15th Parliament · 2nd Session
Mr. Speaker (Hon. G. J. Bell) took the chair at 2.30 p.m., and read prayers.
loss of Papers.
-Some time ago the Minister for Air stated in the press that numbers of applications for membership of the Air Force had mysteriously disappeared. Is he in a position to say whether the missing papers have been found, and who was responsible for their disappearance?
– It has not been proved that any applications to join the Air Force were lost, but as numbers of men have complained that applications made by them about October or November last year were not replied to, I concluded that some applications must have been lost. At that time a small recruiting station had been established in Sydney, but the response to the call for volunteers wasso phenomenal - the number of men offering in Sydney exceeded the enlistments in the rest of Australia - that the small group of untrained men working in cramped quarters could not cope with the work. In the circumstances, no blame can be attached to them if the station did not function perfectly. I understand that the recruiting centre at Sydney is now working smoothly.
Funds fob New South Wales.
– Is it a fact that last year the Loan Council promised that £5,000,000 would be made available to New SouthWales for its works programme, and, if so, has any of the money been made available to that State? If not, will money be made available for works that have been specified, and, if so, when?
– The programme of public works in New South Wales was settled before the commencement of this financial year. Arrangements have been made for New South Wales to receive the full amount allocated to that State.
– What is the intention of the Postmaster-General regarding the promise made by his predecessor that the surcharge on border telegrams would be removed ?
– The charges for telegrams lodged in border towns are now under consideration by the Government with a view to the introduction of a system which will be satisfactory to the Government and will overcome the existing difficulties.
– In view of the adverse trade balance and the need to conserve dollar exchange, will the Minister representing the Minister for Trade and Customs consider the advisability of increasing the duty on imported tobacco leaf and’ reducing the excise duty on Australian leaf to the rates which were imposed by the Scullin Government, thereby providing encouragement to Australian growers of tobacco?
– I shall be pleased to convey the honorable member’s question to the Minister for Trade and Customs and to supply him with an answer later.
– Is the Minister for Air in a position to make a statement regarding the establishment of a training college at Perth similar to those which exist in some of the other capital cities for the training of mechanics in connexion with the Air Force scheme?
– Steps are being taken to utilize the technical school at Perth for the purpose mentioned. The delay which has occurred has been due to the difficulty of providing living accommodation for the trainees. The Government intends to utilize the technical schools in all of the capital cities where adequate facilities are available. The first two schools were established in Sydney and Melbourne because the great majority of the trainees came from those centres. At first it was intended that these schools should be filled to their maximum capacity before other schools should be opened in the other States, but I have recently issued instructions that schools are to be set up as soon as possible in each State where the necessary facilities are available.
– Will the Prime Minister inform the House of the reason for the delay in dealing with the Savile report with respect to the building of a naval dock in Australia? Can the right honorable gentleman indicate at this stage whether or not it is intended to proceed with the scheme? If so, can he say whether the dock is likely to be built in New South Wales, and, if not, in which State it is likely to be built?
– There has been no delay in dealing with the Savile report. The report was received only recently from Great Britain. Shortly after its arrival, it was submitted to the Naval Board for examination and comment by that body. This information has just been received, and the matter will be dealt with by the War Cabinet at, 1 imagine, its next meeting.
– As the announced policy of the Government is voluntary enlistment for military service overseas, will the Minister for the Army issue the instruction that the present practice of exercising moral compulsion to obtain enlistments, which obtains in some military camps, is discontinued?
– The honorable gentleman has rightly stated that there is voluntary enlistment for service overseas. I deny that any moral compulsion is exercised in any military camp.
– Having regard to the widespread dissatisfaction that exists among Australian wool-growers in respect of the present scheme governing the marketing of their product, in regard to price, methods of appraisement, and the personnel of the board, will the Minister for Commerce give the assurance that the whole matter will be reviewed, with a view to remedying anomalies and reconstructing the scheme on lines desired by the growers?
– I deny that there is widespread dissatisfaction in respect of the terms of the agreement; but one or two matters which could be improved are at present the subject of examination.
– I ask the Minister for Commerce the following questions: - (1) Will the Government make representations to the British Government, urging that that Government should make wool available to our Allies and benevolent neutrals at competitive rates, and not hold large quantities in the interests of British manufacturers and to the detriment of Australian woolgrowers? (2) Will .the Minister also make inquiries in regard to the huge quantities of wool exported by Bradford as tops at enhanced prices, thus depriving the Australian wool-growers of their share of the increased price?
– Such negotiations are in band at the present time.
– Some weeks ago, I placed before the Prime Minister representations from a magnesium company for financial assistance to promote the production of an aluminium alloy in Tasmania, this metal being so greatly needed for the production of aircraft in Australia. I now ask the righthonorable gentleman whetheror not it is a fact that the British Government has asked the Commonwealth Government to establish in Tasmanianan aluminium plant, with a view to expediting production forthe benefit ofthe British Government?
– The matter referred tobythe honorable member is in the hands of my colleague, the Minister for Supply, who, I know, isreceiving next week representationsfrom the Government of Tasmaniainconnexionwith it.
– What aboutmy representations to the honorable gentleman? Willhe answer that question?
– I have already answered it by saying that the matter is in the hands of mycolleague, the Minister for Supply.
– Will the Prime Minister say whether or not it is a fact that the appeal which he proposes to make to the coal-miners at Kurri Kurri tomorrow will be broadcast over the national network? If thatbe the proposal, will the right honorable gentleman give to the chosen leader of the mine-workers’ organization the right to reply to him over the national network?
– The answer to the first part of the honorable member’s question is, that arrangements have been made for my statement, which is to be a. statement on behalf of the Government of Australia, to be broadcast to the people of Australia. No arrangements have been or will be made to convert this matter into a broadcast debate.
– Has the attention of the Prime Minister been drawn to the statement published in the West Australian, to the effect that members of the Australian Workers Union at Kalgoorlie and Boulder have voted £500 towards the relief of those engaged in the coal strike, and that four of the five trustees of the fund refused to sign the cheque unless the money were devoted to those who are suffering from the effects of the strike?
– I was notpreviously in possession of the information referred toby the honorable member, and am very grateful to him for having drawn attention to it.
Mr.JAMES.- Will the Prime Minister say whether it is a fact that His Honour Judge Drake-Brockman, af ter an inquiry lasting for five and ahalf months, during the course of which he visited various coal-mines, and even went below ground, issued an award granting the miners a 40-hour week to be worked on five days’? Is it also a fact that the coal-owners appealed to the Full Court of the ArbitrationCourt, andthat the Full Court, despite the fact that two of the judges had never gone into a mine, that they had not heard any of the evidence, and that one of them admitted that he would not know , a mine if he fell into it, reversedthe finding of Judge Drake-Brockman, and decided that the 40-hour week should not apply to all workers in the coal-mining industry, notwithstanding that the judge who made the award in the first place dissented from this finding?
– It is quite true that, after an award was made by Judge DrakeBrockman, an appeal was taken to the Full Court of the Arbitration Court, and that on certain points the award of the learned judge was overruled or altered. The Full Court had before it a complete transcript of the evidence given before the trial judge, and this evidence was made the subject of elaborate argument lasting over a period of twelve days.
– Owing to the confusion and thedislocation of industry occasioned by the coal stoppage, caused mainly, as is indicated in the award made by Judge Drake-Brockman, by the bad management of, and the bad control exercised by, the mine-owners, will the Prime Minister, in the interests of the nation, immediately take control of the mines, and operate them free from profit to any individual, thus saving the country from the vast cost that must be involved by the stoppage of coal supplies to the nation?
– I shall give consideration to the honorable member’s question.
– Will the Prime Minister give serious consideration to the desirability of following the example set. in New Zealand, by the flotation ofa voluntary loan for war purposes’ free of interest?
– The suggestion of the honorable member will receive consideration.
– In view of’ the unsatisfactory reception from existing national broadcastingstations in certain fading zones in Australia, will the PostmasterGeneral state whether or not the Government intends to continue its previously announced policy to erect additional broadcasting stations where necessary? When is it expected that the proposed new regional station in the Bundaberg district, in Queensland, will be commenced ?.
– It is admitted that the broadcasting arrangements in Queensland are not entirely satisfactory, because a number of centres arein blanketed areas which do not receive the national broadcasts very satisfactorily. Aprogramme for the erection of new stations was mapped; outsome considerable time ago, and is now being re-examined in conjunction with the amount to be made available for this purpose. I can make no promise at the present juncture as to what stations will be erected, or what the number will be. The matter is being sympathetically considered in conjunction with the amount to he made available.
– With a view to allaying the fear of the primary producers of Australia that they will be unable, because of shortage of shipping space, to transport their primary products overseas, and also because of a possible shortage of raw material for our manufacturing industries, including newsprint, will the PrimeMinister indicate to the House at an early date what steps the Government proposes shall be taken to ensure adequate shipping from Australia, and what proposals will be implemented to increase the volume of our shipping? Will the right honorable gentleman also’ further consider the application that I made yesterday, for the tabling of a copy’ of the Townsend report on the possibility of establishing; the shipbuilding: industry in Australia?.
– A statement on this very important matter will be made on’ behalf of the Government assoon as possible.
– Will theMinister representing the Minister for the Interior state whether or notitisafactthat the successfultendererfornewrunwaysat Mascotaerogromehasforfeitedhiscontracts?Isitnowproposedtobuildthese run-waysbydaylabourundertheworks branchoftheDepartmentoftheInterior? If not,why not?
– I am not able to answer the question atthe moment, butI shall obtain the information for the honorable member.
– Can the Minister for Air inform the House whether any additional training centres are to be established under the Empire Air Scheme in Victoria? If so, I ask that the claims for. Mildurabe not overlooked.
Mr.FAIRBAIRN.- Approximately 30 training centres are to be established in addition to those already announced.. Their location will be made publicin due course. The honorable member may rest assured that his personal representations concerning the suitability and virtues of Mildurawill not be overlooked by the board which is selecting the sites.
– In view of the necessity to secure the enlistment. of young men with a bent for mathematics for training for the higher positions in the Royal Australian Air Force and of the need for such young men to have a good basic knowledge of surveying based on mathematics and astronomy as part of their technical education, I ask the Minister for Air whether he will make immediate contact with the presidents of the Institute of Surveyors in Victoria and in the other States with the object of seeking their aid in seconding for the AirForce young men from the technical colleges of the right type for training for the work of mapping Australia from the air or through the ground control?
– The securing of young men of the right type for training in the Royal Australian AirForce is one of the most urgent problems we are facing at the moment, and I should be glad of any advice that the honorable member might be able to give me in that connexion.
– I ask the Minister for Air whether it is a fact that five large weatherboard structures which had been built at Canberra for the use of air force recruits have been condemned by the health authorities and will have to be demolished or removed? Furthermore, is it intended that twenty more of these buildings shall be constructed? If so, why have men been paid off this work ? I should also like to know the cost of the buildings which will have to be demolished ?
– It is not correct that the buildings which were erected for the Air Force at the rear of the power station in Canberra were condemned by the health authorities. It was discovered, unfortunately after the work had commenced, that the site was unsuitable. The buildings are to be removed to a more suitable site. No doubt a mistake was made. When a mistake has been made it is better to admit and rectify it than to proceed obstinately in an endeavour to cover it up.
– Will the Minister for Air inform me whether the Government intends to take advantage of private aeronautical engineering schools to train pilots for the Air Force?
– If any private engineering schools have the capacity to train pilots, we should be glad to take advantage of them.
– An offer of that kind by an aeronautical engineering school in my electorate was rejected.
– At present this department is exploring every possibility of getting suitable organizations with adequate experience and equipment to set up organizations for training pilots.
– Referring to the pub lished statement to the effect that it is proposed to expend about £170,000 in the building of a new wharf at Darwin, I direct the attention of the Minister representing the Minister for the Interior to the presence at Darwin of a most treacherous current which has the effect of silting up the harbour. I ask the honorable gentleman to see that before any money has been spent on this work representations are made with the object of seconding the services of the Chief Engineer of Harbours and Rivers of Brisbane, Mr. Fison, or else those of the Engineer for Harbours and Rivers of South Australia to confer with the Public Works Committee when that committee is making its investigation into the proposal. I urge that this technical advice be made available to the committee before even £1 has been spent on this work.
– I shall have the honorable member’s suggestion conveyed to the Minister.
– During the recent parliamentary recess it was announced in the press that the Government proposed to extend the power alcohol industry. I ask the Minister for Supply whether he can give the House any information on this subject and when the proposal is to be put into operation ?
– Negotiations were conducted between the Government and interested parties concerning the production of power alcohol from molasses, but no specific proposal is before Cabinet. All practical steps have been taken to encourage the production of power alcohol from molasses.
– Is it the intention of the Government to introduce an amending repatriation bill this session? If so, will the Minister for Repatriation give me an assurance that the scope of the amendments will be sufficiently wide to permit relief to be given to all men who are suffering from war disabilities?
– Broadly speaking, it is not intended to introduce amendments of the existing act. It is intended, however, to bring down the new repatriation bill as early as possible.
– Will the Minister for Repatriation state whether or not, in the drafting of the new proposed repatriation legislation, it is proposed to make provision to cover members of the mercantile marine who may be injured or may lose their lives in war activities?
– In order that private members may be able to get their electioneering machinery well-oiled, I ask the Prime Minister to indicate to the House when he proposes to submit the motor car manufacturing agreement to Parliament?
– As soon as possible.
– Will the Prime Minister lay on the table of the House all of the papers relating to theagreement entered into between the Government and Australian Consolidated Industries in connexion with the establishment of the motor-car manufacturing industry in Australia?
– A bill to authorize the making of the contract referred to by the honorable member will be submitted to Parliament. I shall be glad to make available to honorable members the whole of the related files in connexion with it.
– When will that legislation be introduced?
– I cannot say exactly, but fairly soon.
– Last year the undertaking was given that the Minister for Trade and Customs would conduct an inquiry into the activities of Australian Consolidated Industries. Has such an inquiry been held? If so, when will honorable members be advised as to the results of it?
– I shall have inquiries made, and have an answer sent to the honorable member.
– Has the attention of the Minister representing the Minister for Trade and Customs been drawn to the fact that, whilst thereis in force a prohibition of the entry of certain manufactured articles into Australia from nonsterling countries, the raw materials for the production of such articles has also only a restricted entry into this country, thereby preventing Australian manufacturers from developing the local market for such goods? What does the Government propose to do to assist local manufacturers to take advantage of the existing prohibitions in order to develop their capacity to supply the market to meet post-war requirements of such goods ?
– My attention has not been drawn to the “fact” referred to by the honorable member. I am not satisfied that the honorable member has correctly stated the existing position. At any rate, he has spoken only in general terms. If he can bring under my notice any specific instances of the kind he referred to I shall be glad to give them consideration.
– In view of the fact that the German occupation of Denmark has increased our responsibility in regard to providing foodstuffs for Great Britain, will the Minister for Commerce give favorable consideration to a proposal for continuing the fertilizers subsidy during next year?
– The Government has decided not to continue the subsidy.
– In view of the grave dissatisfaction that exists among wheatgrowers regarding the present constitution of the Australian Wheat Board, will the Minister for Commerce take steps to re-constitute the board by having the members selected by the growers, subject to the approval of the Minister?
– I do not admit that there is grave dissatisfaction in the wheat industry on this matter. If the honorable member wants further information he must ask for it on notice.
– Is it the intention of the Government to reconsider the recently imposed gold tax with a view to imposing the tax on profits instead of on production as at present?
– The matter is receiving consideration.
– Has the Minister representing the Minister for Trade and Customs bad his attention drawn to the fact that, although the Government has prohibited the importation of cane furniture into Australia, thereby creating a market for cane furniture manufactured in Australia, it has also restricted to such a degree the importation of raw materials necessary for the manufacture of suchfurniture that the Australian manufacturers are not able to supply their previous market, letalone the extended market that has been opened up?
– My attention has not been drawn to the matter, but I shall have it investigated. May I point out that it does not follow that, because certain imports- are prohibited from nonsterling, countries, industries for the manufacture of those articles in Australia ought to be encouraged.
– What about the expressed desire of the Government to encourage post-war industries?
– I have answered the honorable member’s question, but I shall elaborate on the matter if he wishes.
Motion (by Mr. Menzies) agreed to -
That the. House, at its rising adjourn until 10.30 a.m. to-morrow.
Progress of Hostilities : Activities of Australian Fighting. Services : Ministerial Statement
. -by leave - Since my last statement to the House on the progress of the war, events in Europe have developed, at first slowly, and then with dramatic speed. Activity on the Western Front has been restricted to unimportant skirmishes and patrols by small parties from both sides, with occasional artillery exchanges on a small scale. The Allies have been engaged in consolidating their positions, and in reconnoitring by observation flights over enemy territory. On the sea the Royal Navy, with which Dominions? naval vessels-have co-operated, has kept up the traditions established in the past Germain merchant shipping has ceased to move, while Germany’s naval losses: have been substantial. One of the strongest proofs of Allied superiority at seahas been the success of the convoy system. Out of over 17,000 vessels convoyed by the Allied navies, less than one out of every 500 has been sunk.. At the same time, reports have constantly been received of the sinking of. German submarines, and during recent weeks very littlehas been heard of their activities. The tightening of the economic blockade has forced. Hitlerinto one desperate bid to ensure essential supplies. To thisI shall refer later.
For the most part, air activity during the. last four months has been restricted to patrols and reconnaissance flights, with spasmodic encounters between small numbers of. fighters and. bombers, in which the Germans have lost more planes than the Allies. The Royal Air. Force, by patrolling, the bases from which seaplanes, set out on their magnetic mine laying expeditions, has put a complete stop to this, kind of activity.
On the 16th March the Germans s.ent a large force of aeroplanes to make an attack on the British naval base at Scapa Flow, but these failed to inflict any serious damage. Three days later, in retaliation for this raid, a large British fleet of bombers made an attack on the German base on the island of Sylt. Whilst one British bomber was lost, waves of bombers ra.ided the base for seven hours and inflicted very great damage. The British success in this largest aerial action up. to the present is most encouraging.
On the Western Front, there have been frequent encounters between groups of Allied andGerman planes, and in practically every case the Allied pilots have inflicted much more severe losses on the enemy than they themselves suffered. In this way superior personal skill and equipment are overcoming the disadvantage of numbers.
The last ten days have seen a tremendous, crescendo in the activity of all branches of the services. With what must have been deliberate planning for a long time ahead, Germany suddenly and without warning invaded two neutral and peaceful countries. Within a few hours Denmark was under German domination. A few hours, later Norway was attacked, and Norway’s rugged country, untouched by war for many generations, became a battlefield in which, I am happy to say, the German occupation is now being effectively countered by the Allied arms.
If it is possible to admire organization when it has the effect of bringing domination and disaster to peaceful peoples, then one must pay a tribute to the secrecy and skilful planning with which this evil action was carried out. We are indeed up against a formidable foe. But the British Navy was not idle. Within 24 hours British warships and the British air fleet were rendering assistance to the Norwegian people. Since then the Skager Rak has been forced, the Baltic Sea has been mined and Allied forces are in possession of points on the Norwegian coast. Not only have these actions cut off from Germany those supplies which it formerly received from the northern democracies, but we confidently expect that it has left stranded in the country and attacked troops and equipment which must in the near future fall into Allied bands.
During the various naval encounters, the German Navy suffered crippling losses. The battle cruiser Scharnhorst is known to have been severely damaged by two hits in her action with H.M.S. Renown on 10th April. Three other cruisers are known to have been sunk, and possibly a fourth. Seven German destroyers were sunk at Narvik, and possibly three more have been put out of action. Two submarines have also been sunk. The British losses have been restricted to four destroyers. Four other destroyers have been damaged. The battle-cruiser Renown was very slightly damaged in its action with the Scharnhorst, and the damage clone by a bomb to the battleship Rodney was negligible.
I do not conceal from honorable members’ my belief that, as the result of these events, we have entered upon a phase of this war which may well prove crucial. There is a tense expectancy in the air. Every neutral country in Europe has had its warning, has been told by Germany (hat it has no rights.’
The success of the allied actions must surely have a tremendous effect upon these neutrals who stand wavering and afraid hi the shadow of the Third Reich. Arc they to exchange their proud and historic independence for a prompt and relatively bloodless slavery by surrender, or are they to stand with those in whose victory resides the only hope for a new dawn of freedom for Europe? The next few weeks will provide the answer.
I now wish to turn and examine in some detail the development of our own war effort since the beginning of December last; I take that period because that was approximately when I last stated these matters to the House.
I shall deal first with the Navy. In the period under review, there has been a steady expansion in navy personnel amounting to 1,000, and the number of ships in commission has been increased by twelve, including ships formerly under construction and merchants vessels chartered.
Since the” outbreak of hostilities no less than 13S merchant ships have been defensively armed in Australia - an increase of 41 since early December, 1939. To ensure the adequate training of gun crews, special gunnery training courses for officers and men have been established in Melbourne and Sydney. Training courses are also held for selected officers and ratings in anti-submarine work.
Traffic around the coasts of Australia is safeguarded by ships of the Australian Station with the co-operation of the Royal Australian Air Force. The ships are continuously employed patrolling and carrying out exercises calculated to maintain them in a high state of fighting efficiency.
The transportation of the Australian Imperial Force overseas involves considerable work in fitting out, equipping and provisioning merchant ships, in making detailed arrangements for sailing from the different ports of embarkation and in arranging adequate escort protection while the convoy is en route overseas.
The efficiency of the special coastwatching organization set up at the outbreak of hostilities is being increased continually.
The Admiralty has requested the Naval Victualling Department to supply large quantities of victualling stores to His
Majesty’s ships and establishments of the Mediterranean, East Indies, China and South Africa stations. By the end of this year some 55,000 tons (dead-weight) will have been supplied. Victualling stores are also supplied to the Australian Imperial Force for use abroad. The Admiralty has recently requested the Commonwealth Government to arrange for the building as rapidly as possible of anti-submarine vessels in Australia, and orders are about to be placed to the maximum of our capacity.
Arrangements are well advanced for fitting ships with anti-magnetic mine equipment when this is considered necessary.
Finally, there is the progressive improvement at various ports of naval defence measures, increased storage arrangements, and facilities for embarking fuel, fresh water and stores.
By December, 1939, considerable progress had been made in connexion with the initial war programme approved for the Army. This programme “provided for protection of vulnerable points, the completion of coast defence preparations, intensified militia training, the introduction of universal training beginning in January, 1940, and the raising of the Sixth Division and ancillary troops of the Australian Imperial Force. As the result of the recent comprehensive review of Australia’s war effort by the War Cabinet, this programme has since been extended, mainly by the decisions to expand the Australian Imperial Force to a corps of two divisions and corps troops, and to raise one head-quarters railway construction and maintenance group, three railway construction companies, one railway survey company, and two forestry companies. The garrison battalions enlisted from the Australian Imperial Force Reserve for guard duties in connexion with vulnerable points now total 4,655 personnel. Coast defence batteries are in a constant state of readiness, the permanent troops being supplemented by Militia personnel called up on a voluntary basis for the duration of the war.
The first month’s period of camp training for the Militia was completed in December, 1939. The first series of three months’ camp training period for approximately half the Militia has in many instances been completed, and the second series, which will terminate in July next, has begun. The present strength of the Militia, voluntarily enlisted, is 62,328 personnel, 13,720 having been transferred to the Militia Reserve. Further transfers to the Reserve are expected with the beginning of the second series of three months’ camps, and at its conclusion. By J une, 1940, it is anticipated that approximately 75,000 voluntarily enlisted and national service personnel will have received periods of training ranging from three to four months. During the year 1940-41, militia training will revert to the pre-war period of twelve days’ camp training, with twelve days’ home training for officers and reduced periods for other ranks.
The introduction of universal training under Part IV. of the Defence Act in January, 1940, has resulted in 20,727 national service personnel being called up for training. They are being trained concurrently with the Militia for a period of eleven weeks’ camp training. In addition, men who will have attained the age of either 20 or 21 years during the calendar year 1940, and have not been called up under Part IV. of the Defence Act, are being registered under Part XIV. of the act. Registrations to date number 47,003. Of these, 6,573 are serving under voluntary engagements with the Defence Forces. During 1940-41, the quota at present in training will carry out the same training as the Militia. The new quota, called up in 1940-41, will receive 5S days’ camp training, at the conclusion of which they will be trained with Militia units for twelve days’ camp training - a total of seventy day’s.
The Sixth Division Advance Party and Head-quarters Overseas Base sailed on the 15th December, 1939. These were followed in January of this year by the first detachment of the Sixth Division, which arrived safely in the Middle East, and is continuing its training there.
Recruiting for the Seventh Division and Corps Troops will begin in May, 1940. The total strength of the. corps, with first reinforcements, will approximate 50,000 personnel, and subsequent reinforcements will be provided for later. Training depots have been established, and as a beginning, the second, third and fourth reinforcements for- the Sixth Division are in process of being raised. The forestry and railway construction companies will have a strength of 40 officers and 1,203 other ranks.
The organization of the Australian Imperial Force on the basis of British war establishments involves the provision of several thousands of mechanical vehicles for the Australian Corps, including light tanks, artillery tractors, lorries and trucks of various types, and Bren gun and scout carriers. In addition to rifles, light automatics and machine guns, various types of field and medium artillery and anti-tank weapons will have to be provided from Australian and British sources. Considerable progress has been made with the conversion of artillery equipments to pneumatic tyres. The clothing of the Sixth Division and ancillary troops and reinforcements, the Militia, national service personnel and garrison battalions has been completed. Provision has been made for replacements, and the accumulation of reserve stocks at home and abroad. Owing to the large number of personnel undergoing military training, it has been found necessary to make special provision for hutted and hospital accommodation. All Australian Infantry Force personnel are now inoculated and X-rayed soon after enlistment, and the system of inoculation has been extended to the Militia, Forces during the three months’ camp training period. A canteen service has also been established for the welfare of the troops at home and abroad.
Since December last much has been done towards the achievement of the Government’s objective of completing the. Air Force development programme by June of this year, approximately twelve months ahead of the date originally intended, and of recruiting and training air crews in accordance with the scale agreed upon as our contribution to the Empire Air Training Scheme. In order to achieve our programme, the War Cabinet decided yesterday to place further orders in the United States of America for 49 Lockheed Hudson reconnaissance bombers together with spare engines and a range of spare parts, &c. That will bring the total of such machines to 149 and will have the dual purpose of further strengthening our home defence squadrons and of making available Avro Anson aircraft for training purposes in connexion with the Empire Air .Training Scheme.
Eighteen of the new Lockheed Hudsons will be allocated for the- equipment of an additional general reconnaissance squadron, and the balance will be used for the re-equipment of squadrons from which the Avro Ansons will be withdrawn. The total cost of this order will be £2,277,000.
Many Lockheed Hudson aircraft have arrived in Australia and been allotted to squadrons. The Air Board has expressed itself completely satisfied with the performance of the machines of this type which- are already in service. The total of orders prior to the last order amounted to 100 Lockheed Hudsons, which are aircraft of modern design and high performance. At one stage the Government foresaw some difficulty in obtaining deliveries because of the neutrality embargo imposed by the United States of America, but anticipating a change of policy under the pressure of circumstances, it arranged to have direct representation in that country. The representative was there -when die embargo was removed, and was able immediately to make arrangements for the shipping of the machines with the result that practically all of the 100 machines covering the original order are now either in active use in Australia or on their way to this country. The others will be entirely completed during the next few weeks. Australia’s representative in this matter is Mr. F. B. Clapp, of Sydney, a gentleman with considerable business experience both in Australia and in the United States of America, who undertook this responsibility in an entirely honorary capacity. I .cannot adequately express my appreciation of his services, and of .the satisfactory results that have followed the timely action by the Government with the willing co-operation of Mr. Clapp.
Australia’s participation in the Empire scheme entails the building up of a vast training organization capable of fulfilling our commitments. This great expansion involves the solution of many serious problems of organization, personnel, supply, maintenance and works. In order to ensure the successful completion of the task, some measure of re-organization of the Air Force was considered necessary. The two principal changes decided upon were the. reconstitution of the Air Board to enable it to deal more efficiently with the problems mentioned, and the formation of area commands. ‘ The main changes in the Air Board were the appointment of. Air Chief Marshal Sir Charles Burnett as Chief of the Air Staff, the creation of an additional member for supply and production, and a redistribution of duties among members. As an additional measure of decentralization in order to allow the staff of Air Force Head-quarters to concentrate upon matters of major policy, units of the service have been organized into four areas. The southern area consists of all units in Victoria, South Australia, Tasmania and southern Riverina, the central area of units of central New South Wales, the northern area will consist of units of northern New South Wales, Queensland, Northern Territory and Papua, and the western area all units in Western Australia. The medical organization of the Royal Australian Air Force has been so much expanded that it has been decided to separate it from Army control, while at the same time providing machinery for co-ordination between the Navy, Army and Air Force in relation to medical services.
A recruiting organization comprising centres at the capital cities, and nine of the larger country towns, has been established’. Air crews for entry, into training establishments for at least six months ahead of the programme have been selected and placed upon a waiting list, to be called up as additional schools are opened. Voluntary recruiting committees have been formed in each State and are conducting a campaign to ensure that the response continues to be satisfactory. It is worthy of note that whereas at the outbreak of war the total strength of the Royal Australian Air Force was approximately 3,500, it now numbers over 9,000.
Due to the heavy demands of industry, and of the other Services, upon the fitting trades, schools of technical training have been formed at Canberra, Sydney and Melbourne, where recruits are being trained to the standard of trade efficiency required for entry to the engineering school.
Since early in December of last year, the following new Air Force” establishments have been formed, although some are not yet fully developed : - Six recruiting centres, three recruiting depots, three schools of technical training, one engineering school, two elementary flying training schools, one armament school, one seaplane training flight and one equipment depot.
Under the Empire Air Training Scheme a x large number of additional flying instructors will be required. The training of flying instructors was taken in hand some months ago; with the result that our immediate and future requirements are now assured. Instructors in specialist subjects also are being trained rapidly. Certain deficiencies of specialist instructors are being supplied by the Royal Air Force. Some of these experts have already arrived in Australia and have been absorbed by the training organization.
Elementary and service training establishments also have been working to. capacity, and trained pilots are becoming available in sufficient numbers to meet the demands for new service and training units to be formed under the programme. Full advantage has been taken of the facilities for flying training offered by civil aviation companies, and of the services of skilled civil flying instructors in organizing the elementary flying training of pupil pilots. The claims of home defence units have not been neglected; the plan for the full development programme for home defence is well under way. Number ten squadron, the nucleus of which was overseas at the outbreak of war, has been brought Up to its full establishment of men and equipment, and is now employed with similar squadrons of the Royal Air Force upon active service flying: operations. As already announced, it has been decided to send one army co-operation squadron overseas for army co-operation duties with the Australian Imperial Force. A squadron is available now, and it is expected that this unit will be despatched in the near future.
I have previously said that nearly all of the 100 Lockheed Hudson aircraft previously ordered from abroad have either reached Australia or are en- route. The local production of “Wirraways is proceeding satisfactorily.. The re-armament of service squadrons with these types of aircraft, and the consequent conversion, courses for the crews, are well under way. Light teaming type aircraft also are being delivered in adequate numbers to meet our present needs.
Apart from the. work, upon training, which forms such a large part of our effort, mention should, be made of the operational duties, undertaken by the service squadrons. Patrols to ensure the safety of shipping, in coastal waters, are regularly carried out in co-operation with the. Navy.. In order to assist in. safeguarding the passage of the first convoy while in. Australian waters, the Royal Australian Air Force patrolled, areas totalling, nearly 500,000’ square miles.
Finally, I wish to tell’ honorable members something concerning the activities of the Department of Supply and Development. When. Parliament adjourned in December, this department w.as’ adapting: the normal processes of private industry to the new demands of war. The problem before- it was very different from that which the old Department of Defence faced in 1914. Then, the problem was one of recruiting men, and sending them away with the barest essentials. The task we have undertaken now is to provide the full personnel and equipment of a modern mechanized army. Twenty-five years ago we were sending men away to help in munitions making in England.. To-day we are sending, the munitions themselves,, not only for our own troops, but also for the three fighting, services in Europe and in other part3 of the Empire. Nevertheless, and -although the actual production and supply to date have been on a scale which would have astounded our predecessors of twenty-five years ago, the work of the last, six months has been chiefly preparatory for larger production still to come. It is not possible in these days to launch tin enterprise in modern manufacture quickly.
As honorable members know, it is not uncommon for a period of two years or more to be used in active preparation before a single unit of output is produced. Modern armaments are highly complex products, demanding the finest degree of precision at all stages. Men and machines have to be trained and made. Elaborate foundations and structures need to be devised.
These processes, have been the main’, preoccupation of the department concurrently with the actual production and securing of other supplies.- The Government’s! own factories have been enlarged and extended, and’ some 25 annexes toprivate establishments have been, or are being constructed and equipped.. The chief purpose of these annexes is to’ produce munitions, foi; our own defence in Australia, in the quantities- that, would be needed if war visited our- own- coasts, but already our output is such -that we are using- some of them for overseas purposes, more will be coming: into production in the near future, and the whole system is very well, advanced.
Recently the Government established an Aircraft Production Commission to take care of the construction programme now before us. This programme is doubtless the most ambitious part of the whole of the supply plan, and it is doubtful if any country has attempted to do more in relation to its resources and experience.
No small part of the problem of all of this war production is that of skilled craftsmen. As time goes on, this1 part of our problem will become more apparent. Our capacity to train- men to cope with the technical aspects of munitions and aircraft will certainly determine our supply capacity. The training schemes now commencing are limited by the facilities available and procurable in a world all of which is demanding, the same thing - as, for example,, precision machine tools. Australian capacity to produce these things is being mobilized to the utmost.
In all of these efforts the Government has had to pay regard to any disturbances to civil industry and employment, and to its supplies. The disturbances have been remarkably slight, considering the magnitude of the task. An example of this policy will be .found in the labour “dilution” plans recently approved by the engineering unions, and, if I may say so, largely devised, discussed and carried through by my then colleague-, the honorable member for Fawkner (Mr. Holt), to whom a tribute should be paid.
The Government has had to select the work and the programmes on which concentration would be most effective. It has not launched out in every direction and dissipated energies and resources. It has applied a policy directed to achieve the most important and effective results.
I have taken up a considerable amount of time, but I feel that honorable members should be given full information of these activities during the period when the House has been in recess.
The determination of the Allies to win this war and to establish a just and lasting peace has not abated one jot since this conflict began, and I am proud to say Australia is playing its part with vigour, skill and resolution.
– I ask the Treasurer if the Government has considered whether the Commonwealth Bank Board is to be allowed to continue the policy of selling Australia’s gold reserve, which is used as a backing for our note issue, to Great Britain in exchange for sterling? If that policy is to be continued, what is the reason? If it is to be reversed, what is the reason?
– There is on the notice-paper a question which covers a portion of the question asked by the honorable member. With respect to the subjectmatter indicating the policy which, he alleges, the Commonwealth Bank is pursuing, I know of no evidence that points in that direction.
– Since the Treasurer is not aware of any policy for the exchange of our gold reserve for sterling
– The honorable member is not in order in asking a question based on a reply already given.
– Is the Treasurer in a position , to inform the House and the country as to what proportion of the reserve against the note issue is held in gold and in sterling, in view of the fact that the Commonwealth Bank does not discriminate between the two in its balance-sheet ?
– I shall give the honorable member the particulars to-morrow morning.
– In this House last session the Treasurer stated, in respect of the £850,000 which the Commonwealth was granting to New South Wales for defence works for the relief of unemployment, that the State Government had agreed to give employment to men who would not be affected by State permissible income regulations. Has the attention of the honorable gentleman been drawn to the fact that the State Government has not carried out its agreement with the Commonwealth, but is taking men off State relief works and placing them on Commonwealth works in order to relieve itself of its obligations?
– Order! The hon.orable member surely is giving information, not asking a question.
– When allegations of this kind were made last session, I instituted inquiries with the State of New South Wales. Those inquiries revealed that there was no truth in the allegations. Since then fresh allegations have been made, following which I, within the last week, addressed a letter to the Premier of New South Wales, a reply to which I am now awaiting.
– I understood the Prime Minister to say that special technical training centres are to be established in Sydney and Melbourne. I am not sure whether he also mentioned Brisbane. Is it anticipated that additional centres will be provided, and that training will be given to young men. in Adelaide, Perth, and other places?
– The possibility of extending training facilities to each of the centres mentioned by the honorable member has not been overlooked. Lt is now under the active consideration of the department.
– In connexion with the schools that have been established for the technical training of men who are serving or are about to serve with the Royal Australian Air Force, will the Minister for Air state whether these men receive advanced training in the particular branch of industry from which they have come, or are given training in some different branch?
– In recruiting for theRoyal Australian Air Force, there are upwards of 50 different categories in which men may join. One of thegreat problems in connexion with our recruiting scheme is to ascertain the particular mustering for which applicants are most suitable. Our problem is to secure those who have had some experience in the various categories, particularly in fitting. I assure the honorable member that the objective is to place applicants in the mustering in which they have already had some experience.
– Will the Minister for the Army state whether or not it is a fact that applications for exemption from military service on conscientious grounds have been refused?
– It is not a fact.
– Owing to the acute financial distress which exists in many wheat-growing areas throughout Australia, will the Prime Minister consider the advisability of making a further advance of1s. a bushel on the 1939-40 season’s wheat?
– This matter is being handled by my colleague, the Minister for Commerce, who answered a question in similar terms yesterday.
– Can the Treasurer explain how it is that the Government delayed the introduction of so many necessary social reforms, on the plea that there was a shortage of finance, in view of the fact that £180,000,000 has been provided in the first two years of the operation of the war?
Question not answered.
– I ask the Minister for the Army whether it is a fact that in the early stages of the war the Defence
Department called upon the owners of private motor lorries to permit their vehicles to be used for defence purposes? Has his attention been drawn to the reversal of form by the Department in that it later decided to buy its own trucks and to dispense with the use of the private vehicles which it had contracted to use? Is the honorable gentleman prepared to submit to a committee set up for the purpose the claims of those private motor owners to compensation? Or does he intend to allow the decision on the subject to rest in the hands of the officers responsible for the blunder?
– Order ! The honorable member is not in order in making an allegation in asking a question.
– I deny the last part of the honorable gentleman’s question. I am perfectly competent to deal with any claims that may arise. Motor vehicles are obtained from civilian personnel only when they enlist in the Militia Forces. In such circumstances the persons concerned are paid a daily rate and mileage rate for the use of their vehicles. It is the policy of the Government to replace such private vehicles with Government vehicles as it regards this as the most economical way in which to deal with the situation. Where a contract exists with a civilian contractor it will be honored.
– Is the Minister for the Army aware that some of the men engaged as inspectors of clothing, footwear and other commodities for defence purposes are paid less for their services than the lowest-paid tradesman engaged in the manufacture of such goods ? Does the honorable gentleman intend to take action to rectify such an obvious anomaly?
– I again ask honorable members not to use the phrase “Is the Minister aware.” Questions could easily be framed without the use of the. phrase.
– I am not able to say “ yea “ or “ nay “ to the honorable member’s suggestion, but I know that all examiners work under an award which is observed in every case.
Wives of Officers
– Would the Minister for the Army inform me whether an Army Order has been issued that the wives of senior officers and other members of the Australian Imperial Force abroad shall be vacated from the areas where the troops are in training overseas? If such an order has been given will the honorable gentleman see that it is applied to all officers irrespective of social position and rank, and will he see that no subterfuges are permitted, such asa contention that the wives are allegedly doing social welfare work? Further, if the wives of high officers are permitted to accompany their husbands on active service, will he grant travelling facilities for the wives of men of lower ranks?
– I am not aware of any order in the terms suggested by the honorable member. Any such order could only have been issuedby the general officer in command in the areas where the troops arc at present in training. No facilities are provided for the wife of any member of the Australian Imperial Force to go into the district where her husband may be training, nor is it proposed to provide such facilities. Moreover, everybody is treated on the same footing.
– I desire to know from you, Mr. Speaker, whether, if a question is asked of a Minister in the proper form, he is within his rights in refusing to answer it? If he does refuse to answer it, can such refusal be taken to indicate that he cannot reply to it?
– Each Minister has the right to decide whether he will answer any question directed to him. The Chair is not concerned with the Minister’s reasons for not replying.
Debate resumed from the 17 th April (vide page 49), on motion by Mr. Scholfield -
That the following Address-in-Reply to the speech of His Excellency the Governor-General be agreed to: -
May it Please Your . Excellency :
We the House of Representatives in the Parliament of the Commonwealth of Australia in
Parilament assembleddesire to express our loyalty to our Most Gracious Sovereign and to thank Your Excellency for the speech which youhave been pleased to address to Parliament.
– The Opposition will support the motion for the adoption of the Address-in-Reply in the form in. which the proposer has suggested that we should express our loyalty to His Majesty the King and our thanks to His Excellency the Governor-General for the speech which he delivered to us yesterday. We do not propose to move any amendments to the. motion during the Address-in-Reply debate, although we shall no doubt have a great deal to say in the course of the debate that will bo useful to the Government when dealing with the very great problems that confront it. I wish to say, quite shortly, that there has been no change in the views that my colleagues and I have taken of the war since it first broke out in Europe. There has been no change in our understanding of the cause that led up to it, or of the inherent and unquestioned justice of it which is the inspiration of
Great Britain and its Allies, and of the identification of the members of the British Commonwealth of Nations with that cause. On that point there can be no argument. No question of any difference of opinion divides my colleagues and I from the rest of the people of Australia, let alone from the members of this Parliament, in regard to their adherence towhat they believe to be the outrageous behaviour of the aggressor Powers in Europe in seeking to force their systems of government on the peoples of other countries and territories in respect of whom they had no right at all to govern, and over whom they had no right at all to rule. There should be no attempt on the part of any nation to rule by armed force the people of other countries and territories beyond those for which the particular nation is itself responsible. We do not seek necessarily to destroy what is called “ Hitlerism “ in Germany. That term has been used repeatedly. It maybe that only by destroying Hitlerism can the German people be brought to a realization of how peace can be accomplished, but for myself and my colleagues the principle for which we stand is that the form of government in Germany is not a matter which we seek to influence. I have dealt with this subject before and have said also that the form of government in Poland was not a matter with which the people of Germany should have concerned themselves. The form of government in Finland was not the business of the Russian Government or the Russian people. The particular political philosophies of other countries are matters for the people of those countries and are not in any way the philosophy that the Australian Labour party expects the people of Australia to adopt. Our programme is of our own making because we are the Australian Labour party, formed of the Australian working people and other citizens, and we seek to govern only in this Commonwealth. This is not a watertight compartment of the expression of our views, but we hold the opinion that it is the right of a people to determine that they will govern themselves in their own way.
Since we last met in this Parliament the war has assumed a wider complexion. Other countries have become embroiled in it and the view stated by myself when last we met here to the effect that there had been no final alignment of countries and that there was no certainty that some countries which were then neutral might change their policy of neutrality and that some neutrals which might not desire to change their policy might probably be forced to do so and so become involved in the war, has come to pass. The result has been that certain countries which had agreements with other countries have found their agreements dishonoured. There is not even to-day any certainty that powers which are not now involved in the war may not later become involved in it.
His Excellency the Governor-General, in the course of his Speech yesterday, said -
Nobody can prophesy what fresh aggressions there may be in the near future, or what new enemies we may be called upon to meet.
That being so - and I venture to say that it is not arguable in the light of our present knowledge - it is quite clear that the problem of how best we can safeguard the British Commonwealth of Nations is one upon which there can reasonably be a difference of opinion without any justification for accusations, pro or con, as to the loyalty and patriotism of the propounders of those different opinions.
– The honorable gentleman cannot get out of it that way.
– I remind the honorable member for Barton (Mr. Lane) that the leader of his own party only a few moments ago made a statement in the House in which he set out how very great was the effort that the Australian people were making in their endeavour to resist the aggressor powers. The right honorable gentleman did not say “ The aggressor powers in Europe “ ; he said, “ the aggressor powers “. At the moment the only aggressor powers actually in the field are in Europe. But does the honorable member for Barton suggest that His Excellency the Governor-General spoke as he did yesterday, and as I have quoted him to-day, without any justification? I am sure he does not. I say to the House and to the country that we lull ourselves into an absolutely false sense of security if we assume that the struggle in which we are engaged will be restricted to the continent of Europe.
– The Leader of the Opposition (Mr. Curtin) says that our men should not go near Europe.
– I ask the honorable member for Barton not to interject.
– The honorable mem. ber seems to be able to make a successful appeal to certain people in this country by continually blackguarding the good repute and the honest intentions of honorable gentlemen who sit against him on this side of the chamber. I put it to him thai the worst service he can render to the capacity of Australia, either to defend i tself or to give the maximum help to the British Commonwealth of Nations in this great struggle, is to cast aspersions against the representatives of the great mass of the people of this country without whose help this part of the Empire could not be defended.
– Honorable members opposite do not speak for the great mass of the people.
– That is true of Great Britain and of every democracy. My desire is that there shall be the maximum of unity among the people of Australia in their devotion to the common cause against aggression. I have done everything I can, consistent with what I believe to be the right thing for Australia, having regard to its own problems, to ensure that there shall be no help given to the enemy, but that, on the contrary, themaximum support shall be given to those who are resisting the enemy.
– And not too much help to Great Britain.
– The honorable member has no right to say that. He fouls his own nest when he says it because, if that is a charge which can be properly made, then this party would have no representation in Parliament at all.
– It might not have after the next elections.
– Does the honorable member think that what he said was a right thing to say, or was it merely a cheap-jack utterance, the purpose of which was to win votes? Was it mere flag wagging? Does he think that that sort of thing will encourage the enlistment of thousands and thousands of men, without whose support there would never have been any representatives of my party in this Parliament at all? I am not asking any one to bribe us to support the cause of the Allies. We do that unconditionally. Does the honorable member believe that our vast factory output, this tremendous organization for the provision of munitions and supplies, could have existed except for the systematic support over the whole 40 years of federation which my party has given to the fiscal policy of protection?
– Not the honorable member’s party only.
– What about “ Hands off Russia”?
– What does the honorable member mean by that?
– Surely the honorable member must know.
– Why does he intrude it at this stage into this discussion? I am quite unconcerned over interjections, relevant or otherwise, or over attacks from outside this Parliament from what ever point they may be lodged; I am concerned only in performing here what I believe to be the right thing in the interest, the welfare, and safety of all members of the British Commonwealth, and in particular, of that section of the British Commonwealth to which I have definite personal responsibilities. Notwithstanding “ Hands off Russia “, I tell the honorable member to his face that for every disguised Communist in the Labour party who is doing the work of the enemy, there are persons in every part of the British Commonwealth, and in neutral countries as well, masquerading as respectable business men who are prepared to betray their countries to the enemy by assisting in the incubation of his plans in their own communities. Such persons are not any more numerous among the Labour party than within the ranks of what is known as fashionable society in every country of the world.
– I ask the honorable member not to regard my interjection as a personal reflexion on him.
– I believe the honorable member, but it was an unwise observation to make. Why was it made when I was speaking? Was it done to divert me from my argument? If so, it was unworthy of the honorable member. Or was it done in order to trip me into a political error? That might be legitimate political controversy in normal times, but it is very unwise at this time.
The war has become larger than was the case when this Parliament last met. It is true that Finland has been ravaged, not by Germany, but by Russia. It is true that Denmark and Norway have been ravaged by Germany. It is also true, however, that there is in southern Europe considerable anxiety as to what side another great power may take, if it decides to take any side. The difficulties that will be created for the British Commonwealth if that power decides to come in against us must be kept clearly in mind. Should it happen, who is there to say that, not as the result of any present deliberations, but solely because of the opportunity that would thereby be presented, some other country at present neutral might not attack us, and justify itself by declaring that it is merely fulfilling its destiny?
– Does the honorable member mean that it is fortunate that we sent forces to Suez?
– I say that, just as Germany thought it proper to assail Norway in order to carry out its programme, and just as Russia thought itself justified in “ mending its fences “ -to use an expression I disown - by invading Finland, so some other country, given the opportunity provided by the complete absorption of Britain and France in Europe, might be disposed to take such action as would bring the war, not only close to us, but even to our shores. If honorable members say that this is a matter which should not be discussed here let me point out that yesterday morning, and the morning before, the Sydney Morning Herald published extensive references to what a certain great power might be contemplating in regard to a part of the world not far away from Australia.
-Would the honorable member be prepared to go to their assistance ?
– The right answer for a responsible man to give to that question is that when the government of that country requests us to do something, then will be the time for us to indicate the answer that we shall give. But I see every justification for the Government of Australia putting itself in such a position that, if the call should come, and our reply were what I think it would be, we would be able to take action promptly and decisively. That would not be possible without the existence in the Commonwealth of a powerful organization designed to that end, and a re-disposition of certain defenceunits so as to bring them closer to the possible point of danger.
– And leave Suez undefended?
– I think so much of the honorable member for the Northern Territory (Mr. Blain) that I would not, on any account, leave undefended that part of Australia which is his particular responsibility. In order that we might be able to give effective help, if such help wore asked for, I would greatly increase our forces in the northern part of Australia, and that applies to north-western
Australia also. However important Darwin may be, Wyndham and Broome are equally important, because they are points from which could be sent prompt assistance for such purposes as this Parliament might approve.
– What about Papua?
– That is another matter, which represents a separate problem of organization for the Defence Department. In the assessment of what the Commonwealth is capable of doing we ought to keep in mind those contingencies which some honorable members seem to think may never arise. If, however, they should arise, they would imperil the safety of this country, not after Great Britain had lost the war as has been suggested, but while it was losing the war. I pray that neither of those things may ever occur. The late Prime Minister of New Zealand said, “If Great Britain goes down, we go down “. I believe that to be true, but I believe also that the great danger to Australia will comebefore Great Britain goes down. It will come when Great Britain is engaged in the last desperate effort to preserve itself and France. It is at that point, when help cannot come to us, not because it will not be sent, but because it cannot, that we shall stand in greatest danger of attack. Then we may find ourselves in the same position as Finland was in relation to Russia. The whole world, with the exception of Germany and Russia, was on the side of Finland, yet no great power was able to save that country. Whatever may be done for the resuscitation of Finland most now be done after the war is won. That might well be our position if we do not make a wise choice in determining the way in which we should make our contribution to the war.
– The Government has always said that, but the honorable member was not prepared to make any contribution.
– The honorable gentleman can say this: that this Parliament had presented to it an outline of government policy in which there was provision for an expeditionary force. Honorable gentlemen behind me said that that was not the right thing to do, taking everythink into account, because we did not know when it would be necessary for Australia to defend its own soil. That was the first argument. Now, thefact is that Australian soldiers have not gone where there is fighting. They have not gone where war is waging ; they have not gone to Poland,Finland, the Maginot Line, Norway or Denmark. They have gone to a place which at present is outside the actual area of war. That isthe fact.
– The honorable gentleman’s statements encourage our enemies.
Mr. SPEAKER (Hon. G. J. Bell),Order! The honorable member for Barton (Mr. Lane) must not interject.
– The area to which they have gone could quite easily become a theatre of war.
– Will become, definitely.
– The honorable gentleman appears to know the intentions of Herr Hitler; I do not.. At present there are all the elements of. combustion in the area to which these men have gone I believe that the area is potentially one. of the danger spots of the world, but it is not the only one. From the viewpoint of the inviolability of this country and the security and. the friendliness of strategic islands related to the safety of Australia, that area. in. South Europe,, however important it. be to all the Powers of Europe and the democracies of Europe. is less important to the Commonwealth of Australia and the Dominion of. New Zealand than certain islands which lie between here and. Suez. I say that quite frankly.
Mr.Lane. - Hands off Russia !
– The honorable gentleman cannot get away from that by merely barking, “ Hands off Russia,” by merely saying that this party, as the. honorable member for Perth. (Mr.. Nairn-.) said, will not send help to Britain. All those arguments fall by the wayside. The truth is that this party wants to see more efficient organization for. defencemath greater all round equipment and larger resources inmanpower and supply at Darwin, at certain portions of the. Queensland coast and at anumber of. points onthe northwestern coast ofthis Commonwealth. I ask that that be done: The: extent to which, it; is done and, the way in which it is done is entirely a matter for the advisers of the Government. But I believe that it is of the first importance that that should Be one of’ the: major aspects’ of what is called the home defence policy of the Government. I say in fairness to the Prime Minister and his various colleagues since war broke out that they have paid very considerable attention to the developmen t of what we may call the home defence organization. All those factories, the aircraft organizations, self-sufficiency in munitions, the fact that we are able to export munitions, whereas before we had to send men away without them, all that, whilst a contribution to the cause of the Allies, had its roots in the realization by successive governments that in a world war, Australia could not regard itself as immune from attack. That was the purpose of it. I. say through you, Mr. Speaker, to the country that a very eminent Australian, who has held the highest offices in this country, who is at present a figure in Australian service, has reported to honorable members of this Parliament in association with him: in such terms as to justify a. very considerable part of all that I. have said here this afternoon.
As. the problem of war is a problem whichcomes nearer to us by the very course that this’ war’ is taking, at least the basic agreement, that there is in. this Parliament should be availed of tothe fullest degree. Differences of opinion’,, except insofar as they are related to the extent andcharacter of Australia’s war effort, ought, to be reduced as elements of disputation to the very minimum. I say to the Prime Minister, to the Government, and to honorable members opposite, that there is no earthly reason why there should be industrial strife in this country, no earthly reason why the desires and hopes of the workers to be of use to Australia should notbe made available, not only freely, but enthusiastically.
Consider the coal strike. The coal strike could have been settled a month ago, if there had beenon the part of the coal-owners and those associated with the control of the legalmachinery in Australia the requisite disposition’ to meet what. was, when all is said and done;a very easy situation-. By providing for 40 hours underground, inclusive of meal hours, and 40 houron the surface, exclusive of meal hours,the whole thing could have been wiped out. A month ago, hut for one or two adverse personalities associated with the coal industry who wanted the strike or a dispute to make political capital out of the hold-up in this important industry, settlement on those lines could have been effected. I invite the Minister for Industry (Mr. Hughes), who has worked untiringly and with very great ability in this matter to say if it is not a fact that he and my own side, in various ways, endeavoured to overcome thisdifficulty from the very beginning, longbefore it reached the stage of stoppage. The Prime Minister may say at Kurri Kurri to-morrow, “ Judge DrakeBrockman’s award was given to you-; then it was altered “.. It is true that it was altered legally. ButJudge DrakeBrockman sat for months. He had voluminous evidence. The representatives of the anions went to him in the full belief that the inquiry he was holding would result in a verdict which would be acceptable to and binding upon all parties. We have heard that the award must he observed. I agree. There cannot he arbitration if the umpire’s decision is not respected. But what of thousands of men who went to the courtand gave theirevidence ? The umpire was there.Hegave his verdict. Then the other party rushed away to another board of referees. It is true tha t this is legalism. It is true that it is the technical way inwhich those possessed of great resources can go from court to court and tribunal to tribunal until they get the kind of verdict which suitsthem. This is the sort of thing which enables us to say thatthere is a law open to the poor as well as to the rich, but that the poorcannot ‘go beyond the first magistrate. If the poor man loses with the first magistrate, he is shot and done, whereas the rich man, if he loses with the magistrate, can go to the Supreme Court, the High Court and even the Privy Council.
– Would the honorable gentleman have that altered?
Mr.CURTIN.- I say tothe honorable memberthat Judge Drake-Brockarnan was theumpire. He gaveadecision. Allof the cries in this country havebeen a gainst the miners, against the union, for not accepting the award. The award was delivered and was accepted -thefirst a ward - the award of Judge DrakeBrockman, who, if he had no power to make an award, wasted -six months of his own time and God knows how many hours of the timeof the advocates, witnesses and the like. But there was an appeal and the appeal upset the award in part. There is certain fundamental justice in all things. The men below the earthhave always had fewer hours ofwork than thestandard hours. Whatever thestandard is, the menbelow should work less than the standard. That is to say, the timebelow should include not only working time, but also all time they have below. If 40 hours is the standard, they get into the cage and go down and their time counts from then until they come up again. That has been part of the mining history of this country for years. For the man on the surface, the standard is 40 hours. Yet, I have listened to responsible employers saying, “ But, Mr. Curtin, the engineers want 37½ hours.” That is to say they want a universal 40- hour week in the coal industry. That is not true. What was sought was a standard of 40 hours. That was agreed to by Judge Drake-Brockman. It meant for the men underground 40 hours from cage to cage.
– Theyasked for 30 hours.
– But 40 hours was the standard fixed. The miners have accepted 40 hours. They arenot on strike for anything that willbegain to them. They are on strike out of loyalty to the other unions with which they have been in association fordecades.[Leave to continue given]
– Order!If the honorable member for Barton interjects again to-day, I shallname him. He persistently defiesthe Chair after he has been told that he must not interject. I shall not tolerate him any longer.
– The men on the surfacedo not expect a 40-hour declaration, which will include meal-time in the same way as themen underground get mealtime. Their 40 hours should he exclusive of meal-time. If that formula were accepted - 40 hoursbelow inclusiveof meal-time, and40 hours . aboveexclusive ofmeal-time -it wouldmean that only about 3 or 4 per cent, of all those concerned in the industry would have to be brought down to the 40-hour standard. Three per cent, of the workers in this great and important industry would get an improvement of hours over and above insistence on the letter of the award, not Judge Drake-Brockman’s award, but the award of the full Arbitration Court. I say to honorable gentlemen opposite that I and my colleagues have done our utmost to bring a termination to the coal dispute in the national interest. The Minister for Industry, so far as I can judge, has done his very utmost to end this dispute in the national interest, no more in the interest of the coal-owners, than wc have been solely interested in the claims of the workers. National considerations influenced us just as much as they would be likely to interest any other honorable members.
The Right Honorable the Prime Minister can advance very considerably the national solidarity of Australia from now until the war is over, and ensure better competence of all to deal with the after-war problems which are referred to in the Speech of His Excellency the Governor-General, by asking for that co-operation and showing some positive way in which to ensure it. E put it to him that there are measures on the statute-book which ought not to be there, and that portions of other measures ought to be wiped out. If we leave them there while the war is on, we shall find when the war is over that one party to the re-adjustment of the social and economic life will be able to start off again with the advantage of having on the statute-book coercive legislation against other sections of the people. I submit that that is wrong. I believe that much could be done if the right honorable gentleman were to call a conference - of employers and of representatives of the trade unions of Australia. He could say to the employers, “ We do not want you to be constantly pinpricking the employees’, we want you to remember that they are under serious domestic strain at the present time, because many of their relatives are in the fighting forces and they themselves are experiencing all sorts of difficulties. They are faced with rising prices, and economic conditions are daily becoming more diffi-
Mr. Curtin. cult for them. You must have consideration for the standards of the workmen and must remember that the strain of the war upon them is great “. Then he could say to the representatives of the workmen - and I would say it with him - “ In this war your most treasured possessions are at stake. Your own lives may be involved, but there is at stake more than your lives. All of the things that represent the foundations upon which your political and social aspirations rest are in jeopardy. Without freedom of discussion, without an opportunity for free political organization, without means whereby trade unionism can be organized and maintained, the workers of Australia will have no more hope than have the workers in Germany “. The workers of this country know the fundamental antagonism between the philosophy of Nazi-ism and all that they understand by the rights of Australians in their trade unions and political organizations. There is no need to preach anti-Nazi-ism to Australian workers. They know that Nazi-ism came into power on the destruction of trade unionism and the burning of the parliament of the country. Therefore, I say that an appeal can be made to the two sides to reduce the gap between their respective demands in the national interest. At the same time, the Government could give to at least that section of the people who are in the trade union movement an undertaking that, when this night passes and we enter upon a new day, we shall enter upon it as social and economic equals in our capacity to give effect to our desires. At present that is not so. To be more specific, I urge the repeal of the Transport Workers Act forthwith as an indication to the people of this country that the shipowners will not have an advantage over the waterside workers when the problems of rehabilitation have to be faced after the war. I also advocate the repeal of certain of the punitive provisions of the Crimes Act. They are obnoxious and offensive to tradeunionists - so obnoxious and offensive that, apparently, the Government has never had to invoke them, because no one has ever offended against them. They were put in the law some years ago as so much political window-dressing.
The Speech of His Excellency contains a reference to Communists. One sentence reads -
My advisers have hesitated to adopt restrictive or punitive measures which might even remotely be regarded as a limitation upon freedom of political thought or action, the freedom for which we are fighting.
If I were in the position occupied by the right honorable the Prime Minister, that would be precisely my attitude. I should have said : “ We are fighting for freedom of speech and for maintenance of our free institutions. I hesitate to do things which might interfere with the right of free speech “. The Speech continues -
But the limits of freedom in an organized community are reached when men profess an allegiance to a nation other than their own.
The Labour party says that any man in Australia who professes an allegiance to a nation which is an enemy of Australia should be dealt with as such. I make that plain.
– Deeds, not words, are required.
– Words are involved. The next paragraph contains the words: “ When they plan to overthrow constitutional government Men who plan to overthrow constitutional government do not necessarily begin by throwing bombs. Before the bomb-throwing stage is reached they must develop an organization. That is done by word of mouth, by giving counsel, by making utterances, or by publishing or circulating writings. Men must first be educated in order that they will support the organizers when the time comes for throwing the bombs. The Labour party says that any persons who, at this juncture, carry on propaganda for the destruction of Australia, or in the interests of some other country with which the Allies are at war, or seek to destroy the free institutions of this land, should be dealt with in such a way as to render them impotent. I am not now referring to the degree of punishment to be inflicted upon them; that is a matter for legislation. I believe that the officers of a government department should at least ensure that men who are not guilty of these things shall not be thrown into gaols merely because some other persons charge them with planning to overthrow constitutional government. We must not enable attacks to be made upon persons who are not guilty, or put the Government in a position to act like Hitler, and put innocent people out of the way equally with the guilty. No one should be able to say that this man or that man shall be put out of the way merely because someone says that he is a Communist. Last week I sat as a member of a body that has some responsibility to Australia, even though it merely states that to be so. We were asked, so it has been said, to exclude certain persons from the meeting because they were Communists, butno evidence that they were Communists was produced. They denied that they were Communists; each of them had signed a statement that he was not a Communist. The executive of that body of which I am a member is not a court of law ; it has no power to call evidence, or to require those who take part in the discussions to give evidence upon oath. It is not the function of the executive of the Labour party to usurp the authority of the courts of law. Any resolution of that body in no way directs any man or woman in the Australian Labour party as to what he or she shalldo. It is not sufficient to tell a man that he is a liar merely because some other person says that he is a liar. If communism is an offence, if membership of the Communist party is an offence, and if members of that party are doing the work of the enemies of the British Commonwealth, have we not police officers and courts of law to deal with them, and has not this Parliament the power to deal adequately with any public menace? And if the existing laws are inadequate, is it not possible to give to the Government such additional statutory powers as are required?
– A court of law does not say who shall be members of the Labour party.
– Of course not. And it would be very difficult to say what authority decided that the Minister who has interjected should be a member of the Government.
– I can easily answer that; I decided it.
– Then I can only say that that was a decision which ought to be subject to appeal to a higher authority. On behalf of the Opposition I say that we on this side are in complete agreement with the phraseology used by His Excellency in relation to this matter. We are agreed that there ought not to be any interference with the freedom of political thought or action, “ the freedom for which we are fighting “ ; but those qualifications are qualifications with which we also completely agree. Freedom of speech does not mean the right to destroy one’s own country while it is at war, or to advocate the claims of another country with which the nation is at war. It ought not to allow men to engage in subversive activities aimed at the defeat of their own country. Surely, the onus of proof is not on the Opposition, but on those who are responsible for the administration of the war, and to whom Parliament has given authority to act as the executive of the nation. If there are Communists in this country who are doing the things complained of, 1 suggest that the right honorable gentleman should hold not me responsible, because I cannot alter things, but those who administer the laws of the land, and he will find them on his own side of the chamber. More, the last place at which he should talk about these things is at a political meeting.
– The honorable member’s extension of time has expired.
– Honorable members on all sides of the House have listened with great interest and considerable sympathy to the speech which has just been delivered by the Leader of the Opposition (Mr. Curtin). This is the first opportunity that the honorable gentleman has had since the war took on its more decisive phases to appear before this Parliament and endeavour, to the beat of his ability, to outline the changed outlook of the members of his party.
– Changed outlook?
– Their outlook must necessarily have changed in accordance with the changing circumstances of the war. It will be conceded, at any rate by members on this side of the House, that the Leader of the Opposition found himself in a deplorable position when he rose to tell the national Parliament where his party actually stands in relation to the issues that have confronted the nation during recent weeks and months. He began by saying that there was no division among the people of Australia and his party regarding the issues of this war. I agree with him. There cannot be any division of opinion, but there can be a difference of method in the intellectual approach to those issues. The approach of the Leader of the Opposition to these issues was mainly academic ; shall I say that it was a philosophical approach? But that is not the method of approach of the Australian people. They have ceased to take an intellectual interest in this war. They may have done so in the early stages, just as the honorable gentleman himself did and has done all through the piece, but they now realize that there is no philosophy in it, that one cannot take an academic view of the frightful catastrophe that is slowly but surely unfolding before civilization. Therefore, if the honorable gentleman wishes honorable members of this House, and the country generally, to take him seriously, as one competent to analyse the issues, the motives, and the possibilities of this war, the first thing he must do is to drop the philosophical and academic pose, and get down to realities. To expound my argument on that point, I would indicate to honorable members the vast difference there is between the mental approach to the present war by the Leader of the British Labour party, and that of the Leader of the Australian Labour party. The honorable gentleman said to-day what he has said on previous occasions, namely, that we are not out to destroy Hitlerism, that we are not against Hitlerism as such. I took that to mean as a form of government for Germany ; indeed the honorable gentleman indicated that quite clearly. The only deduction to be drawn from his remarks is that, in the view of himself and his party, Hitlerism is something that can be embraced in the general system of world-wide government past or present, that it is merely government of another type with which we are familiar, and that in that sense he has no objection to it. There are other persons who take the view that Hitlerism is unique in the world’s history, that it is not a form of government butis actually a planned system designed for world conquest on behalf of a nation. I have pointed out that the position from which the honorable gentleman views the matter, being essentially academic - and apparently he cannot get away from it - is in complete contrast to that from which the Leader of the British Labour party views the matter* This is what Mr. Attlee said, in an Empire broadcast which is published in to-day’s newspapers -
The workers realized that Parliament was their greatest safeguard and that all their institutions, including the trade unions and the great British Labour party, would be suppressed at once in the event of a Nazi victory.
The war had assumed a new significance for British workers since Hitler’s brutal invasion of Scandinavian countries, where the [.copies wore free and democratic, and where workers’ governments were in power and doing splendid work.
Mr. Attlee paid tribute to the work that was being done by the trade unions of Great Britain. He said -
The trade unions were taking a leading part in the organization of industry on a war-time basis, and other workers’ institutions were cooperating in voluntary services.
He wound up by giving the promise that Britain’s Labour forces would pull their full weight in the war “ to exterminate this foul thing, Hitlerism”. So a different note is sounded by the British Labour party, which is right in the heart and centre of this catastrophic war, from the fumbling, hesitating, and - in the language used recently by the Acting Minister for Information (Sir Henry Gullett) - wishy-washy explanation given by the Leader of the Opposition in this chamber to-day of his own and his parly’s attitude towards the issues of this war. It is true, as the honorable gentleman has said, that merely because a party holds certain views regarding the defence of Australia it cannot be justly accused of disloyalty. There is undoubtedly too great a tendency during war time for some persons to accuse those who differ from them on ordinary, non-essential matters, with being disloyal. I admit that the charge of disloyalty to Australia cannot be levelled against the Labour party merely because it has a policy for the defence of this country which differs in major respects from that put forward by this Government. I submit with all respect, and without any desire to add to the complications and difficulties of the Leader of the Opposition, that too limited a meaning is being placed by him and his party upon their responsibility towards the general loyal issues of this country and of tha British Commonwealth of Nations. In times of peace one can undoubtedly argue these matters from the academic point of view, but in times of war one cannot do so. The mind of the people is then quite clear; they separate the non-essential from the essential; and it is because of the failure of the honorable gentleman and his party to realize that we have reached that stage in the war, when the minds of the Australian people are perfectly Clear concerning the vital issues that arise out of it, that I say that as Leader of the Opposition he has not given a proper lead to the people on the true issue of loyalty. I explain that further by saying that when, in time of war, it is universally recognized that tho fate of this country rests wholly and solely on the fate of Other countries that are grouped around us, including Great Britain and the British Empire generally, our loyalty, whether it be verbal or merely the loyalty of our thoughts, cannot be restricted but must embrace the whole. W e cannot say that our duty is to our own country, that so long as we are loyal to this country it does not much matter what other people think of us, even though they might think that we are lukewarm in OU loyalty to those of our kith and kin whose fate depends equally with ours on the issues of this Avar. The Labour party, and especially its leader, is not pervasive enough in expressions of loyalty. I do not doubt the loyalty of the honorable gentleman. It would be an impertinence for either me or any one else to say that the leader of an Opposition in this or any other British country could be guilty of any disloyal thoughts or sentiments. But we want clarity of thought on the issue of loyalty. In a time of war it is not sufficient to confine our devotion, and our expressions of devotion, to ourselves; we must take in the whole ambit of those forces that are standing or falling together ; and we know that those forces are found in every part of the British Empire, but particularly in that part which is bearing the brunt of this struggle. I submit that, if the honorable gentleman is to clarify the attitude of his party, not only to Parlia ment but also to the people of Australia, lie must get down to first principles, as Las the Leader of the British Labour party. With the invasion of Denmark and Norway - forgetting Poland for the time being - and with the daily threat of the impending invasion of other neutral countries, it is not sufficient to say, “ There may be some merit in the system called Hitlerism, and, therefore, we are not going to condemn it”. To do that is to break away from the realities of the situation. Mr. Attlee has not done that. He sees the hideous, dangerous thing that is right at his door. He describes it as “ this foul thing Hitlerism “, which the workers of Great Britain are united, as they never were before, in their determination to smash, because they believe that what has happened in Poland and Denmark, what is happening in Norway, and what would happen in Holland, Australia, and wherever else this vile thing could spread its tentacles, would lead to the victimization of the workers. I have before me an article which appeared in the Daily News, a newspaper that is described as the official organ oi the Australian Labour party. This article, which was published on the 23rd March last, gives an analysis of Labour’s attitude towards the war. It is the same unsatisfactory, wishy-washy statement as that made by the Leader of the Opposition in this House to-day. It is not direct; it gets away from realities and merely harps on things which every body admits. It says -
The workers of Australia need yield second place to none in their hatred of Hitlerism. None seeks its destruction with more sincerity, but none realizes more forcibly that Hitlerism is not a German but a capitalist product.
Even if it were a capitalist product, that would not detract in any way from the true nature of the menace that Hitlerism now places before the world, as has been clearly indicated by Mr. Attlee. So I say that if the Labour party is lukewarm, not in its loyalty - that is a word which should not bc used in these debates - but in its mental grip of the problems with which Australia and the Empire are now confronted, the blame must rest on the Leader of the Labour party, because of the obscurity of his language and his failure to get down to tin tacks. I shall quote briefly from the speech which the honorable gentleman recently broadcast to
South Africa, as final proof of my contention. He then said -
I am certain that the people of every country will understand me when 1 say that in Australia there is no diversion of purpose regarding war.
Of course there is no diversion of purpose regarding war; but what about the war? The honorable gentleman went on to say-
We have no economic or territorial ambitions. All we desire is to put an end to the power of armed might, merely because it is armed might, to get its way in the world. We stand for a safe world, and naturally and logically we oppose and resist the makers of war and the users of aggression, and we tell the world that our opposition will be. unwavering till the very end and until victory is won.
That is absolutely meaningless; it is merely a tirade of negatives. Nobody disputes the statements of the Leader of the Opposition. I quote them simply to show that his whole attitude towards this war is one of refusal to face realities. He talks of things about which there is no disagreement. Yet when it comes to the tin tacks of the situation he says nothing; merely that the policy of his party is to give adequate defence to Australia. That is the policy of other parties, though we do not find the Labour party giving us credit for that. In its official organ, and in the speeches of different members of the party, there is the definite suggestion that, because the parties which now constitute the Government are proceeding with plans f or participation in the war overseas, they are more or less jingoistically inclined, and really overlook the degree of our obligation to Australia itself. The Leader of the Opposition practically said that to-day, when he again brought up that phase of his party’s defence policy which, in my opinion, will lead to its downfall, namely, concentration wholly and solely on the defence of Australia. He referred to the possibility of war developing in the Pacific very close to our doors. There was no need for him to have avoided reference to the actual situation. He had in mind the possibility of Holland being invaded by Germany, and of the Dutch East Indies being occupied by Japan. But even though he took a very serious view of those possibilities, he did not indicate what the Labour party would do about it. When he was questioned on the point by members on this side of the chamber he grew rather confused and seemed to run away from his own thoughts, whatever they were. He was very wise not to pursue that subject because it is perhaps the most dangerous topic that could be discussed in this Parliament at present. Holland has not been invaded. The Dutch East Indies are still intact. All we know of the possibilities in that quarter is that Japan, through its official spokesman, has warned other people away. Japan has said “You must not deal with that problem, even if it arises, without consultation with us “. It has been admitted generally that Japan’s attitude is quite proper provided Japan adheres to it. Of course we have the possibility of the United States of America offering protection to the Dutch East Indies ; but that position also is obscure, for the offer has not been confirmed by the Government of the United States of America. We have also the development indicated in this morning’s press. The Dutch Government, through its official press, has stated that even if Holland were invaded its Government would be quite able to protect the Dutch East Indies. We do not know how it would do so, but, at any rate, it has not sent out an SOS to any other nation. In these circumstances, it would be improper and exceedingly undiplomatic for the members of this Parliament to discuss these problems until they actually arise. If they do arise, some thing more than a debate on the motion for the adoption of the Address-in-Reply will be needed to enable the Government and the Parliament to deal quickly with the situation. Mere talking by honorable members would not be sufficient to relieve the Government of the new and heavy responsibility that would then fall upon it. In my opinion that problem should be left entirely to Great Britain and the United States of America. It should not be an immediate concern of Australia, and it would certainly pass at once from the realm of party politics. Other problems than whether the Government or the Labour party would be prepared to send an expeditionary force to the Dutch East Indies would arise.
The Leader of the Opposition has again adopted an illusive attitude in regard to what his party proposes to do in connexion with the war situation that has now developed. A by-election was held recently, before the war assumed its present ominous phase. At that time some people were saying that there was not a real war at all, and that the Germans were afraid to go to war. Since the Corio by-election, however, the whole situation has changed. Not even the most light-hearted member of the Opposition would say, to-day, that the position is not entirely different and graver than it then was. It is now sufficiently serious to give each member of the House cause for concern as to how he should exercise his responsibilities to the country. During the Corio by-election campaign the Leader of the Opposition was very definite about the attitude of his party in respect to certain aspects of the war. The members of the Government parties were quite with him up to a point. He said that the Labour party would do its utmost to defend Australia; and, of course, the Government parties were actually doing their utmost to defend it. I took particular notice of the honorable gentleman’s speech to-day to see whether he had any criticism to offer of the Government’s efforts in this regard. He did not at any point, suggest that, as to the defence of Australia, the Government had fallen down on its job. But the Labour party says, “When we getto the shores of Australia we part company with you “. During the Corio by-election campaign a definite conflict of opinion was manifested between the political parties of this country. At that time the Leader of the Opposition said that there was no difference of opinion on the issues that were involved, and I agreed with him, but I said that there was a difference of opinion as to the way in which those issues should be faced. To-day, however, the position is quite different.
– The honorable member did not participate in the Corio byelection campaign.
– I was not asked to do so, and even if I had been I do not know that I should have done so at that juncture. I am, at the moment, directing my attention to the cleavage of opinion that developed during the campaign. The Leader of the Opposition said, at that time, that the Labour party was not prepared to send men out of Australia to fight. I ask the honorable gentleman to-day, and I ask any other honorable member of his party, whether the changed conditions of the war have changed their views on this vital issue? Apparently the Labour party is satisfied with the way in which the Government is seeking to defend this country, but I wish to know whether it has receded from the position it took up during the Corio by election campaign. At that time it offered the strongest opposition to any further troops being sent from Australia to participate in the war overseas. Does it still adhere to that policy? This point must soon be elucidated, for a general election will have to be fought in the not distant future. The Leader of tha Opposition showed a remarkable excess of caution in discussing this matter to-day. In fact, he very carefully avoided any reference to it. The conclusion I drew from his remarks was that, having regard to the changed situation of the war, he was not prepared to criticize the Government any further for sending two divisions of Australian troops overseas and for insisting that, while troops arc wanted for service overseas, and men in Australia are prepared to offer themselves voluntarily for such service, they should be accepted.
– No conscription !
– No, but the present position of the Labour party is very unsatisfactory. It seems to have no cohesive defensive policy. I do not desire to refer to the “ Hands off Russia “ resolution, for it is rather ancient history. It is quite evident, however, that the Labour party has become seriously divided in the last month or two.
– Does the honorable member advocate “ Hands on Russia ?”
– I shall deal with that subject a little later. In view of the hopelessly divided ranks of the Labour party I, and I have no doubt other honorable members who support the Government, listened this afternoon with great sympathy to the Leader of the Opposition, for ho is in a more difficult position than any other Leader of the Opposition has ever found himself in in this country, having regard to the serious war developments of the last week or so, and the deplorable industrial strife that has now developed in this country. It was thought that his party had become united, but, in fact, it is more divided than ever. I do not doubt the sincerity of the Leader of the Opposition, nor do I doubt that of practically every other honorable member of the Opposition. It seems to me that all of the signs and portents of the speech of the Leader of the Opposition this afternoon showed that the general demeanour of his party is becoming more and more favorable to the formation of a great national government, representative of all parties, for the effective prosecution of the war.
– What would the honorable member’s chances be then?
– Like every other honorable member of the Parliament I would be prepared to make any sacrifices that were necessary to ensure the formation of a truly national government. If there should be such an upsurge of war in the Pacific as the Leader of the Opposition seemed to fear, there would be nothing for it but the formation of a national government in this country. There may be even worse developments. Australia may actually be attacked. We do not know. When we see neutral countries, whose frontiers have been inviolate for centuries, being over-run; and when we see historic citadels falling into the hands of invaders, we must be prepared to admit that anything may happen to Australia. This is the most isolated part of the British Empire. We are, in fact, one of the most isolated communities in the world. We cannot, therefore, assume that we shall be absolutely immune from direct attack. We are learning every day how dependent we are upon the British Navy and upon help from overseas. Mr. Attlee, the Leader of the Labour party in Great Britain, made it clear that that party was 100 per cent, united in its support of the British Government’s war policy. There are no strikes in Great Britain, and no defenders of Hitlerism. The Labour party there is standing solidly behind the Government, which is being called upon, with France, to bear the brunt of the fight that is being waged for civilization and liberty.
The Leader of the Opposition said this afternoon that before Great Britain fell Australia might be endangered. It is very true that, out liberties may be directly assailed by some predatory power. In these circumstances it is high time for the Leader of the Labour party in this country to come down from the air onto solid ground. Regardless of the dissention which has developed in its ranks, regardless also of the strike which is having such a disastrous effect on this country, and of Communism, the Australian Labour party should give its complete support to the Government. It should follow the lead of the British Labour party. As Mr. Attlee said in Great Britain, we are in this struggle and we must do our utmost to win. The Leader of the Opposition admitted quite frankly to-day that we might have to face grevious possibilities in the near future. His party should therefore agree at once to unite with the other political parties in this country and abolish party politics for the duration of the war. The best talent in this Parliament should be available to the Government. I agree that Communism is not a vital issue in Australia, but as a few Communists are giving some trouble, and are doing their host to disorganize our national effort, we should deal with them at once. We should not permit rabid and dangerous traitors to be at large.
There is no doubt that the coal-miners have grievances. I should like to see them rectified. I do not think that they should be obliged to suffer intolerable grievances for the duration of the war. If their grievances are intolerable, when compared with those suffered by, say, the workers of Poland, Denmark and Norway, they should be rectified. But if they are grievances which have been endured for a long time, if they do not require instant attention, if they are merely trumped up by agitators and disloyalists and traitors to handicap our war effort and bring about the downfall of the Empire, then every section in Parliament should unite to put those men where they belong. The ‘ strike is unnecessary. It should be fixed up in quick time, as the Leader of the Opposition (Mr. Curtin) has said. If it can be shown that the mine-owners are guilty, there will be very little sympathy with them among members who support the Government. If the Prime Minister (Mr. Menzies) finds that they are blameworthy, he will tell them in no uncertain terms what they ought to do. The grave fact remains that the arbitration system has been flouted, and no suggestion has been made by members of the Opposition for the settlement of the dispute that would not involve striking a blow at the arbitration system which the Labour party itself helped to set up. As for the Communists, who are supposed to be responsible for the strike, perhaps there are some among the leaders, but we have had coal strikes when there was no war, and the men responsible were not called Communists. They were called members of the Industrial Workers of the World, or just plain agitators. Therefore, I do not put the blame altogether on the Communists, though that i3 a fashionable name to apply at the present time to all who are responsible for industrial upheaval. If our war effort, which is so vital to the Empire, were to crash because of this strike, what a demoralizing effect that would have on the other parts of the Empire, and on the Labour party in Great Britain ! What a depressing effect it would have upon the Labour representative, Mr. Grenfell, who is at present visiting us in Australia with a message to the Labour party throughout the whole Empire! If there is any considerable section of the miners’ leaders who are prepared to do as Mr. Orr said the other day, when he threatened to hold up the whole industry of the country if any attempt were made to break the strike, then we must regard them as traitors, as men to be dealt with, if not by laws already in existence, then by laws specially framed by this Parliament.
-The honorable member’s time has expired.
.- The motion under discussion is one for the adoption of the Address-in-Reply to the Governor-General’s Speech, to which has been added an address by the Prime Minister (Mr. Menzies) of a recapitulatory character. In fact, it might truthfully be said that the attitude of the Government is capitulation to the Country party, and recapitulation in regard to the war. The conduct of war-like operations is the outstanding feature of the Governor-General’s Speech. That is natural and proper. I agree that, until the war is ended, it is hopeless to expect that other matters, however important they may be, will receive any intelligent consideration. It is for this reason that I offer a few observations designed to advance the common object of Parliament and people, namely, an early termination of hostilities. This unfortunate war is essentially a European war. Britain is only technically a European power. Its vast colonial possessions are mainly African and Asiatic. The very considerable territories acquired by Britain as the result of the last war, under the polite fiction of administration under mandate, are also external to Europe, and the vast bulk of the dominions are scattered all over the world, but external also to the continent of Europe. This thought-provoking consideration presents itself to our minds: Accepting Great Britain as a European power, of all European States now selfgoverning and self-contained, there are but two, Britain and France, which, up to the present, in their wisdom or otherwise, are opposed to the ending of the war on any terms other than a clear military definition. With wearisome reiteration we have been told that we are fighting for the preservation of small nations. That statement itself requires a little honest and dispassionate examination. For myself, I know of no principle of international law by virtue of which any nation, or group of nations, may constitute itself arbiter by force of arms for the preservation of any other selfgoverning nation. It must be always remembered, when we are discussing these matters, that nationhood implies the power of self-defence. No nation, in fact, has a right to presume to nationhood which is not prepared to accept the responsibility of self-defence, as I have frequently said in regard to Australia. That important principle has been largely the guide of the Labour party in determining its policy of non-participation in foreign wars. If two nations may combine to re-shape the map. of a continent, then, logically, one nation may assume the same role, and we reach a condition, which. if honestly examined, makes those two nations or one very little different from a dictatorship. It is only by virtue of a dictatorship that such power can be successfully exercised.
But I return to the position of European States which, we must all admit, are suffering intensely, and are most intimately concerned with the conduct and outcome of this deplorable war. The fact is that these nations are crying with a single voice that we should spare them our unsolicited attention, and leave them in peace. I am leaving out Germany, which has submitted terms of peace, that, however, have been unacceptable, and, I think, rightly unacceptable. It is a strange position that each group of great powers is declaring its support of the rights of neutrals, which are themselves at peace except for the intervention of the belligerent powers. In the meantime, charges of breaches of neutrality are made on every side, and, I am bound to confess, are truly made. The truth is that the thin veneer of international law is being worn thinner every day and the inevitable consequences of total war arc becoming daily more apparent. Before the invasion of Norway, some significant observations were made by the Premier of that country. He said -
We made 21 protests to the belligerents against violation of our neutrality by foreign planes, ten to Britain, six to Russia and five to Germany. We cannot continue protesting. We shall shoot down such planes.
Then he went on to publish their deplorable record of losses by sea and by land.
– Did he explain about those prisoners on the German prison ship in a Norwegian port?
– I did not intend to touch on that point, but as the honorable member has raised it, I may say that it is important to recall that this incident, about which we must examine our consciences, arose out of a breach of neutrality on our part, as was candidly explained in the columns of a Melbourne newspaper by a professor of international law. And, since that has occurred, as honorable gentlemen may see by reference to Current Notes that are published in such a convenient form for the information of honorable members, another distinguished international lawyer on the British side has written deploring that fact in very candid language. The most recent case is the sowing of mines by the Allies in the neutral waters of Norway, the impeding of its trade, the imperilling .and terrorizing of its people and the violation of its waters. Germany, never slow to take advantage of an example, either to set a bad one or to follow a bad one, goes one worse and hurls its destructive armies upon a people with whom it has had no quarrel. It is in these circumstances that there are placed in the Speech of the Governor-General the words - I have not them by me at the moment, but honorable gentlemen will remember them - “ Unprovoked invasion of Norway had taken place “. The majority of persons in this country or in any way associated with the Allied Forces believe that the Allies’ cause was justified at the beginning and that it is a good cause. Surely then it is capable of being sustained by the plain language of truth! Surely .also to depart from that is to weaken one’s cause and to strengthen the cause of the enemy! Why, in these circumstances and on a most solemn occasion should the Government deliberately employ a phrase which it knows when it uses it is absolutely contrary to the fact? The excuse of Germany, quite a good one vis a vis Great Britain is a bad and invalid one vis a vis Norway. And it is a word or two for the neutrals that I am endeavouring to utter this afternoon. Assuming my attempt to analyse this position is greeted, as already it is evident that it is to be greeted, by the cry of “ Pro-German “ and so on - that kind of tush from the Government benches with which we are familiar - let me say at once that I am quite prepared to concede to honorable gentlemen opposite, who make that kind of comment, that the behaviour of the Germans is worse even than our own. But when did it become a sound moral principle that the end justifies the means, or that an indefinite number of wrongs makes one right? It is obvious that there must be heard in many of those neutral countries, which have been suffering so intensely, “A plague o’ both your houses “ and “ Heaven save us from our friends “. It is impossible to think that out of this welter of hatred against hatred, abuse against abuse, this unpleasant contest between experts in scurrility, that the white light of justice and charity will, as a natural consequence, begin to shine. Does the honorable mem ber for Gippsland (Mr. Paterson), who interjects so unkindly, being the man he is, really think that this smashing and desecration of human bodies, poisoning of the seas, desolation of the land, can ever bear as their natural fruit and flower a world of harmony, beauty, truth and understanding? I wonder! The scriptural allusion that grapes do not grow on thorns nor figs on thistles remains true as it has through the ages. If it were otherwise ethics is a mockery and Christian religion a sham. I am prepared to concede neither to the honorable member for Gippsland.
Who started the war and the proximate and remote causes of the war are difficult matters to determine, but they are merely of historic interest. The much more important question is the ending of the war. When a bush fire breaks out men do not sit under gum trees arguing as to who started it. They sweat themselves to put it out. Even in a street .brawl between two men, the first consideration is to separate the disputants, not to inquire into the merits of the case. This is none the less the case in a brawl in which one of the combatants is the aggressor. The first consideration is to end the brawl. This war is sometimes described, as I have heard it described, as an imperialist war. I did not choose the phrase. Neither do I object to it. The fact is that we are much ridden by words “imperialism “, “ pacificism “-
– Communism, indeed, and many other words about which there is no common understanding as to their meaning. I have nothing to say about “imperialism”. The fact is that the motives for carrying on this war are many and various. I have no doubt that there are many quite innocent motives arising through ignorance and lack of truthful information, but there are other motives, such as fear, lust for revenge, and avarice - all very important factors in the carrying on of the war. In a democracy it is difficult, nay, impossible, to avoid the licence of a rabid press, and it would be strange, indeed, if the people did not become a little like the swill that is fed to th em. The censorship, conducted at all events up to the present in a better and wiser way than in the last war, which is not paying it a high compliment, raises no question of moral values. Falsehood and truth are equally acceptable to the censorship if they make for the war effort, as it is called, and falsehood and truth are equally reprehensible if they are thought to make against the war effort. There is no preference for one against the other. It is true that the bulk of falsehood is greater than the bulk of truth, because it is so much easier to tell lies than to search for truth, which, historically we know, is to be found at the bottom of the well, and when you have dug it up with the slime, it is by no means certain that it will be acceptable to the city editor to whom it is presented. So we do not know. The motives behind the war cannot be described in a single phrase or sentence. What we do know with positive certainty is that this horror is achieving nothing but increasing disaster and destruction, and that everything best in life, indeed life itself, in the personal sense as well as the general sense, as an individual possession of each one of us, stands in increasing danger from day to day as the war continues. But, of course, it would be merely idle rhetoric if I were to say that and, at the same time, say “ On with the fight until a military victory for somebody has eventually been achieved without consultation and without any attempt to bring the European countries into concert “.
– Why “ somebody “ ?
Mr.BRENNAN. - Because either one or the other side must win if the war is continued long enough.
– Why has the honorable gentleman no preference?
– The honorable gentleman submits an offensive question but I let it go. He knows that it is intended to be offensive and he knows, no doubt, that the question cannot arise fairly from anything that I have said or intend to say. Let it go at that. The better opinion, I submit, not only in Australia but also in Great Britain, where members of the House of Commons and contributors to the daily press and other publications are making their views felt, is that the time is overripe for wise consultation in connexion with the conduct and conclusion of this war. It is no longer impossible, if it were ever im possible, todiscuss settlement, not necessarily on enemy terms even as a basis of discussion. France and Great Britain entered upon this war as pacificators of Europe. They felt themselves justified and bound to do so. I have to comment at this stage that they should now submit a plan for the rectification of the boundaries and the pacification of Europe; a geographical plan showing what Europe will be like when hostilities are over.
– With whom could they deal in the Germany of to-day?
– They would deal with all or any of the twelve or fifteen European States which are begging and praying for peace negotiations.
– Why not have Germany deal with them?
– Yes, but I have no responsibility for the conduct of Germany. The honorable member knows that my fight against German methods and philosophy did not begin with this war. My fight for the organization of Labour, against which Germany stands, and the liberty of small nations, against which Germany stands, began in this country at a time when I could get no support from any of the honorable gentlemen on the other side of the chamber. They need not talk to me about the claims of the working class or of the small nations, because I stood for them when honorable members opposite were strangely disinterested.
As mediators, the Allies would be welcomed in Europe with shouts of Hosanna and feelings of gratitude, whereas at present only too frequently they are regarded with suspicion and fear and sometimes with indignation because of deliberate breaches of the neutrality of other nations. The whole world, especially the nations most concerned, would welcome their intervention in the cause of peace. Whether the Allies or their opponents are getting the best of the daily death-dealing that is taking place is irrelevant; the point is that all of the peoples in whom I am most interested will be worse off as the result of this war, if it is carried to the stage of a military victory for one side or the other. A victory for Germany would be the greater evil; but military victory for the Allies would also be a great evil to humanity as a. whole in the ultimate consequence.
– Can the honorable member suggest another method of ending the war?
– I have already done so.
Before I refer to a speech made by Mr. Neville Chamberlain at Birmingham on the 24th February last I remind myself and the House that the Leader of the Opposition (Mr. Curtin) has said that it is a good general rule not to criticize the utterances of the spokesmen for other dominions and Great Britain in relation to those matters in respect of which we cannot expect to be so well informed as they are. But when I refer briefly to Mr. Chamberlain’s speech - and I shall not have time to deal with it in detail - I do so because the wise rule enunciated by my leader does not apply. If my view as to dominion status had been accepted by this chamber the position would be different, but it was not accepted. Australia entered this war without any consultation with the national Parliament or the people. In that respect Australia differed from the other dominions.
– New Zealand was in the same position.
– Not quite, because New Zealand, after making a proclamation, submitted a positive motion to Parliament relating to its entry into the war. That was not done in Australia. As my view in regard to dominion status was not accepted, and as the matter was not discussed in this Parliament, I must accept the inevitable; but I point out that Australia is in the war because a Government external to Australia, and which was not responsible to the people of Australia, made us at war. The fact that that Government is friendly towards Australia is beside the question. Therefore I claim that I am entitled to analyse the view of those who insist on making me at war when I want to be at. peace. In his speech at Birmingham Mr. Chamberlain said that the Empire was engaged in a religious war - a crusade. I point out that that was not claimed when the war began; and I submit with great confidence that we have neither the equipment nor the authority for conducting a crusade.
– Germany is doing it.
– Let us take the beam out of our own eye before we speak of the beam rather than the mote in the eye of another. I am not aware that we have set such an example of Christian practice or philosophy that we should presume to hammer those qualities into other people by fire and sword. It is notso long ago that the official representatives of France boasted that they had conducted Christ to the frontier. No doubt that was a blasphemous statement, but it was made officially on behalf of France, our ally. We have a better example of the christian mission in the expression by 90 clergymen not of my own communion who have signed the following statement: -
We feel, however, that we must emphasize the fact that within the various communions with which we are associated, there is a substantial number of Christians who hold with us in the unfaltering conviction: -
1 ) That evil can never be overcome with evil;
That war is a negation of the Spirit and teachings of Jesus Christ ; and
That where the claims of the State conflict with loyalty to Christ, the lower allegiance must give way to the higher.
We affirm our high evaluation of all those things that are worthy in the life and government of the British Commonwealth of Nations, but we believe that they cannot finally be preserved by force of arms or unreserved allegiance to the claims of the State.
– Did Goebbels put that through the ether?
– That statement was signed, not by Goebbels in Germany, but by 90 ministers of religion in the Commonwealth of Australia. The gentleman who so kindly supplies me with this useful information assures me that there is no reason to suppose that the number of clergymen ready to subscribe to it is limited to 90. When it was first published, the number was only 45 ; since then it has doubled. [Leave to continue given.] If honorable members make any attempt to keep themselves acquainted with the records of the House of Commons, as I do, they will know that strong views are expressed by many honorable members of that historic House in favour of ending the war by consultation. As to this being a religious war, I recall that Dr. Little, a member of the House of Commons, rose in his place recently and said that he would like to say a word on behalfof
Christ. His observation was greeted with laughter. Apparently there was a little ambiguity as to whether the honorable member’s intention was to speak as the accredited representative of the Saviour or to say a word in His defence. If the latter was the reason, I suggest, with great humility, that his observation was well timed. I note that a deputation waited upon the Prime Minister of Great Britain some time ago to ask him to appoint a day of prayer for the early ending of the war, and that he replied, “ Not yet “. I see something ironic in the fact that a gentleman who says that we are engaged in a crusade, and are fighting a religious war, should have the temerity to tell ministers of the Gospel that he was too busy to entertain their representations in favour of prayer for peace.
We are told that we are fighting -persecution wherever it is to be found. That is another new aim of the war. In the past we have ignored persecution in foreign countries while practising it at home. In the Manchester Guardian, Sir William Crawford points out that there are 8,000,000 people in Britain lacking wages sufficient for the bare minimum of food required for their existence according to the standards of the British Medical Association. There are 10,000,000 in the United States of America already in a similar position, and should that country enter the war, the number will probably increase to 20,000,000. Is there not persecution in the countries in which such things exist? Mr. Lansbury pointed out in the British House of Commons that tens of millions of people in India who are subject to the native princes enjoy no greater privilege than once belonged to slaves. Should we not begin at home to deal with, this kind of persecution before we claim to be the champions of persecuted minorities in Europe and, if we are logical, in other parts of the world also? Why should we give to the enemy the pabulum for its own evil work by exposing weaknesses in our own case ?
We are told that we have entered this war in order to restore the independence of the Czechs and the Poles. So far as the former are concerned, the claim is entirely new as a war aim. In March of last year the final assimilation of
Czechoslovakia took place. Some people may prefer to call it an invasion. On that occasion, Mr. Chamberlain, the Prime Minister of Great Britain, said that the declaration of independence on “the part of the Slovak Diet completely altered the situation, and that therefore he proposed to take no action that he said discharged our obligation. He certainly did not take any action. If, therefore, the independence of the Czechs is a war aim, I submit that it is a new aim. It certainly was not a war aim at the time when it was most relevant, and when the invasion of Czechoslovakia took place.
– The Poles also were “ assimilated “.
– A similar position arose in Poland. We gave a guarantee, vague in its terms and apparently also in its subject-matter, for the maintenance of the geographical entity known at that time as Poland. That is no longer a war objective. There seems to be some difference of opinion, but apparently we are now prepared to concede about one-third of Poland to Russia. It is significant that no declaration of war - I thank God for it - has been made against Russia, although clearly Russia violated the integrity of Poland precisely as did Germany. So that it now appears that the guarantee that we gave was not a guarantee against the crime of aggression but was a personal and political guarantee against aggression by a particular aggressor.
– Why is the honorable member not game enough to say openly what he is implying by innuendo?
– Will the honorable gentleman have the goodness to tell me what I am implying by innuendo ? I am stating the clearest historical facts as I see them. I consider it my duty to do so.
– The honorable gentleman is launching a very subtle attack against the Empire.
– I have no love for battle, but God forbid that I should be afraid of the insignificant gentleman who has just been removed from the Ministry. The truth is, that we are drifting into a morass of contradictions and inconsistencies. I quote from a book by G. D. H. Cole, published recently, on this subject.
Mr. Cole says of the British Government ;
They will go on, as long as they can, standing before the world for nothing beyond a mere negation of Hitler’s aggressiveness, and - a desire to return to the status quo ante, simply because they are incapable of conceiving anything else except with sheer revulsion. To their minds civilization is capitalism and capitalism is civilization. They are lighting for a world made in Brummagem, because any other is beyond their capacity to understand. That is why British and French propaganda is so pitiably ineffective. Our propagandists have not tlie face to say that we arc fighting for British and French capitalism; but they are not allowed to say that we are fighting for anything else. They can, in consequence, say only that we are fighting against Hitlerism; and so negative an appeal is bound to be weak and ineffectual.
– Who is the traitor who wrote that?
– A university reader on economics at Oxford and author of many standard works.
I say, in conclusion, that the guarantee given to Poland was vague in its terms and apparently also as to its subjectmatter. The one thing clear is that it referred to a geographical entity, and included that congeries of inharmonious people thrown together by the Treaty of St. Germain. Surely I am entitled to know with some certainty what the lives of those who are dear to me are to be pledged for ! Surely I should know what my” constituents are to die for on foreign battlefields ! Surely those wiseheads who are conducting this war should set before us in clear terms whether we are fighting for the Poles, or for Poland as we knew it. Is it Czechoslovakia, or that much smaller group of people known as the Czechs? Are we waging a crusade and a religious war, or is this merely political rhetoric that we are being supplied with by the’ distinguished leader of the British Government? I say “distinguished “, because I have great respect for Mr. Chamberlain as an imperialist capitalist. He is a conscientious representative of his class. He says that we must have tangible evidence that pledges and assurances will be fulfilled. I have heard that over and over again, and I reply that assurances and pledges can have no greater value than is afforded by the integrity and good faith of the person who gives the pledges and utters the assurances. Therefore all the chosen German leaders are unacceptable if those words about assurances and pledges mean anything, they mean that the war is to be conducted until Britain and France take control of the German people. Yet with another voice they deny that that is so. They say that Germany is to govern itself, and that there is not to be a dictated peace. I have heard also that there is to be a dictated peace, ls there, or is there not? Before I shall be prepared to see handed over to a form of government to which I have always been opposed the working masses of any country, whether enemy or not, I want to know exactly what the plan is; and that has not been disclosed up to the present. We are urged by Mr. Chamberlain to abolish the spirit of militarism, which will reduce us to bankruptcy. Let us be candid. The British Government has no intention whatever of abolishing the spirit of militarism. The whole history, tradition, and background of Britain’s development have been along militarist lines. Even to-day, in this country, this Government would not know how to open anything, from a sardine tin to a House of Lords, without having a group of individuals with drawn swords, fixed bayonets, “ tin “ hats, and every other adjunct of military force. I remind honorable members that capitalism has been built upon and maintained by military force. There is no intention to abolish militarism in Great Britain, nor has this Government any intention to do so in Australia. If it had, it would have my whole-hearted assistance ; but everybody knows that it has no such intention. Such assertions are pure make-believe. Militarism has been the buttress of capitalism, and capitalism the maker of Hitlerism and of wars such as that with which we are now being afflicted. I am opposed to Hilterism, but I am not a supporter of policy dictated by sycophants to a government external to Australia which country in turn merely registers in this chamber the views expressed elsewhere. I am conscious of the fact that the greatest service which a representative of the Labour party can render to the people of Australia, to the people of the world in general, to humanity, to religion, to the great cause of Christianity before which most of us desire to bow, is to say a word for peace, and to suggest measures of co-operation with the afflicted states of Europe for the speedy attainment of that much-desired end.
Sitting suspended from 6.15 to 8 p.m.
. Honorable members must all have been amused at the case presented on behalf of the Labour party by the Leader of the Opposition (Mr. Curtin) and the honorable member for Batman (Mr. Brennan). The Leader of the Opposition is still floundering in the mystery of the Labour party’s war policy. What we want to know to-day is where the Labour party stands. The Leader of the Opposition cannot tell us because he is held back by the extremists throughout Australia who dominate the Labour party. The attitude of the United Australia party towards the war was made clear in the first paragraph of the Governor-General’s Speech, from which I cite the following passage -
The war forced upon the British and French peoples by flagrant international law-breaking on the part of Germany shows no sign of a speedy ending. While we are all confident of ultimate success, there can be no doubt that the situation is a grave one. Nobody can prophesy what fresh aggressions there may be in the near future or what new enemies we may be called upon to meet. Only in the last few days we have witnessed unprovoked and unjustified invasion of Denmark and Norway by the enemy, in circumstances which show plainly that the future existence of the smaller nations of Europe, and indeed of the world, not excluding Australia, is entirely dependent upon a conclusive victory for the allied arms.
– Why does not the honorable member make his own speech?
– I wish to see if I can drive a little common sense into the head of the honorable member for East Sydney.
– There is no need to be nasty.
– If honorable members opposite want proof that communism has entered the ranks of the Labour party they can find it quite easily. The trouble is that some of them who are not game enough to declare adherence to the Communist platform are still distributing the spirit of communism, which is the thing that is destroying the ideals of Labour. The Leader of the Opposition is tram melled to-day because of irresponsible support of the spirit of communism by members like the honorable member for East Sydney.
– I rise to order. The honorable member for Barton has referred to me as a member of the Communist party.
– I did not say anything of the sort. I said that the honorable member had the spirit of it, which is a different thing.
– That remark is offensive to me and I ask that it be withdrawn.
– It was most offensive.
– I am sure the honorable member would not have asked for the withdrawal of the remark unless the shaft had gone home.
– The remark of the honorable member for Barton was offensive to me and I ask that it be withdrawn.
Mr. SPEAKER (Hon. G. J. Bell).The honorable member for Barton has said that he did not make the remark which the honorable member for East Sydney has attributed to him.
– I did not say that the honorable member was a member of the Communist party. I said that he had the spirit of communism.
– The honorable member said he was a Communist.
– From what I heard of the remark of the honorable member for Barton I did not regard it as offensive.
– Surely it rests with the honorable member whose name has been mentioned to determine, to a large extent at any rate, whether a remark directed to him is offensive.
– I did not understand the honorable member for Barton to refer to the honorable member for East Sydney as a Communist. If he says he did so, I shall ask him to withdraw the remark.
– I did not. We can all commend the Prime Minister (Mr. Menzies)-
– Why does not the honorable member stand up for what he said?
– I shall have a little to say presently about the honorable member for Melbourne Ports (Mr. Holloway), for he has something to answer for concerning the presence of communism in the trade union movement.
We must all congratulate the Prime Minister upon his action in causing Australia to declare war as promptly as it did. Australia was the first Dominion to stand behind Great Britain when the war occurred. That the right honorable gentleman took such prompt action will always be a laurel that he can wear with pride. He said, in effect, “ Australia will stand behind Great Britain whatever happens “. Honorable members of the Labour party allege that this action was taken behind the backs of the people, and without giving Parliament an opportunity to voice its opinion, but as 95 per cent. of our population is British there was no need for the Government to wait before declaring itself.
The honorable member for Batman went so far as to say that he did not agree with Herr Hitler, buthe then proceeded to denounce the British Government as imperialist. Most of us have known the honorable member for many years, and we know what to expect of him.
– I suppose the honorable member for Barton would not call him a Communist.
– I shall make my own speech. I have always recognized the honorable member for Melbourne Ports (Mr. Holloway) as one of the quiet underground engineers of the Labour movement. He never reveals his hand until a crisis has developed in the party, and then we are able to understand something of the fine work which he has been doing in his quiet way. But something must be said about the state into which the trade union movement of Australia has fallen. That movement is, of course, stronger than all the labour leagues and other labour organizations in the country.This causes me to ask, “Where is my friend, Jock Garden, to-day?” When he was expelled by one branch of the Labour movement he went back to the trade union movement and turned up againat the Trades Hall. He was to be seen at the recent Labour conference supporting what has been described as the’ “Hands off Russia” resolution, about which I shall have something to say presently. What has the honorable member for Melbourne Ports to, say about the “Hands off Russia” resolution? We all know that the trade union movement, in which the honorable gentleman is so interested, is not what it was, so he has, no doubt, been doing some underground engineering in that connexion.
The general opinion in Australia is that the Prime Minister acted wisely in falling in behind Great Britain as promptly as he did. We have been informed that the Labour movement is quite prepared to do something in the war in favour of Great Britain, and that it is against Hitler. Yet Labour is opposed to the sending of men for service overseas ! Perhaps the new honorable member for Corio (Mr. Dedman) will be able to make some revelation of Labour’s policy, He knows very well that during the by-election campaign in Corie the Leader of the Opposition said that Labour would notbe guilty of refusing to send reinforcements overseas to help five Australian Imperial Force,
– What was wrong with that?
– If the Labour party is prepared to send reinforcements overseas, why does it not get right behind the Government in its war effort? It seems that the Leader of the Opposition was speaking with his tongue in his cheek when he said that Labour was prepared to stand behind the Government in its war effort, and that it was willing to do what it could to prosecute the war effectually, for there can be no doubt that honorable gentlemen opposite are not willing to send men overseas to fight. It seems tome to be stupid in the extreme to say, “We are prepared to prosecute the’ war, but we are not prepared tosend men into the battleline “. Surely honorable gentlemen opposite do not wish to see Australia suffer the indignity of being handed over to another power. What have the present-day members of the Labour party to say about Andrew Fisher’s declaration at the beginning of the last war that Australia would be in it “ to the last man and the last shilling “ ? Honorable gentlemen opposite should put a picture of Andrew Fisher in the corner of their mirror at home so that they would see it every morning. It would help them to realize that they are not really good Labour men, but are simply proselytizing on this great movement, which is worthy of better men than they are.
The Leader of the Opposition asked where -our men were. He said that they were not in the war zone. He spoke about Finland, Poland and Norway.
An Opposition Member. - And Ireland?
– No; he did not mention Ireland. Perhaps he was leaving that for Brother Brennan to do. I expected to hear it from him. Let me ask him which are the religious orders the members of which are being murdered so foully in certain parts of Europe to-day? As the honorable gentleman did not say anything about the Vatican and its peace efforts, perhaps I shall do so before I resume my seat.
In seeking to explain why we should not send men overseas, the Leader of the Opposition said, in effect, that it was useless to send them to Poland now because that country had been ravished; it was also useless to send them to Czechoslovakia or Finland.
– The Leader of the Opposition did not say anything of the kind.
– The honorable gentleman drew a picture of the country surrounding Germany and referred to the devastation that had been caused by reason of the fact that Russia came into the war and seized half of Poland. Russia, of course, used Germany as a tool. The honorable gentleman said, “ We are against that kind of thing “. But he did not say what the Labour party was prepared to do to resist it. He did not say, either, that Labour was prepared to Send men to fight shoulder to shoulder with others who were resisting such aggression. Tha fact is, of course, that the trade union movement in New South Wales carried the resolution to which I have already referred and which has come to be known as the “ Hands off Russia “ policy.
The Germans say that they want to maintain the neutrality of Norway. The honorable member for Batman tried to explain to us what neutrality meant. He said that the small neutral states are begging the great belligerent nations to leave them in peace. I point out that Denmark ‘ never made any provision for defence at all, yet it was overrun by the German forces in less than 48 hours, and all its rights were taken from it. What did the Germans do to Poland, and did they show any mercy to Norway, which only asked to be neutral ? In spite of these examples, honorable members opposite tell us that we in Australia ought to remain neutral in this war; that we ought not to send men overseas to fight for Australia. He says that increased forces should be sent to Darwin and north-western Australia to repel a possible invader. In the next breath he says that we have a population of only 7,000,000, and that we are unable to defend ourselves. Why did he not say that it was our duty to send men to fight our battles in Europe, where the decision will be made regarding the future of Australia? Why did he not point out that Great Britain, by maintaining a fleet in the China seas, and a naval base at Singapore, is guarding us in the only effective way against possible aggression? The honorable member did not specifically name the enemy against which he says we should prepare to defend ourselves, but he implied that Japan might attempt to occupy the Dutch East Indies. Japan has stated that it has no designs on those territories, and Great Britain and America have given Japan to understand quite clearly that it must keep its hands off them. The honorable member says that we must send forces to Darwin and Broome to meet an enemy if it should attempt to land troops at those points. Does he suggest that we should pit the Australian Navy against the navy of Japan? If so, what chance does he think our naval forces would have?
Let us turn now to the industrial field. The honorable member said that he wanted to protect the coal-miners. He said that the miners were not fighting in their own interests, but because they wished to have the 40-hour week extended to other unions. We know that all underground workers at present enjoy a 40- hour week. They have everything for which they approached the Arbitration Court, yet they are standing out. Why should not this union, the first considerable union to enjoy the benefits of the 40-hour week, be content to wait until after the war before pressing for its extension to other unions? The honorable member said that he disputed the decision of the appeal court. If he will not admit the authority of a court of appeal to review decisions, why should the New South “Wales Branch of the Australian Labour party take any notice of the direction of the Federal Australian Labour party to expunge from its records the “ Hands off Russia “ resolution carried at the Easter conference? That resolution was carried by 191 votes to 88, so that it was approved according to the best democratic principles. Therefore, what right has the federal body to step in and say, “ We ask you to expunge that resolution from the records of the conference “ ? I extend my sincere sympathy to those honorable members who, according to reports in to-day’s newspapers, refused to sign the platform of the Labour party. I point out that members of the Labour party have, in fact, received greater benefits from United Australia party governments than they have ever been able to obtain from their own party. Over and over again they have appealed to us for help, and we have established tribunals which have granted them satisfactory working conditions. If the engineers want to fight a. battle for a 40-hour week, let them fight it on their own. The miners have no light, on the pretext of helping the engineers, to tie up the industries of the country^ and prevent the production of goods vitally necessary for the prosecution of the war.
– Let the honorable member lecture the coal-owners.
– The coal-owners are subject to the findings of the court, just as are the miners. Sometimes the owners have appealed from decisions of the court, but just as frequently appeals have been lodged by the miners themselves. The great trouble is that the miners seem to be badly led. They go on strike, and after staying out for weeks, and sometimes months, they go back to work on the very terms that they refused to accept in the first place.
The Labour party has in its platform a plank for the taking over of the means of production, distribution and exchange. Honorable members opposite do not say openly that that really implies the destruction of private enterprise as we know it, and the putting of all industry into the hands of committees of workers. Many of those who lead the Labour movement at the present time protest that they are moderates, but if those whom they lead were really to obtain control, those moderates, including the Leader of the Opposition, would be dealt with as the Bolsheviks dealt with Kerensky in Russia. The honorable member for Werriwa (Mr. Lazzarini) has openly boasted that when his party gets into power it will destroy private banking in Australia. Whilst I admit that our banking system could be improved in certain directions, I do not agree that the private banking institutions, which have done so much to develop this country, should be abolished. The honorable member for Batman attacked the Australian Arbitration Court. As a lawyer, he has no doubt received many “ perks “ through the court, so that he ought to be more friendly towards it. The honorable member for Batman also said that he was opposed to British imperialism. He brands Great Britain as one of those nations which ought to be allowed to go to the wall. He has stated over and over again that he would do nothing to assist British capitalists and imperialists. He then proceeded to say that an appeal for peace had been made by various religious bodies. He quoted a resolution adopted by 90 ministers of religion. I wonder why he did not quote the head of his own church. When the honorable member makes a hypocritical statement of this kind, 1 point out to him that Catholic priests in Germany, as well as Jews and Protestant ministers, have felt the weight of Nazi prosecution.
– And the honorable member was secretly delighted.
– I do not know what the honorable member is ; he may be a pagan for all I know, but 75 per cent, of honorable members opposite have a right to listen to the Vatican when it points out that Catholics and Protestants alike have suffered by this attack on religious freedom. We should all be proud and grateful for the freedom enjoyed in these and other matters in British countries. There the people enjoy freedom of religion and right to their own homes, right to family life, without the destructive elements which are to be found in those nations which are attacking the great principles of democracy. I am more than surprised that the honorable member for Ballarat (Mr. Pollard) should draw the Cross into this question.
I think that it was the Leader of the Opposition who declared that the penal sections of the Crimes Act should be repealed; that nothing should be done to hold in check those forces which are destroying the great Labour movement, but rather that they should be given the liberty to disrupt society and destroy the community at large. When an honorable member talks like that, in my judgment he has not paid heed to the voice of the working class. I think that it was the Leader of the Opposition who said that trade unionism in Germany had lost every privilege it possessed. The Opposition knows that, but it is prepared to stand idly by and let Germany triumph and then say, “ We are sorry England was defeated.” By God! England will not he defeated, because we have always found men outside the official Labour movement ready to stand to their guns, men different from the men who refuse to come out in the open and support this Government, preferring to hide behind the Opposition’s cry of, “ A strong Opposition is better than that we should have a unanimous Government to prosecute this war and send us forward to victory.”
The people of Australia will understand what has been put forward here to-day by the Opposition in spite of the fact that the Leader of the Opposition, being a journalist, has a very fine choice of words. I give the honorable gentleman credit that he can say one thing so nicely and mean another that it is difficult for the people to understand where the Labour movement stands.
– They understood well enough at Corio.
– At Corio the Leader of (he Opposition said, “We shall fight this by-election on the war policy of the Government “ and tried to make the people believe that that was what the contest was being fought on, whereas the real issue was the manufacture of motor cars in Australia. I am one who believes that Australian industrial expansion should not be impeded and I do not care whether it is Smith, Jones, or Brown who has a contract with the Government so long as industry proceeds. I have yet, however, to be convinced the honorable gentlemen opposite are competent to attack this Government on the formation of a monopoly. On the contrary, the Labour party has been the friend of the great monopolists for many years. I have been here long enough to know that. I could name the man and can tell the House what my own constituents have told me, namely, that when the Labour party was in power, its members, having gained inside information a few months before the new customs duties were imposed were able to make thousands of pounds in order to help their organization on.
– The honorable member’s time has expired.
– I am sure the honorable members of this House, having listened to the honorable member for Barton (Mr. Lane), are, wondering what helpful contribution he lias made towards the solution of the problems with which this country is faced. I have listened very attentively and patiently to the honorable gentleman many times since his advent, to this Parliament in 1931, but have never yet heard him put a constructive thought before this chamber. All that he is capable of is a tirade of abuse of honorable members on this side. He does not realize that democratic government is only formed by the right of healthy criticism advanced by His Majesty’s Opposition, which today we happen to be.
– For a while.
– For a little while. When we ‘come to power the honorable member for Barton will be relegated to a place among those things which are best forgotten. All that we have ever had from the honorable member in all the years in which he has been here is only criticism of the other fellow. I do not believe in that. I believe that when an honorable member rises he should at least try to put some constructive ideas before this Parliament in order that the people of Australia” shall* be able to judge who is right and who is wrong. The honorable member ‘ for Barton attacked, first of all, something for which a unit - I emphasize the word “unit” - of the Australian Labour party was responsible in order to pin upon the whole of the Labour movement the stigma that whatever Russia may do we shall not attack Russia. That is entirely wrong.
Opposition Members. - Hear, hear!
– If Russia attacks institutions in which we believe we shall fight Russia in the same way as we are fighting Herr Hitler. It has been proved definitely that the Australian Labour party has demanded that that unit of the party should expunge from the records all reference to “ Hands off Russia “ as the resolution has become known, although it was never that. The resolution was construed in that way for political reasons by our political opponents; and politics is at a low level when men stoop to the murky depths of the sewer in order to attack the other fellow. Not even the Prime Minister (Mr. Menzies) was fair enough to make matters clear to the people. He said, “ The Labour party stands for ‘ Brands off Russia ‘ “. He wanted to know if the honorable men ibc r for HP reman tie (Mr. Curtin) is leading the Australian Labour party, or Russia. The Prime Minister knew full well when he made that statement that it was not the Australian Labour party but a unit of that party, in New South Wales, in which there are unfortunately warring factions, that was responsible for the party opposite being able to say that labour’s attitude was “ Hands off Russia “.
The honorable member for Barton, went on to say that the miners have been badly misled. I am as concerned with the coalmining dispute as I am with the international crisis. I recognize that, if we are to conduct this war successfully and bring it to a conclusion in which our cherished democratic system will be maintained, the democracies at least should endeavour to make the people whom they represent a little more contented than they are by providing them with employment. Give them a stake in the country and then one can count on their patriotism. The miners have not been badly misled. Eleven years ago iu this House I defended the miners just as I defend them to-day. I was a lone voice. The coal owners then, in spite of the fact that they had an award of the court made under the law of this very Parliament, locked the miners out and demanded that they accept a reduction of their wages by 12 i per cent. The chickens are now coming home to roost. Honorable members opposite stood idly by on that occasion and saw an award of the Arbitration Court deliberately flouted. Who then said “An award is being broken”? Only the honorable member who is now speaking, apart from his friends who sit behind him. Did the then Government do anything? No! Silence prevailed, in spite of the fact that on the statute-book there was the Industrial Peace Act, which is still the law, from which there is no appeal to any court. That legislation was created by the right honorable gentlemen who is now Attorney-General, the member for North Sydney (Mr. Hughes). The right honorable gentleman piloted that measure through this chamber, because he recognized when he belonged to the labouring classes that coal-mining was an intricate industry, an industry that was in every way different from other industries in Australia, and one that can be understood only by those, who are associated with it. Provision was made in that legislation for the appointment, of chairmen of special tribunals which would have a semblance of knowledge of the industry. The right honorable gentleman did the job well in 1920, and although I have been criticized for saying this, I believe that if he had his own way to-day, and possessed the courage which he displayed in those days, he would say to the present Government, “ I am AttorneyGeneral and Minister for Industry and I am going to do this job without being dictated to by the Prime Minister. 7. shall do something to encourage Australia’s effort in this war”. But the right honorable gentleman is growing old and has lost some of his punch; I say that more in sorrow than in anger. It is time that the people of Australia knew these things. On behalf of the miners, I entered into negotiations with the AttorneyGeneral and the Prime Minister long before this trouble reached its present stage. Some of my electors have accused me of not doing anything to settle this trouble. Although I have not made public all that I have attempted, I have not been idle. I have worked quietly with the full concurrence of the leaders of the miners, and I know from my discussions with the Attorney-General that he would settle this dispute if he had his own way. Unfortunately, he is not allowed to have his way. He is a member of a party whose leader is controlled by the owning class. The Prime Minister will go to my electorate to-morrow. I should have been pleased to accompany him and face the miners if he had given me the text of what he proposes to say to them. I have made many honest attempts to settle this unfortunate trouble. I have suffered in strikes. I was born during a strike. I am proud to acknowledge that my father was a coal-miner. During the last war, the miners of Australia proved their loyalty; the proportion of enlistments to eligible men was greater in the coal-mining districts than in any other part of Australia. A previous Minister for Defence, Sir Archdale Parkhill, once challenged that statement, but afterwards he came to me and admitted that it was correct. What have honorable members opposite done to encourage Australia’s effort in this war? For eleven years I have pleaded in this chamber for something to be done to rehabilitate the great coal-mining industry of Australia, because other means of providing power have been developed which have to a great degree superseded coal. When I have advocated that our coal deposits be put to fuller use and have told what other countries have done in this connexion, I have not been listened to. However, I shall not discuss that subject now because I am sick and tired of talking about it. The Government and its supporters have done nothing for the coal industry; they have not even tried to increase the foreign trade in coal or to subsidize the industry on overseas exports of coal. Yet whenever honorable members on my left, who will do almost anything to keep an anti-labour government in office, seek bounty after bounty for the primary producers, their demands are acceded to. ls not coal-min- ing a primary industry? An ex- AttorneyGeneral, who is now Chief Justice of the High Court of Australia, once said in this chamber that the coal industry had cut its own throat. I then said, “ Even if it has - and I deny that it has done so - has the Government any right to see it bleed to death”? I shall never forget the action of the then honorable member for Fawkner (Mr. Maxwell), the blind barrister, after I had spoken in this chamber and pleaded with the then government to do something for the coalminers when they were locked out by the coal-owners for fifteen months in an attempt to starve them into submission. Following his appeal the Government decided to prosecute the late Mr. John Brown. Nor shall I ever forget how the then honorable member for Bourke (Mr. Anstey) described in this chamber how the prosecution was withdrawn. Referring to the then honorable member for Kooyong (Sir John Latham) he said, “ Look at him. When he came into this chamber he had an angelic face, but after tasting the blood of the timber workers he became a ferocious tiger and went after John Brown and decided to prosecute him. But he found that he was on a leash, for Mr. Bruce pulled him back and said, ‘ Don’t touch him ; he belongs to us ‘ “. No matter what the workers do, they are condemned by some people in the community. Conversely, to such people whatever the owners do is right. In 1929- 30, the coal-miners were locked out, but Parliament stood idly by and did nothing. The present dispute existed for fully three years before the strike was decided on. In every possible way the miners attempted to get justice within the law, but they were unsuccessful. Despite the fact that the dispute extended beyond the boundaries .of one State, thereby making it possible^ for the Commonwealth Government to’-intervene, nothing was done;, the Government sat idly by. I do not wish to call up the past, but honorable members know that prior to 1938 the miners endeavoured in every way possible to settle this trouble. Coal-mining is not a healthy industry, although honorable members looking at me may say that it does not seem to have injured me. I explain my present somewhat robust appearance by pointing out that I am now grazing in a good paddock. But I know from early and sad, experience some of the hardships of the coal-miners. When I was quite a boy my father was mangled in a mine, and my eldest brother killed. My mother was left with eleven children. I have frequently had to break the sad news of the death of a miner to his widow and family. I have memories of attempts to comfort a widowed mother for the loss of a son who had played his part as husband, father and brother. A miner can never forget these things. When these coal-miners plead for justice, they are given dust. Three years ago they asked for a 40-hour working week. 1 remind the House that coal-miners work in an atmosphere that is heavily charged, not only with dust which is injurious to health, but also with gases which are even more harmful to the lungs. The limited breathing space underground is shared with horses and appliances which consume the air. The conditions under which these men work undermine their health, and they are justified in claiming that they should not work under such conditions for more than 40 hours a week. I ask honorable members in this chamber how their working conditions compare with those of the miners. There is no dust in this chamber, although possibly, there is plenty of “ gas “ here, yet a ventilating plant has been installed; every seat has its ventilator. But do these men who serve the nation, and provide us with the. comforts that we enjoy, receive similar treatment? I remind honorable members that only by the sacrifice of the miners do we enjoy these comforts. Much of the coal which provides these comforts comes out of the ground stained with the blood of our fellow men. They have appealed to the nation for a 40-hour week, and have asked for health regulations and decent compensation should they be hurt. They desire that, in the event of their being killed in a mine, their dependants, whom they love, will at least be able to enjoy a reasonable standard of comfort. They have served the nation. Why should they not have these things ? They have asked for a pension at the age of 60 years because, they say, at that age their health is so undermined that they are unable to continue work. What causes their health to become undermined? I have given the causes.
Under the miners’ agreement, there is the provision that the last to come shall be the first to go. That is a reasonable clause, yet it reacts tragically upon the miners because, with the application of machinery to the production of coal, the young men are put off and the old men are retained. In the little village in which L reside to-day, I frequently see old men toddling off to the mines whilst their robust sons of up to 30 years of age have never done a day’s work in their lives, and, so long as the income into the home amounts to £2 10s. a week, they cannot participate in relief work or get the dole, and thus are obliged to live on the bounty of their old parents. Some of these young men marry in order that they may become entitled to emergency relief work, while the object of others is probably to relieve t.beir parents of the obligation to maintain them. That is not right. Yet these are the boys we expect to fight in our wars for a country that cannot provide them with employment. The Prime Minister has gone to the coal-fields to-day to plead with the rank and file of the miners to resume work, on the ground that the strike in which they are engaged is retarding the effort of the nation to bring the war to a successful conclusion. It may be said that his visit to the coalmining areas denotes the possession of a considerable degree of courage. He is going amongst a community which is hostile to him; but even though they be hostile, they are democrats and will give him a hearing. They will certainly question him, and charge him with maladministration and unfairness in broadcasting his case over the national network while denying the same facilities to the leader of the miners, thus preventing the people from hearing both sides of the question; and rightly so.
I purpose now to quote from an act of this Parliament which is still on the statutes-book. It is the. Industrial PeaceAct. By one of its sections, it provides that the Governor-General may appoint a special tribunal for the prevention or settlement of any industrial dispute or disputes; that the chairman of such a tribunal shall be chosen by agreement between representatives of the employers and employees, or in default of agreement shall be appointed’ by the GovernorGeneral; that there shall be equal representation on each side; that the tribunal shall have the power to inquire into all matters relevant to the dispute, from the point of production to the final disposal of the commodity by the employer in the case of producing industries; and that the decision of the tribunal on the question of relevancy shall be final. Section 18 provides as follows : -
A special tribunal, or the chairman thereof, or the Minister- “Who is the Minister to-day administering this act? It is the right honorable member for North Sydney (Mr. Hughes) who is Attorney-General and Minister for Industry. That right honorable gentleman piloted this legislation through this House. I shall again quote from the beginning the provisions of section 18. They are as follows: -
A special tribunal, or the chairman thereof, or the Minister, or any person thereto authorized in writing by the Minister, may, tor the purpose of preventing or settling industrial disputes, summon any person to attend, at a time and place specified in the summons, at a conference.
Why has such a conference not been called? I quite appreciate, of course, that the Minister for Industry is only one individual in the Government. Subsection 2 of section 18 makes the following provision : - “Any person” (last occurring) in the last preceding sub-section includes not only person? engaged in or connected with an industrial dispute, but also any person engaged in or connected with any dispute relating to industrial matters (whether extending beyond the limits of a State or not)-
The present dispute extends beyond the limits of a State- and related in any way to an industrial dispute; and also includes any porsun, whether connected with an industrial dispute or not, whose presence at the conference, the person or tribunal summoning the conference-
That means the Minister or the chairman of the tribunal- thinks is likely to conduce to the prevention or settlement of an. industrial dispute.
If that is not clear, I do not know what is. Leave to continue given.] I thank the House for its indulgence. I never care to take advantage of the standing order which enables leave to be given to an honorable member to continue his speech, but the whole nation realizes how important is this matter, not only from the. economic point of view, but also from the point of view of the successful prosecution of the war in which the nation is involved. Here is an act of this Parliament which could be invoked for the settlement of the present dispute and which in the past has not only prevented but also settled many disputes. The miners have every confidence in this act. They asked for it to be invoked before they went to the court and certainly before the strike in 1938. I place on the Prime Minister the whole of the blame for its not having been invoked. Had I accompanied bin) to the coal-fields I should not have done other than say to him there that he alone is responsible; but rather than embarrass him, I have remained in Canberra. I want him to be given a fair go, and J know that that will be his experience. Probably, upon his return, he may hold different ideas. If his object be to get the rank and file of the Miners Federation to go against their leaders, he has another think coming. One thing that can bo said of the miners is that, in an industrial dispute particularly, they are loyal to their leaders, notwithstanding what political opinions they may hold. Some persons have said that they have been badly misled. The miners are not led ; when it comes to a final showdown they have a democratic way to decide their destiny; on any matter affecting their welfare they vote individually, whatever may be the advice of their leaders. On the present occasion, they have come to a majority decision to strike after they had experienced failure after failure to secure redress through the courts. Let no honorable member of this House blame their leaders, because they themselves have embarked upon this struggle, after having exhausted during the last three years every constitutional means at their disposal. Viewing the way in which they have, been treated by the arbitration system during the last decade, one can only sympathize with them in the attitude they have adopted. The Industrial Peace Act, by section 28, provides -
No award or order of a special tribunal or local board shall be challenged, appealed against, reviewed, quashed or called in question, or be subject to prohibition, mandamus or injunction in any court on any account whatever.
In spite of that section off,!the act the coal-miners, after a fifteen m’onths’ lockout, were forced, in 1929, to accept a 12£ per cent, reduction of wages which the avaricious coal-owners then demanded. I do not want to touch further on that matter at the moment except to say that the miners did not receive the legal protection to which they were entitled.
– This dispute could he settled under the provisions of the Section.
– That is so. In regard to the present dispute, the final claim was served on the coal-miners on the 23rd August, 1938. It was rejected. In September of that year the men went on Strike and the strike lasted for six weeks. The Government of New South Wales was concerned about the situation and, with the consent of the Governments of the other States, it devised a formula which provided for the setting up of a local authority or tribunal to deal with disputes in die coal industry. Subsequently, this tribunal made good progress in dealing with such matters as pensions, health and insurance. The coal-miners were pleased with the progress that was made. The economic question, however, had to be submitted to the Arbitration Court. The court which heard the claim was presided over by Judge DrakeBrockman, at one time a senator of this Parliament, and chairman of the Employers Federation of Western Australia. He could hardly be said to have had leanings towards the coal-miners. He conducted an inquiry which lasted for five and a half months, in the course of which he visited every mine and went down into its workings. In June of last year he made an award for a 40-hour week of five working days, inclusive of crib time for underground workers and ‘exclusive of crib time for surface workers. Crib time in mining parlance means lunch time. In addition, he gave the craft-unions in the mining industry a 20 per cent, increase of wages to compensate for their shorter working time. The Government of Victoria accepted the award and the miners at Wonthaggi worked under it for six months. In New South Wales, however, where brawls of all kinds unfortunately occur, the coal-owners appealed against the award. The appeal was heard by the full bench of the Arbitration Court on which three judges sat, including Judge Drake-Brockman. The other two judges had made no inquiry into the industry and had inspected no mines. One of them was an old man who had almost reached the stage of senility. The Full Court rescinded the award and obliged the craftunions in the mining industry to revert to a 44-hour week exclusive of crib time in respect of some of the workers. Before I became a member of this Parliament I was a coal-miner and every morning I used to go to work with my neighbour and every afternoon after work I used to come home with him. Wo worked the same hours, though we did a different job. Under the new award, however, some of the men are obliged to work half an hour longer. I know of cases of men who have gone to and come home from work together daily for 24 years and are not now able to do so. Since 1916 the men have worked under what was called the eight-hour bank-to-bank system. Now some of them have to work half an hour longer because their crib time is excluded from consideration. They have to work these longer hours in spite of the fact that labour-saving machinery has speeded up production. Moreover, the Full Court reduced the 20 per cent, wage increase to 5 per cent. How can it be expected, in such circumstances, that harmony will prevail in the industry? The men who have to work face-to-waggon groups are the men who handle coal on the surface and down in the bowels of the earth, but they have to work 40 hours a week. Some of their companions, who are engaged in other branches of the coal-mining industry, have to work half an hour longer or 44 hours a week despite the fact that these workers are members of the same federation.
When one of the judges who was n party to the rescinding of the award was questioned about coal-mining he said “ I would not know a coal-mine if I fell into one “. It is deplorable in the extreme that an award which was made after an exhaustive inquiry of five and a half months should be upset by judges who had no part in the inquiry and who had never, on their own admission, seen a coal-mine. How can honorable members wonder that the coal-miners are upset? In 1929-30 they were deserted by the Government of the day and, at the point of starvation, were forced to accept the dictation of the coal-owners.
I do not like speaking of the dead, but I cannot help referring to an occasion in 1934 when Mr. Charles McDonald, the president of the coal-owners’ organization, visited the rooms in this House of the members of the New South Wales Labour party and asked if they would agree to accept one arbitration authority for the whole of the unions. Mr. Beasley, who was our leader at the time, said “No”. The then Attorney-General (Mr. Latham) thereupon attempted, by a back-door method through the Senate, to secure a repeal of the Industrial Peace Act. This attempt, which was undoubtedly made in the interests of the employing class, was made just at the Christmas adjournment of the Parliament in 1934; but Mr. Latham, on representations made to him by the right honorable member for Yarra (Mr. Scullin), the honorable member for West Sydney (Mr. Beasley) and myself, agreed not to proceed with the bill to repeal the act and no further attempt has since been made to do so.
– The honorable member has exhausted his time.
.- I had no intention to participate in this debate and should not have done so but for certain remarks made by the honorable member for Batman (Mr. Brennan) this afternoon to which I feel I must reply.
May I first congratulate the mover and seconder of the motion for the adoption of the Address-in-Reply upon the excellent speeches which they delivered yesterday. My colleague, the honorable member for Richmond (Mr. Anthony), delivered a speech which was one of the best of its kind I have listened to in this Parliament. It must have appealed to honorable members of all parties.
The speech delivered this afternoon by the honorable member for Batman stirred in me emotions of an entirely different kind. The honorable gentleman appeared to constitute himself as an allegedly impartial judge of the motives and actions of Great Britain and Germany in the conduct of the war that is now in pro gress. He condescended to condemn Germany in that he said its actions had been worse than those of Great Britain, but the whole tenor of his remarks was in condemnation of Great Britain and Australia for their participation in the war. The honorable gentleman argued that war was utterly un-Christian, and that if we followed the teachings of Christianity we could not possibly engage in war. In my view, if Great Britain had not been a Christian nation it would not have been prepared to make the tremendous sacrifices which it is now making largely in the interests of the smaller and weaker nations. The honorable gentleman, while not prepared to make the statement that this was an imperialist war, was not prepared to deny it. He said so this afternoon. He was prepared to assert, and did assert, this afternoon that the war was being waged in defence of capitalism, and that capitalism was built on militarism. He said also that Britain would never give up militarism. Those were his words as nearly as I can recollect them. Is his memory so short, or is the memory of any honorable member in the House so short, as to forget the events of recent history? It is not very many years since we were all looking to the League of Nations as a possible means of settling international disputes without the dreadful arbitrament of war. No nation took a more prominent, or more sincere, part in an endeavour to make the League of Nations a success than did Great Britain. No nation stuck to the League with more tenacity, even after it had become discredited as a means of dealing with, the more powerful nations. Some time after the League was established a disarmament pact was agreed to at Washington, as the result of which the great nations consented tq, limit their armaments, and great capital ships were taken out into the deep waters of the ocean and sunk. I, as a member of a Government in power in Australia when His Majesty’s Australian Ship Australia was taken out and sunk, possess still a relic of that ship. The building programmes for battleships, cruisers, &c, were drastically curtailed by all of the powers who were signatories to the agreement. At least, they all agreed drastically to curtail their programmes. Sizes of ships were reduced and gun calibres were limited. Everything was tending in the direction of reduced armaments. Great Britain, under Prime Minister Ramsay MacDonald, and later under Mr. Baldwin, travelled along that path in an honest attempt to fulfil the great ideal of peace through disarmament, probably going further than any other country. Indeed, Great Britain travelled along that path until it placed itself and the rest of the Empire in absolute jeopardy because, while denuding itself of its defences, while reducing the number and size of its ships, and its fighting personnel, other nations were doing just the opposite. They were building up armaments, constructing warships, and adding to their trained man-power. It was not until Great Britain bad placed itself in a position of very great peril, indeed, that it awakened to a realization that a fresh threat was hanging over Europe. Even then Great Britain was very slow and very reluctant to reverse its disarmament policy. Had it not done so I tremble to think what might have happened to the British Commonwealth of Nation’s. It is possible that had not Great Britain disarmed at all there might have been no Abyssinian campaign, and no invasion of Albania. The recent history of Germany might have been entirely different. It is, however, idle to speculate on that. At least, whether we think it was right or wrong, wise or unwise, we can be proud of the fact that Great Britain did honorably try to carry out the disarmament pact to the fullest, extent. I say to the honorable member for Batman, who says that Great Britain never will give up militarism, that Great Britain most reluctantly bowed to the necessity to rearm. The honorable member spoke disparagingly of the claim of the British Prime Minister that in this war Great Britain and its ally, France, are fighting for the rights and liberties of small nations. He said that he knew of no international law to authorize Great Britain to engage in armed intervention on behalf of small nations without first receiving a request from those nations so to do. When did Great Britain ever intervene without receiving such a request? Take Finland, for instance. Finland sent out appeals to the whole world for help, and Great Britain, as we have since learned, was only too ready to answer the appeal if it were possible to get troops through Norway and Sweden. Does the honorable member suggest that Great Britain’s present intervention in Norway is unwanted by the people of that country? The honorable member referred to religious maxims, and to Christianity in a general way in connexion with this matter. Does he think that Britain should be content merely to pass by on the other side, as did the man of whom we read in the story of the Good Samaritan, or does he think that Great Britain should intervene as did the Good Samaritan. The honorable gentleman repeated what is, in effect, mere Nazi propaganda by blaming Great Britain’s laying of mines along the Norwegian coast as providing an excuse for the German invasion. Surely he does not believe that. Surely he knows that Germany has boastfully admitted that the landing took place many hours before the mines were sown.
This is a remarkable war in many respects. One such respect is the callous disregard of neutral rights involved in the extraordinary sinking of neutral shipping by Germany, amounting to a total approaching 500,000 tons. Another development of this war is the fine art of lying propaganda by Germany. Herr Hitler, long before the war, in his book Mein Kampf, referred to the value of propaganda. He said that the timid little lie was of little use for propaganda purposes. It was easily recognizable as a lie; it was easily contradicted. But, he said, a big, bold lie, without any foundation except that of a vivid imagination, was almost always believed, was generally successful and, even if it were afterwards contradicted, there remained in the mind of the hearer the feeling that the original lie was more likely to be true than the contradiction. The Nazis’ claim that the invasion of Norway was excused by Britain’s breach of international law reaches the high standard of mendacity recommended by Herr Hitler.
– I did not say that it excused the invasion.
– The honorable, member said that Great Britain gave the Nazis an excuse for the invasion by laying mines in Norwegian territorial waters. The honorable member also condemned Great Britain for a technical breach of Norwegian neutrality in connexion with the Altmark. As a legal man, he must surely know that international law rests mainly on usage, and is absolutely dependent for its continuance on mutual observance. Germany had bullied and terrorized Norway into inaction and acquiescence, so that Norway permitted the Altmark to pass through its territorial waters on the understanding that no prisoners were on board. “While Great Britain may have been guilty of a technical breach of international law, every dictate of that humanity about which the honorable gentleman has said so much demanded the release of the prisoners from that prison ship.
The honorable member also argued that now was the time to make an appeal for peace. He said that there were a dozen countries in Europe to whom this appeal could be entrusted. I remind him that there are only five countries which count in Europe: Great Britain, Prance, Germany, Italy and Russia. What hope would there be of bringing those five countries around a conference table to-day? With whom could we negotiate in an unrepentant and unregenerate Germany to-day, a Germany which teaches its school children that the last war started because Belgium invaded Germany, which says that Great Britain started this war, which refuses, under penalty of imprisonment or death, to allow it3 people to listen to broadcasts from other countries from which they might learn the truth? Is it any wonder that a large percentage of the people of Germany can bc induced to believe anything that the Nazi propaganda machine tells them to believe ? We, in this country, who enjoy freedom, find it difficult to believe that any intelligent people could long consent to remain in such thraldom. No ; we cannot make peace with a German government which has broken almost every pact it has made in recent years. As Mr. Chamberlain put it, Hitler gave his word to observe the Locarno Treaty; he broke it. He gave his word that he had no desire or intention to annex Austria; he broke it. He gave his word that he would not incorporate the Czechs in the Reich ; he did so. He gave his word after Munich that he had no further territorial demands; he:broke it. He gave his word that he wanted no Polish provinces; he broke it. He swore for years that he was the mortal enemy of Bolshevism, and he became its ally. I say that no nation wants peace more earnestly than do the people of the British Empire. No other British Prime Minister, in the course of all our history, ever went to such lengths as did the present British Prime Minister in his attempts to preserve peace. Honorable members will admit that. But Mr. Chamberlain to-day recognizes, as, I think, does every man and woman who lives in a practical world, and not in a world of dreams, that a patched-up peace with an unrepentant and undefeated Germany would be no lasting peace, but an armed truce during which the mad armaments race would go on as before. I regard the present ruler of Germany as a far greater menace to the peace of the world than ever Napoleon was. Even if we agree with the Leader of the Opposition that, every country has the right to choose its own form of government - and that is a reasonable proposition - it must be a government whose word and pledges have some value before we can make peace with it. Wo can put.no trust in the word of the present German Government. Herr Hitler said some time ago, in a statement to the then Nazi leader in Danzig, with whom he has since broken, that he was prepared to sign anything. He said that he would make a non-aggression pact with any one. lt was, he said, a simpleton’s idea to refrain from making such a pact simply because the day might come when it would have to be broken. That is his cynical idea of the value of pacts.
I believe that, in this war, we are fighting for. .the right of the individual to live his ;own life, to think his own thoughts, ito express his own views in his own way, no one daring to make him afraid. I believe that we are fighting for truth and good faith in international relations; for the right of all nations, great and small, to live their own national lives, and to retain their independence, civic liberties and religious institutions; for the right of all nations, great and small, to trade freely with one another and not under duress, to live in peace with one another, and not under the constant shadow of the fear of attack by more powerful neighbours. No country has ever had a better cause for engaging in war. I shall support the Government in every effort it may make to bring the struggle to a successful conclusion, and in passing the legislation foreshadowed in the Speech of His Excellency the Governor-General.
.- There is a disposition en the part of honorable gentlemen opposite to lecture members of the Opposition as to what their political policy should be in the present emergency, but no party has been more generous than the Labour party in giving to the Government that which is essential for the most efficient war effort possible. Every vote that has been sought by the Government to prepare this country to meet the emergency has had the support of honorable gentlemen on this side, and it ill-becomes honorable gentlemen opposite to give homilies as to where our duty lies.
– I criticized only one honorable member, the honorable member for Batman (Mr. Brennan).
– My protest concerns not only the honorable member for Gippsland (Mr. Paterson) but also amongst other honorable members, the honorable member for New England (Mr. Thompson) who devoted the whole of his time to a critical review of the Leader of the Opposition (Mr. Curtin). The honorable member for New England sought to give the impression that the Leader of the Opposition did not have a realist’s view of the present situation.
– That is right.
– The honorable member for New England admits that.I listened to the honorable member earnestly and patiently in the hope that he would give some indication of the Country party policy; but no, we are not to be enlightened in that direction; we are merely to be subjected to strictures from the cross benches. The honorable member for Barton (Mr. Lane) essayed to take the Opposition to task. I repeat for that honorable gentleman’s benefit that the Opposition has been extremely generous to this Government in assisting it in the war effort. We are all aware that this is the kind of thing that invariably occurs when an election is imminent. Incidents in recent weeks have been capitalized, exaggerated and magnified in order to create a political psychology favorable to the parties opposite. Those parties never win on their own merits. Any victories they have are due to their efforts to make it appear to the general community that in the Labour party there is a sinister design and an unwillingness to face the realities of nationhood. At the same time, honorable gentlemen opposite sit snugly in their places and condone exploitation and profiteering. Have we heard of one prosecution of those who are profiteering in this war ? Not one ! Until the end of this Government’s regime there will be no prosecution of those big business interests that to-day are unmercifully using this dire period as a means for improving their financial standing.
In the Governor-General’s Speech there is an indication that the Government intends to impose a wartime profits tax, I understand, to the extent of 60 per cent. If there be the necessity for that tax, there is sufficient proof that the community is being exploited. Yet, instead of taking 100 per cent. of the excess profits, the Government is prepared to take only 60 per cent., allowing the commercial interests to walk away with the other 40 per cent. That is how this Government is prepared to condone the activities of those people who would be willing, if they could get the licence, to go so far as to trade with the enemy in order to increase their wealth. When the people have had the opportunity to have the situation placed before them in an unbiased way and have weighed the respective policies of the Government and the Opposition, on each occasion they have registered a verdict in favour of the party to which I have the honour to belong. The people of Australia stand solidly behind the principles and the policy of the Australian Labour movement.
It was the Leaderof the Opposition who was the realist to-day when he directed attention to a grave menace to our own safety. I warn honorable gentlemen opposite that there will be a reckoning if they fail in their duty in this respect. This Commonwealth and its possessions are as important a part of the British Commonwealth as any other part, and our first obligation is to meet those conditions which are immediate to us. We should be false to the claims of this country if we failed to realize the significance and tremendous gravity of the situation which has been presented to us in the last two or three days. That being so, the, Labour movement has displayed foresight in saying that we shall conserve our manhood in order to protect our long coastline and wide expanses of territory. That is our first obligation. If we are to offer any further assistance to the Allies, over and above the immediate protection of this country, that must be to supply such materials and foodstuffs as we can to Britain and its Allies. As we heard today from a member of the House of Commons, Britain can supply itself with foodstuffs for only two days a week and relies on outside sources for the maintenance of its population on the other five days. Undoubtedly, therefore, the obligation cast upon this country, with its great resources of primary products and minerals, is to manufacture the essentials needed for Britain to carry on. That is our conception of things. Honorable gentlemen opposite, however, wish to be theatrical in their ideas of patriotism. Their policy never imperils themselves; it is on somebody else that they wish to cast the obligation of active service. But the professions made opposite are only consistent with what we have had from them on former occasions.
Some of the people who boast of being super-patriots support a government which has allowed into this country more foreigners than any other government has done. I am very suspicious about the bona fides of many of those people who have come into this country. I have good reason to fear that this Government has not protected us to the limit in permitting persons, who have not the best motives in seeking admission to this country, to settle here.
There are men on the advisory panels which this Government has set up who, in their business, do not help the country by their actions. Mr. Norman Myer is one of them. He and those associated with him in the conduct of Myer’s Em- porium in Adelaide have been guilty of sacking young men of from 18 to 23 years of age, and, when it has been indicated by a departmental head that it was possible for positions to be found for certain of them in the emporium, it has been said, “ Of course, but not this year “. In one particular case it affected a young man with five years’ service to this firm that certified to his capabilities and integrity. The significance of that is that this year certain of those young men will be called up for compulsory military training. It is the same thing with most of the big emporiums in Rundle-street, Adelaide. The excuse, of course, is that there is a re-organization of the staff. One young man applied to five or six different emporiums and at each he was asked, “ Do you come under the provisions of compulsory military training this year “ ? When he replied “ Yes “, he was told “ We are very sorry but we are unable to place you “. Such is the kind of patriotism we find. I have supplied the Prime Minister (Mr. Menzies) with particulars of one case in a theatre in Adelaide and, if the right honorable gentleman does not make an example of the proprietors of that theatre, he will be lacking in his sense of responsibility. The young man concerned in that case is undergoing military training at the moment. While he is undergoing training, he is told that on completion of such training the position which he formerly held will not be available to him. If the proprietors of that theatre are not prosecuted, I shall give the full facts in this House and expose the unpatriotic character of their action. The Government is not. willing to proceed against these people because they are its friends and supporters.
– If the facts are as the honorable member has stated, those people will be prosecuted.
– I have supplied the facts to the Prime Minister and told him that I expect the Government to make an example of such employers. I have not yet heard of the prosecution of an employer for such actions. Even in the Commonwealth Railways, the same thing is taking place. I have received from the Town Council of Port Augusta, a complaint that a young man nineteen years of age has been subjected to economic conscription. His case is one of many affecting young men between the ages of 18 and 23 years. Economic conscription is being applied to the sons of the workers, whereas the sons of the more wealthy section of the community, most of whom are undertaking professional studies, are able to obtain exemption. In these matters, the Government has something to answer for. Frequently, the persons who do these things are among those who parade their patriotism. From the homes of the workers come the majority of those who enlist in the Navy, the Army and the Air Force, and work in our munitions factories. Yet honorable members opposite cast aspersions upon the loyalty of this section of .the community. The time has come to acquaint the electors with the facts. The Prime Minister has told the people of Australia that they must be prepared for hardships and sacrifice, and a tightening of their belts. At the same time it boasts that its motto is, “Business as usual”. The patriotism of the community is being exploited by those who seek to make greater profits. Recently, in both the Adelaide Advertiser and the News, there were articles warning the people that greater sacrifices would have to be made by them; but on the financial pages of the same newspapers there were references to the buoyancy of the industrial market, reports of increased profits by various concerns, and of a firming of stocks. Generally, there was evidence of an upward trend in commercial and financial matters. During the twenty years I have been a member of this Parliament, I have taken particular notice of the methods adopted by the Tory parties to win elections. On each occasion they have adopted a slogan containing a few words. In 1925, a statement made by Tom “Walsh was capitalized -in their interests. So grave were the charges against Tom Walsh that his deportation was made an election issue. On almost every hoarding throughout Australia, this man was depicted jumping on the Union Jack. Such propaganda won for its sponsors the 1925 elections. Tom Walsh is no longer regarded as a menace; indeed, he has attained the honorable distinction of membership in the organization which supports the present Government.
– There is more joy in heaven over one sinner that repenteth than over ninety and nine just persons which need no repentance.
– That will not deceive the Australian people. A subsequent election was fought on the issue of the “ Red Menace “. The people were warned against socialism and bolshevism, and again they were deceived. Later the catchcry was ‘‘inflation “; and another election was won by the anti-Labour parties. Subsequently, a charge of “ isolation “ against the Labour party was used with good effect. Then followed “ repudiation.” It is easy to predict what the slogan at the next election will be. It is significant that the parties now forming the Government never win an election on their own policy, but always as the result of some form of sensationalism. It is time that their tactics were exposed.
The results of recent by-elections should give the Government food for thought. The Wakefield electorate, which had been held since federation by the Tory element, was won by Labour with a substantial majority. The death of the former Prime Minister (Mr. Lyons) left the Wilmot seat vacant. One would have thought that the influence of a government which had been led by the deceased gentleman would have ensured that his party’s nominee would receive the endorsement of the electors, but again the membership of the Labour party in this House was increased. The latest test took place in the Corio electorate. Notwithstanding a continuous barrage by the Melbourne metropolitan press, particularly in regard to war issues, and the malignity of the propaganda against the Labour party, the electors of Corio returned the Labour party’s nominee, Mr. Dedman. Thus, it is clear that both the wartime policy and the domestic policy of the Labour party are preferred by the Australian people to the policy of the Government. The Prime Minister was not sufficiently courageous to announce to the people of Corio, and to the nation as a whole, its more recent decision to send an army corps overseas. That decision was made on the Wednesday prior to the Corio by-election. On the Thursday night, the Prime Minister spoke at Geelong, but he did not say one word about it, because he was not prepared to submit the Government’s policy to the test. He left the announcement of it until the following week. I warn the Australian people that if they return the present Government at the next election, they must be prepared for an announcement that the Government has been given a mandate for doing many extraordinary things in pursuance of its war policy. I issue that warning with the greater emphasis because of the statement of the Prime Minister that, if he thought the situation demanded it, he would impose conscription if his Government secured a mandate at an election. Those who would impress the public mind should make it clear that the policy of the present Government fails to provide for their protection, and that only a Labour government will serve the best interests of the nation.
.- I have listened at considerable length to the apology of the honorable member for Hindmarsh (Mr. Makin) at the loss by the Labour party of all general elections, except one, held since 1914, and his apology in advance in respect of the anticipated loss of the next general elections, his party realizing that the people will not stand for the policy it has adopted in connexion with the defence of the Empire and co-operation with Great Britain in the prosecution of the present war. I accept that apology of the honorable gentleman because, by means of my association with the people of Queensland in particular, I am convinced that the attitude which the Labour party has adopted and is adopting towards this great struggle in which unfortunately we find ourselves involved is not acceptable to the country at large. The people resent the stand which the Labour party has taken, and ask that Australia be governed by a party which will go forward with the determination to stand with Great Britain in this fight. We have heard to-day and on previous occasions from the Leader of the Opposition (Mr. Curtin) that in no circumstances would the Labour party send men overseas to assist Great Britain in the fight in which it is engaged. At a recent by-election that party undertook to send reinforcements to support the Australian brigade which is now overseas. I submit that
Australia can throw its weight into the contest where it will be most effective only by lending assistance where the enemy has to be met. If Great Britain and our Allies were to go under, and a foreign power were to make an attack on our shores, we should be far too late to defend ourselves and would share the fate of Czechoslovakia, Poland, Austria, Finland and Denmark. All of those small nations have gone under, and we can oppose such forces as are to-day disrupting the world only by throwing the whole of our weight behind the rest of the Dominions, Great Britain and France, on the fronts where the enemy can be most effectively attacked. We hear honorable members opposite say that we are to-day behind Great Britain. Unfortunately, the policy which the Labour party has announced is that of being at least 13,000 miles behind Great Britain; that is, in Australia. That party is prepared to adopt the policy of a benevolent neutrality, and to cash in on those of our primary products which Great Britain is prepared to buy, at the highest price procurable, without doing anything to help in these terrible times. That the Labour party should adopt such an attitude is almost unbelievable. This is the only Labour party in the world that is not game to throw its weight behind Great Britain in the present fight. The Labour party in Great Britain is as loyal and as solid as any government to-day. This morning, members of this House and of the Senate listened to a speech by a representative of the Labour party in Great Britain, Mr. Grenfell, which must have stirred the blood of every one who heard it. If there is no reaction to that speech I shall be astonished. I looked for a reaction to it in the speeches delivered to-day by honorable members opposite. I am sure that in their hearts they wish to break away from their isolationist policy and from the extremists in their movement. I believe that the majority of them do not subscribe to the policy cf a benevolent neutrality which would not help Great Britain in any degree. The policy to which the Labour party in this House has given expression is one which, if adopted, I believe would let Great Britain down. Australia has enjoyed 1-50 years of freedom from attack. That freedom has been our privilege and oar birthright, because we have, been associated with and have been a»part of the British Empire, and have enjoyed the protection of the British navy. Without that protection we could not last a day, and if Great Britain should go down we, too, would go down in a very short time. Australia has been in the happy position of having always had this- protection. We cannot expect Great Britain to purchase and convoy our produce overseas if we ourselves do not play our part. Australia is the greatest prize in the world to-day. Where is there another country which has the big open spaces that we have? Where is there another country which has our resources? The very moment that Great Britain went ti own we should be subject to attack from every quarter. If the Labour party were allowed to carry out the policy to which it has given expression Great Britain would go under. Great Britain is protecting us from those nations that have designs upon us. The adoption of the policy of isolation and of “ Hands off Russia “ shows that the Labour party is riddled with communism, is moribund and is not worthy of the confidence of the people of Australia.
Parliament has been called together mainly for the purpose of appropriating money for the prosecution of the war, and I hope that we shall get on with that job very quickly.
I wish to say one or two words about the extraordinary and unhappy conditions that exist in the coal-mining industry. I appreciate the many difficulties that confront the coal-miners. I appreciate in equal degree the part that the Prime Minister has been playing, and that he proposes to play, in an endeavour to bring about peace in this industry. He proposes to-morrow to. address the coal-miners of Kurri Kurri, r This .speech will be broadcast to the -. whole of Australia. I hope that / they will listen to what he has to say, and, above all, that they will accept his advice. I take this opportunity to pay a tribute to the coal-miners of Queensland, about 60 per cent, of whom are in my electorate. These men have had the opportunity to express their view as to the action that should be taken. By an overwhelming majority they have declared emphatically that they do not wish to participate in this strike, in spite of the fact that the Communist leaders of the movement in New South Wales - Messrs. Orr and Nelson - went to Queensland and harangued the miners’ union. These men have my highest admiration and esteem for the noble stand they have made against extreme pressure. They appealed to the Arbitration Court for a 40-hour week, and it was granted to them. They asked for fourteen holidays annually - which, in my opinion, was for far too long denied them - and obtained them. The miners themselves have stated in the press and in conversation with me that the Communist leaders of the movement are responsible for the tragic struggle in which they are engaged to-day. 1 realize that the coal-mining industry is one of the most difficult in which men could be engaged. It bristles with difficulties, problems, accidents, sickness, and diseases such as tuberculosis and miners phthisis. I believe that these men should receive the highest wages and the best conditions that the industry can afford to provide. A 40-hour week is not too short. To-day, the wives and children of these men, as well as they themselves, are suffering because of the activities of the Communist influence in the movement. The Communists who are in control are doing their utmost to destroy the industry and to nullify Australia’s war effort.
This strike began as far back as 1937, when the first threat of war dropped like a bombshell on all of us. Mr. Orr, the general secretary of the Miners Federation, is reported to have then made the following statement to a southern newspaper : -
The vital question in this (1937) dispute was therefore not one of organization, but merely a strategic appreciation of the situation. We selected a time when war scares abroad had increased the coal trade. Everywhere there were shrieks for coal’ and more coal, steel and more steel, ships and move ships.
In 1938 the f ollowing statement appeared in the same southern -newspaper : -
The strike was planned and timed a year ago. Nothing could stop it. All the political parties, owner-miner conferences and temporary postponements of the last few months have been idle formalities. It is now springs - the miners, will not have to endure the rigors of a winter on strike relief. Coal stocks are running low. The defence programme is now at its height.
The Right Honorable W. M. Hughes, in a recent broadcast attacking the Communists, said -
Mr. Miles, the general secretary of the Communist party in Australia, recently said that should England become involved in a war against Russia, Australian Communists will side with Russia and will do everything in their power to guarantee her victory. When asked point-blank the meaning of “everything in their power “, Mr. Miles replied that the term could he considered as “ embracing all practical measures in a given situation.” . . .
Mr. J. T. Lang, reviewing the “ Hands off Russia “ movement in New South Wales, is reported to have made the following statement : -
We have been fighting for three years against the infiltration of communism in the Labour party. The citadel of Labour is now in the hands of the enemy. It is serving, not Australia, but a foreign policy, one that is an enemy of this country. We must re-take the fort, clean out the foreign policy and put in healthy Australianism. Until last Saturday thu Labour movement of New South Wales had a political movement. But on that day the agents of a foreign power took it from us. The question is not one of preventing the Communists from taking charge of the Labour party. They are in charge, and must be rooted out. Russia’s invasion of Finland and her grab in Poland form a menace which the Communist party represents not only to the Labour party but also to Australia. In flirting with the Communist party certain Labour people have allowed the Labour movement to become defiled. It is now our urgent duty to remove that strain.
Those are the observations of Mr. J. T. Lang. If any further evidence were needed of the infiltration of communism, it is provided by a motion passed a few days ago by the State Conference of the Australian Railways Union held in Sydney. One could continue to produce evidence to show that the Labour movement to-day, and the mining movement in particular, is in the hands of extreme Communists. In the interests of the coalminers of Australia, and particularly those of my own State, I trust that every effort will be made by this Government to see that the Communist party is not allowed to continue its subversive activities. Australia should be entitled to prosecute the war, and should do so, with the utmost vigor. The mining unions, and the miners themselves, desire the opportunity to carry on their normal vocations. By a substantial majority the miners in my own State, and in my own home town, have and against the Communists who, unfortunately, are at present in control of their movement. They desire the opportunity to work peaceably in their industry. Honorable members of this Parliamentshould, therefore, do everything in their power to enable the industry to be restored to its normal state.
We, in Australia, have prided ourselves in the past upon our industrial achievements. Our working conditions have been won principally through decisions of the arbitration courts. The Labour party has, itself, strongly supported arbitration, declared that they are against the strike We ought all, therefore, to see that this method of dealing with industrial disputes, and of improving industrial conditions, is preserved. But it is impossible to have a system of arbitration running concurrently with the right to strike. Provision exists in the law for an appeal from an award of a judge of the Arbitration Court to the Full Bench of the court. Those who disagree with the decisions of a judge in the court may obtain leave to appeal if they can advance any reasonable grounds in support of their request. Arbitration has meant so much to the workers of Australia that it should be preserved. The extremists in the Labour movement who favour the strike method in preference to arbitration should be prevented from dealing a foul blow to arbitration, and the workers should be given the opportunity to determine their own affairs.
The coal-miners in my electorate are known very intimately to me. They are a loyal body of men. I fought side by side with many coal-miners in the last war. Many of the younger men are now in the Australian Imperial Force, and an extraordinarily large number of them are to be found in the Militia. I regard the coal-mining community as being outstandingly loyal. These men do not favour the strike. They wish to play their full part in the war. They want to help the Empire. They are willing to do their utmost to produce the coal that is required to manufacture the steel and the other metals that are necessary for munitions and war equipment of various kinds. I repeat that these men resent the domination of their unions by extremists and they look to the members of this Parliament to do everything in their power to grant them the relief they are seeking. They do not wish their means of livelihood to be taken away from them, nor do they desire to be prevented from doing their part in the prosecution of the war.
– Have the coal-owners no guilt? Why pick the men every time?
– I am attacking the Communist leaders, and not the men. Tile men are not in favour of. what their Communist leaders are doing.
In the course of my speech to-night a number of interjections have been made about conscription. I wish here and now to nail down ‘ this conscriptionist lie. Again, and again, and again, the Prims Minister has said that it is our desire to secure an early peace and to end this terrible war which is threatening the whole structure of civilization. He has made it clear that the Government is willing to do everything in its power to prosecute the war to a successful issue, bur even to-day Communists, Pacifists, and some Labour leaders, are endeavouring to work the people into a state of hysteria about conscription. They are suggesting thai the Prime Minister intends to introduce conscription with the object of requiring every ablebodied man to render overseas service. The Prime Minister has denied, almost ad nauseam, that he has any intention of the kind. He has made it clear that any man who desires to proceed overseas to fight for the defence of this country and of, the Empire will be assisted to do so, but he must enlist of his own volition. Only the men who volunteer will be required to serve overseas. Those who volunteer will be trained and will be assisted to the theatre of war in which it is believed they may render the most effective service; but only volunteers will be called upon to go overseas. It is not the policy of this Government to introduce conscription for overseas service.
The Government has done an extraordinarily good job of work in having arranged for the sale of considerably more than £100,000,000 worth of our primary products overseas, but one section of our primary producers is suffering considerable anxiety. I refer to the producers of dairy products. The agreement with the British Government for the purchase of Australian dairy produce will expire on the 30th June next. The “goods that have been sold have returned to the producers a satisfactory price, and the agreement was not opposed in any way.
– Does the honorable member believe that the price was reasonable?
– The price evoked no protests ‘ from the producers and is not in dispute. Britain has had in force for some considerable time a restrictive policy in connexion with consumption of dairy produce. Until quite recently the ration was only 4 oz. of butter a week for each person. This has lately been increased to 8 oz., but the consumption of margarine in both Great Britain and Australia has reached such alarming proportions that the dairy producers are in grave anxiety concerning the position. In some quarters it has been suggested that butter has been rationed in order that large stocks may be conserved in Great Britain so that when consideration is being given to the renewal of the agreement it will be possible to oblige the producers to accept a lower price. I do not believe that this is so. Of course, the unfortunate position of Denmark has substantially eased the position for Australia. Until quite recently, the Danes sent 215,000 tons of butter a month to Great Britain. No doubt henceforth the Danish production of butter will be commandeered by Germany, and in due course the dairy stocks of that country will also be diverted to Germany. This will undoubtedly relieve the position in respect of Australia, and it will be a considerable time after the war before Denmark will be an active competitor against Australia in dairy products.
– Considerable quantities of dairy produce were also finding their way to Great Britain from the smaller Baltic countries.
– No doubt the Minister for Commerce (Mr. Archie Cameron) has in mind the supplies received from Estonia, Latvia, Lithuania and Finland. Holland is also a big producer of butter. The export of butter from these countries because of the difficulties of the war has also been substantially reduced. I hope that the Minister will take an early opportunity to make a more reassuring statement to the dairy producers of this country than he has hitherto beer able to make. I trust that steps will also be taken to deal effectively with what I am advised is an amazing growth in the sale of margarine in both Great Britain and Australia. The measures devised by the Australian Agricultural Council for the restriction of the sale of margarine for human consumption should be put into full operation. Appropriate legislation designed to that end should be introduced in this Parliament without delay and in all State Parliaments.
– It is not a matter with which this Parliament can deal.
– I appeal to the Minister to use his influence in the Australian Agricultural Council to urge the State governments to implement the decisions of the council in this connexion. I realize that the council cannot force the respective State governments to act, but this is a matter in respect of which cooperation, is required and I am appealing to the Minister to use his influence to secure that co-operation.
– The subject has been considered again and again by the Agricultural Council, but State legislation is necessary to give effect to the council’s decisions.
– I appeal to the Minister to urge the State representatives on the council to give effect to the decisions already reached at council meetings.
– Action is required by the State Parliaments.
– As the Australian Agricultural Council is a body constituted by the Commonwealth Government to endeavour to secure co-operation in these matters, it is surely not too much to expect that the Minister will use his influence to secure adherence to the council’s decision.
– The people of Australia have not entrusted this Parliament with sufficient power to deal with this subject.
– I appreciate the difficulty caused by the constitutional limitations of the Parliament, but I again ask the Minister to exercise every power he has to see that appropriate steps are taken to curtail the human consumption of margarine as imitation butter. I have no objection to margarine in its normal sphere but not as a competitor with butter. If the various States will cooperate, the situation can be effectively dealt with and the trouble largely overcome.
In conclusion, I appeal to the members of all parties in this House to rally around the Government and assist it to the fullest measure in the prosecution of the war. The Government is making a very noble effort in this connexion, and its activities should not be retarded by the observations of some honorable gentlemen opposite, and especially by persons with Communist tendencies and sympathies. I strongly appeal to the members of the Labour party to review their war policy and to abandon the moribund attitude which they have adopted. I urge them to follow the examples of the Labour parties of Great Britain and New Zealand and to take warning from the fate of the political party in Canada which was not fully behind the war efforts of the Canadian Government, and by reason of its attitude suffered almost total extinction as a political party. Unless the Australian Labour party takes notice of this warning it may suffer a similar fate.
Debate (on motion by Mr. Dedman) adjourned.
The following papers were presented : -
Advances to Settlers Act - Statement of cases in which Minister has varied terms and conditions of repayments of advances for purchase of wire and wire netting for quarter ended 31st December, 1939.
Nauru - Ordinance of 1939 - No. 11 - Lands.
Papua -Report for year 1938-39.
Switzerland - Legal Proceedings - Convention between United Kingdom and Swiss Federal Council (London, 3rd December. 1937).
Commonwealth Bank Act - Treasurer’s Statement of combined accounts of Commonwealth Bank and Commonwealth Savings Bank at 31st December, 1939, together with certificate of the Auditor-General.
Commonwealth Public Service Act - Appointments - Department -
Interior- W. J. Greenfield, J. M. Hall,
G. T. Rutherford, D. S. Wright.
Treasury - L. B. Brand.
Lands Acquisition Act - Land acquired for
Defence purposes - Lidcombe, New South Wales.
Nationality Act - Return for 1939.
The following answers to questions w ere circulated: -
In order to qualify for exemption from duty, is such matter required to conform to any standard of cultural or educational value? 4. (a) Has the Government considered the admission free of such matter in its relation to (i) Australian laws against dumping, and (ii) unfair competition with literary matter produced in Australia under award conditions;
Royal Commission on Monetary and Banking Systems.
What is the total cost of the report of the Royal Commission on Monetary and Banking systems?
Has the Government made any arrangements regarding the granting of small loans at a low rate of interest?
New Guinea: Salamaua-WauRoad.
Ship-building in Australia.
Will the Prime Minister state whether the Government has granted, or is granting, any assistance to the Broken Hill Proprietary Company Limited in connexion with the construction of ships at Whyalla? If so, what is the nature of this assistance?
The matter of ship-building in Australia is at present being considered. The Government has not so far approved of assistance to any project.
Oil from Shale.
Will lip. make available for the perusal of honorable members a list showing the names of those persons who were interned immediately following the outbreak of. war, those subsequently released, and those who ‘ are at present in internment.
House adjourned at 10.43 p.m.
Cite as: Australia, House of Representatives, Debates, 18 April 1940, viewed 22 October 2017, <http://historichansard.net/hofreps/1940/19400418_reps_15_163/>.