16th Parliament · 1st Session
Mr.speaker (Hon. W. M. Nairn) took the chair at, 3 p.m.. and read prayers.
Mr. SHEEHAN presented a petition from electors of the division of Cook, praying that legislationbe enacted to enable an adequate shipbuilding programme to be proceeded with without delay.
Petition received and read.
– On the 12th March, the honorable member for Watson (Mr. Falstein) asked whether, in view of the fact that the New Zealand Government had taken action under the Trading with the Enemy Act with respect to a subsidiary of Schering Proprietary Limited. Sydney, it was intended that the parent company in Sydney should be allowed to continue its operations? I am now in a position to inform the honorable member that on the18th October last the High Court, acting under section 13 of the Trading with the Enemy Act, appointed a controller of this company, and since that date any operations of the company have been carried on by the controller.
– On the 14th March, the honorable member for Batman (Mr. Brennan) asked me whether the League of Democratic Youth had been suppressed and, if so, why? I am now in a position to state that the League of Young Democrats, to which body I assume the honorable member refers, has been declared an unlawful organization on the ground that its existence is prejudicial to the defence of the Commonwealth or the efficient prosecution of the war.
– In compliance with the request of the honorable member for Melbourne (Mr. Calwell), I lay on the table the following papers : -
Provisional Administrative Buildings, Canberra - Letters, dated 13th April, 1939, and 24th February, 1941, to Minister for the Interior from the National Capital Planning and Development Committee.
Motion (by Mr. Price) - by leave - agreed to -
That leave of absence for one month be given to the honorable member for Henty (Mr. Cotes) on the ground of urgent public business.
Centre at Townsville.
– Is the Minister for Commerce in a position to supply any information with regard to the establishment of a wool appraisement centre at Townsville ?
– The representations made by the honorable members for Herbert (Mr. Martens) and Kennedy (Mr. Riordan), as well as by the State member for Townsville, are the subject of discussion between the Central Wool
Committee and myself. I sent to the committee for consideration the correspondence which I received from the honorable member for Herbert and I shall discuss the matter with him.
– Will the Assistant Minister for Commerce make a statement to the House, either to-day or when it next meets, following his investigation of the difficulties confronting the wine industry in South Australia ?
– I have made a fairly thorough survey of the wine industry in South Australia. Having visited most of the wine-growing districts in that - State, I am able to say that arrangements have been made to process the whole of the grape crop for the present season at least. No decision has yet been arrived at in regard to next season’s crop. That is a matter which will bn determined after a conference of all of the interests concerned.
– Can the Treasurer inform the House of the reasons for the delay in sending out income tax assessments for the year 1939.-40? Is he aware that money is being deducted from the earnings of many men employed in mines and elsewhere who had no taxable income in that year? Will he give instructions to the Taxation Department that, in respect of employees who are known to have had no taxable income last year, discretion may be exercised, with a view to avoiding hardship?
– This is a matter which has engaged the attention of the Taxation Department ever since the instalment plan for the payment of taxes was introduced. The department has been instructed - and the instructions have been carried out faithfully - to expedite the issuing of assessments, in order that the minimum amount only shall be deducted by way of instalments in respect of taxable income for the year ended the 30th June, 1940. That procedure will be followed. However, in the light of the honorable member’s statement, I shall have further inquiries made.
– Has the Minister for Commerce been informed of the restrictions imposed by the Government of Western Australia resulting in a deadlock in the distribution of drought relief funds to fanners other than clients of the State Agricultural Bank? Is the Minister aware that an ultimatum has been served on the Government of Western Australia by the farmers who are in need of drought relief? What action docs the Minister propose to take to assist these farmers?
– A newspaper paragraph, somewhat on the lines of the honorable member’s question, was shown to me this morning, and a communication has been sent to the Government of Western Australia by my department asking for information on the subject.
– Is the Minister for Air prepared to make a statement on the subject of the Women’s Air Force Auxiliary, explaining how this body is to be constituted, what are its function.’, and what is the estimated annual cost; also, whether these duties cannot be performed by young men, or by men who are medically unfit for overseas service?
– I shall be glad to make a statement, but in order that full information may be given, it will be better for me to prepare a statement which I shall read on the next day of sitting.
– In view of the fact that some farmers have already started seeding wheat, will the Minister for Commerce hasten the issue of grower.-;’ licences, so that farmers may know what acreage they will be permitted to sow?
– The Wheat Stabilization Committee is working overtime in an endeavour to get the notices out.
– .Has the Minister for the Army, after his conference with the Commonwealth Deputy Crown
Solicitor in Sydney over the week-end, any further statement to make regarding the army boot scandal, and may we expect that some arrests will be made?
– On Monday last I had a discussion with Sydney representatives of the Commonwealth Crown Solicitor, and the Inspector’s Branch, the Chief of the Commonwealth Investigation Branch, and certain detectives who are making investigations. I went over all the facts, as well as the legal aspects of the case. I have no statement to make at this stage, beyond saying that the honorable member may rest assured that, at the appropriate time, a prosecution will be launched.
– Last week the honorable member for Werriwa (Mr. Lazzarini) asked if the Acting Prime Minister was aware that Fostars Proprietary Limited and McEvoys Limited, were identical with Joe Gardiner Limited, and that Joe Gardiner Limited was, in fact, George Cull and Son Proprietary Limited and requested that an inquiry be made into the matter, fu fairness I must state that during the week-end I received a telegram from, and was visited by, a representative of a Joe Gardiner Limited, who invited the fullest investigation of the honorable member’s allegations. The firm declared that the honorable member’s statement was entirely without foundation. Investigations take time, but if the honorable member still pursues his request in the face of the emphatic denials that have been made to me, I shall have investigations made.
– In view of the fact that many honorable members are desirous of discussing matters arising out of the ministerial statements delivered at secret meetings last week, particularly matters affecting home defence, some of which are urgent, will, the Acting Prime Minister state whether a day will be set aside next week for another secret meeting of members of Parliament?
– The matter will receive the consideration of the Government.
– Will the Acting Prime Minister say whether there is any truth in the inspired paragraphs which have appeared in a section of the daily press, that the Government does not intend to resume the secret meetings of both Houses of Parliament, so that honorable members may question Ministers on their statements dealing with the war situation, which were made at the two secret meetings already held? If the paragraphs be neither true nor inspired, will he take action under regulations issued under the National Security Act against such newspapers?
– I know nothing of the newspaper statements to which the honorable member referred. As to their accuracy, the Government’s policy will be made known to the House as and when required.
– Will the Minister for the Army state whether it is a fact, as has been reported in the press, that it is the intention of the Government to set up a royal commission to inquire into federal aspects of the Abbco bread contract case? If so, will the House be given an opportunity to discuss the terms of reference and the personnel of the commission?
– I was about to ask leave to make a statement on this subject when the honorable member forestalled me by his question. It is true, as reported, that the Government has decided to appoint a royal commission to inquire into what is now known as the Abbco bread contract case. During the week-end, I communicated with the Attorney-General in New South Wales and asked him if he would make available the services of Mr. Justice Maxwell as a Commonwealth royal commissioner when the present State inquiry has concluded. The Attorney-General approached the Chief Justice of New South Wales, who indicated that the services of Mr. Justice Maxwell could be made available for the purpose desired. Lt is my desire to make the terms of reference as wide as possible. In genera.) terms, it is desired that the commission shall investigate the circumstances surrounding the conviction of the company; the circumstances under which the company was allowed to continue its contract after being convicted; the circumstances under which a new contract was given to it in July of last year; the conditions under which bread is checked both upon delivery and upon reception into the Army supply depot; whether there are any circumstances surrounding the appointment of Captain Rigney, or affecting the desirability of his retention in the Army, which require investigation or comment; the general conditions under which the supply department and the Army authorities co-ordinate in respect of supplies; and any other matters affecting administration to which the Government’s attention should be drawn. The Government proposes to invite the Leader of the Opposition to assist it in drafting the terms of reference to the commission.
– Has the attention of the Minister for the Army been drawn to the fact that for the first time in the history of royal commissions in New South “Wales the person making charges against the Abbco Bread Company Proprietary Limited, namely, the Leader of the Opposition in New South Wales, has not been given representation on the commission making the inquiry? In view of the fact that there appears to be no counsel with the determination to delve into the heart of the matter, will the Minister consider the propriety of deferring the appointment of Mr. Justice Maxwell as a Commonwealth royal commissioner until after the State commission has completed its inquiries? As Mr. Justice Maxwell will not have before him the fullest details in regard to one section of the charge, he might come to a decision that would militate against his giving a contrary decision at the next inquiry.
– I am not satisfied of the accuracy of the honorable member’s first statement. In any event that is a State commission over which the Commonwealth has no control. It relates to a particular charge and an inquiry into suggested improper conduct on the part of a Minister of that State in reducing the amount of a fine imposed on a firm.
– The honorable member wants the appointment of a royal commission by the Commonwealth to be delayed until a little later.
– I am quite prepared to delay the appointment of a royal commission by the Commonwealth. My present intention is to delay it until the tribunal at present investigating on behalf of New South Wales has completed its inquiries.
– Is the Acting Prime Minister aware that the Government of New South Wales is not co-operating fully with the Man-power and Resources Survey Committee, and that the Premier of New South Wales has refused to allow State officials ‘ to give evidence before the committee on oath? In view of the important bearing of the inquiry, both upon the unemployment position and upon the country’s war effort generally, will the Acting Prime Minister take steps to see that the committee is clothed with full power to compel the attendance of persons to give evidence on oath?-
– I am not aware of the disabilities suffered by the Man-power and Resources Survey Committee, but if the position is as the honorable member has stated, I assure him that power, adequate and appropriate, will be taken to ensure that a committee set up by this Parliament shall be able to function in the way intended.
– I ask the Acting Prime Minister whether it is intended that the Commonwealth Man-power and Resources Survey Committee shall make a report to this Parliament ; if so, will he give an assurance that interim reports also will be made?
– It is not intended that the committee shall report to this Parliament. It will report to the Government.
– Is the Minister for Commerce in a position to make a statement regarding the frequent applications in this House for assistance to the small fruit-growers in southern Tasmania who lost their crops last spring owing to climatic conditions?
– A deputation consisting of the honorable member for Franklin (Mr. Frost), the Premier of Tasmania, and other Tasmanian members of Parliament and senators waited on the Assistant Minister for Commerce and me to-day and suggested that a grant be made to the fruit-growers similar to that made to wheat-growers for drought relief, the money to be made available by way of loan with special interest concessions. I have since discussed the proposal with the Commonwealth Treasurer who, I am pleased to say, has stated, that he will be able to make available under the conditions suggested an amount of £20,000, which will be sufficient to cover the losses of berry-growers, including the growers of black currants.
– I ask the Treasurer to inform me whether it is a fact that the Commonwealth Bank makes up the difference between the military pay and the civil pay of those of its employees who enlist for military service ? If I have stated the position correctly, does he consider that the principle should be extended to other sections of the public service ?
– Matters concerning the policy, control and administration of he Commonwealth Bank are determined by the Commonwealth Bank Board, which is independent in every way of the Government. The present policy regarding the payment of civil servants who enlist for military service was laid down as the result of the unanimous decision of a conference of representatives of the Commonwealth and the States.
– Has the Minister for Commerce any information about the reconditioning of the Doroogbalgie Meat Works for the purpose of slaughtering stock and preserving meat?
– I have no further information about the matter. At the present time, I am discussing it with certain members of the Australian Meat Board. So soon as the conversations are concluded, I shall inform the honorable member of the result.
– Will the Minister for the Army say whether maintenance orders made by courts of competent jurisdiction, and served on the Department of the Army, are referred to the Army Board, which determines facts similar to those on which the court based it? judgment before it makes payments in accordance with the order?
– I shall be pleased to make inquiries and convey an answer to the honorable member.
– I desire to inform the House that on Friday last, the honorable member for Barton, Mr. H. V. Evatt, K.C., was sworn in as a member of the Australian Advisory War Council. The representatives of the Opposition on the Council are now as follows: - Mr. John Curtin, M.P., the Hon. F. M. Forde, M.P., Mr. H. V. Evatt, K.C., M.P., Mr. N. J. 0. Makin, M.P., and the Hon. J. A. Beasley, M.P.
Reported .Statement nv Mr. Fisken.
– Did the Minister for Commerce read in yesterday’s issue of the Daily Telegraph a report of the speech of the chairman of the Australian Meat Board, Mr. Fisken, who, according to that newspaper, severely criticized the advice given by the Minister to Australian meat producers? If the right honorable gentleman has read the report, will he inform me what steps he proposes to take to tell the public whose advice is correct, Mr. Fisken’s or his own?
– Before I left Sydney this morning Mr. Fisken met me and said that the report which appeared in the Daily Telegraph was a very garbled and misleading statement and had not been made by him. I told him that the policy of the Government was to ensure two things: First, that there would bp plenty of beef available for our troops abroad ; and secondly, that the producers of this country would get a fair deal.
– The nature of a number of questions, which have been asked this afternoon, prompts me to remind honorable members that a question without notice should be of such a kind that the Minister to whom it. is addressed hits a reasonable chance of answering it. Where the Minister cannot possibly answer it offhand, it should be placed on the notice-paper.
– In view of the practice which has prevailed since the outbreak of war, whereby the Ministers more immediately associated with the prosecution of the war make statements and afterwards submit a motion for the printing of the relevant paper in order to facilitate discussion, I ask the Acting Prime Minister whether that practice will be con tinned, or whether the need for it is considered to have ended with the adoption of secret meetings?
– Ministerial statements made at a secret meeting will certainly not be printed or circulated; but with ordinary ministerial statements, the printing of which the House has approved, the former procedure will be adopted.
– by leave - It is fitting that to-day I should direct the attention of honorable members to events in the United States of America last week which culminated on Saturday avowing last in the inspiring speech of President Roosevelt, at the annual dinner of the White House Correspondents Association. Earlier last week the President had signed the Aid to Democracies Bill, more familiar to us as the LeaseorLend Bill. Quite early we, in Australia. realized the tremendous significance of the provisions of that measure. We knew that its passage would open the way to the United States of America to give invaluable aid to Great Britain and other nations already fighting for the life of democracy. But I doubt if we realized fully its historic character until President, Roosevelt had spoken. In this chamber we know full well that legislation, however important, is only bare bones. It is the life and spirit behind any great act of Parliament which gives to it meaning. President Roosevelt in his speech on Saturday night imbued the aid to democracies statute with life and spirit. Even as he spoke, we knew that he was interpreting a document which would become as vital for us and for our children as Magna Charta and the Bill of Rights. Remember, too, that President Roosevelt was the spokesman of the American nation. He was dealing with legislation passed by the highest representative legislature of that nation.
What President Roosevelt said was quite unmistakeable. He signified that, though the United States had not declared war upon our enemies, the full energies of its people, and the entire wealth and industrial capacity of the country, were to be ranged upon our side and against our enemies. More than that, the pledge was given that every effort would be bent towards ensuring that this aid should be made effective within the shortest possible time. It was made abundantly clear that the principles for which we are making a supreme war effort are cherished by the citizens of America also. I think I should say in this House to-day, as acting leader of the Australian Government, that we tender our profound thanks to President Roosevelt for the great gesture of friendship, and to the American people for the renewed strength which they have given to us. It is indeed a powerful stimulus to know that, to our effort, to the effort of British people, and to the effort of other nations who are with us, are to be added the tremendous resources of the United States of America, and that these resources are to be used unreservedly to aid our cause. We shall fight the better for it.
I am certain that this House would desire me to express to President Roosevelt our deep appreciation of his wise and far-seeing leadership, and to the American people our sense of gratitude that they, with a full sense of responsibility, are prepared to undertake so much in the high cause in which we are engaged. “What the American people did last week is certain to be a decisive happening in this war; indeed, I believe it. will prove a vital event in the history of humanity. But even the help which. President Roosevelt has vouchsafed does not mean victory now. We would delude ourselves, if we did not recognize that we have still the roughest part of the road to tread. For every Australian the words of the American President will be a challenge to us to “ march breast forward never doubting clouds would break”. Great Britain has shown that it can not only stand up to what is coming to it but can also strike back smashing blows in reply. The United States of America now prepares for a long night of slogging work before the new dawn. I am confident that I express the spirit of Australia when I say that “ Australia will be up with the leaders at every stage of the race “. We did not hesitate to enter this war; we shall not hold back now, and at the finish “Australia will be there.”
Two vital points come to my mind as T recall the challenging speech of President Roosevelt. He called for speed and more speed. “ The urgency,” he declared, “ is now “. Surely that is the note that ought to sound from every anvil in every workshop in Australia. Speed and urgency applied to Australia’s war programme must be the overriding consideration of every office, factory and farm, and predominantly of Parliament itself. The more we give of our best, and the quicker we give it, the sooner we shall win. If we give half-heartedly now and promise that we shall speed up six months or twelve months hence we may find that we are too late.
Then President Roosevelt spoke of the unity which is ours. His country, Great Britain, Australia and Canada and the other dominions and Greece have not been brought together by propaganda or browbeating, but. by the common conviction that the time has come when we all must, for the time being, willingly sacrifice our privileges in order to make the future worth living. It is a unity of the heart which does not depend on formal treaties or axis pacts. The United States of
America has accepted the Lease or Lend Bill because its President and people know deep down in their hearts that there are evil forces abroad which must be destroyed in the dread reality of a total war, or the things we value most will themselves be destroyed. There can be no compromise and no appeasement of these forces, but only a firm “ No “ backed by all the ships, the planes, the guns and ammunition, the total resources which each and every one of the democracies can and must supply. The world has heard that firm word “ No “ from the lips of this great American, this great Democrat, lt is a word backed by the voluntary offering of the total resources of this country. In the name of the people of Australia, I place on record our deep and abiding gratitude for this timely help. In your name I pledge Australia to go on unfalteringly and unitedly in the valiant company of the American people.
– by leave - I associate my party with the expressions of apprecat ion which have fallen from the lips of the Acting Prime Minister (Mr. Fadden) of the speech which President Roosevelt has delivered, and more particularly of the achievements which made that speech not only possible, but also a statement of things happening and to happen. The measure which passed the American Congress is properly known as the Aid to Democracies Act. Its short title may well be “ The LeaseorLend Act”; but the proper title is, I think, the more accurate description, of what the United States of America has undertaken to do. It has undertaken to aid democracy with all the material resources which that extraordinary country possesses - resources which in themselves would not be nearly so useful, but. for the extraordinary efficiency of American industry and the millions of American citizens who will handle the raw materials and productive plant. Behind this new law, and this speech which indicates how the Government is to implement, that law - to make the dry bones live in rich achievement - is the spirit which unites lovers of freedom and liberty the world over. It is not inappropriate at this moment to consider, however briefly, even though it involves some restatement, why this speech has been delivered and this law to aid democracy has been passed by the great American Republic. The United States of America is not a belligerent, because it has not been attacked. Being a democracy, it will not attack unless it is itself attacked. That truth concerning the United States of America lies at the very core of the issue which, we, with the other people in the British Commonwealth of Nations, have had to face. We have not sought to attack another country. We are a democracy and we believe not only in the freedom of a country to govern itself, but also in the basic and fundamental principle of democracy that the citizens of a country have personal rights. We believe, too, that minorities have rights which should not be suppressed and obliterated merely by brute strength. We are fighting to defend and advance the liberties of men and women as men and women. We draw the line at that point where a State seeks to coerce its citizens and force them into a certain course of conduct. Our outlook on this matter, like that of the American people, is formulated in our Constitution. Our Parliament meets under the terms of a written Constitution. It is true that such a thing may be considered by some to hamstring a government in carrying out its own wishes. But both the American and the Australian Constitutions provide, within themselves, the machinery for their own amendment. That machinery places it within the power of the people who are governed to say how they shall be governed. The point is that they may be governed in a certain way with, their own consent. Therefore this declaration by President Roosevelt of the decisions made by the American Congress cannot be other than welcome in this country, not alone because of th’.material assistance it will bc to us in this greatest of all struggles, but also because of the very principles upon which those decisions rest, such decisions having been made in conformity with our own belief* and our own outlook. I hope that this manifestation of goodwill which has been made towards the democracies will reinforce all over the world confidence in the genius of democracy, and the determination of democrats, to make democracy an instrument of government which will not only provide political equality but will also give to every citizen the right to a share in the control of his own country. Such a government will assure each citizen that his own individual needs, with those of his fellows, will be served by an economic and social democracy in which the riches of the earth will be so distributed as to express the equality of man with man.
– Will the Acting Prime Minister inform me whether the Government has given consideration to the use of the bauxite deposits at Tambourine Mountain, near Brisbane, for the manufacture of aluminium? If not, will the honorable gentleman assure me that consideration will be given to this subject before additional supplies of bauxite are imported ?
– The possibilities of the bauxite area near Tambourine Mountain have been investigated. A special committee is at present investigating bauxite and copper deposits throughout Australia.
Effect on Employment in Fruit Industry.
– I have just received the following telegram to which I direct the attention of the Minister for the Army : -
Queensland fruit industry facing serious position owing labour shortage (lue enlistment mid compulsory call up. Many districts will experience difficulty controlling pests, diseases., especially bunchy top in bananas, unless a ruu.3n1111.ble number men left. Area officer? generally not giving sympathetic consideration exemption, postponement, and, where number men employed, to application stagger service period. Suggest representations Minister Army place fruit-growing partial reserve occupation or instruct area officers use greater discretion enable fruit-growers control pests diseases maintain farm harvest crop. Position Serious.
Will the Minister give early consideration to the desirableness of placing the fruit Industry in the category of reserved occupations? Will the honorable gentleman also consider the advisability of making an effort to stagger the military service of the employees engaged in this industry so that its operations may be continued with the least possible dislocation?
– I assure the honorable gentleman that the subject-matter of the telegram which he has just read will receive my immediate consideration.
“8.4S]. - I move -
That thu House, at its rising, adjourn until Tuesday next at 3 ji.m.
To-morrow morning a squadron of warships of the United States of America will reach Sydney in the course of a training cruise. I suggest that the -House should adjourn late this afternoon until Tuesday, so that Ministers and members of the Parliament may have an opportunity personally to welcome to Australia Rear-Admiral John H. Newton and the other officers and ratings of the squadron. The visit to Australian waters of these American warships is, in itself, an event of the greatest interest, and significance is added to this interest when we reflect that the visitors come from a country which, even in these difficult days, has shown unmistakably that it. is a most: friendly neighbour. When the squadron’s call at Sydney was first proposed the Government hastened lo let the Government of the United States of America know that such a visit would be greatly appreciated by the Australian people. I know that this action will wholeheartedly be supported by members of this House. It is intended that on Thursday and Friday of this week a series of official functions shall be held at which the Commonwealth Government, the State governments, and the civic authorities will bo able to greet the officers and ratings of the squadron, and express to them our cordial goodwill and warm appreciation of the strength and power which the United States of America is giving to the democracies of the world. The adjournment of this House for the period I have proposed may rightly be interpreted as a tribute we are proud to pay to our American visitors and to the nation in whose service they are enlisted. For the information of honorable members, I give the following brief details of the arrangements made for official functions in Sydney on Thursday: - 7 ii.tn.– The Show Boat will leave Circular Quay so that honorable members and their wives may have an opportunity to see the squadron arrive in Sydney Harbour. 8.30 a.m. - The squadron will berth at Woolloomooloo.
Later in the morning, official calls will be made. 12.10 p.m. - Officers and ratings of the squadron will march through the streets of Sydney. His Excellency the Governor-General will take the salute in front of the Town Hall. 12.45. p.m. - A luncheon will be tendered to personnel of the squadron, at which I shall extend a welcome on behalf of the Commonwealth Government. 7.15 p.m. - The Commonwealth Government will entertain officers of the squadron at dinner, and speeches will bc made by myself, the Leader of the Opposition (Mr. Curtin), and the Premier of New South Wales (Mr. Mair).
Other arrangements are in hand for the entertainment of officers and ratings on the subsequent days which they will spend in .Sydney.
Question resolved in the affirmative.
– Is the Acting Prime Minister able to inform me whether the committee of Government supporters which has been inquiring into the Government’s child endowment proposals has concluded its work? If so, when may we expect to see its report?
– The honorable member’s question deals with a purely domestic matter. I am able to inform him, however, that the Government’s bill dealing with child endowment will probably be introduced in the House next week.
– A press report published during the week-end indicated that the staff which will control the Commonwealth child endowment scheme is to be located in Sydney. Has the Minister for Labour and National Service made any statement in regard to the head-quarters of this branch of his department? If it is proposed to establish the branch in Sydney, has he made complete inquiries regarding accommodation in Canberra, and will he state his reasons for not installing the branch in this city?
– Very full inquiries have been made in Canberra in recent weeks by Mr. Rowe, who ds acting as head of the administrative staff of the child endowment scheme. As the result of the advice which he tendered to me, I have instructed him to make inquiries in Sydney in order to secure temporary accommodation for the staff. Arrangements have been made to provide the staff with accommodation in the new secretariats which the Department of the Interior proposes to erect in Canberra. For the time being, however, it is impossible to obtain sufficient office or domestic accommodation in Canberra. That is why I have given instructions that inquiries be carried out in Sydney.
Report AND Balance-sheet.
– I ask the Minister representing the Postmaster-General when the annual report and financial statements of the Postmaster-General’s Department for the year ended the 30th June, 1940, will be made available? Nearly nine months has elapsed since the end of the financial year.
– The matter is receiving active consideration at the present time, and the papers will be laid on the table of the House as early as possible.
– In view of the fact that the Government has little or no business of real importance to place before the House, I ask the Acting Prime Minister whether it is his desire to adjourn the present sittings of Parliament from next week until some time in May or June?
– The honorable member’s question is based on wrong premises. The Government has important matters to bring before Parliament very soon.
– In view of the dictatorial powers that have been vested by the Government in the Commonwealth Prices Commissioner, Professor Copland, under which he has the power to find guilty of profiteering any person selling even one item at a price which the Commissioner considers is not reasonable, without giving that person any right of appeal, and in- view of the statement by the Minister for Trade and Customs (Mr. Harrison) that the Government will declare and control the tradingoperations of any such person or organization, will the Acting Prime Minister state whether all trading concerns in the community, both large and small, will be affected? If so, should evidence be produced to prove that any large monopolist concern engaged in the manufacture of munitions or other wartime necessities has engaged in profiteering, will the Government take over and control its operations for the duration of the war?
– If the honorable member has definite evidence of profiteering or contravention of the prices regulations, I shall be pleased to have the matter investigated on the basis of any information he can lay before me. The Government will take steps to deal with any offending person or firm in the light of circumstances as and when they arise.
– Will the Acting Prime Minister expedite the promised appointment of a Parliamentary committee to investigate alleged anomalies in connexion with the sales tax legislation ?
– Many farmers have written to me to complain that their sons and employees have been called up for military service. I ask the Minister for the Army to use his influence in order to have a general policy laid down by the Government in regard to the conscription of man-power from rural industries, so that farmers will know exactly where they stand.
– This problem has been engaging my attention for the last two weeks. It is easy to say that a policy should be laid down, but it is an entirely different thing to determine what that policy shall be. I do not propose to grant exemptions generally to these people, as has been urged in some quarters, because many of them are able to do their duty to the country and should therefore do it. The difficulty is to find, some general principle on which cases of hardship can be classified. I have been endeavouring to work out a system by which the call-up may be “staggered” or postponed in certain districts in respect of certain primary industries. I give an assurance that as soon as I am able to make an announcement on the subject I shall do so.
– Is it a fact that the daily newspapers announced about three weeks ago that new regulations under the National Security Act in relation to the fixation of rents in the State of Victoria were about to be proclaimed ? Can the Acting Prime Minister explain the inordinate delay in the gazettal of such regulations, and can he state the present position in regard to the new regulations?
– I shall bring the subjectmatter of the honorable member’s question under the notice of the appropriate Minister, and have a reply furnished.
–Will the Minister representing the Minister for Supply and Development say whether it is by ministerial direction that the Liquid Fuel Control Board is cancelling licences issued to small hut sound distributing agents? If the reply is in the negative, will the Minister take prompt action to ensure that these people are allowed to continue in business?
– I understand that the practice is to cancel the licence of any concern only when it infringes -the regulations, and then it is done irrespective of whether the concern be small or large.
– I direct a question to the Acting Prime Minister in the absence of the Minister for Trade and Customs. Is he aware that discrimination is being exercised in respect of souvenirs sent from Libya by members of the Australian Imperial Force according to the rank of the sender? I have in mind a case in which a souvenir sent by a member of the rank and file was confiscated, whereas, according to the Sydney Morning Herald, a similar souvenir sent by a lieutenant in the forces was admitted. Will the Minister take steps to see that privates and noncommissioned officers are placed on the same footing as commissioned officers in this connexion?
– The matter will be referred to the Minister for Trade and Customs who will furnish a reply to the honorable member.
– In view oT the importance of the bill to amend the Australian Broadcasting Commission Act, will the Acting Prime Minister take steps to ensure the attendance at this House during its passage of Mr. C. J. A. Moses, the general manager of the commission so that he may be available for consultation by members of all parties? Mr. Moses knows more about this non-party measure than do all of the members of the commission put together.
– I shall give consideration to the honorable member’s request.
– Can the Acting Prime Minister say whether the conference between the War Advisory Council and the Commonwealth Bank Board to discuss the utilization of national credit for war purposes, which was agreed to by the Government as part of the terms of the budget compromise, has yet been held ? If so, can he say when a report of its proceedings will be tabled ?
– A conference has already been held, and other conferences along the lines mentioned by the honorable member are proceeding; but as all of the matters dealt with by the Advisory War Council are secret, that body will decide the course of action to be followed.
– Has the attention of the Minister for the Army been drawn to the fact that many small contractors are obliged to find substantial cash deposits when taking up defence contracts? Further, is he aware that many of these contractors have to borrow money from banks and money lenders for that purpose, and that, after the goods have been delivered, considerable delays frequently occur in the releasing of the guarantees, with the result that the contractors are involved in heavy payments for interest? Will he have the matter investigated with a view to shortening the period between the acceptance of the goods by the department and the release of the bond?
– There can be no doubt whatever that there has been inordinate delay in releasing guarantees. I have therefore given directions that means must be found whereby prompt payments will be made.
– Is the Minister aware that many small contractors for buildings in connexion with defence works have to wait a considerable time for progress payments, and are in consequence inconvenienced through having to make financial arrangements to carry on?
– I have n0 doubt whatever that if contractors have to wait long periods for their money, they must be inconvenienced, some of them seriously. That aspect of defence contracts has given me a good deal of concern, and I hope that the directions which I have given will overcome the difficulty. I shall be glad if honorable members will bring under my notice any cases ,of this kind so that I may give attention to them.
Motion (by Mr. Spender) - by leave - agreed to -
That he have leave to bring in a bill for an act to amend the Defence Act 1003-1 939.
Bill brought up, and read a first time.
– by leave - I move -
That the bill be now read a second time.
This bill is designed to make more stringent the existing provisions of the Defence Act relating to fraud in connexion with the supply of food, material and equipment to the Defence Force. At present section 73c of the act makes guilty of an offence any contractor, purveyor or other person, including any employee, who fraudulently supplies for use by the Defence Force certain inferior goods. At least my legal friends opposite will appreciate that it is one thing to prove that a contractor has supplied goods of an inferior quality and quite another thing to prove that he fraudulently did so. The presence of a fraudulent intent may be obvious, but it is one thing for the fraudulent intent to be obvious and another thing to prove it before a court. The purpose of clause 3 is to remove the word “ fraudulently “, but at the same time to make it a good defence if the contractor is able to show that there was no intent to defraud and that he was not aware of the inferior quality. In other words, instead of the Commonwealth having to prove fraud, the amendment throws on the person charged the onus of showing an absence of fraud.
The same section of the act also makes it- an offence for an officer of the Commonwealth fraudulently to receive any such, goods. Consequently the clause goes on to omit the word “ fraudulently “ in this case also, and to cast on the officer the onus of proving that there was no intent to defraud on his part and that he did not know that the goods were supplied in contravention of the section.
As honorable members are perhaps aware, when the Commonwealth enters into a contract for the supply of certain goods for the defence force it usually arranges for the inspection of the goods and places on them certain seals or marks to indicate that they are up to standard. Only goods so marked will then be accepted in fulfilment of the contract. I have already brought to the notice of honorable members a case in which goods bearing a forged mark are alleged to have been delivered. The most effective way that I can imagine of obviating any similar act of so reprehensible a nature is to make it an offence for any such contractor to have in his possession goods fraudulently marked. I believe that if the Commonwealth can nip this sort of thing in the bud, as it were, by catching the offender while the goods are still in his possession, rather than wait until the goods are delivered, this practice will quickly be stamped out. That is the purpose of the new section 73n which, clause 4, proposes to insert.
To persons of a certain type, who are able to make a substantial profit by their fraud, the imposition of a penalty, however large, may not always be a sufficient deterrent. Unfortunately, a company cannot be imprisoned. The new section 73e proposed to be inserted by clause 4 is designed to ibr ing these provisions of the Defence Act in line with the provisions of the National Security Act, and to make every director and officer concerned in the management of a company guilty of the offence of which the company is guilty unless he can show that the offence took place without his knowledge, or that he had no means of preventing it.
The proposed section 73f is designed to bring into line with the provisions of the National Security Act the penalties which may be imposed in respect of serious frauds of the nature to which I have referred.
The proposed section 73g is designed to prevent a company from sheltering behind the lack of guilty intent, or authority to act, on the part of its servants.
The provisions of the bill will, by virtue of clause 2, be made retrospective to the date on which the war commenced. The measure is undoubtedly drastic, but I make no apology whatsoever for introducing it. I find it difficult to conceive of any crime of a more reprehensible character than those with which this bill deals. This country is at war, and to defraud the Commonwealth during the period of war is itself a most reprehensible act; but when that fraud takes the form of supplying to the Commonwealth equipment for the use of ite forces of such an inferior quality that the safety, and perhaps the lives, of its forces may be at stake, the natural hesitation to make retrospective any measure appertaining to the criminal law must then disappear. I commend the measure to the House.
Debate (on motion by Mr. Evatt) adjourned.
Motion (by Mr. Spender) - by leave - agreed to -
That ho have leave to bring in a bill for an act to amend section 29n of the Crimes Act 1914-1037.
Bill brought up, and read a first time.
– by leave - I move -
That the bill bo now road a second time.
Section 29b of the Crimes Act makes it an offence to impose or endeavour to impose upon the Commonwealth by any untrue representation, made either verbally or in writing, with a view to obtaining money or any other benefit or advantage. At first sight the words “made either verbally or in writing” may appear to cover all possible methods of making the untrue representation. Such is not, however, the case. An untrue representation resulting in fraud may be made by false conduct, and this would not be covered by the section by reason of the specific reference to the representation being made either verbally or in writing. This bill proposes to amend the section by omitting the words, “ ei ther verbally or in writing “) and inserting in their stead the words, “in any manner whatsoever “. The bill is to be made retrospective to the 3rd September, 1939.
Debate (on motion by Mr. Evatt) adjourned.
Motion (by Mr. Hughes) agreed to -
That he have leave to bring in a bill for an act to amend the Acts Interpretation Act
Bill brought up, and read a first time.
– - by leave - I move -
That the bill be now read a second time.
As honorable members are aware, reference is frequently made in an act to a Minister of State and, sometimes, to a particular Department of State. Insofar as the reference is to a Minister or a department administering an act, provision is already made by section 19a of the Acts Interpretation Act that that reference is to be read as a reference to the Minister, or the department, as the case may be, under whose administration or control the act is placed by an order of the Governor-General.. Consequently, even where the Department of State referred to no longer exists - the Defence Department, for example - no problem arises, because the various acts once administered by the Minister for Defence and his department have since been placed, by order of the Governor-General, under the administration of the Minister for one of the four departments which have replaced the Department of Defence.
Section 19a of the Acts Interpretation Act accordingly provides that any provision that an act shall be administered by the Minister of State for Defence shall be read as a reference to the Minister of State for Defence Coordination, the Army, the Navy or Air, as the case may be.
A new problem has, however, arisen for which no provision is at present to be found in the Acts Interpretation Act. In certain acts a reference is made to a Minister of State who is not the Minister administering that act. An excellent example may be found in section 96 of the Patents Act, which provides for inventions to be kept secret where the Minister for Defence so directs. As the Patents Act is administered by the AttorneyGeneral, section 19a of the Acts Interpretation Act can have no application. The purpose of clause 4 of the present hill is to provide that any such reference to a Minister, or to a particular department, shall be read as a reference to whatever Minister or department, as the case may be, the GovernorGeneral specifies by order. Clause 3 of the bill merely makes an amendment to the present section 19a which is consequential upon the insertion of the new section.
Clause 5 proposes to” amend section 24 of the Principal Act in order to clear up doubts as to the penalty for which a company is liable in respect of certain o (fences. At present, section 24 specifically enacts that the provisions of any act relating to offences, unless the contrary intention appears, refer to bodies corporate, as well as to persons. In several acts which provide for the more serious offences, however, the only penalty prescribed is one of imprisonment. Since it is obviously impossible to imprison a corporation, the question arises as to what penalty, if any, may be imposed on the corporation, if or when it is convicted of any offence of this nature. Clause 5 proposes to amend the principal act so as to prescribe the maximum pecuniary penalties which a court may impose on a corporation where the only penalty prescribed by the act is one of imprisonment.
Honorable members will notice that sub-clause 2 provides that this amendment shall be deemed to have come into operation on the 3rd September, 1939. As proceedings might, after the commencement of this bill, be brought in respect of offences already committed by corporations, it appears desirable that this amendment shall be made retrospective in order that confusion may not arise if or when any such proceedings are brought hereafter.
Opportunity has also been taken, in drafting the bill, to amend section 33 of the Principal Act in order to rectify an omission that occasionally is the cause of some inconvenience. At present, subsection 3 of section 33 provides that a power to make rules, regulations or bylaws shall be construed to include a power to rescind, revoke, amend or vary such rules, regulations or by-laws. The expression “rules, regulations or bylaws “ does not, however, exhaust the instruments which may be made under an act. It will readily be appreciated by honorable members that if a power be conferred to make or issue any instrument under an act, then the power to repeal or amend that instrument at some later date is necessary, even though the instrument does not fall under the description of “ rules, regulations or by-laws “. Examples of instruments not at present covered by the expression are proclamations and orders. Consequently, the bill proposes to amend the sub-section so that it will refer to any instrument made, granted or issued under a power conferred by an act.
Honorable members will agree with me that there is nothing contentious in this measure and that it is designed merely to rectify certain anomalies, which experience has shown to exist in the Acts Interpretation Act and which may possibly cause considerable inconvenience. I commend the measure to the House.
Debate (on motion by Mr. Evatt) adjourned.
Grievances - Parliament : Sittings ; Secret Meeting of Senators and Members - Appointments to Department of Information and Censorship Staffs - Conditions at Holdsworthy Detention Camp - Manufacture of Textiles - Man Power and Resources Survey Committee : Activities ; Attitude of Government of New South Wales.
Motion (by Mr. Spender) proposed -
That the House do now adjourn.
.- Though Parliament has now been in session for nearly a fortnight, honorable members have not had an opportunity, except on motions for adjournment, to discuss “ recess “ grievances which they have against the Government. Next week the Government should afford to honorable members an opportunity to discuss all such matters, and allow the House to debate the business of the country at some length. I am not sure whether the Government intends abruptly to terminate the session; but I understand that it proposes to adjourn some time before the Easter vacation. In my opinion, Parliament should be adjourned at the latest possible moment, and be recalled as soon as practicable after Easter. The session could be resumed conveniently to honorable members not later than the last week .in April. That would mean that Parliament would sit until the end of the week before Easter, rise for the vacation, and re-assemble not later than the lastweek in April.
– The honorable member is considering the convenience of the representatives of constituencies in Queensland and Western Australia?
– Yes. I had the Western Australians particularly in mind. Whilst the need for discussing the business of the country and thoroughly examining the acts of the Executive is paramount to the convenience of honorable members, the adjournment, which I have suggested, will allow honorable members from the more remote States al. opportunity to visit their homes and to return to Canberra in time for the resumption of the House. I impress upon the Government the necessity for giving to the House ample opportunity to discuss not only numerous bills which the Government might submit but also acts of administration.
.- This afternoon the Acting Prime Minister (Mr. Fadden) parried questions about the resumption of the secret meetings of both Houses, and refused to say whether the meetings would be continued or discontinued. A definite undertaking was given to honorable members that if they were prepared to meet in secret and listen to reports by Ministers, they would be afforded ample opportunity, not only to ask questions upon the ministerial statements, but also to discuss the actions of Ministers.
– And make suggestions regarding the conduct of the war effort.
– Suggestions, also, for improving the manner in which the war effort is being conducted. If the secret meetings are not to be resumed, the Government is guilty of bad faith. From the answers given by the Acting Prime Minister it appears that the Government intends not to fulfil its promise. If that be so,, honorable member* were lured into the secret meetings under false pretences. Their credulity was imposed upon. Honorable members who support the Government should not accept the ukase from the Ministry that no more secret meetings will be held. Admittedly, the Government is encountering difficulties on account of lack of business and, therefore, desires to conclude the session as quickly as possible.
– I shall discuss the matter with the Acting Prime Minister, but there is little doubt that next week an opportunity will be afforded to honorable members to question Ministers, to offer suggestions, and to discuss the subjectmatters of the ministerial statements, which were delivered in the secret meetings.
– I not only thank the Minister for his assurance, but also compliment him upon his frankness. He is more candid than was the Acting Prime Minister when he was asked equally direct questions. I do not know whether something has happened in the meantime to make the Government, in a composite way, arrive at a different opinion from that held by the Acting Prime Minister early this afternoon.
– Possibly the honorable member misunderstood the Acting Prime Minister.
– Equally possibly the Acting Prime Minister misunderstood me. Yesterday the daily press announced the appointment of Mr. J. Williams as Director-General of Information. Mr. Williams succeeds Mr. P. B. Jenkin, who succeeded the redoubtable Sir Keith Murdoch, the first Director-General of tire important government department on which more than £900,000 of the taxpayers’ money is to be spent this year.
– That statement surprises me and I shall check it.
– Apparently I have imparted information to the Minister for the Army. The three men who have held the position of Director-General of Information have been associated with the Murdoch press, Sir Keith Murdoch being the managing director and Mr. Jenkin and Mr. Williams two of his proteges. The Department of Information appears to be one for the employment of journalists associated with the Murdoch press which not only issues comic strips but also indulges in subversive propaganda at elections to secure the return of the United Australia party. For this purpose the Murdoch press also uses the radio stations which it is operating to-day in defiance of the regulations of the Postmaster-General’s department. It operates a larger number of “ B “ class stations in each State than is permitted by the regulations. The Murdoch press is more than a law unto itself; it is the dictator of the present Government’s policy. The Government does what the Murdoch press directs. Mr. Williams, on the date of his appointment as DirectorGeneral of Information, was general manager of the Courier-Mail, Brisbane, and previously he was assistant editor of the Melbourne Herald. Before holding that position he was manager of the Adelaide Evening News. Those three newspapers are owned by the BaillieuMurdoch press gang. Sir Keith Murdoch’s influence secured the- appointment as director of public relations in the Department of Air of Mr. A. Thomas, who was chief of the literary staff of the Mel bo u r ne Herald.
– Why does the honorable member suggest that when a man who was previously employed on certain newspapers is appointed to a Government position he is still under the influence of his previous employer?
– If the Minister for the Army will restrain his curiosity for a few moments I shall furnish ample evidence to support my statementMr. Thomas, who bore the grandiose title of director of public relations in the Department of Air, lasted only a few weeks in that position. As far as I can ascertain he did nothing in the department and subsequently returned to the Melbourne Herald. Through, the influence of Sir Keith Murdoch, who bought a station near Canberra so that he could entertain the Duke of Kent when he came to Australia as Governor-General, the position of director of public relations in the Department of Air was secured for Mr. R. B. Leonard, who was deputy chief of staff of the Melbourne Herald. After occupying the position for six or seven months Mr. Leonard produced the first issue of the A.ir Force Journal, which appeared yesterday. I am aware that Mr. Leonard wrote a number of “ hand-outs “, as the press describe them, for publication in support of the department’s activities. I understand that Mr. Leonard will leave the Department of Air this week and return to employment with the Melbourne Herald.
– Are all the statements that the honorable member is making now as reliable as his statement that the Department of Information is to cost the taxpayers £900,000 this year? I have just learned that the expenditure on the department will be £193,000.
– I can understand, the uneasiness of the Minister when confronted with these public disclosures and I am sure that if he had the chance he would “ gag “ me now : However, democracy has spoken and the Government, because it lacks the numbers., is no longer able to “gag” any member in this House. It is merely thankful to survive, ms the honorable member for Watson (Mr. Falstein) has just remarked. Sir Keith Murdoch also secured a position in the Censor’s branch in Victoria for Mr. Harold Tilley, chief of staff of the Melbourne Sun News-Pictorial. Sir Keith Murdoch was in Canberra last week. He returned by ‘plane to Melbourne on Thursday, and two days later Senator Foll announced the appointment of Murdoch’s protege, Mr. Williams, as Director-General of Information.
– How does the honorable member connect all these incidents?
– By inductive and deductive logic from known facts. When I see the sinister figure of Sir Keith. Murdoch flitting across the scene of governmental activities I know that something detrimental to Australia is happening. I want to know what hold Sir Keith Murdoch has on the Government.
– The answer is, none.
– I refuse to accept the Minister’s assurance. Sir Keith Murdoch on giving up the position of Director-General of Information became the director-general of the Cabinet. Is Senator Foll Murdoch’s rubber stamp? Moreover, can the Minister for the Army give the House the assurance that newspaper magnates, particularly of the Murdoch type, will be told to get out and stay out of the Australian war effort? [ am not defending the Fairfax and Syme families or any other newspaper Moguls. The chief proprietor of the Melbourne Age is Geoffrey Syme. His silence at the last Commonwealth election was purchased by the granting of a. title in the last New Year’s honours list. I am not concerned so much about the liberty of the press in relation to these press magnates. Were it not for the fact that worthy people would be thrown out of employment and a great amount of distress caused I should not worry if the Melbourne Herald and other newspapers of that type were not published. I believe that a majority of the people of Australia hold the view that Sir Keith Murdoch’s influence on the present Government and previous governments has not been and is not helpful. Many Australians remember him as the gentleman who published in his newspapers six or seven years ago the text of stolen cablegrams that passed between Ministers of the Crown and were used by his press to influence the people’s verdict at an election so as to secure the defeat of the Scullin Ministry and the return of the depression Government led by Mr. Lyons. In making these statements, I am inspired by a deep sense of duty, because I think that the real interests of Australia will be better served when the present Government depends in the real sense on itself and less on newspaper magnates, the Chamber of Manufactures, the Chamber of Commerce the other bodies whose entire interest in the war effort is in direct ratio to the profits they are making out of it.
I do not expect the Government to take any notice of what I am saying on this subject, for it would not dare to offend the Murdoch press ; but I make it clear that, in my opinion, Public Enemy No. 1 of the liberties of the Australian people is the Murdoch press. I trust that no further appointments of representatives of, or persons associated with, the Murdoch press will be made to the Department of Information or to the Censorship staffs.
.- Some time ago I made certain complaints to the Minister for the Army (Mr. Spender) concerning the State of affairs at the Holdsworthy detention camp. In compliance with my request, the Minister said that he would make arrangements for me to visit the camp in order to make the closest inquiries. I was advised later that the camp commandant would be pleased if I would let Mm know when I desired to make my visit and that he would make a motor car available to me. That was not the kind of visit I desired to pay. I informed the Department of the Army to that effect, and I was then advised that I could visit the camp between certain hours on certain days. I was told that I could go right through the camp but that I must not talk to any of its inmates. I did not accept the invitation under those conditions. “When I made my inspection of the camp I made it in my own way. I discovered that an alarming situation existed there.
– When did the honorable member make his inspection?
– I do not intend to tell the Minister too much.
– If the honorable gentleman considered that he had such an urgent duty to his country to visit the camp, he should tell me what he discovered and when he discovered it.
– I shall tell the honorable gentleman exactly what I discovered.
– And when it was discovered ?
– If the Minister thinks that he can deny the truth of the statements I am about to make I challenge him to have a proper inquiry made into the whole subject.
An officer named Captain Lees is in charge of the camp, which is used as a place of confinement for personnel found guilty of certain offences such as “ Absence Without Leave “, the playing of “ two up “, and so on. Quite recently a person found guilty of playing “ two up “ was sentenced to fourteen days’ detention at Holdsworthy. A great number of the trivial offences of which men are found guilty bring upon them sentences of solitary confinement. Honorable members will recollect that on the last occasion upon which T addressed myself to this subject I said that the huts in which the men were confined were absolutely unsuitable for such a purpose. I pointed out that the huts were of two sizes, 7 feet by 10 feet, in which three men were confined, and 7 feet by 20 feet in which six men were confined. I did not take a tape measure with me, but I am sure that the sizes I have given are approximately correct. I stated on that occasion that the ventilation of the huts was very bad. The Minister in his reply said that all of the huts had windows in them. That is true, but the windows are generally kept closed when men are confined in the huts. When men have requested the guards to open the windows because of the oppressive conditions they have been told that the windows cannot be opened except with the express permission of the camp commandant. Such permission can very rarely be obtained.
In support of my statement that the men are sentenced to what is termed by them solitary confinement for trivial offences, I am able to inform honorable members that one man was sentenced to three days’ solitary confinement because one button on his “ giggle suit “ was undone.
– What is a “giggle suit?”
– The service overalls are known as “giggle suits.”
There is a daily inspection of these huts, and it usually happens that the officer who makes it walks briskly through the huts, asks whether any one has any complaint to make, and is out of the hut again before the inmates have any opportunity to reply. On one occasion when an officer visited a hut one of the men was sitting down, and because he did not at once jump to his feet he was sentenced to three days’ solitary confinement on bread and water. He was given no opportunity to explain why he did not at once spring to attention. Another man was sentenced to solitary confinement because it was found, on the daily inspection, that he had not shaved. Men undergoing solitary confinement at Holdsworthy are kept in their cells for 22 hours out of the 24. They are allowed an exercise period of only one hour in each twelve hours. During detention all orders must be executed at the double. The men are not allowed to use mattresses, and are provided with only one blanket. They must sleep on the floor, if, indeed, they are able to sleep at all. The Holdsworthy detention camp is located in an area with a very cold climate, and men who have ‘been confined there have told me that they have found it impossible to sleep. Some of them have been obliged to walk about all night. Is it fair that treatment of this kind should be meted out to men found guilty of trivial offences?
There is another serious aspect of the subject. Men suffering from venereal disease are detained at Holdsworthy. I found that there was a pit at the camp about 5 ft. by 5 ft. and about 9 ft. deep. The overflow of water front showers and elsewhere is directed into these pits, and the water is subsequently used on the vegetable gardens. The vegetables grown in the gardens are eaten in the camp. This is surely a shocking state of affairs.
Recently a young man named Lees, who was detained in the camp, asked the camp authorities to telephone a certain hospital in order to ascertain the condition of his mother who, he said, was seriously ill there. A call was put through. Honorable members are, no doubt,well aware that to nine out of ten of such inquiries the hospital authorities say, in one form or another, that the condition of the patient is satisfactory. That was the reply given to the inquiry made for this young man. He was subsequently found guilty of having made a false statement when he said that his mother was dangerously ill, and was sentenced to solitary confinement on bread and water. The boy’s mother was, in fact, so seriously ill that she had to have a leg amputated before she could leave the hospital. Such an operation is not a trivial illness. Why should a boy be sentenced to three days’ solitary confinement in such circumstances?
I assure the Minister that if he is willing to have an inquiry held into the charges that I am making ample evidence will be forthcoming to substantiate my case.
On the 2nd March two men escaped from the camp. They were recaptured. While one of the men had both arms pinioned at his sides he was struck a smashing blow by an officer of the camp. The two men were put in separate cells and a sergeant was detailed to give each a lashing there.
– Is the honorable mem ber speaking about Germany or Australia?
– I am stating what has occurred at the Holdsworthy detention camp. Relatives who wish to visit in mates of the camp are obliged to obtain permission to do so from Captain Lees. Recently the wife of one of the men applied for permission to visit her husband. She resided at Deewhy, which is in the Minister’s own electorate. The time fixed for her visit was 9.30 a.m., which, I think the Minister will admit, is a fairly early hour to fix for any person who would have to travel from Deewhy to Holdsworthy. The wife had taken two children with her because there was no one with whom she could leave them. She arrived at the camp at 9.32 a.m., two minutes after the appointed time. Although the time specified for visits of this nature is twenty minutes, she was refused permission to see her husband. It seems that the general public is not aware of the existence of such conditions in this country. Another woman left her home at Springwood in order to visit her husband, whowas under detention at the Holdsworthy camp. She arrived four minutes late, and was not allowed to see her husband. The fact that guards at the camp are continually asking to be transferred for duty elsewhere, because they object to the brutality of the treatment meted out to men who are detained there for trivial offences, proves that there is dissatisfaction even amongst the guards. During the last twelve months between 50 and 60 guards have been transferred from the camp at their own request. I do not blame them. Many of them are just as disgusted with the state of affairs existing there as are honorable members. The Minister may have been misinformed in regard to conditions at the camp. It may have been reported to him that all is well and that either the complaints were baseless or matters had been rectified. I ask the honorable gentleman to institute a proper inquiry and to give his personal guarantee that, if men who have been transferred from the camp give evidence before the inquiry, they will not be victimized. I have been assured by a number of these men that, if such an undertaking be given, they will be pleased to supply the Minister with any information he may desire. The Government should act immediately in order to see that conditions are improved. A most searching inquiry is necessary. Some officer who will undertake his duties with discretion should be placed in charge cf the camp. It is not a matter of exercising control over criminals. The men have been detained on account of trivial offences, and they are entitled to receive better treatment than is being accorded to them. I urge the Minister to conduct an early inquiry.
– I protest against the “mark-time” tactics of the ‘Government, which apparently is merely sparring for time until the Prime Minister (Mr. Menzies) returns from abroad. Some honorable members have travelled thousands of miles in order to attend these sittings of Parliament, but have been given nothing to do but twirl their thumbs. We have been in Canberra for nearly a fortnight, and little or nothing of value to the country has been accomplished. This is a time of crisis. We are told that we must strain every nerve and do our utmost to advance the nation’s war effort. Nevertheless, the House has adjourned day after day without having anything to show for its deliberations. I object to these laissez-faire methods. We should get on with the job for which we were elected; or stand aside and allow other people to do it. This backing and filling on the part of the Government can do nothing more than bring our so-called democratic institutions into contempt, and discredit this Parliament in the eyes of the nation. There are many problems that the Parliament should consider, including adequate wages, child endowment, widows’ pensions, malnutrition, and monetary reform. Malnutrition does exist amongst our people; that was learned by the royal commission that made inquiries into the subject a few years ago. It is an important problem because the proper physical development of our people ensures a strong first line of defence for Australia. In spite of all this, we seem to be dawdling along while the Government spars for time and awaits the return of its leader. I protest very strongly against this policy.
– I wish to discuss a matter relating to a large employing industry about which the Minister for the Army (Mr. Spender) should have some knowledge. If he is not in possession of all the facts, I ask him to pass on my representations to the proper quarters. Recently clothing manufacturers had their businesses thrown out of gear by a request; to manufacture khaki drill to be sent to India. The employees in the industry were also affected. In normal times our weaving machinery would now be engaged in the manufacture of cloth for winter overcoating, but it is fully occupied in the manufacture of khaki drill, which will be manufactured in India into uniforms for units of the British armed forces. The manufacturers do not object to doing this important work, but they ask that the arrangement be extended so that the khaki drill may be made up into uniforms in this country, thus obviating the displacement of labour caused by the transfer from peace-time operations to this special war-time job. I ask the Minister to give sympathetic consideration to this request.
.- I regret that certain important functions to be held in .Sydney make it expedient for Parliament to adjourn to-day. In view of the Government’s wish that this sitting be terminated quickly, I shall speak briefly now and amplify my remarks at the next sitting. I speak now because the honorable member for Robertson (Mr. Spooner), who, as chairman of the Commonwealth Man-power and Resources Survey Committee, is vitally concerned with my representations, is in the chamber. I remind honorable members that the Prime Minister (Mr. Menzies) said some months ago at a gathering at the Hotel Australia in Sydney that wastage of man-power was a definite presentto Hitler. This afternoon I asked the Acting Primp Minister (M.r. Fadden) if he was a wa ve that the New South Wales Government was not co-operating fully with tb°. Commonwealth Man-power and Resources Survey Committee. The Premier of that State objected to his departmental, officers giving evidence before the committee on important matters about which the committee required information. He contended that anything required by the committee from his officers should go through him in the form of a written statement. I have evidence of that. The matter was referred to in the Sydney
Morning Herald more than a week ago, and a member of the Manpower and Resources Survey Committee, the honorable member for Dalley (Mr. Rosevear), has pointed out that the New South. “Wales Premier’s action seriously handicapped the committee, which is anxious to get on with its work. The committee’s inquiries are of great concern to New South Wales, because in that State alone, there are 40,000 unemployed who are anxious to help in the Commonwealth’s war effort. In the electorate which I represent there are between 2,000 and 3,000 unemployed. The matter was again brought up in the State Parliament last week, and in answer to a question by Mr. Matthews, the Premier (Mr. Mair) reiterated that so far as the New South Wales Government is concerned evidence can only be submitted to the committee through him in the form of a written statement. On another occasion I shall deal with the reasons why Mr. Mair has taken that stand. I also understand that the chairman of the committee promised the only deputation which has yet waited on the committee that it will make interim reports. The Acting Prime Minister said to-day, however, that the committee would report direct to the Government. I urge the chairman of the committee to bring forward interim reports so that honorable members may be informed as early as possible of the facilities being provided for the unemployed to be engaged or trained to take their place in our war industries. I can hardly imagine that the Acting Prime Minister is ignorant of the facts I have given. The war has been in progress eighteen months, and surely in that period the Government has taken some interest iri the matter of absorbing the unemployed in our war industries. In addition, Mr. Mair’s attitude has been indicated in press reports published a week ago, and has also been commented upon in the State Parliament. It seems extraordinary, therefore, that the Acting Prime Minister is unaware that Mr. Mair is not co-operating with the committee. While Mr. Mair is himself crying out for co-operation from all other sections of the community, he is, apparently, frustrating the efforts of that committee. I ask the Acting Prime Minister to empower the committee to call any person who it thinks is able to give useful evidence. I shall deal with this matter more fully next week.
.- I wish to make a few observations with respect, to the remarks of the honorable member for Reid (Mr. Morgan). Every member of the Man-power and Resources Survey Committee has worked very hard, and the Committee has gathered a great deal of information. However, it cannot be expected so early in its investigation to be in a position to tender an interim report at this stage. So soon as it is able to do so, it will forward its report to the Government, and the Government will decide what shall be done with it. Honorable members will appreciate that during the last week it was not possible for the committee to resume its inquiry. The committee will proceed to Melbourne to-night, and during the next few days will continue its investigations in that city. It is determined to make a thorough investigation, and to deliver its report to the Government as soon as possible. Honorable members will appreciate that the subject of the inquiry covers a large field, and cannot be dealt with lightly. However, the committee will not delay in any way its investigation.
The Acting Prime Minister (Mr. Fadden) was correct in saying that he was not at this stage aware that any difficulty of the kind mentioned by the honorable member for Reid .had arisen in New South Wales. At all events he is not officially aware of such a difficulty. Information which I gave to the Acting Prime Minister on that subject was given in such a way that he would not regard it as an intimation that the committee was experiencing any difficulty. I have had further correspondence on the subject with Mr. Mair. The Acting Prime Minister has also addressed a letter on the same matter to Mr. Mair in the hope that he will permit the committee to interview directly officers of government departments in New South Wales. All members of the committee will agree with me when I say that the committee cannot properly complete its investigation and furnish a useful report unless it be enabled to discuss personally with officials of the New South Wales Government the matters on which it desires information. So far, we have received the utmost co-operation from all public bodies and all men whom we have approached for information. The position which has arisen in New South Wales is probably no more than an. unfortunate misunderstanding. Should we be unable to obtain the information we desire in the way we consider necessary we shall then officially advise the Acting Prime Minister to that effect, and I have no doubt that he will take appropriate action.
– in reply - The remarks of honorable members, particularly those of the honorable member for (Melbourne Port (Mr. Holloway), will be brought under the notice of appropriate Ministers. So far as the observations of the honorable member for East Sydney (Mr. Ward) are concerned, any charge of that character made by an honorable member of this House necessarily requires investigation .by the Minister concerned who. in this instance, is myself. I undertake to make the most searching investigation of his allegations. I do not doubt, however, that, whatever the facts may be, the picture painted by the honorable member will .be found to be, like the false report of Mark Twain’s death, slightly exaggerated.
– Do not prejudge the honorable member.
– I am. not prejudging the honorable member. I have found on previous occasions that a substance of truth is often used to paint a picture for purposes other than ventilating a grievance. Some time ago the honorable member for East Sydney first made allegations of this description in tins House. It is perfectly obvious that he has known for some time what he alleges to be facts. I asked him to tell me the date on which ho visited the Holdsworthy Detention Camp, and he refused to answer. If, in matters of this kind which touch so urgently the administration of our forces, any honorable member believes that he has facts which require investiga tion, it is his duty to bring them to the notice of the responsible Minister as soon as he knows of them. However, the real interest of the honorable member for East Sydney , in this matter is revealed by the fact that he has left the chamber rather than wait to hear my reply. I shall, not prejudge the facts. I shall have an investigation made by an independent person, and when the report comes to hand I shall act accordingly.
With respect to the statement made by the honorable member for Melbourne (Mr. Calwell), I merely observe that his statement that Sir Keith Murdoch has any influence over this Government is unfounded.
– Melbourne influence.
– The honorable member’s statement has as much substance in truth as his statement relating to the expenditure of the Department of Information. The accuracy of the information on which the honorable member based what he terms “ deductive logic “ may be judged from his statement that the expenditure of the Department of Information this year will amount to £900,000, whereas in cold truth it will amount to £193,000. Such a divergence from truth, however, does not, apparently, concern the honorable member.
Question resolved in the affirmative.
The following papers were presented : -
Northern Territory - Report on Administration for year 1030-40.
Australian Broadcasting Commission Act - Eighth Annual Report and Balance-sheet of the Australian Broadcasting Commission, for year 1039-40.
Commonwealth Public Service Act - Appointment of G. E. Fewster, Department of Commerce.
Customs Act - Proclamations prohibiting the Exportation (except under certain conditions) of -
Fish livers. (Dated the 12th March, 1041.)
Worsted woollen or knitted goods or any other goods made wholly or partly from wool. (Dated the 11th March, 1941.)
Supply and Development Act - Regulations - Statutory Rules 1941, No. 56.
House adjourned at 5.9 p.m.
The following answers to questions were circulated: -
n asked the Acting Prime Minister, upon notice -
– The answers to the honorable member’s questions are as follows : -
i asked the Minister for the Army, upon notice -
– The answer to the honorable member’s questions are as follows : -
l asked the Acting Prime Minister, upon notice -
Willhe make representations to Lord Beaverbrook, the Minister for Aircraft Production in the British Government, to place the services of ex-Senator R. D. Elliott at the disposal of the Commonwealth Government to help to speed up our war effort?
– The Commonwealth Government sees no reason to disturb the reciprocal relations now existing between the British Ministry for Aircraft Production and Australia, which include allocation of personnel. The Prime Minister is discussing all aspects in England at present.
l asked the Minister repre senting the Minister for Supply and Development, upon notice -
– The answers to the honorable member’s questions are as follows : -
er. - On the 12th March the honorable member for Martin (Mr. McCall) asked, without notice, whether it was a fact that the Sydney boot manufacturing firm known as McEvoys received by far the largest contract for Army boots at the time when contracts were placed, following upon the controversy on Army boots, and whether the firm of McEvoys is one of the leading firms associated with Fostars Shoes Proprietary Limited?
I am now in a position to inform the honorable member that the Minister for Supply and Development has furnished the following reply to his questions: -
No contracts for the supply of boots for the Defence Services have been let to McEvoys. lt is known, however, that Mr. H. McEvoy is managing director of Fostars Shoes Proprietary Limited, whose contracts have now been cancelled. To obtain the very large requirements of the Defence Services, it has been necessary to organize the boot industry and place orders according to capacity. As Fostars Limited is one of our largest factories, they naturally received sonic of the largest orders.
Army Transport Drivers.
asked the Minister for the Army, upon notice -
Whether the Minister has yet come to a decision with reference to the classification as tradesmen of horse and motor drivers in the Australian Imperial .Force and the Australian Military Forces?
r. - Drivers, motor transport, first class, are already classified as tradesmen provided they are appointed to fill positions within the establishments of their units. The matter of classifying drivers, horse transport, as tradesmen is receiving consideration.
n asked the Minister for Trade and Customs, upon notice -
Has the report of the Tariff Board relating to the production of bitumen yet been received? If so, will he take early steps to bring the contents of the report under the notice of the Treasurer, so that consideration of an application before the Capital Issue Advisory Board for the formation of a company may be expediter!.?
– The report of the Tariff Board has not yet been received.
y asked the Minister for Trade and Customs, upon notice -
Will the Minister make available to honorable members the Townsend Report on Shipbuilding?
– The Townsend Report on Shipbuilding was made to Cabinet and was intended for Cabinet only. It is not proposed to circulate the report to honorable members.
r. - On the 12th March, the honorable member for Griffith (Mr. Conelan) asked a question, without notice, as to whether it was the intention of the Government to build ships by contract or on the basis of cost plus 5 per cent, profit ; if it was intended that they should be built on the latter system, would every firm with the ability to construct ships he given an opportunity to do so, and not only just a few?
The Minister for Supply and Development has furnished the following reply: -
The Australian Shipbuilding Board is assembling all available information and has publicly invited the submission of proposals by potential contractors. It will ascertain the shipbuilding capacity of the Commonwealth, and I am confident that all such capacity which is found to be available will be used. The commission will make an early recommendation regarding the method of allocating contracts.
– On the 14th March, the honorable member for Griffith (Mr. Conelan) asked, without notice, whether all ships to be built under the Government’s programme for ship construction are to be of steel, or whether any of them are to be wooden ships.
The Minister for Supply and Development has furnished the following reply : -
No definite programme of merchant ship construction has yet been approved. The Shipbuilding Board is giving immediate attention to the possibilities .as regards the building ot steel ships of a standard type for overseas trade as the most valuable Australian contribution towards meeting urgent Empire needs. The necessity for building smaller ships either of steel or wood for coastal trade will receive consideration in due course.
Department of Information: Appointment of Mr. N. McCauley.
d asked the Minister representing the Minister for Information, upon notice -
Mr.F adden. - The answers to the honorable member’s questions are as follows : -
l asked the Minister representing the Minister for Supply and Development, upon notice -
Will the Minister lay on the table the first and second reports of the Commonwealth Standing Committee on Liquid Fuels?
– The first and second reports of the Commonwealth Standing Committee on Liquid Fuels are of a confidential character, and it would, therefore, be contrary to the public interest to make them available.
Apples and Pears.
n asked the Minister for
Commerce, upon notice -
– The answers to the honorable member’s questions are as follows : -
Joint Meetings of the War Cabinet and Advisory War Council.
d asked the Acting Prime Minister, upon notice -
Was there held any meeting of the War Cabinet to which members of the Advisory War Council were admitted, or was. there a joint meeting of the War Cabinet and of the Advisory War Council; if so, is this practice to be followed in the future; and further, if such a meeting was held, can he indicate to honorable members its purpose?
– No meetings of the War Cabinet have been held to which members of the Advisory War Council have been admitted, neither has there been a joint meeting of the War Cabinet and of the Advisory War Council. I may state, however, that a meeting of the Advisory War Council which was called for 2.30 p.m. on Friday, the 13th February, in Sydney, was deferred until later in the afternoon as the War Cabinet meeting called for 9.30 a.m of the same day was still in session. Later in the afternoon the War Cabinet was adjourned to enable the Advisory War Council to confer with the Chiefs of Staff and to be afforded an opportunity of meeting the General Officer Cornmanding-in-Chief in the Far East (Sir Robert BrookePopham), who had been in attendance at the War Cabinet meeting.
Department of Supply and Development : Conditions of Contract.
l asked the Minister representing the Minister for Supply and Development, uponnotice-
Will he issue directions that the form of contract in use in his department be amended to provide that no contractor shall be entitled to receive the final payment under his contract until such time as he has furnished a statutory declaration that hehas observed all awards of the Commonwealth Arbitration Court and/or all determinations of State wages, boards and State arbitration courts governing -wages and conditions of employment?
– The general conditions of tender and contract for supplies of Commonwealth manufacture or production to govern contracts arranged by the Contract Board, Department of Supply and Development, require compliance hy the contractor with the requirements of Commonwealth and/or State laws in “respect of the rates of wages and/or conditions of labour of persons employed in connexion with the contract. In the event of any question arising as to the contractor’s failure to comply with such requirements, the contractor may be required to make a statutory declaration that he has fulfilled the conditions of contract in this respect. Penalties may be enforced if the provisions of the wages and labour conditions are not fully performed by the contractor.
In view of the foregoing I am of opinion that amendment of the conditions of contract at present in use in the direction indicated is not necessary, but if the honorable member will furnish particulars of instances in which contractors are not observing Commonwealth or State laws in respect of wages and labour conditions, I will give further consideration to the adoption of the suggestion.
k asked the Minister for Commerce, upon notice -
What are the conditions imposed by New South Wales,- Victoria, Queensland, South Australia and Western Australia on farmers for repayment of advances made to them out of the Commonwealth Loan (Drought Relief) Fund of £2,800,000 available to the States for the alleviation of hardship suffered by primary producers through drought?
– State governments are responsible for the repayment to the Commonwealth of the loan funds made available to them under the Loan (Drought Relief) Act 1940. Therefore, they determine the conditions of the repayment by farmers of the advances made to them for drought relief. The States will be asked to supply the information desired.
Australian Broadcasting Commission : Cancellation of Address bt Mb. R. W. G. Mackay.
t asked the Acting Prime Minister, upon notice -
– The answers to the honorable member’s questions are as follows : -
Supplies of Dried Fruits.
r. - On the 12th March, the honorable member for Calare (Mr. Breen) asked, without notice, whether steps would he taken to find out whether Army contractors were having difficulty in obtaining supplies of dried fruits, particularly prunes, for the Army, and if difficulty was not being experienced, would a recommendation bc made that the regulations prohibiting the export of dried fruits be repealed.
The Minister for Supply find Development has furnished the following reply : -
Investigations disclosed that service demands f.’)r some dried tree fruits could not bc met from the supplies usually available for export. Action was, therefore, taken by the Department of Trade and Customs to prohibit the export of dried tree fruits, including prunes.
r. - On the 14th March, the honorable member for Wannon (Mr. McLeod) asked, without notice, whether it was a fact that the price of flax was fixed by a committee on which the growers of flax have no representation.
The Minister for Supply and Development has furnished the following reply : -
The price paid to growers for flax straw is fixed by the Minister for Supply and Development on the recommendation of the Flax Production Committee. The committee, before making its recommendations to the Minister, cunferred at length with representatives of the growers’ associations. The committee also had the advice of representatives of the Departments of Agriculture in each State concerned. It is not considered, therefore, that any purpose would be served by growers’ representation mi the committee.
r. - On the 14th March the honorable member for Kalgoorlie (Mr. Johnson) asked, without notice, whether a greater share of defence work would be given to Western Australia, and whether munition factories would be established in that State.
The Minister for Munitions has furnished the following reply. -
The question of placing orders to the utmost capacity that Western Australia can absorb is receiving the earnest consideration of the Department of Munitions, and it will bc developed as machine tools, mid tools and gauges become available.
Aerodrome at Cardwell.
– On Friday, the 14th March, 1941, the honorable member for Herbert (Mr. Martens) asked the following question, without notice -
Over a year ago, investigation was made of sites suitable for an aerodrome in the Tully district. As I understand that a site has been selected about two miles north of Cardwell, will the Minister for Air state whether anything has been done in regard to the construction of an aerodrome there?
I am now in a position to answer the honorable member aa follows :-
At the request of the local council, an officer of the Civil Aviation Department some months ago inspected a site near Cardwell to determine its suitability as a municipal aerodrome. The report of the inspection was communicated to the council, but no further departmental action is proposed, as an aerodrome is not required at the present time in the vicinity of Cardwell, cither for civil aviation or air defence purposes.
r. - On the 14th March the honorable member for Martin (Mr. McCall) asked, without notice, whether the Contracts Board requires a percentage guarantee in respect of every contract let, and whether a number of small contractors are not able to provide this money and have to resort to the assistance of financiers; also whether such a practice results in increased prices. If this is so, will the Minister inquire from the Commonwealth Bank whether some system of finance can be arranged with the bank for tenders.
The Minister for Supply and Development has furnished the following reply : -
Where material and accessories are issued to contractors from departmental stock for use in the production of goads for the Defence Forces, it is the practice to require the contractor either to make prepayment, or to furnish u bank guarantee to an amount which would represent the value of the Commonwealth property which would be in his possession at any ono time. The evidence available to the department is that this practice does not increase the cost of goods to the Commonwealth.
Cite as: Australia, House of Representatives, Debates, 19 March 1941, viewed 22 October 2017, <http://historichansard.net/hofreps/1941/19410319_reps_16_166/>.