence forces, it will be of little use for us to put men into camps and train them to defend their country. Not only must our young men be trained but also we must supply them with equipment and munitions of war to enable them to fight. At this stage we should consider whether it would not be better to complete our developmental schemes as part of our preparation for war than to train large bodies of men in the armed forces.
We must consider what nations are likely to make an aggressive move against Australia and to ann ourselves in such a way as to- enable us successfully to resist them. Any nation which contemplates an aggressive move .against Australia must lx! prepared to bring large forces to the shores of this country. Troops would have to be concentrated at some point to be transported to Australia and large numbers of ships and aircraft would be required to enable a landing to be made on our shores. We should be planning now, I believe, to make it as difficult as possible for any nation to carry out aggression against this country, by building up a striking force that would make the concentration of invasion forces a hazardous undertaking. In forming that opinion, I have been swayed by the views of authorities such as Alexander Seversky who has written several books on the use of air power. He has dealt particularly with the defence problem that confronts countries such as Australia. He believes that the defence of an island continent can be rested on one arm of the services, the air force. I shall quote to honorable senators a brief passage from one of Seversky’s books. The book is entitled Air Power - The Key to Survival and my quotation is as follows: -
Now a basic law of victory, valid throughout history, is that war must be geared to one primary force. Dependent on its geography a nation seeks clear-cut superiority in a single medium, looking towards a decisive battle that will confirm its mastery there. Other elements of support are provided - but never at the expense of the main forces in the decisive medium. Absolute dominance in one decisive medium - that is the essence of true strategic balance . . .
That brings me to the question whether the Government’s defence proposals out lined in this measure are the most effective that could be devised. The emphasis is placed upon the building up of an army. I believe that the nature of our defence problem is such that our main arm of defence should be the Air Force. By maintaining a powerful Navy, Great Britain was able for generations to keep the Homeland free from invasion although the distance to the continent of Europe is relatively short. Armies were a secondary consideration. Japan too rose to the status of a world power by first establishing a powerful navy. Eventually, sheltered by that navy, the Japanese were able to muster their forces of aggression, but originally they established their position by concentrating on one service arm, the navy. The primary purpose of establishing military forces in this country is to resist aggression. I believe that the Australian people have no aggressive inclinations towards other nations. They are solely concerned with the defence of their own land. They want to be allowed to live their lives in peace. If that be so, we. must be guided by competent modern strategists like Seversky who is probably one of the greatest authorities in the world on air power. He sees in the maintenance of a powerful air force the solution of the defence of a large island continent. What other forces could possibly defend Australia ? If we were to train ten times the number of men that are to be called up for compulsory military training under this legislation, our land forces would still not be nearly strong enough to prevent a landing on our northern shores by a determined enemy. I remind the Senate that our unpopulated north is the nearest portion of this continent to possible aggressors. It would be a sheer impossibility to defend that region with land forces. To develop a large navy would be beyond our capacity, at least economically, but we could have a powerful air force. We have the necessary aircraft production facilities. A first-class air force would require considerably fewer men than a large navy or army. With perhaps 25,000 or 30,000 men wo could maintain a strong peacetime air force, capable of rapid expansion in time of war. Neither a navy nor an army could be used with such telling effect as could an air force against concentrations of enemy forces bent on invading this country. I believe, therefore, that, rather than endeavouring to build up our army or navy, we should be concentrating on air power. Instead of drafting 13,000 men into the Army and 3,000 or 4,000 into the AirForce, the proportion should be reversed.
My disagreement with the Government is on the method that is to be adopted to defend Australia. We must have defence forces, and it may be argued that the establishment of forces of any type will be beneficial, but that is not good enough. We should make sure that we are building up the best possible forces for our purposes. The safety of this country cannot be assured by this legislation. We are not doing enough to encourage aviation. Aero and gliding clubs are not being given the support that they deserve. By fostering such clubs, Germany was able, in the 1930’s, to lay the foundations of a powerful air force which was a decisive factor in the early years of World War II. We cannot be complacent about what is being done in Australia. The sight of a glider in the air is a novelty worthy of comment. Other nations are encouraging flying as a hobby so that young men may be trained to defend their homeland should war occur. Therefore my objection to this bill is that the Government is not adopting the correct methods in endeavouring to ensure the security of this country. The withdrawal from industry of a substantial number of young men for military training is not the best means of establishing adequate defence forces. However, the difficulty is that, should this measure be rejected, there are no alternative proposals. Therefore, I return to my original submission to the Senate. I believe that the Government would be rendering valuable service by appointing a joint parliamentary committee to consider the whole subject of defence. I remind the Senate that the Chifley Government undertook a fiveyear defence programme, the estimated cost of which was £250,000,000. Efforts were to be concentrated on the development of scientific weapons, including guided projectiles. It was believed that that plan would ensure to this country a substantial degree of security, but the Chifley Government went out of office, and the present Administration assumed power. The accent is now placed on other forms of defence. So, instead of having a continuing policy which would enable members of the Parliament to become familiar with defence matters we make it almost impossible for them to obtain very much real knowledge of the problems on which they are required to make decisions. That is not fair to the elected representatives of the people. A few months ago I had the privilege of serving on a select committee of the Senate. The evidence tendered to that committee convinced me that, if there were free interchange of information between the service chiefs, other defence authorities and the Parliament, members of the Parliament could become sufficiently well informed to be capable of arriving at decisions on important problems such as that now before the Senate. I thought that the insight gained by that committee into our defence needs and preparations proved that very real assistance could be rendered to the nation by the appointment of a permanent committee on defence that was representative of all political parties. Furthermore, by the establishment of such a committee we should attain continuity of policy. Unfortunately, we are divided by the political controversies that arise from time to time. I believe that the only way in which the Parliament can best serve the people, in a time of general anxiety such as the present, is by all political parties making a common contribution. That could be done by the appointment of, parliamentary committees to consider how the interests of the nation can best be served. Concerning the matter that we are now discussing, I appeal to the Government, even at this late stage, to appoint a select committee to consider and report upon our defence requirements.
Motion (by Senator Vincent) put -
That the question be now put.
The Senate divided. (The President - Senator the Hon. Gordon Brown.)
Majority . . . . 5
Question so resolved in the negative.
– I cannot dissociate myself from the conviction that at least half the members of the Opposition are not putting their hearts into this debate. Indeed, as the representatives of a political party that profess to be looking forward to the projected general election in the hope that they will shortly occupy the government benches, I must say that they present a particularly dejected appearance. I hope that we shall conclude the debate on this measure this afternoon, because the delaying tactics in which members of the Opposition have indulged for so long are most humiliating to the National Parliament, and I believe that most Australians also feel humiliated by the spectacle. Consider, for a moment, what has happened during the last three or four months. When this measure was first introduced, members of the Opposition decided that they would oppose it. Subsequently, in consequence of instructions that they received from outside the
Parliament, they decided to withdraw their objection to the bill. I point out that the contributions made by members of the Opposition during this debate have not been by any means harmonious.For one thing, the Labour orchestra has not always played in tune during this “ command performance “. ‘Several outstanding solos have, of course, been rendered by their members during the performance. For instance, Senator Grant, who played most tunefully, made a contribution that might best be described as a “ set of variations on an old theme “. His principal concern appeared to be that Australia was apparently alining its foreign policy, not in support of the democracies’, but in support of Japan and of Chiang Kai-shek’s regime, although I could not perceive exactly what Japan or Chiang Kai-shek had to do with the measure. I regret that the honorable senator is not present now when I am dealing with his remarks, but I point out to honorable senators generally that the Australian Government is not alining itself with the Japanese Government. If we decide to stand back, and permit, say, Russia to aline itself with Japan, we may be endangeringthe security of our country. Is it not vital that we should formulate our foreign policy so as to ensure that no totalitarian country alines itself with Japan? I suggest that that is the viewpoint that is motivating the present Government in its attitude towards Japan. The honorable senator mentionedthe attitude of the Government towards Chiang Kai-shek’s regime. I ask him, does he expect us to aline ourselves with Chiang Kai-shek’s opponents, the Chinese Communists? After all, that is the only alternative.
Senator Grant also made much music in pursuing the economic variation of “ the old theme “. He suggested that before this bill is enacted the Government should first clean up what he described as the “ economic mess “ into which Australia is drifting. I fail to see what the alleged economic mess of this country has to do with the proposed introduction of universal military training. If economic questions are relevant, I point out that the bill is intended to assist Australia to play its part in cleaning up .the economic mess throughout the world. Furthermore, honorable senators on this side of the chamber believe that its passage will prevent the occurrence of a most tragic economic mess in this country. I refer to the probable effect on Australia of the occurrence of another world war, because the economic consequences of such a calamity would dwarf the consequences of the inflationary spiral that we are now experiencing. Senator Grant appeared to be greatly concerned by the economic problems that confront Australia, as do members of the Opposition generally whenever they speak in this chamber. Let me assure them that unless we do something to defend this country we shall not be troubled about cleaning up any economic mess, because that will become the problem of some other nation. However, in fairness to Senator Grant, I must say that his contribution was well worthwhile, because it was certainly highly amusing.
Another individual contribution to the performance was that provided by Senator Morrow, who banged the anti-conscription drum to great effect. Nevertheless, I must say in Senator Morrow’s favour, that he has been consistent for many years in his attitude towards defence. Furthermore he had the courage to sand up and oppose the bill, and he was alone amongst his colleagues in doing so. Another interesting obligato in Labour’s performance was that of Senator O’Byrne, but he went off key once or twice. Unfortunately 1 did not hear his speech, but I understand that he described the introduction of this bill as the first act of aggression by Australia in the coming war. I ask him now whether he supports this country in aggression, and whether, if war eventuates, he intends to support Australia? It is all very well for honorable senators opposite to endeavour to distinguish themselves by making individual contributions to their party’s general performance, but I think that it is only fair that we should ask them now why their contributions did not harmonize in their “ command performance”. Furthermore, I suggest that the honorary director of the orchestra should have a talk with some of his individual performers and point out to them that their contributions were not always in tune.
Having said that, I must -admit that some of the contributions to this debate by members of the Opposition were most sincere. I congratulate Senator Arnold, for one, on a thoughtful and well-directed speech. Unfortunately, it was not concerned very much with compulsory military training, but it did make a contribution to our general discussion on defence. I understood from the honorable senator’s remarks that he favours the establishment of a parliamentary committee on defence, and he suggested that such a committee could perform very useful work by considering, in advance, what preparations the nation should make to defend itself in the event of war occurring. I do not deny that a joint committee could consider that question, but the proper and responsible body to do so. is Cabinet, which does not necessarily have to tell us its complete conclusions.
As I stated at the outset, many people must consider the tactics of Labour in regard to this bill to be rather humiliating. It is obvious, also, that many supporters of Labour are confused by their party’s tactics. I shall trace in a few words the Labour party’s attitude down the years to compulsory military training. During “World “War I. Labour bitterly opposed two referendums on conscription. Because of intense opposition the party split at the time. Again, during the period between the two world wars, consistent with its policy of opposition to conscription, Labour abandoned the compulsory military training scheme that had been brought in by an .anti-Labour government. Consistent, also, with its policy of opposition to compulsory military training, Labour last year opposed this measure and prevented it from being passed by the Parliament. It has now, apparently, changed its official attitude towards compulsory military training. “Why did it do so? Is it because, overnight, the executive of the party developed a belief in the principles of compulsory military training? Did it suddenly, after 40 or 50 years, decide that compulsory military training was essential for th<» security of this country? Nothing of the sort! Labour changed its mind overnight because it was afraid, in view of public opinion, that the party would split again. Doubtless a big proportion of the supporters of Labour are confused about Labour’s real policy in regard to conscription.
There are three principal reasons why this measure should be passed. The first is that Russia is intent on world domination. Notwithstanding Senator Morrow’s denial in this connexion, I think that that is quite evident. Russia’s policy has been manifested in many fields, both diplomatic and geographic.
– Why is the Government assisting to arm Russia to-day?
– Russia has used the diplomatic field, not for the bona fide purpose of diplomacy, but for the purpose of engaging hi propaganda and espionage. It was learned during the recent notorious case in Canada, which honorable senators must have followed with deep concern, that Russia’s diplomatic battalion in that country had been engaged not only in the field of diplomacy but also, actively, in espionage. That was one instance of Russia’s ambition to attain world supremacy. It is using Communist theories to hoodwink hungry and destitute peoples, with the object of enslaving them. lt cannot be denied that Russia has a larger armed force than have all of the democracies combined.
– What is the honorable senator’s authority for that statement ?
– I have listened to the speeches of persons who have had an opportunity to glean reliable information on this subject, such as the Prime Minister (Mr. Menzies), the Prime Minister of Great Britain, the President of the United States of America, and the leaders of the other democracies, whose assurances I am prepared to accept. Russia has established a BerlinMoscowPeking axis to further its aim of world domination. Honorable senators opposite who are not happy with the proposition that I have enunciated should devote more thought to the subject. Great Britain, the United States of America, Canada, New Zealand, France, Belgium and Holland have compulsory military training schemes in existence. Why, then, should Australia continue to be the only democratic country in the world that is not prepared to adopt the principles of compulsion in regard to military training? Each of the countries that I have mentioned realized the necessity for preparing an armed force quickly for the purpose not of provoking war, but of preventing war. If and when a Russian force attacks us we will want in our hands not umbrellas of peace, but rifles, and we shall need to know how to use them.
– There were none available in 1939.
– We do not want to repeat the follies of 1939, and that is the second reason why honorable senators opposite should have co-operated to pass this bill four months ago. Finally, as a member of the British Commonwealth of Nations, Australia has not only a legal obligation, but also a strong moral obligation, to supply an armed force to preserve peace. Are we to neglect our moral obligation? Day after day I have listened to honorable senators opposite paying lip service to this bill. They have delayed its passage for a vital four months, which they may even yet rue. Perhaps this country’s moral obligation to play its part to prevent war from coming to Australia is the strongest reason why this bill should be supported, and I support it accordingly.
. I was very pleased when Senator Vincent rose to address the chamber, because I thought that at last we might hear from the Government side some reason why the Senate should pass this bill unanimously. At least the Government should inform the people of Australia why this bill should be passed. No subject provokes more discussion in parliaments than defence. Although we believe that the United States cf America is armed to the ‘ teeth, discussions regularly take place in the Congress and the Senate of that country on the advisability of entering into further armaments, methods to be adopted to protect itself, and defence expenditure. Similar discussions have taken place, also, in the British House of Commons. Those who criticize the methods proposed to be adopted are not necessarily unpatriotic. If Senator Vincent had commenced his speech with his concluding words, at least we should have received from him three reasons why this measure should be passed. Unfortunately, however, as with other Government senators, he could not resist attacking the Labour party’s attitude to this measure. The assertions that he made lacked truth. He stated that the Australian Labour party was opposed to the bill when it was first introduced. That is not correct. Like other political parties in other Parliaments, the Opposition desires to obtain further information concerning a proposal put forward by the Government. It wishes to know whether this is the best proposal that can be presented for the protection of our democracy. Cannot we debate this matter in an attempt to ascertain whether there is some other formula capable of being used for the protection of Australia? Senator Vincent overlooked the fact that it was the Australian Labour party which first introduced compulsory military training in this country. Strange as it may seem, the Fisher Government introduced a defence policy which provided not only for compulsory military training but also for the establishment of an Australian navy and for the building of munitions factories. At that time cavalry was in use and artillery was drawn by horses. The Fisher Government set to work to provide the equipment for the proper maintenance of an army and a navy. The forerunners of the political parties that honorable senators opposite represent to-day were then in Opposition and roundly condemned the action of the Fisher Government in introducing that defence scheme. They asked : “ Why create an Australian navy ? What a slur it would be on Mother England and the British Navy!” They stated that this country must depend upon the British Navy for its protection. The same thing was said of the action of the Government in taking young men from industry and placing them in the army. In those clays it was proposed to build River type ships. The forebears of the present Government parties were of the opinion that there were no rivers in Australia deep enough to permit the passage of ships. As time has passed, we have seen the efficiency of the original programme presented by the Australian
Labour party for the defence of this country.
This Parliament is justified in seeking information concerning defence measures. Because of some new discovery, money appropriated for defence may be wasted overnight or may turn out to be so much money poured down the sink. In what Senator Vincent called his last three very important points he included a statement that we must watch Russia because that country is arming to the teeth. Why is this Parliament in existence to-day ? Why is there an Australian Commonwealth or an Australian defence force? Defence was perhaps the main reason why the six colonies of Australia federated and was one of the weighty arguments advanced by the fathers of federation. They pointed to Japan and the teeming millions to the north of Australia, and they said, “ The colonies must come together because of Japan’s onward march which, sooner or later, will menace Australia “. Federation came about and we began to develop a defence force as distinct from the army and naval establishments that existed in the various colonies prior to federation. A few years after the Australian defence force was created, ostensibly for the purpose of preventing the onward march of Japan towards Australia, we found that Japan was our ally and that its navy was escorting the Australian Imperial Force to the other side of the world. They became “ the gallant Japanese “ instead of our potential enemies. At that period of our history our earlier fears concerning Japan were proved to be ill-founded. World War I. was fought to end war and to preserve democracy. With the defeat of the central European powers, and with the attainment of self-determination by the small nations, it was considered that there would be no more war. The League of Nations was established in order to make it impossible for war again to eventuate. International problems were to be settled by means of arbitration. Of course, the economic interests of various countries eventually overrode the humanitarian ideas of many of their citizens. With the outbreak of World War II. we found that Japan, instead of being our ally, was very soon our ruthless enemy. Notwithstanding that the echoes of that war have not yet died away, we find that representatives of various nations are suggesting that we should permit Japan to rearm.
Senator Vincent apparently believes that with the 30,000 men affected by this bill who will receive partial training over a long period of time, we shall be able to save this country. I consider that the Opposition is justified in seeking from the Government more information concerning this proposal. Honorable senators on both sides of the chamber will agree that there is in many countries a great hatred of militarism. The people seem to be afraid of it. They charge their governments with over-spending on defence preparations and they seem to believe that there is a military caste which desires to obtain military equipment in order to keep the armies in existence so that they themselves may remain in good positions. It is remarkable, however, that when the blast of war blows, that feeling disappears, and the people who previously loudly condemned war will actively participate in the defence of their country.
It is questionable whether the proposal to call to the colours young men of eighteen years of age is the most efficient means of protecting this country. It is an example of the military mind at work. As Senator Vincent suggested, it is a command performance, but, of course, that is so with all military training. The youths of eighteen are to be given no say at all in this matter. They will not be asked if they are willing to serve or able to serve. Admittedly, the bill contains provision whereby an appeal may be made to a court, but we have seen that form of appeal in operation in past years and it is well known that some most humiliating questions were asked of lads who desired to be excused. Honorable senators will remember how the call-up operated during the last war. Regardless of the industry or calling in which young men were employed, they were obliged to obey the summons of the army officers.. Some of our most important industries were almost denuded of man-power in that way. It applied very much to the dairying industry in-various parts of Victoria. Many young men were called up and the primary producers were at their wits’ end to know where to obtain labour.
I think that I can confidently say that there is not one honorable senator who does not desire to see that everything possible is done for the protection of Australia. However, as I have previously stated, I know of no government expenditure that is more likely to be wasted overnight than is expenditure on defence measures. Ministers have come into this chamber and into the House of Representatives, have thrown down a bill for the calling up of young men and have said : “ There it is. Take it or leave it. If you dare to oppose it you will be opposing the defence of Australia and you will be un-British unless you accept the proposals contained in this bill.” I consider that it is the duty of those who are entrusted with responsibility by the people to study this problem of defence. Many eminent people believe that the next war will be fought not so much on the battlefields or in the air as in the workshops. They believe that the advance of science has been so rapid that what are considered to-day to be efficient means of defence will be outmoded in the very near future. Instead of presenting a proposal to call up young men from the factories, one would have thought that the Government would have said: “Let us get down to tin-tacks and discuss the best means of defending the country”. After all, the Australian Labour party was responsible for the creation of the first Australian army and navy. It also advocated the establishment of an Australian air force. I remember taking part in an election when the late Mr. John Curtin advocated the establishment of an air force in this country. He was then a humble member of the Opposition, and his suggestion was ridiculed by the government of the day. He was not the leader of the Labour party, but he recognized that the small population of Australia could not provide or support -an army large enough to repel an aggressor. It was obvious ‘ to him that our only hope lay in the establishment of a strong, highly mobile air force, capable of striking from central points at an enemy attacking anywhere along the coastline, but his ideas were ridiculed by the government of the day. Subsequent events proved the value of bis suggestion. One would have thought that this Government, knowing the history of the Labour party in regard to defence, would seek its co-operation when drawing up a defence programme. When the Government introduced this bill, the Labour party in the Senate moved for the appointment of a select committee to inquire into defence, but the Government churlishly refused to play. It declined to let the Opposition know what was being done, or how it was being done. The Government’s attitude was that we on this side represented the inferior sections of the community, and were not entitled to its confidence. If Australia should be attacked again, whatever government is in power will have to rely upon the men in the workshops and the munitions factories to provide the materials with which to fight a war. Nevertheless, the Government refuses to give the parliamentary representatives of those people a.ny say in the formulation of a defence policy. I know that from the supporters of the Government would come a large proportion of the officers of any future war, but if Australia is to be defended it is necessary for us all to work together. Defence should be an all-in affair, not something for sectional effort only.
I regret that the proposal to introduce compulsory military training should have been associated with the Government’s expressed fear of Russia. During the first world war, Japan was out ally. The pendulum swung the other way, and, in the second world war Japan was against us. Now it is suggested that, in order to stop the onward march of Russia, we should rearm Japan. I do not think that we should single out any nation as the cause of our defence preparations. We do not want to invade any other country; we merely wish to be left alone to develop our democracy in peace. The best way to promote the security of Australia is to establish goodwill among the teeming millions who live to the north of us. If they should ever attack Australia I do not know what our fate would be. Instead of making provocative statements we should encourage the peoples to the north of us to recognize that Australians are a peace-loving people but that, if aroused, they are capable of defending themselves. We should make it clear that we have no designs on the territory of other people, and that our defence preparations ure designed ‘only to ensure that we shall be able to develop our country in peace. The Opposition has decided to support this bill, and it ill becomes honorable senators opposite to criticize us because of that decision.
– The matter was decided for the Opposition.
– I should like to know how many issues have been decided for the Government by outside interests. The suggestion has been made that honorable senators on this side of the chamber are gloomy to-day because of certain events that took place last night. Recently. the Prime Minister (Mr. Menzies) declared that the sands of time were running out, and that Australia must prepare to defend itself. We had three years at the most, he said, in which to make our preparations. Then he threw out his chest, and said that if the Labour party frustrated the Government any longer he would away to Yarralumla and seek a double dissolution. What happened? The Liberal Prime Minister had, in the last resort, to be prodded into action by the Deputy Prime Minister (Mr. Fadden), the Leader of the Australian Country party. Thus, whatever action has been taken was at the instance, not of the Liberal party, but of the minority group amongst the supporters of the Government. The junior partner had to assume leadership before . the Government parties were able to make up their minds. We support the bill, but we are justified in criticizing it and offering suggestions. Whether the Government’s defence proposals will prove effective no one can say. It may be that, in a few months’ time, it will be found that the methods of defence at present envisaged are already outmoded, and that something else will have to be done.
– I have taken part in this debate only because I find it necessary to correct certain statements made by Senator Vincent. He is new to the Parliament, and may not be familiar with caucus procedure for the formulation of Government policy. It is not true that the Labour party has opposed this hill. During the last war I was assistant Minister for the Army and at one time acting Minister. From time, to time I was a member of a war cabinet. I do not want to discuss at length the Battle of Milne Bay, which was an epic of courage on the part of our militia forces. In that battle our young men, untrained and practically without 1 arms, administered the first defeat suffered by the Japanese. I was at Milne Bay early in 1943-
– I was there too.
– I do not care whether the honorable senator was there or not. I know the condition of our forces at the time and I know what had to be done. A Labour government first introduced compulsory military training for home defence, but because of the economic depression, which was aggravated by the reckless borrowing policy of the previous government, the Scullin Government was forced to discontinue the military training scheme.
– It was discontinued because the Labour party did not like the idea of compulsory military training.
– The honorable senator does not know the history of the Australian Labour party or he would not have made that interjection. After the Scullin Government went out of office, the succeeding anti-Labour government did not reintroduce compulsory military training, and up to the outbreak of World War II. nothing was done to train the young men of Australia apart from those who were in the Citizen Forces. As a result of my experience during- World War II. as a Minister of the Crown, I believe in compulsory military training, but I do not think that this bill goes far enough. The Government should start with the national fitness scheme which was introduced by the Labour government when I was Minister for Health. The special grant to the States for this purpose was increased by Senator McKenna, who succeeded me. National fitness was the basis upon which Hitler built his great German army. It is of little use for the Government to commence training potential soldiers only after they have attained the age of nineteen years ; physical training should begin with the infant child. At the last conference of Commonwealth and State Ministers at which the subject of national fitness was discussed, the Commonwealth refused to increase the grants to the States for that purpose.
– Three-quarters of the money provided by the Commonwealth for national fitness is wasted at present.
– If that be so, the honorable senator should use his influence with the Minister for Health (Sir Earle Page) to prevent that waste. As a supporter of the Government it is his duty to advise the Government of all wasteful expenditure. When I was Minister for Health I arranged that national fitness grants should be administered by the State Ministers of Education who were best able to ensure that the grants would be wisely expended.
– The grants for that purpose are still on very generous lines.
– They are no more sufficient to meet present-day requirements than are the gratuities which were recently paid to ex-service men and women and which do not represent in purchasing value anything like what they were led -to believe they would receive when the gratuities were first promised to them. For years men and women who served in the armed forces have looked forward to 1951, when they hoped to receive gratuities which would be worthwhile.
– They hoped to receive their gratuities in 1946, but they did not get them.
- Senator Kendall, who supports the Government, has not complained that the fall in the purchasing power of money as the result of the uncontrolled inflation has whittled away the value of the gratuities which our exservice men and women have so richly earned. The value of the £1 has diminished so greatly that each £1 of gratuity is now scarcely worth two “ bob “.
I have seen conscription for military service in operation. I left this country in 1915 and saw how conscription operated in England in 1916. If the provisions of this measure were open to the abuses which characterized the English legislation to which I have referred I should certainly oppose it. However, I have implicit faith in the fairness of Australians and accordingly I am prepared to give the bill my blessing. After conscription had been brought into operation in England many men who were fit to fight in the trenches in France used their wealth and influence to buy themselves out of the army.
But for the insertion of clause 2S in .this bill, I should oppose it. The clause reads as follows: -
A person is not liable to render service under this act beyond the limits of Australia unless lie has volunteered as prescribed for service beyond those limits.
I recall how the referendums on conscription which were held in this country during World War t. split the Australian Labour party. It is all very well for honorable senators opposite to say that we oppose conscription and to leave the matter there. It is true that we oppose conscription, but no one in this chamber will contend that in both world wars the volunteer Australian soldier did not acquit himself as nobly as did the conscripted soldiers of other nations. Many of my colleagues who were in the landing at Gallipoli - let me say at once that I was not there. - had not received a day’s military training, either compulsory or otherwise, but they acquitted themselves in a manner that won the admiration of the world. .Senator George Rankin will, I am sure, agree that Australian soldiers were equal to the best in the world.
– That is so, and the militia-trained soldiers, too, including General Monash.
– In the course of his speech, Senator Vincent dealt at length with Russia, with Chiang Kai-shek and the Chinese Communists, and in particular, with the subject of espionage. Espionage is practised by not only Russia but also every other country in the world. I do not .champion the cause of Russia; I do not agree with the philosophy and the ideology of the Russian people. I merely say that espionage is not’ peculiar to Russians; it is practised by all countries.
I rose principally to correct inaccurate statements that were made by Senator Vincent. The Labour party does not oppose this bill.
– It did so in the earlier stages of the discussion of the measure.
– Every honorable senator has the right to voice his own opinion about these matters. Frankly, I favour national training for home defence but I do not believe in compulsion of any kind, even in compulsory trade unionism. I believe in preference to unionists, but not in compulsory membership of a trade union. I believe, however, that those who benefit from the award of an industrial tribunal should subscribe to the funds of the organization responsible for the granting of that award.
– That is equivalent to compulsory unionism.
– Not at all. Senator Kendall, who is a comparatively newcomer to the Senate, still has much to learn. No worker is compelled to belong to a union. If a person does not want to join a union, he may walk off the job on which he is employed. No compulsion is exerted on him to join it. I have had a close association with the industrial labour movement during, the last 40 years and I know something about this matter.
– A worker cannot obtain a job unless he is a member of a union.
– That is not so. I rose for two purposes; first, to correct inaccurate statements made by Senator Vincent; and, secondly, to appeal to the Government to increase the grants to the States for national fitness. When I was Minister for Health I increased the total grants to £70,000 because I appreciated the value of the national fitness campaign. Physical training should commence with the young child. As the kindergarten is the preparatory ground for the student, so the physical training of very young children is the preparatory ground for our young men and women who serve in the forces.
The Labour party is just as much concerned with the defence of Australia as are the Government parties. When, during World War II., General MacArthur asked the late John Curtin to extend the boundaries in which Australians could be called upon to serve without volunteering for service in the Australian Imperial Force, Mr. Curtin submitted the proposal to the Labour party which readily agreed to it. The Labour party has always honoured its obligation to provide for the defence of this country. I support the bill.
– In supporting this bill, I join with Senator Fraser in complimenting the Government upon the insertion of clause 28, which provides that no person shall be liable to render service beyond the limits of Australia unless he has volunteered for service beyond those limits. I need no instruction or prompting to say that this measure is desirable in the interests of the youth of this country. One becomes a little tired of the personal and vindictive interjections that are continually hurled across the chamber by honorable senators opposite. I cannot understand how individuals who, by a vote of the people, occupy such high positions in the land, can so forget themselves as to reduce the proceedings of this chamber to a series of acrimonious personal arguments. As Senator Arnold pointed out, measures such as this should be above party politics. Surely it is not suggested that any honorable senator would be so recreant to the trust that is placed in him by the people as to hinder wilfully preparations for the adequate defence of this country; yet honorable senators opposite have constantly accused members of the Opposition of prolonging consideration of this bill unnecessarily and without regard for its urgency.
It is only natural that on legislation such as this, there should be differences of opinion, not only between political parties, but also between members of the same political parties, but honorable senators opposite would have us believe that whereas they deal only in facts, we on this side of the chamber are prone to disregard the truth.I am reminded of the individual who claimed he always called a spade a spade. One night he tripped over a spade, and I am sure that if honorable senators could have heard what he called a spade on that occasion, they would agree that there is hope for the vilest sinner, and that only a fool will refuse to listen to the other fellow. I speak in that strain because there is talk of a double dissolution of the Parliament, and I should not like to let this opportunity pass without explaining to the Senate how I sometimes feel about some honorable senators opposite, who, despite their oft-repeated assertion that right is right, will not, I am sure, grace this chamber for much longer.
I wish to make particular reference to certain parts of this legislation. I propose to do that now rather than atthe committee stage so that the Minister who has introduced the measure may have an opportunity to consider the points that I shall raise. I view with considerable misgiving the obligation that is to be placed upon the administrators of thi3 bill. We have been told that the Government is determined that, apart from the exemptions specified in the measure, liability to service will rest equally on the youths of this country in every walk of life. I sincerely hope that that will be so and that the call-up will be as free as possible from the accidental and sometimes deliberate exemptions that have been granted to privileged individuals on other occasions. Clause 29 provides that certain persons should be exempted from liability to service so long as the employment, conditions or status on which the exemption is based continues. I notice that Senator Vincent, the Government’s authority on musical instruments, has changed his place in the chamber and is engaging in a duet or a trio with some of his colleagues. I listened to his speech in silence, and all I ask from him in return is similar courtesy. If the Senate will be tolerant, I shall be as brief as possible. I wish to draw attention to certain matters in which I see grave danger’ as well as administrative difficulties. I fear that unless the administration of the measure is watertight, discontent may run high in factories and other undertakings from which young men will be called up for military service. The first exemptions prescribed in clause 29 are of -
The latter provision will be difficult to administer. During- both “World “War I. and World War II., I had an opportunity in South Australia to observe the discontent that was caused amongst many men and women by the exemption from military service of physically fit young men. In some instances, an investigation revealed that there had been not the slightest justification for exemption from military service of an individual who had claimed to be a conscientious objector. I have every sympathy with genuine conscientious objectors, but it is no great hardship for them to justify their exemp-tion if they are honest about their beliefs. However, the provision will be difficult to administer, because unfortunately, some people are willing to evade their responsibility not only to the nation, but also to their fellow men, by taking advantage of the provisions that are inserted in legislation such as this for the benefit of genuine conscientious objectors. I warn the Government that every precaution must be taken to police the exemption provisions.
The next exemption provided in clause 29 is of-
When Senator Nash read that provision to the Senate earlier to-day, one honorable senator opposite - I have some doubt about who it was - made the deplorable interjection “ Why are they to be exempted ? “ The Prime Minister has told us that war may occur within three years. He is not the only one who holds that view. We are being constantly warned by the press of the approaching catastrophe. We are told that we all have an appointment with the Messenger of Death. I would to God that some one would say that we had an appointment with the Messenger of Peace. I defy any honorable senator to cite one great nation or empire that has survived after its people have abandoned Christianity. Many have tried, but none have succeeded. The teachings of Christianity are slighted in this country only by people who have found themselves incapable of living up to those teachings. It is regrettable, indeed, that any one in this chamber should criticize the Government’s decision to follow the well-established practice of exempting theological students from military service. I hope that we shall hear no more of that.
I welcome clause 37 which prescribes a penalty of £100 for any employer who prevents an employee from registering, or from rendering service under this legislation. I have no doubt that those who were responsible for drafting this measure were fully aware of the dangers of omitting such a provision. It cannot be denied that there is a general demand in the community, in this time of scarcity, for increased production. It is equally obvious that the demands on man-power that will be made by national service training will result in the withdrawal of thousands of young men from industry, and production must inevitably suffer. I do not think that the young men of this country will regard national service as any hardship. After all, the national spirit and the urge for adventure are just as strong in the young people of to-day as they were in previous generations. In fact, I think that the introduction of national service may be regarded by future generations of Australians as a milestone in the march of this nation towards its destiny.
I commend the Government for the inclusion in the bill of Part V., “ Protection in relation to civil employment “, and I intend to make a few observations on its provisions. We all realize that the participation of our youth in national service training must deprive them not only of a certain amount of leisure but also, possibly, of opportunities to promote their advancement in their occupations. It may be said, of course, that, as a compensation, they will benefit physically and morally by their participation in national service training. Nevertheless, we must realize, as members of the Parliament, that it is our duty to ensure that the young men concerned will not suffer because of their participation in national service training, and I am pleased, as I have said, that the bill includes certain important safeguards of the rights of employees who undergo national service training. I realize, of course, that at a time when man-power is so scarce many employers may feel tempted to discourage their employees from participating in the scheme because they fear that their production may suffer and that their trade competitors may gain some advantage over them. For that reason it has been necessary to include in the measure substantial penalties for employers who attempt to prevent their employees from receiving training or to victimize them because of their participation in the scheme. Clause 40, which deals with the reinstatement in employment of persons who have rendered service, contains important safeguards. However, I direct the attention of the Senate to the phrase, “ without reasonable excuse “, which is included in paragraph
As a member of the Australian Labour party I have no qualms of conscience at supporting this bill. Labour has a definite policy on defence, because defence is necessary in this democracy, and Labour is a democratic party. In conclusion, I desire to impress upon honorable senators opposite that members of the Opposition have just as great a love of this country as they have. Indeed, throughout its history the Australian Labour party has shown by deeds, as well as by words, that it believes in defending this country. Unfortunately, the debate on this measure has degenerated into a series of recriminations, but that is not the fault of the Opposition.
Motion (by Senator McLeay put -
That the question be now put.
The Senate divided. (The President - Senator the Hon. Gordon Brown.)
Majority . . 7
Question so resolved in the negative.
– In common with honorable senators on both sides, I realize that it is very necessary for Australia to have some form of military training in order to prepare our youth to defend this country in any emergency that may arise. Labour has always advocated that we should prepare to defend Australia. Prior to World War I. Labour introduced a compulsory military training scheme. I was among those who trained under that scheme. Although, at the time, the Labour Government was opposed as strongly as Labour is opposing the present Government in this chamber, the anti-Labour Opposition of those dayswas no more disloyal to this country than we are ; but, very rightly, it wanted to know - as we want to know - the full facts of the scheme proposed. The Minister for Trade and Customs (Senator O’Sullivan) recently informed the Senate of the warning of the Prime Minister (Mr. Menzies) on his return from overseas, that we had only three years in which to prepare for another world war. Yet, when honorable senators on this side of the chamber have asked questions on the validity of the right honorable gentleman’s warning, they have been snubbed and almost insulted by Ministers. Contradictory statements have frequently appeared in the press about Labour’s attitude to measures before the Senate. When I asked the Minister for Fuel, Shipping and Transport (Senator McLeay) yesterday whether, in fairness to the party that I support, he would deal with the daily press for publishing seditious statements, instead of receiving a reasonablereply I was told to go and read the comic strips. That is indicative of the outlook of the people to whom, apparently, the mothers and fathers of this country are expected to hand over their sons. According to a press report, General Eisenhower stated recently in the United States of America that the crisis for war would be over in two years-
– That was if we armed and prepared.
– Yet the Prime Minister has stated that war will come within three years. The young people of this country are entitled to know the real position. If the Government could convince us of the necessity for some of the legislation that it has introduced, Labour would be prepared to co-operate. Senator Vincent rightly stated that a former Labour Prime Minister, Mr. Scullin, discontinued compulsory military training in Australia in 1930, but he refrained from giving credit to Labour for introducing compulsory military training in Australia prior to World War I. He did not admit that between 1931 and 1939 anti-Labour governments neglected to re-introduce compulsory military training to prepare for war, although its inevitability was apparent to the most stupid person in this country. The honorable senator did not say that we had been told by great generals and leading politicians that Australia was impregnable because of the Singapore defences. The people of this country were lulled into a coma of complacency prior to the outbreak of World War II. The reason that Labour abandoned compulsory military training in 1930 was that the treasury was empty. Legislation that was introduced by the Scullin Government with the object of relieving distress in this country during the depression was frustrated in this chamber by the then anti-Labour Opposition, with the result that we did not emerge from the depression until the outbreak of World War II. The press of that time did not publish articles under big black headlines condemning the anti-Labour Opposition for failing to- consider the starving men and women of this country. The anti-Labour Senate majority between 1929 and 1931 refused to support legislation that would have given work to the workless and food to the foodless.
I am in full agreement with the principle of compulsory military training, but we have to be very careful how the scheme is implemented. In view of the development of mechanized warfare, it i3 not sufficient for a soldier to be trained how to fire a rifle. “ Up to two years’ training might now be necessary to fit a soldier to meet an enemy. Parents in this country want to know who is to control their sons. Is the Prime Minister to be in charge, or the Minister for External Affairs (Mr. Spender), who, I understand, holds the rank of LieutenantColonel? Can the manner in which Ministers answer questions in this chamber be regarded as an indication of the manner in which the soldiers will be treated if this dictatorial fascist Government is to be in charge. of them? If we are prepared to reintroduce compulsory military training the’ Government should bring down another measure setting out precisely what shall be the equity in this country of our servicemen if another war has to be fought, and we emerge victorious. I have vivid recollections of what happened after World; War I. when I. with others, played a small part - although as big a part as was possible - in the first Australian Imperial Force. We were assured by the government of the day that after the war we should have an equity in our country. We were told that the Kaiser, who was called the Mad Dog of Europe, would be tried, and if guilty, hung, drawn, and quartered for his treatment of the small nations of Europe, such as Belgium. - But what happened? After the war the Kaiser was allowed to go to Holland, where he lived in affluence and comfort until his death. The position of our soldiers was quite different. Although they had been promised compensation by the Government for serving their country, they were forced to walk the roads, in many instances with the soles worn off their boots, in search of work. Therefore, we should consider very carefully what shall be the lot of ex-servicemen after any future war.
In 1943 the then Labour Government provided that a war gratuity should be paid in 1951 to ex-servicemen of World War II. Some soldiers were given permission to draw their war gratuity early and thus they were able to purchase homes for approximately £2,000, whereas to-day similar homes cost about £4,000. The Opposition has asked the Government on numerous occasions to consider increasing the war gratuity in order to bring it in line with the value of that paid to those soldiers who were fortunate enough to purchase homes two or three years ago. Several supporters of the Government, including Senator George Rankin, advocated that ex-prisoners of war should receive compensation for the hardships that they endured. Those ex-prisoners of war believed that when this Government took office it would honour the promise that it had made in connexion with such compensation prior to the last election. They were buoyed up by that promise and are now left sadly lamenting because the Government is not prepared to meet its obligations.
– The Chifley Government had four years in which to do something for the ex-prisoners of war, if it had wished to do so.
– I am not excusing that Government. I was in full sympathy with those who presented the case on behalf of the ex-prisoners of war and I am still strongly behind it. I shall support their claim at any time.
It is unnecessary for honorable senators to become excited over the calling up of youths, because if the Government is prepared truthfully to tell the young men of Australia why it is necessary that they should be called up, the response of 1914 and 1939 will be repeated. The youth of Australia was not found wanting at those times. If the people were told why compulsory military training is necessary, I believe that there would be no need for conscription. However, contradictory statements have been made. The Prime Minister has stated that we have no more than three years in which to prepare ourselves to meet a war, but a statement recently appeared in a Sydney newspaper to the effect that Genera] Eisenhower has said that all fears of war will have vanished within two years. How can the Government expect the people of Australia, in the light of those conflicting statements, to be really interested in the recruiting campaign? Our young men must be given a stake in the country for which to fight; and also an assurance by the Government that their services are really necessary.
When a young man joins the Army lie swears that he will give to the nation all that he has for 24 hours a day until the war has ended. When the young men of Australia took that oath in 1939, a promise was glibly broadcast by the Prime Minister of the day that when they returned they would enjoy a new order. Unfortunately, they are still looking for it. If the Government wishes young men to volunteer, the Prime Minister must give them an assurance in writing that they will receive their reward and that there will not be a recurrence of the present position in which returned soldiers who were incapacitated in the service of their country are unable to live on the pensions being paid to them. They gave their health to the nation but they are not permitted to live decently because this Government has failed to put into operation a policy that would give them security. I have no doubt that the Government won many votes of totally incapacitated soldiers and others when its supporters promised before the last election that, if returned to power, value would be restored to the £1 and rising prices would be’ checked. The totally incapacitated soldier is expected to live on an allowance given to him in 1943, plus the meagre increase granted by the Government during the last sessional period of the Parliament.
Does any member of the Government honestly believe that the young men of this country will give up their jobs in which they are earning £12 or £14 a week in order to go into the Army on 13s. or 14s. a day, and with no prospect of security in the future? I suggest that it would be foolish to expect them to do so. Thanks to the efforts of the Labour Government during the eight years preceding 1949, the people now enjoy full employment. Before that time many young men who were forced to go into the Army did not know what it was to have a job in the country which they were willing to defend. To-day the youth of Australia is fully employed and the Government must take note of that fact if it expects co-operation from the mothers and fathers of those who will be affected by this compulsory training scheme.
It is unwise to run away with the idea that the only danger to Australia is communism. There are many “ isms “ which are equally dangerous. It should not be forgotten that we have just fought to defend democracy against Nazi-ism and fascism. The young men of to-day are not prepared to give up everything unless they first receive an assurance from the Government that when they return from military service they will have some rights in the .country for which they have successfully fought. ‘ In the State from which I come there is an upper House the members of which are not elected on an adult franchise system but by a privilege vote, so that only one-third of the people are entitled to vote for election of candidates to that council. Although the cream of the youth of Victoria came forward to fight anywhere in the world for the protection of democracy, it is interesting to see what happened when they returned. In 1945 Mr. Cain, who was then Premier of Victoria, presented a bill to the Legislative Council for the purpose of giving adult franchise to the people of Victoria. That bill was rejected. He then submitted a measure designed to give to the soldiers who had fought for this country the right to vote. That legislation also was rejected by the Legislative Council. The men who went away to fight for the preservation of democracy were not given the right to say who should represent them in the parliament of their State.
– Adult franchise operates for election of members of the Senate.
– Thanks to the Australian Labour party. There will be adult franchise in Victoria, too, thanks to that party. I remind Senator Guy that at a not distant date the Commonwealth Parliament will have to take control of the affairs of this country. While Australia is being sabotaged by Communists, the justices of the High Court frustrate the Government’s legislative measures and take away from the people’s Parliament the right to deal with the traitors who are living in our midst. I repeat that the time is not far distant when the Commonwealth Parliament must ask the people for greater powers with which to deal with emergencies as they arise. I consider that no members of the community appreciate more than honorable senators on this side of the chamber what will happen if communism comes to Australia. That is why we have been fighting - -
– It has not been a very successful fight.
– This Government thought that it was successfully fighting communism, but the High Court decided otherwise. When the Labour Government was fighting the Communists, Senator Guy deserted us and went over to the Liberal party. If the Government wishes to have the full co-operation of the people it must show them that compulsory military training is necessary. The Opposition appreciates only too well what Communist control would be like.
– It should know. Its members have been bedfellows with Communists for a long time.
– I remind the honorable senator that one day I saw him locked up in a room with Healy. The members of the Opposition know that there is no difference between a fascist dictatorship, a nazi dictatorship and a Communist dictatorship. We are fighting for principles that have been planks in the Australian Labour party platform for 50 years. We are here to fight for British justice and democracy.
The people of this country will support the Government provided that it is prepared to give them a lead as to what is the true position regarding the possibility of war or invasion. Are we to take notice of a man who was in the military forces until 1914 and who, when war was declared, deserted? Or are we to take notice of General Eisenhower, that great man who led us during World War II. and who has been appointed to one of the highest military posts ever known in the history of the world? No information on this subject is given to the people by Ministers. Whom must the people believe? I repeat that if the Government wishes to have the cooperation of the people, it should denounce the newspaper report of General Eisenhower’s statement as insidious, propaganda designed to divert their minds from the war preparations of Soviet Russia. If the Government tells the people and the Opposition what its real objectives are, I am certain that, in preparing the defence o£ the country it will receive full co-operation, not only by means of lip service in the Parliament, but also by means of action in the trade unions and elsewhere.
– By means of strikes such as that of 1917 and those staged during the last war?
– The honorable senator speaks of strikes. 1 can remember many strikes and I can also recall one which was exposed to the people of Australia. Little Mr. William Morris Hughes engineered it with Nelson, the leader of the coal-miners’ union in New South Wales. I have vivid recollections of that strike. The rank and file of the unions are not always the instigators of strikes. One should not overlook that Tom Walsh who really led the strike in 1917 was the man who, a few years later, became the paid organizing secretary of the United Australia party in New South Wales. The Australian Labour party kicked him out and he went over to the United Australia party, as several others have done. His wife, Adela Pankhurst, was also employed by the United Australia party to organize the party in New South Wales.
At no time has the Australian Labour party impeded the defence measures of this nation. Its members and their sons are always ready to fight for their country. The sons of the workers take an active part in the defence of the country. If the Government desires the cooperation of the workers, it must give them a better deal, not by means of lip service, but by telling them, in writing, of the conditions that will prevail when the war is over. I wish to impress upon the Government that I am wholeheartedly behind any scheme to train the youth of this country. My own son has been undergoing training for the last four years. From what he has told me, it is obvious that it is necessary to spend not one but two years of very intense training before a person is able to understand the intricate weapons that are used in warfare to-day. If we are to have an army with which to defend this country and the cause of democracy we must apply democratic principles to those who do the fighting. I trust that before this bill is passed the assurance for which I have asked will ba given by the Government.
– What assurance does the honorable senator want?
– The assurance that I previously mentioned. If the Government does so, the Opposition will vigorously support the bill.
– I join with my colleagues in expressing surprise at the failure of Government supporters to speak in favour of the bill. It was introduced with a great flourish of trumpets, but since then it has been neglected by the Government, although the measure was supposed to have No. 1 priority on the Government’s programme. The Labour party is conscious of the need for defence preparations. Adequate defence is a fundamental part of the policy of the Labour party. So that there may be no misunderstanding, I propose to quote the following from the policy of the Labour party on defence: -
The Federal executive’s statement said that the party believed the national interest could best be served by fully implementing Labour’s policy, which was framed to strengthen defences and improve the position of Australia as a holding base. Points in that policy were -
Active co-operation with the Governments of the Pacific and South-East, Asia and assistance for their economic and political development. ‘
It is hoped that the Government will heed the, persistent pleading of the Prime Minister of India, which is a member of the British Commonwealth of Nations,, for the recognition of the Chinese Government. The statement continues -
That programme, if put into effect by thegovernment of the day, would ensure the adequate defence of Australia. In the last world war Australia played its full part. Speaking of Australia’s war effort,. General Douglas MacArthur said -
No nation in the world is making a more supreme war effort than Australia.
During the 1943 election campaign, the anti-Labour press of Australia said that the people of Australia would on no account return the Labour Government, but it is on record that the people gave an overwhelming vote in favour of Labour. There is no need to remind honorable senators of the conditions that prevailed before the elections of 1943. It is sufficient for meto quote from the policy speech of the late John Curtin, that great labour leader, who is destined to go down in history as one of Australia’s greatest sons. In his policy speech before the elections of 1943, Mr. Curtin said -
The Labour Government took prompt and effective measures to develop Australia’s maximum effort. Before the outbreak of war with Japan, the Labour Government secured thereturn to Australian waters of Australian warships; the Citizen Forces were called up for fulltime duty, and V.D.C. personnel were enlisted for full-time duty. The 6th and 7th Divisionsand later the 9th Division of the A.l.F. returned to Australia in accordance with the recommendation of the Government’s military advisers.
I trust that Government supporters will note that that action was taken on the recommendation of the Government’s military advisers. The statement continues -
The 9th Division remained in the Middle East for a year longer than the other divisions. That was the answer to the allegation that the Government’s policy disrupted or delayed the 8th Army’s campaign in Libya. Arrangements were made for a regular flow to Australia of R.A.A.F. personnel trained under the Empire Air Training Scheme.
– The scheme was started in 1940.
– We give full credit to the Government that was responsible for the establishment of the scheme, but it reached its maximum development under the Labour Government. I continue my quotation from the policy speech -
We owe a deep gratitude to Britain and America for land and air forces and for material aid. Nevertheless, five-sixths of the land forces in the South-West Pacific area have been Australian, and R.A.A.F. squadrons have been only slightly less than American. When Labour took office, 4.31,000 men were in the fighting services.
That was in 1941, just two months before Japan came into the war. By 1943, the number of men in the services had increased to 820,000. When Labour took office in 1941, there were still 100,000 persons unemployed in Australia. They should have been absorbed into industry so that they could contribute ‘ to the nation’s war effort. Mr. Curtin continued -
Hie number of women was 3,000 ; to-day it is 40,000.
The Labour Government recognized that women could make an important contribution to the national war effort. I pay a tribute to the women of Australia for the wonderful contribution they made by working day in and day out, month after month, without rest or holidays. They rendered valuable service to the nation in its darkest hour. Mr. Curtin continued -
The number of men in munitions, aircraft and like factories was 71,200. To-day, it is 144,000.
One wonders what the Fadden Government had done to prepare the defences of the country. It had an opportunity to regiment the people of Australia in an all-out war effort. Was the war in which we were then engaged merely a “phoney” war, and what will be the character of the war which we are now told is in the offing and gravely threatens our security? Apparently the Fadden Government believed that it had geared the nation to ari all-out war effort, but what a feeble effort it was ! Mr. Curtin continued -
As a result of Labour’s reorganization of man-power and woman-power, 1,172,000 are now in’ the fighting forces or war production, compared with 554,000 when the Fadden Government left office.
What an indictment of .the Fadden Government ! -
To-day there are two members of the Militia to every three members of the Australian Imperial Force. The Australian Imperial Force has been increased by 158,000 men, the vast majority of whom voluntarily transferred out of the Militia.
Similar transfers of militiamen would take place again to-day if Australia’s security were threatened. Mr. Curtin continued -
When my Government took over, only 267,000 men had volunteered to fight anywhere in the world with the Royal Australian Navy, the Australian Imperial Force and the Royal Australian Air ‘Force. To-day, the figure is 530,000.
Those figures show how, under the wise leadership of the Labour Government, Australians in every walk of life responded to the call. Mr. Curtin continued-
We have almost doubled the strength* of the Australian Imperial Force and more than doubled the strength of the Royal Australian Air Force. The Royal Australian Air Force is equipped now with the most modern bombing and fighter aircraft.
Referring to the work of the Allied Works Council, Mr. Curtin said -
Thanks to the magnificent work of the Allied Works Council, Air Force establishments to-day are fifty times greater than they were in 1939.
Government supporters interjecting,
– Government supporters do not like this recital of facts; they hate to be reminded of their past misdemeanours. In their view the Labour Opposition possesses no virtues whatsoever.
– Hear, hear !
– Referring to the manufacture of munitions, Mr. Curtin said that by May, 1943, h;- Government had fully equipped Australian land forces with major munitions of practically all types, had established substantial reserves and had supplied large quantities of munitions to our allies. He continued -
When the Labour Government took over, there were six government munitions factories and 76 annexes; to-day, there are 48 government factories and 180 annexes.
In other words, the number of munitions factories and annexes were increased by almost 125 per cent. -
They employed 79,000 persons as against 37,000 when the Fadden Government was in office. Capital expenditure on the Australian munitions industry, excluding aircraft construction, to-day, is £141,000.000 - an increase of £82,000,000 in twenty months.
Ihave cited these figures for the information of honorable senators opposite in the hope that, by so doing, I shall be able to induce them to rid their minds of the belief that Labour is indifferent to the adequate defence of Australia.
Concurrently with the expansion ofour war potential other aspects of our nationallife had to be regimented into a closely knit war-time pattern. I trust chat the present Government will profit by the experience of the past and study the pattern that was then designed because it will eventually have to adopt a somewhat similar pattern of control if it is ever to extricate the country from the ills of inflation. The Labour Government, conscious of its responsibilities to the nation, sought the co-operation and assistance of the great trade union movement in harnessing the resources of the nation in an all-out war effort. In contrast to that, this Government has tried to bludgeon the workers into obedience to its wishes, saying, “ This is what you shall do “, and in an endeavour to create a psychology among the people favorable to itself, it has sought to link the trade union movement with the Communists, claiming that the Communists had infiltrated the trade union movement in great numbers. In that way it hoped to hide its inability to get things done. Soon, however, the people are to be given an opportunity to judge it for not having fulfilled its pre-election promise to put value back into the £1. We have effectively rebutted the accusation thatwe have an affinity with the Communists. I hope to have an opportunity in the not distant future to make a learned dissertationupon that subject.
The lights of the chamber becoming dim,
– Coming events oast their shadows before. The light of this Government is also about to be dimmed. Labour governments consistently sought the co-operation and assistance of the trade union movement and as a result were able to achieve spectacular results. Those results will never be obtained by the basher tactics that have been adopted by this Government. During the war, I was present at a trade union congress in Melbourne. It was attended by almost every Labour Minister in office in Australia and by representatives of all trade unions. The then Prime Minister informed the congress that wage-pegging was imperative. He presented his facts and figures in a realistic fashion and proved to the congress that wage-pegging was necessary for the successful prosecution of war. Although the idea of wage-pegging had been anathema to the trade union movement, the congress accepted his proposal without reservation, as it also accepted man-power control, towhich it had been bitterly opposed.
Sitting suspended from 5.58 to 8 p.m.
Debate resumed from the 8th March (vide page 164), on motion by Senator McKenna -
That the special report of the Select Committee on National Service in the Defence Force, presented to the Senate on the 7th March, 1951, be adopted.
Debate (on motion by Senator Amour) adjourned.
. -The Curtin Administration not only had a defence plan, but also implemented that plan most effectively and so enabled this country to make an all-out war effort. I have proved, I hope to the
Satisfaction of Government supporters, that Labour has always been interested in the defence of this country. Honorable senators opposite have alleged that the Labour party has shown no interest in the Government’s voluntary recruiting campaign. I believe that the recruiting campaign has failed for a variety of reasons. Although the campaign has been vigorously pursued and has been given wide publicity, enlistments have not been up to the Government’s expectations, as the following report, published in the Adelaide Advertiser of the 10th January, shows : -
ENLISTMENTS LAG DESPITE CAMPAIGN.
MELBOURNE, Jim. 10. - Enlistments in the permitnent forces between October 1, when the recruiting campaign began, and January 7 totalled only 2,757.
A later paragraph in the report seems to me to be of particular significance. It reads’ -
About one in three applicants was accepted. Many failed to pass medical examinations and others wore rejected for various reasons, including previous bud service records.
The following report was published in the same newspaper on the 10th February : -
APATHY OVER HE-ENLISTING IN
A street quiz in Adelaide to-day revealed most men were not interested in joining either the Citizen Military Forces or the Regular Army, but “if- there’s a real threat to Australia they’ll be in it again.”
It is significant that although the men questioned, some of whom were experienced “ diggers “, were reluctant to enlist in the forces at present, they all said that if there was any real threat to Australia, they would not hesitate to play their part.
This measure has several contentious provisions. Clause 33 states -
A person who is called up in accordance with this Act for service with the Citizen Naval Forces shall render service in those Forces for one hundred and seventy-six days us prescribed by regulations under the Naval Defence Act 1910-1950.
The subsequent clauses specify the conditions of service. A total period of 176 days is the equivalent of approximately six months, but the training is to be extended over a period of five years. That, I consider, will cause serious inter ference with the economic life of this country. Would it not be better to provide for a continuous training period of six months, or two periods of three months each? A continuous period of six months would bring recruits to a high standard of physical fitness and proficiency in whatever branch of the military art they are to be trained. I said in my maiden speech in this chamber that it would not be possible for the Government to carry out its proposed developmental programme if, at the same time, a scheme of compulsory military training were to be introduced. However, I believe that interference with our industrial and economic life could be greatly reduced by providing for a continuous training period of six months or two periods of three months each. In addition, the men would be better trained at the completion of their service.
The effect of this legislation upon apprentices has been mentioned by several of my colleagues, particularly those honorable senators who have had a long association with industry. Clause 46 provides - (1.) Where a person is employed under a contract of apprenticeship, the contract shall not, except with the consent of the Minister, be terminated by reason of the absence of that person for the purpose of rendering service under this Act. but shall be suspended during that absence and shall be resumed upon the termination of that absence. (2.) The contract shall be deemed to be terminated if, in thu opinion of the Minister, the apprentice did not resume his employment under the contract as soon as was reasonable and practicable after the termination of his period of service under this Act.
That provision protects apprentices who are called up for compulsory military training. I believe, however, that apprentices should be drafted as far as possible into the units in which they will be able to continue their apprenticeship training. Generally speaking, apprentices are required to commence their period of indenture prior to reaching the age of 21 years. Under this scheme apprentices of more than 21 years of age will still be liable to be called upon for military service.
I trust that the Government will take cognizance of the points that I have outlined. In its present form the bill provides only for spasmodic training of our young men, and it will not achieve the important purpose of giving our young men a thorough training in any one of the aimed forces. Our experience teaches us that proficiency in any pursuit, calling or occupation can be obtained only by continuous training. It is clear, therefore, that the. individuals who will be trained under this scheme will not receive the thorough training that is necessary to achieve proficiency. Of course, it must be admitted that the young men who undergo training will benefit physically and in other ways from their period of service. In conclusion, I desire to emphasize the fact that in each of the armed services proper trade training can be provided for young men who are apprenticed to trades in civil life, and I suggest that some organization should be devised in each of the armed services so that technical trainees will not have their period of training- needlessly dislocated. If my suggestion is adopted the armed services will, in the long run, obtain considerable benefit, quite apart from having trained technicians available for service when they are called up. The Labour party is conscious of its traditions in preparing this country for defence, and, for that reason, apart from any other, we support the bill. However, I desire to make it quite clear that Labour will not agree, under any circumstances, to a measure that will conscript young men for service overseas. Labour has always advocated voluntary enlistment for overseas service, in times of peace as well as in times of war, and Labour continues to advocate that policy.
Question resolved in the affirmative;
Bill read a second time, and passed through its remaining stages without amendment or debate.
Debate resumed (vide page 542).
– The Senate appointed a select committee to examine the implication of the measure that has just been passed. A sincere offer was made by the Opposition to the Government in an attempt to obtain its co-operation in the establishment of the select committee. We even offered the Government the right to nominate the chairman of the committee. That cooperation was not forthcoming, and the committee had to be constituted of seven members of the Opposition. I was a member of the committee, and I know the seriousness with which it addressed itself to its task. We were concerned primarily about the effects of the introduction of national military service upon the nation. In order to obtain the information on which to base a proper judgment,’ we desired that the permanent heads of the Department of Supply and the Department of Labour and National Service, and the chiefs of the three armed services should appear before us as witnesses. We believed that those gentlemen could have provided the information that we needed for a proper consideration of the matters involved. Unfortunately, because of the action taken by the present Treasurer (Mr. Fadden), who was then Acting Prime Minister, the committee was denied the benefit of the evidence of the officials that I have indicated. Another most regrettable feature of the Government’s attitude in this matter was that we did not receive any intimation of its attitude until we assembled in Melbourne on the 6th Feb.ruary, the date set down for the first sitting of the committee. It is all very well for members of the Government in this chamber to smile, but it is a very serious matter when a dictatorship arises in the country, and civil servants are instructed not to appear before a properly constituted committee of the Senate. Indeed, that is a more serious matter than some honorable senators realize. I point out that we desired of the officials to whom I have referred, not so much to hear their views as to obtain important factual evidence that we believed they could supply.
The committee realized the importance of the whole matter to the security of the nation, and we determined that all the evidence should be taken in camera. We informed the Government of our intention, and we also furnished an assurance that no statement would be made concerning any evidence that we obtained. However, the Government did not, apparently, even trouble to. consider our offer and assurance. That is evident because the Acting Prime Minister did not make any inquiries from the chairman of the committee’ about whether the sittings of the committee would be held in public or in camera.
As the Senate, is aware, the committee carried out its duty, and took evidence from such witnesses’ as it thought could assist it and were willing to attend its sittings. We had the assistance of the testimony of Sir Edmund Herring, the Director-General of Recruiting, who cooperated most generously with the committee and gave it the benefit of his long experience and sound judgment, for which, we were most grateful. We also had the advantage of hearing the evidence of Lieutenant-General Gordon Bennett, who gave hi& evidence in a most forthright fashion. Unfortunately, because of the decision of the Government, to which I have already referred, we were denied the benefit of the evidence of the three service chiefs and the permanent heads of the two civil departments that are most concerned in this matter of national service training. We particularly wanted to obtain evidence upon the probable effect of the introduction of the national service scheme upon industry, and upon the young men who would be withdrawn from industry for training. It seems clear, on the face of the Government’s proposal, that many thousands of young men will lose the benefit of at least three months training in their particular trade or occupation. Another matter on which the committee desired some assurance was the position of youths who belong to the Communist party. We wanted to know whether the Government and the defence authorities proposed to include known Communists in the drafts that would .be called up for service training, because, if so, it was clear that subversive persons would have easy access to weapons of war and methods of service training that are probably secret. I know, of course, that the Government has said that known Communists would not be included in the persons called up for national service, but members of the committee desired to obtain more definite assurance on that point. There were a number of other matters of importance on which the committee desired to take evidence, but it was prevented from doing so because of the attitude adopted by the Government.
I remind honorable senators that legislation was passed in 1911 to provide for compulsory military training of youths between the ages of 18 years and 26 years. The scheme was actually implemented in 1912, and tens of thousands of young men were virtually conscripted. However, a fact that is not generally known to-day is that in 1913 and 1914 27,000 boys Were brought before the courts and convicted of endeavouring to escape their obligation to undergo compulsory military training. Those unfortunate young men were placed in “ pinchgut” where they were given only bread and water for subsistence, and they were subjected to ill treatment. For every four men who underwent compulsory military training in Australia during World War I. one man declined to do so and was sentenced to imprisonment. It is clear, therefore, that very careful consideration should be given to the reaction of the people to any scheme of compulsory military service. Another matter to which I direct particular attention is the position df loyal Australians whose sons are called up for national service. Many of them will have the mortifying experience of witnessing their neighbour’s sons escaping military service, on the ground that the young men concerned or their parents are Communists, whilst their own sons will be called up for service. I remind honorable senators that a Labour government introduced the call-up or conscription in 1911. The reason why the present recruiting campaign is lagging is that after having, sought and obtained the co-operation of Labour, the Government altered its . tactics and stated that it wanted men to enlist to serve in any part of the world. I have no desire to see boys leave their homes and live elsewhere, with consequent worry to their parents, because they are unwilling to obey the call-up. It is all very well for the Parliament to pass legislation to call youths up for compulsory military training, but we should not forget the tremendous effect that the call-ups between 1912 and 1915 had on the lives of the people of this country. As I have stated previously, for every nine lads who served, two refused to serve. Labour sought the co-operation of the Government in connexion with the work of this select committee in order that real difficulties might be overcome and the bill suitably amended whilst it was before this chamber, but such co-operation was’ refused. I contend that a call-up for training should apply to all and not merely a few in a group, as is proposed in this measure.
– Is the honorable senator against the proposed scheme?
– I am not saying so. I am merely referring to the matters that the select committee sought to investigate.
– Apparently the honorable senator wants to produce a race of “ bodgies “.
– I do not want to do that, but it seems to me that honorable senators opposite do. In December last the Prime Minister (Mr. Menzies) stated that no nation was hostile to Australia, and in January last the Minister for Labour and National Service (Mr. Holt) also stated that no nation or group of nations was hostile to this country. By establishing an army we shall arouse a potential enemy because apparently, in the opinion of those Ministers, we have no potential enemy at present. Is it the intention of the Government that Australia act offensively to India, Indonesia, and other nations? That was another aspect of this matter in which the committee was interested. But the black hand of the dictator manifested itself and responsible men were directed not to give evidence. That is a fine state of affairs in a democracy. No greater insult could have been offered by the Treasurer, who was then acting as Prime Minister, to the members of the committee, who were prepared to give their time to hear the evidence of these very important people. It was suggested to the committee that the rearming of Japan would develop a potential enemy of this country in the future. During the suspension of this sitting for dinner a roneoed copy of a statement on foreign affairs, in which opposition to the > rearming of Japan was expressed was placed on my desk. This is rather significant, particularly on the eve of a possible double dissolution of the Parliament. It is a somewhat belated story that was told in the statement to which I have just referred, and 1 suppose that the author would support the policy of the United States of America in relation to the proposal to again develop the armed strength of Japan in preference to the British policy. Apparently, because a Labour government is in power in Great Britain, the slogan, “ Tune in to Britain “ no longer applies. I and the other members of the committee were confident that the rearming of Japan might result in the development of a potential enemy to Australia.
The great majority of the boys that the Government proposes to call up have mothers and fathers. I should like to know whether industry will pay their wages or make up the difference between their military and civil pay, and whether, if they are to be called up for service on Saturday afternoons, they will be paid at the rate of time and a half. Although honorable senators opposite have treated this aspect of the matter very casually, I remind them that the mothers and fathers of boys who are unwilling to obey the call-up will be caused a great deal of worry by those boys leaving home to live elsewhere and hide like criminals.
– What witness gave that evidence?
– I am stating my point of view. As I have already pointed out, the action that the Acting Prime Minister took by directing important public servants not to give evidence before the committee was unique. It established an unfortunate precedent. It was a brand new order. The AttorneyGeneral (Senator Spicer) has stated that the letter of invitation that was sent to the service chiefs and others was not a summons.
– Was it?
– No, it was not a summons; it was a courteously worded letter in which the persons concerned were invited to appear before the committee.’ During the period of about five years that I was chairman of the Broadcasting Committee, many important people in this nation gave evidence before that committee. I remember heads of the churches, representatives of universities, directors of education, and leaders of industry coming forward to give the committee the benefit of their experience. They were always invited in a very courteous manner to appear before the committee to give evidence on a particular subject that was being investigated. In almost every instance persons who were invited to give evidence came forward readily and did so, and I am convinced that had the service chiefs and senior public servants to whom I have referred not been denied the right to appear before the select committee to give evidence, they would have done so readily. By that denial a great insult was offered to the committee. However, history may repeat itself, and at some future time honorable senators who now sit on the Government side of this chamber may find themselves in a similar position to that of the members of the committee to which I have referred. I do not readily accept gratuitous insults. Just as the Treasurer (Mr. Fadden) was elected by the people to represent the division of McPherson, so I was elected by the people of New South Wales to represent that State in this chamber, and I object most strongly to a Cabinet member or anybody else implying that I am not a fit and proper person to receive evidence of an important character. The AttorneyGeneral stated that the seven senators who comprised the committee were not trustworthy and that they may have divulged evidence which was given before them. I point out that Sir Edmund Herring, the Director-General of Recruiting, furnished the committee with very valuable evidence and requested, for security reasons, that it should not be divulged. The committee has been loyal to his request, and that evidence has not been divulged to anybody. Every honorable senator was required to take an oath when he became a member of this chamber, and history has been made by the insult that the Treasurer offered to the committee. Even if the Senate should be abolished in the future, history will record that the Treasurer in this Government denied public servants who could have given valuable evidence to a properly constituted Senate select committee, the right to do so.
.- Until I heard Senator Amour speak, I was under the impression that this was a debate on an alleged infringement of parliamentary privilege, and on the report in which that allegation was made. I agree that parliamentary privilege, with which this document purports to be concerned, is of the essence of democratic government, and I think it is true that if a private member i3 to carry out his duties effectively and efficiently he must preserve parliamentary privileges that have been won over a long period of time, and won dangerously. Because those privileges are so important, the cry of privilege should never be raised lightly. For if, in an endeavour to twist the pure idea of defending parliamentary privilege into serving the end of a political party, or into salving the wounded dignity of an individual, we should, bring privilege itself into contempt, then far from jealously guarding ‘ what has been won we only dangerously imperil it. I believe that in this report which has been laid before us a step in that direction has been taken. I consider that the charge has been frivolously made and that the report has been far from impartially presented. The salient feature of it is that it sets out to prove that the Cabinet prevented certain persons from obeying the summons of a select committee appointed by the Senate. What it in fact proves is that no one at any time received a summons from that select committee. It follows that if no summons was received the Cabinet could not have prevented any one from obeying a summons and consequently could not have infringed in any way the privileges of this Parliament.
It is necessary to look at the correspondence contained in the report in order to prove the truth or otherwise of the statements that have been made. I draw attention to the letter written by the chairman of the committee to the Acting. Prime
Minister (Mr. Fadden), in which the following words appear -
It is proposed, therefore, to invite the officials named … to give evidence before the committee … In a statement attached are set out, for your information, the particular dates on which it is proposed to invite certain Commonwealth officials to give evidence.
Iri pursuance of that statement of intention, the chairman in fact wrote to various officials. The words used by the clerk of the committee, at the direction of the chairman, are as follows : -
Honorable senators will notice that there is no mention of a summons. The letter refers only to an invitation. The next letter to which I draw attention is one written by the Acting Prime Minister to the chairman of the committee in which the following statement appears: -
THe Chiefs of Staff and other officers mentioned therein have informed me that they have received invitations from the Clerk of the Committee
The letter proceeds to state that since no public interest could be served by the attendance of those officers, the Acting Prime Minister had accordingly directed them that they should not attend.
From a study of that correspondence it is crystal clear that what the Cabinet did was to instruct those officers not to accept a. certain invitation. It did not at any time instruct them to refuse to obey a proper summons issued by the select committee. Those officers were not bound to accept an invitation and in refusing to do so they did not commit any contempt or infringe any privilege. Similarly, in instructing them to refuse, the Cabinet committed neither contempt nor infringement of privilege. That is tacitly recognized in the report, though it is glossed over and called a “ technicality “. By the exercise of clairvoyance, the chairman of the committee stated in the report that the Cabinet did not attempt to exploit that technicality. How the honorable senator knows what was in the minds of the Cabinet when it gave its direction is more than I can tell, but I should think that a factor which influenced the Cabinet’s d decision was that no summons had been issued.
If this matter is to be regarded merely as a technicality, then it is logical that a person who declines to give evidence before a court of law after having received from the judge a personal note stating that it would be nice if he could come along next Tuesday and give evidence,, could be proceeded against as if he had refused’ to obey a subpoena issued by the court. In the same way, if a taxpayer received from the Commissioner of Taxation a billet-doux stating, “I should be pleased if you would forward £100 next J January in payment of income tax “, and failed to remit the £100, he could be proceeded against just as if he had refused to comply with the requirements of a proper taxation assessment. I suggest that that is the essence of this matter.
The chairman of the committee obviously knew the difference between a summons and an invitation. If he had any doubts, the Standing Orders were available to guide him and to show him that a distinction is very clearly drawn. Standing Order 382, which refers to the calling of witnesses before a select committee, states -
Witnesses, not being Senators, shall be ordered to attend before the Senate, or a Committee of the whole, . . .
Standing Order 385 provides that -
If a Select Committee desire the attendance of a Senator . . . the Chairman shall, in writing, request him to attend. . . .
The distinction between an order to attend and a request to attend is therefore perfectly clear. In the instance under discussion the chairman invited the attendance of certain persons who, according to the Standing Orders, should have been ordered to attend. It is evident from the minutes of the proceedings that were tabled in this chamber to-day, that the chairman explained all of those matters to the committee. I should like to know why, in view of the explanation made by the chairman and of the provisions contained in the Standing Orders, the committee did not in fact proceed to issue formal summonses to witnesses. In his first letter to the Prime Minister (Mr. Menzies) the chairman of the committee spoke of requiring an assurance before he proceeded to issue formal summonses. Why did he not do so without an assurance? He cannot plead ignorance or lack of opportunity. If the committee shared his knowledge, it must have known the proper step for it to take. Why was the proper step not taken ? We, as the Senate, appointed this committee to carry out a certain task, and we have a right to expect that task to he carried out and to have a report presented to us in a proper manner. I consider that this committee and its chairman are deserving of the greatest censure from the Senate because they have failed completely in the first task that they were appointed to do. I should be glad to receive an explanation why this dereliction of duty occurred, and I trust that it will be more satisfactory than some that have been already received.
I believe that there is another reason why this committee is deserving of the censure of the Senate, apart from the fact that it made no attempt to carry out its task and abandoned it at the first check that it received. This committee should incur the just anger of the Senate because, in an apparent endeavour to cover itself ind to shelve its responsibilities, it has presented its report in a form that is so far from being impartial as to be highly questionable. The Attorney-General (Senator Spicer) has already pointed out that in paragraph 58 of the report, an endeavour is made to whip up feeling in the Senate in favour of the committee by implying that the Government treated public servants with more consideration than it displayed towards the members of the committee. The Attorney-General has shown that only half of the .truth is contained in that paragraph, because it carefully omits any reference to the fact that ,the members of the National Security Resources Board take an oath of secrecy, whereas the members of this select committee did not. ‘ That is not the only example of impartiality that is to be found in the report. Indeed, in paragraph 61 a complete mis-statement is made. The last two sentences of that paragraph are as follows: -
It can be said immediately that no public official would have been embarrassed by being asked to give an opinion on government policy. Indeed, the Acting Prime Minister was so informed, in writing, through the Chairman’s letter of the 1.2th January.
I suggest that the Acting Prime Minister was not informed of anything of the kind. He was informed that the committee was primarily concerned with factual matters and not that it was solely concerned with them. He was also informed that the committee realized that those officials might not wish to express their opinion. He was not informed that they would not be asked to express their opinion. That, again, is a complete misstatement and an example of partiality in presentation of the report.
In paragraph 65 of the report a quotation from a speech made by the British Prime Minister, Mr. Attlee, is dragged in, apparently in an effort to bolster up the argument that the members of a cabinet must disclose to a select committee secrets concerning matters of defence and security. The speech made by Mr. Attlee concerned a completely different matter from that into which this select committee was inquiring. Mr. Attlee was referring to the Sandys case, in which the issue was whether the Cabinet should be allowed to exercise pressure on a private member of Parliament in order to force him to disclose the sources of his information, which is an entirely different matter from that which the Senate is now considering. In addition, the quotation- has been used in a most misleading way. For instance, a vital sentence has been omitted. That sentence, if it had been included, would have indicated clearly the inapplicability of the whole quotation. Whereas in every other instance in the quotation asterisks denote where passages have been omitted, in the instance to which I have just referred there are no asterisks to indicate an omission. In all other quotations contained in the report care has been taken to document them, and source, date and page are given by way of reference. In relation to the quotation from Mr. Attlee’s speech, the only reference that is given is to the effect that the speech was made during discussion of the Sandys case. Again, it may be coincidence, but the omission of the reference details makes it much more difficult for one to check the accuracy of the .quotation.
I dare say that if anybody took the trouble to delve into this curious document he would be oble to find various examples of partiality. I consider, however, that the three examples to which I have referred are sufficient to show the nature of the report that has been presented to the Senate. If a select committee is so futile that it cannot function properly, its members should retain sufficient self-respect to present an exculpatory report with complete impartiality. I suggest that in this instance that has not been done.
To sum up, I maintain that no contempt was committed. The proper procedure was not followed by the committee, so that it is not possible to establish the charge of contempt. It was a gross dereliction of duty on the part of the committee so to mismanage the functions entrusted to it, and it should he severely censured for presenting so partial :i report. Whether or not it will receive that censure I do not know. Unlike Senator McKenna, who last night sought to anticipate the decision of the Senate, I do not presume to say what the Senate will do; but if it decides in accordance with the facts, and every intelligent person on the Opposition side gives due consideration to the facts, the Government, having 26 to 34 members in Opposition,, will probably have a majority of one.
– I listened with amazement to the remarkable arguments of Senator Gorton, who was not a member of the select committee, . who knows nothing of its activities or of what it set out to do, and who obviously cares even less. This issue does not rest on a legal argument as to whether witnesses were invited or requested or summoned to give evidence. Senator Gorton and the AttorneyGeneral (Senator Spicer) who, as a lawyer, should have known better, tried to draw a red herring across the trail. The real question is whether the Government was guilty of contempt of the Parliament by ordering its servants not to appear before the committee to give evidence. There is no doubt that they were so ordered, and by giving those orders the Government acted in gross contempt of the great and noble institution of the Parliament. The Opposition was sincere when it offered to let the Government have a majority of members on the select committee. Had the Government accepted that offer it could have elected its own chairman and Govern ment members would have learnt a great deal that would have been of value to the Senate. It is the duty of members of the Parliament to learn as much as possible, and we learned a great deal from the evidence tendered to the committee by several eminent men. Not only did we hear evidence, but we inspected factories and conferred with members of the Commonwealth Aircraft Corporation. We sought their opinion about compulsoryservice in the military forces, and asked how many aircraft could be produced. We visited other aircraft manufacturing establishments, and interviewed Mr. Wackett, the eminent aircraft designer. We inspected jet aircraft engines,- and next door we saw Lincoln bombers being built.
I believe that more parliamentary select committees should be appointed, and those committees should go out into the highways and the byways in search oi information as do parliamentary committees in the United States of America The Senate Foreign Relations Committee of the United States of America Congress visits the “ hot “ spots of Europe and Asia to learn the truth about the international situation. In the United -States* .of America, there is a committee on finance and military appropriations, whose job it. is to see that the money voted for that purpose is wisely expended. Much of the evidence given before our committee will not be published, but it was very informative, and honorable senators opposite would have been the better for hearing it. The objects of the committee were -
Australia is a large place, and it would have been impossible for a committee to make a thorough investigation in the time available, but it acquired much important information which should enable the Senate to become a more effective legislative body. When the committee presented its special report, it was treated as a joke. The report could have been more valuable were it not for the action of the Government in preventing service chiefs from giving evidence. The special report,’ which was presented on the 7th March, contains the following passage : - . . the unprecedented action of Cabinet in causing to be issued a direction to certain prospective witnesses, namely, the Chiefs of Staff of .the armed services and other Commonwealth officials, not to attend before the Committee.
That report and annexures, which include letters from the secretary of the committee to the service chiefs, and their replies, establishes beyond doubt that the Government acted in contempt of the Senate. Honorable senators are the representatives of the States, and they are also, in a sense, more representative of the people of Australia than are members of the House of Representatives. Recently, the behaviour of certain Ministers has been such that the prestige of the Senate has suffered, and the people no longer respect it. Indeed, the behaviour of every one of us has been in some measure responsible for this loss of respect. The unfortunate impression already created will be worsened if the contempt committed by the Government is allowed to go without reprimand. There are 60 members of the Senate, ten from each State. In the House of Representatives, there are 123 members, of whom 98 represent the three big eastern States. How can the claims of the small States receive proper attention except th rough the Senate, where the States are equally represented?
– But the Labour party is pledged to abolish the Senate.
– Never mind about that. Out of a total of 123 members of the House of Representatives Tasmania, South Australia and Western Australia have between them only 25. The Senate has a duty to perform on behalf of the States, and we should not permit it to be brought into contempt. Because of the direction given by the Government, service chiefs’ were not allowed to give evidence before the select committee, but evidence was taken from such eminent soldiers as Sir Edmund Herring and Lieutenant-General Gordon Bennett. Some of the evidence was taken in camera, and despite the sneering comments of some honorable senators opposite, none of the evidence so given has leaked out. Had the committee been given the facilities to which it was en titled it could have brought in a report that would have been of immense value to the Parliament, and instead of the present controversial bill, we could have had before us a measure upon which all parties were agreed. If the report of the committee does not contain the information, the fault is that of the Government. The committee did its job faithfully in the circumstances.
I have been concerned over the difficulties experienced by area officers iri the calling-up of men for service, and’ it should be possible to legislate to prevent such anomalies as occurred during the last war. After men had been called up for service and had failed to appear, it was ascertained that many of them had already enlisted and were serving in the armed forces in the Middle East and New Guinea. In many respects the provisions of the National Security Regulations were found to be out of date. If the select committee had been given access to the information necessary to enable it to complete its task, .it would have made worthwhile recommendations which would have resulted in the improvement of thi1 national service scheme and have enabled the Government to avoid many of the mistakes that were inherent in the systems that have existed in the past. Apart from the inspections of the two big industrial concerns to which I have referred the committee should have explored many other avenues of advice which were denied to it by the Government. The members of the committee could have moved about Australia and consulted leading members of the community and representative bodies, including the chambers of manufactures in each of the States and the Australian Council of Trades Unions, and thus made a thorough survey of our man-power, physical and economic resources. It would then have been in a. position to present a report which’ would have been of invaluable assistance to the Government in giving effect to this scheme.
A great deal was said by Senator Gorton, the Attorney-General and other Government spokesmen about the preservation of security. They stated that the evidence which the committee, sought was highly secret. I remind them that such secret: information as was made: available to the committee was treated by its members with the greatest secrecy. Not one word’ of that vital secret information, leaked out. On the 18th December last the Prime Minister (Mr. Menzies) appointed the National Resources Survey Board, the members of which owe no allegiance to this Parliament and presumably have not taken the oath of secrecy, and directed all Commonwealth departments to make available to the board all information at their disposal, no matter how secret it may be. Contrast that action of the Government with its treatment of the select committee, the members of which have had long experience in handling matters of the most secret kind. All of the members have held honorable office in the .councils of the nation of one kind or another. During the war I had charge of security codes and ciphers and on many occasions I acted as safe-hand courier carrying despatches from the battle zones to Australia. All the members of the committee could be trusted to observe the strictest secrecy about information tendered to it. What justification was there for this differentiation? The National Resources Survey Board consists of six public servants and five private citizens. The select committee consisted of members of the Parliament , ail of whom had taken the oath of allegiance and had held high office in the councils of the nation. In these circumstances what reason can the Government possibly advance for its direction to service chiefs and departmental heads not to appear before the committee ?
A great deal has been said by Government spokesmen regarding the duties of members of the community, and, in particular, of certain sections of the community. They have trenchantly criticized miners and waterside workers for refusing to obey the wishes of certain, superior bodies appointed by the courts or under legislation passed by this Parliament. What a terrible example they have set to those workers by refusing to meet the wishes of a superior body of the Parliament, a select committee properly appointed in accordance with practices of wis Parliament! How absurd it is for honorable senators! opposite to criticize certain, sections of the community for taking a course of action of the kind which they themselves have deliberately taken !
The people regard contempt of the Parliament as contempt of themselves.. In dealing with the committee in a contemptuous manner the Government acted in a contemptuous manner to the people who elected it to office. There appears to be a great deal of ignorance among honorable senators opposite of the duties of the service chiefs. I was not silly enough to imagine that LieutenantGeneral Rowell, Admiral Collins and Air Marshal Sir George Jones would disobey the instruction of their ministers and appear before the committee. However, it was their duty to point out to their respective Ministers that by obeying the instruction they laid themselves open to a charge of contempt of the Parliament. They occupy positions which call for the very highest qualifications and are expected to know their duties and their obligations to the Parliament. I am glad to say that the course which they adopted was not followed by the DirectorGeneral of Recruiting, Sir Edmund Herring, who gave evidence before the committee. Lack of knowledge of obligations and duties is no excuse in a matter of great importance such as this.
The case against the Government rests solely upon the evidence submitted in the committee’s report. ‘ If a. citizen’s duty is clear to him, he should readily respond to the call of duty. The wishes of the people, voiced through their elected representatives in this Parliament, were ignored by the Government, which must accept the consequences. The institution of the Parliament may well become a farce if its members are not careful to uphold its dignity. That dignity will be maintained only if members of the Parliament are prepared to uphold it. Discourtesy or a contemptuous attitude on. the part of Ministers brings the Parliament into disrepute. I make a sincere appeal to the Government to realize that in seeking its co-operation in the establishment of the select committee, the Opposition was animated by most sincere motives. Honorable, senators opposite would do well to consider1 the difference between, a sincere approach and a political approach to matters of this kind. The approach by the Government to the request of the Opposition that it should appoint representatives to the select committee was a purely political one.
An examination of the two letters which were received by the committee setting out the attitude of the Prime Minister and the Deputy Prime Minister to the appointment of the committee reveals the great difference in their approach to this matter. The Prime Minister, in his letter, acknowledged the importance of the committee, but stated that it was contrary to the policy of the Government to permit service chiefs to give evidence before it. Almost immediately after writing that letter, the Prime Minister went overseas and the duties and responsibilities of head of the Government were taken over by the Treasurer (Mr. Fadden). His subsequent letter was couched in harsh and contemptuous terms. Behind the letter of the Prime Minister one could hear the voice of experience; but behind the Treasurer’s letter one could hear the voice of the dictator. In contemptuous and abrupt terms the right honorable gentleman refused the committee access to information from the service chiefs. The invitation which was sent to Mr. A. S. “Watt, the Secretary of the Department of External Affairs, to attend the committee did not bring even a courteous acknowledgment. It was completely ignored by a man who should have known better. The invitations which were extended to the service chiefs were courteously acknowledged.
A decision whether or not the Government has been guilty of gross contempt of the Parliament rests in the hands of this Senate. I claim, without qualification or equivocation, that we have proved beyond any doubt that, in this matter, the Senate has been treated with contempt by the Government. I ask honorable senators opposite to reflect most seriously upon this matter. The remedy is in their own .hands.
– The Senate is now discussing a motion for the adoption of the special report of ‘the select Committee on National Service in the Defence Force. I do not intend to deal with that report from a legal or technical point of view, because those aspects have already been covered by other speakers. I shall examine the report from a practical, common-sense viewpoint. In order “that I may do so, I must first examine the background of the report and the incidents which led up to the appointment of the select committee. On the 5th December last, the National Service Bill, which the Prime Minister (Mr. Menzies) had intimated in the House of Representatives was an . urgent measure, was received by the Senate. Unfortunately the Opposition in this chamber refused to treat the bill .as urgent, and finally by using its majority., it referred the bill to a select committee. That action was, of course, in accordance with established practice, and had been taken on several previous occasions. However, the important point is that the Government had indicated clearly that it would not support any move to refer the National Service Bill to a select committee. Nevertheless, the Opposition insisted, and a committee consisting entirely of Labour senators was appointed. The Opposition knew quite well that the Government was not prepared to assist the committee in any way. Obviously if the Government had had a majority in this chamber no committee would have been appointed. However, a committee was appointed, and it decided to call as witnesses the Chief of the Air Staff, the Chief of the General Staff, the Chief of the Naval Staff, the Secretary of the Department of Defence, the Secretary of the Department of Labour and National Service, the Secretary of the Department of External Affairs, the Secretary of the Department of Supply, and the DirectorGeneral of Recruiting. Only the DirectorGeneral of Recruiting attended to give evidence. On the 23rd December - some time before the sittings of the committee were due to commence - the Prime Minister wrote the following letter to Senator McKenna, the chairman of the committee : -
Dear Senator McKenna,
I refer to your letter of 14th December relating to the appointment by the Senate of a Select Committee to consider and report on the Government’s proposals for compulsory national service in the Defence .Forces.
It is, I believe, a sound rule of policy that permanent officers of the armed services or the public service should not be expected to comment on government policy. To the extent, therefore, that their opinions ave sought the officials concerned would have no alternative but to claim privilege. In these circumstances, I think that little purpose would be served by their attendance.
I would like to take the opportunity of reciprocating your kind seasonal greetings and to thank you for your best wishes for my forthcoming visit abroad.
Therefore, the Prime Minister indicated in plain language that, as the witnesses whom the committee proposed to call would not be able to discuss government policy, little purpose would be served by their attendance.
When the National Service Bill was introduced into the Parliament, this country had entered one of the most critical periods in its history. . The Government was confronted with grave defence problems which it was discussing with the service chiefs and other advisers. In these circumstances, it would have been impossible for a service chief to decide what he could or could not say in evidence to a select committee? That is why the Prime Minister said that no good purpose could be served by the service chiefs and departmental heads attending to give evidence before the committee. The chairman of the committee should have realized that the service chiefs would not be permitted to give evidence. The letter sent by the then Acting Prime Minister (Mr. Fadden) to the chairman of the committee was couched in terms similar to those used by the Prime Minister. Although we on this side of the chamber are in a minority, we are still the Government of this country, and as such, we are responsible for defence preparations. We intend to carry out our obligations to the best of our ability and by all the means that we have at our disposal. It was in the light of that determination that Cabinet decided that for the service chiefs and departmental heads to give evidence before the Select Committee on National Service in the Defence Force would not be in the best interests of this country. Therefore they were instructed not to attend the sittings of the committee. This report charges
Ministers with having been guilty of contempt of the Senate.
– That is so, but as I said at the beginning of my speech, I am taking a common-sense view of the matter. I am not concerned with legal technicalities. The Government’s aim has always been to do its best in the circumstances. I say with all sincerity that if we were faced with a similar problem again, we-. should’ do exactly as we did in this instance. My first consideration would be what should be done for the good of Australia. I should not be much concerned with the courtesies claimed, or the demands made, by a select committee that had not the approval of the Government and consisted only of Opposition senators.
Debate (on motion by Senator Arnold) adjourned.
Bill received from the House of Representatives.
Standing Orders suspended.
Bill (on motion by Senator O’sullivan) read a first time.
– I move -
That the bill be now read a second time.
First, I express my appreciation of the courtesy of the Leader of the Opposition (Senator Ashley) in allowing me to interpose this measure at the present stage. The purpose of the bill is to validate until the 30th September, 1951, the duties set out in the Customs Tariff Proposals No. 4 of the 7th December, 1950. An opportunity to debate these proposals has not presented itself. Honorable senators will recall that the proposals were introduced into this chamber shortly before the Parliament rose for the Christmas recess. The goods principally concerned are wine, gloves, stone and coal drilling machines, hand tools, articles of .1 glass, phenol, carbolic acid, strychnine, medicines, passengers’ personal effects, and glass syringes.
– The Opposition raises no objection to the passage of this measure.
Question resolved in the affirmative.
Bill read a second time, and passed through its remaining stages’ without requests or debate.
– I regard the report of the select committee as a very serious document and as one of great significance to this chamber. I was therefore astonished when the Leader of the Government (Senator O’Sullivan) and other Ministers attempted to treat the report contemptuously. The Minister for Repatriation (Senator Cooper), who is the last Minister to have taken part in the debate, has a greater respect for the Parliament than has any of his colleagues. He is older, and has had more parliamentary experience, than any of his colleagues in this chamber, and perhaps that explains why he possesses a greater sense of his responsibility than his colleagues appear to do. His speech was intended, not to aggravate the contempt of the Senate that has been committed by the Government, but, if possible, to justify the actions of his colleagues. Whilst the reasons that he advanced to justify their conduct did not convince me, I must say that he approached the whole matter with a proper sense of responsibility and with becoming humility, having regard to the importance of this chamber. He certainly did not attempt to decry the importance or the value of select committees of the Senate. Those of us who have a proper respect for the parliamentary institutions of Great Britain and of Australia are loath to condone the curtailment of any of the usages or privileges of those institutions. Irrespective of the political colour of a particular committee of this Senate, the fundamental fact remains that a committee that is regularly appointed by this chamber possesses certain privileges. We should always be jealous to guard those privileges, and to protect them against the inroads of those who endeavour to cast them aside.
I believe that the report indicates that the Executive has defied the Senate and has acted contemptuously towards the powers and privileges of this chamber. After all, what is the purpose for which a select committee is established? I suggest that one of the principal reasons, for the establishment of select committees is to make a check upon the activities of the Executive. In such circumstances as those that surrounded the appointment of a Select Committee on National Service in the Defence Force, the Senate was undoubtedly right in appointing that committee. Over the years special provision has been made by the Senate for the establishment of select committees, and rules have been formulated to regulate the function of such committees. The Senate has determined what the duties, rights and privileges of such committees shall be. Those are rights that are closely connected with democratic government, and they have been handed down to usas a. cherished possession. For that reason they should be carefully safeguarded by the present members of the Senate. When the National Service Bill was being debated it became clear to the Opposition that insufficient information had been placed before the Senate by the Government. That being so, the Opposition took the only proper course open to it, which was to move for the appointment of a select committee empowered to call witnesses and to obtain whatever information it believed to be necessary for its purpose. In speaking to another measure to-day I stressed the difficulty that confronted the Opposition in ascertaining the facts connected with our defence preparations. I pointed out on that occasion that, although the Prime Minister (Mr. Menzies) had already informed the Parliamentthat the danger of war would become intensified within the next three years, General Eisenhower, the Supreme Commander of the Western European Forces, had stated that within twelve months the immediate danger of war will have disappeared. I also mentioned a number of other matters connected with defence on which the Opposition earnestly desired to obtain information to enable it to determine the best course to pursue ia the national interest. It was in pursuance of its desire to obtain that information that the Opposition moved for the appointment of a select committee.
I was a member of the committee that was subsequently appointed, and I know, of my own experience, that that committee conscientiously carried out its duty in accordance with the Standing Orders of the Senate. One of the younger supporters of the Government has attempted to make a great deal of the fact that the committee did not issue formal summonses to persons to appear before it as witnesses. Because of the inexperience of the honorable senator concerned, I disregard his complaint, and it was significant that in the defence of the Government’s attitude advanced by the Attorney-General (Senator Spicer), the Minister did not attempt to excuse the Government on that ground. Although he has had something to say about the committee’s alleged omission to issue formal summonses, the Attorney-General did not place much reliance on that omission in his attempted justification of the Government’s attitude. However, the Opposition doe3 not join in any quibble over the procedure adopted, and we do not dispute the fact that formal summons- were not issued. What we are concerned’ about is the deliberate and wilful defiance of the select committee by the Government. I trust that the Senate will take effective action on the report submitted by the committee. The most important feature of that report is the substantiated complaint that persons whom the committee desired to call as witnesses were instructed by the Government not to appear before it. There is no doubt about the Government having issued that direction to the individuals concerned. It was significant that the Minister for Repatriation passed over, very lightly, the communications that passed between the committee and the Government on this matter. Those letters appear as annexures to the committee’s special report, and I shall not detain the Senate by reading them again. I direct attention however to to this important passage in the letter from the Acting Prime Minister -
Since the officials concerned would be compelled to claim privilege immediately, they have been directed that there is no purpose in their attending, and that they should accordingly not do so.
I have accordingly directed them that they should not attend.
I stress particularly the words, “I have accordingly directed them that they should not attend “. Incidentally, no quibble is raised in that letter about the form of the requests sent to the persons concerned to appear before the committee as witnesses.
– The Acting Prime Minister knew that the committee’s appointment was only a subterfuge.
– I am rather amazed at the interjection that Senator Guy has just made, but, of course, I know that he has not much sense of responsibility, and it is idle to comment on the foolish interjections that he makes from time to time. I was pointing out that the Executive deliberately instructed the service chiefs and the heads of two departments not to appear before the committee. In case there may be any doubt in honorable senators’ minds about the reason why the five individuals concerned did not appear before the committee, I shall read three of the replies that were sent to the committee by the witnesses. The Chief of the General Staff, Lieutenant-General Rowell, wrote to the committee, and in the course of his letter stated -
I have to inform you that, in accordance with this direction, I will not be in attendance before the Committee . . .
The secretary of the Department of Labour and National Service, Mr. Funnell, wrote -
Mr. Breen, the secretary of the Department of Supply, wrote as follows : -
I have now received a direction from my Minister that I am not to attend before the Committee. I am therefore unable to Life present at Parliament Housie, Melbourne, on the Sth. February, as requested.
There is no doubt from the letters we received from these people that it was not because they were not properly summoned that they did not appear, but clearly because the Executive had decided that it would not allow them to appear. In doing so, the Executive showed the greatest possible contempt for the Senate. Yet irresponsible supporters of the Government have applauded that decision. They are very short-sighted. This is a fundamental issue, which, over the years, has been fought time and again. The fight between the Executive and the rights of the Parliament dates back 150 years. I am amazed that responsible members of this chamber should applaud an arrogant government such as we have to-day, which is prepared to do this sort of thing.
I shall deal with one other aspect of the matter, in relation to the National Security Resources Board, because the Attorney-General has mentioned it. This board consists of a number of public servants and a number of private citizens. It has been established by the Executive for the purpose of carrying out certain defence activities. We have been told that it has the complete confidence of the Government, and that it is a responsible board because of the oath that its members have taken. I remind honorable senators that every member of this chamber has taken an oath. The board includes a member of the Australian Council of Trades Unions. I am very happy that at last the Government has been prepared to recognize a member of that very worthy council to be a responsible man who is entitled to know the defence secrets of Australia, and that it believes that he is prepared to act in the best interests of this country. Although I agree that that is a very worthy attitude, I do not agree that any member of this chamber is likely to act against the best interests of Australia. In this report the committee has placed before the Senate a very serious charge which the Government should not treat lightly. In recent months supporters of the Government in this chamber have tended to become very arrogant in their conduct. During that period two supporters of the Government have been suspended from the service of the chamber for their contempt of the Chair. For many years this chamber has conducted its affairs with great dignity and decorum and it is regrettable that these two suspensions have occurred. It is a pity that the Government has not taken this matter more seriously and recognized its responsibilities. If it is not prepared to give proper recognition to the privileges and the rights of the Parliament the majority of responsible members of this chamber should take action to impress upon the Executive that the Parliament is superior to the Executive.
.- This matter should be treated not so much from a technical point of view as from a practical point of view. The members of the Labour Opposition who have delayed this bill for four months have put up about the worst performance that has ever been witnessed in any parliament in this country. When the Prime Minister (Mr. Menzies) returned from overseas, where he had an opportunity to talk with people who know something about these problems, this bill was introduced into the Parliament. Labour senators, running true to form on these matters, were then in a dilemma. They did not know whether to oppose the bill or not and sought a means to get over the hurdle. They were as dumb driven cattle, not being allowed to speak their own mind or use their own judgment until an outside body met and decided by nineteen votes to seventeen what they should do in connexion with one of the most important matters that we have had to discuss in this chamber. As I have said on previous occasions, Labour’s attitude to defence over a number of years has been deplorable. I have a high regard for the privileges of the Parliament, and I have always tried to uphold the dignity and power of this chamber. But the Opposition’s appointment of seven military geniuses to ask leading military men and high public servants for advice on this subject seemed to me to be wholly a political stunt. I am sure that no reasonable senator could think otherwise. Despite the various speeches that honorable senators opposite have delivered about the privileges of the Parliament, we know quite well that no Labour senator would dare to vote against a decision by either the outside caucus or the inside caucus. If he did he would be in trouble. It is on record that a Labour senator some time ago stated publicly in this chamber that he should like to support an amendment that I had moved to a bill, but as the Labour caucus had decided otherwise he had no alternative but to vote against it. Here we have the same story in connexion with this matter.
– The honorable senator would not vote against his caucus.
– As the AttorneyGeneral (Senator Spicer) has stated, I do not think that any of the men written to were properly summoned to give evidence before this committee. Believing that it was only a political stunt, they did not regard the attitude of the Labour senators seriously. The Treasurer (Mr. Fadden), who was Acting Prime Minister at the time, in tendering certain advice to the Secretary of the Department of External Affairs and to prominent military men, had regard to the fact that they would be in possession of secrets and information that should not be divulged to anybody outside the Cabinet. I know from past experience that following secret sessions of the Parliament it was not long before some people who had attended them discussed openly what had transpired. The Leader of the Opposition (Senator Ashley) and Senator McKenna have had Cabinet experience and are still executive councillors not under summons. I have every respect for their judgment; and I believe that they would act honorably, but unfortunately I cannot say that of all Labour senators. As a Cabinet Minister, that is a risk that 1 would not be prepared to take.
– “Why does not the Minister say to whom he is referring?
– My remarks do not apply to Senator Nash, but there are some members of this chamber who are very friendly with the Bed Dean, and the Red Dean is very friendly with some people in Russia-
– I rise to order. There is under discussion a measure on which the Minister had prepared a speech, but was disappointed when he was reminded earlier this evening that he had already, spoken to it. He is now trying to bring in a personal matter against an honorable senator who is not present in the chamber. I ask for your ruling, Mr. President, whether he is in order.
– I do not think that it is in conformity with the Standing Orders for an honorable senator to traduce another honorable senator by implication. It would be as well if the Minister did not pursue that line.
– I respect your ruling, Mr. President, but I want to place on record that from beginning to end I believe that the appointment- of this committee was only an excuse to delay consideration of the measure. I consider that this committee was appointed solely for party political reasons. Therefore, I make no apology for the action taken by the Acting Prime Minister.
Debate (on motion by Senator Cameron) adjourned.
– I lay on the table the report of the Tariff Board on the following subject: -
Synchronous motor-operated electrical time switches.
The Government has adopted the recommendations of the Tariff Board, which do not involve any change in the rate of duty.
Ordered to be printed.
Business of the Senate.
Motion (by Senator O’sullivan) proposed -
That the Senate, at its rising, adjourn to to-morrow, at 11 a.m.
– The Opposition is unable to accede to the request that the Senate should meet tomorrow. It is farcical for the Minister for Trade and Customs (Senator O’sullivan) to make such a suggestion in view of the fact that honorable senators have already received their tickets for transportation to-morrow morning. This matter is being carried altogether too- far.
I have an engagement in Sydney tomorrow morning, and doubtless other honorable senators, also, have made arrangements. As the Minister is aware, provided we receive timely notice, we are always willing to sit at any time to dispose of the business of the chamber. To-day we have practically completed the business listed on the business-paper. The National Service Bill has been disposed of and the only matters remaining upon the business-paper, with the exception of the bill that was introduced this afternoon, are the ministerial statement on foreign affairs and the report of the Select Committee on National Service in the Defence Force, discussion of which is reaching finality. I suggest to the Minister that he .should not be in a hurry for that matter to be disposed of, because he does not know what his fate and that of others Ministers will be when that matter is finally dealt with.
.- I think that it should be placed on record that the Minister for Trade and Customs (Senator O’sullivan) gave notice earlier in the week that he would probably ask the Senate to sit to-morrow. I remind honorable senators that the House of Representatives will meet to-morrow. The Leader of the Opposition (Senator Ashley) knows quite well that the Government desires that the Parliament should adjourn next week for Easter, and he also knows that two important bills dealing with industrial matters must be dealt with. He should appreciate that because of a recent decision of the High Court, the Commonwealth Arbitration Court has not power to enforce its awards. In view of the actions of Communists in this, country, if the honorable senator is unable to postpone his important meeting to-morrow and assist the Government in passing the legislation to which I have referred, together with another bill that we hope soon to receive from the House of Representatives, things have come to a sorry pass. I place on record a protest that, because the Opposition has a- majority in this chamber it is taking the business of the Parliament out of the hands of the Government and its members are behaving like schoolboys.
– At last I am able to find a statement by the Minister for Fuel, Shipping and Transport (Senator McLeay) with which I can wholeheartedly agree. I agree with him when he says that things have come to a sorry pass in this Senate. They certainly have done so when the Senate is treated to such a demonstration of insincerity as we have witnessed from two Ministers this evening. The Minister for Trade and Customs (Senator O’sullivan) asked the Senate to sit tomorrow, knowing perfectly well that almost every honorable senator already has his ticket for air transport to-morrow.
– I know nothing of the sort.
– The Minister could very easily ascertain whether that is the fact.
– Personal comfort is apparently more important than national business.
– Interrupting the Minister and coming now to the Minister for Fuel, Shipping and Transport with my charge of insincerity, I point out that the honorable senator stated that there is an arbitration bill of some urgency before the Senate. That measure was introduced to-day and was carried to the second-reading stage. If I remember aright, the message that accompanied that measure from the House of Representatives was dated the 9th March. I should like the Clerk of the Senate to verify that statement. The bill has been lying about the Senate for some days. Am I correct concerning the 9th March ?
– The bill was introduced in this chamber on the loth March.
– lt only came into the chamber this week.
– If there were any urgency about that bill in the view of the Government, it would have been placed before the Senate last Tuesday. The Leader of the Government may recollect that the Opposition offered to allow him to carry that bill to the secondreading stage as long ago as last Thursday.
– It was necessary to have the National Service Bill passed.
– It could have been carried to the second-reading stage. The’ Ministers who have pretended this evening that they desire that the Senate should sit to-morrow are guilty of deliberate insincerity. That measure was in the chamber on the 13th March and it has’ been lying there for three days. The happy-looking Minister ‘for Fuel, Shipping and Transport states this evening that- it is an urgent measure, but he has allowed it to lie in the chamber for three days. It is a propaganda measure. Honorable senators opposite know perfectly well that the Senate had planned, from the point of view of the Opposition, and in accordance, with the Sessional Orders of this chamber, not to sit to-morrow. The request that the Senate should sit tomorrow is sheer pretence on the part of honorable senators opposite, and when we have pretence displayed by Ministers of the Crown I agree with the Minister for Fuel, Shipping, and Transport that things have come to a sorry pass.
.- -in reply - In reply to the Leader of - the Opposition (Senator Ashley) I wish to place on record that it was not a sudden notion which prompted me to move that the Senate should sit to-morrow. A fortnight ago, and again last week, I intimated to the honorable senator that I probably would ask the Opposition to consent to sit to-morrow. The honorable senator has stated that there is nothing of any importance before the Senate. He referred to foreign affairs, but I do not know whether he really meant that. If he did, I cannot agree that that is so. “We have before us a bill of great importance concerning an amendment of the Conciliation and Arbitration Act. Honorable senators on this side of the chamber consider that it is most important that it should do everything in its power-.and in this matter the Opposition is not without responsibility - to eliminate any possible cause of industrial unrest or any circumstance which deprives the Government or the relevant authorities of the necessary power to ensure that industrial unrest is .not allowed to disturb our economy. The Government desires power to enable it to take appropriate steps to ensure an era of industrial peace.
It is, to a certain degree, true that I am not surprised at the attitude of the Opposition this evening. When I indicated some time ago that I would ask the Opposition to sit to-morrow in order to deal with the very important matters to which I have referred, I was not given any encouragement to believe that it would acquiesce. I consider that it is proper that the people of Australia should know that while there is important work to be done, the Opposition is not prepared to face up to doing it. Honorable senators opposite snigger at that remark. I do not think that it is an occasion for sniggering. I consider that this is a very important matter. It is common knowledge that a certain measure is at present in the House of Representatives. That measure proposes to provide for the holding. of secret ballots.
– It will remain in the House of Representatives, too.
– This Government believes that the introduction of democratic control of trade unions by means of the secret ballot will have a tremendous influence in ensuring the attainment of that most desired state - a period; of industrial peace. I again urge the Opposition to ponder before it decides not to sit to-morrow. There should not be need for lengthy debate on such matters. The issues involved in each of the bills to which reference has been made are perfectly clear. The people of Australia will have .an opportunity to learn the attitude of the Opposition towards these very important matters. I think that they are entitled to know, and very soon will know what that attitude is. I urge the Opposition to reconsider its decision and to sit to-morrow. If honorable senators opposite applied their minds to the legislation, there would not be any difficulty, in the time available, for the Opposition to declare publicly its attitude on these important matters.
Question put -
That the Senate, at its rising, adjourn to to-morrow, :at 11 a.m.
The Senate divided. (The President - Senator the Hon. Gordon Brown.)
Majority . . . :6
Questionso resolved in the negative.
Motion (by Senator O’Sullivan) agreed to -
Thatthe Senate, at its rising, adjourn to a date and hour tobe fixed by the President, which time of meeting shall he notified to each senator by telegram or letter.
– Order! In accordance with the sessional order relating to the adjournment ofthe Senate, I formallyput the question -
That the Senatedo now adjourn.
Question put. The Senate divided. (The President - Senator the Hon. Gordon Brown..)
Majority . . . . 5
SenatorO’Sullivan. - The motion was that the Senate, at its rising, do adjourn to a date and hour to be fixed.
Question so resolved in the affirmative.
The following papers werepresented : -
Lands Acquisition Act - Land acquired for postal purposes at Windsor, New South Wales.
Norfolk Island Act - Ordinance - 1951 - No. 1- Crown Lands.
Public Service Act- Appointments - Department -
Postmaster-General’s - W. A. Craig, N. J. N. Evans, J. F. Ferris, A. E. Fulton, J. C.F. Lane,R. K. McKinnon, R. R. Morcom, N. R. Schwertfeger, A. C. Scott, W. J. Stuart
Public Service Arbitration Act- Determination by the Arbitrator,&c. - 1951 -
No.17 - Musicians’ Union of Australia.
Cite as: Australia, Senate, Debates, 15 March 1951, viewed 22 October 2017, <http://historichansard.net/senate/1951/19510315_senate_19_212/>.