15th Parliament · 1st Session
Mr. Speaker (Hon.G. J. Bell) took the chair at 2.30 p.m., and read prayers.
– Will the Prime Minister make to the House a statement Betting out the bills that the Government proposes to pass before the adjournment for the short recess, which, according to press announcements, is intended?Can the right honorable gentleman also indicate when it is proposed that the Parliament shall rise for that recess?
– The business which it is intended to ask the House to dispose of before an adjournment is substantially that which appears in the first seven orders of the day on the notice-paper. Doubtless there will be, in addition, a few minor measures of an urgent character; and it is also hoped that there may be a measure relating to broadcasting, but of that Iam not sure. In order to dispose of this business by a reasonable date, I intend to ask the House to sit on four days next week and thereafter. I can sec no particular reason why we should not be able to complete the business that I have mentioned by something like the 9th June. I hope to do so.
– I think that the right honorable gentleman is an optimist.
– I am; but I have had considerable reason to be one. However, as honorable members well know, it is essential that we should have a fairly substantial break before the beginning of the budget session. In order to allow that to be done, as well as to present the budget reasonably early and, if possible, to avoid crowding the business into the last week or two of the. year, my desire, quite frankly, is that we should endeavour to dispose of the present list of measures by about the 9th June, then adjourn for perhaps a couple of months, and meet for the presentation of a reasonably early budget. That, naturally, is a mere tentative statement, and depends a good deal on how matters develop.
– In view of the frequent statements by the Prime Minister that he leads a “ Full-steam-ahead Administration “ when will he make a statement setting out in broad outline the proposed legislative programme of his new administration for, say, the remainder of the present year in much the same way as a government’s programme is set out in a Governor-General’s speech?
– I point out that I have already done something which in my experience is rather unusual here. I have indicated in general, what business I propose to ask the House to deal with for the rest of the present sittings.
– But that is all.
– As for the rest of the question, which is really a suggestion that I should now be in a position to give the details of the Government’s plans- -
– I asked “When?”
– My answer to that is–
– Give us your policy.
– I thought that was what the question meant. I shall give it to the honorable gentleman as soon as it is ready, and that will be too soon for him.
– In connexion with the proposal of the Government to refer to the Tariff Board, for public inquiry and report, the matter of the establishment of the tinned plate industry supposedly at Whyalla, South Australia, is the Prime Minister aware-
– Order ! I request honorable members not to ask whether the Prime Minister or any other Minister is “ aware “ of something ; questions must be phrased in direct term3 of inquiry regarding some matter for which the Minister is responsible.
– Has the Prime Minister seen in the press the report that the Premier of South Australia, and certain federal members, are bitterly disappointed? Is it absolutely necessary ‘co refer this “matter to the Tariff Board ?
– The Prime Minister promised that it would be referred to the Tariff Board.
– I want an expression of opinion from the Prime Minister. I should like to know, further, whether the Government is aware-
– Order !
– Is it a fact that .some of the Tariff Board’s reports have taken over two years to complete? If the Government considers that in this case a report by the board is necessary, and in view of the large expenditure proposed by the Government of South Australia
– Order ! The honorable member is introducing into his .question a lot of matter that could well be eliminated from it.
– Will the Government make this a special emergency inquiry, and expedite a decision upon it, in view of the facts that I have mentioned?
– I am aware of the disappointment expressed by the Premier of South Australia, and sympathize with it. because this matter relates to a very large prospective industry with which, of course, a State like South Australia would be closely associated if it were established there. But the Government has decided upon a public inquiry by the Tariff Board because, although it feels as a matter of general principle that i* is most desirable to encourage the establishment of large industries of this kind in Australia, it is aware that there are users of the product of this industry who are themselves concerned in the matter, notably, for example, in connexion with the canning of foodstuffs, and particularly the canning of Australian fruits “for export. In order that those who are affected, either in relation to their costs or otherwise, by such a proposal as this, may have an opportunity to express their views, the Government decided upon a public inquiry, believing that that was the fair and equitable thing to do. The inquiry will not lead to undue delay in arriving at a decision because, as I pointed out yesterday, the Government of the United Kingdom, which, under the terms of the Ottawa Agreement, had the right to three months’ notice before having evidence submitted, agreed to waive that right and to substitute for three months a period of eight weeks. In these circumstances, it is anticipated that, the reference having been made, the inquiry can be conducted with great expedition and a report be received without any delay.
The honorable member for Indi asked me yesterday if I would lay on the table of the House a copy of the reference to the Tariff Board in this matter. I now do so.
– I ask the Minister representing the Minister for Goi.nm.ercc to. state the intention of the Government concerning the admittance of potatoes from New Zealand after the expiration of the existing agreement this week? I should like to know whether the Minister has any departmental or personal opinion to express as to the benefit that the admission of potatoes from New Zealand is likely to he to the Australian consumers? Mr. SPEAKER. - The honorable member is not entitled to ask for the Minister’s opinion.
– The matter is now under the direct consideration of the Government. I could express an opinion upon it, and shall do so at the proper time in the proper place.
– Will the Prime Minister lay upon the table of the House or of the Library a copy of the most recently made treaty between the Commonwealth Government on the one part, and the Government of Italy on the other part, and also a copy of the earlier treaty between the same governments whichdealt, not only with trade matters, but also with quotas of Italian migrants to Australia ?
– I shall inquire into the matter for the honorable member.
– I ask the Minister for External Affairs whether the declared policy of the Government to participate actively in Pacific politics has found expression in any representations on the situation at present existing at Amoy?
– No direct representations on that subject have been made by the Commonwealth Government.
– Will the Minister for Defence inform me whether . the Government contemplates building, another target ship in the near future for practice for the Australian Navy? If so, will the vessel be built in Australia, and will the Melbourne Harbour Trust, and other similar authorities in Victoria, be given an opportunity to tender for the work ?
– Various target ships have been built for the services in Australia. I have no doubt that this practice will also be followed in the future. I shall see that the authorities mentioned by the honorable member are given an opportunity to tender for such work.
Installation of OIL-BURNING BOILERS
– On the 11th May, the honorable member for Hunter (Mr. James) asked me a question concerning the installation of oil-burning boilers in the new section of the Sydney General Post Office. I am now able to inform him that these boilers are required for central heating only, and not for the provision of power. As considerable mail-handling machinery is installed in the sub-basement of the building, and a good deal of mail matter is handled there in the preliminary sorting stage, it is highly desirable that the surroundings should be kept clean and free from dust. This would be impossible if coal had to he brought in and ashes carted away. It is for that reason that oilburning boilers are being installed. I have some personal knowledge of the necessity for this change. I feel sure all honorable members will realize the necessity to keep the atmosphere there completely free from dust.
– Yesterday, the honorable member for Melbourne Ports (Mr. Holloway) drew the attention of the Prime Minister to delays in dealing with claims for the variation and interpreration of awards of the Commonwealth Courts of Conciliation and Arbitration covering work on the waterfront in Victoria. The Prime Minister has referred the matter to me and I have already had inquiries made, and am taking action to see that the matters to which the honorable member referred will be dealt with very shortly.
– On the 17th. May, the honorable member for Perth (Mr. Nairn) asked the Prime Minister for an assurance that certain amendments of the Bankruptcy Act would be brought down during the current session of the Parliament. The Prime Minister undertook to communicate with me upon the matter, and he has now done so. I can assure the honorable member that the bill will be proceeded with, but the date of its introduction depends on the exigencies of parliamentary business. I hope to be in a position to introduce the bill at an early date.
– Seeing that semigovernmental borrowings in the Commonwealth now exceed, in the aggregate, the total amount of the loans arranged by the Loan Council for State governments, I ask the Treasurer whether the Government intends to take any action to coordinate local government borrowings with Loan Council borrowings, particularly as most of the semi-governmental loans are guaranteed by the State governments and therefore, in the final analysis, become the responsibility of the Commonwealth Government? Semigovernmental borrowings have increased from £6,000,000 in 1934-35 to £15,000,000 in 1937-38. Loans for State governments have dropped in the same period, from £21,000,000 to £13,000,000.
– Order ! Questions are intended to elicit, not to impart, information.
– The problem to which the honorable member has directed attention is of very great importance. It has engaged the attention of the Commonwealth Treasurer for some time and has also been the subject of discussions at meetings of the Loan Council. The Minister assisting the Treasurer (Mr. Spender) and I have the matter under consideration at present. The discussions will be continued .not only between ourselves, but also with the State governments, with the object of evolving some working rule to govern the matter. .
– Oan the Minister for Defence inform me whether it is a fact that Mr. Hanlon, Secretary for Health and Home Affairs in the Government of Queensland, has caused considerable concern among the people of . that State by a sensational charge that the Commonwealth Government proposes to abandon the north and destroy all. property there in the event of an invasion of Australia? Is there any foundation for such an extraordinary allegation? Is this Mr. Hanlon the same gentleman who, in March, 1936, advocated the return of New Guinea to Germany?
– I understand that Mr. Hanlon made some such statement as that referred to by the honorable member. There is no truth whatever in the somewhat fantastic idea that this Government has any intention to desert the
North. I have been informed that on one occasion Mr. Hanlon is alleged to have said that no doubt it would be desirable from the point of view of Australia, to have strong European nations interested in the Pacific and that Australia would feel less lonely if the former German portion of New Guinea were handed back to Germany. Whether bc is still of the same opinion I cannot say.
– That is a complete misrepresentation of what Mr. Hanlon said.
– In the absence of the Minister for Supply and Development, I ask the Prime Minister whether he has any knowledge of a report that was recently submitted to the Government !by the Commonwealth Advisory Panel on liquid fuel? Has the Government considered the report? May the document be laid upon the table for the information of honorable members?
– I shall refer the question to my absent colleague, the Minister for Supply and Development, and ask him to supply an answer to the honorable member.
– In view of the Prime Minister’s, statement yesterday in respect of the manufacture of motor cars in Australia, is it the intention of the Government to alter the quotas or in any way to discourage the present method of assembling motor cars that are 80 or 75 per cent, of Australian material?
– I direct the attention of the honorable gentleman to the fact that his question refers to a matter of policy on which the decisions of the Government no doubt in due course will be made clear.
– If the policy outlined yesterday is to be carried out in the immediate future, would the Prime Minister advise the companies at present engaged in the assembling of motor cars in Australia to invest money at the present time in new works?
– I have many functions, but the function of giving financial advice is not one of them.
– I ask the Prime Minister in his capacity as Treasurer whether, since more than £1,000,000 has been collected by means of the imposition of a duty on motor chassis for the specific purpose of providing a bounty for the manufacture of complete motor vehicles in Australia and since it appears that more than sufficient exists to pay any contemplated bounty, he will consider remitting this tax at an early date?
Ma-. SPEAKER.- Order! An opinion should not be expressed in asking a question.
– I am afraid that all 1 can say is that, as Treasurer, I shall look with considerable reluctance on any proposal to forgo any source of revenue for at least a couple of years.
– In the absence of the Minister for Supply, I ask the Minister for Defence whether it is a fact that Hatcraft Proprietary Limited, of Melbourne, has again received the major part of the contract for the manufacture of military hats, and whether it is a fact that that company does not comply with the award for its employees given by the Commonwealth Court of Conciliation and Arbitration ?
– The answer is “ No “ to both parte of the honorable gentleman’s question.
– Has the Government decided to proceed with, or ;i bandon, the Defence Secrets Bill?
– The honorable member knows as well as I do that it is not customary to answer a question on policy.
Reorganization - Speech by Prime Minister. - Publication of Programmes.
– I ask the Prime Minister whether if it is the Government’s intention to alter the personnel of the Australian Broadcasting Commission in order to make it more representative of various sections of the community, it is intended to regard Labour as a section of the community which should have representation ?
– That is a matter which falls within the department of my colleague, the Postmaster-General, but the whole question of the future of the Australian Broadcasting Commission, including the matters referred to by the honorable member, is now under consideration.
– Only one broadcasting station, station 2UE, broadcast the speech of the Prime Minister in Sydney on Monday night, and I should like to know from the Postmaster-General whether the Australian Broadcasting Commission received and rejected an application for a broadcast of the speech over the national stations! If so, what were the grounds cf the rejection?
– I am not aware that any such application was made, but honorable members are aware that political broadcasts are within the discretion of the commission.
Last week the honorable member for Martin (Mr. McCall) asked me whether funds could be made available for the advertising of national broadcasting programmes in the press. I take it that he was referring to the Sydney press. I made a certain reply, which I understand has had misinterpretation. I referred to the press of ‘Sydney, not the press of Australia.
– Is the Prime Minister able to state yet whether it has been decided to relinquish national insurance?
– I propose to make a statement on that matter later to-day.
– The Prime Minister stated in the press some time ago that he proposed to have regular debates on international relations in this House. The first was staged recently. When does he propose to stage the next?
– No decision has been reached on that point.
– I was unable to hear the remarks of the Minister for Social Services when he laid on the table papers in connexion with the Darwin Hospital. I now ask him if he can assure me that the construction of that hospital will be proceeded with at an early date?
– I. have already given notice of a motion which I shall move to-morrow in regard to this matter.
– It has been stated in the press that the Minister for Social Services made a statement in Melbourne that the Government proposes to introduce a new national insurance bill, which will have a very much wider scope than the bill previously introduced. I should like to know whether, in making that statement, the Minister was speaking his own mind or that of the Government?
– If the honorable member will read again that report he will find that it does not say exactly what he has suggested it says. The Prime Minister has indicated that he will make a statement in regard to this matter during the present sitting.
Recommendations of Manpower Committee
– Will the Minister for Defence, before he proceeds with the National Register Bill, make available all the recommendations or reports made to himself or to the Government on this question ‘by the Man-power Committee ?
– Has the Prime Minister’s attention been directed to statements made by Mr. Mair, the Treasurer of New South Wales, pointing out the disaster that is likely to occur to industry as the result of a rapid increase of interest rates? Will the right honorable gentleman comment on Mr. Mair’s suggestion that the credit facilities of the Commonwealth Bank should be expanded by the issue of treasury-bills ?
– The only comment I am in a position to make at present on Mr. Mair’s statement, which I have read, is that I agree that it is desirable that interest rates should not, as far as they can be controlled, rise. That matter has been already the subject of discussion between myself and my advisers.
– Will the Treasurer have a return prepared showing the amount of State government -borrowings and semi-government borrowings during the last three years?
Bill returned from the Senate without amendment.
Debate resumed from the 17th May (vide page’ 466), on motion by Mr. Caret -
That the bill be now read a second time.
.- The bill, which is at present before the House, provides for the re-allocation of work as between certain of the departments of State and, in addition, makes certain statutory provisions for wider aspects of work which has hitherto been done by the Defence Department and. certain of the other departments. Up to the present there has been, beyond any doubt, a very unequal distribution of the work as between various departments, and although I am not of the opinion that this present bill, if transformed into a statute, will not put an end to that unequal distribution of work, I believe it is in principle a desirable step in the right direction. It presents to us very vividly the wider aspects of defence, and it brings before the members of this House in a very vivid form the fact that defence considerations are no longer limited to the various arms of the military and naval forces. Any war of the future is bound to be a war of a total character, a war in which the whole of the resources of the nation would have to be thrown in, and one in which no section of the people and no individual would be free from participation in some direct or indirect way. If that is in prospect, if that is even a remote contingency, it is desirable that plans should be made as far ahead as possible. So, we have a proposal to create a separate Department of Supply and Development. With all of the proposals that are embodied in this bill go the skeleton provisions for all that is covered in the broad term “national planning “. The actual provision, of course, for the manufacture of armaments and munitions and of all forms of ordnance by the Government itself have been fairly substantially covered in the past by the establishment of various arms and ordnance factories, explosives and small arms establishments, and so on; but it is quite impossible, through the medium of government institutions alone, to provide sufficient materials to meet the contingency of a nation participating in a major war. So, we have seen during the last year or so the establishment with government assistance of annexes to private industrial establishments which have as their objective the rapid stepping-up of production of all war material in time of emergency. The only alternative to this co-operation with private industry would be the entire provision by the Government of the nation of adequate facilities for the production of the wherewithal necessary for carrying on a war. We all hope so intensely that war will not come that we view with considerable disquietude any proposal that the Government should itself establish sufficiently comprehensive factories and establishments to provide against such ‘a contingency. It seems to me that to call upon private industry with the aid of government assistance to make provision against such an eventuality is sound in principle. The general idea that the Government has been working on up to the present in this regard has been to provide for the establishment of shadow factories, as they are known in Great Britain, or annexes, as we know them here, as adjuncts to existing major industrial organizations. Already munitions factories have been established side by side with great industrial concerns engaged upon peaceful production. These factories have been equipped with the assistance of Government finance with the machinery and. plant necessary to turn, out certain of the requirements of war. The firms concerned have received orders to produce shells, sea mines, and other war material, so that they may give the plant a trial run. “When the order has been completed the men engaged upon it return to their peace-time avocation of making ploughs, motor cars, &c. Thus, side by side with the ordinary industrial establishments, there are potential war-time establishments equipped for the manufacture of special w.ar-time products, and within a stone’s throw are thousands of skilled artisans ready, at the blow of. a whistle, to turn from their ordinary work to the making of munitions, should it be but necessary to defend the country against aggression. In preparing for what is called total war, however, one must consider more than the construction of the mere instruments of war itself. Consideration must be given to the supply of foodstuffs for the people, particularly if those things are not ordinarily produced within the country. We must think of the possibility of the blockade, or partial blockade, of our coast, and we must give our attention to providing substitutes for those necessaries of life not produced in the country. Thought must also be given to providing storage facilities in safe places for essential foodstuffs and materials. All of these matters will come within the province of the new Department of Supply. Were it possible for one nation, by an act of. will, to keep clear of war, then this country so intensely determined to maintain the peace, would not find it necessary to make these preparations. Unfortunately, we have to realize that, while it makes two to make a peace, it takes only one to make a war. At any time we may find ourselves faced with the need for defending ourselves.
It will be one of the duties of the new department to maintain co-operation with the State governments. In a country governed under a federal system, such as we find ourselves saddled with, the central authority is without sufficient power to do all that is necessary to prepare the country against an emergency. Therefore, a system of close co-operation between the State governments and the central government is necessary. The first step in this direction was taken by the late’ Government when the honorable member for Calare (Mr. Thorby), first as Minister for Defence, .and later as Minister for Works, submitted to the State governments a list of public works which would ordinarily come within the range of State government activities, and indicated the order of their importance for defence purposes.
It is also necessary to consider the establishment of certain essential industries so that the country may be sufficiently self-supporting to carry on in time of war. As the honorable member for West Sydney (Mr. Beasley) pointed out, it is very important that provision should be made for maintaining adequate supplies of fuel, and for the storage of fuel supplies in safe places. In view of the possibility of our overseas trade being interrupted, it is necessary to provide additional refrigerated space for perishable products. We have to face the fact that, if. this country were engaged in a major war, there might be a serious dislocation, not only of our overseas . shipping, but also of coastal shipping, .and it is not generally realized just how serious that might be. I have been informed on good authority that seven times as much cargo is carried, between Melbourne and Sydney by sea as by rail. Therefore, we must consider the ability of the railways to handle traffic should the coastal shipping services be interrupted. We must remember that there would be an increased demand for rail accommodation for the carriage of troops and raw material, as well as for -the carriage of cargo ordinarily conveyed by sea. Moreover, although our iron and steel mills are situated on the coast, it may become necessary in time of war to transport iron ore and limestone to the smelters by land instead of by. sea. There may .also be need to carry coal interstate by rail. Here is a large field of inquiry for the Department of Supply and its Minister. We must further consider whether we can allow the existing breaks of railway gauges to continue indefinitely.
It is stated in the bill that one of the functions of the new department will bo to make arrangements for the production of fighting .aircraft in Australia. The general plans for this work have already been laid. I believe that it will be one of the very important functions of the Ministry for Supply and Development to establish a satisfactory, and, as far as is possible, a permanent basis of understanding between that ministry and the various trade union organizations throughout Australia, so that the man-power of industry may be able to function fully and happily in the circumstances contemplated. All of this envisages a most comprehensive review of the Australian national picture so far as industries and its possible war-time necessities are concerned. I hope that the Minister who is to bo engaged upon this work will devote his attention to the necessity for decentralizing, as far as possible, the various new production units which are contemplated. Here we have a great continent from the point. of view of size, with no less than half of its population huddled into six capital cities on the seaboard. Most of these cities are in a most exposed position to attack from any naval force. It seems to me that this country cannot possibly regard itself as being adequately protected, as far as its essential wartime industries are concerned, while these are all congregated in- the six capital cities and a couple of great industrial cities, which are also on the seaboard. I hope that the Minister will direct his attention to that aspect of this national planning against the possible emergency of war, and establish new defence industries in inland centres which, from a military point of view, are safe. With all of these things in mind I find myself very favorably disposed to the general principle of divorcing these activities from the Defence Department and placing them under the” control of the new Department of Supply and Development. I understand that this action was contemplated shortly after the conclusion of the Great War, when the munitions establishments of the Defence Department were set up on an administrative basis which would make it easy to divorce them from the purely defence administration, and become the nucleus of a new department of supply. The action contemplated then is now being taken. So much for the general principles of this proposal.
I wish now to examine the details of the bill before the House. Notwithstanding the fact that there are so very many prominent and concrete aspects of all of those things which we have in mind, the bill itself is the merest skeleton. The most vital feature about it is the complete absence of any concrete proposals which the House could examine, discuss and pass judgment upon. It deals only in the most general terms with the functions of the new Department of Supply and Development. It is, in effect, nothing but the blankest of blank cheques ever given by this Parliament to the Executive. There is scarcely a clause in this bill which does other than say that the Governor-General may decide this; the Minister may do that; regulations with regard to this or that may be passed ; the Minister may prescribe this, or regulations may prescribe that. It is in effect a proposal that this House should surrender to the Executive almost every vestige of authority it possesses under the Commonwealth Constitution. Not since the War Precautions Act has there been brought before this House any other measure which has proposed to give to the Executive such unlimited authority as will be given by this bill. If the Minister for Supply and Development were to be clothed with the authority necessary to enable him to set himself up as the Führer of Australia, he would require nothing more than what is enclosed within the covers of this particular measure. Should this legislation be passed by Parliament in its present form the Minister would find himself with almost unfettered authority to engage in negotiations in the name of the Government for the establishment of industries. He would find himself with unrestricted power of interrogation, investigation, and inquisition so far as industries and business undertakings are concerned, and, in my opinion, he would even be able to exert a good deal of authority with regard to the conditions of labour in certain great industries, among them not merely those immediately concerned with the production of munitions as the phrase is generally interpreted.
We read in the definitions of the bill that “ munitions “ means almost anything and everything. It means “armaments, arms and ammunition, and includes such equipment, machines, commodities, materials, supplies or stores of any kind, as are, in the opinion of the GovernorGeneral, necessary for the purposes of defence”. Nothing could be more comprehensive than that. The Minister would find himself clothed with authority to deal with almost anything which might be included in the definition of “ goods “. It is stated in the bill that “goods” includes “ all kinds of personal property, and also includes anything growing in or on land and mineral or other deposits “. It is actually defined to include money. The authority given to the Minister with respect to “ goods “ and “ munitions “ covers practically the whole gamut of production and personal property. All of these things are to be dealt with by the Minister in the various guises in which he will appear. On one occasion he will appear acting with the authority of a decision by the GovernorGeneral which means, of course, the Executive Council; at other times he will be “ the Minister as prescribed in the act “. The regulations will clothe him with unlimited authority, not only to legislate by regulation, but also to prescribe penalties by regulation. He may prescribe almost anything that the wit of man can think of.
– Those penalties are restricted to a relatively short period.
– They are restricted to a five-year period.
– I mean that a three months period is prescribed for the maximum penalty.
– Three months in gaol, yes. That is the maximum penalty which can be imposed, but the Minister will have power to prescribe such penalties for at least five years.
– In the case of indictable offences a penalty of one year’s imprisonment may be imposed.
– If the offence is prosecuted summarily, the maximum penalty proposed is a fine of £50 or three months’ imprisonment, and if it is prosecuted upon indictment, the maximum penalty is a fine of £500 or imprisonment for one year. The Minister, in exercising the authority with which it is proposed under this measure to invest him, will negotiate with industries which will come within the scope of our general defence preparations. Most of his negotiations will, no doubt, take place with the big industries of Australia, our great monopolies, because it cannot be denied that in a country with so sparse a population as ours, new industries can best be established on the most economic and efficient basis in the form of monopolies. That, I think, is generally conceded. We are asked to give a blank cheque to the Minister to carry out negotiations of this kind with any interests which he may choose, and to give him power to commit Parliament, almost irrevocably, to carry to fruition any undertakings which he may enter into. I have little doubt that, if this particular provision is adopted, we shall hear something of further activity on the part of the Broken Hill monopoly. That company, to-day, has almost a monopoly of the iron and steel industry of Australia; its tentacles are reaching out into almost every branch of that industry. It enjoys a monopoly of galvanized iron and wire production. Its influence is apparent in the company recently formed on a monopolistic basis for the production of rolled sheet steel in Australia, and it is a substantial shareholder in the Commonwealth Aircraft Corporation. If the proposal of the Government to place the production of tin-plate on a monopolistic basis is carried to fruition, or if the Government goes ahead with its proposal for the production of motor cars in Australia, I have little doubt that this company will be found in the mesh. We are now asked to leave all of these things to arrangement by the Minister.
The bill embodies some very admirable statements of policy. It provides that one of the functions of the department will be to administer matters relating to “ arrangements for ascertaining costs and for the control and limitation of- profits in relation to the production of munitions “. That is a most desirable statement, but it is nothing more than a statement of policy. We expect statements of that kind to be made on the floor of the House, but we do not look for them in an act of Parliament. Eather should an act translate policy into concrete form. No such thing has been done in this case. The proposals embodied in this measure are set out far too indefinitely to reassure me. Clause 5 is, perhaps, the main provision of the billIt provides that the matters to be administered by the department shall be matters relating to, first, “ the provision or supply of munitions.” We have seen that the definition of “ munitions “ covers practically everything that one can think of. I sincerely hope that the Minister will not exercise his authority in respect of this particular matter in the direction of encouraging, or facilitating, the establishment of private enterprise in Australia which might have as its exclusive object the production of armaments. So far as we feel obliged to call private enterprise to our assistance in the production of armaments, we should ask it to engage in this work only as a side line, in order that we shall never see established in this country any private concern which shall have as its sole object the production of materials of war. We should guard against .the establishment in Australia of vested interests which would have everything to gain by the encouragement of war and by the development of suspicion in our international relations. Therefore, so far as we feel obliged to seek the assistance of private enterprise in this respect, I hope that we shall not go beyond permitting private concerns to engage in this production except as a legitimate peacetime sideline.
Paragraph c of sub-clause 1 of clause 5 delegates to the department the administration of matters relating to arrangements for the establishment or extension of industries for purposes of defence.” I take strong exception to that provision. We can hardly think of an industry which is not directly, or indirectly, related to defence; and envisaging warfare as it will probably be waged in the future, we shall find foodstuffs, and the wearing apparel of the people, regarded as coming within the category of materials associated with the defence of the country just as much as bullets and shells. Thus, this measure proposes to override the provisions of the Customs Act insofar as the functions of the Tariff
Board are concerned. It delegates to the Minister power to arrange, by regulation, for the establishment or extension of industries. That provision will inevitably be construed by the Minister as authorizing him to disregard the Tariff Board in connexion with the establishment or extension of any industry which has the remotest relationship to defence.
– The position would ‘he different if the Tariff Board speeded up its inquiries and facilitated access to it. ,
– The Tariff Board, of course, could te duplicated. Such a proposal has already been made. If it is the desire of the Government to continue to utilize the services of that body, there is nothing to prevent it from speeding up decisions from that authority. One of our objectives in establishing the hoard was to limit opportunities for hig interests to secure decisions affecting Customs duties which might upset the balance between the primary and secondary industries. This was ensured by providing for public inquiry where any persons, or interests, affected by proposals submitted to the Tariff Board can come along in -the full light of day and submit their case, feeling that the force of public opinion will prevent anything unfair or underhand from being done. In the past this Parliament has expressed itself very clearly with respect to the general policy of continuing the Tariff Board. If authority is to be given under this measure., to the Minister to override all that Parliament has hitherto provided in this regard, by dismissing from his mind the necessity for consulting the Tariff -Board, we shall see many of his decisions being challenged as unfair.
The integrity of some of the decisions might even be called in question. All of this could be obviated if it were made clear - in my opinion it should be made doubly clear before the measure becomes law - that nothing in it is to be construed as authorizing die Minister, in considering the establishment of new industries or the extension of existing industries, to disregard existing provisions with respect to the Tariff Board. I hold very strong views in this regard, and I believe that my feelings are shared by many honorable members.
Under paragraph d of the same subclause, one of the functions of the Minister is “ the acquisition, maintenance, and disposal of stocks of goods in connexion with defence”. I can scarcely conceive of any wider authority which could be placed in the hands of one man than is embodied in those few words.
– Give the definition of “ goods “.
– According to the definition clause, “goods” includes all kinds of personal property, and also includes anything growing in or on land and mineral or other deposits. The Minister is to be authorized to acquire all goods and chattels one could think of, as well as every item of production which could be mentioned, and to dispose of stocks that he has acquired, so long as they can be regarded as having any remote connexion with the defence requirements of this country. One can readily see all of the possibilities that are opened up by conferring such authority. Doubtless the Minister would say that I am imputing to him action which to his mind would be unthin.ka.ble. I have a very high regard for the integrity of the right honorable gentleman. But I also can remember what was done under the old War Precautions Act - things which did not bear the light of day. I have” very clearly in mind the fact that, under that act, the whole of the wheat production of this nation over a period of years was arbitrarily acquired from the farmers at a fixed price, which later transpired to be, during considerable periods, less than onehalf of what the farmers would have received had they been permitted to export their wheat freely and sell it at world parity.
– I also have a recollection of things that were done under that act.
– I can recollect other things, too, but I do not propose to occupy the time of the House by relating them. The whole of the production of the greatest industry in this country - the wool industry - was arbitrarily acquired over a period of years at a fixed price which was far below world parity; so low was it, that the provision that the Commonwealth should share with the Government of the United Kingdom the profits arising from the disposal of the acquired wool, led eventually to the payment to the Commonwealth, as .its halfshare of those profits of many millions of pounds. I have in mind, too, that while the farming and pastoral industries were being treated in this fashion, under the same authority an arrangement was made for the acquisition, not only for the period of the war, but also for ten years after its termination, of the whole of the production of the Broken Hill mines, at a price which proved to be most highly lucrative to those who had interests in those mines. Consequently, any assurance that there is no need to fear the exercise of this authority by the Minister leaves me cold. I view with the utmost trepidation the possible consequences of the delegation to any Minister of the all-embracing authority proposed.
Paragraph e authorizes the new department to make “ arrangements for ascertaining costs and for the control and limitation of profits in relation to the production of munitions.” The House, is entitled to something more concrete and definite as to what is in the mind of the Government. Neither the bill itself nor the second-reading speech of the Minister enlightens us; what is to be done to translate into action the placard of policy included in this particular clause is left entirely to our imagination.
The Minister is to be given unlimited powers of inquisition in regard to private industry. Clause 6 provides that “ where, in the opinion of the Governor-General, it is necessary or desirable in the interests of the defence of the Commonwealth that information should be obtained in relation to industrial, commercial, or other undertakings, or with respect to any goods ‘ - honorable members know what is meant by “ goods “ - “ the regulations may require such persons or classes of persons, as are prescribed “ - any one can be prescribed under this bill - “ to furnish, as prescribed, such information and particulars, as are prescribed, with respect to those undertakings or goods”. That is a fairly all-embracing provision. It means that the Government merely has to obtain a proclamation by the GovernorGeneral, or whoever happens to be the proper authority under the bill, that any particular business or enterprise has some remote relation to the defence of Australia, and the Minister may proceed to exercise the unlimited power of inquisti-tion given to him, and to demand from the business interests concerned, their innermost secrets.
– The honorable member for East Sydney (Mr. Ward) Would make a good Minister to exercise that power.
– That is a very pertinent interjection. This legislation will operate for five years. I do not know whether the Government feels completely assured that it will continue to occupy the treasury-bench during the next five years. I believe that there is some doubt of that. Therefore, all the authority proposed to be given to the present Minister must be regarded as authority also proposed to be given to a Minister in an administration formed by honorable members opposite. I do not know who the new Minister might be; he might be the honorable member for East Sydney, as our friend from Reid has suggested.
– I am a candidate for the position.
– The honorable member for Batman (Mr. Brennan) unashamedly announces himself as a candidate for the position. I very much doubt whether the big business interests of this country, with whom the present Government has a not-too-remote connexion, will relish contemplating the handing over to a Minister for Supply drawn from the ranks of honorable members opposite this most complete authority to demand information concerning the innermost secrets of the big industrial enterprises of Australia. These big business interests will not contemplate with any jubilation the possibility of a Minister in a government formed by honorable members opposite probing to the very depths the secrets of the Colonial Sugar Refining Company Limited, the Broken Hill Proprietary Company Limited, General MotorsHoldens Limited, and other companies. It is a very interesting possibility to contemplate, and I am not sure that some of my friends who were responsible for the drafting of this bill will not find themselves hauled over the coals by their masters. [Leave to continue given.’] I thank’ the House for its indulgence, and shall not occupy much more time. Had time permitted, I should like to have drawn attention to other possibilities under this hill. It is the blankest cheque I have ever seen drawn. We are asked to sign it, and hand it to the new Minister for Supply and Development. I believe that the Government will not succeed in getting away with it as drafted.
There are further aspects to which, doubtless, some other honorable members will direct attention. I said earlier that I believe that the bill, as drawn, can be construed as giving to the Minister of the day almost all of the authority with regard to the control of industrial conditions in industry which are within the limits of the Commonwealth Constitution. I am led to that conclusion by the provisions of clauses 9 and 10. Clause 9 provides -
The Governor-General- he appears in almost every clause - may establish, maintain and operate, or arrange for the establishment, maintenance and operation’ of, factories for or in relation to the provision or supply of munitions.
We have seen that, under the terms of the interpretation clause, “munitions” means everything of which one can think. Then clause 10 - a very interesting clause - provides -
I believe that that could be construed as giving to the Minister an over-riding authority even to disregard industrial awards. Almost every clause of the hill is loaded. It is one of the most dangerous measures that I have seen brought before the House, and I am not of the impression that the House will permit it to go to the third-reading stage unimproved. It proposes the most dangerous surrender of the power of Parliament to the Executive that I have observed in my parliamentary experience.
– The “new despotism.”
– It really authorizes the Minister for Supply and Development to carry out all of those things, and to take all of those steps, which to-day can- be undertaken only in totalitarian countries. Not only will he be able to commit the Parliament by virtue of the authority for negotiation embodied in the measure, but he is also to be given a degree of legislative authority, through the medium of regulations, which will be as wide as the authority of the Parliament itself. He is to be given authority, not only to legislate, but also to provide penalties. Herein we may contemplate a very interesting and not remote possibility. If this proposal be transformed into a statute, it will be no more than a skeleton, which will be made to live by a constant flow of regulations. We might very well have a state of affairs in which the government of the day had a majority in only one House. That state of affairs has existed before to-day. One House of this Parliament can disallow regulations. We might find the statute to be merely a collection of bones, the flesh to bc put upon the bones by regulations, the government of the day adding that flesh, and one chamber tearing it off by disallowing the regulations day after day. The bill would be reduced to impotence. It has been hastily drafted, it is ill-advised, and dangerous, and I warn the House of the possibilities associated with it. Although. I believe in the general principle underlying the establishment of a department of supply, and shall, therefore, support the. second reading, I submit that it is essential, in order to safeguard the authority of the Parliament, that it be substantially altered before the third reading is agreed to. The bill is dangerous, in that it provides for government by regulation, in respect of which almost every member has expressed adverse comments. at some time or other. I repeat that this legislation has been hastily conceived, that it is ill-drafted, and that it is the most dangerous measure that has been placed before this Parliament in my experience. I hope that in committee it will be substantially revised and improved.
.- I listened with great interest to the honorable member, for Indi (Mr. McEwen), and agree with him that the bill contains some drastic clauses. If the world situation be so critical that Australia must immediately prepare for its defence, a bill of this kind is necessary; but I am not convinced that world conditions warrant so drastic a measure being placed immediately on the statute-book. The bill proposes to control the supply of munitions, foodstuffs, guns, aeroplanes and clothing - indeed, everything necessary for the successful carrying out of the defence of the Commonwealth - but 1 want it to go further, and provide for the conscription of wealth as well as of man-power, as advocated by the Country party. I tell members of that party that the Minister for Supply in a Labour government would have no compunction about dealing drastically with the big combines and monopolies of this country; he would compel them to hand over materials and supplies required for the country’s defence, and allow them only a small rate of interest in return. The speech of the Minister makes one wonder what is likely to take place next. I know that the world is in the grip of the armaments racketeers. There has been much propaganda on their behalf . bv newspapers, supporters of the Government, particularly Country party members.
– That is not true.
– The purpose of this propaganda is to create a state of hysteria among the people, and to lead them to believe that the world is on the verge of a disastrous war. For the last twelve months the world has been in that state.
– Mr. Ogilvie, the Premier of Tasmania, had something to say recently about submarines.
– I speak for myself. I am absolutely disgusted with the attitude of many Government supporters, the press of this country, the profit mongers, and members of the Country party. They have collaborated to bring to heel the manhood of Australia.
– Has not the honorable member advocated the establishment of a naval base at Hobart?
– I believe in defending Australia, and if I can be convinced that it is urgently necessary to place this legislation on the statutebook because of the danger of Australia being attacked in the near future I shall rote for it, in order that the things necessary for the successful prosecution of a war may be under proper control.
– ‘The honorable member wants to see men shooting at one another before he votes for anything.
– There is considerable diversity of opinion regarding the need for compulsory action of this description. I understand that, following this bill, another measure which I am not permitted to discuss at this stage will be introduced.
– That is the “ nigger in the woodpile”.
– An eminent military authority with whom I have discussed these matters said, in effect, “ Mr. Mahoney, when you want to introduce drastic legislation, always be very quiet and simple in your remarks. Give people no information, or you might wake up the workers to a realization of what will happen to them”. I am concerned about the workers, for they are the people who will carry the responsibility, and, in the final analysis, will suffer and pay in the event of war. The Minister proposes to say to the trusts and combines that, in the supply of munitions, rifles, clothing, foodstuffs and other requirements of the nation in time of war, they must charge only reasonable prices, and not attempt to take advantage of the situation to make enormous profits. If that be so, and there is effective control of prices, members of the Country party need not fear that their wheat will be commandeered.
– It would not matter a great deal, because wheat is not worth much at present prices.
– Wheat is a valuable commodity in time of war; a country which has ample supplies of wheat is able to feed its soldiers, as well as its civilian population. I am concerned that there shall be no profiteering in foodstuffs. It is clear that the Government has accepted the policy of the dictator countries of the world.. It is en deavouring to create a totalitarian psychology; it is seeking to rouse in the minds of the people a belief that there is urgent need for this emergency legislation in order that Australia may be prepared against attack. I cannot see that there can be effective control unless the Government is prepared to take over the whole of the industries necessary for the defence of Australia. Honorable members may recall that in Germany in 1914 there was much profiteering in foodstuffs. In order to relieve the situation the authorities there had to adopt a policy providing for the nationalization of supplies. I am not here to support the big trusts, combines and monopolies, the big thieves and robbers, the hungry vultures that in every country batten upon the corpses in times of war. Past wars have proved that there are always people who will seek to make profits by exploiting men, women and children. Prices are raised unduly, foodstuffs and other essentials are cornered, and much suffering is caused, in order that profits may be greater. That is not the way to provide for the defence of any country. I shall not be a party to any participation in war unless the whole of the people are called upon to support those who do the fighting. The honorable member for Indi appears to be concerned only about the wealthy people having their private affairs inquired into. In any time of emergency, the Minister will find no difficulty in obtaining from me a statement of my affairs. I want those people who live in the select suburbs of Potts Point, Toorak, and St.Kilda to disgorge some of their surplus wealth in order to provide funds for the defence of Australia. They should not be allowed to sit back, and show their patriotism only by the waving of flags and the singing of the song “ Johnny get your gun “. They should be compelled to disgorge some of their wealth in order to provide for the dependants of the men who will be called upon to defend their country. If there are any wealthy people in my electorate, I am willing that they should know my views on this subject.
– Then the honorable member will vote for the national register ?
– No. I am not in favour of compulsion where human life is concerned.
– Does the honorable member think that the other fellow holds human life to be sacred?
– Whatever be the opinion of the honorable member, I regard human life as sacred.
– I mean the other fellow overseas.
– He i3 not in sight. I have been referring to the profiteer in our midst, who is in sight - the vulture who puts his money into the coflers of Government parties in order to defeat Labour at elections.
– The Labour party appealed to them strongly for money at the last- election.
– I do not believe in allowing the profiteers to batten upon the workers. That has been done in the past. The profiteers invariably support antiLabour parties at election timeProfiteering occurred in almost every possible shape and form during the last war. Some of the lowest forms of exploitation disgraced certain business interests. I know a poor old man whose son was blown to pieces. Not so much as a button of his uniform was found, yet his father was asked to subscribe 10s. for a tombstone for him. Was that not profiteering, even on the dead ? Such hungry vultures support this Government.
The Labour party believes in providing for the adequate defence of this country, but it also desires that the interests of the men who had to do the really dangerous work shall be protected. I have in mind of course the men who will shoulder and fire the guns. Coming events cast their shadows before them. No doubt this bill reveals a tendency towards dictatorships. I can find no evidence in any clause of the measure of any real desire to protect the interests of the working people. It is all very well for the Government to say that profiteering will be prevented, but we are not told how it is to be done. In my opinion, the Government should itself build such factories as are necessary for the manufacture of munitions. Private enterprise should not be allowed to participate in this work in any way. If it does so, the
Government will lose control. We are all well aware that during the last war exorbitant prices were paid for “dud” shells and shoddy equipment. Every possible step should therefore be taken by the Government to ensure that in the future not a single “ dud “ shell shall leave a factory. This can be done only if the Government itself controls the factories. Only so shall we be certain that all munitions are up to” the specified standards. Under the capitalist system, the instinct to exploit other people is predominant and it will continue to be so until the system is abolished. It is necessary that we should make our defence preparations honestly and courageously. This involves the protection in every possible way of the interests of the fighting men. I heard the Prime Minister say in Sydney last Monday that ten years after the conclusion of the last war he had to appear in court in a certain case which concerned war-time activities. Nothing in this bill can prevent a repetition of such an experience. The only safe thing for the Government to do is to assume control of our key industries and absolutely prohibit private enterprise from engaging in the manufacture of munitions. I stand for the immediate socialization of our key industries, but I am quite certain that any amendment moved to this bill for the purpose of achieving that desirable objective would be resisted by the Government.
– Such an amendment would put the Country party in an invidious position.
– Of course it would ! The Country party wishes to indulge in exploitation in its own way. The farmers would never agree to put their wheat and other products into a common pool. They always want the highest possible prices and are prepared to exploit city workers whenever possible. We have been told that £90,000,000 will be expended on defence works in the next five years and that in consequence of defence activities already on foot, unemployment has been reduced by 60 per cent. In the smaller States where there are no defence works unemployment is more prevalent. It is significant however, that when the right honorable gentleman informed his audience of 4000 people in the Sydney Town Hall last Monday that the Government would deal with profiteers, there was not a single cheer. Practically the entire audience consisted of people interested in profiteering.
– The profiteers are enjoying peace of mind at present.
- Of course they are, but the Labour party will do everything in its power to disturb their complacency. Everybody knows that, in the past, immense profits have been made out of defence works. The Minister for Defence also knows it. I am quite prepared to believe that he is sincere, but I cannot see him recommending the Government to commandeer and nationalize all industries in the event of war, as the German Government did in 19,14. The masters of the Government would not allow it to be done. The Government is simply trying to deceive the workers into believing that this legislation provides some effective machinery for dealing with profiteers. Actually it is barren of a single effective provision of that kind. The Prime Minister told us last Monday that it was not possible at this stage to declare what degree of profit would be permitted in the manufacture of munitions. Qf course, he could not do so, for his masters have not expressed their views on the subject. If the Government ever makes a declaration of that kind which is not acceptable to private enterprise the Prime Minister will he told, “ You have no authority to do this. If you persist in this attitude we shall withdraw our financial and political support from the United Australia party. You must not interfere with private enterprise “.
I have heard something about shadow factories. In my opinion it would be more to the point to talk about shadow sparring. The Government should distribute munitions factories all over the Commonwealth. Centralization is a very unwise policy in connexion with the manufacture of munitions. I was told by a certain Minister when I complained about the isolation of Tasmania that its isolation is its security. If isolation is security in one respect, it should be security in another. If munitions factories were established in Tasmania which has the economic advantage of hydro-electric power, it is not likely that they would be attacked. I appeal to the Government to establish munitions factories in some of the smaller and less populous States.
The Country party, we know, is favorable to conscription. The honorable member for Barker (Mr. Cameron) said that he favoured conscription, but he said nothing about the conscription of wealth. He would conscript the young manhood of Australia, but would allow wealthy citizens to remain free. It seems to me that this bill was drafted by some one with totalitarian notions. Probably the idea was presented to certain honorable members opposite while they were globe-trotting. It was suggested that a bill of this kind should be introduced very quietly. We were to have a “ hush-hush “ policy here, as elsewhere. We have been told that the bill is important for defence purposes, but we have been given very little information concerning it. The Labour party favours the adoption of adequate defence measures, but it does not believe that this bill, in its present form, can achieve much in that regard.
I agree with the honorable member for Indi (Mr. McEwen) that if the bill is passed we shall incur some danger of interference with our industrial legislation by military authorities. I hope that that never takes place in Australia.
– The Ministry of Supply will have no control over anything relating to the services.
– Clause 5 provides, in sub-clause (2) -
The Governor-General may from time to time determine the extent to which or the conditions upon which any of the matters specified in this section may be administered by the department.
The same clause empowers the Minister for Supply and Development to deal with matters relating to “ the investigation and development of Australian sources of supply of goods, which in the opinion of the’ Governor-General are necessary for the economic security of the Commonwealth in time of war “. I am afraid that this will give power to the militarists in this country to adopt what are called military tactics in certain circumstances, but I hope that the Minister will check any tendency in that direction. We do not want to experience here the conditions reported in some militaristic countries in Europe in which workers are unable to have their grievances rectified because all industries are virtually under military control.
– The service.? would be unable to touch anybody under the provisions of this measure.
– My legal advisers tell me that there is a distinct possibility of military control of industry, though I do not think that the Minister is conscious of it.
– It is not even a possibility.
– It is, but I hope that the time will never come when the people of this country will be controlled by military authorities, with consequent injustices such as have to be endured by people living in totalitarian countries. If the Minister is seeking co-operation between this new Department of Supply and Development and the workers of Australia there should be created what are known as workers’ groups or shop committees in industry. The Government should say to the workers “ We want your co-operation and assistance in these industries which are to be carried on for the benefit of this country”. It would be of no use to send the “ brass hats “ to propound their militaristic ideas to the workers, because they would be dealt with by the workers as they have been dealt with on other occasions.
– That will not be done.
– But it has been done. Despite the attempt to camouflage th© position, it is, I believe, intended to place industries under military control even though Australia may not be at war. Power to do that is given in this measure. I knew, when the Minister for Supply and Development (Mr. Casey) was moving the second reading, that he was merely skimming over its more important provisions in an endeavour to prevent honorable members from discovering its real intentions. The bill gives the military “ swashbucklers “ of this country power to assume control of industries. Preparation is being made for the day when alien migrants will be put to work in Australian factories to replace the men who will be taken from their work to serve as soldiers.
– That cannot be done.
– The bill gives power to do it and I know from personal experience what amount of suffering may be brought about if this legislation is passed. No government should have the power to govern by regulations. That is a negation of democracy. This is a democratic country and I appeal to the Minister to adopt democratic methods in the Government’s defence proposals. Should a state of emergency arise, the Government could, under the provisions of thi3 bill, commandeer the services of every man in Australia between the - ages of eighteen and 60 years. So also should it be able to commandeer the wealth of this country. I hope that the nation’s wealth will be conscripted as was suggested this afternoon, because in a time of emergency the whole of the resources of the nation should be utilized to the full. I would not support any government - even a Labour government - which, in time of national emergency, refused to legislate for the conscription of the nation’s wealth to assist its man-power in its defence. If this were done, action could be taken to prevent profiteering.
It is all very well for the Minister and the Government supporters to state that profiteering will not take place in Australia in time of war. We know that during the Great War there was wholesale profiteering in Great Britain and other countries in connexion with the manufacture of munitions of war. Australia also had some experience of the profiteers. Adulterated foodstuffs were freely sold, and the unfortunate widows and children of deceased soldiers were treated most unfairly. It is well-known that shoddy materials were used in the construction of houses for war widows and for returned soldiers, and those jobs were skimped. Such profiteering could not occur again if the Government had full charge of the nation’s business and resources in time of war.
– Even tea leaves were used a second time.
– That is so. We have heard of a girl whose father was killed in the war. She secured employment in a wealthy family and had to be satisfied with used tea leaves for her tea.
I hope that in the committee stage the Minister will introduce drastic clauses to guard against profiteering. The Prime Minister has declared that the profiteers wall not benefit by this legislation. In my opinion, the workers will get nothing out of it and the profiteers everything. It reminds me of the game of “ prop and cop “ - the workers “ prop “ and the profiteers “ cop “. I should like the Minister to explain just how profiteering is to be prevented. Are thebanks and insurance companies to he dealt with by this legislation? I understand that control over, such organizations was provided for in the profiteering legislation passed by the British Parliament, but these interests took action in the courts and in some cases decisions were given in their favour, duo to the difficulty of defining profits. The Defence Advisory Committee willbe of little use for the prevention of profiteering because its members will themselves be profiteers. Every person who is engaged inbusiness is a profiteer. I am sorry for them because they are victims of the system under which we live. They live many lives and if they are troubled by conscience they must die many deaths. I admit the right of every citizen to make a reasonable profit, but should a state of emergency arise, and we were faced with an invader, we should find the greater enemy to be the enemy within. A repetition of the experience of 1914-18 should not be permitted. My duty, as a member of the Opposition, is to criticize, not draft legislation for the Government; to see that measures passed through this Parliament will give protection to the workers, because they are the people who need it. This bill does not protect them.
– Farmers also need protection.
– The farmers to-day are crying out because they are afraid that in time of emergency the trade routes would be unprotected and they would be unable to ship their products overseas. In my opinion food should not be sent overseas in time of war. No doubt profiteers would seek to control our wheat supply and sell it at such exorbitant rates as 9s. a bushel. That should not be allowed. The farmers should be obliged to make their contribution to national security.
– How does the honorable member suggest that the work would be done on the farms in time of emergency?
– The farmer should get a reasonable price for foodstuffs, the production of which should be nationalized and supervised. The controllers of such industries as the meat industry should be told that they must hold their products for sale in Australia, at a specified reasonable price.
I understand that profiteers in England did not allow milk to go on to the market because the price was too low. Instead they fattened the cows and then sold them for beef. The same thing will occur in this country unless our essential industries are nationalized and our resources are effectively controlled by Parliament. I refuse to be stampeded by fear into supporting a measure such as this.
The armaments racket to-day has played itself out. I agree with the honorable member for Batman (Mr. Brennan) that the press of this country has exploited war psychology in a way that has been very damaging to the people of Australia. The wealthy” patriots “ of Potts Point and St.Kilda are squealing now because they may have to disgorge some of their wealth in the interests of this country. I stopped in Melbourne for a couple of days at a very luxurious hotel which was full of wealthy people. They said that it would be a terrible thing if they had to pay extra taxes for the defence of this country, but I told them that they would have to pay more if they were to be able to enjoy the freedom and protection that Australia offers them. The freedom of this country is worth preserving and it is worth a fight in this House to preserve it, because I am afraid that some of the supporters of the Government are tainted with totalitarianism. The virus has got into their blood and, on the plea that they are concerned with the defence of this country, they are trying to break down Australian conditions.
– Order ! The honorable member has exhausted his time.
.- An incident which occurred a little while ago was reported in one newspaper as an accident and in another as a disaster. A foreigner asked a friend the difference between the terms. His friend said, “ Let us assume that the honorable member for Denison (Mr. Mahoney) fell down a well. That would be an accident. If he got out again it would be a disaster “.
– If I had the honorable gentleman’s mentality I would never rise to speak. I object to his remarks and ask for their withdrawal.
– It was only a joke.
– Order ! The honorable member for Swan must confine his remarks to the bill.
– Recently there has been a great deal of talk about profiteering, but very little about what creates profiteering. No party more than the Labour party, with its tariff restrictions, lias been responsible for the growth of , monopolistic enterprises which engage in profiteering. Their development is evident to everybody who studies the declaration of dividends.
I listened with great attention to the moderate speech made by the honorable member for “West Sydney (Mr. Beasley) and the speech made by the honorable member for Indi (Mr. McEwen). The speech of the honorable member for West Sydney appealed to members. Much of it dealt with the need for Government control of industries, particularly the munitions industry. I agree with him as far as the manufacture of munitions is concerned. There is no doubt that the munitions industry should be controlled by the Government. But I want that control to be solid. There should be someone in charge who would ensure that its products are of first-class excellence and are produced at a moderate cost. I well remember that whereas it was estimated in 3914 that the rifles made by the Lithgow Small Arms Factory would cost £3 9s. 6d. apiece, it was admitted subsequently in this chamber that their cost was over £12 each. The only way to get value for money is by close supervision. I am not in agreement with the honorable member when it comes to industry generally being controlled by the Government. We have had sufficient experience of government control in our railways to realize the objections to it. According to the ‘best authorities, freight charges in Australia are three times greater than they are in the United States of America, despite which, in the last twelve years, our railways have lost £60,000,000. Other examples of governmental interference in industry are Amalgamated Wireless (Australasia) Limited and Commonwealth Oil Refineries, neither of which ventures says much for the part that the Government has played. Apart from the manufacture of munitions the wisest course is to leave industrial undertakings to private enterprise. Legislation should be passed to prevent the exploitation of the people by profiteering; but while thu Labour party demands the most extreme restriction of imports, it makes easy the work of the monopolist and the profiteer. I advocate government control of munitions, but I see no reason against the establishment of defence annexes in private establishments. They are only shadow factories and will do very little of the munitions work in time of peace, but in time of stress they will be able to come into full operation. If war took place to-morrow, the government munitions factories could not fulfil requirements. I am agreeable to the prevention of the export of munitions from. Australia in order to keep the operations of the annexes at a low ebb, but I realize the need for their existence so that they will be ready for use should the need arise.
The honorable member for West Sydney dealt at length with the necessity to start to bore for oil in Australia. I approve of every assistance being given in that direction, but believe that the work would be better done by private enterprise than by the Government. The honorable member’s charge that foreign interests have done their utmost to prevent the discovery of oil in Australia is not borne out by information in my possession. One of the big oil companies in the United States of America has had expert geologists travelling through Australia, New Guinea and New Zealand in an intense effort to discover oil. The Vacuum Oil Company Proprietary Limited recently announced that it was prepared to spend huge sums of money at. Taranaki in New Zealand to locate oil.
Producer gas may compensate for the lack of indigenous petroleum. I have received many letters dealing with the use of producer gas as a fuel for motor vehicles and tractors. I suggest that the Government should give special attention to this matter and should have the Council for Scientific and Industrial Research conduct an emergency examination of the possibility of extending the use of producer gas in transport vehicles. In 1935, a producer-gas-driven motor car was driven from Rome to the coast of France and then taken to London, at a cost which was almost infinitesimal. In Western Australia particularly, and I believe, in Victoria and other States, M.d ny tractors have been converted to use producer-gas, but I do not think that the plants are working .at full capacity. I go so far as to suggest that a small bounty be given to every farmer who uses producergas .in his tractors or trucks. Then, in the event of an emergency, when little or no petrol would be available, they could be commandeered by the Government and used without fuel difficulties. From an economic point of view, in addition to that of defence, every effort should be made to encourage the production of producer-gas plants.
Another matter which has occupied my attention is the break of gauge on the railways. There is no mention of it in the bill, but as the honorable member for Indi pointed out, if anything occurred to prevent the transit of goods by water, it would be impossible, because of the lack of a uniform railway gauge, to carry on the trade and commerce of the country in peace time, let alone in time of war.
I admit the necessity df this bill in order to install the Minister for Supply and Development (Mr. Casey) in his office, but I cannot understand how the Government could dare to introduce legislation which gives such immense powers to the Minister and the Executive immediately it is proclaimed. [Quorum formed.) Extraordinary powers are conferred on the Minister to use, not only in a state of emergency, but also, if the Executive should see fit, at any time. Immediately this bill becomes law the Minister shall have power to acquire, maintain and dispose of stocks of goods in connexion with defence. Those goods include all kinds of personal property, farms, crops, mineral deposits - anything that one can name.
And there is not even need for a state of emergency to be proclaimed before the Minister can take charge of them all ! Another power which is to be given to the Minister is that of arranging for the establishment or extension of industries for the purposes of defence. Almost every industry exists for the purposes of defence. The clothing industry is. necessary for defence. So also is the boot manufacturing industry. It was shown in 1920 that the whole range of industry comes within the ambit of defence needs when a huge tariff schedule was introduced in order to make Australia safe in the event of a war in the future. Another far-reaching power given to the Minister is contained in clause 6, which reads -
The measure gives the Minister very extensive powers, including the right to acquire even personal property.
– Does the honorable member intend to oppose the bill ?
– A bill such as this is doubtless necessary when this country is at war or at a time of national emergency, but surely its introduction is not justified at this juncture. It would appear that the powers to be conferred on the Minister by regulation are altogether too drastic, and unless a fuller explanation is given as to why some of the provisions have been inserted in the bill, I do not feel disposed to support it.
– We have already embarked upon emergency expenditure.
– That may be so, but does the Assistant Minister assert that this is a time of national emergency? If he. should do so, I believe that practically every honorable member would disagree with him. We are informed that the situation overseas is somewhat easier than it has been for some time, but I am somewhat dubious concerning the future. In some directions, I should like the Government to have greater powers. For instance, I should like it to introduce universal training, because one of the greatestcrimes we could commit would be to ask untrained men to engage in war.
– Does the honorable member believe in compulsory military training ?
– Universal training should be introduced in this country, and I am pleased to know that the Premier of the State represented by the honorable member is one of its strongest advocates. Universal training is in the interests not only of the trainees themselves, but also of the nation.
– Does the honorable m ember believe in conscription?
– I am. not in favour of Australian men being conscripted for service outside Australia.
– The honorable member supported conscription some years ago.
– I did. During a state of national emergency I would be willing to assist the Government to acquire extensive powers such as are sought under this bill, but I decline to admit that such a state now exists.
– ‘Does the honorable member consider that a state of emergency existed last September?
– I do not know, but it was understood that the overseas situation was then very acute. Labour members in this Parliament believe that Australia should not engage in any war until a. referendum of the people has been taken. I have received letters from persons who state most definitely that in the event of war they would decline to assist in any capacity whatever. Should universal training be established, huge sums of money would be needed to meet the expenditure; and that expenditure should have to be met by the wealthy and not the poorer section of the community. I do not wish to repeat the numerous points raised by the honorable member for Indi who said that if the bill is passed the Minister will possess very extensive powers. In the past we have always objected to the power given to the Executive by way of regulation. and I have always contended that if the Executive has not sufficient power to do what is necessary in the interests of the nation, it should come to Parliament for authority. Under the bill sentences involving imprisonment up to twelve months may be imposed.
-Such terms of imprisonment cannot be imposed under regulation.
– No, but such punishment is provided for in the act. Persons who do not comply with certain regulations may be liable to imprisonment for that period.
– Not in respect of regulations.
– The Assistant Minister knows quite well that very extensive powers can be conferred under regulations and upon indictment there is a penalty of not more than twelve months provided under this measure. It appears to me that the main object of the bill is to give the Minister power to make regulations to deal with the supply of munitions, the manufacture and assembling of aircraft, arrangements for the extension of industries for the purposes of defence and various other matters. If it were a question of granting these powers for one year instead of five, as provided in the bill, one could feel more inclined to support it. In these circumstances the Minister will have power to ignore the Tariff Board and to induce certain interests to establish industries merely because it is said that they are essential for defence purposes. That may be necessary in time of war or during a national emergency, but in the present circumstances it appears to be wholly unjustified. The bill appears to be a way of giving the Minister the authority to use certain powers in whatever way he wishes. I trust that when the bill is in committee the Minister will agree to amend it in certain respects, because, in view of the information available to us, the powers sought to be acquired appear quite unnecessary at the present juncture.
.- This measure has been drafted in such a vague manner that it is very difficult for honorable members to discover what powers the Government is actually seeking to acquire. The Minister (Mr. Casey) who introduced the bill said that its object is to give authority to take a complete census of the material resources and the man-power of the country, and that it is the intention of the Government to establish what will be known as a Supply and Development Department. The members of the Opposition are anxious to know whether the Government really considers that we are faced with a national emergency at the moment sufficiently grave to justify the introduction of a bill in which such wide powers are sought. So far we have had no indication from the Government that a state of emergency exists. The Assistant Minister (Mr. Holt) asked the honorable member for Swan (Mi-. Gregory) by interjection, whether he considered that a state of emergency existed in September last. We are not in a position to say whether it did or did not because the vague information supplied to this House made it very difficult for any honorable member who was not -in possession of the full facts to determine that point. If, as we have been informed, the international situation has become somewhat easier since September, there is less need for this bill to-day than there was then. Should the Government be granted these emergency powers, they will continue to operate until repealed by Parliament. I ask honorable members on this -side of the chamber to visualize what these proposals mean to those whom we represent. On the plea of providing adequate defence tor this country, the Government has been able to pass many acts of a repressive character. We may examine the bill, but we do not know the way in which the powers proposed to be sought are to be exercised. Experience tells us that we must be suspicious of a government such at this. No doubt, under this proposal, which it is claimed is for defence purposes, there will be additional expenditure. Greater activity means greater expenditure. Why is the Government taking a census of our natural resources and man-power and declining to take a census of the financial resources of the country? The extra expenditure must be met from some source. Knowing the policy of this Government, it is only reasonable to assume that the working class will be ‘ expected to foot the bill. We have to ask what this country can afford in the matter of a defence programme. In preparing for national development and defence there should not be any limitation because of lack of finance. I believe that the only limitation on the programme of any government for development or defence requirements should be that imposed by a limitation of man-power and raw materials. If the development of this programme resulted in a diversion to defence works, of certain labour now engaged in producing every-day requirements, it would necessarily mean a reduction of the living standards of the people. If it meant that by an extension of the defence programme the Government. pro: posed to engage additional labour - nien not now employed - on defence works, such works could be carried on without actually affecting the living standards of the people. Living standards are affected when the labour-power of the country is diverted from ordinary undertakings to defence works which are not of a reproductive character. This Government accepts the limitations imposed upon it. by the financial interests of this country. We know exactly what has happened in the last few years. The national debt is still growing larger year by year and we are, faced with a greatly increased annual interest burden. When the Government finds it impossible to meet its annual commitments out of the revenues available at the moment, it must adopt one of two courses ; it must either impose additional taxation on the wealthier sections of the community or ask the workers to make further sacrifices. We know only too well what happened in 1931-32. When the Government of the day found its budgetary position such that it was faced with deficits, it introduced schemes under which the workers were asked to make sacrifices so that the financial position of the Government could be improved. When this Government has to find the interest on our growing expenditure for defence, it will ask the workers once again to make additional sacrifices, to accept reduced rates of pay, to work longer hours, and to submit to less generous social services, instead, of finding the money by levying :i tax upon the unearned increment of the wealthy financial interests. If the
Government’s 3ole purpose in bringing forward this bill is to provide for the effective defence of this country, why does it not endeavour to marshal the financial resources of this country? Why has no arrangement been made for the taking of a census to ascertain what contribution each member of the community might be able, or could be expected, to make? If the Government obtains a certain proportion of the revenue required for the carrying on of its defence programme by means of increased taxes, we know very well what will happen. The resultant increased costs will be passed on to the workers as consumers who will be called upon not only to pay a proportion of the expenditure to be met from taxes, but also to accept reduced living standards and unfair working conditions. “ So far as I can ascertain, this bill gives’ to the Minister wide powers not only to ascertain the resources of this country, but also to regulate conditions of employment in particular industries engaged in meeting the defence requirements of the nation. As a Labour representative, I am not prepared to give such wide, sweeping powers to the Minister so that he may be able lightly to wipe aside the decisions of tribunals established for the fixation of wages and working conditions, and to impose whatever conditions he chooses upon men engaged in the industries involved. Further, the Minister will bo given power under this bill to restrict the free move-‘ ment of labour from one district to another or from one industry to another. As a matter of fact he will be given unlimited power to regulate industries. Honorable members opposite talk about totalitarian states; if we continue to pass legislation such as this, it will be difficult to see the difference between the system of government in this country, and that of the dictatorship countries which members so freely criticize.
– For a long time I have been unable to see any difference.
– As a matter of fact, I, too, am unable to see the difference. Evidently, the- Government continues its criticism of totalitarian countries because it suits its purpose to tell the general public that it is opposed to that form of government. It has always been the case that where the powers of the military have been increased the powers of the civil population have been automatically decreased. If this bill is passed, it will give such additional powers to the military authorities as to enable them to override the civil authorities. That is a serious matter for honorable members and the people generally to contemplate. With a Labour government in office there might be something to be said in favour of certain of the provisions contained in this measure. Under a Labour administration, the powers to be conferred upon the Minister under this bill would at least be exercised in a manner beneficial to the general community. I have not the same trust in the present Government.
A clause has been inserted in the bill providing for the regulation of profits. I know that that is only the sugarcoating to get the Labour Opposition in this House to swallow the bitter pill beneath it. The Minister knows, as does every other honorable member, first, that this Government has no intention to regulate profits, and, secondly, that this bill will not give it the power it says it should have to do so. The other day, the Minister, by interjection, said that the intention of the Government was to limit the profits earned by those engaged in the manufacture of munitions and defence equipment to the prevailing bond rate of interest.
– I said that only in respect of the annexes.
– That is the point to which I am coming. That undertaking does not overcome the difficulty. Everybody knows that these annexes, which will be engaged in supplementing the output of defence equipment from the government workshops, will be controlled by private enterprise, and that by the mere manipulation of figures it will be possible for the controlling interests to keep the profits of the annexes down to the bond rate of interest. What powers will the Minister have to regulate the profits earned, for instance, by the Broken Hill Proprietary Company Limited, which will be supplying the raw material to subsidiary factories controlling annexes engaged in the private manufacture of armaments? The Minister knows that when the Government some time ago announced its expanded defence programme, the price of steel required for the manufacture of its defence requirements was immediately raised by approximately 25s. a ton. What power is conferred upon him by this bill to regulate the profits earned by those who will supply raw materials to private companies engaged in the manufacture of defence equipment?
– He will have no power whatever.
– That is so. He will not take into consideration the profits earned by the parent company. The Broken Hill Proprietary Company Limited has spread its tentacles all over Australia. We see its powerful influence on the government party in this House, and we know that it is extending its influence and activities year by year. It is difficult to ascertain what profits are being earned by that huge monopoly as the result of its participation in the defence programme of the Government. I ask the Minister to state specifically what arc the Government’s intentions in regard to the regulation of profits. According to his own statement, the Government intends to do nothing more than regulate the profits earned by annexes to private establishments. What does the Government propose to do with respect to the regulation of prices of raw materials supplied ‘to those annexes? Unless some steps be taken to regulate the prices of raw materials, the power to be vested in the Minister to control the profits of annexes will be of no avail’. As everybody knows, it is possible for accountants, by manipulation of a few figures, to keep clown the profits earned in one branch, and to show larger profits in another branch which is not under the control of the Minister. Because of that, I think we should have some further information from the Government with respect to its intentions in connexion, with the control of profits. The Opposition would like an explanation from the Government with respect to the degree to which it proposes to interfere with the working conditions of those Who will be engaged, in these particular industries. I have been told that already certain employees of the Defence Department can securely hold their positions in the various branches of the department only upon giving an undertaking that they will cease to bt members of their trade union organizations. Because of the threat of the loss of employment, those- who have retained their membership of their organizations have had to remain silent members.
– Does the honorable member say that that is happening in our own factories?
– The information supplied to me is that in certain branches of the department it has been intimated to men who have accepted positions that they should resign from their industrial organizations.
– If the honorable member will bring a concrete case to my notice, I shall have it fully investigated.
– Advisory committees are to be appointed under this bill. On what matters are they to proffer advice? Will they be asked to advise the Government as to what particular industries should be supported or established for defence purposes? Are they to advise the Government with regard to working conditions in any industry? It will be rather surprising, and indeed alarming, to the workers of this country, if we have as a member of one of these advisory committees a man such as Mr. Essington Lewis, of the Broken Hill Proprietary Company Limited. Yet I have no doubt that he will be appointed to one of the committees to advise the Government in regard to the conditions of employment that are to prevail in these industries, and also as to what profits should be earned by those engaged in these undertakings. It may be claimed by the Government that an invitation was extended to workers’ organizations to appoint representatives to act on the various advisory committees. If the workers’ organizations were to follow the advice which I am disposed to give them, they would have nothing to do with these committees. If workers’ representatives were anpointed, they would be in the minority. Although their views would bo overridden by others,, the Government would use their membership of such committees as evidence that the workers themselves were parties to whatever agreements were decided upon.
– I found that the opposite was the case only the other day when, with the assistance of representatives of workers from the munitions factories, we were able to settle matters that had been in dispute for some time.
– Nevertheless, that is the advice which 1 would tender to the workers’ organizations if they cared to ask for it. It has been the experience of workers in the past that representation on these committees has not been very successful. For that reason they should be wary of co-operation with the Government under this measure. If it is not ti i.o purpose of the Government to lower the standard of working conditions in these industries, why should power be sought for the Minister to employ “ such persons as are necessary in connexion with any factory, established or deemed to have been established by the GovernorGeneral “ ; and why has provision been made in another sub-clause that “ persons so employed shall not be subject to the Commonwealth Public Service Act, but shall be engaged for such periods and shall be subject to such conditions as are prescribed “?
If the Government” intends to give to these workers a higher margin than they could receive under existing agreements or awards, it would be easy for the Government to satisfy the fears of the Opposition, because it could state in definite terms what margin above existing rates should operate; but all that the Government says is that the men shall be engaged “ for such purposes and subject to such conditions as are prescribed.”
– We shall give to the House a full explanation of the measure at the committee stage.
– That will be necessary. Another interesting point’ was introduced into the debate by the honorable member for West Sydney (Mr. Beasley), who criticized the Government for its failure to handle the problem of the oil supplies necessary for the operations of the defence forces. The Government may direct attention to certain expenditure in the way of advances to private companies to encourage the search for flow oil, but honorable members are probably still, aware of the fact that this
Government, which I regard as in every respect identical with the Lyons Ministry, was responsible for the suppression of a very important report submitted by the then Administrator of the Mandated Territory of New Guinea with respect to the discovery of flow oil close to that territory. We know that the Government suppressed that report, and that its contents were disclosed only after persistent inquiries by the Opposition. Honorable members mention suspicious activities in regard to those companies in their search for oil, and the honorable member for Barker (Mr. Archie Cameron) expressed great doubt whether the companies had been sincere in their expressed desire to discover this necessary commodity.
– I still hold that view.
– The honorable member is not alone in that regard.
– One of the most alarming features of the attitude of the Government is the fact that the present Prime Minister (Mr. Menzies) is regarded in many quarters as a very dear friend of the major oil companies, and that, when he was practising law in Victoria a few years ago as a representative of those companies, he advised them to refuse to produce their books, or to supply certain information, to the royal commission which was then investigating their activities. For that reason, naturally, we cannot expect a great deal to be done by this Government which is likely to affect adversely the interests of the major oil companies.
There is talk of the limitation of profits. Let us consider whether the Minister for Supply and Development (Mr. Casey) has even shown any desire to regulate tha profits of private enterprise. In 1934, when he was Treasurer in this Parliament, certain findings and recommendations by the royal commission which inquired into the operation of Commonwealth taxation laws were made to the Government. One of these was that large-scale tax evasion was going on, and that certain financial interests were evading the payment of their just contributions in taxes by distributing a great proportion of their profits as bonus shares. Under the law as it then stood, profits distributed in this way were not taxable. The commission, recognizing that this was merely a method of evading the payment of income tax, made a recommendation to the Government that at the earliest opportunity it should introduce amending legislation to make profits distributed by way of bonus shares taxable in the same manner as profits distributed by way of ordinary dividends. The then Treasurer introduced the amending measure, and the members of the Opposition were in favour of it, because 1,VO believed it to be only right to prevent tax evasion. But then the Treasurer, having secured the passage of the measure in this chamber to the second-reading stage, proposed in committee an amendment to prevent the legislation from operating for a further six months. The Opposition was naturally anxious to know the reason for this postponement. The Minister in charge of the bill stated that certain representations had been made to him, and every honorable member knows that, within a few days, we were in no doubt as to who had made the representations, because the Colonial Sugar Refining Company had effected the largest distribution of bonus shares ever known in this country, and was able to do it without paying one penny in tax. This member of the Government, as the new Minister for Supply and Development, will be required under this legislation to regulate profits, but he could not be depended upon when Treasurer to see that those who had accumulated profits made their just contribution to the public revenues. How can members of Parliament have any confidence in the promise of the Government to regulate profits?
– Does this bill make reference to the regulation of profits? ,
– I refer the honorable member to “ Part II. - Administration “, which deals with “ arrangements for ascertaining costs and for the control and limitation of profits in relation to the production of munitions “. The Minister for Defence has said that this provision applies only to the annexes to private undertakings engaged in the manufacture of munitions; but, knowing the ramifications of the large organizations which to-day control the industries engaged in the production of defence equipment, we must ask for more specific information as to the Government’s intention with respect to the regulation of profits. We cannot be satisfied with the Minister’s bald statement.
The honorable member for Calare (Mr. Thorby) referred to this matter last evening, and, no doubt, he can speak from experience, being the immediate predecessor of . the present Minister for Defence. He said that there were three or four companies which control the whole of the operations of those who would be supplying defence, requirements. If that be so - and the honorable member should be in a position to know - these three or four companies, by shifting their profits from one quarter to another, would make it difficult to ascertain exactly to what extent the Australian public was being exploited. We recall how difficult it has been to establish that the major oil companies are making excessive profits in Australia, because they have subsidiary companies engaged in the work of distribution. By inflation of the transport and production costs of the parent company, the profits of the distributing companies were made to appear so low as to satisfy many critics with regard to the rate of profit, but those who looked closely into the matter were satisfied that the companies did not furnish proof that the users of their products were not ‘being seriously exploited. Something similar will happen in regard to this provision for the limitation of profits. It will be easy for- the Minister to say, in reply to questions submitted to him from time to time in this House, that such and such a profit has been earned, and that the Government considers that the rate, not being in excess of the bond rate of interest, is therefore not unduly high ; but the Government would not make the inquiries that should be carried out in regard to the operations of the Broken Hill Proprietary Company Limited and other parent companies which supply raw materials to their subsidiary enterprises.
Another matter for consideration is the point to which we believe that these industries should be developed. Are they to be carried on only to the extent necessary to meet Australia’s requirements, or are they to be developed to the point at which an export trade could be built up, so that Australia might become the arsenal of the Pacific? Will Australia be called upon to supply defence equipment to friendly nations only, or also to help private undertakings interested in the manufacture of munitions to export their goods to unfriendly countries? Every member of this Parliament knows that the whole of the present foreign policy of this country is fashioned to meet what is termed the southward march of the Japanese. That is the fear in the hearts of a great number of Australians; but, because profits are sacrosanct in the eyes of this Government, it took action against workers who were endeavouring to prevent the exportation of raw materials required by munition manufacturers to one of our potential enemies in the. Pacific. Therefore, it is natural to assume that if vested interests find it profitable to export munitions to other countries, whether they be friendly or otherwise, this Government will consider that the manufacturers are within their rights in exporting their products to whatever quarter of the globe they choose. I am not prepared to support such a policy.
Honorable members who criticize the Labour party’s idea of establishing government workshops for the sole purpose of the manufacture of defence equipment try to ridicule it by saying that it would be unprofitable for these workshops to undertake this activity. They say that at times other than those of national emergency the extensions of government workshops would prove to be “white elephants.” The Government knows well that it is only by its policy of propping up private enterprise that government workshops would be reduced to that condition. The Govern.ment. by securing an amendment of the Constitution, could make it possible for many of these workshops, even in normal times of peace, to engage in the manufacture of the equipment necessary for the peaceful development of Australia, but the Government wishes to preserve the rights of its wealthy political supporters outside this Parliament. That is why it says that government workshops should not be permitted to undergo] take the manufacture of equipment for the peaceful development of this country. Therefore, the policy of using such establishments solely for the pro.duction of defence equipment should not be supported by this Parliament. But if these annexes would become “ white elephants “ when attached to Government workshops, how is it that they will not become “ white elephants “ when attached to private establishments? Much of the equipment to be installed in the annexes will be of no use for any purpose other than the production of war material. What is to happen when there is no emergency, and the Government no longer wants great quantities of munitions from the private firms? Will such firms then close down those parts of their premises devoted to the manufacture of Avar material, or will they continue to operate them to their capacity so long as they can find a market overseas for their output? We know to what lengths firms engaged in the production of
Avar materials will go to create Avar hysteria in their OWn country, and in other countries, in order to stimulate the demand for their products. We know that inquiries have been held by governments in various parts of the world into the operations of private armament manufacturers. Not long ago, the Senate of the United States of America appointed a committee to conduct such an investigation, and some startling disclosures were made in evidence given before it. Those engaged in the private manufacture of armaments recognize no national barriers. They are prepared to sell their wares to any country, and to enter into agreements with those engaged in the same trade in any other countries. According to evidence given before the Senate committee in the United States of America, the- private armament firms of that country entered into an agreement with the arms manufacturers in Great Britain to divide the world into spheres of influence in which the manufacturers of the one country would not compete against the manufacturers in the other. We know of the enormous profits made by the armament firms. We know that when the Anzacs landed at the Dardanelles, they were shot down by guns supplied to the Turks by Vickers, the armament firm in England. Why is it, then, that the Government, having all this information at its disposal, seems to believe that those who will engage in the manufacture of arms in this country- will be any different from those engaged in the same trade elsewhere? Let us take proper precautions now to check the operation of such firms before they grow so powerful that the Government cannot deal with them. That is what has happened elsewhere, and it will happen here if the Government does not act. I would rather see defence annexes to Government workshops remain “ white elephants “ when there was no national emergency than I would see established in Australia private armament firms that would grow to such dimensions that they could become a menace to peace, as have similar firms in other countries.
The Opposition is suspicious of the intentions of the Government in this regard. First, the Government must establish to our satisfaction that there really is an emergency. It has not done so yet. When it does so, it will have to convince us why, when it has introduced a measure for the regimentation of war materials, industry and man-power, it has not also taken steps to ascertain and control the financial resources of the country. The Labour, party recognizes that, by adopting a financial policy different from what is regarded as the orthodox one, it would be possible for any government in Australia in the present circumstances to undertake very great defence activities without adversely affecting the existing living standards of the people. This Government, however, will not adopt that policy. Up to the present the anti-Labour parties in Australia have always been fairly successful in their attempts to delude the people into believing that an economic catastrophe would engulf the country if effect were given to the Labour party’s financial proposals. I am convinced, however, that eventually, as the result of the dissemination of knowledge by certain organizations, there will develop an irresistible public demand that the powers exercised by the financial interests shall be taken away from them, and exercised by the elected representatives of the people. Then, by utilizing the full resources of the country in man-power and materials, we shall be able to provide ourselves with an adequate defence system, and yet improve the general living standards of the people. I regret that so much of the time of this House in recent months has been taken up with the discussion of war-like measures, and that the Government has taken advantage of the alleged state of emergency to stifle effective criticism of its failure to carry out necessary social reforms.
– There are several reasons why I welcome the introduction of this bill. Let us consider the state of affairs that existed about this time last year, and continued until such time as the present Minister for Defence (Mr; Street) succeeded the honorable member for Calare (Mr. Thorby) in that office. Until then the honorable member for Calare was carrying the almost insupportable burden of administering the present Defence Department, combined with the Munitions and Supply Department, and the Civil Aviation Branch. In the whole of my parliamentary experience I have never known any other man who was so snowed up with work as he was. During much of his term of office, he received very scant consideration from sections of the public, and the press. The magnitude of the task’ he was attempting to perform can best be gauged by noting the way in which the duties are now distributed. The Minister for Defence retains control of the fighting services. Another Minister is in charge of the Department of Supply and Development, while still another is in charge of Civil Aviation. Those three Ministers hive the full-time help of one Assistant Minister, and they receive aid from other quarters as well. The fact is that four Ministers are now engaged upon the work which was considered to be the rightful task of one man before the reconstruction of the Government last year.” There is this point to consider also: It is a bad policy in defence matters to place control of the fighting forces and of the Munitions Branch under the one ministerial head. The two departments require a different outlook and experience.
I say, with all respect to the gentlemen who to-day are chiefly concerned with the performance of those duties, that it is very seldom that the qualifications for the two jobs are found in the one man.
I believe that this bill represents a forward movement in the organization of this country for defence. I .believe it to be necessary that supply and development should be placed under the control of one Minister. Many opinions have been expressed during the course of this debate regarding the bill. Some honorable members have described it, in effect, as being merely a ‘Shetland pony; other comparisons have gone right through all the grades up to the Clydesdale. Some seem to think that it is a donkey, and others a mule. The fact is that the bill before the chamber to-night is the product of the right honorable member for Cowper (Sir Earle Page), and it bears his brand if any measure ever did. It does not contain every proposal which was in the mind of the right honorable gentleman when he was pressing for this legislation shortly after his return to Australia in September of last year, but it contains a great many of his suggestions. I believe that, as time goes on, the Government will see the wisdom of still further enlarging the scope of the measure so as to include those matters that were suggested but omitted.
The right honorable member for Cowper was intent upon achieving the organization and development of certain primary industries necessary to the defence of the country; the establishment and development of certain secondary industries of an essential character; the effective survey of the mineral resources of the country; and the development of power and transport .in order to insure more effective defence. Some honorable members of the Opposition, particularly the honorable member for Maribyrnong (Mr. Drakeford) and the honorable member for Ballarat (Mr. Pollard), have emphasized the need for a survey of our mineral resources. I regret that the bill does not contain any reference to those matters, unless they are covered by the general terms of clause 3.
– Nothing is said about providing work for the unemployed.
– I shall digress merely to say, in reply to the honorable member, that if the Government launches great manufacturing enterprises, as honorable members opposite say that it intends, such enterprises must provide increased employment. Consequently, the fear expressed by the honorable member is unfounded.
– Departmental figures show that 29,000 men are registered for employment at munition works in Victoria. What is to be done to remedy that position?
– The honorable member will have an opportunity himself to deal with that matter later. I shall now deal with the proposals the implementation of which I consider to be necessary for the proper functioning of this measure. I noticed a little titter on the other side when I referred to the establishment of certain primary industries in relation to defence. I refer now to the establishment of certain branches of the fibre industry. Australia is the world’s greatest producer of one fibre, wool, but there are others, equally essential to our economic life, which we make no attempt to produce. In Queensland some attention has been given to the production of cotton, but in the southern States, despite the suitability of soil and rainfall, and the urgent need in many districts to change over from wheat to some other product, we find that very little attention is being given by the State governments to the production of flax.
– That industry was tried in Queensland.
– I have read sufficient about the subject to lead me to believe that Queensland would not be suitable for the cultivation of a product which requires a cold climate. Not only is a fibre like flax needed for our ordinary peace-time requirements, as well as for war purposes, but it is also a commodity which Great Britain is obliged to import. The requirements of the United Kingdom for industrial purposes to-day are approximately 100,000 tons per annum, and of that quantity 98,000 tons is imported from Russia. At this juncture I do not propose to deal with this subject in detail. I simply mention flax as one crop to which the Government might devote attention in order to establish a necessary primary industry, and, at the same time, acquire complete control of our requirements of this commodity.
– Such an industry would require tariff protection.
– That has not been proved.
– Farmers in Victoria have given up growing flax because they could not get a decent price.
– I have inquired into that aspect of the matter, and I am convinced that failures to establish this industry up to date have been due to the fact that such attempts have never been properly organized, and because the number of people who engaged in it were too few. Furthermore, no attempt has yet been made to establish flax-growing on an economic basis as one of our rural industries. If the work is to be done thoroughly it stands to reason that those engaged in the factory in extracting the fibre must be employed on a full-time basis. This would involve devoting certain areas in given districts to the production of that commodity, and the establishment of works which would give full-time employment. Otherwise employees would be obliged to seek other work, perhaps elsewhere, during the remainder of the year.
– It would be worth trying in South Australia.
– Yes. The first argument in favour of the establishment of this industry is that it would meet our requirements in peace time. Secondly, it would give us an exportable commodity for which a ready market already exists in the United Kingdom. By its cultivation we should secure a very necessary grain, linseed, from which, a valuable oil could be extracted. It has a double value in that connexion. Thirdly, Lt would enable us to meet in some measure the deficiency of secondary industries in our country districts.
There is every justification for the Commonwealth Government conducting a thorough survey and classification of our mineral resources. Australia has practically a monopoly of minerals which are essential to the manufacture of munitions of war. One is tantalite, with which the honorable member for the Northern Territory (Mr. Blain) is, no doubt, familiar. Of a total production of about 110 lb. a year about 108 lb. comes from the north-west of Western Australia. Other minerals are wolfram, manganese and zirconium. There are many others including some which are very rare and which are essential in the manufacture of munitions. Yet no attempt has been made, either by the Governments of the Commonwealth or the States, to conduct a proper survey of such resources. Another mineral which comes to my mind is osmiridium, the world supply of which is very small, and of which Tasmanian deposits give the Commonwealth almost a monopoly. In this connexion the question of secondary industries again arises. The Minister, if he exercises correctly the powers proposed to be given to him under this measure, as I hope and believe he will, must get down to a consideration of what secondary industries, are needed in this country in order to ensure a properly balanced outlook to the part of our manufacturers so far as defence is concerned. Having got that picture in his mind, we must keep in view three things. The first is the proper distribution of these industries so that the whole of them will not be established along the seaboard, or in one particular State. The second is that there should be a proper concentration of certain of these industries in relation to one another, so that one may assist the other. Thirdly, these industries should bo so sited that they will be out of danger in the event of trouble; and, fourthly, provision must be made in every defence scheme for the capacity to expand production sufficiently to fulfil the requirements for which the industries are established. According to a plan for the establishment of a department of munitions, supply and development which the right honorable member for Cowper (Sir Earle Page) had in mind six months ago, a great necessity existed for a proper inquiry into the subject of power supplies in Australia. Economic manufacture cannot be carried on effectively, either in times of peace or in war, unless we have plentiful supplies of reasonably cheap power. So far no survey of the power resources of Australia has been undertaken. The whole subject of power has been developed on a purely unit basis. The idea which the right honorable member for Cowper had in mind was to link the black coal power resources of New South Wales and Victoria with certain hydro electric works so that we should have one gridwork of power plants operating from Queensland right round to South Australia. By the even distribution of power at a uniform rate over a wide area we should do more to assist in the legitimate decentralization of industry than can be done by any other method. Under present conditions, industries will naturally tend to gravitate to centres where power is available at cheap rates.
Then there is the matter of the transport facilities that are available in this country. This raises a very important consideration. At present, four cheap forms of transport are available - by road, rail, water and air - but the Commonwealth can exercise practically no control over them. I sometimes shudder when I think of what would be the plight of Australia in regard to transport if it wore necessary to move large bodies of troops, and the munitions and foodstuffs which must accompany them, under active service conditions. This is a very important problem, which the States are not likely to solve. It can be tackled effectively only by some Commonwealth authority. The formation of this Department of Supply is likely to take us the first step in the direction of the proper consideration of transport facilities in the Commonwealth. Every State is spending money on the construction of further lines of railway, and no successful attempt has been made to overcome the difficulties caused by breaks of gauge. Victoria has built the Spirit of Progress, and New South Wales will probably respond with something else. So the mad race goes on. A fraction of the sum spent on unemployment relief in Victoria during the depression years would have enabled the railway system of that State to be converted to the standard gauge ; but it seems rather fashionable in this socalled democratic country to have men doing nothing rather than to put them to some productive employment. I believe that, as a political principle, the dole is one of the worst expedients ever introduced into this country, and that money thus expended is “ poured into a sink “. Valuable and effective enterprises which would give a return for the expenditure incurred are the best investment a government could have in a time of depression. It stands to reason that importance attaches to the location of industries, particularly secondary industries. This matter, if left to the individual concerned, is likely to cause quite a lot of difficulty. .There is no need for me to mention some of the prize examples we have along our coastline. The honorable member for Werriwa (Mr. Lazzarini) has one in his electorate. If that sort of thing be allowed to continue, private enterprise, having established some vital industry on the sea-board, will be entitled to say to the Commonwealth, “You find £250,000 or £500,000 to provide fortifications for our protection “. Even those might be incapable of affording protection against a superior force.
A matter for consideration by the Department of Supply and Development is the steadily increasing mechanization of not only Australian industry, but also the Australian Military Forces. It stands to reason that the greater the degree of mechanization in the armed forces the greater the degree of organization in regard to man power and supplies behind those mechanized forces that will be necessary under active service conditions. Organization of one type simply compels the establishment of organization of another type. The change over to oil-driven vehicles in the Australian defence system means greater dependence on oil supplies. I entertain grave doubts as to the good faith of certain of the oil companies of Australia and New Guinea. I am inclined to believe that there has been a huge swindle of some sort in connexion with the failure to discover oil in this country.
– There is more than a doubt about the matter.
– I informed the previous Ministry that I considered that if as much money, time and energy had been devoted to the discovery of oil in Australia as had been expended by certain, interests to prevent its discovery, we would have had adequate supplies long ago. If we are to proceed with mechanization, to which the Australian Military Forces appear to be committed, it is all the more necessary to have within our borders some sort of motive power. Therefore, I agree with the honorable member for Swan (Mr. Gregory) that consideration should be given to the development of propulsion by producer gas. There is no shortage of wood from which charcoal may be made. Whilst I admit that less horse-power is developed - I believe that the efficiency is about 20 per cent, below that of petrol or kerosene - we could carry on with it. Other fuels also might be produced, although the cost, I understand, is very great. I have never been satisfied, as this House well knows, with the Newnes shale oil agreement. Although at Newnes are some of the richest oil shale deposits in the world, our costs of production are the highest of any country. There is room for a thorough inquiry in this connexion.. Time alone will disclose whether or not the scheme to which’ the last. Parliament gave its consent will bear * fruit; we should know early next year.
– What about oil from coal ?
– I believe that the extraction of oil from coal is still in the experimental stage. We can well wait a little while so that we may profit from the expenditure of other countries in the endeavour to discover the cheapest method of producing oil from coal.
There are one or two things against which I would warn the Government in the operation of a Department of Supply and Development. I do not know whether it is in the mind of the Government to invest in the establishment of certain industries. If that be its intention, for Heaven’s sake let the industry be either 100 per cent, private enterprise or 100 per cent, governmental control. The worst form of hybrid industry of which I have any knowledge is that which is exemplified by the existence of the Commonwealth Oil Refineries Limited, in which the Commonwealth provides over one-half of the capital and the other partner to the agreement exercises all the effective control.
– Which would the honorable member prefer - private enterprise or government control?
– I am looking at the matter from the viewpoint of the Government. That must also be the viewpoint of this House. This measure is not one which authorizes the Government to engage in all sorts of fantastic production in respect of a range of commodities. What the measure visualizes is the establishment of a department which will test the capacity of industries to produce, in ‘case of necessity, commodities which would be required under war conditions. That is the real objective of the bill. If this Government went out of office I do not think that an administration composed of honorable members opposite could take under this measure, even if it so desired, that control of primary and secondary industries which some honorable members seem to fear would be taken.
Sitting suspended from 6.15 to 8 p.m.
– I ask leave to continue my remarks at a later hour.
Leave granted; debate adjourned.
– hy leave - My position in relation to national insurance is well known, and I believe that the lines of policy which I suggested quite recently to my party, when I was still a private member, have in a general way come to the knowledge of the public. The Parliament was elected upon what I believe to have been a mandate to proceed to the establishment of national insurance in Australia in accordance with certain broad principles and to the fullest practicable extent. Legislation was passed last year and a department was set up. Many approved societies came into existence. Difficulties then arose and the commencement of the scheme has been delayed. No useful purpose would be served if I were now to traverse the story of the last few months, embarrassed as it bas been by unfortunate and even tragic events. I may say at once that I respect and appreciate the sincere convictions held by my colleague, the Minister for Supply and Development, the then Treasurer (Mr. Casey), for -whose “work in connexion with the formulation and putting through Parliament of a national insurance scheme I have nothing but admiration. He, I know, was reluctant to reach the conclusion which he did reach at the beginning of this year in relation to certain aspects of this great problem. But when the Lyons Government, early in February, for reasons which were, in the main, of a financial kind, and were acceptable to the majority of the then Cabinet, decided upon certain drastic curtailments of the scheme, I thought it would have been right and proper to proceed with the original programme as planned, and subsequently to make such revision as might be found to bc desirable. There was then available a period which would have been adequate to the carrying out of the necessary preparations. To-day, the position has entirely changed; the National Insurance Commission’s activities have been largely suspended; the approved societies have been in a state of uncertainty ; the royal commission on the remuneration to be paid to doctors under the . act has never been reconstituted since the death of the chairman; there has been, so far, an inability to arrive at a basis which would ensure full co-operation on the part of the medical profession; and there has been in many quarters a notion that the scheme passed last year is dead. It is clearly impossible now, in all these circumstances, to bring the scheme into operation on the 4th September. Nobody could now avoid further delay. I hope that the delay will not be too long. I am anxious to see the promise of national insurance fulfilled and its benefits in actual operation. I need not assure the House that my colleague, the Minister for Social Services (Sir Frederick Stewart), ‘is as eager as any one could he to push on with that work. As, however, there must be delay, the occasion will be used to review the whole scheme and to give consideration to the various suggestions which have been made, both in Par liament and out of it, since the act was passed. The chief of these suggestions is that relating to the extension of medical services to provide a family medical benefit. There have also been financial criticisms of the scheme in the light of our defence commitments, and it is accordingly desirable that there should be a review of the finances of any suggested scheme of national insurance. One matter which has presented itself to my mind relates to the possibility of seeing whether the accumulation of. the necessary reserves cannot be graduated in such a fashion as to postpone the peak of accumulations until after the next few years of acute defence expenditure has been survived. A review of the whole plan, in other words, is not only desirable, but also inevitable. When I say that, I mean, not that the consideration of this problem should be commenced de novo, but that the future work to be done should be done upon the existing foundations, which include the reports originally obtained by the then government, the legislation actually passed, the lengthy investigations of the royal commission, and the accumulated experience of the National Insurance Commission. I realize, further, that during the last twelve months a great deal of knowledge and experience has become available, and that many points of view can now be expressed with new force and advantage. I propose, therefore, to ask Parliament to set up a committee of members of Parliament, with whom will be associated representatives of the medical profession and of the approved societies, together with the National Insurance Commission itself, to examine the subject and to see whether a practicable scheme, in which all parties will cheerfully and patriotically cooperate, can be evolved. The proceedings of this committee need not be cumbersome or lengthy. Indeed, the Government would indicate to such a committee that it desired a report within a limited period of time. Nobody can regret more than I do the necessity for some further delay in this matter ; but I am encouraged to believe that a good result can be achieved because I have not failed to notice that in most of the recent discussions, parliamentary and otherwise, some of the most vocal opponents of the recently enacted insurance legislation strongly adhere to the main principles of national insurance. By all these means it is hoped that we shall be able to introduce a measure which, while being within the compass of our financial capacity, will give to a wide section of the Australian community a degree of contentment and happiness which can never be theirs so long as they are subject to insecure conditions of life.
.- by leave - I have no objection, nor has the House, to giving- to the Prime Minister as a matter of courtesy, leave to make a statement, but I do submit that the practice of making statements in the form which the right honorable gentleman has just used, prejudices the House in that there is given to it what is tantamount to an exposition of government policy, without any opportunity being given to honorable members as a whole to debate the principles of that announcement.
– The Leader of the Opposition appears to have forgotten that I have been asked three or four times by members of his party to state my policy on this matter, and that I said that I would make a statement to the House. T intended to make it this morning.
– Whatever the circumstances, I have no objection, as a matter of courtesy, to the Prime Minister making a statement in respect of policy, or, indeed, in regard to any other matter, but I do submit that any such ‘ statement should be made in such circumstances as would give to every honorable member in the House an opportunity to debate its principles.
– That opportunity will come later.
– Yes, when a substantive motion is submitted by the Prime Minister for the setting up of a committee. Between now and then he will ascertain the reactions of some of his own supporters, and of the country, to his proposal, and he will endeavour to ascertain how far this’ procedure will appease some of his discordant supporters. In that way he is using this statement as a preliminary to the more successful management of his own party in respect of a. matter which that party has muddled from the very beginning. When the right honorable gentleman does submit a substantive motion, I ask him to be reasonable in regard to the amount of time which he proposes to give to the committee, because he proposes to ask it to investigate the reports originally obtained by a previous government; to examine the legislation which was actually passed; to collaborate with the National Insurance Commission, and to have regard to what he described as the accumulated experience of the commission. Moreover, the committee is to review the work done by the royal commission which did not’ complete its investigation of medical fees. That may not be a committee Oto consider the matter de novo, but if such a committee is really to arrive at a scheme which willwork in this country, I suggest that it would be far better if it were allowed to start de novo. I believe that if the committee were allowed a reasonable period, it might be able to accomplish something worth while; but reliance only on the testimony of those who are behind the Government, and such experts as .have been requisitioned by the Government to assist in producing proposals suitable to the Government, will not enable the committee to produce proposals suitable to the country.
– I hope that members of the party led ‘by the honorable gentleman will participate in the work of the committee.
– The Opposition stated its views in regard to national insurance time after time during the discussion of the original measure. I say now to the Prime Minister, that if he will incorporate in the bill which he intends to submit to the Parliament, proposals for insurance against unemployment, I offer to him a degree of collaboration that he will regard as absolutely astonishing. On the other hand, I say now that any plan of national insurance which omits provision for the unemployed of this country will not be acceptable to the Opposition.
Bill returned from the Senate without amendment.
Debate resumed (vide page 534).
– The chief criticism voiced against this bill, so far, has been that the Government is seeking extraordinary powers. That is true, but I say that, whilst the powers may be extraordinary, so also are the conditions under which those powers are intended to be used. Most unusual conditions must prevail for the government of the day to be obliged to put into operation the ideas which lie behind the constitution of a Ministry of Supply and Development. If members are to be fair in their discussion of this subject they must pay some attention to the conditions which will prevail in a state of warfare under modern conditions, and whilst we admit that extraordinary powers are sought, we must decide whether the means are greater than are required to attain the end which this Parliament no doubt has in view - -the effective defence of this country. Modern war involves not only the fighting forces and their equipment and training, but also the supply of munitions, the obtaining of information as to stocks of munitions, the wastage which is likely to occur, the time required to replace that wastage, transport problems, and the securing of raw material in order to maintain regular supplies of munitions.
Obviously the conditions of warfare have changed in modern times. It is no longer simply a matter of caring for the armed forces. Under present conditions, the whole civil population is likely to be as suddenly involved as are the armed forces themselves. Therefore the problem to be faced is no small one. The provision of adequate supplies for the fighting services, and also the making of adequate arrangements for the protection of the civil population and the meeting, of its needs, must engage the attention of the Government. The power taken under this bill must, in such circumstances, be extraordinary. If this country becomes involved in warfare some person will have to exercise extraordinary authority. This Parliament will not be occupying its time debating whether this or that regulation should he disallowed, or whether this or that subject should be referred to the Tariff Board for report. It will carry responsibility for quite other matters. It was said on one occasion not long ago by the present AttorneyGeneral (Mr. Hughes) that during the last war the government of Australia was vested in his fountain pen. If the conditions that some of us fear but all of us hope will be avoided, should overtake us the government of the Commonwealth will again be contained in some one’s fountain pen.
– Complete totalitarianism !
– The honorable member for Batman (Mr. Brennan) may put what interpretation he likes on my remarks; hut the time may nevertheless come when some honorable gentleman connected with his party will need to hold the power of government in his fountain pen. We must face that possibility, for under war conditions it may be just as necessary for the power of government to be exercised by some honorable member opposite, who may at that time be in the office of Prime Minister, as for it to he used by any honorable gentleman on this side of the chamber who may be in power, for the country must be properly protected.
This is not a question of party politics. The proper provision of supplies of all descriptions is essential, whichever party may be in power. The definitions in the bill, to which some honorable members have taken exception, are, to my mind, quite exceptionable. They are necessary. We must seek to cover all conditions. Everything to-day is contraband of war. Once upon a time, when a state of war was declared, certain commodities were listed as contraband and, in respect of them, no trade was permitted by the countries at war because it was not desired that one country should help another. But, under the conditions of modern warfare, all trade must be completely prohibited with the countries at war, because with the development of modern chemical industries, everything may come into the category of contraband. In the hands of skilful chemists, anything may be converted to war purposes. For this reason, among others, it is essential that the Government shall have, power to protect the civil population, just as in time of war in the past it has had power to provide for the troops in the field.
– A military dictatorship!
– The honorable member for Batman, who is one of the most eloquent members of this chamber, will have an opportunity to state his own opinions on this subject. I have no doubt that he will do it in his own inimitable manner and that he will be well worth hearing. I plead with honorable gentlemen generally to realize that the task of making proper provision for the supply of munitions, and for supplies generally, must, under existing circumstances, be regarded as one of trial and error. The Government has entered a field which has never previously been explored by an Australian government. We have never had to face such conditions as confront us to-day. The time to act is now. It is a peace-time job. There willbe no opportunity to grapple effectively with these problems after war has been declared. Now is the time for such action. Therefore, I say, absolutely and unreservedly, that the Government should be given every credit for bringing down this bill. The measure certainly emanated from the mind of the right honorable member for Cowper (Sir Earle Page), but it is one which, in my opinion, should commend itself to honorable members of all parties. The proper provision of supplies for our armed forces, and also our civil population, shouldbe made in peace time. It will be fatal for us to allow the matter to stand over until war has commenced.
Now is the time for us to consider three important factors that must press themselves upon us if war should occur. These arc: time itself, wealth, and life. A proper exploration canbe made in all these fields only in days of peace. I cannot stress too strongly the inexcusable , folly of withholding action with respect of these matters until war actually occurs. I understand the conditions which have actuated the Government in bringing down this measure. I welcome the introduction of it. The hill seeks to implement an important part of the
Country party policy, designed to prepare this country to stand on its own feet in time of war. Knowing these things, I believe that there should be complete unanimity on the measure. I have no hesitation whatever in commending it to the House, and I hope that it will receive whole-hearted support.
. -In approaching this measure as it has done, the Labour party wishes it to be clearly understood that it is in no way antagonistic to the making of proper provision for the adequate defence of Australia. What Labour opposes is the method that the Government is proposing to adopt, and which to a large extent it has actually adopted, to make such provision. The lettingof contracts for the supply of munitions of war to private enterprise is, in our opinion, a cardinal error. Surely the experiences of the past in other countries, as well as in Australia, have been sufficient to make this clear. Whathas happened in almost every country of the world in connexion with the supply of munitions of war by private enterprise has been shown clearly in the reports of various authoritative commissions of inquiry. These investigating bodies have practically unanimously expressed the view that it is extremely dangerous to allow armaments to be manufactured by private enterprise. 1 direct particular attention to the report of the commission set up by the League of Nations to investigate this subject. This body was presided over by the late Mr. Arthur Henderson, who was a great lover of peace. The commission had shown beyond all question that even comparatively recently, the British, French and Czechoslovakian munitions manufacturers were supplying arms to both sides in the Sino-Japanese war. The Skoda works in Czechoslovakia were supplying munitions to China, whilst Vickers Limited were supplying them to Japan. The Skoda works, like Vickers Limited, are international in their ramifications. Lord Cecil was another notable Britisher prominent in the movement for the abolition of war. He said not long ago that there was no doubt that the armaments ring wielded a terrific power throughout the world and that it was unsafe to allow the manufacture of munitions of war to remain in the hands of private enterprise. The League of Nations disarmament commission made certain definite charges which were amply borne out by its investigations. It declared -
If we allow the manufacture of armaments to get into the hands of private companies in this country, we shall undoubtedly experience a repetition of the corrupt bribing practices that have beenso common in countries overseas. It is well known that troubles of this kind occurred in the United States of America. A committee of the American Senate made an important investigation into this whole subject not very long ago. It was’ authorized to call for evidence from all sources. Its report clearly revealed that Ministers of the Crown had been bribed by munitions manufacturers. The inquiry into the operations of Skoda Limited revealed that five Czechoslovakian ministers had been bribed by the Skoda organization. They were, of course, dismissed, but that was like shutting the .stable door after the horses had been stolen. The League of Nations Commission also declared -
We know very well that guns manufactured by British armament firms were sold to Turkey and were used to shoot down Australian soldiers. I have no desire te weary honorable members by referring to these numerous reports in detail. They may be read in the library. An examination of them will provide ample justification for every statement that I am making. Yet in spite of all these facts, this Government is allowing the manufacture of armaments by private enterprise. On the 4th May, the Leader of the Opposition (Mr. Curtin) asked the Treasurer a question concerning the firms which had obtained contracts for the supply of armaments. The reply to the question was made available to-day. It gave a list of 30 or 40 firms. Prominent among them is the Broken Hill Proprietary Company. That organization, as everybody knows, is allied with Imperial Chemical Industries, which manufactured large quantities of poison gas during the last war. It is deplorable that those engaged in these activities to-day are boasting that, they have invented a better poison gas for the destruction of humanity than any used in the last war. It is a pity that these organizations cannot turn the attention of their skilled employees to some better purpose. If something could be done for the benefit, rather than the destruction, of humanity, how much better off the world would be! In consequence of the ravages of the poison gas used during the last war, many thousands of unfortunate mcn are walking about our streets expectorating their lungs away. They are suffering from a complaint similar to tuberculosis. From the same cause, many others have gone to early graves.
According to Jobson’s Digest, which may be seen in the Parliamentary Library, the chairman of the United Australia party, Sir Sydney Snow, is a substantial shareholder in the Broken Hill South Mining Company. The Broken Hill Proprietary Company Limited has been given a contract for the manufacture of 18-lb. streamline shells. The price quoted is £12,719 13s., and for 3-in. 20-cwt. shells, £13,428 8s. 9d. Sir Sydney Snow who, as I have said, is president of the United Australia party, is interested in this contract for these munitions. The international character of armament and munition rings has been disclosed time and time again by royal commissions, various other forms of inquiries and by the special body set up by the American Senate for this purpose. Another iron and steel magnate associated with the Broken Hill Proprietary Company Limited, Sir W. G. Duncan, a member of the Legislative Council of South Australia, will benefit from these contracts.
We are interested in the findings of these commissions and committees of inquiry. We are interested in the worldwide ramifications of armament organiza1:OnS, which, through a subsidized press, create war scares, and pit one country against another in order to increase their profits. Through their agents they will sell a battleship, aeroplanes, guns, &c, to one nation and then through its press, advise another government that it is “slipping” and should provide itself with more armaments. Thus, the business is carried on and larger dividends are earned for the shareholders of these munition enterprises. Even when war breaks out they continue their nefarious activities. They willingly supply even the enemies of their own country with military and naval equipment. Need I remind honorable members that after the evacuation of Gallipoli some of the guns which had been used with such deadly effect against Australian soldiers were found to bear tablets stating that hey had been manufactured in Great Britain?
– And the lead came from Broken Hill.
– As I have been reminded by the honorable member for Reid (Mr. Gander) some of the lead used in enemy ammunition came from Broken Hill. I admit that several defence contracts are to be placed with the Victorian railway workshops, but the ‘ amount involved is not stated. Likewise no amount is given in respect of contracts to be lodged with the New South Wales railway workshops’. The bulk of the contracts for Australia’s defence requirements is to be let to private firms which are building annexes and preparing to extend their plants. It is not clear whether or not the Government is paying for the construction of these annexes. I should like to know if the Commonwealth is subsidizing £1 for £1 the erection of additions to private establishments for the manufacture of the hellish instruments of war. If the Government thinks it right to subsidize private firms which engage in the manufacture of war material, why should not similar assistance be given to government or semi-government organizations? Railway workshops, for instance, have the necessary plant to turn out shell cases and various other requirements for munitions manufacturers. Why not extend all these establishments ?
The Government has always professed itself to be anxious to do something to solve the unemployment problem. In this huge defence programme it has an excellent opportunity. The Governmentshould set up its own factories which would be conducted under strict supervision. In this way adequate supply of war equipment could be produced and the profiteering of private manufacturers would be eliminated. The State Government dockyard at Walsh Island, Newcastle, has been closed for some years. It should be re-opened and operated by the Commonwealth Government in the interests of national defence. The Minister has agreed to inspect that dockyard in company with the honorable member for Newcastle (Mr. Watkins) and myself in the near future. I hope that, as a result of that visit, the Minister will see his way clear to take the dockyard over from the State Government which, I understand, is agreeable to the proposal. It was at one time a well equipped dockyard and if it were put in commission again much of the money which it is proposed to expend on the construction of annexes to private industries would be avoided.
In the vicinity of Cessnock there are many locations eminently suited to the establishment of munition manufacturing industries. The sites would be reasonably safe from attack from the air and being situated further from the coast than many of the factories which it is proposed to subsidize, would be much more suitable for defence establishments. I strongly urge that something along the lines which I have suggested be done and that the manufacture of munitions should not be left entirely in the hands of private enterprise. If the control of the armaments industry is to be allowed to pass into the hands of private enterprise there will be grave danger of a repetition in Australia of the profiteering which has taken place in the past in other parts of the world. I for one am not prepared to allow the manufacture of armaments and munitions to be carried out in this country by any one but the Government, which has no incentive to make profits, and is actuated only by an honest desire to see that the country is adequately defended. The reports of various commissions and committees of inquiry set up to investigate the armaments industry have clearly shown that that industry is international in character and is a menace to the peace of the world. It consists of a powerful group of vested interests, the object of which is to promote competition in armaments which must inevitably lead to war. If there is no war, armaments manufacturers cannot pay dividends to their shareholders. To them human life and happiness is a secondary consideration. Their only aim is to sell at a huge profit the instruments of death which they make.
The people of this country must take a firm stand and raise their voices in protest against any attempt to introduce into Australia the system of private manufacture of armaments which leads to profiteering. Time and time again armaments from the foundries of one country have been turned against its people. There is indisputable evidence that this happened during the Great War. What a tragedy it would be if we in Australia were to supply munitions and equipment to a country which, some time in the future, turned these instruments of war upon us. We should make that impossible by demanding that the Government should assume full control of the industry, and carry out the work in its own manufacturing establishments.
At least a fair share of the defence contracts should be given to Common- wealth and State railway workshops and other semi-governmental establishments which have all the necessary machinery and equipment. For instance, the workshops of the Sydney Metropolitan Water Board are quite capable of producing at least some of the equipment and materials required under the Government’s defence programme. So, also the huge .workshops of the Sydney County Council’s Electric Supply Department are capable of doing various classes of heavy work under government control. The Lithgow Small Arms Factory should be extended. Why not erect a factory in a devastated coal-mining area, such as Maitland, Kurri Kurri or Cessnock, and thus alleviate much of the distress caused by unemployment? This suggestion will be put before the Minister when he visits those localities, as he has promised to do.
Another matter to which I should like to refer is one which 1 have frequently brought up in this House - the state of the coal-mining industry and the important part it could play in national defence. I understand that the honorable member for West Sydney (Mt. Beasley) when opening this debate paid a tribute to my persistence in connexion with this matter. For at least the last ten years, I have, endeavoured to get something done foi this industry. I raised the question long before the international position reached its present critical stage. Assistance should be given to the coal-mining industry, not merely in ‘ the interests of defence, but also with a view to alleviating the distressing conditions of people who have suffered probably more than any other class of the community. Something should be done to offset the serious setback to the coal-mining industry caused by the introduction of oil fuel, and the internal combustion engine. Despite the fact that I have brought this matter to the notice of the Government on many occasions, nothing has been done. The late Prime Minister (Mr. Lyons) visited the northern coal-fields with me, and various Ministers have done likewise. Promises were made to people on these visits, but nothing has resulted. Alleviation of distress on the coal-fields was a feature of the policy speech of the late Prime Minister at the 1934 general elections, but these areas are still in a state of desolation, and thousands of coal-miners are unemployed.
It is of “vital importance that the Government should take steps to establish the industry for the extraction of oil from coal, and thus make sure that in time of war Australia will be self-contained so far as its oil fuel supplies are concerned. The catch cry used by the United Australia party in one election campaign was “ Follow Britain “. If that policy were applied in its entirety we should be making token debt payments in the way that Britain is honouring its war debt to the United States of America. I do not wish to elaborate on that, but if it is to be our policy to follow Britain let us do it by trying to make ourselves independent of foreign oil supplies. Great Britain has gone a long way towards achieving that independence. Cables from London inform us that its air force and oil-burning naval vessels use fuel obtained from coal and shale. We could do the same thing here. The Minister for Supply and Development (Mr. Casey) was asked the other day by myself and the honorable member for Gippsland (Mr. Paterson) to give the cost of a plant for the extraction of oil from coal. The honorable member for Gippsland was concerned with brown coal, and I with black coal. The reply was similar to that given by the late Prime Minister to a question asked by me in 1936, except that, whereas the late right honorable gentleman said that the cost would be between ?8,000,000 and ?9,000,000, the Minister for Supply and Development raised the figure to ?11,000,000. In 1936, I said that the late Prime Minister’s reply did not conform to the information given in the House of Commons on the 25th February, 1936, by a man in a far better position than any honorable gentleman here to supply information as to the cost of a hydrogenation plant. I refer to the Secretary for Mines in the British Cabinet, Captain Crookshank. The question and answer are reported in columns 275-77, vol. 309, of the Hansard of the House of Commons, as follows: -
Mr. G. Hall asked the Secretary for Mines if be can give the monthly production of petrol at the Imperial Chemical Industries works at Billingham; and whether the works are now infull production, the total cost of the works to date, the monthly consumption of coal, and the number of work-people now employed at the plant and in the secondary industries?
C aptain Crookshank. - In reply to a question by the honorable member on the 30th July last, I gave a full statement of the position as it then existed at the Billingham plant. At that time 25,000 tons (7,500.000 gallons) of petrol had been produced. By the courtesy of Im perial Chemical Industries Limited, I am able to give the following information with regard to the present position.
Up to the present time a total of about 80,000 tons (24,000,000 gallons) has been obtained, of which approximately 36,000 tons were produced during the three months, OctoberDecember, 1935, or practically up to the full capacity of the plant as given in the earlier statement referred to. During that quarter the total quantity of coal devoted to the manufacture of petrol was 113,500 tons. In addition, tar oils from the high and low temperature carbonisation of coal were hydrogenated. My honorable friend will appreciate that during the first few months in a new plant of this kind, it is to be expected that the output may vary from month to month as modifications and adjustments to the plant need to be carried out as experience is gained of largescale operations.
The number of work-people employed at Billingham in connexion with petrol manufacture is over 2,000, and it is estimated that, in addition to miners directly engaged in producing coal for the plant, something approaching the same number may be employed in secondary industries. I have no information about the cost of the works beyond what was announced by the company in October last, when the plant was officially opened. It was then stated that the new capital expenditure amounted to about ?3,000,000.
– But that was a much smaller plant.
– I hope the honorable gentleman is right and that we can get a bigger one. That plant produced 36,000 tons of oil in three months, at the rate of 144,000 tons a year. That gives 43,000,000 gallons a year. If that be the product of a small plant, one big plant will supply the whole of Australia’s requirements.
– The plant is smaller than one which would cost ?11,000,000.
– There is only one hydrogenation plant erected in England and that is the one referred to by Captain Crookshank and the Prime Minister of this country. However, let us analyse the position. In a war, tankers bringing us our oil would have to run the gauntlet of submarines for 10,000 miles. This country would soon be brought to its knees if it had to rely on such , a precarious source of fuel supply. Even if we were not left entirely without fuel, our supplies would be so limited that the price would soar even beyond the price of whisky. .
– And that is high enough.
– Yes. I remind the House that in the last war, oil tankers were submarined as soon as they had left New York harbour. In the ItaloAbyssinian conflict, Mussolini had to pay as high as 5s. a gallon for his fuel, and the contracts contained a clause under which a captain of a tanker, if he feared that his vessel was in danger, could run it to any neutral coast, and Mussolini had to be prepared to accept delivery there. The answers that I have received to my efforts to have Australia made selfreliant in respect of fuel oil by the extraction of oil from coal are similar to the .statement made by the honorable member for Barker (Mr. Archie Cameron) in reply to an interjection by the honorable member for Reid (Mr. Gander), who is interested in this subject and has repeatedly brought it before the House, that it was extremely doubtful whether it was a commercial proposition. That was the answer that was given to me by the late Prime Minister and by the present Treasurer. Is a battleship, I should like to know, a commercial proposition? Are lighting aeroplanes commercial propositions? I3 it a commercial proposition to manufacture guns, bombs and other munitions for the destruction of human life ? No ! Why, therefore, argue on such lines ? The defence of Australia should be all-important and, even if what I advocate is not commercially sound, for our protection it should be undertaken. Of what use is it to have an air force, a mechanized army, or an oil-burning navy unless they have the means of operating? Are we to leave ourselves in such a position that after three months of war, with the country in a state of siege, we shall be able to boast, “ We have an air force, but it is immobile because we have no fuel. We have a navy, but it cannot go out to engage the enemy because we have no oil “ ? For ten long years I have been advocating that this country should do what is done by other countries, which have no indigenous well oil - Great Britain, Germany, Italy and Japan, to name four of them - all of which are thousands of miles nearer the oil-fields of the world than is Australia; that is to say, Ave should develop our coal and shale resources. Australia is lagging behind because the proposition is “ not commercial “.
– The influence of the major oil companies.
– The inaction of the Government leads to the suspicion that it is in the maw of the major oil companies and dare not move. When the late Prime Minister visited Cessnock, he promised definitely that the Government would undertake the production of oil from coal. He did so after having visited the devastated areas in the northern coalfields where women - shame on us to have to say it - have no decent clothing, men are hungry and little children go bootless to school in the cold winter months. The late Prime Minister saw representatives of 7,000 youths some of whom had reached the age of 25 and had never known what it was to work. Men whose fathers are in receipt of an income of £2 10s. a fortnight are not entitled to obtain relief work or to collect the dole. Some of these unfortunate young men even marry, because they will then be entitled to relief work or the dole. These are the men whom we expect to be patriotic, to fight and die for a country which in peace time ignores their plea for work and whom 1 have to face every week-end when T return to my electorate. I am grateful to learn that the Minister for Defence (Mr. Street) has expressed his willingness to visit the Cessnock district, and I feel sure that he will endeavour to do something to assist these unfortunate people. I trust, however, that he will also give further consideration to the important problem of making this country more self-contained than it is to-day, and independent of the major oil companies, which practically hold this country in the hollow of a hand. Tests on consignments of coal despatched from the Maitland district .to Greenwich show an oil content of from 10 per cent, to 15 per cent, greater than coal obtained in Great Britain or on the Continent. Coal with an oil content of from 10 per cent, to 15 per cent, less than that in the Maitland district is handled for oil extraction on a commercial basis by other countries. Why should not we attempt it?
I also direct the attention of the Minister to the manner in which oil is stored in Newcastle in the vicinity of public schools. Complaints are made from time to time that oil tanks erected in thickly-populated areas are painted white, and are as conspicuous to aerial bombers as a rifleman’s target. Moreover, they are close to schools attended by very young children. In other countries these tanks are placed underground. In mining districts, such as Newcastle, there are many abandoned mines in which oil fuel could be safely stored. In other mining districts similar storage space could be utilized. There are electric generating plants and gas works in all capital cities, all of which use large quantities of coal. The coal used for generating electricity and producing gas in Sydney is transported by rail from the coal-fields, a distance of 131 miles. In America coal is not transported over long distances for the production of electricity and gas, hut is treated at the source of supply. In Victoria coal is carried by rail from Wonthaggi to Melbourne, where it is used in generating electricity and in producing gas. Would it not be a commercial proposition for the Government to pay a subsidy to assist in the erection of plants at the pit heads, not only for the extraction of oil from coal, but also to generate electricity? The electricity could then be conveyed to Sydney by cables as is done in America, sometimes over a distance of 1,000 miles, with the assistance of boosting plants, and the gas could be carried by pipes to the point of utilization. If one of these undertakings showed a slight loss it would probably be compensated for by the profits shown on the other.[Leave to continue given.] Not only would the cities benefit, but also those engaged in farming and other rural pursuits between the two points involved would receive cheap electricity and gas which are not now available to them. Under such a system a large portion of the eastern coast of Australia could be supplied with electricity and gas. Generating plants could be erected where coal deposits abound in Victoria to many portions of Victoria, southern New South Wales, the northern district of New South Wales as far up as Werris Greek, and in the western districts, say, in the vicinity of Lithgow. In submitting propositions of this kind to the Government I never exaggerate the position. I have found Ministers sympathetic, and when some have gone overseas they have conducted investigations into certain proposals I have brought forward. I refer now more particularly to the Minister for Health (Sir Frederick Stewart) who, when Minister for Commerce, visited Great Britain and on his return submitted a very valuable report on the extraction of oil from coal. He was satisfied that it was a commercial proposition but no action was taken. The honorable gentleman visited my electorate and at the last show, which he opened, he spoke most enthusiastically of the project. In Great Britain a bounty of1d. is paid on foreign imports, and a payment of 4d. a gallon is also paid to the industry. I believe that the honorable member for Barton (Mr. Lane) and other honorable members recently visited the plant controlled by the Phoenix Oil Extractors Proprietary Limited. In a letter dated the 15th May, the chairman of directors of that company said that certain members of Parliament had visited the plant and he expressed the hope that they would convey their impressions to the Government. His letter concludes with these words, “ At present we are in the ‘ doldrums’ waiting to see if our present Government really wants the process before we go elsewhere “. Inventors in Great Britain have been compelled to go to the Continent where they have taken out patent rights of certain laboursaving devices. It would be a tragedy if that should occur in connexion with this company’s proposition. The following statement gives some interesting information concerning costs: -
Tlie Phoenix Oil Extractors Proprietary Limited has written to the Prime Minister (Mr. Menzies) who has stated that the erection of a 5-ton unit for experimental purposes is a matter for private enterprise. I do not think that it is. It is one of urgent national importance and the Government should handle it. In replying to the letter from the Prime Minister, the company stated - We do not quite agree with you that the matter of erecting a 5-ton unit in order to establish a standard unit is altogether a matter for private enterprise. In some respects it is, but in a matter of such vital interest to our country such as this is, and has been looked upon as a national matter of great national importance by the Government it becomes a question as to whether the country should take any risk of losing such a valuable asset. We are of the opinion that the Government or Governments should give this every consideration.
This company is anxious to erect a standard unit, the cost of which could be inquired into. The Government of New South Wales assisted Lyon Brothers to erect a unit of a low-temperature carbonization plant. I have never seen the Phoenix plant. On the day that an inspection was made by members of Parliament I had a prior engagement, and was unable to attend. Nor do I know anything of the process used, but if it produces all that is claimed for it, it is only right and fair that the Government should instruct its experts to examine it. When I asked the Minister to instruct either Mr. Sogers or Sir David Rivett, the Commonwealth Fuel Oil Adviser, to inquire into the process, he said that the company would not give Mr. Rogers all the information he required. When representatives of the Phoenix Company waited on me on Saturday last at the Federal Members’ Rooms, they informed me that before Mr. Rogers would consent to examine the plant he wished to know what catalyst was being used.
In other words he wanted to go right to the secret of the process before he would examine it. No inventor could afford to give away a secret of that kind. I do not wish to convey the impression that Mr. Rogers could not be trusted with the information, but I quite sympathize with the company in its refusal to disclose it. All that either Sir David Rivett or Mr. Rogers has to satisfy himself about is the correctness or otherwise of the claim made by these people that they can produce from 40 to 50 gallons of oil from a ton of coal, at a cost of 5.4d. a gallon.
– Most people who have watched these units in operation do not know how the petrol is extracted.
– If the honorable member knew, and I knew, the secret of extraction, probably we also would set up plants. I can inform the honorable member that there is no sleight of hand about it; it is a scientific process.
– The company is asking £15,000 from the Government to develop it.
– Why should not the Commonwealth Government and the State Government assist them ? As far as I can gather the process is quite a remarkable one, because in all I have read on this question - and I have read widely - I have never been able to find a reference to any other process capable of producing oil from coal under 7d. a gallon. The
Government should be prepared to make inquiries to see if the company is able to substantiate its claim that it can produce oil at 5.4d. a gallon. It has asked that Sir David Rivett or Mr. Rogers should be instructed to inspect the plant. It is not anxious to have Mr. Rogers carry out the inspection. Both Sir David Rivett and Mr. Rogers have had three trips to England to gain first-hand knowledge of processes used for the extraction of oil from coal, but it is extremely doubtful whether he is competent to deal with the subject. In this connexion I direct the attention of honorable members to the following statement issued by the board of directors of Coal Petrol Proprietary Limited, Newcastle, on the 30th April, 1936 :-
At a meeting of the board of directors Mr. Rogers was questioned by the chairman. It was suggested to Mr. Rogers that he was not competent to match his knowledge of processing the Greta coal measures with that of the Lyon Brothers, the company’s experts, and Mr. Rogers made the honest and frank reply that he was not.
So much for our government expert. If he is not capable of matching his knowledge with that of two chemical engineers from Newcastle, it is time we got the two chemical engineers to advise us what to do. Both Sir David Rivett and Mr. Rogers, who have reported adversely on the extraction of oil from coal under any process they have inspected, have visited England. Is their knowledge any better than that of the English experts, who have advised their principals to go on with it?
Mr. SPEAKER (Hon. G. J. Bell).Order! The honorable member has exhausted his extended time.
– As one who up to the present has been administering the department in which the Munitions Supply Branch is contained, I think it might he desirable if I had a word or two to say about the general policy concerning the supply of munitions in Australia, because it appeal’s from the speeches made by various honorable members that a great deal of misconception exists as to the exact position. At the outset I should like to say that 1 agree with the honorable member for Barker (Mr. Archie Cameron) regarding the colossal load carried by my predecessor, the honorable member for Calare (Mr. Thorby)., who administered not only the three service boards but also the Munitions Supply Board and the Civil Aviation Board. As one who has had to do only a part of that work I realize the enormous load he must have been carrying.
To keep this matter of munitions supply in proper perspective, we should, I think, refresh our memory in regard to sub-section 8 (5) of the Covenant of the League of Nations, which reads as follows: -
The members of the league agree that the manufacture by private enterprise of munitions and implements of war is open to grave objections. The council shall advise how the evil effects attendant upon such manufacture can be prevented, due regard being had to the necessity of those members of the league which are not able to manufacture munitions or implements of war necessary for their safety.
It is to be noted that the points that emerge from this provision are: -
On the 6th December last I outlined the Government’s defence policy in this House, and pointed out that the essential basis of its policy for increasing local self-sufficiency in munitions supply comprises : -
Adequate reserves of munitions ;
Establishments for the local production of special types of munitions not produced by industry;
The aircraft industry;
The fostering of primary and secondary industries to add to the country’s resources of raw material, stores, manufacturing establishments and skilled labour;
A plan for the organization of industry for the supply of the services in time of war.
Modern war involves a vast expenditure of munitions and equipment, and if they are to be fully effective, it is necessary that our forces should have adequate reserves. Preparation on the material side involves a comibination of building up certain necessary reserves for mobilization and organizing local resources for the production of supplies, so as to avoid the accumulation in peace time of vast stocks which deteriorate or become obsolete. The policy of the Government is to erect factories which have no counterpart in commercial industries for making the types of essential munitions. The whole procedure and technique of manufacture are recorded with a view to making process specifications available to industry in an emergency. Parallel with the development of government factories, the Government is fostering commercial industries, and thereby systematically adding to the country’s resources of raw material, stores and manufacturing establishments. A Principal Supply Officers Committee has also been constituted, whose function it is to prepare a statement of the requirements of the services in wartime, to examine them in relation to the stocks and productive resources of the country, and to prepare plans for mobilizing the resources of industry in an emergency. Subordinate to this committee are supply committees dealing with various requirements. Associated with the Principal Supply Officers Committee is the Advisory Panel on Industrial Organization, which is composed of leading industrialists who give a large measure of their time in an honorary capacity. There is also an Economic and Financial Committee consisting of Professors Giblin and Melville and Dr. Wilson, the Commonwealth Statistician. This committee is engaged on a review of the strength and weaknesses of the national economy under stress. The Council for Scientific and Industrial Research is undertaking the examination of special technical problems, such as local alternative sources of supplies of raw materials, and a special committee was constituted some time ago under the Development .Branch of the Prime Minister’s Department to deal with the examination of alternative sources of supply of. liquid fuels.
As I have already mentioned, modern warfare entails a huge expenditure of munitions. To prepare for war, Australia must have either very large stocks of munitions, or factories which are organized to be brought into the scheme of production. The provision of large stocks of munitions would require the expenditure of vast financial resources. Large staffs would also be required for their maintenance to prevent deterioration. It must also be remembered that armaments become obsolete with the invention of new types. The output of the government factories, however, whilst generally sufficient for defence purposes’ in time of peace, would prove inadequate for wartime needs. During a war period, it would be necessary to depend upon local industrial capacity to supply the additional requirements. The organization of industry for this purpose presents a formidable problem, and it is essential that preparatory action should be taken in time of peace, so as to ensure that industry can change over at the vital points from commercial to war production with a minimum of delay, should the necessity arise. The Government has accordingly provided a sum of £1,000,000 towards the organization of civil industry for an emergency, and the initial steps are being directed to the creation of manufacturing capacity for the supply of empty components of ammunition. The Government is equipping and, in a few cases, erecting extensions to selected privately-owned factories to enable skilled craftsmen to receive the training that will enable them readily to undertake the production of munitions in an emergency.
– Are the States collaborating in that?
– Yes, through their railway workshops. The plant provided by the Government under this scheme will remain the property of the Government. The layout and type of equipment will be based on that of government munitions factories, and its use will be subject to governmental control. This will enable a close check to be effected on cost of production and will facilitate the control of profits.
The Government is fully aware of -the necessity to exercise control over the profits of industries engaged in the manufacture of munitions and equipment in time of national emergency. It will not relinquish control of the manufacture of munitions, but under this method will, in effect, enlist the aid of private industry for the management and operation of government-owned plant.
The co-operation and assistance of private industry will be required also to meet other requirements of the fighting services in an emergency and this, too, is a matter which is being fully examined. Upon the completion of the annexes a trial order will be allocated to each, in order to test out the plant and equipment, and to enable the personnel to acquire .a knowledge of the technique involved.
– Will this plant remain idle?
– Yes, unless a national emergency arises. The great bulk of the machinery is not of the kind required in ordinary commercial enterprises, and cannot be used for other industrial purposes. That is the reason for setting up what has been referred to in some quarters as shadow factories.
In selecting factories for the attachment of annexes, the Government has had prominently before it the potentialities of railway workshops. Two annexes are being provided in both New South Wales and Victoria, and the Commonwealth is co-operating with the South Australian Government in the extension of its machine-tool shop in order to take advantage of its capacity in this direction.
It is an interesting commentary on Australian policy to note that Britain is turning more towards the use of existing resources of industry, or their supplementation, than to the creation of additional government factories. The latter involve huge capital cost, problems in regard to the transfer of labour and the provision of housing accommodation, and also residual problems of their employment when rearmament is slowed down. On the other hand, the development of the existing resources of industry enables use to be made of trained staffs at factories where they are to be found, which is usually in a centre possessing certain features that have governed the localization of the particular industry in that part of the country. It is a notable feature of German rearmament that the speedy manner in which it has been accomplished has been largely due to recognition of this principle of exploiting as far as possible existing industrial resources.
Some honorable members, particularly those from States other than New South Wales and Victoria, have displayed some concern regarding the principles which govern the location of government munitions factories, and I would repeat what I said here on a previous occasion as to the principle that has governed the recent and proposed expansion of government munitions factories. In all cases the extension of facilities for the manufacture of munitions, insofar as the departmental factories are concerned, provide for additions to factories already in existence at Lithgow, New South Wales, and Maribyrnong and Footscray, Victoria, and to the artillery proof range at Wakefield, South Australia, or for other expansion which, by reason of the allied nature of the munitions already being produced, must be located at these centres.
In the selection of sites for munitions production regard is had to both strategic and economic aspects, and, if it be decided to provide additional government factories for new types of munitions not associated with the present groups of factories, the establishment of such new factories at inland centres will receive favorable consideration.
As announced, it is the intention of the Government to set up an advisory accountancypanel to advise on methods of costing and profit control in connexion with the private manufacture of armaments. The field to be covered by this body is a very extensive one, and beyond the reassurance of the Government’s intention by this action it is not profitable to pursuea detailed examination of the various alternative methods of checking costs and regulating profits.
– Will the panel be an honorary one?
Mr. STREET. Yes. It need only be added that it is not beyond the wit of man to devise adequate safeguards to ensure that the public interest is well protected in this matter.
The contracts relating to the provision of annexes provide for a strictly limited percentage of profit, and further indications of the rigidity of the terms of contract will be evident from the fact that in calculating the cost of production the following items are excluded from overhead charges: -
Interest on capital,
Insurance premiums on life policies.
The purchase of departmental requirements for general stores and supplies from commercial sources is arranged through the contract office, which is a branch of the Munitions Supply Board. A contract office is maintained in every State under the direction of the central contract office in Melbourne. All purchases, with very few exceptions of a minor nature, are arranged by way of public tender or quotation. All tenders and quotations must be examined and approved by the contract board in each State, whose members are representative of the navy, army, air and civilian branches of the Department of Defence. The contract office does not purchase the goods; it merely invites tenders and the Contract Board approves of the suitable tenders after examining all of those submitted. Thereupon the demanding service orders the goods, and arranges for delivery and payment. It will be noted that this procedure provides for Government purchase on a strictly competitive basis; and in order to ensure that all parts of the Commonwealth can compete on common ground, tenders are accepted at a price f.o.b. at the capital of the State concerned.
In connexion with this bill there has been criticism of the Broken Hill Proprietary Company Limited and associated companies. Insofar as my experience as Minister for Defence and that of the Defence Department are concerned in dealings with these companies, the allegations of profiteering are entirely unwarranted, and are not substantiated by the facts. I shall give a few instances of what the Broken Hill Proprietary Company Limited has done.
– That does not say much for the supervision of the department.
-But this was new work for the company.
– Apparently the department did not know the cost of the article.
– The department is justified in accepting an open tender which is in line with the rate at which similar goods are produced in Government factories.
– Surely the Minister knowsthat tenders are loaded.
– Does the honorable member prefer that the work should be done without tenders being called?
– I have known tenders for electrical work required by municipal authorities to be deliberately loaded.
– In my opinion, the competition generally is keen, and it is difficult to load tenders. Other instances are -
Statements to the effect that supplies are obtained overseas unnecessarily are unfounded in fact and in principle. At the Imperial Conference in 1937, relative to the production and supply of munitions and raw materials, the following principles were laid down: -
That there should be developed in time of peace in different parts of the Empire, resources for the manufacture of munitions, as well as for the supply of raw material, with the following objects in view: -
In conformity with this principle, the Government, as indicated earlier, has made great strides towards the selfsufficiency of the Commonwealth, and 82 per cent, of the cost of the present large defence programme will be incurred within the Common wealth. The supplies that are being obtained from overseas are of a character that it is not within the capacity of the Commonwealth to produce within the period of the programme.
The recent decision of the Commonwealth to co-operate with the United Kingdom Government in the production of service aircraft in Australia, is a mutual demonstration by both Governments of their ardent desire to give effect to the principles laid down at the Imperial Conference. “Whilst it is an undoubted fact that many abuses have existed abroad in connexion with the private manufacture of armaments, and the provisions of article 8 of the convenant, already quoted, were directed towards their correction, it is a far-fetched case to set up the bogy that similar conditions exist in Australia, or are likely to arise. During the visit of the British Air Mission, the opportunity was taken to discuss with two of its experienced members, Sir Hardman Lever and Sir Donald Banks, Australian policy and procedure in the light of experience abroad. Sir Hardman Lever is a chartered accountant, and was responsible during the Great War for the purchase of large quantities of munitions for the British Government. He is, therefore, very experienced in these matters. Sir Donald Banks, the Permanent Under-Secretary of State for the Air Ministry, has been associated with the British air re-armament programme. Neither could suggest any direction in which our arrangements for supply could be improved; on the contrary, both commended the methods of the Defence Department, and the very favorable terms which it is obtaining from private enterprise.
For all practical purposes, the manufacture of arms and ammunition for defence purposes is effectively nationalized in that the government munitions establishments represent the only source of supply of the actual items of offensive and defensive equipment in their complete form. I emphasize the word “ complete “. This applies even where the resources of outside industry are utilized for major constructional work. For example, in the sloops built by Cockatoo Docks and Engineering Company, all guns and ammunition were supplied by the Commonwealth for mounting in the vessels, and the company was in no way responsible, except for mounting them. Similarly, in the case of aircraft to be ordered from the newly-established Commonwealth Aircraft Corporation, all machine guns,&c., will be manufactured or supplied by the Commonwealth, and the company will be responsible for the aircraft only.
The conditions under which the cooperation of private industry is being sought in the interests of Australian defence are not likely, therefore, to give rise to any of the evils envisaged. It is merely proposed to ensure that the available industrial resources of the country shall be organized fully and effectively for use in the event of an emergency. The policy of the Government is to make Australia as selfcontained as possible in the supply of munitions for defence purposes, and honorable members may be assured that in implementing this policy, it will not be subject to influence by vested interests to the detriment of the public welfare.
– Does the Government exercise any control over the Commonwealth Aircraft Corporation?
– Not as such, but it has obtained quotations from that company for the supply of Wirraway aeroplanes at a price which must be causing the management of that concern severe headaches at the present time.
– “Will the Minister undertake to ensure that -undue profits are not made out of zinc, lead and other necessary metals?
– There is provision in the bill for the controlling of such matters.
.- I have listened with a great deal of interest to the statement by the Minister for Defence (Mr. Street), but he has not conveyed any real conviction. The statement contains much guesswork, particularly regarding the control of profits. The Minister has not explained how it is proposed to control profits and, for my part, I do not believe that they will be controlled.
The Prime Minister (Mr. Menzies) was at some pains to belittle one of the State Ministers of Queensland, and suggested that if that gentleman were to apply to the Defence Department he might be appointed as an expert adviser to the Government. Well, the Government certainly needs some one to advise it in order that it may avoid in the future the mistakes it has made in the past. The Queensland Minister was justified in attacking some of the methods of the Department of Defence. Some time ago, several local organizations at Cairns asked that trainees for the Air Force should receive instruction at Cairns. I can understand the request being refused on the ground that it might involve the department in extra expense, but the department replied stating that trainees should attend afternoon and evening classes at Townsville - which is only 211 miles away ! The other day I mentioned that aviation experts advising the department stated that there were ample facilities at Cooktown for advising pilots flying along the coast regarding weather conditions. . As I have previously explained, neither Cooktown nor Townsville, which are in a dry belt, can warn pilots about to take off at Townsville for Cairns, or vice versa, of weather conditions on other parts of the coast. I reiterate that the Queensland Minister was justified in charging this Government with having failed to do its job properly. When I asked what the Government had done to achieve co-operation with the States in the production of munitions, I was told that it was proposed to utilize the Government railway workshops. I now ask the Minister what is being done in regard to the railway workshops at Ipswich.
– They are converting all the artillery vehicles in Queensland, and they will play a large part in the production of aircraft.
– I am glad to hear that.
– I have always said that the State governments, regardless of their political colour, have been most willing to co-operate.
– The bill states that the new Department of Supply and Development will be empowered to make arrangements for the establishment or development of industries for the purpose of defence. That can mean much or little. It also states that arrangements will be made for ascertaining costs, and for controlling or limiting profits. I should like to hear some concrete suggestions for putting that proposal into effect. The honorable member for Barker (Mr. Archie Cameron) advocated the establishment of certain essential primary industries in various parts of the Commonwealth. I agree with his suggestion, but does the Government really mean to do that? He mentioned that something had already been done to establish the cotton industry in Queensland. Much more would nave been done if the Government had given the industry proper support. I was told by an ex-Minis’ter for Customs that the quality of cotton produced in Queensland was not what was required. To-day it is admitted that at least 80 per cent, of the cotton produced in Queensland is suitable for the manufacture of all kinds of fabric. The honorable member for Barker also referred to the production of hemp. Years ago, a cane-grower, Mr. T. H. Wells, experimented with the growing of sisal hemp in Queensland. He wanted to demonstrate that the lands in his district could produce something other than cane. He received promises of financial support,, and planted between 300 and 400 acres in sisal hemp, and prepared an area almost as large for another crop. When the hemp was growing splendidly, and there seemed to be great possibilities before the venture, those who had promised him support in obtaining machinery, &c, withdrew their offer. No government assistance was forthcoming, the whole scheme failed, and Mr. Wells failed with it, so that, instead of being a welltodo producer, he was down and out. ‘The honorable member for Kennedy (Mr. Riordan) stated that something was being done in the growing of sisal hemp near Rockhampton. Hemp is being produced there in small quantities, and the fibre is stated to be of excellent quality. It would be a good thing for the district, and for Australia, if the industry were encouraged. I should like to know, however, whether the Government really means to encourage industries of that kind, or whether it is merely talking. I can recall the unfortunate experience of a -great many people who, during the regime of the Scullin Government, were induced to invest their money in tobaccogrowing. Then the Government led by the late Prime Minister (Mr. Lyons) reduced the protective duties on tobacco, and more than half of those who had entered the industry were ruined. They had to take any employment they could get, or join the ranks of the unemployed. That is not the way to encourage industrial development.
Much has been said in this debate concerning transport and the necessity to produce oil within Australia. A week or two ago, I read a report to the effect that the Government expected in the near future to accept delivery of some hundreds of aeroplanes. Those machines will be useless in a time of emergency unless we have sufficient fuel to operate them. Whenever we suggest that the Government should encourage the production of oil from cereals of various kinds, we are told that such a proposal is uneconomic. I feel sure that oil exists in more than one place on this continent, but certain interests are spending huge sums of money in order to prevent the discovery of these resources. There can be no doubt that oil exists at Roma; no argument will persuade me to believe otherwise. Gas issuing from the Roma bore was burned over a period of some weeks, and I am informed by experts that the presence of gas in such quantity is a sure indication of substantial resources of oil. That venture, however, was deliberately sabotaged by certain interests, which in the same way jeopardized the proposal to produce fuel from molasses. I lay the blame for such activities at the doors of the major oil companies. It was demonstrated at Sarina, North Queensland, that power alcohol produced from molasses was an effective fuel. It stood every test applied to it, but the Plume and Shell oil companies worked into the venture in order to restrict the market for this fuel, and today we find Plumecoll and Shellcoll among the brands of fuel on the market. This Government has no proposal to remedy that position. The Government of Queensland attempted to do something in that direction, but the High Court ruled that it had not the power to do so. This power alcohol could be produced on a very large scale. If that were done we should be serving the best interests of this country. It is useless to possess hundreds of aeroplanes for defence purposes if we do not also ensure that we shall always have at hand a sufficient supply of fuel to operate them. The mechanization of industry has greatly increased the use of oil fuel. Yet, while this Government brings forward these various proposals, allegedly in the interests of the defence of this country, it takes no step to encourage the production of oil in Australia. The Commonwealth Fuel Adviser, Mr. Rogers, has stated that it would be uneconomic to produce spirit from molasses, but I point out that other authorities, equally as competent, contest that opinion. For instance, the chemist at the Mulgrave Mill has made public a report in which he shows that power alcohol can be produced economically. But nothing is being done in this direction, with the result that millions of gallons of molasses are going to waste annually. That should not be so. The honorable member for Hunter (Mr. James) has shown that this proposition could be undertaken on an economic basis. Many pf the proposals submitted by the Minister will not prove nearly so economical. .Should war break out, how would we manage to operate our transport services, apart from those using coal fuel? If such an emergency lasted for any considerable period, our oil supplies would become exhausted, and we would be left in a helpless position. What chance would we have of importing oil from overseas? It would have to be borne thousands of miles over waters infested by the enemy. Surely, honorable members can visualize such a situation. A.n enemy would do his utmost to prevent the transport of oil to this country from overseas. If we hope to defend Australia effectively we must first ensure that we have sufficient supplies of oil; but nothing is being done in that direction.
– What about the oilfields at Roma and East Gippsland?
– I have already explained how the venture at Roma was sabotaged by the major oil companies. I repeat my belief that oil is available at Roma, and also in the Springsure Ranges. In fact, Dr. Woolnough has assured me that there is a greater likelihood of finding oil in the Carnarvon Ranges than at Roma. I hope that he is right, although I shall persist in my belief in Roma. ‘Cars and trucks have been driven on oil produced at Roma, and the only problem there is to obtain a sufficient quantity to meet our needs.
I believe that 80 per cent, of wars can bc traced directly to the activities of private manufacturers of munitions. They not only make money out of war, but also control, to a large extent, the press of the world. They find it profitable to spend millions of pounds in disseminating propaganda with a view to creating fear and unrest among governments and peoples. Governments, like the people who elect them, are only human, and like the masses, they become really scared by threats of attack, when this fear is continually drummed into them by the press controlled by the munitions manufacturers. It has been stated that Krupp’s spent as much as £2,000,000 in France and other European countries to create the psychology that was responsible for the Great War. We are told, of course, that that conflict arose from an assassination at Serajevo In reality, however, it was caused by the propaganda circulated by armament ri.ng3. In his opening remarks, the Minister quoted from the Covenant of the League of Nations. I shall quote Vis count Cecil, who in the prefatory note to The Private Manufacture of Armaments, by Philip Noel-Bacon, said -
This book is the first volume of a comprehensive study of the private manufacture of armaments. It deals primarily with the moral and political aspects of private manufacture and with the “‘evil effects” which it is alleged to produce. A second (and concluding) volume will bc published in about six months after the date of publication of the first. The second volume will deal with the economic, industrial, and technical aspects of private manufacture, and will discuss its alleged importance for national defence. Each volume is so written us to constitute a complete book in itself; but the two together will, it is hoped, be a systematic and reasonably complete examination of all the main problems involved in the production of arms.
That opinion was written on the 25th August, 1936, and it is borne out by eminent naval and military authorities. For instance, Lord Grey, of Fallodon, British Secretary of State for Foreign Affairs from 1905 to 1915, discussing the events which led to the Great War, said -
The moral is obvious; it is that great armaments lead inevitably to war. If there are armaments on one side, there must be armaments on other sides .
The increase of armaments that is intended in each nation to produce consciousness of strength, and a sense of security, does not produce these effects. On the contrary, it produces a consciousness of the strength of other nations and a sense of fear. Fear begets suspicion and distrust and evil imaginings of all sorts . . .” (Here follows an account of the diplomatic negotiations between Lord Grey and the Germans for the prevention of war in 19.14)
But, although all this bc true, it is not in my opinion the real and final account of the origin of the Great War. The enormous growth of armaments in Europe, the sense of insecurity and fear caused by them - it was these that made war inevitable. This, it seems to me, is the truest reading of history, and. the lesson that the present should be learning from the .past in the interests of future peace, the warning to be handed on to those who come after us.
That is the statement of a British parliamentarian who was a Minister of the Crown during the Great War. Field Marshal Sir William Robertson, Chief of the Imperial General Staff, 1915-1S, in a lecture delivered at the Albert Hall on the 11th July, 1931, said - 10,000,000 lives were lost to the world in the last war, and they say that 70,000,000 pounds in money were spent in the preliminary bombardment in the Battle of Ypres ; before any infantry left their trenches the sum of 22,000,000 pounds was spent, and the weight of ammunition fired in the first few weeks of that battle amounted to 480,000 tons.
I do not believe that that represents the best use the world can be expected to make of its brains and its resources. 1 prefer to believe that the majority of people in the world in these days think that war hurts everybody, benefits nobody - except the profiteers - and settles nothing ….
As one who has passed pretty well half a century in the study and practice of war, 1 suggest to you that you should give your support to. disarmament and so do your best to ensure the promotion of peace.
Admiral of the Fleet Lord “Wester “Wemyss, in a memorandum on The Production of Armaments, presented to the Admiralty in 1919, expressed the following view : -
Apart from the moral objections to the present system, which makes warfare a direct occasion of private gain, the system is attended by the inevitable consequence that the multiplication of armaments is stimulated artificially. Every firm engaged in the production of armaments and munitions of any kind naturally wants the largest possible output. Not only therefore has it a direct interest in the inflation of the Navy and Army Estimates and in war scares, but it is equally to its interest to push its foreign business. For the more armaments are increased abroad, the more they must be increased at home This inter-relation between foreign and home trade in armaments is one of the most subtle and dangerous features of the present system of private production. The evil is intensified by the existence of international armament rings, the members of which notoriously play into each others’ hands. _ So long as this subterranean conspiracy against peace is allowed to continue, the possibility of any serious concerted reduction of armaments will be remote.
One could make innumerable quotations of a like character. They all prove the one thing, namely, that the private manufacture of armaments is very dangerous indeed. I do not believe that the behaviour of those who engage in their manufacture in Australia will be any better or worse than that of overseas manufacturers, because they will be actuated by the same motive; the opportunity to make greater profits will be an inducement to them to accelerate their operations. Consequently, I say that either this or any other government should exercise every care in the contracts that it lets for the private manufacture of munitions.
The following quotation deals with the manufacture of poison gas, a matter which was dealt with by the honorable member for Hunter (Mr. James) -
An advertisement in a technical journal by Dr. Hugo Stolzenberg, the head of the Hamburg works at which the phosgene gas was stored which caused the disaster in May last, is attracting some attention. In it he oilers “ to build finance and manage chemical works, under financial guarantees, with the cooperation of specialists and engineers.” The branches in which he specializes aru enumerated, and include the erection of plant for the manufacture of chlorine, bromine, hydrochloride, arsenic and cyanide, and their respective derivatives, such as phosgene, the yellow and blue cross groups, and tear gas. “ In December, as then reported, Dr. Stolzenberg was offering for public sale for instructional purposes’, small boxes containing samples of the deadliest gases employed in chemical warfare.”
Military and naval aircraft supplied by Fokker or built under licence are being used by 21 governments. Moreover, several governments have secured licences for Fokker military and transport aircraft, details of which are not available for publication. Fokker has sold more licences for the construction of hie various types than any other designer in the world. (Advertisement in All the World’s Aircraft, 1933).
Such advertisements arc not confined to time of peace.
No matter what implements of war these people may manufacture, they are prepared to supply them to any country which can purchase them. It has been truthfully said that when their sales in one country reach a certain level they approach another country and convince it of the need to purchase from them on a larger scale. So the game goes on. The quotation continues - “ Schneider and Krupp “, says Mr. Walter Newbold, “all through the first Balkan War engaged in an astounding campaign of inspired newspaper advertisements of their respective weapons, their subsidized press agencies and cable services .providing the journals of oriental and other minor powers with lengthy dissertations on the prodigious destruction wrought by their several productions “.
I say quite definitely that the press campaign causes the greatest trouble. It is not merely a matter of manufacturing munitions; more important is the influence which is wielded in the world by the propagation of ideas and the development of a fear complex in the minds of the people. The majority of the people of this country, as the result of this propaganda, really believe that we are in danger of being attacked ; by whom does not matter. Almost every night, from station 2GB in Sydney, an argument along these lines is developed - the fear of a possible attack from somewhere. To-night one European country may be named, and to-morrow night another country. On one night it is said that the tension has eased, and on the next night that the position has again become grave.
– Who is this “jitters” dispenser?
– A gentleman named Dr. Louat. At the opening of the steel plate works at Port Kembla recently, his predecessor, Mr. Baume, was “ on the air “ for station 2GB. Either the honorable member for Barker (Mr. Archie Cameron), as Postmaster-General in the last Lyons Administration, or somebody else, put him off the air. He was the chief speaker for the management of the Port Kembla undertaking. His one object was to make the right honorable member for North Sydney (Mr. Hughes) Prime Minister of Australia. Among the many things that he said that day in an attempt to boost the right honorable gentleman was, “I can assure you that I do not want to allow this opportunity to pass without showing what different treatment was meted out to the press by the right honorable member for North Sydney when he was Prime Minister during the Great War; he did not apply any censorship to the press “. I have no hesitation in telling Mr. Baume that he did not state the truth, because no one could have exercised a more strict censorship than did the right honorable gentleman whom he praised.
– Hitler has nothing on him.
– Not at any stage of his history. I can produce publications from which whole pages of matter were obliterated, only headlines and advertisements remaining. That is what would happen again, and it does not make for the peace of mind of the people. The Sydney Sun and the rest of the Tory press of this country is no more free from the charge of being supplied with funds by the armament rings, or by interested contractors, than is the press of any other country. I assert quite definitely that a lot of money is being spent in the propagation of ideas in Australia and elsewhere with a view to establishing a fear complex in the minds of the people so that they will readily believe that they may be attacked even before they are out of their beds on the following morning. That is wrong. I do not regard it as a good thing for this Government to give contracts to private firms for the production of munitions. We are told that certain machines will have become obsolete when the work is completed. If this machinery will be of no further use after a very short period, those who install it will see that the Commonwealth bears the whole of the cost and that their profits are not lowered.
– Is not that right and reasonable ?
– No. If this work has to be done, it ought to be done by the Commonwealth in conjunction with the States and semi-governmental bodies, which have splendid workshops in different parts of Australia.
– In a time of emergency those workshops would be fully engaged.
– That may be the case, but I am not sure that it is. I do not believe that the honorable gentleman’s statement will bear close examination.
No intimation has so far been given as to what steps are to be taken for the defence of the northern part of Queensland. It cannot be defended from Sydney or anywhere else in the south. Recently I mentioned that two planes coming from Townsville were fortunate in being able to pass over Mackay, but because of headwinds were later forced to land in order to refuel, one at Rockhampton and the other at Bundaberg. Had they been unfortunate enough to strike a heavy head wind they would have had to land at Mackay, where they would probably have been bogged. That important part of the continent is little known to the people of the southern States. Commonwealth Ministers and their expert advisers know practically nothing about it. I do not know where Ministers obtain their information, but when they tell us that students from Cairns can attend evening classes at Townsville, which is 211 miles away, it is evident that they know little about that part of the continent. I agree with what the Minister for Health and Home Affairs in Queensland has said. He is just as capable of giving an intelligent answer to questions relating to that part of the continent as is any other man; he certainly is more competent to deal with them than are Ministers of the Commonwealth Government who have not been there. Mr. Hanlon is a capable man, and a good Australian, who is desirous only of doing the right thing. The way to get his co-operation is not to refer to him as a lawyer’s clerk, as the Prime Minister did on Monday night, when he gave expression to a number of tarradiddles. I imagine that even a lawyer’s clerk may be able to tell the right honorable gentleman a lot of things about the law. I am convinced that Mr. Hanlon desires only to do the right thing by Australia, and it ill becomes the Prime Minister of the Commonwealth to offer cheap insults to a man holding an important portfolio in the Queensland Government, as he did when he suggested that Mr. Hanlon might make application for a job on the staff. That remark by the right honorable gentleman was published on the 15th of this month. Such statements are not to his credit, especially when they relate to a man who is just as good as, and, perhaps, a great deal better than, the Prime Minister himself.
. -The establishment of this new Department of Supply and Development is evidence of a realization by the Government of how heavily overloaded was the Minister for Defence previously. As has already been said, there are now four gentlemen doing the work which was done up to about six months ago by one man. I was, therefore, pleased to hear the tribute paid by the Minister for Defence (Mr. Street) to his predecessor, the honorable member for Calare (Mr. Thorby). I agree with the subdivision that has taken place, for it should make for efficiency of administration. Undoubtedly, too great a volume of work militates against efficiency. In direct contrast to this action, by which the Defence Department has been divided, is the amalgamation once again of the Departments- of the Interior and Works. This combination makes the department so huge as to be unwieldy. In my opinion the amalgamation is a grave mistake. It is unreasonable to expect one man to grapple with such an enormous number of unrelated things as have to be dealt with in the Departments of the Interior and Works. In Part 2 of the bill, the functions of the new department of Supply and Development are set out. They are so wide and general in their scope that everything will depend upon the character of the administration. One can imagine that under some Ministers the advice of the Tariff Board would be sought, and due weight given to it when the setting up of new industries was under consideration; under other Ministers, one can just as easily imagine, such advice would be ignored.
– The Minister will be subject to Cabinet control.
– In actual wartime some things would have to be produced in this country, irrespective of economic considerations and repercussions such as the effect on two-way trade. This bill is designed to meet, not only actual war conditions, but also the peacetime preparation for war. I cannot but fear that there is danger that some future Minister may interpret the magic words “ for purposes of defence “, clause 5, sub-clause lc, and “ in connexion with defence “ in the following paragraph as a justification for the encouragement of new industries which may be not only hopelessly uneconomic but also just about as difficult to connect with the necessities of defence as you, Mr. Speaker, must sometimes find certain speeches difficult to connect with the subject before the Chair. Any straying from the path of sound economics with respect to new industries, should be solely for genuinely important and essential defence considerations. There should be no weakening or undermining of the practice of seeking the impartial advice of that expert body, the Tariff Board. Even in connexion with things that are needed for war, it would be wise to obtain the advice of that body, so that, even though we may have to go ahead and do something which is definitely uneconomic because of war necessity, we should then know just what the extra cost is. It is a good thing to get such advice in any case. Moreover, Australia has certain contractual obligations with the British Government under the Ottawa Agreement. It would be well to know how they will be affected by this bill.
– It is not intended that they shall be affected.
– I am glad to have that assurance from the Assistant Minister. In clause 5 1 d reference is made to the acquisition, maintenance, and disposal of stocks of goods in connexion with defence. That covers the storage of oil and other goods. The honorable member for West Sydney (Mr. Beasley) referred at some length to oil in an admirably temperate speech which he delivered last night. He mentioned flow oil, and oil obtained from shale and coal. I desire to make a few remarks on that important subject. There is probably nothing more essential to defence than oil. As is generally known, flow oil is much cheaper than oil obtained in any other way. The landed cost of petrol in the capital cities of this country, free of duty, is about 5d. a gallon. Shale oil is estimated to cost about10.ld. on tank wagons, Sydney, whilst petrol from coal is considerably more expensive than oil from shale. Nothing is more obvious than that flow oil is the most economical. I am convinced that substantial quantities of flow oil can be obtained in Australia.
– On what information is that opinion based?
– On the report of the Commonwealth Oil Advisory Committee.
– Who comprise that committee?
– If the honorable member will permit me to make my speech in my own way, I shall give to him all the information he desires. In December of last year - about five months ago - the Commonwealth Oil Advisory Committee, in a report on the Lakes Entrance oilfield, said that a conservative estimate of the quantity of oil likely to be found on the area which had been tested by bores, was 150,000,000 gallons, or about 600,000 tons of crude oil. Although that quantity is not so great as has been found in certain other oil-fields of the world, it is, nevertheless, sufficient to enable the extraction of 1,000 barrels of oil every day, seven daysa week, for nearly twelve years.
That is a not inconsiderable quantity. Some people seem to think that only a few odd samples of oil have been obtained in the south east. As a matter of fact, more than 100,000 gallons of crude oil has been produced there by the small scale methods hitherto employed. The companies engaged in the work have been mainly concerned with the search for oil. They are not organized for large scale production, because it is necessary for the Government to hold large supplies of oil in this country, and it is prepared to authorize the expenditure of a considerable amount of money to provide huge storage accommodation. At Lakes Entrance we already have a great natural storage of 600,000 tons of oil. How can this be best developed and utilized? In this connexion also, I refer honorable members to the report made by the Commonwealth Oil Advisory Committee last December, in which it is pointed out that while insufficient natural gas pressure is present throughout the area to bring the oil to the surface, the new process known as re-pressuring could be applied. This process is being used extensively in the United States of America and also in Greece. It has been so successful in one area in Greece that the output of oil has increased from 1½ tons to 300 tons a day. The Commonwealth Oil Advisory Committee recommends that the re-pressuring process should be applied at Lakes Entrance. The committee has availed itself of the services of a Canadian expert, who has had a great deal of experience in repressuring, and was actually engaged in the district in Greece, in which such good results were achieved. The report emphasizes that before the re-pressuring can be successfully applied it will be necessary for all lessees and operators in a particular area to agree to unified control. Without this re-pressuring is useless.
– -For what reason?
– If the honorable member will possess his soul in patience, I shall endeavour to instil into his mind the reasons. It must be fairly obvious that it would be of little use for one company to put down a bore for the purpose of re-pressuring if another company put down a similar bore just over the boundary of its lease near the first bore. As pressures of 600 lb. to the square inch, and over, are applied in re-pressuring it would be useless to apply this pressure in one bore, if it could escape through some other bore. For this reason, re-pressuring must be applied under a system of unified control over a large area. I understand that complete agreement to undertake repressuring has been reached by companies operating over an area of about five square miles near Lakes Entrance. Expert opinion is that this area is sufficient to allow satisfactory results to he achieved. There is another difficulty, however. A good many old bores have been sunk all through this oil stratum into what is called the water horizon. It will be necessary for these to be cemented down in order to enable re-pressuring, to he applied without leakage. The Commonwealth Oil Advisory Committee recommends that government assistance should be afforded to do this work. Many of these bores were sunk without expert knowledge by some of the pioneers in the search for oil in this country, and it would be unreasonable to expect the companies now holding the leases to incur the expense that would be involved in correcting the errors of persons who, in these cases, have ceased to be actively interested in the search for oil. The Commonwealth Government should grant assistance on a generous scale in order to enable these old bores to be cemented so that re-pressuring could be applied.
The early development of this Gippsland oil-field is of great importance to the Commonwealth, and the new Department of Supply and Development should interest itself in the project. I hope that the Government will announce an early decision on this subject, and advise the companies concerned what assistance will be afforded them to deal with the old bores mentioned. While the honorable member for Indi (Mr. McEwen) was Minister for the Interior, he accompanied me to this field, and I believe that he was very impressed by what he saw. We were there only a few weeks ago, and we saw oil exuding from one bore under natural gas pressure. Oil was also being obtained by hailing from two other bores. The Minister for Mines in Victoria (Mr. Hogan) also visited the district in my company within the last fortnight, and he was equally impressed. I am satisfied that if any amendment of the State mining laws were found to be necessary ‘the State Government would he willing to take action, hut I d6 not think this will bo needed. The Minister for Supply and Development, the Minister for Defence, and the Assistant Minister (Mr. Holt) should interest themselves in this project, for it is vital to the success of the defence preparations now engaging their attention. If we could take advantage of this great natural storage, the large quantities of oil there would be of immense value to Australia in time of emergency.
– Why did not the honorable member do something about this while he was Minister for the Interior?
– For the reason that the report to which I have referred was made only last December, twelve months after I had relinquished ministerial office. Moreover, re-pressuring is quite a new process. I believe that the adoption of the recommendations in the report would usher in a new era in the oil search history of this country. I remind the honorable member for East Sydney (Mr. Ward) that in 1936 and 1937, when I was Minister” for the Interior, I took active steps to assist those who were searching for oil. Every obstacle to the early development of this field should be brushed aside, and all possible assistance given to those who desire to apply this new process in this country.
This afternoon the honorable member for Swan (Mr. Gregory), and this evening another honorable member, referred to the possibilities of charcoal gas as a motor fuel. The Minister for Defence and the Minister for Supply and Development should co-operate in giving full consideration to the possibility of our using this fuel in time of war. In 1937, when I was Minister for the Interior, I had an experiment carried out in Melbourne with a motor lorry, fitted with a producer gas engine, using charcoal gas. The loaded gross weight of the vehicle was about ve and a half tons. It was taken for a trial run in the Dandenong Hills and tested on some of the steepest grades to be found there. It was stopped and restarted many times on the hills, and altogether it was put through a very gruelling test. It covered a distance of 62 miles for a total cost for fuel of less than 2s. 6d. When the charcoal was put into the container on the vehicle only two minutes elapsed before the engine was started. There is an ample supply of charcoal in Australia; at any rate there is no lack of the raw material to produce it. This matter should be looked into as fully as possible by the Defence Department. When the test to which I have referred was made, I forwarded the report on the performance of the vehicle to the Defence Department for consideration. The one drawback is that charcoal has rather more bulk than petrol, and therefore requires more space on the vehicle using it. That is the only disability, apart from a slight loss of power. The experiment was very satisfactory.
I disagree entirely with the criticism offered by some honorable members opposite that the proposed annexes to munitions establishments should be confined to Government workshops. It seems to me that in the dreadful event of war the Government must be in a position to marshal the whole of our manufacturing resources and skill whether they are under government or private control. I agree entirely with what has been said by honorable members regarding the desirability of making it impossible for armament manufacturers to engage in profiteering. Even the most extravagant statement that has been made by honorable members on this aspect of munitions manufacture are not too strong. I cannot, however, believe that any harm will be done by carrying out the Government’s proposals, or that in this country we shall ever reach the stage when there will be any incentive to make war pos sible in order to secure profits from the manufacture of armaments. It is only right that, in times of emergency, the Government should be able to marshal all of the country’s manufacturing resources, whether governmental or private, for a supreme effort in order to be victorious. If all of these “ shadow factories “, as they have been called, were attached to railway workshops and other government establishments it might not be possible to staff them. In war time it would be essential to utilize the services of skilled engineers and artisans in private employment, and this can best be done in the establishments in which they are engaged. I agree that there should be an effective limitation of profits. It has been suggested that the Commonwealth cannot do much to check profits, because its powers are strictly limited. . It is true that Commonwealth power in respect of trade and commerce is limited; the Government cannot fix the price of any commodity. But that limitation would not operate in time of war. Under legislation such as the War Precautions Act, the Commonwealth would have power to do almost anything. This legislation will apply in time of war - which, please God, may never come - and it will also apply in times when we may fear war but nevertheless be at peace with other nations. I believe that the efforts now being made by the Government to meet the situation will be adequate, and will result in so effective a limitation of profits as should satisfy any reasonable man. The one great danger which I see in this bill is the wide authority which it may give perhaps to some unknown Minister of the future. But I cannot think of any phraseology by which the bill could be amended in order to place some limit on these powers without, to a great extent, destroying the purpose of the bill. We must trust the government of the day. I would, however, ask the Government, before the second reading is carried, to indicate exactly what the position will be with reference to the Tariff. Board. I have received an assurance, by way of interjection, from the Assistant Minister (Mr. Holt), but I think that if this point could be thoroughly cleared up it would give some degree of reassurance to honorable members who fear the very wide scope of the measure.
Debate (on motion by Mr. Anthony) adjourned.
Deceased ex-Soldiers : Burial Allowance.
Motion (by Mr. Street) proposed -
That the House donow adjourn.
.- I wish to bring under the notice of the Minister for Repatriation (Mr. Harrison) two matters concerning widows of exsoldiers. I have already availed myself of the ordinary departmental channels with a view to having these matters rectified, but I understand from correspondence which I have received that the department has not the power to grant the assistance for which I have asked. I hope that in dealing with these cases the Minister will demonstrate that warm and generous spirit which we were asked to show towards certain legislation passed through the House this week. My requests concern the widows of two deceased returned soldiers. The first case is in reference to the burial allowance which is paid to the relatives of returned soldiers who died without means. This deceased ex-soldier, who left a numerous family, contributed 3d. a week to a burial fund, which entitled his relatives to a reimbursement of his funeral expenses to a limited amount. After the necessary coaches had been engaged, it was found that the expenditure exceeded by £7 the amount provided from the burial fund. There was also a further amount of £11s. for ambulance charges, making the total £81s. The relatives of the deceased were of the opinion that as the returned soldier had died without means there wouldbe no difficulty in securing from the Repatriation Department the additional expenditure involved, in view of the fact that had the returned soldier not been a contributor to the burial fund, the department would have met the funeral expenses to the amount of £15. But every request that I have made to the department has been met with the reply that because this man was a contributor to the burial fund at his death the department cannot make any grant towards the payment of his funeral expenses. Other than his small military pension this man had no means at all, and if he had not made contributions to the burial fund the department would automatically have had to bear the cost of the funeral to the amount of £15. The widow is not asking for £15, which in ordinary circumstances she would have received, but for £81s., which is still owing, consisting of £7 to the funeral director and £11s. for the ambulance. I should not have brought this matter before the House but for the fact that I had a great deal of correspondence with the Minister’s predecessor on this particular case without result.
– What was the name of the man concerned?
– I shall give that to the Minister privately. The other matter is the provision by the Repatriation Department of headstones over the graves of former soldiers when it can be proved that they died without means and as the result of war wounds or disabilities. No headstone is provided if that is not proved. A case that was brought under my notice recently concerns a returned soldier’s widow who cannot afford to furnish the grave of her husband with a headstone although, for sentimental reasons, she is anxious to do so. She has made a request through me to the department, unsuccessfully, because the department says that it can provide a headstone only in cases which are accepted by the department as being due to war service. The Ministershould give favorable consideration to requests made in the circumstances which I have mentioned. I shouldbe pleased to have an early decision on these matters, because I have had them in hand for a considerable time.
– The first case mentioned by the honorable member for East Sydney (Mr. Ward) has not officially been brought under my notice, but quite recently I made a decision in a similar case. If the honorable gentleman will supply me with the details we may be able to give his request more than sympathetic1 consideration. I assure the honorable gentleman that I shall investigate the possibility of doing what he has suggested in his second case, and in due course I shall advise him of the decision of the department.
Question resolved in the affirmative.
The following papers were presented : -
Commonwealth Public Service Act - Appointment of C. G. Craig, Department of the Treasury.
Tinned Plate Industry - Terms of reference to Tariff Board.
Northern Territory Acceptance Act and Northern Territory (Administration) Act - Ordinances of 1939 -
No. 4 - Aboriginals.
No. 5 - Mining Development.
House adjourned at 10.55 p.m.
The following answers to questions were circulated: -
e asked the PostmasterGeneral, upon notice -
Docs he intend to proceed with the abolition of the interstate telegram rates, which his predecessor agreed to ask Parliament to abolish by the 30th June, 1930?
– The matter is still the subject of review.
e asked the Minister for
Trade and Customs, upon notice -
– The answers to the honorable member’s questions are as follows : -
y asked the Minister for Trade and Customs, upon notice -
– The answers to the honorable member’s questions are as follows : -
y asked the Minister for Industry, upon notice -
– The answers to the honorable member’s questions are as follows : -
n asked the Minister representing the Minister for Commerce, upon notice -
-The Minister for Commerce has supplied the following information : -
Progress was made, but unanimity was not achieved. The whole question of State and Federal action will be further considered at a meeting of the Australian Agricultural Council to be held next month.
n asked the Minister representing the Minister for Commerce, upon notice -
– The Minister for Commerce has supplied the following answers to the honorable member’s questions : -
n asked the Minister for Trade and Customs, upon notice -
Italian felt hats, and that these manufacturers are to be subsidized by the Italian Government?
– The answers to the honorable member’s questions are as follows: -
s asked the Minister for Trade and Customs, upon notice -
– The answer to the honorable member’s questions is as follows : - 1 and 2. The statement of Fletcher Chemical Company (Australasia) Proprietary Limited is at present being inquired into, and if the result justifies, action, such will be taken. It may be stated, however, that imports of sodium sulphate are decreasing each year, while Australian production is increasing.
Loan Council Information.
s. - On the 11th May, the honorable the Leader of the Opposition (Mr. Curtin) referred to a memorandum addressed to the chairman of the Loan Council by the chairman of the Bank Board, and asked for the reason why this memorandum could hot be made available to honorable members, who are responsible for the Commonwealth Bank Act.
I am now in a position to inform the honorable member that I have perused this document which, as stated in a reply given to a question, upon notice, asked by him on the 3rd May, 1939, referred generally to financial questions of defence requirements, loans for public works and deficits, and borrowing by semi-governmental authorities.
As I then explained, the memorandum had been prepared for the information of the members of the Loan Council for consideration in connexion with the raising of loans for the Commonwealth and the State Governments, which is a statutory responsibility of the Loan Council.
I regret that I cannot depart from the decision then made, that this document being of a confidential nature prepared for the information of the Loan Council, I am unable to make it available for general information.
e asked the PostmasterGeneral, upon notice -
– Inquiries are being made, and a reply will be furnished -is soon as possible.
On the 17th May, the honorable member for Barker (Mr, Archie Cameron) asked the following questions, upon notice -
The following information has now been furnished by the Australian Broadcasting Commission: -
Price of Meat.
s. - On the 4th May, the honorable member for Werriwa (Mr. Lazzarini) asked me the following question, without notice: -
I direct the attention of the Prime Minister to the fact that the latest report issued by the Commonwealth Statistician on the 4th April, of this year, states that the price of meat in Western Australia and Tasmania has increased, and that there has been practically no change of price in the other States of the Commonwealth. As I have a newspaper cutting stating that meat prices in Sydney have increased, will the Treasurer ascertain how the Commonwealth Statistician arrives at his conclusions, particularly in view of the fact that meat prices are rapidly increasing?
I desire to inform the honorable member that the summary published by the Commonwealth Statistician, dated the 4th April, in respect of the month of February, 1939, stated that “ meat prices rose in Western Australia, fell in Tasmania, and were practically unchanged in the other States”. The corresponding summary for the subsequent month of March’ stated that “ meat prices rose in Victoria, South Australia and Tasmania “.
Cite as: Australia, House of Representatives, Debates, 18 May 1939, viewed 22 October 2017, <http://historichansard.net/hofreps/1939/19390518_reps_15_159/>.