15th Parliament · 1st Session
Mr. Speaker (Hon.G.J. Bell) took the chair at: 10.30 a.m., and read prayers.
– While the Acting Leader of the House was Minister in charge of Territories, he carried out a searching investigation with a view to deciding the location of the capital of the Mandated Territory of New Guinea.
– Order! The honorable member need not inform the Minister of something that he did some time ago. He must ask his question.
– I ask the right honorable gentleman whether he is yet in a position to make a definite statement as to the site of the capital of the Mandated Territory of New Guinea ?
– I am not in a position to do so.
– On behalf of othor honorable members from Western Australia and myself, I ask the PostmasterGeneral whether he will give the assurance that whatever may be decided in regard to the night flying of air-mail services in Australia, there will be no interference with the existing service on the north-west coast of Western Australia, or with the direct service between Darwin and Perth, in order that mails for Western Australia might be delivered by way of Sydney?
– I cannot give any such assurance. At the moment, the whole- subject of the night carriage of mails is under consideration, and until such time as the Government determines what is to be done, quite obviously no definite statement can be made.
– According to the press, Sir Leopold Saville, constructor of the Singapore naval base, is about to visit Australia. Will the Minister for Defence ask Sir Leopold to inspect the main harbours of each of the States of the Commonwealth, with a view to ascertaining which is the most suitable for the establishment of an up-to-date dry dock for capital ships?
– I shall do so.
– Has the Minister for Defence yet had time fully to investigate my suggestion that a graving dock be constructed at the mouth of the river at Port Adelaide, which undoubtedly would be a safe location?
– I have decided, after mature consideration, that perhaps this matter might better he considered by Sir Leopold Saville, the expert who is about to visit Australia.
Publication of Journal - Listener’s Feb
-Will the PostmasterGeneral have investigations made with a view to ascertaining whether it would be preferable for the Australian Broadcasting Commission to reduce the listener’s licence-fee rather than embark upon the publication of a wireless journal, which may prove a menace to private enterprise?
– The aim of the Australian Broadcasting Commission is to give the maximum degree of service to listeners. Because of the failure to secure the desired press publication of programmes, the commission has decided to exercise the power given to it by the Commonwealth when the original act was passed, in order to ensure that listeners shall receive a satisfactory service in this respect._
– In view of the continued increase of the number of wireless listeners’ licences, and the sound financial position of the Australian Broadcasting Commission, is the PostmasterGeneral prepared to recommend to Cabinet a reduction of the existing fee?
– I shall give the matter further consideration as suggested by the honorable member.
– In connexion with the commission’s proposal to publish a journal, has the attention of the PostmasterGeneral been directed to a leading article in the Daily Telegraph of yesterday, in which he was eulogized and referred to as a just and righteous man? Does the Minister intend to be influenced by that article, and does he intend to influence the policy of the commission in that matter?
– I have read the article referred to by the honorable member. I am glad to knew that my humble qualifications have been so signally recognized, but I can assure him that the article will have no bearing on the decisions which I am likely to make in the matter.
– Will the PostmasterGeneral represent to the Australian Broadcasting Commission that, instead of spending its money on the publication of a journal in competition with private enterprise, it should devote its funds to the provision of better programmes than it now broadcasts, and also establish a regional station in Western Queensland or the NorthernTerritory to meet the needs of settlers in those outlying areas?
– The commission has nothing to do with the establishment of regional stations, as the technical services come under the control of the PostmasterGeneral’s department; but I shall bring his proposal under the notice of the appropriate officers, and see if I can obtain a report concerning it. As to the class of programmes broadcast, consideration will also be given to the honorable member’s suggestion.
– In view of the criticisms of Dr. Clunies Ross of the tariff on woollen goods of certain types not manufactured in Australia, will the Minister for Trade and Customs give consideration to the suggestions made by Dr. Ross in his report to the Australian Wool Board, and refer this matter to the Tariff Board for inquiry and report’?
– It is the policy of the Government that, as far as possible, raw materials produced in Australia shall be utilized in Australian manufacturing plants. Almost all of the variations of duties on woollen and other goods are made following an inquiry by the Tariff Board. It is necessary for this House to approve of any variations of duties which may be recommended by the board and proposed by the Government.
Shell Cases - Policing of Industrial Awards
– Will the Minister for Defence state the tender price accepted for shell cases, in respect of which the successful tenderer subsequently refunded 7s. on each case?
– Speaking subject to correction, the tender price was about 30s., but I shall obtain the exact figure for the honorable gentleman.
– Has the Minister for Defence yet been able to evolve a new clause in the contracts let by his department which would enable union officials to police industrial awards in the factories to which contracts are let? I refer particularly to the Hatcraft non-union shop in Melbourne, which makes hats for the military forces.
– The honorable member may be interested to learn that when the last tenders were invited for the supply of military hats the particular firm mentioned by him did not submit the lowest tender, but if it has done nothing else, it has at least succeeded in reducing very considerably the price of hats. A clause has not yet been evolved which would ensure what the honorable gentleman desires. I am perfectly satisfied, as the result of myinvestigations, that Hatcraft Proprietary Limited is observing the conditions of the industrial awards applicable to its operations. In company with the honorable member for Melbourne Ports (Mr. Holloway) I discussed the matter with the secretary of the union concerned, Mr. Devereaux, to whom I made certain suggestions which so far he has not considered it advisable to carry out.
Situation at Amoy.
– Is the Minister for External Affairs yet in a position to make a statement in regard to the delicate situation at Amoy?
– The reply to the honorable gentleman is in the negative.
– Will the Acting Leader of the House promise not to discontinue investigations, begun by his predecessor, of the working of the Transport Workers’ Act on the waterfront?
– These inquiries are now proceeding. Quite recently, a representative of the Government visited the northern ports of Queensland, and upon his return made a report to the Government. The whole matter is being reviewed, and I hope to be in a position shortly to make a statement as to the intentions of the Government in regard to it.
Concession Fares to and from Camps.
– Will the Minister for Defence give consideration to the reduction of fares, or the granting of concession fares, to members of the Permanent Military Forces who undergo training in camps at a distance from their home town?
– I shall give consideration to such a proposal.
Leave and Pay
– Will the Minister for Defence state whether it is the practice of government departments and semigovernmental institutions to grant leave and make up any difference of pay to members of the Militia Forces while in camp? Has the Government made an appeal to private institutions to follow this example?
– The answer to each question is “ No “.
– In view of the fact that the Government of New South Wales has granted leave to militia trainees employed in State government departments, and that semi-governmental bodies, such as municipal councils, have done likewise, and such authorities have agreed to make up the difference between their military and civil pay, will the Commonwealth Government follow that example ?
– I shall inquire whether that is being done. I should also like an opportunity to revise the answer which I gave to the earlier question asked by. the honorable member.
– Has the Minister for Defence been informed that the management of Cockatoo Island Dockyard has refused the request of militia trainees employed by the company to make up the difference between their civil and military pay, amounting to about 5s. a week, during the period in which they are in camp? In view of the fact that the Government is subsidizing this undertaking and that it is receiving government orders to the value of hundreds of thousands of pounds—
– Order ! The honorable member is not entitled to make statements when asking a question.
– The profits from this undertaking are large, and go to private shareholders. Will the Minister ask that firm to fall into line with government departments, semi-governmental institutions, and hundreds of private firms which are granting this concession?
– I have jio knowledge of the conditions alleged to exist at Cockatoo Island Dockyard, but I shall examine the position in order to ascertain what they actually are.
– I ask the Minister for Defence whether it is proposed completely to exclude Western Australia from consideration in connexion with the provision of the eighteen industrial annexes contemplated under the provisions of the Supply and Development Bill? Has any consideration been given to the establishment of a manufacturing annexe in that State ?
– As I said last night, the location of these annexes was decided upon after consultation between the advisory panel and the Government. Consideration was given to the claims of Western Australia, but it was found that there are not the necessary facilities in the existing establishments in that State.
– Not even in the railway workshops ?
– When the railway workshops at Midland Junction were last asked to tender for a particular piece of military work, their tender was 130 per cent, higher than the highest of the other tenders submitted. It was considered impossible to give it a contract in such circumstances.
– I ask the Minister for Civil Aviation whether it is intended to provide some financial assistance for country aerodromes, so that they may be able to develop their landing grounds and effect other improvements,- particularly those aerodromes which are on recognized air routes, both intranstate and interstate?
– In view of the fact that the trade arrangement between Australia and Czechoslovakia obviously must be inoperative by reason of the control of that country by Germany, can the Minister for Trade and Customs say what action, if any, is being taken to cancel the arrangement?
– Naturally, considerable confusion developed in Czechoslovakia following the Munich Agreement and subsequent events. The position to-day, broadly, is that in the protectorate area customs regulations and trade- arrangements remain unchanged. The -matter, however, is at present being considered by the Commonwealth Government.
– Will the Minister for Trade and Customs state definitely what portion of Czechoslovakia is regarded as a protectorate area?
– In answering a previous question, I drew a distinction between the Sudeten land which was ceded to Germany under the Munich Agreement and that area over which Germany subsequently established a form of protectorate.
– Is the Minister for Civil Aviation aware that one of the oldest air services established in Australia, that from Sydney to Lismore and Lismore to Brisbane, has recently been discontinued because the company can no longer carry on without a subsidy? Will the honorable gentleman give consideration to the claims of that particular company or service when determining the matter of civil aviation routes?
– I was not aware that this service had been discontinued. I shall certainly see that every consideration is given to the claims of this company before the matter of subsidies to air routes is finalized.
– (Will the Minister for Defence seriously consider the establishment of oil storage at Albany, in cooperation with the Commonwealth Oil Refineries Limited?
– I shall discuss the matter with my colleague, the Minister for Supply and Development.
– Can the Acting Leader of the House say when the House is likely to proceed with the secondreading debate on the Patents Bill?
– I am not in a position to say.
– Is the Minister for Defence in a position to state when uniforms and other necessary equipment will be available to trainees going into camp ?
– No trainees will go -into camp until they have been supplied with uniforms. I am unable to say on what date supplies will be issued, but if the honorable member has any particular camp- in mind I shall endeavour to supply him with the information he requires.
– Is the Minister for Defence aware that at a militia camp held at Townsville, at which more than 200 men attended, 40 per cent, of the trainees were without uniforms, and when the camp disbanded 160 of the uniforms used there were sent to a camp at Cairns ? Is such a condition of affairs likely to continue, and how long will the trainees be waiting before they receive uniforms and the necessary equipment?
– I shall investigate the case brought under my notice by the honorable member.
– Has the Minister for Defence considered a proposal to grant financial assistance to air pilot trainees in country districts, who would form a valuable reserve should the Defence Department require their services?
– This matter is at present being considered by the Minister for Civil Aviation and me.
– Will the PostmasterGeneral request the officer of his department who supplied the answer to my question concerning the business transacted by non-official post offices, to give a more definite answer to my inquiry than the vague one which was supplied?
– Order! The honorable member is not in order in commenting when asking a question.
– The answer to which the honorable member refers was prepared by me, and if it does not satisfy him, and he asks the question again, he may be able to elicit the information he desire^.
– Has the attention of the Acting Leader of the House been directed to a paragraph appearing in the press to the effect that the GovernorGeneral designate proposes to bring a. staff of 30 to Australia? Does not the right honorable gentleman consider that there are a number of good Australians in this country quite capable of filling the positions which these men will occupy, and will he give consideration to their qualifications before further persons are brought into this country?
– All I can say is that the matter is receiving, and will continue to receive, the careful consideration of the Government.
– Ls the Minister for Civil Aviation aware that Air Lines Limited, which is conducting a service between Perth, Wiluna and Kalgoorlie-
– Order ! The honorable member must observe the rules under which questions are asked. He is not entitled to ask whether a Minister is aware of certain things. If the honorable member will read the rules-
– If I were to follow those rules I would never be able to ask a question at all.
– Order ! The rules have been compiled after a careful examination of the Standing Orders. A
Minister should not be asked whether he is or is not aware of certain things. The honorable member should ask for the information’ required.
– Is it a fact that Air Lines Limited, which is conducting a service between Perth, Wiluna and Kalgoorlie, is in a precarious financial position and is asking for an increased subsidy because the present subsidy is insufficient to enable the company to carry on?
– Representations have been made on behalf of the company referred to, and they will receive most careful consideration, as will those made on behalf of companies conducting other air services in Australia.
– On Wednesday last T asked a question on notice concerning the dumping of felt hats by Italian manufacturers, who are subsidized by the Italian Government. The Minister asked me to supply him with information, and I sent to him certain newspaper reports. Has the Minister any further information which he can supply to the House ?
– Up to the present the information which the honorable member says he has supplied has not been brought under my notice. I shall take an early opportunity to investigate the matter, and shall later advise the honorable member of the result of my investigations.
– Will the Minister for Defence inquire into the current belief amongst expert pilots that the number of air accidents which have occurred in Australia may have been increased because training has to be undertaken on obsolete planes, and after training is completed the pilots are transferred to modern machines which they do not thoroughly understand ?
– Under the terms of reference to the judge who is to preside at the open court of inquiry to be held next week the training that the cadets and pilots of the Air Force receive will be fully investigated.
– Is the Minister for Trade and Customs aware that the dairying industry is being seriously prejudiced by the use of large quantities of butter substitutes, including margarine manufactured from imported coconut, peanut and other oils ? Will the Minister give some measure of protection to the butter industry, by imposing either an import duty on these black-grown products or an excise duty on butter substitutes ?
– An investigation has already been undertaken by the department in connexion with this matter. Inquiries so far have revealed that during 1937-3S the quantity of table margarine consumed in New South Wales was 4,000,000 lb., and in Victoria, 970,000 lb. During the same period the quantity of butter produced in New South Wales totalled 120,000,000 lb., and in Victoria, 141,000,000 lb. These figures’ show that actually the quantity of table margarine consumed in Australia is small when compared with the consumption of butter. When the investigation that is being undertaken by the department has been completed the Government will give the matter further consideration.
– Has the Minister received any protest from the butter producers on the north coast of New South Wales asking him to prohibit the manufacture of margarine in that State? If so, will ‘ he immediately furnish the House with information on the matter ?
– I have received no protest of that kind.
– -Has the Minister for Trade and Customs reached a decision in connexion with the representations made to him by fruit growers in South Australia regarding the utilization of certain dried fruits for the production of spirit?
– That, matter is under consideration by the Government but it would prefer that it be settled, if at all” possible, by the parties concerned - the producers of wine and dried fruits. I understand that a conference between the parties is to be held in Adelaide at an early date. The honorable member may rest assured that the Government is giving the matter the closest attention.
– Following upon the visit by the Minister for Civil Aviation to Mascot yesterday, I ask the Minister if it is now proposed to extend the area of the aerodrome to accommodate the larger planes. Is it proposed to make arrangements for a quicker route than that now used for the conveyance of passengers between the city and the aerodrome?
– Plans for considerable extensions of the aerodrome have been prepared, and work on them is being commenced. The matter of a route from the city to the aerodrome is entirely one for municipal consideration.
– I ask the Minister for Trade and Customs whether a report has been furnished by the Tariff Board on the tinned plate industry; if so will he make it available to the House?
– The Tariff Board made an inquiry into the general question of the tinned plate industry, but did not submit any formal report to the Government.
– What period has elapsed since the Minister received the report of the Tariff Board on the tinned plate industry? Why has it not been presented to this House, and what is the necessity for a further inquiry, in view of the fact that the report has not yet been received by the Parliament?
– I refer the honorable gentleman to myprevious answer.
– Will the Minister state whether, in connexion with the inquiry by the board, an opportunity was given to the industries which use tinned plate to present their views on the matter or whether only the proposed manufacturers of the plate were consulted by the board ?
– I understand that the board considered the matter from all aspects, and will again do so when it holds an open inquiry into the proposal to manufacture tinned plate in Australia.
– Why is it necessary to have a second inquiry into the matter when, on the Minister’s own statement, it has already been considered from all aspects?
– I refer the honorable member to theseveral answers I have already given.
– Will the Minister state whether any motive other than that of a mere desire to cause delay lies behind the Government’s intention to refer the question of the tinned plate industry a second time to the Tariff Board?
– The preliminary inquiry made by the board was not so searching or complete as the proposed open inquiry will be. I said that the board considered the matter from all aspects, and so it did, but the preliminary investigation wasnot so thorough as was considered necessary by the Government. Following requests by interested parties in Great Britain and in Australia for a fuller and open inquiry, the Government decided to ask the board to make such an investigation. Furthermore, the Government has taken every possible measure to ensure that as little delay as possible will follow its decision to hold a second inquiry. It has asked the board to do so immediately, and to submit its report at the earliest possible opportunity.
– Was the first inquiry by the board held in accordance with the provisions of the Tariff Board Act, which stipulates that it shall be a public and open inquiry at which evidence shall be taken on oath, and that all parties concerned shall have an opportunity to give evidence? If such an inquiry was held, how is it that a report was not forwarded by the board to the Government ? If the report has been sent to the Government, whyhas it not been made available to this House?
– The board undertook, at the request of the Government, a preliminary investigation of the proposal to establish the tinned plate industry in Australia. Following the investigation, the board recommended that it should be asked by the Government to hold an open inquiry. The Government has decided that such an inquiry shall now be held without delay.
– What actuated the Government in seeking a second inquiry?
– I remind honorable members that it is irregular to pursue n question in this way. These frequent interrogations as to the reasons which actuated the Government in this matter are unnecessary, because I think that the Minister has already replied to the question fully. I ask honorable members not to try to bait the Minister.
– I wish to help him. I desire to know if there are special reasons why a second inquiry is considered desirable. Is it because the representatives of the British industries have asked that this be done?
– I thank the honorable gentleman for his proffered assistance, but remind him that I have already given the information that he seeks.
– Will the Minister representing the Minister for Commerce state whether it is a fact that permission to import potatoes from New Zealand will expire at the end of this week? Has the Government decided to continue the permission to import potatoes from that dominion, or is it intended to re-impose the embargo against their admission?
– It is true that the permit will expire at the end of this month. The question of future action is, at this moment, engaging the attention of the Government.
– Will the Acting Leader of the Government say whether there is any truth in the statement appearing in a section of the press that the Government intends to send a Minister to New Zealand to confer with the Government of that dominion on trade matters?
– I am unable to answer that question at the present time. Perhaps the honorable member will address it to the Leader of the Government next week.
Honorable members are probably aware that microphones have been placed in several positions in this chamber for the purpose of assisting the AttorneyGeneral (Mr. Hughes) to hear what is said, particularly when questions are being asked. If these instruments are considered in any way objectionable to honorable members, I shall be glad if they will tell me, but I ask them not to interfere with the microphones or ro turn them off.
– In view of the fact that you. Mr. Speaker, have allowed microphones to be placed in this chamber, for the assistance of the Attorney-General, will you also allow similar facilities to be provided for other honorable members who may be a little hard of hearing, particularly for the honorable member for Melbourne (Dr. Maloney) ?
– If any honorable member requires assistance of this kind, I shall certainly give consideration to any request that he may make. But the mere placing of microphones in the chamber will not assist an honorable member unless he is equipped with apparatus such as that used by the Attorney-General.
– I understand that there is a loud speaker in the Prime Minister’s room, and I desire to know whether the microphones in this chamber operate in such a way that private conversations between members in front of the microphones can be heard in the Prime Minister’s room ?
– The instruments in this chamber are not connected in any way with the Prime Minister’s room, and it is wrong to suppose that they convey any sounds to that quarter.
– Will the Minister assisting the Treasurer state whether a request has been received from the OldAge Pensioners’ Association that he should receive a deputation to deal with certain features of the pension laws?
– No, but I shall be glad to receive representations in that regard, and to give them consideration.
. I move -
Th at in accordance with the provisions of the Commonwealth Public Works Committee Act 1913-1936, it is expedient to carry out the following proposed work which was referred to the Parliamentary Standing Committee on Public Works for investigation and report, and on which the committee has duly reported to this House the result of its inquiries: -
Erection of a hospital at Darwin, Northern Territory.
The present hospital at Darwin consists of a number of old buildings which are ill-adapted for hospital purposes and incapable of being remodelled or extended. It is overcrowded, and, with the considerable increase of population following defence developments, it is unable to meet the growing needs of the community. Consideration was given last year to the erection of a new hospital, and the matter was referred to the Parliamentary Standing Committee on Public Works for investigation and report. It was desired that, after investigations had been made by the superintending architect, Canberra, in Darwin, Java and Singapore, a new building should be designed on modern lines to conform with the principles of tropical architecture. The Parliamentary Standing Committee has prepared its report, which was tabled in this House on the 5th October last. In this report the committee states that a new hospital is essential, and that the site selected for it at Darwin is suitable. It recommends that accommodation be provided for GO beds in the main hospital, and estimates that the requirements can be met by an expenditure of £67,000.
.- I was one of the members of the committee which visited Darwin to consider this matter. I regret to say that we found the existing accommodation to be of a very primitive nature. This may have been due in part to the fact that, at the time the hospital was constructed, Darwin had a very small white population. With the influx of defence personnel and of workmen engaged on building operations, the present hospital accommodation is quite insufficient to meet requirements.
– Is there no military hospital at Darwin?
– There is only a temporary hospital at the barracks. We found the conditions at the old hospital disgraceful. When the committee began its inquiries it discovered that three plans for a new hospital had already been drawn, one for the Administrator, one by the engineers, and one by the Works Branch. The committee found it necessary to call conferences of all the parties in order to evolve a plan which would meet all requirements. The original proposal submitted to the committee was for the erection of a hospital containing 100 beds at a cost of about £120,000. After taking all factors into consideration, the committee decided that a suitable hospital could be constructed for an expenditure of £67,000. I might mention that, because of the very unhealthy climate, it is necessary to provide more hospital accommodation per thousand people in the Northern Territory than in any other part of Australia. The committee recommended that a tropical hospital should he constructed, and as the result of its investigations it has been able to save the Government many thousands of pounds. Had one of the original plans been accepted, the Government would have been faced with considerable additional expenditure for upkeep. The hospital recommended by the committee should meet all of . the requirements of the town and district for the next five or six years. The design permits of the extension of the building should that become necessary. Because of the very unsatisfactory conditions which prevail at the present hospital, in which coloured races, aborigines and whites are all treated together, I trust that the Government will go ahead with this work without delay. The present hospital is over-crowded, patients being treated even in the corridors. Should an epidemic occur, the existing accommodation would be entirely inadequate. The needs of the several hundred workmen employed in Darwin on the water scheme and on building operations must be catered for. Darwin is becoming increasingly important, because of the establishment of the flying boat base and the garrison, and this work should be undertaken without delay.
.- The scheme which is now before the Parliament represents a considerable reduction of the proposal originally submitted. This revised plan was evolved as the result of a series of conferences at Darwin between the committee and the Principal Medical Officer, Dr. Cook, the Principal Resident Architect, Mr. Burnett, a most valuable officer, and the Administrator. It represents the unanimous agreement not only of members of the committee but also of responsible officers in the Northern Territory. The committee examined the question very extensively, and in its deliberations had the advantage of a formula which had been laid down by Dr. Schlink, of Sydney, as to the number of beds that should be allowed in proportion to population. The committee allowed a liberal margin on account of the tropical conditions at Darwin. It obtained the best information it could as to the probable increase of population, looking ahead for. a number of years, and fixed the number of beds accordingly. It was informed by the medical officers That the climate at Darwin is not .so bad as is generally supposed. Though it is definitely enervating, statistics show that it is not, on the whole, more unhealthy than other parts of Australia. Diseases generally are not more acute than in southern parts of the Commonwealth, and it is believed that when proper hospital accommodation is provided and a better water supply is made available, the health of the people at Darwin will be reasonably satisfactory. In arriving at its decision the committee nearly doubled the allowance recommended in the formula laid down by Dr. Schlink, which is generally found to be satisfactory in more temperate parts. “ I believe that quite adequate provision has been made in this proposal, and I repeat that it carries the agreement of all responsible officers in the Northern Territory.
– I seize this opportunity to direct attention to the valuable work which the Parliamentary Standing Committee on Public Works has done over a period of years in saving the Commonwealth unwarranted expenditure. Its investigations of proposals submitted have resulted, I venture to say, in a more thorough preparation of estimates, and a more economic submission of specifications, than perhaps would have been the case if the committee had not been in existence. ‘ As the amount to be spent at Darwin for this public hospital is £67,000, I have no doubt that the Minister feels that the inquiry by the Works Committee has been abundantly justified in two essentials : first, that the hospital is required, and secondly, that its cost will not exceed the actual amount of money required for the plans as investigated and approved by the committee. If, in a matter which involves less than £70,000 of public expenditure, investigation by the Works Committee is desirable, how much more important is it that we should subject to a similar investigation, expenditure which in the current year will approximate £750,000? I refer to the expenditure on works in relation to defence. I have on previous occasions discussed the tremendous cost of defence preparations in Australia. I recognize that the provision of armaments, and the military, naval and air force services as such, are probably matters for the Defence Department and the Government; but this report indicates that, in’ regard to the works side of defence, there is room for investigation by a standing committee of this Parliament, in order to determine whether such works are necessary, and, if so, whether the proposed cost is the lowest possible. In the last financial year £694,8.11 was expended on defence works. For this financial year the estimated expenditure on works at present in hand is £1,342,000. I should be surprised if it would not be possible, as the result of an investigation by the Public Works Committee, to reduce that amount considerably without impairing efficiency. The amount of £1,342,000 is exclusive of expenditure on works for civil aviation or empire air-mail services. I should like move information than is contained in the Defence Estimates in order to satisfy myself that defence works which are very varied in character, are in themselves necessary.
The honorable member is discussing matters which are clearly outside the motion before the Chair.
Mr.CURTIN. - I am trying to demonstrate the wisdom of investigating proposed defence works just as we investigated the proposal for the construction of a hospital in Darwin. I have no desire to delay the construction of a hospital at Darwin; but, seeing that there was need to investigate that proposal, it seems to me that there is just as much need to investigate proposals for public works connected with defence. During the current year, £2,000,000 is to be expended on public works which will not be investigated by the Works Committee.Iurge the Minister to take steps to ensure that at least the more important works of this kind shall in future be investigated by the committee.
– I congratulate the Government upon having at long last recognized the need for providing an up-to-date hospital at Darwin, but I am doubtful whether the proposed accommodation will be sufficient. I have no wish to decry the work of the Public Works Committee; it is doing a most valuable work, and I hope that the range of its activities will be extended. It is stated on page 5 of the report of the committee that evidence was received from Dr. H. H. Schlink, chairman of the board of the Royal Prince Alfred Hospital, Sydney, to the effect that 6.5 beds for each 1,000 of population was recognized, both in Australia and in the United States of America, as being sufficient. Whilst that figure may be all right for” the southern parts of Australia, it should not be taken as the standard for Darwin, where conditions are unique. In the southern cities a great many people, when they fall sick, are attended in their own homes by their own medical practitioners, or they go into private hospitals. In Darwin, however, every person who becomes ill must go to the public hospital.
– We allowed practically double the number of beds that would be required according to Dr. Schlink’s formula.
– I am not unmindful of that. The committee stated in its report that, after mature consideration, it was satisfied that 60 beds would be sufficient. Then it went on to point out how many patients could be accommodated on the verandahs. That sort of accommodation is out of date. It went out with red shirts and cabbage-tree hats.
– What is the population of Darwin?
– There are about 2,000 . in the city itself, but the total population, including that of the adjacent suburb, is over 3,000. My complaint is that the committee was guided by evi-‘ dence which is not applicable to Darwin. I do not know what the plans of the Commandant, Colonel Robertson, are, but if there were an outbreak of hostilities in the North, the sick and wounded would have to be sheltered under the coolibah trees, because there would be no accommodation elsewhere. In my opinion the hospital should be large enough to accommodate at least 100 beds.
– Provision is made for enlarging the hospital.
- Dr. Schlink should have gone to Darwin to investigate conditions for himself. There are in the Darwin district many old pensioners who will never come south, and who, when they fall sick, must be attended in the public hospital, thus further taxing the available accommodation.
Recently I wrote a very long letter to the Minister for the Interior, and sent copies to the Prime Minister, the Minister for Defence, and the Administrator of the Northern Territory, protesting against wasteful expenditure on works and roads in the Territory, by letting contracts to men with very little equipment, instead of inducing big contractors with up-to-date plant to come in and assist them in doing their work expeditiously. Even though the work comprises only the building of culverts or small bridges, a certain amount of engineering skill is necessary. Every wet season culverts and bridges are washed away and have to be renewed, and much of this loss could be avoided if the work were clone properly in the first place.
– The honorable member is discussing matters outside the scope of the motion.
– I contend that the Works Department should avail itself of the services of consultant engineers, as do local authorities in New South Wales. I urge that this policy be adopted in order to give greater assistance to the Minister, the Administrator, and the works officials in the Northern Territory.
.- Is the Minister (Sir Frederick Stewart) personally satisfied that this proposal will meet the hospital requirements of Darwin? Are the officers of his department also satisfied on that point ? Whilst it is very satisfactory to learn that the Public Works Committee has been able to reduce the expenditure for this work from £120,000 to £67,000, the great discrepancy between those figures at least calls for some report from the officials who supplied the original estimate. The latter figure appears to be extraordinarily high, although it related to a hospital much larger than is required to meet Darwin’s present needs. In setting about this matter in the first place the officers of the department should have had in mind a hospital which would meet present requirements and, at the same time, allow of extensions being made as they were required. Had the original proposal been proceeded with, the difference of £53,000 between the two estimates, would have been a straight-out capital loss, whilst other losses would have been incurred over a considerable period in respect of maintenance. I commend the Public Works Committee for its report, but I suggest that, in order to carry out its functions properly, it need not invariably reduce costs of proposals of this kind, because circumstances might exist in which a. greater expenditure might be necessary in the interests of . general efficiency.
– The committee does in fact follow that course.
– I should like to know of any case in which the committee has followed that course. After all, it may he very easy to have a large estimate submitted originally in order to allow of a fairly big reduction. If a proposal were submitted by officers of a private company at an original estimate of £120,000 and it was shown that requirements could be carried out efficiently at a cost of £67,000, some explanation would immediately be required of the officers, making the original estimate. I repeat that the House is entitled to some explanation of the reduction effected by the Public Works Committee in this case.
– I am interested in the proposal to refer this matter to the Public Works Committee. I have no deep and abiding faith in the judgment of that committee because I recall the extraordinary report which it furnished to me last year, when I was Acting Minister for Health, in connexion with the construction of a hospital in Canberra. If that report can be taken as a fair average of its work, this House will shortly be obliged to give serious consideration to the question as to whether this committee should be continued. That report was a most extraordinary document. There was a minority report-
– Order! I cannot allow a discussion on a report other than one which concerns the proposal now before the House.
– Might I say, Mr. Speaker, that the Leader of the Opposition (Mr. Curtin) raised the whole question of defence works in this debate.
– And I informed the honorable gentleman that in doing so he was discussing something outside the scope of the measure. It must be clear to honorable members that a discussion cannot be allowed in this debate on reports other than the report concerning the specific proposal under consideration.
– If you rule, Mr. Speaker, that this debate must be absolutely limited to a discussion on this specific proposal only, I am to be debarred from giving reasons why the course suggested by the Minister should not be taken - reasons with which I am very familiar. I submit very respectfully that the limit which you have placed on this debate, Mr. Speaker, precludes effective discussion of proposals recommended by the Public Works Committee.
– The honorable member will realize that if a discussion be allowed on the report of the Public Works Committee dealing with the construction of a hospital in Canberra, other members will desire to discuss that proposal and to give reasons why they think that the committee’s conclusions in respect of that work were good or bad. Such latitude cannot possibly be allowed on this motion.
– I can only 3ay then that from my experience of the work of this committee the Government should further consider the wisdom of submitting works of that kind for investigation to that body. I am not prepared to support the expenditure of £120,000 on this proposal as recommended by that committee.
– It is only about half of that amount- £67,000.
– Why does the honorable member wish to misrepresent the committee? He said that a minority report was submitted in connexion with the Canberra hospital proposal. No minority report was made on that proposal.
– There was a minority report; it was signed by the honorable members for Perth (Mr. Nairn) and Boothby (Mr. Price). The whole question of expenditure of money on public works requires very deep and earnest consideration. As the result of my experience of the Public Works Committee last year, I am not prepared to accept with enthusiasm any recommendation made by that body. If the latitude of this debate permitted me to do so, I should be only too ready to go thoroughly into my reasons for making that statement, and also to analyse the method by which so-called savings were arrived at, in the very notorious instance which I mentioned. No saving was effected at all.
– Order ! . The honorable member is clearly defying the ruling of the Chair. I cannot permit the honorable member to deal with any report other than that concerning the proposal now before the Chair.
– In those circumstances I can only say that the Government would be .well advised to give further consideration to this matter before committing Parliament to any further expenditure in this direction. The Public Works Committee visited Darwin last year. I have not gone into its report on this proposal. It stands’ to reason that no honorable member can study every report which comes before this chamber. I repeat that the Government would be “well advised to postpone this matter until a little more light has been thrown upon the subject. After my experience of the Public Works Committee, I am not prepared to give a carte blanche agreement to a proposal submitted by that body.
– Although I do not wish to ‘inconvenience the Minister (Sir Frederick Stewart), or hold up this proposal, I suggest that the Minister agree to the adjournment of this debate in order to give the Public Works Committee an opportunity to reply to some of the extraordinary statements which have been made by the honorable member for Barker (Mr. Archie Cameron).
– I am only too pleased to substantiate fully what I have just said.
– Order ! The honor able member cannot do so in this debate.
– I am a member of the Public Works Committee. I did not visit Darwin with my colleagues when they inquired into this proposal, but I have studied the evidence which they took at that centre, and I am perfectly satisfied that every one in Darwin who is in any way interested in the construction of a modern hospital there will approve of the proposal finally recommended by the committee. That committee heard evidence from local medical doctors.
– They did not do that: that is the trouble.
– The committee heard evidence from local doctors.
– A perusal of the minutes of proceedings of the committee will show that it, discussed this matter with local doctors. Indeed, the committee would have displayed incompetence if it had not called for evidence from local medical men. It discussed every aspect of hospitalization with these witnesses, including the best layout for a hospital, its size in, relation to local needs, the movements of population locally,- and the present and potential hospital requirements of Darwin. Every witness who appeared before the committee in Darwin was perfectly satisfied with the proposal finally decided upon by the committee. I participated in the committee’s deliberations on its return to Canberra when it gave further consideration to this proposal. Members of the committee are not afraid of criticism, but I suggest that, before any honorable member attempts to find fault with . its recommendations, he should be able to back up his criticism. Only just a fewminutes ago the honorable member for the Northern Territory (Mr. Blain) stated that the committee had not called evidence from local medical doctors, whereas such evidence was heard by the committee. Surely it must be obvious to the honorable member that the committee could not properly consider this proposal without consulting local medical opinion. Before the honorable member for the Northern Territory, or any other honorable member, makes any statements of that kind he should be in possession of the facts.
– I rise to a point of order, Mr. Speaker; I know my facts.
– Order ! The honorable member has not raised a point of order.
– Although, as I said, I did not accompany the committee to Darwin, I arn convinced, after perusing all of the evidence taken in that centre, that every one interested in this proposal agrees with the recommendation of the committee. Its report, of course, does not contain all of the evidence taken, because the cost of printing it would not have been justified. However, such evidence is available for perusal by any honorable member. Honorable members generally will agree that the committee acted wisely in confining its inquiry to a hospital which would more than meet Darwin’s requirements for the next ten years. Indeed, within a decade, the whole technique of hospital construction might undergo an entire change. The committee, therefore, acted rightly in recommending a structure which, while meeting present needs, would allow of expansion to cope with any likely increase of population in Darwin over the next ten years. I hope that the motion will be carried and that the proposal will be gone on with forthwith, because the people of Darwin urgently need greater hospital facilities.
.- Like many other honorable members I have not had time to peruse fully the report of the Public Works Committee on the matter. However, anyone who has visited Darwin within the last few years will admit that this proposal is long overdue. The existing hospital is’ a disgrace even to Darwin. I . am pleased to know that the members of the Public Works Committee were able to recommend the construction of a building costing only about £67,000 instead of about £120,000 as originally proposed. I believe that the building recommended will meet the needs of the place. I could not say off hand whether or not the original price was excessive, because we do not know the type of building proposed, but the saving resulting from the investigation is evidence that it was worth while to reconstitute the committee. A saving of £60,000 on one building is considerable, provided, of course, that the members of the committee knew what they were doing when they made their recommendation. I hope that greater use will be made of the committee in connexion with projects involving the . expenditure of public money. I could give instances in support of that contention, but I realize, that it would be outside the scope of this debate. I do suggest, however, that in the interests of economy my suggestion will be given effect.
.- There is a good deal in the suggestion that this matter should be deferred for a time, in order that members who have not already studied the report of the Public Works Committee may be given an opportunity to do so.
– The report was laid on the table of the Honse six months ago.
– The report appears to contain a number of inconsistencies, which I hope the Minister will be able to explain. For instance, in paragraph 4, which is headed “ Reasons for the proposal “.I read -
In paragraph 15, the daily average of patients in 1937 is set down at 31.
– If the honorable member will read the whole of the report, he will see that there is no inconsistency.
– I have endeavoured to reconcile the two sets of figures, but have been unable to do so. I have had some experience of hospital administration, as the result of which I should say that, if the daily average at the present time is 40 in-patients, the provision of 60 beds is only about sufficient to meet present needs, and does not allow for expansion of the population.
– The honorable member is right.
– There will be additional provision for out-patients.
– It is possible that the saving of about £60,000 will be made at the expense of efficiency, in which event there would, in the long run, he no saving at all. I agree with the honorable member for Lilley (Mr. Jolly) that the report calls for a good deal of explanation. In paragraph 22 the report states - . On details being obtained, the original estimate of £120,000 was reduced to £101,760. . . .
That reduction calls for some explanation. Where does the responsibility lie? According to paragraph 1 of the report, before plans were formulated the superintending architect visited Darwin, Java and Singapore, in order that a building on modern lines, to conform to the principles of tropical architecture, could be designed. Apparently, there was a good deal of investigation by the architect responsible for the original design. Much greater facilities were afforded to him to investigate the requirements of a hospital for a tropical climate than were provided for the committee. We, therefore, have, on the one hand, the proposal of the superintending architect for a hospital to contain 3 32 beds, and, on the other hand, the recommendation of the Public Works Committee that that number of beds be reduced by 50 per cent.
– Does the honorable member suggest that the committee should have been sent on a grand tour?
– No; but I should like to know the qualifications of its members which justified them in altering so drastically the recommendation of the superintending architect.
– The recommendation was based on the evidence given to the committee at Darwin.
– What would be the position if the committee were unable properly to assess that evidence?
– Have any of the members of the committee qualifications sup’erior to those of the officer who was entrusted with the job in the first place?
– Who was he?
– I do not know; but if the officer entrusted with the task fell so far short of accomplishing it satisfactorily that he recommended a building to cost double what waa necessary, an investigation into his fitness for his job is called for. Either he or the Public Works Committee is wrong; or it may be that a proper balance will be found somewhere between the two recommendations. Before I can accept the committee’s recommendation, I desire an explanation of the inconsistencies to which I have referred. I may perhaps have overlooked something iii my somewhat hasty scanning of the report, but I have set out the position as it appears to me. I also desire to know why the Works Department supplied an estimate of £120,000 and then, when details were called for. reduced the estimate to £101,760, and whether the proposed expenditure of £6:7,000 includes provision for the various services covered by the original report of the superintending architect. He recommended a hospital to contain four ward blocks and a children’s ward. Does the plan approved by the committee provide for a children’s ward? Is the elimination of that ward responsible for some of the saving? From my hospital experience, I say that a children’s ward is a most important part of a hospital. The superintending architect also recommended the provision of two isolation blocks. Are they being provided in the amended scheme?
– The officer responsible for the original design also provided for an administrative block, an X-ray block, an operating theatre, quarters for medical officers, matron, sisters and nurses, a kitchen block, ambulance station, laundry, garages and services. Are they to be provided in the amended scheme ?
– Yes, all of them.
– It does not appear to me that all of them are to be provided.
– The information is given on page 6 of the committee’s report.
– I have looked at the information there, but before I am prepared to agree to the motion, I, and I believe, other members also, desire further time to study the report, and to hear the Minister’s explanation.
.- In paragraph 21 of the committee’s report the ideals which actuated the members of the Public Works Committee are’ set out. That paragraph reads -
After mature consideration of all the evidence received, the committee is satisfied that all legitimate hospital needs of Darwin for the next tcn years will be met by providing approximately GO beds in the new hospital, exclusive of about sixteen that will be provided in the isolation blocks, which is allowing 12.6 per 1,000 for the anticipated population of fi.000-
It would appear that the committee refused to accept the advice of expert medical officers from Melbourne and Sydney who gave evidence before it.
– Conditions at Darwin are entirely different from those in the other places mentioned.
– I should say that more beds in proportion to the population are necessary at Darwin, because of the peculiar conditions there, than at either. Sydney or Melbourne. The paragraph from which I have quoted continues -
It was adduced in evidence that the design of the building is such that an additional 30 patients could be accommodated on the verandahs-
Those in control of many of the big hospitals in Sydney are trying to avoid placing patients, other than convalescent patients, on verandahs.
– There is no tropical hospital in Sydney.
– I realize that. I imagine that the arrangement of a hospital for Darwin would be entirely different in many respects from a hospital in either of the other cities mentioned. I have had a good deal of experience with hospitals, because for 35 years I have been a member of the board of a hospital providing accommodation for over 80 patients. The paragraph continues - while with but little crowding the isolation blocks could take 32-
If the committee’s highest ambition is to provide for any necessary expansion by overcrowding within the present area of the hospital, it would appear that the members of the committee have no proper conception of what a hospital should provide. Paragraph 21 of the report concludes - so that in an emergency the hospital recommended could care for 122 patients, which is ten per 1,000 ot population ot 12,000.
On page 6 of the report, the reductions decided upon by the committee are set out. The statement shows that in respect of the central block a saving of about £7,000 is contemplated, whilst a laundry to cost about £2,100 is proposed in place of one originally estimated at £6,380. While it is necessary that a hospital should be built at once I should like to be satisfied that it would be possible to extend it” economically at a later date. Perhaps I may be pardoned for saying that I have not formed a high opinion of the abilities of the Public Works Committee in consequence of its activities in respect of Canberra.
– Order ! The honorable member for Barton is not entitled to make such statements when debating a motion which deals with the provision of a hospital at Darwin.
– What I wish to say is that the Public Works Committee has not developed the idealism of hospital construction in relation to its proposal for Darwin any more than it has developed the idealism of city planning in relation to its activities at Canberra. It has formed the habit of introducing extraneous matters.
– Order ! The honorable member must discuss the motion before the Chair. It is obviously necessary for honorable members to confine their remarks to the matter under discussion and it would be unfair and improper for me to allow the honorable member for Barton to proceed along the lines he is at present following.
– If I can prove that the Public Works Committee has introduced extraneous matter into the consideration of this subject as it has done on other occasions, 1 shall establish a case foi a further inquiry. This subject should be remitted to the committee for reconsideration. Surely in discussing a matter of this kind we are entitled to refer, by way of illustration, to other inquiries by the Public Works Committee. The committee has failed to furnish a satisfactory report in this case as in others. I say no more about other reports.
– It would be distinctly improper for the honorable member to do so.
– I have not referred to any other special reports.
– Order ! I shall not allow the honorable member to continue. He is not only persistently defying the Chair but is also ignoring the rules of debate. The honorable member will resume his seat when the Speaker is upon his feet.
– I intend to move dissent from this ruling.
– I hope the honorable member will realize that no ruling is involved.
– I wish to move dissent from the ruling of the Chair on the ground that I have been prevented from discussing the motion in general terms, and have also been prevented from making a reference to other recommendations of the Public Works Committee.
– I hope the honorable member will not proceed along that line.
– As honorable members seem to be of the same opinion, I shall content myself with saying that I have suffered in this way before.
.- A fairly large sum is proposed to be expended on the new hospital at Darwin. I should have thought that for £67,000 a brick building could be erected. I have had a good deal of experience of hospitals in other parts of Australia, and it seems to me that this expenditure is too great for the amount of accommodation that will be provided for patients. I advise the Government to follow the very good example in hospital construction that has been set by the Labour Government of Tasmania. We have some of the finest hospitals in the world there. I direct particular attention to the details of the proposed expenditure. An amount of £3,860 is allocated for nurses’ quarters and a further sum of £4,530 is provided for matrons’ and sisters’ quarters. That seems to me to be out of proportion. Are there more sisters than nurses at the Darwin Hospital ? If so, it is an unusual circumstance.
– Under the definitions in force at Darwin there are more sisters than nurses.
– That is interesting. I should like some information about the allocation of £1,250 for “H.O. Nurses quarters “. Are these intended for halfcaste nurses? If so, are those nurses required to attend aboriginal patients? That would seem to me to be an improper procedure. In all the big public hospitals of our capital cities the nurses attend the patients irrespective of their colour. Why should three different classes of nurses require accommodation in three different groups of quarters at Darwin? Are the half-caste nurses trained?
– They are, but I do not know what certificate they hold.
– All nurses on duty in a hospital should be either probationary or certificated in some way. Is provision being made at the hospital for maternity cases, for I have no doubt that it will be needed? Adequate maternity accommodation should be a primary consideration.
– Provision is being made for maternity cases, but the amount allocated has not been segregated.
– I should also like some information about the medical service at the hospital. It seems to me that too much is being provided for quarters of staffs of various kinds and too little for accommodation for patients. The estimated costs are altogether too high.
– That is due, in a considerable degree, to transport charges.
– Could not the plaster sheets required for this building be manufactured at Darwin and so save transport costs? If transport costs are so high in respect of the materials required for this hospital, obviously they must also be high in respect of materials required for other buildings. That being 30 I suggest that the Government should take steps to reduce them, either by providing shipping or in some other way. We understand that a good deal of building activity will occur at Darwin in the next year or so. The Government would be well advised therefore to consider my suggestion. I do not feel disposed to vote for this motion until further information has been made available to us. In particular some additional explanation should be forthcoming to justify the expenditure of such a large sum for staff quarters in comparison with the amount allocated for patients.
Motion (by Sir Frederick Stewart) - by leave - agreed to.
That Standing Order No. 119 be suspended to enable the debate to proceed without interruption.
.- I visited Darwin as a member of the Public Works Committee to assist in the inquiry into the proposal to build a new hospital there. This was my second visit. The first was made in company with the honorable member for Gippsland (Mr. Paterson) when he was Minister for the Interior. It was obvious even at that time that a new hospital was required. When the committee went to Darwin last year I was making my second trip. Still more obvious then was the need for a new hospital. The hospital building was in a fearful state, and the sisters and nurses were called upon to work under appalling conditions. The conditions would be bad enough anywhere, but the isolation of Darwin from the amenities of life in southern cities makes the position there even more serious. The expanded preparations for defence at Darwin also make a new hospital imperative. The committee lost no time. First it selected a site for the projected new hospital, a magnificent position overlooking the sea, which was formerly occupied by the aboriginals’ compound.- The compound has been moved toanother place. All possible information was obtained by the committee from every one who gave evidence. The honorable member for the Northern Territory (Mr. Blain) was in Darwin when the committee was taking evidence. In his speech to-day the honorablemember said that medical authori ties at Darwin were not examined. If he looks at the list of witnesses he will see that they were.
– No. I said that no notice was taken of them.
– We took evidence from the matron, Miss Ashburner, and from Dr. Cook, the Chief Medical Officer. No stone was left unturned by the committee in its investigations. In Sydney, we discussed the matter with Dr. Schlink, of the Royal Prince Alfred Hospital, who is one of the greatest authorities on hospitals in the world. Evidence was taken from the Resident Architect at Darwin, Mr. Burnett, the Commissioner of the Commonwealth Railways, Mr. Gahan, the Government Secretary at Darwin, Mr. Giles, the Works Director at Darwin, Mr. Stoddart, and Mr. Haslam, the Superintending Architect in Canberra, in addition to Miss Ashburner and Dr. Cook. In examining witnesses, having in mind the progress in scientific knowledge that will occur, we made inquiries as to the advisability or wisdom of building a large hospital suitable for 40 or 50 years of use, and decided that it was unwise and unsound to make provision for more than fifteen or twenty years. We decided that a hospital costing £67,000 would be all that would be needed within that space of time, bearing in mind the fact that the population at present is only about 2,000. If honorable members examine the report carefully they will see that full care was taken by the committee before it reached that decision. The honorable member for Richmond (Mr. Anthony) directed attention to the mention in one part of the report of a daily average of 40 in-patients, and in another part a daily average of 31. The general opinion expressed before the inquiry was that the daily average of in-patients was 40 persons, whereas the examination of witnesses associated with the administration of the hospital showed that it was only 31. A daily average of 40 inpatients would over-crowd the present premises. I realize the difficulties that honorable members experience in absorbing the details of all the papers that are presented to Parliament, but I am sorry that honorable members have not made themselves more conversant with the details of this report. I can understand that honorable members will have their own ideas as to what should or should not be provided in a hospital at Darwin, but 1 assure them that no committee has ever settled down to do a job of work with greater care and enthusiasm than has the Public Works Committee during the time I have been associated with it. Any honorable member who was able to go to Darwin would realize the need for a new hospital and would have sufficient confidence in the Public Works Committee to know that it has done its job conscientiously and in a businesslike way. Opinion may be divided on whether too much or too little is to be expended, but if this work is done it will be a credit to the Government and to the committee.
. - in reply - I am pleased to note the general concurrence from all sides of the House with the proposal that I have submitted for consideration. The only point calling for reply from me is the suggestion made by certain members that the Public Works Committee, in its efforts to achieve economy, has been too successful and possibly has achieved it at the expense of efficiency. Particularly has that argument been applied to the reduction of the number of beds originally proposed to thenumber recommended in the report. I direct the attention of honorable members to the fact that, whereas statistical information indicated that, in 1937 daily occupancy of beds at the hospital was 31, the report contemplates a hospital of 60 beds. The honorable member for Richmond (Mr. Anthony) appeared to think there was some inconsistency in the report in relation to the daily average occupancy. Whereas in one part of the report it was recorded that, the daily average occupancy of beds in the hospital in 1937 was 31, another part recorded a daily average occupancy of 40. The honorable member has overlooked the fact that the statistical information relating to a daily average occupancy of 31 beds related to the whole of the year 1937, but the reference to 40 beds related to that part only of the year when the inquiry was so conducted, which, of course, was in the second half of 1938. The report mentions that the general standard was the provision of 6.5 beds for every 1,000 of the population, but. because of the peculiar circumstances of Darwin, the committee wisely disregarded that. The population within a 20-mile radius of Darwin is 2,000 whites, 1,000 coloured aliens and 600 aboriginals, a total of 3,600, and it is proposed to provide seventeen beds for each thousand of the population. That is two and a half times greater than the generally accepted standard.
– Does that figure include the Army?
– Yes. None of us expects that the population of Darwin will remain static, but the most optimistic estimate is that the population will not reach 6,000 until 1950, eleven years from now. Even then there will be ten beds for every thousand of the population. Moreover, this report, as should all reports, contains provision for an extension of the hospital as needs arise. I inform the honorable member for Denison (Mr. Mahoney) that ten beds are to be set apart for maternity cases.
I am glad to note the anxiety of honorable members of this House to ensure the adequacy of hospitals which come under the control of the Commonwealth authorities. I hope at: an early date to ‘“‘cash in” on that anxiety displayed by honorable members. I hope that the House without further delay will authorize the Government to proceed with the recommended work.
Question resolved in the affirmative.
Sit ting suspended from 12.42 to 2.15 p.m.
Debate resumed from the 18th May (vide page 560), on motion by Mr. Casey -
That the bill be now read a second time.
– During this debate I have been reminded several times of observations made on other ‘ occasions by the honorable member for Flinders (Mr. Fairbairn), now Minister for Civil Aviation, and by the honorable member for Henty (Sir Henry Gullett), now Minister for External Affairs, that when important debates were being carried on in this House few members of the Ministry remained in the chamber, particularly when prominent members of the Opposition or the Country party - I do not include myself in this category - -were making their contributions to the discussion.
The absence of Government supporters at the moment seems to suggest a non-recognition of the importance pf this measure. I regard it as one of the most important that have been presented to this Parliament. Some of its importance is due, no doubt, to the fact that the right honorable member for Cowper (Sir Earle Page) was largely responsible for the original proposals contained in the bill, which is designed to marshal Australia’s resources for the effective defence of this country. Some speakers - particularly honorable members of the Opposition side - have asked, “ Where is the emergency? Why have we to spend such a large amount of money in organizing the nation’s resources for defence, while at the same time neglecting essential social services “ ? It would be difficult for one who has not closely observed the trend of affairs in other parts of the world to answer this question. But one has only to examine the situation that has arisen and the incidents that have taken place in various countries since the Treaty of Versailles was signed 22 or 23 years ago to realize that Australia has reached the stage when it is absolutely essential to thoroughly organize the nation’s resources for defence purposes. It is no exaggeration to say that our position to-day is infinitely worse than it was in 1914. We have to envisage the grim possibility of an attack upon our shores - a contingency that was improbable during the Great War. Therefore it is incumbent upon the Government, and this Parliament, to take all necessary measures to ensure our security. That is the purpose of the bill now before the House.
Although I make certain reservations, and may offer some criticism of the measure, generally speaking I support the bill. I was pleased to hear the Minister for Defence (Mr. Street) last night pay a tribute to his predecessor in office, the honorable member for Calare (Mr. Thorby). Coming from the Minister, that tribute was not a belated one, because it ,was not required of him; but it came very fittingly from the honorable gentleman in view of the frequent attacks that were made by the press of Australia on the honorable member for Calare, while carrying out the onerous duties which then devolved upon him for a long period.
The bill is wide in its scope. Two main criticisms have been levelled against it. One is that it is allembracing in its provisions; the other is that it does not define sufficiently the power which it will confer upon the authorities administering it. The honorable member for West Sydney (Mr. Beasley) complimented the Minister for Supply and Development (Mr. Casey) on his astuteness in bringing down a measure containing provisions so drafted that the Opposition could find it extremely difficult to criticize. In my opinion, the wide powers given in the bill are necessary, because it is difficult, at the moment, to predict in what direction the activities of this new department will extend. Nevertheless, I consider that a more detailed explanation of the bill should have been given hy the Minister introducing it. The right honorable gentleman might have indicated more clearly what the Government has in mind.
Honorable members on both sides are, I think, in agreement that everything possible should be done to place the defence of Australia on a sound basis. I would, however, say that if we are sincere in our. determination to do this we must give to those who may be entrusted with the responsibility of carrying out our defence preparations, sufficient power to enable them to discharge their duty efficiently on behalf of the people of Australia. The measure certainly grants very wide administrative power, but the occasion is such that we must accept it in the hope and belief that the authority will not be abused. If any abuses should occur, Parliament may remedy them by disallowing any regulations made under this bill. Moreover, there are constitutional limitations beyond which no Government dare go. In some respects, it is unfortunate that these limitations exist, because their effect is to hamper this Parliament in its efforts to pass legislation which, in many instances, is vital to the welfare of the people of Australia ; but, at all events, they are a safeguard.
– There are no constitutional limitations in time of war.
– I am pleased to have that assurance from the honorable member.
– I am sorry.
– In time of war the only consideration is the safety of the people. This has been recognized right down through the ages, from the time of the earliest democracies.
The Minister for Supply and Development has told us that the purpose of this measure is to organize industry and production for the use of the nation in time of emergency. The bill contains allembracing clauses, but, as I have said, the Minister has told us practically nothing about what the Government intends to do. For instance, we have not been informed what is proposed in connexion with the storing of foodstuffs and other supplies ; the nature of those supplies ; or the organization of the nation’s manpower during a state of emergency. With its small population and huge area, Australia must have the fullest use in productive employment of all available skilled workers. Unfortunately, many Australian workers, particularly skilled tradesmen, are being tempted to go to New Zealand. Recently 100 men left this country for the sister dominion, and many have been induced to go to other countries. By providing lucrative employment the Government would induce skilled workers to remain in Australia and assist in the carrying out of our huge defence programme.
This bill is not the only expression of government policy for Australia’s defence ; it is a corollary to another measure providing for a national register.
Finance is the key to all defence preparations of any country. The Government has not yet indicated how it proposes to provide the means required to establish new industries and enlarge private enterprise undertakings for the manufacture of munitions. These are vital if the Government’s proposal is to be implemented as it should be.
– They are not mentioned in the bill.
– No indication has yet been given of what the Government intends to do.
I listened attentively to the speech made by the Minister for Defence last night in the hope that I would obtain some information, but none was forthcoming. All I heard was a speech that might have been delivered even had the bill to create this new department not been under discussion. The Minister spoke only in general terms. He pointed out that adequate defence involved the provision of large stocks of munitions, and that, therefore, the Government was providing additions to factories run by private enterprise, and was building some factories of its own. The honorable gentleman also said ‘that” Great Britain was turning more and more to private enterprise in the carrying out of its defence programme. The speech was, in effect, a general press announcement of the Government’s proposals, and not a detailed statement such as is necessary for the consideration of a measure like this.
Much has been said about what the Government may or may not do under the powers conferred by this measure. It has been suggested that the findings of the Tariff Board could be over-ridden and that new industries could be established without the approval of that body. If that is so, then, particularly from the point of view of primary industries, we are entitled to ask the Government for some inkling of its intentions.
– Does the honorable member stand rigidly for the observance of the Tariff Board’s recommendations?
– I do not stand rigidly for anything. I stand for knowledge, and, therefore, I seek information. When I get that information I shall base my decisions upon it. Any honorable member who declares that he will stand adamant on anything, despite the fact that conditions may alter, is not wise. I am prepared to take cognizance of the changes that occur from time to time. In this connexion, I am reminded of the economist Keynes, who, when challenged with the fact that he had changed his mind ona particular point, replied, “ I am not like the gentleman who goes out and says every day that it is a fine day; when it is is raining I say that it is raining, and when it is fine I say that it is fine “. We certainly have principles to which we adhere. I sincerely wish that the members of all parties, but particularly of the Opposition, would make some allowance for the fact that times and circumstances change, and that what is appropriate to-day may not fit the case five years or even five months hence. We all change our views with the passage of the years. 1 impress upon the Government that any grave disturbance of primary industries would have serious repercussions, not only on those industries, but also on secondary industries, because the two are dependent upon each other. Inversely, any grave disorganization of secondary industries would be detrimental to primary industries. We must always keep in mind the fact that our primary industries are almost wholly responsible for the export trade of this country, and that our ability to import our requirements of oil, rubber, tea, cotton and various other commodities which cannot be produced in Australia is dependent on the maintenance of successful primary industries. Therefore, the Government must recognize that any disturbance likely to be caused either by the setting up of artificial industries on such a scale that our overseas markets are depleted too suddenly, or by other measures, must ultimately have repercussions which will not be to the advantage of the nation.
A good deal has been said by different members concerning the development of, for example, the production of oil. I fully appreciate the need for Australia to try to discover either additional supplies of oil or new means of obtaining them. I am not, however, altogether in agreement with those who appear to think that millions of gallons of oil are concealed in the bowels of the earth, and that there is a widespread conspiracy, particularly on the part of the oil combine, to keep it there. Possibly, the greatest effort has not been made to discover oil, and the Government may well continue progressively and industriously the efforts to locate it. I would point out, however, that in the whole of the British Empire, which covers one-third of the earth’s surface, scarcely a barrel of oil has yet been found. As a matter of fact, the British, French, Italian, Belgian and Japanese Empires, which in the aggregate constitute almost one-half of the world’s surface, do not produce 1 per cent, of the oil supplies of the world. Australia may be one of those unfortunate countries in which oil cannot be found. While continuing exploratory measures for the discovery of oil, if it exists, the Government should also endeavour to develop other fuels. Different members, and particularly those representing country areas, have mentioned the fact that the farmers are now using tractors which are capable of being propelled by means of charcoal instead of oil.
– They use charcoal only when they cannot get oil.
– In a country district the other day I inspected a tractor, the owner of which told me that he had passed in his kerosene-burning plant and had been operating with charcoal for twelve months at a cost of about one-third of his previous outlay, the work being done just as effectively. If oil cannot be found, the Government might consider subsidizing the use of charcoal-burning tractors in country districts. In a time of need that would enable the agricultural industry of this country to becarried on undisturbed. All of these charcoalburning plants are manufactured in Australia, and thus provide employment for those who work in secondary industries-
– Why should there be a subsidy if they are cheaper to run?
– The purchase price is £120 greater than that of an oil-driven tractor. The honorable member for Hunter (Mr. James) has referred to the extraction of oil from coal in the Newcastle district and in other districts, and the honorable member for Gippsland (Mr. Paterson) has urged the need to develop the oil resources of his electorate. I believe that I shall have the support of Queensland members when I mention the possibility of producing power alcohol from excess sugarcane crops. The exports of sugar last year totalled 400,000 tons, and a much greater quantity could hare been produced had there been a market for it. The sugar sent overseas is mostly produced and sold at a loss. Unlimited supplies of material are available for the production of power alcohol. For some time I have been using in one of my lorries power alcohol produced from cane and mixed with petrol, and it has proved very satisfactory. The investigations made by the Government in this connexion should be continued in conjunction with an inquiry into the propositions submitted by the honorable member for Hunter and the honorable member for Gippsland. “We have most to fear, not from a direct invasion - although that fear is always present and the possibility must always be provided against - but from the possibility of a blockade and the cutting off of overseas supplies. In the event of a blockade we would be unable to receive certain foodstuffs and essential raw materials. In Australia we have ample supplies of meat, wheat, rice, butter, sugar and tobacco, but our stocks of coffee, tea and cocoa are limited. We have an abundance of wool, but supplies of cotton, flax and jute and other products used in the manufacture of bags and tents are limited. Adequate stocks of these commodities should be provided. The three most essential commodities, our present stocks of which are inadequate and for which the Government should make provision, are oil, rubber and potash. The -stocks of the last-mentioned are small, -and if our supplies should fail many of our farmers and fruit-growers would find themselves at a great disadvantage.
If the Government is really serious in its intention to conduct a supplies and development department, it will have to consider seriously the- decentralization of industry and encourage the establishment in country districts of such industries -as can bc conducted economically. It may seem improbable, but it is practicable, for engineering shops in some of our small country towns to supply some of our defence needs. In a small dairying town named Bangalow, in my electorate, two young men, who did not desire to go to the city as most young men are forced :to do, had sufficient initiative to start a small engineering plant in which they are producing a complete separator engine for the use of dairymen. That .’3 being done in a town where there u no local supply of iron or coal.
– Are they doing well?
– They are not making a fortune, but are earning sufficient to enable them to remain in the country. If that can be done in one small town it is possible for small engineering shops throughout Australia to make, not complete machine guns or rifles, but some of the parts. They could manufacture rings, bolts or even buckles for saddle straps. In distributing such work amongst country manufacturers, we should be doing justice to country areas, and also assisting national safety. When industry is distributed there is less likelihood of dislocation in the event of a raid or an invasion.
Some honorable members have criticized this measure because they say that it savours of totalitarian principles, and gives the Minister such comprehensive powers that he can become a dictator. I believe that we have reached a stage in this country when we have to realize that if we are not actually at war, the fear of war is always present. I trust that I am wrong, but the crisis which occurred in September came as a bolt from the blue. I recollect, as do many other honorable members, that we felt that we were caught unprepared, and were wishing to God that we had more time in which to make the necessary preparations for the defence of this country. The next shock may be as sudden as that which occurred in September. Events of the last two or three years show that each sudden move on the part of aggressor nations has been made during a period of comparative calm. At any moment we may be faced with some calamity.
– The honorable member is an alarmist.
– I am not, but like members of the party to which the honorable member belongs, I believe in the adequate defence of Australia, and contend that nothing short of the maximum amount of security that we can afford should be provided. The powers contained in this bill will enable the Government to show its mettle and to prove that it believes in deeds and not in words. There has been too much talk and insufficient action. Moreover, the Government should consider further the implementation of a bill passed some time ago to provide a national standards bureau which is really a complementary part of this proposal. If the various processes in the manufacture of munitions are to be undertaken with the highest degree of efficiency a national standards bureau should be in active operation at the earliest possible moment. I do not know what has been done up to the present but I have not heard of very much being accomplished by such a body.
When we speak of totalitarian states we must recognize that everything associated with such states is not undesirable. We disagree with their system of government, but we must admire the degree of efficiency achieved. If a similar degree of efficiency can be “achieved under a democratic system by this “totalitarian.” Minister, as some honorable members have designated him, much good will be done in the direction proposed. It has been said by some members of the Opposition that the profiteer is likely to obtain all the benefits of the Commonwealth’s defence programme. It has been urged that, rather than allow any one to profiteer, we should forgo a large proportion of this defence programme and proceed only with that portion which the Government itself is capable of undertaking. If that policy were adopted we would be ten years behind others in preparing for national security. Every resource of the nation must be utilized if the maximum results desired are to be achieved.
I fully agree that it is necessary to eliminate profiteering. In 1914 and 1915, because of the fact that Great Britain was not prepared for war, and because its munitions factories were not in full operation, hundreds of thousands of British lives were forfeited. It was only when Mr. Lloyd George created a munitions department, very similar to our new Department of Supply and Development, that the position was remedied. If I had to choose between the possible loss of the lives of tens of thousands of Australians and giving an opportunity to certain individuals to make large profits out of the supply of munitions, I should allow them to make that profit, for we could deal with them afterwards. In modern warfare an inadequately trained army with antiquated weapons is no match for a well-trained foe equipped with uptodate weapons, irrespective of the bravery of the individual soldiers. This fact has been demonstrated recently in China. Nobody could doubt the heroism of the Chinese troops at Shanghai and elsewhere, but the Chinese armies have had to retreat progressively because of the inadequacy of their equipment. The Abyssinians .experienced similiar disabilities.
As I have already indicated, I am in accord with what many honorable members have said as to the necessity to prevent profiteering, and I shall do my utmost in combination with others to check the evil. The Government has been very vague regarding what it proposes to do in this matter. We are told that it intends to set up a committee of accountants. I addressed a question yesterday to the Minister for Defence and, in reply, he stated that the committee would be an honorary one. Gentlemen called upon to give their services in an honorary capacity could scarcely be expected to devote to this work the time and attention necessary to enable it to be done properly. It seems to me that the Government should appoint a panel of paid men of undoubted integrity and possessing the highest credentials. We have seen what uncontrolled industry will do in the case of the brick combine in New South Wales. The report of a royal commission has demonstrated that, when given a free hand, people inflate prices and ignore the rights and needs of the general community. Therefore it is incumbent on the Government to declare definitely what it proposes to do in order to curb profiteering.
The Government should provide as quickly as possible, by mass production, a sufficient number of rifles. The suggestion has been made that an ample supply of these weapons is available, but I think that at least 1,500,000 rifles are required. We should also speed up by mass production the supply of machine guns of one type, small field guns and coastal defence equipment. If the new Department of Supply and Development is to function as it should, much more energy should be manifested by the responsible Minister than has been shown in other departments. I believe that the present Minister for Defence has done a great deal, but the fact that a new department has been created shows that it is necessary to have an additional Minister engaged in the supervision of defence preparations. Prompt action is essential if the interests of the people are to be served properly.
Several members of the Opposition have at times deprecated the need for defence preparations, and have suggested that the authorities are unnecessarily panicky. They tell us that if we make a friendly approach to other nations there will be no danger of interference with Australia. I am reminded of the old fable of the lion and the hare. When they met in conclave, and the hare talked on terms of equality, the lion simply, asked, “ Where are your claws “ ? Australia should have at least some claws, lest the occasion arise when it may need them.
I a,m not entirely satisfied as to the wisdom of handing over to the Minister for Supply and Development so much power as is envisaged by this bill, but it is urgently necessary at the present time to get much work efficiently done with the least possible delay. I shall support an amendment designed to improve the bill in certain respects. The main desire of people of all shades of opinion is to have the defences of this country placed on a sound footing as quickly as possible, and this bill offers a means towards that end, if the plan be implemented with the requisite energy, judgment and courage.
.- Pear has been expressed regarding the wisdom of giving to a Minister the powers to be conferred by this bill. I am more concerned to know what will be the effect of the measure when it comes into operation. Personally, I consider that, if wisely administered, it will do much more than marshal the resources of the nation for the purposes of defence, for it will make some contribution towards placing industrial development on a sound economic basis. The suggestion has been made during the debate that the bill should come into operation only at a time of national emergency, but the present world conditions are such that we are living continuously in a state of emergency. We cannot afford to wait until we are on the brink of war before we start to make preparations for defence. As the honorable member for Richmond (Mr. Anthony) pointed out, it is imperative that we should have a businesslike organization, not only so far as manpower is concerned, but also in connexion with materials, if we are to hold our own with the countries that are controlled by dictators. There is a danger that the new defence industries will be concentrated in the larger centres of population. As .a matter of fact, an investigation will disclose that most of the defence annexes already established by the Government, are situated in the vicinity of either Sydney or Melbourne. It would be in the best interests of the permanent and sound defence of Australia to have the population as widely distributed as possible. I consider it imperative that the Government should establish new industries connected with defence, supply and development in other parts of Australia. It is only fair that there should be an equable distribution of defence expenditure. I realize that because plant and equipment are already established in the southern part of the continent much of the munitions requirements must be manufactured there, but at the same time it is right and proper that every part of the Commonwealth should receive consideration, even though the costs so incurred might be greater than would otherwise be the case. I do not believe that cost is the only important consideration, and I emphasize that the concentration of all of our defence industries in the larger centres would encourage people to gravitate to them. One of the great problems confronting Australia to-day is that more than one-half of the population is concentrated in the cities. I urge the Government to give serious consideration to decentralization when dealing with the establishment of new industries.
Exploration for oil is another important subject affecting supply and development. The honorable member for West
Sydney (Mr. Beasley) dealt very fully and ably with it the other evening, when he emphasized the need for an adequate supply of oil within Australia in the event of war occurring. I submit that not only in time of war, but also in time of peace, it is essential to have a satisfactory supply of oil. Rightly or wrongly, a suspicion exists in the minds of many people that certain influences have hampered the discovery and development of oil resources in Australia. A considerable amount of money has been spent in various parts of the Commonwealth in a search which has not been as effective and efficient as it should have been. I myself have contributed to boring operations, which have had very little result. No doubt other honorable members have done likewise. The Government itself should undertake an exhaustive - and thorough search instead of granting subsidies to private enterprise. It should control all operations from the time when a site for boring is recommended by its experts, and it should impose a very strict supervision by trustworthy officers. It should make every effort to test Australia’s oil resources beyond any possibility of doubt. If the Government took a hand, the public would be assured that there would be no hampering of the work such as is said to occur at present.
I shall refer now to the making of undue profits from the manufacture of munitions and armaments. I believe that all honorable members will subscribe to my views on the subject. The manufacture of munitions and armaments as proposed in this measure is on trial. Therefore the Government should ensure that the most thorough and exhaustive check is maintained on manufacturing costs. We should not content ourselves with a mere check on the production costs of the articles concerned, but should also impose a check on the costs of the raw materials used. I know that this would not be an easy task, for I have had some experience in similar work.
The Minister for Defence (Mr. Street) indicated last night that the Government proposes to appoint a panel of public accountants to advise it on this subject. I take it that the Minister realizes, that there are certain men in the profession of public accountancy who specialize in that class of work, and I advise the Government to. include in the panel a number of those specialists. I agree with the remarks by the honorable member for Richmond when questioning the wisdom of asking these men to give their services free of chage. A public accountant is in somewhat the same position as a lawyer, for a good deal of his income depends upon his personal exertion, and I question whether it is altogether fair to expect these men to give the necessary concentration of thought to the task they will be called upon to perform without reimbursement. Obviously they will have to make more than a mere cursory inspection of the manufacturing costs if they are to impose a thorough and efficient check. The method of arriving at costs is very intricate and requires close research. I urge the Government to take into consideration the desirability of keeping a close check on the profits of not only major works but also subsidiary works connected with the industries concerned. If it is not possible to prevent the making of excessive profits from the manufacture of munitions and weapons of war under the conditions proposed in this measure, we have no alternative but to terminate this policy. Civilization cannot allow greed for profit from this deadly business to determine whether or not there shall be peace in the world. I doubt whether the Government has full power under the bill to control profits. One clause is supposed to empower the Government to ascertain costs, and to control or limit profits in connexion with the production of munitions, but there is no indication of how this is to be done. Reference was made by the Minister to the power of the “Government to secure certain information, hut I. remember that, some time ago, when certain interests were called before a royal commission they refused point blank to give the information sought, and, so far as I know, the Commonwealth Government, at that time, had no power to make them. It is most important that the Governmentshould possess full power to investigate costs and prices of munitions, and .that it should secure the services of the right men to advise it. The policy of allowing private enterprise to manufacture munitions of war is on trial, and if we are not able to prevent the making of undue profits, that policy must be abandoned.
.- There is no difference of opinion among honorable members with regard to one point, namely, the obligation upon the Government to secure the safety of the Commonwealth and its people. The difference of opinion arises with regard to the methods that should be taken, and with regard to the degree of urgency that exists. There is the pacifist section, which believes that if we are peaceful we, in our isolated position, shall be quite safe, but I think the experience of Abyssinia, Czechoslovakia, Austria, Albania and China should be sufficient warning against hiding our heads in the sand, and pretending that the danger does not exist. We must face the harsh realities as they exist in the world to-day. The Government recognizes this, and it realizes that the matter is urgent. That is why this bill is before the House. Since 1914, when the Great War broke out, improved methods of transport have tended to annihilate distance, and we can no longer safely rely upon our isolation. Then we had months in which to prepare, to train our soldiers, and to provide them with equipment so that they might do their part on behalf of Australia and the Empire. To-day, there would be no time, and therefore this measure becomes urgent. Preparation must be made before the event. Never before has the scouts’ motto, “ Be prepared ! “ had such real application as to-day. We have seen how the dictators have disregarded contracts when it suited them, and it is essential, therefore, that we should be in a position to protect ourselves. In September last, as the ex-Treasurer (Mr. Casey) has stated, world peace was balancing on the edge of a razor. There was real danger at that time, and to-day it is more than ever necessary that speed should be exercised to make up the leeway in our .preparations to ensure peace. We are now beginning to realize that preparation for war does not necessarily mean that war will come; it is, perhaps, the best way to ensure that it will not. Weakness is far more likely to invite aggression than is preparation for war. The dictators realize that when they have weak or unprepared nations to deal with, they can carry out their designs unchecked. Armed strength is a condition which helps to prevent war. The Australian Government recognizes that it must do its part towards protecting Australia, and that it must act now. It is wise ito make our preparations before trouble comes, not after.
Since September last, there have been important changes in the administration of the Defence Department. The work of the department has been divided, and to-day five Ministers and Assistant Ministers, together with their various staffs, are engaged upon the various works related to defence. I believe that the Government is wise in dividing the duties. I agree that the military section should be kept separate from the others. I also believe that there should be a special department for the supply of military requirements, but I agree with the honorable member for Calare (Mr. Thorby) that the Works Department should be associated with the Supply Department. This would simplify administration, and promote efficiency. We have been told that the Minister for Supply will be responsible for the supply of clothing, aircraft, munitions, armaments, and equipment. He should also have under his control the works necessary for the production of those things.
The bill also provides for the making of economic preparations to meet an emergency. It has been said that industry provides the sinews of war, and that unless industry be kept going, there would very soon be chaos. Every day’s delay adds to the risk of dislocation. We cannot afford to wait. During the early part of the last war, one small German cruiser, of less than 4,000 tons, operating in the Indian Ocean, was able, in six weeks, to capture or bottle up 200,000 tons of shipping. In another war, no merchant ship conveying Australian produce to overseas markets or bringing goods to Australia, would dare to put out into the open sea without a convoy; yet, with our limited navy, it would hardly be possible to provide convoys. Shipping services would be interrupted, and there would be tremendous congestion of products awaiting export. The Government must make preparations in advance for handling the produce that would pile up. It is necessary to provide adequate storage space for highly perishable produce. Wool is nonperishable, and can be stored wherever there is space. It will keep in good condition for years. Wheat is partially perishable. This year, the silos were so full that it was found necessary in New South Wales to stack the surplus wheat in bags in sheds. If it were necessary to store the production of two seasons, there would be serious congestion. The producers would have no income, and would suffer severe hardships. We must arrange for the storage of produce in suitable districts. Wheat cannot be stored in Sydney for more than three months without being ruined by weevils. It would be riddled with weevil from top to bottom of the stack unless it were constantly turned. Preparation must be made for the storage of produce in places where the climate is suitable, and where the commodities will be safe from pests. Cold storage for butter, which is another perishable product, is also limited. It would be tragic for the dairying industry if the Minister failed to look ahead and provide sufficient storage for this product to meet an emergency. Other perishable products for which emergency storage accommodation should be provided are eggs, fruit, tallow, wine and sugar. Reserves of metals, which are non-perishable, would also be built up. The Government must realize also that production of all these commodities cannot be carried on without adequate finance; if that is not provided economic chaos will result. The Government has acted wisely in appointing a separate Minister to take charge of this special department in order to ensure sufficient provision to meet any emergency. We must remember that 25 per cent, of the aggregate production of Australia is exported annually to meet our overseas commitments and to pay for our essential imports. How should we fare, if in a crisis we found ourselves short of rubber, tea, fuel, oil, jute - you cannot handle an Australian crop without jute for wheat bags, wool packs, chaff bags and cornsacks - tinned plate for the fruit industry, paper, sulphur and phos phate rock? We should build up reserve stocks of these commodities to meet emergency needs over the period of risk. Phosphate rock is non-perishable; it would not matter if we imported 1,000,000 or 2,000,000 tons of that commodity and stored it, so that we should always have sufficient of it for the manufacture of fertilizers. Another commodity of which we should provide sufficient reserve stocks to meet an emergency is timber of the kinds which we are obliged to import. The Minister should continually keep these matters before his mind.
Honorable members on both sides of the House have referred to our dependence on oil. It has been alleged that the major oil companies have exercised a sinister influence upon our exploratory work in this field. It would be wise and fair for the State governments which have granted leases of various areas for oil exploration and testing to cancel such leases in cases in which they are not satisfied that reasonable efforts are being made to develop these areas. The Royal Commission on Petrol was told that whilst the duty on petrol was 71/4d. a gallon, kerosene was not subject to duty, yet the price at which kerosene was sold to primary producers was only 41/2d. a gallon less than petrol. In . this way the oil interests are exploiting the farmers. Other evidence is available to show that the combine of oil companies is still preventing primary producers from getting at a reasonable price those commodities which are essential to production. I have here a letter, dated the 2nd May, 1939, written by the secretary of a tractor owners’ association to country farmer members. It reads -
With reference to our supplying kerosene to the . tractor owners, we have to advise that through the combined action of the major oil companies, together with the Vacuum Oil. Company in particular, our truck of power kerosene for your tractor owners has been stopped, notwithstanding the fact that the truck was half loaded, and under a threat our supplier was forced to withdraw thirty drums of kerosene from the truck.
Action of this kind is definitely restraint of trade. The Government should prevent this combine from denying to the primary producers, at a reasonable price, commodities which are essential to the carrying on of their industries. It could take such action through Commonwealth Oil Refineries Limited, in which it holds a majority of the shares. Another illustration of the activities of this combine is provided in a letter written by an officer of the Farmers and Settlers Association of New South Wales to one of its members. This organization arranged with an independent oil company to supply power kerosene to its members, the organization acting in an agency capacity on behalf of its members, making payment to the oil company with each order. The oil company thus ran no risk whatever of losing one penny by bad debts. Under this arrangement users of power kerosene in the country districts were able to buy this product almost at the wholesale price. Within the last two or three weeks that organization reported to its members that, owing .to pressure ‘being brought to bear upon it, this particular company could not continue to supply power kerosene under the old arrangement. I have here a bank cheque for £25 14s. 6d., representing the agency rebate allowance 2>aid on one truck of power kerosene ordered under this arrangement. This rebate represents a saving to the farmer of approximately Id. a bushel on the cost of producing wheat. The Government says that it is anxious to help the wheat industry, and it should be prepared to take action along the lines that I now suggest. Through Commonwealth Oil Refineries Limited it could step into the breach, and supply fuel to primary producers, acting as a city agent through an organization of the kind I have mentioned, thus enabling them to obtain this essential requirement at a reasonable price. If the Government did this it would merely be carrying out the proposals embodied in the second part of this measure, which deals with the maintenance of economic industries.
Clause 5, sub-clause le, provides that the matters to be administered by the department shall include, “ arrangements for ascertaining costs and for the control and limitation of profits in relation to the production of munitions “. Compare that provision with paragraph d of the same sub-clause, which provides that the department shall also administer matters relating to “the
acquisition, maintenance and disposal of stocks of goods in connexion with defence “. There is no safeguarding provision with regard to the prices of these goods. Let us assume that we run short of woolpacks, which we are now obliged to buy from some importer holding large stocks. Under paragraph d the Government will have power by regulation to commandeer existing supplies of that commodity, but it will have no power to fix its prices. On the other hand, it will have power under paragraph e .to fix the prices of munitions. If tie Government has power to do so under the Constitution I urge it not to limit the power, but to control the price of commodities essential to economic production so as to prevent profiteering. Reverting to the question of oil, sufficient quantities of that commodity should be stored to meet an emergency. We are aware of the assistance given by past governments in the development of Newnes, but progress in that venture is slow, and that source of supply would not prove very valuable should an emergency arise in the near future. Furthermore, reserves of oil should be situated in safe areas, and not, as is now the case, stored in big silver-painted tanks on the waterfronts, where they are conspicuous targets for hostile aircraft. The number of draught horses in the country has decreased largely during recent years. Should the supplies of oil and petrol become so short that sufficient quantities could not be made available for tractor owners and for engines in factories and power plants, much industry would be held up. I have listened with interest to the remarks of honorable members who have referred to the use of charcoal gas as a means of power. During the last two or three years, there has been considerable development in this direction; the experimenters are getting nearer to perfection, and costs of installation are being reduced. The biggest cost is that associated with the additional plant and alteration to engines for the use of charcoal gas. In Western Australia, I believe that a satisfactory suction gas plant has been evolved for use with trucks and tractors, and even motor cars. Anything that the Government can do to encourage the use of charcoal gas will assist towards the safety of industry and the defence of Australia. There is no limit to our supplies of charcoal, and if it “were used generally, the available supplies of petrol and oil in the country at the time of the crisis -would last longer.
The bill does not contain many precise provisions; most of the powers sought by the Government are to be given by regulations. There has been much objection to it on these grounds, but we should remember that every regulation comes before Parliament for approval, and any regulation which honorable members do not approve can be disallowed. The bill, I feel sure, will strengthen our protection against possible aggression and make for greater safety in the future.
– I make no apology for being a Revolutionist. I congratulate the honorable member for Lilley (Mr. Jolly) on his opening remarks, in which he suggested that the defence programme of the Government should be decentralized, but the honorable gentleman did not indicate how that should be done. I fear that much of the expenditure will be concentrated in the south-eastern corner of the continent, unless honorable members generally become regionally-minded. I wish to refer to what is being done in this connexion in other countries. I shall refer first to France, and later to the United States of America. Now that money is available, I see no reason why the “ new-Staters “ should not come into the field again under the name of “ regionalism “ instead of “ new-States,” “ otherwise there will be no real difference between the political parties, and no real cleavage, hut simply an amorphous mass, s.i ve for the existence of political gymnasts who try to deceive the people into believing that differences exist, when all the time they know that they are not pulling their weight, although they represent areas that, obviously, are waiting for a regional policy for their proper development. I ask leave .to continue my remarks.
Leave granted ; debate adjourned.
Ship-Building - Deportation of Chinese Youth - Importation of New Zealand Potatoes - Graving Dock for Capital Ships.
Motion (by Mr. Hughes) proposed -
That the House do now adjourn.
– I have been asked by several organizations in Victoria to raise again in this House, the subject of work associated with the Government’s defence programme, particularly ship-building ,and ship repair work. For some years all the States with the exception of NewSouth Wales have been starved of this class of work, although prior to the leasing of the Cockatoo Island Dockyard they had a share of it. We can understand that when the Government entered into a contract with the company which took over that dock, it undertook certain obligations, but the conditions which dictated those undertakings no longer exist, and there is now no need to concentrate all this work in one capital city. The dockyards in New South Wales are so glutted with work that they are operating overtime. Unless the work be better distributed, and Victoria and the other States get a share of it, the defence programme must be hung up for some time. I know that plans and specifications are ready for numbers of works for which tenders are about to be invited. In reply to questions, Ministers have stated that the Commonwealth Govern; ment cannot see its way clear, even in implementing its defence programme, to assist such bodies as ports and harbours authorities and harbour trust commissioners to build dockyards suitable to accommodate capital ships.- The end of the advocacy in that direction has not yet been reached. The last reply of the Minister was to the effect that the Government was still investigating the possibilities of having a chain of modern docks in four or five of the big seaports along the Australian coast. As to work which can be done with the facilities which exist in places other than Sydney, there is no reason why it should not be better distributed. I refer not only to Melbourne; at Newcastle and other places a lot of work could be carried out. In the port of Melbourne, there are two dry docks arid much modern plant. The electric cranes and welding and hydraulic pressing plants there are probably the best of their kind in Australia. Victoria has both the plant and the men to undertake this work, for many of the expert ship-builders who came to
Australia when the present AttorneyGeneral (Mr. Hughes) was Prime Minister are still there, although, for the most part, they are unemployed except for such casual work as the building of a yacht or some minor requirement of the harbour trust. We have a ‘good dock for work on small ships. As I understand that the Government intends to obtain three small twin-engined oil-burning ships almost immediately, I ask that the work of building them be given to the Melbourne Harbour Trust. It is also proposed to obtain 100 new buoys. A special hydraulic pressing plant perfectly suited for work of this kind is available in Melbourne, and I am of the opinion that these buoys could be made as efficiently, and probably as cheaply in Melbourne, as anywhere else in Australia. Ships of up to 400 feet can be built, repaired, painted and otherwise serviced in the dry dock at Williamstown, and such work was done there before the Government leased the Cockatoo Island Dockyard to private interests. The manager of that dockyard stated, on his return from abroad recently, that the Cockatoo Island Dockyard staff would be increased from 1,000 to 2,000 men immediately, and. that the whole plant would be worked at full capacity. He also said that sufficient work was in sight to maintain full capacity operations at -the dockyard for about two years. This means, of course, that some of the men will be working overtime. As a good deal of this work is of an urgent character, and as there arc men and plant idle in Victoria, I suggest that it could well be spread over two or three of the largest ports. In addition to the three small ships and the 100 buoys that are to be obtained, one new target ship is about to be built, and the old target ships have to be repaired, lt is surely not too much to ask that some of this work should be done in Melbourne, where artisans capable of doing it are out of employment or ar’e working only part time, particularly as the men following similar callings in Sydney are fully employed.
There is, of course, need for a larger dock in Melbourne. We were reminded of this by an accident that happened to the Zealandia in Hobson’s Bay last week.
Some oil on board caught fire. The outbreak was quelled, but it was only in consequence of lucky, clever and quick work by the fire brigade that the vessel was able to proceed on its voyage. Had its hull been injured in any way, it would have been disabled 500 miles from the nearest repair service. Inevitably, some day a ship will be laid up in Hobson’s Bay by accident; six ships could be laid up in the harbour as the result of one raid, and a deplorable state of affairs would exist if repairs could not be effected at such a large port.
My main object, at the moment, however, is to stress the desirableness of placing some of the new work which the Government is about to put in hand with the instrumentalities and firms which are able to do it in Melbourne and other ports besides Sydney. In order to be sure that in giving effect to the request made to mc by the bayside councils and the Shipwrights Association, I was not asking for something that could not be done, I wrote to Mr. George Kermode, Chairman of the Board of Commissioners of the Melbourne Harbour Trust, on .the subject. I asked him whether the trust would be willing to do such work and whether if it could be obtained casual shipwrights could be employed on it so that they, as well as the permanent employees, might reap some advantage. In the course of his reply Mr. Kermode said -
With reference to your suggestion that the Trust might make a claim for some of the defence work I may say that we would be only too pleased at any time to undertake work for the Commonwealth, but I am under the impression that when the Government sold the Cockatoo Island Dockyard to a company a promise was made that all the defence work would be given to that company.
The Cockatoo Island Dockyard was not actually sold; it was leased. The Government could not foresee at that time that so much work would be required for defence purposes. Mr. Kermode also said -
If you can suggest any method whereby we may attract some of the Commonwealth work in this way I would be glad to see that a share of such work is distributed to Victorian tradesmen.
I ask the Attorney-General (Mr. Hughes), who is in charge of the House, to ascertain whether any arrangement has been made which would prevent the
Government from allocating some work of the character I have in mind to other ports of the Commonwealth. If not, will he undertake to see that instrumentalities and firms in ports other than Sydney which are able to do such work effectively and economically shall he given an opportunity to tender for it. If that course be taken the responsibility to secure the work will rest with the public or semi-public bodies and firms concerned.
.- I bring under the notice of the Government the case of a young Chinese named Peter Kara Yen Wong, of Perth, who has received notice, under the Immigration Act, to leave Australia by the 30th June next. This young man came to Australia at the age of two years with his mother, who was permitted to join her husband here for a period. His younger brothers, who were born while she was in Australia, apparently do not come under the act. The boy, Peter, was permitted to remain here and be educated in our schools. He passed through the Perth Boys’ School and entered the Technical College, Perth, some years ago, first as a day student in the commercial classes, and later as an evening student in accountancy. He passed all his examinations successfully. I am informed by the Assistant Superintendent of Technical Education in Western Australia that -
This lad has developed under our State educational system and is regarded by his teachers as a youth of very high character. Ho is a manly type, and is painstaking, industrious and capable. His mother’s people, lie informs mc, live in Western China and it is at present practically impossible to get through the Japanese-controlled territory to them.
If the circumstances are as stated, it would be cruel to deport this youth. We have, I hope, largely ridded ourselves of our old policy of isolation and our tendency to regard every foreigner as inferior. Younger members of the lad’s family, who were born in Australia, will be permitted to remain here. I am not one’ of those who object to Chinese, provided they live up to the standard that they learn by living in Australia and being educated in our schools. I know many half- and quarter-bred Chinese who have become desirable citizens. They are capable of assimilation with our own people, and in the course of a generation or two it is difficult to distinguish them from people of European parentage. I appeal to the Attorney-General (Mr. Hughes) to examine this case with a view to a more reasonable application of the Immigration Act. It would be cruel to exclude this youth who so far- has been permitted to acquire the character of an Australian.
.- There is a matter, which I view with grave concern, because it affects very greatly the constituents whom I represent. During the whole of the time in which I have been a member of this Parliament I have noticed frequent pressure and advocacy by the honorable member for Parramatta (Sir Frederick Stewart) for the removal of the embargo against the importation of New Zealand potatoes. The honorable gentleman has been very persistent. Some months ago the Lyons Government lifted the embargo against New Zealand potatoes, presumably for one or two reasons. Perhaps, it considered that the price of potatoes in Australia was excessive and that local production could not supply the market, or it may be that the pressure that the honorable member for Parramatta exerted upon the Cabinet and his party was so great that they could not resist it and decided that the embargo should be lifted. Whatever be the reason, the fact remains that the prohibition was lifted. For many years the Australian potato-growers have received disastrously low prices for their crops, even as low as £1 a ton. So low has the market price been that on occasions they have allowed the unemployed or any one else to dig who cared to dig the potatoes to take them away free of charge. In the last potato season, Victoria suffered adverse conditions - I do not know how the other States suffered - and the prices rose to phenomenal heights. That was not necessarily due to a scarcity of potatoes. Possibly that was a factor, but there is conclusive proof that another factor was the operation of speculators, merchants and others who profit on the activities of the farming community. A remedy for that was prevention of speculation. If that action had been taken a rise of price would not have been prevented, but the price would not have risen to an abnormal height. My chief concern at the moment is the hesitancy of the Minister for Commerce (Senator McLeay) to declare the Government’s policy in regard to the embargo. I should not he surprised if the Government were to announce either this week or next week, that it proposes to continue the embargo, because it may believe that the lifting of it would affect the chances of its candidates in the “Wilmot byelection. But I am concerned not so much with that as with the possibility that when the by-election is over, the Government will again lift the embargo to the detriment and discouragement of potatofarmers in my electorate and other parts of Australia. . I urge that the Government make an immediate decision that will hold, not for the next two or three weeks, but for so long as the potatogrowers of Australia are able to supply this country’s needs. I am satisfied that during the period of alleged scarcity, ample supplies of potatoes have been available from local sources. That is borne out >by the fact that shipments from New Zealand have’ been excessively low, not because the growers do not desire to ship potatoes to Australia, but because the Dominion itself has been suffering a potato famine. It is possible, therefore, to visualize a situation in which New Zealand could flood the Australian potato market, to the detriment of our own growers. I take a serious view of this matter because I have been a potato-grower and know the adversities and market fluctuations that the growers suffer. There is need for stabilization of the potato market. When prices rise, growers do no more than recoup themselves for the losses they have sustained in times of adversity. I hope, therefore, that the Government’s decision on this matter will be for the maintenance of the embargo, not until the Wilmot by-election is over, but for sufficiently long .a period to encourage the Australian growers to produce as much of this useful and nutritive product as the community needs.
– I support what was said by the honorable member for Melbourne Ports (Mr. Hol loway). At one time ships were built at Port Adelaide. I hope that, in the near future, the Government will Bee its way clear to make possible the re-establishment of the ship-building industry there. Many years ago the industry gave employment to a large number of men, and one of the ships built there was regarded as being equal in workmanship to vessels constructed at Cockatoo Island Dockyard, at Port Phillip or anywhere else in Australia. There should be an equitable distribution of Commonwealth naval construction work, and South Australia should receive its share. The facilities at Port Adelaide are quite ample. On many occasions, I have pressed the claims of the Port River in connexion with the establishment of a graving dock. The lack of graving dock facilities at Fremantle and Port Adelaide causes much inconvenience. If ships coming from England develop defects off the coast of Western Australia, they have to proceed to Melbourne or Sydney before repairs can be carried out. If a graving dock is to be established, it should be in a safe location.
– Hobart is the best site.
– The honorable member for Denison will naturally support the claims of Hobart just as I am advancing the claims of Port Adelaide.
– Expert opinion favours Hobart.
– In the opinion of experts, Port Adelaide is quite as safe as Hobart and is more convenient. There is a site at that port ready for the establishment of a dock, and all facilities are available for the carrying out of ship construction at a very low price. I hope that the undoubted claims of Port Adelaide will be thoroughly investigated. I shall later deal with the proposed general distribution of defence industries. On this occasion I merely wish to emphasize that it is not in the best interests of the nation to have the shipbuilding industry centralized in Sydney or Melbourne. Port Adelaide is well worthy of recognition.
.- I support the remarks of the honorable member for Ballarat (Mr. Pollard) with regard to the Australian potato-growers. That honorable gentleman is familiar with the circumstances of the industry and is well qualified to express an opinion on existing conditions. Potato-growers in the northwest of Tasmania and, in fact, throughout Australia are much perturbed because the honorable member for Parramatta (Sir Frederick Stewart), who was instrumental in stirring up the people of Sydney against the embargo on New Zealand potatoes, is now a member of the Cabinet. The agitation for the removal of the embargo was due to pressure from New South Wales citrus-growers who desired to market their products in New Zealand. But it is a gross misrepresentation of the position to say that there is a complete embargo on the importation of citrus fruits to the sister dominion. For many years it has been possible to send this class of fruit from Australia to New Zealand. Last year, a larger quantity than ever before was shipped from South Australia. The embargo applies only to fruit. grown in districts which are not declared free of the fruitfly pest. Whether or not the embargo on New Zealand potatoes be removed, the shipping of citrus fruits from Australia to that country will continue. But what is going to happen after the Wilmot byelection ? That is the important question. I propose to read to honorable members a newspaper report of a statement made by the honorable member for Parramatta, now the Minister for Health and Social Services, in Sydney some time ago -
Nothing hut a complete and permanent removal of the embargo will be satisfactory. Anything else Will be just tinkering with the problem.
I ask the honorable gentleman whether he still stands up to that statement, or whether he was merely trying to tickle the ears of his electors when he was not a member of the Ministry ?
– The inclusion of the honorable member for Parramatta in the Ministry, after that statement, is tantamount to a declaration that the Tasmanian potato-growers do not count.
– When replying to remarks which I made on grievance day, the Minister said that the Government approved of what he had done. I read an extract stating that he had accused the Speaker and the late Prime Minister of being connected with a racket in potatoes. I would say the honorable gentleman should not have accused anybody of being in a racket, although there was no doubt that there was a racket in New South Wales at that time. The high price of potatoes recently occurred between seasons, following a serious drought in potato-growing areas throughout the Commonwealth. The price of potatoes in Sydney to-day is from £7 to £10 a ton for ordinary lots, and about £12 a ton for choice lots.
– The New Zealand growers cannot sell potatoes in Australia under that price.
– The Minister knows perfectly well that if the embargo on New Zealand potatoes were lifted, Dominion growers would dump their surplus crops to the detriment of our growers in Australia. The Sydney merchants, whom the Minister has been championing would take advantage of the position and make no effort to obtain Australian-grown potatoes. Because of the embargo on the importation of potatoes Western Australia was able to sell at a payable price many hundreds of tons of potatoes in the eastern States this year. An agitation against the embargo was supported by the Minister, and as a result, the embargo was temporarily removed; but only one and a half tons was imported from New Zealand and 70 per cent, of the shipment was not fit for human consumption. It could not pass the inspector. The Minister claimed that the removal of the embargo would force Tasmanian growers to dig their large stock of potatoes out of thepits and put them on the market.
– The honorable member knows that that is not correct.
– The Minister, said it in Sydney.
– The Sydney Daily News. of the 13th March last, published the following: -
The full story of the Tasmanian potato racket was exposed to the Daily News last night by two U.A.P. parliamentarians - Mr. R. B. Walker and Sir Frederick Stewart.
They attacked the Federal Government for its part in the scandal.
Tasmanian growers have been hiding millions of potatoes in underground pits to keep Sydney prices famine high, declared State member for potato-growing Hawkesbury, Mr. Walker.
– The article went on to quote Mr. “Walker as having said -
The Prime Minister and Mr. Bell, M.H.R., ure both concerned in a shocking scandal. They hoth represent big potato-growing electorates in Tasmania,
Now. that Sir Frederick Stewart is a member of the Cabinet, the potatogrowing industry in Australia is not safe. Evidently the present United Australia party Cabinet is in favour of what he intends to do. His opinion is that nothing but complete and permanent removal of the embargo will be satisfactory. Should that occur, Australian potato-growers will be at the mercy of those who engage in dumping. I agree with the honorable member for Ballarat (Mr. Pollard) that our potato-growers have not done well for a number of years.
– .Their living has been most precarious.
– It has. I started one of my boys on a place in 1936. His first crop of 50 to 60 tons he was unable to sell because the price offering would not defray the cost of the bags, and he had to feed the potatoes to stock. Many thousands of tons which have been placed on the Sydney market have not paid for the cost of digging. The Minister for Health and Social Services should have come forward when prices were low, to see what could be done for the growers. He bases his argument on one fortnight in Sydney when the market was bare of vegetables’, and ignores the fact that during the same period green vegetables were at practically famine prices peas and beans realizing ls. per lb. There is now a glut of peas and beans on the Sydney market, and the price of potatoes has fallen to a figure that is within the reach of all. “Who got the “ rake-off “ when potatoes were at a high price ? Did “the growers get it ? They did not want it. The honorable gentleman played into the hands of some speculators in Sydney. The Tasmanian growers were digging their potatoes as soon as they ripened. It is certain that no grower will leave his potatoes in tho ground when they are fetching over £20 a !ton, if they are fit to market. The Sydney newspapers published the statement that 80 per cent, of the potatoes landed from Tasmania were unfit for human consumption. My inspection of a shipment on the wharf proved to me that there was no truth in that statement. Inspectors told me that they were not responsible for it, and that some agency was making every effort to ruin the industry in order that the embargo on the importation of New Zealand potatoes might be lifted. They expected to be able to buy thom cheaply and make large profits on their sale. These are the people whom the Minister was sheltering; they forced up the prices and made large profits. I admit that the Tasmanian growers received a very high price for a couple of weeks. They were not looking for it, and did not want it, but they received it, not because there was a scarcity, of supplies, but because speculators desired to force the price so high that the embargo on the importation of New Zealand potatoes would be removed. The Government should state definitely that that embargo will not be removed-, because it has been proved that Australian growers can supply all requirements.
.- I associate myself with the protests of the honorable member for Franklin (Mr. Frost) and the honorable member for Ballarat (Mr. Pollard) against interference with the Australian potato market. Recently I discussed this matter with Mr. Cosgrove, Minister for Agriculture in Tasmania, who asked me to say that, up to the end of March, Tasmania had sent a larger quantity of potatoes to the Sydney market than had been sent in any corresponding period in the last ten years. This indicates that there was no cornering of supplies by the Tasmanian growers. The statement that such a course had been adopted was a deliberate untruth, and was made with the object of breaking down the protection which Tas: manian potatoes enjoyed on the Sydney market. Any one who has the slightest knowledge of potato-growing would not think of storing his crop in a pit. I do not know where a pit big enough could he found. Potatoes are shipped to market as quickly as possible after they are dug. Speculators in Sydney formed a big company and gambled on the possibility of the embargo being lifted. They believed that they would be able to purchase stocks in New Zealand at £5 a ton, dump them on the Sydney market at over £20 a ton, and make a big profit; but they “ fell in “, because they found that there was no surplus of supplies in New Zealand. Propaganda was then begun to discredit the Tasmanian farmers by charging them with having deliberately withheld supplies. Any one who has been associated with the potato market for years knows that when the Clarence River and Richmond crops fail there is always a valuable market in Sydney for ‘Tasmanian potatoes. When I was engaged in the potato-growing industry many years ago, we rejoiced at the failure of the crops in New South Wales because it enabled us to obtain higher prices. Doubtless that was a selfish attitude to adopt. It is a truism that almost invariably when there is a drought in New South Wales, Tasmania - which is blessed with a regular, beautiful climate - can be’ depended on to provide a good crop. When it was seen that Tasmania was about to get its rights by having the Sydney market practically to itself, being the only State that could export good potatoes, propaganda was begun. I appeal to the Minister to do justice to the potato growers by not removing the protection after the Wilmot by-election is held to-morrow week. Will the Minister for Health and Social Services declare, on behalf of his colleague, the Minister for Commerce, that the Government will protect the Australian market for at least five years, and in that way give some security to those who are growing potatoes in order to make a living? I trust that the electors of Wilmot will pay particular attention to the representations which have been made by members of the Opposition on. their behalf, and in that way judge who are their real friends. According to a newspaper paragraph, the Minister for Health and Social Services, when a private member, said that the potato growers in Tasmania were cornering the market by storing potatoes in pits, and in that way profiteering at the expense of consumers in Sydney.
– The honorable member knows that I have denied that allegation.
– I trust that the statement is not true, and I hope that he will remove the injustice that has been done by him and other political propagandists in New South Wales who are associated with the party to which he belongs. I can recall an occasion when potatoes were being sold at £50 a ton, and there have been other instances when, due to seasonal conditions, prices have been unduly high. It was also stated in the press that Tasmanian potatoes affected with a disease, the name of which I cannot pronounce, were being placed on the Sydney market. This disease which is caused by an excess of water in the ground is sometimes prevalent in certain districts at the end of June when the ground is exceptionally wet. It is found in potatoes grown in soil in which there is a large proportion of clay, but it is not found in potatoes grown in good chocolate soils. A big business man informed me by telegram that a movement was on foot in New South Wales by hig Sydney speculators to get the embargo lifted so that they could purchase potatoes in New Zealand at £4 a ton and sell them at a profit on the Australian market. I do not know whether the Minister was actually responsible for influencing the Government to lift the embargo, but he is credited with being the person responsible. I suppose that we shall not hear anything further on this subject until the results of the Wilmot by-election are known. I feel sure that the former Prime Minister felt the strain imposed upon him by the decision of the Cabinet to lift the embargo, and doubtless that, together with his other heavy responsibilities, had something to do with his untimely death. 1 trust that the Minister will give an assurance that the interests of the Tasmanian potato-growers will be protected for at least five years.
Sir FREDERICK STEWART. (Parramatta - Minister for Health and Social
Services) [4.24]. - At- least one statement made by .the honorable member for Denison (Mr. Mahoney) is undeniably correct, and that is that there has been a lot. of political propaganda in connexion with this subject.
– Some of it may be termed “ impropaganda “.
– That may be so. The implication behind much that has been said during the last half hour is that this Government in some mysterious and subtle way is endeavouring to use its customs embargo powers for party political purposes.
– Hear, hear!
– I suggest that those making these suggestions would be well advised to hold a little caucus meeting with some of their own colleagues, because my recollection is sufficiently clear to recall that within the last fortnight one not very inconsequential member of the Opposition asked me, as Minister representing the Minister for Commerce, if the Government would take action in the direction of removing the embargo on New Zealand potatoes in order to’ prevent the exploitation of consumers in Australia. My recollection goes back a little further than two weeks. It goes back two years, when another rather prominent member of the Labour party, during the course of his visit to New Zealand was unwise enough to suggest that a change of government in Australia would mean a. change of attitude towards the importation of New Zealand potatoes into Australia. What is the use of this sort of propaganda? Obviously, the whole subject has no party implication. A suggestion was made by the honorable member for Ballarat (Mr. Pollard) while I was absent from the chamber that action had already been taken by the Government. That is entirely incorrect. There has been no change in the position whatever during the last few weeks. The modification of the embargo still remains and will remain pending further consideration of the whole matter by the Government. Before any final determination is reached, the Government will be, prepared to give the fullest consideration to the representation; of all interested parties, including the potato-growers, whether in Tasmania: or in Ballarat, who care to place their: case before the Government. I wish iti to be clearly understood that the Govern-: ment and I are as much concernedabout the living conditions of the potatogrowers of Australia as- we are about the; living conditions of any other section, of; the community. We shall not whittle away their rights or do anything that will make their lot harder than it is to-day. I suggest that those who claim some divine right specially to represent the potatogrowers of the Commonwealth would be well advised if, instead of concentrating their attention on the protection of the. interests of the potato-growers during times of scarcity and high prices, they endeavoured during all seasons to provide them with better conditions of living and a better return for their labour. Whether I am or am not in the Ministry I shalL devote my attention to that worthy objective.
.- The honorable member for Melbourne Ports (Mr. Holloway) brought under my notice the necessity for a better distribution of work in connexion with ship construction, his allegation being that a majority of this work is being done in New South Wales. The honorable member asked, first, if Cockatoo Island Dockyard has a monopoly of naval construction work, and, secondly, whether opportunity would be afforded to other dockyards to tender for such constructional work. The Cockatoo Island establishment has no monopoly of naval constructional work, and opportunities will be given for other dockyards to tender. If the Williamstown dock mentioned by the honorable member for Melbourne Ports (Mr. Holloway) has the plant and machinery necessary to do this class of work, and can carry it out at a competitive price, I see no reason why contracts should not be placed in that quarter.
The honorable member for Boothby (Mr. Price) has raised once again the subject of a graving dock. I am given to understand that this topic is not new to the honorable member, because, when he was a member of the House of Assembly in South Australia, he was known as “ Graving Dock Jack”, so frequently did he bring the subject under the notice of the Premier of the day. I can only repeat that the site which he has suggested, together with those recommended inWestern Australia, Victoria, New South Wales, Tasmania and Queensland, will be taken into consideration, but, obviously they all cannot be finally selected.
I shall discuss further with the honorable member for Melbourne Ports his representations in regard to three sm all twin-engined oil-burning ships to be built and several contracts for 100 buoys which I do not think have yet been placed. I shall make sure that the authorities whose claims he has advocated to-day are given full opportunity to tender for this work.
Question resolved in. the affirmative.
House adjourned at 4.32 p.m.
The following answers to questions were circulated : -
d asked the Prime Minister, upon notice -
– - The answers to the honorable member’s questions are as follows : -
Taxation of War-time Profits.
n asked the Treasurer, upon notice -
What amount of revenue has been received under and by virtue of the War-time Profits Tax Act, giving the amount for each year since the inception of the act (September, 1917), with particulars (if possible) of the classes of business or activity from which collections have been received or on which taxation was assessed?
– Inquiries are being made, and a reply will be furnished as soon as possible.
k asked the Treasurer, upon notice -
– Inquiries are being made, and a. reply will be furnishedas soon as possible.
Civil Aviation Department; Transfer to Canberra.
asked the Minister for Civil Aviation, upon, notice -
– The answer to both questions 1 and 2 is that the transfer of the Civil Aviation Department to Canberra in the near future is unlikely, as, in views of the present necessity for reorganizing the department in premises which make efficient organization possible, modern office accommodation has been leased for the department, into which it will shift at the beginning of next month.
asked the Minister representing the Minister for the Interior, upon notice -
– The Minister for the Interior has supplied the following answers to the honorable member’s questions : -
d- asked the PostmasterGeneral, upon notice -
– Inquiries are being made, and a reply will be furnished as soon as possible.
e asked the Minister for Supply and Development, upon notice -
– Geophysicists engaged in connexion with the investigation of the brown coal deposits at Moorlands, South Australia, encountered complex problems which involved prolonged research, with the result that the report on this work is not yet available. It is expected, however, that the report will be furnished shortly.
n asked the PostmasterGeneral, upon notice -
– The information desired by the honorable member will be furnished as soon as possible.
e asked the Minister for Trade and Customs, upon notice -
– The matter is still under consideration.
d asked the Minister for
Defence, upon- notice -
– Like many other aircraft now used in air forces throughout the world, the Avro-Anson was designed originally as a civil aeroplane. It was accepted later by the Royal Air Force and the Royal Australian Air Force as an interim general reconnaissance (not bomber) type, pending the development of on aircraft specially designed for those duties. A specially developed general reconnaissance type is now in production in England, and within the next few months some of these machines, as well as LockheedHudson aircraft, will be delivered in Australia. These new type aircraft will gradually replace Avro-Ansons in service squadrons.
n asked the Minister for Supply and Development, upon notice -
– The answers to the honorable member’s questions are as follows : -
Am Forge Accidents: Compensation ForDependantsof Victims.
d asked the Minister for Defence, upon notice -
What pension rights are provided for dependants and/or relatives of those who lose their lives in air accidents while piloting Royal Australian Air Force machines?
– In the case of members of the Permanent Air Force, pensions under the Superannuation Act are payable to the widows and children of all airmen and of those officers who, on appointment, elected to contribute for superannuation. The widow’s pension is approximately one-quarter of the member’s salary, and children’s pension is at the rate of 5s. a week for each child under sixteen years of age. In addition, compensation’ up to a maximum of £750 is paid to the widow and children. In the case of officers who are not contributors to the Superannuation Fund, compensation equivalent to three years’ pay is paid to the widow and children and, in addition, the accumulated deferred pay and interest (the alternative to a superannuation pension) accrue ‘tothe officer’s estate. There are no pensions or other benefits prescribed for dependants other than wives and children, although, where a’- member is unmarried or a widower without children, refund of superannuation contributions, and in the case of an officer, accumulated deferred pay, is payable to the estate. In the case of members of the Citizen Air Force no pensions are provided, but compensation, equivalent. to three years’ pay of a member of equivalent rank in the Permanent Air Force, is paid to the widow and children.
n asked the Minister for Defence, upon notice-
Does the Government propose to bring in a Defence Secrets Bill; if so, when?
– The question of strengthening the provisions of the existing legis- ‘ lation in regard to the disclosure of official information is receiving consideration, but I am not in a position at present to make any statement on the intentions of the Government.
Cite as: Australia, House of Representatives, Debates, 19 May 1939, viewed 22 October 2017, <http://historichansard.net/hofreps/1939/19390519_reps_15_159/>.