15th Parliament · 1st Session
Mr.Speaker (Hon.G.J. Bell) took the chair at 10.30 a.m., and read prayers.
– In view of the disquieting rumours current to-day regarding certain phases of -the administration of the Commonwealth railways service, particularly in connexion with the higher executive positions of that public utility, will the Minister representing the Minister for Works inquire if it be possible to make public the present private inquiry into many allegations, in order to allay anyconcern that may be felt?
Mr.PERKINS- I shall refer the honorable member’s question to the Minister for the Interior.
– Will the Prime Minister consider the advisability of introducing a short measure either to nullify or to postpone the operation of the contract entered into in connexion with the additions to the Sydney General Post Office until the inquiry into the circumstances surrounding the letting of the contract is concluded?
– This suggestion was made last night by the right honorable member for Cowper (Sir Earle Page), and I indicated that I would consider it. I desire now to point out that there are very grave difficulties associated with parliamentary repudiation of a contract of this’ kind. I am examining the matter further.
– Was the contract signed by a Minister?
– The contract was signed in the appropriate manner, as it would have been signed whoever was in office.
– If the proposed royal commission should find that there is something of an unsavoury or unclean nature associated with the letting of the contract, will the contract be allowed to stand?
– In the event of such a finding, no doubt the position will be quite different and the difficulties to which I have referred would in all probability not stand in the way; but, as the right honorable gentleman suggests, future action depends entirely on the nature of the finding.
– Could the matter be held in abeyance in the meantime?
– It is not possible to hold a contract in abeyance against the will of the other party to it, except by repudiating it or by parliamentary action.
– Not by mutual arrangement?
– Except with the consent of the other party. We are, in fact, in touch with the contractor in relation to that aspect of the matter;
– Will the right honorable gentleman direct that complete reports be obtained in writing from all officers associated with the matter and presented as evidence before the proposed royal commission? Will he also statewhether the H. G. Whittle and Sons Proprietary Limited in this case is identical with the contractor who obtained the contract for the construction of the High School at Canberra at a tender price of £75,500, after thefirst calling of tenders, at which a lower tender was received, had been abortive?
– I understand, from an inquiry that I have made, that the H. G. Whittle and Sons Proprietary Limited referred to was the contractor for the High School at Canberra. I do not know whether the honorable gentleman’s question is intended to suggest that there was something improper in the letting of the contract for the High School at Canberra. I am bound to say, since the matter has been raised, that every inquiry that I have made indicates that H. G. Whittle and Sons Proprietary Limited is a company of unimpeachable reputation. I suggest to the honorable member that it is not quite fair to make a suggestion of the kind contained in his question about this company, which in this place has no means of answering it.
– Is it not rather early to defend him?
– I say that in justice to the company, which by implication has been attacked.
– I think that the honorable member for Melbourne Ports meant that the other suggestion was somewhat early.
– I agree that it was. As to the first part of the question - counsel will, of course, be appointed to assist the commission, and the usual course of interviewing relevant witnesses and obtaining statements from them will doubtless be followed.
Mr.ARCHIE CAMERON. - I ask the Prime Minister whether the contract was signed on behalf of the Government by a Minister?
– To the best of my knowledge, information and belief, no.
– In view of the controversy that has been aroused in connexion with the letting of this contract, will the Government consider the advisability of having all work done by day labour in the future ?
– I shall lay that suggestion before my colleagues.
– Is it the usual practice in connexion with contracts for Government undertakings involving the expenditure of hundreds of thousands of pounds, to be signedby an officer of the department, instead of by a Minister?
– I understand not only that that is the practice, but also that it has been the practice for many years.
– I do not think that it ought to continue.
– Consideration will be given to the honorable member’s views.
– In view of the difficulties which have arisen recently in connexion with contracts for public works, will the Prime Minister give favorable consideration to referring all future proposals to the PublicWorks Committee ?
– The honorable member’s suggestion will receive consideration, but the decision to erect a new General Post Office in Sydney was made, I think, before the re-constitution of the Public Works Committee.
– Tenders were invited some time after the committee was reconstituted.
– I was referring to the decision to erect a new building. I have stated my own recollection of the matter.
SirEarle Page. - The right honorable gentleman is right.
Mr.Archie Cameron. - That is so.
– My statement is corroborated by the honorable member for Cowper (Sir Earle Page) and the honorable member for Barker (Mr. Archie Cameron), who were members of a former administration.
– The honorable member forWest Sydney (Mr. Beasley), and at an earlier stage, the honorable member for Deakin (Mr. Hutchinson), yesterday asked me if I could inform the House of any communications which have passed between the Commonwealth Government and the Government of the United Kingdom on the subject of the negotiations with Soviet Russia. The course of these negotiations has been followed very closely by the Commonwealth Government, which has received full information on every stage of the discussions. The Commonwealth Government conveyed to the Government of the United Kingdom its views on the negotiations, and expressed its support of the endeavours to secure the participation of Soviet Russia in an anti-aggression pact having for its sole object the preservation of peace in Europe on the most effective terms possible.
I may add that the Commonwealth Government is fully satisfied that the Government of the United Kingdom has pursued these negotiations with all the despatch possible in the circumstances. Contrary to the British official wireless news of yesterday, the negotiations between Great Britain and France, and Russia, although halted for the moment, are still being continued. The official news received this morning indicates’ that the prospect of success is not indifferent. The conversations between the British Ambassador and M.Molotoff, the Russian Commissar tor Foreign Affairs, have cleared up certain misunderstandings, but the main difficulty at the moment in arriving at a complete understanding arises over the position of the Baltic States in any system of mutual guarantees.
– .Has the Minister for External Affairs noted the press paragraph which states that Mr. Nishi Counsellor to the Japanese Embassy in Moscow, in an interview said that Russia would not participate in an AngloFrench alliance unless it included assistance in the Ear East, enabling Russia to put pressure on Japan? If that statement has been noted, what are the reactions of the Australian Government to it, in respect of the effect which the placing of pressure on Japan by Great Britain would have on our relations with Japan in the Pacific? Further, has any view on that aspect been submitted in the negotia-ti ons that are taking place?
– I have noticed the statement referred to. As I have already informed the House, the Commonwealth Government has been completely informed of the negotiations.
– What is the view of the Government?
– I am. in a position to repudiate any suggestion whatsoever that either this Government or the British Government would enter into any agreement that would be prejudicial to the interests of Japan.
– I ask the Prime Minister whether the Government has definitely decided to hold a special constitution session of Parliament and, if it has, whether that session will be held this year or next year?
– Or the year after.
– It is intended to provide an adequate facility for a discussion on the Constitution by this House. It was hoped at one time that that discussion would take place during the present, sittings, but unfortunately, by reason of various circumstances of which the honorable member is aware, that has not. proved practicable. We shall now endeavour, if possible, to bring the matter forward during the next sittings to be held this year.
– A return published recently disclosed considerable borrowings by semi-governmental authorities in each of the States. Does the Treasurer propose to endeavour to bring such borrowings under the control of the Loan Council?
– This matter has received a great deal of attention, and has been the subject of a good deal of discussion between members of the Loan Council. It is at present receiving the attention of the Commonwealth Treasury, and the Government hopes that there will be some discussion concerning it at the next meeting of the Loan Council.
– Is the Prime Minister aware of the serious complaint made by wheat-growers throughout Australia at the ‘ omission of the Government to approach their organizations in reference to the unsatisfactory condition of the wheat industry? Will the right honorable gentleman extend to wheat-growers’ organizations in the various States an invitation to be represented at the wheat conference which has been called to discuss the stabilization of the industry?
– It is not correct to say that the wheat-growers’ organizations have been ignored. As a matter of fact, the honorable member for Wimmera brought this matter up some three weeks ago.
– So did I.
– So did I.
– All of the best members in this House brought the matter up, and subsequent thereto the Minister for Commerce communicated with the wheat-growers’ organizations, ‘ indicating that should they care to present their views he, together with the Assistant Minister for Commerce, would be willing to receive them, and that, if they so desired, I should be present at the discussion. I understand that some such conference is now in course of being arranged. I am under the impression that it has been called for next week, but I can ascertain definitely and advise the honorable member.
– Last week I asked a question relating to the erection of a wireless station for Western Queensland, and the Minister replied that he would have inquiries made and inform me of the result later. Is the Minister able to say whether inquiries have been made, and can he say whether there is any likelihood of the station being erected?
– Inquiries are now being made, and a full answer will be given to the honorable member within a few days.
– Can the Minister for Defence say whether the statement that there was no industrial organization in Western Australia with which it was worth while to establish an annexe for the manufacture of munitions was based on any survey of the position? Further, if he has any reports on the subject, will he make them available for my perusal?
– The answer to both parts of the honorable member’s question is “Yes”.
– Is the Minister for Defence yet in a position to make a statement with reference to the train fares of members of the permanent forces who are in camp away from their home stations?
– No, but I shall obtain the information: as early as possible for the honorable member.
– In connexion with the naval and military review to be held to-morrow week in Sydney, will the Defence Department arrange that as many as possible of the new recruits will be supplied with new uniforms before they appear on parade?
– Will the Minister for Defence acquaint the House with the number of new uniforms issued during the month of May in each State of the Commonwealth? If he is unable to do so from memory - and I hardly imagine that he will be able to do so - will he supply the information on Monday next?
– A few days ago I supplied honorable members with a detailed statement in relation to militia uniforms issued up to the 19th May. Since then further uniforms have been issued, but as the honorable member anticipated, I am unable offhand to give the ‘exact number. I shall endeavour to secure the information and let him have it on Monday afternoon.
– In this morning’s newspaper there is a report that the gentleman who is to make an inspection of dock sites in Australia has arrived in this country. Can the Minister for Defence say whether all the sites around the Australian coast which have been suggested for the purpose will be taken into consideration during the investigation?
– The honorable member’s question is based on information which is not quite correct. Sir Leopold Saville has not yet arrived in Australia, but one of his assistants is here. Sites in each State will be considered, but I cannot guarantee that all that have been suggested - and there are many of them - will be examined. In some cases, no useful purpose would be served by so doing.
Formal Motion foe Adjournment.
-. I have received from the honorable member for Richmond (Mr. Anthony) an intimation that he desires to move the adjournment of the House this morning to discuss a matter of urgent public importance, namely, “the necessity for action to protect the public, and maintain the stability of the dairying industry and the wholesomeness of the people’s food, by the provision of legislation which will ensure that butter may be readily distinguished from substitutes and imitations such as margarine.”
– I move -
That the House do now adjourn, in order to draw attention to the necessity for action to protect the public and maintain the stability of the dairying industry and the wholesomeness of the people’s food by the provision of legislation which will ensure that butter may be readily distinguished from substitutes and imitations such as margarine.
– Is the motion supported ?
Five honorable members having risen in support of the motion.
– I have moved this motion to-day for the reason that the Australian Agricultural Council, which consists of the Minister for Agriculture in each State and the Commonwealth Minister for Commerce, will meet on the 15th June, which is only eleven days ahead. Unless something be done either this week or next week, it will not be possible before the conference commences to obtain the views of this House regarding a major primary industry which is found in every State ‘ of the Commonwealth. I have therefore, somewhat reluctantly, taken advantage of the forms of the House to enable this subject to be discussed today. The forthcoming meeting of the Australian Agricultural Council will be the first to be held since the present Administration took over the reins of office. Therefore this motion will provide the Government with an opportunity to ‘ express its views regarding the dairying industry. Those who are connected with dairying are aware of the action taken by the Lyons Administration for its stabilization. That Government had practically come to a decision in regard to the assistance which should be afforded to the industry when it went out of office. It is incumbent upon the present Government to give some indication of its attitude towards this important primary industry. This cannot be regarded as a party question, because the proposals which I shall place before the House have been endorsed by State Governments holding varying political views. Labour Governments in
Western Australia and Tasmania agree with my proposal, and the Victorian Government, which is differently constituted, is proceeding along similar lines.
During the last two or three weeks we have been considering matters connected with the material defence of Australia. We have discussed in great detail how best to provide for our material security, but it must be evident to all thinking people that if we are to find the necessary money for the supply of guns, munitions, uniforms, battleships and other defence requirements, our basic industries must be maintained on a sound foundation. Dairying is second only to the wool industry in its export value, and for that reason, if for no other, this Parliament must seriously consider anything which is likely to undermine its stability and economic strength. Those engaged in dairying are greatly perturbed by the increasing use of substitutes for primary products throughout the world. In Germany, for. instance, Australian wool is no longer saleable, because the German nation, in its efforts towards selfsufficiency, has devised from artificial wood fibres a substitute for wool. We all believe that the substitute is not as good as wool, but the fact remains that the German people are using it, mainlybecause they have not the resources to enable them to buy wool.
– That is the reason why people buy margarine instead of butter.
– I shall come to that point later. In Australia, where we have an abundance of the genuine article, there is no need to use substitutes, unless the genuine article is too costly for the people to buy. I shall endeavour to show that the producers of butter are not exploiting the public by charging unduly high prices.
– What wages are paid in the dairying industry?
– More than is paid to the “ niggers “ for producing copra.
– According to the honorable member for East Sydney (Mr. Ward), there should be one standard of living for people who reside - within his electorate and a lower standard for those who reside in country areas.
According to the summary of Australian production statistics the value of dairy production in Australia during , 1936- 1937 was £36,000,000. Of that amount £26,000,000 was the value of products at the farm, the difference being represented by marketing costs. Thus the dairy farmers received only £26,000,000 for their labour, whilst £10,000,000 was distributed amongst other sections of the community, including wage-earners, carriers, agents, &c. In that year there were 42,000 individuals employed on dairy farms and approximately 1,799 in butter factories.
– What was the value of wages paid in the industry?
– I shall deal with that later. During the last five or six years the Australian Agricultural Council has endeavoured to devise ways and means of meeting this margarine menace. Margarine is produced from animal fats, coco-nut oil, cotton-seed oil or peanut oil, the principal ingredient used for colouring being palm oil. Whereas butter is produced entirely by Australian farmers and factory employees under Australian conditions, coco-nut oil, one of the principal ingredients of margarine, is produced in cheap labour countries under conditions of labour know to all honorable members, and imported into this country free of duty.
– A good deal of it is produced in our own Mandated Territory.
– It is my purpose not to seek to prohibit the sale of what may be a wholesome food, but to prevent margarine being coloured in such a way as topass for butter. Recently I produced in this House a sample of margarine which nobody but an expert could say was butter or margarine. It had the same taste, the same look and the same flavour, and it was coloured to resemble butter; but its food value was by no means the same as that of butter. I am suggesting not that margarine is not a wholesome food but that steps should be taken to prevent it from being foisted on to the public as butter. One of the most essential requirements for the physical well-being of the people is a balanced diet, and the dairy products, butter, cheese and milk, form important elements in any balanced diet. The prevalence of that awful disease known as rickets, in the distressed coal-mining areas of England, is attributed to a very large degree to the inability of the people to purchase dairy products. The Government of Victoria endeavours to protect the people of that State from this margarine menace by providing that margarine, which in its natural state is not a yellow or creamy colour, should be of a colour different from that of butter. At its meeting in Perth in September last, the Australian Agricultural Council passed a resolution that uniform laws should be passed by all of the States regarding the colouring of margarine. It was suggested that all margarine should be white, saffron or some other distinctive colour, and that any margarine not so coloured should be subjected to a Commonwealth excise in order to compel action on the part of any State which did not conform to the council’s recommendation. The dairying industry does not exploit the community and is entitled to every consideration. According to the summary of Australian production statistics, the price of butter in -
These figures show that there has been an advance in the price of butter of only id. a lb. since 1902. If this advance is compared with increases ofprices which have taken place in regard to practically every other commodity it will be seen that the dairying industry has by no means exploited the protection afforded to it. I propose now to show what States have suffered by the competition of margarine. The dairying industry in Western Australia, which is essentially a primary producing State, has made wonderful endeavours to get on its feet; but what has happened ? Of 3,637,000 lb. of margarine . manufactured in New South Wales in 1936, 229,000 lb. was sold in Western Australia, which does not produce a single pound of margarine, and 535,000 lb. in Victoria, where the Government is endeavouring to curb its sale by providing that it must be sold under its own distinguishing label. The dairying industry would have no complaint against the manufacturers of margarine if it were fairly competing with butter. The Ministers of Agriculture in Victoria, Tasmania and Western Australia, have said that they do not object to people buying margarine so long as they know what they are buying, but that steps should be taken to prevent the people from being offered something which is represented to be butter. Margarine may have a certain nutritive value, but it lacks the essential vitamins necessary for a balanced ration. I do not dispute the value of margarine for certain purposes, but as its principal ingredients are produced in the South Sea Islands under conditions of labour vastly inferior to our own, it should not be allowed to masquerade as butter to the detriment of the dairying industry of Australia. How would the honorable member for Dalley (Mr. Rosevear), who has frequently interjected during - my speech, view a proposal that the very important industries which he represents should not be protected against the cheap imports from countries with standards of living inferior to our own?
– The honorable member’s time has expired.
Motion (by Mr. Collins) proposed -
That the honorable member have leave to continue his speech.
Motion - by leave - withdrawn.
– As objection has been raised, I shall not press for the privilege to continue.
– The honorable member for Richmond (Mr. Anthony) has given the facts of the case so completely that not a great deal more can be said by those who follow him. There is, however, quite a difference between: stating a factual position and indicating a real practical remedy. Indeed, this is strongly supported by the fact that, although this particular problem has been before successive governments for quite a number of years, we find ourselves this morning no nearer to a solution of it. The honorable member suggested that one of his reasons, indeed one of his prime reasons, for ventilating this matter this morning, was to give this new Government an opportunity to indicate its attitude in respect of this problem.. He said that he desired to do that before the Australian Agricultural Council, which is shortly to meet, should have an opportunity to discuss ways and means by which the dairying industry might be protected from the attack of margarine. As a matter of fact, it does not remain for the. forthcoming meeting of the Australian Agricultural Council to discuss the matter of the compulsory colouring of margarine in order to identify it from butter. That, indeed, was determined by the council as far back as 1935. That council which, I remind the House is constituted of ministerial representatives of the Commonwealth and of all the States, then unanimously decided that identification of margarine by differential colouring was desirable. It was one thing for the council to come to that conclusion but apparently quite another matter for the various representatives to go back to their respective governments and have its decision implemented by them. Indeed, only one State government represented at that meeting of the council has subsequently taken any action in connexion with this matter. That was the Victorian Government. But its action has been largely, if not entirely, stultified by reason of constitutional difficulties which impede legislative action on this matter and many others. I hope that not much longer shall the Australian political economy be hampered by the constitutional limitations which now surround the settlement of almost every important problem discussed in this Parliament. But the fact is there. We have the federal system in Australia, and, apparently, the Ministers for Agriculture who decided in 1935, at the Australian Agricultural Council meeting, that the dairying industry was entitled to the protection which could be given it by the compulsory colouring of margarine, has since discovered that existing constitutional limitations prevent the carrying out of its decision. It is not quite right to suggest, therefore, that the forthcoming conference may be able to solve the problem. As far back as 1935 the council reached a unanimous decision on the subject.
SirEarle Page. - The honorable gentleman might mention that the next meeting of the council is expected to consider the imposition of an excise duty to deal with the matter. While I was in office I gave a definite promise that this matter would be discussed.
– We hope that the forthcoming meeting of the council will explore new methods to give effect to its unanimous decision of 1935, which, so far, has seemed to be incapable of implementation.
In reply to the request of the mover of the motion, that the present Government should indicate its policy on this subject, I assure him that he need not apprehend any change of attitude on the part of this Government. No reason exists to justify such an opinion. The attitude of this Government is identical with that of the previous Government. As the honorable gentleman has said, the dairying industry is a considerable, and an important, factor in our Australian economy; and any Government which lightly regarded its interests would be not only untrue to its responsibilities, but also distinctly unwise politically. This Government is prepared to follow the course set by its predecessors and will have this matter investigated by those who are jointly responsible for it.
Reference has been made to some of the difficulties of dealing with the subject, in consequence of the elements which enter into the manufacture of margarine. As the mover of the motion said, some portion of the material used is entirely produced within Australia. Those who have been pleading for protection of the dairying industry in this matter have been fair enough to say that, in respect of that portion of the material that is of Australian origin, no serious complaint can be raised. The producers of animal fats in Australia are entitled to the same measure of protection, no more and no less, as those who produce butter fats here. But they have asked that a very heavy excise duty be imposed in respect of all imported vegetable fats used in the manufacture of margarine. Some difficulty arises here, however, because by far the greater portion of those imports comes from territories under Australian control. Indeed, only 6 per cent. of the vegetable fats used in the manufacture of margarine in Australia comes from territories not under Australian control, and almost the whole of that 6 per cent. comes from territories under Imperial control, in respect of which wehave a considerable degree of trade reciprocity. So the problem is not nearly so simple as it may, at first sight, appear to be.
I have indicated that constitutional difficulties must be faced. Consequently the whole subject must be dealt with conjointly by Commonwealth and State authorities. How necessary that is, may be shown by the fact that, despite the efforts of the Government of Victoria to protect the dairying industry of that State from competition from margarine, not less than 4,000 tons of margarine manufactured outside Victoria enters Victoria annually. This, of course, is due to the operation of section 92 of the Constitution.
– Is the margarine used as a substitute for butter, or for other purposes ?
– It is difficult to say exactly what happens to all of it, but the allegation has been made, not entirely without justification, that a good deal of it is used as a substitute for butter, and is coloured in order to deceive the purchasing public into believing that it is a dairy product.
Mr.Forde. - Is it marked “ margarine “ ?
– In most States the packages in which the margarine is contained must be marked clearly “to that effect. But it is obvious that, once the product is distributed, any marking on the original package is of little value. The difficulties of the situation are many. I participated in a tasting demonstration recently before the honorable member for Richmond (Mr. Anthony) brought a certain package of margarine into the House. I do not suggest that the marking of packages is in any sense a complete and an adequate protection to the general public, for the margarine can be removed from its original packing.
I have said sufficient to indicate the difficulties of the problem. It cannot be solved merely by reason of the fact that the Commonwealth Government may act in good faith and in all sincerity. If that were all that were necessary the previous Administration would undoubtedly have been able to cope with the problem.
– I thought privateenterprise was always honest!
– I am sure that the right honorable member for Cowper (Sir Earle Page) did all he could, when he was Minister for Commerce, to reach a satisfactory solution of this problem, but any action designed to that end needs the complete concurrence of the authorities of all the States. This Government will endeavour to obtain that co-operation. The Australian Agricultural Council, which will meet on the 15th June, will consider the subject; but prior to that date representatives of the dairying industry of Australia, who are particularly interested in this subject, will confer with representatives of the Australian Agricultural Council to ensure that when the subject is placed before the council complete information will be available so that all practicable steps may be taken to protect the Australian dairying industry.
.- This subject is of the very greatest importance to the people of Australia, primarily to those engaged in the dairying industry, but also to the beef fat producers of Queensland and other States, and, particularly, to the consumers. Although I am actively engaged in dairy-farming at present, I do not approach the subject purely from the point of view of a dairy-farmer. I realize, and so, I believe, do the great majority of the fair-minded dairy-farmers of Australia, that other interests must also be considered. The dairy-farmers are anxious that their industry shall enjoy protection from the competition of margarine only in respect of the deception being practised upon the consumers of this country. This subject has a long history behind it. It has occupied the attention of various governments for not less than ten years. It is remarkable that the only concrete and practical steps taken to deal with it have been taken by two Labour administrations on the mainland. The Hogan Labour Administration of Victoria first endeavoured to deal with the problem. When I was Assistant Minister in that Government I introduced a bill dealing with the subject which Parliament passed. The subject was next considered by the Labour Administration of Western Australia. Yet in spite of all that has been said about margarine at various meetings of the Australian Agricultural Council and in different parliaments, the honorable member for Richmond (Mr. Anthony) feels it necessary, at this stage, to ask the Commonwealth Government what it propose? to do. It is, of course, the responsibility of this Government to deal with the subject. The Lyons Government was always on the point of doing something, but it never did it. We have had a Country party and United Australia party coalition government in the Commonwealth for a number of years, yet all it has been able to do has been to “ explore the problem.” In fact it has done little else than “ explore problems.” It is not sufficient simply to refer the matter to the Australian Agricultural Council. To do so is only playing with it. I suggest in all seriousness that the Government must itself accept responsibility and devise some means of coping with the situation. The difficulty that has to be faced was indicated very early in the consideration of the subject when a shrewd manufacturer discovered that by mixing a certain quantity of butter with margarine the appearance and general condition of the resultant product was such that it could not be distinguished from butter.
– It deceived even dairy-farmers.
– That is so. I remember on one occasion that a pat of butter and a pat of copra butter was brought to the Parliamentary Refreshment Room in Melbourne and the former State Premier, Mr. John Allen, who was himself a dairy farmer, was asked to determine which was real butter and which was copra butter. He solemnly, selected the copra butter as the real butter. In these circumstances it is not difficult to understand that the public is often deceived. The relevant provisions of the bill dealing with this subject which I introduced in the Victorian Parliament read as follows : -
Notwithstanding anything to the contrary in any act any person who -
uses butter in the manufacture of margarine or of any product resembling butter; or
keeps any quantity of butter exceeding five pounds in weight on any premises where margarine or any product resembling butter is manufactured ; or
sells or prepares for sale margarine which contains butter-fat or any product resembling butter which eontains butter-fat - shall be guilty of an offence . . .
Any person who uses, the word “ butter “ (either alone or in conjunction with any other word or words) in connexion with any preparation for human consumption or who uses any device or means calculated to induce any person purchasing such preparation to believe that the same is butter or sells or in any manner passes on” or attempts to pass off such preparation as butter shall be guilty of an offence.
– Yet 4,000 tons of margarine enters Victoria every year from other States.
– Exactly ; yet I made that contribution at that early stage. To overcome the difficulty that would have arisen in connexion with the use of butter by manufacturers of such products as peanut butter, etc., a provision was inserted to enable them, with the permission of the Minister, to mix butter with otherproducts in certain circumstances. Our object was to enable the dairy farmers to sell their product on its merits, and also to protect the consumers. . I found that my most hostile critics when I introduced that legislation in the Victorian Parliament, were not the members of the Labour party, but. the members of the United Australia, party.
– Here it is the other way round.
– It is not the other way round. No government with which the Country party in this Parliament has been in alliance has ever attempted to introduce legislation to deal with this matter. There has never been a showdown, and if there is one, I have no doubt that most of the Opposition will come from the political allies of the Country party.
Those who were deceiving the public by mixing butter with margarine were checkmated by the legislation I have mentioned, but the manufacturers of margarine had another card up their sleeve. They discovered that, by using certain oils, and by emulsifying them in a certain way, they were able to give margarine the same taste and appearance as if butter had been mixed with it. In fact, the use of oil served their purpose better than the use of butter. Everybody knows that the natural colour of margarine is comparatively pale, and butter used to be added to give it a better colour. The Dunstan Government in Victoria, supported by the Labour party, met the new challenge from the margarine manufacturers by bringing in legislation compelling the manufacturers of margarine to colour it saffron. That has proved effective as far as margarine manufactured in Victoria is concerned, but there has since arisen the problem of the competition of margarine manufactured in New South Wales. I suggest to the Minister for Commerce that he should use his influence with the members of the United Australia party and Country party in New South Wales to ensure that action is taken in that State similar to that taken in Victoria. It has been suggested that an excise duty should be imposed on the oils used in the manufacture of margarine. The difficulty is that these oils represent only a small proportion of the finished product. The duty. in order to be effective, would have to be very high, and this would penalize other industries in which the oils were used.
Mr.Paterson. - The excise duty should be imposed only on coloured margarine.
– That is what I was about to suggest. The excise duty should be placed only on those oils which the manufacturer colours or treats chemically in such a way that they will give to margarine the appearance of butter. [Leave to continue given.] I remind those who have the idea that the public are not being deceived, that when they have a meal on a racecourse, or in acafe, they probably eat margarine in the belief that they are eating butter. I am asking for justice, and not for favours for any section. I am as much concerned that the consuming public should be protected as I am that we should protect the product of the dairy farmer. Every honorable member, whether he represents an industrial constituency or a rural constituency, shouldbe able to support me in this. I ask that the Government take some definite action instead of merely continuing to refer the matter to the Agricultural Council for further consideration.
-Does the honorable member suggest that we could pass legislation here that would be effective? Victoria tried to do so, and failed.
– We coped with the problem successfully until a new technical method was discovered by which the manufacturers were able to deceive the people.
– But does the honorable member suggest that this Government could do anything to prevent manufacturers in New South Wales from sending their product into Victoria? We are bound by section 92 of the Constitution.
– I am convinced that the Government, if it were really in earnest, could, in co-operation with the State governments, evolve a plan for overcoming the difficulty.
– I welcome this opportunity to support those who have moved the adjournment of the House to discuss a matter of urgent public importance, namely, the masquerading of margarine as butter. This is a challenge to the dairying industry, and represents an attempt to push the’ product of that industry off the market. There has of recent years been a tremendous increase in the use of margarine in Australia. For the year 1936-1937, the last for which figures are available, 29,000,000 lb., or 13,000 tons, of margarine was manufactured, displacing from the market butter to the value of £1,500,000. The dairying industry is one of national importance; it ranks second in importance to the wool industry. Butter to the value of £24,000,000 is produced annually, and of this £11,000,000 worth is exported. The total value of the dairying industry to
Australia in its various phases, including butter, cheese, condensed milk, &c, is about £33,000,000. Last year, there were 125,000 males engaged in the industry, and 40,000 females, while, in the manufacture of butter, no fewer than 6,600 persons were employed.
The dairying industry has played an important part in promoting closer settlement in Australia. In fact, the country could never have been developed to its present state in any other way, andl much of the land that is cultivated to-day would, but for this industry, be still under virgin scrub. Dairying involves hard work and long hours. The job must be carried on for 365 days a year, winter and summer, autumn and spring, wet or dry. The remuneration, having regard to the amount of labour involved, is probably lower than that secured in any other industry. Without the unpaid labour of the dairy farmer’s wife and family, it is’ probable that the industry could not carry on, certainly not at a profit. Butter production is being seriously challenged by the rapid expansion of the margarine manufacturing industry. Not only is the sale of butter locally being adversely affected, but our exports of butter will,- in time, also be effected. Ninety-five per cent. of our butter exports is sold on the British market. Prior to 1914 very little margarine, comparatively speaking was consumed in Great Britain, but last year that market accounted for 4,000 tons of margarine a week as against 9,000 tons of butter a week. Consequently the expansion of the margarine market both in Australia and in Great Britain, which is almost our sole overseas market for butter, constitutes a real challenge to our dairying industry. The increasing demand for margarine in Great Britain definitely depresses the price of our butter on the London market, and this movement is reflected in the Australian price. The problem of butter substitutes should be tackled first in respect of margarine made from vegetable and marine oils which are imported at very low cost from countries employing black labour, and secondly in respect of margarine made from Australian raw materials. This latter product consists of from 80 to85 per cent. premier jus, which is the highest quality of beef fat and peanut oil or cotton seed oil produced in Queensland. We should not allow margarine to be coloured in order to masquerade as butter. It is distinctly unfair that, as the result of colouring of margarine in the process of manufacture, purchasers and consumers are led to believe that they are buying butter. This deception should be prevented. The chief menace comes from margarine made from imported oils produced by black labour. Margarine does not equal in quality, or nutritive value, the product it imitates and is replacing, nor will any imitation ever equal fully any of the products manufactured from nature’s greatest food, milk. The mover of the motion suggested that this matter should be brought prominently before the meeting of the Australian Agricultural Council, which is to take place the week after next. I have repeatedly addressed questions to the Minister on this subject. It has also been stated that the State governments, which are primarily responsible for joint action to control the production and distribution of butter substitutes, will indicate their policies at the meeting of the Agricultural Council. The States and the States only can deal with manufacturing problems. The conditions of manufacture and sale of the products are State matters, as is also the question of colouring margarine so that it does not resemble butter. As this council has discussed this matter for quite a long time, I urge the Government to see that it is placed early on the agenda and given special prominence at its forthcoming meeting. The Agricultural Council should be able to devise a policy which will give fair play to every section interested in this problem, including the cattle-grower who produces the high quality fats used in the production of margarine, the peanut-grower, the cotton-seed oil producer, the manufacturer and consumer of margarine, and, above all, the butter producer. It should not be beyond the power of the States to arrive at a solution of this problem which will safeguard the interests of all of these sections. I do not wish to see any section of the community penalized inthis matter. I am sure that the Commonwealth Government will readily co operate to the fullest limit of its powers under the Constitution. I know that the Minister is most sympathetic. The honorable members for Dalley (Mr.Rosevear) and East Sydney (Mr. Ward) suggested that a great section of the workers could not afford to purchase butter at its present price. I point out that the regimen on which the basic wage is fixed specifically includes butter.
Mr.Rosevear. - That regimen is in respect of a standard family.
– As butter is specifically included in , the regimen on which the basic wage is fixed, workers on that wage should be able to purchase butter. However, I know that many workers have been and still are passing through difficult times. That is no reason why we should allow them to be deceived. They should be protected from impositions and substitutes. Furthermore, the farmers and the workers in the dairying industry should be given a standard of living which will- enable them to purchase commodities whichare necessary for their health. After all the health of the community generally may suffer considerably if a state of affairs is allowed to continue under which substitutes for health-giving foods can masquerade as the real products. If necessary, legislation should be introduced to remedy this position. We should insist that margarine, and all substitutesfor health-giving foods, should be branded boldly for what they are; we should prevent camouflage in any form. Secondly, the mixing of margarine with butter should not be allowed. In this respect special steps should be taken to prohibit the sale of margarine as butter, particularly in cafes, hotels and restaurants, where the practice is most prevalent. I urge the Government to press these points at the forthcoming meeting of the Agricultural Council.
– The honorable member has exhausted his time.
.- In moving his motion the honorable member for Richmond (Mr. Anthony) was frank enough to admit that he desired to have this matter discussed before the forthcoming meeting of the Agricultural Council, and to influence the deliberations of that body in dealing with it. Such action raises again the question as to whether the forms of this House should be used for the purpose of influencing what would otherwise be, or be thought to be, an impartial judgment on the part of an outside authority. It has been said that this is not a party political matter. I suggest that the motion affords another example of the petty parochialism of members of the Country party who, while they seek to protect the interests of the people they profess to serve in this House, are totally unmindful of the infinitely worse conditions under which many sections of the community are forced to live. Furthermore, the conditions of the workers in the dairying industry would suffer by comparison with chose of employees engaged in the manufacture of margarine. Several large margarine manufacturing units are situated in my electorate, and I know that the wages and working conditions generally of these employees compare more than favorably with those enjoyed by workers in any other industry. Consequently, I cannot remain silent while an attempt is being made to smash that industry, which, after all, has assumed an important place in the economic life of this country, simply because the living’ standards of the people generally have been allowed to deteriorate. The honorable member for Richmond preaches about the trials of the dairying industry. . What have he and his party done during the last four years, when they supported the Government, to remedy such grievances? This is the first occasion on which his voice has been raised in protest against conditions existing in the dairying industry. After his party has withdrawn from a coalition government he comes forward and attempts to bash the other section of that composite government because of its inactivity in this direction during recent years. What has he, and the leader of his party, been doing during the last four years?
– I have only been a member of this Parliament for eighteen months.
-The honorable member, suggests that the expansion of the margarine industry threatens to undermine our economic stability. Appar ently he has lost all sense of proportion, because the production of margarine in 1936-37 was 29,296,426 lb. as compared with 396,261,693 lb. of butter, or about 6 per cent. of butter. Furthermore, the estimated production of margarine for last year, 1937-38, shows only a very small increase. The honorable member drew attention to the way in which wool fibres have taken the place of natural wool in Germany, and he was frank enough to admit that the development was due to economic conditions existing in that country. He is not prepared, however, to admit that the displacement of butter by margarine in Australia is due to precisely the same cause. It is all very well for the honorable member for Moreton (Mr. Francis) to say that butter is specifically included in the regimen of foodstuffs on which the basic wageis fixed. The fact is that in every State of the Commonwealth, with the exception of New South Wales, where allowance is made for child endowment and the size of a family, the basic wage is fixed on the requirements of a man, his wife and one child. Consequently, a vast number of families, owing to their size, are obliged to live on a standard below that set by the Arbitration Court. Thousands of unemployed single men are forced to. exist on 7s. 6d. a week, whilst even men with large families receive only from £2 10s. to £3 a week in respect of food relief and wages for relief labour. I. ask honorable gentlemen opposite how such families can afford to buy butter at its present price?
Mr.Pollard. - Does not the honorable gentleman think that when they ask for butter they should be given butter instead of margarine?
– The real trouble is that the vast number of workers in Australia are given only a margarine standard of living. I am in favour of establishing a butter standard for those sections of the community which would enable every worker to purchase butter, irrespective of its price, if he so desired. However, one must face facts. Thousands of families, including many whose bread-winners are in constant employment, are forced, because of economic necessity, to purchase margarine. If there is one party that stands for the bashing down of the conditions of the workers in industry it is the Country party. On no occasion when honorable members of that party have urged that living standards in the dairying industry should be improved have we heard them advocate similar treatment for workers in other industries. Immediately they assumed partial control in the Commonwealth political sphere they advocated the breaking down of trade union conditions in rural industries. The members of the Country party, who were the first to force the suspension of rural awards, are to-day facing the position which they themselves are responsible for establishing. They belong to what is known as the low-wage party; they do not believe in decent working conditions. A representative of that party has now submitted certain proposals to the Government with the object of endeavouring to influence the Agricultural Council, which, L understand, is to meet within two weeks. They contend that margarine should be coloured so that it can be distinguishable from butter, but it has not yet been proved that there has been any deception in the sale of margarine. Most of the States control the production and sale of foodstuffs under pure foods legislation, and it has never been shown that margarine has been sold as a substitute for butter. It has been said that as margarine is used in boarding houses, cafes and hotels as a substitute for butter, the deception should be stopped by a protective colouring. The members of the Country party should remember that patrons of these establishments who are supposed to be supplied with butter do not know the quality of the product with which they are supplied. _ In the interests of the consumers, the members of the Country party should support a colouring system under which butter could be graded, and consumers would then know if they were then being supplied with butter of the best quality. So long as inferior grades of butter can be sold at the price of first quality the members of that party are not at all concerned, but when margarine, an economic necessity, comes into competition with butter, they endeavour to break down the living standards of those engaged in its production. The question of black labour has boon raised, but it has been stated authoritatively that only 6 per cent, of the ingredients of margarine is imported.
– The honorable member has exhausted his time.
.- The honorable member for Dalley (Mr. Rosevear), who is usually logical in the statements which he makes in this chamber, slipped very badly in the early portion of his speech when he stated that the honorable member for Richmond (Mr. Anthony), and the members of the Country party generally, have been guilty of petty parochialism in dealing with this subject. -I remind the honorable member that, far from being parochial, the dairying industry is carried on in every State in Australia and provides a livelihood for 600,000 persons. In the next breath the honorable member referred to a margarine factory in his own electorate which he fears may be adversely affected. I ask the House who it is that is guilty of petty parochialism. Whatever we may think with respect to the relative values of butter and of margarine, there can be no doubt that margarine so coloured as to be indistinguishable from butter is a menace to consumers and dairy farmers alike. The dairy farmers are not opposed to fair competition but they are opposed to the position existing to-day which permits deception with respect to a food product. The dairying industry and the Australian consumers should both be protected from deception by margarine so coloured as to be indistinguishable from butter. I trust that at the next meeting of the Agricultural Council an agreement, which has so far not been possible, will be secured, as to the action to be taken to protect consumers and those engaged in the dairying industry. The dairying industry is a great family industry carried on in every State of the Commonwealth. In Victoria it is the most important industry, being more important that the wheat industry or the wool industry. As I have already said, it provides a living for some 600,000 persons on rural areas, and nearly one-tenth of the population is affected by its prosperity or. otherwise. On the manufacturing side - I should like the honorable member for Dalley to. note this - the wages paid in butter factories compare favorably with those paid in margarine factories. I should like to make a comparison not only between butter factories and margarine factories, but also with respect to the sources from which their raw materials are obtained. The wages paid on the dairy farms compare far more than favorably with the wages paid to coloured workers who produce copra, which is an important constituent in table margarine.
– It is only 2 per cent.
– A few moments ago the honorable member said it was 6 per cent. Last year the butter produced in Australia was valued at £26,000,000, of which £12,000,000 worth was exported. This industry is a splendid example of decentralization which is so essential in this country. Many thousands of small producers are engaged in producing this £26,000,000 worth of butter, quite apart from production of other dairy products. One of the most important constituents of table margarine - I wish to emphasize “ table “ - is copra imported from countries, principally from the Solomon Islands, where black labour is employed. The oil extracted from copra is white, and if it were used in its natural state (here would be no deception; but artificial colouring is employed, including a Chinese oil, which gives the product the colour of butter. The result is that the product can be used as a substitute for butter in hotels, cafes and boarding houses, and the word “ margarine “ printed on a paper wrapper does not protect the consumer there. During the last five years the importations of copra, have been steadily increasing, and total for that period 89,000 tons. As the price is a little over Id. per lb. it is consequently a very cheap substitute for butter. Of the total imports New South “Wales imported 87,000 tons, all of which has not been used for margarine as some is required in the manufacture of soap. In the last five years the production of margarine in New South “Wales alone has been 6,500 tons, 8,000 tons, 8.000 tons, 9,500 tons, and 11,000 tons, respectively, the annual production steadily increasing. If complete statistics of all States were available it would probably’ be shown that an increase of 50 per cent, has occurred in the last three years. It is true that only a relatively small proportion of the margarine produced is table margarine, but the quantity used for table purposes is increasing. Several days ago the Minister for Trade and Customs (Mr. John Lawson) gave some figures which were not really a true comparison of the position of butter and margarine. He gave the quantity of table margarine produced and the quantity of butter produced, which is not a proper comparison. Had he made a comparison between the quantity of each commodity produced and consumed in Australia, excluding exports, it would have been a totally different story. Margarine is also produced from beef fat, an Australian product, and that product, sold in its original colour, could not be mistaken for butter. It does not resemble butter sufficiently to be sold as a substitute for that product, but margarine containing coconut oil and other ingredients, and suitably coloured, lends itself to deception and can be substituted for butter. I trust that at the next meeting of the Agricultural Council the Government will make an earnest attempt to come to some agreement with the States, because it is the States’ responsibility to deal with the regulation of manufacture. I understand that at present Queensland is the only member of the Agricultural Council which is standing out from a common agreement, but I trust that that State will come into line and that uniform legislation will be passed which will prohibit the colouring of margarine so as. to make it indistinguishable from butter. With uniform State laws the difficulty could be overcome. As an additional safeguard a Commonwealth excise might be imposed, as is done in many countries, on margarine so coloured as to make it indistinguishable from butter. That would leave the uncoloured product absolutely free from penalty, and enable poor people who cannot buy butter to purchase margarine. But they would -know what they are buying. There would be no deception. It would merely impose a penalty on margarine so coloured as to make it indistinguishable from butter.
– Is the honorable member in favour of colouring butter according to grade?
– The Country party has always favoured the grading of butter according to quality. Choicest and first-grade butter represent more than 90 per cent, of the total output.
– The honorable member has exhausted his time. The honorable member for Kennedy.
– When are honorable members in this corner likely to get a call?
– The honorable member will be called in his turn. There is no justification for his complaint. I have given the call strictly in accordance with the order in which honorable members have risen. I must pay some regard to the numerical strength of the parties in this chamber. Had I given a member of the Country party the call that party would have been enjoying opportunity to state its views upon the question equal to that of the other parties combined.
.- I take a very keen interest in this subject not only from the point of view of the dairy farmers engaged in the produc-‘ tion of butter but also from that of con.sumers whose interests have to be protected. This Government should act in co-operation with the State governments.
– That is exactly what it is doing.
– A government of the same political colouring as this one has been in office since 1931 but nothing has yet been done. Representations have been made to the Agricultural Council from time to time but it appears impracticable to reach unanimity. I presume that the Minister will display the same activity in this matter as he has in connexion with the 40-hour week in which he was once vitally interested. I understand that the Queensland Government contemplates the passage of legislation to protect consumers. Margarine is a useful product, but it lacks vitamin “A”, and in some of the States, where large quantities of it are consumed, malnutrition is rampant. Margarine is manufactured from products imported from countries where kanaka labour is employed, lt has been said that the quantity of margarine in proportion to butter used in Australia is small; but among the supporters of the present Government are wealthy companies that are interested in the exportation to Australia from the Mandated Territory of New Guinea of products used in the manufacture of margarine. I understand that the Government intends to refer to the Agricultural Council the question of the practicability of reciprocal legislation by the Commonwealth and State Parliaments for the purpose of so distinguishing between margarine and butter that it will be impossible for consumers to confuse the two products.
Reference has been made to the fact that, generally speaking, wages in the dairying industry are low. But what of those employed in butter factories at award rates and conditions? With the exception of Queensland, Western Australia, Tasmania, the wages are low throughout Australia; but, if wages generally were increased, the price of butter could be raised, and the dairyfarmers would receive higher returns for their product. If the problem of the competition between margarine and butter is not grappled with immediately, the time will come when many dairyfarmers will be forced off their land, butter factories will be closed, and their employees will be out of work. The British consumer, to whom Australia exports a considerable quantity of butter, will become suspicious of a breaking down of the quality of the article, if margarine is mixed with it to any great degree, and no steps are taken to distinguish one from the other.
The honorable member for Gippsland (Mr. Paterson) said that the Country party favoured the payment of good wages. I recall that one of the first actions of the coalition government in Queensland, with which the Country party was associated in 1929-32, was to slash into .the rural workers’ award and to remove rural workers from the jurisdiction of the State Arbitration Court; yet a member of the Country party has moved the adjournment of the House to-day to enable the matter of competition between margarine -and butter to be considered. For the last eight years the Country party has been associated with coalition governments in .the federal sphere, and throughout that period nothing has been done to improve the position in this regard. It is vitally necessary to protect, not only the consumers, but also the dairy-farmers.
– I am rather surprised at the honorable member for Richmond (Mr. Anthony) moving the adjournment of the House on such’ a frivolous matter as that raised by him. Even the honorable member for Gippsland (Mr. Paterson), when asked to state the quantity of margarine, in proportion to butter, sold in Australia, dodged the question as decidedly as a mouse evades a cat. The quantity of butter manufactured in Australia is 396,000,000 lb. a year, and the quantity of margarine is only 29,000,000 lb., the excess of butter being 367,000,000 lb. We read in the Sydney Morning Herald recently that the farmers of Cowper and Richmond declared that, if the honorable members from those electorates did not deal satisfactorily with the margarine problem, new men would be elected to represent those districts in this House. What are the dairy-farmers complaining about? The quantity of margarine consumed in Australia is small compared with the quantity of butter used. I do not object to steps being taken to prevent deception of the public.
– That is all we desire.
– I doubt that. It is surprising to me that members of the Country party do not try to prevent the bees from working. Housewives and pastrycooks consider that margarine is particularly useful in the preparation of light pastry, and is very palatable. Why do members of the Country party not point out that, to some extent, the ingredients of margarine are imported from New Guinea? Why do they not ask their leader, the right honorable member for Cowper (Sir Earle Page), to show a true missionary spirit, and give the darkskinned inhabitants of New Guinea a chance to export some of their produce to Australia? Despite their colour, they are trying to earn an honest living. Only 6 per cent, of the products used in the manufacture of the margarine made in Australia comes from New Guinea. The honorable member for Gippsland knew that he mis-stated the facts.
– I ask that that remark be withdrawn.
– I withdraw it, but the honorable member knows that the natives of the Mandated Territory of New Guinea and of the New Hebrides should be given a chance to earn a livelihood. In Presbyterian circles the honorable member no doubt sings the well-known hymn which begins “From Greenland’s icy mountains “. He reads in the Scriptures that all people, irrespective of their colour, should be properly treated, but he is not prepared to assist them to earn a living. The coloured people residing in islands to the north of Australia are subjects of the Commonwealth. God made men both black and white, and they should be accorded at least’ the right to live. Thousands of people from foreign countries have been naturalized as Australian citizens, and we should not discriminate against natives of the islands to the north because of the colour of their skin.
– Evidently the honorable gentleman does not believe in the White Australia policy.
– Of course I do.
Beef dripping is a main constituent of margarine. As a boy, I was one of twelve and I had to spread my bread with dripping, and it was good stuff too. Probably 90 per cent.- of the margarine is made from by-products of the beef industry. The pastoralists will not stand by meekly while the dairying industry endeavours to stultify an industry which takes their ‘byproducts. This matter is not one that should be raised in this House. Members of the Country party have described margarine as being adulterated. If that be so, the States have pure foods acts which can be invoked to meet the situation. Instead of trying immoral tactics to force this Government to do something on the threat that if it does not do it it will be squeezed out of office, the Country party members should demand action from “Mick” Bruxner who, with other members of the Country party, helps the New South Wales Government to administer the Pure Foods Act.
.- The speech delivered by the honorable member for Barton (Mr. Lane) indicates the need for men in this Parlia- ment who are charged with the duty of safeguarding the interests of those who go out into the backblocks of Australia iii search of livelihood. The honorable member did not deal in any way with margarine, which is the subjectmatter of the motion before the Chair. He merely repeated his hostility towards those who are striving to increase the productiveness of Australia and thereby make possible its prosperity and development and provide a market for the great secondary industries while he sits calmly in the city enjoying good and cheap food produced under most difficult conditions in the country areas. More than 200,000 people are engaged in the dairying industry and they work longer hours than any other workers in Australian industry. They are responsible for the export of up to £12,000,000 worth of butter in one year and the total annual value of production from dairy farms, including butter, cheese and milk, amounts to £45,000,000. We are trying to protect the dairy-farmers against the clanger which is becoming more evident. The menace of margarine to the dairying industry is not new, having confronted it for many years, but, to-day, the production of margarine has assumed such proportions as to be a serious threat.
A great deal of political capital has been made on both sides of the House, particularly on the Opposition side, out of what the Commonwealth Government has done in this matter. Some years ago, the dairying industry was menaced by imported margarine and the Commonwealth, in order to protect the industry, ordered that all margarine imported into Australia be coloured pink. The importation of margarine stopped immediately. Since then the manufacture of the product has developed as a local industry and the Commonwealth Government has no constitutional authority to prevent it. The power to control it rests with the States. Yet, of all the States, Victoria alone has taken action. New South Wales has not. If if, should do so, margarine from Queenshind would flood New South Wales as margarine from New South Wales now floods Victoria, rendering the Victorian legislation, from the point of view of the dairying industry, useless-
If all of the States followed Victoria’s lead the difficulties would be solved, but the Minister for Agriculture in Queensland, is opposed to such action. He has rightly expressed interest in the ‘beef industry products, but has not adopted uniform legislation along the lines of that existing in Victoria. The Victorian legislation does not prevent the manufacture of margarine or its supply to pastrycooks; it merely endeavours to prevent its sale as butter to those who pay for butter and think they are getting butter. The Australian Agricultural Council has been called together by the Commonwealth Government to attempt to devise a universal scheme to meet the problem, and I hope that its deliberations will be published so that the public can be informed as to what stand is taken by the several States. Whatever Form it takes, whether it be an excise imposed by the Commonwealth, or uniform legislation in all of the States, we must have protection for the dairying industry against this imitation which is calculated to damage not only the dairying industry but also the health of the population.
The honorable member for Dalley (Mr. Rosevear) said that members of the Country party never supported the maintenance of the standards of the Australian working class. The action for which the Country party members are now asking is the only means of assisting in the maintenance of the standards’ of the 200,000 people who are engaged in the dairying industry, and 600,000 who are dependent upon it. Our objection to the inroads that margarine is making into the Australian butter market ls analogous to the objection a good unionist has to a non-unionist. “ “
.- The Hou?e is indebted to the honorable member for Richmond (Mr. Anthony) for having this matter ventilated. I am pleased that the Minister (Sir Frederick Stewart), who represents the Minister for Commerce (Senator McLeay), showed general sympathy and I hope that as the result of the expressions of opinion to-day he will do everything possible in co-operation with the State governments to remedy this great trouble. The honorable member for Gippsland (Mr. Paterson) indicated the magnitude and decentralized nature of this dairying industry which produces not only sufficient butter to meet the whole of Australia’s needs but also an exportable surplus which adds £12,000,000 a year to our London funds. It should be the first care of this Government and of every Australian government to maintain this industry.
The honorable member for Ballarat (Mr. Pollard) appeared to be out of step with his party, but he expressed a good deal of sympathy. He, however, said, “ Sell butter on its merits.” Suppose I said, “ Sell labour on its merits. Sell machinery on its merits “. The honorable member for Wide Bay (Mr. Corser) pointed out that Labour would object to.’ the surreptitious undermining of its principles by non-unionists. This great industry is being undermined by a fraudulent imitation and the resulting damage is not confined to it alone; it hurts Australia. The honorable member for Dalley (Mr. Rosevear) expressed concern on behalf of the consumers. I remember when we could not produce in this country sufficient butter for ourselves and the price fluctuated between 6d. per lb. in times of plenty and 3s. 6d. per lb. in lean periods. Under the conditions that operate to-day, the average price of butter is ls. 6d. per lb. The Arbitration Courts fix wages according to the cost of living and the working man gets a fair deal.
I should like honorable members to read the report of a speech delivered by Sir James Elder, at a meeting of the National Bank of Australasia and reported in the Sydney Morning Herald of yesterday’s date. I take from it the following: -
By reason of heavy governmental expenditure of an unproductive nature our internal activity is disposed to become ill-balanced, some secondary industries being stimulated at the expense of others and in particular, I am afraid, at the expense of the primary industries. In the past two years costs and internal prices in Australia have risen. There is no simple measure of costs, but both wholesale and retail prices are now at about their pro-depression levels while export prices are 35 per cent, below the figure of that period. This is an indication of the wide disparity between costs and prices for the primary producer, and emphasizes the need for increasing efficiency and keeping costs to a minimum in all industries, if the primary producer is to he given relief on a sound basis.
If honorable members will read and study that statement, they will understand how important it is to the well-being of Australia that our exporting industries should get a fair deal. I am glad that the Prime Minister (Mr. Menzies) ‘has said that the Government is desirous of dealing justly with all industries. This is necessary in order that the standard of living for all of the people may be maintained. Having regard to the statements of policy which we have had from the right honorable gentleman, this Government should be in full sympathy with any proposal to ensure co-operation between the Commonwealth and State Governments to evolve machinery that will identify margarine. If it is coloured to represent butter, and is marketed in competition with that commodity, it should bear an excise duty.
.- 1 wish to make it clear that the party with which I am associated is whole-heartedly in support of the motion submitted by the honorable member for Richmond (Mr. Anthony) whose purpose is to protect the dairying industry. Whilst we do not object to the manufacture of margarine for sale we do object to the suspicious practice adopted in the marketing of this product.
– And we believe in a butter standard for the workers.
– The belated interest displayed in this subject by members of the Country party is amusing. Although that party was closely associated with the Commonwealth Government for many years no action was taken to protect the dairying industry from this competition from margarine.
– That is not so. The Country party has done a very great deal to improve the lot of dairy-farmers.
– I especially direct attention to the remarks of the honorable member for Gippsland (Mr. Paterson) this morning. He mentioned that some of the ingredients used in the manufacture of margarine were produced by cheap coolie labour outside Australia. The Country party has not always been sympathetic towards another essential Australian primary industry - I refer to tobacco-growing. It permitted the duty on imported tobacco to be lowered, to the detriment of an Australian industry which is just as important as dairying.
Mr. SPEAKER (Hon. G. J. Bell).Order ! The motion has nothing whatever to do with the tobacco industry.
– I merely draw attention to the inconsistency of Country party members towards Australian industries. On every occasion when they have had an opportunity, by their votes in this House, to improve the conditions of those engaged in our secondary industries-
Debate interrupted under Standing Order 257b.
Sitting suspended from 12.48 to 2.15 p.m. [Quorum formed.]
Motion (by Mr. Street) proposed -
That the House, at its rising, adjourn until Monday next, at 3 p.m.
– Whilst I have no objection to this motion, I desire to make quite clear the position of the Country party with regard to the sittings of this House, especially as our attitude has been misrepresented by certain sections of the press, which have refused to publish statements issued officially by the party. The Country party is willing to meet, if necessary, on five days in every week, so that the Government may transact business of urgent public importance, but it will not agree to sitting all night, especially during the winter months in Canberra. We would be prepared to sit for as many weeks as are considered necessary to carry out the business of government in a proper fashion, but we believe that at this time of the year, and in this climate, to ask members to sit all night is simply to ask them to join the suicide club.
– I regard as most extraordinary the declaration of the Leader of the Country party (Sir Earle Page). Apparently when he is out of the Government, all-night sittings are prejudicial to the health of honorable members, but when he is in the Government, the health of honorable members does not matter “ two hoots “.
– There were very few all-night sittings when I was in the Government.
– I remind honorable members that while the right honorable member for Cowper was Deputy Prime Minister both prior to 1929 and during the last four years, he had no compunction whatever in allowing the House to sit often until midnight, frequently until 2 and 3 o’clock in the morning, and sometimes until daylight, in order to complete Government business. Members of the Opposition have protested on many occasions against this legislation by duress, and process of sheer physical exhaustion, and they now welcome the reformation of the right honorable member for Cowper.
Motion agreed to.
Debate resumed from the 1st June, 1939 (vide page 1,114), on motion (by Mr. Street) -
That the bill be now read a second time.
.- The Opposition will vote against this measure, because we believe that it constitutes a grave danger, both in substance and by implication, to the freedom and the democratic rights of the Australian people. I have summarized the Opposition’s objections under five heads. First, we regard it as a step towards industrial conscription. Secondly, it is the forerunner of compulsory military training. Thirdly, it makes no provision with regard to wealth. That was admitted by the Minister for Defence (Mr. Street), when in reply to an interjection in the course of his second-reading speech he said that the proposed national register would not embrace anything in the nature of wealth. Fourthly, the disingenuous excuse that the sole purpose of the bill is to prevent a waste of trained men in time of war is totally unconvincing to the Opposition, because we are of the opinion that there are means whereby the desired information may be obtained other than by legislation of a coercive character. That this is such a measure is indicated by its penal clauses.
Fifthly, the Opposition believes that the bill disregards the imperative need for an Australian contribution towards a solution of the economic and social problems which have led to the present world unrest. According to the estimate given by the Minister for Defence, the information to be derived from the returns compiled under the proposed national register scheme will cost approximately £40,000. In our opinion such data will be of doubtful value. In addition to that initial expenditure, there will be a recurring annual cost, because people reaching the age of eighteen years, as well as migrants, will have to be indexed. The Government apparently recognized the valuelessness of the proposed questionnaire when it drew up clause 21 of the bill, enabling the National Register Board to modify or add to the questionnaire. The Government has apparently further considered the matter because the Minister for Defence has informed me that he has an amendment which, I understand, is designed to make it impossible to add to the questionnaire without the sanction of Parliament.
– That is correct.
– I agree that Parliament should have the right to decide on the form of the questionnaire. The Minister for Defence knows full well that the Opposition, and probably some members of the Country party, would not have agreed to a blank cheque being given under clause 21 as it now stands.
The bill provides for the registration of man-power. Apparently there is to be a register of one section of the community, but not of another. We are to have a register of antisans and labourers, but not of the industrial potentialities of Australia, or the wealth resources of capitalists, money lenders and financiers. In explaining the measure to the House, the Minister for Defence explained what he considered were national essentials. He quoted from a speech in which the late Prime Minister (Mr. Lyons) stated that the following were essentials - the organization of manpower and of women’s voluntary efforts; the regulation and control of primary production in an emergency; industrial mobilization of secondary industries in an emergency; and Commonwealth and State co-operation in peace and war. We know now that we are to have a compulsory register of men. The Government’s first decision on this matter, which was made at a Cabinet meeting in Hobart in February last, was for a voluntary national register “ for the purpose of ascertaining the industrial resources of the nation”. The reasons given for the voluntary register were, first, that it would cost less than a compulsory register, and, secondly, that it would not take so long to complete. For a time, the Government defended voluntary registration, but a month later it changed its views, as it has done on many other matters. Voluntary effort did not meet with the approval of a section of the Cabinet of that day. The same section dominates the present Cabinet, and has always been in favour of compulsion, whether in respect of military service or of a national register.
– Hear, hear!
– Eventually the advocates of compulsion prevailed, with the result that the decision arrived at in Hobart was reversed in favour of a compulsory national register. The Government has decided on a compulsory national register of men, but says that there shall be a voluntary register of women. Primary industries will not be compelled to give either facts or services. Industrial organization is to be planned by private interests. We shall probably be told that there will be an advisory panel to advise the Government, but we know that it will be representative, not of the workers, but of the captains of industry, big business and the financiers of this country. In his second-reading speech the Minister said -
The object of setting up an organization to register the man-power of the nation is to ensure that, as far as possible, every man shall be allocated to the task for which his training and avocation best fit him, so that the utmost value of service will be available to the nation to meet an emergency.
Let us examine the word “ allocated “. Doubtless it means “ as ordered “, or “ as” directed “, or “ as coerced “, or “ as conscripted “. Allocation in industrial conscription appears to be the object of this bill, and therefore it is no wonder that the measure is viewed with suspicion as the forerunner of compulsory military training and industrial conscription. In the circumstances, it is little wonder that the Australasian Council of Trade Unions, after considering the matter, said -
Labour is accustomed to witness political trickery in the. ranks of its opponents, and perceives in the wordy bombs thrown among the public on behalf of defence, compulsory national register of manhood without a register of wealth, and credit expansion, the motive to confuse public thought and to take the workers’ minds away from such necessary reforms as the 40-hour week; without reduction of pay.
I have no doubt that an effort will be made to misrepresent Labour’s attitude in regard to defence generally, because it is opposed to a compulsory national register and to compulsory military training and conscription. Misrepresentation of Labour’s attitude would not be new, for ‘the Government has made a practice of it. The attitude of the Labour party towards defence was clearly set out by the Federal Labour leader, Mr. Curtin, during the Griffith by-election campaign when, in a masterly speech, which was reported in the newspapers of the 19th May, he said -
The Labour party made no qualifications about its position on defence. Our position is clear and decisive. If Britain is at war, we cannot be neutral. The Australian Government, as trustees for the Australian people, would have to decide the form and extent of Australia’s contribution in the light of circumstances. That means that the people are masters of the situation. It was not true that Labour’s policy was one of isolation. Labour realized that in a war in which Great Britain was engaged, Australia would be regarded as one of the richest trophies that could be gathered by any enemy.
It was with a full realization of the correct interpretation of Labour’s policy in relation to defence that the recent conference of the Australian Labour party stated unequivocably that Labour stands for the maintenance of Australia as an integral part of the British Commonwealth of Nations, and for a policy of complete national and economic security. It pledged itself to defend Australia against possible aggression. When it spoke of “ an integral part of the British Commonwealth of Nations “ it meant an inseparable part. The Labour conference deplored the lack of preparedness for the defence of this country, which it insisted is the responsibility of the Commonwealth Government. It stressed the urgent need to expedite the provision of the necessary equipment, munitions, and other things required for the adequate defence of this country. The same conference unanimously rejected proposals for the conscription of human life as advocated by the opponents of Labour who, however, are determined to continue profits as usual. In view of the definite pronouncements that we have had from the Labour leader and the Labour conference, let us hope that we have closed for all time the mouths of those who say that Labour does not stand for adequate defence. Labour’s opposition to a compulsory national register does not in any way interfere with its determination to defend Australia. The Federal Labour leader was correct when he pointed out that if Australia protects 3,000,000 square miles of territory, 12,000 miles of coastline, and 7,000,000 people, it will make a substantial contribution towards Empire defence. That declaration of policy ought to be accepted in preference to party propaganda indulged in by the opponents of Labour. The fact that we are opposed to compulsion and the sending of men 13,000 miles to fight on European battlefields is no indication that we are opposed to adequate and effective means for the protection of Australia. The Labour party stands for defence as set out in the declaration of the Labour conference, but it believes in the voluntary system. It believes that as man-power is required, volunteers can be called for.- On enlistment, each man could supply the particulars set out in the schedule to this bill. Any additional information deemed necessary at the time of enlistment could be obtained from the volunteers. The argument that this information is required in order to prevent men from being sent into the ranks when they -could be more usefully employed in some other capacity cannot be sustained. As I have already stated, we could obtain all necessary information from each volunteer when he enlisted, so that he could be allocated to the position for which he was best fitted. In view of this it may be asked “ What is the objection to the compiling of this register now ? “ Our answer is : “ As this information can he obtained when men voluntarily eulist, the compulsory register is not necessary.” As this register is unnecessary, there must be another motive for the introduction of this bill. To find the motive, we must examine the past history of our political opponents and apply our own knowledge of the Prime Minister’s opinions upon compulsion. Having done that, we declare that it is our firm conviction that the purpose of this register is to facilitate the compulsory calling up of men. The Minister told us in his second-reading speech that a national register board will be set up, consisting of a representative of the Defence Department, who will be chairman, a representative of the Department of Supply and Development, and the Commonwealth Statistician. We are told that the board will be under the control of the Minister for Defence. There is no doubt that there will be a dominating military influence on the decisions of the board. We are also told that there will be a set of machine cards at Canberra and that the original cards will be located in the State capitals. At this stage we arc told that both sets of cards will be available for the use of the Defence Department and its sister department of Supply and Development, and that special arrangements are being made to enable the information provided by the register to be rapidly used in the event of an emergency. The Minister says that the information is required in order to enable it to put skilled men into technical and highly-skilled jobs; but we maintain that if the Government called for volunteers it would have no difficulty in getting all the men it desired for skilled jobs. It must be remembered that a conscripted man is not nearly as efficient or reliable as a volunteer. It is an insult to skilled artisans of Australia to say that they would not respond to the call to enlist for service in skilled trades in an emergency. If a national register is not wanted for conscription, for what purpose is it required? If it. is not wanted for conscription, it involves an unnecessary expenditure of £40,000 of the people’s money. The Government cannot justify imposing conscription in this country until the voluntary system has failed, and no one can say that it has failed. Both the former Prime Minister, the late Mr. Lyons, and the present Minister for Defence have extolled the virtues of the voluntary system. Then what justification is there for the change of outlook? Is it because of the new leadership of the Government? Knowing that the majority of the members of the Cabinet stand for compulsory military service, we believe this bill to be the thin edge of the wedge. We are convinced that the Government has introduced this bill in order to facilitate the adoption of the objectionable compulsory military service system. If it would bring down a definite proposal for the absorption of 160,000 of our unemployed or for the grant of assistance to the hundreds of thousands of our people who are suffering from the effects of malnutrition, it would be playing a statesmanlike part in the improvement of the spirit and morale of our people. In the schedule to this bill the Government has included a questionnaire asking, amongst othev things, for certain information regarding unemployment. Question 10 reads -
Is not this question only so much sugarcoating for a bitter pill which the industrialists of Australia are being asked to swallow? There is something obnoxious about the way in which the whole bill has been drawn and the census questions have been framed, and suspicion on the part of the organized workers of Australia is amply justified. It is little wonder that all the trade unions of Australia, organized under the Australasian Council of Trade Unions, including such organizations as the Australian Engineers Union, the Ironworkers Union, the Boilermakers Union, the Metal Trades Union, and the Waterside Workers Union, after having given a good deal of consideration to this bill, came to the conclusion that, if it be passed in its present form, it will inevitably lead to conscription of the workers of the Commonwealth, for both industrial and military purposes, under conditions to be imposed by regulations promulgated by the Government. They have come to this conclusion, not hurriedly, but after mature consideration.
– Before the bill has even been debated in this House.
– But after they had read the bill and the Minister’s speech. They believe that this bill, which, on the surface, appears to be a harmless document, is in reality an attempt to pave the way for conscription. They are naturally afraid of the dragnet clause in this and other bills. In almost every bill of importance brought before this Parliament the final clause reads as follows: -
The Governor-General may make regulations not inconsistent with this Act, prescribing all matters which by this act ‘are required or permitted to be prescribed or which arc necessary or convenient to be proscribed for carrying out or giving effect to this act.
The purpose of this clause is to enable the Government to govern by regulation instead of by legislation. This practice is becoming more and more a feature of Commonwealth administration, and Ministers are increasingly extending the scope of various acts beyond what was intended by the Parliament when they were assented to. No doubt we shall be told by the Minister, as Ave have been told by other Ministers, that these regulations may be challenged by members of both Houses of Parliament within specified periods; but when they are being issued almost daily under various acts in operation it becomes physically impossible for honorable members to master all of the details which would have to be known before taking such action. If the Labour party is to hold its own politically, and maintain the measure of democratic government that we enjoy to-day, it must oppose in every way possible government “by regulation. It is obvious that this procedure is being adopted by antiLabour governments as a means of establishing, eventually, a political dictatorship in the name and through the medium of a democratically-elected Commonwealth Parliament.
The questionnaire must be answered by all males between the ages of 18 and 65 years, plainly showing that the national register would render industrial conscription a very simple matter. Tn those countries which Hitler and Mussolini rule with ruthlessness, such a register is likely enough; but why should it be necessary to compile one in this country? I have no doubt that the Government is tending towards Fascism. Does it wish to compel unemployed persons to register so that it may find them work? Of course not. Are the movements of the vast number of youths between the age of 18 and 21 years to be recorded in order that they may be found some employment after their dismissal from their dead-end occupations upon reaching the age of 21 years, because unscrupulous employers do not wish to pay them award rates ? Of course not. The registration is for some other purpose altogether. Will the Minister for Defence give me an assurance that tlie questions dealing with unemployment are to be asked in order that the replies may be used to help the unfortunate unemployed citizens of this country to obtain useful employment? If he could give an assurance that would allay the justified suspicions as to the future intentions of the Government he would remove a great deal of the opposition to the passing of this measure.
We have ample evidence that even the volunteer system Ls beyond the capacity of the Defence Department to handle at present. Everybody knows that the department is short of practically all necessary supplies, including clothing and equipment; and that it has insufficient instructors to train the volunteers efficiently. Even honorable members on the Government side of the House have drawn attention to the lag in the supply of uniforms and munitions, and the lack of organization to handle the recruits under the voluntary system. It is surely folly for the Government even to think about adopting compulsion, when it cannot deal efficiently with lie number of volunteers who have responded to the appeal to enlist.
The Government is also entirely unjustified in adopting the principle of compulsion, in view of the definite promises made by the late Prime Minister on several occasions prior to the last general election. The right honorable gentleman said in one speech -
The people could take his pledge . . . conscription would never be put into force
Later, he observed -
In case of necessity the men of Australia would not have to have conscription imposed.
Speaking in Brisbane to a very large audience, be said -
The Government had no intention of ever introducing conscription. It was satisfied with the voluntary system.
The late Prime Minister is now gone. A government with a fascist outlook sits on the treasury bench. No member of the Ministry can honestly deny that the introduction of this bill is merely preliminary to the adoption of compulsory military training. The measure is, in fact, the forerunner of conscription. It is time that the people of this country realized the ultimate object of the proposed compulsory national register. Clause 23 of the bill indicates clearly the motive behind the measure. It reads -
Any male person who has attained the age of eighteen years, or who, after the commencement of this act, attains the age of eighteen years, and has not attained the age of twentyone years shall, within thirty days of any change occurring in his address, notify that change of address in the prescribed manner.
Why are young men between the ages of 18 and 21 years specifically mentioned ?
– We desire to meet the gap in age until the young men become entitled to enrolment as electors.
– We have reason to believe that the purpose is other than that stated by the Minister. The industrial unions of Australia are deeply suspicious of this measure. They see in it a clear desire on the part of the Government to conscript these young men immediately any sign of trouble occurs. I direct attention to the following statement made last December, by Sir John Anderson, Lord Privy Seal, who had charge of the National Registration Bill in the House of Commons: -
It has become more and more clear to mc during recent weeks from letters that I have received from the newspapers, from talks that I have had, that many of the people who have been arguing in favour of a compulsory register, have been arguing, without realizing -it, in favour of a different form of compulsion -altogether, in favour of compulsory service or compulsory training, or at any rate something going far beyond the mere putting of one’s name on a compulsory register.
Later he added -
Compulsion has its limitations and its .very definite limitations, even in war. Compulsion in war, can do this: It can give you mcn who will form members of a disciplined body which will act in formation under direct orders, people who in the last war were rather unkindly described as “ cannon fodder “. It would give you them.
That is the opinion of a noted British statesman on compulsory service.
Can any justification be advanced for the adoption of the compulsory principle in respect of man-power without its adoption also in respect of wealth? We all know that while the wealthier people of the community advocate the conscription of man-power, they would not dream of supporting a proposal for the conscription of wealth. “ Conscription of manpower but not of wealth” is their cry. Wealth must be sacrosanct.
– Of course they would not interfere with their pals.
– -Tha,t is so. Thousands of young men who enlisted for service and fought during the last war to preserve the property of wealthy interests in this country are to-day totalis dependent upon a small pension. They are “ burnt out “, and broken in health, and many of them live a miserable life. But the wealthy interests whose property was preserved by their service are not coming forward in a generous way to lend a helping hand. Rather are they in the forefront of the agitation for the adoption pf compulsory military service. They are, in fact, the driving force behind this Government. It is they who desire a compulsory national register to be prepared. What is aimed at, of course, is, first, compulsion in respect of registration; secondly, compulsory military training; and, thirdly, conscription. We are totally opposed to the conscription of man-power without the conscription of wealth. Australia has paid £290,000,000 in interest charges on loans raised in connexion with the last war. Our annual interest and sinking fund charges in that connexion amount to between £9,000,000 and £10,000,000. In addition, we still owe £179,000,000 in respect of loans raised in Australia for war purposes. Can any logical reason be advanced why full information should not be tabulated concerning the wealth of this country? Why does not the Government include in this bill provisions for the registration of wealth? An article appeared in a section of the Sydney press on the 3rd May last, in which it was stated that 40 large companies in this country had reserves amounting to £70,000,000. We should know where this money is. All details concerning it should be tabulated in any compulsory national register. Yet the registration of wealth is excluded from the policy of the Government, and no provision is made for it in this bill. All the Government is interested in is the registration of manpower. We all are well aware that difficulty is being encountered in financing our defence programme. How can the Government expect to plan ahead in respect of industry unless it has complete information in regard to the wealth resources of the nation? “Far more justification exists for a compulsory industrial register than for a compulsory register of man-power. “ If we had a national register of wealth, it would be practicable to make more effective provision for the financing of our defence programme. Unfortunately the Government proposes entirely to disregard the necessity to register the wealth of this country. If man-power is to be registered, wealth should certainly be registered. Probably, however, that would cause disclosures that would be embarrassing to the friends of the Government. I remember that recently the Minister for Health and Social Services (Sir Frederick Stewart) made an eloquent speech in Parramatta at a recruiting rally. With his eye on some of the young men in the audience, the honorable gentleman said -
If we have the right to call upon the youth of the country, then we also have the right to call upon the wealth of the country.
– That is quite correct.
– He said it with his tongue in his cheek.
– Yes, he spoke with his tongue in his cheek, and the Government is no more sincere when it describes this proposed national register as allembracing. No questions are to be asked about wealth, but all kinds of inquisitive inquiries are to be made about man-power, occupations, &c. ; in fact, everything that is likely to facilitate the introduction of compulsory military service. The wealthy interests of this country did not even subscribe liberally to the defenceloans raised by the Government. Of loans totalling £86,000,000, no less a sum than £43,000,000 had to be provided by the underwriters. Somuch for all this talk of the loyalty of the great capitalists; they could easily have subscribed to the loans, but did not do so. Those are the interests that might be inconvenienced if the Government enforced a compulsory registration of wealth as well as of man-power. We are opposed to the Government’s proposal because everybody knows that it is onesided, and merely the forerunner of the introduction of compulsory military service and industrial conscription. Thereis ample justification for the deep suspicion entertained by the public concerning the measure. They know that it will’ not be used in their interests, but as an instrument to rob them of their freedom. For those and other reasons I havestated the Opposition will vote against the bill.
Motion (by Mr. Archie Cameron) proposed -
That the debate be now adjourned.
Question put -
The House divided. (Mr. Deputy Speaker - Mr. J. H.. Prowse.)
Majority . . 1
Question so resolved in the negative.
– The Chair will examine the Standing Orders, and give a decision later.
.- Unless the people of this country are destined never to be taught by experience they will reject this Government’s proposal. In 1915 a similar register was propounded to the people under the regulation-making powers embodied in the War Precautions Act. It was sponsored by a man who was the idol of his country, and, certainly, the idol and trusted leader of his party. The very objections that are raised now were raised then. It was said that the introduction of that register, and the demanding of that information of all persons, was the prelude to compulsory service overseas. The Leader of the Government then, who is a member of the present Government, replied to that contention in these words - I think they are burned in the memory of all who heard him - “In no circum stances would I compel any man to go overseas to serve”. That statement was made about a year before the same gentleman proposed that men; should be compelled to serve overseas* I have always believed that when he made that statement he was honest in his intention, as the Minister is now, but he had taken part in a cycle of events that made compulsory military service inevitable. That register was defended as being fair, because questions were then put to men about their fighting and working capacity and also about their wealth. It was said that that register was being prepared to enable this country to make the greatest possible effort in war.The Government of the day declared that it wanted to know, for the purpose of voluntary action, the wealth of this country, and its resources of man-power. It said that there would be no compulsion on life; no man would be compelled to serve overseas; the effort that would be made would be purely voluntary, and if anything further were desired, a sacrifice would be demanded from wealth as much as from life. Some people said at that time they would accept the Government’s intention as being to apply the register- in respect of wealth, mainly for the purpose of finding out . the material resources of this country. The records that were obtained on that occasion as to the wealth of material resources were not used for anything; they have long ago been destroyed. But the records that were obtained regarding manpower were used for the purpose of bullying men into enlistment. There is no doubt about that. I recall that at that time members of Parliament were privileged to go upon the platform and read extracts from the answers supplied in reply to those questions. Numbers of men were thus ridiculed. For instance, answers read out were to the effect that one man objected to fighting, and another objected to taking human life. In one case,, the latter answer was supplied, by a slaughterman, and the speaker asked his audience whether it could conceive a slaughterman objecting to taking human life. The same sort of thing will happen with respect to this register, because it has no meaning at all unless it i3 being prepared for the compulsory service of the men in Australia or as soldiers or as workers. We have had an opportunity to discuss the question of compulsory service as workers, and I do not propose, at this juncture, to go into that aspect beyond saying that a measure like this could be used for that purpose. It can be used for the purpose of finding out the capacity of every body in this country, and for putting pressure upon individuals. The great result that was obtained from the National Register in 1915 was that the Government became aware of the number of men who were qualified to fight for the country. It became aware of their employers, and being aware of the number of men and of their employers, it was a very easy thing for it to exert influence, through their employers, on the men, with the result that many men found that unless they enlisted voluntarily, they would lose their employment. A great number of men enlisted when given that choice. This register proposes a schedule which will ask of every man the name of his employer. I cannot conceive why a man should be compelled to divulge the name of the employer unless the Government intends to use that information in orderto coerce the man into enlisting. That is the main object of this register. We have certainly been through this cycle before, and a child once burnt dreads the fire. Our experience is that this is a natural step towards leading us to the climax of compulsory service. We have it on the authority of the Prime Minister (Mr. Menzies) that whether a man serves in war or not is entirely his own affair, and that nobody else has a right to say anything on that point. We accept that contention. These proposals are to apply not to leading men in the community or to men of wealth, but to working men, the young men of this country, in order to oblige them to make disclosures concerning their capacity to work, their physical health, and their employers. I cannot conceive why any government that contemplates only a voluntary effort should need this register. I suggest to the Government that if it be committed to a voluntary effort, all that is required is a voluntary register. If it proposes, for the defence of this country, to rely on the patriotism of our young men, then it should base its register on the same footing and say, “ We will invite those who, in time of war, are prepared to defend this country, to make a statement now as to their capacity.”
– Was not the suggestion for a voluntary register opposed?
– I have not heard hitherto of any voluntary register. All I have heard is that the Government had tried a voluntary register of wealth and had failed. But again, in connexion with a voluntary exertion, the Government must remember that as it is the right of every man to decide whether he will fight for his country, it is also the right of every man to decide whether he will make a reply to a questionnaire of this kind. The Government cannot have itboth ways. It cannot have a voluntary defence system and camouflaged compulsion; it cannot have a voluntary register and at the same time exercise every form of moral and economic compulsion to make a man give military service. Every one knows what happened during the Great War. The reason why Western Australia, for instance, voted ultimately for conscription was that the people in that State had seen large numbers of men forced into camps under moral and economic conscription, and had come to the conclusion that legal conscription could not be worse. Many held that view. The morale and economic conscription which then prevailed was based on the fact thatthe Government had in its possession all the information it needed about the young men in this country, the capacity, economic circumstances, and the name of the employer of each of them, and having that information, it was able to exert on each eligible individual sufficient pressureto compel him to go to war. And a great number of people economically dependent upon employers found that the only way they could preserve their employment was by going to war. If they did not, they would be unemployed. In every city in Australia to-day are many men who have poignant recollections that, on the basis of the information they had then communicated to the Government, they were told by their employer that he had no option but to say to them as eligible men that they must either go to war or be dismissed. The employer said to them, “ If I do not dismiss you I shall be unable to hold my customers and business connexion.” Knowing what happened in the past we would be injurious to the people if we allowed such a machine to be used against us again. The honorable member for Barker (Mr. Archie Cameron), is saying to-day what this Government will say six months or nine months hence. He contends that one of the questions on the questionnaire should refer directly to military service. The Government takes two steps forward and one backward. It proposed to submit these apparently innocent questions to the people and reserved to itself the power to totally reconstruct the questionnaire and to include any question it desires. Under pressure and strong criticism it has withdrawn that proposal, and now says that without statutory authority it will not vary the questionnaire. The Government will be forced to vary it by pressure of the things that are forcing it to go so far to-day. The Opposition in this chamber will not take oven the first step. If it should take the first step it would logically be driven into taking the second, and in that way would be unable to resist taking the third and fourth and subsequent steps in this apparently innocent and innocuous proposal. The bill is dangerous and the men and the Labour movement that have had previous experience of this sort of thing will not be a party to it again. Therefore. I have no hesitation in saying that not only will the members of the Labour party oppose the bill in this chamber, but also the whole of the strength of theLabour movement will oppose it in the country.
Motion (by Mr. Riordan) put -
That the debate be now adjourned.
The House divided. (Mr. Speaker - Hour. G. J. Bell.)
Majority . . . . 5
Question so resolved in the negative.
– The Deputy Speaker (Mr. Prowse) has already informed me that the point was raised by the Leader of the Opposition after the motion by the honorable member for Barker for the adjournment of the debate had been negatived. An honorable member does not forfeit his right to speak later because he has moved the adjournment of the debate.
.- It would be interesting to know why a measure such as this, which provides for the registration of Australia’s manpower, has been introduced into this Parliament, particularly when provision is made for penalties, similar to those imposed on criminals, upon those who do not register. This is one of the first manifestations of a direct move by this Government towards a policy of compulsion such, as operates in all countries where Fascism raises its ugly head. Realizing that the Australian democracy is rapidly rising against it, and that as soon as it faces its masters it will be thrown out of office, this Government is seeking to set up machinery which, I believe, it intends to use to ‘ defeat the democracy. Therefore, I shall do all in my power to prevent the bill from becoming law.
This measure indicates anxiety on the part of the Government to create and maintain a war psychology. One of the most effective means of promoting the war spirit is to have the manhood of the country regimented and compulsorily trained, for I regard compulsory training as a corollary to this bill. To have large bodies of men marching about in an ostentatious and warlike manner is one of the ways in which Fascism always manifests itself. Unquestionably, the bill is a prelude to economic and industrial, as well as military, conscription. This Government is not satisfied to reach men of the age of 21 years and upwards; it wishes to go after youths between the ages of 18 and 21 years. One of the main reasons for the register is the desire of the Government to bridge the gap between those ages. According to the statement made by the Minister for Defence (Mr. Street), the Government wishes to be in direct touch with the flower of the manhood of Australia.
– The honorable member misunderstood me. We are made aware of changes of addresses of persons over the age of 21 years because they are on the electoral roll but, in respect of men under that age, we have not that information.
– Precisely; the Government wishes to regiment youths in the same way as men over the age of 21 years. Throughout the British Empire, the United States of America and all countries that have British traditions, the establishment of standing armies ha3 always been resisted. From the time of William the Conqueror, British people have fought against attempts to govern by means of standing armies, and mili tary conscription has always been abhorrent to them; yet conscription is implicit in this measure.
In asking the House to agree to the Supply and Development Bill, sound reasons could be advanced by the Government for ascertaining the economic capacity of the country in connexion with defence preparations ; but, if the information sought to be obtained by means of the measure now before us is not to be used for the purpose of imposing military or industrial conscription, what other reason can there be for it? I showed, in connexion with the previous bill, that the Government safeguards its friends when they are to be asked questions about goods and chattels and property rights; in all this legislation, it seems that the Government regards property as more valuable than human life. By means of the proposed questionnaire, the Government would pry too closely into the private lives and homes of the people. So much personal information as would be obtained should not be given to this or any other Government, because the people would suffer humiliation. I regard this bill as embodying the essence of paganism rather than being in accord with the principles of Christianity, for under it good 3 and chattels and property rights would be sacrosanct, and human life would count for naught. Men and women could be dragged into the courts, and the questions addressed to them would almost strip them bare; but there would be no inquiry with regard to property rights, trade secrets or anything which might give to the public information concerning the thieving tendencies of private profitmongers.
The bill provides for the appointment of an executive officer, and I desire to know whether this person will be a “ brass hat “, who will adopt a domineering attitude, and think himself superior to the rest pf his fellowmen, because he struts about like a peacock in a bright coloured and highly-decorated uniform. Is that the type of gentleman to be appointed to this position?
– I accept the Minister’s assurance, but I should prefer something definite in that regard to be embodied in the bill. No provision appears in the measure indicating that this officer will be subject to regulations issued under the Public Service Act.
Another undesirable feature is the severity of the penalties provided. Youths between the ages of 18 and 21 years who have not even acquaintance with the operation of the electoral law, which requires persons to notify the department of changes of address, can be fined as much as £50, or sentenced to three months’ imprisonment, for failure to make a similar notification under this bill. No doubt, the Minister will state that I have mentioned the maximum penalty, and that probably such a heavy , fine as £50, or imprisonment for three months, would never be imposed for an offence against the proposed law. If the right honorable member for North Sydney (Mr. Hughes) had had such legislation as this at his command when he was Prime Minister of this country during the Great War, the penalties prescribed in it would have been imposed to the full. That right honorable gentleman is an influential member of this Cabinet. He is Deputy Leader of the Government as well as being Attorney-General, and when the Prime Minister is absent he has full charge. I should not like a son of mine to be placed at the tender mercies of men of the calibre of the right honorable gentleman when their minds are inflamed by war.
– The right honorable member for North Sydney was a good Labour and war-time leader.
– The honorable member for Barker no doubt thinks so, because he himself would like to be a dictator, but has not the courage to try to seize power. This bill is full of fascist tendencies, hut paramount among them is the provision that for certain offences there shall be no prosecution except with the approval of the Minister. I do not know the reason for the inclusion of that provision, unless it be that the Minister wishes to preserve to himself the right to protect the interests of his friends should they ever be threatened by prosecution.
– -That is not” so.
– Why then in a bill, which specifies penalties of £50 or three months’ imprisonment for certain offences, should there be such a provision? I do not like this bill at all, and shall vote against it, but I abhor that provision because it savours of patronage and favoritism.
– If the honorable gentleman will prepare an amendment I shall consider it.
– An amendment? This bill is so hopelessly against the spirit of liberty and democracy that it is beyond amendment. Clause 26 b reads -
A certificate in writing signed by the Commonwealth Statistician, certifying that no form, filled in and signed by the defendant in accordance with this act, has been received by the Commonwealth Statistician, shall be prima facie evidence that the defendant has failed to transmit the form to the Commonwealth Statistician.
Letters in the post often go astray. I have had experience of that myself. The Department of the Interior informed me recently that there was no record of the receipt of a letter which I had posted to it about three months previously and that it had probably been lost in the post. Another letter, not one of mine, was delivered ten years after it had been posted; it had been lost in a crevice in a post office. A mau may comply with all of the requirements of the proposed census and post the prescribed census form. It may go astray in the mail, and it would only be necessary, under this paragraph, for the Commonwealth Statistician to certify that it had not been received for there to ‘be evidence against him-
– Only prima facie evidence.
– The Government contends that the questionnaire contained in the schedule is simple, but the bill gives to the Minister power to make such modifications or .additions to the questionnaire as he may think fit.
– I have circulated an amendment to alter that.
– Then it was merely a “ try on “. The honorable gentleman saw that the numbers were against him and that he could not “ pull it off”.
– The honorable gentleman has a suspicious mind.
– If that be not so why was the power to vary the questionnaire inserted in the first place? The Parliamentary Draftsman would not have framed it thus without instruction.
– I could have got away with it if I had wanted to.
– Ministers change their minds every five minutes. We had experience of that in the discussion on the Supply and Development Bill. The amendments which were made to it by the Government occupied more printing paper than did the original bill. Honorable members are too busy otherwise to be chasing after ministerial amendments. This bill would not be so bad if it made provision for a register of wealth as well as of man-power. We believe that the purpose behind the measure is the establishment of machinery for the conscription of the youth of this country, either to fight in battles or to produce munitions ; and it is our firm opinion that such action as that should not be taken unless accompanied by conscription of wealth. In the event of an invasion of Australia, everything must be thrown into the pool. There must be no private ownership. The Ministry frankly admitted that the Supply and Development Bill was a war measure. The Minister should make a similar admission in respect of this bill and, if he believes that a war on Australia is imminent, he should come into the open and say so. Nevertheless, the Opposition would never be a party to compulsion of the youth of the country to defend Australia and save it for the profiteers who would continue to extract wealth from the toiling masses. If this country is to be saved from the ravages of invasion it must bc saved for everybody, not for a handful of people who batten on the miseries of the masses. The Government should say to those who possess riches “ the workers have to give their lives: you must give your wealth”. If that were done there would never be war and honorable gentlemen know it. If governments had the courage to say that there shall be no private property in the event of war and that the fight shall be for the nation, those who engineer wars for their own enrichment would never take . the risk of war.
That is my attitude to this subject. War is a contradiction of everything for which decent men and women strive. Since it stirs up the bottomless pit of hellish human passions and brings out the very worst in human nature, converting a man into an animal actuated by a desire to destroy his fellow beings, its abolition is worth some sacrifice. If wealth is conscripted in a national emergency, the profit will be taken out of private industrial concerns, and wars will not occur.
The honorable member for Barker (Mr. Archie Cameron) yesterday appeared to derive some satisfaction from a belief that under measures such as this and the bill which the Government forced through the House yesterday, the protection hitherto given to the workers by our arbitration system will be impaired, if not destroyed. The honorable gentleman spoke with a certain amount of gusto when he suggested that, in certain conditions, the regulation of industry would go by the board ; that men might be conscripted and compelled to work twelve hours or more daily. Indeed, he gave one the impression that he was looking forward to the time when these things would happen. But he did not say anything about the conscription of wealth in time of emergency. He made no mention of measures which, ito be consistent, the Government should be prepared to take in respect of the Broken Hill Proprietary Company Limited, the Colonial Sugar Refining Company, and other big industrial concerns, as part of its plan to repel an enemy that might attempt to invade this country. The Government should not expect the workers to work longer hours while at the same time permitting wealthy interests to make bigger profits. The wealth of the nation should be lined up with the services of those who may be called upon to lay down their lives.
Debate (on motion by Mr. Nairn) adjourned.
Motion (by Mr. Menzies) proposed -
That thu House do now adjourn.
– I should like to have from the
Prime Minister (Mr. Menzies) a reply to a question which I addressed to the Minister for Trade and Customs (Mr. John Lawson) two or three days ago with regard to the attitude of the Government towards the enlargement of the Tariff. Board. It will be remembered that at the beginning of April, the Lyons Government decided that the Tariff Board should be enlarged so that its personnel could be subdivided, one section dealing with the examination of new industries and the other carrying on the routine work of the board. Action was being taken on that decision just prior to the death of Mr. Lyons. I referred to it, on behalf of the right honorable gentleman, at the Royal Sydney Show, and the suggestion received unanimous approval. While I was Prime Minister, the Australasian Chamber of Manufactures wrote to me a letter signifying its approval of the action proposed. The Australasian Manufacturer, in a leading article on the loth April, dealt with this matter, and quoted the following statement by me: - “ The Government’s endeavour is to find means of putting, as it were, ‘ a forced draught’ on industry and development. We have had extraordinary assistance on all hands, especially from the industrial panel of loading industrialists who are sitting with the Council for Defence. They arc examining what new industries are essential for defence purposes, what new industries are essential to the carrying on of Australia’s economic life in war time, and what new industries are necessary to preserve commodities from wastage and destruction if Australia were beleagured.”
The article continued -
That, indeed, outlines a practical and efficient policy of preparedness, and has, wo venture to say, the enthusiastic endorsement of the people of Australia. It does not mean that war is coming, but it does mean that Australia will be prepared - should it come.
The Manufacturer is of the opinion that the Common wealth Government has acted wisely in enlarging the Tariff Board. And, a’bove all, in enlarging it not in order to check Australia’s industrial development, hut rather to speed it up. The move is a desirable one for many reasons. In the first place, because of the spreading of activities, the section of the board dealing with routine inquiries will he able to function much more expeditiously than at present. Hearings which to-day are spread over long periods will, under the new regime, be finalized with a minimum of delay. Nor is that all. Speedier hearings will mean the speedier publication of reports outlining those hearings. The time element may in some cases be vital. It might well happen, for example, that a change in world conditions might so seriously affect certain Australian industries as to make imperative the immediate, not the belated, assistance of additional protective duties. Under the new conditions such help would be immediately forthcoming.
There was incorporated in the Supply and Development Bill, passed through this chamber this week, a provision thatnew industries to be established under that legislation should be submitted -to the Tariff Board for examination. That emphasizes the necessity for some action to enlarge the board at the earliest possible moment. I ask the Prime Minister whether, in view of the fact that legislation to deal with this matter would be of a minor nature - simply the alteration of a numeral, or a word, in the Tariff Board Act - could not the Government consider the matter immediately, and bring down the necessary bill this session ?
.- Several large meat companies and butter factories in Queensland have written to me on the question of cold storage accommodation in that State. One of the butter factories to which I refer was recently advised by an official of the Producers Co-operative Distributing Society as follows : -
I understand that the Federal Government is prepared to find cheap money to extend cold storage accommodation.
I am informed that all other States of the Commonwealth are fairly well situated as regards cold storage, but that, the accommodation available in Queensland is deplorable. Realizing the importance of this matter from a defence point of view, Mr. Lyons, the late Prime Minister, promised that cheap money would be found for the provision of additional cold storage accommodation. 1 ask the Prime Minister (Mr. Menzies) to look into the matter, and see whether or not assistance can be given to meat companies and butter factories which might be prepared to erect this accommodation. There is no doubt that, from a defence point of view, it is of very great importance that Queensland should have adequate cold storage accommodation, so that supplies of meat, butter, fruit, &c. may be kept for fairly lengthy periods. With that in view, the matter was raised during the regime of the last Government.
If the right honorable gentleman is unable to give me a reply to-day, I shall be obliged if he will make inquiries and furnish an answer at a later date. [Quorum formed.]
. -in reply - I have no knowledge of the matter to which the Deputy Leader of the Opposition (Mr. Forde) has referred, but I shall have inquiries made and I hope that I shall be in a position to say something concerning it on Monday.
I am aware that, as the right honorable member for Cowper (Sir Earle Page) has said, the Lyons Government made and announced the decision that the personnel of the Tariff Board should be enlarged, in order that it might be divided into two sections, one dealing with references in relation to the establishment of new industries, and the other attending to routine matters. Since I took office, my Government has literally not had time to give consideration to the matter ; but because of that we are not to be thought to be committed in any way to a view hostile to that previously expressed. Personally, I think that it is of very grea t importance that the Tariff Board should be kept in such a condition of strength of numbers and otherwise as will enable it to carry out its very important work with due promptness. I recently had a discussion with the chairman of the board as to the operating problems that would be associated with the enlargement of its personnel or its division into two parts. That matter will receive consideration, and if it be possible to conclude the consideration next week I shall not hesitate to introduce the necessary legislation immediately, because I agree that the problem is a pressing one; but I am not able to give any further undertaking at this moment.
Question resolved in the affirmative.
The following papers were pre sented : -
Contract Immigrants Act - Return for 1938.
Immigration Act - Return for 1938.
Lands Acquisition Act - Land acquired at - Moriarty, Tasmania - For Postal purposes.
Swanbourne, Western Australia - For Defence purposes.
House adjourned at 3.59 p.m.
The following answers to questions were circulated: -
e asked the Minister representing the Minister for the Interior, upon notice -
– The Minister for the Interior has supplied the following answers -
n asked the Minister representing the Minister for Commerce, upon notice -
– The information is being obtained.
s asked the Minister rep resenting the Minister for Commerce, upon notice -
– The Minister forCommerce has supplied the following answers : -
n asked the Treasurer, upon notice -
– I have not yet had an opportunity to study the statement of Sir James Elder. I shall, however, take steps to obtain the full text of his address andfurnish the honorable Leader of the Opposition with a reply to his question at the earliest opportunity.
n asked the Minister representing the Minister for Commerce, upon notice -
– The information is being obtained.
s asked the PostmasterGeneral, upon notice -
Does the abolition of the interstate rate on telegrams apply to the Cabinet decisions at Hobart, namely, (a) the double rate for telegrams sent on Sundays and holidays, and (b) the press rates to broadcasting stations for matter to be broadcast, and also to press interstate telegrams ?
– Inquiries arebeing made, and a reply will be furnished as soon as possible.
s. - On the 31st May, the honorable member for Wakefield (Mr. McHugh) asked the following questions, upon notice: -
The answers to the honorable member’s questions are as follows: -
Australian Broadcasting Commission : Proposedjournal.
n. - On the 31st May, the honorable member for Watson (Mr. Jennings) asked a question, without notice, relating to the estimated cost of the proposed journal of the Australian Broadcasting Commission. The Australian Broadcasting Commission has now supplied the following further information : - .
Very shortly the commission will be calling for tenders for printing its journal. To disclose at this stage the estimates of costs supplied by the Commission’s expert advisers would betray to prospective tenderers the approximate figure which they might be expected to include in their tender. This would be against the interests of the listener.
n asked the Minister for Civil Aviation, upon notice -
– The answers to the honorable member’s questions are as follows : -
n asked the Minister for Civil Aviation, upon notice -
– The answers to the honorable member’s questions are as f ollows : -
Royal Australian Navy: Welfare Committees.
t. - On the 3rd May, the honorable member for Cook (Mr. Sheehan) asked the following question, without notice: -
In view of the general satisfaction that prevailed in the Australian Navy when lower ratings were permitted to have welfare committees, will the Minister for Defence consider the advisability of re-establishing those committees?
I am now in a position to inform the honorable member that the system of welfare committees was abolished in 1933. It was replaced by a system of periodical review of service conditions whichis similar to the arrangements made in the Royal Navy. Representatives of each division in a ship bring forward any requests to their divisional officer which are considered by a ship committee. These are sent to the flag officer commanding the squadron, who establishes a fleet committee to consider and coordinate requests from all ships. He then makes his recommendations to the Naval Board. This system provides ample facilities for ratings to put forward their’ requests, and it is not considered necessary to re-establish welfare committees.
y asked the Minister for Defence, upon notice -
– The answers to the honorable member’s questions are as follows : -
d asked the Minister for Defence, upon notice -
Will he now indicate -
t. - The answers to the honorable member’s questions are as follows : -
On the 26th May, the honorable member for Maribyrnong (Mr. Drakeford) asked certain questions regarding coopemtion between the Commonwealth and State governments on works of a defence value.
I am now in a position to inform the honorable member that a survey of these works has been made, but the matter is still under the consideration df the Commonwealth and the State governments from the aspect’ of financing the various projects involved. In regard to the question of the saving that could be effected if the standardization of railway gauges were undertaken, I have ascertained that the immediate expenditure involved in the provision of the minimum requirements for purely military movements between the four eastern States in the event of emergency is approximately £250,000, and of this amount approximately £75,000 could be saved if gauges were standardized.
Financial (Groups : Investigation of Affairs by Taxation Department.
asked the Treasurer, upon notice -
Mr.Menzies. - The answers to the honorable member’s questions are as follows : -
Cite as: Australia, House of Representatives, Debates, 2 June 1939, viewed 22 October 2017, <http://historichansard.net/hofreps/1939/19390602_reps_15_160/>.