15th Parliament · 1st Session
Mr. Speaker (Eon. G. J: Bell) took the chair at11 a.m., and read prayers.
– by leave - I desire to inform honorable members that the Chief Justice of New South Wains has now made available the services of Mr. Justice Maxwell as a Royal Commissioner to inquire into the circumstances associated with the contract for additions to the Sydney General Post Office. Mr. Justice Maxwell will, I understand, hold a preliminary meeting on Thursday and will commence the hearing of the evidence on Tuesday of next week.
– Where will he sit?
– The preliminary meeting will be held in Sydney, but the meetings thereafter will, no doubt, be arranged by him to suit the convenience of those who will give evidence.
– by leave - Honorable members have been interested in the litigation in the High Court with reference to the validity of the wheat and flour legislation recently passed by this Parliament. I am now informed that the High Court gave its judgment on this matter this morning, and upheld the validity of the law.
– Will the Prime Minister table any reports that have been received by the Commonwealth Government dealing with malnutrition?
– Yes, I shall be pleased to do so.
– Will the Treasurer have a return prepared showing the total issue up to date of semi-government loans which have been guaranteed by State governments, and in which the Commonwealth is involved under the Financial Agreement Act?
– If such information is available, I shall table it.
– Is the Treasurer in a position to give to honorable members particulars of the expenditure in Great Britain that will have to be met out of the, £6,000,000 loan to be issued in London ?
– I shall look into the matter and see if it is possible to do what the right honorable member asks. If possible I shall supply the information tomorrow.
– In the absence of the Minister for External Affairs, I ask the Prime Minister what progress has been made in connexion with the trade treaty negotiations between Australia and the United States of America?
– There has been a good deal of work done at this end in connexion with the matter referred to by the right honorable gentleman, but I cannot inform him of the exact stage that has been reached. The matter is being pressed forward.
– Will it be possible for a statement to be made before the
– As the right honorable gentleman knows, we are not in a state of negotiation with the United States of America at present but exploratory conversations are proceeding. I shall see if I can have’ an exact statement of the position prepared for him.
– Has the Prime Minister yet decided upon an itinerary for his Queensland tour during the forthcoming parliamentary recess, and will he advise honorable members of bis movements as far ahead as possible so that they can be in their respective electorates at the time of his visit ?
– It has not been possible to arrange an itinerary because I do not yet know what the terminal dates of the parliamentary’ recess will be. Honorable members may take it generally that, in the event of my being able to visit any State or States during the recess, I shall communicate my itinerary to each member concerned.
Cost of Living INQUIRY.
– Yesterday the honorable member for Bass (Mr. Barnard) asked for information relative to the’ inquiry into the cost of living at Canberra. I now lay on the table of the Rouse copies of reports, numbered 1 to 6, by Sir “William Clemens on this subject..
– Some weeks ago 1 naked the Minister for Defence a question relating ito aerial photographs, particularly those taken ‘by press photographers, which have an important ‘bearing on the defence situation. Is the Minister yet in a position to furnish, a Cp IT to that question?
– I was under the impression that a reply had been furnished to the honorable gentleman. If it has not been supplied, I regret the omission. I shall see that he obtains a reply to-day .
– In view of the fact that two visiting oil experts - one of them a geophysicist of high standing - disagree with the advice tendered to the Government in the matter of flow oil in Australia, and, in fact, go so far us to say ‘that damage may be done to potential oil fields by the methods at present adopted, will the Minister for Supply and Development consider consulting with them with a view to obtaining their aw? vices foi- a period in an endeavour to find flow oil in Australia?
– I have put at least one of the geophysicists to whom the honorable “member has referred in touch with the Commonwealth oil advisers. That contact was not. conclusive; indeed, I believe that it resulted in a conflict of views as to the place th,t geophysical methods might take in the search for oil in Australia. However, I shall look into the matter again, and see what can be done in the direction indicated.
– -Some time ago 1 presented to the Minister for Defence communications from the Hobart City Council concerning the Sandy Bay Rifle Range, and since then T asm an ian members have waited on the Minister on the subject. Can the Minister now say what action he proposes to “take with regard to this matter
– Yes. Last week I received a deputation of Tasmanian members . on the subject, and I am now in a position to inform the honorable, member that I a-m making a firm offer to the Hobart City Council. If it is accepted, T hope that this long-standing dispute will be settled.
– Has the attention of the Minister for Defence been directed to the following statement by Mr. Semple, the Minister for Works in the New Zealand Government: “I do not wish to create a stir or to magnify world events, but New Zealand may be called upon soon to defend her shores “ ? Can the Minister say how he reconciles that statement with the oft-repeated statement in this chamber by the honorable member for Batman (Mr. Brennan) that all is well ?
Question not answered.
– Has the Prime Minister seen the following statement which appeared in the newspapers of 6th June: -
All-Australian railway defence projects will be discussed by State and Commonwealth representatives while they are in Canberra soon for the meetings of the Loan Council.
The Federal Government is considering making a detailed investigation into the economic and defence aspects of the projected uniform gauge?
If the statement is correct, will the Prime Minister undertake to have the question of the standardization of railway gauges considered in the light of the extreme severity of unemployment in Australia?
– I have not seen the statement referred to, but I shall look into it.
– Can the Minister for Civil Aviation indicate what progress has been made in connexion with the trans-Tasman air service, and can he say when it is likely to be in operation?
– It is not possible for me to give an exact date for the commencement of this service. Arrangements are being pushed ahead, and it is hoped that the service will he in operation before the end of this year.
– In view of his personal experience at Hay, will the Minister for Supply and Development make funds available for the improvement of the aerodrome at Hay?
– I shall bring all possible pressure to bear on my colleague, the Minister for Civil Aviation, in connexion with the matter referred to.
Personal Staffs of GovernorGeneral Designate.
– Has the Prime Minister noted that there are many thousands of persons in Australia anxious to secure employment? If so, does he approve of the Governor-General designate bringing to this country his own household and personal staffs, consisting of over 30 persons, notwithstanding that there are men and women in Australia able to perform the duties?
– I have no objection to the Governor-General designate bringing his personal staff with him; it seems to me to be the natural thing for him to do.
– In view of the policy of the Department of the Interior in refusing landing permits to people who are likely to take employment from persons already in Australia, does the Minister representing the Minister for the Interior acquiesce in the action of the newlyappointed Governor-General which violates this policy? Will he inform the House what steps, if any, he proposes to take to prohibit the landing of the persons whom the Governor-General elect proposes to bring in?
– The Prime Minister has already replied to a similar question.
Award by Public Service Arbitrator.
– Will the Prime Minister be good enough to lay on the table of the House the depositions and evidence submitted to the Public Service Arbitrator in the case of the postal workers, concerning which it is reported that a decision was made contrary to the weight of evidence? Honorable members desire to peruse the depositions and evidence in order to test the capacity of the new Public Service Arbitrator to deal with such an important subject.
– I shall see whether the depositions are available to be laid on the table. I shall certainly resist the temptation held out by the honorable gentleman that this Parliament should sit as a Court of Appeal.
– In view of his declaration that he would resist any proposal that this Parliament should act as a court of appeal in regard to determinations of the Public Service Arbitrator, will the Prime Minister arrange to have legislation introduced to remove the powers which this Parliament now possesses to veto regulations involving decisions of Commonwealth Public Service Arbitrator which provide increases of wages for members of the Public Service?
– I should like to look into the honorable member’s question between now and to-morrow.
– In view of the fact that permanent employees of shires and municipal councils engaged on road work are being suspended because of lack of funds, will the Prime Minister endeavour to have a greater sum of money made available from the petrol tax for allocation to shires and municipalities for road construction and maintenance, so that these men and others may be kept in employment ?
– I shall bring the matter referred to under the notice of the State treasurers when they meet next week for a meeting of the Loan Council.
– Yesterday I asked the Postmaster-General a question in relation to the shipping service to Tasmania, but did not receive a reply to the latter part of it. I have receivedfrom Hobart merchants complaints that they are unable to get cargoes to Sydney because the weekly run of the Zealandia has been discontinued. Will the Minister make representations to Huddart Parker Limited with a view to having the Zealandia run weekly between Sydney and Hobart to carry cargo to the Sydney market?
– This matter does not directly concern the PostmasterGeneral’s Department except to the extent that that department pays part of a subsidy to the company. It really concerns both the Postmaster-General’s
Department and the Prime Minister’s Department, but 1 shall have inquiries made, and see that the honorable member is furnished with a reply later.
– Has the Minister representing the Minister for the Interior made himself familiar with the contents of the report of the Oil Advisory Committee tabled in this House last December, with particular reference to the estimate that there must be at least 150,000,000 gallons of oil in the Lakes Entrance field? If he has done so, does he consider that the departmental reply given last Friday in answer to a question is in keeping with the contentions of that report?
– My attention has been called to that reply and I have referred the matter back to the department for further inquiries.
Marriage Allowance for Personnel
– In his review of commands and conditions of the defence force, will the Minister for Defence take into consideration the granting of marriage allowances to naval personnel, as is done in the Royal Navy in other parts of the British Empire? Is it true, as stated in the press, that legislation in connexion with proposed army reforms is to be postponed until after the coming recess ?
– Already action has been taken along the lines suggested in the first part of the honorable member’s question. In regard to the second part, the answer is “No.”
Free Travelling Passes
– Will the Minister for Defence state whether an agreement has been reached regarding the granting of free passes to militia men travelling to attend parades?
– I presume the honorable member refers to the proposed variation of the present method of payment. The matter has not yet been settled, hut I hope that it soon will be.
– The honorable member for Barker (Mr. Archie Cameron) yesterday asked whether the Commonwealth Government had received any communication from the Government of the United Kingdom giving details of a change of policy on its part arising out of the denunciation of the Anglo-German Naval Agreement by Herr Hitler. No such communication has been received. In reply to questions in the- House of Commons on the 4th May, 1939, Mr. Chamberlain said that the Government of the United Kingdom was considering what reply it should make to the German Government regarding its denunciation of the Anglo-German Naval Agreement.
– Having regard to the fact that the only W.y to reduce the subsidies at present paid to the various airlines is to encourage people to become airminded, will the Minister for Civil Aviation consider proposals for instituting air services between the principal towns of Australia, as well as between the capital cities?
– I shall give consideration to the representations of the right honorable member. I point out; however, that an inter-departmental committee recently went into the whole matter of air lines very carefully, and made certain recommendations. I should think ‘it unlikely that it will be possible to add anything to those recommendations during the next financial year.
– Will the Minister state who are the members of this interdepartmental committee, and if it has given consideration to the requirements of country districts, apart from defence requirements? Will the Minister hold up any contracts with Air Lines of Australia, involving the payment of a subsidy for a service between Brisbane and Sydney until the matter of a feeder service between the northern rivers towns and Brisbane h»s been further investigated ?
– I cannot give offhand the names of the members of the committee. Four officers of the Civil Aviation Department were appointed to it. and five members of other departments.
The other part of the honorable member’s question involves a matter of policy, and cannot be replied to here. I assure the honorable member that I shall not overlook the requirements of country districts.
– Yesterday I received from one of my electors a telegram urging me to ask the Minister if he would endeavour to have the Tariff Board’s report on tractor wheels released before the end of this session. The matter was referred to the board twelve months ago, and I should like to know from the Minister for Trade and Customs whether the report will be tabled before the House goes into recess?
– I am afraid that I am unable to give an undertaking that the report will be tabled before the end of the session. It is in the possession of the Government, which is now considering it, and I hope that the decision of the Government will be made known to Parliament early in the next session.
– Last year the then Minister for Defence (Mr. Thorby) gave an undertaking to provide £2,000 towards the cost of constructing an aerodrome at Townsville. The work has now been completed to the satisfaction of the Defence Department, and the Townsville municipal authorities . are anxious that the £2,000 be made available to them hefore the end of the present financial year. Will it be made available ?
– I shall have inquiries made into the matter immediately.
– In view of the alarming reports which have just been released regarding breaches of State awards, and the need for policing them, and the probability that similar breaches of federal awards are taking place, will the AttorneyGeneral consider the appointment of a number of additional inspectors to police federal awards?
– I am not aware that federal awards are being evaded, either in the letter or in the spirit. So far as I know, only one officerhas been appointed by the Commonwealth to police federal awards, and his activities have been directed towards the protection of unionists of a particular class who were peculiarly liable to attack from the employers. In this work he has been very successful. If the honorable member will supply me with particulars of cases, I shall look into them very sympathetically; but in regard to the appointment of additional inspectors, I should need to be satisfied that there is, in fact, a need for them.
– Has the Prime Minister any information to give regarding the press report that Australian capital is being transferred to London for investment?
– I did not see the report, but I shall have inquiries made.
– The Tariff Board, in its last annual report, recommended that the Tariff Board Act be amended to provide for the taking of evidence in camera by the board when the establishment of new industries was under consideration. Has the Government yet given consideration to that proposal ? Has it given further consideration to the proposal that the membership of the board be increased?
– Both matters referred to by the honorable member are under consideration by the Government at this moment, and I think that the Prime Minister will be able to make a statement regarding them within’ the next few days.
– I understand that the Commonwealth Government pays to the State governments approximately £150 a year in respect of free railway passes for each honorable member. I ask the Minister representing the Minister for the Interior whether the Government will grant a certain number of tickets annually on air services for use by honorable members in cases of urgency and sickness, the cost to be offset against the amounts paid to the State railways?
– That matter is now under consideration, and 1 shall bring the honorable member’s question under the Minister’s notice.
Motion (by Mr. Perkins) agreed to -
That he have leave to bring in a bill for an act to amend the Petroleum Oil Search Arts 1936.
– I move -
That, in accordance with the provisions of the Commonwealth Public Works Committee Act 1913-1936, the following proposed work be referred to the Parliamentary Standing Committee on Public Works for investigation and report: - Darwin, Northern Territory - Erection of administrative offices.
It is proposed to erect a block of offices on a site within the. area bounded by the Esplanade, McLachlan, Peel and Mitchell streets, Darwin. The new offices are required to house the staff of the Administrator and officers of the Commonwealth departments located at Darwin. The existing office accommodation is inadequate, and there is loss of efficiency due to overcrowding and to the necessity for housing branches of the administration and other activities in different parts of the town of Darwin. Increasing public business in Darwin accentuates the present difficulties.
The building is designed specially to suit the climatic conditions of Darwin. Adequate cross ventilation will be ensured by the arrangement of windows, which will be of louvred type with nonactinic glass, and internal corridors. The structure will be built of concrete, with rendered floors and tiled roof. The accommodation provided in the complete scheme is -Central block, 19,364 square feet; right and left wings, each 9,040 square feet; total area, 37,444 square feet. The estimated cost is £60,000, not including sewerage and the acquisition of the site. It is proposed to construct the building in sections. In order to meet present requirements the central portion will be proceeded with immediately.
I lay on the table of the House plans and documents in connexion with the proposed work.
SirEarle Page. - The Assistant Minister mentioned the purchase of a site for this building. In view of the increasing number of public undertakings at Dar-. win, it would be wise for the Government to secure sufficient land for future buildings, so that it would be enabled to build at any time without having to pay enhanced prices for such sites.
– I have given all the information in my possession at the moment on that point.I suggest that the right honorable gentleman inspect the plan which I have just tabled.
Question resolved in the affirmative.
Debate resumed from 6th June (vide page 1284), on motion by Mr. Street -
That the bill be now read a second time.
– I oppose this measure for the numerous reasons which have already been advanced by honorable members on this side. The bill is misnamed. It is entitled, “ A bill for an act to provide for the taking of censuses for the purposes of national registration, for the establishment of a national register, and for other purposes”. That title is misleading because it is proposed to establish a register of man-power only. No honorable gentleman opposite has yet answered our query as to why the Government should not establish a wealth register. I am aware, of course, that the attitude of this Government towards defence preparations has changed considerably from that of its predecessor. The Minister for Defence (Mr. Street) is not at heart in favour of conscription. On the other hand, however, several Ministers, including the Prime Minister (Mr. Menzies) and the Minister for External Affairs (Sir Henry Gullett) are avowed conscriptionists. In no circumstances, of course, following the introduction of conscription, would the latter be required to give military service. He is typical of the hundreds of people who, during the last war, sooled men on to the front. To those soolers our soldiers in the trenches and the democrats in this country replied effectively with the following verse entitled The Young and the Old: -
The young man lay in the trenches,
In themud and the blinding rain,
Death in the earth, and death in the air,and
Hunger and cold and pain.
Blood onhis hands and blood on his soul, from murder that could not cease,
And the young man said while the guns flashed red
God! Give us peace!
The old man sat in the smokeroom,
Withered and lank and lean,
Far from the hell of the bursting shell,
And the sea and the ships between.
Safe his old worthlessearcase,
Safe his old useless life,
And the old man said, as the young man bled,
War! War! to the knife!
That is the reply which was made by our party to men of the type of the Minister for External Affairs. I have not the slightest doubt that this measure is the first step towards the introduction of conscription. The Minister for Defence could not but be opposed to conscription in view of the speech he made, and upon which we congratulated him, when he was dealing with the proposal to initiate a campaign to bring the strength of our militia forces up to 70,000. Several honorable gentlemen opposite questioned whether that number could be secured under the voluntary system. However, under the direction of the Attorney-General (Mr. Hughes), that campaign more than succeeded. The Minister was among those who held the opinion that the number required could easily be obtained under the voluntary system, despite the doubts expressed by several of his colleagues. Over 80,000 volunteers responded to the appeal. The Minister will agree with me, I think, that had the campaign been continued that number would have been doubled. In outback centres the spirit of patriotism is as strong as it is in Canberra. I recall that the Minister received a letter from the citizens ofWiluna couched, perhaps in somewhat impolite terms, asking why steps had not been taken to permit a training centre at that town, which has a population of 9,000. There can be no doubt that the Government could secure under the voluntary system all of the recruits it requires. In those circumstances, what is the necessity for the establishment of a register of man-power, particularly when the Government does not propose to establish a register of wealth? The Minister for External Affairs declared that we must play our part in a time of emergency. He pointed out that hundreds of millions were being armed in Russia and Germany, and that Europe, as it were, was aflame. It is hardly necessary to say that the cable news published in our press does not give the whole of the story so far as Europe is concerned. Since September last no real threat of war has arisen in Europe. Asking a question to-day the honorable member for Martin (Mr. McCall), in ari attempt to score cheaply over the honorable member for Batman (Mr. Brennan), quoted a New Zealand Minister as saying : “ Every man might be required to defend New Zealand “. That might be quite correct. Similar circumstances might arise here in which every man in this country would be required to serve in the defence of this country, but such an eventuality is not likely to arise in the near future. Australia would be one of the last countries in the world to be invaded. We are far removed from the cockpit of Europe, where international jealousies are always in evidence. Moving across frontiers in Europe one meets with peoples of different races and speaking different languages. Indeed, once a man crosses a frontier in Europe his movements are watched in. order to discover whether or not he is a spy. No such conditions exist in Australia. We are one people, girdled by seas, and the only differences existing in our midst are differences of politics and religion which constitute no real barriers in our community. Therefore, we should reorientate our ideas with regard to Europe and cease meddling in European politics. We should realize that one of our greatest problems is to populate this vast continent, and should regard our obligations as part of the British Empire in the same light as do Canada, South Africa and New Zealand. We should concentrate on the
Mr. Green. development of our resources, and, recognizing that our future lies in the Pacific, should endeavour to encourage friendly intercourse with the peoples bordering on the Pacific. What action is the Government of New Zealand taking to meet the emergency which this Government alleges exists at present. New Zealand, at least, has no jitterbugs, like, I was about to say, the honorable member for Barton (Mr. Lane), but that term does not exactly apply to the honorable member: he is only a. bug.
Mr. SPEAKER (Hon. Gr. J. Bell).Order! The honorable member ia not in order in making personal references, and on this occasion he has been given no provocation whatever.
– I withdraw my remark about the honorable member. I point out that for the financial year now drawing to a close, Australia has spent £23,300,000, or £1 of every £4 of our revenue, on defence, whereas New Zealand’s commitments in this direction represent only £1 of every £22 of its revenue.
– I ask the honorable member to connect his remarks with the bill.
– I am pointing out that, whilst this Government declares it to be necessary to devote £1 of every £4 of its revenue towards defence, our sister dominion of New Zealand is spending only £1 out of every £22 on defence.
– I remind the honorable member that he must connect his remarks with the bill. He has ‘already had quite a lot of latitude.
– I ask honorable members whether it is logical for this Government to introduce a bill providing, as this one does, for compulsory registration of man-power, when the country is already spending on defence £1 in ‘every £4 of revenue raised. This bill is not necessary and the expenditure which it involves is not warranted. On defence the sister dominion of New Zealand is spending only £1 in every £22 of revenue; Canada is spending £1 in every £16; and South Africa is spending £1 in every £23. The title of the bill is misleading. We have already voted what I regarded as an excessive amount for defence works, but in the interests of unity I was prepared co do so. I hope that all honorable members, including the honorable member for Barton, realize that we did our duty in that regard. The honorable member for Barton, addressing the chamber as if he were addressing a Sunday school and making plenty of noise, but avoiding facts, said that the Empire was in danger and for that reason, measures such as this were necessary He said also that he knew that when the appeal was made it would be heard, but I submit that the honorable member will be no more inclined to offer his own service on this occasion than he has been in the past. The objective of the Labour party is to ensure that Australia’s defensive measures are confined to Australia. Great Britain is in no danger so long as it refrains from meddling in matters which do not concern it. Towards the end of the Great War. Russia had to obtain its munitions from Japan, and had to pay a very high .price for them. While overseas in 1917, I had the pleasure of meeting the Consul-General for Great Britain at Shanghai. He said that Japan had been asked by the Allies to send men to Gallipoli, and had refused to do so; that, whereas before the war, British ships carried seven-eighths of the trade to the Far East, when the war finished, Japan was carrying seven-eighths of the trade to and from Hong Kong, which is a British possession; that the part played by Japan in the war was merely the convoying of ships, and that when a request was sent to Japan by the British Government for the supply of munitions through Siberia to the Russian western front as the Allies on the French front were unable to send them through, Japan supplied those munitions at its own price. He further informed me that at one stage, the quantity supplied was doubled, but the quality deteriorated, and in the case of shells, one in every two was a dud, being filled with sand instead of explosive. No wonder the Russians have said that the Allies were determined to win the war, even though it meant spilling the last drop of Russian blood.
– The honorable member is certainly not discussing the bill.
– This hill provides for the compulsory registration of males be tween the ages of IS and 65 years. I cannot understand of what use the services of men of 65 years will be. How many honorable members of this chamber would go to a war should the occasion arise?
– Go where?
– Go abroad, as is the intention of the Government.
– I suggest that the honorable member should confine his remarks to what is contained in the bill before the House.
– The Defence Act is a little more honest than this measure, because it provides only for the utilization of the services of men between IS and 60 years. Probably the extra ‘five years is added in this case, because our pension bill is rapidly increasing. My complaint is that no provision is made for the registration of wealth resources.
– The honorable member is not dealing with the bill.
– I am dealing with a very important thing which is not in the bill, but should be in it. Apparently, the Government’s intention is to conscript man-power, but to let the people with wealth escape. Indeed, that is plain to every one. Why does this measure propose to attack young men of the community between the ages of IS and 23 years? Obviously, because they have no vote and do not count at elections. It i3 also a fact that men within these age limits constitute a large proportion of our unemployed. There are 90,000 youths, both boys and girls, who are thrown on to the labour market every year. Each year, 50,000 leave employ-, ment, leaving a- balance of 40,000 to be found employment. Out of that balance, 20,000 young people are unable to obtain work and are walking the streets of the capital cities. The Minister and Government supporters must know that there are hundreds of youths with good scholastic attainments, as fine Australians as ever lived, who to-day are unable to obtain employment. It is this class of the community that has been selected for specially drastic treatment under this measure. It is provided that they must register thirty days before becoming eighteen years of age or be liable to prosecution.
– As I have explained, the reason for this provision is that other el asses are included in our electoral legislation.
– These boys have no votes, and, of course, do not constitute a political danger to the Government, and so are selected for this treatment. But what has the Government’s cry been on the hustings? I invite the Minister to deny this if he can : One of the greatest slogans of the late Prime Minister (Mr. Lyons) was “Youth Employment “. Has any Government since the Labour Government went out of office in 1932, done anything to alleviate the distressing conditions of unemployed youth in this country? Instead of spending unnecessary millions on an elaborate defence scheme, such as that now being carried out in this country, it would bc a far better thing if a scheme for absorbing the unemployed youths of Australia were put into operation. As the late Prime Minister often stated, youth employment is a fundamental duty of any Government. The fact remains, however, that thousands of boys and girls are unable to secure employment, and therefore the fine standard of living of the Australian people -about which we hear so much is denied to them. This problem has been tackled successfully in fascist countries, which have made this matter one of their principal concerns. Although I disagree very much with most of the methods adopted in Russia, in that country there is employment for every mau and woman. Surely, in a democratic country such as this, that should be our aim, too. We cannot expect to foster a spirit of patriotism among the people unless we make them realize fully that they are part and parcel of the country and that this land holds a future for them. It-is very depressing to think that children are brought into this world and there is no prospect of their ever securing employment. Unless adequate provision for the happy employment of all of our people is made, how can we expect, in time of stress, to conscript their services as if they were cattle? In time of peace, we refuse them nutriment, yet we expect that, in time of war, they will go forward and fight for a country which has done nothing for them. Such a policy is cruel and unjust. Notwithstanding the fact that men within the prescribed age limits will be required to fill in a comprehensive questionnaire for enlistment on the national register, the Minister may, at any time, ask for additional information.
I am not of a suspicious nature, but 1 should be lacking in my duty if I were to vote for this bill, the necessity for which has not been made clear. By voluntary means, we have always, in the past, been able to obtain sufficient men. During the Great War, 400,000 Australians flocked to the colours to fight in countries which they had never previously seen, and 0’0,000 of them were left dead on the battlefields of those countries. Surely that demonstrated a spirit of patriotism among the Australian people which has not been equalled in any other part of the world. It was accomplished at a time when employment could be secured relatively easily. To-day the position is entirely different and unemployment is rampant. There is a great call at present for the building up of our social services, and workers are asking mutely for the right to live. Yet the Government, by this measure, will require them to register for national service in a time of emergency.
Under this bill the Minister will have power to divulge any information that he pleases. I do not know exactly what that power will imply, and I hope that he will give an explanation of this matter in his reply to the second-reading debate. The bill also reserves to the Minister authority to prosecute any man failing to comply with the provisions of this legislation.
– I have already intimated that if any honorable member wishes to move an amendment in that regard he may do so during the committee stage, and it will be given consideration by the Government.
– Of what use is it to suggest a-t the eleventh hour that amendments could be moved in this measure? What honorable members on this side of the House have tried to discover is what, the Government had in its mind when it drafted this legislation,- which we view with grave suspicion. I am not sure that the Minister for Defence was a consenting party to the principles of the hill, because I know very well that in his heart he is in favour of voluntary service.
Section 26 of the bill provides that a man is guilty until he proves himself innocent. That is a complete reversal of a fundamental principle of British justice. I do not propose, however, to deal with that point, because other honorable members on this side of the House who have had legal training are better equipped to do so. Youths between the ages of 18 and 21 years, half of whom are unemployed in Australia to-day, are those who will receive special treatment under this bill. They will be the first to go to the front line in case of war.
I disagree entirely with the bill for the reasons which I have given. I do not believe in issuing a Cassandra-like warning to the Government, but I feel sure that Government supporters must have received hundreds of letters protesting against this measure.
– I received one containing a threat to bomb me.
– Possibly that was the work of a madman, perhaps some one who voted for the present Government in the hope that something would be done to give him employment. Honorable members opposite, in common with members of the Opposition, must have received many letters from all over the country protesting against this bill. The people of this country have rejected conscription before and they will do it again. They are suspicious of this measure because they sense that there are sinister motives behind it. They know well that this Government and its supporters are in favour of universal military training. When Minister for Defence in the Scullin Government I abolished compulsory military training, and I am proud of having done so. The Minister has shown that when men are required, there is no need for compulsion. I have here a letter which is characteristic of many hundreds of letters protesting against this bill. It is extraordinary that the common people of this country, from Cape York to Leeuwin, have spontaneously taken exception to this bill. The letter I shall read is from an educated lady whose hand writing clearly indicates her capacity to think. It reads as follows: -
Women’s Auxiliary (A.W.U.), 6 Moran-street,
Boulder, 1st June.
Dear Mr. Green,
We wish to inform you that we have sent a protest to Mr. Menzies against the enforcing of a compulsory national register. We believe such an act to be against the Australian spirit and entirely unnecessary.
We, as women, will do everything in our power to defend our country from aggression, but we believe there is no need for any form of conscription. We believe in the spirit of the League of Nations and are convinced that nations waging war shouldbe boycotted by peace-loving people. Australia’s front line of defence is not in Chungking, China. Tell Mr. Menzies we need butter housing and cheaper food, maternity allowances and nursery schools to help us rear a race fit to defend our great heritage.
We want the bill for a compulsory national register defeated and we say here and now that if it is passed we will defy it.
Yours truly, (Mrs.) Joyce Payne (Hon. Sec).
I do not know whether the Government has any desire to put the people of this country at sixes and sevens by endeavouring to create a war hysteria where none should exist, but I assure it that if it persists in forcing this bill through Parliament, Australia will be riven in twain as it was during the conscription campaigns of twenty odd years ago. I have no motive in making remarks of this kind except my love for this country. I do not desire to see our people separated into different camps as they were years ago.
In conclusion, I shall paraphrase an observation made many years ago by a man who was burnt at the stake. If the Government insists on Parliament passing this bill, it may be said that: “We shall this day light such a candle, by God’s grace, as, I trust, shall never be put out “.I make that remark very sincerely believing that the people will resist this measure to the very utmost. If the Government so desires, we are quite willing to stonewall the bill until it is necessary for Parliament to go into recess. In that way the Government may be able to cover its retreat decently.
– I regret that this Parliament should be wasting its time in discussing matters of this character when so many other subjects of vital concern should be occupying its attention. The fact that the bill has been introduced provides additional evidence of the incapacity of the Government to solve the problems which are facing the country. One of the most serious of these is unemployment. Should we not be much better occupied in giving our attention to this serious social evil than in wasting time considering this bill? How can the Government expect that thousands of men, for example, in Ballarat, both married and unmarried - some of them mere youths - who cannot obtain work will be very deeply interested in the problem of defence when they cannot be provided with employment which will assure them of enough food to eat and adequate clothing and shelter for themselves and their dependants? I am quite satisfied that this bill is merely preliminary to the re-introduction of universal military training. Subsequently, that procedure will be followed by the introduction of conscription for military service in Australia, and later, when the appropriate psychological attitude has been developed in the minds of the people, by the enforcement of conscription for military service overseas.
During the last general election campaign, many representatives of the Labour party charged candidates supporting the Government with desiring to reintroduce’ universal military training. The then Prime Minister, the late Right Honorable J. A. Lyons, declared emphatically that that was not the desire of his Government, hut during the last few months of his period of office as Prime Minister, he was continually harassed and, indeed, embarrassed, by certain of his followers who desired to force from him a declaration in favour of compulsory military training. Some honorable gentleman opposite wan’ted more than a declaration; they wanted the reintroduction of the system without delay. I am quite satisfied myself that the main purpose of this bill is to facilitate the reintroduction of some form of compulsory military training in Australia. It is significant that several of the honorable gentlemen who a few months ago were supporters of the last government but are member’s of this one did their utmost ‘ to secure an undertaking from the former Prime Minister that compulsory military training would be re-introduced. They embarrassed the -late Prime Minister again and again. Why are they quiescent to-day? Why also are some honorable gentlemen opposite who are still private members silent on the subject to-day, although they had a great deal to say about it a few months ago? The inference is that they have received an assurance by some means that the majority of the members of this Government arc favorable to compulsory military training and believe that the passage of this bill is a necessary preliminary to the adoption of that policy. I have studied the recent volumes of Hansard and I find that one of the gentlemen who endeavoured most consistently to importune the late Prime Minister into declaring himself in favour of compulsory military training was the honorable member for Henty (Sir Henry Gullett). He is reported on page 1,230 of Hansard for the 3rd November, 1938, to have made the following statement -
The only subject I should like, very .briefly, to touch upon this afternoon is the decision of the Government, a.s announced by the Prime Minister (Mr. Lyons) to adhere to voluntary training for our army in this country. I am profoundly disappointed in that decision.
Indeed, I feel so strongly about it that 1 trust that this endeavour to expand the number of volunteers from 42,000 to 70,000 will fail. It carries no good wishes of mine because I do not think it represents an effective contribution to the vital defence of this country.
He went on to say -
The Government, out of political weakness, out of some utterly unworthy political consideration, refuses to make a real attempt to tackle the task in hand.
Later again he said-
– I must remind the honorable member for Ballarat that it is not in order for him to cite passages from the official report of debates for the current session.
– I was ‘ under the impression that the remarks were made last session. I have no desire to transgress the Standing Orders, Mr. Speaker, so I shall not cite further passages from the remarks of Sir Henry Gullett, but T direct attention to the following observation made on one occasion by the honorable member for Flinders (Mr. Fairbairn), who is now Minister for Civil Aviation : -
If we reverted to compulsory military training we should be able to maintain an effective force.
I suggest that the Government scheme for a militia “of 70,000 would not provide a force capable of repelling attacks at vital and strategic points.
He also said -
I have spoken to every one I could get hold of and have not yet found one who agrees with the contention of the Minister that voluntary training is either adequate or efficient.
The honorable member for Balaclava (Mr White) is not a member of the Ministry, but he has made numerous references to the desirableness of reintroducing compulsory military training. The honorable member for Fawkner (Mr. Holt) has also said something on this subject.
– Is the honorable member about to cite passages from Hansard for the current session?
– I am not able to divulge the source of my information, but on one occasion the honorable member for Herbert (Mr. Martens) asked the honorable member for Fawkner whether he was in favour of compulsory military training and the honorable gentleman replied “ Emphatically yes “. The present Postmaster-General (Mr. Harrison) is also in favour of compulsory military training. On one occasion he made the following remark: -
In advocating compulsory military training I am supporting what may be regarded as the basis of communal life.
I do not need to cite any observations of the honorable member for Balaclava. He is not a member of the Ministry, but he also is deeply interested in this subject. So is the honorable member for Wannon (Mr. Scholfield). Is their alienee on the subject to be interpreted to indicate that they have received information to the effect that the Government intends to re-introduce compulsory military training? I absolve the Minister for Defence of any charge of having declared himself in favour of compulsory military training, but, after all, we must look upon him as an individual among a number of others who are favorable to it. The honorable gentleman is the victim of his environment. Perhaps, unknown to him, the militant members of the Ministry, who see red on every possible occasion and who are militarists before they are humanitarians, have been able to satisfy themselves that this detestable system of training isto be re-introduced.
– What, about the views of Mr. Semple in New Zealand ?
– The Assistant Minister is not in New Zealand. He has sufficient troubles in Australia to occupy his attention for the time being. It seems to me that the principal purpose of this bill is to set the stage for the reintroduction of compulsory military training in Australia.
– Did not a Labour Government introduce compulsory training?
– My reply to the interjection is the reply made by Lord Salisbury when he was challenged for not adhering to his policy of the past, “ You cannot live on the carcasses of dead policies”. The policy of the Labour movement keeps pace with progress, but the honorable member who interjected lives on the carcasses of dead policies. That is why the Labour movement no longer adheres to a policy which may have been its policy in days gone by. This bill is undoubtedly the first step towards achievement of the policy which this Government espouses and so ardently advocated by the new Ministers. The Ministry sees in this measure an instrument to implement its policy at no very distant date. I believe that the reason for the Government introducing this measure and embarking on this policy is its realization that, since the Scullin Government issued the proclamation which suspended the operation of compulsory military training, there has arisen in this country of enlightened democracy a great hostility to compulsory military training. All sections of the community, the trade-union movement, leaders of church organizations, societies, scholars and so on, are more hostile to compulsory military training than they were 20, 30 or 40 years ago and the Government is conscious of that fact. In the old days all that was necessary to call men into the citizen forces was to paste a proclamation at the post offices. The youth were then required to register and, in due course, to report for training. The Government realizes that the psychology of the people is such now that it will no longer he able to pursue that simple course. If this, measure is passed against the opposition of the people and- a citizen translates his opposition into refusal to fill in the census card, he will be prosecuted. I do not believe that the people will . submit , to this measure. It has been said that Labour leaders have provoked and encouraged the rank and file to refuse to fill in the census cards. For the information of the Minister I communicated by telephone with Ballarat this morning and asked a very prominent leader of the trade-union movement in Ballarat, a man of very high character, what was the attitude of the trade unionists and Labourites of Ballarat towards the proposed register. He said, “ Their attitude is one of uncompromising hostility. The Labour movement here stands four square behind the decision of the Australasian Council of Trade Unions “.
– Did the honorable member telephone the dairymen’s association ?
– The dairymen have no desire to have their boys called up and thus taken off the farms and put under the authority of military officers like, thu honorable member for Barker (Mr. Archie Cameron). Without any intimation of my own views, I was informed that the people will resist this legislation and refuse to fill in their cards. I say frankly that if the members of the Labour movement follow that course I shall myself emulate them and refuse to fill in my card. I am prepared to stand by that.
– Does the lionorable member not believe in democratic government ?
– Yes, but this is not democratic government. The Government is demanding the registration of boys from 18 to 21 years of age, who have no say in the determination of the laws of the country and who in many cases are out of work because of the lack of policy of this Government. I have had no letters about this bill to-day, but I receive at least 60 circular letters a week from Ballarat asking me to endeavour to coerce this Government to do something for the unemployed
– I suppose that the honorable member knows that boys of six years of age are coerced to go to school.
– Yes, we are coerced in many ways in life, but it is my duty to decide how and in what circumstances I shall defend my hearth and home. I give the honorable member liberty to do likewise. Twenty years ago I was a volunteer. I want it to be preserved to Australian youths to have the opportunity to volunteer if they choose to do so. Over the other side I viewed with horror any suggestion that men who were unwilling to risk their lives in a cause in which they did not believe should be compelled to serve. Honorable members supporting the Government tell us that ‘the whole world is doing this thing and is arming. I take it that if the rest of the world goes mad there is no reason why we should do so. There is no reason why we should slavishly follow the precedent of the past and refrain from using initiative and embarking on new and unorthodox policies and doctrines. This Government slavishly follows Great Britain. The British people have set many fine examples and precepts to follow, but I do not believe that if Britain does wrong we should also do wrong. This Government is doing something which will enable it to do as Great Britain is doing. Great Britain has already introduced conscription. I object to conscription and I am prepared to take every opportunity to resist the Government’s policy in that regard. Several honorable members have referred in this debate to the misfortune which has overtaken countries which had no effective defence. There are countries which have suffered in the last few years, but their suffering has not been due to a lack of armaments or men trained in the use of weapons. Rather has their suffering been due to the fact that they had not had forms of government capable of uplifting the social status of the people. To a degree the same position confronts this country. All countries that have been attacked in recent years have suffered from internal anarchy.
– By the honor able gentleman’s own reasoning we have nothing to fear.
– Yes. This bill, I repeat, is the initial stage of a policy to reintroduce compulsory military training. Having succeeded in doing that and having thereby gained an effective weapon to create among the young fellows a psychology favorable to militarism, this Government, in the event of war overseas, in the making of which we had no say, would be able to enforce conscription for overseas service in that war. We have been told by the Prime Minister (Mr. Menzies) that conscription for service overseas will never be introduced, and the main intention advanced by the Prime Minister and other honorable gentlemen opposite in respect of effective preparation was that our most effective contribution to the defence of the Empire would be defence of Australia. I submit, however, that in certain circumstances that may arise - that perhaps have already arisen - whereby Australia would be free from a threat of attack from the Far East, Britain would call upon the conservative Government of Australia to give consideration to sending troops overseas.
– There is nothing to prevent Great Britain from asking us to do that now.
– No, but with a creation of a psychology favorable to militarism it becomes an easy thing to deal with the problem of conscription for overseas service. I was a cadet in the military militia, a citizen soldier, and finally a member of the Australian Imperial Force, and I know that the younger men are when the military authorities get them the greater is the impression that those military authorities make upon them. The psychology in favour of war is created in the nursery. As witness of this I cite the fact that almost every child has toy tanks, guns and soldiers, most of them made in Japan. Accordingly it is in the nurseries that we must attack this menace of militarism. Having created the right psychology in due course the military system makes a man only too willing and anxious to go anywhere and shed blood.
– Was that the case with the honorable gentleman when he was a soldier ?
– I have gone back over my past and ask myself, “Why was it thus? “ I did my duty to my country without compulsion and it is my desire to ensure that there shall be no compulsion of the younger men of the community if what happened in the past is repeated in the future-. It is also my objective to see that that repetition does not occur.
I do believe in the adequate defence of Australia, but I believe that adequate defence can be made effective by a developmental policy, by raising the standards of the people, by standardization of the railway gauges, which the honorable member for Maribyrnong (Mr. Drakeford) has so strongly advocated, by public works to give employment to our people, by the extension of our education system, by the provision of technical schools in sufficient number, by any action to. make this country more or less self sufficient. I should build concrete roads throughout the country, and embark on water conservation schemes. I should endeavour to obtain oil from coal, as well as flow oil. In short, I should adopt a policy which would provide employment for all; there would be no malnutrition; the existing standard of living would be maintained, and good conditions would exist for all. Until those objectives had been achieved. I should refuse to support any policy to provide armaments and arms, compulsory military training or other militaristic activities.
The Government is most active in implementing a policy of wasteful expenditure, but when urged to provide employment by embarking on constructive undertakings which would furnish the country with real assets it moves slowly. I notice that, following the recent visit of the British Air Mission, the Government proposes to engage in aeroplane building in this country. According to press reports the necessary machinery is almost immediately to be obtained overseas for the manufacture of not only the framework of aeroplanes but also engines for them.
– I suppose that the honorable member will not buy any toy aeroplanes for his childrennext Christmas.
– I certainly shall not buy for them any toy bombing aeroplanes. The Government has taken almost urgent steps to provide for the manufacture of aeroplane engines in Australia. I suggest that it should act as promptly in providing for the manufacture of motor car engines here.
– Order ! The honorable member is going beyond the scope of the bill.
– The Minister for
External Affairs (Sir Henry Gullett) told us that if Australia were attacked by an enemy the primary producers would lose their market, and 50 per cent, of the people would be thrown out of employment. If, unhappily, Australia were attacked, or if its overseas trade were interfered with to the extent that we could not send our produce away, it would not necessarily follow that unemployment would be rife, and that the primary producers would starve. Surely it is within the capacity of the Government and the people of Australia to determine that, in such circumstances, when there would be plenty of food available, no one would starve. I do not suggest that it would be a good thing for our trade routes to be attacked, but I do say that it is pure imagination to suggest that if our produce could not be exported, starvation and unemployment would necessarily follow.
I hope that the measure will be withdrawn. I do not think that the Minister for Defence (Mr. Street) believes in it. I believe that the honorable gentleman is genuinely desirous of doing the right thing, but he does not see what is behind the policy of the Government.
– That is a doubtful compliment.
– I hope that the purpose of the Government will not be attained; but should this legislation he placed on the statute-book, I hope that it will meet from the Australian people, particularly the youths of the country who are unable to obtain work, the fate that it deserves.
contained a provision which would enable the Government to modify or expand the form of the questionnaire by regulation. The Minister has now circulated an amendment to delete certain words, so that, in fact, the bill now authorizes the Government to collect only the information contained in the schedule to the bill. I submit that the information to be gained from the schedule as it is printed in the annexure to the bill is already obtainable in a number of other ways’ equally as effective in respect of the whole of the population with the exception of persons who are under 21 years of age. When the trade unions studied the bill, they were impelled to the conviction that it must have been designed for some purpose other than that set out in the Minister’s speech. As has been stated from this side of the House, they believed that it was a preliminary to the imposition of compulsion over them at some later stage, chiefly with respect to work, but, possibly, with respect to service also. For that reason, they determined to oppose the measure. The honorable member for Perth (Mr. Nairn) has circulated a proposed amendment which would expand the schedule; but I understand that the Government is opposed to it on the ground that, if information be sought from those who have wealth regarding the nature of their property, and if that information be incorporated in the register, the fear will be excited that that information will be used for the purpose of some compulsory action in respect to wealth. We, therefore, have this two-sided position on the one hand, the trade unions say that the information in respect of man-power, if it be gained for the purpose of this register, can be gained only in order to provide a foundation for subsequent legislative or other action by which men will be compelled to do things that perhaps they would not voluntarily wish to do; on the other hand, there is the extraordinary feature that that is the very argument which is advanced by those who either have wealth, or are speaking on behalf of wealth, namely, that if information in respect of the wealth of citizens be collected for the purpose of this register, such information will be of no use unless it furnishes the data which would enable subsequent action to be taken, by either the Parliament or the Government, to impose compulsory levies upon wealth. I believe that the national instability arising from this state of affairs is a greater menace to the nation than would be the continuance of the present position. It can at least be said of things as they are, that the whole community is behind the Government and the Parliament in making Australia safe against aggression. I do not think that there is any argument about that. But the fundamental principle of that determination to defend Australia is that this is a land in which personal liberty is still a cherished possession, and that there are limits to the coercive authority which the State may exert upon the individual lives and liberties of the people. There is no hypocrisy about the determination of the Australian people to defend democracy. It appears to be a little absurd for us to be asking the people of this country to defend democracy in remote parts of the world, while, at the same time, we seek to sacrifice some of the fundamental principles of democracy here at home in the process.
– There is already compulsion in respect of other obligations.
– That is true in respect of such obligations as voting.
– Yes, and taxation and education also.
– Taxation and education have always been compulsory in Australia. If the honorable gentleman wishes to carry the presentation of his own state of mind to the House to its logical conclusion, he would no doubt say that compulsory military service is the logical corollary of those other compulsions.
– Within Australia, yes.
– The interjection of the Assistant Minister (Mr. Holt) justifies the fear of the trade unions that the information which is to be derived from the passage of this enactment is required in order to enable the Assistant Minister to impress his mind upon the legislative policy of the country in the near future. That may be a legitimate argument for the honorable gentleman to advance per sonally; but I point out to him that this Parliament was elected upon the definite undertaking that there would be no conscription of the Australian people. The Leader of the Government at the time - a government in which the present Leader of the Country party (Sir Earle Page) occupied the position of Deputy Prime Minister, and the present Deputy Leader of the Country party (Mr. Thorby) was a Minister with full portfolio - together with the Deputy Leader of the United Australia party as it then stood, and myself as Leader of the Opposition, were in complete agreement in giving the most positive assurances to the people of this country that there would be no resort to compulsion, and that conscription would not be entertained. It is completely unnecessary for me to weary the House with a full recital of those declarations; I content myself with the assertion that the policy speeches of the Leader of the Government, the Leader of the Opposition and theleader of the third party in the House, constitute a covenant with the people of this nation which ought not to be violated without having first sought the consent of the people to such variation. Therefore, this Parliament is in the extraordinary position that, notwith- standing that, it is pledged not to resort to compulsion in respect of either service or work, the Government has introduced a bill for a compulsory register of manpower, for some purposes that at present are obscure; and, even if I accept the statement of the Minister for Defence that compulsion is not intended, I am obliged to take cognizance of the state of mind of the Assistant Minister sitting alongside him, and conclude that he would justify the use of compulsion.
Sitting suspended from 12.45 to 2.15 p.m.
– What use is to be made of the information derived from the register ? That appears to me to be an important question that has to be answered. If no use is to be made of it, thetaking of the ‘register seems to be a very futile proceeding. The powers to be conferred on the board in this measure do not extend beyond the keeping of a register; the board will have no powerto make use of the information given to it. Apparently, the information is. to be kept in a sort of -refrigerator, and when a certain state of affairs is deemed by the Government to have arisen, the Government may then ask Parliament for authority to make use of the information. It cannot be said that the information is required because the appeal for volunteers for the militia has failed. As a matter of fact, the Department of Defence acknowledges that, in some parts of Australia, at any rate, it is unable to. provide training for all who. are offering themselves. The Minister will, acknowledge that that, is a fair statement.
– That is correct.
– Therefore, the register is not required to enable the Government to increase the strength of the naval, military, and air forces to dimensions which it thinks proper. The same may be said of the industrial side of defence preparations. My information, is that 29,000 men have registered for employment in munitions factories, and that no employment -is at present available for them.
– That does not represent 29,000 individuals. Many applicants register at each of the three munitions factories, and would, therefore, be counted three times.
– I have no desire to misrepresent the position. What is the number of individuals ‘registered?
– It is impossible to say, but I admit that it is a large number.
– We can at least agree that the supply of men for the fighting services is in excess of peace-time requirements, while on the industrial side of defence the supply of men is at present greater than the capacity of the Government to make use of them. It cannot be claimed, therefore, that the appeal of the Government to the people to offer themselves voluntarily for service has, failed. On the contrary, the response has been in every way satisfactory. It is extraordinary, therefore, that the Government should contemplate a compulsory register. I could understand, without approving, the argument that a compulsory register was designed to pave the way for the introduction of compulsory service. I would regard the Government as logical if it were to admit that it- may want compulsorily to call up the manpower of Australia when it thinks proper, and that in order to prepare for that possibility it was now imposing a compulsory register. It’ that is not the explanation, then the compulsory register is incapable of explanation, and incapable of justification.
No doubt it will be argued that a compulsory register would prevent skilled technical men from volunteering as privates in the infantry;- that the Defence Department would be in a position to say to a man that he could not volunteer for the particular service he wished to, because he would ‘be of more use elsewhere. Possibly the man might, be an artifier in a munitions factory, or a doctor of medicine desiring to serve in one of the fighting arms. I know that during the last war, some medical men served in the flying corps. The department, it is argued, would be in a position to prevent this misdirection of skill. In answer to that argument I point out, however, that this compulsory register will not elicit from men information regarding the kind of service they would prefer to render in the event of an emergency. They will be asked to state the nature of their present occupations, but there are as many misfits in industry “to-day - square pegs in round holes, as one might say - as there could ever be in time of war by allowing munitions workers to offer themselves for field service. In order to obtain information as to what the citizens of Australia themselves believe they are best qualified to do, the Government should follow the British lead and prepare a voluntary register. This would enable the citizens to exercise their inherent right of selection, which was assured to them in the policy-speeches of members of the Government at the last federal elections. That method would be in accord with our conception of civic liberty, and it would, I believe, make for greater efficiency. Under the present scheme, it is proposed to ask of each person the name of his present employer, the occupation the person is at present following, and certain other particulars which are, in fact, available from other sources. It is proposed to ask the person to state the country of his birth, but I cannot see the necessity for that, because we are contemplating the registration of aliens, and every one else will be either naturalized citizens or British subjects. It is also proposed to ask questions about dependent relatives, and about the person’s general health. Those particulars are of no great significance from the point of view of ascertaining the efficiency or usefulness of a person in time of emergency. It may be said that questions 1 to 7, inclusive, will elicit information which may, for the most part, be obtained in other ways, and which, in any case, is of no great importance. What is of importance is to know what a man thinks he is capable of doing. There are hundreds of men to-day working at jobs, not because they think they are best able to do those jobs, but because those are the only jobs they have been able to get. They regard themselves as less qualified to do the jobs on which they are engaged than they would be to do certain other jobs which they would prefer if they were able to exercise their right of selection.
– Question 11 should elicit information on that point.
– Question 11 asks the person registering to state any other skilled craft or occupation in which he has received training, but that does not inquire of him what he thinks he is most capable of doing in time of war.
Mr.Street. - He is given three chances.
– Yes, but he is not given the right of selection. Who is to use this information in such a way as to determine what kind of service citizens are to render in a time of emergency? There is a suspicion that the bill does not, on its face, represent a complete exposition of government policy in respect of this subject. The objection taken by those with property to the proposal for a registration of wealth was based on the fear of what might happen if the information were made available. It is stated, on what I regard as reasonably good authority, that among the objections advanced to the inclusion of property in the register is the fear that, in certain contingencies, a capital levy might be made, and that if a. register of property were made, the Government would be in a position to apply such a levy much more readily. The attitude of the Government appears to be that if it were to hold over investors the possibilitythat this or some other government might impose a capital levy, capitalists would become frightened. They would view the position with suspicion, and a division of opinion would occur in the community.
– No one else has done so. The honorable member is saying that.
– The Minister must have had some reason for rejecting the amendment of the honorable member for Perth (Mr. Nairn). I have been citing the opinions of those who, more often than not, appear as inspired advocates of government policy - those who, in the most remarkable way; anticipate what the Government is going to do, and the reasons for its actions ; or who, if the Government takes action, immediately spring forward to justify it. They are the friends of the Government in public controversy. None of them has ever had a kind word to say for Labour policy. The Melbourne Herald last night advanced reasons, which I do not propose to quote, indicative of the apprehension which the capitalists entertain should there be imposed on them the obligation to furnish a return in respect of property, an apprehension analogous to that of the trade unions should they be called upon to furnish a return setting out their industrial avocations. Each section is threatened with compulsion.
I have said earlier that this national register is not necessary because there is no deficiencyin the supply of men for military forces, for armed forces or for industry. I now direct attention to the fact that a phase of our national requirements and preparation for defence which is deficient is not being made the subject of a survey or of a questionnaire, whilst the question of man-power, not at present deficient, is being made the subject of this census. During the last few years, of £45,500,000 raised by way of loans in Australia, there has been an undersubscription to an amount of £14,000,000. That is to say, private investors who were asked to subscribe to government internal loans- all for works which were reproductive - subscribed money which was £14,000,000 short of the required mark.
As a matter of fact, in February, of this year, during the last parliamentary recess, of the £8,500,000 loan floated at 3$ per cent., there was a shortage of £3,650,000 or 43 per cent. The loan which is now being floated has had to have given to it substantial subscription by the Commonwealth Bank.. And that is an internal loan. There is the other alarming and startling phenomenon that, because of the lack of loan funds in Australia, caused by the unwillingness of property holders to make their- money available at a reasonable fate of interest, the Government has been forced to go to the London market and pay the highest rate of interest for years. The comments of the newspapers - I refer to British newspapers and not Australian journals - are to the effect that the terms are “rather stiff”. That is to say, the British money market, in dealing with a programme that has for its aim the de- fence of an integral part of the British Commonwealth of Nations and, in addition to that, has the further economic advantage to Great Britain from the aspect that the money is to be expended in expanding the manufacturing industries of
Great Britain and providing employment and profit in Great Britain, insists on terms which are regarded as stiff. In Australia, property-holders have not given to the Government the amount required for the purpose of dealing with defence preparations and industrial development generally. I make no excuse for saying that the Commonwealth Bank has during the last six months adopted a policy in respect of financial requirements for the defence of this country which the bank board and newspapers of eight years ago rejected as compulsory inflation when a Labour government suggested it for the purpose of serving the nation during a period of dire economic emergency. We, therefore, have two opposite aspects of the matter - compulsion in respect of .the registration of man-power when no compulsion is required, and absence of compulsion in respect of wealth and property. That justifies the suspicion of those who regard this bill with suspicion as being merely a machinery step to enable the Government to do things which at the present time it hesitates to say anything about, but which have been mentioned in unguarded moments by junior members of the Cabinet, such as the Assistant Minister for Supply and Development (Mr. Holt), and by other supporters of the Government in this chamber. Apparently the Government is making no bones about the matter. An ex-Minister said that we could not be fussy, because compulsory service and conscription were inevitable. Very good! If that be the Government’s policy, or is to be the Government’s policy, then we know the justification for the bill. Otherwise there is no justification for it. The Opposition believes in the compilation of a voluntary register, which we claim would elicit information for the Government, complete and of sufficient range to enable defence preparations of” Australia to be thoroughly carried out. I have yet to learn from either the Minister for Defence or the Prime Minister himself that Australia is in any condition which would make us consider that we have to do more than make preparations. I decline to believe that the statements which I have heard in by-elections such as, “ The enemy is thundering at the gates “, have any foundation in fact. No justification can be given for assertions of that nature. The orderly and steady development of Australia” for -production and for the. employment of the people can be carried through by the programme to which I gave support last December, and which the Minister now at the table announced. I stated then that that programme would be acceptable to the Opposition. It provided for the manufacture of adequate defence equipment and for a co-ordination of transport facilities.
– It included a national register also.
– That is true. It included a national register, and the Cabinet early this year, at Hobart, gave effect to that portion of the programme . by announcing the inauguration of a voluntary registration system.
– Does the honorable member agree with the principle of a voluntary register ?
– Then why is it not supported by the unions also?
– Who has said that?
– It has been said repeatedly.
– No steps were taken by the Government to give effect to its decision to inaugurate a voluntary national register. The announcement was made only because the late Prime Minister (Mr. Lyons) felt that the speeches made in this House last December were speeches which connoted an obligation on the part of the Government to adhere to the principle of voluntarism with regard to defence preparations. The Minister has said that last March Cabinet departed from the principle of voluntarism with respect to the national register because the unions would not supply the necessary information.
– I did not say that.
– Then what did the honorable gentleman say?
– I shall reply in due course.
– Justification for a compulsory national register should have been put forward by the Minister in his second-reading speech, and not when I shall not have another opportunity to reply to the further statements which the Minister may make. After this Parliament had approved of the Government’s defence programme, the Government went about its administrative functions, and proceeded with the steps necessary for the holding of a voluntary national register. That had been approved by Cabinet. There can be no argument about that. Parliament was not asked to consider whether or not that was a right or proper course. The Government itself decided that it was a right and proper course, and then, without making any effort at all to go ahead with its programme, it suddenly reversed its attitude. That reversal was brought about because the newspapers, which are the prop and support of the Government - more particularly the prop and support of the Government under its present leadership than under its most recent leadership - decided that it was important that there should be compulsion in respect to the registration of man-power. I do not approve of the amendment which the honorable member for Perth (Mr. Nairn) has foreshadowed, although I agreed with it in principle. I do not agree with it for this reason-
– The honorable member would be losing a good talking item. That is the reason.
– I remind the honorable gentleman that this Parliament was elected on the basis of no compulsion and no conscription. That applies to manpower; it should also apply to wealth. Authority for that statement can easily be produced. As I have already pointed out, the late Prime Minister, in announcing the defence policy of the Government, said -
The people can take my pledge that conscription will never be brought into force.
I ask honorable members to note the statement : “ Conscription will never be brought, into force “. The right honorable gentleman pledged himself against conscription on that occasion because he was frightened of losing the elections. The right- honorable gentleman further said -
In case of necessity the men of Australia would not have to have conscription imposed upon them.
That was the declaration behind which the present Government took refuge at the last elections. That was the umbrella under which honorable members opposite took shelter when votes were being sought. The Minister for Defence is very brave now, when there is no prospect of an immediate election, in refuting the pledge given by his late leader. I have never read any statements by the Assistant Minister during the last elections in which he suggested thathe was not fully in accord with the policy of the Government which he was supporting.
– Would the honorable gentleman suggest that there be a voluntary wealth register?
– The information with regard to what men will do in time of war in this country can be got from them voluntarily.
– A wealth register, too?
– Yes, on the same basis. I say to the honorable member for Perth that, if the second reading of this bill is carried, I shall certainly see to it that wealth as well as man-power is put upon the same basis. My position in regard to this matter is perfectly clear. I am opposing the second reading of the measure. I see no reason for believing at this .juncture that this Government should ask the people of Australia to submit to compulsion with regard to defence preparations. That applies to man-power, and it applies to loans. I have never said that the people of Australia should be compelled to lend their money. As a matter of fact, if this party were in power, among the first legislation it would introduce would be a measure providing for the financing of this country’s needs out of national resources. We would not buy the- safety of Australia by pledging its future to overseas or international creditors. That is the position. That is where we stand on this subject.
– Unlimited inflation !
– The honorable member for Deakin used the term “ unlimited inflation “. I did not.
– The honorable gentleman meant it.
– I did not mean it, and it is most impudent of the honorable member for Deakin to suggest that I meant it. The honorable gentleman apparently reserves to himself the right to draw the line wherever he likes, but does not extend to me the same liberty. I know how far to go, and how dangerous it is to go too far more clearly than does the honorable gentleman. I know how much to eat, how much to drink, and how many shirts to. wear. I also know how much taxation should be imposed. Apparently the honorable gentleman’s advisers who instruct him each morning in their editorials, say, “ Taxation beyond a certain limit will defeat itself. Therefore, you cannot impose taxes beyond a certain point “. I agree with him, but my point would be different from his. He says again, “You cannot expand beyond a certain point”. I say that also; but my points of expansion and contraction would be different from his and would depend upon the circumstances of the time.
– The Leader of the Opposition would reserve the right, when in power, to make the sky his limit.
– I make no reservation at this stage because. I do not know what the circumstances would be at the time.
That is my answer. The honorable member for Barker (Mr.. Archie Cameron) will support this hill on completely different grounds from those advanced by the Minister for Defence.
– I will.
– Exactly. He will stand for compulsion. He will regard this bill as worthless unless it leads to compulsion.
– That- i8 what I was elected on.
– The honorable member’s leader at the time of his election was the Deputy Prime Minister of the Government.
– I do not care what he was: I know what I was elected on.
– The honorable gentleman consented to join his leader in a Cabinet that was pledged against, compulsion. As the holder of a portfolio in the Government, the honorable gentleman put the soft pedal on his dominant personality; but now that he no longer holds a portfolio, he is the unfettered and completely free individual known as the honorable member for Barker. The honorable member is welcome: to these distinctions, reservations and internal conflicts. The position of .the Labour party is clear. It will oppose the second reading of this- bill; but if the second reading ,is carried, it will endeavour to have the same principles applied to both property and man-power. If the Government intends to impose compulsion in respect of man-power, we say it must also, impose it in respect -of property. We say decisively that we shall not consent to a repetition, in this country, of the distinction that was made years ago which permitted men to be dragged into compulsory service in all manner of ways abhorrent to them, and refused them the right to select where they would serve. This imposed untold miseries, even if unwittingly, upon some people, while the wealthy people of this country were left, free. In any event, it is clear that this bill has been introduced in violation of the election pledges of honorable gentlemen opposite. This- Government was elected on the mandate of “ no compulsion “, for in this Government are ten men who were Ministers in the previous,.
Government and subscribed to the policy of the Prime Minister of the day.
– 1 shall content myself with dealing with one point only, and that relates to a matter emphasized by the Leader of the Opposition (Mr. Curtin). That honorable gentleman asked the Minister for Defence (Mr. Street) a question. He asked the Minister why the Government had changed its attiude from the voluntary to the compulsory principle in respect of the national register. I shall now ask him a question. 1 ask the Leader of the Opposition why his party has changed its attitude since the 19th October last? At that time the honorable gentleman submitted a number of points to the people of Australia which he said covered the attitude of the Labour party in respect of defence. His first point was put in these words: -
Survey of man-power ami resources, industrial and primary - It is essential that the number of men able to carry nut all forum of work be known.
Does the honorable gentleman suggest that that information could be obtained by means of a voluntary register? I say definitely that it could not be so obtained. The honorable gentleman did not say that it, was essential . that the number of nien “ willing and able “ to carry out all forms of work “ in an emergency “ should be known. He referred simply to the number of men “ able “ to carry out all forms of work. It would be absolutely futile and absurd to suggest that the number could be ascertained through the medium of a voluntary register, and members of the Opposition in their hearts know that it is absurd. I leave it at that.
.- Perhaps I may be pardoned for prefacing my remarks on this bill with a few words relative to the late honorable member for Griffith, Mr. P. M. J. Baker, whose untimely and unfortunate death through a tragic accident has left Queensland less prepared to deal with the measure than would otherwise be the case. I have no doubt that, had Mr. Baker been still alive, he would have protested emphatically against the proposals of this measure. As his successor in this Parliament. I shall definitely protest against them.
I have no doubt that this bill, like several others introduced by this Government, is designed to serve sectional interests. It will be sectional in its application. No mention is made in it of the application of the compulsory principle to wealth, but the Government is determined to lay its hands upon the youth and men of this country, and compel them to work in factories and to join the military forces whether they, desire to do so or not. It is equally apparent that, the Government has no intention to apply compulsion to wealth. The introduction of this bill is, without any question, the first step towards industrial conscription. The bill is the forerunner of compulsory military training. That is quite evident to me from statements made in support of it by some honorable gentlemen opposite. That this view is commonly held is shown clearly by letters that have been received by various honorable members from all parts of Australia.. It cannot be denied that the industrial community of this country is definitely perturbed on the subject. I have received a letter from the secretary of the Trades and Labour Council of Brisbane, written the day after I left Queensland, so that it will be seen that I had nothing whatever to do with the drafting of it. It reads as follows: - 31st May, 1939.
I am directed by the above council to convey to you an emphatic protest against the proposed National Registration Bill 1939.
The trade union movement of Queensland is convinced that the proposed legislation is a definite step towards industrial and military conscription, and it i3 our intention to wage a. campaign against it, and in the interests of liberty and democracy, we ask you to assist us in our opposition to the measure.
A protest on similar lines has been forwarded to the Prime Minister.
Trusting that you will use your best endeavours to have the proposed measure withdrawn.
This letter, and others, similar to it, received by honorable, members on this side of the chamber in particular, show that the trade union movement of Australia is definitely suspicious of the bill.
Experience has shown that little reliance can be placed upon the promises of anti-Labour Ministers. Again and again definite promises have been given on many subjects, only to be broken on the invariable^ excuse - “ circumstances alter cases “. It can scarcely be denied that this bill toffs* been introduced because the Government does not trust the people. What is more significant, perhaps, at the moment, is that the people of this country do not trust the Government, for at the last three by-elections Labour candidates have been returned.
The late Prime Minister, Mr. Lyons, stated definitely on several occasions that he was opposed to conscripton. The present Prime Minister (Mr. Menzies), so far as I have been able to discover, has refused to make a definite statement on the subject one way or the other. Yet we should bear in mind that the Government was returned to office on the distinct pledge to the people that conscription would not be introduced. It appears that the Government has changed its mind on this subject, for I have no doubt that, if the bill is passed, compulsory military training wil) very shortly be introduced. I join with other honorable members in saying that, unless this bill is intended to provide for some form of compulsion, clause 23 should be excised from it. ‘That, clause provides that all male persons between the ages of 18 and 21 years shall notify their changes of address. What are the addresses of the unfortunate youth and men of this country who are on the track in all parts of Australia looking for work? If they cannot give fixed addresses, does the Government propose to put them in gaol ? How can they give addresses when they have to tramp day after day in different parts looking for work and food? It is strange to me that any government should think a form of compulsion is necessary for the defence of Australia. It is an insult even tosuggest ‘ that the workers of Australia would not. be prepared to do anything and everything possible to safeguard their country in a time of emergency. Can the Government point to a single occasion upon which an appeal to the spirit of patriotism of our people, made in any time of crisis, has not met with, an enthusiastic and successful response? Does the Government doubt the patriotism of our people? That is the only logical conclusion I can -reach after reading the terms of the bill. The Government, without any question, does doubt the patriotism of the workers. Yet. history has proved, again and again, that the people of Australia are loyal and patriotic in the highest degree. The last war demonstrated that conclusively, lt also revealed that the Australian soldier was the best worker and the best fighter to enter the field. Yet, despite this glorious record, the Government is saying, in effect, that it cannot trust the worker5 and, for that reason, must have a compulsory register so that it can force the people to do anything it desires. If the Government were to make a surveyof wealth as the first step necessary to meet a condition of national emergency, I have no doubt that it would discover means to find employment for our unfortunate people who are to-day . without, work. If work were found for the unemployed it would be quickly evident thai ‘ the people would do anything that is necessary to defend their country, even to the laying-down of their lives for it. To say that there are not sufficient workers in Australia to-day is ridiculous. Only the other day the Minister. for Defence admitted that there were 29,000 people on the waiting list for employment in the various munitions factories, and I make bold to state that if there .were munitions factories in other parts of Australia where they definitely should be he would have, thousands more waiting for work. The Prime Minister has posed as the apostle of freedom of action and liberty,’ freedom of thought and expression, but while he advocates these glorious principles he adopts fascist methods of compulsion - the mailed fist - in his dealings with the people!. *No one denies that with liberty there must be responsibility, and the workers are quite willing to- take their share of the responsibility for the defence of Australia, more willing in fact than those financial interests whose main concern is to extract as much p’rofit as they can from the people in times of crisis. The Government has omitted to give reasons why it is not prepared to take a census of wealth. There is no justice in adopting compulsion in regard to manpower, but not in- regard to wealth. It is mainly the wealthy people and the large financial concerns that are continually advocating conscription in every form except conscription of wealth. These wealthy concerns expect the young men of Australia to enlist, drill, and prepare for war, and if war should come, to give their lives, if necessary, to protect their country and the interests of those in their country. They go even further and demand that all these men should be conscripted under a compulsory military training scheme, in return for which they are to receive a meagre monetary reward. But when it comes to finding the money to provide the arms, and munitions, and equipment, for these young men, you do not hear of the financialgroups offering their money at low rates of interest ina spirit of patriotism. On the contrary, they demand high rates and refuse to lend their money unless their demand is acceded to. It is not so very long ago that we had the spectacle of the Government issuing an internal loan, portion of which was required for defence purposes, which was under-subscribed. To know the extent to which we can call upon the wealth of the country, we should have full details of that wealth . Recently the Polish Senate passed laws providing for the confiscation of portion of the money in possession of citizens in war time, according to the requirements of the State. To-day our Government is faced with trouble in financing its defence programme. ‘ It talks about planning ahead as the result of the proposed industrial register so far as industries and the like are concerned. Does it think that it can plan ahead in regard to defence expenditure if it completely disregards the wealth of Australia? If ever compulsion be required, it is required to force the large financial concerns to invest in loans for defence purposes. Their patriotism, however, is gauged by the profits that they hope to reap from their investments.
Provision is made in the schedule of this bill for answers to be given to questions relating to unemployment.What does the Government intend to do with the information that it receives from answers to those questions? To-daymore than 160,000 Australian people are out of work and, in a country where there should be plenty for all, thousands of citizens are suffering from malnutrition: If it were the intention of the Government to use the national register to provide jobs for the unemployed youths and men,we should say that it was doing a national service, but we find that the Government is endeavouring to pass its responsibility to alleviate unemployment onto the State governments. If the Government were sincere in its proposals it would create a permanent army which would give employment to thousands of men and youths who would then be given a future to which they could look forward.
This bill is unnecessary and will replace harmony with discord. Conscription of any nature is abhorred by all Australians and is against democratic principles. The honorable member for Barton (Mr. Lane) made reference to the attitude of Queensland Labour members to the matter of defence. His opinion seemed to be shared by honorable members opposite. The honorable gentleman said yesterday, that if Australia were attacked, it would be attacked in Queensland by the Japanese who would dig themselves in and take a lot of digging out.
Mr.CONELAN.-Idonotagree generally with the honorable member for Barton, but I do believe that any attack on Australia would be launched from the north. The lack of preparation in the north discloses how this Government has fallen down on its job to prepare for defence. The Minister for Defence has not been in charge of the Defence Department for long, but this Government has been in power for seven years.
Mr.CONELAN.-I put it to honorable members that seven years should be long enough for a government, which is elected for three years, to do its job. In the last seven years, Queensland has been definitely neglected. The coast of Queensland is undoubtedly one of the finest portions of Australia. It is studded with natural ports. Queensland is the part of Australia that is closest the Far East. In the near future, it will be the main State of this Commonwealth. There can be no doubt about that, because as the Commonwealth grows, development will extend in Queensland. Thatbeing so, it shouldbe the policy of this Government to’ prepare for defence in the parts most vulnerable to attack. I do not think that the Minister has been past Brisbane.
– I suggest to him that the first thing he undertakes during the recess should be a tour of north Australia. He would receive enlightenment if he saw the wonderful coastline and the, wonderful resources of Queensland.
– We shall be glad to accompany him.
– Yes. We shall be able to prove to him the need for better defence measures in Queensland.
– I should be glad to join the honorable gentleman.
– The tory press and the people of Queensland and the 24th annual conference of the Returned Sailors and Soldiers Imperial League of Australia in Queensland agree’ that the State has been neglected. Honorable members on the Government side of the House who represent Queensland constituencies have protested against the neglect of the State. I sincerely trust that in the near future Queensland will be given an adequate share in all things that are done towards the protection of Australia. The people of Queensland have to contribute their share towards the cost of the defence programme and they should participate accordingly. In Queensland there are no defence annexes, although I understand that the Minister intends to provide one at the Ipswich workshops. The workshops at Maryborough and Townsville are eminently suitable for theprovision of annexes. I ask the Minister to give his earnest consideration to the whole of Australia, not only to New South Wales and Victoria. I realize that the Ministry is dominated by men from Victoria and New South Wales. There is not one Queenslander in this chamber who is in the Ministry, proving conclusively that Queensland is neglected. If the State has no ministerial voice in this chamber, it cannot expect fair treatment.
I conclude by urging that the bill be withdrawn, because, if it is not, the harmony which exists to-day will give way to discord, which no one desires.
. t-I congratulate the honorable member for Griffith (Mr. Conelan) on the clear and logical way in which he has addressed himself to this bill, although I do- not a.gree with his conclusions. The object of this measure is not new. It is designed to achieve something which had been done from the earliest times, when people were numbered and their capacities ascertained so that they might be allotted to their proper spheres of life. The Old Testament records the enumeration of the exodus of the fighting strength of the Children of Israel. So far as Australia is concerned, we can go back to the War Census Bill, which was introduced, in 1915 by the right honorable member for North” Sydney (Mr. Hughes). Complementary to that measure was registration of wealth, provision for which -is not included in this bill. Precedents for the numbering of the people ure contained in the Bible. The Children of Israel were registered and allotted to their proper spheres. This bill proposes the registration of all men from the age of IS to 65. The reasons for the introduction of the measure have been well stated by previous speakers, but summarized, the proposals of the bill are a conscientious attempt to plan in advance for any emergency that may arise. Some honorable members think an emergency may arise in the near future. It is designed to -avoid, as far as possible, wastage, overlapping and congestion in connexion with the allocation of manpower in time of war. As the Leader of the Opposition (Mr. Curtin) said, its purpose is to place as few square pegs in round holes as possible. The honorable gentleman went on to say that there are always square pegs in round holes in all forms of activity. We know that. Noorganization is perfect; there are always anomalies and difficulties. But this measure is for the purpose of taking every step to make our organization of the resources of the country as complete as we can, and to avoid, wherever possible, the placing of square pegs in round holes.
I was pleased at the attempt of the Leader of the Opposition to clarify the attitude of the Labour party on this subject, because other honorable members of- his party bad some difficulty in stating it. No doubt there has been some dissension among them. The organizations which the Opposition represents, particularly the trade unions, are adopting a definitely hostile attitude towards the bill, and are even threatening direct action. I was amazed to hear the Leader of the Opposition say that he would have been in favour of a voluntary register, as opposed to the compulsory register proposed in this bill. That was the first occasion to my knowledge that the honorable gentleman has taken that stand. Remarks that I have seen attributed to him led me to believe that he and his party were totally opposed to any form of national register. To-day he opposed a compulsory register on the ground that there is no justification whatever for compelling men to give the information set out in the schedule, and that the principle underlying compulsion: is alien to the democratic system. I do not think that any honorable member supports compulsion where the objective can be achieved by other means, but 1 remind the honorable gentleman that many instances of compulsion have been generally accepted as having been necessary. We heard , no complaint from ‘ the Leader of the Opposition during the taking of the last census, which also was compulsory. If he will take the trouble to peruse the papers, he will see that the questions then asked of every person in. the country covered every phase of life.. . The .details asked for were intimate,, and covered all kinds of personal ‘affairs, some of which are objected to when included in the schedule to this bill. I repeat that, so far as I am aware, no objection was taken to that compulsory census by either the Leader of the Opposition or any member of his party. As the Minister for Defence (Mr. Street) pointed out, there are other forms of government legislation that can be effective, only if they arc made compulsory. He referred -to education and- enrolment for electoral purposes, and he added that the Labour party favours compulsory unionism. Indeed, there is pending at the present time a case which is agitating the. .minds of the Opposition on this very point. ‘ I, therefore, fail to understand the attitude of the Leader of the Opposi tion in so - strenuously opposing the principle of compulsion embodied in this measure. The man-power and wealth census, introduced in 1915,. which was introduced by a Labour government, was compulsory. If the principle of compulsion was right then, it is right and justifiable now. The Deputy Leader of the Opposition (Mr. Forde) gave definite reasons for his opposition to the bill. He summarized them under three headings. First, he regarded the bill as . a subtle move to introduce industrial conscription; secondly, he said that it was the first step towards compulsory military training; and, thirdly, he condemned it because of the absence of any provision for the registration of the wealth of the community. I see no evidence whatsoever to justify the statement that there is something sinister or surreptitious about this bill. The whole thing is clear , and straightforward. Some honorable members have suggested that it will pave the way towards the introduction of conscription, but I fail to see how that statement can be reconciled with the law as it stands. The Defence Act already provides thatthe Government can conscript within Australia any man fit to serve in the military or naval forces. I shall quote section 59 -
All male inhabitants of Australia (excepting those who are exempt from service in the Defence Force) who have resided therein for six months and are British subjects and arc between the ages of 1.8 and CO years, shall, in time of war, he liable to serve in the Citizen Forres.
That section sets forth the position so clearly that the objection of the Deputy Leader of the Opposition falls to the ground.
The right honorable member for’ Cowper (Sir Earle Page), who is the leader of the Country party, suggested that, in order to save expense and achieve the object just as efficiently and expeditiously, we should bring this subject under the heading of the next census, which is set down for 1941. The right honorable gentleman has made the further reasonable and practical suggestion that the. census should be brought forward eighteen months, and made to cover the whole field, including wealth. That is a suggestion which I think should receive the consideration of the Government. I shall support the proposed amendment of the honorable member for Perth (Mr. Nairn) because I believe that there is no justification for the Government setting up an organization for the purpose of gaining information about the man-power of Australia, and not at the same time including a census of the wealth owned by the people of this country which would have to be used in a time of crisis. I do not think that that can be opposed on principle. The one is complementary to the other. The position can best be summed up in words of the right honorable member for North Sydney (Mr. Hughes) in a speech which he delivered in this chamber in 1915 when introducing theWar Census Bill. He then said -
This bill deals not only with men, but with wealth. We propose to marshal all our resources, and as patriotism calls for sacrifice, that sacrifice must fall equally on all sections of society. There is the sacrifice of life which every man who is physically fit, and who volunteers, must be prepared to make. There is also the sacrifice of wealth, and it is abundantly clear that those who have wealth in this country must be called upon to make sacrifices which in normal times could not be expected of them. Sacrifices must be made by all sections of society - not only by the individual, but by property also.
At that time the right honorable gentleman was the Attorney-General in a Labour Government. I entirely agree with the views he expressed.
The Leader of the Opposition has given us some enlightening information relating to the last loan to be floated. He said that 43 per cent, of it was undersubscribed. Honorable members will agree that that loan was floated for the purpose of providing war material. In their speeches in support of the loan Ministers said that it was to finance the Government’s defence programme; but, notwithstanding. their appeal, nearly half of the loan was left with the underwriters. The honorable gentleman made the fur- ther point that the Opposition is opposed to going abroad in order to float a loan of £6,000,000 at a higher rate of interest. These facts indicate the necessity For establishing a wealth register, the purpose of which would be to find out what people in the community are in a f inancial position to make contributions t o semi-war loans, or war loans, as they would be if the country were at war, and i n that way play their part in assisting the nation. That is the purpose for which information in regard to the wealth of the nation is required. It is not suggested that wealth as such is to be attacked. On that point, the position was admirably summed up by Sir William Irvine , in a speech which he made in connexion with the War Census Bill of 1915.
– The country was at war at that time.
– Sir William Irvine was a tory of tories. He represented the wealth of the country, and could not be said to have any bias towards labour. On that occasion he said -
I entirely support, and I believe members on this side of the House, for the most part, entirely support the Government in taking both censuses. I have heard timorous expressions outside this House with regard to the intentions of the Government in taking a census of the general wealth of the community, and I have made it my business to tell the people who have given expression to these views that I do not think this proposal portends in the larger sense any attack upon wealth as wealth. No Government, no people who understand the situation, would for a moment attack that wealth which is actually the working capital of the community. Nobody would attempt to do that. It would be as fatal to a community as it would be fatal to an artisan if the tools of his trade were sold in order to buy his daily bread. That may have had to be done in times of necessity, but the results are always deplorable. The point of view I take is this: In a time of national peril, such as we are in now, every man in the community must recognize that everything he possesses, whether it be his wealth, or his skill, or his ability in any direction, is held in trust by him for the whole community. He only holds what he possesses, no matter what it may be, subject to the general weal and security of the community of which he is the only part.
– That being lost, all is lost.
That sums up my attitude towards this subject, and for that reason I shall support the proposed amendment of the honorable member for Perth. At the same time, I think that there is justification for a limit being placed on the amendment in order to eliminate the unnecessary work of compiling a register to cover every member of the community. I foreshadow a further amendment to limit the wealth register. Theregister in relation to man-power is to be limited, in that it is to he a register of male persons between the ages of 18 and 65 years. There is no proposal to investigate the affairs of boys of say 16 or 17 years, or younger, or men over 65 years, whose physical fitness to undertake war service would be strictly limited. The principle of limitation is embodied in the bill. The same principle, I believe, ought to be applied to the register of wealth. If the property register is made comprehensive it must necessarily cover a great many persons with very small incomes. The last census made it clear how very few of the bread-winners of Australia would be in a position to make any contribution to war loans. One does not go to the man. who is unfortunately on the dole and ask him to contribute to a war loan. According to the census of 1933., there were 2,764,714 ‘bread-winners out of a total of 3,155,621 with incomes between £208 and £259 a year. The Taxation Commissioner has revealed thatonly 9.15 per cent, of the total number of taxpayers of the Commonwealth pay income tax on £1,000 a year or over, and one would not describe persons with an income of £1,000 a year as wealthy. They would not be in a position to make any substantial contribution to government loans in times of crisis. Therefore, a national register of wealth should apply only to those who would be in a position, if called upon, to help effectively. A limit should be imposed, and I propose to move at a later stage that a register of wealth be taken only in respect of those persons who possess net assets to the value of £1,000 and over. No real objection can be taken to that proposal, If adopted, it would save the Government from a great deal of expense by excluding millions of persons who would not, in any case, be in a position to help. No useful purpose would bc served by prying into their affairs. Many poor people, including some pensioners, have a few pounds in the bank, and if they were compelled to register particulars of their property, they might, quite unjustifiably, become fearful that their life’s savings might be taken from them. To avoid anything of that kind, a limit of £1,000 should be set, if a wealth census is to be included. The bill has my entire approval, because I believe that the information gained will be of great value in time of -crisis. I trust that the trade unions will not persist in their recalcitrant attitude.
– Not all of them are recalcitrant.
– That is so. - and 1 believe that when the others are advised that a wealth census is to be included they will withdraw their objections.
Mr. GEORGE LAWSON (Brisbane) 3.36]. - I have no apologies to make for taking part in this debate. The Minister, in introducing the bill, tried ‘ to make honorable members believe that it was a simple, harmless little measure, having for its object the taking of an ordinary census of man-power in Australia. After listening attentively to the speeches from both sides of the chamber, I am now more convinced than ever that, -from the workers’ point of view, this is one’ of the most dangerous proposals that have been brought forward for many years. Even the preamble to the bill makes it clear that it. is anything but a simple, harmless measure. The Opposition is amply justified in doing everything in its power to defeat the bill on the floor of the House. The honorable member for Perth (Mr. Nairn), the honorable member for Forrest (M-i:.. Prowse), and others on the opposite side of the House, have quoted certain statements of the Leader of the Opposition (Mr.. Curtin), but they did not quote enough to put the position of that honorable gentleman clearly. The honorable member for Barton (Mi-.. Lane.), last night, in an attempt to belittle the Leader of the Opposition, said that his absence from the chamber showed -that he was afraid to meet criticism, or to stand up to statements which he himself had made earlier. Therefore. 1 wa3 particularly pleased that my leader was able to attend to-day, having risen from a sick bed, in order to make a worthy contribution to the debate. It was a surprise to some of us, who had heard the outburst of the honorable member for Barton last night, to see him sit quietly in. his place without even interjecting, while the Leader of the Opposition was speaking to-day. Honorable members have stated that the Leader of the Opposition, on a previous occasion, advocated the making of a survey of the man-power of Australia. That is- true; he did make such a statement, but he went much further than that. In his statement, as published, he said that he believed that .there should be a survey, not only of man-power, but of industry and wealth as well. He did not suggest, as some honorable members would have us believe, that the survey should be of the kind proposed in this bill, namely, a compulsory survey. The Leader of the Opposition pointed out that, while he believed in a survey of man-power, together with one of wealth, it should be made by way of the ordinary census. I believe that the Government could quite well adopt the suggestion of the Leader of the Opposition, and have this survey made through the Census Branch, thereby saving much time and money. It has been stated by honorable members on the other side of the House that the Opposition had gone out of its way to encourage the workers to resist the’ taking of this register, by refusing to fill in the registration cards. That is absolutely incorrect. The honorable member for Griffith (Mr. Conelan) stated this afternoon that he had already received considerable correspondence from a large industrial organization which controls practically all the workers of Queensland. The honorable member for Griffith arrived here to take his seat only two or three days ago, and apparently the correspondence was sent to him almost before the result of the Griffith by-election had been declared. The workers of Australia, particularly the industrial workers, are gravely concerned with this matter, and had commenced to protest .against it before honorable members of this House wore aware of the contents of ,the bill. It is clear, therefore, that the argument advanced by honorable members opposite that the Labour party is advising unionists to resist this legislation, is not borne out by facts. [ have had considerable experience of industrial matters, and I found during my many years as an industrial leader, that members of labour organizations which I represented did not, as a rule, come to me for advice. They do things on their own initiative, and are alwaysprepared, to voice their opinions and, if necessary, put them into effect in the interests of their fellow workers. The industrial organizations of Australia are led by men of very high intelligence, who are held in the greatest esteem by the workers. The industrial leaders have taken whatever action they , consider necessary in this regard in the best interests of the men they represent. T repeat that there is no necessity for Labour members of this House to advise workers as to what they should do, and how they should act in the event of this legislation becoming law. The workers realize, as well as do honorable members of this chamber, what the effect would be should this measure be placed upon our statute-book. They know that the proposals embodied in this bill bristle with difficulties. The bill savours of industrial conscription from the preamble right through to the last clause, and the workers realized that even before the legislation was brought down in this House. I would like to know why the Government has changed its policy in regard to this matter. Almost every speaker who has risen during this debate, has pointed out that this Government was returned to office by the people in 1937, on the principle that it did not believe in. conscription or compulsory military training. The late Prime Minister (Mr. Lyons) made that position very clear on numerous occasions, but it now appears that the Government has fallen down on- its job, and has gone back on the promise which it made to the people through its former leader. In February last, the Cabinet met in Hobart, and, I understand, unanimously decided to introduce a voluntary register of man-power in Australia. That was decided upon for two reasons; it was considered that a voluntary register would cost less than a compulsory register and would not take so long to compile. Immediately the new Cabinet was formed, however, that decision was reversed and the result is the introduction of this bill which the Labour Opposition, representing the workers of Australia, is asked . to accept without one word of protest. I intend to oppose this measure with all my might. It is, in my opinion, thefirst step towards industrial conscription. Should this measure become law, the workers of Australia will be compelled- to do certain things which. I am afraid, they would refuse to do. It means, therefore, that thousands of Australian workers will come into conflict with the law, and no doubt many of them will be sent to gaol for resisting the provisions of this legislation. Instead of this Government endeavouring to foster the harmonious relations which exist in Australia to-day between all sections of the community, it will, by means of this bill, shatter that co-operative spirit. Should the workers take the step which they have announced their intention of taking, and which I believe they will take, endless trouble will result. There are many clauses in this bill to which I object. I do not intend to go fully into them, but. I repeat that the workers of Australia have good reason for protesting. The workers remember - and no doubt many honorable members will remember - what took place during the years 19.16 and 1918 when the Great War was in progress. The Government of the day endeavoured to foist upon the people of Australia conscription for service overseas. Opposition to this was expressed by many thousands of people, including myself, and I am very pleased to say that I wai associated with the anti-conscription campaign. We believe that the action which we took then was in the best interests of the people of Australia. It is notable that the soldiers who actually went abroad to fight were also against the introduction of conscription, and helped the anti-conscriptionists in Australia to defeat the pernicious legislation then proposed. Knowing what took place on that occasion, workers of Australia realize that if this legislation be allowed to go on our statute-book, they i -.an expect trouble from both industrial and military points of view. I am satisfied that this bill has, for its objective, industrial and military conscription. If 1 know the workers of Australia as 1 think I know them, they will not accept, without a fight, any of these things which the Government proposes to foist upon them. There is, however, one consolation. It will take the Government some time to put this bill through Parliament, and more time will be necessary to gather the information provided for in the measure. I believe, as the honorable member for Griffith said, that this Government will not occupy the treasury bench for long enough to bring this legislation fully into operation, or at least that portion of it which will result in the sending to gaol of unfortunate men who have the temerity to resist iniquitous provisions such as this. I believe the people of Australia will not stand for measures of this kind, and long before this legislation becomes fully operative, there will be a change of government and a Labour government will occupy the treasury bench. Then, and only then, can the workers expect to receive redress, by the repeal of this legislation. This bill is a twin brother of the one which has just been passed through this House. Both measures have, for their objective, the conscription of the man-power of this country, without any interference with wealth resources. The Leader of the Opposition struck the nail on the head to-day when he said that, if it is good for this Government to make it compulsory for the workers of Australia to register themselves for defence purposes, then it is equally good to make it compulsory for. people to divulge their wealth, and make it available to the nation in time of emergency. After all, the man on the basic wage or on the dole has more to lose in time of war than the possessor of wealth, because he may be called upon to sacrifice his life. This debate has resulted in a thorough discussion of all aspects of the matter, but I felt it my duty to add my small quota of protest, because I sincerely believe that the passage of the bill through Parliament - if it is passed - will not be the end of the difficulties to which it gives rise. The Government will face greater difficulties than it imagines if it forces this bill through Parliament. The Opposition has on other occasions warned the Government of the probable consequences of using its majority to compel Parliament to pass .legislation which is definitely disagreeable to the people at large. We have been laughed at for our actions in that connexion, but just as it was shown clearly that certain other .bills that have been passed were unacceptable, so I have not the slightest doubt it will be found that that is the case in respect of this measure. The Labour party is definitely opposed to this bill in its present form, and the Government may rest assured that it will fight the measure as strongly as it can. It may be equally well assured that if the bill passes, very great trouble will be engendered.
,- The tragedy of Abyssinia, the war in Spain, and the rumblings throughout Europe satisfied Australia years ago that it would have to do more than it had been doing to provide for the defence of this country, hut the crisis of last Septem’ber really caused us to double up in our defence activities. That Avas when the Leader of the Opposition (Mi Curtin) made the statement referee! to this afternoon. The Government also determined then that a national register of man-power and resources was necessary. All parties in the House felt that that course was desirable to ensure order instead of chaos should an emergency arise. Undoubtedly the case was urgent. To-day it is not quite so urgent. Seeing that the national register is likely to cost between £40,000 and £50,000 and that the bulk of the information sought could be obtained through the ordinary census, with not more than an additional six months’ delay, I suggest that the Government should consider withdrawing this bill and obtaining information through the ordinary channels used when the census is taken. If it will not agree to this course, and still thinks that this bill should he passed, I shall support the second reading of the measure, but I cannot believe that in existing circumstances a delay of six months would he serious.
– The census information is confidential.
– That is one of the advantages of my proposal. It would remove the objections that many people have to the- furnishing of information concerning their financial position. The members of the Opposition have repeated the word “ compulsion “ frequently this afternoon, and during the course of this debate. It seems strange to me that they do not realize that all law provides for compulsion. “We cannot escape it however much we may desire to do so. Though some honorable gentlemen may think that the information which the Government desires can be obtained by a voluntary process, I disagree with them.
It has been demonstrated recently that a voluntary register would be incomplete and generally unsatisfactory. Consequently it is necessary that any register of this kind should be compulsorily compiled.
The honorable member for Perth (Mr. Nairn) has intimated that he intends, at the committee stage, to move an amendment to provide that statistics shall be obtained concerning the wealth resources of this country. Of what use would it be to limit a provision of that kind to males between the ‘ages of 18 and 65 years, and that, after all, is the only class of citizen to whom this measure will apply. It is well known that many males over the age of 65 years and under the age of eighteen years are wealthy. It is known, too, that many ladies have had substantial assets made over to them by their husbands or bequeathed to them. It would be hypocritical and futile to suggest that a wealth register that was limited to males between the ages of 18 and 65 years was complete or of any real value. For that re-son *[ shall oppose the amendment of the honorable member if he moves it in such a way as will give it a merely limited application. I urge the Government to consider my proposal to withdraw the bill and obtain the desired, information, together with any additional particulars, through the ordinary census channels. If necessary a question could he included on the census paper obliging persons to give information concerning their military experience or capacity to do work of different kinds. I repeat, however, that if the Government really feels that it is necessary to pass, this bill I shall vote for the second reading.
The adoption of my proposal would . remove a. good deal of the hostility that has been engendered concerning the proposed national register. It is desirable that the highest possible degree of harmony shall be preserved in the community. This fact should not be overlooked by the Government. If it is possible to do a certain thing in two ways, one of which will cause friction and disorder and the other of which will maintain harmony, without any question the harmonious way should he chosen: All unnecessary risk of increasing hostility should be avoided.
In regard to a wealth census I would remind honorable members that for public purposes a good many individuals and firms have already supplied balance sheets -und other financial information through their banks in addition to the returns required by the taxation department, and 1 do not think that they would offer any serious objection to supplying information confidentially through the ordinary census channels. As to paying for the provision of defence for this country, I. do not believe in passing on to posterity an undue proportion of such costs. ‘The people in Australia who have valuable properties and assets, and who hold good positions, expect the government of the day to take adequate steps to protect not only their lives but also their property, assets and positions. Consequently, they should be prepared to contribute reasonably towards the cost. If the ordinary sources of government revenue are not sufficient to meet the needs of the case with a reasonable loan, additional taxation should be imposed. We could not justify passing on to posterity an undue proportion of the costs incurred in providing for the defence of the wealth of our community. The owners of the wealth should be prepared, now, to pay their proper proportion of the expenses so incurred. Many people and companies who have millions of pounds of assets in various businesses, factories, foundries, and other big industrial works, with head offices overseas, are to-day paying only a shilling in the pound company tax on the profits derived from these sources. In my opinion that is not right. The Government should increase the income tax in certain directions, even if it were to call the additional tax a “ protection tax “, or a “ defence tax “, in order that the defence needs of the country may be adequately met.
I urge careful consideration of my suggestion that this bill be withdrawn and the date of the ordinary census .advanced somewhat and the questions amplified so that, on the one hand, the full information which the Government desires might be available, while, on the other hand, a great d«al of the antago nism to this particular proposal might be allayed and £50,000 of the taxpayers’ money saved.
.- As so many members of the House have taken part in the debate on this hill the Government should give the most careful consideration to their representations. It should not force the bill through at all costs. We advised it not to force the National Health and Pensions Insurance bill through in opposition to the views of so many honorable members, but it did so, and we all know the result. Similarly unsatisfactory results will follow if the weight of numbers is used to force this bill through Parliament. While I believe that adequate provision should be made for the defence of Australia, I regret that the Government should feel that it is necessary to adopt a compulsory provision in connexion with the preparation of the proposed national industrial register. Our people have shown on numerous occasions that they are prepared to defend Australia when the need arises, and that the voluntary principle is quite adequate for all necessary action in that regard. During the last war the Government of tho day thought it necessary to propose conscription, but the people refused on two occasions to accept the proposal. But they, also showed that they were prepared to do their part voluntarily. I believe that this bill will be absolutely useless in its present form. In any case machinery is already available through -the Electoral Department and the Bureau of Census and Statistics to obtain all the information that is required. If any question should arise as to males between the ages of 18 and 21 years, I have no doubt that private employers would give whatever information is desired concerning the ability of such individuals in their employment. In respect of all other citizens the census machinery would be adequate. I remind the Government that its first duty is to ensure the welfare of its people. If it would provide employment for those who are to-day out of work, it would encounter no difficulty whatever in making adequate preparation for defence. It is, however, “useless to expect men on the “ dole, of whom there are thousands in this country, to be enthusiastic in respect of defence. When such men are asked to defend their country they naturally ask: “What have we to defend ( Is the Government prepared to do anything for us? If it will provide work for us we shall be quite willing.’ to do all that is necessary to defend the country. We require a decent standard of living for ourselves and our families “. In my opinion the provision of work for the unemployed would he the best defence measure the Government could put in hand. It ia a reflection upon our democracy that so many people are unemployed.
The bill, in its present form, is iniquitous and sectional in character. The Government proposes to call upon one section of the people to furnish all sorts of detailed information concerning their private affairs and the kind of work they could do in a time of national emergency, but it intends to allow the wealthy people to go scot free. When a proposal was made in England to have a national register, Sir -‘John Anderson, Lord Privy Seal, who was in charge of the measure in the House of Commons, said - lt lias become more and more clear to me during recent weeks from letters that I have received, from the newspapers, and 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, _ sometiling going far beyond the mere_ putting of one’s name on a compulsory register.
Those are my sentiments. This bill will be absolutely useless unless compulsion is intended to be adopted. If the pur–pose of this national register is to be merely the obtaining of the names ,and trades of men in this country it will be a waste of £40,000, because such information can be obtained by many other existing means. I should like the Minister to tell the House whether it is proposed to keep this register up to date. Is it intended to establish a permanent department to control this measure and to keep the register up: to date, or is it merely intended to obtain the initial information and leave it, at that? If the latter, I should say that the bill is useless. I hope that, the Minister will regard the fact that so many honorable members have spoken as an indication of the opinion of the people that the bill should be withdrawn -and re-drafted in a form which will meet their wishes.
– 1 should imagine that the Government cannot feel very comfortable in view of the criticism that has been levelled against the bill, not only by honorable members of this party but also by honorable members who sit behind the Government, some of whom do not feel very comfortable about the bill. The honorable member for Perth (Mr. Nairn) has foreshadowed an amendment in order to place in the measure provision for a census of wealth, something which he thinks should have been there originally. The honorable member for Riverina (Mr. Nock) has urged the necessity to consider the withdrawal of the bill because all of the information the Government desired can be obtained from the ordinary census and, if necessary, the taking of the census could be brought forward. If the Government considers that this bill is necessary because of the urgency of the international situation, I point out that that urgency is decreasing. At all events, if the Government has any information to the contrary it has not, been disclosed. There is nothing in the present situation which makes this bill necessary now if it was not regarded as necessary in September of last year. There is not one fact which the Government can bring forward to convince Parliament that the details of man-power which it did not regard it as necessary to secure seven or eight months ago are needed to-day.
I am astounded that the Government is forcing this bill in spite of the considerable weight of public opinion against it. There is no need for me to quote the text of resolutions that have been carried by trade union conferences, which are a big factor in this country, because those resolutions have been published in the press. Any one in close touch with the men who work in the industries of Australia knows quite well that this bill is strongly resented. The Government says that there is no occasion to suspect that the bill may be used for the purpose of introducing conscription or compulsion in any form - Ministers scoff at the idea - but when honorable members of the Opposition declare that if it be fair to apply the. provisions of this measure to Human lue, it is also fair, to apply them to property and wealth. Ministers point out at once that the small section which owns the wealth will suspect that Parliament may impose a capital levy. If their argument be valid, there can be no reason why the workers should not suspect that this bill represents the beginning of conscription of industry. Twenty years ago anti-Labour governments showed that those comprising them- were prepared to go to the full limit when it was not even necessary to compel service. There was then no necessity for compulsion, because the deeds of Australia’s volunteer soldiers won acclaim all over the world. I am reluctant to throw verbal brickbats at the Ministry for adopting a wrong policy, but I hope that the Minister for Defence (Mr. Street) and those associated with him will listen to argument and, paying heed to the weight of reason if not of numbers, realize that it will not be possible for the Government to force the bill through Parliament in its original form. After reading some of the introductory speeches I felt that there were some matters to which particular attention should be devoted, but the. Minister has indicated that he will move amendments to remedy some of the defects. The Opposition is opposed to the whole principle of the measure, not merely on. account of details, and it says frankly that if the principle of compulsion is to be applied to human life there is no .valid reason why it should not be applied also to wealth and property. In the whole of the debate I have not been able to find one argument advanced by the Government to justify the omission to take steps in the direction of a census of wealth. The Minister may attempt to justify the omission later, but I believe that it cannot be done.
The bill proposes to establish a register for males on a nation-wide basis which, except for those persons who are not naturalized citizens of the country, and those who are between the ages of 18 and 21 years, is already provided in the electoral rolls.
A National Register Board is to be set up under clause 4, but the clause does not make it clear whether the two representatives on the board, other than the Commonwealth Statistician, are to be public servants. Although that may be the natural assumption, it should be made clear in the bill. Members of Parliament should know from what source the representation is to be drawn. If a bill of this character is to be forced onto the people against the wishes of the people as represented by members of the Opposition who, I remind the Minister, polled more than 50 per cent, of the total votes cast at the last elections, and have since won the only three by-elections contested, the legislation should be made clear and definite. Full details should be incorporated in it, although, of course, the more details there are in a bill the greater the scope there is for criticism. The bill apart from the fundamental principle involved, is faulty at present in details. For instance, clause 5 provides for the appointment of an executive officer of the board on whom will be placed the responsibility to exercise rand perform such power and duties as the board directs or are prescribed, subject to the control of the board. He is to hold office for five, years and the only qualification which clause 5 requires of him is that he must be less than 65 years of age. The powers with which the board is to Be endowed are stated in such terms as to leave a great deal, so far as this Parliament is concerned, to the imagination. The board’ is to have such powers and to perform such duties as are conferred by the act or by regulations. From time to time in this House members on both sides, but particularly on- this side, have protested against handing over to outside bodies power to govern by regulation. The Prime Minister (Mr. Menzies) is one of those who in. the past has been most earnest in condemnation of that practice; If I remember rightly, on many occasions, in another parliament, he made speeches on that subject. Yet we find that this bill confers on a board the power to make regulations on a .matter affecting the lives and liberties of the people.
– Regulations which are inconsistent with the legislation, cannot be made.
– No, but’ the proposed act can have a wide interpretation placed on it, and the workers have reason lo fear interpretations such as a Government of this kind might make. The final clause of the bill permits the making of regulations not inconsistent with the act, prescribing all matters which are required or permitted to be prescribed. But it goes much further than that, for it says - or which arc necessary or convenient to bc prescribed for carrying out or giving effect to this act.
It is dangerous to place such powers in the hands of any board, particularly one the membership of which we do not know. Under that clause power will be given to prescribe penalties npt exceeding £50 or three months’ imprisonment or both for any offence against the regulation. It seems to mc that a man who carried his objection to this legislation to such a length as to rebel against it could be imprisoned for continuous periods of three months. In its original form the bill proposed to give power to the board to modify or add to the form as set out in the schedule, but judging by an amendment circulated by the Minister for Defence, the Government has discovered i hat there are a few members even on its side who object to that.
– The amendment was decided on’ before the Deputy Leader of. the Opposition (Mr. Forde) made his speech.
– I was hopeful that the Minister would give the Opposition credit for having put forward some argument that had convinced it, but he appears to take up the attitude that the Opposition has advanced no worth-while arguments. In ;the light of recent happenings, the Government cannot fail to recognize that tlie Opposition represents more completely the views of the people of this country than does the Government. The United Australia party is reported to have refused to consider the incorporation of a census of wealth in this bill or to deal with it separately. Its refusal to impose upon the wealthy section of the community similar obligations to those which the bill imposes upon human life and labour is something which no democrat can understand. The suggestion that to do so might cause alarm among those who possess wealth and control the resources of the Commonwealth is probably correct. If the suggestion caused alarm to them, why should it not cause alarm also to those whom this bill proposes to take charge of? I believe that there is. a large section - not large in numbers but large in power and influence - which wants no disclosures at all, but there are some people behind the Government and some members of that Government who believe that if we decide to compel the people to answer questions we should also compel questions to be answered by the wealthy section. For instance, during the last election campaign, the honorable member for Parramatta (Sir Frederick Stewart), who is Minister foi- Social Services, said -
If we have the right to call upon the youth of this country we also have the right to cull upon the wealth of the country.
I think that the right honorable member for North Sydney (Mr. Hughes) said something much the same in 1915. These views must prevail in the community, but the wealthy interests behind the Government apparently say, “ Wo cannot accept that”. Although some members of the United Australia party and the United Country party declare in this chamber that it is necessary to have such a census, we are publicly told that the Government refuses to give consideration to it. If it maintains that attitude, there is a probability of its being compelled to adopt the suggestion. I hope that the advice tendered that the bill bt: withdrawn will have effect, and that the Government will find some less objectionable way than that proposed to obtain the information considered necessary.
Some of those in possession of .a grout- deal of the wealth of this country will naturally bc apprehensive concerning the disclosures that they may be culled upon to make, because they .may not lui vo revealed in full the information required of them, for taxation purposes. I Iia vo always understood that information disclosed to the taxation authorities is secret, and cannot be utilized for any other purpose; yet it is now argued that that information could be obtained from that source, if necessary. Whilst I do not desire to cast slurs on any section as a whole. I feel sure that some of the apprehensions have arisen from the fact that evasion of taxation may de discovered, because the total amount of the wealth and resources has not been disclosed. The views of the wealthy seem to receive much greater consideration by the Government than do those of the workers and the workless. There is no doubt that volunteers for the defence* of of this country would come forward willingly, and in large numbers, and that there would be a wholehearted response to any genuine call, if they enjoyed better economic conditions than they are now experiencing. The number of people who were receiving sustenance at the end of June last was 118,500, and, in addition, probably another 60,000 to 80,000 unemployed are not registered at all for sustenance! These people could not be expected to be very enthusiastic in offering their services or in giving information of the kind contemplated in this bill, when they feel that the Government takes so little interest in their welfare. The suspicions believed to be in the minds of the well-to-do sections of the people regarding information which they would have to supply in connexion with a wealth and property census should have no greater consideration than that which the worker very naturally feels respecting bills of this kind. If there is a feeling of suspicion on either side, one section should not have more consideration than another. I think that a sound reason for our opposition to the bill is that it is sectional, and proposes to deal with the man-power of the community without dealing with the wealth-power.
The experience that the workers went through more than twenty years ago is burnt indelibly into the minds of most of them. The generation that has grown to adult age well know3 the history of the events which deeply moved the people on that occasion, when governments broke promises and showed disregard for public statements made on their behalf. Naturally we view with suspicion the bringing down of a bill which has compulsion of man-power for its objective. The passing of this measure would introduce discord and suspicion at a time .when everything should be done to promote a feeling of friendliness and goodwill, so that everything possible may be achieved to develop our resources and bring into remunerative employment our vast army of workless citizens. The measure deals with the human factor, and proposes to introduce compulsion. This arouses hostility on the part of the individual. The bill is brought forward because of what the Government claims to be an urgent condition of affairs arising from the international situation. I cannot agree that there is any more occasion for it now than at any other recent stage. In fact, if such a state of affairs ever existed because of the international situation, then the need has greatly diminished because of recent developments.
If registration be essential, how can the Government decline to include a questionnaire covering, property resources’? If it fails to do this, it cannot expect support even from some of the members on its own side. Objection may be taken to clause 15 because it provides that there shall be a national register which shall be compiled and maintained in such form as the board directs, and that there shall be entered in the register such particulars as are supplied to the Commonwealth Statistician “under this’ act or the regulations “. Clause 16 goes on to provide that a census or censuses of malt; persons or classes of persons who have attained the ages of eighteen years shall be taken. I understand that the honorable member, for Perth (Mr. Nairn) proposes to move for the insertion of the words “ and a census of property “. Clause 19 provides that ‘the form which shall be used for the purpose of any census directed to be taken under this legislation shall be in accordance with the form in the schedule to the bill, “ with such modifications or additions (if any) as are prescribed”, but the Minister desires to eliminate those concluding words. Other clauses also provide for action to be taken by regulation. The power to legislate by regulation on matters of the kind covered by this bill is one of which I feel suspicious. The promulgation by the board of regulations of which Parliament may not approve is wrong in principle. Clause 16 provides that more than one census may be taken.
– The. board could not make regulations.
– The Government would have the power to make regulations not inconsistent with the act, and regulations might come into operation for a considerable time before the Parliament would have an opportunity to disallow them. Sometimes the Parliament is in recess for three or four, or even six months.
Widespread public opinion has been expressed throughout Australia, according to the press reports of conferences and other meetings, which show that the great majority of the workers are determined to have none of this bill, which they regard as a breach of promise by the late Leader of the Government during the last election campaign. They contend that the Government did not obtain a mandate for it at the last elections, and that it is now trying to do something that has not the sanction of the people. Surely, it cannot be accepted that the policy of the present Government has completely changed because we have a new Prime Minister. The late Prime Minister himself indicated that there would be no compulsion of any kind, and without that promise the Government would not have been returned at the polls. Yet, after the Parliament has been in existence for eighteen months, we are asked to subscribe to principles which the ordinary worker and the whole-souled democrat regards as entirely unsound and unjust. I hope that, in view of the arguments advanced from both sides of the chamber, and particularly the Opposition, the Minister will see the wisdom of withdrawing the bill.
– I do not suppose that a more harmless bill than this has ever been introduced into the Commonwealth Parliament, and I am surprised to hear the remarks of the honorable member for Maribyrnong (Mr. Drakeford) to the effect that it has occasioned widespread alarm and consternation amongst the workers throughout Australia. It would be extremely difficult for any member of the Opposition to substantiate that statement. I am aware that meetings of trade unionists have been held, and that resolutions have been passed, but we do not know how many people attended those meetings, or what is the actual strength of the trade-union opposition to the bill. 1 venture to say that that opposition is comparatively insignificant. My opinion of the people outside is that they are not alarmed whatsoever, and that there is apparently little interest in this proposal. The public regard it as entirely innocuous, as providing for a step that should have been taken long ago, and as having no back-kick in it, so far as conscription or any sinister issue is concerned. I am surprised at honorable members working themselves into a rage over a matter of small consequence in regard to the actual military organization of this country.
If all the other predictions were fulfilled, what effect would they have on the defence of Australia? The result wouldbe merely that certain political questions would be raised, but no materia] contribution to the defence of Australia would be made. I do not like to suggest lack of sincerity on the part of the Opposition, because we all know how intensely sincere its members are; but if they really mean what they say about this national register, they must be deceiving themselves about their prospects at the next elections. We have heard from them a good deal of talk about Labour occupying the treasury bench after thenext election.
– Hear, hear !
– The honorable member for Reid (Mr. Gander) has been most insistent on that subject, particularly when additions to the ranks of the Opposition have been made.
– He has been a good tipster so far.
– A general election must be held within eighteen months, when the life of this Parliament will have expired. Of course, there may be an earlier election, but I hope not.
– Like every honorable member, I do not like general elections.
– I love them.
– The compilation of the national register will take from twelve to eighteen months. That is to say, that period will elapse before the information can be of any use to those who will then be planning measures for the defence of Australia. If honorable members opposite really believe that they will be on the Government benches within eighteen months, they have nothing to fear from the national register, for, in that event, they could treat the information as they thought fit. lt would appear that honorable members of the Opposition are afraid that they will not be on this side of the House after the next elections. I am reminded that they were confident that the last elections would lead to a change of government; they remain in Opposition still, largely because of their attitude towards defence, If they persist in actions which will lead the Australian people to believe that they cannot be trusted with the defence of Australia, they will continue to sit on the Opposition benches for many years.
– Do not be too hard on U3l
– I realize that that prospect is not pleasing to the honorable member for Batman, who is most anxious to occupy the ministerial bench again. But even supposing a Labour government came into office, it could decide to throw the information obtained by means of the census into the waste-paper basket, and give effect to its policy* in its own way. At this stage, honorable members opposite should not worry about this matter if they are so sure of the result of the next appeal to the electors. I make these remarks in the hope that, even at this stage, the Opposition will support the bill knowing that it cannot have the results that they seem, to fear.
I have only one objection to the bill. In saying that, I have not forgotten that I was a member of the Government which approved of a compulsory register. I am justified in my attitude because I believe that the expense of compiling the register is not warranted, in view of the present international situation. If, on the one hand, the defence needs of the country were more urgent than they are, the register would be too late, and therefore a waste of time and money; if, on the other hand, the situation is as good as many people, particularly members of the Opposition, believe it to be, there will be ample time in which to take a proper census which will not create political issues. I agree with the right honorable member for Cowper (Sir Earle Page) that it would be better to carry the taking of this census forward until the time of the next general census, thereby saving probably £40,000.
– That money could be better expended in providing work for the unemployed.
– If the taking of the census be postponed, it will be possible to ‘do a better job, and there will be no danger ‘of misconception arising in the minds of the people. The right honorable member for Cowper suggested bringing the general census forward to the present time. In my opinion, it would be better to take the census next year, preferably in the first quarter of the year, and to include in the questions to be asked those set out in the schedule to this bill. If that were done, the people would regard the census as an ordinary one, and would not be ranged into opposing tents, and, as I have said, a large saving would be made. The financial position of Australia is becoming so acute, and the burden on the people so heavy, that, if we can save £40,000, we should do so.
– The amount received from the £50 fines could be set off. against the cost.
– I doubt that any of those fines will be paid. If we have the same experience with them as we had with one honorable member now sitting in this chamber, they will not be paid.
– In the case mentioned, the fine wa3 more than £50.
– An ordinary census costs about £150,000. The next census must be held not later than 1941, but it could easily be taken next year without causing any dislocation. We are now in the middle of 1939, so that the postponement of the taking of this census to the first quarter of next year, in conjunction with the ordinary census, would be a sensible thing to do. I ask the Minister for Defence (Mr. Street) to convey this suggestion to the Cabinet, and to see that it is given consideration. I believe that the suggestion will commend itself to the people of Australia. The responsibility for the defence of this country rests on the Government. Members of other parties may assist to the best of their ability. I agree that they should not indulge in destructive criticism merely for political purposes, or adopt an obstructive attitude towards the Government’s defence proposal. The bill before us deserves the support of every political party, and therefore, I am sorry that the Opposition has adopted obstructive tactics in relation to it. I venture to predict that when this question comes before the people, they will again show that the Labour party is out of touch with public opinion on defence issues.
I oppose the proposal to include questions relating to the military service rendered by citizens. Apart from the’ political implications, I cannot see any practical necessity for the inclusion of such information. It will merely load the form with matter which will have no real relevance to the aims of the Government. Those who sponsor the proposal say that military service rendered by members of the community is the most vital phase of our defence preparation, but I suggest that, if particulars of the military service of any man. are required, the Government can easily obtain them by other means. Records relating to the men who fought in the last war arts available to the Government. Moreover, only a small proportion of those men could now be regarded as being fit for modern military activities. No great advantage is to be gained by ascertaining their military records. At present, the defence of Australia depends upon the voluntary militia forces, and records oi their members are available to the Government. Should it be decided to enlarge those forces at any time, each additional man’s record could be obtained when he enlisted. It is true that since the last war numbers of persons have entered Australia, but if foreigners who have not become naturalized British subjects are excluded, their contribution to the military resources of the country would be negligible. I do not see any advantage in including these questions merely to ascertain the military records of foreigners, naturalized . aliens, or. British subjects who have recently arrived in Australia. Not only would the inclusion of su’ch questions serve no useful purpose, but also it might lead to endless political controversy, which would confuse; the main issue and make less likely the obtaining of reliable data regarding the actual man-power of Australia, particularly information in relation to industrial man-power resources. In my opinion, it would be a mistake to include such questions on the census paper.
I am sorry that certain members on the Government side of the House have seen fit to intrude into the debate what may easily become one of the most disastrous political issues ever placed before the Australian public. I am not one who believes that wealth should be protected, or excluded from consideration, when the defence of this country is at stake; but I do say that when people are asked to disclose compulsorily their wealth resources, an impression i3 created -that an attempt will be made sooner or later to confiscate that wealth by the imposition of a compulsory levy on wealth. In a British community governed on democratic principles, any suggestion of that kind is likely to create industrial panic. One of the. immediate effectswould be to tighten up the money market, and further weaken Government investments, which, as some honorable members have already pointed out, are already too weak. I listened to the speech of the honorable member for Martin (Mr. McCall), and I suggest that he is on the wrong track when he says that the smallness of the contributions to recent government loans - not defence loans, but those for general purposes - was due to a lack of patriotism of those with money to invest. According to information published only the other day, there has been an enormous drain on the loan market in Australia during the last four years. In that period, loans totalling £105,000,000 have been raised by government and semi-government authorities, £40,000,000 by the former and £65,000,000 by the latter. That represents over £25,000,000 a year, which is a tremendous drain on Australia’s limited financial resources. It is evident, therefore, that the reason for the partial failure of recent loans is not lack of patriotism, but lack of financial resources, an aspect of the matter which must be taken into consideration in the near future. The Government will have to consider whether it can continue to demand money from the people for defence purposes, and also for ordinary governmental development purposes. The honorable member for Martin is not fair in suggesting that the time has arrived to introduce a measure of compulsion against people with money to invest. If we have reached that stage now before there is any prospect of war or danger of invasion, what will happen if we are really threatened? Persons like the honorable member for Martin will lose their heads altogether. They will go mad, and demand a capital levy immediately.
– What happened in 1915?
– 1939 is not 1915, and it is unfair to try to make a comparison between the two periods. If things are as bad as some honorable members seem to suggest, let us declare a state of emergency now. Let us bring in a wartime precautions bill.
– This is a war-time precautions bill.
– In one sense, perhaps, but it is not actually. It cannot.be compared to the War Time Precautions Act of 1915. It is not true to say that conditions are similar now to those which prevailed during the Great War, and that the time has arrived when we should wave a club, not only over the man-power of the country, hut also over those with capital to invest. We are to-day reaping the result of drawing too much money from the loan market. Interest rates are rising, and people are becoming less and less inclined to invest. There is no semblance of justification for the proposal that we should try to compel them, or make them do what they cannot do, while at the same time maintaining their ordinary business and industrial activities. If this proposal is persisted in, it will have the most disastrous repercussions on the industrial and business life of the community. Of course, the Opposition want it. It suits them down to the ground. They will say “Now we have the information we want, and we intend to use it when we get into power “. Well, let them use it when they get into power; but they are not in power yet. The Government should not forestall the Labour party’s policy, which we know is more or less confiscatory, by applying a policy that would really amount to a threat of a capital levy. Only if we were threatened with invasion or attack, or if the international situation became worse, justifying even more extreme measures than we are adopting at present, would we be justified in considering the proposal of the honorable member for Martin. It might then be necessary to halt all ordinary developmental work, to hold up our measures of social improvement, and put every penny into preparing for the defence of the country. It might be necessary to say to the people, “ If you do not give what is needed, we will take it from you “. However, if that time should ever arrive, it will not be necessary to take the money ; the people will give it. Many honorable members have short memories, but they cannot have forgotten that during the last war, the people never failed to respond when loans were being raised, and that the cost of a war, over £1,000,000,000, was provided by the Australian people. In view of the history of the Australian people, wealthy as well as poor, it would be an insult to say to them that we do not trust their patriotism, and that we propose to take a census of wealth, so that a capital levy might be imposed. The people would take itas an insult, and I would not blame them.
– Evidently the Government doubts the loyalty of the men of the nation when it compels them to submit to a compulsory register.
– That is not so. The register of man-power is merely for statistical purposes and will take a long time- to complete and tabulate. In any case, if the Opposition has any hopes of becoming the Government, it will be able to use whatever information is made available. There is nothing to support the suggestion that the Government will use the information for sinister purposes. I urge honorable members to consider the industrial and commercial position as it exists to-day. Unemployment is increasing mainly because of the heavy drain on available funds by Government borrowing. We are reaching a stage when measures may have to be taken by this Government and others to avoid another financial depression. If we want to hasten the coming of such a depression, let us apply the policy proposed by the honorable member for Martin. If the people are threatened with a capital levy - and that is what is implied, because the levy would be imposed by a Labour government, if not by this - a situation will he created that will react disastrously on the workers. I urge the honorable member not to. proceed with his- proposed amendment, which amounts to an attack upon those who have never failed to do their duty in the development of Australia.
.- It was very interesting to hear the honorable member for New England (Mr. Thompson) in his special pleading on behalf of the money masters of this country. His illogical arguments were on a par with most of the speeches which he makes in this House. In his concluding remarks, he said that there was nothing to fear from the proposed register of man-power, because it would take a considerable length of time to complete the tabulation of the information obtained. Does not the same argument apply to the proposed census of wealth? As a matter of fact, it might be very interesting to obtain information regarding the degree to which some persons are evading their obligation to pay taxes. Such information would be helpful to the Commissioner of Taxation. We know that the Taxation Department is deeply concerned at the lack of honesty of some of the wealthy persons whom the honorable member for New England wishes to save from possible embarrassment through having their affairs investigated. We know that when the wealthy interests of this country need, a special champion to speak for them,.. the honorable member for New England is always ready to take up their cause. He is not so ready to champion the cause of those who work the farms, even in his own constituency, though he is ever ready to give aid and comfort to the wealthy institutions to whom the farmers are indebted. It is unfortunate that, hi regard to an essential aspect of defence, the Ministry should have introduced legislation which arouses such wide-spread suspicion. No measure which has for its object the making of preparations for the defence of this country can succeed if it is horn in an atmosphere of suspicion such as that which surrounds this measure.” The Government has done nothing to clarify the position, or to dispel the belief that its intention in introducing this bill is to provide for compulsory service, not only in a military sense, but also in industrial life. It has been claimed that the purpose of. this national register is to ensure that men who have technical knowledge which would be of value in time of emergency, will be employed to the best advantage should the occasion arise. I submit that, whether or not a compulsory register is compiled, the workers of Australia can be relied upon to give of their best in the service of the nation. In any case compulsory registration is not necessary to secure the information’ which the Government desires, because when a person enlists for military service he is required to make a declaration which includes such information as is provided for by the questionnaire set out in the schedule to this bill. There would be nothing to stop the defence authorities saying to a man who sought to enlist “ We cannot accept you for military service. Your obvious duty is to remain in the industry in which you are now engaged because your services will be much more valuable there “. In this way the technical knowledge possessed by Australian workers, could be readily tabulated without any compulsion whatever. Unless there is behind this legislation the intention to use it in order to bring about compulsory service, there is no justification for it. The truth is that it can serve no purpose other than that which is in the mind of the Government. Assuredly the bill intends to go far beyond merely registering technical knowledge and qualifications. For instance, it requires that declarations must be made by youths attaining the age of 18 years. Surely youths of from 18 to 21 years of age cannot possess that highly technical skill which would render their services extremely valuable in a time of emergency
– A young man might be in a reserve occupation.
– In any case, any one so young cannot be deemed to have become fully qualified in a technical sense, and it is only begging the question to say otherwise. Clearly .the Government has in mind the application of compulsory forms of conscription, certainly in a military sense; and this legislation may have a wider application; it may intrude itself into industrial activities. Indeed, I have a grave apprehension of the Government’s intention in that regard. The Minister for Defence (Mr. Street) stated that one reason for the hill is that in the event of an emergency arising in the near future, all of the information necessary to place Australia’s defence on a soundbasis would be available to the Government,, and that the bill was the outcome of experience gained in the Great War, a quarter of a century ago! But that is characteristic of this Government; it is always about 25 years late in everything it does. I do not think that, the Minister himself takes his latter argument seriously.
– I do.
– I feel sure that nobody else does. . The Minister will have to provide something far more convincing than the arguments which he has adduced so far. The introduction of a measure providing for compulsory service, particularly at a time like this, is quite unjustified. Last Anzac Day, the AttorneyGeneral (Mr. Hughes) made a. speech in the St. James Theatre, Sydney - the speech was broadcast, andI had the privilege of listening to it - in which he said that the call to the manhood of the country had been so splendidly answered that more than the full quota had been obtained for the Australian Militia Forces, and that twice the presen t number couldbe secured should the need arise -again a clear indication that there is no justification for applying compulsion to military service in this country. The manhood of Australia has responded so magnificently in the past; that there is no need whatever for a register such as that proposed by the Government. It is not surprising that grave suspicion of this measure has been created among the large majority of industrialists throughout Australia.
In my opinion the Government is doing a great dis-service to Australia by introducing legislation calculated to divide public opinion in this country at the present time. If there ever was a time when thereshould be unity among all sections of the community in regard to defence proposals, it is now. The Government, however, is quite indifferent to the views of that large body of unionists and those who represent the great mass of the working people. Its only concern is that its own interests shall be served.
The honorable member for New England claimed that the people of Australia would endorse the principle embodied in this legislation, but I feel I speak on behalf of the Labour movement whenI say that we should welcome an opportunity to test public opinion in this matter by means of a referendum. The. logical way out of a. situation such as this is to refer the matter to the people, as another important question was referred during the war. I know well that, if an opportunity to express an opinion were given, the people of Australia would overwhelmingly reject the Government’s proposals. With regard’ to the relative merits of a. voluntary register and a compulsory register, the experience of the United Kingdom is of some help.
– They are schemes of different types.
– I realize that there may be some variation in details, but the general principles of the schemes are the same.
– That is not so. Whereas the British scheme provides for service, the Australian proposal is merely for registration.
– I shall read to honorable members a statement, by Sir John Anderson, Lord Privy Seal, who made a very definite pronouncement that a voluntary registration system was far more satisfactory than a compulsory one. He is not the only distinguished gentleman who holds that, view. Other men of standing in British politics have supported the contention of honorable members on this side of the House with regard to legislation such as this. Sir John Anderson, who had charge of the Voluntary Service Register Bill in the House of Commons, said -
It has become more and more clear to me during recent weeks, from the letters that I have received, from newspapers, from talks that I have had, that many of the people who have been arguing in favour of the 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.
Sir James Whittaker, a distinguished, member of the British House of Commons, said -
Mere registration of itself is obviously of no use. It is a means to an end. What is the end? Tell us frankly what you are at. Organization? Yes, by all means. Efficiency? Yes, and where? And what has this to do with it? This bill is a waste of time, a waste of energy and some waste of money. It is diverting attention from the real trouble, the real necessity, the real danger. It is hiding it up and misleading the people. It is not every one between the ages of fifteen and 05 we want to stir up. They are not the people who are at fault, but those who should guide and use them …. Tell the people exactly what you want, where and when, you want them, ask them to register themselves, and do. not …. make them feel they are being trifled with. .Unless this bill is going to be used for compulsion., it will be of no use whatever.
– That is out of date. Britain has conscription now.
– It applies just as much to-day as it did then. It is about time that some honorable members of this Parliament were made familiar with the opinions expressed by those with sufficient experience to advise on these matters. It was reported in the Ago newspaper of the 6th May, 1939, that Lieutenant Colonel T. P. Cook said -
They can never train conscripts as well as they can. train -volunteers - and all the storming troops were volunteers. Compulsory training could be introduced in Australia by order in council but it would not produce the rightly-trained men.
There is no doubt about the truth of that statement. A corollary to a national register is compulsory service. Compulsion will never keep alive that spirit of patriotism so respected in democratic nations where true democracy prevails. Sir John Anderson dealt with that aspect in this statement -
And what use would compulsion be in getting people, as .we need them in civil defence, for jobs requiring judgment, initiative and discretion. How can you compel a man to go into a job and say to him when you have got him there - ‘ Now you are toexercise your judgment. The agencies on which to rely in the performance of those acts must he got by voluntary effort.
In highly technical work, the conscript is not the beat man for the purpose. That being so, the Government is proposing to do something that would undermine the fundamental principles of liberty and right to express quite freely willingness to serve the nation in the best way. Compulsion will create division and dissatisfaction throughout the community. Sir Percy Harris, speaking on the British Register Bill, said -
When it is a question of highly technical work, the conscript is not the best man for the purpose. We can get all the man-power we require if we sot about it in the right way.
Whether our needs be those of peace or war, if we approach our manhood in the right way, we shall receive their service with willingness. The Government has shown its lack of confidence in the manhood of the country by introducing this measure which is a. reflection on the ability and integrity of our people. The bill is so provocative that it is bound to create harm. The Government should recognize the seriousness of its deed. There is nothing to show that this bill is urgent. I know that the Government would like to work up frenzy and hysteria among the people in order , to create an atmosphere favorable to an appeal to the people, but it will find it difficult to convince the electors that circumstances of extreme urgency actually exist in this country. There are other ways in which the needs of the defence programme can be served than by this bill. The way in which the young men responded to the militia recruiting campaign is eloquent testimony of the willingness of the Australian manhood to respond to any call that may be made to it. I hope that the House will show its good judgment by rejecting this bill which is illogical, likely to arouse extensive suspicion as to the intentions of the Government, inequitable and calculated to. destroy principles of liberty and justice, and the antithesis of what might be expected to be the policy ruling a democratic country.
– I approve of this measure. A national register is essential if we are- to be in a position to defend this country and the Government should go further than it proposes by asking the people to record their military service. We have the Australian Imperial Force records, but there are in ‘ Australia men who served: with the New Zealand, British and Indian forces, whose services would be valuable in a time of emergency. The militia records .are not complete. I know of two or three drill halls that have been destroyed by fire with all the records. It is necessary that there.’. should be registration of women who have, special qualifications, for instance, nurses, doctors and car-drivers.
– They are registered.
– -Some of them are, but it is a voluntary register and to be complete ,a register must be compulsory. I believe also that we should have a registration of wealth. The Government is asking the young men to serve in frontline. .units at the risk of their lives and. manufacturers to manufacture munitions of war without undue profits; it must. also ask the people who hold the wealth of the country to do their share. It is obvious that there are groups in Australia which have hidden reserves and secret profits. The Government would he well advised, unless it could acquire -that information in some other way, to provide for a census of wealth to be .taken. The honorable members for Batman (Mr. Brennan) and East Sydney -(Mr. Ward) object’ to this register on the ground that it is an interference with the liberty of the subject. If Australia were overcome by a dictatorship country, there would be no such thing as liberty of the subject. In Germany two great, religious bodies have been deprived of their property and their leaders crushed. The unemployed are forced into labour camps. If a man dare to voice such opinions as both honorable members are apt to voice, he is cast into an internment camp and is never heard of again.. The honorable’ gentlemen should realize .that in Australia we have liberty which is worth fighting for and worth registering for.
– If men -do not answer the questions they will be put into concentration camps in Australia.
– There is no such suggestion. I have sufficient belief in the working class to know that in spite of political propaganda, members of it will be prepared to fill in the registration cards and to serve this country if they are called upon to do so.
– But not to serve this Government.
– I am satisfied that they are prepared to serve any government that has charge of Australia in a time of national emergency. The information that is to be sought under ‘this bill is necessary in ‘ time of peace or war. I intend to give to the House a few examples of how, during the last war, as the result of absence of such information as is .proposed to be obtained under this bill, men went into the ranks when they should have been engaged in specialized occupations. One is the ease of a man who was a staffsergeant. His attestation papers were not seen by us, but it transpired that he had been a member of a railway staff in Australia. The British authorities were seeking for men with railway experience. He went to the British service and within two years, at the end of the war, he was in charge of the railway system from the Sinai Peninsula, through Palestine, to Syria. His specialized -services were previously wasted.
– Did the attesting officers bring his qualifications under the notice of the responsible authorities?
– He joined reinforcements for a light horse regiment. At that time there was no opening for appointment to a railway unit in Palestine, but eventually he was assigned to the ‘job to which I have referred. It should be impossible to convince me that a man doing the work of a staff-sergeant would be engaged on as important a task as that of a man controlling a great railway system. Another officer in command ‘of a squadron was a doctor, and -he finished up his service as Chief Medical Officer , of the Repatriation Department in Melbourne. He carried out those duties particularly well. Immediately- after the evacuation of Gallipoli, hundreds of the finest horsemen in Australia were transferred to the infantry, and for some time men who desired to join the light horse were not permitted to do so. When we experienced heavy casualties in Palestine reinforcements were sent to us and some of those men had never previously sat upon a horse. If a national register were prepared, it would be possible to assign men to units in which they would be best fitted to serve.
The honorable member for Melbourne Ports (Mr. Holloway) said that he was not afraid of war breaking out, and he did not wish to interfere with the liberty of the individual. I agree with the honorable member that the international situation is more hopeful than it was six months ago, but I claim that this is due to the fact that the people of Great Britain have been prepared to make huge sacrifices of wealth, and to accept conscription. Great Britain is now a strong power, which no potential enemy is prepared to challenge. If Australia is to make its contribution to the preservation of the peace of the world, it must follow in the footsteps of Great Britain, and make itself strong.
– Does the honorable member favour conscription?
– No, but I am in favour of compulsory training for the defence of Australia. I have always opposed, and I twice voted against, conscription, because I do not consider that anybody has the moral right to send a man out of his country to fight abroad, but, if a man would not serve his own country, I would put him up against a wall.
Some honorable members have taken exception to the questions proposed tobe addressed to citizens in connexion with the national register. During the Great War, seven or eight conscientious objectors in my brigade declined to be inoculated. They got into a cholera camp outside Damascus, and the objections lasted longer than the time it took to take them to a doctor for inoculation. Only one of them lived. Among the questions objected to are those relating to the number of children and other dependants, but it is necessary for that information to be supplied. Obviously, every man available for service could not be put into the front line in the event of a national emergency, and the first to be sent should be bachelors and married men without families, and those with a num- ber of dependants should he the last to go. I am definitely in favour of compulsory training for the defence of Australia, and if an attack were made on this country I should be in favour of conscription of men, wealth and industries. I hope that the Government will proceed with this bill, becauseI regard its passage as essential.When the Government has sufficient staff to train men and sufficient equipment for. them, I trust that it will have enough courage to introduce compulsory military training for the defence of this country.
– I am pleased to have the opportunity to follow in this debate the honorable member for Bendigo (Mr. Rankin), who was a brigadier in the Great War. I am doubly pleased to know that he fought against conscription on two occasions. While he and his gallant soldiers were fighting with their backs to the wall, and while they and he voted against conscription, men who are still in this Parliament advocated it. They told young people to go to the war, although very few of those members practised what they preached. I am totally opposed to this measure, because it implies conscription. As has been remarked by practically every member of the Opposition, if the Government has no intention to introduce conscription, there is no necessity for this bill. A measure of a similar character was introduced in 1915 by the AttorneyGeneral of the day, the right honorable member for North Sydney (Mr. Hughes), who was then in a Labour government. Many members of the Labour party at that time failed to appreciate the significance of the measure. Every member of that party, and even members of the then Opposition, said that it would not lead to conscription. Mr. Andrew Fisher, who was the Prime Minister of the day, remarked -
Any attempt to associate this bill with conscription is an attempt to mislead the public.
I give Mr. Fisher credit for meaning what he said; but, if he had remained Prime Minister for a longer period than that for which he served, I do not think that the war lords of this country would have bulldozed him into the position occupied by the right honorable member for North Sydney, who took his place. Sir Joseph Cook, who had been a Labour
Prime Minister, and afterwards joined the Nationalist party, said -
If we take this measure of compulsion - and 1 hesitate to use the word - to the manhood of Australia, the reflex influence coming from the man having to record details of himself in this compulsory .way will be excellent when the recruiting-sergeant makes his appearance.
Sir Joseph Cook was an ardent conscriptionist, and unquestionably the present measure is an ideal one for the recruiting-sergeant. Another politician who waa also an enthusiastic conscriptionist is ex-Senator Sir George Pearce, [n 1916, when the conscription campaign was in progress, he came into the town of Auburn, where he delivered his first conscription speech in New South Wales. He said “ We must have the young men of this country - first the single men and then the married men with no families “. He endeavoured to induce the people of Auburn to support the policy of conscription, but they were so much opposed to him, and to the principles he espoused, that he had to jump over a 7 ft. fence at the back of the local town hall to escape from the people. When the vote was taken on the issue, Auburn recorded a three to one majority against it. I fear that Sir George Pearce may be one of the men selected to serve on the proposed board. Sir Joseph Cook further said -
L regard the compulsory registration of the available manhood of Australia as a step in the right direction, but I do’ not hesitate to say something must follow.
Did he not mean that the corollary would be conscription? Another good member of the. Labour party at that time was Mr. Hannan, who represented Fawkner, and who said -
Vear has been expressed by many people that the intention of the Government was to introduce conscription. I anl perfectly satisfied, after the assurances given by the Prime Minister and the Attorney-General, that conscription is not the intention.
Even that astute man was gulled. The same thing is being attempted to-day. lt is possible that on the Government side there are one or two members who would vote against the bill if they thought that it meant conscription, but I. imagine that I would have to get a microscope to find them. The honorable member for Barton (Mr. Lane) is cer tainly not one of them, for in 1916 and 1917 he was out day and night advocating conscription. The then honorable member for Eden-Monaro, Mr. Austin Chapman, later Sir Austin Chapman, said that he did not fear conscription; but after the census attempts to introduce conscription were made. Sir Littleton Groom, whom I greatly admired and respected, said at that time -
The measure may give us certain information that will prove of use if we are to have conscription.
There was no difference between that bill and the one now before the House.
– None whatever.
– I appeal to the Minister to withdraw the hill before the tea adjournment. The then member for Angas (Mr. Glynn) said during the debate -
I confess 1 cannot see the necessity for it unless it moans conscription.
He was only voicing the opinion of 99 per cent, of the Government supporters at that time. Another illustrious member of that Parliament was Sir JohnForrest, who said -
We cannot make use of it except by recourse to conscription.
In one of the corridors of this building there is a painting of Sir John Forrest. So highly was he regarded, that His Majesty conferred a barony on him.
– He was a man of great weight.
– If Sir John Forrest were here to-day, he would vote for the Government in favour of this bill. He would know that its aim is conscription. Last, but not least, among the political giants of that day was the Minister who introduced the bill - the gentleman who then, as now, was Attorney-General of the Commonwealth - the Right Honorable William Morris Hughes. The words that he spoke then were repeated from thousands of throats every night during the conscription campaign. In introducing the bill, he said - I know his words so well that I can repeat them from memory -
In no circumstances will I be a party to sending a man out of Australia to fight against his will.
But in case I have missed dotting an “ i “ or crossing a “ t “, I had better confirm my memory of his remarks on that occasion. He said -
In no circumstances would I agree to send men out of this country to fight against their will. If the day ever comes when men will not fight when their country is at death grips, it will be because the country is rotten to the core, and not worth fighting for.
There is some truth in those words of William Morris Hughes, that a country which is not worth fighting for must be rotten to the core. In J une or July, 1915, not long after he made that statement, Mr. Hughes attempted to introduce conscription.
– He submitted the proposal to a referendum of the people.
– Yes ;but before he did so he went through a number of subterranean passages. Moreover, he placed a great number of obstacles in the way of the anti-conscriptionists. He introduced a strict censorship throughout the Commonwealth, as the honorable member for Melbourne Ports (Mr. Holloway) knows. That honorable gentleman had prepared a pamphlet against conscription, but a number of men, acting under instructions from the then Attorney-General, formedfours around the Trades Hall, fixed their bayonets, and’ called out : “ We want Holloway “ - in order to take him to gaol. That action was taken because the honorable gentleman had written articles against conscription. The then AttorneyGeneral thought that by intimidatory methods he would get conscription. It is true that in Victoria the vote favoured conscription and for . that reason, I feel a certain hostility towards Victorians. But good old New South Wales, with the backing of Queensland, provided a majority against conscription. There was’ one man in Queensland whose name will be revered by all lovers of freedom in this country. I refer to the Premier of that State at the time, Mr. T. J. Ryan. When the Prime Minister of the day issued instructions that a speech which Mr. E. T. Theodore had delivered in the Queensland Parliament - a speech for which I give him credit - should be suppressed, Mr. Ryan refused to comply with them. At that time everything that was published by the anticonscriptionists was censored ; before any one could publish an article he had to ask the “ brass hats “for their approval to publish it. When attempts were made to send copies of Hansard, containing the speeches of Messrs. Ryan and Theodore, to the electors of Queensland, Mr. Hughes sent along troops-
– No, he did not.
– The then AttorneyGeneral determined that he would break into the rooms containing Hansard, and take the printing machines away. First, however, he endeavoured to get the Queensland Police Force to do the job for him, but Mr. Ryan said, “ No ; they are State police; hands off. You cannot get them to do your dirty work “.
– Order !
– He said it, Mr. Speaker.
– The honorable member should attempt to discuss some phase of the bill.
– This bill seeks to impose conscription on the people of Australia, and I am trying to awaken supporters of the Government to the truth. I am hopeful that they may be swayed by my oratory to vote against the bill. Under this legislation, all males between the age of 18 and 65 years are to fill in a census form.It will be easy to rope in a boy of eighteen years of age, because he has not a vote, and the Government has nothing to be afraid of from him yet. I ask” the Minister and the Government to give to every man in the country between the ages of 18 and 65 years who fills in a card the right to vote. If it is good enough to provide that men shall risk their lives for their country, it should he good enough to give to them the opportunity to vote some of the supporters of the Government out of Parliament at the next elections. I shall read some of the questions which have to be answered. The first question asks “Age last birthday”. To that a boy of eighteen would answer “ Eighteen years “. The following questions inquire as to “ Country of birth of yourself, your father, your mother “. What difference would that information make to a man who was conscripted and forced to serve in the trenches? You, Mr. Speaker, were at the last war, and you know that when an enemy bullet came over the trenches it did not come with a particular address on it, or hit or miss a man because his father or his mother was horn here or there. I cannot see any reason for those questions. Next in the list are some questions relating to nationality. Each male has to state whether he is a natural-born or naturalized British subject; he must state the date and place of naturalization ; and if he is of foreign nationality, he must state the country to which he owes allegiance. Then follow questions inquiring whether the individual is married,or has never been married,or is a widower, or has been divorced. The form omits to ask whether he has ever had an opportunity to get married. The next question relates to his dependent relatives, if any. He is asked to state whether he has a dependent father, mother, or wife, and the number of children under sixteen years of age.
– Will aboy of eighteen have to answer that question?
– Yes ; and so will a man who is 64 years, 11 months and 30 days. old. The register then inquires as to the man’s general health. whether it is good, bad or indifferent. The next question reads: “If blind, deaf, dumb, crippled or otherwise maimed, state nature of disability “. How is a blind, deaf and dumb man to fill in the form?
– In the same way as a blind,deaf or dumb voter fills in his ballot-paper.
– I take it that some one else willfill in the form for him. But if no one else is willing to do so; will the blind, deaf and dumb man be fined £50, or be imprisoned for three months, or both? Fancy the Government putting a blind man in gaol! Other questions relate to “ Grade of occupation “. Every man will be asked whether he is an employer of labour other than domestic. What is a domestic servant? The term is generally meant to cover a girl who works in the home of another person.I do not know whether you, Mr. Speaker, would describe the men who work in this House - the cleaners, the chefs, and others - as domestic servants. The tenth question relates to unemployment. Each man will be asked to “ State total number of weeks unemployed in past -twelve months”. Another question. reads “If unemployed now, state period since last employed in any occupation (other than sustenance or relief work) “. The information is to be supplied under three headings: “Months”, “Weeks” and “Days”. Should this bill become law, and these forms be filled in, I should like the Minister to let me see the answers to question 10, for I feel certain that the returns will disclose that there are as many unemployed men in this country as during the 1933 depression when the last census was taken. I imagine, however, that if the Minister were asked to produce the figures, he would reply that they were secret, and not to be made available to honorable members. Further questions relate to “ Craft or occupation “. The first question under this heading reads : “ State craft or individual occupation in which now engaged “. No unemployed man could answer that question.
Sitting suspended from 6.15 to 8 p.m.
– Question 11 of the schedule requires the person registering to state the craft or individual occupation in whichhe is engaged, and to state any other skilled craft or occupation in which he has special skill or training. There will be thousands of men, particularly the younger ones, who have never been engaged in any craft or occupation, who have never been employed at all, and they will have some trouble in answering that question; yet any man who does not complete the card will be subject to a penalty. Clause 22 of the bill states -
Any male person who, after taking of the first census under this act -
If he does not fill in the card withinthe prescribed time, or if he forges or utters, knowing it to be forged, any form or document under the act, he shall be guilty of an offence, and the punishment for an offence under the act shall, where no other penalty is provided, be a fine not exceeding £50 or imprisonment for a term not exceeding three months, or both.
– The penalty is up to £50. It may be only ls.
– If that is intended, let it be stated in the bill. Let the honorable member move an amendment to that effect, and we will support him. The magistrate is to have power to fine a man £50, or to sentence him to imprisonment for three months. Men on the dole or on relief work are not likely to be able to pay a fine of £50, so they will be sent to gaol. I should like to know where the Minister will find gaols enough to hold them all. When a- man has been released for a week, the long arm of the law can reach out at him from the darkness, and he can be again arrested for failing to fill in the card. He can be gaoled again, so that he may spend practically all his time in gaol. Then, when war actually breaks out, those gaoled under this provision will be told that they will be released if they agree to go into the front trenches. I know some of the magistrates before whom offenders under this provision will probably appear. If we want to know what is likely to happen in the future, it is a good thing to study what has happened in the past. I remember that, when the call-up was made in 1917, those men who failed to respond were taken before the magistrates, and some of them were gaoled, even some of those who claimed exemption. One young man I knew came before Mr. Smithers, S.M.. in Sydney, to state why he did not desire to go into camp as one of the “Hughsileers “, as they were called. He said that he had three brothers at the front, that his father was dead, and that he was the sole support of his mother. He said to the magistrate, “ The four of us met, and decided that the three oldest should go to the war, and that I should stay’ behind and support our mother “. That magistrate said to him, “ You’re a shirker; go to the front. Get into the trenches with your three brothers “.
– I should like the honorable member to produce proof of that.
– I have the proof. The same sort of thing was done by Mr. Barnett, S.M., when Mr. D. R, Hall was Attorney-General in New South Wales. This was the Mr. Hall who was member for Werriwa in the Commonwealth Parliament. He resigned, and contested a seat in the New South Wales Parliament, was elected, and became Attorney-General in the Holman Government. The defence authorities represented to him that magistrates like Smithers and Barnett were doing a’ great deal of harm to the conscription campaign then in progress, and they were withdrawn from the bench. When men are charged under the provisions of the measure now ‘before us for failing to fill in cards, many of them, I have no doubt, will state that they had conscientious objections to filling them in. They may state that they object to filling them in because they fear that the scheme will lead to war, and that they abhor war. There may be a magistrate like Mr. Smithers on the bench, who will say, “ You shirker, go to gaol for three months, and pay a fine of £50 “.
I do not know why the Government did not provide for the taking of a census of wealth, as well as of man-power. I should very much like to see such a census taken. I may he a bit of a “ sticky.beak,’’ but I should very much like to see some of the forms that would be filled in. I should like to see the form filled in by Sir Alfred Davidson, general manager of the Bank of New South Wales. There is another gentleman, well known to honorable gentlemen on the other side of the House, Sir Sydney Snow, whose form I should like to see. Then there is that great friend of the honorable member for Martin (Mr. McCall), Sir Samuel Walder, whose form it would be interesting to see. There are also the Baillieus of Melbourne. It would be very nice if the Minister for Defence and I could have a quiet little look over their forms. Others whom I am interested in are the Faulkners, the Nathans, the Fairfaxes of the Sydney Morning Herald, and Sir Keith Murdoch, of Melbourne. When people of that kind state in their forms how much wealth they have, I should like to ask them where they got it. However, I leave it at that.
The Labour party is definitely opposed to this bill. We shall vote against it every time the division bells ring - well, practically every time. We shall probably make an exception if a division is called on .an amendment moved by the honorable member for Barker (“Mr. Archie Cameron). The Labour party feels that the’ taking of this register is merely a preliminary to the introduction of conscription, to which it is resolutely opposed. Every member of the Labour party throughout the Commonwealth is pledged to oppose conscription. We of the Labour party say that there is no occasion to raise the antagonism of neighbouring nations by provocative acts. We desire to live at peace with the rest of the world. I conclude by quoting the words of Tennyson -
For I dipt into the future, far as human eye could see,
Saw the Vision of the world, and all the wonder that would be;
Till the war drums throbb’d no longer, and the battle-flags were furl’d
In the Parliament of man, the Federation of the world.
– in reply - I have listened to all the speeches from both sides of the House during the second-reading debate on this bill, and I think that about 45 honorable members have spoken. I regret that the honorable member who has just sat down has such a modest opinion of his own batting ability that he always puts himself in last.
– A few runs were wanted, and I knew I could knock them up quickly.
– From some of the speeches it would appear that the opposition to this bill was not so much to its substance, or to anything that it might be concealing, as that it created a certain psychology. It was suggested that, if the taking of this register coincided with an ordinary census, there would be little or no objection to it. Generally speaking, the Opposition case against the register can be summarized under the following headings: - Two points relating to the ultimate motive of the Government in introducing the bill, namely, -that it is the forerunner to universal training and to industrial conscription. Two furtherpoints of objection are in regard to thescope of the bill, in that it does not provide for a census of wealth, or for economic planning. A final point of objection is in regard to the compulsory nature of the register, and the essential quality for which it is required. I propose to examine the case that has been made out by honorable members of the Opposition under those various headings.
Many honorable members opposite have urged that this bill is the forerunner to the introduction of compulsory training, and some have gone so far as to assert that it is a prelude to conscription for military service overseas. As every one knows, no legislative power exists for the latter purpose, and the Opposition is aware of the people’s answer to it when they raised this bogy at the last elections.
In regard to compulsory training for home service, it is a well-known fact that the Government is providing for the peace organization and strength of the Army that is necessary for Australian defence. In fact, the strength of the militia forces, as the result of the recent recruiting campaign, already exceeds the figure that has been recommended. If we have in view what we require, what would be the purpose of any present change in the method of reaching the same end? Irrespective of the method of training in existence, a national register is necessary. There is no organic connexion between this bill and any system of training. The word “ conscription “ has been used by almost every honorable member opposite who has spoken on this debate. It is a word that has been selected as one calculated to make the flesh creep, but it has been rather overworked as a bogy in its application both to military service and to industrial conditions. The whole ground, however, is cut away from the Opposition’s case on this point, and its arguments collapse, by assurances which were given in writing by the late Prime Minister to the Australian Council of Trade Unions.
The honorable member for Griffith (Mr. Conelan) in his maiden speech in this House - a speech upon which I would like to congratulate him - said that the Government should endeavour to create harmony rather than discord. The honorable member for Melbourne Ports .(Mr. Holloway) said, in effect, the same thing.
I assure these gentlemen that that has always > been my earnest endeavour.
In seeking the co-operation of the trade unions in the nomination of a Trade Union Advisory Panel for consultation on defence, the late Prime Minister wrote - .
I I Iti the ‘ preparation of the. national plans necessary for safeguarding Australia against attack by an aggressor, there is no intention on’ the part of the Government to seek any variation of the industrial laws governing wages and conditions of employment in Government or private factories ; nor is there any warrant for. the suggestion that the preparation of these plans will lead to industrial conscription.
The;. Government agrees in principle that any plans -for. an emergency that are drafted will be defined to be the basis or method to be observed in the determination of industrial conditions to meet an emergency, i.e., for safeguarding Australia against attack by an aggressor. .. Therefore, -should any private employer’ or employers in a claim before an industrial tribunal seek to obtain a lowering of .the existing standard of wages or a worsening of the working conditions on the plea that such is necessary in peace for the organization of the industry for war, the Commonwealth will- intervene on the basis that the organization of industry for war is a matter of Government, policy governed by the plans for industrial conditions in war. ;’ The best’ method for providing for the cooperation of the trade union movement is by an advisory panel which would be consulted by ‘the Government on all matters affecting trade unions. .This is, incidentally, a complete answer to the Deputy Leader of the Opposition (Mr. .Forde) who said that the workers would not be consulted on this important question -
The panel could act collectively on major matters and may appoint representatives to act on committees which may be. constituted to ‘deal with particular aspects that may arise, such as systems of wage fixing, rectification of grievances, &c.
The willingness of the trade, union movement, to appoint representatives to consider ways and means of co-operation will not prejudice in any way the freedom of their judgment ‘ on matters put before them for consideration.
I know of no greater safeguard that could be given to reassure unions on this ;point. My only regret is - I say this in a (non-party political spirit - that the further., advice promised on this subject on 5th July, 1938, has not been forthcom- ing from .the’ Australasian Council, ‘.oi Trade Unions. The offer, however, remains open. ..I. -may be an optimist, but I still think that co-operation ‘. will be forthcoming. . . : ..
– The unions are too cunning to be caught with that bait.
– I am afraid’ that the honorable member for East Sydney (Mr. Ward) is unnaturally suspicious.
The Government is in full agreement with honorable members opposite that wealth must play its part in the defence of Australia, equally with man-power. In this connexion, I quote from the assurances given by the right honorable the Prime Minister (Mr. Menzies) on the 26th April last–
External security . . . means . effective defence, and that means man-power, money, materials,’ economic organization, self-sacrifice. Let me say at once that I’ will not have it that the problem of defence is simply one for 70,000 young men under training in arms. In the defence of Australia, which means the safety of all of us, we must all participate. We must have industry organized and industrialists . co-operating with the Government, our financial resources must be marshalled’, our works programmes, Commonwealth and. State, co-ordinated so that work of a defensive value will take precedence; as taxpayers we must be prepared, to pay more; the desire which exists in hundreds of thousands of people in Australia to be of some use in an emergency must be given useful expression.
But the principle is that capital must contribute its power to defence, just’ as - manpower does and will.
With- agreement ‘then, ‘on- the question of principle, the point at issue becomes one of method, and this is largely a technical question. I’ would recall in this respect that an ex-chairman of the British Labour Party Executive, and an eminent authority on public finance, v said that, though he favoured in principle a capital levy to extinguish the war ..debt, he ..did not consider it practicable to collect it.
In its examination of the question of a national register, the Government gave exhaustive consideration to the question of a wealth census. A mere census, of wealth, similar to that taken in 1915, would not be of great practical value from the point of view of its use as the basis of a capital levy. The necessity for the ascertainment at the present time of particulars of the manner in - which the national wealth is distributed amongst individuals is not apparent. The question of the total national wealth and income is one which is constantly engaging the attention of economists and statisticians, and figures which represent the result of intensive research and examination are readily available. Furthermore, there are records of valuations of land and improvements thereon in the shape of Commonwealth, State and municipal valuations for taxation and rates. The Companies Acts provide for the filing of balance-sheetsand other returns with registrars, and life insurance companies are required to render special statements regarding their assets. Banking returns indicate ‘ the amounts deposited with banks. The Commonwealth and State Treasuries’ and semi-public bodies have records of the amounts of public and semi-public loans. The income tax returns show the incomes of companies and individuals.
Mr.Scullin. - Has the Government access to information contained in income taxreturns?
– No ; only the Taxation Department has access to that.
If a capital levy were proposed, the machinery of the Taxation Branch of the Treasury would have to be used. To secure reliable results it would be necessary to undertake a very comprehensive inquiry, the cost of which would completely outweigh its value.
If, it were desired to tax wealth as such, this could be done by increasing the land tax and the income tax on property income more heavily than on personal exertion income.
The taxation powers of the Commonwealth in relation to this national wealth and. income are unlimited and in times of emergency could be exercised in any manner desired without the necessity for any. preliminary examination as to its distribution. If, for instance, it became necessary in times of emergency to institute a levy on wealth, the rate could be fixed in relation to total Australian wealth at such a figure as would raise the required sum and each citizen would have to contribute in accordance withhis actual wealth, whatever it might be. In such an emergency, returnscould then be obtained from all citizens for the purposes of assessment. Figures of wealth obtained now would, however, be of little value for the purposes of any such emergency as might arise in future, forthe ownership of wealth is continually changing.
-Is provision to be made for a recurring census of man-power?
– The honorable mem- ber will admit that recurring changes’ in man-power are not nearly so great as changes in the distribution of . wealth.
The valuation of wealth is a mostdifficult problem, and in many cases involves quite arbitrary judgments. In this respect a wealth levy would he much more difficult administratively than an increase of income tax rates. Rapid changes in the valuation of wealth, which might well be anticipated in the event of war, would rapidly reduce the value of the information secured from such a census. While an isolated individual can sell his property in order to find cash to meet a wealth levy, it is impossible for all owners of wealth to do so at the same time. A large-scale capital levy would inevitably mean that the Government would have to take over the ownership of property itself, and rely on the income therefrom for increasing its spending power. In such circumstances, it is questionable whether it might not be better in the long run for the Government to allow property owners to continue in ownership, and collect money required from the income earned from time to time.
– Did any honorable member advocate a capital levy in the course of this debate?
– I understand that suggestion was made.
Even if the Government took over the ownership of property, it might not immediately turn it into goods of the type’ which the Government requires. The carrying out of defence works, &c, can only be done by utilizing unemployed resources of men and machinery, or by diverting resources at present employed to other uses. From this particular point of view, there seems to be little superiority in a capital levy over other methods of taxation.
For the reasons stated, the Government does not consider that a census of wealth is necessary. That is whythis bill, as introduced, does not provide for it.However, it has declared that in an emergency wealth must play its part equally with man-power. As I have endeavoured to point out, honorable members have at their disposal all of the machinery necessary to get exactly what wealth is desired in the interests of the nation. For the defence policy of industrial planning, I would remind honorable members of clause 6 of the Supply and Development Bill, under which the Government can require the furnishing of all information that is required for this purpose.
As the purpose of the bill now before the House is for the establishment of a national register, the references to economic planning, which is governed by the normal peace-time policy of the Government, are somewhat irrelevant. Insofar as the complementary aspect of economic planning for an emergency is concerned, the position is fully covered by clause 5 of the Supply and Development Bill, which defines the functions of the new department and provides for surveys of Australian industrial capacity and the investigation and development of Australian sources for the supply of goods.
In regard to the Government’s normal economic policy, I would invite the attention of honorable members to the aims and basis of attaining them which were outlined by the Prime Minister on the 26th April, 1939. The Prime Minister said -
Internally, my theme is justice. How can a Government help? By assisting the prosperity of industry, primary and secondary, and thus helping to create employment on terms which must be fair, reasonable and. civilized. For justice is not a commodity served out merely in courts of law: it is the universal element in our civilization. We must have industrial justice and social justice, industrial security and. social security, if we are to justify our system of government and the great efforts we are making to defend it.
Surely the Leader of the Opposition will agree with that.
– While I do not suggest that the Government sells justice to the rich, I do claim that it denies it to the poor.
– I am asking the honorable gentleman if he disputes the sentiments which I am expressing.
The Prime Minister’s statement continues -
We have not only resolved to defend Australia, but also her standards of life. There must be a fair deal and an Australian standard, for example, for the wheat farmer as for the manufacturer of iron and steel. As a convinced protectionist, I believe in as high a standard of living for all of us, in town or country, as we can afford. And I know of no better way of ensuring those standards than by pushing on with the development of our industries and the building up of our own strength.
As to the form and purpose of the register, I would recall to honorable members the statement made by the late Prime Minister, on the 29th March, as to the reasons which had actuated the Government to introduce a compulsory national register of man-power. It was stated that this had been decided to enable a survey to be made of the supply of the various classes of skilled persons in relation to the requirements of -
The Government munitions factories and annexes of private factories ;
As stated by the right honorable member for Cowper (Sir Earle Page), the following is the first of the thirteen points announced by the honorable Leader of the Opposition (Mr.Curtin)on the 19th
October last, as the basis of Labour’s defence policy : -
Survey of man-power resources, industrial and primary. It is essential that the number of men able to carry out all forms of work be known.
When the decision to adopt the voluntary register was announced early in February, the Leader of the Opposition was reported in the press of the 8th February as having made the following statement: -
On the 19th October he had suggested thirteen points as a basis on which Australian defence should be built. The first was the establishment of a national register, because it was essential that the number of men and women available to carry on all forms of work should be known. It would be fatal to bring industry to a stand-still by calling up all the best men for active military service. The solution was an allotment of personnel for both services and industry.
I agree with that statement.
– Based on their right to determine whether they should go or not.
– This statement reveals the intransigence of the opposition to this measure.
– That was on the announcement of the plan for the voluntary register. The Government must have examined whether a voluntary register would serve and Cabinet adopted the principle of a voluntary register.
– Order !
– Much play has been made by honorable members opposite on the compulsory aspect of the register, but they overlook the fact that we are governed by laws of compulsion from birth to death. An organized community obviously could not exist without such a principle, and it is recognized in our statute-book by laws relating to education, health, voting, taxation and a periodical census of all individuals, to which the purpose of this bill is closely allied. The argument of the honorable member for Batman (Mr. Brennan) that the compulsory nature of the register is a grave encroachment on civil liberties, cannot be justified.
In regard to his statement that it is a duplication of census machinery, I would point out that -
A similar provision exists in this bill.
As indicated in the statement of reasons for the adoption of a compulsory register, the vital principle of ascertaining information for the organized defence of the Commonwealth in an emergency cannot be left to chance. In the absence of such systematic preparations, Labour’s much-vaunted policy of adequate defence cannot be put into effect.
The establishment of a voluntary register has been advocated by honorable members of the Opposition.
– By the Government, too.
– But I remind them that when the Government’s decision for a voluntary register was announced., it immediately evoked protests from the trade unions. I would quote the following from the Age of the10th February : -
Officials of the Ironworkers Union stated to-night that they had advised their members to refuse information for the voluntary national register decided upon by the Federal Cabinet in Hobart this week as a precautionary measure in the event of an emergency. It is believed that the same attitude will be adopted by the other metal trades unions, which will involve over 300,000 workers in New South Wales.
On the 13th March, the Labour. Premier of Tasmania, Mr. Ogilvie, was reported in the Sydney Morning Herald as entirely disagreeing with the establishment of a national register upon a voluntary basis. It is, therefore, evident that that lack of unanimity which has been characteristic of Labour’s defence policy over a period of years still persists within its ranks,
Reference has been made to the United Kingdom register being on a voluntary basis, but there is one essentia] difference. Whereas in Australia it is to be a record of individuals and their qualifications, in Great Britain registration indicates willingness to serve.
Honorable members opposite have said that in the event of aggression against the Commonwealth, all Australians would rise as one man to repel it. I quite agree with this view. The difficulty would be that for a properly organized defence it would be imperative that all the men in the country should not be allowed to .fake their’ place in. the ranks of ‘ the fighting services. I am on common ground with the Leader of the Opposition in that’ regard. The “first object’ of the national register will, therefore, be to make plans that will ensure that men whose occupations are shown as required for industries and occupations on the reserved list, are reserved for national requirements. Thatis perfectly logical. These requirements will be met only if these men continue to function in the various positions they hold. Their enlistment and the interruption caused to industry would only tend to defeat the object sought in providing, through the machinery of the register, for plans for reserving them from enlistment. The suggestion has been made that the ascertainment of qualifications can well be left until the time when the emergency arises, and men are being enlisted. It is pointed out, however, that unless there is to be chaos, such a procedure would be doomed to failure. I remind honorable “members that it took the Government of the day over two years to organize for universal training, when it was adopted by a Labour government before the Great War. To say that everybody will be ready without prior preparation, is like the captain of a great liner saying to his passengers and crew “ I have a lot of life-boats, but the danger of shipwreck is remote, and I therefore do not propose to detail you to the boats that you will occupy, should there he a wreck; but if there is one we shall sort ourselves out, and eventually get into the boats. If we all go to the one boat it will be just too bad”.
I submit in conclusion, sir, that the Opposition’s case as to the ultimate motives of the Government in introducing’ this bill, namely, that it is a forerunner to military and industrial conscription, is unwarranted by the facts that I have put before honorable members. The Opposition’s case for1 a wealth census would not achieve any material results, while the existing wealth records and taxation machinery, together with the Government’s statement of ‘ policy, provide adequate safeguards ‘ in this direction.
The criticism of the absence of any measures relative to economic planning is irrelevant to this bill, because the bill for the Supply and Development Act provides for the necessary complementary steps in this direction in planning for an emergency. Finally, as the Leader of the Opposition has specified, the establishment of a national register as a major point of Labour policy, the criticisms put forward on the character and purpose of the register by the Labour party are both inconsistent and illogical. …
The honorable member for Batman has claimed that the Government ,has no mandate for such a measure as this, but I remind him that this party was returned to power on a .policy of -adequate defence. It has also been, asserted that, the Government, by these measures, .is creating a fictitious atmosphere of emergency. My colleague, the honorable the Minister for External Affairs (Sir Henry Gullett), dealt with this insofar as the international position is concerned, but I remind honorable members of the definition of war in the Supply and Development, Bill-. . . ‘ “War” means. any invasion or apprehended invasion of, or attack or apprehended attack on, the Commonwealth or any territory of the Commonwealth by an enemy or armed force.
The bill before the House is to enable’ plans to be prepared for an occasion of this character, and if the Opposition withholds its co-operation and support, it will indicate the degree to which its policy is out of harmony with that of the people of Australia, as demonstrated by their response to the appeal to double the strength of the militia forces and by their support which has been manifested to the Government’s defence policy generally in the electorate.
– Will the Minister reply to the question about the inclusion of particulars of military service in the schedule?
– I shall, if the honorable gentleman desires me to do so, hut I think that it would be more properly dealt with when the honorable member for Barker (Mr. Archie Cameron) moves his amendment in committee.
Question put -
That the bill be now read a second time.
The House divided. (Mr. Speaker - Hon. G. J. Bell.)
Majority . . . . 9
Question so resolved in the affirmative.
Bill read a second time.
.- I move-
That the committee be instructed by the House that it has power to consider the taking of a census of military service of all kinds and in all places.
The object of this motion is to give to the committee power, which, I understand, it would not otherwise have to consider whether the information to be obtained by means of the national register should not be amplified by the inclusion in the schedule of questions requiring all persons to disclose what military service they have had under any conditions, whether in war or peace. I understand this bill to be part and parcel of the defence measures of the present Government. It was introduced by the Minister for Defence (Mr. Street), and, therefore, I consider that in all its bearings it is directed towards the better defence of this country. I submit that the proposed schedule falls short of the requirements of the case in that no attempt is to be made to ascertain the number of persons in the community who have had military service of some kind. Many of the statements made by the Minister in the course of his second-reading speech were obviously those of a Minister who was looking to this bill, not as an- economic measure, but as one directed towards defence’. He said that the allocation of man-power in a national emergency was of the utmost importance, and that every man should be allocated to the position which best: fitted him. He also said that all of these things should be planned in advance, and that the law of the land should operate intelligently. Further, he remarked that the measure was necessary to enable information provided by the register to be utilized more rapidly in a sudden emergency. Having given expression to those views, and obviously intending this measure to be part of the defence preparations of the
Commonwealth, it is of the utmost importance that the committee should have power to amend the schedule.
The information of a military character that I am asking for relates not merely to service in the Australian Imperial Force. The value of that force lias been admitted by the action of the Government in creating a special Australian Imperial Force Reserve, but many residents of Australia have seen service with other armed forces in various parts of the world. The services of these people should be tabulated, and should be available if ever a. government desired to call upon them. There are also those who have had training and some who may have completed their training up to 1929 under the compulsory training scheme then in force. Since those regrettable days, many men have had some training in the various arms of the forces. Consequently all of such services should be tabulated and the Defence Department should have at its disposal a complete record of men of military age who have had some military experience in any part of the world, whether in time of war or in time of peace, so that their services could be called upon in the event of a national emergency. It may bc argued by the Minister for Defence that all of these records .are now in the hands of the Defence Department, or of somebody else. As regards the records of the Australian Imperial Force, to the best of my knowledge and belief they have been put into the basement of the Australian War Museum, and it would be a work of art and a labour of love to try to get order out of the chaos into which they have been thrown. As to the records regarding, the compulsory training system, I’ doubt whether the Defence Department has ever paid any attention to them since that scheme ceased to operate. I do not believe that the department is now in touch with those who have been in one way or another connected with the Military Forces since compulsory training was abandoned, and therefore there i« no method by which the Government could have a complete conspectus of military service in the community other than by the method proposed in my motion. It may be contended that the motion would involve a duplication. If so, my reply is that the Parliament is now considering the Aliens Registration Bill, which provides for the most complete information with regard to all aliens. The Government has every reason to hope that that measure will be passed into law, yet the register provided for in the bill now under consideration involves the duplication of that information.
I consider that the importance of this matter should not be overlooked by the House or the committee. In the event of trouble breaking out, especially near home, the Government would find itself faced, not with a surplus, but with a shortage of trained men. If I have not entirely misunderstood the motive of the bill, itis to provide for that planning in advance to which the Minister referred in his second-reading speech, so that we shall not put square pegs into round holes, but that men will be allocated to positions in which they are best able to serve. This principle should be applied to the forces in the field, as well as to factories and to transportation. In modern war, men would be required for the factories, for transport services, and for communications, as well as for anti-air raid and anti-gas activities and for the hundred and one things that would occupy the attention of the people of our cities and country towns. In the event of hostilities, the first objective of the Government would he to have a field force of sufficient strength, and with sufficient reinforcements behind, it, to keep it engaged effectively and actively in defeating the plans of those who might land upon these shores. If the national register is to beof any value at all, it must include in theschedule the questions which have been overlooked - not inadvertently, I fear, but as a matter of policy - with regard tomilitary service.
Some time ago, I believe that a manpower committee was appointed. I think that Sir Thomas Blarney was at the head of it, and it would be interesting to know the nature of its report and recommendations. When I asked the Minister would he be good enough to disclose to the House the contents of the report, the answerreceived was “ No If the report is in accordance with the schedule at the back of this bill, I see no good reason why theCOl tents should not be disclosed. Only- when a report is in conflict with government policy is it wise to withhold the details, from the Parliament. If the report justifies the action of the” Government, I should have less ground than I appear to have for my present action. I submit that the report of a committee of such importance, and having members of the calibre of the men who served on it, should, at a time like this, bc made available. We should know what were the conclusions reached with regard to manpower, the talcing of a national register, and the questions that should be submitted in connexion with it. There is also the interesting point which was raised in the second-reading debate, namely, the priority in which men should be accepted or, if need be, placed on active service in the event of necessity. That point was made by the honorable member for Bendigo (Mr. Rankin) with whose attitude I agree. It stands to reason that if the Government had to call upon a great number of men to go into the ranks, those who were single and had no family obligations should be the first to be called upon. Incidentally, I think that those who have had some military experience, either in peace ‘or on active service, would be of more immediate value to the Crown in the event of trouble than men who have had no experience or training. Therefore, I say that it is necessary, if this register is to be effective, that those questions should be asked. If for political reasons it is desired that they should not be asked, then for political reasons it is equally necessary that questions with regard to wealth shall be asked. My frank opinion on this question is that we only need to tell the people of this country of the measures that we believe are necessary in order to secure certain objectives in regard to defence preparedness, for those measures to be accepted. I do not believe that the people will be stampeded into any hostility towards the Govern1 ment by references to conscription or compulsory military service. Notwithstanding any statement made by party leaders at the last election, I am here as one who advocated compulsory military training as ray policy. I have advocated that policy in season and out of season. In my electorate last January, I stood for it, and I have done so elsewhere in Aus tralia during the last few months. I believe that that is the only military policy that will be of advantage to this country. I believe also that the manpower register should be something to prepare the country for the inauguration, or the re-inauguration, of an era under which every man who is able-bodied and capable of bearing arms will not only be willing to defend his country but also be trained to do his duty should the necessity for his services arise.
.- I second the motion, because I understand that the course proposed by the honorable member for Barker (Mr. Archie Cameron) is the only means by which an amendment of the kind he intends to move can be put in the bill. In my second-reading speech, I said that failure to ask questions relating to military service was an important omission from the bill. Without it, the census would be incomplete. Moreover, this is a defence measure, not an economic measure. It will record all males between the ages of 1S and 65 years - practically the men who have been covered under the Defence Act. ever since it was placed on the statute-book. It has no relation to compulsory training, but it relates to the Defence Act generally. Without going into details - for I have covered this point - I emphasize that there are in Australia to-day many exservicemen whose military experience would be of great value to the country if, unfortunately, Australia were embroiled in trouble, but would not be ascertainable under this census. I refer in particular to Imperial servicemen who have served in various parts of the world with various regiments and have many attainments. There are also in this country many New Zealanders who have served in various military capacities, and. others who have served both before and since the war. I challenge the Government to produce records to cover these people. In a press statement, the Prime Minister (Mr. Menzies) is reported to have 3aid recently - “ Because answers describing military experience would bo so varied as to be unclassifiable, this question will not be included in the questionnaire of the national register,” the Prime Minister (Mr. Menzies) said to-night. “If the question were included, men’s ideas of the most suitable reply obviously would vary tremendously,” Mr: Menzies said, “ Military service could cover a few days or severaL years and might have been in one of -many technical units, in the front line or in a non-combatant capacity. For these reasons, replies would bo of no value.”
I cannot accept that statement. If it can be said of military service, it can be said with equal truth of trade or professional experience. Of course, the answers would be varied. But even the records relating to the Australian Imperial Force in the custody of the Government are far from complete. I found that my own record was incomplete when I asked for it on my discharge and I learned that the original records were lost, and that substitute records were made up as well as could be done from other records;
– Records are usually complete when the authorities do not want to grant a pension.
– The honorable member is right. I have tried to rectify those anomalies.
– I know that.
– The existing records aTe insufficient and- incomplete, addresses alone not being kept up to date.. In the last’ war many patriotic men served as ‘ members of infantry battalions without waiting to be fitted into the proper niches to which they properly belonged. When war was declared in 3914, all cadet officers under the age of 23 years were refused permission to go abroad as commissioned officers. The result was that numbers of them resigned their commissions immediately, and enlisted as privates, though many of them who were killed on Gallipoli would have made useful leaders later. I ask the Government to include these questions in the schedule. Their inclusion would cause very little trouble to the officials. Any necessary sorting could be done later. The authorities could obtain from these men - Indian Army officers, flying men, engineers, linguists and others - most valuable services. I hope that the Government will accept the proposal of the honorable member for Barker; otherwise the census will .be of .little value should war come.
– The Government sees no advantage .in including the questions suggested by the honorable member for Barker (Mr. Archie Cameron) in the schedule to the bill now before the House. The honorable member has asked me to make available .to him the report of the Man-power Committee in connexion with the national register, .and I have replied that I would not. dp so. That report did not contain any reference to a bill or any schedule; it was merely a report on a national register, and as to the desirability or possibility of making such a register. I have here a note from .the chairman of the Man-power Committee -
Thu inclusion’ of details of military’ service on the register card for the national :register would be of no assistance or value to the military authority or to the authority, responsible for the allocation of man-power.”
That note was signed by Sir Thomas Blarney. In addition, the Military Board has said that it sees no useful purpose in adding these questions-; its plans would not be advanced by including, this information on the form. Apart from the fact that those reputable gentlemen, had recommended against the .inclusion of these questions, there were other considerations that led the Government to exclude them. One of the primary objects of the national register is-.-to obtain information on which to base an allotment, should an emergency arise, ofindividuals to their best and most effective use in war. The register is not by any means a method of obtaining recruits for the armed forces; far from it. But the. information that is collected will ensure that those men- who, by reason ofl their special skill and training, would be more useful in other national activities than- in defence service, will be reserved from the defence services. Obviously, any information regarding the military service, of those individuals would be of no value, as they would not be used in any arm of .the, service. The national register will, also indicate the total number pf men. who would be available for service proper after the allotment of those who are required for the maintenance and development of other national activities. Apart from-the list of individuals required for such subsequent employment, the requirements of the defence services for personnel would be met on the following lines: - The process of placing the forces on a war footing will involve an expansion from the total number in training in peace to the total number required initially in war. The total initial. war requirements would be maintained by subsequent reinforcements. The personnel who are serving in the defence forces at the time that war breaks out will, of course, continue to serve in war, subject to any outstanding adjustments that may be necessary to ensure that proper provision is made for certain particular reserve occupations. The existing records of the defence services provide adequate information as to the personnel in this category. Any additional information concerning them would be of no value whatsoever. As far as the more effective compilation of plans for mobilizing the serving personnel of the defence forces is concerned, the inclusion of a question of military service on the card would be of no value. Should war break out, one of the first requirements of an armed force would be to bring its strength up to the war establishment, namely, to fill the vacancies for personnel. Under a system of universal training, it would bo done under Part IV. of the Defence Act; if voluntary training were in operation, it wouldbe done by filling up requirements from volunteers as they came along. In general terms, the manpower organization will allot men so called up- presuming that Part IV. of the Defence Act’ is in operation and that every one is. called up - either to active defence services, or, after exemption from military service, to employment in the production of munitions, or in other essential industries. The men who are allotted to the defence service will fall into three main categories. They are first, ex-members of the Australian Imperial Force; secondly, ex-members of the Citizens Military Forces during the period 1922 to 1929; and thirdly, exmembers of the Militia in the subsequent period. Ex-members ofthe Australian Imperial Force, and other ex-members of the.forces, are being provided for, to a great degree, by the organization of the Army Reserve which is now in process of being filled ; but, in any case, the limited amount of their previous training, and the time that has elapsed since that training took place, would necessitate that every one of them would have to go through some hardening training.
Mr.White. - Some of them have been flying ever since the war.
– In that event, they will be on the reserve of pilots.
– Not necessarily.
– It will be necessary, in effect, to train them from the beginning again. Assuming, again, that Part IV. of the Defence Act would be in operation - and that is the basis upon which , the honorable member has been arguing - the Commonwealth Government would have power to call up everybody under that part of the act.
– But the department would want details beforehand; that is the Minister’s own argument.
– As I have said, there are three classes of persons in respect of whom this information could be required, namely, ex-members of the Australian Imperial Force, ex-members of the Citizen Military Forces who were in training between1922 and 1929 when universal training was in operation, and militia trainees during the subsequent ten years. Ex-members of the Australian Imperial Force are now being catered for under the A and B reserves. In any case, in the great majority of instances, it would he twenty years since they had had any training. They would require a good deal of hardening and intensive training in order to make them efficient. Moreover, the department already has complete records regarding such men, notwithstanding the unfortunate personal experience of the honorable member. The department also has complete’’ information concerning ex-members of the Citizen Forces who served during the period from 1922 to 1929, and all essential information is available concerning militia trainees from 1929 to 1939.
– The department does not know the addresses of thosepersons.
– Although the honorable member for Balaclava (Mr. White) was inclined to brush aside as of little account the difficulty of classifying the information which it is sought to obtain, I believe that it would be almost impossible to make any effective use of it. For instance, some one may put on his card that he was a member of the militia forces for three years. He may or may not have attended camp during that period. Another may state that he served in the junior cadets, or senior cadets; another that he was on active service for a year. For every 100 cards filled in, there would probably need to be 85 different classifications, and the information obtained would, for the most part, be of no value. Why elicit information which the chairman of the Man-power Committee, and the chairman of the Military Board, the two highest authorities to whom I have access, have assured me would be of no value? It may be of interest to know that a pattern-maker or a doctor is a very good gunner, but it is unlikely that he would ever be asked to be one. The only conceivable value of collecting such information would be to speed up mobilization plans, and I am assured that it would not be of any value in that direction. The department is satisfied that the records are sufficiently complete without seeking this additional information.
Question put -
That the motion (Mr. Archie Cameron’s) be agreed to.
The House divided. (Mr. Speaker - Hon. G. j. Bell.)
Question resolved in the negative.
Bill committed pro forma.
Motion (by Mr. Street) proposed -
That the intervening business be postponed until after Order of the Day No. 3, Government business.
earlier to-day varied the notice-paper by allowing notices of motion 1 and 2 to be dealt with, and then proceeded with Order of the Day No. 2. The National Registration Bill, of course, had been under consideration for” some time and honorable members were entirely familiar with it. Obviously when that matter had been dealt with, the right course would have been to proceedwith Orders of the Day, which would have meant a continuance of the debate on the States Grants (Youth Employment) Bill 1939. But the Prime Minister did hot move that notices of motion Nos. 3 and 4 be postponed until the next day of sitting. Instead, he moved that those notices of motion be postponed until Order of the Day No. 2 had been dealt with. My impression in that regard was confirmed when I received a note from the Minister for Social Services (,Sir Frederick Stewart) stating that it was proposed to move the postponement of notice of motion No. 3 until notice of motion No. 4 had- been disposed of.
– The honorable gentleman objected to that.
– I said that I would not agree to take notice of motion No. 4 until notice of motion No. 3 had been dealt with. The Minister endeavoured to get me to agree to his suggestion so that he would be able to move notice of motion No. 4 which provides for the setting up of a joint committee to investigate the national insurance proposals, before the House was invited to consider whether or not he should have leave to bring in a bill for an act to amend certain proclamations made under the National Health and Pensions Insurance Act. He had it in -his hands last night to fix the order of priority and did so. I suggest that it is because knowledge has reached the Government of a course of action which the Opposition proposes to take with respect to notice of motion No. 3 that the Minister for Social Services desires further time to consider his next move in response to what we on this side intend to do. If the House is asked now to go on with the consideration of the States Grants (Youth Employment) Bill then the honorable member for Melbourne Ports (Mr. Holloway) who secured the adjournment of the debate on the secondreading of that measure will be obliged to make his speech now, whereas according to all practice and usage of the House it was highly improbable that this item of business would be reached this evening.
– The honorable member for Melbourne Ports was informed of the Government’s intention.
– He was informed only a very short time ago.
– He was informed halfanhour ago. The honorable member expressed willingness to go on with his speech
– I hoped that the eulogistic references which certain sections of the press made with regard to the manner in which the Prime Minister was dealing with the business of the House were to be justified. I find, however, that the way in which the notice-paper used to be re-arranged during the progress of sittings - a matter of which I have complained often in the past - is once again becoming the regular habit of the Government. I protest vigorously against this practice, and, therefore, I will oppose the motion now7 before the- Chair.
– I submit that the protest made by the Leader of the Opposition (Mr. Curtin) is without very much point. If the Government had proposed at this stage to bring up on the list of Orders of the Day some item such as Order of the Day No. 6 or Order of the Day No. 7 and carried on the debate upon it, then the complaint which has been made would be understandable. But that is not a practice which I hope to adopt. The endeavour of the Government will always be to deal with the business in the order in which it appears. The Government, of course, has an opportunity every night to place the business in whatever order it desires. The point I wish to make is that Orders of the Day provide first “ Ways and Means “.
– Which the Government did not use.
– As the Leader of the Opposition knows, that item is put there to meet certain contingencies should they arise. The second Order of the Day was the National Registration Bill on which progress has been reported. The third Order of the Day was the States Grants (Youth Employment) Bill with which it is now proposed to proceed. The complaint by the Leader of the Opposition is that notices of motion which, as a rule, are relatively formal but which in relation to Nos. 3 and 4 on to-days’ notice-paper happen to be matters of substance, have not been taken before Orders of the Day which are, in effect, senior on this list and on which the second readings were moved before notices of motion 3 or 4 saw the light of day. I suggest that there is no real- grievance about a government deciding not to go on with notices of motion standing in its name, and, instead, proceeding with Orders of the Day in the order in which they appear. After all, if the Leader of the Opposition protested against Orders of the Day being taken before notices of motion had been disposed of, why did he not protest earlier, because for the whole of this day the House has been engaged on Order of the Day No. 2. Discussion on that item was continued after notices of motion had been postponed.
Mr.Curtin. - I took the Prime Minister’s motion to mean’ precisely what it said.
– When I found that notices of motion Nos. 3 and 4 - particularly No. 3 - were to be matters, not of formal procedure hut of real discussion, I had inquiries made as to whether the honorable member for Melbourne Ports (Mr. Holloway), who had secured the adjournment of the debate on the States Grants (Youth Employment) Bill, was prepared to undertake his speech on that measure. The honorable member was good enough to say that he was ready to go on with it. I understand that he is still prepared to go on with it, and I suggest that the House should permit him to do so.
– I regard this note to me as misleading.
.- Early in the evening the Minister for Social Services (Sir Frederick Stewart) approached me with regard to notice of motion No. 4. I indicated to him that I was quite prepared to hear his speech on that matter, but that I thought the gravity of notices of motion Nos. 3 and 4 was such that after the Minister had made his speech there should be an adjournment. At the same time I indicated that in. my opinion speeches on both these notices of motion should come before either was considered. I understood that the suggestion made by me with regard to an adjournment was the procedure which was to be followed. I have no complaint in regard to that because I have put my case to the Prime Minister (Mr. Menzies) and to the Minister for Social Services. My complaint is. that I was not informed of the intention of the Government to make a change in connexion with notice of motion No. 3. I have no objection to the postponement of notice of motion No. 3. That is a matter for the decision of the Government. It is reasonable to expect, however, that having approached me earlier in the evening with regard to the first matter, I should also have been informed that a change of plan had occurred, because, as every one must realize, I am endeavouring to help the Government in its efforts to expedite the business of the House.
– It has been stated that the honorable member for Melbourne Ports (Mr. Holloway) is willing to go on with his speech on the. States Grants (Youth- Employment) Bill. That may be quite right, but what notification was he given of the intention ofthe Government to bring this matter on?
– He was only asked five minutes ago.
– That is so. Honorable members should be’ consulted on a matter such as this. The honorable member for Melbourne Ports may be ready to go on with his speech, but I point out that other honorable members of this House will continue the debate and some of them at least may have to make their speeches to-night without being prepared to do so. This is not a matter entirely for the honorable member for Melbourne Ports and nobody else. The Government is not treating honorable members fairly.
.- I am amazed at the attitude adopted by the Government with regard to this matter. The Minister for Social Services (Sir Frederick Stewart) will recall that he came to me after the debate had been resumed on the National Registration Bill and informed me that the motion dealing with national insurance would be brought on immediately after the honorable member for Reid (Mr. Gander) resumed his seat.
– I said that the notices of motion wouldbe brought on at the conclusion of the second-read ing debate on the National Registration Bill.
– That is so. I then understood that the member for Reid was the last speaker. The Minister for Defence (Mr. Street) then made his speech in reply after the honorable member for Reid had spoken. The Whip will bear out that I told the Minister foi Social Services that the Leader of the Opposition (Mr. Curtin) had not been well, and that it was not his intention to participate in debates to-night. He would, therefore, have to be rung up and told that the national insurance matter.were being proceeded with. That Wadone and he came to the House to-night believing that it was the intention of the Government to proceed with notices of motion.
– I offered the Leader of the Opposition an adjournment af ter I had spoken on the notices of motion’.
– 1 have no recollection of the Minister offering an adjournment, fie said that notice of motion No. 3 would be proceeded with first and would bc followed by notice of motion No. 4. The Leader of the Opposition was brought back to the House to participate in the debate. - At S.40 p.m. the Minister for Social Services sent a note across to ‘the Opposition; and both the Leader of. the Opposition and I noted it and put the time oh- it.’ In that note the Minister for Social Services said that he proposed to move the postponement of notice of motion No. 3 until notice of motion No. 4 had been disposed of. Notice of motion No. 3 provides for the annulment of certain action taken following the passing of the National Health and Pensions Insurance Act, and notice of motion No. 4 provides for the setting up of a joint committee to inquire into the national insurance scheme. When the last division on the National Registration Bill was being taken we heard for the first time that the honorable member for Melbourne Ports (Mr. Holloway) had been approached and asked if he were prepared to continue his speech on the second-reading of the States Grants (Youth Employment) Bill.
– That is not so.
– I am informed by honorable members on this, side of the House that that is the case.
– The honorable member who .made that assertion was misinformed.
– The Prime- Minister himself said that the honorable member for Melbourne Ports had been informed half an hour ago. Even if he were given that much notice I ask honorable members what kind of a way is it to deal with the business’” of the House? Surely the Leader of the Opposition is to be considered. He was brought back to the House to-night leaving his bed for the purpose of dealing with the national insurance matter. I submit that he should have been approached, or in his. absence. I should have been approached, with regard to any proposed change in the order of business. I do not deny that the honorable member for Melbourne Ports was asked whether he was prepared to go on with the States Grants (Youth Employment) Bill, but I submit that as the Leader of .the Opposition was brought here and was ready to deal with these motions, there should have been no alteration, and if there was any intended alteration, he should have been the first man consulted.
– The right honorable member for Cowper (Sir Earle Page) has said that there should be an adjournment.
– If the Government finds itself in a jam in regard to the National Registration Bill, it is another matter. Evidently the Government is not confident that it can carry on the business of the House. It does not know whether it is coming or going. I have never seen such an exhibition of bungling.
Question resolved in the affirmative.
Debate resumed from the 31st May (vide page 997), on motion by. Mr. Spender. -
That the hill be now read a second time.
– I have not had much more notice than other honorable members. It was only, half an hour, ago that I was asked if I were prepared to go on with the debate on this bill. I said that I waS, but. it is not for me to decide the order of .business so far as the Opposition is concerned.- I am in the ‘hands of my leader (Mr. .Curtin). This bill is a bill for the purpose of granting £200,000 .for distribution among the States in order to alleviate in some way the difficulties of the youth unemployment problem. I do not intend to oppose the bill - I do not think that any honorable member would do so - ‘but the bill is so important as to demand discussion. The measure leaves to the States a decision as to how this money shall bc expended, subject, of course, to the endorsement of the Commonwealth Minister. The amount of £200,000 is quite inadequate to meet this problem which is by no means confined to Australia. All over the world the pro.blem of the unemployment of youths is an offshoot of the major problem of unemployment generally. The International Labour Organization Conference has discussed this problem on many occasions and, although no one has yet found a solution, the conference has suggested ways and means of coping with it. Among the. suggestions made are a raising of the school-leaving age, reduced hours of labour, and the enforcement of annual recreation leave on pay in all industries and professional services, the object of course being to increase the volume of spending power in the community and to spread that power more evenly over all sections of industry, not by rationing work and by rolling the wage fund into a thinner substance, but by increasing the spending power generally. All students who have examined this problem agree that it is part and parcel of the major problem of unemployment and that the only effective way in which inroads can be made upon that problem is to increase, the spending power of the mass of the people individually and in the aggregate. It is a known economic fact, if there be such a thing, that all prosperity is determined by the volume of spending power of a. community in the aggregate. If that goes down, every business entity in the community, from the smallest shopkeeper to the biggest manufacturer or producer, feels the loss; so the basic thing to keep in mind is that, unless we do increase the wage and salary fund of the community, which is the fountain from which all operations of the business community flow,. there is no hope of making any encroachment upon the problem. Statistics show that every year in which we live the problem becomes greater, because the application of science to industry and installation of almost perfect, automatic machinery in many callings eliminates more and more human labour. The International Labour Organization suggests -
First, that the school-leaving age should be increased and that in the last year education should concentrate on something like vocational training to fit people for the occupations that they are best fitted to have.
Secondly, prohibition by law of overtime in order to distribute employment more evenly through the community and the introducing of a 40-hour working week.
Thirdly - compulsory annual leave on full pay in all sections of industry.
This has become general in many big enterprises, private and public, but the Commonwealth Government has yet to apply the practice in its own workshops.
This will be the second donation that the Commonwealth has made for the purpose of youth employment. The bill leaves to the States decision as to the way in which they shall expend the money, subject to the endorsement of the Commonwealth Minister. Technical education or vocational training is necessary to bridge the gap in apprenticeship caused in the depression years, and this should be done on a national basis. There must be a national plan with a proper balance between journeymen and apprentices, in order to rid ourselves of dead-end occupations. The money will be more or less wasted unless there is a definite plan. Money has been expended in theoretical training, but there has been no planned expenditure and no plan to evolve a scheme for the placing in industry of those who have been trained. Honorable members who represent city electorates and attend to their work every day see a great number of young men, many of them possessing university degrees, who tell them that, in spite of their educational attainments, they are unable to earn even 30s. a week. Some of them have degrees in commerce and economics, but they cannot get anything to do. Many of them are unemployed because there was a break of training during the depression period. In that period employers, because of their uncertainty of continuity of business, would not risk taking apprentices into their trades. The result is a lack of skilled artisans in the engineering and electrical trades. That lack was discovered when the manufacture of aeroplanes was embarked upon recently in Melbourne. It has also been discovered by the manufacturers of munitions. The scheme of vocational training established as the result of the creation of this fund does not help the young men who are trained to get jobs. I counsel the Minister for Social Services (Sir Frederick Stewart) to take this aspect into consideration. If young men who have spent two or three years in acquiring skill at the Working Men’s College or other technical schools cannot be placed in industry, they are worse off at the end of their training than they were previously because of age increases making it harder to get work. Education is good in itself, but it is of no use to have skill unless one can use it for one’s betterment. The problem of providing young men who are trained under this scheme with work will not be solved until the Commonwealth Government and the State governments co-operate in the evolving of a. plan for public works to be set in motion at regular and stipulated times during the course of a year.
– That is the crux of the matter.
– Yes. Decentralization of industry is a good ideal, but we must face the facte and realize how difficult it is of achievement. All modern workshops are established as near as possible to the point of production of raw material or to waterways - marine transport is the cheapest - and men have to follow the work. For a long time, therefore, decentralization willnever be more than an ideal. It is a sentiment with which we all agree, but it does not work out. Industries mustbe close to waterways in order to be able economically to have their raw materials transported to them, or close to the source of raw materials. For example, when it was decided to establish an aeroplane factory in Victoria, the manufacturers chose to buy costly land alongside the Yarra River so that the steel could he lifted by crane from the boats, into, as it were, the factory. The briquettes which the Electricity Commission manufactures in Victoria are manufactured at Yallourn, where the deposits of brown coal, of which the briquettes are constituted, exist.
There should be a plan under which each workshop would carry its quota of apprentices. I suggest that as one step towards the achievement of the desired end, the Commonwealth Government should, for a short period, say, three years, do for apprentices what was done for the returned soldiers who had lost portion of their apprenticeship term by enlisting for service overseas before they were 21. I was a member of the commission which drafted that plan, and was also a member of the Appeal” Board in Victoria. The scheme of educational training then adopted was a godsend to the returned soldiers. Youths so trained could be fitted into industry if they accepted payment in their respective trades or callings at the wage fixed for youths several years younger than themselves, hut the industrial movement would not be willing to allow employers to obtain cheap labour by allowing a youth aged nineteen years to work for the wage appropriate to a youth aged sixteen years, but the Government would pay the balance during the period of training subject to adjustment each half-year as his efficiency increased. An appeal should be made to employers to take a canvass of the industries, and, if necessary, to adapt the industrial conditions to meet the circumstances of the case, so that each industry would carry its share of those youths and provide them with the pay appropriate to their age for two or three years, to enable them to complete their apprenticeship.
– What was done in the case of returned soldiers could he done again, hut would the trade unions agree to it?
– I believe that they would, if they were approached as they were on that occasion.
– The trouble is that there is no work for these apprentices.
– I admit that; but, if the Government could see to it that all employers who could carry extra apprentices did so, the difficulty could be lessened, but in any event new works should be started. Many honorable members complain that because of certain industrial conditions the number of trained apprentices employed is insufficient. If. an examination were made, it would be discovered that scores of employers are not carrying anything like their full quota of apprentices.
– Some of them employ youths chiefly and discharge them when they are nearly 21 years of age. ,
– Yes. I am sure that,- in the skilled trades in which the awards provide for apprentices, many employers have fewer apprentices than would be allowed under the awards. In the building trades it is said that jobs do not last long enough to “enable contractors to carry apprentices, and, in Victoria, employers are permitted to transfer apprentices from one firm to another. A national apprenticeship commission is necessary to deal with this.
When this Parliament sat in Melbourne, a former Minister for Repatriation approached me as Secretary of the Melbourne Trades Hall Council and asked if there would be any objection to bending some of the industrial conditions to enable more apprentices to be carried. .1 replied that I thought that there would be no objection to it, provided it was done in co-operation with the industrial movement. I suggested a conference of two employers and two employees from each of the six States. This conference met in Melbourne, and drafted a training scheme concerning which “I heard no word of complaint throughout the period of its operation: but, unless work is available for the apprentices when they have finished their training, the money spent on their education will have been wasted. I tried to get employment for some apprentices in the aircraft factory, but only fully-trained men were acceptable.
When the last census was taken, it was estimated that 90,000 juniors came into industry each year, and on an average only 50,000 of them were absorbed, leaving 4:0,000 unable to get positions. As the honorable member for Maribyrnong (Mr.., Drakeford) has remarked, ‘many apprentices employed in the capital cities are dismissed on reaching the age of -21 years. It. > is a common practice . in the big workshops to dismiss batches of these .youths when they become eligible for the -adult wage. Figures issued by the Government of New South Wales show that 1,500 young men are dismissed each year on reaching the age of 21 years. The total for Australia is 4,000. This number is in addition to the 40,000- “ leftovers “ who never succeed in obtaining a job. Therefore, the number of the unemployed youths is growing rapidly each year.
The light metals industry has become, one of the chief offenders as a provider of dead-end occupations. Occupations of this nature constitute one of the greatest curses of the community, for they add to the crime figures and to everything evil in our social system. It is beyond doubt that unemployment and crime figures go up and down’ together. The Amalgamated Society of Engineers is trying to do something to organize the employees in this industry, 80 per cent, of whom are juniors. The large number of these employees is constantly growing, and enormous profits are made. If we ascertained the difference between the cost of a wireless cabinet and the apparatus it contains and the selling price of the complete wireless set, the difference would be found to be astonishing. The employees in factories engaged in the manufacture of nuts and bolts are almost entirely boys and, unfortunately, batches of them .are put off each year on reaching the age of 21 years. If this problem is to be tackled effectively, it will be of no use foi- individual States to spend money on technical education unless the rising tide “of unemployment is stemmed and further avenues for employment are provided. The Government should consider, in the first place, the provision of a period of. vocational training, and should confer! with the States with the object of planning a definite scheme for the provision, of employment.
We have not been as sympathetic or as honest’ as we might . have been in regard to our affiliation with the International Labour Organization. Year after year,” ‘ the International -Labour Organization” has’ tackled - this problem.
There have been splendid discussions, and conventions have been agreed to, urging the various governments to take action, but no action has been taken by our Government. I propose to call for a return of the number of conventions adopted by the International Labour Organization since its inauguration, and the number that the Commonwealth Government has ratified, and urged the State governments to implement. Only too often we have dodged the issue by saying that, although we may ratify the conventions, it is the States which must give effect to them. That is largely true but not wholly true. The Commonwealth Government has not made any serious attempt to induce the State governments to take action. It could at least give a lead by applying the convention ,to its own employees and adopting . the 40-hour week; In most Commonwealth departments there are employees such as an engineer, a firstclass electrician, a leading-hand painter, and so on, some of whom have been in the service of the department for ‘ twenty years and more, and yet they are given no annual leave. Big city employers, municipal councils, gas “ companies, &c, have for a long time past, and without pressure from any government, been giving effect to the conventions to the extent of granting their employees ten to fourteen days’ annual leave. In France, legislation, has been passed making it illegal to make employees work overtime except in cases of emergency, such as fire or drought, or accident in the factory or the mine. At the present time, of course, while Europe is in the grip of war- hysteria, those provisions have been relaxed, but in normal times, it is illegal to work overtime. The work is thus spread over a larger number of men. If we ration the available work by making the man on full time employment give part of his wages to provide for others who have no wages, the only effect is to force down the living conditions of every one. The spending power, of the community is not increased. “When we were debating this problem some years ago in relation to the distribution of overseas trade, I used the illustration .of a number of men sitting down to play cards, each with a certain number ..of chips before him. When play finished for the night there would still be the same number of chips on the table, though the number in the possession of the various players would have altered, nothing having been added to the aggregate spending fund. That is what happens when work is ‘ rationed; the total amount paid in wages is still the same, and spending power has not been increased. We should endeavour to give effect to the principle of the 40- hour week. At the present time, we are not honouring our pledges. The Commonwealth could apply it to its .own employees, even if the States declined to take action. All workers should be given annual leave, and should be made to take their leave instead of working, as some of them do, and receiving double pay. Furlough is for the purpose of enabling workers to keep themselves fit, not to earn double pay.
.- I am happy to see that the Government proposes to make available a further grant of £200,000 as a contribution towards the solution of one of the most pressing problems that arose Out of the depression. Many problems were left to us by the depression, but none more acute than that of finding permanent employment for young men between the ages of 17 and 25 years who had been unable to find a niche for themselves in industry, and who were unable to become apprentised to a trade because of the reduction of the number of adult workers engaged. The present arrangement for the training of youths should be continued for a. longer period than two years. I do not think that the problem is at present being tackled in a way that will give the best results. We have been informed that the money made available under this scheme will be used for supplementing the wages of trainees pending the completion of their training in technical trades, in agricultural and mining pursuits, and for the provision of buildings and plant where necessary. I maintain that no one can be taught to become an efficient tradesman in one year or even two years. If the trainees are turned out at the end of two years, they will not have acquired sufficient skill to enable them to work at a trade, and they will drift back into unskilled occupations. Admittedly, knowledge of more value can be obtained in regard to agricultural and mining disputes in two years, but even in regard to them a longer period of training might be desirable. It is unreasonable that money should he made available for buildings and the purchase of equipment if the whole scheme is to be dropped at the end of two years. As far as I have been able to learn, no report is made to this Parliament, except in the most general terms, regarding the manner in which the money is expended. I have made a search, with the assistance of officers of the Parliamentary Library, for reports from the State governments as to how the money has been expended, and as to the results achieved. I have been able to find only one report - the eighth annual report of the Department of Labour and Industry in Queensland. Apparently, the other State governments have not presented reports at all.From the report referred to; it is evident that in Queensland the results have not been wholly satisfactory. Up to date, 202 youths have been enrolled for the commercial course. Sixty-two have obtained employment, and there are still 135 in attendance.For training in farming pursuits 73 persons were enrolled, . but only five have obtained employment, and 59 are at present attending the course. For the mining course, 36 have enrolled, seven have obtained employment, four have ceased to attend the course, and 25 arc still attending. The Queensland Government expended £.17,277 on buildings and furniture in connexion with the scheme, and it is proposed to expend a further £7,432 for the same purpose. This represents almost the total amount of the Commonwealth Government’s contribution for the first year of a two-year scheme. The State Government, I am happy to say, is making available £1 for every £1 contributed by the Commonwealth, and it is hoped that the courses will be continued, even if the Commonwealth Government docs not renew its grant after the expiration of the present period of two years. The scheme provides for the payment of from 14s. to 16s. a week to those attending the course if they reside at home, and from 28s. to 32s. a week to those who have to live away from home. I should like to know whether the Government has received any reports from States other than Queensland regarding the operation of the scheme.
– Only in general terms ; no details have been given.
– Is the Minister satisfied with the way in which the money is being expended ?
– Yes ; but; further details were called for a few weeks ago.
– Is the record of the Queensland Government better than that of the other State governments?
– It has presented a more detailed report.
– Many young men cannot attend the courses because their parents are unable to contribute towards their upkeep during the period of their training. This problem could be faced more effectively by both Commonwealth and State authorities. It is tragic that many of our best and brightest young men have to drift into unskilled occupations because they cannot acquire training. During the depression, many of them were deprived of the normal opportunities for apprenticeship and the like, and we ought now to bo doing our very best to repair that damage. Only by making skilled training available under an apprenticeship system or otherwise can we really help these unfortunate young men. Their tragic circumstances call for special treatment and training.
The Government should also co-operate with the State authorities in formulating a plan to ensure that permanent skilled work will be made available for all the young men who qualify for it. An obligation rests upon the Government to find work for the youth of this country. The parents of hundreds of young men who are unemployed have sought my help to assist them in placing their children in -employment. Many of them have had secondary education and are unable to secure work. The suggestion of the honorable member for Melbourne Ports (Mr. Holloway) that a scheme similar to that adopted for the repatriation of young ex-soldiers is wise. I have previously advocated this proposal. It will be remembered that after the war many young men whose period of training as apprentices and otherwise was interfered with were assisted to complete their training. They were given help to resume their college or technical courses and steps were also taken to ensure that even those who were not 100 per cent, efficient should be found regular employment. It was arranged that if they were 50 “per cent, efficient their employers should pay 50 per cent, of their wages and the remainder should be provided by the Commonwealth Government. A board was appointed to control the whole scheme. As the men became more efficient their employers paid a greater percentage of their wages, and when they became SO per cent, efficient, their employers paid them at the award rates for their particular callings. A similar scheme could be evolved to apply to the young men who suffered during the depression period. If, on examination, it was found that numbers of them were only 50 per cent, efficient, the Government should meet a proportion of their wages until their degree of efficiency improved as a result of special training. It is deplorable that many of these young men are to-day drifting into unskilled work. Industry is suffering because insufficient trained personnel is offering for employment. We hear on every hand of the scarcity of good carpenters, bricklayers, plasterers and other tradesmen.
– Many of our tradesmen are going to New Zealand because they cannot get employment here.
– Great difficulty is being experienced by employers everywhere in obtaining a sufficient number of properly trained artisans. In many cases efficient workmen are being paid at, more than award rates. I offer no objection to that. I am glad to hear that workmen receive the highest wages that industry can afford to pay them. The men concerning whom I am really anxious are those who have had insufficient opportunity to qualify for skilled trades because they became of age to enter industry, as apprentices, or take up commercial pursuits during the depression when employment was impossible to he obtained. The. position will become still more acute when men who are to-day between the ages of, say, seventeen and twenty years, become eligible for adult wages.
If this Government and the State Governments do not co-operate to make proper provision to maintain an adequate supply of skilled tradesmen, Australia will find itself in queer-street. I ask the Government not to regard as its final payment the provision of this second quota towards the £400,000 originally promised. The whole subject should be reviewed at the earliest possible opportunity by a Premiers’ Conference. I hope that some scheme will be evolved to enable larger numbers of young men to qualify for skilled employment. Otherwise many of our young men will be condemned to follow unskilled trades for the remainder of their lives and the burden of providing for unskilled workers will become greater than can be carried.
– I am glad that the Government has introduced this bill. I concur in the view of the honorable member for Melbourne Ports (Mr. Holloway) and the honorable member for Moreton (Mr. Francis) that a great deal more should be done than is being done to-day to train our young men to become skilled artisans. The trouble is that the amount being made available for this purpose is entirely inadequate to the needs of the situation. If the honorable member for Moreton represented an industrial constituency such as mine is he would come more closely into touch with the difficulties of this situation. It is a common experience for the representatives of metropolitan constituencies to find themselves besieged by. the parents of young people who desire employment to be found for their boys. Every week-end when the House is sitting, and every day when it is not sitting, I am asked to give advice and assistance in respect of such cases.
It is a. commmon practice for employers to engage boys of about fourteen years of age and dismiss them when they are eighteen or nineteen years of age because they are approaching the time when they will bc entitled to an adult wage. They take the opportunity to replace them by younger lads. Even this Government is not free from blame in this connexion, for in some of its departments it employs messengers at fourteen years of age, retains them until they are sixteen years of age, and then throws them into the street. That is entirely unfair. The lads should be trained to accept more responsible jobs. A definite arrangement should be devised for giving them training for continuous employment. The difficulties of the situation have been emphazised by the practices of governments in recent years in regard to locomotive engine-drivers. This was the calling that I followed for a number of years. I know, for instance, that few.er cleaners have been employed than was formerly the case. The railway authorities in these days prefer to allow the engines to remain dirty except on such, trains as the Spirit of Progress which come under public notice. They claim to have discovered that, even though the engines are left somewhat dirty, they operate fairly efficiently. Unfortunately, this has had the effect of reducing the number of; men in training for. jobs as firemen. A further effect has been that senior men in the service, because they have no reserve of trained men, have to work overtime, denying employment and promotion to others. Any system which fails to make provision for the training of an. adequate number . of young men is radically wrong. -A proper number of cleaners should be employed so that in due cour.se they could become firemen. The firemen would ultimately become enginedrivers and excessive overtime would not he necessary. The young men of this country are entitled to economic justice. Insufficient apprentices were engaged for years in the Government’s own workshops at Port Augusta. The Government could at least improve the situation in its own services in this regard. During the depression practically no work was available for boilermakers and other men engaged in the metal trade. Private employers retrenched their employees very severely and so did various governments. I hope that the Commonwealth authorities will carefully review the whole situation in this regard, and at least ‘give the young men in Commonwealth employment a fair opportunity to qualify for skilled employment. I entirely disagree with the view that this is a State responsibility.
The situation could be met in some degree at least if effect were given to. the international convention for a shorter working week which this Parliament has ratified in its own services. .There is nothing to prevent the Government from doing that. In his second-reading speech the Assistant Treasurer” (Mr. Spender) stated that a survey would he made of the whole field of youth employment to sec whether everything possible was being done to meet, the situation. Prom my practical experience, I know that the parents of young men, generally speaking, are keenly anxious to find ways and means of putting their boys into callings which will ultimately enable them to do skilled work. The honorable member for Melbourne Ports (Mr. Holloway) dealt, with the matter effectively, and. I subscribe to the views expressed by him. There is no one better qualified to deal with this subject than he because of his. wide .and valuable experience in industrial matters. I hope that .’the suggestion of- the honorable member for Melbourne Ports for the adoption of some such scheme as that .which applied to young ex-soldiers after- the war will be approved. Young men who served overseas had their period of apprenticeship broken, or their training at techni- cai colleges interfered with, to a serious degree, and the Government found it necessary, upon their return to this country, to meet the situation in a special way. The plight of the young men who suffered from the lack of employment and the lack of opportunities to obtain proper training in consequence of the depression is just as serious as was that of the young returned soldiers.
The latest available statistical information reveals that approximately 120,000 people are on sustenance in Australia. Those figures do not include the young men living with parents who are earning incomes above the figure which permits their sons to obtain sustenance. I know from unhappy experience that practically all of our technical schools are overcrowded. The councils of these schools have, again and again, sought additional government grants to enable them to extend their operations. On the 25th May, a deputation from the Technical Schools Association of Victoria requested the Premier of that State to provide a larger amount of money for the purposes of technical training. I have two such schools in my electorate, and I know that it is impossible for them to accommodate all the applicants for training. They need larger buildings and more machinery before they can do so. As this Parliament was sitting, I was not able to attend the deputation, but I am fairly sure that the Premier’s reply to the representations made to him was that funds were not available for the desired purpose. Unless adequate provision is made to train our young men it is inevitable that the army of unskilled workers in this country will grow. If the Commonwealth Government could give greater assistance to the States in this regard it would do something of definite advantage to the whole community. I believe that it carries a heavy responsibility in this connexion.
Young” people are not able to become apprentices in these days unless they have had some technical training. This is the ca’se in respect of the munitions establishments in my electorate. Mothers who, in some cases, are .widows, have approached the managers of these establishments as well as myself with requests that their boys should be received’ as apprentices, but they are ‘ almost invariably told that it is impracticable, in these days, to accept as apprentices boys who have not had some technical training. The managers say that it is impossible for them to overlook applicants who have obtained the junior or the intermediate technical school certificate. I was informed by one gentleman who is in a position to speak with authority that out of thousands of applications for approximately 80 apprentice, positions in the Victorian rail. ways service the whole of them could have been filled by applicants who held the intermediate or leaving certificate. Those boys were fortunate enough to have parents who were able to keep them at school until they had reached the intermediate or leaving certificate standard. They were more fortunate than the others whom I have mentioned, who, because of their family circumstances, were denied opportunities. I agree with the honorable member for Melbourne
Ports and the honorable member for Moreton that more money should be made available and I hope that the Government will give earnest consideration to their suggestions. I point out also that there is no economic planning for the future so that boys might find employment in skilled occupations. In this connexion, I should like to refer to the opportunities for employment that the standardization of the railway gauges would provide, but as that may not be in order on this bill I shall not proceed along those lines. There are, however, many public works which could be undertaken, thereby providing opportunities for training these young men. I believe that the function of an Opposition is not merely to criticize, but also to make constructive suggestions; and therefore I ask the Government to consider undertaking public works both as a field of training for these youths, and a place in which to absorb them after their training has been completed. That, I submit, would be a statesmanlike policy to adopt. The Commonwealth Government ought to do more than is proposed in this bill. It should not only make more money available; it should also, take a more definite hand in determining how the money shall be expended. I feel at a disadvantage as regards Victoria, because I do not know of any reports having been received as to the way in which the money advanced to that State has been expended. I am confident that some Government supporters feel as strongly on this subject as I do, and I ask them to endeavour to get the Government to make more money available and to exercise greater supervision over the money generally and fo deal with the problem on a proper basis. The subject should be carefully analysed, and I believe that many honorable members would be prepared to devote their time to such a worthwhile object. I am willing to do my share. I have no desire to escape my personal obligations, nor do I wish to he merely a critic of the Government, and I am prepared to give service if the opportunity is provided by the Government in this connexion. I do say that it has not made the best of its opportunities, but I urge that the position be examined with a view to something effective being done for the youth of this country. If we could do something in that direction, we should accomplish something worthwhile.
Before I conclude I wish now to refer to employment in the radio industry. Many lads of 17 or IS or 19 years of age seeking assistance to obtain employment have told me that they have been put off by their employers. When I have sought the reason for their dismissal, they have said that if kept on they would have to receive higher wages. Inquiries which I have made have proved that in most instances the reasons given have been correct. The position in the radio industry is most, unsatisfactory. There should be a proper ratio of men to boys in every industry, although I realize that under that system articles might cost more.
– There is enormous profit in the radio industry.
– That is true. The employers should be able to pay more money to their employees.
– I agree with the honorable member.
– It is a matter which requires attention. In addition to a proper ratio of men to boys in every industry there should be a proper ratio of profits. Australia is becoming a nation of unskilled labourers, which is a most unsatisfactory position for any nation, particularly an undeveloped nation, to bc in. I commend the Government for what it is doing in this bill, but I urge that more money be made available and greater interest shown. If, as a result of this debate, something practical is done, I shall be glad to have had a share in it.
.- The conditions which exist to-day are the aftermath of the depression and disclose a. serious tragedy. There is to-day a section of Australian manhood which has never had an opportunity to work out its own salvation. Through no fault of their own, many young men in our midst have never had a chance to learn skilled trades. The money proposed to be expended under the authority of this bill will help, but more should be done. Members on all sides of the House arc anxious that something shall be done.
Unemployment- in Australia is confined almost entirely to unskilled workers ; there are few really skilled men out of work. Honorable members who have received applications to assist men to obtain work in munitions factories, will agree that most of them are from unskilled men. I know from my long association with Customs that there is a definite shortage of men in some of the skilled trades. It is disappointing to find that more has not been done to . enable these unfortunate youths to take their proper place in the community, so that they may marry and settle down, and become useful citizens. I was one of a sub-committee representing the Commonwealth that met the representatives of the States at a conference in Melbourne to grapple with this problem, I previously submitted certain proposals for vocational training as carried out by the Repatriation Department, and urged that it be applied to these youths. Honorable members will recollect that many men who enlisted during the Great War went away during the period of their apprenticeship. Those who returned found themselves unfitted to compete with skilled artisans’. By assisting them with their studies and paying a proportion of their wages, the Repatriation Department enabled them to re-establish themselves in industry. That system worked satisfactorily with soldiers, and it should be satisfactory also in the case of these youths. The Commonwealth might well co-ordinate the activities of the States in this connexion. Something on that comprehensive scale should be undertaken, and I believe that if that were done, the problem could be solved.
– Was any attempt in that direction made while the honorable gentleman was a member of the Government ?
– Yes. I was a member of the Cabinet on the occasion of the conference I have mentioned. At first the States agreed to set up committees along the lines that I had suggested, but, later, other proposals were put forward, and a mere monetary grant was made to the States’. Under the existing system, there is no proper co-ordinating plan by which these boys can be trained in useful work.
– Commonwealth control is necessary.
– Yes, and it is not too late to do something for these lads. The new Assistant Treasurer (Mr. Spender) has original ideas, as well as energy, and I urge him to take this matter up, and to see what can be done. I believe that the existing conditions can be improved. We should search for means by which these lads can be helped to find employment. Generally employment in this country is dependent upon world conditions and the price of our primary products; but internal prosperity can be controlled in some degree by a prudent use of the tariff, and a proper control of migration. I also think that more could be done in connexion with our apprenticeship system. Some employers do not employ their full quota of apprentices as has been remarked upon. On the other hand, some trades are too rigidly circumscribed in that they are not able to employ a sufficient number of youths. In the plumbing trade, for instance, there may be only one apprentice to, say, three journeymen. The ratio was one to one in many trades in Great Britain and this created high standards. Unless more openings are made for Australian youths, such employment will be given to adult aliens and the Australian youth will grow up unskilled. The State governments should concentrate on this subject, and the trade unions might adopt a more generous outlook. The Public Service, as one of the largest employers, also should be overhauled to find openings for more lads. At the moment, the Government is engaged in dealing with defence affairs and intends to make some retirements from the army in order to give younger men a chance. Yet the retiring age in the army is lower than in the Public Service. An engineer naval commander retires at about 50, and a flight lieutenant in the air force at 45 years of age. The retiring age for public servants is 65, provided the officer is medically fit to do his work. I do not suggest a drastic change, but I think that the Minister might make a survey of government departments in order to ascertain whether the earlier retiring age should not be adopted in order to give the younger men a chance and overcome the stagnation in certain departments of the Service. I receive many letters stressing the small number of openings for young men in the Public Service, and claiming that there is stagnation in the Service because of the high retiring age. It is not a great hardship for a man who is assured of a pension to retire at the age of 60 or 62 years. In some cases, retirement at an earlier age than is now compulsorymight be made mandatory.
Another matter that should be explored is that only too frequently, juvenile employment means the employment of females ; but girls cannot be blamed for having invaded industry for some branches of which they are better fitted, although in many cases they are doing work which ought to be done by men and boys. The adoption of a policy of equal pay for equal work would help to solve the difficulty. Many employers engage girls to do work which ought to be done by men and boys at higher rates while at the same time there is a scarcity of girls in domestic service. I hope that the Minister will take early steps to solve this human problem. Many young men. are unemployed to-day because they have never had an opportunity to receive proper training, and our best efforts should be directed towards giving them their chance.
.- The problem of youth employment is one with which we must all concern ourselves, regardless of our political affiliations.. It is a problem with which the country has been faced for many years, particularly in devastated areas such as the coal-fields. I think I can claim authoritatively that the number of unemployed youths in my electorate is ten times as great as that in any other two Federal electorates. A census of unemployed in the districts to which I refer revealed that there were 7,000 youths between the ages of 16 and 24 years, who had never done a day’s work. The great tragedy of the coal-fields is the dependence of unemployed youths upon their parents. Yesterday, a deputation waited upon the Prime Minister (Mr. Menzies) in Canberra and urged that men who had reached the age of 60 years should be retired, in an effort to absorb some of the unemployed youths in the distressed localities of the northern coal-fields. I hope that as a result of the deputation something will be done. Voluntary workers, with- a little assistance from the State government, are endeavouring to give the unemployed youths some training which might help them to secure employment. The facilities offered are not very great. For the boys some machinery for technical training has been installed, and for the girls sewing machines and typewriters have been provided, hut unless much greater governmental assistance is .forthcoming, little can bc done to tackle the problems of unemployed youth on a sound basis. I should like some honorable members opposite to come with me to the northern coal-field areas and see what effort is being made by the people there to deal with this pressing problem. The coalfields should be given special consideration. , Everybody recognizes that the coal-fields present a problem which is not. equalled in any other part of the Commonwealth. Great unemployment has arisen in the coal-mining industry because the. aid vent- of the combustion engine, and the use of oil as fuel, have displaced coal as a .-power-raising unit. In addition to this there is the ever increasing use of mechanical methods of production which is displacing man-power to an alarming degree. As I have said, an endeavour is being made to retire the older men at the age of 60, and so absorb young men, some of whom have reached the age of 25 years without ever having done -a- day’s work. In order to avoid living upon their parents many of these youths travel from town to town in the country districts seeking work Or qualifying for the dole, because if they live ..at home with their parents, an income of 50s. a fortnight or more into, -the home would debar them from getting the dole or participating in relief work. For that reason hundreds of young men. have left their homes and, as the result, their mothers and fathers are broken-hearted. Another evil aspect of this- matter is the fact that some men have preferred to make early marriages in order to become eligible for relief work. That is the tragedy of the coal-fields. I do not wish to be a carping critic of a measure such as this, but I submit that the Government is not tackling the problem of youth employment from the right point of view, in its allocation of money to the States. An endeavour is being made, by philanthropists and by the business people of stricken areas, to. do something towards solving this problem, which in reality is a concern of this Government. Organizations such as the Young Citizens’ League have been formed, and in Kurri Kurri sufficient accommodation cannot be found for members of this organization. There] is also a Young Citizens’ League at Cessnock, and another in the very devastated area known as West Wallsend, where every mine, with the exception of one, has been closed down. Possibly honorable members cannot visualize the tragedy of these areas, because I am the only member of this House who comes into intimate contact with these unfortunate people regularly. I would like to take a member of the Ministry there, unknown to the people, and I would like to stay behind the scenes while he visited my home and saw there boys and girls seeking employment. I- ask the Minister for Defence has any member of Parliament written more letters to him in connexion, with this problem than I have?
– I think the honorable member leads.
– I think, that I lead very easily. Almost every day I forward to the Minister letters which I have received from youths seeking employment. Despite my representations, however, the Minister in due course passes on the correspondence to his department, and an answer is’ sent to the youths, saying that their names have been noted. ‘ These people visit ray home week-end after week-end in an endeavour to obtain some work which will take them off the hands of their parents.’ Through the generosity of private citizens and with a little assistance from the State Government a little training has been made available, and this has been availed of to such an extent that many youths have qualified for employment in trades and professions. I am proud to say that some girls, who have received instruction in shorthand, and typing have obtained good passes in competitive examinations, and in some cases have qualified for and accepted employment in the Commonwealth Public Service. The Commonwealth Government should complete the job, not only by making provision for the training of unemployed youths, but also by ensuring that they will be absorbed in some useful employment when they are trained. This could be done by training pilots in the northern areas and by starting Federal works such as building aeroplanes. Last week the Minister for Civil Aviation (Mr. Fairbairn) accompanied me to my electorate, and on some future occasions several Ministers will do likewise. One of these is the Minister for Defence, who has promised to do what he can, and others are the Prime Minister (Mr. Menzies) and the Minister for Supply and Development (Mr. Casey), who also said they would give whatever assistance they possibly could. I sincerely hope that the Commonwealth Government will endeavour to relieve the distress on the coalfields and will treat these devastated areas as a separate problem, because that recognition is long overdue. In my electorate there is an aerodrome site which is recognized by the Air Board as an ideal place for a defence centre for the Newcastle and northern districts. It is approximately 25 miles from the coast and is in a well-concealed situation. I suggest that the Government might see its way clear to undertake some work such as the construction of aeroplanes or the building of hangars in that locality in order to absorb the unemployed youth of the coal-fields and surrounding, districts. That proposition was made to the Minister for Civil Aviation, who said that, much as he would like to see something done, the matter did not come under his jurisdiction, and he would bring it under the notice of the Minister for Defence. A matter such as this is for decision by Cabinet itself. I would like to see more Cabinet Ministers visit the coal-fields areas, because then something might be done.
The seaplane base, which is in the Robertson electorate, is situated in a town which is on the border of my electorate, and most of the workers live in my electorate. The locality of the seaplane base is really what might be called a work- ing-class pleasure resort. I suggest that as defence works are already proceeding in that area, the Government should examine the possibility of establishing there factories for the manufacture of aeroplanes and munitions. That would means that both sections of the coal-fields would be provided for. When money is to be allocated to the States under any youth employment scheme, I hope it will be allocated in proportion to the distress that exists in the various areas within those States. Usually most, of such an allocation goes to metropolitan areas where the majority of members of this Parliament live. Probably the money is given to those areas as an appeasement to these members. I have no hesitation in declaring that the unemployed in the electorates of Newcastle, Hunter and Robertson outnumber by far those in any metropolitan electorate.
If the Government of New South Wales will not agree to give special consideration in the allocation of this money to the area which I Have particularized, the onus is on this Government to establish its own works in that area. If the Commonwealth Government is not prepared to do that, it should at least make a direct grant to the Young Citizens’ League which, in conjunction with what is known as the Air Force League, is doing a great deal towards the training of the young men in Newcastle, the coalfields, and district. The Air Force League operates at the Newcastle Civil Airport, which I visited recently in the company of the Minister for Civil Aviation (Mr. Fairbairn). The equipment for training and the instructors are paid for by a philanthropist. I pay tribute to those members of the community who are doing this philanthropic work. Everything done by the organization is designed to train the youths in a vocation. I impress upon the Government the fact that the training occupies the minds of boys who otherwise might be led astray. I hesitate to suggest a precise amendment, but I believe that clause 5 is capable of being so amended as to contain a specification that a substantial portion of the money to be disbursed to the Government of New South Wales must be allocated for expenditure on vocational training in the coal-mining area. If the Government does not see fit to make that provision, it must take either or both of the two other courses that I have suggested. I do not intend to add my protests to the protests which have been made against the allocation qf most Commonwealth disbursements, not only for this purpose, but also, I stress, from the general defence expenditure to the metropolitan areas, particularly Melbourne; but I plead, without the slightest hint of intrusion of party politics into the matter, for the allocation of a greater share of Commonwealth expenditure to the district which I represent, for the twofold purpose of providing’ employment for young men who have never known work, and of dispelling the evil propaganda which is being disseminated.
.- I am pleased that the Government is granting this money to the States, because the last grant was fruitful of good results. The Government of New South Wales claims that at least 2,000 or 3,000 young men were placed in apprenticeship as the result of it. But something more than the granting of money in this way is needed. The Commonwealth Government should take over from the States the responsibility for the technical education of our youths. In my opinion, the .problem that confronts us is accentuated by. the fact that the school-leaving age is fourteen years. The Government of New South Wales suggests that it should be raised to fifteen years, but I believe that the lowest age at which a boy or a girl should be permitted to leave school should he sixteen years, and that, if necessary, - parents should be compensated under a supplementary system of social welfare for the loss of any earnings that their children may have been expected to have brought to their homes in those two years. I do not believe that boys of fourteen or fifteen years of age know what they want to do in life. Parents should have their minds instilled with the importance of instilling into the minds of their children the fact that an education spread over eight years is not sufficient to equip them for the battles of life.
I was delighted to hear the honorable member for Melbourne Ports (Mr.
Holloway) say that the trade unions were willing to join with the employers in conference in order that this problem should be relieved. There should be some revision of industrial conditions. The honorable member mentioned the vocational training of returned soldiers, in which the employers willingly cooperated. Unless the unions and employers co-operate now, we cannot increase the number of apprentices. The honorable member for Melbourne Ports was justified in saying that both interests have to be brought together in order to propound a scheme. Honorable members from the coal-mining districts are not the only honorable members who have to deal with the tragic circumstances of young men who are unable to employ their talents at remunerative work. Recently I came into contact with two young lads, brothers, who were examined by a psychologist in order to discover their trade leanings. One was found to have a mind which leaned towards technical ma liters and he found a position, but the other failed. Both of these lads had lost their opportunity as the result of the depression.
In addition to granting money for vocational training purposes, this Government should co-operate with the State governments to devise a plan for training apprentices. It would he a happy act if the trade unions refused to allow their members to work overtime. I remember when certain men in the employ of Mort’s Dock and Engineering Company Limited worked overtime almost continuously, although the paddock for the unemployed at Mort’s dock was continually filled with engineers. When the 44-hour week was introduced in the railway service of New South Wales, it was said that overtime would increase. I was told once that men in the Abermain colliery would not forfeit their right to overtime. Those who are in constantwork should refuse to accept overtime work. I know two men. who, by working overtime, each saved sufficient money to build a weatherboard cottage.
I was pleased to hear the many suggestions offered by the honorable member for Melbourne Ports. Adjoining my electorate are several light metal works, which chiefly employ youths, many of whom are dismissed upon reaching the age of 21 years. At a woollen mill in which new machines have been installed and are operated by women, over 200 men have been discharged. There should be some means by which wholesale dismissals of this kind can bo prevented. Even the PostmasterGeneral’s Department employs boys at the age of fourteen years who should not be taken away from school: These lads should not be employed until at least sixteen years of age, and, once they are appointed to positions in the department, they should be allowed to qualify for higher grades. The unemployment of youths between the ages of IS and about 22 years constitutes a most serious problem.
Debate (on motion by Mr. Forde) adjourned.
Motion (by Mr. Street) proposed -
That the House do now adjourn.
Mr. GEORGE LAWSON (Brisbane) ‘ 11. 36]. - I was hoping that the Prime Minister (Mr. Menzies) would be in the chamber to enable me to bring a certain matter before his notice; but I take it for granted that the Minister for Defence (Mr. Street) will convey my representations to him. For a considerable period I have been dealing with the case of a Chinese who has been resident in Queensland for four and a half years. He has been granted a certificate of exemption, which, I understand, must be held by ali Chinese resident in Australia. In April last he received ‘ notice from the Department of Trade and Customs, through the Department of the Interior, to the effect that he had to be ready to leave Australia on the 20th of that month. The case was brought under my notice by a number of business people. The name of the Chinese is Kwoi Que Lum. He lives with his wife, who keeps a shop. ‘She is a young and well-educated Australianborn Chinese, and they have’ a daughter aged three years. If he had been com pelled to leave Australia in April, his wife and daughter would have been left behind.
It came as a shock to rae, and I believe that it will give surprise to honorable members generally, to learn that, in order that the husband may be permitted to remain in Australia, his wife is compelled to import goods from China to the value of £500 per annum. At first I did not believe that, but I have been informed by the Department of the Interior that that is so. Mrs. Lum informed the department that, during the first three years of her husband’s residence in Queensland, she was able to import £500 worth of goods, but that last year, owing to the war in China, she was able to import only £399 worth of goods, but she purchased sufficient Chinese goods from merchants in Queensland to bring her total purchases up to the requisite’ £500. I always subscribe to the White Australia policy, but I urge the Government to do something to assist this woman. C submit that, if a Chinese is permitted to remain in Australia because he holds a certificate of exemption, his wife should not have this hardship imposed upon her. He should be allowed to remain here only so long as he is a good citizen. If he does not behave as a good citizen should, the Government has the right to send him back to China whenever it chooses. Therefore, it is wrong to compel this man’s wife to import goods annually from China to the value of £500. It is wrong in principle^ because I have been informed by the firm concerned that the goods can be produced in Australia. I approached the Minister for the Interior, and received a reply that the man was granted an extension of time until October next, and that the department will consider a further extension if the imports from China went up to the amount specified. That, however, is impossible, ‘because of the war in China. I have no brief for this Chinese; I have never met him in my life, but I believe that a principle is involved. I have received a petition signed by several hundred merchants in Roma-street, saying that they know the man, that he is a good citizen, and that they protest against the action of the Government in holding this threat over his head. In the interests of the man’s wife and child, action should be taken to amend the law in order to ensure that justice is done.
Mr. ARCHIE CAMERON (Barker; [11.44]. - In confirmation of the remarks I made in this House yesterday regarding the variation of musical items by the Australasian PerformingRight Association, I desire to inform the Government that stations 3LK and 3DB of Victoria, to-night broadcast what they called “ twisted tunes “ in order to show how such variations are made. They are putting over a similar session to-morrow at 8 o’clock, and probably on other occasions. I mention the matter in order to show that, immediately the subject was given publicity, two radio stations in Victoria were able to supply concrete examples of how the variations were effected.
– I shall bring the matter raised by the honorable member for Brisbane (Mr. George Lawson) under the notice of the Minister for the Interior (Senator Poll), and shall bring under the notice of the Attorney-General (Mr. Hughes) what the honorable member for Barker (Mr. Archie Cameron) has said in regard to concrete examples of the varying of musical items for copyright purposes.
The honorable member for Brisbane last night mentioned certain complaints that had been received regarding the conduct of a military camp at Enoggera, in Queensland. I have received a preliminary report by telephone from the commander of the 11th Mixed Brigade to the effect that the complaints regarding food have no foundation, and that members of the forces attending the camps expressed satisfaction with it. There was, he said, a certain amount of diarrhoea during the first 48 hours among militia men attending the camp, but after that the trouble ceased. A full report regarding the allegations, together with medical reports on the camp, is being obtained, and will be forwarded to mo by air mail. I hope to he able to make a further report within a few days.
Question resolved in the affirmative.
The following papers were pre sented : -
Canberra - Cost of Living - Reports (Nos. 1 to 6) by Sir William Clemens.
Science and Industry Research Act - Regulations amended - Statutory Rules 1939. No. 45.
House adjourned at 11.50 p.m.
The following answers to questions were circulated: -
Public Service Arbitration.
– The answers to the honorable member’s questions are as follows : - 1 and 2. In the past a considerable time has sometimes elapsed between the lodging of a claim and its determination bythe Public Service Arbitrator. 3 and 4. Steps are now being taken which, it is expected, will remove any cause for complaint.
n asked the Minister for Trade and Customs, upon notice -
– The answers to the honorable member’s questions are as follows : -
Returned Soldiers in Public Service.
s asked thePrime Minister, upon notice -
– The answers to the honorable member’s questions are as follows : -
Section 84 (9.) of the Commonwealth Public Service Act is as follows: - (9.) In the making of appointments to positions in the Commonwealth Service of a non-clerical nature the order of preference to returned soldiers shall be as follows: -
Provided that any such appointment shall be to a position the duties of which arc similar to those which the returned soldier has been performing or performed ; and
returned soldiers not employed in the Commonwealth Service or under the Australian Soldiers’ Repatriation Act 1920 or the War Service Homes Act 1918- 1920, who have passed the prescribed examination.
Importation offelt Hats.
n asked the Minister for
Trade and Customs, upon notice -
– The information is being obtained.
Pensions :Proposed Agreement with New Zealand.
n asked the Minister for Social Services, upon notice -
– Consideration of the proposed agreement has not yet been completed.
News Broadcast in Foreign Languages.
n asked the PostmasterGeneral, upon notice -
– The answers to the honorable member’s questions are as follows : -
Non-official Post Offices.
d asked the PostmasterGeneral, upon notice -
What allowances are paid by the department for postal services rendered at the following non-official offices: - Apsley, Austin’s Ferry, Bagdad, Dunorlan, Tunbridge, Conara Junction, Karoola, Mole Creek. Lilydale and Legerwood ?
– Inquiries are being made, and a reply will be furnished as soon as possible.
On the 1st June, the honorable member for Wakefield (Mr. McHugh) asked the following questions, without notice: -
I am now in a position ,to furnish- the honorable member with the following further information: -
s. - On the 2nd June, the honorable the Leader of the Opposition (Mr. Curtin) asked the Treasurer the following questions, upon notice: -
The answers to the honorable member’s questions are as follows : -
That our internal credit policy must be so directed as to assist the country’s financial policy is obvious.. As I haw said, the management of this policy during the past year or two has contributed much to the immediate stability of our economy, but there are definite limits to which the credit structure can be extended without unpleasant repercussions. 3 and 4. I understand that there is a large measure of agreement between the Commonwealth Bank Board and the trading banks regarding the question of credit expansion in present, circumstances.
n. - On the 11th May, the honorable member for Martin (Mr. McCall) asked the following questions, upon notice: -
I am now able to furnish the honorable member with the following information : -
t. - On the 2nd June, the honorable member for ‘ Cook (Mr. Sheehan) asked the following question, without notice: -
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?
I am now in a position to inform the honorable member that members of the Permanent Forces who are required to attend camp have their fares paid between their home station and camp for the forward and return journeys. As camps do not usually exceed twelve days in duration, the question of a member’s return to his home station within that period does not usually arise, but any case of hardship which is represented through the proper official channel will receive consideration.
Export of Apples: Shipping Facilities.
– On the 5 th and 6th June, the honorable member for Franklin (Mr. Frost) referred to the position of the apple exporters in Tasmania. He stated that approximately 10,000 cases of apples were awaiting shipment in Tasmania, and that further quantities were likely to he packed for shipment. He asked that the Tuscan Star be made available to lift the fruit in question.
I am now in a position to advise the honorable member that, as the result of negotiations with the Overseas Shipping Representatives Association, the Tuscan Star, which is due to leave Sydney on the 13th June, will call at Hobart for the purpose of loading approximately 15,000 cases of apples.
t. - On the 5th June, the honorable member for Griffith (Mr. Conclan) asked the following question, without notice : -
Is the Minister for Defence able to say whether any ships of the Royal Australian Navy were constructed in the yards of Cammel Laird and Company, the makers of the ill-fated submarine Thetis?
I am now in a position to inform the honorable member that none of the pre sent ships of the Royal Australian Navy was constructed by Cammel Lairdand Company.
n asked the Minister for
Supply and Development, upon notice -
What is the approximate cost to the Commonwealth Government of the aerial mining surveys in Western Australia to date by
– The answers to the honorable member’s questions are as follows : -
Invalid and Old-age Pensions.
s. - Yesterday the honor able member for Cook (Mr. Sheehan) asked me a question, without notice, regarding earlier representations made by him urging that naturalized Asiatics from Mount Lebanon, Palestine and Syria be accorded eligibility for invalidand oldage pensions. I desire to inform the honorable member that the Government has carefully considered the representations made, hut regrets that it cannot see its way clear to extend the benefits of invalid and old-age pensions to any class of Asiatics.
Cite as: Australia, House of Representatives, Debates, 7 June 1939, viewed 22 October 2017, <http://historichansard.net/hofreps/1939/19390607_reps_15_160/>.