15th Parliament · 1st Session
Mr. Speaker (Hon. G. J. Bell) took the chair at 2.30 p.m., and read prayers.
-Can the Treasurer indicate to the House whether it is likely that the proposed subsidized medical services for women and children are likely to bo introduced simultaneously with the medical services forwhich provision has been made under the national health and pensions insurance scheme namely, the 1st April next?
– I hope so.
– Can the Treasurer inform the House as towhen it is likely that the measure making provision for the voluntary insurance of small farmers and others will be presented to the House?
– I mentioned in reply to another question that the National Insurance Commission is working at very high pressure in order to bring the main scheme into operation on the 1st January next. I do not think it is humanly possible, on account of this pressure, for the Commission to complete the working out of the scheme to which the honorable gentleman has referred, but Ihope that that will be done early in the new year.
– Has the attention of the Treasurer been drawn to a statement appearing in a Sydney daily to-day with reference to the appointment of an actuary from London at a salary of £1,750 per annum ? Does the honorable gentleman approve of or support the statement that there is no one in Australia capable of doing the work required ?
– I have not seen a reference to that matter. I would certainly not support the statement in the simple terms in which the honorable gentleman makes it. I would, however, support a statement couched in somewhat similar terms, with certain reservations, particularly as to the availability of a certain person.
– Has the Treasurer any information regarding the protests that have been made to the Public Service Board concerning certain appointments under the national health and pensions insurance scheme? Can he tell me how many of the protests have been upheld by the board?
– A complete list of the appointments in connexionwith this scheme was published in Hansard some little time ago in reply to a question by the honorable member for West Sydney (Mr. Beasley). I refer the honorable member to it. If he wishes, I can have the list brought up to date.
– As the approval of the National Insurance Commission to applications for appointment of approved societies has been given piecemeal from time to time, I ask the Treasurer whether he will lay upon the table of the House or of the Library a complete list of the societies so far approved, together with the approximate number of members each society expects to obtain? I know that each society is expected to secure a minimum number of 2,000 members. Does the commission consider that still more approved societies will need to be established ?
– I shall endeavour to, obtain the information for the honorable member as soon as possible.
– Will the Treasurer inform me what stage has been reached by the royal commission which is inquiring into the feeto be paid to doctors in connexion with the national health and pensions scheme? Has any time limit been fixed for the inquiry?When is it expected that the report will be ready?
– I regret that I have very little information on these points. I only wish I know when the report would be available. No time limit has been fixed. I hope that the report will be available before the middle of December.
– Will the Treasurer say whether a statement, attributed to the Prime Minister, which appeared in the press some time ago, to the effect that the Government would not necessarily be bound by the decisions of the Royal Commission on Doctors’ Remuneration in National Insurance is a real expression of the Government’s intention ? Will the honorable gentleman say explicitly whether the Government intends to accept the recommendations of the Commission.
– This is a royal commission of inquiry, not an arbitration tribunal, the decision of which both sides must accept. In fact, neither side may accept it. It is impossible to express an opinion on the subject until the nature of the recommendations arc known. When the report is submitted the Government and, no doubt, the medical gentlemen who are members of the British Medical Association, will give it the most serious and careful consideration.
– Does the Treasurer expect to receive the report during the life of this Parliament?
– As the medical profession and the Government have both announced that they are not necessarily bound to accept the recommenda tions of the commission, doesthe Treasurer consider that the Government is justified in wasting thousands of pounds of the people’s money in pursuing the inquiry ?
– That is not a proper question.
– In view of your remarks, Mr. Speaker, concerning the question I just asked, may I inquire in what regard it was out of order?
-The rules governing the asking of questions are printed on the back of the paper on which notice of questions must be given. They are set out plainly and may be easily understood. If the honorable member reads them he will realize why his question was not in order.
– In reply to a question which I asked some time ago, I was informed that the Government was giving consideration to the request that pension rights be extended to Australian aborigines. Will the Treasurer state whether that matter has yet been determined? If so, what is the decision of the Government?
– I regret that I am not yet able to inform the honorable gentleman of the determination of the Government in the matter.
– Will the Minister for Defence table the recent emergency defence costs? If not, will he state what those costs amount to?
– The Minister for Defence is in Melbourne to-day. I shall bring the honorable member’s question before him.
– Can the Acting Leader of the House state when the Government proposes to introduce legislation in connexion with the stabilization of the wheat industry?
– Last Thursday and Friday a meeting was held with the State Premiers and officials, as the result of which, I understand, uniformity was reached between the States as to the legislation they are to implement. The Commonwealth is awaiting that uniform draft legislation, which must bo considered before its proposals can be framed.
– In regard to the proposed new site for the capital of the Mandated Territory of New Guinea, does the previous decision of the Minister for External Affairs stand, or is the whole matter under reconsideration? Is a report being prepared by officers of the department? If so, when will it be made available?
– I think that the Prime Minister stated that the matter was being reconsidered by the Government; that the previous decision to select Salamaua as the site for the capital had been withdrawn, and that the matter was being inquired into. This inquiry is now proceeding. I hope to be in a position shortly to make a statement in regard to the Government’s decision. Reports have been received from the Administrator and his staff, but others are still being awaited. So soon as the Government has had an opportunity to consider the matter in the light of fuller information, it will make a statement to the House.
– Does that mean that the decision to select Salamaua no longer stands?
– I am afraid that that is the deduction which can be drawn from my rather ambiguous remarks.
– A recent issue of a Queensland newspaper, under the headings “Munitions Contract”; “Queensland hit “ ; “ Local Factory passed over “, referred to the letting of a contract by the Defence Department for acetone to the value of £1,597. The Queensland acetate factory at Cannon Hill is not operating to-day, and I am informed that two caretakers have been in charge of the works since 1932. I shall be glad if the Minister for Defence will see whether some consideration cannot be given to the spreading of the work required tobe done at the Maribyrnong factory
Mr.SPEAKER.- Order ! The honorable member is not asking a question.
– If the honorable member will furnish me with the whole of the particulars in connexion with the matter, I shall submit them to the Minister for Defence.
– In view of the declaration by the Minister for Defence, in reply to a question thatI asked two or three months ago, that aircraft for tbe Royal Australian Air Force are being manufactured by the Commonwealth Aircraft Corporation at a price economically competitive with imported aircraft, will the Minister for Trade and Customs inform the House of the ground on which the Government has come to the conclusion that motor car engines in units of up to 20,000 cannot be economically manufactured in this country?
– I am not clear as to what the honorable member has asked. I have never said that motor cars cannot be economically manufactured in Australia. I hope and believe that they can be, and that they soon will be. The Government has invited any concern which is capable of making a complete car, or any portion of a car not now made in Australia, to submit proposals before the 31st March next, and to specify the bounty assistance or other protection required .
– Is the Minister for Trade and Customs yet in a position to state when the report of the Tariff Board on. the cut glass industry will be tabled and acted upon?
– I am afraid that I cannot name the date yet. The more important events of the last two weeks have put it into the background, but I assure the honorable member that the promise I gave him some time ago that the Government was endeavouring to have the factory re-opened, under a protective tariff, as soon as possible will be honoured.
– Can the Minister for External Affairs state whether the Australian Government has been approached with a request to join Great Britain in guaranteeing the new frontiers of Czechoslovakia as laid down in the Munich Agreement? If so, what was the reply of the Government?
– The Government of Australia has not been approached by Great Britain in regard to the guaranteeing of the new Czechoslovakian frontiers, nor is it the intention of the Government to take any part at all in the matter.
– Can the Acting Leader of the House give any information regarding the recent British Commonwealth Relations Conference which met at. Lapstone, in New South Wales? Was that conference composed of representatives of governments, or of particular organizations? Who appointed the delegates, and was the Government involved in any expense in connexion with it? What were the subjects discussed, and does the honorable gentleman know of any reasons why they should have been discussed in camera ?
– I have no information regarding the composition of the conference, or the manner in which the various representatives were accredited, but I shall endeavour to obtain the information. It was not in any sense a government conference.
Imposition of Sanctions against Japan.
– Recently the Council of the League of Nations came to a decision regarding the imposition of sanctions against Japan. Can the Minister for External Affairs state what countries, if any, have announced their intention of imposing sanctions, and what obligations, if any, that decision of the League Council imposes upon the Australian Government ?
– To the best of my knowledge no countries have intimated their intention to impose sanctions. The effect of the decision by the Council of the League of Nations is to impose upon each individual State member of the League the responsibility of deciding for itself what it shall do in all the circumstances.
Mr.CURTIN.- Is it the intention of the Government to impose sanctions?
– It is a matter entirely within our own discretion. As to what the Government intends to do, I am unable to say any more than that I think it extremely unlikely that the Government will impose sanctions.
– Will the Minister for Commerce resurrect certain papers now in his department embodying the terms of a tentative agreement between the dominion Government of New Zealand and a previous Minister for Commerce, acting for the Commonwealth of Australia, in connexion with certain embargoes with a view to terminating the present illogical embargo system?
– I am not quite sure to what papers the honorable member refers, but if he will distinguish them more specifically, I shall try to have them found.
– I refer to the agreement that I made with the New Zealand Government.
– The present position is that there is no quarantine embargo by New Zealand on Australian oranges, except in regard to those produced in certain districts in New South Wales. The embargo against the importation of New Zealand potatoes is imposed by the Customs Department, and not by the quarantine authorities.
– Did the Department of Trade and Commerce recently receive a request from a merchant in Australia asking for information regarding customs prohibitions on the importation of potatoes from New Zealand, and was .that merchant told by the Customs Department that, before incurring any liability under a proposed shipment, he would be well advised to confer with the Commonwealth Health Department?
– No, I have no knowledge of any such letter. If the honorable member knows of the existence of such a letter I would be glad to hear of it.
– Has the Assistant Minister for Commerce any knowledge of correspondence from a merchant in Australia who desired information regarding the importation of potatoes from New Zealand? If so, was the merchant notified that he would be well advised to communicate with the Commonwealth Health Department before he incurred any liability?
– Yes, I have knowledge of that correspondence. I advised the merchant that at that time a quarantine embargo was in operation in respect of the importation of potatoes from New Zealand. Since that time the situation has altered. There is no longer a quarantine embargo against New Zealand potatoes. Now it is a customs embargo.
– The Administration of New Guinea recently called tenders for the purchase of 50,000,000 superficial feet of timber in New Guinea, and in the advertisement it desired the applicants to state how they proposed to take tho timber to market. Can the Minister for External Affairs state whether this information is required by the Administration of New Guinea, or for what purpose is it required? In view of the fact that the Administration previously stated that there was no millable timber in New Guinea, what is its reason now for requiring applicants to state how they propose to market the timber?
– I am afraid that I cannot give the honorable member the information which, I assume, is locked up in the bosom of the Administrator. I know nothing about it.
Effect on Health of Workers.
– I have to inform the honorable member for Dalley (Mr. Rosevear), who asked a question on this subject, that the investigation into the effect of wheat dust on men engaged in the handling of bulk wheat in Sydney has been completed. It was unfortunate for the inquiry that only 35 workers presented themselves for examination, and consequently the report does not cover a very wide field. It shows that of these 35, fifteen were found to be suffering from a non-incapacitating fine fibrosis of the lungs with chronic bronchitis. Dr. Tymms reports that this may be the result of the inhalation of wheat dust, but of this pathological proof is required. He makes recommendations including the use of better masks and improved ventilation and improvements in the mechanical methods of dealing with wheat. These are, however, all matters of State administration concerning which the Commonwealth has no jurisdiction. The report is receiving the attention of the State Department of Health.
– Yesterday the honorable member for Forrest (Mr. Prowse) asked whether in the light of the changed international situation the Government would consider withdrawing the additional excise duty on tobacco leaf or, alternatively, providing a greater margin of preference “for Australia-grown leaf.
The increase has been made on both imported and Australian leaf. It was part of the Government’s plan to raise increased revenue for defence purposes. There is still a margin of 8d. per lb. between Australian and imported leaf, and the Australian leaf is protected, in addition, by high import duties. The Government sees no reason why the increased excise duties should be withdrawn.
– Has the Government received any further advice from the State governments in regard to the adoption of those portions of the maritime conventions agreed upon at the 1936 Maritime Conference?
– How far have investigations proceeded with regard to the adoption of those portions of the conventions that have relation to the Commonwealth only?
– I shall make inquiries into the matter and furnish the honorable gentleman with a reply at a later date.
– Fruit-growers in my electorate recently asked me if it were possible to hold a poll of growers before the introduction of the Apple and Pear Board Bill. I brought the matter under the notice of the Assistant Minister for Commerce who informed me that the Commonwealth had no power to conduct such a poll. I now ask the honorable gentleman if, in this matter, he sought the opinion of the Attorney-General’s. Department, and, if not, will he be prepared to do so?
– I shall consult with the Attorney-General with regard to the matter at an ea.rly date.
Conference of Commonwealth and State Ministers
– Will any report bc furnished to the House with regard to the result of the deliberations that took place between representatives of the Commonwealth and of the States on the matter of defence recently? Was any written report made?
– No written report of the discussions that took place with regard to the question of the coordination of the various governments of Australia was made, and no report will be made.
– I have received a letter from the Prime Minister’s Department dealing with representations which I made on behalf of officers in the Defence Department who were employed under the
Defence Act, but who, upon the operation of the Commonwealth Public Service Act from the 19th July, 1923, were transferred under its jurisdiction and were deprived of their accruing right to furlough under the Defence Act. I was informed that it is now the intention of the Government to bring in a bill to amend the Commonwealth Public Service Act to grant those officers furlough rights. Will the Acting Leader of the House state whether the bill will be introduced this session ?
– That matter will have to be considered by the Minister for Defence who, I have no doubt, will bring in the bill as soon as possible.
Post Office in King’s Hall.
– On whose authority, Mr. Speaker, was the Post Office in the King’s Hall closed last Saturday morning, thereby causing inconvenience to honorable members who wished to dispose of mail matter ? Will that post office be kept open on Saturday mornings in future ?
– I am not aware that the post office was closed before the usual hour of 1 o’clock. I shall make inquiries into the honorable member’s complaint.
– It was closed all day.
– I was unaware of that.
– With reference to the reports in the press relative to the proposed re-organization of the Australian Broadcasting Commission, providing for the appointment of a chairman at £2,000 a year in addition to a. general manager, is the Acting Loader of the House yet in a position to say what is proposed by the Government, how many members will constitute the new commission, and what salaries will be paid?
– The honorable member’s question relates to a matter of policy to which answers are not usually furnished. If the Government purports any changes in the constitution of the commission, it will bring down appropriate legislation to do so.
Dismissal of Employees
– Is it a fact that about 60 men have been paid off at the Red Bank Weir in the River Murray water conservation scheme because it was stated that there was a shortage of steel ? Is it a fact that the Minister has stated that he is not prepared to approach the Broken Hill Proprietary Company Limited for supplies of steel necessary to keep those men employed?
– I have no knowledge of the matter. The New South Wales Water Conservation Commission is the contracting authority for the weir. It is responsible for the engagement and dismissal of men, and also for the procuring of the necessary material for the construction of the weir.
– Are you aware, Mr. Speaker, that there is not a copy in the library of Compton MacKenzie’s Windsor Tapestry ?
– There is a copy of that work in the Parliamentary Library.
– Concerning the appointment of two parliamentary secretaries to assist certain Ministers, I ask the Acting Leader of the House why a member of the Country party has not been appointed as a parliamentary secretary? Is it proposed to increase the number of such appointments? If so, will the right honorable gentleman say what duties these parliamentary secretaries are to perform? I should also like to know what duties the present parliamentary secretaries discharge and how members may approach them in regard to matters pertaining to the departments with which they are connected?
– The intentions of the Government on this subject will be notified in due time. The activities of the parliamentary secretaries already appointed were stated very plainly by the Prime Minister when the appointments were made.
– In view of the possibility of the appointment of further parliamen tary secretaries, I ask the Acting Leader of the House whether the Government will give consideration to the desirableness of appointing to such an office the only Country party member of this House who is still without any emolument in addition to his parliamentary salary? Should not this honorable gentleman receive something extra?
– The honorable member’s suggestion will be given every consideration.
.- I move -
That Statutory Rules No. 75 of 1938, being amendments of the Australian Military Regulations, be disallowed.
I move this motion because I consider that the new regulations are a direct infringement of the citizen rights of a considerable number of Australian citizens. The regulations in the form in which they were tabled in Parliament deny to members of the permanent military forces the right to express any opinion on political questions, to take any active part in any political agitation or in any way to associate themselves with any political movement or group in this country. The members of the permanent military forces have not yet been denied by this Government the right to record votes at any time when the people of Australia are required to vote on any question, but probably that will come later. What the Government proposes to do at the moment is to deny them the right in any way to participate in political matters in this country. For some time regulations have been in force under which members of the naval force are denied the right to approach their political representatives or to associate themselves with political movements, or even on board ship to discuss grievances amongst themselves. Now the Government intends to apply a similar policy to the military forces, members of which will not even be allowed to write a letter to a newspaper concerning any matter to which they desire to draw attention or about which they have complaint. They will not be permitted to read or discuss amongst themselves articles in Labour newspapers or radical literature. Neither will they be allowed to call meetings of their mates to discuss matters of which they complain. Surely it is not considered that because a man becomes a member of the military forces he should be penalized to the extent of having to divorce himself from the everyday activities of the community. The Australian Labour party has always stood against the creation of a military caste in this country. Members of the Australian Labour party have always held the opinion that no Australian, whatever be his calling, should be treated other than as a citizen of the Commonwealth and that as such he is entitled to the full rights of citizenship; but, according to these regulations, no member of the Australian military forces may associate himself with any local movement designed to protest against exorbitant increases of house rents, or of prices of foodstuffs or any such matter. Henceforth, all such activities, which are inherent in citizenship, are to be. beyond the reach of members of the military forces. The men are members of Australian families and their wives, parents, brothers, sisters and other relatives have to be protected. But no Australian soldier may interest himself in any movement designed to benefit those who are dependent upon him. That the new regulations, if allowed by Parliament to come into force, will have a wide-sweeping effect on the lives of members of the permanent forces is evident from the list of offences which the regulations set out. Lieutenant-General Squires, who has been imported to this country and given a high position an the military, is reported to have said recently that politics were not for soldiers. That, in itself, is a political statement. Doubtless, the desire of Lieutenant-General Squires, members of the Government and the Department of Defence, which takes to itself dictatorial powers, is that they shall have an Australian army amenable to dictation, that is, a silent army which never questions orders given by those in authority. “ Theirs not to reason why ; theirs but to do and die “. That quotation sums up the attitude of those in positions of high authority towards the members of the Defence Forces. The Australian army. is to be amenable to dictatorial control, is never to have any opinions as to the merits of the cause for which they are directed to fight and must unquestionably obey the orders of the Government, or of the military caste that has control.
When framed originally the new regulations provided that no candidate for election to Parliament was allowed to make use of his military position in any way in forwarding his candidature. The Government retreated from that intention, however, because of representations made to it by an interested group in this Parliament. The honorable members in that group were greatly concerned by the proposed new regulation because they wanted to use their military, position and uniforms to influence unthinking electors in the belief that they are more qualified as legislators than candidates who are not members of the forces. The regulations now debar any member of the forces from assisting in the candidature of another person by making use of his rank, but candidates for Parliament themselves arc not so debarred. I think that the original intention of the Government should have been- adhered to in this matter. No candidate for Parliament or member of Parliament should be allowed to make use of his military rank to influence the electors to believe that he is more suitable, by reason of the position he occupies in the force, to represent them than any other person.
Mr. SPEAKER (Hon. G. J. Bell).Order ! The honorable member must discuss the. regulations that he proposes to disallow.
– That is contained in the regulations.
– The honorable member said that it was not, and, if the regulations be disallowed, the matter which he is now discussing will not bc affected.
– Surely I can give reasons why the regulations should be disallowed.
– The honorable member is not in order, when moving for the disallowance of regulations, to ask that they should be extended to cover other matters.
– The regulations contain the following -
Provided that this sub-regulation shall not apply (in connexion with his membership or candidature) to any member of or duly nominated candidate for the Parliament of the Commonwealth or of a State, or any municipal or other local ^government council or corporation.
This . discrimination between different sections of the community is a reason why the regulations should be disallowed. I disagree with the Government in discrimination between different sections of the community. Judging by the past record of this Government, it appears to me that it has set out upon a policy of attempting to keep members of the public in the dark with respect to matters which most concern them. We have had the experience of its having adopted an international convention restricting broadcasts on international affairs by Australian citizens over the national . network ; they may not discuss certain matters unless their remarks have previously been censored by the Australian Broadcasting Commission and have received the imprimatur of the Government. The Government now proposes to extend the same principle to the military forces. I put it to honorable members: Why should it be considered that, because a man is a member of the military forces, he should be denied the ordinary rights of citizenship? Is he less qualified to take an active part in the politics of this country, in which we claim to have a democratic form of government? Having that form of government, it is highly important and desirable that we should have a politicallyeducated military force, -the members of which will be able to determine for themselves whether or not the cause for which they are asked to fight is worthy of defending and is one in which men should interest themselves. That is one of the greatest protections which a democracy could have. A politicallyignorant military force which would do the bidding of dictators and follow blindly their decisions or directions would be one of the greatest menaces which the democracy of this country could have. I am of opinion that these regulations are aimed against only one section of the community. No heed would be taken of any member of the forces who desired to associate himself with a movement designed to suppress what might be called radical organizations. ‘ If he were prepared to follow the line taken by the present Government, a blind eye would be turned on his political activities; but if he were a member of a political labour league, or actively associating himself with some other political movement not regarded with approval by the Government, doubtless the Government, through its regulations, would take very drastic action to weed him and others who thought like him out of the forces so that the forces would be designed to its own pattern. That is what the people have to watch very carefully. They must examine the activities- of the Government, and ask themselves whether they believe it is in the interests of the Australian community and of the existing form of government to have a politically ignorant military force which is not given the right to educate itself upon political questions or to have an opinion in regard to the many subjects which interest the ordinary Australian citizen. I think it will be recollected that one of the objectives advanced in this country in the early days of the war of 1914-18 was the defeat of German militarism ; it was said that we must remove the evils of that system, and in no circumstances allow similar evils to become established in this country. If we are not mindful of what is happening at the moment we shall find a similar set of circumstances arising - that the Government is establishing a military caste and is trying to make the military forces a close .preserve for a particular section, so that there could not possibly be any difference of opinion in the forces should there be a popular movement among the people for necessary reforms. I hope that honorable members who have the interests of the Australian community at heart will record a vote in favour of the motion I have moved, and thus erase this blot from the legislation of the Commonwealth.
– I have listened attentively to the remarks of the honorable member for East Sydney (Mr. Ward). He attempted, with a good deal of dialectic skill, to raise a considerable mountain out of a very inconsiderable molehill. All that the regulations in question set out to do is to make illegal certain things which, for many years, have been regarded as improper. Regulation 210A reads: -
That is the first part, which deals with the Permanent Forces. Since time immemorial, it has been the custom of the service to keep clear of politics. It has kept clear of politics, even though the Australian military rule and regulation was not quite so stringent as that now proposed. It may be interesting to read the King’s Regulations relating to the practice in the British Army. Regulation 530 reads: -
To a large extent, the Australian regulation just introduced follows that regulation,
– It does not; that is the point.
– I differ from the honorable member ; I think that it does. This regulation is in two parts. The first part relates to permanent service. The King’s Regulations refer to the permanent forces. This is no new principle. Since the time of Cromwell it has always been considered that, apart from voting at parliamentary elections, members of the forces shall not take any active part in politics. The reason was well expressed by the late Sir Robert Peel, who said on one occasion -
It would be utterly impossible to maintain discipline if soldiers were allowed to be political partisans, or members of political clubs. Then, indeed, a standing army would in truth be a curse, then might they bid farewell to civil liberty.
Although that was said a long time ago, it has not lost any of its truth.
I admit that I have been unable to follow the reasoning of the honorable member for East Sydney. Ho seems to have thought that because a member of the military forces is forbidden to take part in political gatherings or to address political meetings he is thereby, in some manner, belittled, or loses something which he should possess. The honorable member has adduced no good reasons in support of that contention. I almost expected him to say that all the officers of the forces should be elected by ballot.
– There might be more efficiency if they were.
– That is a matter of opinion. Perhaps the honorable member is not so well qualified to speak on the subject as are other persons. The Assistant Minister for Commerce (Mr. Archie Cameron) has reminded me that it has never yet been proved, although it has been tried out in more than one country. Sub-section 2 of the regulation reads -
An officer or soldier of the citizen forces shall not use his military rank when taking part in any activity of a political nature or in connexion with any municipal or other local government council or corporation :
It makes an exception in the cases cited by the honorable member for East Sydney, namely, existing members of Parliament, or candidates for Parliament or municipal office.
The honorable member also said that this was not the original form in which the regulation was framed ; that, as the result of representations made by certain members of this Parliament, the regulation was altered. I have been fairly closely associated with this regulation, and can give the honorable member my assurance that I have no knowledge of any such representations having been made. He may think that I was personally interested. If he believes that I made any representations, he is entirely at fault. He is also at fault if he thinks that any other member of this chamber made any representations, either to tho Minister for Defence (Mr. Thorby) or to me. The very principle underlying the regulation referring to Citizen Forces has, in point of fact, been adopted by this Parliament, which, some twenty years ago, relinquished the practice of recognizing military ranking in the calling of members. The regulation really adopts that principle to a limited extent.
I listened closely to see what case the honorable member proposed to establish in proof of his contention that the regulations should be disallowed. He said that, in the interests of democracy, it is a bacl thing that members of the permanent forces should not be allowed to hold political meetings and express political views publicly; in effect, that it would be a good thing if they were allowed to do so; that it would improve the knowledge of the army, and presumably its discipline; that, in fact, it would improve the army all round if it were allowed to get together in clubs and political organizations, and to hold political meetings. If that be the point of view of the honorable member, I cannot even start to argue, because we should be on a different base at the start. All tba.t the regulations seek to do is to make legal that which has been the practice for years - that it is wrong and improper for members of the forces to take part in political organizations and gatherings in any public way. I am quite sure that all honorable members of this House will agree that that is wrong; that they will not, as the honorable member for East Sydney would have them do, decide that it would bc in the best interests of the forces to allow political gatherings to take place. To permit this would divide the army into different groups. It would be utterly subversive of discipline.
The honorable member’s further suggestion that the regulations are, in effect, made only with a view to their applying to one political party which has leanings in one way, can be dismissed immediately. No such regulations could exist. The regulations as tabled must apply to everybody. I do not think the honorable member was serious when he suggested that they were made merely .because there might be some members of the forces with radical tendencies and that the intention was to keep them clear of such tendencies. The regulations cover everybody - the most ultra-conservative and the most ultra-radical. It is right and proper that they should. I cannot allow the House to believe for one moment that the lack of reasoning adduced by the honorable member for East Sydney justifies the disallowance of these regulations.
.- I support the motion moved by the honorable member for East Sydney (Mr. Ward). I remind the honorable gentleman who has just resumed his seat that this is a democracy, not a despotism. We do not want to hark back to the days of old despotisms, when nobody had a will of his own. We have moved forward since those bad old days. At one time in this country members of the police force did not dare to speak. They did not even have a vote. This is harking back to the bacl old times when men were restricted in every way, and political and economic regimes operated which were diametrically opposed to the interests of the masses of the people. I remind the honorable gentleman that we are living in a democratic era. The honorable gentleman said that he simply could not understand the honorable member for East Sydney (Mr. Ward) suggesting that members of the Permanent Forces should be allowed to go on to the platform to address a political meeting. But why shouldn’t they?
– Would it make for a contented force?
– This is a democracy, and every one is supposed to have the right to hold and express his opinions.
Does the honorable member suggest that it would be subversive of discipline for two members of the Permanent Forces, holding diverging political views, to argue their differences? If it is necessary to impose such restrictions then, in fact, the military system rests upon the law of the jungle - brute force and stupidity. The argument of the honorable gentleman will not bear the light of reason. Those honorable members opposite who have had military experience seem to recognize that the only way to run the military machine is by the law of the jungle. There can be no reason for regulations of this kind except that the “ brass hats “ want to brow-beat the rank and file of the forces, and keep them in subjection. I cannot see why, in a democracy like ours, members of the forces should not be allowed to take .their part in the political life of the community. Only recently a glaring instance of the injustice of the present system was brought under my notice in my own electorate. A man, who had for years taken a prominent part in the political life of his district, obtained a job at about £4 a week in the Permanent Military Forces, and immediately he had to give up all his political and civic activities that had meant so much to him. It is no wonder that the Military Forces in Australia are seething with discontent, as I shall demonstrate at a more suitable time. I can produce evidence in support of everything I say. The Minister for Defence (Mr. Thorby), and the “brass hats” in charge of the forces, know that if members of the Permanent Forces were allowed to meet in public and pass resolutions directing attention to their grievances the people of Australia would not tolerate for a day the kind of thing that is now going on. It is to close the mouths of the discontented men who arc suffering tyranny under the present system that regulations of this kind have been ‘brought down. If there were an open inquiry, with no victimization, these charges could be proved. I am certain that if the people had an opportunity to exercise a vote on the matter the great majority of them would line up behind the honorable member for East Sydney in support of the stand he has taken today. The honorable gentleman said that it was not proposed to allow members of the Permanent Military Forces to strut on a political platform in their uniforms and medals, but has the honorable gentleman himself never done it? He can dress himself up in his uniform, and take the platform without let or hindrance.
– Not for political purposes. No one is allowed to attend a political meeting in uniform.
– I understood the honorable gentleman to say in answer to the honorable member for East Sydney that that prohibition applied only to members of the Permanent Forces.
– That is Part I. of the regulations. Part II. is a different thing altogether.
– 210a, Part II. is as follows : -
Provided that this sub-regulation shall not apply (in connexion with his membership or candidature) to any member of or duly nominated candidate for the Parliament of the Commonwealth or of a State, or any municipal or other local government council or corporation.
– That refers to calling oneself by one’s rank. It was never permissible to wear uniform on a political platform.
– I have seen them strutting in their uniforms on the political platform during the conscription campaign, strutting like peacocks, and calling on the people to vote “ Yes,” so that they might force the youths on to the battlefields to be slaughtered like sheep. I have seen them in their uniforms as candidates for Parliament, as well.
– I doubt that.
– It is a fact. The honorable gentleman admits that he, and those like him, may still use their rank when on a political campaign. They may use it in their political literature, and have their friends get on to the platform and talk, about, the honorable and gallant j so and so. Of course, for a private soldier ) to use his rank would be of no political J advantage to him, whereas, many impressionable people would be influenced by the sound of a high military title. It is clear that these regulations have been introduced for two purposes. The first is to prevent the expression of opinion, and the voicing of grievances by the rank and file of the permanent military forces; and the other is to give honorable gentlemen of the brass-hat type an advantage when standing as candidates for Parliament. I commend the honorable member for East Sydney for having raised this matter. The Parliamentary Secretary for Defence referred to conditions that existed in the dim and distant past. If he wants this young country to go back to those conditions, he is a disgrace to Australia.
– That is misrepresentation.
– The honorable gentleman quoted the British Army Act, the most brutal piece of legislation in the world to-day.
– I rise to a point of order. The honorable member alleges that I quoted the British Army Act. He .seems to bc unaware that there is a distinction between the British Army Act and the King’s Regulations.
– Tha t is not a point of order.
– It is merely another quibble. The regulations arc based upon the British Army Act, which goes back to the time of William the Conqueror. The honorable gentleman has been talking about regulations based on an act which had ifs beginnings away back in the .dark ages. Would he reimpose the conditions and tyrannies against which our fathers fought in day3 gone by? If this Parliament tolerates that kind of thing for fi. ve minutes, it is not worthy of the democracy behind it.
.- The particular regulation to which objection has been taken is 210a, in which it is stated -
Provided that this sub-regulation shall not apply (in connexion with his membership or candidature) to any member of or duly nominated candidate for the Parliament of the Commonwealth or of a State, or any municipal or other local government council or corporation.
The Parliamentary Secretary for Defence has- submitted that this regulation merely puts into printed form -what has been the practice for many years. If it be so, I w ould bc interested to know what are the special circumstances which have induced the Government to introduce this amended regulation at the present moment. I notice that the honorable member did not submit any newly-discovered reasons for setting out in print what was working out satisfactorily as a generally accepted rule previously.’ Very naturally, watchful democrats - and they are to be found on this side of the House - are suspicious of any restrictive legislation such as thai, embodied in this regulation. They arc in favour of departing from, rather than endorsing, the old rigid forms of discipline under which, in many cases in connexion with the Public Service, the Army and the Navy, the rights and liberties of the subject were invaded. Consequently, we regard with very grave suspicion regulations of this kind.’ I agree that the honorable member for East Sydney is to be commended for the spirit which moved him to oppose these regulations and ask that they be disallowed. When we come to examine their terms, we find that they are extraordinarily vague and indefinite in character. For example, it is said’ that an officer described in regulation 210a shall not take any “ active part “ in the affairs of political or municipal organizations or parties. One wonders what is meant by the words “ active part “. An “ active part “ may be a public part, something which is obviously and definitely active, or it may be a part taken in a very quiet but nevertheless efficient manner.
– The honorable member should read a little further.
– I intend to do so; I take it as I go. The regulation provides that such an officer shall not take any active part in the affairs of political or municipal organizations or parties either by speaking in public or publishing or distributing literature in furtherance of the purposes of any such organization or party, or in any other manner. The final words are barely intelligible.
– As a member of the legal profession, I should have thought the honorable gentleman would have been delighted with that.
– I am not delighted with it.
– The honorable member for Corangamite (Mr. Street) is sneering at a very honorable profession.
– The words are almost unintelligible.
– I should have thought the phraseology would have appealed to the honorable member.
– I do not think the honorable member should take refuge behind ambiguity. There are many ways in which a man may interest himself in public affairs, and there arc many things which he may say, some of them definitely partisan and some directed towards the public interest which are not in any sense partisan; but apparently the intention here is, by means of a kind of dragnet clause, to forbid in a general way all interest in these matters which may surely interest men in uniform, or entitled to wear a uniform, just as much as other people. I think, however, that the worst, or at least it is the most sinister, feature of the regulation is contained in the proviso which reserves the right to military officers to seek the suffrages of the people, notwithstanding the fact that they are persons of either subordinate military rank or, as the honorable member for Werriwa (Mr. Lazzarini) says, “brass hats”. It is a most extraordinary saving clause. Ifit is right that candidates for Parliament should enjoy these privileges, why should not those of the military, who, for example, desire to support their military brethren as candidates for Parliament, be debarred from giving support to a candidate in such circumstances? In any case, why should any man by reason of the fact that he has chosen a military career bc thereby debarred from taking an interest in public questions affecting bis country, at least as a side line and in his spare time? Other persons in all walks of life take an interest in politics. Eminent surgeons whose main line of life is their profession are, nevertheless, not without interest in politics, and some of them, as we know from the fact that we have an eminent surgeon as a member of this House, actually seek to enter politics without derogating from their profession. Of course, the old rule was that members of the Public Service generally must hold themselves aloof from public affairs. That rule, under the pressure of stubborn public criticism, has been very largely relaxed. There is probably no piece of legislation which is more odious in public memory than that which, in the years gone by, sought to remove a section of the Public Service in Victoria from the ordinary category of voters. Nowadays men in the Public Service freely stand for municipal honours, and if their so doing is a breach of the letter of the regulation that fact is very wisely ignored. In like manner, though in certain circumstances it is rightly held that a man who holds a position in the Public Service cannot serve two masters and cannot adequately fulfil two jobs, the interest of members of the Public Service in public affairs is recognized. A glimpse was afforded us the other day by the Minister for Defence as to one reason at. least underlying this regulation, which served to explain to me that it was rather a personal and a petty one. The honorable gentleman stated that an officer of the military forces was identifying himself with a referendum of the people of Victoria on a question which is to be decided there on Saturday next, and that he was lending the weight of his military rank to his advocacy of one side or the other - I do not really know which, and I am not concerned to care. Well, my answer to that is that if the fact of one’s holding military rank adds weight to his opinion as to whether licences should or should not be curtailed or disallowed in the liquor trade, I see no reason why one should not employ the weight of one’s status as a military officer. In my case it would have no weight at all. The fact that he was a military officer of distinction would not impress mc as a reason whyhe should be agood judge whether or not we should drink beer, although he, himself, might be an excellent judge of that with long experience. If, however, it is thought that his status adds weight to thecause in which he is engaged, why should he not employ it ? Why should he not employ it in any public matter? If a man is ambitious to pursue a military career and succeeds in it, why should not his success, his probity and general good conduct be advanced as reasons why his advocacy is of value and why his word should be taken? There seems to me to be no reason against that whatever. We often hear the Navy referred to as the “ silent service “ - apparently the men of the Navy are not talkers; it seems that talking is considered to be the function of the military. At any rate, is the Navy really a silent service? In the best clubs in London,in social intercourse everywhere, are members of the Navy not without influence? I think they are not without influence. The truth is that those persons who have won, or at least obtained in some way or other, military distinction, even though they will not be able to appear publicly, nevertheless will continue in that social way to exercise all the influence they have exercised in the past.
– What point does the honorable member wish to make out of that? What is he seeking to prove?
– I am seeking to prove that we cannot get rid of the fact that the associations which these various services give, and the standing which they give to individuals, are all employed in connexion with political promotions and political successes, and with success in the various arms of the service. That cannot be suppressed by regulation.
– The regulation does not set out to do that.
– I am speaking of matters which are parallel, and to illustrate my point I am taking the case of the Navy and Army generally to indicate that we cannot suppress prediscussion and influence that flows from success in any particular branch of the service, whether military on navy. The main point is that we should be moving away from these restrictions and not moving towards greater restrictions. It is very unpalatable to democrats of our time to find that the Government is harking back to new restrictions upon the members of the Defence Forces. If what I have said applies to military officers who have won some distinction on active service, or who hold some high rank, it applies in like manner to those who are privates. If a man is a soldier he may be proud of it, even though he be of the lower ranks.
– The treatment under the regulation applies alike to all ranks.
– That is what I am saying. I consider that any person who joins the military forces in any capacity should have complete freedom to advertise publicly his calling. If he is proud of the position he occupies, he should be permitted to say so. He should also be permitted, as any other citizen is, to throw the weight of his influence, whatever it may be, into any public cause, political or otherwise, that he desires to espouse. He should be fully entitled to say “I stand on this platform as a private soldier to declare that I am glad to serve my country. I regard myself as a responsible citizen. No one has any right to throw a stone at me. I am entitled, as a citizen, to advocate any political view that I desire to declare, and I invite my fellow citizens who may be influenced by my view and by my calling to endorse that view”. I regret that the honorable gentleman who has spoken for the Government this afternoon saw fit to oppose the motion, yet I hope that it will be carried. The regulations unundoubtedly need re-drafting in this particular direction. The abnoxious proviso should be removed. So far as I can see, they are unexceptional in other respects. I am afraid that under the new methods of the present Minister for Defence we may find it more necessary to be vigilant than heretofore in order that further, worse, and more dangerous encroachments may not be made upon the liberties of a suffering public.
.- Like other honorable members on this side of the chamber who have participated in this debate, I support the motion. I am strongly opposed to this regulation, to which attention has been called toy the honorable member for East Sydney (Mr. Ward), being given the force of law. It is regrettable that a member of the Government has not seen fit to tell us the real reason for the move that the Government has made. So far as we know, there is an entire absence of any necessity for this action. Not a single instance has been given of members of the Defence Fortes holding political meetings in military barracks or quarters. Neither permanent nor temporary members of the Naval, Military or Air Force have been accused of such action. I believe that members of the force should be entitled to discuss political subjects when they are off duty.
– That point is not affected by the regulation.
– I point out that regulation 210 reads -
Except as provided in this regulation -
when in uniform attend; or
In effect that means that members of the forces should not hold political meetings or political discussions, in meetings or otherwise, on defence premises. After all, it is a very fine line of distinction which separates a meeting and a discussion. Many men may desire to discuss, in a friendly way with their companions in the various branches of the service, the political views which they hold or which they are thinking about, and they should not be prevented from doing so by the autocracy of military officers. We must bear in mind that almost, if not quite, without exception, those that hold high rank in the defence force have a conservative political outlook.
– I remind the honorable member that regulation 210 has been the law for a great many years. It is already in the Act. It is regulation 210a which is the subject of the motion.
– That is no reason why regulation 210 should not be reviewed and, in. my opinion, disallowed. There is no justification for declining to allow the members of our Defence Forces to be articulate on political subjects or other matters which vitally affect the well-being of the whole community. Let us visualize the position that exists in the electorate of the Treasurer (Mr.
Casey). The Point Cook Training School is attended by many young men of varied political outlook who seek appointment to the Air Force. Some of these individuals are present in a temporary capacity, and others are permanent appointees. I cannot understand why they should not be allowed, during the time that they are off duty, whether they are in or out of barracks, to participate in political demonstrations, political meetings or political discussions. It is no answer to me to say that more than 100 years ago Sir Robert Peel said something which at that time may have appeared to be a pearl of wisdom. The wisdom of those days is not necessarily wisdom in these days. In fact, it is very often the reverse. I aim to keep my eyes on the future. I am not unduly concerned about the past. I have no interest in slavishly following the precedents of other days. In this particular instance it is highly desirable that we should carefully protect the members of our Defence Forces in all branches from any injustice.We should take every care to see that the military system is not too firmly fastened upon them.
I have some experience of the operation of these regulations. I have been threatened with silent contempt because I dared to smile at a sergeant-major - and he was not the Assistant Minister for Commerce (Mr. Archie Cameron) ! Thereis no telling to what lengths military despotism would go if it were given a free hand. On another occasion I was told that if I did not mind my p’s and q’s I should be put in the clink. I have always been politically inclined. I never allowed the fact that I belonged to the military forces to deter me from expressing any political opinion that I saw fit to express; but I know very well that certain powers are incessantly at work acting adversely to individuals who dare to express certain political opinions. I suggest that some curb should be put on the Government’s activities in this regard. I well remember that during the war when the conscription campaign was in full force, the present Minister for External Affairs (Mr. Hughes), who was then Prime Minister, used his political position to attempt to influence the soldiers overseas to vote in favour of the policy which he was advocating. He wanted support for conscription and closed the mouths of the soldiers who did not want it. “We know very well that in Trance, in particular, a brief printed document entitled “All for Australia” was distributed broadcast with the object of causing the soldiers to believe that any persons who were not in favour of the Government’s policy at that time should be classed as Sinn Feiners and disloyalists. Many other opprobrious terms were used to describe them with the object of causing the soldiers to believe that they were traitors to their country.
– I must remind the honorable member that the subject which he is now discussing is not relevant to the motion.
– I admit, sir, that it is ancient history; but it is ancient history which I find it very difficult to forget. I am endeavouring to show that there is a danger that the Government may attempt to abuse its power in connexion with our Defence Forces.
– The regulations which are the subject of this motion do not touch that issue.
– All I can say is that it would be a good thing if we were to abandon the precedents of other days in order to permit members of the Defence Forces to express whatever views they wish, and to support whatever party they desire in the political field, provided that it is done in their leisure time and not when they are actually on duty.
One of the most obnoxious aspects of the particular regulation to which exception is taken is that while it provides that no officer or soldier shall use his military rank to take part in any political activity, it goes on to say subsequently that the regulation shall not apply if the officer or soldier is a candidate for parliamentary or municipal honours. What is the purpose behind that qualification ? Why does the Government wish to exempt candidates for parliamentary and municipal honours? I suggest that we may find the reason in the parliamentary and municipal campaigns of the years immediately following the war. We all know very well that in those years, in particular, the anti-Labour ‘ parties of Australia capitalized the military rank of persons of their own political views in every part of the Commonwealth. They found that the fact that a certain individual was a general or a colonel or a captain was of immense value to them, in that it had a salutary effect upon the population at large. We have seen this repeatedly in elections for the Senate, the House of Representatives, the various State parliaments and innumerable local governing bodies. I do not wish to be offensive to the honorable member for Corangamite (Mr. Street) but he must be well aware that the realization that certain candidates held military rank was an occasion of delight to organizers of various antiLabour parties. In fact, it was the acme of perfection in a political candidate. To that extent this Government sees fit to allow that sort of thing to continue by putting a proviso in the regulations to exempt these people from their operations. If that is not the greatest piece of chicanery that I have encountered since becoming a member of this Parliament, I should like to know what is. I am astonished that the Government should attempt to defend it. In these circumstances these regulations should be disallowed. They are the thin edge of the wedge, and particularly objectionable is that portion which prohibits political meetings in barracks. Public servants, Commonwealth or State, are allowed in their lunch-hour or other hours of leisure to be addressed by political aspirants, and I see no reason why the honorable member for Corio (Mr. Casey) or any other honorable member, whether a political opponent or otherwise, should not ‘be allowed to go to Point Cook or any other military aerodrome to address membens of the Air Force and enlist their support in his political campaign. It is not impossible for members of the military, naval or air forces to express their frank political opinions and at the same time remain faithful to their duty as soldiers, sailors or airmen. Freedom of speech has been our boast over the generations; it is the very basis of our liberty. Yet, at this stage of our history, the Government is attempting to choke the political thought of the men who, if a crisis comes, will be called upon by that same government to make the supreme sacrifice. It wouldbe a reflection on this Parliament for it to allow the Government to apply its new policy without protest. In all seriousness, I ask the Parliamentary Secretary for Defence what he thinks that the members of the forces will do in their spare time if they are not allowed to discuss matters of educational character? They cannot always be in their homes. Is it supposed by the Government that they shall be content to stand in the canteen and discuss merely the prospects for horse or dog meotings or something of that sort? Is it the intention of the Government to institute a spy system in the forces and to appoint “ pimps “ who will report to the senior officers that Privates Jones and Brown were discussing the merits of the Labour party, the United Country party, or the United Australia party, or the merits of socialism or private enterprise? Who are to be the judge and jury? Just how far-reaching the new regulations will be we do not know.
– The first part has been in operation for a long time.
– Why strengthen it? What has come to the mind of the Minister that has made him re-draft and strengthen the regulations and impose them with emphasis on members of the forces? Knowing all that I do of the military rule, I object to these regulations. I do not cast any reflection on men of officer rank - there are good and bad officers just as there are good and bad privates and good and bad men of other ranks - but the regulations put into the hands of the officer class a power that they should never possess - the power of persecution. A private may have radical political opinions and his colonel may be a good United Australia party man. Both may be equally sincere in their outlook, but the colonel is in a position to, and may, persecute the private whose political opinions are opposed to his. The result could be that the private would be charged under these regulations with having discussedwith a colleague or even with his wife, children, and other relatives, any fellow countryman, in fact, matters of political interest to him. We should not allow this state of affairs to be imposed upon Australian citizens who fought and may be called upon to fight again for their country.
– All that troubles me at the moment, not having heard the Parliamentary Secretary for Defence (Mr. Street) answer the observations made by the honorable member for East Sydney (Mr. Ward), is the fact that members of the Permanent Forces have the right to exercise the franchise. When they join the forces they do not surrender their right as citizens to exercise their votes at election times. If they are permitted to exercise their vote and they are not permitted to seek out means to inform themselves as to how they should exercise that vote-
– It is the method of the seeking out the means, is it not?
– All right. Just how are these men to seek out those means? Without going deeply into the question, we claim that this is a democracy and that our citizens have freedom in choosing their government. That freedom is exercised to a great degree; there are a few exceptions of course, but in a general sense it has wide application. If it becomes necessary to vote, every one should at least try to vote intelligently. I think that a democracy seeks to allow all of its citizens the right to vote intelligently. If that be so - and I do not think that it will be denied - how is it intended that members of the forces shall inform their minds as to how they should vote?
– They can attend any meetings they like, but not in uniform.
– These regulations do not permit members of the forces to discuss political matters amongst themselves.
– A political meeting cannot be organized in the barracks.
– Suppose at Garden Island, which is in the electorate of the honorable member for East Sydney-
– These regulations apply only to the Army.
– Well, let us take as an example Victoria Barracks, which are also in the East Sydney electorate. Let us suppose that an election in the East Sydney electorate is approaching and several candidates have offered themselves. Suppose that, in order to ascer tain for themselves what candidate they shall support, some of the men gather in the mess rooms or some other part of the barracks and discuss the pros and cons of the situation in order to decide whether they shall support the sitting member or some other candidate. This regulation prevents them from doing that.
– I should say that it does not.
– Suppose then that a member of the forces, who is a sup porter of the sitting member, whoever he may be, gathers together a number of men at the barracks, perhaps in his bedroom, and sets out to inform them from the knowledge that he possesses, but which the others have not, taken the trouble to gain for themselves, of the position. An officer walks into the room, and finds this man telling ten or fifteen other men which way they should vote. What would be his position? Would he be liable to a penalty?
Mr.Street. - The regulations say that an officer or a soldier shall not institute any meetings for political purposes. I should say that discussion in the quarters would not constitute the institution of a political meeting.
– I point out to the honorable member that he, as a member of Parliament, mixing with all shades of political opinion, takes a. broader view of things, as do other honorable mem bers, than would an officer who has spent the whole of his life in the barracks exercising military discipline; because of this such an officer may declare this meeting to be a political meeting. There is no doubt that environment moulds character, particularly in regard to officers who have spent the greater part of their lives in the Army.
I cannot give evidence in detail, but I tell the honorable gentleman that men in the naval force dare not open their mouths. There are all sorts of ways of dealing with men of the ranks. The officers do not take them by the scruff of the neck, but it is a known fact that when an incident occurs a man is marked down for disciplinary treatment. He may have committed some small misdemeanour of the kind ofwhich we all, being human, arc guilty, and as the result he is vic timized. We who live in a broader and more tolerant atmosphere than exists within the defence forces should take the utmost care in giving power and authority more than is absolutely necessary, to men over other men.I am willing to say that discipline in the forces is necessary. I am not a man who asks people to join the forces, although I get plenty of requests from young men who are anxious to enlist to help them realize their ambition. That is their affair. If they join the forces they do so voluntarily. Some people seem to be made for that sort of a. career; I am not. If, however, a man feels that he can live a military life and subject himself to its discipline, well and good, but we should give to him at least reasonable latitude. His freedom should not be unnecessarily restricted.
Again speaking of the Navy, the atmosphere of freedom in the Navy of the United States of America is greater than that in the British Navy in which there is a highbrow application of officership. In the Navy of the United States of America., there is a spirit of comradeship and friendliness between the officers and the lower ratings with the result that the ratings have a greater amount of freedom, and work with more contentment than do the naval ratings in Great Britain. There is a tendency to place in the regulations governing the Australian forces some of those things which we abhor in the regulations of the British forces. I was not here when the Parliamentary Secretary for Defence referred to the King’s Regulations and, if I misquote him, he may correct me, but I understand that he said that the new regulations were based to some extent on the King’s Regulations.
– They are somewhat similar.
– The penalties prescribed by the King’s Regulations for incidents resulting in courtsmartial are of a character that could not be tolerated in this country. Men found guilty by a court-martial can be tied to gun carriages and left there for long periods. I understand also that for certain misdemeanours men could be executed, andI am told that the Australian troops revolted against that punishment in France. Instances have been cited of demonstrations that were held. I believe that the right honorable member for North Sydney (Mr. Hughes), who had much to do with the soldiers abroad, brought down amending regulations which removed Australian soldiers from the sphere of operation of the King’s Regulations. In quoting those regulations as the basis of Commonwealth regulations, the Parliamentary Secretary for Defence has not improved the position from the viewpoint of an Australian. I consider that these regulations are extremely harsh, and I. should be sorry to see them applied to members of the Australian Permanent Forces. These men are entitled to exercise the franchise. They have the right to choose whatever government they think will best promote the interests of this country. The character of the government is perhaps more important to them than it is to private individuals - in the economic sense, ‘because they have wives and families, and in the international sense in relation to foreign policy, which leads to wars. They have to take the risk of .being called, upon to take part in a war, and naturally it is to their advantage to avoid doing so if possible. Therefore, they are more intensely interested than are some others in the politics of their country, and consequently are entitled to have such literature as will help them to inform their minds, and to be advised as to the qualities and qualifications of candidates for Parliament. In the light of these facts, I trust that the Minister will see fit to leave matters as they have stood up to the present time.
– Regulation 210 has been in existence for many years.
– Then it has served its purpose, and there is no need for additional restrictions. The forces have been fairly contented in the past.
– This will not make them discontented. I think that the honorable member is reading into the regulations a lot more than they contain.
– I am expressing thoughts which have entered my mind. Of a dozen men who are picked, nine may be really decent fellows as officers. I had a little experience in compulsory training many years ago. Some of the officers were decent, but others were “ pigs “ iii their treatment of those under them. We feel that greater authority should not. be given to that small percentage which, unfortunately, when vested with authority, exercises it unworthily. I am opposed to giving any more authority than is absolutely necessary.
– The Parliamentary Secretary for Defence (Mr. Street) has said that regulation 210 has not been altered.
– Except in regard to minor drafting.
– It seems to me to be be the most contentious of the whole of the statutory rules. I am not concerned as to whether or not a person of military rank is allowed to use his title when engaged in political propaganda, but I am concerned as to whether there is to be further encroachment on the citizen rights of those who join the Army or the Navy. If the regulation as it stands has been in operation for a number of years. it has not been enforced.
– It has been sympathetically administered.
– It may not always “be. I can remember having addressed meetings of members of the naval forces in uniform, with their officers in attendance, when I contested the Flinders electorate. Both the Prime Minister of the day, Mr. Bruce, and I, addressed the men at the naval base. The regulation says that members of the forces shall not take any active part in political meetings, organizations, or demonstrations. Does that mean that one who is on leave cannot associate himself with what is being done by a branch of the party to which he belongs?
– It means he cannot speak publicly.
– Then it interferes with his citizen rights. If a young fellow who joins up with the permanent artillery cannot, during any portion of the year, go .back to his home out of uniform, attend a political meeting in his own suburb, take part in a selection ballot, and have a voice as to who is to represent him in the municipal, the State, or’ the federal sphere, the regulation is objectionable, and I do not think that under it we shall have a harmonious, voluntarily disciplined, Australian permanent force.
– He could attend meetings, but not speak in public or distribute literature.
– The word “ active “ could mean anything. He could not attend a meeting of his political branch.
– If it were a public meeting, he could attend it provided he was not in uniform and did not take an active part in the proceedings.
– Then if someone had to be selected to represent him and the rest of his family, he would have no voice in the selection. The honorable gentleman says that he cannot distribute literature. That does not get away from the fact that he cannot take part in a selection ballot. That is not understood by the Australian people, and I do not think that it has been enforced.
– The honorable member is now dealing with 210a, which has not been in force before.
– I am seriously objecting to that addition to these regulations; it will increase rather than decrease the autocracy of the permanent forces.
– It has always been the custom in the forces, as the honorable gentleman knows.
– I do not think it has been forced home. Any officer may use his rank when standing as a candidate for Parliament.
– That applies equally to a private soldier.
– A private soldier has no rank with which to influence the selection. A brother officer may not use his rank to supportthe officer who is a candidate. I do not know the reason for that. The regulation is so complicated as to make it non-understandable. The average man who wants to do the right thing does not understand it, and it is therefore dangerous. The additional regulation says that a member of the permanent forces shall not take any active part in a meeting in his own district, in his civilian clothes, to decide who shall represent him in the municipal, the State, or the federal sphere. That is quite wrong. It is not in line with the characteristics of the Australian forces, and will do more harm than good to the forces.
.- I am not very greatly concerned about this new regulation, other than from the viewpoint that it gives added power which seems to me entirely unnecessary. No reason has been given as to why the attempt should be made to give effect to it. Has there been any complaint that members of the permanent forces have done what it is suggested they shall be prevented from doing? Have these men played the game? Have they been honest and fair in their service to this country as soldiers? Have they done things they ought not to have done? If they have, why are we not told ? Why is there an addition to the regulations which tightens up on their rights in civil life? The honorable member for Melbourne Ports (Mr. Holloway) has asked the Parliamentary Secretary for Defence (Mr. Street) whether it would be right for a member of the permanent artillery to attend in his own electorate a meeting of, say, the Australian Labour party. If he were to move a resolution, he would thereby take an active part in the work of that particular organization. If that became known to the officer in charge, would he be punished?
– He would be liable to be punished.
– If, on the other hand, an argument arose in the barracks and one more forcible than the others, in his desire to do the right thing, took a definite stand in a direction which had not the approval of the officer in charge, could he be cashiered and dealt with? If so, he would be deprived of his rights as an individual. He is given the right to attend public meetings, and to vote at elections. What constitutes an “ active part”?
– When a man joins the permanent forces he resigns a good deal of his individuality.
-For a number of years, this regulation has existed up to a. given point. Now, the Government desires to add to it. We have been given no reason for that addition. Why was it necessary to amend the regulation, to tighten up on the rights of the individual? Have these men given provocation which has justified this being done? If so, when, where, and to what extent? I, for one, will not in any circumstances; agree to tightening up in this way. If it can be shown that it is necessary, because of lack of discipline in the military forces, there may be some justification for it. I want something more than the mere statement that somebody thinks it ought to be done, to induce me to vote in favour of it.
– The honorable member has taken an extreme case - the imposition of a penalty upon some individual who offends slightly against the regulation. Take the opposite extreme - a number of meetings in a unit. Surely that would be subversive of discipline!
– That is going on all the time. Live men will argue on anything, and I would not prevent them from doing so.
-No one is preventing them from arguing.
– I have no illusions as to what will happen with governments of the character of that in power to-day. The Government which preceded the present Government of Queensland determined that, if returned to power, it would introduce special legislation to provide that the public servants of that Statu should only have certain representation. It was to prevent them from taking part in general political meetings. They were to have no representation in Parliament except by those who represented the Public Service directly, and to that extent their political rights would have been restricted. The only point which I consider relevant is whether the members of the permanent forces are intelligent enough to take part in political affairs. If they are, this Parliament should not take their political rights away from them. When men enter the military forces they give up certain rights, but it has not previously been suggested that they should give up their political rights. The existing regulations have worked very well, so why alter them ? If the Government can tell honorable members that it is necessary to tighten up the regulations because of a tendency on the part of members of the forces to kick over the traces ; if it can convince us that something is being done which is not in the best interests of the forces, we might be disposed to agree to its present proposal ; but when it is made plain that this change has been decided upon for no particular reason whatever, I, for one, will not stand for it.
Question put -
That Statutory Rules No. 75 of 1938, being amendments of the Australian- Military Regulations, be disallowed.
The House divided. (Mr. Speaker - Hon. G. J. Bell.)
Question so resolved in the negative.
– by leave - I have just received from Sydney the official text of a statement made in the Parliament of New South Wales by the Premier, Mr. Stevens, regarding the settlement of the coal strike. It is as follows : -
At a conference held this morning between the Minister for Labour and Industry (Mr. Mair), and Mr. Nelson and Mr. Orr, representing the combined mining unions, a formula for the settlement of the coal strike has been accepted subject to implementation in regard to specific matters.
I would say that, in so far as pensions and workers’ compensation are concerned, the Government, believing that the coal-mining industry has special features regarding these two matters, has agreed to have a full inquiry made relative to them, and to pass legislation according to the finding of the tribunal or commission.
As members are aware, a royal commission, composed of Mr. Justice Davidson, Mr. Jeffries, representing the coal-owners, and Mr. F. Louden, representing the coal-miners, has been appointed, and is already investigating the question of safety and health in coal mines.
The Government, fully appreciating the urgency of these questions, will take every step possible to expedite the inquiry, and reach conclusions.
In so far as purely industrial matters are concerned, it is agreed that such will be referred for determination by arbitration, subject to a further discussion with the combined unions relative to procedure.
In view of the above settlement, it is anticipated that an early resumption of work will take place, and this statement is made to relieve tension that is existing, and also to save the possible dismissal of thousands of men in other industries.
The Commonwealth Government is very pleased, indeed, to hear of the settlement. Much suffering and loss will be obviated by the sensible decision to take industrial matters of dispute to the appropriate court, which will be in a position to give an impartial judgment. The Government has all along felt that, in the long run. trade unionists and their families have everything to gain by having recourse to the constitutional means which exist for securing industrial justice.
– fey leave - Members of the Opposition are gratified that conciliation has been successfully invoked in the settlement of this dispute, which affected so grievously the economic life of the Commonwealth, as well as that of the State of New South Wales. In congratulating the Premier of New South Wales upon the initiative displayed in calling the parties together, we have, at the same time, to say that the Prime Minister of the Commonwealth, and the Commonwealth Government, absolutely failed to do anything which would have assisted in preventing the strike. Not only did they fail to do anything to prevent the strike, but after it occurred they also, unlike the Government of New South Wales, obstinately refused to do anything to bring it to an early conclusion. The congratulations which the people of Australia, will offer to the Premier of New South Wales and his Minister for Labour and Industry, must be tinged with a feeling of regret that the Prime Minister of Australia and his Government, who had ample opportunity, both before and after the strike began, to do what the Premier of New South Wales has done, failed absolutely to accept what I believe was a major responsibility to the country. Much lose which has been experienced as the result of the strike could, I believe, have been avoided if the Prime Minister had acted on the suggestion which 1 made to him last June, months before the dispute matured. The very fact that on the first occasion that the parties met in conference in the presence of representatives of a government, the strike was brought to a conclusion, bears testimony to the reasonableness with which the miners’ officials conducted negotiations. The terms of settlement which the Acting Leader of the House (Sir Earle Page) has just read to us make it clear that the issues were more than industrial. They involve political considerations, in that legislation is an integral part of the terms of settlement. The legislation which will be passed by the Parliament of New South Wales will inevitably be a guide to, and an obligation upon, other parliaments. Should pensions be a feature of that legislation, then incontestibly the best way to deal with them, as with pensions of any kind, will be on a national basis. For that reason, feeling all along that this dispute might involve the Commonwealth in legislation, and would most certainly involve it economically because of the tremendous importance of the coal industry, I repeatedly appealed to the Government to call the disputing parties together. All 1 can say is that this Government stands before the bar of Australian opinion as having been grossly negligent to the true interests of Australia. What this Government failed to do the Government of New South Wales has done. I ventured to say that in either case a conference would prove successful. It has proved successful, I am glad to say, when called by the Premier of New South Wales, and he ought not to have been expected to act as early as he did but for the failure of the Commonwealth Government to act. Had the Commonwealth Government acted when it should have done so, there would have been no strike and no loss to the community.
– by leave- Like everybody else I am very pleased that the coal dispute has been settled; but no credit whatever is due to this Government for what appears to be the very gratifying result. Like the Leader of the Opposition (Mr. Curtin), I brought the matter of the impending coal dispute before the notice of the Prime Minister (Mr. Lyons) in June last, by way of question, and urged that the provisions of the Industrial Peace Act 1920 be utilized if a dispute arose, particularly that a conference be called, and failing a settlement, to set up a coal tribunal. In bringing the matter ‘before the Prime Minister, I said that I was requested to do so by the miners’ organization of which I was a member. Though the Prime Minister afterwards suggested that he had not been approached by a representative of the coal-miners, I informed him that I had been requested by the miners’ leaders to seek his aid to bring about a settlement of the matters in dispute. As I am a member of the Miners’ Federation and I hold its confidence, the right honorable gentleman was not correct in saying that representations had not been received from authorized persons. In my opinion the credit for the settlement of this dispute is due not to the Premier of New South Wales, but to Mr. Mair, Minister for Labour and Industry in the New South Wales Government. I myself did everything humanly possible to secure a conference of the parties. Before asking questions in this House I appealed to Ministers personally to intervene in the dispute; but in spite of my pleas the Commonwealth Government took no action and paid no heed to my requests. Apparently the Government is conforming to the principle enunciated by Mr. Bruce in 1929 that the Federal Government should withdraw from arbitration altogether, though at that time the present Prime Minister, when seeking election to this Parliament as a Labour representative, severely criticized such a proposal. Now, however, he has jettisoned the principles which he then held, and has ratted on the Industrial Peace Act.
Mr. SPEAKER (Hon. G. J. Bell).Order! I have told the honorable member before that he must not apply that term in reference to the action of an honorable member. I now ask him to withdraw it and to apologize to the Chair.
– In conformity with the forms of the House, after having had the pleasure of saying it, I withdraw it.
– The honorable member is distinctly out of order; he must withdraw and apologize to the Chair without qualification.
– I apologize and withdraw the offending words.
- by leave - As a representative of a mining constituency, I wish briefly to express my gratification that there is every indication that the mining dispute will be amicably settled and that the men will shortly go back to work. As I said some time ago in this House, the miners did not enter into this strike in any spirit of seeking a fight; on the contrary, they felt that they had genuine grievances, and a genuine case to put to the people of Australia. I believe that the Minister for
Labour and Industry inNew South Wales has seen the reasonableness of their claims and has done his best to meet them. We all ought to be gratified that he has called a conference which is expected to prove successful. I hope that as the result of this dispute, and having regard to the peculiarities of the coal industry, this Government has seen the necessity for having some tribunal to settle quickly disputes of this kind other than the Arbitration Court, which is too slow and cumbersome. I ask the Acting Leader of the House (Sir Earle Page) to take into consideration at once the desirability of utilizing the provisions of the Industrial Peace Act, which still remains on the statute-book of this country, to meet an emergency of this kind. The stress we have gone through in the last fortnight and the threat to the economic life of Australia imposed by recent happenings, warrant the Government bending its best endeavours to secure internal industrial peace. Although in the past the provisions of the Industrial Peace Act were not utilized to the full, in that local tribunals were not set up in the different States, there is no reason why that should not be done in the future.
- by leave- I join with other honorable members in expressing my gratification that the coal dispute has been settled. I am privileged to represent in this House about 60 per cent. of the coal-miners of Queensland, and before I returned for the present sittings of the Parliament, I discussedwith the officials of the miners’ union the problems that they were presenting to the Governments of New South Wales and Queensland. I have since discussed with the Prime Minister (Mr. Lyons) and other Ministers in this House the representations made to me by the union officials. I am particularly pleased that the economic consequences and the serious loss that have been occasioned by the coal strike, not only to the miners but also to other sections of the community, will no longer continue. In justice to the miners of Queensland, I would like to say that no major strike has taken place in the coal industry in Queensland since 1920. I pay tribute to the Premier of New South Wales, Mr. Stevens, and to his Minister for Labour and Industry, Mr. Mair, for the part they played in the settlement of this dispute, which, although it centred mainly in the State, the destinies ofwhich they guide, quickly spread to other States. I offer my sincere congratulations to those gentlemen for having brought to a successful termination a strike the serious consequences ofwhich so quickly made themselves felt in the economic life of Australia, and which imposed severe hardships on the miners themselves and theirwives and families.
- by leave- I am in accord with the views expressed by the Leader of the Opposition (Mr. Cur tin), the honorable members for Huntet (Mr. James) and Werriwa (Mr. Lazzarini). I, too, tender my congratulations to the Government of New South Wales whose action in this disputewas so contrary to the inaction of the Federal Government and the refusal of the Prime Minister (Mr. Lyons) to call a conference of the miners and the mine owners. The immediate results of the present conference show that had the parties been brought together at an earlier stage in the dispute the strike would, as the honorable member for Hunter has said, have been averted, and in my electorate alone the hardship inflicted upon over 100 families whose bread-winnerswere thrown idle during the dispute, would not have been occasioned. I also offer my congratulations , to the miners’ officials for their willingness to meet the coal-ownerswith a view to the settlement of the matters at issue. Right throughout the course of the trouble they demonstrated their willingness to discuss the strike position, and on this occasion, in a definite and tangible manner, they have shown their willingness to conciliate, and by their reasonable attitude have brought about the termination of a dispute which has brought about misery and suffering to tens of thousands of people, not only in the coal industry, but also in many kindred industries throughout Australia.
– I ask leave, Mr. Speaker, to make a statement.
Opposition Members. - No.
Leave not granted.
.- When I gave notice of the motion -
That in the opinion of this House it is desirable to establish a system of family allowances payable to widows with dependent children - certain legislation had not been considered by the Parliament. The motion is now greatly complicated by the passage of that legislation, and I ask leave to withdraw it.
.-I move -
That Ordinance No. 20 (Canberra Community Hospital) of1938, made under the Seat of Government Acceptance Act and the Scat of Government (Administration) Act, be disallowed.
With your permission, Mr. Speaker, I shall move a further motion which deals with this matter.
– The honorable member may refer to a cognate motion but may not move it at this stage.
– Very well, Mr. Speaker. I desire in the first place to protest against the fact that opportunity was not given to this House to discuss the subject-matter of my motion prior to the first election held under the ordinance to which I take exception. The essential point is that Ordinance No. 20 provides a restrictive franchise and permits only contributors to the Canberra Community Hospital funds to vote for the election of members of the Hospital Board. My objection to Ordinance No. 22, the subject matter of my second motion, is that the Government has reduced the wages necessary to be obtained in. order to compel more people to contribute to the funds of the hospital. Under the now ordinance persons receiving £1, but not more than £1 10s. a week are required to contribute 3d. a. week; those receiving £1 10s. a week but not more than £2 a week are required to pay 6d. a. week; and those receiving £2 or more a week must pay 9d. a week.
Whilst I object strongly toOrdinance No. 22, my chief grievance is against Ordinance No. 20. The Australian Capital Territory is the only part of the
Commonwealth in which the residents are denied a vote for parliamentary elections. Although the citizens here are greatly concerned about governmental affairs, and are well aware of the many complexities associated with the Public Service, they have been denied any say at all in the election of members of this Parliament. As they do not now reside in State territory, they are, of course, deprived of a vote in the election of members of a State parliament. I suggest that the franchise of residents of this territory would be of greater value to the Commonwealth than that of the people resident in any other part of Australia. If there could be any argument at all in favour of a restricted franchise in other parts of the Commonwealth - and I shall have something to say on that score a little later - there can be no argument in favour of it in the Australian Capital Territory. Yet, the people who reside here have a vote in respect of only the Advisory Council, and the Canberra Community Hospital Board.
One election lias already been held under this restricted franchise. It occurred on the 30th June last. I utter a strong protest against the means which the Government adopted to stifle the discussion of my motion prior to the holding of that election. After all, this Parliament is, in the last analysis, the highest authority in the land which can discuss such a matter, and it should have been permitted to do so before an election washeld on a basis which was so obviously objectionable to the great majority of the community.
The ordinance relating to the franchise was promulgated on the 2nd June. At that time it provided that only those persons in employment and in receipt of £2 or more a week should be entitled to nominate for a position on the board or stand for election. In relation to the wages qualification for voters I point out that the ordinance set out that persons who did not receive actual wages, but who were given board and lodging were to be regarded as having board valued at 15s. a week, and lodging valued at 5s. a week.
The position under this ordinance is that the great majority of women in the Australian Capital Territory are not entitled to vote at these elections.
After the ordinance became operative, but before an election was actually held, a deputation, representative of all the women of Canberra, waited upon the Government with a request that an alteration of it should be made which would permit all women to exercise the franchise at the first election. The deputation was given a promise by the Government that an alteration of the ordinance would be made. It is highly regrettable, therefore, that the amendment was not made before the election was held.
Prior to the promulgation of the new ordinance relating to membership of the Hospital Board, the board consisted of five members, of whom two were elective and three were nominee. The new ordinance provided that in the future the board should consist of six members, all of whom should be elective.
– Are you objecting to that?
– No. It is preferable that members of the board should be elective instead of nominee, but that does not excuse the Government for its failure to provide for a general franchise. Surely modern conditionsare improved far beyond those of the distant days when bricks and mortal were counted of more value than human beings !
– The franchise does not depend upon a property qualification.
– But it depends upon employment. The difference is that between tweedledum and tweedledee. It is a state of affairs similar to that which existed for many years in Great Britain, from which we take our parliamentary system, whereby unless a person was possessed of certain property or was in receipt of a certain amount of rent or other form of annual income, he was not entitled to vote for the election of members of parliament.
– This is an election for a board and not for a parliament.
– Nevertheless everyone in the community is concerned with the question of hospital administration.
-The best illustration of the Government’s attitude towards matters of this kind was given in a debate earlier this afternoon, when the Parliamentary Secretary for Defence (Mr. Street), in order to bolster up the case he was presenting, quoted a statement made by Sir Robert Peel a century ago. It seems that if this Government can find a precedent for any action which was established half a century ago, it considers it to be good ; if it was established a century ago, the Government considers it to be much better; and if it is two or three centuries old the Government regards it as something of extraordinary value to the community.
– According to the honorable member’s line of reasoning the Ten Commandments should be the worst of all.
– The Ten Commandments were not passed by this Government.From the Government’s attitude, it would appear that if it had thought of it, earlier, it would have endeavoured to repeal even the Ten Commandments.
Another decision of the Government in connexion with this ordinance, for which the Assistant Minister for Health (Mr. Archie Cameron) must accept any credit or discredit that is due, was that all voting must be done by post. Even if only select sections of the community - such as those qualified by employment, wealth or social position - were to be given the right to a vote, why was it necessary to force them to vote by post? Surely the citizens of the Australian Capital Territory, of all parts of Australia, should be intelligent enough to go to a polling booth and record their votes as is done elsewhere, and as I understand was done previously when two out of a total of five members were elected to the Canberra Community Hospital Board by ballot.I ask the Minister to give some reason why the Government did not see fit to have the election carried out on the same lines as elections in other parts of Australia.
Although it, permits only persons in employment to vote, I do not think that the Government would suggest that contributors alone should receive attention at the hospital.
– Or that they alone should be required to pay for hospital services.
– Through the section of the ordinance to which I am objecting, the Government has reduced the wage liable to contributions to one pound a week. Certainly persons in receipt of such a wage do not have to pay so much as those who receive £2 a week, but that section of the ordinance which fixes the value of board at 15s. a week and of lodging at 5s. a week is still in existence. Therefore, a person who does not receive one penny a week in wages, but who is allowed board and lodging for services rendered will still have to contribute to the upkeep of the Canberra Community Hospital. Persons who are unemployed, from whatever cause, are not allowed to vote or to accept nomination for membership of the Hospital Board. I should like to know whether or not it is intended that only those persons who are contributors to the hospital shall be allowed the benefit of its services. I do not think, however, that the Government would go so far as that. If they were able to quote statements by Sir Robert Peel, or someone else who lived when life in the workhouse was regarded as the greatest ambition to which the impoverished could aspire, supporters of the Government would probably use them to rebut my arguments. About one hundred years ago, there were many persons who would argue that the best way to treat the poor would be to allow them to die out altogether; in fact, some of them would have advanced as the strongest argument in favour of war the fact that it took the lives of many of the unemployed and poverty-stricken. If the Government intends treatment to be given at the Canberra Community Hospital to noncontributors, it is proving that it does not believe in its own arguments and that there is no reason at all for contributions to be made.
I wish also to refer to the discrimination against the women of the Australian Capital Territory embodied in the provisions of this ordinance. In discussing this matter previously, I referred to the attitude of the Assistant Minister for Health.
– I can save the honorable member trouble by telling him that the ordinance that I agreed to put through has been signed for two or three weeks.
– I thought it possible, but that does not prevent me from assuming that the views about women that he expressed on a former occasion are still held by him.
– The honorable member may assume what he likes, but he cannot know anything until he sees the ordinance.
– I have confidence in the Assistant Minister to know that he believes what he says, and says what he believes, and that he does not withdraw statements that he has made.
– Yes he does.
– I admit that the Assistant Minister withdraws in the House when it looks as if he may lose his Cabinet rank, but he does not withdraw statements that he makes outside. It is a coincidence that the honorable gentleman who made the ordinance which prevents housewives from voting at elections for the Canberra Community Hospital Board should have in the Cabinet a colleague who expressed similar views. I refer to the Treasurer (Mr. Casey) wh o, at a by-election in Victoria, declared thatwomen should not stand for election to Parliament. When the Canberra Community Hospital Board was established a certain lady of high reputewas one of the persons who nominated, andwas elected to the board. Under the present ordinance that lady is not only not entitled to nominate herself, but is also debarred from voting because she is a housewife. That fits in with the sentimentswhichwere expressed by the Assistant Minister,who said in effect, although these may not be his exact words, that a woman’s place is the home, and that her highest ambition in life should be to be awife and mother. It is the wives and motherswho are disqualified by the Assistant Minister’s ordinance from participating in any way, either as voters or candidates in elections for the Canberra Community Hospital Board. My opinion is that if there were to be any discrimination, the persons discriminated against should be the men, not the women, because it is the women who know most about these things. It is they who bear the children and rear them, and know about their troubles. When the ordinance was promulgated I took the opportunity on the motion for the adjournment of the House - I could not get a full-dress debate - to point out that under the ordinance, which gives liployalty to progress, the Prime Minister’s wife, who takes a great deal of interest in public affairs, would not be entitled to vote at the election. If the ordinance remains as it is, the wife of the Treasurer, if she lives in the new house which has been built for them, and registers as a Canberra citizen, will also be disqualified from voting at the next election. Are these two women not considered of sufficient intelligence to vote for the election of members of the Hospital Board? Housewives are debarred from voting, but the youngest typists and the most lowly clerks have full voting rights.
– The Assistant Minister has promised us a change for the future, but why did this happen at all?
– There is an explanation.
– In view of the fact that the Assistant Minister has promised to make a change, he is, perhaps, entitled to ask why I am now pressing for the disallowance of this ordinance. I remind him that immediately it was promulgated I gave notice of motion for its disallowance. That notice was placed at the bottom of the notice-paper and, although it was given early in June, before the election was held, no opportunity was given for its discussion for the reason that this Government, following precedent, used its majority to prevent the discussion of private members’ business. I protest as strongly as possible that a matter of such urgency as that which the House is now debating should not have been discussed until the matter at which the motion was aimed had become an accomplished fact.
Recently the Government passed through Parliament an amendment of the Acts Interpretation Act under which motions for the disallowance of new regulations must be disposed of within fifteen days of notice being given. That was a good step, but in my opinion it is even more necessary for the same provision to be made in respect of ordinances for the different territories, particularly the Australian Capital Territory, which has no representatives in this Parliament. There is, however, no such provision, and notices of motion given for the disallowance of ordinances are placed at the bottom of the notice-paper and, probably, never discussed because no opportunity is given by the Government for them to be discussed, notwithstanding the fact that the ordinances have full force from the day on which they are promulgated. It is important enough that regulations to which objection is taken should be discussed, but it is more important that ordinances, notice of motion for the disallowance of which has been given, should be discussed, even before they become law.
I do not intend to discuss all of the affairs of the hospital. I am concerned first with the restricted franchise, and secondly, with the fact that this Parliament was not allowed to vote on my motion for the disallowance of the ordinance before the election was held. It would appear that this ordinance is to be replaced, but I ask the House to record its disapproval of it by voting for its disallowance.
Motion (by Mr. Archie Cameron) put -
That the debate be now adjourned.
The House divided.
Majority . .7
(Deputy Speaker - Mr. Prowse.)
Question so resolved in the affirmative.
– I move -
That Ordinance No. 22 (Hospital Tax) of 1938, made under the Seat of Government Acceptance Act and the Seat of Government (Administration) Act, be disallowed.
I do not propose to speak at very great length, because I have already touched upon most of the arguments in moving for the disallowance of a previous ordinance on this subject.
For the information of honorable members, I point out that Ordinance No. 22 of 1938 was brought into operation on the 9th June last, a couple of weeks prior to the Parliament going into recess. Up to that time, those persons in the Australian Capital Territory who were in receipt of £2 a week or more were called upon to contribute to the Canberra Community Hospital. Those persons who had free board and lodging were regarded as receiving the equivalent of £1 a week, being 15s. a week for board and 5s. a week for lodging. It was decided that only persons who came within the scope of that particular ordinance should be entitled to vote for the election of six members of the Canberra Community Hospital Board, as it was then proposed to be constituted. A week later, this particular ordinance, for the disallowance of which I am now moving, was brought down. Under it, the rate of salary or wages to be received in order to be compelled to contribute, was lowered very considerably.
Any employee in the Australian Capital Territory who is in receipt of £1 a week and not exceeding £1 10s. a week is compelled to contribute 3d. a week; any employee receiving £1 10s. a week and less than £2 a week is compelled to contribute 6d. a week; and any employee receiving £2 a week or more is compelled to contribute 9d. a week.
Apparently this Government within recent months, following upon the enactment of certain legislation in this Parliament, has become so enamoured of the contributory system that it believes that no one in future should get anything for nothing. Step by step, it is increasing contributions as a condition precedent to entitlement to receive benefits, to which in the past members of the community believed they were entitled as a right. As, prior to the enactment of the national health and pensions insurance legislation, invalid and old-age pensions were granted as a right, so prior to this legislation those persons in receipt of less than £2 a week were not called upon to contribute to the Canberra Community Hospital. It may be suggested that there is not very much connexion between the national health and pensions insurance legislation and this particular legislation. I point out, however, that, first they are both based on the contributory principle; and secondly, that, because of that fact, those who are called upon to contribute up to 1s. 6d. a week under the national health and pensions insurance legislation, not being exempt as Commonwealth Government employees, will be called upon to contribute in addition up to 9d. a week and will thus be carrying a double contribution.
In the Australian Capital Territory, legislation generally is in a most unsatisfactory state, for the reason that, in respect of certain matters it is based on legislation of the Parliament of Victoria and in respect of other matters on legislation of tie Parliament of New South Wales. Apparently, whenever the Government found that the legislation of Victoria, New South Wales or any other State was too progressive, it decided to break fresh ground of its own. I suggest, with all due humility to the Minister concerned, that very serious consideration should be given to the consolidation of all the ordinances of the Territory. I take this opportunity to stress a point which I stressed when moving for the disallowance of the earlier ordinance, namely, that legislation should be enacted to the effect that ordinances shall not come into force until they have been discussed in this Parliament. Even if the Government will not go so far as that, it should at least provide definitely that ordinances, in addition to being laid on the table of this House within a certain period of their promulgation, should also be discussed by this House and cither accepted or disallowed within fifteen days of their having been tabled. That is the existing position in regard to regulations. Even this Government saw fit not so many months ago to amend the Acta Interpretation Act, to provide, not only that regulations must be laid on the table of this House, but also that they must be voted upon within a certain period. That amendment enabled notice of motion No. 2 - That Statutory Rules No. 75, 1938, being amendments of the Australian Military Regulations, be disallowed - to be moved this afternoon by the honorable member for East Sydney (Mr. Ward). I do not often consider that the Government is entitled to credit, but I give it some small measure of credit for having brought forward, at the suggestion of members of the Opposition, the provision that regulations must be voted upon in this House within fifteen days of their having been laid upon the table. I protest most strongly against persons in this community in receipt of £1 a week being compelled to contribute any amount whatever to a hospital service which should be free to them. I protest more strongly, if that be possible, against a person who is in receipt of no earnings whatever, but has free board and lodging, being called upon to contribute 3d. a week. I ask the Assistant Minister (Mr. Thompson), who is assisting the Treasurer and is one of the financial representatives of the Government, how it is possible for a person in receipt of no income whatever, even if he is getting free board and lodging, to pay as little as1d. a week?
– If that person were sick he would receive treatment. No person unable to pay would be neglected.
– The point is that a person receiving £1 and less than £1 10s. a week is called upon to pay 3d. a week, and that one who is in receipt of free board and lodging is regarded as being in receipt of the equivalent of £1 a week. The conundrum is, how can a person who is receiving free board and lodging, and no income, pay even1d. a week?
– Those who are providing him with free board and lodging would probably pay the 3d. a week for him.
– That is not suggested. I have not had the time to go exhaustively into the matter, but I have no doubt that there are certain provisions which deal with persons who do not pay their contributions. Certainly, there is power to compel payment by a man who is receiving £2 a week or more. What would be done to a man receiving free board and lodging if he got into arrears and did not earn a penny? The problem seems to me insoluble. It is like the old problem of what happens when an irresistible force meets an immovable object. This legislation is not of the type that we expect from a national government, in the twentieth century. Surely to goodness a government which rules the destinies of 7,000,000 persons is not going to stoop so low as to refuse to repeal this ordinance after the facts that I have related have been pointed out to it! We have progressed a long way beyond the stage at which persons were given votes only because they were contributors. The opportunity is here presented for the Government to undo as rapidly as possible the harm it has already done. There was no need for the unseemly haste which was displayed by the Government in every phase of its dealings with this matter. The first ordinance was issued on the 2nd June, and the second ordinance on the 9th June. It was laid down that only those who had contributed for six weeks before the 26th May of last year were to have a vote, and the elections were fixed for the 30th June. When, in accordance with the rights of honorable members in this Parliament, two notices of motion dealing with the subject were placed on the noticepaper, the Government, because it had the power to do so, prevented discussion on them before the 30th June. There was no excuse for such action. There was no good reason why Parliament should not have been allowed to discuss the matter. Though it is now an accomplished fact, the Government should, without delay, undo the harm, as far as lies in its power, by repealing the ordinance.
Motion (by Mr. Thompson) put -
That the debate be now adjourned.
The House divided. (Mr. Speaker - Hon. G. J. Bell.)
Majority . . . . 7
Questionso resolved in the affirmative.
Mr. SPEAKER (Hon. G. J. Bell).It has been suggested that, because of the meeting of the Empire Parliamentary Association this evening, the House should not resume after dinner until 8.30 p.m.
Sitting suspended from 6.12 till 8.30 p.m.
Question proposed -
That Mr. Speaker do now leave the chair and that the House resolve itself into a Committee of Ways and Means.
.- I rise to fulfil a. promise which I made to a considerable number of residents of New Guinea during a recent brief trip I made to our mandated territory. At the outset I wish to make it quite clear that I do not, on the strength of a few days in New Guinea, intend to set myself up as an expert on that territory, or to advance my opinions against those of experts on New Guinea affairs. When I was in New Guinea for the purpose of making some contacts, and getting some general idea of the territory over which we have at present, at any rate, sovereign rights, I found the residents in a state of very great agitation at the proposal they had heard that the advice of the Griffiths Committee respecting the proposed new capital site was to be departed from. Briefly the position is this: After the earthquake at Rabaul most people considered it would be advisable to seek another administrative capital site, although some said that, as an earthquake had taken place, another was not likely to occur for generations, and that it would be quite safe to remain at Rabaul. The Government, however, secured the services of a vulcanologist, who advised that it would be by no means safe to retain the capital at Rabaul. A committee, presided over by Brigadier-General Griffiths, and consisting of two other competent men, was set up to seek out, and advise the administration on, a suitable new capital site. Brigadier-General Griffiths is a man of very great experience, having had two terms as Administrator of the Mandated Territory, and his reputation stands, I think, higher than that of any man. in the world as an authority on that territory. Those associated with him were also men who had the confidence of all who know anything about the territory. After examination of every possible site, the committee advised that the new capital should be established at Lae, at the mouth of the Markham River. Shortly after that, as honorable members will remember, a pronouncement was made by the Minister in charge of Territories (Mr. Hughes) that the advice of the committee was to be departed from and that the new administrative capital was to be established at Salamaua. I have not the presumption to say that I am better able to make a decision in regard to this matter than the right honorable gentleman because, apart from other considerations, his trip through the territory was of a very much more thorough and comprehensive character than mine. Considering the time at his disposal, the area covered by him was amazing as was also the amount of investigation he was able to make. I am not, in any way, backing my opinions against his; I am solely fulfilling a promise to express the concern of the business people, and air people whom I met during my short visit, and of all the officials in the three towns I visited. The Minister may well wonder why they did not express those opinions to him. The explanation of that is a very simple one; they imagined that the report made by the commission was to be acted upon, and that the Minister was in New Guinea merely to acquaint himself with the details necessary for the change. It was only after his departure that they learned with astonishment that acting upon some advice tendered to him, he had decided to depart entirely from the recommendations of the Griffiths Committee. I first flew from Port Moresby to Wau, that rather spectacular capital of the. gold-fields, where everything from the milking herds to the dredges in the valley had been transported from the coast hy air. The officials and business people to whom I spoke at Wau were all definitely concerned about the decision to establish the new capital at Salamaua. They considered that it would be an excessively costly undertaking. Except for the air people whom I happened to be with, what exercised the minds of the mining and business men, however, was the necessity for securing cheap transport to the gold-fields. I want to be absolutely frank in dealing with this matter ; I have no desire to argue the case at all. The people at Wau are most exercised at the high freights, and they want a road to be constructed. All with whom I discussed the matter thought that to construct a road from Salamaua to the coast would be an expensive undertaking. Although it is only a short distance, the road would have to traverse three saddlebacks, 6,000 feet, high, in country with an annual rainfall of 200 inches, and maintenance costs would be excessive. There were also those who, although they regarded the road as a practical possibility, thought one of the three other alternative routes which were slightly longer seemed to offer better possibilities. The longest road of all would take in most of the gold-fields, the rich Markham Valley back to Lae, and the country along the coast to Salamaua. On account of its grade it would not be more expensive to build than the more direct road. Further, it would be cheaper to maintain and would probably not necessitate the imposition of higher freight -charges than would have to be imposed if a road were constructed across the three saddlebacks to which I have referred. In addition, when eventually the gold has petered out at Wau, such a road would be useful for developmental purposes for other portions of the territory. At Wau the chief concern was for the road which had been promised to the residents by the Minister. When interviewed in Sydney on my return, I made the suggestion that it might be well worth going into the possibility of reducing costs to the gold-fields by subsidizing lower freight rates by air. At present the miners estimate that the gold-fields may last fifteen years at present working costs, but if they can get reasonably low freight charges they consider that the life of the mines at Wau and the surrounding fields will be about 25 years. At present the freight on everything to the goldfields costs 2£d. per lb. on the average, or about £19 a ton. That rate does not give anything like an idea of the full expense of freight. When bootlaces, for instance, are sent up to Wau little or nothing is involved in freight, but when sold there the cost of a pair of bootlaces is loaded with an extra penny or twopence to cover freight. It will therefore be seen that the freight rate of £19 a ton represents only about one-half the extra cost imposed upon people living on the gold-fields. We must, however, take into consideration that the gold-fields would never have been opened up but foi air transport. My suggestion is that it would be well worthwhile to consider the possibility of granting a subsidy to the airlines amounting to Id. per lb., on condition that they brought freight rates down by -£d. per lb. Operators tell me it would be possible for them, to do so. I had no opportunity to go into the details of the suggestion; the theory was, however, that freights would be reduced to about £9 a ton and that the cost of the subsidy would not be greater than the cost of the maintenance of the proposed road.
– Is there not a tax on all gold produced in the territory?
– Yes, and the miners have a very definite right to some considerable expenditure of public money because, by the payment of royalties on all gold produced, they contribute very largely to the very buoyant state of the re venue in New Guinea at the present time. They have a right to expect something to be done to provide cheaper transport.
– Do they not get their share out of the gold they win?
– Every one realizes that they are making profits, but at the same time they are providing the major part of the revenue collected in the territory. I think every one admits that they are entitled to some consideration. No great capital cost would be involved in my suggestion for a subsidy to the air companies. At least the cost might not be any greater than interest and maintenance costs on a. new road. I advance this tentatively for consideration.
From Wau I flew down the Bulolo Valley, and saw the mining areas and the potential routes to the coast and the wonderful Markham Valley. Sooner or later that valley will became one of the most productive in the world. Lae, which is not much more than a company town, is most attractive, and has been developed largely by Guinea Airways, the company which has done most of the heavy airtransport work in !New Guinea. I was taken around Lae by people who have developed it and who with natural pride for other reasons would be. very glad if the capital were established there. Every thing that they told me seemed to be true, but naturally I discounted it somewhat. I gave consideration to every one of the thirteen points which the Griffiths Committee urged as reasons for Lae being the most suitable location for a new capital. It appeared to me that the Griffiths Committee had chosen well; but during my short stay I kept an open mind and did not form- a definite opinion. I looked forward with great interest to visiting Salamaua, where the proud townspeople would tell me of the virtues of that pretty little hamlet built on a tougue of land running out into the sea and forming a picturesque bay. I expected these people to give me good reasons why the committee’s report had bean departed from ; but, to my surprise, I did not find one person in Salamaua - I met nearly all of them - who gave any reason why Salamaua should be chosen as the-capital. The persons with whom I conversed included officials who have been in New Guinea ever since the expeditionary forces first occupied the Mandated Territory, and who have devoted the whole of their live3 to the wonderful administrative work that is being carried out, and which the honorable member for Kalgoorlie (Mr. Green) described so vividly and with such enthusiasm a few days ago. The more I heard of the administrative work that has been clone there by the district officers and assistant district officers, the more convinced I became that the Australian people have a very definite genius for colonial administration. Those men went there without the tradition or training possessed by officers of the British colonial service, but I venture to suggest that they, with no particular training or experience, have done quite as good a job as have the members of any other colonial service in the world. Their only interest in New Guinea - many of them are reaching the retiring age - is to see that their fine record is not blemished. They were greatly concerned at the proposal to establish the capital at Salamaua. They did not consider it impossible; tlie, did not condemn the site; they admitted that it was quite a good place in which to live, and that the climate was not bad. The doctor, who, like many others, was concerned at the expense that would be involved in developing a capital at Salamaua, said that they were continually working to check malaria, but it is notworse there than in other coastal areas in t.he Mandated Territory. Their objection was based on the great expense that would be involved, before one administrative building could be erected oil the site.
I had an opportunity to meet officials and business-men in the three centres I have mentioned, who are directly concerned in the controversy, but I did not meet one man who could not give a reason why the committee’s recommendations should be departed from, and 75 per cent, of them were definitely concerned. I have not risen in a spirit nf criticism. I know that the right honorable gentleman, who is responsible for the administration of the territory, visited New Guinea and conversed with the people on the spot, and that he is still diligently searching to see whether some more suitable site can be found. He is not going to be petty over this matter, and just because a decision has been made he does not propose to fight to the last, ditch in support of thatdecision.
I make these comments solely because of the promise I made to the people for whose work I have the greatest admiration. They were most kind and friendly to me while I was there and showed me the greatest hospitality. I believe I am the only member of this Parliament who has visited New Guinea since a decision was reached and they asked me to place their case before this Parliament. Since some publicity was given to an interview with me after my return to Australia I have received numerous letters from officials of extensive experience and high standing in the territory, supporting what I said, in that interview and asking me to go on with the job. The Government and the Minister can reverse the decision already reached.
Up to the present I have not given my opinion. I have merely reported what was told to me. If I may be permitted, after what may be termed a tourist’s week-end in the territory, to make a suggestion, it is that we should have one capital for the Territory of Papua and the Mandated Territory of New Guinea., and one admin istrative service for all our territories. We should have trained men for work in our own territory at Papua, the Mandated Territory of New Guinea, the Northern Territory, and Nauru. We should have h territorial administration service with one pension system, and an interchange of officers so that officials can go from one territory to another, and thus increase their already efficient work. I am quite convinced that our people have a genius for colonial administration and that we should support that genius in every way by building up a. substantial territorial service in which men will be trained for this type of work. I believe that the administration could be carried out more economically and efficiently if we had one capital with a deputy administrator at Lae, or some other suitable centre in New Guinea. Port Moresby is a beautiful site for a capital. It ha3 a dry season and a wet season; during the dry season it i-5 unattractive and is as dry as a chip. Distant 20 miles inland from Moresby there is an unlimited supply of water that could be brought in at very little expense - at much less expense than filling in even a very small area of the Salamaua swamp. Port Moresby could be made into an attractive capital, particularly as an administrator’s residence and administrative buildings are already there. An excellent capital for the two territories could be established at Port Moresby at only a fraction of the cost of filling in the swamp at Salamaua. It has been suggested that the adoption of such a proposal would, in some way, be a contravention of our mandate and would suggest that we wore assuming that the mandated territory is a colonial possession; but .1. do not think that any member of the League of Nations would criticize us for saving money in the administration of the territory or for making the service more efficient. There might be reasonable grounds for criticizing my proposal to establish the capital at Port Moresby because it would mean that the buoyant revenue of New Guinea could be used to bolster up the less buoyant revenue of Papua. As honorable members are aware, the administration of Papua is subsidized by the Commonwealth Government to an amount of £20.000 a year, whereas the revenue of New Guinea is so buoyant that, notwithstanding the great expenditure caused by the recent earthquake, a surplus was shown for the last financial year. I do not think there would be any difficulty in that respect, as Australia would still have to make up the deficiency in the Papuan revenue as it does to-day. It would be unfair to expect the one territory to make good a revenue deficiency of another.
I thought that my idea in this respect was original; but, as is often the case with original proposals, I found that it had already been suggested by fifteen or twenty persons. Such a proposal has been made by Sir Hubert Murray, the LieutenantGovernor of Papua, from time to time, and it has received considerable support. The honorable member for Parkes (Sir Charles Marr) also suggested that that recommendation should be acted upon, but nothing has been done. I have received letters from people in the Mandated Territory, whence it is thought criticism in this respect would come, urging me to go ahead with my suggestion, and telling me that the proposal has been made by competent authorities. They have pointed out that in Africa similar action has been taken by the British and French authorities. There would be no real objection from the League of Nations or from the taxpayers of the Mandated Territory. There are good reasons in favour of the proposal and I submit it for what it is worth.
– I shall deal with a subject that is agitating the minds of many Australian citizens, the subject of migration. The present Government has for years been anxious to secure as many immigrants for Australia as possible. Its policy appears to be, “ Populate at any price irrespective of any repercussions on our economic and social life “. The financial and business interests behind the Government have always advocated big migration schemes, as they realize that a surplus population means cheap labour, which brings in its train low standards of wages and living conditions. The Attorney- General (Mr. Menzies) has advocated a population of 20,000,000 for Australia. The Minister for Commerce (Sir Earle Page) recently declared that the minimum population required for Australia’s safety was 30,000,000. The Prime Minister (Mr. Lyons) and his colleagues have also deplored the falling off of the birth-rate. I refer the Government to a statement made recently by the Minister for External Affairs (Mr. Hughes) whom I am glad to see in the chamber. I intend to read several statements that he has made recently on the subject of migration and population. The right honorable gentleman said -
Create conditions that will encourage people to have children in Australia and migration will look after itself.
On another occasion he said -
Numbers in population amount to nothing. It is strong and virile people which matter to the nation.
He went on to say -
Some people seem to think numbers in themselves desirable,but that numbers neither ensure national security nor individual happiness is amply proved by the teachings of history and from our own experience.
The only sort of migration that this Government seems able to encourage is that from countries other than where English is spoken. The number of alien migrants to Australia is causing grave concern. During the last twelve months, protests have been received from every section of the community about the class of immigrant coming to Australia. I emphasize the fact that I am not opposed to immigrants of certain races; I realize that desirable citizens should have the right to come here, but I contend that there should be safeguards as to the status of those who come to Australia and compete with the Australian citizens for employment. One letter received from a person returning to Australia stated that there were about 40 Austrian Jews in the tourist class and a considerable number in the third class on the vessel in which he was travelling. He said that they openly declared that they were going to jobs in Melbourne and Sydney, and he voiced the fear that good Australians would thereby lose their jobs. Last year on one of its voyages to Australia, Australian passengers held a meeting on theOtranto and forwarded a petition to the Prime Minister protesting against the large number of southern Europeans who were entering Australia.
In the year 1937-38, the total net immigrants, excluding British, coming to Australia was 7,284. Of this number there were from Germany 571, most of whom were probably German Jews or of Jewish origin. Of the others, there were 1,078 Greeks, 2,896 Italians, 572 Poles, and 635 Yugoslavs. I say nothing against those immigrants ; I merely recite the figures in order to show the source from which immigrants flow to this country. The figures for July, 1938, show an increase as follows: Italians 244, Germans 125, Greeks 71, and Poles 111. On that basis, the net increase of alien immigrants for the whole of 1938-39 over the figures for the previous twelve months would be approximately 1,000. In 1937-38, there was a decrease of 652 in the number of British immigrants to Australia. That means that, instead of maintaining a population of British stock, we are losing it. We frequently boast that our population is more essentially British than any other dominion ; in fact, that it is more essentially British than the population of Great Britain itself ; but we find that Australia has lost attraction for the British people. ft was reported recently that numbers of tradesmen were returning to England from this country because they found that the rates of pay and living conditions in England were more attractive than here. The Government must accept the responsibility for that.
There are certain dangers connected with the influx of foreign migrants which should be immediately dealt with, but this Government has done nothing. The Minister for External Affairs loudly proclaimed that something must be done to stop the flood of alien migrants. Yet the Government of which he is an indispensable member does nothing and, apparently because of divided opinions within its own ranks, it can do nothing. There is an influx of migrants who arrive here in a penniless state. They are supposed to have £50, but we know that dummying has been and is still prevalent. This matter was referred to by the Premier of Queensland early this year and the Minister for External Affairs stated that he agreed entirely with him that the sum of £50 circulated so that it assisted scores of people to enter Australia.
The right honorable Minister for External Affairs made an interesting speech which was fairly fully reported in the Sydney Morning Herald of the 29th March last. When one reads that statement and then contrasts it with statements made by other members of the Cabinet that Australia needs a population of 20,000,000 or 30,000,000, one can understand why there is no real progress by the Government in the direction of protecting the people of this country. The following is an extract from the Sydney Morning Herald of the 29th March: -
In a speech at the National party’s conference yesterday, Mr. W. M. Hughes launched a vigorous attack on the migration policy of the Federal Government.
Melting Pot of Europe. “ For many years, America stood for a policy of making that country the melting pot of Europe. She got people there; but they did not melt - Jew and Gentile, the scum of Europe. All her sins have come home to roost. They are there now like gallstones in her bladder, and they cannot be cut out. “ We believe in a White Australia, and a British White Australia at that. This morningI was confronted with the information in my newspaper that Italians are coming to this country under some arrangement, at the rate of 300 a month, for an interminable period. And we are told that these arc the brothers, sisters, cousins, aunts, uncles, parents,fiances, and even grandparents of Italians who are here already. “ In the name of goodness,is there to be no end to this relationship? What are we trying to do? To whom does this country belong, to us or to Mussolini? The Soviet sends agents amongst us. I myself have departed many: but they came back again. We say we will not take orders from Moscow. Nor ought we to take orders from Mussolini.”
Intolerable Position. “I say nothing against any nation,” he continued, ‘ but this bit of the world belongs to us. So I say, let us be Australians and stand in a very definite and certain way. That way is that wo shall say how many shall come in. It is an intolerable state of affairs to be told that this may cause international trouble. It has come to this, in this age when peace talk fills the air. that it is sufficient to be strong to compel all others to bow to your will. Mussolinihas but to rattle the sword in the scabbard and we allow his grandmothers and his aunts and uncles to enter this country. And we are told it is by some arrangement. It is by no arrangement that has the support of the mass of the people of this country. “ I say to you tha t unless you close that door now you cannot close it at all. They will make themselves felt as a political factor in thisland, and will throw the weight of their political support with any party that will serve their purpose. And along with them they will carry other people from Southern Europe.I do not say anything against them. It is sufficient that they are different from us. We colonized this country and if is for us to develop our island continent along our own lines.”
It is apparent that the Minister for External Affairs is definite that there is need to close the doors to alien immigration. I do not subscribe to that belief, provided that we attract a good class of migrant and that we make the rates of pay and conditions good enough to attract people from other countries and first put our own people into employment. I do not want to see good Australians deprived of employment by aliens who are prepared to accept conditions which Australians will not accept in times of alleged prosperity. I have had to make appeals for Christmas aid to people in my own electorate and that applies to other honorable members also. They are workless and look upon themselves as a downtrodden race because we have in power governments that are unable to provide regular work at reasonable wages and conditions. I charge this Government with neglecting the unemployed people of this country while it is allowing people from other countries to come in.
In January, one of the leading papers contained the following paragraph regarding foreign migrants: -
One day a carrier dumped on the platform several packages of the filthiest and foulest luggage and bedding possible to imagine. It was reeking with vermin. It was claimed a few days later by a man, his wife and children ranging from a baby to a lad about eighteen years of age. Not one of them could speak a word of English. A lad who accompanied them explained that they had, a fortnight earlier, arrived from Italy, and that they had been living in one room and were starving. His mother had fed them until she could no longer do da
I do not suggest that that is common, but there is no doubt that alien migrants have not been supervised to the degree that they should be. Although the Government says that it is looking into the matter and that it proposes to inaugurate a scheme for the registration of aliens, nothing has yet been done. Undoubtedly alien employers are responsible for the sweating conditions which are so prevalent in some of the larger cities of Australia. I propose to quote some statements which I think will go a long way towards proving my contention that poor stock from other countries is harmful to Australia. Recently the Secretary of the Clothing Trades Union (Mr. P. Fallon) said that the influx of this class of foreigner was a definite threat to the clothing industry. He said -
We have endless trouble in trying to keep Australian awards and standards observed by these groups of foreigners. The authorities do not even insist that these migrants learn English when they get here.
The Chief Industrial Magistrate of Sydney (Mr. Prior), who I should say is unbiased, this year fined an alien £30 for not having paid award rates -
These eases provide another instance of the startling breaches by European aliens against conditions which are enjoyed under our awards. This time it is the boot trade industry.
Recently I made reference to foreign fruit and vegetable shopkeepers. In these cases, and others, there are particulars given of appalling sweating conditions against which employers of our own nationality cannot possibly compete while observing award conditions, which the majority of them, I believe, do.
I emphasize this. I can understand that some honorable members opposite are not interested in the sweating of the people. They do not bother about it because they realize that it means added profits for those who help them to obtain seats in Parliament. The quotation continues -
In this case three employees, according to statements to Mr. Moloney, of the Boot Trade Union, worked 72½ hours a week, Monday to Friday, and I think, possibly on Saturday, which would make 87 hours a week, or a little short of two weeks’ work in one week!
A similar state of affairs exists in Victoria also.
The Assistant Minister (Mr. Thompson) recently denied that the flow of foreign migrants to the Commonwealth was sufficient to impair Australian working standards. Apparently the Assistant Minister holds views different from those held by the Minister for External Affairs. He does not want to shut the door on immigration. He wants alien migrants to continue to come in so that the people who conduct big business and support this Government will have a cheap supply of labour to draw on.
He went on to say that even if 10,000 migrants reached Australia last year and were added to the unemployed the effect would be unimportant. I put it that the Assistant Minister fails to realize that the obligation to keep these men when they are out of employment devolves on the States, and that a large number of the unemployed are pleading for something better than more relief work, and will continue to regard themselves as outcasts so long as this Government persists with its present policy. Undoubtedly there are aliens who are undermining Australian standards of living. Many of them who are employees accept low wages, while others who are employers pay low wages. I emphasize that this is not (true of all ; but, unfortunately, it is true of some. Recently, the American Consul in Sydney referred to the difficulties which the United States of America had experienced in connexion with foreign migrants who, he said, “ remained foreign “. He went on to say -
Instead of advancing the interests of the country they have gone to. these people create a section of their own nationality bo that when any trouble arises, it means that instead nf being good Americans they really favour and uphold the nation to which they originally belonged. T have heard on more than one occasion the same argument put forward. When I was in America, some years ago, I was astonished to find there was not an alphabetical telephone book, whole sections being devoted to the different nationalities. 1 was told that those people would not become assimilated with the rest of the community.
That is an emphatic statement of what has resulted from the policy of admitting all and sundry to the United States of America. While I repeat that I have no objection to migrants from foreign countries coming here, I, nevertheless, think that there is a definite obligation on the part of this Government to see that those who are out of employment, and are really looking for work - and there are thousands of them - are provided with work before others are brought in to take whatever work is available. I am not speaking against Italians as a race, because I realize that there are good citizens among them. Some of them join up with the trade unions and become sticklers for trade union conditions. Some time ago, in a northern part of Australia where a number of Italians were working, an Australian asked them, “ Why don’t you leant English?” The reply was, “ Why don’t you learn Italian ?” The Australian Natives Association Advocate of May, 1938, published the statement that, in the Queensland canefields, and on the Shepparton and Murrumbidgee irrigation areas, there have grown up real Italian communities which refused to become Australians ; and, what is worse, they are teaching their children to be Italians and not Australians. The New South Wales education authorities recently demanded that these children be taught English, but. they received a rather insolent refusal and the suggestion that the Australians should learn Italian. The article in the Advocate went on to say -
It is depressing to notice that newspapers ure pandering to them by printing the news in Italian; and worse, that a New South Wales radio station now broadcasts various sessions in Italian.
Some time ago, in Parliament, the Government was asked whether it would see that there was no broadcasting in foreign languages, but the Minister representing the Postmaster-General merely brushed the question aside.
The Minister for Trade and Customs (Mr. White) is making efforts to secure migrants from Denmark and Holland. He has said : “ We are eager to have many Danish farmers.” As the result of the recent” delegation to England, we have been told that we cannot expect to increase our export trade of primary products in the British market; and the Government lias also stated that we shall have to look to foreign markets for the disposal of our surplus products. Perhaps the Minister for Trade and Customs will explain why he is so desirous of securing migrants to go on the land when to-day there is such a limited market for the sale of our primary products. Thousands of Australian farmers and the sons of farmers, who are fully conversant with farm life and Australian conditions, have for years past been endeavouring to get. on the land. To give a few examples: [n 1925 there were 1,200 applications for one block of land at Moree, New South Wales. In 1926 there were 3,949 applications for a farm in the same State. In 1936 there were over 1,000 applications for land to be opened in that State. In 1937 there were 4,500 applications for eleven blocks of land at Walgett, New South Wales. I put it that with such conditions it is time that the Government began to look aftei* those who are willing to take up land or go into jobs, instead of encouraging foreign migrants to come to this country who cannot be properly regulated subsequently. I should like once more to make it clear that I am not opposed to the influx of people from other countries on account merely of their nationality. In fact, I realize that some of them - probably the great majority of them - who are prepared to become absorbed into the life of Australia a.nd maintain the standards that have been established here, eventually become good citizens. But I do criticize the policy of this Government and of preceding governments which have held similar political views, because, with complete power in both chambers, they have not made the country sufficiently attractive in an economic sense to induce the people of British stock to came to Australia and make this the land of their permanent adoption. One cannot help viewing with considerable regret the spectacle of men who have as artisans come here arid obtained employment, actually leaving that employment and returning to the country whence they came because of their belief that the wages and conditions there were considerably more attractive. There was a time when it was possible for us to say that by reason of the fewer working hours and the better conditions generally, people were eager to come to Australia. That is the case in New Zealand to-day, because that dominion has a Labour government with a truly national outlook. Many persons are leaving Australia for New Zealand, because there is practically no unemployment over there and artisans are being sought for the purpose of carrying on the work of the country. Would that that could be said of this country! Would that it was not necessary for any one to indicate a desire to close the door on migrants from any other country! Would that we had a condition of affairs which induced migrants to rush to Australia ! I believe that if the works which are crying out to be done were undertaken, we should have that condition of affairs very soon. I despair of this Government ever rising to the occasion and embarking on a programme that would induce people to come here of their own volition. I do not believe, that this country has even temporarily reached the limit of its powers of absorption. I am convinced that if there were established a definite programme of public works on a nation-wide basis, with the guarantee of security of employment over a period of years, there would be an improvement of the birth rate; and that would be the best way to add to our population. The Government has talked of this sort of thing year in and year out, but while there are Ministers who want to go on with it there are others who are opposed to it, and because of indecision within the’ Cabinet, Australia remains in a condition of population stagnation. Perhaps it is expecting too much from a Government in which there are such divided opinions. The Minister for External Affairs would put a complete stop to the entry of aliens into Australia, while the Attorney General (Mr. Menzies), the Deputy Prime Minister (Sir Earle Page), and other Ministers would welcome them until, the population had reached 20,000,000 or 30,000,000. The Minister for the Interior (Mr. McEwen) would register them, and put a dog collar on them. Other Ministers are apparently content with the existing state of affairs. For my part, I would not and do not object to their coming here provided the Government first made serious efforts to absorb the many good Australians who are out of employment, in remunerative and constructive work which is crying aloud to be put in hand ; work which could be undertaken with but little if any delay if the credit of the nation were used for peaceful purposes in the same way as it has been used in time of war. We read quite recently, when the threat of war was over us, that the Government proposed to call the Commonwealth Bank Board together. We have to assume the purpose of that meeting. I believe it was to make credits available so that, in the event of our being involved, money would be provided to whatever amount the Government required. Why does not the Government act similarly in time of peace; why does it not ask the Commonwealth Bank Board to finance projects which are waiting to be under- taken? If it is serious in the matter of defence, why does it not undertake the standardization of the railway gauges which for many years it has boasted it approved? That matter could and ought to be dealt with separately, and I trust that it will be during this period of the Parliament. Honorable members opposite who proclaim themselves in favour of it should tell the Government what they think about the unnecessary delay. When one realizes that we might have been called upon to defend this country at any particular point against an enemy which was attempting to land a force of men, and that we could not shift one division of troops over a distance of 2,000 or 3,000 miles in less than a month, one wonders whether the Government is serious, or was merely endeavouring to attract votes during election campaigns. In the course of at least three elections in recent times the Prime Minister of the day stated that it was necessary to proceed with the standardization of the railway gauges; yet practically nothing in that direction has been done. The Government could undertake a hydrogenation scheme so that we would have our own petrol supplies in time of war, yet it has made no attempt to do that. It has given very little encouragement to projects for the discovery of oil in this country. There are opportunities for the carrying out of practicable schemes for the conservation of water in areas which would not be subject to coastal attacks. These would be absolutely necessary if we were involved in war. There is any number of works, which I do not propose to mention in detail at this stage. When some Ministers continually make statements that are in conflict with the wishes of the majority of the Government, is it any wonder that we cannot make any progress? Because the Government cannot agree on any forward policy, Australia is suffering. It is nearly time that the people of Australia woke up and changed the Government. It should put in power a Government which would do some real good for Australia.
.- I join in the congratulations that were voiced this afternoon at the settlement of the coal strike. I think that a very great debt of gratitude is due to the Premier of New South Wales (Mr. B. S. Stevens) and his Ministers. This afternoon honorable members opposite, and particularly the Leader of the Opposition (Mr. Curtin), made certain references to the attitude of the Commonwealth Government towards the coal strike. We, of course, know that when the Leader of the Opposition and other honorable members opposite visited Newcastle in June last, if they had any object it was to feed the discontent in the minds of the coalminers so that the community would be held by the throat and as many men as possible would be put out of work in order that a little ‘political advantage might be gained.
– That is a cowardly statement.
– It is not a cowardly statement. I knew that the industrialists in this House would so describe it. Their attitude towards this Government is cowardly. [Quorum formed]. Everybody knows that the State Arbitration Court was the proper authority to deal with the dispute. It is self-evident that the Labour party of New South Wales, and indeed of the Commonwealth also, has gone back on the arbitration system as a method of settling disputes. The only condition under which the Labour organizations now will go to arbitration is that if they win they will not strike, but if they lose, they will strike.
– Hear, hear!
– I am glad to hear the applause from the rebel of East Sydney. That doctrine has now permeated the entire Labour party, including the Curtin group in the federal sphere. The visit of the Leader of the Opposition to Newcastle was not for the purpose of settling the coal strike. The honorable member for Hunter (Mr. James) knows very well that if they had advised the coal-miners wisely, and had refused to allow them to be led by a few red-hot communists - if they had told the miners plainly that the Arbitration Court offered the only channel for the successful settlement of the dispute, the strike would have been off long ago, and the Leader of the Opposition would not have been trying to place the onus on the
Federal Government to effect a settlement. The Labour Premier of Queensland said only yesterday that he would call a compulsory conference of the parties under the authority of the Arbitration Court. Honorable members opposite know that they are talking with their tongues in their cheeks when they try to lay the blame on the Federal Government for not intervening. The strike began in New SouthWales, but the Labour party induced the coal-miners in Victoria and in Queensland to go on strike, though they had no grievance, in order to bring the dispute within the jurisdiction of the Federal Arbitration Court, and so that there would be an excuse for dragging the Federal Government into it. They failed in their purpose, and now they must accept the settlement with what grace they can, though the Leader of the Opposition still holds the Federal Government blameworthy for not having embroiled itself in the dispute. The fact, is that no party has ever shown itself as willing as the United Australia party to give good conditions to the coal-miners and other workers.
– The honorable member does not mean that..
– I do mean it, and I can make that statement after having lived for 40 years in an industrial area. The honorable member knows that the United Australia party has done more to bring about industrial peace than any Labour Government has ever attempted to do.
Now that the Leader of the Opposition has returned to the chamber, I want to repeat in his presence that he spoke with his tongue in his cheek during the last three or four weeks when referring to the coal strike. He knows that his visits to Newcastle were not for the purpose of settling the strike, but rather for the purpose of encouraging the coal-miners to hold out for their demands, and to embroil the Commonwealth Government in a dispute for which he knew it had no responsibility. The honorable member is a journalist, and he knows that Labour officials went from State to State, first to Victoria and then to Queensland, inducing the miners in those States to go on strike in order to make the dispute a Commonwealth matter. I am glad that the Prime Minister had more sense than to be fooled by the Leader of the Opposition, or by any of the leaders of the coal-miners, who were leading them to their own destruction. When the Bavin Government was in power in New South Wales, the coalminers went on strike, and stayed out for nearly fifteen months. During that time, they inflicted tremendous hardship on themselves, their wives, and children, and did great injury to the industries of the country. Then they went back to work on the very same conditions that had been offered to them fifteen months before, and they were fair and equitable conditions. I often sympathize with the Leader of the Opposition because he has such irreconcilables in his party as the honorable member for Hunter (Mr. James), the honorable member for East Sydney (Mr. Ward), and the honorable member for Dalley (Mr. Rosevear). They drive him into positions that he would never take up of his own free will, but, he must bow to their demands in order to retain his leadership. I am certain that he would never have adopted the attitude he did in regard to the coal strike if he had been able to follow his own judgment. When he visits Sydney, and I see him wandering about the Commonwealth offices there, I know that he is worrying about whether he will ever be able to control the irreconcilables of the Lang group.
The honorable member for Hunter has made frequent efforts to have established an industry for the production of oil and petrol from coal, and I now seek the cooperation of other honorable members for this worthy purpose. I believe that the Government could be more industrially minded than it is. In regard to soma of the bigger industrial affairs, it is not taking as wide a view as it should.
Honorable members interjecting,
– During the last election campaign, the Leader of the Opposition visited my electorate and told the people that if they voted for me they would be voting for conscription, which would result in the sending of every mother’s son of them to the front in the next war. I told the people not to be misled by such fantastic suggestions as those put forward by the
Leader of the Opposition, or the honorable members for East Sydney or Dalley, or any of the other Labour leaders. They tried to tie a conscription tag on to our party, and some of them have even been silly enough to repeat their statements in this House. They ought to know that if they want to win an election, the first requisite is to be honest in their statements, and then, perhaps, some one might believe them.
I think that the Government has not discharged its responsibility in regard to the development of the coal industry, particularly in regard to the production of oil from coal. The honorable member for Macquarie (Mr. John Lawson) and I have made frequent visits to Newnes, and at last a scheme is under way for the production of oil from shale. In regard to the production of oil from coal, the lack of success can, I believe, be traced to the refusal of the State government to permit the opening up of coal-mines for this purpose. I understand that, at the behest of Mr. Baddeley, Mr. Lang issued a direction that no more coal-mines were to be opened for the selling of large coal ; that in future all coal sold must come out of the mines and leases already in operation. As we know, Mr. Baddeley is the mining magnate of Newcastle, and he asked Mr. Lang to impose that restriction. I am sorry to say that Mr. Stevens has endorsed the minute issued by Mr. Lang. I should like the Leader of the Opposition to collaborate with the Prime Minister with a view to the granting of a lease which the New South Wales authorities have refused. I have before me a copy of an application made by Associated Motor Transport of New South Wales to the HonorableRoy S. Vincent, M.L.A., Minister for Mines. The letter states -
On the 13th July,1938, on behalf of our organization, an application was lodged with the warden’s clerk at Picton; for a coal lease in the Burragorang Valley.
The portion applied for was M.L . 10,640 acres, Parish Werriberri, County Camden, and with our application we lodged a bank draft of Sixty-five pounds (£65) to cover the first year’s rent, £64, plus £1, inspection fee.
Our principal object, when the lease is granted, will be to erecta plant to produce petrol and oil, and it may interest you to know that the members of Association Transport, control over 20,000 vehicles, mostly trucks,
And it would be safe to estimate that their weekly consumption of petrol alone exceeds 250,000 gallons.
You are probably aware that the principal by-product from coal under the low temperature carbonization process is smokeless fuel, and the subscribers to the application lodged, are quite confident that there will be no difficulty in disposing of all the smokeless fuel we can produce.
We understand that you have no objection whatever to a lease being granted with a stipulation that no raw coal be sold. I would point out that, if we are compelled to erect a crushing plant to reduce all the big coal to a gauge that could be treated in the retorts, it would involve an expenditure of many thousands of pounds in addition.
Our consulting engineer has advised us that he quite anticipates that before very long we would find it to our advantage to treat all coal hewn for the production of oil and petrol, but in the meantime we feel that you should not raise any objection to our selling the big coal.
I shall not read the whole of the application, but, the concluding paragraphs are as follow: -
The State Government has entered into heavy commitments in conjunction with the Federal Government, to an expenditure upon the Newnes oil-from-shale proposition, and surely the application of those prepared to exploit the possibilities of extracting petrol and oil from coal without in any way relying on Government financial aid, is deserviing of your sympathetic support at this present juncture, when the public is looking forward expectantly to the development of new and substantial industries in this mother State of ours.
We have on many occasions read with pleasure in the newspapers where the Premier, Mr. Stevens, was reported to have stated that he and his Ministers are most anxious to see this big industry of producing oil and petrol from coal established in New South Wales, and consequently those associated with me in this undertaking have been amazed to think that any harassing restrictions whatever, should be imposed on private enterprise which is ready and willing to find the capital necessary to develop this new and important industry, calculated to be of such value to our commercial welfare as a people.
– Whatis the honorable member prepared to do for the workers?
– The coal-miners say that they do not desire new mines to be opened, and various governments of the day are listening to them under threat of groat industrial disruption. [ Quorum formed.]
The letter concludes -
I would like to say in conclusion, that we will, immediately we receive your reply, which we anticipate will be favorable, commence operations on the lease at Burragorang.
The reply received from the Premier of New South Wales, Mr. Stevens, was forwarded to Mr. J. G. D. Arkins, M.L.A. It is dated the 12th August last, and reads as follows: -
With reference to your personal representations on behalf of Mr. R. J. Fitzgerald, secretary of the Associated Motor Transport of New South Wales, relative to the proposal to establish a plant for the production of oil from coal in the Burragorang Valley, I desire to inform you that I took this matter up with my colleague, the Minister for Mines.
Mr. Vincent informs me that the application lodged by this association was dealt with by the mining warden at Picton some few days ago and that his report is now to hand.
As you are aware, the Government’s policy in regard to applications of this nature, is to refuse the granting of new leases over Crown coal where the sale of such coal in its raw state would enter into competition with the coal produced by existing collieries.
Whilst it is also the policy of the Government to encourage the production of oil from coal, the position of the present coal-mining industry is no less important and, in consequence, the Minister has advised me that the application made by the Associated Motor Transport of New South Wales would only be favorably considered under the following conditions: - 1. (a) For the recovery of oil from coal.
For the production of smokeless fuel.
For consumption of coal on the land in the recovery of such oil, and in the productionof such smokeless fuel and in winning the coal from the said land.
That the lessee shall not sell or market or permit to be sold or marketed any coal won from the said land.
In the circumstances it will be appreciated that unless the company is prepared to accept the above conditions, the application for a lease to mine for coal must be refused.
It is idle to talk about the defence of Australia and the production of petrol and oil in this country if the coal-miners refuse to allow new mines to be opened and the State governments comply with their wishes in the matter. That was certainly the attitude adopted by Mr. Baddeley when he was Minister for Mines in the Lang Administration in New South Wales. Associated Motor Transport of New South Wales was offered a mine at Greta, but this was not accepted owing to the coal not being of a nature suitable for the purpose for which the company desired to use it. The para graph in the company’s application relating to this matter reads -
I understand Mr. J. R. Lee, M.L.A., had a conversation with you, with regard to our application, and he states that he gathered that you would have no objection to our working a mine at Greta, where no restrictions would be imposed upon us. You perhaps do not know, but we do, that Burragorang coal produces infinitely better smokeless fuel than Maitland coal. We admit that Mai t land coal, if treated would give better results as regard oil and petrol, but the smokeless fuel from Maitland cool under the process that we will use, is much more friable and softer than the smokeless fuel produced from Burragorang coal. Burragorang coal would stand handling without breaking up, but we have grave doubts about the smokeless fuel from Maitland coal standing up so well to this test.
I consider that the Commonwealth Government should show a desire to assist in the production of oil from coal by persuading the Government of New South Wales to grant the leases applied for, so that the community might have the benefit of the production from Australian coal of a commodity essential to the success of our defence system. Thousands of pounds have been spent in sending Sir David Rivett and the Government Fuel Adviser, Mr. Rogers, overseas to investigate methods of producing oil from shale, but no results commensurate with the expenditure incurred have been obtained. The company to which I have referred is prepared, without a government subsidy, to remove coal from the earth and endeavour to produce oil and petrol from it. The fact that experts have declared that oil cannot be produced profitably from coal would not necessarily prevent Australian engineers from inventing a plant to simplify methods of production and make the extraction of oil from coal a payable proposition.
In future, when there is a disturbance in the industrial field, honorable members should urge the workers to refuse to be influenced by hot-heads who wave the flag of rebellion. A few red-hot Communists
– They put the honorable member into this Parliament.
– No. Although the trade unions deny that they are affiliated with the Communist party, they are first cousins to the Communists in industrial matters. The honorable member knows that very well and in the Reid electorate he depends upon their support. [Quorum formed.] I am sorry that interruptions of this sort are permitted to take place, but of course I know that one honorable member is employed by the party opposite to hold up the proceedings of the House by constantly calling for a quorum. That shows the mentality of honorable members opposite perhaps more than anything else.
– Order ! The honor.orable member must address his remarks to the question before the Chair. Any honorable member has a perfect right to draw attention to the state of the House.
– I repeat that the honorable member for Reid, and his colleague Mr. Lang, have proved themselves no friends of the workers. As a matter of fact when Mr. Lang was in power in New South Wales, he was instrumental in putting more men out of employment than any other man in Australia, and, perhaps, having regard to population, more than any man in any part of the world. The honorable member for Reid knows that during the timber strike he and his colleagues, particularly Mr. Garden and others of similar kidney, formed the rearguard of the strikers while the foolish timber-workers in the vanguard felt the policeman’s baton.
– The honorable member has exhausted his time.
.- Recently the honorable member for Kalgoorlie (Mr. Green) dealt with the request of New Guinea residents for the construction of a road, authority to raise money for which was granted by this Parliament to the New Guinea Administration during the la3t period of the session. The honorable member also dealt with the selection of a new administrative capital site. To-night we have been privileged to hear from the honorable member for Flinders (Mr. Fairbairn), following his short visit to the territory, tho views of certain residents with whom he came in contact. Other honorable members have also been informed of the desires of a substantial portion of the population of New Guinea in regard to necessary improvements. Some years ago I, myself, had an opportunity to visit Papua and the Mandated Territory of
Now Guinea, and although that visit is not of comparatively recent date I am sufficiently conversant with local conditions there to speak with some knowledge upon the subject. 1 remember well that as far back as 1921 I had occasion to speak to the present Minister in charge of Territories (Mr. Hughes) in regard to medical services in New Guinea. Since then I have been able to make further visits to the territory and have been able to secure more recent information in regard to its needs. The suggestion of the honorable member for Flinders that there should be closer co-ordination between the administrative services of New Guinea and Papua is indeed long overdue. This country lost a golden opportunity in the past in not utilizing the valuable services of that most distinguished gentleman, Sir Hubert Murray, in bringing about coordination of the two services. If any man has proved himself worthy of his place and position in an administrative sense it is that esteemed gentleman. The two services should have been co-ordinated when we first took over the mandate. If that had been done we should have been able to take advantage of the long and varied experience of Sir Hubert Murray in inland matters, and a greater measure of success might have attended the development of the Mandated Territory than has been experienced up to the present. I do not wish it to be thought that I desire in any way to decry the good work that has been accomplished in the territory. We have been able to achieve much in regard to the welfare and general advancement of its native population ; but at the same time we would have profited greatly had we taken advantage of the ripe experience of the gentleman who administers the adjoining territory of Papua. Sir Hubert Murray and those associated wilh him in an administrative capacity have been able to secure the whole-hearted confidence and goodwill, not only of the white population of Papua, but also of almost the whole of the native population. I trust that even now the Government will consider the wisdom of co-ordinating the two services. It is a deplorable fact that in the past Papua and the Mandated Territory of
New Guinea hare looked upon each other almost as foreign territories.
Following a large public meeting held at Wau, a telegram signed by Mr. Neal, M.L.C., chairman of the meeting; Mr. Allan, of the New Guinea Mining Association ; Mr. Laws, of the Morobe Citizens Association; Mr. Spence, of the Wau Branch of the Australian Labour party; and Mr. Taylour, of the Chamber of Mines, was despatched to the Minister in charge of Territories, and to several other honorable members of .this House. ‘The telegram reads as follows : -
Largest public meeting ever held Morobe district took place Wau yesterday meeting convened by New Guinea Mining Association Morobe Citizens Association Chamber Mines and Wau Branch A.L.P. At this meeting it was resolved firstly that the road Salamaua to Wau by most direct route possible be commenced immediately and that this meeting declares itself definitely opposed alternative circuitous routes via Markham and/or Wampit this motion passed unanimously. Secondly, that Wau he selected site new capital as it can function immediately with considerable saving in expenditure further cost estimated at £150,000 additional road Salamaua Lae would be eliminated this motion carried with one dissentient. Thirdly we .-is a- community register extreme resentment to remarks which we say are definitely untrue published Sydney Morning Herald by Mr. Fairbairn on his return to Australia from here. Fairbairn arrived Wau two days before notified date accompanied by chairman and manager Guinea Airways. He made no effort interview repre sentatives organized bodies Wau remaining two hours only. Remainder his visit confined Lae as guest Guinea Airways. Fairbairn then proceeded Salamaua Australia without returning Wau. This meeting states that Fairbairn’s remarks cannot be disinterested and reflect views of those opposed construction of road this meeting records its resentment of action of this politician motion was carried unanimously. ‘Meeting terminated with unanimous vote of confidence in Minister for Territories and whole community support his efforts to secure construction of road which is vital to future of Morobe district. On Saturday 24th large and representative public meeting held at Edie Creek and unanimously adopted, foregoing resolutions. Morobe. residents determined road shall be built by shortest route possible and that the control of merchandising and transportation services at present existing under trading agreement between major firms will bo broken.
That is the considered opinion of a very representative and influential section of the community in New Guinea, which cannot be ignored. I trust that the Minister will use his powers to see that the construction of the road to the coast is commenced as soon as possible. I do not know the extent of his powers, but 1 know that the Commonwealth Government is to guarantee the loan. I have no doubt that the Minister and the officers of his department will have a substantial influence in determining the- route to be followed. I therefore ask that the claims of those most vitally interested be considered, and that the most direct practicable route be followed. As tilings are, the airways companies have a monopoly of the transport between Salamaua and Wau. It is not right that a community of the size and importance of Wau should be in the hands of a monopoly.
I am not in a position to say whether Wau, Salamaua, or Lae is the best site for a capital, but it would appear that Wau has substantial claims to selection. [ understand that not only is it the largest town on the mainland, but also it is practically free from malaria. Moreover, it is situated where it cannot easily be attacked and it is regarded as one of the most attractive places in the territory. E do not know the merits of the claims of Salamaua and Lae, but seeing that those on the spot, as well as the honorable member for Kalgoorlie (Mr. Green), who has visited these places, favour Wau, I ask that the claims of that place be fully investigated. I hope that the Minister will come to a. decision which will not only bo acceptable to the residents, but also lead to the greater prosperity of this territory.
– I listened with considerable interest to the honorable members for Flinders (Mr. Fairbairn) and Hindmarsh (Mr. Makin), but I am afraid that it is beyond my ingenuity to act upon the suggestions of both honorable gentleman. I know that both of them are greatly in earnest, and I assure them that the claims of Lae, Salamaua and Wau will be carefully considered by the Government in an endeavour to arrive at a wise decision which will be satisfactory to the bulk of tho people. As to the road, the Government must necessarily be guided to a great degree by the reports of the engineers. For the information of honorable members, I mention that there are five possible routes. Reports have been received in respect of four of them; the fifth report is expected within about ten days. When it arrives, the whole matter of the route will be carefully examined. The Government has to consider that the main purpose of the road is to provide the people of Wau with speedy, convenient and economical access to the sea coast. As they will pay for its construction, they have the right to have the best road that is possible.
The remarks of the honorable member for Hindmarsh with reference to Sir Hubert Murray gave me great pleasure, for I regard that gentleman as one of the greatest pro-consuls that the British Empire has had. It is with no small satisfaction that I inform the House that his appointment was, perhaps, the first official act in my ministerial career. Upon his judgment I place a high value. I shall take advantage of the honorable member’s suggestion and will get in touch with Sir Hubert Murray in regard to some of the matters which have been mentioned to-night.
– I draw attention to the effect on the wheatgrowers of Australia of the excess freights charged on wheat by overseas shipping companies. Recently I asked the Minister for Commerce (Sir Earle Page) whether he would try to arrange a conference with the overseas shipping companies with a view to the reduction of their charges. The right honorable gentleman replied that a conference had been held with the shipping companies recently, and that whilst substantial reductions of freight would be made in respect of other primary products, no satisfactory arrangements in regard to freights on wheat had been made. He said also that the companies thought that the matter was not one for the Government. I have received numerous requests from wheatgrowers in New South Wales and elsewhere -in regard to this matter. Only recently I Avas asked by a large representative gathering to bring this matter before Parliament, and to stress its urgency. The present low price of wheat has agitated the minds of wheat-growers throughout Australia for some time. It has also been the subject of conferences between Commonwealth and State Ministers, with the result that recently a decision to fix the price of wheat for home consumption was made. A reduction of the freights charged by the overseas shipping companies is of equal importance. I say advisedly that rates should be at least 50 per cent, lower than they are to-day. A reduction of freight by 6d. a bushel would be equivalent to an increase by 6d. of the price paid to the wheat-growers of Australia. The Bruce-Page Government struck a deadly blow at the interests of Australian wheat-growers when it disposed of the Australian Commonwealth Line of Steamers. While the Commonwealth owned those vessels, freights were about one-third of the rates charged to-day. The existence of that line of steamers was a protection to Australian wheat-growers and wool-growers; but so strong was the pressure brought to bear on that Government by vested interests that the vessels were disposed of. Since then the wheat-growers of Australia have been urging the Commonwealth Government to protect them. Notwithstanding that the Acting Leader of the House (Sir Earle Page) is the Leader of the Country party, which is supposed to represent the primary producers, no definite action has been taken by the Government to arrange a conference with the shipping companies with a view to obtaining lower freights on wheat. Obviously, the’ Government has no intention to take such action. That being so, what is there to prevent the shipping companies from increasing their charges still further, thereby striking a further blow at the wheat-growers of this country? I have always advocated a home-consumption price for wheat; but I suggest that if the Government had displayed half as much energy towards a reduction of the freight on wheat as it has shown in connexion with a home consumption price, the wheat-growers of Australia would be in a much better position than they are to-day. I enter my emphatic protest against the inaction of the Government in this matter. When associations of farmers, upon whom the economic security of Australia largely depends, urge that something be done, it behoves the Government to make, earnest efforts to arrange a conference with a view to obtaining a substantial reduction of wheat freights. Especially at this juncture, when the price of wheat is so low, a reduction of the overseas freights would be of considerable advantage to the wheat-growers of this country. Recently parcels of wheat were being sold in my electorate at ls. 10½d. a bushel ex silo which is about one-half, the cost of production. At present wheat freights are about 50 per cent. higher than they should be. If reasonable freights were charged the farmers would be receiving at least 2s. 6d. a bushel. I trust that the Government will make some attempt to protect the wheat-growers in the direction I have indicated.
.- The honorable member for Gwydir (Mr. Scully) is under a misapprehension in regard to wheat freights. If he were speaking of the rates charged eighteen months ago his statements would be justified, as at that time the freight on wheat was 55s. a ton, whereas to-day it is only 32s. a ton or a decrease of more than 40 per cent. The honorable member also referred to the reduction which has been made, by arrangement with the Government, on wool, fruit, and I think meat. I would remind him that the freight on wool is over £9 a ton and the freight reduction about 12 per cent., yet he complains that an equivalent reduction has not been made on wheat freights. The reduction on wheat freights has been in operation for more than eight months. Freights have been gradually reduced since excessive freight rates were prevailing owing to the heavy demand for space for the conveyance of iron, steel and other metals required in many parts of the world for rearmament purposes.
– The vessels of the Commonwealth line of steamers carried very little Australian wheat.
– Yes; that is not very well known; they took a few parcels but not cargoes. The honorable member for Gwydir also stated that that line of ships charged only one-third of the present freight on wheat, but that is quite wrong, as one- third of the present rate of 32s. a ton would be 10s. 8d. Wheat was never carried by the vessels of the Commonwealth line at 10s. 8d., that is 3½d. a bushel, and I do not think that any other commodity has been transported from Australia to England at that rate. The honorable member should not mislead the House or the farmers by making statements which cannot be substantiated.
– What freight was charged by the Commonwealth line of steamers?
– About 25s. a ton.
– What freight was charged after the vessels were sold ?
– It was lower, as I shall explain later.
– We cannot expect the same freights which prevailed at that time because of the subsequent increased cost of running ships.
– Wheat has been carried at under 20s. a ton.
– There may have been a few occasions on which tramp steamers conveyed wheat from Australia to England at 18s. a ton when there was a prospect of securing profitable back loading to Australia. But such freights have not been in force for twenty years. Westralian Farmers’ Limited, in an endeavour to protect the wheat-growers, chartered a line of steamers, and the rates which they charged were in conformity with those charged by the combine. They found by experience that at 32s. a ton huge profits were not being made, and that the actual cost of running the ships was in the vicinity of 27s. 6d. or 29s. 6d. a ton. A reasonable freight may be less than 32s. a ton, and I, as a farmer, admit that if freights were reduced by 3s. a ton, which would be equivalent to a penny a bushel, it would be of benefit to the farmers. It is futile to speak of unduly high freights to-day, although eighteen months ago there was justification for the protests which were being made. It is not within, the power of the Commonwealth Governmentto prevent the shipping companies from making a profit out of their business. It cannot compel an owner to send a ship here for a cargo if a higher rate is obtainable from Argentina; it is all a matter of competition.
– Does not the honorable member think that the price charged is excessive ?
– It is slightly above what should be charged; but I would not say that it is excessively high. Anything between 25s. and 30s. a ton is a reasonable freight from Australia to Great Britain, although naturally, the wheat farmers would he pleased to receive a reduction of freight equivalent to a penny a bushel ; but when freight to London is10¼d. a bushel it is nonsense to say that it should be reduced by 8d. a bushel, and the price of wheat proportionately increased; it is misleading the farmers.
.- About a year ago, I brought under the notice of the Attorney-General (Mr. Menzies) the conditions under which those engaged in the butchering trade in Innisfail and surrounding districts are employed. They are supposed to be working under an award of the Commonwealth Arbitration Court, but, owing to the manner in which the award is abused in that locality, they are being most unfairly treated. For this, the present AttorneyGeneral is largely to blame. On a previous occasion, I drew his attention to the fact that at a butcher’s shop in Tully, in front of an hotel where I sometimes stay, the employees are engaged from 3.30 a.m. until 8.30 p.m., not actually supplying customers, but preparing meat for delivery next day. It is useless to say that the conditions of these employees cannot be improved. Mr. Blakeley, who was appointed as an industrial inspector, has done excellent work, and similar duties should be undertaken by another inspector. If the Commonwealth Government does not wish to appoint an additional inspector, it should arrange with the State government to allow one of its inspectors to enter these business establishments to see that the award is being observed. When State inspectors have visited some butchering establishments, they have been told in fairly plain language what they should do. When I mentioned the matter previously, the Attorney-General said that he would look into the matter; but, shortly afterwards, he left for Great Britain and since his return has been occupied on other important duties. Almost daily, representations are being made to me to see if something cannot be done in the interests of these employees. . There is no reason why men who are supposed to be operating under an award should work from 4 o’clock in the morning until 10 o’clock at night. Their only remedy appears to be a strike, but if they should do so, they are told that they should be reasonable and go to the Arbitration Court. Many of these employers are scabbing on the award and action should be taken to compel them to obey the law. I ask the Attorney-General to give immediate attention to the matter in order that justice may be done. I hold no brief for the Commonwealth Arbitration Court which, I believe, does not include one judge who has any sympathy with the workers at any time, but in this case the court is not to be blamed;the matter is purely one for departmental action.
– I shall look into the matter raised by the honorable member.
Question resolved in the negative.
The following paper was presented : -
Land Tax Assessment Act - Applicationsfor relief from taxation dealt with from 1st January, 1937, to 30th June, 1938.
House adjourned 10.41 p.m.
The following answers to questions were circulated: -
d askedthe Treasurer, upon notice -
– The answers to the honorable member’s questions are as follows : -
These figures comprise amounts of tax - (a) for which extension of time for payment or permission to pay by instalments has been granted; (b) assessed and not due for payment at the 30th June; (c) allowed to remain unpaid pending amendment of assessments; (d) allowed to remain unpaid because of relief applications; (e) overdue for which no extension had been granted.
y asked the Minister for Commerce, upon notice -
– The answers to the honorable member’s questions are as follows : -
n asked the Minister for the Interior, upon notice -
How many Jews have arrived in Australia each month during this year, and also for the years 1930 and 1937?
– The information is being obtained.
r asked the Minister for Defence, upon notice -
– The answers to the honorable member’s questions are as follows : -
y asked the Minister for Defence, upon notice -
– The answers to the honorable member’s questions are as follows : - 1. (a) Costs vary from £230,000 to £500,000 (sterling), according to class and tonnage;
b ) no figures are available.
Movements of Naval Vessels.
n asked the Minister for
Defence, upon notice -
H.M.A.S.’s Yarra and Swan to Broome for the unveiling ceremony of the monolith to Captain Dampierhas been cancelled “owing to precautionary measures “ ?
– The answers to the honorable member’s questions are as follows : -
n asked the Minister for the Interior, upon notice -
– The answers to the honorable member’s questions are as follows : -
n. - On the 29th September, the honorable member for Bass (Mr. Barnard) asked the following questions, upon notice -
The information desired by the honorable member is as follows : -
It is estimated that all permanent and temporary government employees will be accommodated in houses by the 30th June, 1939. The number of persons other than government employees who will be without housing accommodation at this date will be affected by the number who are accommodated by private building. This reply is to be read in conjunction with the figures given above.
Cite as: Australia, House of Representatives, Debates, 6 October 1938, viewed 22 October 2017, <http://historichansard.net/hofreps/1938/19381006_reps_15_157/>.