15th Parliament · 2nd Session
– In view of the difficulties experienced by importers in confining their imports to bi-monthly shipments and the consequent increased freight and other charges, will the Treasurer confer with the Minister for Trade and Customs with a view to increasing the period to six months in order to minimize the difficulties ?
-The subject-matter of the honorable member’s question is now under discussion, and some alleviation of the position may result.
– I desire to know whether, during this week-end, you, Mr. Speaker, will give consideration to the arrangement of seating accommodation in this chamber for the party consisting of what might be termed “ The Five Musketeers “ ?
– Yesterday the honorable member for Hunter (Mr.. James) referred to this matter, and I then said that some re-arrangement of seats might be desirable, and that I thought that could well he arranged without the intervention of the Speaker. The Standing Orders are definite on this subject; they provide that members shall be entitled to retain the seats occupied by them at the time when they take their seats for the- first time after election. Therefore, it will be seen that anything that I may do in this connexion must be done by arrangement with honorable member’s.
– Following a telephone communication which I had with Sydney this morning, I now ask the Minister for Supply and Development whether it is a fact that a contract for petrol for all government departments in Sydney, including defence establishments, was recently let to an independent distributor who refused to be coerced into joining with other petrol companies in maintaining a higher price against the Government?’ Will he also say whether it is a fact that this contractor has been impeded in fulfilling his contract by the action of Commonwealth Oil Refineries Limited, which is a semi-governmental institution, in refusing to permit the use of storage and pumping facilities at Victoria Barracks, Sydney, and other defence establishments?
– As to the first part of the honorable member’s question, it is true that recently a contract for the supply of departmental requirements of petrol in New South Wales was let to a new contractor, under conditions which represented a substantial saving to the Government. I regret to say that the allegation contained in the second part of the question is also true, but I understand that the difficulty has now been overcome. I want to say to the honorable member, and through him to the oil combine - and I use the term advisedly - that when this Government has to combat attempts to extort undue prices, particularly for war necessities, no consideration of size or influence will give to the people concerned any shelter or protection.
– Can the Minister for Supply and Development say whether the statement attributed to Dr. Woolnough that there is in Australia only about . 25 years’ supply of iron ore at the present rate of consumption is correct, and if not has he any comment to make? Has he received a report from Dr. Woolnough as to iron ore deposits in Australia?
– About a year or eighteen months ago a statement to the effect mentioned . by the honorable member was made. Various investigations have been carried out. since then, but no further report has been furnished.
– Press statements have appeared from time to time that Mr. Justice Evatt proposes to resign from the High Court bench in order to contest a federal seat as a candidate of the Australian Labour party. The latest report suggests West Sydney as the seat to be contested by him. To the best of my knowledge none of these statements has ever been categorically denied’ by Mr. Justice Evatt. I now ask the Prime Minister whether the Government has received any notice from Mr. Justice Evatt of his intention to resign from the High Court bench, and whether it is not an established tradition of the judiciary throughout the British Empire that its members refrain from any political activity or expression of political partiality? Will he say what action will be taken by the Government to bring to the notice of the learned judge advice that these repeated references to his political intentions and political leanings cannot fail to compromise the prestige of the High Court and its reputation for impartiality?
– The first reference That I have seen in any newspaper to the matter referred to hy the honorable member was in a newspaper this morning. I am bound to say that I regard it as very unfortunate that such statements should be made, and I can only assume that they have been made entirely without the approval of the learned judge, as they cannot be other than embarrassing to any gentleman occupying a judicial position. Offices of the judiciary, and especially the office of a justice of the High Court, are entirely non-political, and it is therefore most unfortunate that any section of the press should spread a rumour which must be embarrassing to the learned judge, because it imputes to him political activity while occupying a non-political post.
– Can the Minister for Commerce say whether it is a fact that at an agricultural conference held last Monday, he advocated the allocation of funds set aside for the repatriation of farmers from marginal lands to the various .States on the following basis- £200,000 to New South Wales, and £100,000 each to Victoria, South Australia and Western Australia ?
– I gave ro the members of the conference no indication of the way in which the £500,000 was likely to be distributed among the States. A decision in the matter will be made shortly, and when it is made it will be communicated to the States concerned and to this House.
– At the urgent request of persons who have sent letters to me and other honorable members, I now ask the Minister for Commerce whether if is a fact that his department has given permission for hide3 to be exported without restriction although the export of leather will be restricted? If so, will ho review the situation in view of the fact that the decision is disorganizing employment in the tanning and leather-dressing industry?
– I shall look into the matter and get -in touch with the honorable member.
– In the absence of the Postmaster-General, I ask the Prime Minister whether the Government W1 give consideration to the adoption of the practice of the British Post Office in drawing up a three years’ programme of major works, thus avoiding the present unsatisfactory system in operation here of having to wait for the passing of the Estimates and then endeavouring to rush work through before the end of the financial year?
– The trouble alluded to by the honorable member has been considered from time to time by this Government, and also previous governments. -I shall take the first opportunity to discuss the matter with my colleagues the Postmaster-General and the Treasurer.
Situation in Norway : Ministerial Statement.
– by leave - The House will recall that on Monday last I issued a brief appreciation of the military situation in Norway, based on the official information at that time available to the Government. In it I pointed .out that the campaign in Norway was being conducted by the Allies under serious preliminary disadvantages, and that, in consequence of their week’s start, the Germans had been able to establish themselves strongly at strategic points throughout southern Norway, and had, above all, been able to build up an overwhelming air superiority to the great prejudice of the efforts of the Allies to dislodge them.
Since the beginning of this week the Government has been in possession of information which pointed clearly to the contingency that, if these initial disadvantages could not be overcome, the Allies might be compelled, by the inescapable facts of the situation, to make some withdrawal from southern Norway. I understand, from wireless reports collected by my department this morning, that the withdrawal of Allied forces from the area south of Trondheim was, in fact, announced by Mr. Chamberlain in a statement to the House of Commons yesterday afternoon. The Government has not yet received officially the text of Mr. Chamberlain’s statement, but be is reported to have stated that it had been decided to abandon the attempt to take Trondheim from the south, and the Allied forces had consequently been withdrawn. The re-embarkation of the forces, he said, had been successfully carried out at Andalsnes, which was one of the ports at which the original Allied landings took place.
Mr. Chamberlain went on to explain that the Norwegian Government had refused the passage of Allied troops to go to the assistance of Finland. The Allied Governments thought that, in view of the apparent imminence of a German invasion, it would bc in their interest,’ as well as in the interest of Norway, that plans should be made to go to the assistance of Norway in the event of German aggression. The fears of the Allies proved to be justified for Germany did, in fact, invade Norway. Mr. Chamberlain then recapitulated events in Norway, adding that Germany had been able to reinforce its troops at a far greater rate than the Allies, and that German aerial attacks from bases in Norway had made the Allied task too difficult in such matters as landing artillery or tanks. It was believed that the casualties suffered by the Allies were not heavy in proportion to the scale of the fighting. He then pointed out that during these operations Germany had lost tie effective use of 2 capital ships, 4 cruisers, 11 destroyers, 5 submarines, 40 transports and store ships - a total of over 60 ships, as against losses by the Allies of 4 destroyers. 3 submarines, 1 sloop and sundry transports - 19 ships in all. This had enabled the redistribution of the British fleet by sending a battle fleet to the Mediterranean, thus bringing the Mediterranean naval force up to ite peacetime strength.
Mr. Chamberlain concluded by assuring the House that the British Government had no intention of allowing Norway to become a mere side-show, but the Government could not weaken ils defences at vital points.
The Allies can and will hold northern Norway. The German forces at present isolated at Narvik will now quickly be dealt with.
– Is it competent for the Minister for- External Affairs lo express an opinion as to the reason for the diversion of portion of the British navy from the Norwegian coast to the Mediterranean? Has the Government any advice beyond that published recently regarding the situation in the Mediterranean?
– The withdrawal of British troops from a certain point in southern Norway is dictated purely by military considerations which arose on the spot. The honorable member Wl recollect that in the statement that I have just made to the House I recounted Mr. Chamberlain as having said that the successful conclusion of a certain phase of naval operations, which were concerned with the Norwegian military events, has permitted the British Government to re-establish the Mediterranean fleet at peace strength. Nothing further than, that is to be deduced, from what lias occurred.
– I am now able u> inform honorable members that the Government has been officially advised of the withdrawal of- Allied troops from the area south of Trondheim. Honorable members will be happy to note that the official advice states that the operation was carried out systematically, and, apparently, without the knowledge of the enemy and without any losses being incurred.
– Is the Prime Minister able to make to the House a statement regarding the present position of the coal strike? Has the right honorable gentleman seen in the press this morning the statement that aggregate meetings of the coal-miners are to be held . next week, commencing on Tuesday ? Will the fact that these meeting.-: are to be held have any bearing upon the
Government’s plans for the taking of immediate action to re-open the coalmines ?
– The only information that I have in relation to the matter is such as I have gleaned from the press, and from those reports I conclude that t he decision to call aggregate meetings has been unaccompanied by any decision to make any recommendation to those aggregate meetings. Beyond saying that I. am not, at the moment, in a position to make a statement on the subject; but I anticipate that; I shall make one before the sitting of to-day has concluded.
Mr.BLAIN. - When the functions of the Town Council at Darwin were taken over by the Commonwealth administration, the old town hall - a stone building - was given temporarily to the Commonwealth Bank for its use, owing to the shortage of buildings at the time. The Commonwealth Bank is now building its own premises. Will the Minister representing the Minister for the Interior represent to that honorable gentleman the desirability, upon the completion of the bank’s premises, of returning to the people of Darwin the old town hall building, for use as a library and a tropical and marine museum, as the present library is housed in quarters that are unsuitable for that purpose?
– I can only say that the matter will be investigated.
ELPHIN Snowground Camp, Launceston.
– On the 26th Jannary, and again on the 1st March last, 1 wrote to the Minister for the Army requesting that an inquiry be held into allegations with respect to contracts for supplies to the Elphin showground camp, Launceston. I have since asked the honorable gentleman in this House for a reply to my representations. Is he yet in a position to furnish me with that reply?
– I very much regret the delay that has occurred, and shall see if it will be possible to obtain a reply for the honorable member to-day.
– Will the PostmasterGeneral state whether or not any action has been taken, or is intended, with a view to the adjustment of mail contract rates to compensate country mail contractors for the increased price they have had to pay for petrol since they undertook their contracts?
– There is in force an arrangement which enables mail contractors to apply for a revision of contract rates when the price of petrol is increased by3d. a. gallon.
– Will the Min ister for the Army request the municipalities throughout Australia to make available town halls and shire council offices for the dissemination of information regarding enlistment in the Australian Imperial Force and the Empire air scheme, and for the receipt of applications for enlistment at those centres? Were not town halls and such like used for this purpose during the last war?
– Consideration will be given to the suggestion contained in the first part of the honorable member’s question. I am not aware of what occurred in this connexion during the last war, but I shall make inquiries and furnish the honorable member with the information that I obtain.
– In view of the irregular running of ships between Tasmania and the mainland., and the alteration to a winter time-table, which causes hardship to be inflicted on business people in Hobart and Launceston by reason of the late delivery of second-class mail matter, will the Postmaster-General consider the advisability of granting permission for the carriage of this mail matter by air between the mainland and Tasmania ?
– I am not conversant with the details of this matter, but I shall go very carefully into them and later let the honorable member have a full reply.
– Have events in the Mediterranean strengthened the determination of the Minister for the Army to reinforce Australian troops on the Suez Canal and in the eastern theatre of war?
– No events have caused any alteration of the plans already announced by the Government.
– In what way can the Minister for Commerce reconcile the fact that Geelong, Ballarat and Albury have been granted licences for the disposal of hides and skins, whereas a similar licence has been refused in respect of Newcastle, which has to sell all of its hides and skins through a central selling agency in Sydney ?
– There appears to be some confusion in the mind of the honorable member as to what is happening at certain places. As soon as a decision has been made by the Government in regard to appraisement centres for both wool, and hides and skins, I shall deem it advisable to make a statement setting out which centres are being used for the appraisement of wool on the one hand and of hides and skins on the other hand.
– Is it correct that Lieutenant-General Blarney is the General Officer Commanding the Australian Imperial Force? If so, is ho still on service in Australia? In view of the possibility of the extension of active fighting in the Balkans and the Middle East, when is it proposed that he shall take over active office abroad?
– Lieutenant-General Blarney is the General Officer Commanding the 1st Australian Corps. He is at present in Australia. Portion of the Australian Corps is at present abroad. Lieutenant-General Blarney will shortly be proceeding overseas.
Laverton and Point Cook
– Can the Minister for Air inform honorable members as to what progress has been made in respect of the diversion of the roads and water mains at Point Cook and Laverton? If operations have been commenced, through what channels is the necessary labour being engaged?
– The honorable member asked me a question regarding this matter, and some other matters in connexion with Laverton, on the rising of the House at the end of last week. I obtained for him information on the other matters, but have not yet procured that which he desires in regard to roads. I shall obtain that for him as soon as possible.
– I ask the Minister for Repatriation whether or not it is a fact that plans have been finalized for the erection of a new repatriation hospital at Yaralla, Sydney? If so, is it intended to accommodate in that institution all of the sick and incapacitated ex-service men in New South Wales?
– It is true that a hospital will be built on the Yaralla site. Plans in respect of it have not yet been completed. As far as possible, repatriation patients and service patients will be treated in that hospital. It will not be possible for some little time to evacuate entirely other hospitals that are now used for this purpose.
– In view of the intention to build a repatriation and defence hospital on the Yaralla site, will the Minister for Repatriation inform the House as to whether or not the Prince of Wales Hospital, Randwick, will be evacuated? If so, is it the intention of the department to see that an out-patients’ department is established within the confines of the City of Sydney?
– As I have indicated in the answer that I have already given to a question on this subject, the Prince of Wales Hospital at Randwick will not be evacuated immediately because it is not considered that the number of beds to be provided in the new institution will enable that to be done. Full consideration will be given to the suggestion made in the latter part of the honorable member’s question.
– Is it not a fact that the difficulties which prevented extensions being made to the Randwick Repatriation Hospital arose from the fact that the land required for such extensions belonged to the State Government of New South Wales? Is it a fact that the site selected for the erection of the new repatriation hospital at Yaralla is also owned by the State Government of New South Wales, and, consequently, will not similar difficulties arise?
– Over a period of years some difficulty has been experienced with regard to the tenure of land on which the repatriation hospital at Randwick stands. After careful consideration, the Government came to the conclusion that it was desirable to erect the new repatriation hospital on the site at Yaralla. I assure him that we do not anticipate any insuperable difficulties arising in connexion with the tenure of that land.
– Was the site at Yaralla chosen because the Commonwealth authorities were unable to come to terms with the State Government regarding the tenure of the land at Randwick or because it, was deemed to be more suitable?
– The site at Yaralla was deemed to bc more suitable.
– Was the site at Yaralla selected on the advice of the Defence Department in opposition to that of the Repatriation Commission? If bo, has the. commission reconciled itself to this decision?
– It was selected after consideration had been given to the views of all departments concerned, including the Department of the Army and the Department of Repatriation.
Motion (by Mr. Menzies) agreed to -
That the House, -at its rising, adjourn until Wednesday next nt 3 p.m.
– Will the Minister for Commerce table on the next sitting day a transcript’ of the remarks that he addressed ‘last week to the conference of State Ministers of Agriculture?
– If these remarks are of any interest to the Leader of the Opposition, I shall be only too happy to let him have a transcript of them.
– Is the Minister representing the Minister for Trade and Customs able to tell me why the Government has decided to refer to the Tariff Board for inquiry and report the whole circumstances of the tobacco industry, seeing that so many previous inquiries have been held into the same subject ? Has any time limit been fixed upon the Tariff Board’s inquiry ? Is it intended by the Government to pitt American tobacco on the list of rationed commodities from nonsterling countries before the inquiry of the Tariff Board has been completed?
– I shall convey the honorable member’s question to the Minister for Trade and Customs to see whether an answer can be supplied to it.
– Will the Minister for External Affairs inform me whether he has received any information from the Consul-General for Italy to the effect that, during the present war, announcements of Italian foreign policy will be entrusted entirely to German propaganda Ministers?
– I have received a considerable amount of correspondence, and also a number of press cuttings, from a friend of mine in Rabaul, which reveal much uncertainty about the volcanological position there. Fears are entertained for the safety of the people. Is the Minister in charge of External Territories able to inform me of the exact position? Has he seen any reports of the kind to which 1 have referred? In any case, I shall hand to him the press cuttings that have reached me.
– I have seen certain press statements on this subject. I receive the volcanological reports weekly, and I study them carefully. I also made an. examination of the reports last night, and I am able to inform the honorable member that there is no reason for any abnormal apprehension on the part of the people living in the vicinity of the volcanic country near Rabaul.
– I ask the Minister representing the Minister for the Interior whether he will obtain for me a statement showing the number of special liquor permits granted to each hotel licensee in Canberra from January, 1939, to March, 1940, the number granted in each month of that period, and the reasons for granting them ?
– I have not the information at hand, but I shall see whether it can be obtained for the honorable member.
– Is the Minister for Commerce yet able to ma.ke a definite statement of the Government’s intention in regard to the stabilization of the wheatindustry, and can the honorable gentleman say when the next advance is likely to be made to the wheat-growers?
– by leave - I feel it necessary to sound a warning to wheat-growers not to be over-optimistic in their wheat sowings this year. I base this warning on my knowledge of the marketing and shipping difficulties. The pre-war difficulties of the wheat industry are well known. Despite consistent government assistance over a number of years, the position of the industry last year was such that wheat-growers’ organizations asked the Commonwealth Government to stabilize the. price of .wheat on a permanent basis. The efforts of the Commonwealth Government to evolve a plan for stabilization of production and prices failed because some State governments were not prepared to control acreage.
Since the outbreak of the war, the price of wheat has risen considerably, but there are two difficult features in our present position. First, we shall have a large carry-over of unsold wheat when the next harvest comes in and, secondly, much of the wheat sold for overseas shipment will still be in Australia at the end of the vear.
The position can best be expounded by reference to the activities of the Australian Wheat Board in relation to the 1939-40 harvest;, that is, the No. 2 pool. Up to date, the board has received from growers a total of 195,210,000 bushels of wheat. If we add an estimated 300,000 bushels remaining to be delivered, and 20,000,000 bushels estimated as having been retained by growers on their farms for their own seed and feed purposes, the 1939-40 crop would total about 215,250,000 bushels. This is the largest crop that has ever been harvested in the. Commonwealth. The previous record crops were 213,600,000 , bushels in 1930-3.1 and 213.900,000 bushels in 1932-33. The advances approved by the Government, of 2s. S-id. a bushel for bulk wheat and 2s. lOAd. a bushel for bagged wheat, less mil freight, have been made to growers against practically the whole of the deliveries. The total sum advanced amounts to £23,500,000. Rail freight from country to ports, handling charges, storage, and administration, are . additional. The total cash outlay of the board now exceeds £26,250,000. In contrast to this, the actual cash receipts to date total less than £5,000,000, including about £500,000 from flour tax collections. The present overdraft exceeds £21,000.000.
The sales to date total 104,800,000 bushels, made up as follows: -
The average price received from the sales is equivalent to 3s. 2¾d. a bushel bulk basis, less rail freight from, country to port. If the balance of the wheat held by the board were sold ‘at the current price, that is, equivalent to 3s. S£d. bulk basis, less rail freight, the average realization for the harvest would be approximately 3s. 6d. bulk basis, less rail freight from country to the port. That result would be dependent, of course; on the preservation, free from loss by weevil or mice or other infestation, of all wheat stocks, until the wheat is used in Australia, or actually exported overseas.
It is not practicable to forecast future export sales. The Wheat Board estimates that the domestic demand during the remainder of this year will absorb another 25,000,000 bushels. This, added to the actual sales, brings the total to approximately 180,000,000 bushels, leaving approximately 66,000,000 bushels to dispose of Overseas markets must yet be obtained for this 66,000,000 bushels at prices comparable to those operating to-day, if the beforementioned net return of 3s. 6d. bulk basis, less rail freight,is to be secured for the growers.
Let me now inform honorable members of the position in regard to shipping. I have already stated that sales to date, and the expected domestic demand for the remainder of the year, will total 130.000,000 bushels. Of that total quantity, 38,000,000 bushels is for local consumption for the remainder of the year and 92,000,000 bushels represents our overseas sales.
The overseas sales have, for the most part, been made on an f.o.b. basis, and ships have thus to be provided by the purchasers. But the Wheat Boardhas to take care of the stocks till they are lifted by the buyers, and, therefore, the losses by deterioration or infestation will fall on the pool. The actual overseas shipments to date of wheat and flour total only 14,500,000 bushels. Vessels have been chartered or booked for another 19,500,000 bushels, but vessels still have to he chartered or booked for 58,000,000 bushels sold tor future delivery.
Summed up, the stock position is as follows : -
The magnitude of. the shipping task which still lies ahead is thus apparent. The Wheat Board is energetically pursuing all. opportunities for further charters, and hopes to move a large percentage of the wheat still on its hands. Nevertheless, it seems not improbable that the stocks of wheat in Australia when the next harvest comes in will amount to 60,000,000 bushels. In. thus outlining the present position, I do not wish to discourage wheat-growers in regard to the future. I believe that the import requirements in some countries will increase next year, andthat the export surpluses of some exporting countries will decline. There is, however, by no means a world shortage of wheat, and there are no grounds for assuming that Australia will be able to sell, and ship overseas, whatever export surplus may be produced. The key to the situation is, not what wheat we can grow, but what wheat we can ship.
Even under the best possible conditions, an abnormal strain will be imposed next year on our wheat storage facilities. Wheat-farmers should realize the risks involved in producing a harvest too large to sell and ship. Most of them are aware of the losses which can result from weevil infestation or mice plagues. The danger of these disasters obviously increases when large stationary stocks of wheat are held for considerable periods of time.
In counselling prudenceand caution, I am not advising wheat-growers to leave their land idle. That, however, is not the only alternative to a wild rush to sow wheat for grain. I shall, therefore, mention a few points which farmers might consider, in their efforts to co-operate for their common good. First, I suggest that sowing on stubble land this year should be reduced to a minimum. This isnot generally regarded as good farm practice. Some growers might be tempted bya belief in future good prices to use this means of increasing their acreage.Ihope that they will not do so. Secondly, wheat-farmers should, wherever possible, increase the diversification of their pursuits. I cannot give a counsel ofperfection for all farmers, but if seems sound, wherever conditions are suitable. to increase their pastures and to carry more stock. That is sounder husbandry than the over-production of grain, the marketing of which will be difficult. Thirdly, farmers should prepare to cut a proportion of their wheat for hay. This is a prudent course for all. If is especially desirable for those who have less opportunity to devote portion of their farms to other avenues of production. At a later stage in the year the Government will consider whether a concerted effort can be made, in collaboration with the growers, to cut for hay a certain percentage of each farm acreage.
– Where could they sell the hay?
– It must be clear to any one who studies the position that the Government cannot guarantee a return for all wheat which farmers may care to produce, irrespective of whether it can be sold or not. Both the Government and the Australian Wheat Board, working under the Government’s directions, will continue to take every care in the custody of stocks of wheat held by them from time to time, and to exercise the utmost energy in the marketing and shipping of wheat and flour. It must be realized, however, that the shipping position is not under the Commonwealth Government’s control. All ships on the British register have been requisitioned by the Government of the United Kingdom and neutral tramp tonnage is under very heavy demands for many different uses. While doing all in its power for the industry, the Government will be in a position to distribute to the growers only the actual returns from the disposal of their wheat, less all expenses.
– Will the Minister for Commerce inform me whether we are to takethe warning he has uttered to thewheat-growers as an indication that, for the coming season, any restriction of the acreage under wheat is to be left entirely to’ the judgment of the individual farmers? Does the honorable gentleman’s statement also mean that the Government has no intention to apply, in conjunction with the State governments, any scheme for the compulsory restriction of the acreage under or the production of wheat?
– Most definitely my statement means that the question of restriction is left to the individual farmer. Constitutionally, the Commonwealth has no power to impose restriction, and, so far, the States have given no indication that they have any desire to impose restriction themselves.
– I understand that apprentices in certain trades are exempt from military training. Is the Minister for the Army aware that in the Newcastle district instructions have been issued to young men who have only three months of their apprenticeship period of five years to complete to enter camp this week, and that these men have been already medically examined? Does he not consider that grave hardship will be imposed on these men if their studies are interrupted in this way at so late a stage in their apprenticeship training?
– The honorable member, I think, refers to apprentice fitters and turners in the iron trade. These are included in the list of reserved occupations under the national security general regulations, and are, therefore, exempt from military training. From the cases which the honorable memberhas brought under my notice, it appears that in two instances individuals have been called up in error to attend camp. I shall take steps to remedy those errors.
– Has the attention of the Minister for the Army been drawn to the number of motor accidents which have occurred since the outbreak of war, involving loss of life and injuries among trainees attending military camps? Can he inform the House whether such accidents were attributable in any way to the excessive consumption of alcohol outside the camps? If this be so, does he not think that the time has arrived when wet canteens should be established in the various camps in order to ensure some degree of supervision in regard to the sale of alcoholic liquor to trainees?
– To my knowledge, none of the accidents referred to by the honorable member was directly attributable to the excessive consumption of alcohol. The latter part of the honorable member’s question involves Government policy and, as I indicated yesterday to the honorable member for Newcastle in respect of a similar question, it is not customary to give answers on such matters to questions without notice.
– In view of the fact that a southern contractor who has almost completed £700,000 worth of work in Darwin, including the erection of the Royal Australian Air Force and Larrakia barracks^ was”, according to a press report, recently in Canberra investigating the proposed housing scheme for Darwin, can the Minister representing the Minister for the Interior say whether that man was sent to Canberra by the Administrator of the Northern Territory, or whether his visit was part of a deliberate attempt by him- to undermine the work of senior officers in Darwin in devising a. housing scheme?
– I shall look into the matter raised by the honorable member.
– I ask the Minister for Commerce whether the Government will be able to make a pronouncement next week regarding plans for the stabilization of the wheat industry, and whether any further advance can be made? Has he forgotten that a long while ago the Prime Minister announced that he was prepared to assist the States in their efforts to stabilize the industry? Has the Agricultural Council, which has been meeting in Canberra recently at great expense, been able to offer any advice te the Minister with regard to the stabilization of the industry?
– The honorable member will recall that an attempt which the Commonwealth Government made last August to stabilize the industry broke down because of the opposition of the State pf Victoria. At the moment I have no stabilization pro posals before me. Should the States put up any such proposals they will he given consideration.
– Some time agc I asked whether it was a fact that last August a plan submitted by the Commonwealth to the States collapsed because the States would not agree to it, and at that time the Commonwealth had no power to give effect adequately to its plan without the consent of the States. Is it a fact that now, regardless of what one or any number of the States, may say, the Commonwealth, under the National Security Act, possesses adequate powers- to produce and give effect to any plan which it deems advisable for the stabilization of the wheat industry?
– And such- a plan would terminate as soon as the war ends. That does not sound like permanent stabilization.
– How is it that the Commonwealth has power to prohibit any number of. persons from producing motor cars, but, apparently, has no power to restrict any persons in the production of wheat?
– In the past plans for the stabilization of the wheat industry have been discussed on the basis that it was desirable to get some permanent scheme. A scheme that can be carried o» m$y for the duration of the war can hardly be regarded as permanent, and to use1 war powers for something designed to be permanent is, therefore, quite inappropriate. I also point out to the Leader of the Opposition that the wheat industry is already under special control during the period of the war by reason ‘of the acquisition of the crop from time to time and the setting up of ‘ the Australian Wheat Board. Consequently, we have what is in effect a compulsory system for the duration of the war. But the kind of stabilization scheme .’ which I imagine the honorable member lias in mind, was not a special wartime pool, but a scheme which .presented permanent characteristics. No scheme of ^”permanent character independent of a state of war can validly be set up by the Co,mmonwealth without , the co-operation .pf the States. ‘ , ,~ ;’?
Debate resumed from the 2nd May (vide page 522), 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 Youn Excellency:
We, the House of Representatives of the Parliament of the Commonwealth of Australia, in Parliament assembled, desire to express our loyalty to our Most Gracious Sovereign, and to thank Your Excellency for the Speech which you have been pleased to address to Parliament.
.- Although honorable members on this side support the motion, the GovernorGeneral’s Speech reminds me of the menu which many workers in Australia to-day are obliged to accept - there is very little” meat in it. Although we are at war and should give every attention to our war effort, we should, at the same time, ensure the well-being of our people at home. Some definite plan should be evolved for this purpose. I am appalled by the fact that no mention is made in the Governor-General’s Speech of any such plan. No indication is given in the speech as to what steps the Government -proposes to take in order to meet, the rising cost of living, particularly as it affects invalid and old-age pensioners, widows and orphans and others who are 11 OW in destitute circumstances. Honor- h bie members opposite might argue that, when the country is at war, the Government cannot be expected to find time to attend to such measures. Several honorable members opposite, however, have referred to the activities of the Government; of New Zealand and have suggested that the Labour party in this House should follow the example of that Government, particularly its war policy, f emphasize .that, while the Government of New Zealand is prosecuting its war effort .in a vigorous manner, it has not, a)t the same time, neglected the .social welfare- of its people. Many millions of pounds are being expended in the dominion during this rar period to secure social security for i”ia people, and Australia also should do something along those lines.
No mention is made in the GovernorGeneral’s Speech of the vital need for an extension of technical education. A conference of directors of education took place recently in Tasmania, but I have heard no report of any concrete proposal in that regard by the Commonwealth Government. In view of the fact that the State governments have almost reached the end of their financial resources, the Government of the Commonwealth should take an active interest in this matter. Even in Canberra one finds that the buildings and equipment used for technical education are a disgrace to the capital. A few months ago T was given to understand th’at, in some instances, youths were .being trained under dangerous conditions, and I presume that those conditions have not been altered in the meantime.
This debate has developed into one of criticism and replies to criticism. The Opposition has given the Government its co-operation in regard to the conduct of the war, and its policy in that respect differs from that of the Government only in two or three principles. The Minister for Information (Sir Henry Gullet) made a bitter attack on the Opposition becauseof what he termed its lack of a war policy. One question on which the Labour party differs from the Government is that of the necessity for despatching Australian troops overseas. Our policy in that regard. has been made clear, time after time, by our Leader in this House. We say that, in present circumstances, our first duty is to defend Australia against possible aggression. ‘ Honorable members opposite are entitled to their own opinions, and members of the Opposition have every right to differ from them ; but, when the Government and its supporters impute unworthy motives to the Opposition, their action is not conducive to unity of purpose in this great crisis. During the last week or so, a position has developed in the Pacific that, to a certain degree, justifies the attitude of the Labour party on the subject of Australian defence. We may have our own defence problems to face before this war is over. According to the Sydney Daily Telegraph of the 19th
April, the Governor of New South Wales, Lord Wakehurst, recently made this observation -
We are -many miles from tlie centre of European chaos, but we must not think that such things cun never happen here.
– Is the honorable member in favour of compulsory military training?
– I thank the honorable member for that interjection. One of the main arguments used by honorable members opposite in favour of that principle is that it means equality of sacrifice for all citizens; but, on examining the position, we find that under the present’ administration many exemptions from training are provided. If a man resides five miles from a training centre, he may- be exempted, but if he lives only four and three-quarter miles distant, he is compelled to train. In the Commonwealth Gazette, pages are devoted to lists of exempt industries, and an analysis shows that anybody who has a decent job is exempt from training, whilst the man who is on a low wage, or has no executive position, is not exempt. If the Government regards that as equality of sacrifice, my views in opposition to compulsory military training arc confirmed.
A subject which I approach with some diffidence is the position in the coalmining industry. The present industrial dislocation is a calamity for Australia. I arn one of those who have done everything possible to prevent the present dispute, yet the appalling fact remains that there is a strike. in one of our major industries. I am not here to take the part of the coal-minors, but I am convinced that the whole of the fault does not lie with the miners. In the opinion of the president of the T asm n nian Coal-miners Federation, who is certainly not a Communist, the mine-owners are not observing the award of the court, as far as the minimum wage and the conditions of shift men are concerned. I realize that the miners must accept their share of the responsibility for keeping the mines in operation at the present time, but the owners also must do their part to bring about a resumption of activities. The Government also has failed to play a serious part in this regard. Had it taken a proper stand at an early stage of the dispute, work could have been resumed many weeks ago.
The statement is being made in the country that the Government is using its position for the purpose of political propaganda. I hope that that charge is not well founded. A week or two ago, the Prime Minister (Mr. Menzies) announced that he would meet the miners on the coal-fields to have a talk with them, man to man. He proposed to have his remarks broadcast over the national network, but he would not allow the miners’ representatives to reply to him through that medium. I do not suggest that a debate was justified in the circumstances, but I do say that the Prime Minister should not have arranged to broadcast his own address, refusing a similar privilege to the representatives of the miners. Had he desired to broadcast his views on the matter he could ha.ve done so from Canberra. When he reached the coal-fields, the miners did exactly what might ha-ve been expected of them. They took action to prevent the right honorable gentleman from broadcasting his remarks.
– He was not invited to address the miners; he crashed in.
– He stated that he was determined to have a heart-to-heart talk with the miners, yet he had threatened to take certain action if no settlement of the dispute were reached. In the Sydney Daily Telegraph of the 19th April a statement from Canberra, presumably inspired by a Government spokesman, was published as follows: -
The only course then open to the Government was to assume control of the mines and invite loyal miners to resume work, possibly with the aid of free labour. The Government believes that the miners arc weakening and that decisive action of this kind would cause a collapse of the strike.
It cannot be said that the Government created an atmosphere likely to induce the miners to weaken, when threats were held out as to what it intended to do in the event, of the strike being continued. If the Prime Minister thought that hu could lecture the miners like a professor talking to his pupils, he made a great mistake.
The bogy of communism has been raised because the elections are approaching. The position in which the Government found itself after the Corio byelection gave it the idea that it would be advisable to rake up some such bogy. For some time the Australian Labour party has realized the menace of communism, and the degree to which it is capable of interfering with industrial development, which must be detrimental to the workers. I direct the attention of honorable members to the following report of the federal executive on the position in New SouthWales: -
The Federal Executive directs attention to the declaration of April, 1937, as confirmed by the Federal Conference of 1939 regarding the Communist Party. The declaration being as follows: -
The declaration which I am about to cite was made before the present trouble arose, and before it was suggested that the Government should restrict Communist activities. It reads -
The Australian Labour party hereby refuses affiliation to the Communist party, and dissociates itself from the policy, methods and propaganda of the Communist party and all its auxiliary organizations. It declares the Communist party to be an anti-Labour political organization. It declares, furthermore, that the Communist party is in direct conflict with the policy, platform and constitution of the Australian Labour party.
That declaration, which was made in 1937, shows clearly the attitude of the Australian Labour party to communism. As a matter of fact, a Communist opposed the Labour party’s candidate at the recent Corio by-election. So far as I know, the Labourparty is the only political organization in Australia which definitely excludes Communists from membership. Honorable members opposite who endeavour to create the impression that they are the only ones who know anything concerning Communist activities in Australia, refrain from stating that the Australian Labour party has, on numerous occasions, clearly and definitely announced that Communists cannot be admitted to membership of the Labour party. It would appear that the Government now professes to admit that Communist influences are detrimental to Australia merely because general elections are approaching, and it now proposes to use this bogy for political pur poses. Before the outbreak of hostilities the Government contended that it had not the power to deal with the Communist element in our midst, but it cannot now hold that view because under the National Security Act it has supreme power to deal with communism in the most effective way. On one occasion the Prime Minister said that it was a matter of government policy, but, now that the elections are approaching, the whole subject will be ventilated and used by the Government in an endeavour to defeat its political opponents. Doubtless strenuous efforts will be made to mislead the electors, but they will know the way in which to act when the time arrives. If the Government considers that communism is a serious menace to Australia it should take the necessary action to deal with those who are known to have pronounced Communist tendencies. The Oppositionhas not the power and therefore the responsibility rests solely upon the Government. Reference was made in the Address-in-Reply to the suppression of communism and the Leader of the Opposition (Mr. Curtin) promised the support of the party which he leads in this chamber, consistent with the retention of the right of free speech.
– Which means nothing.
Mr.SPURR. - Perhaps it may not mean anything to the honorable member for Richmond (Mr. Anthony), who has not sufficient intelligence to understand what it does mean. The Government should take drastic action in this matter, but its policy is influenced by the fact that shortly an appeal is to be made to the people.
It was amusing to. notice the satisfaction displayed by honorable members opposite last night as they listened to the speeches concerning the Labour party in New South Wales, and, doubtless, much of the information which they gathered will he included in their election propaganda. The. following statement was issuedby the federal executive of the AustralianLabour party:-
Regarding the resolution on War and Defence carried at the Easter Conference of flip New South Wales Branch, and which has come to be identified as the “ Hands Off Russia “ resolution -
This resolution was presented to the Executive in the form of a recommen- dation, and definitely not as the accepted policy of the Labour Movement in New South Wales.
That was submitted as a recommendation - that is the only way in which it could be submitted - to the federal executive of the Australian Labour party. It is not within the province of any State conference of the Labour party to define the policy of the party in such matters. Some time ago the Tasmanian conference submitted a recommendation in favour of compulsory military training for home defence under certain conditions; but that recommendation could not be embodied in the policy of the party until agreed to by’ a majority of the delegates representing the Labour movement throughout Australia. The New South Wales conference has no authority to speak for the Australian Labour party, and all it could do was to recommend a certain policy to the federal conference. The statement continues -
Since it was merely a. recommendation, it was considered as such by the Federal Executive, and was unanimously rejected. that means that even the New .South Wales representatives must have voted against the motion for this branch was represented on the federal executive.
The statement continues -
An examination of the affairs of this -State discloses that the recommendation on War and Defence was carried by the Easter Conference not because the majority of the delegates present at the Easter Conference favoured the proposal, hut because a substantial number of delegates who favour certain influences in this State, which influences blatantly declared their opposition to alleged Communist influence, voted for the motion.
They did this, not because they wished to see it implemented, but for the deliberate purpose of embarrassing the Ne,0 South Wales State Executive
NO Communistic Influence
Regarding the daily Tress reference to alleged Communistic influence in the control of the New South Wales Executive, I say most definitely that the Federal Executive made a. most careful and painstaking inquiry, but failed to find any evidence that Communistic influence exercises any control in the Australian Labour party in New South Wales.
That is the report of the federal executive. Last night the honorable member for West ‘Sydney (Mr. Beasley) said that Communist influences had been exercised in some of the Stages, including’
Western Australia, Victoria and Tasmania, and that in those States the menace had been dealt with. As admitted by the honorable member, representatives of all the States are members of the federal executive in New South Wales, the president of which submitted the report previously referred to. The control of communism in New South Wales is a domestic matter. It is impossible to deal with an evil by running away from it, but that is what certain members of the part)’ representing New South Wales are doing. They were members of a party in this Parliament which has made a definite declaration against communism, and connected with an executive which has said that it could not -find any trace of Communist influence in New South Wales. They have now left the party and formed another party which they designate the Australian Labour party (non-Communist), although the Federal Labour party has declared against communism time and again. I believe that, a majority of the people in Tasmania who support the Labour party’s policy will be glad that these members have withdrawn from our movement. It was amusing to see the pleasure shown last night by honorable members opposite when they heard the speeches of those who have withdrawn their allegiance to our party. The galleries were filled to overflowing, and even the Prime Minister was present. Those honorable members from New South Wales have withdrawn from a party pledged to fight communism to form an anti-Communist party. Strong exception has been taken by members of the Australian Labour party to conscription for overseas service, but I believe that the action -which has been taken by some members on this side of the chamber will be’ instrumental in making it possible to bring about conscription. Their attitude will doubtless assist the Government tremendously at the next general elections, which will be the most vital ever fought in Australia, particularly so far as the workers are concerned. The policy of the party returned to power will involve” not only the part we are to play in the successful prosecution of the war, but also the economic reconstruction necessary after the conflict has terminated. It will bc tragic for the workers if a conservative government is in power during the post war period. I recall that the late Mr. Ogilvie, when Premier of Tasmania, made a statement, after a visit to Europe, in which he said that during his travels he was impressed by the beauty of a monument to the Apostles, including Judas Iscariot. When viewing it he said that his mind went back to Australia, and he recalled another Judas for whom no monument had been erected. There are now other Judases in the Labour movement for whom no monuments will be erected. The only monument to them, in history will be the contempt of the working class which will realize that these men have turned it down, not once, but twice. They will be remembered as Judases to the cause for which they were elected. The honorable gentlemen’ concerned have endeavoured to place their betrayal of the Labour party on a high standard by talking about “ supreme sacrifice “. The honorable member .for Dalley (Mr. Rosevear) made the pious .-statement that he was prepared to go out of political life for a principle, but the same honorable member was sitting on the fence for about fifteen days before deciding on which side he would fall. Now the honorable gentleman claims that he is standing up for a principle. I understand that what “he had to do was to meet his electoral council to ascertain what it had to say. The honorable member for West Sydney spoke about what the electors of West Sydney thought of the matter. The people of Australia will know more about what the electors of West Sydney think of the honorable member after the next federal elections. The Australian Labour party is one party with one voice and one policy. Sometimes we have been cast into the outer darkness because of some attitude that we have taken, but we have ,; 1Ways stood fast to our colours and have always been game to come back under the same name. I have yet to learn that it is the duty of any member of Parliament to mould his political opinions to coincide with those of any one ‘electorate. The Opposition is still 27 strong and solid. Those who have gone from our ranks would have gone sooner or later, and it is perhaps a good job that they have gone now.
Honorable members opposite were in great glee last night so they can have no objection to having their own activities over the last twelve months or so analysed. The Prime Minister resigned from the Lyons Government on the excuse that it would not bring the national insurance legislation into operation. [Leave to continue given.] Shortly after the death of Mr. Lyons the right honorable member for Kooyong was elected Leader of the United Australia party. What wonderful unity was shown at that party election ! Honorable members well recall the wild scramble for office that took place. When the Prime Minister took office did he remember the principle on which he had resigned from the previous Administration and bring the national insurance scheme into being? No! He compromised with the result that the national - insurance legislation is still in a “ pigeon hole. The Minister for Social Services- (Sir Frederick Stewart) said the other day that national insurance was still iri process of investigation. The Government will be investigating national insurance until well after the next elections. This lily-white government thinks that its sins are forgotten, but they are not. When the right honorable member for Kooyong was elected Leader of the United Australia party the then Leader of the Country party (Sir Earle Page) said that the right honorable gentleman was not worthy to hold the high office of Prime Minister, and would not join the Ministry. For months after that we had the Country party as a. corner party.
– And how they fought!
– Yos, how they fought! The right honorable member for Cowper resigned to make way for the honorable member for Barker (Mr. Archie Cameron). We well remember what the honorable member for Barker bacl to say about this GovernmentNevertheless, when it caine to a showdown on the wheat scheme and soldiers’ pay, the Country party, although’, with us. it could have outvoted the Government, chose to become the puppet of the Government. ‘ When the Labour party a few weeks ago further consolidated its position by having the honorable member ‘ for
Corio (Mr. Dedman) returned to this House, the Government was so appalled that negotiations with the Country party were re-opened with the result that a composite ministry was formed. The Minister for Commerce last night said that now was an occasion when we should have national unity with all parties pulling together. But what are the facts? Did the United Australia party and the Country party pull together? No; the coalition was attended by barter and struggle. That is their patriotism - patriotism for high office. If the Country party were kicked out of the Ministry to-day its members would immediately take up their old stand.
The Government takes up the attitude that, even if this party were returned to power, it would not be competent to govern the country. “What of the incompetence and bungling that have marked this Government’s every move? I cite the wool, wheat, and apple and pear acquisition schemes. The schemes are all right, but the administration is rotten ; yet honorable members opposite are thos*’ who claim that Labour is not coin poten t to govern. I leave it to honorable members to form their own judgment on what the people of Australia think about that kind of propaganda. I have done my duty in directing attention to the scramble for paying positions which brought members of the Country party over to the treasury bench and sent some honorable members to the back benches.
.- I congratulate the mover, the honorable member for Wannon (Mr. Scholfield), and the seconder, the honorable member for Richmond (Mr. Anthony), of the motion for the adoption of the AddressinReply to the Governor-General’s Speech. Their speeches were in accord with the dignity and importance of His Excellency’s Speech.
The statement of the Minister for f External’ Affairs (Mr. McEwen) made this morning shows that the Allies’ position in ‘ the war is not so reassuring as we would wish. This country, in common with the Motherland and all Empire countries, is passing through a time whir-h may well prove ro be the most critical in our history. To quote from the Governor-General’s Speech, “ the war forced upon the British and French peoples by flagrant international lawbreaking on the part of Germany shows no sign of a speedy ending “. It is true, as His Excellency said, that we are all confident of ultimate success; nevertheless, the situation is a grave one. I agree that it “ constitutes the gravest challenge to Christian civilization “. I would emphasize those words - “ Christian civilization “. We may and undoubtedly we do fall far short of what we ought to be. I have heard it said that it is impossible for us to live up to the teaching of the Sermon on the Mount. At the same time, with all our shortcomings, we are imbued with certain Christian principles. We have a code of ethics which we endeavour to observe, in our individual, our national and our international relations. If it were not for that, we should sink back into the dark ages and all would bc chaos ; there would he a death of all things that make life worth living.
Yet it is these principles which arc threatened to-day by a ruthless and formidable foe. Once again the Mad Dog of Europe has been let loose in all his savagery. In view, then, of the terrible danger that we are facing - a danger which we can only hope to meet and overcome by putting forth all the energy and power of which wc are capable - is it not remarkable that in such a time of crisis we have not been able to bring about that unity of thought and action which is so necessary to the proper conduct of the war?
This war is an “ all-in “ war, and vue . in. Australia should be all in - not some in, and some out, bickering and criticizing and putting obstacles in the way of the Government which is doing its best to carry the colossal burden that has been thrust upon it. We have a good idea of the national burden now that the honorable the Treasurer (Mr. Spender) has brought down his financial proposals; but I doubt if we fully realize what a tremendous burden lies upon the shoulders’ of the Government. How comes it, then, that, instead of offering to shoulder some of the hurden by joining in a national government, the Leader of the Opposition (Mr. Curtin) and his supporters prefer the role of critic andfault-finder? If there arc some things that merit criticism - and it would be astonishing if there were not, considering the magnitude of the task the Government has to face - why do they not show some willingness to take a share in the actual government of the country and help to correct those things with which they are only too willing to find fault? We must realize that there is an” enemy within the gates “ - within our own gates of the Commonwealth. I think that there is a new term for it now- the “Fifth Column”!
Yes, I am referring to the inroads that communism has made in this country by means of a most insidious campaign which the honorable member for West Sydney (Mr. Beasley) says has enabled it to gain control of some of the biggest industrial unions in the Commonwealth. We all know how these people work, and we all know what they aim at-nothing less than the overthrow of constitutional government; and, worse than that, theover throw of that Christian civilization of which I spoke a few minutes ago. “ Anti-God “, that is how they describe themselves; or, if they do not exactly proclaim themselves as opposed to the teachings of Christianity in this country, their actions speak louder than their words. However they may try to disguise themselves in Australia, we know that they take their orders from Moscow, and Moscow has left us in no doubt as to its anti -Christian sentiments.
Not only did His Excellency say that ho was disturbed at such a time as this to note that many thousands of our workmen had gone on strike against decisions made by the Court of Conciliation and Arbitration, but he also referred to “the subversive activities of a relatively small but intensely active body of Communists in Australia”, and said that the Government could not tolerate activities directed towards the defeat of this country in the war in which it is engaged. The Government is to be commended for the action it has taken to suppress these activities.
One speaker professed to believe that communism was being made a bogy in Australia, and the honorable member for Wimmera (Mr. Wilson) seemed to be of the same opinion. I feel sure that those honorable members must live in districts where there are no Communist bodies. There can be no doubt that communism has taken a strong hold in New South Wales. One ofour troubles is that we have too many Rip Van Winkles in Australia, who are still asleep to the fact that communism has made its influence felt in some of the most important industrial organizations in the country.
– The Government, which the honorable member supports, seems to be one of them.
– I have yet to learn that honorable members opposite are giving the Government any encouragement to suppress the activities of the Communists. I have recently received numerous letters from persons of good repute supplying me with particulars of Communist activities in Sydney and making certain allegations. Here is an extract from one of them -
A Communistic school was held every Sunday . . where children were instructed to desecrate the sacred Bible by tearing out leaves and spitting thereon.
The following is an extract from another letter
These statements were made at a meeting where Communists were present: - “ Russia will go with Germany and the British will get ab- hiding.” “ Anyhow,we would be better oft’ under the Nazis.” “What does it matter who wins the war?”
– Who wrote those letters?
– The position of the writers might be endangered if I were to disclose their names, but I can assure the right honorable member that the letters are authentic. The person who wrote this letter is prepared to swear an affidavit that it is true. I propose to hand all this correspondence’ to the AttorneyGeneral so that he may take what action he thinks necessary. It has been said that action against the Communists would only result in driving them underground. They have been working underground all the time - working, one might say, so successfully underground that they finally said to themselves that they might as well come out and work in the open, so easy-going and so supine was the attitude towards them. Well, we are relieved to know that, this is to be so no longer:
We are relieved to know that ‘their antiChristian, anti-social, anti-constitutional activities are to .be curbed, that their scurrilous newspapers and pamphlets are io bo dealt with as they deserve, and that we shall be able to breathe the fresh, pure air of a Christian country.
Bolshevism and nazi-ism are the enemies of civilization. Hitler is the world’s public enemy No. 1, and there can he no peace and no hope for the world until he has been defeated. His duplicity is a by-word. Have we forgotten what he told Mr. Chamberlain, the Prime Minister of Great Britain, when he professed that he had no territorial claims? Have we forgotten the wholesale murders in Czecho-Slovakia and Poland, and, latest of all, the rape of Denmark and the attempted rape of Norway? And what of unhappy Finland ? The hand may have been the hand of Stalin, but the voice was the voice of Hitler !
It may be that we are not at war with Russia, hut we must not forget that Germany has a pact with Russia, and is being supplied by that country with materials which arc of immense assistance in carrying on the Avar. In circumstances such as these, the “hands off .Russia” resolution, passed at the Easter conference of the Australian Labour party in New South Wales, was one of the most remarkable things that have ever occurred in Australia. The Labour party will not soon recover from its effect.
Et is true that the Leader of the Opposition was successful in having the resolution expunged from the minutes of the conference, but the fact remains that the conference adopted the resolution by 195 votes to 88 and at a later stage refused to rescind it.. Moreover, various branches of the Australian Labour party, electoral councils and regional assemblies have been carrying resolutions endorsing it. That “hands off Russia “ resolution stands as a damning indictment of the party. You may expunge a resolution from the minutes, but you cannot expunge the effect it has had upon a loyal and patriotic people.
We believe in free speech, but we do not believe in licentious, speech. There is a world of difference between freedom and licence. Australia has no place for god less, revolutionary creeds such as communism, which would, if it had its way, destroy religion and all of the institutions which we hold dear. When I hear of the Communist “ peace “ campaign, I refer honorable members to the Sydney Century of the 16th February, in which it is described as merely a. blind for propaganda in support of the brutal Soviet aggression in Finland and of the NaziSoviet pact.
In the speech which the honorable member for Batman (Mr. Brennan) delivered in this chamber last week he declared that Great Britain had no intention of destroying militarism. Has he no knowledge of world history since, the last war? If he had he would know how Great Britain has striven through the years to destroy militarism - how its statesmen, especially the Labour leader, Ramsay MacDonald, worked for - peace and disarmament. Indeed, it was because of these efforts, and its own example in leading the way, that Great Britain found itself so handicapped when Hitler made it clear that he was bent, not upon peace, but upon war. To overcome that handicap has been a herculean task, but it is being overcome, and it will be overcome.
The Royal Navy has come into- its own again. Once again Britannia rules the waves! The blockade is proving effective. A German authority, repeating Napoleon’s words, has said that undoubtedly the army “ marches on its stomach”; and it is unfortunate for Hitler that Great Britain controls Europe’s stomach. In this she- is- being valiantly assisted by France. Their combined navies are teaching Hitler what control of the seas means.
So far as our own effort is concerned, I should like to have some assurance that the leeway in regard to army equipment shortages has .been made up. There have been evidences of serious shortages iti certain directions, and the public want to know what the position is to-day.
I am pleased to know that, in. future, men presenting themselves for enlistment are to be thoroughly X-rayed and examined before being enrolled. There have been several cases of hardship in the case of men who have been- discharged as medically unfit after being , in . camp for sometime, and it is satisfactory to know that steps are being taken to prevent anything of that kind in the future.
I desire, in conclusion, to say a word or two about the import restrictions and the wool appraisement, scheme. The necessity for curtailing imports of luxuries and non-essential lines from non- sterling countries will not be questioned. Itis recognized that it is necessary to consorve the Empire’s pool of international exchange in order that we may finance the purchase of military supplies and essential raw materials for our industries; but care should be taken that the employment position is not impaired. Many manufacturing concerns rely on imported raw materials in order to produce the finished goods, and if such raw materials be restricted, employment is bound to be affected. The position of importers and the employment question must not be overlooked.
In regard to the wool appraisement scheme, it is apparent that there is a great deal of discontent among persons formerly employed in the wool trade. It appears that many cannot secure re- engagement, and that even returned men have been refused employment. Others, until recently employed, are now out of work. ‘The whole of this matter requires elucidation.
The Government is to he congratulated for the action which it has taken to combat the menace of communism. The Government can feel sure that in whatever steps it takes to suppress subversive activies in the community it will have the full support of the people of Australia.
Mr.HOLLOWAY (Melbourne Ports) [12.31]. -The Governor-General’s Speech was, as usual, a harmless document, hut whereas it is the practice of the Governor-General to give some indication of the Government’s legislative programme, on this occasion no such lead hasbeen given. The Speech omits to emphasize the principal matters which are worrying the people of Australia today, such as long-range planning to meet the slump which must inevitably take place at the conclusion of military or defence operations. No endeavour is made to tackle the problem in a practical way. TheSpeech, however, gives very great emphasis to a matter which I think is out of all proportion to its real importance in this time of emergency. The Government has taken hold of the cry against Communists and each successive speaker from the Government side of the chamber has laid more and more emphasis on this alleged danger. The party of which I am a member is 100 per cent, behind the Government in its legitimate efforts to play its part in the war. There is no need for me to emphasize that statement because our attitude is well known, at least to honorable members on this side of the House. If it were not for some honorable members who. unjustly and with loss of dignity, have reduced the status of the debate for their own political purposes,there would be no suggestions of doubt in the minds of honorable members as to where the Australian Labour party stands on that question. The Labour party is resolved that it will in the future do all that it can to co-operate with the Government in its defence scheme, hut honorable members on this side of the House retain the right to criticize - constructively I hope - to make suggestions, and perhaps to issue warningsas to where we think the danger lies in the adoption by’ this Government of methods which we consider to be wrong. The cry against communism has grown to almost hysterical proportions. I would not mind ifthe action taken by certain honorable members in this chamber, regrettable on the part of any Australian, was merely for their own political purposes. But I fear that the matter will not, end there and that the Government or its administrative officers, by interfering with the internal liberties of the people of Australia, will do more harm than good and actually increasediscord rather than stamp it out.
– Much of the credit is due to the then Assistant Minister for -Supply and Development (Mr. Holt), who, of course, acted with my concurrence.
– I give credit to whoever was responsible for the success of the negotiation. I know that officials of the Defence Department who handle agreements and awards, and meet the men employed in the workshops in order to Straighten out whatever difficulties which arise, have always followed the same conciliatory course whenever permitted so to do by the Minister in charge.
– Valuable work has been done in that respect by Mr. Murphy.
– Yes, great credit is due to Mr. Murphy, his colleague, Mr. Jensen, and others associated with them. That course should be continued. I do not know what has happened recently, but for some reason a Commonwealth police officer has intervened although, so far as T know, there is no disorder in the workshops. I am not aware of whether or not the Minister for Supply and
Development was informed of the action that was to be taken in this regard. .1 speak with some knowledge of what has taken place both in the Intelligence Branch and in the workshops, and I know that my views are also those of leading industrial officers. I say without fear of successful contradiction that Victoria is completely free of any suggestion of subversive activities or sabotage in the Commonwealth or private munitions workshops. There has never been the slightest suggestion that anything of this kind has taken place, is taking place, or is contemplated. I am sure that if the Minister, or even the Prime Minister himself, were to call for a report on this matter from intelligence officers in Victoria the answer would bc in accordance with my statement.
Further than that, it is definitely known that resentment is felt at some of the activities which are permitted, by the Commonwealth Government. For instance, much is said about possible disorders in munitions factories. Threatening statements are provocative and dangerous, tending to create an atmosphere which should not exist in this time of war. A serial broadcast story entitled The Enemy Within, recently on the air, was not only ridiculous but also insulting to some of the best citizens of this country. There are in Australia German families which have been established here for four or five generations - people whose sons fought for Australia in the last war or are undergoing military service now. Not only have ridiculous statements been made in this broadcast: definite places and characters have also been named, a procedure which is rarely followed by authors of novels. It is suggested, for instance, that aircraft have been blown up at the Commonwealth Aircraft Corporation’s factory at Fisherman’”; Bend by crude home-made bombs, and that munitions workshops at Broken Hill and in other parts of New South Wales have been treated in the same way. No such incidents have occurred, and in all probability never will occur, hut there is grave danger in instilling such insidious propaganda into the minds of the Australian people. In every country there are large numbers of fanatics who are not necessarily members of the Communist movement. There are many individuals - no doubt some of them are employed in munitions workshops - who have kinks and as a result do things which ,’are certainly not in the best interests of the country. There was an illustration of this recently when a man who is reputed to have been responsible for an attack on the King of England recently, came to Australia and by a strange set of circumstances secured employment in a Victorian munitions workshop. He was employed in the acid department where he had access to many substances which could have been utilized in dangerous ways had he been so inclined. Although the man had certainly developed fanatical ideas he did not actually cause any trouble in the workshop, but while off duty he shot two men at St. Kilda without any provocation whatsoever. Apparently he was overtaken ;by an uncontrollable fit of some kind. How such a character ever secured employment in a Commonwealth munitions establishment I do not know, because every man who applies for a job in the Commonwealth factories has his record checked up by officers of the Intelligence Department before he is employed. I do not know whether or not that system was in operation at the beginning of the war, but it certainly was in operation some years ago and is in operation now. As the result of inquiries which I made I was pleased to learn from the authorities concerned that no man whom I had recommended for employment - I have recommended many hundreds - had brought discredit upon me or upon himself. I am sure that the nian to whom I have referred was not recommended for a job by a member of the Labour party, f understand that he was. associated with some well-known and wealthy people. The propaganda contained in the serial Tha Enemy ‘Within was of the very worst type, because it tended to instil into the minds of people lacking mental balance subversive ideas of a dangerous type, yet the Government took no action to suppress this broadcast. Characters in the story are alleged to belong to the Fifth Column which is not necessarily a Communist organization. The honorable member for “Watson (Mr. Jennings) has this matter all wrong.
– I referred to the socalled Fifth Column in Australia. They are on the same road.
– In anti-Nazi countries the Fifth Column numbers among its ranks highly educated people such as university students, doctors, dentists, school-teachers, and professors. They are not Communists, because they are working in the interests of Germany which is definitely antiCommunist.
Sitting suspended from 12.40 to 2.15 p.m.
– This morning I received telephone calls from representatives of the Amalgamated Engineering Union asking that an inquiry be held into the dismissal of two men from the munitions works at Maribyrnong, Victoria, because they were suspected of being members of the Communist party. Nobody can tell whether .that charge can be proved or not. Men cannot read each other’s minds. My own belief is that the two men in question are not members of the Communist party.
– Will the honorable member be satisfied if proof be given to him that the two men concerned belong to the Communist organization ?
– I would say that there was more justification for the action that has been taken. I believe that the men are not members of the Communist party. I base this belief on information which I received from Melbourne this morning, and because of my knowledge that only a small percentage of Australians are Communists. Thousands of men and women in all walks of life study the Communist party’s literature, including the literature of the Left Book Club. I venture to say that there is not a member of this House who has not read Left Book Club publications, which state the modern view of political developments and, therefore, are widely read throughout the world. But it does not necessarily follow that people who read such literature and study the philosophy of communism are members of the Communist party.
– These men were not dealt with because of their literary tastes, but because they were avowed members of the Communist organization. Any other men classified in the same group will go the same way.
– If that is so, it puts a different aspect on the matter.
– Has the honorable member spoken to the two men in question?
– I have spoken to the organizer of the Engineering Union. He informed me that he knew nothing about the matter before the men were dismissed. He also told me that one of the men had been employed as a leading hand in the aircraft factory at Fisherman’s Bend and had. been promoted there because of his efficiency ; but owing to Some quarrel that arose, not about the Communist party, he was transferred to the munitions factory, where he displayed equal efficiency. Suddenly he was dismissed, following advice received from the Commonwealth Investigation Branch. I do not think this action originated at Canberra, because Mr. Murphy, an industrial officer, has stated that he knew nothing about the matter. One of the two men was, for a while, a shop steward for the Engineering Union, which is particular about the men whom it selects for such positions, but he was removed from that post, probably because he was not the best shop steward available. The man who was transferred from the aircraft factory to the munitions factory at Maribyrnong was not moved because of his supposed association with the Communist party, but perhaps because he was talkative. I do not for a moment believe that he was a member of the Communist organization or distributed its literature, or could rightly be suspected of being a dangerous agitator.
– Would the honorable member raise any objection to the dismissal of these men if they were admitted members of the Communist organization ?
– If they were members of a recognized legal organization in Australia, they should not be denied the right to earn their bread and butter.
– Even by working in a Commonwealth munitions factory?
– They should be put out at once.
– If there were any likelihood of acts of sabotage being committed I should not for a moment object to their dismissal; but unless some evidence were produced to show that such a danger existed, I contend that nobody should interfere with them solely because of the political opinions they hold.
As I have said, neitherI nor any other member of the Australian Labour party has affiliation with the Communist party. I would not degrade myself by protesting against suggestions that I am associated with the Communist party. I allow the electors in ray constituency to determine that for themselves, and I have not the slightest doubt about what their answer would be to any accusation that I was a member of the Communist organization. It is degrading for any honorable member to feel obliged to offer an explanation, which might appear to be an apology, because some other honorable member makes a reckless statement regarding his political views. I do not believe in the methods of the Communist party or in the actual objective of that organization ; but I am an interested student of Communist philosophy and. indeed, of all other political theories. I believe that a member of Parliament cannot be an efficient servant of the public unless he studies all schools of political thought. But because I am not a. member of the Communist party and object to its methods that is no reason why I should not grant to Communists all the. privileges accorded to other members of our society, such as freedom of speech, the right of a free press, and the right to appear on a public platform.
– Would the honorable member include in that list of privileges the right to work in a government munitions factory in time of war ?
– In certain circumstances, yes. If, however, there were the slightest suspicions about the character of such men I would not take any risks. I stand or fall by the views I have just expressed. There are in each State intelligence officers who are as efficient and clever as men engaged in the same kind of work in any other country. They are doing their job welland they have on their files the names of all men and women working in Commonwealth departments. They know the past records and the present associations and activities of those employees. Therefore those officers should be allowed to decide whether certain employees should be dismissed because of Communist activities. Whenever there is the slightest doubt about the character of employees the department should act immediately, instead of threatening them beforehand, and making all kinds of provocative and reckless statements, which only helpto advertise the activities of the Communist organization and give it fresh ideas for its programme of intrigue and sabotage. If the Commonwealth investigation officers have not been given a. chance to make a recommendation in relation to the dismissal of the two men inVictoria, the administration of the Department of Supply and Development is at fault and: its actions are likely to do more harm than good. I would be glad if I could stop any actions which might be harmful to the Government or increase disorder in Australia in this time of war.
I ask the Minister to meet the representatives of the Amalgamated Engineering Union. He could interview them in Sydney to-morrow or on Monday to discuss the cases which I have mentioned, and he could then make available to them any information which he is at liberty to disclose. Unless the Government can show some justification for the dismissal of these men their mates will be badly impressed. I warn the Government of that aspect of the matter. I believe that the Minister realizes that possibility as well as I do, and that he wishes to prevent any unnecessary and harmful developments. I am sure that he will agree to meet these men, because his attitude has always been sympathetic in matters of this kind.
– A meeting has already been arranged.
– Mental progress can never be stifled in this or any other country. Australians will always examine any new political theory. Every one knows that since the war of 3914-18 industrial conditions in all countries have changed completely.
Many labour-saving inventions have been introduced in industry, and to-day automatic machinery is displacing vast numbers of manual workers. These facts, and the complex social problems that have arisen, make people doubt the efficacy of our present economic system. Therefore, as they have every right to do, people in all countries are turningto the study of new and perhaps unorthodox systems. No government should be so hide-bound as to endeavour to prevent people from reading literature which is allowed to enter the country and be distributed. The Government, is not tackling this problem in the proper way. It allows certain newspapers to be registered for transmission by its postal services, but it has obviously discriminated against some of them in the application of its censorship powers. That should not be permitted, even if the victim of. the censorship authorities happens to be a Communist journal. I am pleading, not on behalf of the Communists alone, but on behalf of every one in our community, that equal rights should be given under the law to all people, irrespective of their political or religious creeds. Members of the Rationalist Association, with whom I may disagree, should be allowed the same right to publish their philosophy and to distribute their literature as I am given to voice my opinions, provided that they do not transgress the rules of decencyor interfere with the liberty of other people. I ask for tolerance. I believe that the Minister is not so narrow-minded as to disagree with the broad principles of individual liberty, even though he may have some definite private objections to certain creeds.
Many speakers in this debate have said that no special privileges should be granted to any section of the community during this war, and that the rich man should be made to suffer equally with the poor man. There should be no privileged class at any time, whether the country be at peace or war. Because honorable members on this side have been unable to persuade the Government to accept that view and lift the people from the lower standards of living by providing for a more equitable distribution of wealth - which is collectively produced by the community - there have been disorders- in this country in the past. Australia was fortunate during the last depression not to experience, more violent disorder than actually occurred. I believe that- the country will never pass through another such depression without suffering, from violent insurrections. That opinion is held by all thinking people. The Government must begin now to plan a. programme of essential works to offset the slump conditions that must arise when our war activities cease. Those who have studied the discussions at Geneva and the statistics issued by the League of Nations must know that already the league is warning the governments of the world of what will occur in the labour markets as soon as the nations cease fire. The moment that an armistice is declared in order to discuss terms of settlement for international disputes millions of people will be dismissed from their employment. Now is the time foi- the Commonwealth Government to prepare to meet that eventuality.
This morning the Minister for Commerce (Mr. Archie Cameron) read a statement which showed that Australia lias entered an economic danger zone through the Government’s lack of foresight in connexion with the shipbuilding industry, lt, should now bc obvious to every one that the commodities which Great Britain needs and which Australia wishes to sell cannot be transported from thi.? country to the United Kingdom as quickly as they should be. The position cannot improve unless we begin now to plan for the future. During the last war some Australian industries were lost, be- cause of lack of shipping in the southern hemisphere. Before that war began, Ausi rati an implement makers disposed of large numbers of machines, in Argentina. They would still be sending agricultural machinery to that country, had not the trade been lost through lack of ships. I therefore urge the Government to speed up the preparations for the building of ships in this country. Naval architects and others in Melbourne have i old me that the engineering shops of Victoria could build ships up to 10,000 tons weight if they were given the necessary assistance by the Government. Unfortunately, the existing docks in Victoria are not capable of building a capital ship, or any large vessel, .but they could easily be enlarged sufficiently to enable them to construct ships of, say, 10,000 tons. That work will not be undertaken unless the Government takes a hand in the matter. The building of vessels of 10,000 tons would necessitate the work being shared by a number of establishments. It would be impossible to build modern ships or aeroplanes in a reasonable time without distributing the work in this way. When the Queen Mary was being built, there was not a workshop within 20 or 30 miles of the “dock which was not engaged in making something for that vessel. The parts were afterwards assembled at the dock where the hull was constructed. By sharing the work in this way, Australian shipbuilders could build vessels in about half the time that would otherwise be necessary. I hope that when the Minister next visits Victoria he will inspect some of these establishments. We should prepare now to re-absorb into industry some of the men connected with the engineering trades who will bc dismissed from the munitions factories when the war is over.
I said earlier that members of the Labour parly are unanimous about helping the Government to carry out its war programme, but that does not mean that we shall not criticize that programme should some of its features not appear to be satisfactory. I hope, however, that our criticism will always be constructive and will be offered without animosity. I believe that, we shall endanger this country if we strip it of its artisans, particularly fitters and turners. These men are absolutely essential to any effective defence scheme. Yet, apprentices and boys with some technical training are being called up with a view to their being sent overseas. We must be careful . not to denude this country of the very men who will be required to maintain our own defence scheme. Australia has not sufficient men now to carry out all of the work proposed to be undertaken in Australia in connexion with the Empire Air Scheme. If all of our trained men be sent abroad, how shall we build ships, and motor engines and carry out the maintenance and developmental work associated with our defence scheme? I shall do nothing to hinder the carrying out of the Government’s defence programme, but I urge the Government to remember that we ought to be Australians as well as Britishers, just as Englishmen are Englishmen as well as Britishers. In our desire to win the war we must not endanger our own position. It is of supreme importance that we should have in Australia sufficient trained artisans, especially men associated with the metal and electrical ‘trades, in order to make possible the carrying out of an effective scheme of defence for this country.
– The honorable member’s time has expired.
– I should not have risen at this late stage of the debate had it not been for some of the statements of the honorable member for Melbourne Ports (Mr. Hollo way). In his opening remarks, and again towards the, close of his speech, the honorable member said that he stood by his leader and his party in giving effect to the defence policy of the Labour party. He went on to say that there was no doubt where his party stood in relation to defence. It is because I believe that there is considerable doubt, in the minds of not only the members of this House, but also the people generally, as to where the Labour party does stand in regard to defence, that I now rise to speak. During the Corio by-election campaign, the war policy of the Labour party was given some prominence. I remember the Leader of the Opposition (Mr. Curtin) saying in this chamber that his party objected to sending troops overseas. He said that he would not send one man overseas to help the Empire. At Corio he repeated that statement ; but later, sensing an unfavourable reaction on the part of the people, he said that he was prepared to send reinforcements to aid our men who were fighting overseas on behalf of the Empire, and therefore of Australia, as an integral part of the Empire.
– The Leader of the Opposition made that clear in his first speech.
– Later, when asked questions about the Empire Air Defence scheme, the honorable gentleman was silent. Even now, we do not know where the Labour party stands in regard to that scheme. That party may have a domestic policy, but it certainly has no foreign policy, and no war policy. It does not say how far it is prepared to go to support the war policy of the Government. Only a few days ago the Leader of the Opposition spoke of sending troops to the north-west of Australia in the event of certain action being threatened. He claimed that Broome, Darwin and Wyndham were of considerable importance in any scheme of Australian defence. I agree with him, but I point out that some of the Scandinavian countries had a somewhat similar scheme of defence. Finland, Denmark, Norway and Sweden came together almost immediately after the outbreak of war, and decided to take certain steps if one or another of them was assailed. We know what has happened to Finland and Denmark. The existence across a stretch of water of an armed force similar to that which the Leader of the Opposition would place place in the north because of possible aggression against the Netherlands East Indies did not save Norway from the horrors of war. Had the four countries that I have mentioned combined to defend each other’s shores, quite apart from any outside help they might invoke, not one of them would have been invaded because, combined, they would have been strong enough to resist invasion. The Leader of the Opposition agrees tha t there should be a force in the north and north-west of Australia. For what purpose? To poke faces across the sea at any who might feel disposed to invade the possessions of some other country? The defence of a country means more than that; it sometimes involves attack. We who sit on this side of the House would send troops overseas to try to prevent the spread of the war to Australia, whereas the Leader of the Opposition would merely supply to the Allies necessary war-time commodities, for which, I have no doubt, he would exact full price. Honorable members will readily realize that the policy of a party is not formulated by its leader, but is the outcome of growth within the movement of principles and ideas; consequently, in our search for the policy of the Labour party we are entitled to look for the source from which has come the major contribution to it, and to study the reaction to it within the party. The conflict of opinion disclosed at the Easter conference of the Australian Labour party of Mew -South “Wales has left in the minds of the people grave doubts as to the nature of the defence policy of the federal body. A sub-committee was appointed to submit to that conference a report upon foreign policy and the war. In view of the interesting observations of the honorable member for Melbourne Ports (Mr. . Holloway) with respect to the action which in his opinion should be taken against Communists in our munitions establishments., the composition of that sub-committee is illuminating. Its members were J. R. Hughes, president of the Mew South Wales Labour Council ;’ Lloyd Ross, secretary of the A.us. tralian Railways Union; and W. E. Gollan, Cessnock. The conference passed a certain resolution, which has been referred to ad nauseam in this House, and which in the minds of most people constitutes a severe indictment of these so-called representatives of the workers. I refer to the notorious “ Hands off Russia “ resolution, which was carried by 195 votes to 88 votes. Other resolutions brought up by the sub-committee also were carried by the conference. Honorable members will be interested to hear the terms of one resolution which, so far as I know, has not been expunged by any subsequent meeting, whether or not it was attended by the Leader of the Opposition. That resolution .reads -
We declare that the Australian people have nothing to gain from the continuance of war.” On the contrary, tho management of the war in the hands of the anti-Labour Menzies Government, in. association with the anti-Labour Chamberlain Government, means that the war is being pursued in the interests of big finance and monopolists.
– Will the honorable gentleman allow me to say that what he lias just quoted formed part of the resolution which is generally described as the “Hands off Russia” resolution? The whole of that resolution has been expunged from the records of the State branch, by direction of the federal executive of the Australian Labour party
– If that is solet me quote some of the expressions of opinion by a member of that subcommittee. Mr. J. R. Hughes said - “ Hands off Russia “ is the policy of tho Labour movement to-day, ais it has been in tho past. We must never permit the imperialists or the military dictatorship group to interfere.
That opinion was expressed by one of the shining lights among the Labour delegates to the conference - one of those of whom the Leader of the Opposition has said that if it could be proved that they were Communists there would be no place for them in the Labour party. Gould a more complete admission than that of a communistic principle having been brought out of Soviet Russia and introduced into the Labour movement of Australia be expected ? Mr. Lloyd Ross said -
There is no doubt in my mind that within a few mouths wo will be asked to stand side by side with Imperialist Britain in a war against the only real Social State in the world. We won’t be there.
That statement was cheered by the delegates to the conference. Other delegates were quite prepared to stand up to the principles of Labour and try to cleanse the movement of the element which is seeking to encompass its downfall. Mr. Sawtell, representing the sugar-workers, said -
Delegates who now said “ Hands off Russia “ were anxious to fight Fascism a short time ago. Apparently they have received orders overnight from Russia and are anxious to change their spots.
That they had received orders overnight from Russia is beyond doubt. It is well known both inside and outside this House that the Communist party acknowledges that it takes its orders from Russia.
The Leader of the Opposition, in his repudiation of the decision of the conference - and I am prepared to give him all credit for his resistance to the “ Hands off Russia “ resolution, because I believe that, personally-
– And politically?
– Personally he believed that something should be done about it.
– And politically?
– -Frankly I do not understand what the honorable gentleman’s political attitude is. At any rate, he said -
Australian” Labour is not disposed to bc mealy-mouthed in a statement dealing with its position. We are with Britain and against Germany, because Germany went to war and set the world aflame. If any nation lines up with Germany we are against that nation’. In a sentence, we regard Germany’s allies as enemies of Great Britain and therefore of Australia.Ido not need to elaborate the stark simplicity of that statement. It is beyond argument.
That was an excellent statement.
– The quotation is the best part of the honorable member’s speech so far.
– The statement was excellent, but, unfortunately, it is just a string of words. It is on that ground that I indict the Leader of the Opposition. He was indulging in word-spinning. He used a lot of excellent phrases which, in actual fact, meant absolutely nothing because they were not followed upwith action against the Communists in the Labour movement who are deliberately undermining it, and who are, even now, seeking to undermine the Empire’s war effort. The Leader of the Opposition has done nothing to deal effectively with the avowed Communists in the Labour movement, some of whom are at present actively engaged in one of the most disruptive strikes that wo have had in. this country. They are leaders of the trade union movement who have helped to frame the policy of the Australian Labour party, but the Leader of the Opposition is not prepared to do anything to force them out of the movement. He is prepared to render lip-service, and lip-service only, against the Communists. Surely the honorable gentleman realizes that the Labour movement should be purged of these disruptive elements. He ought to have said, “If I am to remain the leader of this movement, I shall see that its true principles are honoured and that the Communists are forced out of the trade unions”. But he said nothing of the kind.
Subsequently this subject was considered by the Australasian Council of Trade Unions, and the motion that it carried in favour of the war policy of the Australian Labour parity had a majority of only two votes, the figures being 07 for and 65 against. The New South Wales Parliamentary Labour party refused to expunge the resolution.
– It did nothing of the kind.
- Mr. Lang met the members of the Parliamentary Labour party in Sydney and endeavoured to persuade them to repudiate the “Hands off
Russia” resolution, but his effort was overwhelmingly defeated. I refer to the following report on this point which appeared in the Sydney Morning Herald on the 4th April, 1940:-
An effort by Mr. Lang to persuade members of the State . Parliamentary Labour party to carry a motion directly repudiating the “ Hands offRussia “ resolution of the Easter Labour conference was overwhelmingly defeated at a long and bitter meeting of the party at Parliament House yesterday.
I do not know where the Leader of the Opposition really stands in regard to the matter, but even when he tried to have the record expunged front the minutes his effort was largely unavailing.’ To put it in another way, he tried to get the Australasian Council of Trade Unions to cover up its sins, but it re-affirmed its confidence in the policy of the Australian Labour party by a majority of only two votes.
It will be interesting for honorable members to hear what some of the delegates to that conference said. Mr. Coute said -
There is only one flag that I will fight under and that is theflag of revolutionary socialism.
I ask the Leader of the Opposition what he proposes to do in regard to that gentleman, who was a delegate from one of the Labour branches?
– He was not.
– Well, what was ho doing at the conference?
– He was a representative of the Liquor Trades Union of Victoria.
– Will the honorable member for Bourke (Mr. Blackburn) deny that he was entitled to be at the conference?
– Will the honorable gentleman deny that Mr. Coute is a Communist ?
– He is not a Communist.
– Then what is he?
– He is a member of the Socialist party.
– And a member of a trade union?
– Then the honorable member will have some difficulty in explaining his attitude to the electors of Australia. Mr. A. E. Morrison, a delegate from the Liquor Trades Union of Victoria, said at the conference -
I Intro u family of nine and i would rather follow my sons to the cemetery and smile over their bodies than see them wearing khaki to fight in the interests of capitalists.
That gentleman was reprimanded, but it cannot be denied that he is an individual authorized to participate in formulating the war policy of the Labour party. My point is that these persons are entitled to participate in formulating the war policy of the Labour party.
We listened last night, and could not help but be disgusted as we listened, to the exposure of certain matters that should have been kept within the Labour movement itself. I am not now referring to the speech of the honorable member for West Sydney, who felt it his duty to place before the people of Australia the reasons for the schism within the Labour party’s ranks. The honorable member was, in my opinion, entitled to say why he felt he had to withdraw from a party with which he had been associated for many years. What I have in mind, particularly, was the speech delivered subsequently by a member of the official Labour party, who indulged in a perfect tirade of abuse in the course of which, figuratively speaking, he virtually assassinated the character of the honorable member for West Sydney. He indulged in violent personal vituperation in his reply to the honorable member for West Sydney, whose, only offence was that he had explained why he had withdrawn from the Labour party.
I propose presently to make certain quotations from the findings of the Martin Dies committee set up by the House of Representatives of the Congress of the United States of America to investigate un-American propaganda and activities. When I make these quotations honorable members will recognize the technique. Unfortunately, the same tactics have been indulged in recently in this House. I remind honorable gentlemen, also, incidentally, of the reply given by the honorable member for Melbourne Ports to a question which the Minister for Supply and Development put to him. The Minister wished to know whether the honorable member would permit an avowed Communist to work in our munitions factories, and the honorable gentleman replied “ Yes “. Yet it is well known that Communists indulge in the most seditious propaganda and sabotage that can be imagined, and, in fact, adopt the policy, recently espoused by Mr. Orr on the coalfields, when he expressed dissatisfaction with the present system and said that he would do everything in his power to upset it. For this reason I considered that I was amply justified in reading the opinions expressed by certain delegates to the congress of the Australasian Council of Trade Unions for, in my opinion, what they said was definitely seditious and treasonable and branded them as avowed Communists. It is extraordinary to me that the honorable member for Melbourne Ports could tolerate for a moment - an avowed Communist working in our munitions factories. It is well known that Communists regard it as their bounden duty to do everything in their power to neutralize the war efforts of the country. I ask honorable members to bear these fact3 in mind as they listen to the extracts that I shall read from the Dies report. That committee was appointed to inquire into the circumstances surrounding the sabotage that had occurred in big industrial plants in America. It was realized that the industrial and economic fabric of the nation was being torn to shreds by Fifth Column traitors, who were also doing their utmost to destroy the religious and welfare organizations of the American people. That committee, of which the president was Mr. Martin Dies, brought in special reports concerning both communism and nazi-ism. I propose to read some of its findings in regard to communism. The first of them substantiates the statement I made a little while ago concerning the attack launched against an honorable member in this chamber who had dared to criticize communism. It reads -
Communism seeks to silence all hostile criticism by charging its critics with redbaiting, while, at the same time, it viciously baits those who darc to oppose it.
Resorts to organized campaigns of character assassination wherever the charge of redbaiting does not suffice to silence its critics.
That summarizes the technique employed by the Communist organization, and honorable members in this House, as well as the public outside, will have no difficulty in recognizing it. It is noteworthy that after the honorable member for West Sydney emphasized in his speech last night the necessity for cleansing the Labour movement of Communists, other honorable gentlemen opposite who rose to reply to him did not meet argument with argument, but attacked the personal character of the honorable member, although his charges were levelled solely against the subversive elements, which were working within the party. The findings of the Dies committee serve to throw the light of publicity upon . the machinations of the Communist organization, which is carrying on its insidious, work to-day in, not only the United States of America, but also this country. Reporting on behalf of the committee, Mr. Dies continued -
Communism is ari integral part of a world revolutionary movement for proletarian internationalism. Is under direct control of the Third International which has its head-quarters in Moscow, Seeks ultimately the overthrow of the American form of government as established by the Constitution of the United States-
We need only recall Mr. Orr’s criticism of our social system in this country, and his statement that he was prepared to work for the overthrow of that system, in order to recognize the tactics of the Communist party - - Communism rests upon brutal violence despite its present dishonest profession of belief in the processes of democracy-
That statement is only too true as honorable members opposite, who do not desire to support communism, have testified -
Communism hides behind civil liberties in pursuing ends which will destroy civil liberties lor all but the ruling few of the proletarian dictatorship.
Communists are carrying out their activities in this country under ‘ the democratic liberties which they seek to destroy. Every Sunday from public platforms in the Sydney Domain they attack, under- police protection, the very privileges under which they enjoy such protection. Mr. Dies continued -
Communism is energetically applying the Trojan horse tactic of penetrating other organisations for the .purpose of seeking to control them, or failing that, to destroy them. It is unusually active in our schools, both openly and subtly insinuating its propaganda into the minds of students. Is boring from within the two major political parties.
That charge has been levelled by the honorable member for West Sydney against the Communists. For a long time they have been working their way insidiously into the Labour movement, but to-day they are strong enough to come out into the open. We had evidence of their strength only recently when they succeeded in having the “ Hands off Russia “ motion carried at the Easter Labour conference. That resolution was rejected by the Australasian Council of Trade Unions conference by a majority of only two votes, and as the honorable member for West Sydney pointed out, one of the gentlemen who voted in favour of that resolution being expunged subsequently publicly declared his support of it. Consequently, the doubts of the people of Australia as to where the Labour party really stands to-day, particularly in relation to the war, are more than justified. Mr. Dies goes on -
Communism is basically a philosophy of hatred which seeks, to promote class war.
Is boring from: within labour unions on a wide scale, seeking to dominate or wreck the unions for purposes that are alien to the interests of organized wage-earners.
Deliberately provokes violence in labour disputes for the purpose of training a revolutionary group in the tactics of civil war.
Seeks to sabotage and cripple our economy on.. every possible front, with a view to its profiting by the resulting economic crisis.
It has penetrated the Government itself, with the result that some Communists hold key positions in federal agencies and- projects.
Arising out of evidence secured by the Dies committee, certain action was taken against prominent Communists and Nazi agents in the United States of America. I suggest to the Leader of the Opposition that if his remarks, which I quoted earlier, are not to be taken merely as lipservice to his party he should take steps to ensure that the policy he enunciated is , effectively implemented. He should take a determined stand against these subversive elements and rid his party of. them. Only then will the Labour party be. re-born. It will never win the confidence .of the people so long as it maintains its present two-faced attitude.
The Dies committee revealed that Communists and Nazis had penetrated into the American public service. I am not altogether satisfied that the Commonwealth Government, in conjunction with the State governments, should not carry out a similar investigation in Australia. I make no charges in this respect, but it seems to me that if these people have succeeded in penetrating the public service of the United States of America they can reasonably be suspected of following similar tactics in this country. The Government would set the minds of the people at rest on that point if it set up a committee to inquire into that phase of the activities of Communists in Australia. Such an inquiry could do nothing but good. I draw attention, for instance, to the insidious attack which the Communist organization was able to launch over our national broadcasting network only quite recently. Despite the existence of a liaison officer appointed to enable the Australian Broadcasting Commission to co-operate with the censorship authorities in New South Wales, this broadcast was engineered by gross misrepresentation, and was carried out by a prominent member of the Communist organization. I do not make any charge against the Australian Broadcasting Commission, but can only say that it is remarkable that the Communists were permitted to use the national network for the dissemination of propaganda of this kind. I know that the PostmasterGeneral now has under his consideration certain documents in connexion with this incident. I have seen those documents, and I urge that salutary action be taken against those persons who were responsible for the broadcast. Possibly, within the ranks of even the commission itself, there is some sympathiser with the principles of communism, and, by means of subtle misrepresentation, this broadcast was allowed to be made. No doubt, it would have been a great achievement for any Communist organization, whether in Australia or in any other country. If the Leader of the Opposition sincerely wishes to clear away all doubt from the minds of the people as to where Labour stands in regard to the war, defence, and the Communist elements, he should resort to action instead of words.
Question resolved in the affirmative.
– I shall ascertain when it will be convenient for His Excellency the Governor-General to receive the Address-in-Reply, and honorable members will be notified by me accordingly.
Motion (by Mr. Street) agreed to -
That the House will, at the next sitting, resolve itself into a committee to consider the Supply to be granted to His Majesty.
– I move -
That the bill be now read- a second time.
This bill provides for a slight alteration of the Seat of Government (Administration) Act 1910-1939, in order to bring it into conformity with the Northern Territory (Administration) Act. It is proposed to insert a provision in the principal act to the effect that a notice in the Commonweallh Gazette of any ordinance of the Australian Capital Territory having been made, and of the place where copies of the ordinance can be purchased, shall be sufficient notification of the ordinance for the purposes of the act. At the present time, ordinances of the Australian Capital Territory are notified in full in the Gazette. Often, this legislation is lengthy and occupies many pages of the Gazette. It is proposed that, in future, the title only of the ordinance shall be published, together with information as to where copies can be purchased. The consequential saving in paper should commend itself on the grounds of economy. Commonwealth acts and statutory rules are not published in the Gazette in full, and no inconvenience should be caused to persons interested by reason of the nonpublication of the full terms of ordinances.
Debate (on motion by Mr. Curtin) adjourned.
Motion (by Mr. Menzies through Mr. Street) agreed to -
That the following new standing order be adopted by the House: - “215a. In case of unavoidable absence of the Chairman of Committees, the House may appoint a Deputy Chairman of Committees, who, during such absence, may exercise all the powers and functions, and shall perforin all the duties, of the Chairman of Committees.” ‘
Motion (by Mr. Menzies through Mr. Street) agreed to -
That, unless otherwise ordered, this House shall meet for the despatch of business on each Wednesday at three o’clcck p.m.: on each Thursday at half-past two o’clock p.m.; and on each Friday at half-past ten o’clock a.m.
Motion (by Mr. Menzies through Mr. Street) agreed to -
That, unless otherwise ordered, Government business shall, oneach day of sitting, have precedence of all other business, except on that Thursday on which, under the provisions of Standing Order No. 241, the question is put “ That Mr. Speaker do now leave the Chair “. On such Thursday general business shall have precedence of Government business until nine o’clock p.m.
Motion (by Mr. Hitches) agreed to-
That he have leave to bring in a bill for an act to consolidate and amend the law relating to patents of inventions and for other purposes.
Bill brought up, and read a first time.
Mr. HUGHES (North SydneyAttorneyGeneral) [3.16. - by leave - I desire to move the second reading of the bill pro forma, and then to move that the measure be referred to a committee representative of the House. I have consulted the Leader of the Opposition (Mr. Curtin) on this proposal, and he is agreeable to it. The measure is of a highly technical nature, and represents the work of many expert minds extending over a long period. The convenience of the House would be best served by its reference to a committee which would direct the attention of honorable members to those clauses which it thinks are proper subjects for discussion, and so enable us more expeditiously to place this most important measure on the statute-book. The bill would bring the patent laws of this country into line with the most modern practices throughout the world; in fact, into line with those of the United Kingdom.
Mr. SPEAKER (Hon. G. J. Bell).A motion to refer a bill to a select committee is usually moved immediately after the second reading has been agreed to.
– by leave - The Standing Orders prescribe that a select committee can be appointed only after the second reading of the bill has been passed. This measure, however, is of such a technical and complicated character, that, in my opinion, before the bill is finally drawn by the Parliamentary Draftsman, a committee representative of the House should have the first draft of the measure, and should examine it from all points of view. The committee having made its recommendations, the Attorney-General and other Ministers could then give such instructions in respect of the final draft of the bill as would ensure that it would be submitted to the House in a much more satisfactory form than would otherwise be the case. Although I think that it would be wise to appoint a select committee which could give the complete result of its work to the House, I recognize the difficulty associated with the proposal. I understand that a draft bill has been prepared and an examination of its predecessors by a committee would be a sensible procedure. I am anxious to meet the wishes of the right honorable gentleman; but instead of appointing a select committee I suggest the appointment of an unofficial committee. I am sure that honorable members on this side of the chamber who have agreed to the proposal would be willing to act on such a committee.
– I ask leave to make a statement.
– I object.
– As there has been an objection, the honorable member is not entitled to speak at this stage. It is not definitely laid down by the Standing Orders at what stage a motion to refer a bill to a select committee may be moved, but it is quite definite that it must be before the bill is reported from the Committee of the Whole. The usual practice is to move for a select committee as soon as the second reading has been agreed to. At the moment I am not at all clear as to whether the Attorney-General (Mr. Hughes) has or has not moved “ That the bill be now read a second time “.
– I, too, am doubtful whether I have made the motion, and I would prefer, sir, that you assume that I have and permit me to move to refer the bill to a select committee.
– Two motions cannot be before the House at the same time, but if the House grants leave to the Attorney-General to move for a select committee at this stage I shall accept the motion.
Motion (by Mr. Hughes) - by leave - proposed -
That the bill be referred to a Select Committee consisting of Mr. Holt, Mr. Nairn, Mr. Scullin, Mr. Blackburn and Mr. Paterson.
.- I should like to know in what respect this bill differs from a similar measure which has been introduced in this chamber on two occasions. I have had a cursory glance at its provisions, and I cannot see that it differs in any material respect from the measures previously introduced which were to be taken through all stages in the ordinary way. If possible the bill should be dealt with in the same way as other measures and not referred to a select committee. Will the Attorney-General (Mr. Hughes) say why this measure should not be dealt with in the usual way?
– I have taken a great interest in this legislation and as I have collected a tremendous amount of data on the subject, I should like to know why the ordinary procedure is to be departed from. Apparently the Leader of the Opposition (Mr. Curtin) had been consulted and even knew the proposed personnel of the select committee.
– I have only been asked to consent to the appointment of n parliamentary select committee, and to endeavour to arrange for two members on this side of the chamber to act on the committee.
– The Leader of the Opposition has heard much more concerning the proposed procedure than have other honorable members. The committee is to consist of five persons. This measure is one of the most important that has ever been before this Parliament, and if it is to be referred to a select committee, the committee should be more representative than that proposed. When similar measures have been brought before the House, honorable members have had an opportunity to debate their provisions clause by clause, and I am surprised, to. learn that in this instance that’ the opportunity will not be afforded.
.- I am wondering whether the proposed committee will be as futile as that which inquired into the Bankruptcy Bill. Should a committee be appointed, it is problematical whether its recommendations would be accepted, and in the event of their rejection a good deal of time would have been wasted. I do not know whether it is proposed to appoint the committee before the second-reading debate is concluded. The committee appointed to inquire into the Bankruptcy bill sat for many months, and although it had the assistance of departmental officials and others, all its work was of no avail because of the influence of outside interests, which were see-sawing with one another in order to gain advantage. Possibly, similar interests will be anxious to do the same in this instance. If that is likely their representations should be made to the Government which has the responsibility of drafting the measure. The bill should then be submitted to Parliament, and not to a small select committee such as that proposed. It is unfair to submit a half-baked measure to the House. We should have an assurance that if a committee is to be appointed the Government will adopt its recommendations.
– I must confess that I was, perhaps through my own fault, under a misapprehension as to the procedure that was to be followed in regard to this bill. I was under the impression that we were to have the second-reading speech by the AttorneyGeneral (Mr. Hughes), in the course of which the substance and detail of the bill would be elaborated and explained, and that at that stage, but not until then, the matter would go to a select committee for further consideration. I have no objection in principle to the bill being remitted to a select committee. 1 think that that preliminary investigation might well be helpful without being prejudicial to the views of honorable members. But I have much sympathy with ihe complaint made by ‘he honorable member for Boothby (Mr. Price) if it is a fact that this procedure means that this bill, having been carried merely to the formal stage of the first reading, is now to be taken out of the hands of the House and sent forthwith to a select committee.
Having heard the names of the members of the select committee, I have no objection to them myself. Indeed, I took some part in the choice of those who are to represent our party. I do, however, think that the wise practice is the practice of the past and that the secondreading speech should be delivered by the responsible Minister, so that honorable members would have before them information to guide them in their deliberations. Departure from that practice to the present proposed practice is not good.
Mr. HUGHES (North SydneyAttorneyGeneral [3.32]. - in reply - I apologize to the House to the extent that my suggestion is unorthodox. My intentions were strictly honorable. This measure, as honorable gentlemen know very well, is full of technicalities and is one with which honorable members, without apology, could confess their inability to deal as experts. It is the handiwork of men who have devoted their lives to the practice of patent law, either as patent attorneys or barristers specializing in patent law.
– The House is entitled to the benefit of their researches.
– Let me conclude this very inconclusive speech of mine by saying that this procedure will not abridge by one-thousandth part of an inch the right of honorable members to express themselves on every clause of the bill. It will only mean, if the House sees fit, that the debate on the second reading and the discussion in committee will be reduced to a minimum. That, I think, is desirable. After all, there are other things going on, and this bill and another one of the same kind can with advantage be treated as non-party measures and dealt with in this way. But having heard the discussion, I suggest that the committee be an unofficial committee and able to proceed with its work expeditiously.
– The appointment of an unofficial committee does not require any motion.
– In that case I ask leave to withdraw the motion.
Motion - by leave - withdrawn.
– I move -
That he have leave to bring in a bill for an act to consolidate and amend the law relating to trade marks and for other purposes.
With the permission of the House I desire to pursue the same course with this bill as with the Patents Bill and that it be considered by the same unofficial committee. I have consulted the Leader of the Opposition (Mr. Curtin) and he is agreeable. I must express my regret to the honorable member for Boothby (Mr. Price). It is my fault that the matter was not raised in the party room, but the honorable gentleman may recall the circumstances in which the last party meeting was held ; it had to deal with matters which were considered then of paramountimportance. That must be taken as the reason for my failure.
Motion agreed to.
Bill brought up, and read a first time.
Motion (by Mr. Hughes) agreed to -
That he have leave to bring in a bill for an act to amend the Patents, Trade Marks, Designs and Copyright (War Powers) Act 1939.
Bill brought up, and read a first time.
Motion (by Mr. Hughes) agreed to -
That he have leave to bring in a bill for an act to amend section three of the Trading with the Enemy Act 1939.
Bill brought up, and read a first time.
Motion (by Mr. Spender) agreed to -
That he have leave to bring in a bill for an act to amend Section 52 (b) of the Commonwealth Inscribed Stock Act 1911-1933.
Bill brought up, and read a first time.
Motion (by Mr. Menzies) agreed to -
That he have leave to bring in a bill for an act to approve the execution of an agreement between the Commonwealth and Australian Consolidated Industries Limited with respect to the manufacture of motor vehicles, and for other purposes.
– I move-
That the House do now adjourn.
Earlier to-day I informed honorable members that I hoped to be in a position to make a statement regarding the coal strike on the motion for the adjournment of the House. I am not at the moment able to do so, because I understand, quite unofficially, that a revival of discussions has occurred in Sydney.
.- I desire to discuss the application of the recent instructions which have been given for the censorship of Communist newspapers. The effect of those instructions is that the Communist press will not be allowed to discuss the very matters which it is most interested in discussing, with the result that, if it complies with the censorship directions, it will, as a press, cease to exist. This is a very ingenious way of getting around the express terms of the National Security Regulations which deal with this very matter of newspapers. Section 42 of the National Security (General) Regulations provides that the publication of matter designed to influence public opinion in certain circumstances is an offence and if the person is convicted upon indictment - that is, before a jury - then he may be forbidden to publish any newspaper. The intention of the regulation clearly was that the freedom of the press should be maintained, but that if a person had been found by a jury to be guilty of having published matter to influence public opinion in Australia against the intentions of the regulation, and not until then, he might be ordered not to publish a newspaper. The Minister for Information, however, has made it clear that he is prepared to remove the restrictions placed upon papers as soon as they change their editors, and not otherwise. The Government, therefore, is seeking to get around its own regulations. I am not concerned at present with what I really believe to be the case, namely, that this assault upon the freedom of the press is only the beginning of an attack which will culminate, as it did in the last war, in an attack upon the party to which I belong. Even if I entertained no such fear, I should still feel that we ought to resent this attack on the press. In Australia, the Communist party is a tiny minority. Although in Great Britain it is a minority, it cannot.be said to be a tiny minority. It is influential; it has a member in the House of Commons, and on two previous occasions it had elected members to the House of Commons. It has a daily press, and publishes a great number of newspapers throughout Great Britain. Nevertheless, in spite of the wider channels existing there for Communist pro-; paganda, and the greater effect which such propaganda might be expected to produce, the Communist press in Great Britain is free. In Great Britain the regulation I have cited was superseded months ago by a more liberal regulation. Regulation 42 of the National Security (General) Regulations provides -
A person shall not endeavour …. to influence public opinion in a manner likely to be prejudicial to the defence of the Commonwealth or the efficient prosecution of the war.
That was the original form in which the corresponding regulation (39b) appeared in the Defence Regulations of Great Britain, and we were told that our regulations were to be uniform with them. The English regulation was attacked in Great Britain by the Council of the Civil Liberties Union. As the result of their representations, that regulation was superseded on the 23rd November by an amended Regulation 39 (5), which is comparatively narrow in scope. Our Regulation 42 makes it possible to punish a person for the expression of an opinion, as well as for the statement of what purports to be a fact. That is to say, any person who makes a statement of his own opinion, and by that statement endeavours to influence public opinion, may commit an offence under the regulation. That is not so in Great Britain, where regular tion 39b especially provides - 39b. - (1) No person shall: -
It is further provided -
It shall be a defence to any prosecution in respect of a contravention of this paragraph to prove that the person by whom the contravention is alleged to have been committed had reasonable cause to believe that the statement, document or report in question was true.
Thus, whilst in Australia, a person may, by a mere sta’tement of opinion, by a mere argument for principle, make himself guilty of an offence, that would constitute no offence in Great Britain. There, he becomes guilty of an offence only if he publishes a false statement, or a false report, and if he is prosecuted for doing bo, he can defend himself by saying that, though the things he published turned out to be incorrect, he had reason to believe, at the time he made them, that they were true. The regulations in England do give certain powers to the authorities to control newspapers. For instance, the Secretary of State may prevent the publcation of anything which he thinks is prejudicial to the relations between the United Kingdom and any country outside the United Kingdom. Under such a regulation, much of the inflammatory matter that is published here with the object of creating a public opinion in favour of war with Russia could be prevented. The object of that regulation is not to prevent a free expression of opinion, unless it would tend to embroil Great Britain with a country with which it is not at war. Subject to that restriction, expression of opinion is free. For the benefit of those who did not hear me previously, I repeat that that liberal policy is adopted in Great Britain, where Communists ar°. more numerous and more influential than in Australia - in England they have a daily press, many other publications, and a member of Parliament. We are told that France has taken action against the Communists, but I consider that that is no precedent for similar action in Australia. France has never attached the same value to individual liberty as have the English people; and the French Government has used its prejudice against the Communists to suppress workingclass organizations which are not Com- inunists, but in fact are opposed to the regime in Russia, and have condemned i he invasion of Finland. But, despite tins, they have all suffered the same suppression as the Communist party. Organizations that correspond to the Independent Labour party in Great Britain have been suppressed in France. I suggest that the policy which the Mother of Parliaments, that Palladium of Liberty in Great Britain, has found necessary and reasonable, is the policy which we should adopt to-day. Much has been said in this chamber about the activities of Communists in Australia. I am not a Communist; I have sympathy with their ideals because those ideals are the same as the ones which I hold. I am opposed, however, to their strategy and tactics. For 30 years I have been a Socialist. Because Communists are socialists, and because the Communists in Russia have made an experiment in socialism, I have great sympathy with, and interest in, their ideals. I am opposed to the suppression of the liberties of any section of the community, whether it be Communist or Fascist. There is a Fascist movement and a Fascist press in this country, supported by people who desire to see Great Britain and Russia at war because they do not care who wins. In my opinion repression should be confined to preventing people from making false statements of fact; censorship may also operate to prevent the publication of true statements whose publication might be of assistance to the enemy. But censorship and wartime regulations should not be used to suppress the liberties of minorities. We had examples of such suppression during the last war, and those who now urge that the Communists, Fascists, and others should be trampled underfoot, will no doubt soon find that their own industrial and political organizations are being attacked. We are moving faster in this war than we did in the last war. It will not be long before we see the hand of the Government reaching out towards Labour’s industrial and political organizations, and we shall be reduced to sterility and silence. I urge the Prime Minister to carry out the principle which he laid down at the beginning of the war, when he said, “I do not want muzzled or silent criticism “. Free speech is essential to a free country. We should not be led by a dislike of critics to a policy of silent or muzzled criticism.
Mr. SPEAKER (Hon. G. J. Bell).The honorable member for Hunter.
– I rise to a point of order. I protest against the manner in which the call has been given to the honorable member for Hunter (Mr. James), who was not even in his place when the opportunity to speak arose.
– There is no point of order.
– I submit that there is a point of order in that an honorable member must rise from bis seat in order to secure the call.
– I repeat that there is no point of order. If the honorable member for Denison does not resume his seat, I shall be compelled to take action, and I shall not hesitate to do so.
– I submit that I have a right to rise to a point of order.
– The discretion of the Chair in this matter cannot be challenged on a point of order. If the honorable member does not obey the Chair I shall name him.
– I insist upon speaking, to a point of order.
– I name the honorable member for Denison.
– Before taking, the action which the Standing Orders require, I appeal to the honorable member for Denison.
– I cannot approve of the Minister making an appeal to the honorable member for Denison. He may, if he desires, appeal to the Chair.
– I ask you, Mr. Speaker, to appeal to the honorable member for Denison to make amends by putting himself right with the Chair.
– The Minister is well aware of what has happened. The honorable member for Denison was spoken to a number of times, but still he refused to obey the Chair. It is not the first time that he has committed this offence, and I do not intend to make any further appeal to him.
– I am prepared to withdraw, Mr. Speaker.
– And apologize to the Chair?
– Yes. I withdraw and apologize.
– I accept the apology which the honorable member has given voluntarily, but I. point out to him that he has defied the Chair on more than one occasion. 1 am not prepared to allow such conduct to continue. I may explain that I gave the honorable member for Hunter (Mr. James) the preference, not only over the honorable member for Denison, who had no claim to the first call, but also over other honorable members who had risen, because he desires to catch the afternoon train. But I emphasize that the Chair has complete discretion as to who shall receive the call, and as to that there can be no point of order.
.- 1 regret that the Prime Minister (Mr. Menzies) is not in the chamber, because I would have liked a reply from him to representations which I shall make on a very important matter. Rumours are current that the Government proposes to issue regulations to-morrow, providing for the opening of the coal-mines, and as one who has been associated for a lifetime with the coal-mining industry - in fact I have worked in no other industry - I appeal to the right honorable gentleman not to issue the regulations, now that the miners have decided to hold aggregate meetings on Tuesday next. ,1 know the. temperament of the miners. ‘ If they are allowed to attend these aggregate meetings without any threat about re-opening the mines being held over their heads, I believe that an amicable settlement of the trouble may be reached. I am afraid that if there is any threat of the introduction of free labour trouble may occur. I have had, personal experience of many strikes, and I know the things that antagonize workmen such as the coal-miners. Nothing, is more calculated to cause resentment than the introduction of free, labour. I have witnessed many sad accidents on the coal-fields when free labour has been used to work the mines. T have seen honest workers led into serious trouble. The plight of the miners to-day will be as nothing compared with the trouble the’” may be in if the Government takes the drastic step of introducing free labour. I appeal to the Prime Minister not to issue, before this House meets again, the regulations that have been prepared. If the Government accedes to my request, in all probability the miners will attend the aggregate meetings in a proper frame of mind, and wise counsels may prevail with them. I make this my final appeal to the Prime Minister to avert trouble if possible. Although some accompanying statement may be issued with the regulations, intimating that the powers vested in the Government will not be used immediately, the mere fact that the regulations had been introduced would be sufficient to antagonize a very good and loyal- body of citizens - the rank and file of the Miners Federation, whom I know so well. I believe that if the Government accedes to my request the aggregate meetings will be more harmonious, and the men will probably come to a more logical decision than perhaps they would if they knew that the regulations had been issued.
– I direct attention to a matter affecting the Minister for the Army (Mr. Street). On the 26th January, I wrote to the Minister calling his attention to allegations that had come to my notice that prices charged for commodities supplied to the military camp at Elphin showgrounds, Launceston, were considerably higher than those that could have been obtained had the lowest tender for the supply of goods to the camp been accepted. In this letter I stated -
I should be glad if you would cause immediate inquiries to be instituted into this matter, in the hope that the letting of contracts will be made watertight, and first-class goods obtained at the lowest possible price. I should be glad if you would regard this matter as heeding urgent attention.
My communication was acknowledged by the Minister in a letter dated the 1st February. On the 1st March, I wrote the following letter to the Minister : -
On the 20th January last, I wrote to you concerning the tenders for commodities supplied to the military Camp at Elphin Showground. I should be glad to know if the inquiry mentioned in your letter dated the 18th February has been completed, and if you are able to indicate the nature of the result of such inquiry. I desire to stress the urgency of this matter, because I have very reliable information that retail prices are being paid for at least some of the commodities supplied to .the Elphin camp in more or less bulk form.
I took no further action until I returned to Canberra in order to attend the present sittings of Parliament. On my arrival here I took an early opportunity to consult the Minister who promised to take the matter up immediately with the appropriate authorities. I raised the subject again in the form of a question which I asked in this chamber last week. In reply, the Minister told me that he would be able to obtain some definite information for me this week. I asked a further question to-day, but up to the present I have had- no satisfactory reply to my inquiries. I do not want to be unfair to any one, but this matter involves the expenditure of several hundreds of pounds and I can see no reason why I should not be supplied with the information for which I have asked. The fact that it has not been given to me suggests that there may be something in the nature of improper practice connected with the letting of contracts for the supply of food to the Elphin Showground camp. Information has reached me that prices charged for butter supplied to the camp in bulk are as high as prices charged in retail stores. If money is wasted in a small camp, what must be the position in relation to all the big military camps in Australia? The Contracts Board, which I Relieve handles these matters, should do something to prevent such extravagance. This is a serious matter and I have a right to expect the Minister to supply to me the information for which I have asked. One of the functions of a member of parliament is to attend not only to individual complaints from his constituents, and questions of national importance which come before the Parliament, but also to see that the Government protects the community from exploitation. As a member of the Opposition I regard my responsibility to the people as being particularly important. When a state of war exists there is always wasteful expenditure of public money. Some of this waste may be unavoidable; but in the instance which I have mentioned there appears to be good reason for complaining, of the work of the Contracts Board. It should have been able at a short notice to supply the information which I have requested, but four months has elapsed since I made my first request to the Minister. I shall not stress this matter further, but I regard it as an important part of my duty to protest against wasteful expenditure.
.- The statement made to-day by the Minister for Commerce (Mr. Archie Cameron) in relation to wheat will bring despair to an industry that can only be regarded as already bankrupt. Notwithstanding the urgent need of the wheat-growers for funds to carry on, the statement contained no word of cheer. By to-day’s mail, I have received further communications from wheat-growers. In one of them, which came from a small township in my electorate, the writer said that mortgagees are foreclosing on the holdings of farmers, who are being forced off their farms. He mentioned thirteen such cases in one small area. As for some time I have emphasized the need for a constructive policy in regard to the wheat industry, I regret exceedingly that the Minister’s statement to-day contains no message of hope. The final note sounded by him was to the effect that only when additional moneys were received from the sales of wheat could further payments be made to the growers. I fear that the Minister’s statement will be a sad disappointment to men and women who have been carrying on bravely under extremely difficult economic conditions for many years, and I regret that there is such a complete absence of evidence of a long-range policy in regard to this industry. I appeal to the Ministers at the table, who are members of the Country party, to use their influence with their colleagues with a view to a prompt payment being made to farmers in connexion with No. 2 pool. Although it would be only a measure of first-aid, it would save many farmers from falling by the way.
.- I again bring under the notice of the PostmasterGeneral (Mr. Thorby) the need for an improved shipping service between Tasmania and the mainland. It would appear that the Union Shipping Company is at liberty to break an agreement into which it had entered, and to take ships off the routes whenever it likes. The subsidy paid for running two vessels to Tasmanian ports is, I believe, £50,000 a year for ten years. The action of the company has caused considerable inconvenience to business people and others in Tasmania, particularly in the southern part of the island. Business firms have not been able to deliver necessary commodities to their customers by Friday night of each week. The reason given for withdrawing the Taroona from service is that the vessel needs attention. The Nairana has been left to maintain the service. The requirements of Tasmania necessitate the regular running of two vessels to carry second-class mail matter, passengers and goods. I have presented to the Postmaster-General an urgent protest by business interests in Hobart against the action of the shipping company. As the summer tourist trade means a lot to Tasmania, the Taroona should be docked during the winter months. Tasmania finds great difficulty in obtaining justice from the larger States. That probably is because, with the exception of yourself, Mr. Speaker, Tasmania’s representatives in this House are not Government supporters, and you, sir, are unable to voice an effective protest on the floor of the House. It is my duty, as a representative of Tasmania in this Parliament, to see that justice is done to that State, and so far as lies in my power to prevent shipping companies from receiving a substantial payment out of the finances of this country for what is an absolutely scandalous service. If we cannot have a good service in the summer what chance have we in the winter, when the vessels are frequently unable to get into Launceston, and have to anchor down the river for five, six, seven, and sometimes nine hours ?
– That is o« account of fogs. The Commonwealth’ Government cannot disperse fog.
– The business people have to suffer in the winter time because the boats do not run as frequently as in the summer. I do not blame the shipping companies for the presence of fog in the river, but I do contend that they have a responsibility to maintain a proper service in the summer months of the year. The Postmaster-General has the power to compel the observance of the terms of the contract, but he will
– The honorable member for Denison (Mr. Mahoney) has referred to the shipping service to Tasmania.. There are some things for which the Commonwealth Government cannot be held responsible. The honorable member has said that he will not suffer- in silence. If he has suffered, the suffering has certainly not been borne in silence. Only last week, the Commonwealth Government agreed to provide £5,000 ,this winter in order to keep the Zealandia running between Sydney and Hobart. I have not heard the honorable member suggest that there is any dissatisfaction in respect of that service. The chief cause of his complaint appears -to be the late hour at which mails get through the Tamar River. In no circumstances can the Commonwealth Government be held responsible for fogs, tides, and the like. The honorable member must recognize that during the war period many parts of the world will experience difficulties in respect of shipping services. Doubtless Tasmania will be inconvenienced in common with other parts of the world. I do not know the extent to which Launceston and other northern ports of Tasmania are being inconvenienced; but I repeat that the Commonwealth Government has made arrangements, at a cost of £5,000, for the direct Sydney-Hobart service maintained during the summer months by the
The honorable member for Wimmera (Mr. Wilson) referred to the statement £ made this morning on the wheat industry. I shall not deal with his remarks now, for I have a suspicion that the wheat industry may form the subject of a somewhat interesting discussion in the House next week. Anything further I have to say on the subject I shall reserve for that occasion, of which I have been given some preliminary notice to-day.
The remarks made by the honorable member for Bass (Mr. Barnard) and the honorable member for Hunter (Mr. James) will be brought under the notice of the Ministers concerned.
Question resolved in the affirmative.
The following papers were presented : -
Defence Act - Regulations Amended - Statutory Rules 1940, No. 08.
National Security Act - Regulations Amended, &c. - Statutory Rules 1940, Nos. 03, 64, 05, 00, 07, 72.
The following answers to questions were circulated: -
Agreement. In addition, the Commonwealth allocated £3,000 from the unemployment relief grant of November, 1030,
Will he take steps through the Agricultural Council to give some direction to the wheatgrowers of Australia with regard to area of sowings so as to conform these sowings to the markets available and the availability of shipping to transport the product?
Sale of Gold Reserve
Banks’ Subscriptions to Loans
What amount has been subscribed by the Commonwealth Bank to Commonwealth loans for the financial years 1932-33 to 1938-39, showing each year separately, and from the 1st July, 1939, to date?
Of the £10,000,000 loan recently subscribed by the banks of Australia, how much was subscribed by the Commonwealth Bank and by each of the private banks?
What amounts have been made available during the last five years by (a) the Commonwealth Government, (6) the Commonwealth Bank and (c) the Australian Dairy Council, for (i) herd testing, (ii) pasture improvement, and (iii) fodder conservation?
Herd testing. - Amounts made available during the past five years by - (a) The Commonwealth Government - Nil. Commonwealth Government assistance ceased in 1931. (6) The Commonwealth Bank - Assistance has bees granted annually to the various States since 1931; the amounts have been granted in response to specific requests by the respective States to the Commonwealth Bank Board, (o) The Australian Dairy Council - Thu Council was absorbed by the Australian Dairy Produce Board in March, 1936; no assistant* has been given to herd testing by either the Council or the Board.
In 1935-30 the balance of the Australian Dairy Council’s funds was allocated between the State committees. The arrangement was that each State committee would continue to function until the funds from the Council were exhausted. Further grants were then made by the Australian Dairy Produce Board, which now continues the grants on a normal basis.
Orders for Woollen Goods
The placement of these orders in the several States was related to the volume and delivery capacities of the mills.
Government proposes to raise in the near future ?
National Credit Pamphlet
Cost of Loan Flotation
Runways at Mascot Aerodrome.
Is it a fact that the successful tenderer for new runways at Mascot acrodrome has forfeited his contracts? Is it now proposed to build these runways by day labourunder the Works Branch of the Department of the Interior? If not, why not?
The Minister for the Interior has now supplied the following information: -
The Minister for the Interior has now supplied the following information: -
Shipping from Nauru.
Will the Minister in charge of External Territories supply me with the latest information regarding the stagereached in negotiations between the governments of Great
Britain, New Zealand and Australia, who hold a joint mandate over Nauru, in regard to the proposal for manning the phosphate vessels with white crews instead of coloured crews as at present?
I have made inquiries in the matter and find that the representations that were made by a deputation to my predecessor were conveyed to the British Phosphate Commissioners, who intimated that the matter would be considered by the three commissioners. Advice of the decision reached by the commissioners’ has not yet been received, but I have caused inquiries to be made of the Australian Commissioner as to when consideration of the matter is likely to be completed. In his inquiry the honorable, member referred to negotiations between the governments of Great Britain, New Zealand and Australia, and in that connexion Ishould like to refer to the following clause in the agreement made between the three governments for the exercise of the mandateover Nauru and for the mining of phosphate deposits on the island : -
There shall be no interference by any of the three governments with the direction, management, or control of the ‘business of. working, shipping, or selling the phosphates, and each of the three governments binds itself not to do or to permit any act or thing contrary to or inconsistentwith the terms and purposes of this agreement.
Civil Bights of Soldiers
I draw the attention of the Prime Minister to the following report which appeared in the Melbourne Sun of the . 4th March: -
Police Investigations have followed the interruption of the Prime Minister by two men in military uniform at the political meeting in the city hall on Thursday night. Detectives and military officials have interviewed two men associated with the camp at the showground. and ask him by what authority the civil rights of the two men referred to in the paragraph have been interfered with?
Cite as: Australia, House of Representatives, Debates, 3 May 1940, viewed 22 October 2017, <http://historichansard.net/hofreps/1940/19400503_reps_15_163/>.