16th Parliament · 1st Session
Mr. Speaker (Hon. W. M. Nairn) took the chair at 3 p.m., and read prayers.
– About six months ago the Defence Department selected a number of returned soldiers to take a refresher course at the Randwick. Military Camp for the purpose of fitting themselves to be employed, as instructors. I ask the Minister for the Army whether it is correct, as reported, that after finishing their refresher course a number of these men were discharged? If so, can he state the per capita- cost of such refresher course, the number of instructors who were subsequently discharged, and the reasons for their discharge?
– I am unable to give u reply . to the honorable member’s question offhand, but I shall have inquiries made in order to ascertain the full facts, and shall then supply an answer to the honorable member.
– Oan the Minister for Commerce say whether the new committee which is dealing with wheat production has provided the Government with any authentic information as to ‘its intention in regard to the limitation of acreage to be sown to wheat this year, and if so, will he inform the House of the nature of the information? Further, is he aware of the change-over in many districts from wheat to barley, and of the- effect- on the Commonwealth of any excess production of barley next year ?
– The Wheat Stabilization - Committee has not yet reported to W-.e. on’ this subject. That body is obtaining as expeditiously as possible all of. the information available from farmers throughout the country, and when it has completed its inquiries it will present its report.
– Has the attention of the Minister for the Air been directed to the evidence tendered at the inquiry into the death of Eric Girdler, Royal Australian Air Force, that no parachute was available for him before commencing the flight ? Is it a condition of Air Force flying that parachutes must be included as part of the equipment of a ‘plane before it leaves the ground ? In this case was a shortage of parachutes, or the failure of some responsible person to see that a parachute was included in the equipment, the reason why the ‘plane left the ground without a sufficient number of parachutes?
– My attention has been drawn to the newspaper reports, but I have not yet seen the the official transcript of the evidence at the inquiry. I understand that the honorable gentleman’s” reference is to the evidence given at the inquest. I do, however, know something of the accident in which this aircraftman was killed. It occurred on the 4th March. In accordance with the usual practice, the Inspectorate of Aircraft Accidents - two appropriate officers of the department - flew immediately to the scene of the accident and conducted extensive inquiries into all of the circumstances. Within 72 hours, or less, a report was made available to me as Minister, and to the Chief of the Air Staff. Immediately on receiving the report I consulted with the Chief of the Air Staff concerning certain of its aspects. In respect of all accidents of a serious nature it is the practice to have not only an investigation and report by these two officers of the department, but also, at as early a date as possible, a service court of inquiry, which sits in a quasi-judicial capacity. Such court of inquiry takes evidence relating to every aspect of the accident, arrives at findings, makes a report as to the steps which should, or might, be taken to avoid a repetition of such accident, and, where the circumstances justify it, recommends that disciplinary action bc taken! A service court of inquiry was promptly convened in respect of the accident to which the honorable member has referred, and the inquiry has since been held ; but because of the nature of the report of the Inspectorate of Aircraft Accidents, arrangements were made for the Director of Training to proceed immediately to the station concerned in the accident and there to make certain investigations and submit his own report.
– What is the answer to my question?
–I regard -this a matter of great importance and I do not wish to avoid answering the honorable member’s specific questions. I have seen the report of the Inspectorate of Aircraft Accidents, but I have not yet seen the report of the service court of inquiry. That inquiry has been concluded and the report of the proceedings is now in transit to the Chief of the Air Staff. Within the next day or two I expect to be in possession of not only the findings and recommendations of the court of inquiry but also the observations of the Chief of the Air Staff on this matter. The honorable member asks whether it is a rule that a parachute shall be made available for every man when flying in a ‘plane of the Royal Australian Air Force: At the present time it is not the rule so to equip every man engaged in flying, the reason being that there are not sufficient parachutes available.
– Yet a man was found guilty of negligence for flying without a parachute.
– This is a matter for the Advisory War Council. Why are not sufficient parachutes available?
– Some flights are not considered to involve any considerable danger, or danger in excess of that associated with civil flying. Therefore, authority is given for men to engage in such kinds of flying - for instance, straight, cross-country, navigational exercises - unequipped with parachutes ; but in respect of all other flights involving aerobatics, operational or training exercises, it is mandatory under the rules that parachutes shall be worn. There are sufficient parachutes available to equip every flier for such flights.
With regard to the particular flight under consideration, parachutes were available, on the evidence at present before me, for all members of the air crews involved; but the practice is that, in certain circumstances, ground personnel engaged in servicing aircraft are permitted, upon proper authority, to make flights in the aircraft which they are required, to service. On the evidence in my possession at present, two of such ground personnel secured qualified authority from a flight sergeant. I do not wish to prejudge the case, because within 24 or 48 hours I shall be in a position to give a. more authentic reply. These two members of the ground personnel, however, to my persona] knowledge, did not receive the subsequent authority, necessity under orders, from the appropriate senior authority. On the qualified :inthority, they drew parachutes, and went in one of the aircraft. That led to the aircraftman who was subsequently killed being unable to obtain a parachute when lie applied for it, because there was not one left. Notwithstanding that, he, contrary to the instructions, entered fi machine, and flew in it with fatal results; 1 regard with the utmost seriousness the whole incident, which appears to have arisen from a failure to observe the flying orders which had been issued.
– When a Minister desires to give an answer that goes beyond the ambit of the question, the leave of the House should be obtained.
– I am prepared to give further information to the House on this matter, if it so desires. - [by leave] I undertake to make a statement to the House within the next day or so more fully covering the circumstances of this incident. I was about to say that I and the air staff view with the utmost seriousness the apparent absence of disciplinary control which led to this incident. It is my firm intention to have such disciplinary control established as will ensure no repetition of such incidents.
As to the availability of parachutes, the policy of the Air Board is that there shall be a personal issue of parachutes to every member of air crews, so that every man will eventually have his personal parachute.
– Why has that not been done before?
– Because parachutes were not made in Australia prior to the outbreak of the war. It was expected and believed, I understand, that the United Kingdom would be able to supply an adequate number of parachutes for our requirements. When some doubt arose as to the capacity of Great Britain to supply a certain number of parachutes, arrangements were made for their production in Australia. Light Aircraft Proprietary Limited has been producing many hundreds, and, I think, thousands of parachutes for the Royal Australian Air Force. In addition, substantial orders for parachutes were placed in Great Britain. Many hundreds of them have been delivered, but, unhappily, many hundreds of others have been lost in transit on ships which have been sunk. T am assured that a supply of parachutes is aboard a certain vessel which is within a few days’ sail of the Australian coast, and that, with deliveries which Light Aircraft Proprietary Limited states it will be able to make in the next three or four weeks, the existing shortage will be overcome.
– A statement has been made in the press that the number of Militia trainees who have responded to the call-up is some thousands below the required number, and that, in consequence, the Minister for the Army proposes to review the list of exempt occupations. Will the Minister say whether the statement is correct? If it be incorrect, will he make a statement of the facts?
– I am not responsible for conjectures published in newspapers. The substance of the statement to which the honorable member has referred is not correct, but I am prepared to place the facts before the House.
– On the matter to which I now propose to direct a question to the Minister for the Army, I endeavoured without success a couple of months ago to obtain information by private correspondence. Has the Minister yet made inquiries regarding the case that I have brought under his notice of a trainee at the Wallgrove Military Camp who was reported to be suffering from venereal disease? He was ordered to burn his blankets and other bedding, as well as his military clothing, and was sent out of camp. The result of a diagnosis by his own doctor was that he was clean, and the military doctor has since admitted that the trainee was not suffering from venereal disease. Has the Minister yet inquired whether the military doctor was incompetent or drunk?
– I am not prepared to answer the question publicly in the House, but, if the honorable member will see me in my room, I shall furnish the information that be desires.
MINISTERIAL St atement.
– by leave. - Plans are being made to secure, a sufficient supply in all parts of Australia of certain essential commodities, so that there shall be no interruption of their supply to the people in the event of any war emergency disturbing or dislocating normal means of transport. Although Australia produces an excess of most classes of essential foodstuffs.these foodstuffs are. not pro duced in all districts of Australia, in quantities sufficient for the local communities. There is a large volume of traffic daily in the transport of such foodstuffs from the places of production to the places of deficient supply. Moreover, certain household requirements, other than foodstuffs, must be procured from overseas, and those which are manufactured in Australia must be transported to all communities for current use. More than 90 per cent, of the interstate trade of Australia is conducted by sea, and an interruption of our sea transport, or even progressive increases in special service requirements in respect of transport,may well interfere with normal supplies. It is, therefore, necessary to plan specially for the provision of certain necessities.
Under regulations which were recently promulgated, the Minister for Commerce has power to direct the supply of goods from one State to another, with a view to ensuring that the goods shall move as required from States where they are produced in excess into States where they are or may be in deficient supply. The regulations also provide that each State may make rules pursuant to the Commonwealth regulations to provide for the establishment of an administrative authority, and for accumulation, storage, and distribution of goods throughout the State. Thus, the combination of Commonwealth and State . activities is designed to place a certain range of commodities in all consuming areas. In most cases, a three months’ special stock is aimed at, but, in some cases, this will not be practicable because of storage difficulties, and. in other cases, will not be necessary where the goods concerned are produced in the area.
Broadly speaking, the plan will work as follows : - The Minister for Commerce will declare goods as prescribed goods for emergency storage in respect of States or parts of States. The Minister has power to direct the interstate movement of such goods, and the State Governments will have power to arrange for the distribution of these goods within their own borders.
The State Governments are at present working out the details of the plan within their own States. In brief, the plan provides for collaboration between the retailers on the one hand, and the suppliers on the other hand. The suppliers . may be the manufacturers or the wholesalers.
The retailers, upon becoming registered under the rules of the State, will place orders with their usual suppliers for the special emergency stock of the prescribed goods. Under the special machinery to he provided, the registered suppliers will send this special stock of goods to the retailers who will be responsible for storing the goods separately from their trading stocks. As a retailer requires these classes of goods for current trading, he will order them in the prescribed way and these current requirements will be sent to the retailers toy the supplier. The new goods will go into the emergency stock and a correspording quantity of those classes of goodswillbe withdrawn from the emergency stock and placed in the retailer’s ordinary trading stock. This will ensure that the goods are constantly turned over, and will be a safeguard against deterioration.
Suppliers will not toe paid for this special stock of goods. It is not to be expected that suppliers will be able to stand out of their money for the whole term of the operation of the scheme, which may toe for the duration of the war. It has, therefore, been necessary to make arrangements for special bank accommodation for suppliers who require such financial assistance. The Commonwealth Bank will collaborate with the trading banks in affording overdrafts where required, and the rate of interest will be specially low because the Commonwealth Bank will guarantee the trading banks. The Commonwealth Government will make arrangements with the States under which the Governments will share the annual interest charges on the special accommodation thus provided. It would not be reasonable to expect the ordinary supplier to meet these annual charges. The supplier will, however, have a vital interest in the success and efficiency of the whole scheme because he will be responsible for bad debts, and for deterioration or loss in value of the emergency stocks.
It has been estimated that, the value of the special stocks placed in position under this scheme will be in the neigh bourhood of £6,000,000. This, however, is a preliminary estimate, and may be revised when the exact nature and volume of the emergency supplies in each State have been worked out.
The Commonwealth Government is in touch with the State governments in regard to the setting up of the State machinery for this purpose. The whole matter is toeing pushed forward as quickly as possible so that the emergency supplies may be in position in the consuming areas at the earliest possible date, and before the transport position in Australia becomes more difficult.
– Can the Acting Prime Minister say what stage has been reached in the negotiations between the Commonwealth and theStates for the purpose of setting up a single taxing authority on the lines proposed when the last budget was introduced?
– The matter is in abeyance. After the elections on Saturday next in South Australia and Queensland the Premiers of those States should be free to give the subject their consideration.
– As Parliament is the custodian of the Australian Capital Territoiy, is the Acting Prime Minister prepared immediately to set up a committee of members of both Houses with authority to approve or disapprove of proposals for the erection of new buildings, the alteration of existing buildings, and the sites upon which it is proposed to erect buildings, with particular reference to the monument at present in course of erection in front of Parliament House?
– The honorable member’s proposal will receivethe consideration of the Government.
– Can the Minister for the Army state whether it is a fact that, since the credentials of Major Rigney were questioned in this House, high military officers have, upon several occasions, visited his previous employer in order to secure credentials? Has that been done withtheknowledge and consent of the Minister? “Were the officers successful in obtaining the credentials, and if not, why not?
– I do not know whether the facts are as alleged. If they are, such action was not taken with my consent. I shall find out what action has been taken, and why it wa3 taken, and shall inform honorable members.
– I ask the Acting Prime Minister whether the Government will concentrate its activities at Canberra during the present war crisis; whether it will keep Parliament in continuous session, not adjourning except to a date to be fixed by Parliament; and whether it will arrange for the transport by air of Ministers and members representing distant constituencies?
– The Government will continue to concentrate its maximum efforts upon ensuring the welfare and security of Australia.
– Is the Minister for the Army aware that men working on the waterfront in Brisbane have had their permits cancelled without being given any reason for such action? Does not the Minister think that those are Fascist tactics-
– The Minister should not be asked questions of that kind.
– Does the Minister not think that British justice demands that the nien should be given some reason before their permits are taken away from them ?
– I am aware that complaints have been made in respect of the withdrawal of permits to men working on the wharfs. That does not come under my department, except insofar as it relates to certain restriction orders, which are different altogether from the withdrawal of permits.
– They bear your name.
– Yes, the restriction orders do. I shall suggest to the Acting Prime Minister that the matter of the withdrawal of permits should be brought before the Advisory War Council for discussion.
– Can the Acting Prime Minister say whether it is a fact that Sir Keith Murdoch was present in Canberra on Wednesday and Thursday of the week before last? If so, did he interview any Minister or Ministers at any time on those days at the Hotel Canberra,, and what was the nature and purpose of those interviews? For how long has Sir Keith Murdoch been favoured with special facilities to interview Ministers of the Crown away from Parliament House or the departmental secretariats ?
– The answer to the honorable member’s question is - I do not know.
– Can the Acting Prime Minister confirm press reports that the Prime Minister proposes to extend his stay in Britain, instead of returning in April, as lie originally proposed? Can he elaborate the very encouraging statement of the Prime Minister regarding possible extension of aircraft production in Australia? Is it likely, in view of the significant visit of the American fleet to Australia, and the very friendly welcome accorded here to the American sailors, that the Prime Minister will visit the United States of America on his way hack to Australia?
– I have too much regard for the safety and welfare of the Prime Minister to give information publicly regarding his proposed activities, or the route by which he is likely to travel. As for the other points raised by the honorable member, I ‘am sure that the House will be satisfied with the report which the Prime Minister will present at the first opportunity after his return.
– Has the Minister foi- Social Services seen the report, of Mr. Justice Ferguson, who, a.s a. royal commission appointed by the Government of New South Wales, recommends the establishment of a scheme for the payment of pensions to miners in respect of incapacitation, and on reaching the age of 60 years, half of the fund for the scheme to be provided by a levy on coal, and the balance by equal contributions by the miners and the State Government? Allowing for wives and children in the case of incapacitated miners, the pension is estimated to rise to as high as £4 5s. a week. In view of the fact that such a pension will disqualify recipients from receiving invalid and old-age pensions, will the Government amend the permissible income provisions of the Invalid and Old-age Pensions Act in order to ensure that the recipients of pensions under this scheme will not be disqualified for invalid and old-age pensions? I point out that as the State Government, mine-owners and miners will contribute to this scheme, pensions .payable under it should be regarded as a form of health insurance.
– Although I have not read the full text of Mr. Justice Ferguson’s report, I am aware that he recommends the establishment of a pensions scheme for miners in Now South Wales. In respect of the second part of the honorable member’s question, it is not the intention of the Government to alter the present provisions of the Invalid and Old-age Pensions Act. governing allowable income.
– I have previously urged that seasonal workers in Northern Queensland be relieved of the obligation to answer immediately the call-up for military service. I ask the Acting Prime Minister whether this matter has been investigated with a view to giving special consideration to these workers?
– I have had conferences with the Minister for the Army on this subject, which is still receiving the serious consideration of the Government.
– In view of the publicity given to rumours that large monetary allowances are being paid to alien internees in this country, I ask the Minister for the Army whether there is any foundation for such rumours? If so, how are the amounts calculated?
– I take it that the honorable member refers to monetary allowances alleged to be paid by the Government. The statement that large amounts are being paid to alien internees is not true.
– Has the attention of the Acting Prime Minister been drawn to a report appearing in to-day’s press to the effect that it will be possible to give only from four to six minutes’ warning in Sydney of an air attack? In view of the fact that gas masks are not available for general distribution, and that existing air-raid shelters in Sydney are totally inadequate to house the mass of the population in the metropolitan area, will the honorable gentleman tell the citizens of Sydney what they are expected to do in the event of an air raid ?
– Air-raid precautions will be the subject of a. conference to be held in Melbourne to-morrow. The basic principle of such precautions has been laid down, and the authorities in each State are aware of what is expected of them. Their work is now being coordinated.
– Is the Minister for the Army aware that his department owns an area of 600 acres at Langwarrin, Victoria, which is eminently suitable for a military camp, and that this area, was used as a military camp during the Boer War and the last European war? Is it because Sir Keith Murdoch is leasing this land from the department that it is not now used as a military camp?
– I am not aware of the facts alleged by the honorable member in the first part of .his question. As to the latter part of the question, I am certain that the honorable member’s insinuation has no relation to the facts because military camp sites are determined regardless of persons.
– On Friday, the 14th March, the honorable member for Kennedy (Mr. Riordan) quoted an extract from the Economic News, Brisbane, regarding the price of bricks in Brisbane, which suggested a difference of opinion between the State Price Fixing Commissioner and the Commonwealth Prices Commissioner as to the proper level for brick prices. He asked also that the price be reduced to the pre-war level.
In October, 1938, the State Price Fixing Commissioner reduced the price from 90s. to 85s. a thousand, following which the brick industry in Queensland appointed two chartered accountants to investigate costs and selling prices. Before these investigations were completed the control of brick prices was taken over by the Commonwealth and the application for revision of the State Price Fixing Commissioner’s decision was made to the Commonwealth Prices Commissioner. The State Deputy Commonwealth Prices Commissioner, in forwarding the application, stated, inter alia: -
The Deputy Prices Commissioner who reported on this application is also the State Price Fixing Commissioner, and was appointed Deputy Prices Commissioner on the recommendation of the State Premier. On this officer’s recommendation for an increased price the Commonwealth Prices Commissioner fixed the price at 95s. 6d. a thousand, an advance of 10s.6d. a thousand, compared with18s. 6d. a thousand recommended by the investigating accountants. A sub sequent investigation by an officer of the Prices Branch specially sent from Canberra for the purpose disclosed no reason for the Commonwealth Prices Commissioner to vary his decision.
– Has the Minister for the Army yet determined the form of the inquiry which is to be held into complaints I made last week about certain happenings at the Holdsworthy Military Detention Camp. If so, who will make the inquiry, what are the terms of reference, and will evidence be taken from members and former members of the forces? In the event of members of the forces giving evidence, will they be protected against victimization for having done so?
– I have instructed the Inspector-General of Army Administration, who is not a soldier, to investigate the honorable member’s complaints. There will be no strict terms of inquiry.
– Will he call evidence?
– He has no power to call evidence, but, if any members of the forces desire to give evidence, I assure the honorable member that there will be no victimization.
– Can the Acting Prime Minister tell me’ whether the Transport Emergency Council has met recently or has submitted a report to the Government ?
– The Transport Emergency Council meets regularly, and will meet this week in Melbourne. Its reports are made to the Government.
– I ask the Treasurer whether a financial arrangement exists between the Commonwealth Government and the Broken Hill Proprietary Company Limited whereby the company receives a subsidy for the transport of iron ore from South Australia on the railways system of New South Wales? If so, will the Treasurer direct the attention of the company to the immense deposits of iron ore at Carcoar and Cadia, New South. Wales, which were formerly used for the Lithgow steelworks?
– I shall have inquiries made. If such an agreement does exist, I shall bring the honorable member’s observations to the notice of the parties,.
– Has the attention of the Acting Prime Minister been drawn to the fact that the British Government has ordered from the United States of America several hundred ships, including wooden vessels, for delivery within the next twelve to eighteen months? Will the Commonwealth Govern men t give consideration to the building of wooden hips in Australia, and to availing itself of the great facilities for this purpose in Tasmania ?
– The honorable member’s question will be brought to the notice of the commission which was recently set up to investigate all aspects of shipbuilding in Australia. .
– I ask the Acting Prime Minister whether he has noticed a newspaper report concerning the rationing of food to the United Kingdom and, side by side with it, another report that killing has been suspended in certain abattoirs in Australia owing to congestion, and to ilie lack of refrigeration space in which to ship Australian mutton and lamb overseas? In view of the serious shipping position on the Australian coast and also overseas, and in the light of the information which the honorable gentleman gained on his recent visit to Newcastle, I ask him whetherhe will recommend the (Commonwealth Shipbuilding Commission to take immediate steps to put Walsh Island in to such a condition as will make it fit to undertake the complete construction of ships?
– The matter can well be left in the hands of the special tribunal which the Government has set up. The Commonwealth Shipbuilding Commission, will inquire into every aspect of the need for the expeditious construction of ships in Australia.
– I ask the Acting Prime Minister whether the Government intends that honorable members shall again meet in secret in order that, first, the information that was supplied confidentially by Ministers last week may be discussed and, secondly, Ministers may have the opportunity to obtain valuable information from the common herd in the House?
– Honorable members will be invited to a secret meeting starting at eight o’clock to-night.
– I ask the Minister representing the Minister for Supply and Development whether the Minister will immediately investigate the action of the machine tool section of the Ministry of Munitions in declining the request of the Purcell Engineering Company of Auburn for a gear-shaping machine which is urgently required by that company to enable the completion of vital war contracts? Will the Minister take steps to ensure that, no further discriminatory obstructive tactics shall be employed against the company by the Ministry of Munitions? Although the Purcell Engineering Company pioneered the manufacture of machine tools in this country, it received no governmental orders at, all until I took the matter up in Melbourne last November. Since then it has been consistently obstructed by the Ministry of Munitions, the latest act of obstruction being the example which I have just cited. The letter conveying the refusal is in my possession.
– From my knowledge of the Ministry of Munitions I am sure that there would be no obstructive tactics. I shall place the honorable member’s question before the Minister for Supply and Development for his consideration.
SIRBERTRAM Stevens - Taxation of
– I ask the Acting Prime Minister whether it is a fact that in fixing at £4,125 per annum the salary and allowances of Sir Bertram Stevens.
Australia’s representative on the Eastern Group Supply Council, New Delhi, the Government was influenced by considerations which were set out in yesterday’s issue of the Melbourne Herald? Those considerations were as follows: - Living expenses are 75 per cent, to 100 per cent higher in India than in Australia; a whisky and soda, costing11d. here, would cost1s. 9d. there; four domestic servants are necessary where one would suffice in Australia; a pair of socks costing 4s. 6d. in Australia is unobtainable under 10s. 6d. in India; Sir Bertram’s suits would cost 22 guineas sterling, as against 10 to 11 guineas in Australia.
– Order ! The honorable member must ask his question.
– Is the Acting Prime Minister sure that in view of those costs, Sir Bertram Stevens has not been called upon to make too great a sacrifice in accepting his new post?
Mr.FADDEN. - The honorable member, in view of his polities, no doubt will recognize that the Government, in fixing the salary and allowances of Sir Bertram Stevens, would take into account the cost of living. All of the items mentioned by the honorable member enter into the cost of living, and they were naturally taken into account in arriving at a fair and equitable salary for the post to which Sir Bertram Stevens has been appointed.
– Will the Acting Prime Minister inform me whether the salaries being paid to Sir Bertram Stevens and other Australians associated with him in India in the work of the Eastern Group Supply Council will be subject to Commonwealth and State income tax?
Mr.FADDEN- Such salaries will be taxable.
Mr. McEWEN (Indi- Minister for
Air). - by leave - A women’s auxiliary to the Royal Australian Air Force is being formed on the same lines as the organization incorporated in the Royal Air Force. Present plans are to enrol about 250 qualified wireless and tele printer . operators and about 70 for administrative, cypher and domestic duties. The wireless telegraph operators will be employed solely on ground duties and will release many male wireless operators for flying duties. All members of the auxiliary will be drawn from the women’s national register, compiled at the direction of the Commonwealth Government. The women’s auxiliary will be a uniformed body similar to the Women’s Auxiliary Air Force established in the United Kingdom in June, 1939. It will be formed under regulations to be made under the National Security Act 1939- 1940, or the Air Force Act 1939, whichever is considered by the AttorneyGeneral’s Department to be the more appropriate. If medically fit, women with the necessary qualifications between the ages of 18 and 40 will be accepted up to the quota required. In special circumstances, the upper age limit may be extended to 50 years. Enrolment is for any period not exceeding twelve months, but the term of any member may be extended, and the Air Board may discharge a member at any time for adequate reason. Service will be full time and confined within the limits of the Commonwealth. Pay will approximate two-thirds of the rates of the corresponding ranks of airmen in the related air force trade groups. In other words, rates of pay of the Women’s Auxiliary Australian Air Force will be comparable with those of women on similar work in civil life. Emoluments for officers are based on those received by members of the nursing service. Members will be provided with a free issue of uniform. Hospital treatment will be provided at public expense. Compensation will be payable upon death or incapacity, if directly attributable to the member’s employment. Women accepted will be given a short training course to adapt their knowledge to service requirements and will be given such drill and disciplinary instruction as may be found necessary. Wireless members of the auxiliary will be employed at Air Force head-quarters, Melbourne, the various area head-quarters in capital cities, and at the large Air Force stations, where a minimum of ten women will be employed and where members of the nursing service are located. Special separate accommodation will be provided to house the auxiliary personnel when they are required to live on Air Force stations. Where members are required to live out, special lodging and ration allowances will be paid.
Steps already taken to constitute the new auxiliary include the appointment of seven probationary administrative officers, the enrolment of 21 aircraftwomen, and the establishment of a training depot at Malvern, Victoria. The officers were appointed following an examination of applicants with the necessary experience by a selection hoard of three, namely, two Air Force officers and a representative of the women’s voluntary national register. Other candidates have still to he called before the hoard. Applications are now being called for qualified women telegraphists. A training course of four weeks in Melbourne will be followed by posting to an Air Force station for duty in the signals office as a wireless operator. The establishment of this auxiliary is found necessary to enable the employment of women to make good the serious deficiencies occurring in certain ground staff musterings, namely, wireless and teleprinter operators, and cypher clerks. Recruitment of a very limited number of other women is also necessary for administrative duties, as well as to provide domestic staff at Women’s Auxiliary Australian Air Force and nurses’ quarters. Every means was exploited to cope with the rapid and urgent expansion of personnel in radio and teleprinter operator groups by securing male recruits through normal avenues. Repeated and wide appeals were made for recruits and the age limits were substantially liberalized. The volume of enlistments, however, was not adequate to fill the vacancies, due partly to the strong demand by the other fighting services and the limited reserves available from civil services. The demand for personnel in the wireless trades in the Royal Australian Air Force is considerable, due primarily to the heavy call for instructors for the Empire air training schools and to the increased numbers required for stations, operational squadions, &c, on a war footing. The fact that the course of training for wireless operators extends over a period of eight months indicates its great importance.
I express my appreciation of the patriotic work voluntarily performed by women’s organizations in preparing their members to meet the pressing demands for competent operators, trained in the class of work required.
– by leave - The Opposition, too, expresses appreciation of the patriotic desires of the numerous bodies of women associated with certain auxiliary forces operating throughout the ‘Commonwealth, but, as a political party, we are strongly opposed to certain features of the policy outlined by the Minister for Air (Mr. McEwen). Wie contend that it cuts across certain fundamental principles that should be safeguarded jealously; we should not permit even wartime emergency to influence us to approve a system the full consequences of which cannot be foreseen at the present time. We object strongly to women being called into the actual ‘fighting services until the full strength of the country’s manhood has been canvassed completely. I am certain that principle will receive the wholehearted endorsement of the Australian nation, because service directly associated with our fighting forces is primarily the duty of the country’s manhood. The view of the Opposition is that if the emergency is so grave as to demand the employment of women in any capacity with the fighting forces, the women so employed shall have the right to the same rates of pay and privileges as are enjoyed by the mcn in the fighting services. There can be no justification for the employment of women on duties similar to those carried out by men if equal payment bc not made for equal service. The members of the Opposition are insistent that, in the event of women being recruited they shall receive the same rate of pay as are applied to men. I am not satisfied that the Government has exhausted all the possibilities of recruiting for the particular service described by the Minister the man-power that should be available. It is true, as the Minister stated, that this matter was considered by the Advisory
War Council but the honorable gentleman will admit that I opposed the proposal from its inception. I suggest that an immediate approach should be made to the technical schools to ascertain whether young men would not respond to the call for this class of service. I am positive that they would respond. So far as I know, that particular avenue has not been explored.
– It has. The trade union movement was asked to investigate the matter.
– I know the trade unions were asked to look into the matter so far as their organizations were concerned, and inquiries were also made concerning the number of retired public servants who have had experience in this class of work. In my opinion the possibility of recruiting young men from technical schools and colleges has not been exhausted by any means.
The Opposition fears that this move by the Government is possibly the beginning of an attempt to introduce women into other branches of the fighting services with the object of having them serve over a very wide range. It has been reported that the Minister for the Army (Mr. Spender) has in mind the recruiting of a women’s auxiliary for the Army. The Opposition considers that the greatest possible alertness should be exercised t,o defeat any attempt, on the part of the Government to secure cheap labour by the employment of women with the fighting services. In our view, .all of our resources of man-power suitable for work of this kind should be exhausted before the employment of women is permitted. We recognize that, many women earnestly desire to serve their country, but we believe that they could be well employed iri other and more suitable avenues.
Honorable members will recollect that Air Force placards throughout the country emphasize in striking pictures, that the Air Force job is a man’s jo’b. If that is so - and it is - we can see no justification for seeking, at this stage, to introduce women into this service. Men should be used to the maximum degree possible. It seems to me that .the Government is proposing to adopt thi.< device in order to meet a temporary shortage. We are not favorable to such action.
If an appeal were made to our young men to undertake this service and work akin to it they would come forward in satisfactory numbers. The Government should not allow itself to be led into the adoption of this expedient in order to meet the needs of the moment. Although we are assured that this is only a temporary provision, we have reason to fear that if women bc allowed now to undertake this work they will continue to do it until the end- of the war. Whilst this work is said to bc exclusively for ground staff and for service within Australia, young men who offer for this very work arc required to sign forms obliging them to service overseas. I very gravely suspect that men offering will not bc given the opportunity for this ground work in Australia, but will be sent abroad and women retained as a consequence for an indefinite period. We therefore challenge the wisdom of the procedure which the Government is proposing. ‘We definitely and deliberately express our discouragement of the employment of women in this work. But if women be employed we hold firmly that they should be paid the same rates as men. We ask the Government, to give further consideration to this matter in order to see that, full justice is done to the men of Australia who are prepared to serve their country in these callings. If an earnest appeal were made to our youth, we are confident that they would offer their services as trainees for this work and there would be no shortage of men.
– Will the Minister for the Army inform me what stage has been reached in the investigation of the Army boots scandal? What is causing the unusual delay in reaching a decision? Will the Minister take steps to see that, inquiries are expedited so that honorable members may have an opportunity to discuss the report before Parliament goes into recess?
– No unusual delay is occuring in reaching finality in this inquiry. The investigation is proceeding. The Government will act as soon as it is ready to proceed, and, at the appropriate time - probably within a week - it will launch a prosecution.
– Is the Minister for External Affairs able to inform the House whether the Commonwealth Government is still making its usual contribution, in Full, to the cost of the League of Nations ?
– It is. I am not able to tell the honorable member, at the moment, the exact amount involved, but I shall furnish him with the information privately.
– Will the honorable gentleman at the same time provide me with a list of the nations that were members of the League when the war broke out, and those still making their normal contributions?
– I shall be glad to supply the information to the honorable member.
– I ask the Minister for the Navy whether it is a fact that at the outbreak of the war the pilots in the Port Phillip Bay Pilot Service volunteered to perform, without cost, the duty of examining vessels entering Port Phillip Bay, as was done during the last war? If so, will the Minister inform me why the offer was not accepted, since the rejection of it has made necessary the setting up of a costly organization to do the work, the personnel of which had had no previous experience in such duties?
– I am not aware of the facts in relation to the matter, but I shall make inquiries and if such an offer was declined I shall ascertain the reasons for the honorable member.
– I ask the Acting Prime Minister whether the Government will give consideration to the abolition of overseas exchange, in view of the exceptionally heavy expenditure which Australia will necessarily have to incur overSeas for war purposes?
– The exchange rate is a matter beyond the control of the Government.
formal. Motion for Adjournment.
– I have received from the honorable member for Melbourne Ports (Mr. Holloway) an intimation that he desires to move the adjournment of the House for the purpose of discussing a definite matter of urgent public importance, namely, “ The necessity for improving the wage standards of employees, with particular reference to the basic wage and allowances related thereto “.
– I move -
That the House do now adjourn.
– Is the motion supported ?
Five honorable members having risen in support of the motion,
– I have taken this step because it is necessary to enter some protest against the failure of the Commonwealth Court of Conciliation and Arbitration to keep faith with that great body of wage-earners in this country who, for over eighteen months, have been trying to get the court to review the basic wage. The principal reasons for this protest are, first, that the workers believe that the court, has failed to keep faith with them, although they have loyally adhered to the principle of arbitration ever since federation was established, and accordingly have from time to time approached thecourt to have the basic wage reviewed; and secondly, that the failure of the court to review the basic wage has caused, and is causing, a great deal of discontent among the lower paid workers at a time when discontent is particularly undesirable. Whether or not the discontent in the minds of the workers manifests itself outwardly is not the question; any person who knows anything of the mind of the workers knows that the best results cannot be obtained when there is mental discontent, whether or not it manifests itself in overt action. I believe that the Government desires, as does the Opposition, to obtain the best results possible for the people during the war; but that cannot be obtained if the Arbitration Court refuses to come to a decision in regard to a reasonable proposal submitted to it. The people on the lower rungs of the economic ladder believe not only that the court has done a disservice to itself by refusing to come to a decision, but also that it is acting unwisely in straining the loyalty of the workers and discouraging their best efforts for the effective prosecution of the war. When the facts are known, all reasonable persons in the community will agree that there is justification for this protest. ‘ About twelve months ago, following nearly two years of agitation by the representative of the workers for a review of the basic wage, the court intimated that the full court bench would hear a case for a review of the basic wage. The parties concerned were requested to prepare and tabulate evidence which would assist the court to come to a decision. That preparation took nine months. In August last the court intimated that it was ready to hear a case. Most people who followed the proceedings in the court agreed that an unanswerable case for an increase of the basic wage had been made out. After concentrating upon the case for about three months, the Chief Judge intimated, not that the court would not grant an increase, but that it had decided to postpone its decision until the end of next June. In other words, the unions, having waited, for about eighteen months to have their claim dealt with, were told that they would have to wait another seven, months for a decision. In this instance, as in others, “ hope deferred maketh the heart sick “. Just when the workers were expecting the decision of the court to be announced, like a bolt from the blue came the intimation that its decision had been postponed. This cannot fail to affect the country’s war effort and to interfere with the harmony which has resulted from the negotiations between the Minister for Labour and National Services (Mr. Holt) and the representatives of the trade unions. Despite the heavy strain of long hours, and the setting aside of conditions which had been won at great cost, there has been greater harmony in the workshops since the conclusion of those negotiations than at any time previously. The Government, realizing that the process of review had been in operation for a long time, recognized the necessity to do something quickly for the men engaged in war work in various industries, for it gave to them an increase of fis. a week.
– There were definite reasons for that.
– That is so. The increase was in the nature of a reward to men who had agreed to waive some of their rights and liberties ; but that was not the only reason. The increase anticipated a general increase of the rates of pay. The trade unions discussed, first, in their own councils, and, later, with the Minister, the proposed regulations, particularly those relating to the dilution of labour, and eventually agreed to them. It is not correct to say that they agreed to them only because they were given an increase of 6s. a week.
– I do not suggest that.
– The Minister and his colleagues were wise enough to realize that something would have to be done in order to obtain the whole-hearted support of the workers in the nation’s war effort. They recognized that discontented men who bore a grudge against their employers could not give of their best. I am sure that the Minister will agree that, since the agreement was entered into, the employees in the various wartime industries have loyally co-operated with him, and that the relations between the Government and. employees is most harmonious. The increase of 6s. a week is enjoyed by 60,000 or 70,000 workers in this country, but there are many others who do not participate in it. Consequently, discontent is inevitable and natural. The Minister may say, in reply, that the workers to whom the increase has been granted are engaged on war work, but surely in these days every one in the community who is doing anything worth while is taking part in the nation’s war effort. It would be difficult to find any one in Australia who is doing a man’s job that is not in some way helping the war effort. Men engaged in providing transport, or in feeding and clothing the workers, are definitely engaged on war work. Men who have acted in a constitutional way, and in consequence have waited for eighteen months to have their case heard, should not be asked to wait another seven months merely because the court has decided to postpone its decision. When allowance is made for adjustments due to the cost of living the effective basic wage to-day is the- same as it was eighteen months ago. There is a fairly general belief that the
Government intends to introduce into this Parliament legislation which will take into account the size of a man’s family. Although the Chief Judge of the court has said that the basic wage never has met, and does not now meet, the needs of a family of more than three units, many families containing five, six, or more units, are forced to live on that inadequate wage. Whatever may be said in normal times about fluctuations of the cost of living, it cannot be denied that, for the last eighteen months, the cost of living has gradually risen, and that it will continue to rise until the war has ended. That means that during that period the wages of the worker will never catch up with the cost of living. At one time the judges said that, in the end, a fair balance might be struck, but there are no reductions of the cost of living now. Despite the admittedly good work of the Prices Commissioner, he cannot prevent a gradual increase of the cost of living. The regimen on which the Commonwealth Statistician bases his figures of the cost of living does not include many services and commodities which all of us have to use in the course of our daily lives. It is a common practice, for instance, for landlords and tenants to conspire to increase house rents. There is such keen competition for the few houses available that a wage-earner may agree to give a landlord £5 for the key of a house that is becoming vacant. Such matters as these never come before the court or the Prices Commissioner, but, in the meantime, the cost of living gradually rises.
I ask the Minister to consider whether the court was justified in postponing the granting of an increase of the basic wage for seven months, and whether it would not ‘be wise and just to make a wartime allowance to the lower-paid men similar to that which has been given to some other workers? I suggest that this should be done, not only because it would be just, but also because it would be a business-like proceeding. It would be wrong to say that the workers of Australia would not give their best services unless they received an increase of the basic wage, but, having felt the pulse of the workers for the last 30 years, I am aware of the psychological effect that would be produced by such an increase. There is a danger of workmen unconsciously going slow, unless some advantage be given to those who have waited long for an increase of the basic wage and have not received it. During this waiting period, families on the basic wage have been forced to submit to a wage which the judge has said is not more than sufficient for a family of three.
The Government has announced, its intention to initiate a scheme of child endowment, but whether we get child endowment this year, next year, or the year after, it will not remove the need for a higher basic wage for a family unit of three. The announcement of the Government’s intention in this matter does not justify any departure from past methods in fixing the basic wage. I strongly urge the Government to consider giving, through the court, if possible, some increase to those basic wage-earners who have had no increase at all and have been waiting and fighting for it for a long time. [Leave to continue given. ] Last week an increase of 50 per cent, occurred in the cost of shaving, and the cost of amusements also has risen, but no adjustment of the basic wage has been made to cover these increases. Everybody is aware that rents Lave gone up in such, a way that the statistics cannot possibly keep pace with the increase. Owing to Avar expenditure, the spending power of the people has been increased, with the result that there has been an increase of the cost of living. The burden of this increase finally falls on the man on the basic wage who has not been given an increase. I ask for an increase of the basic wage because it is the desire of both the Government and the Opposition that there shall be a maximum national effort in the present crisis. We should not spoil the ship for a ha’p’orth of tar, but should give some incentive to increased effort on the part of the lowerpaid workers, as we have done in the case of the more, highly paid men. This should be done at once.
– I think it is useful for the House to have a discussion on the- evidence which has been placed before the court in its consideration of the basic wage, because the basic wage affects the workers in industry throughout the Commonwealth, and has indirect effects on every member of the community. I regret that the honorable member for Melbourne Ports (Mr. Holloway) should have based his discussion of the recent action of the court in terms of a protest, because I feel that the obligation rests on every responsible member of the community at this time to accept the decisions of the tribunals which we have established, whether on matters of civil, industrial or criminal law. Once those decisions have been given, we should cheerfully accept them, irrespective of the views that we may hold regarding their merits or demerits. A decision was given last week by the Queensland Industrial Court, and I am sure that the honorable member for Melbourne Ports would have been highly critical of any organization of employers who expressed itself publicly in opposition to the judgment of that tribunal. He would expect industrialists to accept the decision of that independent and impartial tribunal based on the evidence brought before it, and I think that we can expect from him, and from those for whom he speaks, the same respect for the decisions of the industrial tribunals of the Commonwealth. The Commonwealth Arbitration Court is presided over by men. some of whom have had a lifetime’s experience in the jurisdiction in which they are engaged. They have been trained to weigh evidence, and to give their decisions in accordance with the facts brought before them. It has been suggested that in this case the court has not given a decision, but I deny that. Its decision, in effect, is, “ We have examined the evidence brought before us, and we consider that, in view of the rapidly changing circumstances of the Commonwealth in this critical period of war, we are not in. a position at this moment to say what our decision should be in regard to an award which will perhaps operate for the duration of the war; consequently, we propose to postpone a decision on this matter for a period of six months, so that we may have an opportunity to see just what effect the abnormal taxation which has been levied for war purposes, and the other factors, many of which are highly important and fluctuating, will have on the economy of Australia.”
Many of the factors before the court involved a considerable degree of fluctuation. They included the profound uncertainty as to the future, the loss of overseas markets, the serious shipping restrictions and the certainty that these will increase as the war proceeds: drastic restrictions of imports for the maintenance of our accepted standards of living; the diversion of our’ national effort from the production of consumer goods to the production of war materials and the general maintenance of war effort; high expenditure of the Government in financing the production of war goods and services, which must substantially reduce expenditure on the production of consumable goods; the necessary inevitable increase of the national debt and the diversion of capital from normal expansion of industry to war production ; the necessity for avoiding any change in the economic structure which will result in increases of prices; arid the necessity for creating and maintaining extensive overseas credits for the purpose of vital war material and the support and maintenance of military forces and expeditions, and for providing local defence.
– That reads like an instruction from the Government.
– I have indicated arguments advanced by the employers as against arguments submitted by the employees. I do not say that the facts favour one side or the other. I merely suggest that there were factors having the possibility of change inherent in them to a high degree, and that the Court thought that these should be weighed again in the light of the experience of the ensuing six months. It has been suggested that the employee is prejudiced as the result of the deferring of the decision, because he had looked hopefully for some increase of the base rate, and that the cost of living is increasing all the time without the increase which he might normally have expected being granted to him. Neither the honorable member for Melbourne Ports nor any other honorable member will challenge my statement thai automatic increases of the base rate have resulted from the quarterly adjustments. Since the last award of the court in 1937, the fluctuations have represented an increase of nine shillings a week in the basic wage in respect of Victoria, being the aggregate of seven increases based on the automatic quarterly adjustments. That proves that the cost of living has increased, and disproves any suggestion t hat, the court, has not attempted to keep pace with the increase of the cost of living. In New South Wales, eight increases have occurred in the same period., amounting in all to twelve shillings a week; so the interest of the wage-earner has been protected to that amount at least. Apart from the increase of nine shillings a week in Victoria and twelve shillings a week in New South Wales, there have been corresponding increases in the other States. The court has pointed out that, in that period also, there have been other adjustments, such as the advance of the marginal rate for an increasing proportion of workers- receiving wages. This has reduced very coniiderably the proportion of workers on the basic wage. The chief judge himself has pointed out that our standard of living as expressed in wages, overtime rates, hours of employment, holiday . privileges, protective laws and social services is undoubtedly the highest in the world - much higher than in Great Britain.
The honorable member has claimed that the court, in undertaking to review wages, has admitted, by implication, that an increase of wages will follow, but that is not a fair assumption. In fact, a review of wages under present conditions might well lead to a reduction, because of the economic situation prevailing. In his own judgment the chief judge reached the conclusion that, on a survey of all industries, primary and secondary, the economic outlook of the Commonwealth is not so good as in the year preceding the last declaration by the court. I mention those facts so that honorable members will appreciate that there are certain elements in our economy at the present time which, in the view of a great many thinking persons, would make for a reduction rather than an increase of wages. It seems reasonable that people should expect a reduction of income and of living standards during war-time in order to finance expenditure on defence.
– It has never worked out that way before, in Great Britain or anywhere else.
– It has been said that those in receipt of low wages are entitled to look for an increase over the ratesprevailing at the outbreak of war, something in excess of the automatic increase which follows an adjustment of the cost of living figures. The Government does not propose to argue this matter from the point of view of the employers or the employees, or even of its own interests. It looks to the tribunal which has been set up to give a fair decision upon the evidence brought forward. The complaint is not so much that the tribunal has decided not to increase wages, but that it has deferred its decision for six months.
– In the meantime the workers starve!
– In doing so it has drawn a ttention to the uncertainty of the factors involved, and also has stated that it was impressed by the evidence brought before it regarding the inadequacy of the present wage in relation to the larger families. The court has made it clear that it has not attempted in recent years to base wages on family needs. It has attempted, on the other hand, to award the highest wage which industry can afford to pay; but it is influenced by the problem of needs, and in its latest judgment it has given a clear expression of its view that the present basic wage is inadequate for a family of more than three units. The chief judge said that the basic wage could be considered adequate for a man, his wife and one child, that it was a meagre allowance for a family of four, and that when the family was greater than four hardship frequently occurred. After that statement was made the Government, which had previously announced its intention to introduce a system of family allowances, indicated that it was determined to put that system into operation at the earliest possible date. In the bill which is to be submitted at the end of this week will be provision that the scheme shall come into operation on the 1st July of this year. Whether that will be possible will depend largely upon the degree of co-operation which the Government obtains from honorable members opposite.
– And from Government supporters, also.
– If the honorable member will answer for those on his side of the House, we will answer for those on this side. Honorable members will appreciate that, after the passage of the bill, considerable time will be required in order to get in applications from all those who will be claimants for endowment. Therefore, if the scheme is to come into operation on the 1st July, we must, if possible, pass the legislation before Easter.
The honorable member for Melbourne Ports referred to the fact that, in certain sections of industry, wage increases have been granted since the outbreak of war as the result of Government action. Since there seems to be some misunderstanding in the minds of industrialists on this matter, it is well, perhaps, that I should explain what occurred.When we found that we must expect a shortage of highly skilled tradesmen in the metal trades, conferences were held between employers and employees at which it was agreed that some dilution of labour should be permitted, subject to safeguards to be incorporated in an agreement between the employers, the employees and the Government. In order to stabilize conditions in the metal trades, and to secure maximum production from the limited number of skilled men available, it was decided to issue a regulation which would restrict the movements of those men, and, at the same time, fix a maximum wage rate which could be paid to them. It was necessary, in the interests of efficiency, to prevent skilled tradesmen from moving from one employer to another seeking the highest wage obtainable, thus disrupting production in the factory from which they departed. By fixing a maximum wage we hoped to keep the munitions bill down to reasonable proportions, instead of having it unduly increased by competition among employers for skilled workers who were in short supply. As the Government was the only purchaser of the goods produced by these men, the total cost of such competition would fall upon the Government, as the manufacturers would pass it on. However, we considered that it would not be fair to ask tradesmen, who were thus being deprived of the liberty to sell their labour in the highest market, to work for the minimum rate prescribed under the award. Consequently, the Government discussed the matter with representatives of the employees who, to their credit be it said, had no wish to make undue profit, by exploiting the war situation, and it, was agreed that an increase of 6s. should be granted on the award margin. In New South Wales, this meant an actual increase of 3s. only, because the employers there had already voluntarily granted an increase of 3s.
– How many employees were affected?
– I cannot say. The increase was not granted to all skilled workmen in the metal trades, but only to those engaged on munitions work. Since then, the higher rate has, by agreement, tended to become the general rate.
– What, is the present mar gin in the industry ?
– It is now 36s. Before the war the general rate was 30s., but in New South- Wales it was 33s. On the waterfront where there is always a differential rate of 3s. it is now 39s.
– (Skilled workers - locomotive men, for instance - are still on the old margin?
– That is so, but the tendency in recent weeks has been for employers voluntarily to bring the rates up to those payable in the munitions trade. The whole matter of the metal trades award is at present before the court. [Leave to continue given.] As honorable members will recognize, the workers gave a very substantial consideration in return for the increased wage. The honorable member for Melbourne Ports has suggested that the principle of wage increases which was introduced in the case of the metal workers should be extended to other workers, but he has not suggested that, in return, they should give up freedom of movement, or that a maximum wage rate should operate. In the absence of any such reciprocal arrangement, which alone justified the Government in imposing a wage rate by executive action, it is not practicable for me to make any promises on behalf of the Government.
I wish now to refer to another aspect to which the honorable gentleman directed attention, namely, the degree of harmony and co-operation which has been established in this particular section of industry since this arrangement was entered into by the Government. I concur in what be lias said in that respect. I express the Government’s appreciation of the co-operation and readiness to recognize the war needs of this country and its interests, which have been displayed in so many sections of industry directly engaged on war work. If industry generally displayed the same readiness to discuss grievances and to sacrifice, to a degree, for the duration of the war, some of the cherished safeguards which have been so zealously guarded in the past, we should secure the maximum production of which this country is capable, and that output of munitions which is so important an element in our war programme. That production will not only be of great value to our own security, but will also help us to give generous assistance to Great Britain and to the other dominions whose requirements we are endeavouring to supply. I accept the fact that, following the judgment of the court, one aspect of our war position which requires immediate attention is the condition of the wage-earner with a large family to support on the lower rates of pay. That condition will be alleviated immediately by the legislation to be introduced later this week, and I ask all sections of the House for a speedy passage ot that bill with a view to giving such relief to these workers not later than the 1st July.
– I have a few observations to make on this subject. The first is that, presumably, the court set itself to determine what is the legislative obligation of the Government in respect of social .policy. It did so, apparently, in the light of the announcement that the Government was contemplating such legislation. I submit that the court decided to postpone its award on the merits of the application for an increase of the basic wage, because it either read that announcement, or had in some other way become cognisant of the Government’s intention, and decided that it would give to the Government an oppor tunity to implement the legislation of which the Minister gave notice this week. The court has no business whatever to have regard to anything except the facts. It is not for the court to settle social policy. The court’s duty is to decide what should be the rate of pay as between claimants who ask for a certain standard, and the employers, who usually ask it to fix a lower standard. The situation which had now arisen has produced a de facto position which creates problems for this Parliament, for it must be obvious that had the court increased the basic wage it would, in effect, have increased the payroll obligation of the employers as such. That appears to be clear; and that increased levy on their payrolls would have been paid to all employees regardless of thenfamily obligations. If I read the court’s judgments correctly, it held the view that the rate it fixed imposed hardship on certain families, and as the number in the family increased, hardship would inevitably become injustice. Parliament is now no longer able to regard family allowances as purely social in purpose or foundation, because the court itself has as good as said to this Parliament, “ We would have increased the basic wage but for our belief that the legislature can overcome the injustice aspects of our findings by itself imposing a levy on the employers as against the levy which an increase of the basic wage would impose on them, and distributing the proceeds, not to all employees, but only to those whose families exceed a given number of children.” That is, in effect, what the court has done. I am unable to say whether the Government, as a government, had any appreciation of what the court intended to do. It would be improper for me to entertain such a suggestion; but I feel justified in holding the view that the court had a very real appreciation of what the Government probably intended to do.
– The judge announced it.
– By that announcement, which was made with what I shall describe as an uncanny sense of the fitness of coincidence, the court was moved to avoid a payroll increase over the whole field of employees. It left it to the Government to find, either by that device, or by some other means, a fund which would yield to those employees with certain family obligations at least some part of what would be required to overcome what the court itself implied amounted to injustice. That presupposes a kind of association between the court and the Government which is the very antithesis of everything which governments politically akin to the present Government have insisted on when dealing with matters of this kind in. years gone by. We have repeatedly asked the Government, as a government, to announce certain principles in respect of national policy. We have asked that industrial arbitration legislation should define certain principles for the guidance of the court; but the Government has always insisted that the court should be completely aloof from any identification with what was described as politics.
– We cannot make an industrial law.
– The Government can make an industrial law; it has done so. This Parliament passed the Commonwealth Conciliation and Arbitration Act. That act does not cover the whole field of industry.
– We have set up a body to make industrial laws.
– The Government has set up bodies to apply the principle of conciliation in industry. The court is empowered under such legislation to make any decision it considers requisite to any dispute. There is no limit to the wage the court may fix for those who come before it. I know that the limitations of peace-time have been well described in a variety of ways, but we are now dealing with an entirely different situation. All I have to say is that, as the result of the court’s decision, the Government has accepted an obligation to introduce a measure of family allowances; otherwise the court’s reasoning and adjournment are inexplicable. They are, indeed, incapable of any other construction but that it has transferred the obligation to cover employees in industry to this Parliament. That action hampers this Parliament.
– The honorable gentleman is suggesting that the Government is acting in collusion with the court. The inference is inescapable.
– I said that I would not entertain for a moment the suggestion that the Government knew what the court intended to do, but I felt that the court had a very real appreciation of what the Government intended to do. I am not reflecting upon anybody. I point out to the right honorable gentleman that any increase which the court gave would have amounted to more than 2½ per cent, of the totalpay-roll. I am confident of that. The total cost of any increase of the basic wage would not have been less than £1,000,000 a month. Child endowment for 1,000,000 children would cost approximately £13,000,000 a year. Although the workers will be told that this Government has done a most generous thing, the fact is that this method of dealing with this problem will cost industry less than the method previously adhered to. On the latter basis the cost of this increase to industry will be less than under the proposed system of family allowances, however the money be raised. I am not prepared at this moment, therefore, to do other than assure the Minister thatI shall regard his proposal, as I now construe it, as one to divert to certain categories of working-class families a certain sum annually. I consider that to be the most important aspect; and for my part it will have priority over any other question as to how the money will be raised. I say that frankly. However, the day will come when there will be another government in office, which I hope, should we experience adverse economic developments, will say in reply to those who now ask the court not to increase the basic wage but to rely on a pay-roll tax to finance family allowances, “Do not reduce the basic wage, you remember you would not increase it. You decided upon some other arrangement. In these altered circumstances, therefore, do not reduce the basic wage “. If the employees in those changed circumstances should suffer disabilities which call for relief, that Government will say to them: “Very well, we will relieve you of the pay-roll tax”.
– The Leader of the Opposition (Mr. Curtin) has, I think, treated the legislation proposed by the Government very unfairly. He has imputed to the court, of whose dignity and reputation he is most considerate, certain motives which I think the facts do not support. Now, what is the position? As the honorable gentleman know3, the basic wage is fixed at such an amount as will provide for a man, his wife and one child. The application before the court was to raise that basic wage so as to provide a better standard of living for a man, wife and one child. That position is not at all affected by the proposed legislation of the Government. If the Government were to make provision for child endowment at the rate of 7s. 6d. or 10s. for a child it would leave a man, wife and one child in the position they occupy to-day. It is not true, therefore, that, if the court had not been aware that the Government intended to introduce a system of child endowment, it would have raised the basic wage, because that wage is a wage payable for a man, wife and one child.
– The court does not fix the basic wage on that basis. The wage is fixed according to the national income, find nothing else. Twenty-five years ago it. used to be fixed in the manner set out by the right honorable gentleman.
– The court, started in 1911 to fix a minimum wage adequate to the support of a man, wife and three children living in a reasonable standard of comfort in a civilized community. But T am not so much concerned with the theory and original basis of wage fixation as with the present practice. As honorable members know, the court has whittled down the basis of a man, wife and three children to a wage adequate to meet the needs of a man, wife and one child. The proposed legislation of the Government did not in any way prejudice the merits of the case before the Arbitration Court. That is the first point I wish to make. The second point is this: The honorable gentleman hopes that when, in the fullness of time, we come to lean years, which always follow the excitement and madness of war, a government will be in office that will temper the wind to the shorn lamb. I remind the honorable gentleman that the government, supported by honorable members and his party, that was confronted with such a condition reduced the basic wage or, at any rate, did its best to do so. We are not now attempting to read the future, we are dealing with the present, and I venture to say that the legislation proposed by the Government will be received by the people of Australia with great satisfaction. With all respect to my honorable friend I say that that legislation is entirely without prejudice to the merit of any case for an increase of the basic wage which has or may come before the Arbitration Court.
– I rise merely to correct the impression which the Attorney-General (Mr. Hughes) has created, quite unconsciously, I have no doubt, that the Arbitration Court now has regard to the family unit in fixing the basic wage. It is true, as the right honorable gentleman says, that in 1907 the late Mr. Justice Higgins, in his original Harvester judgment, did speak of a family of five or about five, and from .1907 to 1931 the needs of the family were taken into account by the court. In .1931 the standard was lowered by 10 per cent, and the court under the presidency of the late Chief Judge Dethridge departed entirely from the fixation of the basic wage by reference to the needs of the basic-wage worker and his family. The court said, “ There is only one way of looking at it and that is : What is the national income? What can industry afford ? “. What was done in 1931 was repeated in 1934, 1935, 1938 and now in 1941. To-day the judges disclaim any reference to the needs of the family of the basic wage worker. They say that they are irrelevant.
– They say that they are a guide.
– They say that they are irrelevant. It is perfectly true that Chief Judge Beeby in his judgment says that the wage, as fixed, does in fact, in his opinion, provide for the needs of a man. wife and one child, and that the wage is inadequate for a family consisting of a. man, a wife and more than one child. Probably, that is what the right honorable gentleman has in mind. But what the Leader of the Opposition (Mr. Curtin) says is perfectly correct. Had the basic wage been increased the cost of the increase would have been borne by industry employing labour. The weight of the burden would have varied according to the precise amount of the increase. The complication now introduced is the scheme of child endowment, which we welcome. The right honorable gentleman does not dare to suggest that we do not welcome it. The Leader of the Opposition as a member of a royal commission years ago fought for child endowment and has advocated it at election after election. In the long run the pay roll tax, which is now foreshadowed by the Minister for Labour and National Service (Mr. Holt), will be a much less burden upon employers of Australia than would be any substantial increase of the basic wage. There is no question of that. In the end they will be better off.
– Some of them.
– Some employers do not employ persons covered by awards, and the burden of an increase of the basicwage would not fall on them, but, by and large, the proposition as put forward by the Leader of the Opposition is correct. We, on this side, are anxiously awaiting the legislation which the Minister for Labour and National Service is about to introduce. But we say now that it is no function of the Arbitration Court to say, “ We won’t settle the dispute. We will postpone our decision for six or nine months, or six or nine years, so that Parliament will have the chance of dealing with what is exclusively a question of political policy “. It is most embarrassing, I should think, for the Government - it is certainly most embarrassing for Parliament - to have a decision of the court postponed and nothing done until we consider legislation providing for child endowment. We wish such legislation to foe passed. But the AttorneyGeneral must not suppose that the needs of the workers have had any connexion with the fixation of the standard wage since 1931. To say that there is a connexion is only to complicate the issue.
, - What Parliament has to face is the fact that a dispute which was heard some time ago in the Arbitration Court, remains unsettled. The court had an opportunity to settle it by giving a decision, but it refrained from doing so. Tremendous dis satisfaction exists among the workers because the court has failed to do its duty. I do not wish to be a critic of the court to which members of my organization have to go to have their claims adjusted, but I cannot avoid the conclusion that the court, instead of facing, avoided its duty to fix the basic wage according to the national income. A clue to the reasons which actuated the court’s decision may be the fact that the Government announced its intentions about child endowment while the court’s decision was pending. The situation is one which the workers believe should bc remedied. As the court has adjourned its decision until July next, the Parliament should do what was done in Great Britain in the last war and provide allowances to all sections of industry in order to avoid dissatisfaction among the workers resulting in industrial disturbances thus thwarting the war effort. In the last war there was no attempt to worsen the conditions of workers in Great Britain. On the contrary, the conditions of workers in nearly every industry were greatly improved. So extensive was the system of allowances that some men doubled their rates of pay. For instance, railway men who at the beginning of the war were on a wage of 30s. a week were receiving after its conclusion a wage of £3 5s. a week. The allowances amounted to from 33s. to 36s. a week. By gradual stages the system came to cover the whole of workers engaged in industry. As the court has neglected to give its decision on the evidence the Government should decide whether the workers should be allowed to continue to receive less than a fair wage until the court makes its decision. I do not desire to throw doubt on the Government’s sincerity, but if it is as sympathetic towards the needs of the workers as it claims to be let it give them conditions which will preserve and maintain their standard of living, I allege that it has been proved in court that the workers are not maintaining that standard now. In some parts of Australia, particularly in the area where I live, houses are unobtainable. Yet it is disclosed in the figures supplied by the Commonwealth Statistician, upon which the court bases its finding, that a four-roomed house is obtainable for £1 ls. 8d. a week. No house worth living in is obtainable in the industrial areas of Australia to-day for that amount of money. In mining towns, passing out of existence, old shacks which have no modern conveniences can he obtained for very low rentals, but who would darc to suggest that a worker who wants to maintain his family in decency f-ould obtain a house for that money? It cannot be done. House rents are raised by agreement between the incoming tenant and the landlord. House keys have a market value. One can therefore see the unsatisfactory state of affairs that exists. For how long does the Government expect a maximum war effort to last if the worker becomes convinced, as he gradually is becoming convinced, that he is not getting a fair deal, and if the instrument set up to prevent industrial disputes refuses for reasons which cannot be regarded as satisfactory to give its decision.
This debate arises from a motion moved by the honorable member for Melbourne Ports (Mr. Holloway) on the necessity for improving the wage standards of employees, with particular reference to the basic wage and allowances related thereto. The text of the motion expresses clearly the urgent need for the Government to give attention to the matter. It is essential in times of peace that the Government should ensure that reasonable living conditions are maintained. Any government entitled to a record of statesmanship should try to improve the standard of living. Governments opposed to Labour have not done so. They put the responsibility on the court and the court decided to make the standard relative to the national income. In this particular case it was proved that huge profits were being made by monopolistic concerns and figures furnishing such proof were produced during the budget debate in this House. Then the court decided to put the matter on the present basis. It said that the existing wage should be adequate for a man, wife and child, and that a family in excess of that number was inadequately provided for, and members of large families were suffering hardship. That in effect was the judg- ment of the court. One cannot expect the workers to be satisfied with the existing standard, and it is unfair for the Government to say that they must wait until the court makes up its mind to give a decision in the matter. The Minister for Labour and National Service (Mr. Holt) referred, to the position in Queensland. The Queensland court has awarded a higher basic wage than has the Commonwealth court and the Queensland wage standard is now the highest in Australia. In New Zealand the standard of living is higher than in Australia. The Labour Government in that dominion gave the people the standard they now enjoy and, despite the war, it has maintained it and improved the social conditions of the workers. During the last war and in this war the social conditions of the workers in England have improved. Why should the Commonwealth Government refuse to give the workers an increase of the basic wage? The AttorneyGeneral (Mr. Hughes) has been fulminating throughout Australia against the decline in the birthrate. What encouragement is there for young couples in the Government’s announcement that child endowment will be paid only in respect of children born after the first child? Young couples will know that they will not receive endowment for the first child even though the husband may receive a low wage.
I trust that the Opposition will receive the sympathy and influence of the right honorable gentleman in its claim that the Government should make some allowance to tide over the hiatus created by the attitude of the court. The Minister for Labour and National Service claimed that the men who receive the allowance of 6s. a week got it because there was a minimum and maximum wage fixed, but I would point out that they received it because they were engaged in Avar industries and the Government did not want them drawn out of the war effort by more attractive conditions elsewhere. Many classes of workers are now engaged in the war effort. For instance, men working in sections of the timber industry are providing the raw material used in the production of gun-cotton. Take the case of the men engaged in the transport industry. All these men are working harder .and under greater strain than they were .before the war. Work is more strenuous because loads are heavier. These men are putting forth their best effort but they are not getting any increase of wages. Naturally they are dissatisfied. As one who has appeared before the Court of Concilation and Arbitration on behalf of trades unions, and know how the workers feel, I appeal to the Government to give serious consideration to this matter and grant war allowances to all workers to cover conditions arising out of the war. We on the Opposition side do not want industrial disturbances in Australia, but we are not prepared to tolerate unfair treatment of the working people merely because the country is engaged in war. We contend that the country can do all that is necessary to keep the workers contented. I hope that the Government will consider favorably this appeal, because, if it fails to do so, I am certain it will be pressed home in such a way that the Government will not be able to ignore it.
.- The Minister for Labour and National Service (Mr. Holt) made a curious abservation at the beginning of his speech. He said that he welcomed the discussion upon the evidence submitted to the Court of Conciliation and Arbitration, although he deprecated some of the conclusions that the honorable member for Melbourne Ports (Mr. Holloway) had drawn from the evidence. This is a departure on the part of the Minister from the usual attitude of the Government on wage fixation. The usual attitude is that the matter is one entirely for the court. In point of fact, normally, the Government might well have raised a point of order that this matter being sub judice, was not a proper matter for discussion in the House at this stage. It becomes a proper matter for the House to discuss by reason of the extraordinary action or inaction on the part of the court. The honorable member for Maribyrnong (Mr. Drakeford) having described the situation so clearly has rendered it unnecessary for me to do no more than elaborate it a little. The technical and somewhat attenuated and laborious business of getting this matter before the court has been gone through by the appropriate organizations, and evidence has been taken by the court at very great length pro and con. The claim for an increase of the basic wage, well stated by the union advocates, was ably and I suppose conscientiously resisted by the employers. The matter, on the evidence, was ripe for a decision by the court and for an award to be made. Having been for many years a supporter of the arbitration system and one who does not lightly make charges against the court if its judgment, as frequently happens, is not in accordance with my view of justice, I am not likely to be guilty of suggesting that the court is influenced by ‘biassed considerations, but I do know this much about the administration of justice: When a court hears a case and evidence is elaborately placed before it pro and con and the whole matter lies waiting for an award, according to our system of jurisprudence for which we of the Labour Party are enjoined to have more respect, it is the duty of the court to give its decision and to make its award. I believe it is obvious from the judgment that the judges have taken a different view. Having heard the evidence at great length, and having illuminated the hearing by their enlightened’ commentaries, the judges have decided not to make a decision and to postpone their judgment. Candidly, I suggest that they said, in effect. “ We will shirk our obligations to the public on grounds of political expediency “. That is exactly what the court has done. The judges made it evident that they were not guided solely by the facts put before them. They were influenced by the difficulties - and above all by the uncertainties - arising out of the war situation, the hardships associated with the shortage of shipping, and so on. Generally, they forecast that the situation might in future become such that they might have to make an award which would be different from the award they would make on the evidence now before them.- That was, in my humble opinon, a radical departure from correct legal principles. As a member of the inferior branch of the law - as the honorable member for Barton (Mr. Evatt) would say, it is the duty of the inferior branch to do the work and the duty of the higher branch to collect the fees - I am forced into the position of criticizing the court.
– That would be very wrong.
– Normally it would be wrong. The whole of this discussion would be technically wrong if it were not for the fact that the court has loaded its obligations. We do not know what the court would have done. We do not know whether it would have increased or decreased the basic wage if it had made an award. I do not know whether it is appropriate for us at the present time to consider whether the basic wage is adequate because this discussion has been forced upon us by the action or rather the inaction of the court. In my view the basic wage is deplorably inadequate for the needs of the basic wage-earner. It is irrelevant for the Minister for Labour and National Service to tell honorable members that certain increases had occurred in the cost of living with consequential increases in the basic wage. We are well aware that the cost of living is increasing despite the Government’s boast that it has a tight grip on prices.
– That is merely automatic.
– Precisely. Such increase does not affect the real value of wages, but merely their nominal value. The fact that margins for skill are being granted to-day to classes of workers which previously did not receive them adds nothing in support of the Minister’s statement. It merely proves that, somewhat belatedly, the courts are beginning to recognize that certain classes of work of an onerous or unpleasant nature involving some measure of responsibility, but not hitherto recognized as being in the list of skilled occupations, are now being placed in that list, with consequent increase of wages. Although the courts previously held that such occupations did not fall within the categories of skilled work, they are now placing them within such categories. I regret that times does not permit me to elaborate the argument.
– I support the case so ably submitted by the honorable member for Melbourne Ports (Mr. Holloway). I take this opportunity to utter a condemnation of the attitude which the arbitration tribunals generally have hitherto adopted in connexion with the granting to the workers of a fair share in the productivity of the country. It has been stated in the course of this debate that the courts have taken the national income into account. The whole history of the courts since the inception of industrial arbitration shows that they have simply granted the lowest wage at which workers in industry can continue to live and perform their various functions. They have not given to the workers their proper share in industry. Even the much discussed Harvester judgment has not been fully observed. I remind honorable members that in the course of that judgment a learned judge remarked that the court should “ provide a frugal standard of comfort for the workers “. The workers have never received even a frugal standard of comfort, because, in consequence of the rising cost of living throughout the years, the real wage has always lagged behind the money wage. Thus right up to 1931 the workers had been deprived of the frugal standard of comfort to which the court declared they were entitled. In 1931, all idea of even a frugal standard of comfort was set aside, for the courts reduced the standard of living by 10 per cent.
In determining the basic wage the courts have always been in a quandary. Sometimes they have taken cognizance of the needs of the workers, and at other times they have acted upon what they have called “ the capacity of industry to pay “. Factors that should have been considered in even a superficial examination of the case have often been overlooked. It is quite evident that, in determining the basic wage, the courts have not made the slightest attempt to assess the real share of production to which the workers are entitled. Under the capitalist system the goods produced are distributed in four directions, namely, to labour, land, capital and enterprise, and it cannot be denied that capital has received an inordinate proportion. The capitalist system is immoral and unchristian, because of its inequitable distribution of the products of industry.
I refuse to accept the proposition that because capital in a particular country is scarce the owners of capital should be permitted to draw a correspondingly high reward, and the workers should be compelled to accept a miserable wage. Our arbitration tribunals have always been instruments for the bolstering up of the capitalist system. They have never given the workers a return sufficient to provide a fair and decent standard of living. The principle of the capacity of industry to pay involves some consideration of the share of productivity which the workers should receive. The share that goes to capital has always been calculated on what the entrepeneurs term the normal profits of industry.
This brings us to another aspect of the subject. During the prosperous years, between 1920 and 1930, capital unquestionably made exorbitant profits but no real consideration was given during those years to the granting of an increase in the share of the workers. But when the depression arrived, the problem that immediately confronted the courts was whether the standard of judgment should do normal profits on the basis of subscribed capital, or profits on the basis of accumulated capital and reserves of undistributed profits. As an illustration I mention Australian Consolidated Industries, which was formerly known as Australian Glass Limited. That organization began operations with a capital of less than ?500,000. Its capital has now increased to nearly ?5,000,000. In determining the capacity of that particular industry to pay, the court took into account not normal profits on subscribed capital but profits estimated on the basis of capital of ?5,000,000.
– Could that organization carry out its present functions on its original capital ?
– Probably it could not do so, but its present capital includes large amounts of undistributed profits earned for it by the workers in prosperous years. So long as the courts accept the proposition that they must take into consideration the payment of profits based on inflated capital the workers will not receive a fair share as their wages. I consider that the Government has acted in collusion with the courts.
-(Hon. W. M. Bairn). - The honorable member is entitled to discuss and even to criticize judgments of the courts but he is not entitled to reflect upon the integrity of the courts.
– Not even if what he says is true?
– Order !
– Recent happenings have been of such a nature that I find it difficult to believe that there has not been collusion.
– If the honorable member proceeds along those lines I shall ask him to resume his seat.
– Say that Sir George saw some of the Ministers!
– Recent events have shown that there are two methods of increasing the share of the workers in industry. One of them is to increase the basic wage, which would normally be done by the action of the Arbitration Court; and the other is to enact a scheme of child endowment, which would be done by act of this Parliament. This course may be taken by Parliament in the near future. But since it is clear that the share of the workers in industry may be increased in either of these two ways, it is my opinion that the time has Come for Parliament to take direct and definite action to increase the share of the workers by enacting an increase of the basic wage, and not by indirect action such as providing a child endowment scheme.
– The Parliament cannot do that.
– It could do it if it so desired.
– “ Where there’s a will there’s a way.” If a. Labour Government were in power, I believe that action would be taken to increase the basic wage.
– There was a Labour government in power for a long time, and it could not do anything.
– Since it appears that it is possible to increase the share of workers in industry by direct legislative action in this Parliament, or through the Arbitration Court, I submit that Parliament itself should take the job in hand and enact that the workers shall be granted an adequate share of the profits made on the goods that they are mainly responsible for producing in this country.
.- The honorable memberfor Melbourne Ports (Mr. Holloway) has raised this issue at a timely moment. It is essential at this juncture that the workers shall be given a sense of economic security, especially in the war industries. If the basic wage were raised to £5 a week, it would be little enough. Personally, I agree with the honorable member for Batman (Mr. Brennan) that it would be totally inadequate. I have had brought under my notice only recently the difficulties of a constituent who has a wife and nine children. Needless to say, he has been collecting all the troubles around the place! He is a sick man, and has been unable to follow his usual calling for some time. A young lady associated with an organization which has been endeavouring’ to assist the man and his family made the remark that a man with a family of nine children should not go to work at all. He should stay at home, and assist his wife to manage the family ! Even under a child endowment scheme, a man with a family like that would be in difficulties. If the Government has a sincere desire to assist the workers, it will lose no time in pressing on with its child endowment scheme. I hope that the scheme will be in operation in the near future. Under present conditions, the man to whom I have referred must find it impossible to maintain his family on a decent standard of comfort.
– I take it that the honorable member will not oppose the Government’s child endowment scheme.
– I shall not oppose it, but I regard it as totally inadequate to meet the needs of workers with large families. Sickness, disease and other troubles lead to domestic inharmony, and these are largely attributable to economic insecurity which is at the foundation of a great many of the troubles of society in these days. The workers are hearing a good deal about the so-called “ new era but they desire to know what is meant by that vague term. Under the so-called new era, will the big monopolistic organizations still be able to extract as much from the workers as the)’ do now?
Will the new era be of a kind that will enable the big privately-controlled industrial enterprises to continue to operate to improve their financial status? I direct the attention of honorable members to a leading article which appearedin the Sydney Daily Telegraph to-day. It is somewhat of a coincidence that the article should touch upon the very matter which we are discussing. The Daily Telegraph is not, as a rule, particularly favorable to the point of view of labour. Therefore, I ask honorable members to give their attention to the following extract : -
Mr. T. W. Swan, in his economic survey in the Daily Telegraph yesterday, put the issue clearly: “Industrial unrest will not be eliminated until the workers are fully convinced both that their employers are not making a good thing ‘ out of the war and that the war means something to them in terms of security.”
Planningfor peace and economic security must go hand in hand with planning for victory.
If the British Government under fire can simultaneously grapple with these three related problems, so can the Commonwealth Government.
It must not expect to take without giving.
That, is exactly the point of view that I submit to honorable members. Under existing conditions, we see, on the one hand, big monopolistic concerns like that referred to by the honorable member for Corio (Mr. Dedman) making increasingly large profits out of war activities, and we sec on the other hand, the workers finding it increasingly difficult to obtain their fair share of the products of industry. During the last period of this session, the honorable member for Kennedy (Mr. Riordan) read a list of 70 key industries in this country which were now making larger profits than they were making before the war. In an economic review published only a month ago by the Sydney Morning Herald, it was shown that certain large monopolistic concerns had, during the war period, increased their net. annual dividends from an average of 10 per cent, to an average of nearly 12 per cent. Taking watered stock into account, the average was 14 per cent on contributing capital. These figures show clearly that industrial concerns are increasing their profits. I agree entirely with the sentiments expressed by the honorable member for Corio. In order to assure the workers of this country of economic security, it is necessary to give them a larger share of the’ profits of industry.
We must consider, not only the period after the war, but also the present time. We are faced with the alternative of fascism or communism. If we make allowance for an evolutionary trend, we should devise means whereby the workers will share in the management of industry a’nd participate in the profits. That has been done successfully in other countries. There is, for instance, the celebrated Bata boot factory in Czechoslovakia, all the workers of which were shareholders who participated in the profits. The result was that, as the best paid workers in the world, they produced the best and cheapest boots made anywhere, not the kind of boots which monopolistic concerns in this country have supplied for use by Australian soldiers. By way of a warning ‘to honorable members I wish now to quote the following paragraph from the cable columns of the Sydney Morning Herald: -
An uneasy feeling is developing in some British financial circles that unless the Government is willing to continue some forms of strict war-time control during the post-war planning period Britain’s industrial organization may break down.
Critics of the Government maintain that monopoly development is now growing so quickly that there is a grave danger of the industrial structure after the war being largely monopolistic, with the consequent damping down of competition and domination by large industrial units.
The Financial Times in a leading article, states : “ For years we have been talking of the decline of the spirit of laissez faire in industry, but we now appear To be witnessing its actual extinction. “ The policy that trade associations themselves should administer the essential controls is open to grave criticism because the interests of industry as a whole are not necessarily identical with the national interests. The Government’ controls the trade associations’ policy in war-time,, but after the war the Government’s directions will not be nearly as plain and specific. “ A considerable measure of governmental control over industry - far more than in 1939 - must remain. . “ The result of present trends may be the establishment of organizational forms in some industries far removed from the public interest, followed by price regulation, through restriction of production, and prevention of trade to newcomers, and by regulation of trade practices. “ There will thus be serious danger of extreme ossification of the industrial structure; lack of enterprise and initiative and a general tendency to restrict production to maintain a profit level. This danger is real, and a major post-war industrial problem will be to devise forms of governmental control to prevent this corporative and fundamentally backward system developing.”
The same trend toward totalitarianism in this country can be seen in the gradual concentration of war contracts into fewer hands. If that tendency is permitted to continue, the workers will be more and more oppressed, until ultimately there will be some kind of revolution leading to a state of affairs entirely different from what those who cause it desire. I commend to the Minister the introduction of a system providing for more co-operation in industry under which the workers will benefit. The machinery for its introduction exists in the National Security Act. Regulations could provide that every large industrial concern that is engaged in the war effort should provide means whereby its employees should be represented on the board of directors and entitled to a share of the profits. Many concerns are making excessive profits. Indeed, one aeroplane company in Britain which is engaged on war work recently declared a dividend of more than 30 per cent. Rather than that the wages of the workers should be lowered, these dividends should be reduced to not more than 5 per cent. The basic wage should not be less than £5 a week. I hope that we shall not have a repetition of what took place during the last war, when the whole burden was cast on to the shoulders of the workers. I remember the time when, during a coal strike, an application was made to the court for an increase of the wages of the miners. The court granted the men an additional ls. 6d. a ton, but at the same time it agreed to the price of coal being raised by 3s. a ton, thereby giving to the mine-owners an additional profit of ls. 6d. a ton. That was done when a Government led by the present Minister for the Navy (M;r. Hughes) was in power. I ask the Minister to consider the introduction of regulations under the National Security Act whereby the workers will share in the profits of industry both during the war period and after the war.
.- The honorable member for Melbourne Ports (Mr. Holloway) has moved the adjournment of the House to discuss the necessity for improving the wage standards of employees, with particular reference to the basic wage and allowances related thereto. In order that we may know what we want to improve, we must know what the wage standard now is, and the nature of the allowances related thereto. For about a quarter of a century the accepted principle of the basic wage has been that it shall be fixed at an amount sufficient to maintain in frugal comfort a man, his wife and three children. Over and over again, judges of the Arbitration Court, particularly the second president, the late Mr. Justice Higgins, have described that principle as something that is sacrosanct; they had invested it with a quasi-religious protection. If an industry could not pay the basic wage, so computed, it was regarded as a parasitic industry which the people of this country should not maintain. That principle has remained. I believe it to be a correct principle that the basic wage, that is, the lowest wage payable to a labourer with no skill, should be an amount having reference not to the national income, or to his skill, or want of skill, but to the needs of a normal Australian, who should bc able to marry and, being married, to rear a small family at any rate. As has been pointed out by the honorable member for Barton (Mr. Evatt), that principle was abandoned by the Arbitration Court in the days of stress during the financial emergency. In 1930 the Arbitration Court set aside awards except as to the basic wage, cut out marginal allowances or allowances for skill, unpleasant work, and so on. In 1931 it laid its hands cd the basic wage - that ark of the covenant which by its predecessors had been deemed untouchable. The court, in that year, reduced the basic wage. In doing so it admitted that the wage was being reduced below the amount necessary to maintain a man and his wife and family. The court justified its action on the ground that the national income would not enable the country to pay the basic wage. Although a government led by Mr. Bruce had put into the Arbitration Act a direction that the court should consider economic conditions, and that direction had been repealed in 1930, the Arbitration Court said in effect, “It is the duty of this court always to consider economic conditions “. To-day the basic wage is determined, not by the needs of the family, but by the capacity of the national income. I submit that that is not a proper foundation at all; it is not a foundation built upon a rock but one laid on the sand. The standard should ‘be improved ; and it seems to me that the obvious way to improve it is by reverting to the former standard, which was based on needs. That standard sets out that unless an industry can pay its employees what is necessary to satisfy reasonable human needs it is parasitic and should not be maintained in this country. The basic wage and the proposal for family allowances are closely related. I understand that it is proposed to pay family allowances in respect of the children of not only wage-earners but also of other persons such as widows, unemployed persons, small employers and selfemploying people. Such a proposal as that I welcome, and I believe that every member of the Opposition welcomes it, but we should make it clear that there is no intention to cut down the basic wage. One result of such a measure would bc that the basic wage of Queeusland and Western Australia would naturally fall. I contend that we should do by law what the Attorney-General has said this Parliament has had no direct power to do in the past. It is now possible to regulate, for instance, the conditions of waterside workers under one category of power, but there is no general power .to- regulate the conditions of labour: This Parliament now has power to do in times of war what it had not power to do in times of peace. During this war, it has power to lay down the principles upon which the basic wage shall be determined. I believe that it should declare that the present basic wage shall be the minimum wage paid to the single worker, and that a family allowance shall he paid in respect of the first and subsequent children- of every person, including small tradesmen, farmers, self -employing persons and widows. I consider that that is what the present motion stands for,’ since it refers to the need for an improvement of the wage standards, with particular reference to the basic wage and!. the allowances related thereto. The principles elaborated by the late Mr. Justice Higgins, and followed by his successors for many years, guaranteed to the least skilful worker a certain wage, which could not be taken from him. Now the Arbitration Court lias taken that wage from him. We are told that, as the result of the new principles upon which the court has been acting since 1.930, the wage provides only for the maintenance of a man, his wife and one child. I am glad that the Government proposes to introduce a scheme of family allowances, but I hope that the scheme will not begin to operate only in respect of the second child. I trust that it -will embrace all persons who are in need, and that the method of determining the basic wage will not be such that the family allowance will be used as an excuse for reducing the wage of the single man and the man without children.
Debate interrupted under Standing Order No. 257b.
Parliament : Secret Meeting of Senators AND Members: Sttings Private Members’ Business; Press Attacks - Holds worthy Military Detention Camp - Industrial Dispute on New Guinea Gold-fields - Royal Australian Air Force: Parachute Equipment; Light Aircraft Proprietary Limited - Road Construction - Coastal Defences: Conditions of Enlistment - Activities of Department of Information - Sir Keith Murdoch - Yaralla Military Hospital - Tenders foe Military Work - Repairs to Military Boots - War Work - Militia Training: Seasonal Workers - Marketing Control Organizations - -DRIFT of Population to Cities - ORGANIZATION of Transport Services - Iron Ore Deposits - Gold-mining Industry - Bauxite and Copper Deposits - Work- on Waterfront - Internment of Aliens - Housing - Invalid and Old-age Pensions - Wool Scouring - Flax Industry - War Effort Publicit r - Ballarat Post Office - Rifle Clubs - Incidence of Taxation - Shipbuilding.
– I move -
That tlie House do now adjourn
I invite honorable members of this House and honorable senators to assemble at 8 p.m. to-night for a secret meeting.
.- I protest against the form of inquiry which the Minister for the Army (Mr. Spender) proposes to hold to hear complaints regarding the state of affairs at the Holdsworthy Military Detention Camp. I have suggested that an independent inquiry should be held., and that members and ex-members of the military forces should be guaranteed protection against victimization. The Minister does not now propose having an independent inquiry but intends that the inquiry shall be conducted by the Inspector-General of Administration. Even if this officer has not had Army experience he is attached to the Army, and is part of the Army machine. Therefore I submit that an inquiry by him would not he an independent one. I claim that what I said in the House last week is true in every detail. Since then certain matters have been brought under my notice with regard to other detention barracks and camps, and these also warrant investigation. I ask the Minister to see that the inquiry is conducted by a person who is independent of the Army. I am quite satisfied that ample evidence would be submitted to such an inquiry, but it is unreasonable to suppose that men subject to Army control would submit evidence to such an inquiry as that proposed by the Minister, knowing full well that their evidence might prejudice their future promotion, if nothing else. Therefore I appeal to the Minister to reconsider his decision to have the inquiry conducted by the Inspector-General of Administration. He should appoint somebody who is entirely independent of the Army machine.
– He is.
– I submit that he is not. The Minister further said that it was not proposed to call evidence in the ordinary way, but that, if any men cared to submit evidence to the InspectorGeneral, it would be considered, and that such men had his personal assurance that there would be no victimization. I claim that these men would not be justified in regarding such an inquiry as a proper one.
– The person whom the Government proposes to appoint to conduct the inquiry is indirectly, if not directly, under the control of the department concerned. An entirely independent investigation of matters of this kind should be made.
– A parliamentary select committee should be appointed.
– I agree with that suggestion, and urge the Minister for the Army to give serious consideration to the appointment of such a committee to inquire into my disclosures.
Another matter which urgently requires the attention of the Government is the present industrial dispute between New Guinea Goldfields Limited and miners employed by that company in the Territory of New Guinea. These men are not covered by any award, and no regulation exists to ensure the safe working of the mines in which they are engaged. In order to bring their disabilities forcibly under the notice of the proper authorities, they have been obliged to cease work. Many of these miners were engaged in Australia, principally in Sydney and Brisbane. They were told that the conditions of their employment in New Guinea would be similar to those operating on the mining fields in Australia. They were promised 25s. a shift, and, if they worked on contract, which was optional, they could earn up to 30s. a shift. Upon arriving in New Guinea, however, they found that the conditions under which they were obliged to work were entirely different from those operating in Australia. Numerous accidents have happened, whilst a number of the miners have had lucky escapes. Furthermore, the men are working with obsolete machinery, and the dust menace in the mines has reached serious proportions. The timbering of the mines is done in softwood, which is entirely unsatisfactory. Consequently, many of the mines are in danger of collapse. In one case the only entrance to one mine collapsed, and great difficulty was experienced in digging out the men entombed in the mine. In addition, no facilities are provided for rescue work, and no first-aid kits are available at many of the mines. These conditions apply particularly to the mines at
Anderson’s Creek, and at the Upper Ridges. The men ask that an inspection be made of the mines immediately, and that every protection be given to enable them to work in safety. They also complain that when engaged on contract work they are often robbed by those in charge of the mines. It appears that natives are employed to count the trucks, the men being paid on a tonnage basis. However, in February, in one instance, a difference of 150 tons was found between the mill return and the men’s check. The men also ask, therefore, that a weighbridge be installed in order to afford them protection against exploitation in this way. They also ask for a minimum wage of 30s. a shift and one day’s holiday a month, and for the payment of overtime, which is now paid for at ordinary rates, at time and a half. This is necessary as the cost of living is approximately 30 per cent, higher than in Australia. They also request that suitable sheds and accommodation, ample supplies of drinking water and sanitary conveniences be provided at every level in the mines. These men have repeatedly brought their complaints under the notice of the company, but so far no effort has been made to rectify any of their grievances. Consequently, they have now ceased work with the object of bringing the position forcibly under the notice of the Government. The Government has not been wholly unaware of these conditions. On examining some of the records I discovered that the Minister for the Interior (Senator Foll) was a director of New Guinea Goldfields Limited. I am not sure whether he is still a director of that company, but at all events he was a director and must have been aware of these conditions. I understand that the Government takes the stand that its powers in respect of that Territory are too limited to enable it to take action along the lines requested by the miners, and so far it has not given any indication of a desire to see the lot of these men improved. These men have no representatives in this Parliament. Obviously, the only way they can hope to secure rectification of their grievances is by asking members of the Labour party in this House to raise the matter here. I ask the Acting Prime Minister (Mr.
Fadden) to have an inspection made of the mines as soon as possible with a view to rectifying the conditions which I have described. The- Government is obliged to see that men employed in the Mandated Territory are afforded at least the same safeguards in industry as are provided for workers in Australia. So far, no indication has been given that the dispute is likely to be settled. I again urge the Government to take immediate action, and, if necessary, to call a compulsory conference between representatives of the men and those in . control of the mines.
.- At the inquest held at Lismore into the death of Eric Girdler, aged 27, who was killed when an’ Air Force ‘plane crashed near Central’ Buralba on the 4th of March, it was disclosed that Girdler had no parachute. Evidence was given that Girdler was Unable to obtain a parachute before commencing the flight because none was av: liable. This is a matter of great importance, and when it was raised at question time to-day the Minister for Air (Mr. McEwen) disclosed that sufficient parachutes are not available for every man who leaves the ground in an Royal Australian; Air Force machine. I feel impelled, therefore, to bring under the notice of the Minister certain facts which, show that sufficient parachutes to meet the present requirements of the Royal Australian Air Force would have been available in Australia to-day if the department had availed itself of certain manufacturing facilities. In 1938 a Mr. Turner .commenced to manufacture parachutes in Australia for Light Aircraft Proprietary Limited. As the result of a difference which he had with that company, he set up a business of his own. He erected a factory at Ultimo, in my electorate. That factory covers 18,000 square feet of floor space, and sewing machines and other equipment to the value of at least £5,000 were installed in it. Those machines have remained idle since May, 1940. For the last two years Turner has endeavoured unsuccessfully to supply parachutes to the Royal Australian Air Force. Turner made the first parachute in Australia. He tested it himself at Mascot from a height of 7,000 feet. He holds a manufacturing certificate, an inspection cer tificate as well as a licence to pack parachutes. He is also licensed to manufacture the safety harness, and to inspect such equipment after manufacture. Turner was prevented from manufacturing parachutes because he was unable to obtain rights from Light Aircraft Proprietory Limited to use the safety box, which is attached to the breast of the man using the parachute, and when released at a prescribed height, opens the parachute. I have seen safety boxes manufactured at the factory of Australian Consolidated Industries, New South Wales. When Turner was denied the right to use the safety box by Light Aircraft Proprietary Limited, he set about manufacturing a new safety quick release box. He claims that he has invented one of the best release boxes in the world. However, the Royal Australian Air Force refuses to consider his claim. If the Royal Australian Air Force wishes to use only the original box, the Government, in time of war, has power to permit manufacturers, other than the holders of the patent rights, to make such equipment. I urge it to do so. In conjunction with the quick release box, Turner has also made a new set of harness which is lighter than the standard harness, because it dispenses with certain metal fittings. Another feature of his claim is that, at a cost of from £50 to £60 his parachute is £10 cheaper than the parachutes supplied to the Royal Australian Air Force by Light Aircraft Proprietary Limited. Notwithstanding the improvements embodied in Turner’s quick release box, the lower price of the parachute and the fact that this equipment has been designed by a man holding all the necessary certificates, he has been denied the right to manufacture full parachute equipment. The British Government controls the patent rights of the standard harness for parachutes. Therefore, even if the Royal Australian Air Force authorities insists on the continued use of the standard harness as against Mr. Turner’s invention, it could ensure adequate supplies of parachutes by authorizing Mi Turner’s company to use the standard harness, in spite of the fact that Light Aircraft Proprietary Limited has already been given those rights.
There is no shortage of materials with which to manufacture parachutes. Indeed, sufficient stocks are on hand to enable Mr. Turner’s company immediately to embark on their manufacture. Yet, although since January, 1939, Mr. Turner has been telling the Royal Australian Air Force that he is able to supply parachutes, for some reason or other his offers have been rejected. I understand that only 10 per cent, of the Royal Australian Air Force parachutes are droptested, whereas every Royal Air Force parachute is subjected to the drop-test. I raise this matter with absolutely no desire to embarrass the Minister for Air, because I must say that my association with him has shown that whenever claims such as this are brought to his notice, he examines them thoroughly and, if they are substantiated, takes whatever corrective action is necessary. I am sure that the Minister would not countenance unjust treatment. It would appear that some people, for their own benefit, are trying to corner the manufacture of commodities vital to our war effort.
– Where is the factory of Light Aircraft Proprietary Limited situated ?
– In Mountain-street, not far from Broadway, ‘Sydney. I do not think that that company ought to be denied any chance to supply parachutes. It is perfectly within its right to receive the price which is now being paid’ for its products, but I stress the fact that the Minister conceded to-day that there were insufficient parachutes available to enable every man who leaves the ground in an aircraft to be equipped. That is serious. Irrespective of whether a contract has already been let to Light Aircraft Proprietary Limited for the supply of sufficient parachutes to enable all members of Australian air crews to be equipped with them, and in this case the price is satisfactory. In fact, the price is lower and the equipment more efficient than that now being supplied: the Government would be acting within its rights in going to other sources for the supply of equipment. It is a hard thing to say, but it must be said that had the young man who was killed been equipped, as he should have been, with a parachute, his life may have been saved.
The necessity to equip our Air Force men with parachutes is important, first, in order that lives may be saved, and secondly, but of equal importance, in order that the services of men on whose training large sums of money have been expended may be retained in the service of the country. The Minister should examine the matters raised, and, if he finds the statements proved, he should’ take steps to ensure by every- means practicable that ample . parachutes are available to equip every flying member of the Air Force.
– The honorable- member forWest Sydney (Mr. Beasley) was good enough to advise me” shortly before he spoke that he intended to raise this issue. I appreciate the helpful and temperate manner in which he has stated his case. I do regard- this matter as of the highest importance, but, owing to the short notice, I have not had much opportunity to refresh my memory and to fully acquaint myself with every aspect of the subject. Nevertheless, I am able to give considerable information, because duringthe few months in which’ I have been Minister for Air I have concerned myself with the supply of parachutes. The intention of the Royal Australian Air Force is to have ‘ such a supply of parachutes as will enable a personal issue to be made to every manwhose duty is to embark in aircraft. The manufacture of parachute’s in Australia was not undertaken before the war. The Department of Air placed with the Government of the United Kingdom substantial orders for parachutes. Many hundred’s’ of those parachutes have been delivered, but, unhappily, many hundreds of complete parachutes and components consigned from the United Kingdom to: Australia have been lost at sea. I understand that about twelve months ago Light Aircraft Proprietary Limited undertook to manufacture parachutes locally/ Certain specifications for the parachute’s and quick-release boxes were submitted’ and, after examination and testing, were: approved. Orders were placed in J~une last for a total of 3,000 parachutes, of which more than’ 1,000 have already been delivered. Light Aircraft Proprietary Limited has experienced 1 difficulty- m securing certain metals for the manufacture of fittings. Orders were placed in adequate time with the authorities in the United Kingdom for the supply of fittings, which I understand are made of a metal of unusual character, but we have had unhappy experiences in attempts to produce this metal locally and to fabricate it, so much so that Light Aircraft Proprietary Limited, in addition to the 1,000 parachutes it has already delivered, has on hand 1,000 odd canopies requiring only the fittings. Sufficient of the fittings to complete the canopies were lost in one of the ships mined close to the Australian coast. Had that not happened we should have had 1,000 parachutes more than we have to-day. I was advised to-day that the problem of obtaining locally manufactured metal for fabrication into fittings has been substantially overcome and that Light Aircraft Proprietary Limited is able to undertake to deliver within the next week or two almost 300 additional parachutes. That will leave the company with between 700 and 800 canopies still on hand. I am advised further that from now on Light Aircraft Proprietary Limited will be able progressively to go ahead with the delivery of parachutes at the rate of not less than 100 a week and probably 150 a week.
I understand that Mr. Turner, who in the earlier stages of production was an employee of Light Aircraft Proprietary Limited, has in conjunction with others established & company and offered to manufacture parachutes for the Royal Australian Air Force. I also understand that Mr. Turner or his company submitted to the Air Force authorities plans and specifications of a quick-release box which on examination was regarded as unsuitable. Amended plans and specifications were also rejected for the same reason. Mr. Turner has submitted a third set of plans and specifications of a quickrelease box which are now in the final stages of examination and testing, and I understand that that box will probably be regarded by the Air Force as adequate. Tests will be completed within the next week and I am able to say that if they are satisfactory the Air Force will be prepared immediately to place orders with Mr. Turner’s company. While all of these endeavours to obtain parachutes in Australia have been proceeding, we have continued to place orders with the Government of the United Kingdom. One hundred parachutes from the United Kingdom were landed in Australia last week. Others are in process of shipment and 600 more are either on the water or on the wharves in Great Britain awaiting shipment. I said earlier to-day that a consignment was almost here. I have since ascertained that the consignment was landed last week.
I assure the honorable member for West Sydney and all honorable members that I recognize the transcending importance of ensuring that every member of the air crews shall have his own parachute. I shall do all in my power to see that they are made available at the earliest possible moment. The honorable member for West Sydney has very properly said that the possession of patent rights by one person or company should not preclude another person or company from producing an item of equipment so vital as parachutes. I share that view. I had impressed upon my department before the last unfortunate accident occurred that I should not be prepared for one moment to allow the possession of patent rights to limit our capacity to ensure the safety of members of the Air Force. That is my policy and it is also the policy of the Government. I understand, however, that Mr. Turner does not wish to work on the specifications of Light Aircraft Proprietary Limited, but has such confidence in his own design that he wishes the Air Force to adopt it. There is every probability that his amended design will be adopted next week and that orders will be placed with his company.
– The Minister has not referred to the drop-testing of parachutes.
– Every parachute is drop tested by the Air Force every twelve months. I am aware from my visits to Air Force stations that every parachute is unfolded, dried and repacked once a month. No parachute is ever to be used unless it has had one dummy drop.
.- I want an assurance from the Acting Prime Minister (Mr. Fadden) that honorable members will be given, an opportunity to move notices of motion which, they have on the notice-paper. One appears in my name, and I did not place it there for fun. It relates to the appointment of a select committee to inquire into allegations of bribery leading up to the cessation of bus services between Ingleburn military camp and Liverpool. The Government should give members an opportunity to ventilate important matters before this period of the session closes. The House did not dispose of much business during the last two weeks and we are now approaching Easter. I hope that the Government will not have the House adjourned over Easter without giving honorable members full opportunity to bring up matters of public importance. It is time that this Parliament sat for longer periods so that honorable members could have ample opportunity to ventilate important subjects.
I intend to discuss a matter which I placed before the Minister for the Interior (Senator Poll) several weeks ago. My reason for raising it to-night is that I cannot obtain information from the Minister. All I am told is that inquiries are being made. The case concerns allegations made by a man named O’Brien living at Port Kembla, and also five or six other men who are now working on the military road between Richmond and Singleton. O’Brien was employed on this job, but he left it because, being a thorough tradesman, he refused to use the timber. supplied for culverts. He said the timbers used comprised bastard gum and other timbers unsuitable for the work. He maintained that culverts built of such timber would not stand the weight of military trucks. Five or six of his mates also complained about the timber and refused to handle it. As a result they were disrated and put on a job shovelling muck. I received a written statement from O’Brien and submitted it to the Minister. The writer is only a workman and I suppose that is the reason why the Minister has brushed it aside. This is a matter of vital importance. A. large amount of money has been spent on defence works that are not necessary and surely the Government could spare a few pounds to meet the expense of bringing O’Brien to Canberra so that he could state his case to the Minister. If it is found that there is no substance in his complaint, I shall not complain if he gets what is due to him. The matter should be investigated because it is a Main Roads Board job, not a contract job. It is not a case of men putting in timber simply to make profit. I consider that the Government is in duty bound to send an officer to Port Kembla to get in touch with O’Brien. One day’s run in a motor car would be sufficient to enable an officer to go with O’Brien to inspect the timber. In that way O’Brien’s statement could be tested. I furnished O’Brien’s statement to the Minister for the Interior several weeks ago and asked him to have inquiries made. I telephoned to the Minister two weeks ago and requested him to furnish me with the information last week. I have received no reply.
– One or two points arise out of the matter raised by the honorable member for West Sydney (Mr. Beasley) and the reply of the Minister for Air (Mr. McEwen) . I do not know whether parachutes were made in Australia before the war. However, that is not the important point in the Minister’s reply. If I understood the reply correctly, it appears that Turner’s firm is capable of making a parachute to the satisfaction of the Royal Australian Air Force with the exception of the box release. It appears also that Light Aircraft Proprietary Limited is capable of making a parachute, including the box release, which is satisfactory to the Air Force. I consider that in a case where the Government has difficulty in obtaining certain materials it should not rely only on importations of which the arrival in Australia is doubtful. If the box release manufactured by Light Aircraft Proprietary Limited is satisfactory to the Air Force, Turner should be told to go ahead and manufacture parachutes embodying the approved box release. I believe that experiments should be made in every branch of the fighting services, even in time of war. In a case like this, where there is an admitted shortage in one branch of the fighting services where casualties are necessarily high, the Government should not stand on ceremony, but should not allow a firm which is capable of making all the other parts of a parachute, except the box release, to experiment until it succeeds in making a satisfactory box release. I ask for an assurance from the Minister that he will not allow experimentation by Turner’s firm to prevent the production of parachutes with satisfactory box releases.
.- Apparently, the Government is anxious to rush honorable members to-night into a secret meeting of senators and members of this House. Senators who are now on their way to Canberra for the meeting of the Senate to-morrow have had no intimation of the secret meeting whilst members of the House of Representatives were notified of it only this afternoon. I know three distinguished senators who cannot attend a secret meeting to-night because they are on their way to Canberra. I refer to Senators Collings, Keane and Cameron. Probably there are other senators who cannot be present for the same reason. The three senators I have mentioned desire to make suggestions to the Government regarding Australia’s war effort, and I have no doubt they have a good deal of criticism to offer. They will not be pleased if when they arrive in Canberra to-morrow they find that their last opportunity of attending a secret meeting of senators and members vanished to-night. The Acting Prime Minister (Mr. Fadden) could agree to hold a secret meeting to-morrow night, so as to enable senators who are not in Canberra to-night to attend.
I direct the attention of the Minister for the Army (Mr. ‘Spender) to the matter which I shall outline. Last month a campaign was opened for recruiting a special force of artillerymen and engineers for the primary purpose of manning the coast defences. In the publicity of this recruiting campaign those invited to enlist were promised Australian Imperial Force rates of pay and conditions. On enlistment, it was impressed on the men that they would be free to transfer to the Australian Imperial Force if subsequently they so desired. A large majority offered to serve at home or abroad. I understand that already batteries have been drafted to go abroad. Unfortunately, since enlistment, a large number of these men find that their condi tions of service and pay are in reality very different from those of the Australian Imperial Force, and that the right of transfer to the Australian Imperial Force is purely fictional. Their pay of 5s. a day is, apparently, to remain the same when they go abroad. No mention is made of deferred pay. Those serving abroad will not have the right to wear the word “ Australia “ in block metal letters on the shoulder, though for all practical purposes they will be virtually members of the Australian Imperial Force. The men are anxiously awaiting official assurance regarding repatriation rights, pensions, dependants’ rights, de:ferred pay, and so on. Such an assurance would remove a decidedly unpleasant feeling held by many men who believe that they have been misled.
In November last, the attention of the House was directed to an attack made upon it by the Mercury newspaper of Tasmania. The honorable member for Darwin (Mr. Bell) raised the matter and properly protested against the attempt to belittle our parliamentary institution by the publication of a faked photograph showing the ministerial benches in this chamber with only one occupant. On the 14th March last, the Minister assisting the Minister for Commerce (Mr. Anthony) protested vigorously in the House against the attempt made by the Sydney Daily Telegraph to misrepresent the Government’s administration of the apple and pear acquisition scheme by publishing a photograph allegedly showing a load of apples being deposited on a dump at Moore Park, Sydney. As a matter of fact, it was proved by the Assistant Minister that there were very few apples in that load, which consisted mostly of vegetables. I now desire to direct attention to an attack made on the House of Representatives by the Melbourne Herald. On Thursday, the 20th March, the Herald commenced an article with the following statement : -
In a nearly empty House of Representatives at Canberra yesterday, while a reception to Mr. Kawai was proceeding in another part of the building. Mr. Calwell, the member for Melbourne, made an attack on the Herald and some of its staff.
That statement is a deliberate untruth. The House was not nearly empty, and there was no reception proceeding in any part of the building when I spoke last Wednesday afternoon. It would appear from the paragraph that honorable members were neglecting their duties to take part in a social function. I made my speech on Wednesday last between 4.15 p.m. and 4.30 p.m., and other speakers followed me, the House rising at 5 p.m., which was prior to the commencement of the reception to the Japanese Minister. After such gross misrepresentation, such shocking mendacity, the Herald proceeded to discuss my statement affecting its managing director, Sir Keith Murdoch. The article referred to “ the weakerminded and less responsible of the professional politicians”. I desire to say something in reply to this managing director, and to draw the attention of the House to some of his shortcomings, and also to his recent peregrinations in the Australian Capital Territory. Earlier to-day I asked the Acting Prime Minister why special facilities were afforded Sir Keith Murdoch to interview and interrogate Ministers at Hotel Canberra and why he did not come out into the open and wait on Ministers at Parliament House or at their departmental offices. The honorable gentleman could not answer my question* nor could he tell me the purpose of the interviews. I have definite information that Sir Keith Murdoch was at Hotel Canberra on Wednesday or Thursday of the week before last. I strongly object to him snooping around Ministers’ bedrooms after midnight and holding clandestine conferences with Ministers of State with such as will confer with him. There is not the slightest doubt that this person, who until recently was the Director of the Department of Information, is still a power in connexion with the operations of that department. In another capacity I represent a ward of the Melbourne City Council. On the 3rd March last an application came before the appropriate committee of that body for the cancellation of an engagement of the Melbourne Town Hall for a certain meeting. We were told that the Town Hall was too large for the meeting, and that the rooms upstairs were too small for it. The purpose of the meeting, it was said, was to advocate a closer relation ship between the people of the United States of America and Australia. It was desired to hold the meeting in another part of the city. I moved that a penalty of £5 be imposed in connexion with the cancellation of the booking, though I did not succeed in my effort. The meeting to which Sir Keith Murdoch referred was subsequently held in another part of the city and was addressed learnedly and at great length by a gentleman named Paul Maguire, who advocated the desired closer relationship between the American and Australian people. I was present and before long, realized that the meeting was a “ stunt “ of the Department of Information. I understand that the department paid for the hall and also for certain literature. It also met the expenses of this gentleman who was getting all ‘ the limelight and has, what Burns would call, “ a guid conceit “ of himself.
There is a move in Melbourne at present to promote closer relations between the people of Australia and South Africa. It is said that one of the purposes of this move is to promote cultural and economic relations between the two countries. A bait held out in support of the proposal is the establishment of a chair of Afrikander at an Australian university, though I do not know of any in this country who are qualified to speak and teach the Boer language. Of course .Sir Keith Murdoch is linked with the movement, and I have little doubt that the Department of Information will be meeting all the expenses, as it has done in connexion with the other society to which I referred. It is an old idea of people who interest themselves in these movements to try to attract the support and attendance of Labour leaders, but fortunately, as the background of these activities has been revealed, there is less likelihood than hitherto of this objective being obtained.
Were it not for the fact that my time is limited in speaking to this motion I could discuss at considerable length the activities of this gentleman who has seen fit to insult our parliamentary institutions. I know he claims credit for having inspired the evacuation of Gallipoli, but the true story is not exactly as he tells it. Sir Keith Murdoch, when a minor newspaper reporter, years ago, was associated in England with Lord Northcliffe.
– That was ‘before he was Sir Keith !
– That is so. He went out to Gallipoli, ostensibly as a guest of Sir Ian Hamilton, but in reality as a spy for Lord Northcliffe. When he returned to England he supplied Lord Northcliffe with considerable information which was made the basis of the Northcliffe press articles concerning Gallipoli. A person who was capable of misusing confidences reposed in him by that famous soldier is also quite capable of also breaking the confidences of neophytes like the Minister for the Army (Mr. Spender), and of leading him up the garden path just like a gentleman named Packer led the Minister for Air up the garden path some months ago.
Having adumbrated the subject of Sir Keith Murdoch and haying expatiated previously on the ramifications of his activities in connexion with the Department of Information, I now direct the attention of honorable members to the fact that one of his employees has gone to Singapore as a representative of the Department of Information. No doubt, in the course of time, other employees of his will also go there. We know that Sir Keith Murdoch controls a long chain of newspapers and radio stations in this country and is in a position to exert a great deal of influence on this Government, just as he did on the Government led by the late Mr. Lyons. It was the latter Government which recommended him for a knighthood in recognition of the service he rendered to the United Australia Party in helping to destroy by various disgraceful means the Labour Government led by the right honorable member for Yarra (Mr. Scullin), and also in helping to destroy the Labour Government of Victoria, t have no doubt that before this war ends the present Government will recommend Sir Keith Murdoch’s elevation to the peerage foi- his alleged distinguished services to this country during this time of crisis. (Leave to continue given.] As a servant of Lord Northcliffe, the head of the Harmsworth brood which did so much harm in England during the last war by poisoning the minds of the English people, and, subsequently, as an ally of Lord Rothermere, Lord Northcliffe’s younger brother, Sir Keith Murdoch, who is a very vain man, is seeking to make for himself a name that will be remembered in the generations to come. He desires a title, like Lord Northcliffe and Lord Rothermere, and I have no doubt that he will do his best to persuade this Government to elevate him to the peerage. Perhaps he will adopt the title of Lord Southcliffe !
– I regret that the Minister assisting the Minister for the Interior has just left the chamber, for I wish to refer to certain matters in connexion with the construction of the Yaralla military hospital. This building, which is to be situated on the Parramatta River, is estimated to cost about £1,000,000. The successful tenderer sub-let a tender for a supply of the dampcourse to New South Wales Asphalt Company.
As the Assistant Minister (Mr. Collins) has not returned to the chamber, I shall interrupt these remarks to deal with one or two matters which affect the administration of the Minister for the Army.
– The honorable member had better proceed with his speech, for he cannot delay the business of the House indefinitely.
– Well, as the Minister for the Navy (Mr. Hughes) is now sitting at the table I shall ask him to explain the procedure that is adopted in connexion with the letting of tenders for defence works. I had in mind, particularly, contracts for the construction of ships at Cockatoo Island dockyard and of military camps. I have complained by letter to the Department of the Army that the present procedure is most unsatisfactory. Until recently, if not to date, the practice has been to ask certain selected firms to submit prices for particular jobs. The procedure is quite unsatisfactory to me. All contracts should be advertised in the press.
I am also dissatisfied with the procedure in regard to the contract for the repair of military boots. I consider that the Government should call for tenders foi- this work by advertisement in the public press. The work should be done, as far as possible, in. the localities in which camps are situated. I protest against the procedure which has resulted in Joe Gardiner Limited, of Sydney, being given all the work in respect of camps situated in localities extending from the Queensland border to Sydney and further south. Local companies that are able to do this repair work should be permitted to tender for it.
It is not right that a member who wishes to receive a reply to his . representations should have to speak in the absence of the Minister to whom his remarks are directed. I have prolonged my preliminary remarks in the hope that the Assistant Minister would be present to hear . what I have to say, but still he has not put in an appearance. I have been communicated with by telephone in regard to the matter which I desire to bring before him, and therefore I want to hear his reply to-night so that I, in turn, may advise those who have communicated with me. The matter is of urgent importance, particularly to those people who will be patients in the hospital, and also in fairness to the man to whom the contract was sub-let. The contract for the dampcourse at the Yaralla hospital was sub-let to Warners Limited, the New South Wales Asphalt Company, which has carried out a number of big undertakings, among them work for H. G. Whittle and Son, the successful tenderer for additions to the Sydney General Post Office. A powerful English company, the Neuchatel Asphalte Company (Australasia) Proprietary Limited, approached the architect under whose direction the Yaralla hospital was being erected, and informed him that Warners Limited could not get the necessary ingredients for Trinidad bitumen or rock asphalt, although the company itself could supply them. The result was that the English company succeeded in having the contract taken from Warners Limited and placed in its hands. I have been informed that the Neuchatel Asphalte Company (Australasia) Proprietary Limited, which previously claimed that it could get Trinidad bitumen or rock asphalt in accordance with the specifications, has placed in the building a synthetic asphalt which will, in time, let damp through into the walls above the dampcourse. In fairness to Warners Limited and more particularly to those who will occupy the hospital in time to come as patients, 1 ask that samples be taken of the composition supplied by the Neuchate Asphalte Company (Australasia) Proprietary Limited for analysis at the University in order to ensure that it is in accordance with specifications. However, I suppose I shall not receive an answer to my representations.
.- In speaking to this motion I am animated by sentiments similar to those expressed by the honorable member for East Sydney (Mr. Ward) who said that private members have great difficulty in bringing before this House matters of great moment to the electorates which they represent. Recently, I toured centralwest New South Wales, where I was impressed by the great number of empty houses and shops, due to the drift of the population from those districts to the city. This drift is endangering our internal economy, yet no attempt is being made to stop it. It has been estimated that one in six of Australia’s male population is engaged in war work, either in the manufacture of munitions or through enlistment in the fighting forces or in various militia units. The national war effort has caused a great concentration of population in the big industrial areas, particularly at Sydney, Newcastle and Port .Kembla in New South Wales. The employment of so large a proportion of the population on war work has caused a dearth of labourers for work in our primary industries; yet, despite applications for exemptions of primary producers from military call-ups, the military authorities claim that it is necessary that these young men should be trained. I agree that their contention is logical and that men must be trained, but I point out that it is useless to train men as frontline fighters if provision be not also made to feed them. That is the position which will arise in the near future, because already, due to the severe drought which the country experienced last year, our store of! wheat has been greatly decreased, and in the event of anything serious happening to our next wheat harvest, we should he without sufficient stocks of wheat to meet requirements. Bad administration on the part of the Government through -various control bodies, particularly in connexion with apples and pears, has caused rauch confusion. This has led to distress in country districts, with the result that the people there are not in the right frame of mind to render their best service in support of the country’s war effort. Something should be done by the Government to stop the drift of population from the country to the city. It has been said, possibly with justification, that political considerations often determine the location of military camps or munitions annexes. An election is to take place in New South Wales in the near future, and in this connexion it is rather significant that the drift to the metropolitan area from western electorates will play into the hands of sitting members, most of whom are anti-Labour. There seems to be an attempt to prevent industries from being established in country districts. The transport system of New South Wales is being re-organized- in order to transport heavy loads overland from southern seaport towns in the event of any interference with shipping. Provision is being made whereby iron ore from Whyalla in South Australia will be conveyed overland to New South Wales. Big dumps are being established in western New South Wales for these ores, notwithstanding that practically at our front door there are supplies of iron ore. It is not a great distance from the ore deposits at Carcoar and Cadia to Newcastle or Port Kembla, yet those deposits are not being exploited, despite the fact that years ago they supplied the Lithgow furnaces. The bauxite deposits in central and western New South Wales are not being exploited, yet there is talk of importing bauxite from the Dutch East Indies. We have the raw materials practically at the places where they are needed for manufacture.
If provision were made for the treatment of gold in the central -and western districts of New South Wales, the return would be sufficient to provide a certain amount of foreign exchange. The imposition of an excise duty on gold has caused a tremendous loss, because the gold is ifr. Breen. left in the dumps. It has been said that the rebate to small prospectors overcomes the difficulty associated with the gold tax, but hundreds of thousands of tons of ore has to be treated before a sufficient return is received to meet the difference between the return from the dumps and what the prospectors would receive if the gold tax were abolished.
– If the process was profitable before the war, it should bc more profitable now.
– Is there any suggestion to tax copper or bauxite although the prices of these minerals have, like that of gold, greatly increased? No base metal is now taxed, yet the price of such metals has increased considerably - in some instances by as much as 200 per cent. Copper, which was £40 a ton before the war, is now £70 a ton, yet no attempt has been made to tax it, whereas gold, which is needed badly because it is the only mineral that we can produce in Australia to sell overseas, must lie in the ground, not through lack of labour, but because of the imposition of an iniquitous tax. That is an instance of the Government’s mismanagement.
– Despite the gold tax, the production of gold has increased.
– The increase is not the result of the tax.
– The point is that the tax has not caused any decrease of production.
– The increased price of gold has led to greater production. The gold tax has, however, militated against the further production of gold. No proportion of the revenue derived from the gold tax has been returned to the prospectors or miners in order to encourage them to win more gold. I again appeal to the Government to take action to prevent the drift of population from the back country to the cities.
.- I bring under the notice of the House the methods adopted by the Government to prevent men employed on the waterfront in Brisbane from obtaining a livelihood. When the war broke out waterside workers had to obtain permits, and the matter was first dealt with by the Attorney-General’s Department. Subsequently, the matter was under the control of the Department of the Interior. Later still, the Minister for Commerce (Sir Earle Page) handled these permits, and now the Minister for the Army (Mr. Spender) has, under certain regulations, revoked some of them.
– A restriction order is quite different from the revocation of a permit.
– Are the men being prevented from going on the wharfs?
– Yes. This has been the position for several months. Although there are 45 branches of the Waterside Workers Federation throughout Australia, only the Brisbane branch is affected, and in Brisbane there has been less industrial unrest on the waterfront than at any other port. The Minister for the Army has issued a restriction order under Regulations 25 and 26 of the National Security (General) Regulations which states: -
With the third paragraph of the order I entirely agree, but, before a waterside worker is deprived of his permit, a charge should be laid against him. I have received a letter from the secretary of the Brisbane branch of the Waterside Workers Federation which states that the latest member of the federation to have his permit revoked is the Queensland state representative on the federal committee of management. A communication received by me from the general secretary of the Waterside Workers Federation points out that the member in question was called before the deputy director of navigation for the port of Brisbane, Captain Burch, and his permit to work on the Brisbane waterfront was taken from him. At the interview was Lieutenant Lawler, who handed to the member a copy of a document issued over the signature of the Minister for the Army. This is the document from which I have already read. It is remarkable that, in a free country such as Australia, a waterside worker can have his permit taken from him without being given an opportunity to say whether the statements made concerning him are correct or otherwise.
– The Minister for the Interior, when dealing with cases similar to that cited by the honorable member, arranged to hear appeals.
– I understand that these appeals come under the notice of the Minister for Commerce.
– No, the Minister for the Interior.
– Nobody seems to know who handles them.
– Come and see me.
– Certain members from Queensland are seeing me to-morrow in regard to the whole matter.
– Can the Minister for the Army inform me why the permit of this man was revoked ?
– I am prepared to discuss the matter with the honorable member in my office.
– Aliens who have been interned have the right of appeal to a tribunal ; yet men who have worked on the waterfront for ‘30 or 40 years have their livelihood taken from them without being told the reason.
– Are the men to whom the honorable member refers aliens?
– No. Some of them are returned soldiers, and have sons fighting in the present war. Even Welshmen are amongst them.
.- I suppose, according to accepted ethical standards, I should be grateful to the Acting Prime Minister (Mr. Fadden) for having submitted at the end of the afternoon the motion for the adjournment of the House, thus giving to members an opportunity to discuss matters of importance to the country and, particularly, to their constituents, but, having been apprised of the fact that at some time later in the night it was the intention of the Acting Prime Minister again to turn out the lights and call up spirits from the vasty deep, I do not feel so grateful to him as I otherwise would. I understand that on this occasion there is to be a reversal of form, and that, whereas during other sittings it was the natural province of Ministers to instruct members, on this occasion it will be the privilege of members to instruct Ministers, and God knows they need it ! My reasons for not attending these sittings have already been stated. As I do not wish to stand between honorable gentlemen and their hearts’ desire I shall not repeat those reasons at length to-night. I shall take the opportunity, however, to remove a popular misconception regarding these secret meetings. I have received telegrams and letters congratulating me upon not having thought fit to attend them, although, as I have frequently said, I have no criticism to offer against those who did attend them. These meetings have been described as secret sessions of the House, but they are not.
– They are secret sittings of members of both Houses.
– It is worth while to make that distinction. If we were called together as a House of Representatives, in accordance with constitutional requirements, I should be found in my place, Deo volente, exercising my own discretion as to how far I regarded matters imparted to me as so secret in their nature that I should not take the responsibility of communicating them to others. In this case, the Acting Prime Minister issues an invitation to members of both chambers. He does not call the House together, with you, Mr. Speaker, in the chair as Speaker, but he invites members of both chambers to meet him here, and he makes it a condition of the invitation that he, not the member, shall exercise the discretion as to whether the matters referred to are to be secret or not. In other words, the invitation is only addressed to those who are prepared to accept the condition that they do not communicate to anybody outside anything of what they learn in this chamber. As I prefer to exercise my own discretion, rather than to attempt the impossible task of exercising the discretion of the honorable Minister, I prefer to stay away.
I have been enlightened to-night by a number of useful speeches which have been delivered on the motion for the adjournment of the House. I myself take leave to mention a matter of urgent public importance which the Government is now neglecting, and has neglected, not only during the currency of the war, but also for years before the war started. I refer to the housing problem, which has now become acute. It is, unfortunately, only too true that, owing to the unnatural conditions arising from the hectic preparations for war, in country districts and in country towns there are no housing problems except those of landlords who have to look anxiously for tenants for their dwellings, because the people are becoming more and more congested in the large metropolitan cities, where they will be, if the worst should happen, the more ready targets for the enemy. But in the city of Melbourne, where I live - and I am certain the same applies to Sydney and other metropolitan cities - the shortage of houses is most acute. As a matter of fact, it is no exaggeration to say that if a working man is required to vacate a rented house, he does not know where he will lay his head or where his family will be sheltered. I am not now complaining of the Government’s expenditure on defence, but I cannot help thinking, sadly, that one-tenth of that money - and this is a reflection upon civilization rather than upon any Government - would be sufficient to solve our housing problem, and house every citizen in Australia comfortably and appropriately.
– The Government never has any money for housing.
– Money is never available for the uplift of the poor in what Adam Smith has described as “ the endless battle of the rich against the poor “ ; but money is always available for the policy of destruction as against the policy of construction.
Recently I received a letter dealing with this problem from the Town Clerk of the city of Preston. Whilst Preston is, for the most part, well settled and a highly progressive modern city, it has open spaces of considerable acreage which are available for the construction of houses. However., owing to the limitation on capital investment, among other things, building on a large scale cannot be undertaken. The competition for vacant houses is so intense that it seems impossible for builders, although building is proceeding regularly and rapidly, to keep pace with the demand of the people for shelter. I do not know what the Government proposes to do about this matter. It must be well aware of the problem. Surely, it can make funds available for the purpose of its solution in cooperation with the State Government. The Commonwealth Government is entirely master of the purse and, therefore, controls the situation. I received to-day a letter from the secretary of the East Preston Progress Association with which was enclosed the following memorandum: -
To the Honorable,
have to inform you that my Association is of the opinion, based on intimate local knowledge, that there is serious housing shortage in Melbourne. It further considers the shortage may be relieved in any one of three ways, viz: - (1.) Federal scheme, making home purchase possible on low deposit and easy repayments terms; and associated, in particular, with the manufacture of munitions;
My Association is opposed to any community scheme associated with “ perpetual rent “.
Faithfully yours, (J. A. Clingin) Secretary.
As I do not desire to impede honorable members in their majestic progress into the darkness, I shall content myself with these few observations on the housing problem, not because the housing problem is the only one which I am anxious to discuss, but because of my consideration for the majority of members. I perceive that the Attorney-General (Mr. Hughes), in particular, is bursting to make a further most informative address in secret.
.- I appeal to the Minister for Social Services (Sir Frederick Stewart) to bring down a measure to amend the Invalid and Oldage Pensions Act in certain particulars. Recently I had occasion - and I have no doubt that other honorable mem bers have had a similar experience - to. make representations to the Pensions Department on behalf of applicants for either the invalid or old-age pension. One of the applicants, who was a girl, totally and permanently incapacitated, was refused a pension because her father was earning £5 10s. a week. This was regarded as a disqualification under section 22 (h) of the act which provides that a person cannot qualify for the pension if his or her father and mother, either separately or jointly, adequately maintain the applicant. The point I make is that the act does not allow deputy commissioners to use their discretion after investigating all of the circumstances of particular cases. Reform along these lines is urgently needed, particularly in relation to borderline applicants. Deputy commissioners should be allowed to interpret the act in a humane and common-sense manner in keeping with the spirit of the legislation. Another case brought under my notice was that of a man who was denied the old-age pension because he was 63 years of age. Although totally and permanently incapacitated, being too old and too sick to work, he was refused the invalid pension, and I endeavoured to obtain the old-age pension for him. It was then said that as he was not 65 he was not entitled to the pension. I point out that, in certain cases, the act provides for the payment of the old-age pension to persons who have not actually reached the age of 65. This case also, I submit, reveals the necessity for allowing deputy commissioners to exercise discretion in the administration of social legislation of this kind. It is wrong in principle to administer any kind of social legislation too rigidly. I admit that, whatever amount or conditions be fixed, border-line cases are bound to arise. However, it would be far better to allow to deputy commissioners discretion to determine a case in view of all the circumstances disclosed by an investigation rather than to oblige them to adhere strictly to the letter of the law. I again ask the Minister to bring in amending legislation to cover the points I have raised.
.- The crime in most cases in which applications for invalid pensions are refused is that the applicant is not totally and permanently incapacitated. The question arises, therefore, as to what actually constitutes total and permanent incapacitation. Legislation of this kind should be administered humanely. I do not blame the deputy commissioners in any way whatever. They are obliged to adhere strictly to the provisions of the act. I should say that a person is totally and permanently incapacitated when he can no longer fend for himself. I know of young people who, although they are victims of infantile paralysis, and absolutely unable to fend for themselves, have been refused the invalid pension. Recently, when I visited a home in my electorate I was almost reduced to tears when I saw a beautiful girl of nineteen being carried about. She could move her hand or arm, and, in a clumsy fashion, drag herself about with the aid of a chair, or some other support. Surely she could be regarded as being totally incapacitated.
– The act says that an applicant must be totally and permanently incapacitated.
– That means that sufferers must wait until they cannot move a limb; they must wait until they are overtaken by rigor mortis. I do not think that it is the intention of the Government that the act should be administered in that way.
– The honorable member knows that, as a fact, it is not.
– I thank the right honorable gentleman. I have no more to say on the matter.
– I am sorry that the Minister for Commerce (Sir Earle Page) is not present, because I propose to raise a matter of urgent importance. It relates to the quantity of wool being let out to wool-scouring works in Australia. When the agreement for the sale of our wool clip was entered into with the British Government at the outbreak of war, an undertaking was given that wool-scouring works would be kept going to capacity. The actual words used by the Minister at the time were, “ The United Kingdom Government agrees that the Central Wool Committee should allocate from wool purchased on its behalf sufficient wool to employ all wool-scouring and carbonizing works in Australia at capacity “. Employment at capacity can only mean at full capacity. However, the Central Wool Committee has, for some reason, consistently refused to make available sufficient wool to keep wool-scouring works going. I had considerable correspondence with the Minister’s predecessor (Senator McBride) on this matter last year, but I was unable to obtain any satisfaction from him. A large number of wool-scouring works are situated at Geelong. Apart from the fact that the total quantity of wool allocated for scouring is totally inadequate to keep these works going, the wool which has been made available has been allocated to the different firms on a very unfair basis. It appears that some members of the Central Wool Committee have used their position to see that certain wool-scouring firms with which they are intimately associated are maintained at full capacity and that other wool-scouring firms get no work at all. When I complained about this I asked for an inquiry . as to why Cosgrove and Son and Daltons, two firms in particular, had not been given any wool for scouring. The reply was that their works were not considered to be suitable. I was not satisfied with that answer and asked for the reasons why those works were regarded as unsuitable.
– I shall make inquiries into that.
– When I made those further inquiries I was informed autocratically by the secretary to the Central Wool Committee that the committee was not prepared to give the reasons. I was simply told that in the opinion of the committee they could not do the work satisfactorily. According to letters from Dalgety and Company Limited and the New Zealand Loan and Mercantile Company Limited about wool which was scoured by these firms before the war, they were quite efficient. Apart from that they scoured wool throughout the last war and in the years that followed it right up to the outbreak of this war. Yet the Central Wool Committee in Victoria has refused to allocate to their works any wool for scouring.
That, however, is secondary to the main complaint which is that the Central Wool Committee for some reason or other has refused to allocate sufficient wool to keep all the wool-scouring firms in Australia occupied at full capacity. I have been supplied with certain figures taken out by the Research Officer of the Labour Council of Kew South “Wales in regard to the quantity of wool scoured in Australia previous to the war and the quantity which is being scoured to-day. This information which is taken from governmental statistics and is, therefore, correct, shows that in New South Wales in 1936-37 46,585,664 lb. of wool was scoured; in 1937-38, 41,030,796 lb., and in 1938-39, 49,568,647 lb., whereas the wool allocated by the Central Wool Committee in New South Wales this year amounts to only 22,191,304 lb.
– What was the percentage to the total clip?
– I am not in the position at the moment to give that comparison but the reduction of wool allocated for scouring in New South Wales was more than 50 per cent, and I am sure that the total clip was not reduced by 50 per cent., although there may have been some reduction. The figures for Victoria are equally bad. The quantity of wool scoured in Victoria in 1936-37 amounted to 67,061,776 lb.; in 1937-38, 62,962,364 lb.; and in 1938*39, &6,505,482 lb., whereas the wool allocated by the Central Wool Committee for scouring in Victoria this year amounts to only 16,951,278 lb., a fraction of that of previous years.Those figures show definitely that the Central Wool Committee has failed to carry out the promise that was given as part and parcel of the agreement with the British Government that sufficient wool would be allocated to keep the scouring works of this country working at full capacity. I ask the Minister to inquire into this matter and to ensure that sufficient wool will be made available to keep those works going at capacity. This kind of conduct savours of economic conscription. It is an endeavour by some one or other to force men out of their usual avenues of employment into other avenues. There might be something to be said for such economic conscription if it applied to individuals of military age - even then I should be opposed to it - but in this industry the men are too old for military service and even too old to be trained for the munitions industry. The result of such a policy as is being applied must be a large body of unemployed among the wool-scourers. The Minister should bring pressure to bear on the Central Wool Committee to ensure that as much wool is allocated to the wool-scouring works in Australia during the war as was scoured in Australia before the war.
– If the honorable member will supply me with the names of the firms, I shall do as he wishes.
– This matter does not concern only the two firms that I mentioned ; ‘it goes deeper than that.
– I quite understand.
.- In order to assist the Empire’s cause, Australian farmers have been asked to grow more flax, the normal sources of supply having been cut off by the war; but they cannot do so unless they are given at least the cost of production, plus a sufficient profit to enable them to live. Last year, the farmers, particularly those in my electorate, which is eminently suitable for flax-growing, responded loyally to the appeal, but the price of £5 a ton which they were guaranteed was insufficient to cover the cost of production. Some farmers had a contract with the flax-fibre company, but when that company was taken over by the Commonwealth Government, many of the contracts were not also taken over. I do not know who fixed the price, but, at any rate, the growers were not consulted. Had they been, a better price might have been guaranteed and the growers would not now be unable, owing to lack of finance to enable sowing to be undertaken, to respond to the renewed pleas for an expansion of the flax-growing industry. A few days ago, the following item appeared in a Melbourne newspaper : -
Appeal to Victorian farmers to grow 28,000 acres of flax in the coming season, compared with 12,000 acres last year, was made by the Director of Agriculture (Mr. H. A. Mullett) yesterday.
Great Britain, he said, would require hundreds of miles of additional Are hoses, while there was also an acute shortage of linen thread and other flax products for military boots, soft bandages, gaiters, canvas webbing, ropes, cord and parachute harness.
Australia lias been called upon to grow 00,000 acres of flax for this purpose. Seed would be available in good time and good yields should be obtained.
Mr. Mullett said that the price for flax a ton had increased from £5 to £5 15s., while for crops better than standard the price was up to 30s. more.
The Hamilton district, the largest flaxgrowing district in Victoria, produced a crop of flax from 3,000 acres last year. One hears of big yields of flax but never sees them, as one hears and never sees yields of up to 4 tons of oats to the acre. The average yield from Hamilton, which is good flax-growing country, was 15 ewt to the acre and, with the price at £5 a ton, the return to the grower was only about £3 an acre, which is quite insufficient. The growers do not want to become profiteers; they merely want to be recouped for the cost of production and given a sufficient margin above that to enable them, to live. I have in my possession and shall presently recite a statement showing the cost of production. The list was thoroughly checked, by men from the opposite ends of Victoria who had never met the men from my locality, and the figures were found to be not ls. out, at a. meeting held in Melbourne under the auspices of the Victorian Department of Agriculture. Those costs have been worked out at £5 6s. a ton as against the guaranteed price of £5 a ton, and they are made up as follows : - Ploughing 10s., harrowing 4s., cultivating 6s., sowing 4s., rolling 3s., seed £1, manure 6s., cutting 15s., twine 2s. 6d., stooking 3s., carting 12s. 6d., and rent £1. The 15&. allocated for cutting may appear to be high, but flax is a tough plant to cut. It will be readily seen, therefore, that at the end of last, season the farmers found that their flax crops had PUt them into debt. They would willingly extend their acreage this year if they were assured of a fair return, which they think should be about £7 a. ton. Flax fibre is a vital need in our munitions industry for webbing and other war materials, but when we compare the treatment given to other persons engaged in the direct production of munitions with the treatment of the flax-growers, we find a decided contrast, because companies engaged in the manufacture of munitions are assured of the cost of manufacture plus a reasonable profit, whereas, the flax-growers are rewarded .with not even sufficient to meet their costs. The growers are more than ready to heed the appeal for more flax, but they must he placed in a financial position to do so. I refer especially to those farmers who have so responded to the appeal as to make the growing of Sax an industry upon which they rely for their living. That applies particularly to my district. I suggest that the Prices Commissioner should be asked to assess a reasonable price to be paid for flax, and also that those growers who produced flax at a loss last year should be recouped at least their out-of-pocket expenses so as to enable them to sow a crop this year. Two factors operated against the farmer - late seeding and a dry year. There was also another factor. The growers accepted the directions of. the departmental officers as to the time to cut the crop. One grower had to cut after rain and his crop depreciated. Some growers found that the seed supplied by the department brought up a crop of weeds. I appeal to the Government to consult the farmers who are growing flax. In answer to a question I asked in the House recently I was informed that the Government has not consulted them. Farmers growing flax are entitled to receive a reasonable profit.
.- I desire to emphasize the need for the Government to review the price fixed for the flax crop. I am a flax-grower and I know that the price fixed is inadequate. Success depends largely on the type of country on which flax is grown. As the honorable member for Wannon (Mr. McLeod) pointed out, the productivity of land for flax cultivation varies greatly throughout Victoria. My district is fortunate in that respect. My yield is about two tons an acre, which is satisfactory on the price fixed by the Government - £5 15s. a ton. However, I am an exception to the general rule. I understand that the average yield for Victoria has been about li tons to the acre during the last four or five years. On that average and with the price now fixed the farmer does not obtain a reasonable return from his land. The cost of production is about £5 an acre on a crop of If acres to the ton. I have a highly mechanized farm and employ labour which is engaged usefully on the land throughout the year. Therefore my cost of production is less than the average. I believe the average cost to a farmer is more than £5 an acre. Before conferring with the Flax Production Committee the Victorian Flax Association recommended a price of £7 a ton. After the conference, the proposed price was reduced and eventually the members of the Victorian Flax Committee said they w ould be satisfied with £6 5s. a ton. They expected that that price would be accepted by the Government. However, the Government did not consult them again before the price was fixed at £5 15s. a ton. The growers object to this price. I suggest that if this new and growing industry is to bo a success, the growers should be consulted. They would then gain confidence in the Flax Production Committee. No one wants to see a situation in the flax industry similar to that which has arisen in the apple and pear industries. The Government should consult the growers. At present they have no representation on the Flax Production Committee, and they desire that one or two growers’ representatives should be placed on the committee. The growers should have some voice in the formulation of the advice tendered by the committee. Flax-growing should be encouraged in this country not only because Great Britain and Australia require flax but also because of the increasing difficulty being experienced in the marketing of our staple primary products. We should attempt to diversify our production and one means is the encouragement of flaxgrowing. The more farmers who are encouraged to grow flax, the better it will be for primary production, and unprofitable laud will be converted into profitable land.
.- I associate myself with the remarks of the honorable member for Wannon (Mr. McLeod) and the honorable member for Flinders (Mr. Ryan) regarding the price fixed for flax. I am not a flax-grower, but there are a number of flax-growers in my electorate. I have inspected some of the areas under cultivation, discussed the industry with the farmers, seen the crop in its early stage, when it reached maturity, and when it was harvested. Tasmania has had a better experience perhaps, than Victoria of the return an acre. However, the Tasmanian growers had a complaint which they voiced before flax-growing was entered upon and I believe it is more insistent now in the light of their experience of their first year’s operations. They claim thai tlie price fixed by the Government is not profitable to the grower. I am in favour of the suggestion advanced by the honorable member for Wannon that there should be a conference between the Government and the growers, regarding the cultivation of flax and the price to be paid to the growers. The Government would lose nothing by conferring wir.li representatives of the growers, particularly as they have had the experience of the first year’s crop. All the facts can be adduced at such a conference, and the Government ought to be in a position then to fix a reasonable price. The price decided upon for this year’s crop was more or les3 mandatory. The Government appealed to farmers to grow flax, and stated that it was prepared to fix a certain price. The response was encouraging. The growers have complained since the inception of the scheme that they have no representation on the Flax Production Committee. Being interested in the industry, 1. submit, that that is an important matter. I agree with the honorable member for Flinders that there should not be over-production, because it is important that the industry should flourish. The farmers, however, who engage in it for the benefit of Australia should receive a reasonable profit on their crops.
The Government should give honorable members an early intimation as to its intentions in regard to the days the House is to sit this week, and the days on which it is to adjourn this week and re-assemble next week. The few Ministers who are now in the chamber do not appear to be interested in this matter, but I assure them that private members are interested. Their interests should be considered, and the Government should make an early announcement of its intentions.
– The Government should also announce when it intends the House to adjourn over Easter.
– Yes. If the Government made an early announcement honorable members would be able to make their arrangements for the next week-end and for the Easter vacation.
– The Acting Prime Minister (Mr. Fadden) will furnish the House with the information to-morrow.
– I have before me a magazine that has been sent to me with a number of others, and I understand that they have been distributed with the object of giving honorable members and others interested certain information regarding the war effort of the Empire. The title of this particular magazine is, Illustrated Royal Air Force Special Number. It contains many pictures of the Air Force and its activities. Pages 16 and 17 show how the Empire’s air power covers the world. The map shows the parts of the Empire that have donated money for the purchase of aircraft carriers, Spitfires and other formsof aerial warfare.’
– Where was the magazine published?
– It was published in England and printed by Oldham’s Press Limited. It is incorporated with Passing Show, and published weekly. The magazine was sent to me by the Department of Information. My grievance is that on the map of Australia showing the States which have donated planes, Tasmania is a complete blank.
– Is not Tasmania assisting in the war effort?
– That is the point! This publication suggests that Tasmania is not doing anything, whereas the fact is that the Tasmanian people have contributed funds for three Spitfires.
-i thought the Tasmanians were simply wood and water joeys.
– By contributing for three Spitfires, the 235,000 people of Tasmania have assisted the war effort to at least the same degree as the people of the mainland States. As if to addinsult to injury the letterpress beneath the diagram to which I have referred, states -
On the map and denoted by the Royal Air Force wing circles are shown the places which are contributing cash for the purchase of more aircraft for the Royal Air Force.
The space within the outline of Tasmania is shown absolutely hare, which suggests that the people of that State have done absolutely nothing. I protest against the use of such misleading publicity. I am not concerned whether the omission is intentional or accidental. Incomplete information of this kind should not be circulated, particularly to members of Parliament, by the Department of Information which was responsible for its circulation.
.-I support the remarks that have been made concerning the flax industry. Before Parliament adjourned last Christmas I made representations to the Minister representing the Minister for Supply and Development (Mr. Spender) to the effect that the growers of flax should have direct representation on the Flax Production Committee. The honorable gentleman advised me to approach the Minister for Supply and Development. I submit that when representations are made in this House to a Minister representing a Minister in the Senate such representations should be conveyed by that Minister to his colleague in the Senate.
Since my remarks were made the Government has issued new regulations covering flax production. These were gazetted on the 24th December, 1940. I find that they provide -
– ( 1 . ) For the purpose of these Regulations there shall be a Flax Production Committee. (2.) The Committee shall consist of the following members: - (a.) Two representatives of the ‘Department, one of whom shall be the Chairman of the Committee;
The council referred to is the Council for Scientific and Industrial Research. The “ two persons experienced in the production of flax fibre from straw” refer to the processors. I regret that no provision has been made for the direct representation of the growers. Section 5 of the regulations provides -
In effect this means that officers of the State Departments of Agriculture may be called into consultation, but that is not a satisfactory substitute for the direct representation of the growers. It is hardly likely that a committee which includes two departmental representatives, two representatives of the Council for Scientific and Industrial Research, and two representatives of the processors will wish to co-opt the services of a flaxfarmer. It must be apparent to honorable members that the farmers have been left out in the cold. They have no means to articulate their views before this committee. The men who till the soil, sow the seed, and harvest the flax should be given direct representation. It is entirely wrong, in my opinion, that the processors should be placed in an advantageous position to the detriment of the growers. The processors are empowered under the regulations to submit their price to the Government, but no provision has been made to enable the growers to submit their price. Obviously the price submitted by the Flax Production Committee will favour the processors. The growers have been obliged to accept £5 15s. a ton for their product, which is only 15s. a ton above the pre-war price. Flax-growing is a difficult and arduous task. It requires clean soil and twelve months’ cultivation. Harvesting is arduous physical work and the crop is subject to all sorts of diseases and pests. In fact the trials and tribulations of the growers are too numerous to mention. I have no desire to work the parish pump. This subject should be regarded as of national importance. The people engaged in this industry have been urged to grow flax as a war activity, and they are entitled to representation on the committee which has been appointed to handle their product. I was astounded when I learnt that the Government bad entirely disregarded the representations made to it towards the end of last year. The regulations set out in detail the general powers and functions of the committee. Section 9 reads -
– (1.) Subject to these Regulations and to the directions of the Minister, the Committee shall be responsible for the acquisition and production of flax and, in particular, for - [a) the making of arrangements with farmers or other persons for the sale of flax seed for the production of flax and for the purchase of flax straw on conditions and at prices approved by the Minister;
The Committee shall be also responsible for-
advising the Minister upon all matters connected with the ‘production and processing of flax in pursuance of these Regulations including the provision of funds necessary therefor; and (ft) such other functions relating to flax or the flax industry as are assigned toy the Minister.
It will be noticed that the interests of the growers take a minor place. The committee is authorized to do many things entirely without direct consultation with the growers. I am glad that an uptodate flax mill has been established at Ballarat, but that does not obviate the desirability of giving the growers direct representation on the committee. I pay tribute to the excellentwork done by the officers of the Council for Scientific and Industrial Research and also by the scientific officers of the State Departments of Agriculture. By their skill and technical knowledge they have been able to do a great deal to assist the growers. But this, again, does not provide any adequate excuse for refusing the growers direct representation on the committee. It must be clear to all honorable members that practical representatives of the growers would be able to do most useful work on this committee. Their advice would be of immense value. Moreover, it would be simple justice to give them representation on a body which is charged with the responsibility of acquiring and marketing the flax. If the Minister for the Navy (Mr. Hughes), who, at the moment, is in charge of the House, will give me an assurance that he will recommend to the Government that the growers be given representation on this committee, I shall at once resume my seat. The right honorable gentleman is as silent as the dead so I must continue to emphasize the points I am making. I regret that the Minister does not appear to be at all interested.
Section 10 of the regulations reads -
Subject to these Regulations and within the limits of available funds, the Committee may, in respect of flax mills, incur expenditure upon - (a) the purchase of raw materials, fuel and maintenance stores;
Here again the growers are ignored. 1 cannot understand the attitude of the Government in refusing to grant adequate representation to the men who produce tin’s valuable crop. Other sections of the regulations provide for the management of flax mills and for miscellaneous services. I urge the Government to give favorable consideration to my representations. The flax-growers are engaged in a war industry and they are entitled to equal representation with other interests involved in the production and marketing of this essential requirement. I sincerely hope that I shall not need to revert to this subject again, but unless the Government agrees to grant representation to the growers I shall certainly return to it on another occasion.
I take this opportunity to refer to the shockingly inadequate conditions at the Ballarat Post Office. The building is old and the city has grown considerably since it was erected. It is impossible to handle the business of the office as it should be handled. On Fridays, particularly, the crowding is so great that the work cannot be done properly. Sometimes as many as 100 people are in the office at a time. About eighteen months ago the then Postmaster-General visited Ballarat and saw for himself how inadequate the building was to meet the present needs of the city, and he arranged with his departmental officers to draw up plans to provide better postal facilities, but because of the outbreak of war no further action has been taken. I hope that the present Postmaster-General (Senator McLeay) will make further inquiries. If he does so I am convinced that he will realize that something must be done to enable the business of his department at Ballarat to be handled efficiently.
– I had intended to make certain remarks at the secret meeting of senators and members, but it is now clear that that meeting will not be held. I shall take this opportunity to refer to several matters of national importance. The members of rifle clubs throughout Australia are doing excellent voluntary work in preparing for the defence of this country. Unfortunately their ‘enthusiasm has not been encouraged by the defence authorities, and they would like their work to be given greater recognition. I suggest that an officer of the Western Command should visit these clubs in Western Australia at least half-yearly. I also suggest that a booklet be issued, for their guidance. At present the clubs are left coldly alone, and the members are losing their enthusiasm.
– I propose to call representatives of the rifle clubs into conference as soon as possible.
– That being so I shall say no more on the matter at this juncture.
Throughout Australia there seems to be general agreement regarding- the necessity for taxation to meet the heavy expenditure occasioned by the war, but there is justification for the complaint as to the way in which the money so raised is being expended. It is the duty of the Government to distribute its expenditure as evenly as possible among the States, because there is no discrimination between the citizens of the various States in regard to the taxes they are called upon to pay. Western Australia is certainly not receiving an adequate share of war expenditure. Since the waters surrounding Australia have been mined, interstate shipping has practically ceased. The passenger trade between Western Australia and the’ eastern States has been forced off the water to a most inadequate railway system which suffers the disadvantages of several breaks of gauge. Notwithstanding the increased demand on the railways, trains to Western Australia run only thrice weekly, as they did before the shipping services were drastically reduced. Passengers wishing to travel on the East- West railway have to book their berths over a month ahead. What the position would be if troops had to be transported over that line can only be imagined. I therefore urge that the railway from Kalgoorlie toFremantle be widened to the standard gauge of 4 feet 8½ inches. Some years ago the section of railway between Kyogle and Brisbane was converted to the standard gauge. That resulted in not only a great saving of time, but also in the provision of better facilities for conveying men and material in the event of Australia being attacked. Similar benefits would accrue from the widening of the gauge between Kalgoorlie andFremantle. The stewards on the East- West Railway will not serve more than three sittings for meals, and, consequently, some passengers have to carry their own food with them. I ask the Government to give serious attention to these matters.
I was glad to be informed by the Minister controlling the department that his attention has been drawn to the facilities available in Western Australia for the construction of ships. As honorable members know, some of the finest timber in the world for the purpose is available in that State. Leading newspapers in Wesstern Australia have complained of the centralization of war expenditure in the eastern States. Although contracts have been entered into with the United Kingdom Government for the disposal of some of our primary products, it is difficult for that Government to take delivery and to maintain a regular flow of exports. As there is insufficient storage for the produce that is grown, the importance of sea-borne traffic can easily be realized. I listened to-day with patience and interest to the arguments advanced in favour of an increase of the basic wage, but I remind honorable members who urge that the basic wage should be raised that many primary producers have no wage guaranteed to them; they have to take for their produce what they can obtain for it in the open market. If Hitler’s submarines continue their deadly work, the importance of the man on the land to the whole of the people of the Commonwealth will be realized. Before the last war, the late Lord Kitchener stressed the necessity for the unification of therail way gauges of Australia and the construction of naval bases. Until these matters have been dealt with, we shall not have played our part. Should it be necessary to transport troops quickly, it will then be too late to alter the railway gauges. I urge the Government to give earnest and immediate consideration to these matters.
Question resolved in the affirmative.
The following papers were presented : -
Elections and Referendums - Statistical Returns in relation to the Senate Elections and the General Elections for the House of Representatives, 1940: Detailed Return in relation to the Election for the House of Representatives, 1940, for the Northern Territory; together with Summaries of Elections and Referendum*;. 1903-1940.
Statistical Returns showing the voting within each Subdivision in relation tothe Senate Elections and the General Elections for the House of Representatives, 1940, viz.: -
New South Wales.
Commonwealth Public Service Act - Appoint ment of W. B. Kirkland, Department of Health.
Lands. Acquisition Act - Land acquired for Defence purposes - Rottnest Island, Western Australia.
House adjourned at 10.44 p.m.
The following answers to questions were circulated : -
n asked the Minister for the Army, upon notice -
In view of the issue of a booklet by his department pointing out the importance of the proper fitting of boots, does he approve of the issue of second-hand boots worn by other men to the universal service personnel called up under the compulsory provisions of the Defence Act?
– The pamphlet, “Fitting of Boots and Care ofFeet”, was published for the guidance of commanding officers and to ensure that only boots of the correct size and fitting are issued to their troops. Boots that have been repaired are, wherever possible, returned to the original wearers, but owing to discharges, movement of troops, &c, this is not always practicable and numbers of boots in varying stages of disrepair are received at ordnance depots. In the interests of economy the best of these are selected for re-issue after repair and disinfection. It is considered that in so doing compliance with the principles laid down in the pamphlet referred to is not precluded, particularly if the instructions (which apply equally to new boots) regarding the regular application of dubbing are observed by responsible officers. The approval for the issue of repaired boots to other than the original wearers extends only to militia and universal service personnel in camps of training. Returned part-worn boots which cannot he satisfactorily repaired for further Army use are, if their condition warrants it, offered to State relief authorities for distribution amongst charitable institutions. If not so issuable they are passed on to the Salvage Department for disposal out of the Service to the best advantage.
y asked the Acting Prime
Minister, upon notice -
– The answers to the honorable member’s questions are as follows : -
The stocks of tobacco leaf held in Australia on the 31st January, 1941, were: - lb.
Total . . 38,900,000
Particulars of the stocks held on the 12th December last are not available but the figure of 36,000,000 lb. for imported leaf mentioned by the honorable member would be much too high.
There is a real need for immediate rationing of consumption of manufactured tobacco products in order to lessen the drain on nonsterling exchange resources and, with a commodity such as tobacco leaf, a long range view must be taken because of the maturation factor. Australian grown tobacco leaf is not rationed and a ready market exists for double the quantity of Australian leaf at present produced. Rationing operates only with respect to manufactured tobacco and cigarettes and not to the leaf used in their production.
Maintenance Orders - Aemit Procedure.
r. - On the 19th March the honorable member for Watson (Mr. Falstein) asked, without notice, whether maintenance orders made by courts of competent jurisdiction, and served on the Department of the Army, are referred to the Military Board.
I am now in a position to inform the honorable member that when a maintenance order is produced to the district finance officer, inquiries are made regarding the facts of the case and a determination is made as to whether a compulsory deduction should be made from the soldier’s pay, and as to what dependants’ allowance is payable. A compulsory deduction may be made by the Minister or an authorized officer, the authorized officer being: - (a) The Chief Accountant, Australian Imperial Force, (6) The Chief Paymaster, Australian Imperial Force, (c) Any District Finance Officer.
In most cases the amount of allotment and dependants’ allowance authorized is greater than the amount of the court order, as it is recognized that, in many instances, the facts placed before the court showed that the husband was unemployed or in receipt of low earnings. In the very rare instances in which the department has been unable to accept a claim under a court order, exceptional circumstances have existed such as a court order many years old in the case of a wife who is: not dependent on the soldier.
Shipbuilding and Fishing Industries.
n. - On the 14th March the honorable member for Bass (Mr. Barnard) asked, without notice, whether the Tariff Board had completed its inquiries into the granting of assistance to the shipbuilding and fishing industries.
I am now able to inform the honorable member that the inquiry has been closed, with a proviso that it can be re-opened if considered necessary. The report will be submitted as soon as practicable.
Cite as: Australia, House of Representatives, Debates, 25 March 1941, viewed 22 October 2017, <http://historichansard.net/hofreps/1941/19410325_reps_16_166/>.