16th Parliament · 1st Session
Mr. Speaker (Hon. W. M. Nairn) took the chair at 10.30 a.m., and read prayers.
Disallowance ofaliens Control
Regulations : Administration of Minister for the Army.
That Statutory Rules 1940, No. 269, being amendment of the National Security (Aliens Control) Regulations made under the National Security Act 1939-1940, be disallowed.
The Acts Interpretation Act of 1937 provides that if a motion for the disallowance of a regulation be not dealt with within fifteen sitting days of notice of motion having been given, the regulation shall become null and void, and also that no regulation of a similar character may be gazetted by the Government for a period of six months. The fifteen sitting days expired last night, and in the meantime the regulation in question has not been dealt with by this Parliament. The Minister will probably argue a fine point of procedure based on section 48 of the Acts Interpretation Act of 1937, and contend that as I gave notice of my intention to move for the disallowance of the regulation after the regulation was gazetted, but before it was placed on the table of this House on Monday, the 9th December, I have no right to count those days which passed before the regulation was actually tabled here. The Acts Interpretation Act also provides that a regulation need not be laid on the table of this House for fifteen sitting days after it has been gazetted. I do not wish to say anything at present about that regulation as there are other means of having it discussed, but I point out that it need nothave been tabled until last week, and that, in view of the infrequency of the sittings of the Parliament, a decision on it might possibly not be made until about next Christmas, in which event, if the Minister’s contention be sound, certain administrative acts which ought to be brought under the notice of the country, thereby bringing about their immediate rectification, may remain unchallenged for practically a year should the Government so design. I claim that Statutory Rule No. 269 is null and void and that no tribunal appointed under it has any authority in law to-day to take any action in respect of any internee. The Government has failed to bring this regulation before the Parliament, and it must take the consequences of its neglect. My views on this subject are known to the Government. I had hoped that there would have been no necessity for me to make them known to the House. If the Minister is right and I am wrong, and therefore the regulation is valid and the tribunals have the right to sit, if this House is to adjourn to-morrow for the Easter recess and meet again we know not when, so that the present position in regard to this regulation may -continue indefinitely, something else will have to be done. I have stated the facts as I know them. They should be intelligible to every member of every party in this House. I conclude by saying that to endeavour to meet this abjection by the use of fine words, as the Government appears to be doing, is not to promote peace, order and good government inside this chamber.
Mr.Curtin. - I submit that no question of privilege, but only a question of law, is involved. The Acts Interpretation Act meets the position which has arisen, for section 48(5) provides that -
If, at the expiration of fifteen sitting days after notice of a resolution to disallow any regulation has been given in either House of the Parliament in accordance with the last preceding sub-section, the resolutionhas not been withdrawn or otherwise disposed of, the regulation specified in the resolution shall thereupon be deemed to have been disallowed.
The Parliament has not at any stage to determine questions of law; it is concerned with the making of laws. In this case the Parliament has made the law, and that law stands. I submit that the honorable gentleman is taking a wrong course, and that no question of privilege is involved.
– If it be a question of whether Statutory Rule No. 269 is now null and void, that is a matter of law; but if the speech of the honorable member for Barker be regarded as a protest against any curtailment of his rights as a member of this House, it is a question of privilege.
– The honorable member for Barker was good enough to see me this morning and to indicate that, in his view, Statutory Rule No. 269 was null and voidby reason of the fact that fifteen sitting days had elapsed within the meaning of section 48 of the Acts Interpretation Act, since it was gazetted. At the same time I indicated to the honorable member the point which I thought was applicable, namely, that his motion would be out of order by reason of the fact that the motion had been placed on the notice-paper some days before the statutory rules were tabled. I expressed the view that the regulation was perfectly good and pointed out that if he desired to take any action in the matter the opportunity to do so was still open to him.
– I give notice that to-morrow I shall move -
That the Minister for the Army has lost the confidence of this House because of his handling of the internment, trial and release from internment of certain enemy aliens.
– Has the Acting Prime Minister seen in the newspapers the statement of Mr. Laidlaw, a stipendiary magistrate, that there should be an amendment of the State liquor laws, as under the present legislation, men working overtime in munition factories could not get a drink containing alcohol when they knocked off work? In view of the fact that at a deputation which I introduced to him in Sydney some time ago the Acting Prime Minister admitted that common sense should prevail, and said that he would approach the Premier of New SouthWales, Mr. Mair, in the matter and, if he did not receive satisfaction from that honorable gentleman, would submit the matter to the Federal Cabinet in order to ascertain whether regulations could be issued to make the liquor lawsuniform throughout Australia, will he now say whether he has conferred with Mr. Mair on the subject, and, if so, whether he received a satisfactory reply? If not, does he propose to issue regulations providing for uniform liquor laws throughout Australia?
– I have seen Mr. Mair on the subject. It is not the intention of the Commonwealth Government to issue regulations to take out of the hands of the State governments the administration of the liquor laws.
– Has the Acting Prime Minister yet given consideration to representations made by Tasmanian members of this Parliament regarding certain matters, particularly the establishment of a small arms factory in that State?
– Consideration has been given to all of the representations made by the deputation, and the appropriate Ministers have been instructed to investigate them. A munitions factory will be established in Tasmania in the near future.
Insurance Against Hail - Marketing Scheme
– I direct the following questions to the Minister for Commerce: - (1) has he offered to collect on behalf of any State or States, a levy on apples by the issue of regulations under the National Security Act or by any other means, in order to pay for a hail insurance scheme under which growers of apples would he recouped for losses incurred by reason of their fruit being damaged by hail; (2) has the Government received a communication from the Premier of New South Wales stating that it is illegal for that State to pass legislation to accept the proceeds of such a levy since it would, in effect, be a tax by the State on Commonwealth property or a form of excise taxation; (3) will the Minister, in view of the deplorable position of the apple growers who have suffered from damage by hail, undertake on behalf of the Government to recoup such growers for the losses sustained by them?
– As to the honorable member’s first question, a regulation has been signed by me, under which it will be possible for the Commonwealth Government, through the Apple and Pear Marketing Board, to collect a levy or a premium on behalf of those State governments which pass the requisite legislation to provide for insurance for apples, against damage by hail. As to his second question, I understand that a letter was received this morning by the Prime Minister’s Department from the Premier of New South Wales, but I have not yet seen it. As to his third question, the matter is receiving the attention of the Government, but up to the present it has not received from the Government of New South Wales the co-operation which it had a right to expect, namely, the passing of legislation which would enable the Apple and Pear Marketing Board to contribute to an insurance fund.
– -Even though it be illegal?
– The granting of assistance to primary producers who suffer by an act of God is the responsibility of the respective State governments ; and if they wish to evade responsibility in this matter and transfer it to the Commonwealth it would appear that the time had almost arrived when they should vacate the whole field of government.
– In reply to a question by the honorable member for Ballarat (Mr. Pollard) the Assistant Minister for Commerce (Mr. Anthony) said last night that a committee would be appointed to investigate the operation of the apple and pear acquisition scheme. In the Melbourne Herald of the 1st April, it was stated that the appointment of committees to investigate the operation of this scheme, the operation of price-fixing in Australia, and the incidence of the sales tax would ‘be postponed until after Easter. Is that a correct report?
– I have no knowledge of the press statement referred to; no authority was given by me for its publication. I intend to make a statement in the House regarding the matter.
– I draw the attention of the Assistant Minister for Commerce to the fact that the Apple and Pear Marketing Board requires applegrowers to prepare for market fruit of a minimum size of 2£ inches in diameter, and the size of pears is required to fall within one of four categories. Representations were made to me last week-end that, because a grower had submitted pears of a different category from the four specified, the fruit was condemned, but was subsequently sold and realized 6s. 6d. a case, although the grower received no payment at all. Apples which were 2j inches in diameter were condemned and were sold for from 7s. to 10s. 6d. a case, but the proceeds were confiscated. Will the Assistant Minister for Commerce ascertain whether this is the procedure adopted by the board, and will he see that, in future, the growers are paid for fruit that is condemned and eventually sold?
– I recommend the honorable member to make sure of his facts before making such statements in this chamber. I do not dispute the accuracy of his remarks, but I happen to know that apples are now being advertised for sale by the Apple and Pear Marketing Board, and that fruit of first quality can be delivered to any part of New South Wales for 8s. a case. It is inexplicable to me that condemned apples should bring 9s. or 10s. a case in the market when the first quality grade is advertised for sale at 2s. a case under that price.
– I have received particulars of the matters to which I have drawn attention.
– I have also received similar complaints, but, when they are examined, -the statements are often found to be inaccurate. However, the matter will be investigated.
– I ask the Assistant Minister for Commerce if he will take steps to ensure that growers of fruit will receive payment within a reasonable time after their fruit is taken over by the board ?
– I shall endeavour to see that payment for fruit in all circumstances will be made as promptly as possible. The Apple and Pear Marketing Board is now overtaking arrears in that respect. I shall direct the honorable member’s question to the board.
– Has the Acting Prime Minister or the Minister for the Navy received a report from the New Zealand Government of the proceedings before the royal commission that inquired there into the sinking of certain ships in the southern Pacific by German raiders? If not, has either Minister seen in the press to-day a statement relating to the inexplicable behaviour of the Nauru Island authorities in December in not warning certain vessels of the approach of a ship flying the Japanese flag? Is the Commonwealth Government taking immediate steps to see that instructions are issued to the Nauru Island authorities with regard to matters of this kind?
– The Acting Prime Minister has informed me that the report referred to by the honorable member has not been received. I have read the press statement and have noticed the comments by the royal commission regarding the sinking of the Rangitane. I have also seen, the references to Nauru. Island. To traverse the whole matter by way of a reply to a question would be unsatisfactory, because it calls for very careful consideration. I shall make only one comment about the position in Nauru. The suggestion has been made in the press - and I am assuming that the press reference is a summary of a report received from the New Zealand Government - that the laxity or failure of the Nauru authorities to notify the vessels of the approach of the raider, no matter of what nationality it may have been, or may have appeared to be, can only be accounted for by treachery.
Mr. FRANCIS.What does the Government intend to do about it?
– The matter has already been dealt with.
– Has the Acting Prime Minister refreshed his memory by referring to his files, and has he found that he did write to the Premier of New South Wales, Mr. Mair, with regard to the Man-power and Resources Survey Committee?
– I have examined the file relating to this matter, and it is available for the perusal of the honorable member.
– Before the conclusion of the present sittings, will the Minister for Trade and Customs furnish the House with details of the value of the import licences which have been granted since the beginning of this year in respect of newsprint, and also with information about any further licences that the Government contemplates issuing for the importation of newsprint?
– I doubt whether I can obtain the information required by the honorable member before the Easter adjournment, but, if the honorable member will place his question on the notice-paper, I shall see that a full reply is sent to him.
– In view of the difficulty in getting sufficient shipping space to lift Australia’s exportable surplus of sugar, and the likely consequential shortening of the next crushing season unless sugar can be shipped or stored in Australia, or utilized in power alcohol production, will the Acting Prime Minister give an assurance that this matter will receive early consideration by the Government, in order to ensure that there shall be no curtailment of the coming crushing season, which would result in considerable unemployment in Queensland and New South Wales?
– I can give to the honorable member my assurance that the matter has already received practical and sympathetic consideration by the Government.
– Will the Treasurer state whether the collection of income tax by weekly instalments will be continued after the end of June, or will there be a break for a few months?
– The system adopted provides for a break after the 30th June, but the collection by weekly instalments will, I think, be resumed early in August.
– Referring to the appeal to the country for unity, and the statements made in this House yesterday and this morning by honorable members opposite, will the Acting Prime Minister now direct that appeal to the members of the United Australia party?
– I advise the honorable member to concentrate on the necessity for unity in his own party.
– Will the Minister for Commerce give a direction to the Australian Wheat Board definitely to finalize the operations of Wheat Pools Nos. 1 and 2, so that wheat-growers who have grain in those pools may know how they stand financially ?
– The operations of the No. 1 pool have already been. completed’, and provision has been made for the payment of the. last instalment almost at once. There is still a certain quantity of wheat in the No. 2 pool, and it is not possible- to finalize the business until the board knows what the result will he.
– In view of the continued dismissal of men who have been employed in wool-scouring works, owing to the failure of the Central Wool Committee to make sufficient greasy wool available for local treatment, what action does the Minister for Commerce propose to take to enable these works to operate to their full capacity, in accordance with the undertaking given by the Government some time ago?
– The Central Wool Committee has taken up with the wool control organization established by the British Government, the matter of making’ additional quantities of wool available for the purpose of scouring and carbonizing, in order that Australian workers may be fully employed.
– In a recent issue of the Sydney Morning Herald the Premier of New South Wales was reported as having said -
The desirability of establishing as many munition factories as possible in the country was suggested by the New South Wales Government to the Federal Government, and it is pleasing to see that the suggestion is being adopted. I am convinced that we must develop industry in our rural areas, and the establishment of munition factories in the country will be a good start.
Will the Minister representing the Minister for Supply suggest to the Minister for Commerce that his department make available two large reinforced concrete buildings at Doroogbalgie for use as munitions factories?
– I shall bring the matter under the notice of the Minister for Supply, and furnish a reply to the honorable member later.
Motion (by Mr. Fadden) agreed to -
That the House, at its rising,- adjourn until 10.30 a.m. to-morrow.
– Has the Minister in charge of External Territories any recent information regarding the construction of the road from Salamaua to Wau?
– The proposal to construct this road is receiving active consideration.
– Is the Acting Prime Minister of the opinion that the public interest should override the secrecy provisions of the Income Tax Assessment Act, which were never intended to protect persons in circumstances such as those which I disclosed in my remarks last night on the motion for the adjournment of the House?
– It is not a question of whether I think that public interest should override the secrecy provisions of the Income Tax Act. The position is clearly defined in the act, and the law has been confirmed again and again in this Parliament.
– Seeing that I shall benefit financially under the child endowment legislation now before the House, shall I be in order in voting upon the measure ?
– The honorable member; even though he will benefit under the legislation, in common with other members of the community, will be quite safe in voting on it.
– Can the Acting Prime Minister give any indication of what is in the mind of the Government regarding the sittings of Parliament between now and the Easter recess ? Will an opportunity be provided for the discussion of motions standing in the names of honorable members? There is one such motion standing in my name dealing with a matter of grave importance to the nation.
– As I stated previously, it is the intention of the Government to deal with government business, and to stay here until that business is concluded.
– I did not ask the Acting Prime Minister anything about government business. Will he undertake that an opportunity will be afforded private members to discuss the motions standing in their names on the noticepaper, or are we to assume that he intends to use his authority to prevent the exposure of fraud and criminality in matters associated with the defence departments?
– I assure the honorable member that ample opportunity will be given to debate the motion standing in his name.
– Will the Minister representing the Postmaster-General bring under his notice the need for the reconstruction of the post offices at Enmore and Newtown? These offices, like many others ‘in the metropolitan area, were built more than 40 years ago, and have been in continuous use ever since without having been altered or improved.
– Consideration is being given to these matters, and I shall bring the honorable member’s representations under the notice of the PostmasterGeneral.
– Has the Commonwealth Government made available to the Government of Tasmania a -sum of money for the relief of fruit-growers who suffered loss from hail and other adverse weather conditions? If so, what is the amount, and what are the conditions of the grant or loan?
– The Commonwealth Government proposes to make available to the Government of Tasmania an amount of £20,000 for the purposes which he has mentioned, on the same terms as £2,750,000 was loaned to the States for drought relief. The Premier of Tasmania recently waited upon the Minister for Commerce and myself, and agreed to those terms.
– Are we to understand that one of the chief reasons for the introduction of petrol rationing was the need to conserve the dollar exchange ? In view of the reduction of the ration, are we to assume that the position in regard to exchange has grown worse since rationing was first introduced ?
– Dollar exchange was only one of the factors that induced’ the Government to introduce petrol rationing. The need to conserve stocks of petrol for war purposes was of paramount importance. The dollar exchange position has become worse in Australia, because we are eating into the dollar fund to a greater extent than we are contributing to it. “We are taking advantage of the contributions by sister dominions, and the Mother Country.
– Can the Minister for the Army say upon whose advice the military camp at, Mirowera, near Bowen, was closed down? Was it on the advice of the military authorities?
– I do not know upon whose advice the camp was closed down. I shall make inquiries, and furnish the honorable member with a reply later.
– When the PostmasterGeneral is investigating the costs incurred in the publication of the A.B.C. Weekly, will he also make inquiries to ascertain the amount of money which has been saved by the broadcasting commission by advertising in its own publication instead of in proprietary journals?
– I shall bring that matter under the notice of the PostmasterGenera].
– Is the Minister for Commerce able to make a statement in regard to the alleged shortage of tobacco in Australia? Is he aware that, whereas certain persons are said to hold large stocks of tobacco, many traders in thu capital cities are finding it impossible to obtain any supplies at all, let alone rationed supplies, and are suffering hardships in consequence? Is he aware that the confusion which exists in regard to supplies of tobacco to retailers is causing considerable distress?
– The Department of Trade and Customs has no knowledgeof a shortage of tobacco in Australia. Indeed, there are large stocks of leaf on hand, equal to almost two years’ supply. As for the shortage of supplies due to rationing, it has been brought under my notice that this is due in part to the making of unduly large purchases by consumers who are anxious to accumulate a stock against some anticipated shortage. Thus the rationing system, which was introduced, not by the Government, but by the manufacturers, on the basis of consumption for the year ended September, 1940, in which consumption was high, is not being carried on by the retailers in their sales to the consumers. There is, in consequence, very heavy purchasing of cigarettes and tobacco, and the position can be eased only by the retailers themselves, not by any outside agency.
– Is the Minister aware that, at the present time, no tobacco is available for sale in the bar attached to the refreshment-rooms of Parliament House, and that it is impossible to obtain supplies ?
– I was not aware of that, and I assure the honorable member that all retailers are rationed according to their sales for the year ended September. 1940, in accordance with the arrangement entered into by the manufacturers for the saving of dollar exchange.
– Does the Minister for Trade and Customs assert that the rationing of tobacco to consumers is due not to direction from the Government but to the policy of the manufacturers?
– No. I hope that I have not given that impression to honorable members. I have said repeatedly in reply to similar questions in this House that the basis of tobacco rationing is the conservation of dollar exchange. Accordingly, we have rationed the importation of Virginian leaf. However, I do say that the rationing of quantities made available from excise stores in 1940 is well above the average annual consumption, and, consequently, the supplies now being made available to retailers should not bring about a shortage, provided consumers make their purchases in reasonable quantities.
– -In view of the fact that the Minister for Trade and Customs has admitted that two years’ supply of home-grown and imported tobacco is now on hand, what is the need for any rationing of tobacco at all at present? In view of that fact-
– Order ! The honorable member is not in order in framing a question upon a previous question; otherwise, we could not prevent a debate from developing out of a question.
– In view of the Australian growers’ announcement that they have sufficient supplies of tobacco on hand, will the Minister consider the abandonment of the scheme?
– I assure the honorable member that the present consumption of Australian leaf, even on the figures set out for September, 1940, is greatly in excess of present production. Consequently, if rationing were abandoned, we should be obliged to import a greater quantity of Virginian leaf. If the production of Australian leaf exceeded the Tate of consumption, rationing would not be necessary; but that is not the case. The fact is that the rate of production is less than the rate of consumption.
– In view of the fact that the governorship of the Commonwealth Bank is now vacant, I ask the Acting Prime Minister whether the Government proposes to follow the practice of its predecessors and to consult the interests of the private banks in filling that vacancy, or whether it intends to appoint a gentleman of the calibre of the late Sir Denison Miller with a view to implementing government policy as set out in the report of the Royal Commission on Monetary and Banking Systems?
– The honorable member can rest assured that the Government will continue to adhere to its sound policy of making appointments in the best interests of the nation.
Canberra : Addition ax Office accommodation- abattoirs.
Erection of Temporary Office Buildings at Canberra, A.C.T. and moved - ,
That the paper be printed.
– I congratulate the Public Works Committee on the expeditious manner in which it has dealt with not only this proposal, but also the proposal to erect abattoirs at Canberra. The proposal for the erection of temporary office buildings at Canberra was submitted to it only a fortnight ago. I entirely agree with the findings of the committee, and hope that the Government will give effect to them.
– I also congratulate the committee on the promptness with which it has carried out these inquiries. My approval of its report in regard to the erection of abattoirs at Canberra will, of course, depend upon whether it has slaughtered my proposal in that respect.
.- I congratulate the committee on the expedition it has displayed in each of these inquiries. Some credit in that respect is due to the Deputy Chairman. I hope that the Government will pay heed to the committee’s report on the proposal to erect abattoirs at Canberra.
– I also take this opportunity to congratulate the Public Works Committee upon the earnestness with which it entered into its inquiries, and also the expeditious manner in which it has produced its reports.
Question resolved in the affirmative.
-Chairman, presented the report and recommendations of the Parliamentary Standing Committee on PublicWorks relating to the following subject: -
Erection of Abattoirs at Canberra, A.C.T., and moved -
That the paper be printed.
Question resolved in the affirmative.
– In view of the Government’s claim of sound administration, will the Acting Prime Minister explain why it has made available, without any formal agreement on the authority of Parliament to National Oil Proprietary Limited, an. amount of £225,000 in addition to the sum approved’ by this Parliament?
– The honorable member’s question is based on. wrong premises. The Government’s policy with regard to the development of Newnes shale deposits is in the best interests of national safety. It is designed to make available the largest possible supplies of petrol in this country. Whatever money is being expended at Newnes is being wisely expended.
– I point out, Mr. Speaker, that on the front page of Hansard appears the following notice, “ Price, including postage, 4s. per annum, or 4d. per number “. Recently a gentleman wrote to the Government Printer asking to be supplied with six consecutive copies of Hansard. He forwarded the necessary sum. However, he was advised, “Hansard subscription is 4s. per annum, January to December, or 4d. per copy. Less than 4s. cannot be accepted as a subscription “. I ask you, Mr. Speaker, whether that has been the practice in the past. If so, will you permit the Government Printer to accept the sum of 4d. for single copies?
– I shall inquire into the matter raised by the honorable member, and furnish a reply as soon as possible.
Debate resumed from the 1st April (vide page 431) on motion by Mr. Holt -
That the bill be now read a second time,
. -I congratulate the Government upon having introduced this measure. I agree with many other honorable members that the bill is one of the most vital and important pieces of legislation that has yet been brought before this Parliament. It is a tribute to democracy that, at a time when we are engaged in the greatest and most dangerous struggle in the history of this country, the Leader of the Opposition (Mr. Curtin) and the Leader of the House (Mr. Fadden) can collaborate in bringing down a measure of this kind. The bill represents the first attempt yet made to remove an undesirable feature of our wage structure, namely, the injustice suffered by large families under our present wage-fixing system, which places a penalty upon paternity, and, at the same time, pays a bounty on bachelorhood. To some degree the bill will remedy that position. This is legislation of the stuff which binds the whole fabric of the nation, when such unity is vital to our survival. I do not propose to recapitulate the ground which has been so ably covered by the Leader of the Opposition when dealing with the necessity for this legislation, and the benefits which it will confer upon the family unit. However, I propose to discuss two or three phases which have not yet been dealt with in this debate.
Some of those honorable members, who were inclined to damn the bill with faint praise, questioned the legality of this legislation. I listened with great interest to the honorable member for Bourke (Mr. Blackburn) when he was discussing that aspect. He remarked that we were inclined to allow the Constitution to hang over our heads as it were, with the result that oftenwe hesitated to enact legislation which, possibly, might be held by the courts to he unconstitutional. It appears to me that the hesitation to which he referred is attributable largely to the influence of the legal profession. Instead of feeling that the Constitution hangs over our head in that way, we might do better if we hanged some of the legal people. However, all authorities agree that, so long as the war lasts, no danger exists that this measure will be held to be unconstitutional, because for that period, at any rate, the
Commonwealth, by reason of its defence powers, can constitutionally enact this legislation. I feel sure that if, after the war, the legality of this legislation should be challenged, the people of Australia will by that time realize its inherent merits, and, consequently, will not be prepared to sacrifice it in any circumstances. Eather will they be prepared, almost unanimously, to agree to an alteration of the Constitution, if such a step be necessary, in order to give permanently to the Commonwealth power to enact legislation of this kind. Consequently, I do not anticipate that any danger will arise from a challenge to the legality of the bill. The Leader of the Opposition pointed out that lie and Mrs. Muscio, in their minority report as members of the Royal Commission on Child Endowment and Family Allowances, which sat in 1929, advocated the establishment, of a child endowment scheme. I know that the honorable gentleman would not be so ungenerous as to deny the credit due to those people who, many years previously, advocated the establishment of child endowment. But I should be doing less than justice to two gentlemen if I failed to mention the names of the late .Honorable W. A. Holman, and Mr. A. B. Piddington, who largely contributed toward keeping this matter before the public when it was not so popular as it is to-day. Now iu the twilight of his life, Mr. Piddington is living in retirement; but whether one agrees or disagrees with his political beliefs, one could never declare with justification that he would sacrifice his principles for any temporary advantage. It must be immensely gratifying to him to see child endowment, for which he fought for many years, come into being.
The Leader of the Opposition stated that the measure was more than a money payment. In my opinion, money is not a consideration. This legislation, metaphorically speaking, is a transfusion of blood into the veins of the nation. As the result, people who are ill-equipped to battle successfully in the struggle of life, will receive a new stimulus. The payment will enable them better to feed and clothe their children, and provide them with an improved outlook, and far greater opportunities than they previously possessed. Some persons declare that the time is not opportune for the Government to introduce the measure; but in reply, I sa.y that the time was never ripe, is never ripe, and will never be ripe for it. .Despite that, however, we must enact this legislation. The cost, of child endowment, £13,000,000 a year, is a cheap price to pay for the gain which will accrue to the nation from having healthier, stronger and better educated people. The better educated nations with reasonable living standards can afford to pay substantially higher wages than nations with inferior systems of education in which the standard of living is low. I refer particularly to Japan and India.. Though wages in India are infinitely lower than they are in Japan, the latter can compete successfully against India in the textile markets of the world.
During this debate, various speakers declared that this legislation will have a detrimental effect upon Australia’s war effort. In my opinion, no action that the Commonwealth Parliament could take at the present time would have a more beneficial or better effect on the war effort. Against the slowly rising tide of costs, nothing could have aroused more discontentment in the family unit than parents and the children having to suffer hardship, when a simple measure like this would provide them with a degree of comfort and contentment. The Government will not get the maximum effort out of the country, and men will not work hour after hour in factories, if they are harassed by poverty and discontent in their homes. For that reason alone, the Government should be congratulated upon having introduced the bill.
In the speeches of the mighty statesmen President Roosevelt and Mr. Winston Churchill, we hear -references to a “new order” that will be ushered in after the war; but the peoples of the countries which have adopted democratic forms of government, will have little faith in that “ new order “ unless they are given solemn pledges that statesmen are honestly desirous of establishing it. The leaders must demonstrate that they are not asking the people to fight for shibboleths, and for conditions that, obtained in the past. They must convince all classes when asking them to pass through the valley of the shadow of death, as people are being asked in this critical struggle, that victory will mean better times for every man, woman and child in this country.
Whilst recognizing that, we must take our hurdles one by one, I hope that the Government, during the war period, will not be satisfied with introducing child endowment as an indication of the “ new order “ that is to come, and having proceeded so far, rest upon its oars. The Government should gradually evolve plans to enable the people to enjoy, almost immediately, better conditions of life. First, the Government should establish, and encourage to be established, mortgage banks throughout the Commonwealth. Although I have advocated this for the last six years, my voice has been as that of one crying in the wilderness. Except country residents, few people have heeded my remarks. I disagree with the answer that the Acting Prime Minister gave to-day when he said that it would be difficult to raise the necessary capital in order to establish those mortgage banks. The business is simply a transference of capital from short-term to long-term lending. In addition, the Government should institute, as a measure of social reform, and in lieu of taxing the lower incomes, a system of compulsory saving, the amount to be represented by bonds which would be negotiable after the war. When a slump occurs through the cessation of the manufacture of armaments and munitions, people could use the money, together with the facilities offered by mortgage banks, for the purpose of acquiring their own homes.
The exemption from liability to contribute to child endowment which has been granted to small employers will exert, a big influence in restraining the rising tide of the cost, of living. This tax, when carried through every stage of employment, must have a cumulative effect; but when it is not applicable to the small pay-rolls of suburban tradesmen such as grocers, restaurant keepers and the like who do not employ much labour, the tax will not bc passed on, and to that extent it will keep down the cost of living. As a primary producer, I welcome this bill because it will be of great benefit to industries which, as the result of the shipping position, are losing their export markets: The £13,000,000 which will be paid in child endowment, will create a considerable amount of fresh purchasing power and will increase consumption in the Commonwealth and absorb our products. The tears that were shed by some honorable members, who prophesied that a. pay-roll tax would injure many small industries, almost made me feel nervous; but upon examining the incidence of the tax, I find that the impost upon a pay-roll of £2,000 amounts to only £25 a year, or li per cent., and on a pay-roll of £5,000, the impost is £100 a year. If the obligation to pay such taxes will ruin small industries, all I can say is : “ God help them if they encounter a business reverse!” The bill marks an epoch in demonstrating that democracy, though threatened with death, can offer to its people the protection of their liberties and foreshadow social advantages and benefits, which the totalitarian dictators neither can nor will offer to their subjects, whose rights and liberties they have destroyed.
.-I congratulate the Minister for Labour and National Service (Mr. Holt) and the departmental officers associated with him in preparing this excellent measure upon the successful result of their extensive research. Often, the people behind the scenes contribute largely to the success of legislation dealing with social reform. When moving the second reading, the Minister stated -
Honorable members are asked to accept it also as one of the few measures of social progress that it is possible to introduce in time of war and to regard it as a foretaste and pledge of the full reconstruction that will be possible when we can again turn our surplus productive forces to the purposes of peace.
The Minister will not, I hope, rest upon his laurels. Without waiting for the war to end, he should introduce other social reforms. It is most fortunate that a gentleman so liberal-minded as he, is a member of the Cabinet; otherwise, this bill would probably not have been introduced. It is also exceedingly fortunate for the Minister and for the Government that the
Opposition decided unanimously to support the legislation. If the bill had encountered hostile criticism from this side of the chamber, it might, in view of lust night’s events, have had an early demise.
The Minister should give immediate consideration to the training of youths, because, to date, Australia has made little progress in that direction. In the last budget, Parliament appropriated’ for the physical education of youth the sum of £20,000, which is a mere bagatelle. The development of physical training in other countries is an example to us and its success abroad is convincing proof that we should foster it. If the war be prolonged, some children, in respect of whom endowment will be paid this year, will be called upon later to fight for the security of this country. Therefore, their physical training and upbringing are ot immediate concern to the Commonwealth.
Like the honorable .member for New England (Mr. Abbott), I hope that the Government will devote attention to housing reform. This can be proceeded with immediately without affecting Australia’s war effort. As to finance, credit facilities can be created ; the Government will not be required to make available one penny. During the last few years, New South Wales has provided an excellent illustration of my contention. When the Premier of that State desired to proceed’ with housing reform, the facilities existing under the Rural Bank scheme offered only £400,000 or £500,000 a year for the purpose. By guaranteeing the overdrafts of building societies, the State Government was able to raise, on their behalf, in three years, the sum of £15,000,000. The Government neither advanced nor lost a single penny on the scheme. Recently, I made a tour of inspection with the Minister for Social Services (Sir Frederick Stewart), and we visited a number of homes that had been erected for members of building societies. One couple, with two children, were purchasing their dwelling, and the instalments of 14s. od. a week covered repayments of principal and interest. For five years before they built their home, they rented premises for £1 5s. a week. By arranging to purchase their own home on the instalment plan, they saved 10s. a week, which- is the equivalent of the payment of endowment in. respect of two children. The Government should arrange credit facilities in order to enable every worker to purchase his own home by instalments not exceeding £1 a week. The £1 5s. or 30s. which would have been paid in rent to private landlords would be entirely saved, and, in effect, would be equivalent to the allowances payable for five or six children when their home is ultimately paid for in full.
I trust; that in the near future favorable consideration will be given to the payment of endowment in respect of the first child. 1 realize that in the circumstances, we have to accept what is offered by the Government. There are, of course, anomalies in the scheme which, no doubt, when a Labour govern-, ment assumes office, will be removed. The payment of an allowance in respect of the first child should be considered immediately. For instance, a constituent of mine, who has a wife and nine children, is on the basic wage, and the payment to that family of the extra 5s. a week for the first child would, of course, be of far more importance than it would be in the case of a person earning £1,000 or £2,000 a year and having, only two children. I submit that, in the case of large families, the allowance should he payable in respect of the first child:
I am. not in favour of the proposed method of financing the child endowment scheme, because there is no doubt that, in time, the tax on employers will be passed on. to the workers. In effect, the Government will be giving with one hand and taking away with the other. Obviously, the Prices Commissioner will be approached by the employers with a request for permission to increase prices and thereby pass on the extra cost to the consumers, so that eventually the workers will not derive any benefit. The cost of the child endowment scheme should be a charge on the Consolidated Revenue of the community. Consideration might even be given to financing the proposal by means of national credit. After all, human beings have an asset value to the community, and the provision of credit for the upbringing, training and education of children would assist to build up a national asset. Also, an inheritance tax might well be considered. The money acquired by fortunate children who come into a large inheritance should be taxed in order to extend social benefits to the poorer sections of the community and create a greater redistribution of wealth. Another method of providing the money is the imposition of a capital tax. The greater the number of children the greater the security of the nation. Those persons who have large holdings, or who derive large income from dividends, might well be taxed in order to stimulate the’ birth-rate in this country. Such a tax would be virtually an insurance policy, because the young people are those who will be called upon in the future to work and perhaps to fight for the security and maintenance of wealthy interests.
– What about a tax on bachelors ?
– That also might be considered. It seems, however, according to marriage statistics, that there will soon be very few bachelors left. A man holding; say, £100,000 worth of property or of shares could be taxed at the rate of 5 per cent. per annum, as a contribution towards his financial security. Even if the war continued for ten years, he would still have about £50,000 left, and that is more than sufficient for any one to live on. The only fair way in which this money can be raised is by means of taxes on the wealthy sections of the community, because only by a true distribution of wealth can we hope ultimately to populate this country. It is necessary to break up large land holdings and so spread the wealth of the nation more evenly.
.- In view of the unanimity among honorable members, and the apparent desire to expedite the passage of this bill, I do not intend to detain the House unduly. I listened intently to the second-reading speech of the Minister for Labour and National Service (Mr. Holt) who introduced this measure. The honorable gentleman delivered an excellent and informative speech, and I congratulate him, and the Government, upon the determination to pass this necessary social reform. It is generally admitted that certain aspects of our wage-fixing system in Australia are inequitable and most unscientific.
Wages to-day are fixed on a family unit of a husband, wife and one or more children. In the case of the Commonwealth Arbitration Court the unit is a family of three, whereas in some States, there is a family unit of four, and in others, a unit of five. The wages fixed by the various industrial tribunals are regarded as being sufficient to maintain a family of four or five people in a reasonable degree of comfort. The result is that on the one hand a man with six or seven children receives no more than the single man who has no family responsibilities. On the other hand, a single man receives a wage which is regarded as sufficient to keep a man, a wife and one child in a reasonable degree of comfort, whereas in such cases a wife and child do not exist. Many families of eight or nine children have to live on a weekly income no greater than the basic wage, and consequently they have little hope of enjoying the benefits that are available to children of smaller families. To some degree this child endowment legislation will adjust those anomalies. Indeed, the Chief Judge of the Commonwealth Arbitration Court recently stated that, a more logical system of wage fixing would be to grade the basic wage in accordance with family responsibilities. That will, in effect, be the result of this measure. There is also the important aspect of our national existence. There is a national obligation upon us to the people of this country. I say in all seriousness that we cannot hope to hold Australia indefinitely unless we have a larger population. It has been said frequently, and with full justification, that our best migrants are Australian-born children. Australia needs population, but we can scarcely expect to gain it while the incomes of so many people are inadequate to provide for the support and education of large families. As the Minister pointed out, the birthrate in this country fell continuously from 1860 until 1934. Since then there has been a slight increase. The decline of the birthrate was not due entirely to economics, but its economic phase is undoubtedly a very important factor. Even if this measure has little effect on the birthrate, it should raise the level of the race by enabling parents on modest incomes, who, in spite of economic difficulties and the uncertainties of the future, have large families, to give their children better living conditions, and ‘better prospects of becoming healthy, educated and useful citizens than they have to-day. We have heard of post-war problems and of a proposed new order. We must consider post-war problems to-day, and I regard this measure as a preliminary instalment of the new order which has been spoken of in this chamber. The principle of child endowment is almost universally approved, and so it becomes not a question of desirability, but of practicability. It is a question of ways and means, and in dealing with that phase of the problem it is interesting to examine similar legislation in other parts of the world. Different countries have different methods to assist families. Some have maternity allowances under which a bonus is payable on the birth of each child. Others have what might be termed subsidized marriage, under which a loan is advanced to young married couples and a certain percentage of it is written off as each child is born. Prior to the war, many European countries had systems of child endowment. It is quite probable that the war has thrown some of these schemes out of order, but in France there is an endowment scheme under which a bonus is payable on the birth of the first child, a larger bonus amounting to 10 per cent, of the monthly wage, is payable in respect of the second child, and 20 per cent, of the monthly wage in respect of the third and subsequent children. Special bonuses are also payable in cases of hardship, and, in addition, provision is made for loans amounting to 20,000 francs, approximately £143 in Australian currency, to young couples engaged in agricultural work. That scheme is general in its application. The endowment is paid on the children until they reach the age of thirteen years, or seventeen years if they continue their studies, become apprentices, or are incapacitated. The scheme is financed by the employers and by the State. In Italy there is a scheme which is general in its application, and is financed by something akin to the proposed pay-roll tax on employers. The employers pay 3.5 per cent, of their pay roll, and the employees pay 1 per cent, of their wages. The benefits under that scheme- are rather poor, however, and for what purpose I cannot understand, a differential rate is paid in respect of children of industrial, agricultural and clerical workers. The first child is provided for at the rate of approximately ls. a week, and the payment increases to an average of 2s. 3d. a week for the third and subsequent children. The allowance is paid until the children reach the age of fourteen years, and, in some cases, eighteen years. In 1938 an amount equivalent to £A.13,500,000 was paid out. In addition, there is in operation in Italy a system under which private firms and corporations pay marriage and child bonuses amounting to approximately £3. That scheme, however, has very limited application and the amount paid fluctuates annually. In Belgium the amount paid fluctuates with the cost of living figures. The scheme applies to persons of Belgian nationality employed in any class of work. Apparently, the children of unemployed parents are unprovided for unless the parents are incapacitated. Payments are made on a graduated scale; the amount paid increasing as the family grows larger. There is a definite argument in favour of a graduated scale of benefits, and at some future date consideration should be given to such a proposal. In 1936 the benefits were, for the first child, 10 Belgian francs monthly, for the second, 12-J, for the third, 32, for the fourth, 65, and for the fifth child and subsequent children, 95 Belgian francs monthly. It will bc noticed that there is a steep rise as the number of children increases. The object is quite obvious. The endowment is paid until the child reaches the age of fourteen years, and, in special cases, eighteen years. The scheme is financed through the budget and by a tax on the purchase price of certain goods somewhat akin to our sales tax. In .1936 there were 1,483,000 workers affiliated with the fund, 549,000 persons benefited from the scheme, the total amount paid out of the fund was 233,792,000 Belgian francs, and the percentage of family allowances on wages paid was 3.2. There is only om; other country which has a system of family allowances to which I wish to refer, namely, one of our enemy countries, Germany. I do not know what the position is now, but until the outbreak of the present war marriage loans and benefits under a complicated child allowance scheme were granted by the State, by communities and by private enterprise. For instance, one firm grants to its employees 100 marks immediately following the birth of a fourth child and of each subsequent child, and assumed responsibility for their education, training and eventual employment. Another firm paid the wife of each employee 100 marks for each child, and opened a savings bank account for every third and subsequent child into which it paid the sum of 50 marks on each succeeding birthday. The sum placed to the credit of the savings bank account cannot be touched until the child reaches the age of seventeen years, when it was paid to the child or to its parents. Largely because of these benefits, the birthrate in Germany increased from S92,800 in 1933 to 1,207,000 in 1937. Coming nearer home, a scheme is in operation in New Zealand which applies only to the third and subsequent children. Payments of the endowment is limited to families with incomes not exceeding £5 a week, with provision to increase the amount of income by 2s. weekly for each eligible child. The scheme is financed by . a tax of ls. in the £1 on all incomes, and the benefits must be expended exclusively in the maintenance of the child or children, as the case may be. Endowment is provided at the rate of 4s. for each child in excess of two children under the age of sixteen years. As the scheme in operation in New South Wales has already been referred to by honorable members I propose to comment only briefly on it. That scheme is limited to those on the basic wage plus £13 per annum for each dependent child after the first child. The benefit of 5s. weekly is paid out of consolidated revenue. Yesterday we discussed the very vexed subject of raising the necessary funds to implement the proposed endowment scheme. In introducing the bill the Minister stated that the pay-roll tax offered the only means by which the necessary revenue could be raised. The bill which was passed yesterday provided for the financing of the scheme partly by a pay-roll tax and partly through the budget. The only question which exercised the minds of honorable members yesterday was in relation to the financing of the scheme. It would certainly be economically unsound and the quintessence of madness to borrow for such a purpose; but in considering means of raising the necessary revenue we must guard against what is known as the vicious circle. If the required funds are raised in such a way to permit the tax tn be passed on, costs of production and the cost of living will immediately rise and the resultant diminished purchasing power of the people will bring us back to where we started and defeat the object of the measure. It will react adversely, for example, upon export industries in the same way as wages costs have done previously. Costs of this kind may be passed on internally, but not externally. If it be possible to pass on the tax the primary producers will suffer because in many cases they are obliged to sell their products in the world’s markets at world parity prices. The continued improvement of industrial conditions in secondary industries already increases costs of production which are passed on to those on fixed incomes.
– On a point of order, is the honorable member entitled to discuss the effect of the taxing measure which was passed yesterday?
– The honorable member is quite in order.
– The primary producer who cannot pass on the increased costs will be left lamenting. The unfairness of impositions such as this causes many primary producers to leave the country districts and concentrate in the. cities. I nm inclined to the opinion that a judicious blending of a pay-roll tax and the budget will be less harmful than the straightout tax advocated by some honorable members, especially in view of the fact that exemption is provided in respect of persons whose annual pay-roll does not exceed £1,040. It may be said that the employer who is obliged to pay the tax may consider that he is unfairly treated ; but I remind honorable members that if the Commonwealth Arbitration Court increases the basic wage, as it is suggested it would do, if this legislation be not passed such an employer would be obliged to pay much more than he is asked to pay under the pay-roll tax. The employee, too, will be called upon to contribute indirectly to this scheme because if this legislation be passed and the Arbitration Court leaves the basic wage undisturbed he will lose the expected increase of the basic wage. That, of course, will hit the single man as he will not benefit by child endowment. The only alternative to a child endowment scheme appears to be to increase the basic wage; but that would be unscientific as the basic wage is paid ito all workers regardless of whether they are married or single, or have one or a dozen children. Under the endowment scheme an extra wage will he paid to families most in need. Finally, I regret that no provision has been made for the payment of endowment in respect of the first child. 1 know that it will be said that provision is made in the basic wage for the first child. Whilst the great majority of the workers of Australia are provided for by industrial awards, I remind honorable members that many people, such as small shop-keepers, primary producers and self-employed workers, are not covered ,by either Commonwealth or State awards, and that they would not benefit by any readjustment of the basic wage. T am prepared to accept the assurance of the Minister that payment of child endowment for the first child is impracticable because it would involve the raising of an additional £11,000,000. To raise such a large additional sum is obviously beyond our capacity at present. I regard this legislation as a first instalment of very desirable social reform, and I am hopeful that, when hostilities between nations have ceased and final victory has been achieved in the cause of democracy, this Parliament or some subsequent Commonwealth Parliament will widen and improve this legislation.
.- The proposition under discussion is to provide for the payment of endowment in respect of certain children at the rate of 5s. a week for each child. We have reached the second-reading stage of the bill. We are considering the measure under the shadow of our recollection of what occurred in the case of a cognate measure of social reform known as the National Health and Pensions Insurance Bill. The motive for the introduction of that measure was the consideration, in the minds of Ministers and others at that time, that, inasmuch as the old are living longer and the young are not being born in sufficient numbers, we were likely to degenerate into a nation of old men and women on pensions. The main object of the bill was thinly disguised, but it was a transference of the increasing burden of pensions from the taxpayers generally to the workers. No attempt was foreshadowed in that bill to make life easier for the workers or to stimulate more interest in the home. The objective was, in fact, a mere transfer of obligation. That plot failed in circumstances which brought ignominy upon certain highly-placed politicians of the time. What then induced the Government to introduce this bill to provide family endowment? Why was not family endowment included in the bill of fare submitted by the two Government parties to the electors at the last Commonwealth elections ? They did not mention it in their policy. Only the Labour party advocated child endowment and the principle was enunciated in the party’s policy by its leader. Child endowment is and has been for a long period part of Labour’s policy. It is part of Labour’s policy because, unlike national insurance, it does promise stimulation of the birth-rate; further it promises to make the lot of the worker easier and to increase the measure of self-respect that he is entitled to enjoy. It does not stigmatize with opprobrium the parents of a large family. I have been dipping into the history of the Chartist period in England which brings up the points that less than 100 years ago not only was it held to be contemptible to have a large family but poverty was regarded as a bar to respectability. Poverty in those times, if not a crime, was half, at least, of the proof of crime. However we have progressed beyond that. A policy of child “ endowment was not foreshadowed by the Government prior to the last election, but child endowment was suddenly adopted by the Government as part of its policy. The scheme embodied in the bill is certainly conceived in no very wide spirit of justice to those who will be required to find the money with which the major part of thu endowment scheme is to be financed. As that subject was discussed yesterday on a cognate bill, I shall not elaborate it now. I am intrigued to discover the reason for the sudden introduction of the measure. I cannot be persuaded to believe that the vital interests of capitalism have been overlooked by the Government. It is essentially - as the Government’s leader has so often boldly pointed out - a capitalist and not a socialist government. As a capitalist government it must stand by the principles of capitalism, which are to pay a basic wage as low as possible, to extend working hours as long as possible, and to exact as much tis possible from the working class. I do not believe that there has been any departure from those principles, which are essential for the continued success of capitalism. However, capitalism is now in the doldrums and passing through a very difficult period. It appears to me that there is some connexion between the recently deferred judgment of the Commonwealth Court of Conciliation and Arbitration on the basic wage and the child endowment scheme. It is not, I hope, offensive to say that the Executive and the court appear to be moving hand in hand. In fact, the court, unlike other courts of law. has legislative powers. It is not like an ordinary court of law, which takes its commission coldly from the legislature and acts within that, commission, but with complete detachment from the legislature. The Commonwealth Court of Conciliation and Arbitration does not act in that way and indeed it is not obliged to do so. A few days ago I chided the court for not deciding the case for an increase of the basic wage, which had been presented to it with great elaboration. I realize that perhaps I expected too much. The court is not bound by rules of evidence and it has wide exploratory powers. It is true that it is limited in its operation by sharp constitutional hounds, but within these limits its powers go far beyond the powers of an ordinary court of law as prescribed by the wellsettled rules of litigation. It seems to me obvious, therefore, that the court allowed itself a peep into the political future of Australia. It accepted as a fact that the birth of children should be encouraged. Somewhere, sometime, in an artificial age provision must be made by the State for the maintenance of children. When I consider child endowment my thoughts revert to the very large family of which I am a unit, but the truth is that between the age in which I was bora and that in which I live the difference between the simple family life on the one hand and the extreme complexity of family life on the other is very wide. We must recognize that in our age and circumstances provision must be made for the larger family; or we perish. I am certain that the Government looked ahead, with, from its point of view, commendable perspicacity, and realized that it had to choose between two burdens - a burden that was likely to be imposed by the court or in the event of a probable change of government and the fixation of a new basic wage by a reconstituted court, and a burden imposed on a section of the community by child endowment. The Government chose, I think, or they think, the lesser of two evils and its choice is represented in the limited scheme of child endowment embodied in the bill. I do not want to deprive, the Government of the credit due to it for being the instrument for the introduction of the scheme, nor do I wish to praise the Labour party, but this party, as in the case of old-, age pensions, has been the driving force iri the rear and has thereby placed an opposing political party in the position of being able to say on the hustings, “ Alone we did it “. I think we should act on the view that the normal human condition involves marriage and a family. The basic wage problem with which child endowment, is closely associated should rest on the foundation of the needs of man and wife. It should assume marriage; the unmarried man, as the honorable member for East Sydney (Mr. Ward) pointed out yesterday, is either establishing a fund in anticipation of marriage or is maintaining dependants; in some cases,- both. He must be assumed in any well-ordered society to be making the normal and proper preparations for marriage at, a reasonable age. Not only should the needs of a man and wife be regarded as the basis for the fixation of the wage standard, but all their children - and in this I agree with the honorable member for Wilmot (Mr. Guy) - should share in child endowment. Within our own recollection of history, primogeniture involved certain privileges, but now it is stigmatized in that the first child is not to be endowed, although it is perfectly true, as the Leader of the Opposition (Mr. Curtin) said in his speech on this bill, that anything which helps the family after the arrival of the second and subsequent children, must also be an aid to the first child. That, in ray view, is not sufficient. 1 am not particularly interested in the stimulation of population from the point of view of defence. I look forward, incorrigibly perhaps, to the day when methods of barbarism will be abandoned for methods of reason in the solving of international difficulties. Yet, I foresee that the right of a people to continue to occupy a continent will, in the future, depend upon the effectiveness with which it is, in fact, occupying it. World population is increasing, but our own population is not advancing substantially, nor is that of some other nations which advertise their claims to a high standard of civilization. Some nations of the world are clearly decadent. I know of no moral principle bv virtue of which a chosen few may monopolize a large part of the earth’s surface and, if I did, I have no reason to suppose that my view would be universally accepted. In this country we have drawn around ourselves a charmed circle and declared ourselves superior to our neighbours, airing the view that they do not attain to the arbitrary standards of excellence which we have ascribed to ourselves. The world, I think, will not stand for this over-generous selfappraisement.
I agree that the family is the basis of society and accept the dictum that every new life born into the world is’ an asset to the country as well as to the family. “ Suffer the little children to come unto Me “ is an injunction which having regard to its collocation from the Christian point of view, cannot be overlooked. 1 support the bill.
.- I give both my support and my blessing to the bill, and I take this opportunity to congratulate the Minister for Labour and National Service (Mr. Holt) upon having had the privilege to introduce the measure ou behalf of the Government. The honorable gentleman is a single man but I should say that he has high hopes for the future. In submitting this measure, he gave us a great deal of valuable information. As one who has made a study of social legislation I am pleased that the Government has introduced this bill, for its provisions will undoubtedly be beneficial to the nation at large.
– The honorable gentleman endeavoured to choke the bill last night.
– I did nothing of the kind. I was opposing the pay-roll tax, and I am still opposed to it. In my view, child endowment may be classed as a major social reform. It will give direct financial assistance in a way which will be most beneficial to the national wellbeing. The prime purpose of the proposed payment of 5s. for each child after the first is to assist in the maintenance and education of children. The provision that the allowance should be paid to the women who are in direct charge of the children is wise. I take it that, normally, the money will go to the mothers of the children, but in special cases it may go to the fathers or to some other responsible person.
– The general principle underlying the measure is that the payment shall be made to the mother.
– But I take it that the payments will be based on actual liability for the child’s maintenance and not necessarily upon natural relationship. It appears that the amounts payable in child endowment will not be regarded as income for taxation purposes. I should’ like the Minister to explain that provision a little more fully when he is making his speech in reply.
– That particular point is not dealt with in this measure. It will need to be covered by an amendment of the income tax- legislation, and that will be dealt with later in the year.
– Although. I wholeheartedly support the general principles of this bill, I am not happy that the Government should have seen fit to introduce it at this particular time, for we, in common with other parts of the British Empire, have a full-time job on our hands in order to win the war and so make the world safe for democracy. I consider that we should be dealing with first things first. To-day, the whole of our man-power and resources, financial and otherwise, are needed to bring the war to a successful issue. This must necessarily be a full-time job for us.
– It will require a good deal of overtime.
– Quite so. In the long run, I believe that we shall be victorious, but in the meantime we must do our best to handle efficiently the big job that confronts us. I fail to see how either the Government or any of its expert advisers can possibly estimate reliably the financial commitments of the near future. No financial authority in the country, in the Treasury or elsewhere, can possibly tell us, with any degree of certainty, how much money will be needed in the next twelve months in order to maintain our maximum war effort. I therefore suggest to the Government that it has not chosen an appropriate time to introduce this reform.
I also take exception to the financing of this scheme by means of the pay-roll tax. I said a few words on this subjectyesterday in the course of a fairly rowdy sitting of the House. The Opposition sat tight on that occasion. Honorable members opposite said, in effect : “ Let the Government have a go. This is its hill, let it deal with it”. That was the first occasion in the course of the thirteen or fourteen years that I have been a member of this Parliament that I have known the Opposition to adopt such an attitude.
– The honorable member will recollect that I had a few words to say on the subject.
– That is so, and the honorable gentleman was not too favorable to the pay-roll tax. In my opinion, the money for this child endowment scheme should have been obtained from Consolidated Revenue. “
– I rise to order. Is the honorable member for Boothby entitled, at this stage, to discuss the pay-roll tax ?
Mr. TEMPORARY SPEAKER (Mr. Stacey). - The honorable member may make only a passing reference to that subject
– That is all I intend to do, and the honorable member for Barton (Mr. Evatt) may rest assured that I know when to “butt in” and when to “ pull out “. I have had a longer experience than he has had in this Parliament. I regret that the Government has not made provision for child endowment payments to apply to every child, including the first of a family. There is no justification for overlooking the first child. When a young married couple start out in life, they are entitled to expect provision, under a scheme of this description, for their first child, and I am sorry that such provision has not been made.
Finance for a child endowment scheme could have been provided in many ways. The Government’s proposal to assess and collect a tax upon wages is inequitable. It was provided, in the measure passed yesterday, that the proposed tax should apply to all pay rolls in excess of £20 a week, or £1,040 a year. I am completely opposed to that arrangement. The bill that was submitted to us was described, on the front page, as “ a bill for an act relating to the imposition, assessment and collection of a tax “. In my opinion, the title was most appropriate, for the tax will be a real imposition on industry.
Sitting suspended from 12.4-5 to 2.15 p.m.
– Industry, already harassed by having to make all sorts of returns to the Government, is to be further harassed by having to make monthly returns for the purposes of child endowment. The Treasury has supplied me with copies of the various returns which employers of labour are compelled to make. I do not propose to read them, but they should be placed on the table of this House so that honorable members may read them. Instead of harassing industry in this way we should be doing everything possible to assist it,
– We are killing the goose that laid the golden egg.
– The honorable member is trying to kill the bill.
– I am not. The honorable member will credit me with being in favour of child endowment. But I believe that it should be a national scheme to which everybody would contribute. Even the honorable member will, I think, agree that that is the proper course to take.
– I believe in that, but I. want the best I can get.
– The honorable member wants the best he can get. This is a deliberative Parliament. We are here to consider the best means to bring about the reforms which we desire. With one or two exceptions, honorable gentlemen opposite have conspicuously refrained from expressing their view as to what would be the best scheme. They have merely sat in their places, dumb. This is a social measure. Honorable members opposite have frequently told me that, they support social legislation, as they should. So do I. I believe in the purpose of this bill, but I want to improve the bill. Interjections have diverted me from what I was saying about regulations requiring the provision of returns by industries. Those regulations give industry a tremendous headache. They necessitate the employment of a big army of clerks. It is easy for Parliament to demand that returns must be provided, but it is another matter for those who are compelled to provide them. They have to provide the means by which the returns are compiled. The returns required under this legislation will harass those who have to make them.
– Are we discussing child endowment or a pay-roll tax?
– I shall hear the honorable member for Boothby.
– I have heard it said that the Arbitration Court when fixing the basic wage will pay heed to the provisions of child endowment. I am not certain that it will do anything of the kind. Recently a State arbitration court gave judgment in which it was specifically stated that no notice was taken of the Commonwealth Government’s proposal to bring about child endowment. While on the subject of arbitration, I remind honorable members that to-day there are in existence both State and Federal arbitration courts. The unions approach whichever court they consider is likely to award the higher rates. He is a super-optimist who believes that the Commonwealth court will take child endowment into consideration. It is dangerous for Parliament to interfere with the arbitration court. It is a twoedged sword. Now, when the Empire is at death-grips with the enemies of democracy, is hardly the time to introduce this scheme. When the war is over and sanity once more prevails, by all means make provision for child endowment. When it is introduced it should be paid for from Consolidated Revenue in the same way as we now pay for invalid and old-age pensions and maternity allowances. When the Pay-roll Tax Assessment Bill was before the House, I opposed the proposed tax on the ground that a tax falling heavily on a limited number of taxpayers was not equitable. If, as some people think, child endowment is to be used as an adjustment of the basic wage, let us be logical and apply the scheme only to children of wage-earners whose income is affected by fluctuations of the basic wage. If the pay-roll tax could be passed on to the public in the form of increased costs of commodities, there would be duplication of the tax where goods pass through the hands of manufacturers, wholesalers and retailers. There should be no class distinctions in a measure of this kind. Some honorable members say that the pay-roll tax should be regarded as a temporary expedient. This country has had some experience of temporary taxation, for instance, the sales tax and the unemployment relief tax.
– I do not wish to interrupt the honorable member, but I point out to the chamber that the pay-roll tax has already been passed.
– I advise the honorable member for Boothby to leave the subject of the pay-roll tax.
– Last night the Opposition harassed honorable members on this side when they tried to speak about these matters. That is why I am now trying to put my views forward. I shall say no more about the pay-roll tax except that it is an imposition on a section of the people. Then we have those who advocate that child endowment should he financed partly from a pay-roll tax and partly from Consolidated Revenue. I reiterate that if it is desired to make child endowment a real scheme it should be .financed entirely from Consolidated Revenue.
– Order ! The honorable member must accept the fact that the House has already disposed of the pay-roll tax and of the methods of financing child endowment.
– I appreciate that. I am sorry, however, that, the Government put (lie cart before the horse by introducing the tax bill before the scheme itself.
– What difference does that make?
– The honorable member should know that there is a big difference. The House was asked to pass a tax before it knew its purpose. I have to abide by the House’s decision, but all of our efforts should be directed towards winning the war in order to make Australia and the British Empire safe for our democratic system. When that has been done will be . the time- to introduce a scheme of child endowment that will be of benefit to mankind.
.- I congratulate the Minister for Labour and National Service (Mr. Holt) upon the introduction of this measure. Nevertheless, 1” do not believe the Government, is deceiving the public about the part that the Leader of the Opposition (Mr. Curtin) has played for many years past in laying the foundations of a national child endowment scheme. Anybody can see the work of his hand in this bill. The voice is the voice of Jacob, but the hand is the hand of Esau. We have just heard the honorable member for Boothby (Mr. Price) make his excuses for opposing the Pay-roll Tax Bill. He said that, although he favours the introduction of a child endowment scheme, he is opposed to the method of financing it. He, in company with the honorable member for Parkes (Sir Charles Marr), the honorable member for Deakin (Mr. Hutchinson), the honorable member for Wakefield (Mr. Duncan-Hughes), and several others, strongly opposed the Pay-roll Tax Bill yesterday; but at least their colleague, the honorable member for Robertson (Mr. Spooner), has been honest. He said definitely that, although he disagreed with the principle of a pay-roll tax, he would not oppose the bill. He adopted this attitude because he could see that, if this method of finance were not adopted, the child endowment scheme would have to be abandoned. Those honorable members on the other side of the House who objected to the pay-roll tax spoke with their tongues in their cheeks. They wanted to knock the tax overboard solely in order to sabotage the entire child endowment scheme.
The bill now before the House is long overdue. It is a .first step towards the unification of Australian social services, and I trust that it will be followed by legislative action to ensure that not only social services but also industrial wages and conditions will be brought under one administration. That is what the advocates of federation in 1900 told the people that federation would ultimately accomplish. Sir Edmund Barton, the first honorable member for Hunter in this Parliament and the first Prime Minister of Australia, made a memorable speech to his electors. He said that we Australians were one people, with one flag, and with one destiny, who should have a uniform system of Australian government. This would mean not only the abolition of the system of State Governors but also the ultimate abolition of State parliaments. This bill represents the first definite step towards that goal. Child endowment is not altogether new in Australia. A system, has been operating in New South Wales since 1925, but as the result of our system of interstate trade, it has caused hardship to many employers in New South Wales. This is due to the fact that that State has a higher standard of living and a better class of social services nhan other States. Consequently, manufacturers in the less advanced States who employ cheaper labour, have been able to flood their cheaper products into New South Wales, causing unemployment in that State. I hope that the Commonwealth child endowment scheme is the forerunner of other Australia-wide social services, particularly widows’ pensions, which will impose a uniform set of conditions on all employers. There have been certain disadvantages about the New South Wales system of child endowment. One of these is the means test, according to which a family having an income above a certain figure is excluded from benefit. I compliment the Government and the Leader of the Opposition upon the fact that there is no such provision in this bill. The effect of this can be illustrated best by actual figures. Under the New South Wales system the amount paid out each year in child endowment is £1,300,000; but the more libera] provisions of the Commonwealth scheme will involve payments in that State amounting to £5,300,000 a year - four times the previous expenditure. Nevertheless, improvements can be made to the Commonwealth scheme. It should bo made to include families with only one child, as is the case now in New South Wales. I believe also that it should be liberalized in order to permit payments in respect of. children over the age of sixteen years, if those children are engaged, in improving their educational standards. Many children do not obtain the Leaving Certificate before the age of seventeen, years. Some allowance should be made in order to enable families to educate their children to that standard. Many widows in reduced circumstances have children who show promise of attaining tq a high scholastic standard. It would be tragic for those mothers to be obliged to terminate the education of their children at an early stage owing to lack of financial assistance. Many a young boy has been unable to undertake an apprenticeship in some trade because bis parents have not had sufficient funds to maintain him until he has been able to pay his own way. My own son undertook an apprenticeship in engineering, and he received only 13s. a week during the first twelve months of his apprenticeship. Had I not been in the position which I occupy to-day, I could not have afforded to help him to complete his apprenticeship, and at the same time to maintain the rest of my family. Honorable members will agree that fatalities in the coal-mining industry are more numerous- than in any other industry in Australia.. Many widows in the coal-mining districts are struggling to educate their children. If this bill made provision for endowment to be paid in respect of children apprenticed to an industry, until they reached the age of seventeen years, the country would benefit considerably. It would show also that we in this Parliament are mindful of the welfare of our future citizens, and wish them to ha,ve a good secondary education in order to train themselves for useful trades and occupations. I admit that some people who should be obliged to contribute to the scheme will escape the incidence of the pay-roll tax. Such men as specialists in professions, and those employing only one or two persons, but nevertheless having an income of perhaps £7,000 a year, should be obliged to contribute largely to the funds of the endowment scheme. In that respect, the pay-roll tax will be somewhat unfair. However, the method of finance will be improved. Eather than see the endowment scheme abandoned, members of the Opposition are prepared to accept the’ system of pay-roll taxation.
I endorse the suggestion of the honorable member for Robertson who has had experience in the State of New South Wales, about the filling in of forms for endowment. I do not complain about the work that members of Parliament have to do, but surely there are already sufficient forms connected with taxation matters, exemption from military training, pensions, and so on, without adding further forms for them to deal with. We could appoint postmasters to be special magistrates under this legislation, and could authorize them to assist applicants to fill in their claims. A member for a big electorate cannot visit the various centres at frequent intervals, and the work is too great to bc done by correspondence. The bill also provides that certain forms should be signed before a justice of the peace. I suggest that provision be made for them to be signed also before a member of this Parliament, as is the case with forms filled in on behalf of old-age pensioners.
It was .my intention to move in committee that child endowment be continued until seventeen years of age’ in respect of’ children with special scholastic ability and apprentices to trades during the first twelve months of their apprenticeship, but I understand that such a proposal would bc ruled out of order on the ground that it would increase the appropriation. I hope, however, that those matters will be given attention by the Government in the near future.
– J can say in a few words all that I desire to say in connexion with this bill. I wholeheartedly welcome it, and I congratulate both the Minister for Labour and National Ser.v-.ice (Mr. Holt), who introduced it, and the Leader of the Opposition (Mr. Curtin) on the excellent speeches which they delivered in its support. I entirely disagree with those who say that because we are at war the time is inopportune to bring in this measure. In my opinion the time for it was never more opportune than now, for child endowment may well prove to be a factor which will contribute substantially to the winning of the war. I say that because I believe that when people are happy and contented and rejoice in the removal of injustices, they will make a better effort than they could otherwise be expected to make. In my opinion, any time is opportune to change from a rigid wage system, designed to meet the needs of a small family, to a more scientific and elastic method which differentiates between a family unit of three and a family unit of six, eight or ten. At its inception the Arbitration Court was intended to provide a’ wage sufficient to maintain a man and his wife and three children. The Chief J udge of that court has recently expressed the view that the present basic wage is adequate for a man and his wife and one child, and meagre for a man and wife and two children, whilst it involves hardship where there are three or more children in a family. Industry was formerly required to meet in its wages bill the needs of a family of five. On that basis the court has given its awards. To whatever degree industry to-day falls short of meeting the original liability - and the Chief Judge tells us that it does fall short in that respect - industry cannot logically complain of the imposition of a tax to bridge the gap between what it formerly was required to do and what it is doing to,day. I say that in passing, knowing that this is not the time to deal with a measure which has already been passed.
In passing this bill we are doing something to ensure- that members of large families shall not he more poorly clothed or more poorly fed than their fellows in otherwise equal circumstances who belong to small families. That is worth while. I support the bill not merely with a moderate amount of pleasure, but also with great enthusiasm. I believe that it is one of the finest measures that have yet come before this Parliament.
– in reply - The House has treated both me and this measure with so much consideration by the brisk way in which it has discussed the second reading, that I should be lacking in gratitude if I did not recognize that fact before the bill proceeds to the committee stage. I desire on my own account, and on behalf of the Government, to express gratification at the degree of unanimity in regard to this measure which has been evident from the speeches made by every section of the House. I particularly appreciate the remarks of the Leader of the Opposition (Mr. Curtin). It is a matter for congratulation that, in putting into effect a major social reform, we have been able to do so without any of the acrimony and party disturbance which have marred some of the other legislative landmarks that have been erected by this House. There are one or two aspects only on which I desire to touch before asking the House to carry the second reading.
The question of the constitutional legality of this scheme “was raised by some members in :the course of the debate. They were answered effectively by the honorable member for Bourke (Mr. Blackburn), whose views represent largely the views of the Government on that matter. The Government does not deny that there have been, in times of peace, differences of opinion among constitutional authorities as to the limits of the appropriation power which is contained in the Constitution. The law authorities of the Commonwealth have always favoured the wider interpretation of the appropriation power contained in section 81, but there have been differences among other distinguished lawyers. The Government does not dispute the fact that differences of opinion have existed, but it claims that with the additional powers now conferred under defence power, the Commonwealth has all of the legal authority necessary to keep this measure successfully in operation against any substantial threat of attack, for the duration of the war at least. Honorable member, who have seen the developments which have taken place during the course of this war as a result of the exercise of the national security powers conferred on the Government, will realize that should the war last for any great length of time we shall have more than one constitutional problem to face us when it is over. We must look forward to an examination by this Parliament, at the conclusion of the war, of the constitutional powers that it exercises. Indeed that examination will be made imperative by reason of the administrative developments which have become established as the result of the exercise of emergency powers during the war. Although there has been some difference of opinion among lawyers as to the extent of our powers, even those who have questioned the authority of the Commonwealth Government to deal with matters of this kind have agreed that for any one successfully to challenge any such exercise of power would be to undertake an almost impossible task. Therefore, whilst the honorable member for Wakefield (Mr. Duncan-Hughes) speaks of the lamentable calamity which would occur if this scheme could be successfully challenged, I submit that it would be an even more lamentable calamity if some other things were to happen to us.
– This is one matter in connexion with which the people would be prepared to vote “ yes “ at a referendum.
– I have no doubt of that. If, as the honorable member for Wakefield claims, wc are gambling in this matter, at least we are gambling for a prize which represents the health and educational training of the young people of Australia. I prefer that the risk should be taken on their behalf rather than that we should hold back merely because certain risks are involved in our action.
– The common-sense thing to do is to go straight ahead.
– That is what the Government proposes to do ; and in so doing it believes that it will have the wholehearted support of members of all parties, of State governments, and of the people as a whole. The Government repudiates any suggestion that its action in implementing this scheme at this time will involve in any way a diminution of our war effort. I subscribe entirely to the remarks of the honorable member for Gippsland (Mr. Paterson) in this connexion. In Great Britain, notwithstanding the gigantic armaments programme and the heroic measures taken for the defence of that country - measures which have evoked the admiration of friend and foe alike - there has been at the same time a programme of social improvement on the part of the national administration. As I pointed out when introducing this bill, we in Australia shall he expending proportionately less on this social service than is expended in Great Britain in similar directions, although at one time we prided ourselves upon our leadership in matters of social legislation.
It has been complained that this measure was no part of the policy which the Government presented to the people at the last election, and that therefore there is no mandate for it. Is it to be contemplated that, with the rapidly changing circumstances which the Government has to face from day to day, we must examine at every turn just what was involved in the mandate given by the people at the last election? There are some people - and they are not all on the Opposition side of this chamber - who question whether any mandate at all was given at the last election. It is a fair reading of the result of that election to say that the people as a whole subscribed to the defence policy of the Government, and at the same time agreed that there was a great deal of merit in some of the social proposals which were advanced by members who now sit in Opposition. Consequently, the Government makes no apology whatever for introducing even a major measure of this kind without having specifically included it in the programme set before the people during the last election campaign.
Finally, I express the pleasure which 1 had on hearing the kind references which were made by some speakers to the work ofthe officers who have given such splendid assistance in the preparation of the details connected with this bill. I do not propose to enumerate all the gentlemen who have rendered yeoman service in what has obviously been a great deal of preparatory work before such a complex and far-reaching measure as this could be brought before the Parliament. I do not desire to make any invidious distinctions, but I wish to pay a tribute to the work which Dr. Wilson has done since he came into the newly created Department of Labour and National Service. He has done a wonderful job in the preliminary work in connexion with this measure. Mr. Rowe, who has been appointed the permanent head of the Department of Social Services, has also given splendid service.
– Why has the administrative work been taken away from Dr. Wilson?
– When the Government was first considering this matter, and when probably every one expected that a major social reform of this kind would naturally have been prepared and piloted through this House by the Minister for Social Services, we found that the Department of Social Services had lapsed with the non-introduction of a scheme of national insurance. While there was a Ministry for Social Services in existence, there was actually no secretariat which could carry out the necessary preparatory work. Consequently, that work was done through the Department of Labour and National Service, but with the understanding that, when the measure was passed by Parliament, the actual administration of the scheme would be transferred to the Department of Social Services, and that a secretariat would be established to carry on this work. Under the guidance of my colleague, the Minister for Social Services (Sir Frederick Stewart), whose liberal views on social questions are widely known, the scheme will be administered in a way that will give satisfaction throughout the Commonwealth.
Question resolved in the affirmative.
Bill read a second time, and committed pro forma.
Message recommending appropriation reported.
In committee (Consideration of Governor-General’s message) :
Motion (by Mr. Holt) agreed to -
That it is expedient that an appropriation of revenue be made for the purposes of amendments to be moved by the Minister for Labour and National Service in a bill for an act to provide for the payment of endowments, in respect of certain children, at the rate of 5s. per week for each child.
Resolution reported and adopted.
Clauses 1 to 3 agreed to.
Clause 4 -
In this act, unless the contrary intention appears- “child” means a child (including an exnuptial child) under the age of sixteen years but does not include -
a child who is maintained at the expense of the Commonwealth or a State; or
the child of an alien father unless the child was horn in Australia ; half-caste “ means a person who is the offspring of parents, one but not both of whom is an aboriginal native of Australia, and includes any person one or both of whose parents is or are the offspring of such parents;
Amendment (by Mr. Holt) agreed to-
That, in paragraph (a), after the word “ maintained “ the following words be inserted: - “in an institution carried on wholly or mainly “.
.- The clause as amended provides that endowment shall be paid in respect of a child maintained in an institution carried on wholly or mainly at the expense of the Commonwealth or a State. I submit that it is unfair to the States, which have to pay the pay-roll tax, to provide that children who are inmates of institutions maintained by them shall not benefit under the endowment scheme. TheCommonwealth will not pay the tax, so that the benefits of the scheme will not apply to the inmates of institutions maintained by the Commonwealth, but they should certainly apply to those in State institutions. I think that there will be a good deal of friction over this matter between State Governments and the Commonwealth Government.
.- Many blind persons in receipt of pensions work in institutions for the blind, and the pensions receivable by them are ‘determined by the amount they earn. I should like to know from the Minister whether the rate of their pensions will be similarly affected by the payment to them of child endowment in respect of their children.
– Are their pensions paid by the Commonwealth? Mr. CONELAN”.- They are paid partly by the Commonwealth.
.- What will l>e the position of institutions which receive liberal contributions from State Governments, although they are not State institutions?
– If they are maintained wholly or mainly at the expense of a State they will come under the provisions of this clause.
– That means that they will come under the provisions of the clause if more than 50 per cent, of their revenue is received from the State?
– It would, of course, depend on circumstances.
– Seeing that the State Governments are being asked to contribute to the pay-roll tax, they should be treated like other contributors, and inmates of institutions supported by State Governments should be eligible for child endowment.
.- The point raised by the honorable member for Bourke (Mr. Blackburn) is an important one. In my opinion, the Minister should postpone the clause, if only for a little while, so that we might give this matter further consideration. I am sure that if it goes through in its present form. State authorities will suffer under a strong feeling of injustice.
.- In Tasmania, children in the care of the State are placed in the charge of foster mothers, who are paid by the State for their maintenance. I should like to know whether the payment of child endowment in respect, of such a child will affect the amount which the foster mother receives from the State? If it does, the effect will be to relieve the State of a part of its liability, instead of making an additional pay ment to the foster mother.
– It is true, as the honorable member for Bourke (Mr. Blackburn) pointed out, that the States will be contributors to the cost of the scheme through the pay-roll tax, but that obligation devolves upon them because they are employers. They would have had to carry the burden if there had been an increase of the basic wage rate. The contribution which they would make under this scheme is smaller than what it would have been had the States themselves brought in child endowment schemes. I agree that this is properly a matter for discussion between the Commonwealth and the States. We consider that wo have done a reasonable thing because we are proposing to pay endowment in respect of children who are boarded out under the Child Welfare Departments of the States. In various ways, the Commonwealth will relieve some of the claims that, in the absence of this provision would have been made upon the States. Furthermore, the Commonwealth will make its endowment payments without consideration for any payment that is received from any other source.
– The child endowment payment is made direct to the mother?
– Yes. When the scheme operates, it will be for a State government to determine whether it should modify the benefits that it is now conferring. In that regard, the Commonwealth has no influence upon the policy of a State.
– The child endowment scheme is not designed to relieve a State of the payments that it already makes.
– No. The Commonwealth has no understanding with the States about the matter. If a State subsequently reduces the benefits that it now grants, it must accept full responsibility. The Commonwealth has given universal application to its scheme, and is not attempting to dovetail it into other schemes, which are controlled by the States or by private institutions.
Amendment agreed to.
– I move -
That, in .paragraph (ii) after the word “ Australia “, the following words be inserted, “ or unless the father is dead and the mother is a British subject or has made a declaration under section eighteen a of the Nationality Act 1020-1030.”
The amendment is designed to protect the interests of British subjects. For example, an Australian woman may marry an alien and proceed abroad to live. Shortly afterwards, she may return to Australia; but before she or her husband can be naturalized, the husband may die. In the absence of this amendment, a child otherwise eligible to receive the benefits of the endowment, would be excluded. Furthermore, an alien father may bring his wife and two children to reside in Australia. A third child may be born in the Commonwealth, and the father die before he becomes naturalized. In the absence of the amendment, endowment could not be paid in respect of the second child who was born before the parents came to the Commonwealth. The amendment liberalizes the existing scheme.
.- I invite the Minister .for Labour and National Service (Mr. Holt) to consider an amendment that is designed further to liberalize the endowment scheme. The outstanding feature of this great proposal is that, for all practical purposes, the mother will receive the endowment and therefore, she will become the administrator of the money for the benefit of the child. It follows that the fact that the father is an alien should not penalize either a mother who is a British subject, or the child who is maintained by her. Similarly, if the mother has made the required declaration under the Nationality Act upon her marriage or shortly after her marriage, that she wishes to retain her Australian nationality, the same principle should apply ; the alien father should not deprive the mother or the child of the benefit of the act. Whilst the amendment submitted by the Minister takes care of both situations after the death of the father, I see no reason why that endowment should not be enjoyed by the mother and children during the lifetime of the male parent. Accordingly I suggest that the amendment should be amended by omitting the words “the father is dead and “.
– What would be the nationality of a child born in Australia of an alien father?
– In this instance, the question of nationality does not arise. So long as the child is maintained in Australia by the mother, it matters not where the child was born.
– The honorable member for Barton was good enough to discuss this matter with me earlier. I have considered it, and the Government is prepared to accept the suggestion.
Amendment amended accordingly and, as amended, agreed -to.’
– I ask the Minister for Labour and National Service (Mr. Holt) whether the bill excludes from participation in endowment benefit a child who is an inmate of a State orphanage?
– That is an anomaly. The assumption is that the State is adequately maintaining the child in the institution.
– A State is not accepting its responsibility, if it were not doing so.
– Many parents in well-to-do circumstances also adequately maintain their children, and they are eligible to participate in this benefit. Possibly, they will bank the endowment, and twenty years hence present the accumulated savings to the child. Whilst the Minister doubtless proceeded on the assumption that a State, if the children it maintained became eligible to receive the endowment, will reduce its contributions for their maintenance, the bill definitely treats the inmates of orphanages differently from children of parents who can afford adequately to maintain them. In those circumstances, a distinct injustice is being done to a particularly unfortunate section. Is there any logical reason why the superintendent of an institution should not bank/ 5s. a week for each inmate, the money to be regarded as a nest-egg for the child when it leaves the institution ?
– I have already indicated my attitude. The matter will be discussed between the Commonwealth and the States.
– That is not satisfactory. I appeal to the Minister’s sense of fairness. If the money were banked or expended on additional comforts, the State would not be able to reduce its contributions for the maintenance of the children. I urge the Minister to move a suitable amendment in order to avoid this unfortunate discrimination between the children of well-to-do parents and the children who are inmates of institutions.
.- Last night I expressed the hope that at some time in the future the Commonwealth would become responsible not only for child endowment but also for child welfare, which is closely associated with the endowment system. After listening to the discussion which has taken place to-day, one realizes that anomalies may arise in the administration of such legislation which will make it all the more desirable that a child welfare scheme should be associated with endowment. The honorable member for Ballarat (Mr. Pollard) asked the Minister to consider the payment of the endowment to a child maintained in a State institution. The honorable gentleman urged that the money should be set aside so that when the child reached a certain age, in addition to the care given to it by the State institution it would have the sum of money that had accumulated in the meantime. The honorable member, however, must see at once that, if that were done, another anomaly would be created and that such a child would be placed at an advantage as compared with another child cared for in an orphanage which did not Set aside the endowment money. The bill provides for payment to be made to a charitable institution where the child is maintained and, presumably, such an institution may properly use the money for the care and maintenance of the child.
– Not necessarily. There is nothing mandatory in the bill that that be done.
– I assure the honorable member that that is the position in New South Wales at present, and it inevitably must be so when the Commonwealth child endowment scheme becomes operative. It could not very well be otherwise. Under this legislation the endowment will he paid to the institution which may properly use it for the training and upbringing of the child. Where the moneys are so used, there will be no accumulated sum available for the child in due course. If the suggestion of the honorable member were adopted a child in a State institution would be placed in an advantageous position as compared with another in a different class of institution which will be referred to in a later clause.
– The honorable member will admit that there is no obligation on affluent and wealthy parents to expend the proceeds of the endowment on the welfare of their child.
– Whilst the honor-‘ able mem’ber makes what appears at first blush to be a desirable suggestion, he will see upon reflection that if it were adopted it would lead to further anomalies. I consider, therefore, that it would be better to allow the bill to remain in its present form.
– I move -
That the definition of “ half caste “ be omitted.
The reason for this amendment is to ensure that half castes “ shall ‘ have the same treatment as whites.
Amendment agreed to.” ‘
Clause verbally amended.
.- I agree with the Minister that the aministration of this legislation must be the subject of negotiation between the Commonwealth and State governments. The State governments will receive considerable benefits from this legislation. Endowment will be paid under this measure to charitable institutions in probably all the States which accept responsibility for the care of children. Endowment will also he paid to parents or guardians of children in respect of children boarded out, whose financial responsibility for maintenance is accepted by a State government. I express the hope that, when this bill becomes law and payments of endowment com’mence on the 1st July, no State government will seek to diminish the payments it would normally make to institutions or to parents or guardians of boarded-out children.
.- I express the same hope as the honorable member for Robertson. (Mr. Spooner), but I am quite sure that the bill as it is drawn at present will encourage the States to diminish the provision that they now make for children. It is to be expected that the New South Wales Government will not continue its system of family endowment if this bill be adopted. In Victoria, however, the position is different. In that State we have a system under which children are boarded out and the State Government pays to the mother of the boarded-out child an allowance for each child varying between 6s. and 12s. and averaging 8s. It also pays to the mother herself, if she be a widow and receiving boarded-out relief, a small pension of about 10s. a week. The effect of this bill will be to enable the State governments to reduce those allowances. In my opinion, they should not do so.
– They will be legally free to do so.
– Yes. That seems to be a strong reason why the Government should treat the State-maintained institutions on the same footing as private institutions, paying to all alike an allowance for each child. If the Government be not prepared to give consideration to that suggestion, it may find that the Victorian Government will reduce the amount paid in respect of boarded-out children. The point is thatthe State governments will be free to act in this matter as they like. They will be able to treat this endowment as a contribution towards the maintenance of the child, but they will not be bound to do it. If they consider that they are unfairly treated by the Commonwealth, they may reduce the allowances. I rose at this juncture only because I thought what the honorable member for Robertson has said would be an encouragement to the Government not to alter the measure at any time in any way. In my opinion, it should be altered, not necessarily now, but at some appropriate time in order to give to State institutions the same- treatment as is given to private institutions.
Clause, as amended, agreed to.
Clause 5 -
– I move -
That sub-clause (1.) be omitted.
It is proposed to omit sub-clause 1 as a consequence of the creation of the Department of Social Services with a new secretariat.
– The clause calls for some explanation on the part of the Minister.
– I have already explained it.
– I did not hear the Minister’s explanation. The. administration of this legislation is an important matter and should be fully explained, because every honorable member will receive requests for advice and assistance in the lodging of claims. Is it intended, by this amendment, to do away with the proposal for the appointment of deputy commissioners in each of the States, and that this legislation shall be administered by the Pensions Department?
– As I explained at the conclusion of the second-reading debate, the administrative arrangement which the Government has now announced, whereby the general administration of the child endowment scheme is to come under the Minister for Social Services, was decided upon by the Government early in the discussions in connexion with the preparation of this measure. As I pointed out earlier this afternoon, at that time, although there was a Ministry of Social Services, there was no Secretariat of Social Services. The original arrangement to create such a secretariat lapsed with the dropping of the legislation to inaugurate a national insurance scheme. Consequently, when it became necessary to do the preliminary work in connexion with the child endowment scheme the Department of Labour and National Service was asked to undertake it. The Government had in mind as an objective the creation, at an appropriate time, of a secretariat of social service to administer the child endowment scheme. I am not able to inform the honorable member of the detailed internal arrangements with regard to any new staff it may be necessary to recruit in connexion with this scheme. Ministerially, the directions will come from the Minister for Social Services. Mr. Rowe, who has been carrying out all the preliminary work made necessary by the policy which the Government has announced, will be the permanent head of the new secretariat.
– It is desirable that the Department of Social Services should have the responsibility of administering this law. I have no doubt whatever that the expectation of the honorable member for Robertson (Mr. Spooner) that the Commonwealth will increasingly engage in a long-range policy of child welfare services, will be brought nearer realization as the Commonwealth gains experience of the effects of the operation of this child endowment law. As a preliminary to the extension of Commonwealth social services, particularly in relation to child welfare, and the maternity problem and all that goes with it, there will need to be a considerable amount of research. We have not yet engaged in a systematic survey of the cause of disease. We do not know the real causes of malnutrition. Poverty is, of course, one of the chief contributing factors, but we should not be justified in accepting that as a sufficient explanation of the malnutrition that is common in Australia to-day.
– It is not the only explanation.
– Not by any means. The Department of Social Services might, therefore, as part of its functions, establish a bureau of research to deal with such questions as child psychology and problems associated with morbidity, particularly in relation to maternity. The maternal death rate is still shockingly high, having regard to the great progress made by medical science in the last decade. It is highly desirable, in my opinion, that these problems should come within the purview of the Department of Social Services, for, as its title suggests, it will not be limited in any way in making its investigations.
.- Will the Minister inform me whether it is proposed to establish a separate administration in each State? I understood that it was originally intended that the new department should be administered through the Invalid and Old-age Pensions Department.
– The mechanics of that department will be applied, and its staff will be used. Of course, the staff will have to be augmented.
– I take it that it is not intended to organize separate departments.
– It is not.
.- We have been informed that a commissioner has been appointed to administer the child endowment scheme. Has any provision been made for the appointment of a deputy commissioner or other officers whose special duty will be to assist in the administration of this scheme? In this connexion, I urge the Government to give consideration to the appointment of a properly qualified woman, for it must be obvious to everybody that in determining questions concerning the fitness of women, in particular, to receive the amounts payable under this scheme, the advice of a suitably qualified woman would be invaluable. Clause 21 of the bill provides - (1.) Where the Commissioner or a Deputy Commissioner is satisfied that, having regard to the age, infirmity, ill-health, insanity or improvidence or other reasonable cause of disqualification of a person by whom a claim is made or to whom an endowment is granted or payable or any special circumstances of that person or the child in respect of whom the claim is made or the endowment is granted. it is expedient that the endowment be granted, or payment of any instalments of the endowment bo made, to any other person, the Commissioner or Deputy Commissioner may authorize the grant or payment to that other person.
– The bill does not provide that either the commissioner or any other officer shall be a man.
– That is so, but I should be pleased to hear the Minister give an assurance that the advisability of appointing one or more women to the new staff will he carefully considered, for I can see that such a move would be highly desirable. In connexion with the fitness of persons to receive the endowment payments, I need only point out that a woman may be a good wife and yet not a good mother, and vice versa. Another woman may be. both a good wife and a good mother. Magistrates have recognized this for a’ long while. There was a time when a woman found guilty of infidelity was not considered to be qualified to exerelse care over children, but that is not necessarily the case now. We all know that at one period female infidelity was regarded as a capital offence. As it is estimated that about £13,000,000 will be expended annually in child endowment, it is surely not too much to ask that qualified women shall be appointed to the department to deal with those aspects of the administration which could most appropriately be discharged by women.
– There is no provision in the bill which makes it obligatory to appoint either male or female officers. I am quite sure that consideration will be given to the point raised by the honorable member.
– I would like express provision made in the bill as I fear that the Minister for Social Services (‘Sir Frederick Stewart) may be swayed against the appointment pf females.
– The reverse is more likely.
.- The purpose of the amendment now before the committee is to provide that the child endowment scheme shall be administered through the Department of Social Services, which I regard as the appropriate department for the purpose. I consider, however, that this whole scheme will fail unless it becomes some-, thing more than a money-broadcasting enterprise. The scheme will need to be administered with understanding and soul, and, as the Leader of the Opposition (Mr. Curtin) has just said, it will develop as experience is accumulated. I express no opinion, at the moment, on the suggestion of the honorable member for Reid (Mr. Morgan) concerning the appointment of women, for I am sure that the Government will consider that matter in due course; but I ask that consideration be given to the constitution, by the Department of Social Services, of an advisory council of women in order to assist in the administration of this scheme and also of other social .services that may follow it.
– My previous remarks were not meant to suggest the curtailment of any social services which the Government may be contemplating. All I desired was an explanation by the Minister of the administrative methods that are proposed. In the definitions clause - “The Commissioner “ means the Commissioner of Pensions appointed under the Invalid and Old-age Pensions Act 1!)08-1!)40.
The amendment before the committee seeks to delete that provision. I take it that there is no suggestion that the invalid and old-age pensions and maternity allowances are not forms of social services.
– The Government does not admit that they are social services.
– Why does the honorable member say that?
– It has all along refused to do so.
– I do not consider that that is the true position. I desire a little more information, for my own guidance and also for that of other honorable members, in dealing with inquiries concerning the administration of the new scheme. My previous remarks were not intended to be in any way antagonistic to the gentleman who, I understand, has been appointed to administer this scheme. I regard him as a thoroughly capable and sympathetic officer. That has been my experience of him in connexion with another department. I simply desire to be informed of the manner in which the Government proposes to operate the scheme. For example, will the magistrates associated with the administration of the Invalid and Old-age Pensions Act also be called upon to serve in connexion with this measure?
– To some extent, I take it.
– There will be little need for them to act.
– I also wish to know the manner in which payments will be made. The honorable member for Robertson (Mr. Spooner) suggested, during the debate yesterday, that payments should be made by cheque through the post, and not by cash or otherwise to persons calling at local post offices. Information on these points would be of great value to honorable members. I hope that the Leader of the Opposition (Mr.Curtin) does not think that my remarks were in any way intended to circumvent or curtail any additional social services which the Government may have in mind.
– The purpose of the amendment is to delete the definition in the bill of “ the commissioner “, with the object of inserting in its stead the following new clause : - 4a. The Secretary, Department of Social Services shall, subject to any directions of the Minister, have the general administration of this Act.
I hope that that is clear to all honorable members. In reply to the remarks of the honorable member for West Sydney (Mr. Beasley) respecting the employment of magistrates, I can hardly imagine that there will be any necessity for that. The issues that will arise under this scheme are entirely different from those which are constantly arising under the Invalid and Old-Age Pensions Act. Eligibility for child endowment payments will be determined, to a very large degree, by the production of birth certificates and the ages of the children. I cannot see that there will be any need for magisterial inquiries. The mechanics of the Invalid and Old-Age Pensions Department will be used, but, of course, the personnel in the various establishments will have to be increased. The main point is that the complete direction of the child endowment scheme will be under the control of the secretary of the Department of Social Services. As the head of the department, he will also control the invalid and old-age pensions administration, and I hope before very long, some other social services.
– I suggest to the Government that as the officers engaged in the administration of the child endowment scheme of New South Wales have had fifteen years’ experience and have proved themselves to be efficient and sympathetic, it will be advisable to enlist their services, as far as possible, to assist in the administra tion of this new scheme. I believe that their advice and help would be invaluable to the Commonwealth officers who will be required to inaugurate the Commonwealth child endowment plan. I should like an undertaking from the Government that my suggestion will be favorably considered.
.- From the remarks of the Minister for Social Services (Sir Frederick Stewart) I understand that control of the scheme will be transferred from the Department of Labour and National Service to the Department of Social Services.
– That is so.
– I have no objection to that. I am glad also that the Invalid and Old-age Pensions Department will play an important part in the administration of the scheme. It will not be necessary to establish a large new department when the nucleus of the necessary staff already exists. A great deal of expenditure can be saved in this way. I was impressed with the suggestion made by the honorable member for Robertson (Mr. Spooner) that, in addition to the commissioner in charge of the scheme - a sympathetic man whom we all know and respect - there should be an advisory committee of women. That is an excellent idea. I understand that a women’s committee acts in an advisory capacity in connexion with social services in New South Wales. The Commonwealth Government would do well to follow that example.
– The amendment before the committee appears to me to be essential because of the appointment of a secretary to the Department of Social Services, who will replace the Commissioner proposed in the bill. I am sure that the man who has been selected to fill this position will give satisfaction, because he has had a wide experience and has shown that he has a sympathetic outlook. My own view, which was expressed earlier by the Leader of the Opposition, is that the new department will inevitably grow. I hope that it will become the most important Commonwealth department, because it will administer a constructive social service for a growing nation. The
Invalid and Old-age Pensions Department and the Repatriation Department deal with members of the community who have been unable, or who are no longer able, to look after themselves. This new scheme will help future citizens. The proposal for the appointment of an advisory committee of women is a matter for consideration at a later date. According to sub-clauses 2, 3 and 4, the secretary of the Department of Social Services will have considerable powers which will enable him to appoint an advisory committee if it is shown that such is desirable. I believe that every member of the Committee is satisfied that those persons who are charged with the administration of existing social services are best qualified to direct the operations of this new scheme. Most of the representations that have been made to officers in charge of the Invalid and Old-age Pensions Department and the Repatriation Department have been given sympathetic consideration. Any apparent lack of sympathy has been dueto restrictions enforced on the officers by laws for which the Government is responsible. This new scheme will be of great benefit to the growing section of our population on which we rely to maintain our national traditions. The construction of this clause, and of the bill generally, is such as to offer opportunities for sympathetic administration of a great social plan of which I hope the child endowment scheme is only the first instalment. Every member of this committee has reason to be proud of the scheme.
.- I am pleased that the scheme is to be administered by the Department of Social Services, because I believe that the Pensions Department, which will be coopted for the purposes of the scheme, is doing an extraordinarily good job. Aged and invalid members of our community are, in the main, resident in areas of dense population. This will not necessarily be so in relation to those who will benefit from child endowment. For that reason I ask the Minister to ensure that the simplest possible form of application for child endowment shall be adopted. Many of the forms will have to be filled in by residents of remote districts who will not be able to obtain advice readily. I hope also that the Minister will ensure that a large number of persons will be given authority to “witness applications. This also is in the interests of persons resident in sparsely settled districts.
– Birth certificates will provide all the information that will be required.
– I suggest the appointment of at least the same number of persons as have been appointed to witness applications for invalid and oldage pensions.
– I assure the honorable member that a sufficient number of witnesses will be appointed.
– I hope that the agencies that will be used for distributing application forms will include not only post offices but also courts of petty sessions, local authorities, and police stations. If the Government makes it easy for people to make application it will ha ve much less trouble than otherwise. Full details of the proposed administration should be made available to all honorable members at the earliest opportunity. I am. certain that honorable members will be asked for information frequently, and therefore I hope that the Minister will be able to supply us with full information. I take this opportunity to pay a tribute to the man who has been appointed as secretary of the Department of Social Services. I have known Mr. Rowe since he was a Deputy Commissioner of Pensions in Queensland. He possesses, to a marked degree, that fund of sympathy which is necessary for successfully carrying out this kind of work.
.- After listening to this discussion I am not sure that I understand the clause before the committee. As I read it ait the moment, the secretary of the Department of Social Services will be in charge of the scheme. Beneath him there will be the Commissioner of Pensions, the Assistant Commissioner of Pensions, and the Deputy Commissioners of Pensions in the States. Sub-clause 1 of clause 5 is to be deleted, but sub-clause 2 and sub-clause 3 will remain as they are at present. That means that the administration of this scheme in the States willbe delegated to the Deputy
Commissioners of Pensions. Obviously, therefore, it will be impossible to appoint to the position of Commissioner, as has been- suggested, any person who is not designated in the bill, the scheme will he administered in each State, not by a deputy commissioner of social services, but by the Deputy Commissioner of Pensions. So far as the organization of the Pensions Department is applicable, its services will be used to administer the scheme. If special magistrates should be needed, those who are operating under the Invalid and Old-age Pensions Act will be called upon, without prejudice to the power to appoint other special magistrates. The discussion that has taken place seems to have obscured the fact that there will not he a now department operating in each State. The person to administer the scheme in each State will be the Deputy Commissioner of Pensions, who will make use of his present staff with such augmentations as may be considered necessary.
– That is correct.
– Any advisory committee of women could have a valuable place in a, general scheme of social welfare, but I cannot see how one would be of use to this scheme. As the Minister for Social Services has properly said, the only qualification for child endowment that will be necessary will be the fact of existence. This will not be like the invalid and old-age pensions scheme, under which a pension may be withdrawn in certain circumstances. Nothing that a child may do will entitle the Government to withhold endowment payments; all that the Government may do will be to change the person having the duty of receiving and expending the money for the child’s benefit. I cannot see how sympathetic administration will he needed there; but if it should be wanted, I am satisfied that it will be supplied by the persons who have experience in connexion with the administration of the Invalid and Old-age Pensions Act. I should like to see an enlarged plan which would merge with this scheme the functions of the Department of Health and the Department of Repatriation. If such a plan were imple mented, I should then favour the appointment of a women’s committee in an advisory capacity; but it would be foolish to hitch such a committee to the present scheme.
– This amendment proposes to eliminate the explanation of the word “ commissioner “. But in succeeding clauses of the bill it is stated that “the Commissioner “ shall have power to delegate certain authorities. It is proposed also to insert a new clause to provide that the secretary of the Department of Social Services shall, subject to any directions of the Minister, have the general administration of the act. But in the clauses succeeding the one now before the committee, nothing is said to provide that the secretary shall delegate powers to assistant commissioners.
– “Why should he do so?
– Because ho is to have the general administration of the act.
– And the commissioner and deputy commissioners of Pensions will be working subject to his administration.
– Is there to be a commissioner as well as a secretary to the department?
– The Commissioner already exists in the person of the Commissioner of Pensions.
– Will the commissioner delegate authority to the various deputy commissioners, whilst the secretary of the department will have control of the administration, and be responsible for the operation of the scheme ?
– All this will he done subject to the authority of the secretary.
– Then the secretary should be the man to delegate authority.
– The Secretary of the Commerce Department, for instance, does not deal with the humblest messenger on his staff. Other persons have their respective authorities.
– This clause provides that the commissioner may delegate to the assistant commissioner all or any of his powers and functions under this act, but under another clause the secretary is to have control of the administration. The Minister will delegate his authority to some one. The Minister for Health, for instance, has delegated authority to the Secretary of the Health Department who alone can sign certain authorities.
– The Secretary of the Department of Health does not deal with the ordinary medical practitioner in Darwin; the District Medical Officer does that.
– The Secretary of the Department of Health controls the Principal Medical Officer at Darwin, who delegates authority for the admission of certain things under the Quarantine Act. He is subject to the secretary of the department. In this instance it is proposed to appoint a secretary to administer the department, but another clause specifies that the commissioner, who will be a servant of the secretary, shall delegate authority. I agree with those honorable members who have referred to the secretary as an excellent man, but I hope that this step towards social reform is only one of many that will be taken and that before long we shall do something in the direction of the care of infants and child welfare generally.
– The honorable member must confine his remarks to the clause before the committee.
– As to the setting up of a committee, I remind honorable members of the magnificent work that has been performed by women, through their various organizations, throughout the Commonwealth. There are women in Australia who are competent to fill positions on any committee which may be set up to assist in the administration of various social services. I have in mind one woman of outstanding ability-
– Order ! That matter is not now before the committee. .
– The subject of the appointment of women to such a committee was mentioned by other honorable members.
– The honorable member is incorrect. He will remember that I called to order the honorable mem ber who attempted to deal with that matter. The honorable member may not do more than make passing reference to it.
– I shall say no more at this stage than that any such proposal will receive my support. As both the Minister and the honorable member for Barton (Mr. Evatt), who is a constitutional authority, seem to be satisfied with the powers which will be conferred on the secretary, it would appear that the position is amply safeguarded.
.- I am afraid that I do not share the optimism of the Minister and of those honorable members who profess to believe that this legislation will not entail the setting up of a large new department, and for that reason I am concerned about placing the responsibility for the administration of this legislation on those who now deal with invalid and old-age pensions. The 0111 Y provision in the New South Wales act that is missing from this bill, and which might conceivably result in a smaller staff being required, is that which provides for a means test.
– That certainly makes a difference.
– I agree that that provision in the New South Wales act necessitates a lot of work, but I maintain that sufficient work will still have to bo done to warrant the setting up of a substantial department. For instance, in the matter of initial applications and the lodgment of claims a good deal of work will be involved. Does any one imagine that all that will happen will be that a’ person will fill in and sign a form, and almost by return mail receive a cheque? What will happen will be similar to what takes place in New South Wales now in connexion with child endowment and also in connexion with the administration of invalid and old-age pensions. I do not believe that the magistrates iri any of our capital cities who now deal with applications for invalid and old-age pensions will have time to deal with child endowment applications also. Moreover, many important decisions will have to be made - decisions as to the eligibility of aborigines and others. That will involve a good deal of work. There will also be renewals of claims from time to time.
Clause 3.9 provides that the guardian of a child may lose his right to receive endowment payments.
– Does the honorable member intend to relate that clause to clause 5 which is now before the committee?
– I propose to show that the work which will be entailed will justify the establishment of a fairly big department. Clause 19 reads -
An endowment shall be applied, by the person to whom it is paid, to the maintenance, training and advancement of the child in respect of whom it is granted or, in such special cases as are prescribed, in such manner as is prescribed.
That will involve an enormous amount of work in connexion with investigations. Reports will come in from interested people, or anonymously, that certain guardians are not taking proper care of the children for whom they are responsible. These several matters, when taken together, will necessitate the setting up of a fairly substantial department. The passing of this act will probably mean the disbandment of the staff which now deals with child endowment in New South Wales, and, therefore, I suggest that the Government should approach the Government of that State with a view to securing the services of its trained officers who thoroughly understand this class of work. If we accept the view of the Minister that the officers who now deal with invalid and old-age pensions can have this work superimposed upon their present activities without any increase of staff, we may find that when the need for assistance is realized the trained staff of the New South Wales department will not be available.
The honorable member for Parkes (Sir Charles Marr) has stated a valid objection to the drawing of this clause. I have studied the bill, but I cannot see in it any reference to the nature of the duties which will devolve upon the secretary to the department, except that he will, subject to the direction of the Minister, be responsible for the general administration of the act.
– Lots of things will have to he done “ as prescribed “. The secretary will be associated with those matters.
– I have no doubt that he will put in 44 hours a week on the job. If, however, as the Minister seems to suggest, the work under this legislation can be adequately performed by the present staff which deals with pensions-
– Not the present staff.
– The Minister said that he did not expect any considerable growth of the staff.
– I did not say anything of the kind ; I have no illusions on that point.
– The duties of the secretary should be clearly defined. All decisions are to be made by commissioners and deputy commissioners or other persons to whom powers are delegated by them. There is need for an amendment setting out the duties of the secretary; I suggest that wherever the word “ commissioner “ now appears, the word “ secretary “ should be inserted.
– The honorable gentleman should examine the bill to see the effect of his suggestion.
– -The person to whom is entrusted the general administration of an act should be the person authorized to delegate powers. I regard the power of delegation as one of the greatest powers conferred on any officer. What would be the position if there were disagreement between the secretary and the commissioner regarding some administrative matter?
– In that event, the secretary, who is the superior officer, would, make the decision.
– That is not set out in the bill.
– It will be contained in the new clause which has been referred to.
– The secretary is to be placed in charge of the general administration of the act, but he is not to be the final court of appeal in disputed cases.
– All he will be concerned with will be general administration which, I think, means the preparation of the general scheme, and the drafting and amendment of regulations.
– In the case of important decisions the commissioner may find himself in conflict with the secretary, and there is not one clause in the hill which gives the secretary power over the commissioner or deputy commissioners. There is nothing to indicate that the authority of the secretary shall prevail. Apparently, the commissioner and his deputies may exercise their own discretion, and ignore the ‘ secretary altogether. The secretary should have power to control the officers and to dictate policy.
.- I point out to the honorable member for Dalley (Mr. Rosevear) that one of the several amendments which have been circulated covers the point he raised. The authority of the secretary is no more likely to impinge on that of the commissioner in regard to child endowment than it does now in respect of old-age pensions. Parliament, by the passage of this bill, will delegate certain of its powers directly to the commissioner, who may, in turn, delegate them to assistant or deputy commissioners. Apart from those specific powers, certain other powers are associated with the general administration of this legislation, and those powers will be exercised by the secretary, or permanent head of the department.
– Does that mean that, in respect of certain matters, the secretary is to have no authority whatever over the commissioner or the deputy commissioners ?
– That is the position now in regard to many other matters. In certain instances, a commissioner appointed under legislation is responsible only to Parliament. Sometimes even the Minister has no control over him.
– The secretary will have authority over the framing of regulations.
– That is so. There are some powers which it would not be right to delegate to a commissioner. It is here proposed that there shall be an intermediary between the commissioner and the Minister - in this case the secretary, or permanent head of the department.
I am inclined to think that there is a tendency to underrate the difficulties of administration in connexion with this scheme. I agree that there will not be anything like the same complications as in the administration of old-age pensions, or of the New South Wales scheme of child endowment. The absence of a means test will eliminate a great deal of administrative work,but much will still remain. There will be much work associated with the recording of births and deaths and verifying the attainment by children of the age of sixteen years, who thus cease to be eligible for endowment. The commissioner will also, in order to protect public funds, guard against attempted fraud. All claims will have to be checked in order to determine whether or not a child is eligible, and to ensure that two claims are not put in for the same child. Frauds of that kind are certain to be attempted. I do not suggest that the Minister should recast the bill at this stage, but I predict that, within a few months, it may be found necessary to separate the administration of child endowment from that of old-age pensions. I know that, at the present time, Australia cannot afford to eliminate the means test in relation to old-age pensions, but its presence tends to create a psychology in officials which causes them sometimes to regard claimants as suspect. I make no charge against the officials. It is their duty to see that claimants prove their claims, and this necessity sometimes makes them severe. I should not like to see the same atmosphere surround the administration of child endowment as that which now surrounds the administration of old-age pensions. Child endowment should be properly associated with child welfare, not with pensions, and I hope that it will be found possible later to set up, under the Department of Social Services, a separate system of administration for child endowment.
Amendment agreed to.
Clause, as amended, agreed to.
Clauses 6 to 13 agreed to.
Clause 14 -
An endowment may be granted to an aboriginal native of Australia or a half-caste unless -
the Commonwealth or a State contributes to the support of the child in respect of whom the endowment is claimed.
Amendments (by Mr. Holt) agreed to -
That, before the words “ An endowment “, the following words be inserted, “ Subject to this Act”.
That the words “ or a half-caste “ be omitted.
Amendment (by Mr. Holt) proposed -
That paragraph (b) be omitted with a view to insert in lieu thereof the following paragraph : - “(b) the child in respect of whom the endowment is claimed is wholly or mainly dependent upon the Commonwealth or a State for his support.”
.- The effect of this amendment, I understand, is to liberalize the provisions of the scheme so as to make endowment payable to aborigines to whose support a government contributes, unless they depend wholly or mainly for their subsistence upon such contributions.
– That is so.
Amendment agreed to.
Clause, as amended, agreed to.
Clause 15 (Claims).
. -Will the Minister inform me whether it will be necessary to support, with a certificate of birth, an application for the payment of endowment? In large families, endowment may be claimed in respect of eight or nine children. If the parents be compelled to support each claim with a birth certificate, the cost to them of obtaining such certificates will be considerable.
– If a birth certificate be already in the possession of the parent, the applicant will be required to produce it; otherwise, the department will secure it from the Registrar-General without cost to the applicant. Until that arrangement can be carried out, however, a declaration from a responsible person, as is provided in sub-clause 2, or in his absence, a postmaster or policeman, will be accepted.
Clause agreed to.
Clause 16 (Special provisions as to payment of endowments).
.- Under the Invalid and Old-age Pensions Act, a Deputy Commissioner has discretion to fix the date from which a pension shall be paid. Often, before an application is approved, considerable delay occurs for reasons for which the applicant is not responsible. The discretionary power vested in the Deputy Commissioner enables him to fix for the commencement of payment a date which, in his opinion, is reasonable. Clause 16 deals with special provisions relating to the payment of endowment, but it does not specifically state that endowment shall be paid from the date on which the application is made. Whilst the fact that a child is born creates the right to endowment, the bill does not establish the date from which the endowment shall be paid.
– Endowment is payable from the date of birth.
– Some delay may be caused in establishing the exact date of birth. Is the Minister satisfied that all claims will be paid from the date of the application ?
– Yes, that is definite. No application will be prejudiced by the fact that delay occurred within the department itself either in determining the claim or in making payment.
– Is it the intention of the Government to pay the endowment as from the date of application, provided, of course, that the application is valid?
– Yes, but not before the 1st July next.
.- When an invalid or old-age pensioner applies for a pension, some weeks may elapse before the department completes its inquiries into the application, and when it is approved, the pensioner ‘is usually given two pays on the following pay-day. The bill provides that endowment may be paid in respect of a child for any period commencing on or after the date of application, or the date of birth, whichever is the later.
– Application may be made before the birth of a child.
– A person, who may be unavoidably delayed in lodging his claim, should not be penalized. In my dealings with invalid and old-age pensioners, I have encountered many instances of hardship. People in destitute circumstances may apply for a, pension and many weeks may pass before their claim is approved. Instead of receiving the pension from the date of application, which may have been three months before, they are paid only for the previous fortnight.
– The bill allows for three months’ grace.
– The period of three months dates from the lodgment of the claim, not from the time that the department deals with it.
– I come now to another matter. A family comprising father, mother and two children may be living in dire poverty, and the grandparents may agree to maintain one of the children. In ordinary circumstances, endowment would be payable in respect of the second child. If, as in this instance, the parents were not responsible for the actual maintenance of one of the offspring, would the department decline to pay endowment?
– No. One child would be eligible to participate in the benefits. As I have already indicated, it was not possible to include in the bill the multitude of unusual cases which will possibly arise. Such matters will be dealt with by regulations, which Parliament may be able to consider before the scheme operates.
– A child who is eligible to receive endowment may become an inmate of a State institution, such as a hospital, for a long period. In that event, the institution, not the parents, would be responsible for his maintenance. Would the department continue to pay endowment in respect of that child?
Clause agreed to.
Clause 17 -
Upon the grant of an endowment it shall be paid to such person, in such instalments and in such manner as are prescribed.
– I move -
That all the words after “ paid “ be omitted with a view to insert in lieu thereof the following words: - “ - (a) to the mother of the child in respect of whom it is granted; or
in such eases as are prescribed, to such persons as are respectively prescribed. “ (2.) An endowment shall be paid in such instalments and in such manner as are prescribed.”.
The amendment establishes the general principle that in normal cases, endowment shall be paid to the mother.
– I congratulate the Minister upon this amendment, which is the central feature of the bill. It will no longer be necessary to deal with this matter by regulation.
– The endowment would not be paid to the mother in special cases, such as unworthiness.
– That is so.
.- This amendment is a small tribute from the National Parliament to the mothers of the nation. I should like the Minister to inform me whether the endowment will be paid fortnightly.
– The matter is under consideration, but it is proposed to make optional the extension of payments to longer periods, if some families prefer to receive the money quarterly or halfyearly.
.- Does the Government propose to authorize the payment of child endowment by cheque, if the recipient so desires?
– That matter is under consideration, and the Government’s decision will be communicated to honorable members when final arrangements have been made.
Amendment agreed to.
Clause, as amended, agreed to.
Clause 18 (Endowment to cease in certain circumstances).
.- If a child under the age of sixteen years obtains employment, will endowment be continued ?
– It is not intended that such children shall be excluded from the benefits of the scheme.
– I understand that endowment will be paid in respect of each child under the age of sixteen years except in the case of a female child who marries before reaching that age. I take it that if a child under the age of sixteen years obtains employment, the payment of endowment will be continued.
– That is so.
Clause agreed to.
Clauses 19 to 21 agreed to.
There shall be payable out of the Consolidated Revenue Fund, which is hereby appropriated accordingly, such sums as are necessary for the purpose of paying endowment at the rate of Five shillings in respect of each child in excess of one, maintained by any person, and in respect of each child maintained by any institution.
Amendment (by Mr. Holt) agreed to-
That, after the word “ shillings “, the words “ per week “ be inserted.
Clause, as amended, agreed to.
Clauses 23 to 26 agreed to.
The Commissioner shall furnish to the Minister annually, for presentation to the Parliament, a report of the administration and operation of this act.
Amendment (by Mr. Holt) agreed to-
That the word “ Commissioner “ be omitted with a view to insert in lieu thereof the words “ Secretary, Department of Social Services,”.
Clause, as amended, agreed to.
Clause 28 agreed to.
New clause 4a.
Motion (by Mr. Holt) agreed to -
That the following new clause be inserted: - 4a. The Secretary, the Department of Social Services, shall, subject to any directions of the Minister, have the general administration of this Act.
Title agreed to.
Bill reported with amendments; report adopted.
Motion (by Mr. Holt) proposed -
That the bill be now read a third time.
– I am sure that the House would like some expression of appreciation, and, indeed, of admiration of the Minister for the labour he has expended on this bill and for the notable place which this monumental legislation will give him in the annals of this federation.
Honorable Members. - Hear, hear!
– in reply - I sincerely thank the Leader of the Opposition (Mr.Curtin) for his words of appreciation and those other honorable gentlemen who have so generously subscribed to them. Whilst a great deal of work has been involved in connexion with this measure, it has been lightened by the splendid assistance I have received from the officers of the Public Service associated with the proposed child endowment scheme. They have co-operated with me loyally and willingly. Indeed, some of them have been genuinely enthusiastic about the scheme. It is a matter for congratulation that the passage of the bill through the House has been so greatly facilitated by the attitude of honorable members opposite, and by the support which has come from all parts of the House. With the Leader of the Opposition,we can regard this bill as a notable contribution to the Australian national and social economy. I trust that it will not stand out conspicuously because of its solitude, but that, as the years pass on, it will find congenial companionship with other social reforms even more notable in their turn.
Question resolved in the affirmative.
Bill read a third time.
Debate resumed from the 26th March (vide page 288) on motion by Mr. Harrison -
That the bill be now read a second time.
.- The object of this bill is to amend the Raw Cotton Bounty Act 1940, which provided for the payment of a bounty on raw cotton produced during the years 1941-45 inclusive. Under that act, the basic rates of bounty for each succeeding year were fixed at 4¾d., 4½d., 4¼d., 4d. and 3½d. per lb., respectively, when the Liverpool spot price of American middling cotton was 6d. per lb. That legislation received the unanimous support of the Opposition. My only objection to it was that it contained a limitation in clause 6 (1) which read as follows: -
The total amount of bounty paid under this act in respect of raw cotton produced during any one calendar year shall not exceed the sum of£150,000.
I said then that it was a mistake to impose such a limitation, as it would confine to about 25,000 bales the crop in respect of which the bounty would be paid. The consumption of cotton in Australia this year will be about 70,000 bales, but local production is estimated to yield only about 15,000 bales. It is obvious that there is room for considerable expansion of this industry, and to encourage the grower the bounty should be paid on the maximum production of any one year. The Queensland Cotton Board, comprised of representatives of the growers, has been very concerned about the disturbance of the world cotton markets as the result of the war, and this bill becomes both urgent and necessary. The basis upon which the raw cotton bounty is paid each week is Liverpool spot price; but the basis upon which the board sells to Australian spinners is the Australian import parity price. Under normal pre-war conditions, the Liverpool spot price and the Australian import parity price were practically the same, but to-day there is a disparity which fluctuates from Id. to 3d. per lb. That, of course, means that the growers do not get the full benefit of the bounty. The Liverpool price, upon which the bounty was based, is 2d. per lb. higher than the Australian import parity price. The growers sell on the lower figure and get the bounty on the higher figure, and at present incur a loss. I am glad the Minister has introduced this measure to correct that anomaly. The Queensland Cotton Board made an alternative proposal for the rectification of this anomaly, but the Government did not see fit to accept it, and has brought forward the proposal contained in this bill, which, I think, will meet the situation and will be readily accepted by the board.
M.r. Harrison. - “We are arranging for the spinners to confer with the board.
– That is a good decision. This measure is particularly urgent, because the cotton is coming into the ginneries and it is necessary for the Queensland Cotton Board to arrange finance in order to pay the growers. The banks are hesitating about making the necessary funds available until this matter is completed. As the board is compelled to work on its own insufficient resources, it is extremely urgent that this measure should be passed without delay. The cotton crop is late this year owing to the absence of spring rains, the uncertainty of ‘the season, and late planting. It is becoming more apparent every day that the only solution for under-production is n big national scheme of water conservation and irrigation. Funds will have to be made available for this purpose, and as the cotton industry plays a very important part in defence preparations, the Commonwealth Government should give serious consideration to this matter without delay. The total area under cotton in Queensland this year is 70,000 acres. There are 4,000 growers. Last year 40,000 acres was under cotton,’ and there were 2,000 growers. Although there has been a reasonable increase of the acreage and of the number of growers, production falls far short of what is required to meet Australian demands for raw cotton. The subject of water conservation and irrigation for the growing of cotton has received serious and favorable consideration in other countries with beneficial results. In the United States of America, which is the greatest cotton-growing country in the world, 10 per cent, of the cotton crop is grown under irrigation. On irrigated land, the average production is 1,500 lb. of seed cotton to the acre, whereas in the dry areas it is only about 350 lb. In other words, the yield from irrigated land is five times as great as the production in dry areas. On irrigated land the average production in Queensland has been 1,200 lb. to the acre, whereas dry areas yield only 350 lb. to the acre.
– What area of cotton is under irrigation in Queensland to-day?
– Speaking from memory, I should say about 2,000 acres. The Queensland Government has done a great deal to encourage water conservation and irrigation during the last two or three years. In accordance with a definite undertaking, it is obliged to do much more than it has so far been able to do. The cost of fully implementing the undertakings it gave to the Commonwealth Government when the Raw Cotton Bounty Act 1940 was passed providing for a basic rate of bounty for five years, will be at least £650,000. It also gave an undertaking in writing that its plans for the improvement and efficient conduct of the cotton growing industry would permanently and exclusively provide for -
When the policy is in full operation very beneficial results will follow.
– The implementing of the policy has been too long delayed, and the programme is proceeding at too slow a pace.
– It is all very well for the honorable member to make such a statement, but everything cannot be done in a moment.
– The honorable member should agree with what I have said.
– The Government of Queensland has agreed to do its utmost to ensure complete co-operation of its own Department of Agriculture, the Queensland Cotton Board, and the cotton-spinners; and theDepartmentof TradeandCustomshasalsoagreedto co-operate in respect of all matters affecting the supply, at all times, of raw cotton of the types needed by the Australian users. The honorable member for Morton should know that in the last three or four years active propaganda has been engaged in by the Queensland Department of Agriculture to encourage better cultural methods. Considerable assistance has also been given to growers in the provision of free advice and so on. If we could double, or treble, these activities, the production of high quality seed cotton would be much accelerated.
– The honorable member should be advocating such a policy.
– I can only assume that the honorable member for Moreton is facetious. He is still not conversant with the activities of the Queensland Department of Agriculture and Stock. No one has done more to collaborate with the Minister for Agriculture in Queensland than have the members of the Queensland Cotton Board and I, and no one is more interested in the production of cotton in Queensland than is the State Premier and the Minister for Agriculture, who have done everything possible, with the representatives of the Commonwealth Government and ‘ the officials of the Trade and Customs Department, to increase cotton production. The Government of Queensland agreed wholeheartedly to the proposals made by Mr. Townsend, the representative of the Commonwealth Government, in connexion with the introduction of better cultural methods and the provision of water conservation and irrigation schemes in Queensland. In these circum stances it is not necessary for any honorable member to criticize or advise the Queensland Government, for it is fully alive to the needs of the situation. I am well aware of the position of the industry, for 80 per cent. of the cotton growers of Queensland are in my electorate. I know their outlook. They appreciate all thatis being done for them.
– That does not alter the fact that we are not making sufficient progress with irrigation projects.
– It is all very well for armchair critics to make such statements. The Queensland Government now has the matter well in hand ; but the Commonwealth Government must see that the necessary money for the work is provided. The fact is that representatives of the Queensland Government and also of the Trade and Customs Department are working in the closest collaboration with the Queensland Cotton Board. We all should like to achieve 100 per cent. efficiency, but unjustified adverse criticism is not likely to help towards that end. I am satisfied that the Queensland Department of Agriculture is doing its utmost to assist to solve the various problems that still confront the cotton-growing industry. Enthusiastic and expert assistance is being given to the growers. The Queensland Government is fulfilling to the fullest degree possible the undertakings it has given to encourage an increase of production and an improvement of the quality of the cotton grown. A cotton research station has been established for the specific purpose of accelerating all activities designed to this end, and also of recommending improved cultural practices. This body is also providing expert advice for growers in respect, of the new problems that will face them when the change is made from dry fanning to irrigation. The experimental station is located in my electorate and when I visited it recently I met an officer from the Waite Research Institute of South Australia who, as a soil expert, is rendering valuable assistance to the cotton-growers in the Dawson and Callide Valleys.
Many of the initial troubles of this industry have been overcome. I have in mind, particularly, cultural problems associated with the production of the required types of cotton, and with crop rotation. The difficulties that still have to be faced relate to the disadvantages associated with an uncertain rainfall and with rain falling at the wrong time. It is interesting to learn that in certain parte of. -the United States of America and also in Soviet Russia, Egypt and Peru, five times the quantity of cotton is being produced from the same area under irrigation as was produced under dry farming conditions. When we have solved our water conservation problems, I have no doubt that similar results will be achieved in Queensland. It is necessary, however, that water conservation and irrigation shall be regarded as a national responsibility. State governments must always be hampered in dealing with these problems in a comprehensive way, for they have not sufficient financial resources to do all that needs to be done. I consider that money should be provided for this work through the Commonwealth Bank. I believe that if the resources of that bank were drawn upon for this purpose, such progress would be achieved as would make possible the settlement of a very much larger population in our cotton-growing areas. Eighteen or twenty years ago the population of the Burnett, Callide and Dawson valleys consisted of perhaps 20 or 30 pastoral families, whereas to-day thousands of settlers have congregated there, many of whom are growing cotton as part of their mixed farming operations. These settlers had to clear the scrub and plant their cotton between stumps in order to establish themselves, but they have shown great courage. Many of them have established dairy herds and engaged in pig raising and agricultural pursuits of one kind and another, with the result that to-day they are comparatively prosperous, but they have found that they must diversify their operations. The production of cotton is difficult owing to seasonal uncertainty. For that reason I appeal to the Government not to depend altogether upon the efficacy of our bounty legislation in order to ensure the establishment of the cottongrowing industry and its expansion on a sound basis. I suggest that the Minister for Trade and Customs should confer with appropriate mem- bers of the newly-elected Queensland Government in order to ascertain the progress being made in water conservation and irrigation projects, and what further assistance from the Federal Government is necessary. I have been informed by members of the Queensland Cotton Board that, through the’ assistance granted by the Government of Queensland about 50 individual irrigation plants have already been established as a preliminary to the big schemes envisaged in connexion with the conservation of the waters of the Dawson, Fitzroy and Burnett rivers. One scheme which involves the conservation of the waters of the Dee river, at Wura in Central Queensland, will probably involve an expenditure of £400,000 but it would result in 60,000 acres of irrigable land .being used for cottongrowing under irrigation. Water conservation and irrigation are absolutely essential to the full development of the cotton-growing industry. I hope that the .Commonwealth Government will not be satisfied to rest upon the results that will flow from the current five-year bounty scheme. The Minister for Trade and Customs is, I know, a busy man, and it is difficult for him to keep in touch with the many industries that are being developed in Australia; but I suggest to him that he should confer with the Premier and Minister for Agriculture of Queensland, on matters of vital interest to the cotton-growing industry and also that he should take steps to bring before a Premiers Conference the necessity for developing comprehensive water conservation and irrigation schemes.
Question resolved in the affirmative.
Bill read a second time.
Clauses 1 and 2 agreed to.
Clause 3 (Rates of bounty).
– This clause contains some remarkable provisions which, in the committee of a differently constituted House, would undoubtedly be discussed at some length. The clause provides, in effect, that if the Minister for Trade and Customs is of the opinion that, after taking into account the bounty payable at the rates provided, the average net return to any grower for the year ended the 3lst- December, 1941. or the 31st December, 1942, from all raw cotton of higher grades than that known as “ strict good ordinary “ and from all raw by-products of such cotton is, or will be, less than 12½d. per lb. of raw cotton, such additional amount of bounty shall be payable to the producer as may be necessary to increase his average net return to 12½d. per lb. of raw cotton. I may be completely in error, but it seems to me that under this clause the Minister will be able, without reference to Parliament, to increase the rate of bounty. The clause is most unusual in its terms. How would any Treasurer be able to budget his expenditure if bounty legislation of this nature became common? I suggest that the committee should seriously consider whether the Minister should be given such unlimited power. I have recollections of Parliament agreeing to the payment of bounties on the production of wheat, wine and other commodities, but until now I have never heard it suggested that unlimited power in regard to the amount of bounty should be given to a Minister. It is customary for this committee to know what it is doing; we do not know who may be the Minister in charge of this bounty. He may be misinformed and arrive at a wrong estimate of the final return from the cotton crop. It may happen that the bounty paid will be in excess of the rate of 12½d. per lb., by-products included. This is a rather slip-shod way of doing things. I do not wish to reflect in any way upon the ability of the present Minister, but I maintain that no Minister should be given this power. The custodians of the public purse - honorable members of this chamber - should not agree to signing an open cheque like this.
– I understand that, whilst the Minister will have certain powers under this clause, there will be a limit to the amount of bounty payable annually.
– That is so.
– That limit is imposed by clause 2, and this committee will therefore be protected.
Clause agreed to.
Title agreed to.
Bill reported without amendment; report adopted.
Motion (by Mr. Harrison) proposed -
That the bill be now read a third time.
.- I should like to have the favour of a reply from the Minister to a question asked at an earlier stage of the consideration of this bill. Discretion is left with the Minister to fix the rate of bounty. It is due to the House that the Minister should explain precisely how the powers of the Minister are limited. The appropriation of public moneys on a large scale is, above all other matters, something for the Parliament to decide. I ask the Minister, therefore, what steps have been taken to safeguard the Treasury as to the amount of bounty that may be paid.
– in reply - I did not reply to the point raised in committee by the honorable member for Barker (Mr. Archie Cameron), because the pith of the matter was contained in the observations of the honorable member for Lilley (Mr. Jolly). The public purse is safeguarded by clause 2, which sets a limit to the amount of bounty that will be payable under this measure. In this bill the Government seeks merely to preserve the conditions that were agreed to by Parliament in 1940 - that is to maintain a price of 4.3d. per lb. Had the honorable member listened to my second-reading speech he would have heard me stress the fact that a disturbance of the world’s cotton market has rendered this legislation necessary in order to protect the income of the growers, and to save the industry from a serious set-back. The bill will have the effect of ensuring an average net return to the producer in respect of the 1940-41 crop of 12½d. per lb. on raw cotton, after taking into account profits on oil and cattle fodder made from cotton seed. This price was determined after taking into consideration the effect on the industry of war-time conditions and the decision of Parliament last year to ensure to the growers a price for seed cotton equivalent to 4.3d. per lb. The public revenue is definitely safeguarded by the fact that the Minister cannot pay bounty above the total amount set out in the bill.
– In clause 2 the annual amount of bounty payable is increased from £50,000 to £70,000.
– That is so.
Question resolved in the affirmative.
Bill read a third time.
Debate resumed from the 26th March, 1941 (.vide page 256), on motion by Mr. Harrison -
That the hill be now read a second time.
– The Opposition will not oppose this measure, but it will be critical of certain of its features. The bill is to approve a trade agreement entered into between the Commonwealth Government and the Government of Southern Rhodesia. Like other trade agreements it was signed before being brought before this Parliament to be ratified or rejected. The representatives of the people are not consulted until after the deed has been done.
– That is not a new procedure.
– It has precedents, but it is objectionable from the point of view of honorable members who are not members of the Government and who represent interests that will probably be adversely affected by certain provisions of the agreement.
– Other interests will definitely benefit.
– I realize that trade agreements necessitate compromises between the parties to them. They please one section of the community and displease another; it is impossible to make a trade agreement that will satisfy every industry. In common with other honorable members I was pleased to read in the press that the Southern Rhodesian Minister for Agriculture (Captain Harris) came to Australia soon after the Delhi Conference and initiated negotiations with the Commonwealth Government for a trade agreement between Australia and Southern Rhodesia. I have discussed this matter with officers of the Department of Trade and Customs, and they are of opinion that- the agreement, looked at broadly, will be of mutual advantage to both countries; I understand that the Minister for Trade and Customs (Mr. Harrison) holds the same view. I admit that up to the present Australia has not taken much interest in Southern Rhodesia. For some years past the representatives of that country have been desirous of entering into a trade agreement with the Commonwealth. They did not. succeed earlier, because it was considered that an agreement would have an adverse affect upon one or two Australian industries.
– What goods will Australia import from Southern Rhodesia?
– The Minister mentioned tobacco, asbestos and chrome ore. These are virtually the only Southern Rhodesian products for’ which a market exists in Australia. At the present time this country has a special interest in Southern Rhodesia, because many young Australians are in that country as trainees under the Empire Air Training Scheme. Southern Rhodesia has been noted for many years for the production of a highgrade Virginian tobacco leaf suitable for both cigarettes and pipes, and it has built up a considerable export trade with other countries. I am afraid that the importation into Australia from Southern Rhodesia of tobacco leaf grown by black labour will impose a handicap on local tobacco-growers. I have taken a keen interest in the Australian tobaccogrowing industry. Ten years ago, when. I was Minister for Trade and Customs,. J convened a conference of representatives of the industry as the result of which a protectionist policy was adopted by theScullin Government. That gave a great stimulus to tobacco production in Australia, and within a few months more than 6,000 tobacco farms came into existence and an area aggregating thousands of acres was cropped. In suitable districts, for tobacco-growing the unemployment problem was completely solved, although Australia was at that time in the depths of the depression. But unfortunately the government which succeeded the Scullin Administration had a different fiscal policy, and one of its first acts was to slash the protective duties that had been imposed in the interests of the tobacco industry. The price of leaf fell by 2s. 6d. per lb. as the result of an arrangement made by the then Minister for Trade and Customs, the late Sir Henry Gullett, with the Australian manufacturers. This meant that the growers received about £300,000 less than they would have received had the previous year’s prices been maintained. The tobacco-growing industry could be of great importance to this country, but because there has not been continuity of adequate protection it has been in the doldrums for many years. The tobacco combine which was importing leaf from other countries- took an unsympathetic view of the local industry. It had entered into contracts and knew where it could obtain its supplies, how many ships a year would bring the leaf to Australia, and the approximate price, which was always a low one. It did not want to send buyers all over Australia in order to obtain locally grown leaf. At the time when the Scullin Government came into office, buyers did not bother to inspect locally-grown crops; but I saw the day, and the honorable member for Gwydir (Mr. Scully) will verify my statement, when two or three buyers visited each tobacco farm in Australia in order to compete for the crop, with the result that there was a substantial increase of prices and a greater area was devoted to the production of tobacco. I believe that this is an industry in which the honorable member for Forrest (Mr. Prowse) believes that there should be adequate tariff protection.
-Surely the honorable member does not say that there is not adequate protection of the tobacco industry now !
– Since the high protection of ten years ago was slashed, there has been, at times, inadequate protection of this industry. At one stage, the honorable member for Forrest (Mr. Prowse) lent some assistance to it when he voted for an increased duty on tobacco. We must remember that Southern Rhodesian tobacco leaf is grown under black-labour conditions. Is this reduction of the duty on tobacco the thin edge of the wedge; will it lead to further substantial increases of imports of black-grown tobacco? These are points which I should like the Government to consider carefully. The present duty on tobacco leaf which is used in the making of manufactured tobacco containing not less than 15 per cent. Australian leaf is 5s. per lb. Under this agreement, that protection will be reduced to 4s. 3d. per lb. in respect of leaf from Southern Rhodesia.
– That tobacco will still not be landed here under from 4s. to 6s. per lb., which surely is adequate protection.
– A good deal depends on the price of the leaf in Southern Rhodesia. I have ascertained from the Trade and Customs Department that the price in that country is equivalent to about 2s. 3d. per lb. in Australian currency. The honorable member for Gwydir (Mr. Scully), who has carried out a good deal of research into this subject, says that Southern Rhodesian leaf has at times brought only 8d. or10d. per lb. Is there any likelihood of prices falling to those rates in the future? Should that happen, will importations of tobacco leaf from that country increase, thereby injuring the struggling Australian industry? The duty on tobacco leaf used in the making of manufactured tobacco containing less than 15 per cent. of Australian leaf is 6s. 6d. per lb. Under this agreement, it will be 5s. 9d. per lb. in respect of tobacco from Southern Rhodesia. Tobacco leaf used in the manufacture of cigarettes using less than 3 per cent. of Australian leaf is now subject to a duty of 8s. 7d. per lb. Under this agreement, it will be reduced to 7s.10d. per lb. on tobacco from Southern Rhodesia.
– In view of the fact that we must restrict dollar purchases, what would the honorable member suggest as a means of supplying Australian consumers with tobacco?
– If I were the head of the department, I would lay down. a longrangeplan of development of the local tobacco-growing industry. I would never have tolerated the reductions made in the protection by the Lyons Government. I would have this subject brought before the next Premiers Conference. It is of sufficient importance for that to be done. We should know what assistance is necessary, and what can be done to stimulate local production, so that Australia may supply a much greater percentage of its tobacco requirements.
– The present duties should be a sufficient stimulus.
– I fought hard to have the duties increased far beyond the rates at which they were eventually fixed by the late Sir Henry Gullett. When the duties were slashed during his regime as Minister for Trade and Customs, thousands of growers of tobacco went out of production because representatives of the tobacco combine ceased to buy Australian leaf, with the result that prices slumped. The honorable member for Maranoa (Mr. Baker), who represents the tobacco-growing centre of Texas, knows the position there. He can substantiate my statement that, because of a policy of vacillation, growers of tobacco could not rely on the duties remaining stable for any definite period. Because of lack of confidence, many of them went out of production, and it will be difficult to induce them to return to tobacco-growing. Experience has shown that in times of crisis some industries can be established on a firm footing, which, in normal times, would not have been possible. That has been our experience in regard to many secondary industries, and the same thing has happened in other countries. For instance, the Government of South Africa placed a complete embargo on the importation of tobacco leaf from other countries in order to establish the industry locally. Each year Australia uses about 26,000,000 lb. of tobacco leaf. At the present time we are using tobacco in greater quantities than we are producing it. The following statement shows the production of Australian tobacco leaf for the period 1928-29 to 1940-41 : -
In 1930-31 the Scullin Government put into operation a policy which so encouraged the local production of tobacco that the yield increased from 1,795,900 lb. in 1930-31 to 12,202,400 lb. in 1931-32.
– That was practically half of the tobacco consumed in Australia.
– That is so. At that time Australia consumed about 20,000,000 lb. of tobacco leaf annually; since then the consumption has grown to 26,000,000 lb. After the Scullin Government went out of office, the tobacco combine made representations to its successor for a change of policy in relation to tobacco, with the result that the duties on tobacco leaf were reduced, and the combine refused to buy any but the pick of the Australian crop. The local production of tobacco leaf fell from 12,202,400 lb. in 1931-32 to 9,498,000 lb. in the following year, and to 3,294,200 lb. in 1933-34. The quantity of Australian tobacco leaf used by manufacturers has increased from 1,323,100 lb. in 1928-29 to 5,973,000 lb. in 1939-40. The effect on the industry of the changes of policy is seen in the figures relating to the number of registered growers. In 1929 there were 668 growers of tobacco in Australia. That number increased to 5,600 in 1933 following the imposition of higher duties by the Scullin Government,but, following successive reductions of the duty on tobacco, only 1,669 growers are now registered. The industry became unprofitable because for a number of years successive non-Labour governments encouraged the importation of blackgrown tobacco to Australia. The Labour party believes that the tobacco industry can be economically and efficiently established in this country if the whole of the Australian market be given to local producers. If the present yield from Australian tobacco farms is inadequate to meet the demand, the reason is that so many growers were driven out of the industry by the reduction of the protection afforded to them. The Government should grapple with this problem by conferring with representatives of the growers and discussing it with the Premiers of the States. There is no reason why Australia should not produce high-quality tobacco leaf. In the initial stages of most industries difficulties are encountered, and it may be that this industry has something to learn about cultural methods and the selection of the right types of tobacco. Those difficulties will be overcome if the growers can rely on having the whole of the Australian market. I realize that the agreement with Southern Rhodesia cannot be altered, but I enter this protest because I do not know that, at any time, the Minister may not sign another agreement which will result in additional quantities of black-grown tobacco entering this country to the detriment of the Australian industry. At any time that genial gentleman, Captain Harris, the Southern Rhodesian Minister for Agriculture, may say that the duties on tobacco leaf grown under his direction should be reduced by more than 9d. per lb. I remind the House that in Southern Rhodesia black labour is available at about 9d. a day, and that as rice is cheap the cost of tobacco-growing there is not nearly so great as it is in Australia where higher wages must be paid and better conditions provided in all industries.
– Apparently the honorable member is not concerned that concessions ha.ve been given to Australian secondary industries by the Southern Rhodesian Government.
– At the moment I am speaking of tobacco, a subject to which I have given more attention than has any member on the Government side in this Parliament. What I considered to be the right thing to do I followed up with action. I was very critical of governments that strangled this industry at the behest of the great importing interests which did not desire to use the Australian product.
The Minister entered into this agreement behind the back of ParliamentDoes he now propose to do something else behind the back of Parliament? If he does, what will be the consequences to Australian tobacco-growers? As the result of the world crisis and the .difficulty of obtaining supplies from abroad, they are making new arrangements with financial institutions, putting their savings into clearing and fencing additional areas, and adopting improved methods of culture in order substantially to increase production. Will they not be discouraged by the Minister’s proposal ? The Miriam Vale district between Bundaberg and Gladstone, produces some of the best tobacco in Australia. But instead of a mere handful of farmers being engaged in growing the leaf, the sons of dairy-farmers, who find it impossible to make a reasonable living . from the industry on limited areas, should be cultivating tobacco on their own account. This live industry should employ many thousands of Australians. Therefore we are opposed to any action being taken that will jeopardize the local industry. But the hands of honorable members are tied in connexion with this agreement. If they amend the agreement, they render it null and void. The representative of the Commonwealth Government having signed the document, it cannot now be torn up. Mr. Harrison. - There is nothing to prevent Parliament from refusing to ratify the agreement.
– -The Australian Government is committed to the agreement, because it bears the signature of the Minister. Whenever a trade agreement has been signed, the responsible Minister has informed the House that the document must be accepted or rejected in toto. My complaint is that the Government did not consult the Australian tobaccogrowers before completing the negotiations for the importation of leaf from Southern Rhodesia. Whilst I have most kindly feelings towards every British possession, I cannot overlook the fact that black labour is employed in Southern Rhodesia, and the standard of living there is lower than the standard in the tobaccogrowing districts in Australia. Unfortunately the Minister, without consulting the tobacco-growers, reduced the protective tariff. Will the new duties be further reduced when Parliament is in recess, or six months hence? To what lengths is the Minister likely to go, and what will be the consequences of his action to Australian tobacco-growers? It is because I am fearful of what mav happen to the industry in the future that I sound this not”- of warning.
.- The important industry of tobacco-growing has been pushed from pillar to post by various administrations during the last decade. That the protection which was granted by the Scullin Government gave every encouragement to the industry at the time, is manifest in the rush to grow tobacco in Australia; and the increase of production during the operation of the heavy differential protective rates applied to Australian-grown leaf, proves my statement. Production increased enormously, and if it had continued at the same rate, it would have presently supplied the whole of the requirements of the local market. That might have been a little violent. The closest attention should have been paid to growing the correct varieties, and to the proper curing and maturation of the leaf; but such essentials were not properly observed at that time.When another government too violently reduced the differential protective rates growers encountered hardships, because they had invested in the industry considerable sums of money, upon the assurance of a continuation of the protection granted by the Scullin Government.
– I am glad to learn that the honorable member has been won over to the protective policy of the Government.
– The Country party believes in the principle of a revenue tariff; and tobacco is the first item upon which a. revenue tariff should be imposed. A reference to Hansard will disclose that I contended, when a former Minister for Customs, the late Sir Henry Gullett, revised the tariff, that the violent fluctuation of the protective rates was detrimental to the industry. Even if Australia grew sufficient quantities of tobacco to meet the requirements of the local market, the product should still contribute and maintain the present revenue to the Commonwealth Treasury. In my opinion, enough tobacco can be grown in Australia to satisfy the demand here; but tobacco-growing is probably the most technical and difficult branch of agriculture. The grower must have an intimate knowledge of the subject, possess the right kind of seed, and employ proper methods of culture. Scientific investigation in the Commonwealth has practically succeeded in ridding the industry of blue mould, which was a terrible handicap. I severely criticized the action of the late Sir Henry Gullett when he violently reduced the tariff. As a result of his policy, men who had spent thousands of pounds upon the construction of kilns and in development for the production of tobacco, became hopelessly in debt, simply because they had banked upon a continuity of the then existing rate of protection. However, the Government acted wisely by providing £20,000 a year to defray the cost of sending scientists and experts to the tobaccogrowing States to assist growers in their difficult task of producing the right a rticle. During the last few years the proportion of first-class leaf grown in Australia has increased by more than 100 per cent. As an experienced tobacco-grower and smoker for many years, I contend that Australian tobacco hasbeen held in disfavour largely because the leaf is too green when it is prepared for use. Like wine, tobacco requires a lot of maturation. If growers allowed the leaf to mature for two or three years, its quality would be equal to that of American leaf.
My principal object in participating in this debate was to inform the Government that the south-western portion of Western Australia contains some excellent country for tobacco growing. From this area, the finest leaf produced in Australia is taken, and with encouragement, the growers could increase their output. If the Commonwealth Government will assist them with advances so as to enable them to open up new country, they will make a substantial contribution towards overcoming the shortage of supplies in Australia. A paragraph in this morning’s press reported a tobacco famine in England. As shipping to and from Australia is now greatly restricted by the war, I foresee for certain a tobacco famine in this country. I make no complaint about the trade agreement with Southern Rhodesia. By increasing the number of trade agreements with other countries, we reduce the possibility of war in future, and add to our prosperity. Unless we have reciprocal trade with other countries, we cannot hope effectively to occupy this continent.
Sitting suspended from 6.14 to 8 p.m.
Debate (on motion by Mr. Baker) adjourned.
Administration of Minister for the Army.
– by leave - I move -
That so much of the Standing Orders be suspended as would prevent the honorable member for Barker (Mr. Cameron) moving forthwith the motion of which he had given notice for the next sitting.
To-day, the honorable member for Barker (Mr. Archie Cameron) gave notice of a motion which he proposed to submit in connexion with the internment of enemy aliens in Australia. I regard the subjectmatter of the motion as of such importance that it should be disposed of expeditiously, and I am therefore taking this step to provide the honorable member with an opportunity to move it. I do so at the particular request of the Minister for the Army (Mr. Spender), who is the Minister named in the motion. We are at war, and the administration of the Minister for the Army has been challenged. Consequently, it is considered by myself and by other members of the Government, particularly the Minister for the Army, that the matter should be cleared up without delay.
Question resolved in the affirmative.
– I move-
That the Minister for the Army has lost the confidence of this House because of his handling of the internment, trial and release from internment of certain enemy aliens.
The circumstances in which I submit this motion to-night are unusual, and I am acting, not from choice, but from necessity. I have endeavoured by every method available to me to get certain matters in regard to the internment and release of enemy aliens attended to by the Government. I appreciate the action of the Acting Prime Minister (Mr. Fadden) and the Minister for the Army (Mr. Spender) in giving me this opportunity to bring the matter to the attention of the House. On the 29th November of last year, Statutory Rule No. 269 was issued over the signature of the Minister for the Army. On the following day, the 30th November, there were published in the Commonwealth Gazette certain National Security Regulations, also over the signature of the Minister for the Army, and only last week another regulation, dated the 19th March, was published in which vital changes of procedure were introduced. This House, in my opinion, ought to demand to know how these regulations ever came to be issued. So far as I have been able to discover, their origin is shrouded in dark and awful mystery. The regulations provide for the hearing of appeals by interned enemy aliens against their internment, and the hearings are behind closed doors. The regulations deal with one section only of interned persons, namely, enemy aliens. I desire to draw a clear line of demarcation between interned persons who are our own nationals, either by birth or naturalization, and those who are citizens of an enemy country. In respect of the former, I say without equivocation that they are entitled to all their rights under the law, even in time of war, but the position is very different in respect of alien civilians who are citizens of a country with which we are at war and who happened to be in Australia at the time war broke out. Under international law - if one may use the term at this time of international turmoil - such persons enjoy no rights whatever in enemy territory. They are subject to whatever conditions the country in which they find themselves at the outbreak of war cares to subject them to. Several varieties of persons are interned in Australia to-day. The Minister, in his reply, should state clearly the purpose of the regulation which I am challenging. In the opinion of responsible persons, such as police and army officers, who are charged with maintaining internal security, the release of some aliens has been contrary to the best interests of the country. The Commonwealth, under Statutory Rule 269, has put itself in the hopelessly ridiculous position of appearing before a tribunal to defend its own actions. The Commonwealth should not be under any obligation to apologize for what it has done in the interests of national security. It should not be in the position of a defendant when an enemy alien appears before a tribunal to support his application for release from internment. Such a person is not accused of any crime. He is not interned because he is a criminal, but because we are at war with the country of which he is a citizen, and because, in the opinion of those men who are charged, and rightly charged, with the maintenance of national security, he is, or is capable of becoming, a danger to the nation. Five weeks before I came here, I was transferred from the section of the Army to which 1 had’ belonged to the Adjutant’s Branch, in which capacity I attended the hearing of applications before some of these tribunals. I have nothing to say against the tribunals as such. They are doing the job set them, and they were not given very precise instructions as to how to do it. They were presided over by Mr. Book, K.C., and Judge Clyne, both of whom went to extremes in their efforts to be fair. If the Lord lacks lieutenants on Judgment Day, I should say that Mr. Book will be appointed to preside over one of the tribunals, while Judge Clyne will be given an appointment as Celestial Prosecutor. Let us consider what activities an enemy alien may engage in if he is released. ,He may engage in espionage or in sabotaging transport or industry. He may be a collector or transmitter of information. He may sabotage the morale of the community or interfere with recruiting. That being so, it stands to reason that enemy aliens who are capable of bearings arms, or of collecting or transmitting information, are better off interned than at large. The proper place for them, unless something very definite be shown to the contrary, is in the custody of the Army in an internment camp. We have a very happy-go-lucky method of dealing with these matters, and I am convinced that the time is not far distant when Parliament will have to take a more realistic attitude towards them. The feather duster method which we have adopted is not the enemy’s method. Only to-day we read in the press that a British officer interned in Germany had been shot dead for putting his head out of a window contrary to camp orders. Nothing of that sort happens here. The kid glove, “pansy” method of handling aliens may eventually have awkward consequences. Let us consider for a moment the kind of men who are in the internment camps to-day. Taking first the Germans, some of them are dyedinthewool members of the Nazi organization. Some claim to be anti-Nazi, but on those claims there must rest grave doubts. Some of them are half-German and half-Jew. Others again are Italian Fascists, including Italians who took leading parts in the Abyssinian war as members of the Italian Air Force. One man, who was responsible for sinking 81 British ships during the last war, is an applicant for release under this regulation. I ask the House whether a man of that type ought to be at liberty in Australia to-day. I could amplify this list, because I have attended the hearings, and have seen what goes on. One man described, himself as a language teacher, and while it is probable that he had been engaged in teaching German, he was also one of the leading men in the German wireless organization in Australia. Is he the sort of man who should be released under Statutory Rule No. 269 so that he might get in touch with enemy raiders operating off the coast of Australia? Certain Jewish refugees also have been interned, and a lot of “ hot air “ is being talked about them. I have heard talk of “ friendly aliens “. I do not know what a friendly alien is. I know that when my country is engaged in a life and death struggle with Germany and Italy any man of German or Italian birth is an enemy alien. If he is friendly to this country, then he must be a traitor to his own, and I do not think it is our part to encourage treason. In addition, certain neutral nationals are in internment, as well as persons of British and Australian citizenship.
We should try to look at this matter from the enemy’s point of view. We have here in Australia, in the internment camps, active members of the Nazi party, and active members of the Fascist party. What is the first responsibility of those men? What is the first question Hitler or Mussolini would ask them if the Axis were to win the war? Surely ft would be this : “ What did you boys do during the war while you were in Australia”? In a court of law in Melbourne I heard the Crown Prosecutor say that the law of God and man justified certain enemy aliens who had escaped from custody breaking into houses and stealing and killing other people’s sheep in order to feed themselves after their escape, because it was in the interest of their country that they should try to escape. Enemy nationals owe it as a duty to their country to put us to the greatest possible inconvenience, to do everything to injure us that we are foolish enough to allow them to do. They are doing that very successfully to-day. If the Minister or I had been caught in Germany or Italy at the outbreak of the war would we have been given permission to appear before a tribunal of this kind?Would we be given the right to appear before a tribunal to state reasons why we should be at large to. spy on or sabotage the war effort of our enemy? That proposition is too laughable for discussion. I know what I am talking about when I say that the aliens who appear before the tribunals established by this Government think that the Australians have a very funny government. What is even worse is that social pressure is being brought to bear on the tribunals in order to secure the release of certain people who, prior to the war, figured prominently in the social or business circles in the different State capitals. When this country is at war it should not matter what an interned alien’s social position or business connexions were before the war broke out; if his activities are likely to prejudice the war effort, he should be kept under restraint. The better educated and the wealthier he is the greater is his opportunity for becoming a potential danger to this country if he be allowed his liberty.
– Does the honorable member know any of the people who have used their influence tosecure the release of alien internees?
– I could supply the names of some of them, but I do not propose to do so. Certain people, particularly one or two highly placed women in Melbourne, during their visits to the internment camps, have broken practically every regulation framed by the Government for the proper control of interned aliens. The refugees in this country have certain ideas about their treatment here. They do not want their condition in this country to be disclosed to the German or Italian Governments. Yet, highly placed busy-bodies have smuggled letters and cables out of the camps which have disclosed to enemy governments overseas and to authorities in communication with enemy countries things which this Government rightly has determined should not be disclosed to anybody without the consent of the aliens concerned.
Now we come to the hearings before these tribunals. I think that honorable members should look carefully at the rules of procedure promulgated on the 30th November last. Provision is made for the asking of a list of 22 questions, many of them containing a number of paragraphs. Everything is gone into, from the man’s family connexions to his’ political affiliations and occupation before coming to this country. Apparently nothing is left to chance. The information elicited by these questions is already known to the intelligence section. Thanks to the lack of foresight of the predecessors of this Government-, when the war broke out the intelligence section had to be expanded by pressing into service untrained men. Under the stress of war the Defence Department had to go out into the highways and byways to secure suitable men to undertake difficult and delicate intelligence jobs.
– The honorable member himself was a member of governments which were the predecessors of the present Government.
– I do not lose sight of that. I have no regrets for anything I have done or failed to do in that regard. When it becomes necessary to expand an organization of this type under the stress of war, and we have to rely on untrained men it is necessary to be all the more careful in regard to the way these things are handled. The hearings of these tribunals do not elicit anything more than information as to the political beliefs of enemy aliens prior to their arrival in Australia or of refugees before their country was invaded by Italy or Germany. These things have nothing whatever to do with the security of this country.
– Will the honorable member read his motion.
– The honorable member for Barker has been given leave to submit this motion of which he gave notice this morning -
That the Minister for the Army has lost the confidence of this House because of his handling of the internment, trial and release from internment of certain enemy aliens.
– Certain enemy aliens whom the honorable member accuses the Minister of having released ?
– Certain releases have been made under the tribunal system which should never have been permitted.
– By the Minister or the tribunal ?
– The Acting Prime Minister cannot trap me in that way. I am exercising my right as a member of this Parliament to. criticize the Minister’s handling of this matter. I have been attached to these tribunals as a military officer, but I shall not permit myself to be placed in a position of using information which comes to me in the course of my military duties to inform the House of things that have taken place.
– The honorable member appears to have done something which is far worse. The honorable member has allowed it to be construed that if he were at liberty to disclose the information-
– -Order ! The House has given leave to the honorable member to submit a motion; he must be heard in silence.
– There are certain questions which the Government must answer in regard to these tribunals. The first question is in relation to their cost, which is but a small matter compared with certain other things. Six tribunals have been established by the Government. The chairman of each tribunal receives £7 7s. a day and each member receives, I believe, £5 5s. a day. A Clerk of the Court, a Crown Prosecutor, and four shorthand writers are attached to each tribunal. All of this expense, coupled with the cost of transporting applicants and witnesses - and that is pretty considerable - has to be borne at a time when we are imposing heavy taxes on the people of this country in order to finance the war effort. Although the people are prepared to accept the imposition of heavy taxes for war purposes, they will not countenance waste, and the wastage of time and material that takes place under this tribunal system is considerable. Men of the forces are diverted from important jobs in order to prepare evidence for submission to these tribunals. Battery staff cars and lorries are kept running to and from the camps, and men are taken away from their training and other duties in order to guard and transport the applicants for release from internment. All this is taking place at a time when we should be straining every nerve to put this country in a state of defence. The tribunal system is making still more difficult the task of those responsible for the internal security of this country. Every enemy alien released by the Minister under this tribunal system must needs be watched by the police.
– How many enemy aliens have been released?
– I do not know.
– Does the honorable member think that police surveillance is sufficient?
– No. Released aliens will need watching by other people also. It is extremely doubtful whether there is any approach to uniformity in the methods adopted by the tribunals for the hearing of cases. In the interests of national security, it is very important that there should be uniformity in these proceedings. In the hearing of his case an enemy alien is entitled to engage counsel to appear on his behalf. As some aliens are not so well versed in English as others, it is reasonable to assume that the alien who is able to brief counsel will be placed in an advantageous position. As the tribunals operate to-day, the scale is weighted in favour of the internee who can afford to brief counsel to state his case.
I must confess that I am simply amazed at the contents of clause 8 of the regulation issued by the Minister about a fortnight ago. That clause gives the alien the right to have his appeal heard in the State in which he is arrested. Whenever that right is exercised, the Department of the Army will have to escort the applicant from the place of his internment to the State in which he was arrested, and in addition will be called upon to bear the cost of transporting witnesses. I submit that that is not a fair charge on the taxpayers of this country. If this system be continued - I trust that it will not - the proper thing for the Government to do is to arrange for the tribunals to sit at the internment camps. Why should members of the Military Forces be compelled to set aside cars and lorries for the transport of aliens to and from Tatura and Melbourne in order that these cases may lie heard in the capital city? That system should not be allowed to continue. I am not one of those who think that aliens should be kept in an internment camp for the duration of the war without regard for their future. I believe that a half-yearly report should be made to the Minister by a competent authority on changes that may have taken place affecting the circumstances of enemy aliens. That report could be prepared without all the unnecessary paraphernalia of court proceedings. The system of appeal tribunals is too costly. All of the expense associated with the system cannot be stated in pounds, shillings and pence, and I have no intention of attempting to state it.
I wish to make one other observation, in conclusion.
– What about giving us the facts?
– I do not intend to deal with individual cases for I do not think that I should do so. I am entitled to say, however, that the motion of which I gave notice concerning this regulation was dated the 3rd December, 1940, which was before the tribunals were established. I have since had the opportunity to observe their working, and I say that Parliament should not suffer their existence for one day longer. A better, less costly, and more effective method to deal with enemy aliens should be devised. Knowledge of the inequalities of the present system, and of the manner in which certain people are working for the release of internees, would lead any one to the conclusion that the tribunals are altogether undesirable. The more rapidly the system is abandoned the better, for sooner or later, if it be continued I am certain that something will happen. Comment was made in a Sydney newspaper which reached Canberra to-day concerning a certain case. I do not intend to go into it in detail, for I do not know anything about it; but it has been stated that an Italian lady, the wife of the chief Fascist in Australia, has been granted permission to return to Italy. I do not know who decides such matters. I do not even know whether this lady had been interned. What I do know of my own knowledge is that altogether too much of the kid-glove method is adopted in dealing with these cases. Parliament, and the Government, should realize that the country is at war. While we are at war, men who are capable of taking any action against the security of the nation, whether as to its forces, its economic arrangements, its morale or any other aspect of its life, should be concentrated in one place, and that is an internment camp, where they will be under proper guard. That is my opinion and I leave it at that. If, after what I have said, honorable members choose to retain the present system of dealing with internees, they will do it with their eyes open. I had no doubt from the moment this system was introduced that the results of it could not possibly redound to the welfare of the country or help the nation in its war measures, and would simply permit to remain at large in the community persons who were able to take concerted measures in the interests of the country in which they were born and to which, in heart and soui and mind, they belonged, regardless of what they might say before an appeal tribunal.
– Is the motion seconded ?
No honorable member seconding the motion -
– As there is no seconder the motion lapses.
[8.35 J. - by leave - In view of the charge which the honorable member for Barker (Mr. Archie Cameron) has been pleased to direct against me, and of the atmosphere in which the charge has been levelled, I think it proper that
I should make a statement. The honorable gentleman who has made the charge is not only an ex-Minister of the Crown, but also an ex-service Minister. This morning he gave notice of his intention to submit a motion directed against myself. It set out, in effect, that I had lost the confidence of the House, and sought my censure in respect of the administration of my department in relation to the internment, control and release of certain enemy aliens. The honorable member suggested in his proposed motion that I had been either incompetent or negligent, or perhaps even worse, in the discharge of my duties in certain respects. In public life a man must needs meet criticism, and public men are not afraid to face criticism; in fact they should invite it, if it be properly founded. But for a person to direct a charge of this description against a service Minister in a time of war, and to challenge his right to occupy his position, and then fail to substantiate his charge in any way is unpardonable. If such a procedure should become common public life would become untenable ; it would be expecting too much to ask a man to devote himself to public life in such circumstances.
I listened with interest to all that the honorable member had to say, and I now declare that his action this morning was taken purely on the spur of the moment. He did not care a penny piece about the harm his remarks might do me. Whenever mud is thrown, some of it sticks ; but the honorable member cared nothing about that when he levelled against me his charges of incompetence, negligence or even worse. I say deliberately that his action was completely without justification. It is almost incredible that such action should have been taken in the Parliament. Honorable members who listened to his speech this evening will realize that not one word of what he said could properly be directed against me. All the honorable gentleman did was to challenge a certain system, one which I am prepared to support. His charge against me, as he well knew, will be published throughout the country. Whenever such a charge is made it takes a long while to overtake and rebut it. I hope that during my life I shall not stoop so low as to make a charge against a man and then fail to bring one tittle of evidence forward in support of it.
– Why deal with it?
– As the charge has been made I think I should deal with it, particularly as my administration of the Department of the Army in relation to the principle governing the trial and release of aliens is at issue.
I do not make any comment at the moment about the fact that the honorable gentleman occupies a dual position in this House. When, towards the end of last year, he asked me whether I had any objection to his occupying a position in the Army, I said that I had none. I believed that he would discharge his functions properly.
– I did not ask the honorable gentleman about my occupying a position in the Army.
– Perhaps the honorable member’s recollection is short. The fact remains that he holds a dual position as a member of Army Intelligence and also as a member of this House. It may be that at some time the House may think it proper to express an opinion as to whether it is desirable that a member of Parliament should occupy an active position in the Army, and, if so, under what conditions. However that may be, when this matter arose this morning 1 indicated clearly where I stood. I believe that the honorable member had carefully one by one counted the statutory fifteen days from the time when he lodged his objection to the regulation. At any rate, he came and told me that, in fact, the tribunals which had been set up were now defunct and that the regulation was null and void. I had not, however, been asleep in relation to this matter. The Government had important business to occupy the attention of honorable members yesterday and to-day, and to have given precedence to the motion of the honorable member would have meant that the other business would have had to be postponed. I think the honorable member will admit that I informed him that although his view was that the alien tribunals no longer existed in law, and had no legal authority, my view was that the days that had passed between his notice of motion and the tabling of the regulation could not be counted, and that, therefore, the tribunals were still effective. Despite what I said to the honorable member, he saw fit to take this course of action and to level his charges against me. I say deliberately that when a service Minister in time of war has charges of this nature hanging over his head, no matter who he may be, he is not able to continue to shoulder his problems and do his work as he would desire to do it. My industry was not challenged and my probity - well, I did not know whether it had or had not been challenged. I was left in doubt until the honorable gentleman made his motion this evening, when I found that he had not a scintilla of evidence to bring forward against me on any ground whatever. Although the honorable member must have known that such a charge against a person would affect his ability to do his work, he did not care. Nor did he care what effect his motion might have upon the country or, for that matter, upon the Empire, or how it might be construed at home or abroad. His sole concern was to indulge his peculiar megalomania in order to get some notoriety out of his action. For my part I shall be prepared at any time I lose the confidence of the House or of the people to take the course of action that any other honorable member would take in such circumstances. Consequently with this charge hanging over my head I informed the Acting Prime Minister, who thoroughly agreed with me, that in my opinion the matter should be brought before the House and determined at the earliest possible opportunity. In other words, I desired my conduct in respect of the control or release of aliens to be investigated without delay.
I propose now to say a few words on the general issue. I can deal with the matter only in general terms, and I think I should, because of the publicity which may be given to it. I draw attention, in the first place, to the difference between the two types of tribunal that have been set up. One of them is a special body to hear appeals by British-born, or naturalized, subjects; the other is a tribunal set up to hear appeals by aliens, whether enemy or not. As to the first class of tribunal, the honorable member has made no challenge. He considers that the right and proper thing has been done in that connexion. Of course he passed very quickly over the fact that among the naturalized people in this country there might be many who had taken out naturalization papers so that they might, in a friendly country, do, in the easiest possible way, what they wanted to do in the interests of their own country to which they, in fact, gave allegiance. The honorable member apparently had no objection to such persons being granted the right to approach the appropriate tribunal. As to the aliens, the position he takes up is that even though a person might have left his own country in order to escape from Nazi oppression, even though another might have lived in Australia for 20 or 25 years, such persons, must be denied the right of any appeal.
The regulation against what the honorable member has spoken was gazetted in order to implement a Cabinet decision, and, as honorable members know, Cabinet decisions automatically cancel personal opinions. Nevertheless, I express my own opinion that the principle embodied in the regulation is fair and just. If we are fighting for anything in this war, we are fighting for the elementary principles of justice. The honorable member has made no challenge whatever against the probity or ability of the men who sit on these tribunals. Apparently he believes that there is only one authority which should be consulted in relation to the release of an alien, and that is Army Intelligence. I make it plain that I have the utmost confidence in the ability and industry of the members of the Intelligence Branch of the Army, ‘but all men are human, and the fact that certain British subjects have been released after proper inquiry, reveals that mistakes were made. It is because mistakes might have been made that justice must be ensured. In a time of war our sense of justice must not be blunted in respect even of aliens.
What takes place in connexion with these alien tribunals? The aliens’ tribunal makes its recommendation not to me but to the appropriate Command. If the Command disagrees with the recommendation of the tribunal, then the matter is referred to me. I think I am correct in saying that those who have been released as the result of investigations by the aliens’ tribunal have, with the exception of a very few indeed, been released with the concurrence of the Command. Those cases have not come to me. I knew nothing of them. Of those which have come to me, I believe I am correct in saying that I have authorized no releases. Some are pending now, and in respect of them I have asked Army Intelligence to express an opinion before I give my final judgment. How else could any man act?
As to the matter of costs involved, surely these must be seen in their true perspective. I am prepared, if need be, to inform honorable members of the exact cost of these aliens’ internment appeal tribunals. I am not in possession of the figures at this moment, but I assure the House that the total is not very great. I venture to say that the price is a small one to pay in order that we may be true to the principles for which we stand.
I come now to the only specific matter which the honorable member for Barker mentioned. He referred to a woman called Fanelli. My attention was drawn to this case, as reported in a newspaper, by my secretary within the last hour or so. I believe that some journal published an item about the release of this woman. The decision as to whether she should be permitted to go overseas was not a matter primarily for the Department of the Army; but no doubt my department was consulted in order to learn whether it would be in the best interests of national security that she should be released. The matter was not referred to me. It would be referred, of course, to the proper military command, which would express an opinion as to whether national security was likely to be prejudiced by permitting her to leave these shores. So much for the only charge of a specific nature which has been made by the honorable member.
Every honorable member will agree that it is not possible for a man to discharge all of his public duties to the satisfaction of every body; none of us could hope to do that. At times, no doubt, it is difficult for us even to appear to give satisfaction to a majority of the people. All honorable members are aware that Ministers of the Crown have many problems to deal with, and this is particularly true of Ministers in charge of service branches. However, we discharge our duties to the limit of our abilities. I have always done so. If public life has been reduced to a condition in which a man may rise in his place in this chamber, and take upon himself the responsibility of levelling serious charges at a man against whom, when he is examined, he has nothing to say, it has reached a very low level indeed.
– by leave - After hearing the statement of the Minister for the Army (Mr. Spender) I am sure that honorable members are convinced that their time has been wasted when we should have been dealing with more important business. When the honorable member for Barker (Mr. Archie Cameron) to-day made his specific charge against the Minister for the Army - a charge which he made no effort to substantiate - during the course of his statement to-night, I, as temporary Leader of the Government, was naturally very concerned; I was particularly concerned because the charge was levelled against a Minister who has been 100 per cent, loyal, 100 per cent, valuable to his country, and 100 per cent, industrious in the interests of the Government, the War Cabinet and myself since I have been entrusted with the responsibility that now rests upon me. Consequently, I am greatly relieved to know that the statement made by the honorable member for Barker has been such that the good name and record of the Minister for the Army for giving valuable service to his country at this time have not been depreciated one iota, but if anything, have been enhanced. There is nothing that I need add to the straightforward statement of the Minister who has been the subject of this attack. No evidence has been adduced to support the charge against him. Not one item has been submitted to this House, either by implication or otherwise, that would cause any honorable member to think that the Minister for the Army has lost, in any respect, the confidence of this House or of any section of the Australian community.
Debate resumed (vide page 553).
.- I protest against the ratification of the trade agreement between Australia and Southern Rhodesia, which was recently signed by the Minister for Trade and Customs (Mr. Harrison), and which he now asks the House to approve in this bill. The agreement contains a provision whereby tobacco from Southern Rhodesia will be allowed to enter the Commonwealth under a preferential tariff rate of 9d. per lb. I join with the Deputy Leader of the Opposition (Mr. Forde) in protesting on behalf of a considerable number of my constituents who will be adversely affected by this provision. Furthermore, I protest against the manner in which the agreement has been made. The functions of Parliament appear to have been abrogated. Instead of being submitted to Parliament in the ordinary way, the agreement was entered into before this House was notified. Why this unseemly haste? I contend that the Government took this action at the behest of that great combine, the British-Australasian Tobacco Company Proprietary Limited.
During the regime of the Scullin Government the high tariff which it imposed in order to protect the tobacco growers of the Commonwealth caused the rate of production to increase to five times the rate of former years. Suitable land was sown, thousands of men found new employment, and the industry prospered exceedingly. However, when the Scullin Government went out of office about nine years ago the tariff was reduced, and as a result the industry languished; in fact, the consequence to the growers was disaster. When I travelled through southern Queensland and northern New South Wales towards the end of last year, I saw many deserted homes and tumbledown sheds on formerly cultivated land that had returned to its primitive state. The cause was not drought or a grasshopper plague. It was something worse than either of these natural scourges; it was the machinations of the British-Australasian Tobacco Company Proprietary Limited. This great monopolistic combine had placed its lethal hand upon that fair land. The desolation that I saw reminded me forcibly of Goldsmith’s description of a deserted village, beginning with the words : “ There, where a few torn shrubs the place disclose”. When the protective tariff was lowered, only a very small percentage of the choicest leaf was bought in Australia. Recently, there was a slight recovery in the industry and a considerable amount of disused land was planted again. Now, however, there will be another serious relapse. The decision to give a tariff preference of 9d. per lb. to tobacco grown in Southern Rhodesia will strike a dangerous blow at the Australian industry. In Southern Rhodesia tobacco is grown by black labour; the natives receive only a coolie’s rate of pay - about 8d. or 9d. a day. How can Australian workers, with their higher standards of living, compete with that? For years past the BritishAustralasian Tobacco Company Proprietary Limited has been attempting to secure the entry of tobacco from Southern Rhodesia into the Commonwealth at preferential rates; apparently it has succeeded at last. The annual consumption of tobacco in the Commonwealth is 26,000,000 lb. At a rate of 2s. per lb., this would be equivalent to an amount of £2,600,000 a year, and if the market were supplied entirely by Australian tobaccogrowers, the industry would provide employment for approximately 30,000 workers. Is that not worth considering?
– There is nothing to prevent the Australian growers from selling their leaf. The market is there.
– Within two years local production could be increased sufficiently to provide all the tobacco that would he required in the Commonwealth. The newspapers have joined in this hunt which will throw thousands of Australian workmen into unemployment. Perhaps the object that the Government has in view is industrial conscription. On the 31st March, the Sydney Morning Herald published an article which stated that there was an acute shortage of tobacco in Australia, and that many Sydney shops lacked supplies. It attributed the following statement to the secretary of the Retail Tobacconists Association : -
Although it was felt that, with the number of men leaving Australia, smoking would diminish, the demand has actually increased.
It was suggested that Rhodesian imports should be increased. If we imported the whole of the Rhodesian crop, this, with the whole of the Australian crop, would leave us 10,000,000 to 12,000,000 tons of leaf short.
That final statement might have been a printer’s error; at any rate it is wonderful propaganda for the BritishAustralasian Tobacco Company Proprietary Limited. The voice in this matter is the voice of the Minister for Trade and Customs, but the hand is that of the British-Australasian Tobacco Company Proprietary Limited, whose published profits last year amounted to approximately £1,000,000. Australian industry is getting nowhere, because this Government is under the thumbs of the great financial combines. This agreement, if ratified, will force many Australian workers to take their swags on the roads. In answer to a question asked to-day, the Minister for Trade and Customs said that there were in Australia stocks equal to the local demand for a whole year. But the honorable gentleman did not point out that those stocks are held by the manufacturers, not by the retail agents. I am uncompromisingly opposed to this agreement.
.- I am definitely opposed to the trade agreement which the Government now asks this House to ratify. Such agreements should not be entered into lightly by any government, unless those persons whom the agreements vitally concern are first consulted. No intimation was given to the tobacco-growers, or to the producers of other commodities mentioned in the agreement, that their interests would be considered in any way. The Labour party will not attempt to prevent the ratification of the agreement because it believes that an undertaking entered into with another member of the British Commonwealth of Nations should be honoured. Nevertheless it feels strongly on the subject. The basis of the agreement is the desire of the British-Australasian Tobacco Company Proprietary Limited to import into Australia tobacco from Southern Rhodesia where it can be procured cheaply. For some time that company has been agitating for a preferential rate on tobacco from that source.
– The BritishAustralasian Tobacco Company Proprietary Limited has not the sole right to import it.
– That may be, but that company manufactures 95 per cent, of the tobacco which is consumed in Australia. Three or four years ago it began its agitation for a preferential duty on Southern Rhodesian tobacco. The matter came before the Tobacco Advisory Committee which, however, rejected the proposal after careful consideration. Now, however, without any consultation with the growers, or regard for the future of the Australian industry, the Government has entered into this agreement and asks Parliament to ratify it. Ever since the Scullin Government went out of office successive governments have done everything possible to destroy this great Australian industry. I represent a district in which large quantities of tobacco are grown, and I know that many growers have worked unceasingly for the development of tobacco-growing in Australia, and at great inconvenience to themselves, have attended conferences in Canberra and elsewhere with a view to assisting the industry. Unfortunately for the growers, the only buyer of Australian leaf is the British-Australasian Tobacco Company Proprietary Limited which, having a virtual monopoly, is able to offer to the growers whatever price it chooses. It will pay 3s. per lb. for the choicest leaf, but the fact remains that the average price paid for Australian tobacco leaf last year was less than ls. 5d. per lb. How can any one expect Australian growers of tobacco to pay the basic wage and provide decent conditions for employees if their product has to be sold at that price ? Only a few days ago, after negotiations lasting for a considerable time, during which a request was made that tobacco should be appraised along the lines of the wool appraisement scheme, the British-Australasian Tobacco Company Proprietary Limited refused to pay 2s 6d. per lb., but ultimately it consented to an advance on last season’s price of ls. 5d. per lb. by approximately 20 per cent. That Australian leaf is equal to any leaf produced elsewhere in the world has been definitely proved. One Australian manufacturer is willing to make an affidavit that 70 per cent, of the best Australian leaf is sold as Virginian tobacco. As the honorable member for Maranoa (Mr. Baker) has said, tobacco from Southern
Rhodesia can be procured cheaply because it is grown by coolie labour at from 5d. to 9d. a day. A report which was presented to the Southern Rhodesian Legislative Assembly in 1940 by the Secretary of the Department of Agriculture and Lands showed that the total slaes on the tobacco auction floors amounted to 20,937,639 lb. of flue-cured tobacco, which realized £882,399 15s. 3d., or an average of lO.lOd. per lb. Dark cured tobacco totalling 417,526 lb. was sold for £14,432 9s. Id., or an average of 8.29d. per lb. It will be seen that last year the average price of Southern Rhodesian tobacco at auction was about lOd. per lb. Yet that tobacco is to be given a preferential tariff of 9d. per lb. under this agreement. Honorable members will have no difficulty in realizing the danger to the Australian industry which this agreement represents.
– Tobacco leaf from Southern Rhodesia will still bear a duty of 5s. or 6s. per lb.
– The protection is only 4s. 9d. per lb. With adequate protection this great primary industry could employ thousands of Australians and rank second only to the great sugar industry. What would happen if, under a preferential tariff, sugar from the Philippines, or other places near to Australia where sugar is grown by cheap coolie labour, were given preferential treatment under our tariff? There would be such an outcry that the Government which proposed it would be wrecked. In visits to the tobacco districts of Queensland and New South Wales I have seen the dire effects of the neglect of the tobacco industry by non-Labour governments. The Deputy Leader of the Opposition said this afternoon that in one year the production increased from a little over 1,000,000 lb. to over 12,000,000 lb. under the Scullin tariff. To-day Australia produces about 5,500,000 lb. of tobacco leaf. The treatment of this industry by the Government is unpardonable. I protest strongly against this preferential tariff on tobacco leaf from Southern Rhodesia. If the Government would ensure a definite price of 2s. 6d. per lb., and undertook to buy all of the high-grade tobacco produced - we require between 25,000,000 lb. and 30,000,000 lb. each year - the whole of
Australia’s tobacco requirements could be produced locally within two years. Climatic conditions in Australia vary so greatly that it is possible to produce all of the varieties of tobacco leaf necessary for the blending of high-grade tobacco. People who say that Australia cannot grow tobacco equal to that which comes from Virginia, do not know the facts. In the Tamworth district of New South Wales and the Texas district of southern Queensland hundreds of tons of tobacco, some of it three or four years old, was stored in barns when the imposition of high duties by the Scullin Government caused buyers to visit the tobacco farms and buy it. Later, that leaf was manufactured, and sold to the consuming public. No complaint against its quality was raised. The great tobacco combine is doing its utmost to injure this Australian industry. I feel very strongly on this matter. If the Parliament ratifies this agreement, a valuable primary industry will be strangled. I ask that the tobaccogrowers be treated in the same way as those engaged in the production of wool, wheat and sugar. If they are given adequate protection, they will produce all the tobacco that Australian consumers require and the quality will be equal to that produced in any other part of the world.
– I also protest against the agreement entered into by the Commonwealth and the Government of Southern Rhodesia. The agreement provides that raw asbestos shall be admitted into Australia duty free. Asbestos of the finest quality is mined in Western Australia. It is clear to me that the Government, in settling the terms of this agreement, failed to give adequate consideration to its possible effect on some of the States. In the Pilbarra and Roebourne districts in Western Australia there are many valuable asbestos deposits. Recently, a company, supported by English capital, started to develop those deposits on a large. scale. However, after the outbreak of war, shipping space was not available, and the asbestos could not be sent to market. At the moment there are many tons of asbestos at grass at Pilbarra and Roebourne, and the men who raised it have not yet been paid their wages.
– This agreement will not make the position any worse. Asbestos is allowed in free to-day.
– I desire to bring under the notice of the Government the position of this industry in Western Australia, and particularly to emphasize the fact that the Government, when entering into agreements of this kind, does not sufficiently study the interests of the States. Before any such agreement is made, in future, the States should be consulted.
The tobacco-growing industry is a comparatively new one in Western Australia, but within the last ten years large quantities of tobacco of the finest quality have been produced in the south-western part of the State. The honorable member for Forrest (Mr. Prowse) discussed the needs of the industry this afternoon, and I support his remarks by urging the Government to give it every possible encouragement. No agreement should be entered into with another government that is likely to jeopardize the welfare of this valuable industry. Highgrade leaf is being grown in Western Australia, and after the House adjourns I shall present the Minister for Trade and Customs (Mr. Harrison) with a packet of cigarettes made from tobacco grown in Western Australia. These cigarettes are of excellent quality, and should serve to convince him that we can produce good tobacco in Western Australia. Commodities which can be produced satisfactorily in Australia should not be admitted duty free from any other country.
.- I have travelled through the tobaccogrowing areas of Victoria, and have seen there the wreck of what was once a promising industry. I have seen buildings and equipment lying idle, the former owners long since departed in various stages of bankruptcy. The few growers still remaining are having a very hard struggle to carry on. This is the result of the mistaken tariff policy of a former government. Present conditions provide a magnificent opportunity to reconstruct the industry by insisting that the people of Australia shall smoke Australian tobacco. Surely, when the dollar exchange position is of such importance, the Government should not allow itself to be unduly in fluenced by the great tobacco combine to whose interest it is to prevent the development of an Australian tobacco-growing industry. We know, unfortunately, that the policy of the Government in respect of the industry has been largely directed by this combine. The development of the tobacco-growing industry provides an opportunity to foster closer settlement, and to place many persons on the land in a profitable occupation. I trust that the Government will not neglect this opportunity, but will he influenced by the urgent need for developing essential Australian industries.
.- I also desire to protest against the agreement entered into between the Commonwealth Government and the Government of Rhodesia, which provides for the reduction of the duty on imported Rhodesian tobacco. Like the honorable member for Wimmera (Mr. Wilson), I also have had the unpleasant experience of travelling through what once was one of the finest tobacco-growing districts in Victoria. During the depression years, this industry was encouraged by the tariff imposed by the Scullin Government, and it flourished exceedingly. Then a government, whose policy was dominated by the British-Australasian Tobacco Company Proprietary Limited, reduced the protective duties on tobacco, and the industry was ruined almost immediately. The Scullin Government was not under the influence of the tobacco combine, but was concerned only with the welfare of the people, and under its policy the tobacco industry flourished. Leaf of good quality was produced on what had formerly been waste land covered with furze and scrub. One man told me that the Government collected more than £100 an acre in excise from land which had formerly been worth only 10s. an acre. While the industry was at the peak of its prosperity during the depression, there was not one man in that district on relief work or in receipt of sustenance. The land was returning far more than land growing wool. Then, at the behest of the tobacco monopoly, the duties were reduced, and the industry was ruined. Men who had put their savings into building kilns lost everything they had. A few of the growers managed to struggle on, but it would now appear that the Government is determined to put even them out of business. The Government has decided upon this action without consulting the growers, or considering their interests. If this agreement be ratified, it will probably be amended next year and the duty reduced still further. “We can grow in Australia all the tobacco we need. I take no notice of those who say that we cannot grow good leaf in this country. I have seen good, bright leaf of excellent quality grown in Victoria, and it was produced by white Australians. It is not grown by cheap black labour imported into Australia, but by our own citizens. The Government should put Australia first. I protest against this attempt to finish off the tobacco-growing industry, a process which was started almost nine years ago.
.- The history of trade agreements in this country is full of vanished hopes and broken industries. One such unfortunate example is the Ottawa trade agreement, which, instead of bringing prosperity to Australia, has left in its train the ruin and misery of many thousands of people. The agreement has been roundly condemned by former members of this House, one of whom is a member of the Privy Council.
– It was one of the causes of the war.
– The statement of the honorable member for Bourke (Mr. Blackburn; is correct. I am afraid that the trade agreement that is the subject of the bill will have much the same effect as have more extensive agreements in the past. The State of Victoria invested £20,000,000 in a soldiers’ settlement scheme after the last war. Most of the money was invested in wheat Hand, hut some of it was used to purchase land for tobacco-growing. So great a failure has been the soldiers’ settlement scheme that the State Parliament has been writing off losses on it at the rate of about £1,000,000 a year for some years past. There was a thriving community of soldier settlers growing tobacco in the north-eastern district of Victoria, but probably because of the influence of the new trade doctrines of non-Labour governments these men reached such a condition that they were forced to abandon their blocks and try to find work in the metropolitan area. The result of the cessation of their production of tobacco was not only a severe blow to the country towns in the district but also a heavy los3 to the national economy. When the Scullin Government came into power, strenuous efforts were made by the then honorable member for Indi (Mr. Paul Jones), now a member of the Legislative Council of Victoria, to encourage tobacco-growing and largely through his instrumentality tobaccogrowers’ organizations were set up throughout Australia. The Scullin Government gave valuable protection to tobacco growing in Victoria, New South Wales and Queensland. Unfortunately that Government was succeeded by a nonLabour government, which was more concerned with conserving ex-Australian interests than with protecting those of Australia. The old imperial view prevailed and the tobacco industry suffered. “ Advance Australia “ is part of the motto of this Parliament, but no non-Labour government has yet adopted the policy of “ Australia first “. The present Government is slavishly committed to the outlook imported into this Parliament by a former Prime Minister (Mr. S. M. Bruce), who invariably subordinated Australian interests to those of Whitehall and Downing-street. It appears to me that the position of our primary industries will grow worse as we make more trade agreements with other countries, and conversely grow better with the fewer agreements made. This morning I asked the Minister for Trade and Customs (Mr. Harrison) a number of questions relating to the tobacco shortage in the capital cities of Australia. The Minister replied that the motive for restricting the importation of tobacco was to conserve dollar exchange and that the Government’s policy was framed with a view to protecting our dollars pool.
– For the purpose of purchasing war material.
– I am aware of the purpose, but the Government should ensure that sufficient home-grown tobacco is available for the needs of the Australian people. According to the Minister, there has been a considerable hoarding of tobacco. I direct attention to a report which appeared in the Melbourne Argus of yesterday, in which an- extraordinary state of affairs is indicated concerning the supplies of tobacco available. I shall now quote the Argus article -
In scores of shops in Melbourne and the suburbs yesterday tobacco and cigarettes could not be bought. In many other shops stocks were so light that many brands were unobtainable, and customers were permitted to buy only a limited quantity of available brands.
– One cannot buy cigarettes in Parliament House, Canberra !
– Supplies are short everywhere. The article continues -
Retailers said that the shortage was becoming worse in Melbourne every week. Many small retailers exhausted their stocks late last week, and were without any tobacco or cigarettes over the week-end.
Hundreds of customers met with the same reply: “Not a cigarette in the shop!” Late yesterday afternoon one or two city shops had received small stocks, but most still had none.
I suggest that the shops that hold the largest supplies are controlled by pricecutters. “Apparently almost all the smaller retailers exhausted their March quotas last week, and are still waiting on April issue”, said one retailer. “ We don’t know when that issue will arrive, nor do we know what quantity will be allotted. Because of the uncertainty and bother, many small retailers, particularly those who sell “ smokes “ in confectionery shops, have cut them out altogether. If the position continues it seems certain that almost all email retailers will be driven out of business. Investigation and action by the Government are overdue, particularly because the situation bristles with anomalies. Private clubs seem to get all the stock they need, and so do many nf the shops with big turnover. It seems to be designed to push the small man out of a living.”
If the Government’s policy has the effect of driving small retailers out of business the tobacco industry will be hard hit and great changes will be wrought to the disadvantage of Australian growers.
– If your premises are correct, the effect of this trade agreement will be to make more tobacco available in Australia.
– The Government’s policy in entering into trade agreements with other countries i3 making the confused condition of growers and retailers worse confounded. I suggest that the whole business of growing and selling tobacco needs overhaul. I hope that during the recess the Minister for Trade and Customs will be able to announce that the Government is adopting a sounder policy in order to retrieve the tobaccogrowing industry from its present precarious condition.
.- I endorse the statements expressed by the honorable member for Forrest (Mr. Prowse) and the honorable member for Kalgoorlie (Mr. Johnson) regarding the tobacco-growing industry and asbestos mining in Western Australia. I realize that there is a large deficiency between the quantity of tobacco produced in Australia and that consumed here. It is the responsibility of the Government to give to the growers a payable price that will permit them to enjoy the standard of comfort to which they are entitled. This particular trade agreement ratifies a preferential tariff on a number of products of Southern Rhodesia. Tobacco leaf is one, but the preferential rate of duty is only 9d. per lb. which will reduce the duty on Virginian tobacco leaf imported from Southern Rhodesia to 4s. 3d. a lb. A study of the schedule to the bill discloses that Southern Rhodesia will continue to admit duty free a number of Australian goods. Butter is one, and butter is grown in the States which produce tobacco. Under the terms of the agreement, Southern Rhodesia will accord preferential rebates on a number of articles imported from Australia such as wheat, wines, canned and dried fruits, jams, jellies, honey and woollen goods. Therefore, as the ratification of tha agreement will encourage the development of a market for Australian products, I am prepared to support the bill. It would be a simple matter for the Government to give the tobacco-growers in Australia a fixed price. I am as much concerned about the interests of tobacco-growers as are members on the Opposition side, but I am also concerned about other primary producers. If the Government can develop a new market for our primary products, I shall do my utmost to assist it.
– The honorable member is parochial.
– The trade agreement affects many articles manufactured in the honorable member’s electorate.
– I adopt the broad national outlook.
– I am adopting the national outlook when I give my support to a trade agreement which encourages the development of a market for Australian production. Fruit, wine, whisky, ale and beer from Australia will receive preference in Southern Rhodesia, and that benefit is worthy of consideration. Whilst I desire to see Australian growers satisfy the local demand for tobacco, that object can be achieved by another means, and I hope that the Government will adopt it. At the same time, a big gap must be bridged before Australian producers can grow the whole of our requirements. Out of consideration for the producers of the many commodities that will receive preferential treatment in Southern Rhodesia, I support the bill.
– in reply - Of necessity, a measure of this nature is thoroughly debated, because in the making of a trade treaty a spirit of sweet compromise must prevail. The object of the negotiations is, by the exchange of concessions, to reach an agreement which will not do injury to the vital interests of either party. Although the Deputy Leader of the Opposition (Mr. Forde) recognizes that principle, he gave grudging support to the bill. He spoke of the general principle of trade treaties ; but I venture to declare that if he were in my position, he would just as cheerfully negotiate them, and append his signature to them, as I have, because they advance the interests of the Commonwealth. The honorable gentleman asserted that the treaty with Southern Rhodesia was signed behind closed doors. If it contains features that bear unduly against the interests of Australia, Parliament now has an opportunity to refuse to ratify it. But that will not happen, for the very good reason that the concessions which Southern Rhodesia has granted to Australia outweigh those that it has received. Therefore, it would ill become the Deputy Leader of the Opposition in view of the high protective policy espoused by the Labour party to decline to take advantage of the concessions on behalf of the interests that he represents, or claims to represent. For instance, 66 items, ranging from the most basic of the secondary industries of Australia to the basic primary industries, are contained in the schedule; each receives a concession from Southern Rhodesia. Those items involve the sum of £3,114,000, but at present, Australia’s share of the market is valued at only £54,000. Because we have now received extraordinary concessions from Southern Rhodesia, we shall be able to take full advantage of the market.
The high duty imposed by the Scullin Government resulted in the production of an extraordinary crop of more or less valuable .tobacco leaf. How was that leaf received by the Australian smoker, who determines the market for it? The test of the success of the policy is reflected in the consumption of the commodity. The Deputy Leader of the Opposition claimed that the extraordinarily high duty imposed by the Labour Government encouraged the production of tobacco. I acknowledge that; but it encouraged the production of a class of tobacco leaf which is reflected in the consumption of 2,600,000 lb. in 1931-32, compared with 6,000,000 lb. in 1939-40. In addition, the quality of the leaf grown in 1939-40 was infinitely better than that of the product encouraged by the high tariff policy of the Scullin Government. The action of the Government of the United Australia and United Country parties did more to place the industry on a sound basis, by the production of good-quality leaf, than the policy of any other government could possibly have done. Honorable members opposite declared that the Government has cut right across the duties, and will bring the industry to ruin. The present minimum duty of 5s. per lb. for tobacco for manufacture is only 2d. per lb. below that fixed by the Scullin Government, whilst for the highgrade leaf used for cigarettes, the maximum rate is 8s. 7d. per lb., which is 3s. 5d. per lb. in excess of the duty imposed by the Scullin Government. When these objections are subjected to examination, they fade to nothing. The trade treaty will not interfere in any way with the tobacco-growing industry in Australia. In fact, the policy enunciated by the Government recently regarding appraisals will do more than any single act of other governments to place the industry upon a sound footing. The market is available for the Australian grower; he can take advantage of it. I assure the honorable member for Gwydir (Mr. Scully) that the 1941 crop will be taken, not at ls. 5£d. per lb., but at an advance of 22 per cent, on the price in 1939, which is an average of 2s. 6d. per lb,
– The price will be considerably lower than 2s. 6d. per lb.
– I differ from the honorable member. That basis was agreed upon by the growers and the manufacturers. I do not wish to enter into the niceties of the deliberations of that conference; but if the growers were prepared to guarantee the quality of the tobacco, they would have obtained the price they sought. As they could not guarantee the quality, they compromised upon a basis, giving an average price of approximately 2s. 6d. per lb. The House should be seised of the full facts about the tobacco market. During the last five years the average consumption in Australia of all tobacco leaf was 25,000,000 lb. Last year, it was 26,500,000 lb. The average Australian production for the same period was 5,300,000 lb. and is lower than the rate at which Australian manufacturers are using local leaf. In other words, the Australian tobacco industry is producing only 20 per cent, or thereabouts of the local demand. The remainder is made up of imported leaf, which comes- principally from the United States of America, thereby necessitating the expenditure of much needed dollars. Because of the necessity for ‘ conserving dollar exchange, the Government decided to divert importations of tobacco to countries which are members of the sterling bloc. Honorable members cannot with justification object to a departure of that kind, as the importation of leaf from Empire countries will relieve the pressure on dollar exchange and help to supplement our relatively small domestic production. “Whilst achieving this object, Australia will secure valuable tariff concessions on both primary and secondary products. As the Commonwealth cannot obtain sufficient supplies of leaf from sterling countries the demand will automatically cause the price of
Southern Rhodesian tobacco to increase, giving an added advantage to Australian producers. These matters must be taken into consideration when criticism is levelled against a concession of this kind. The lowest rate of duty at which Southern Rhodesian leaf would be permitted to be imported would be 4s. 3d. per lb. for manufactured tobacco, and 6s. 5d. per lb. for manufactured cigarettes. The present price of tobacco in Southern Rhodesia is ls. 7d. per lb. Those rates of duty will apply only if the Southern Rhodesian leaf is used in conjunction with the prescribed minimum percentage of Australian leaf. Failing incorporation with the required amount of Australian leaf, duties of ‘5s. 9d. and 7s. lOd. per lb., respectively, will he chargeable. Having regard to the fact that the value for duty of Southern Rhodesian tobacco averaged ls. 7d. per lb. in 1939-40, the lowest rate of duty would be equivalent to 270 per cent, ad valorem. Yet honorable members opposite prophesy the ruin of the Australian industry. If the industry is unable to carry on when it enjoys such a hig preference it should go out of existence. But that is not the position. The increasing poundage of first-quality Australian leaf consumed in this country proves conclusively that if the Australian growers can produce good-quality leaf they can dispose of their crops at a reasonable price. The average cost of lauding Southern Rhodesian leaf into Australian manufacturers’ stores would be at least 2s. per lb. without duty. If the minimum duty of 4s. 3d. were added the average landed duty paid cost would be at least 6s. 3d. per lb. Under the price arrangement concluded this week, whereby manufacturers agreed to increase 1939 prices for Australian leaf, grade for grade, by 25 per cent., it is expected that the average purchase price for the whole of the Commonwealth will be approximately 2s. 6d. per lb. if the same average quality be maintained. It is therefore absurd to suggest that Southern Rhodesian leaf, costing the manufacturers at least 6s. 3d. per lb. even after a duty concession of 9d. per lb. is made, should have any affect whatsoever upon the disposal of the Australian tobacco crop at profitable prices, or upon any projected expansion of Australian tobacco-growing in suitable areas. This is all the more pointed at the present time, when the importation of leaf from dollar areas is being rigorously curtailed. As I have already pointed out, the annual consumption of Australian-grown leaf exceeds the current annual production. Last year the consumption of Australian leaf exceeded production by 750,000 lb., which means that manufacturers are already drawing upon their limited stocks of domestic leaf in order that they may incorporate at least the minimum prescribed percentage of Australian leaf in their blends. After the Australian tobacco-growing industry has made up the leeway between production and consumption of Australian leaf, there is a very wide market for it to exploit which is now catered for by imports from overseas. The reduction of duty proposed under the agreement with Southern Rhodesia will not, as I have already demonstrated, prevent Australian growers from securing a much greater share of that market. The reduction of duty on tobacco leaf is the beginning and the end of the agreement so far as Southern Rhodesia is concerned. Without that concession there would be no benefit to that dominion and there would be no agreement. Failure to conclude this agreement would deprive Australia of the opportunity to open up badly needed markets for its primary products and to develop an export market for its secondary products.
Since negotiations between Southern Rhodesia and Australia were completed, numerous inquiries have been received from Southern Rhodesian firms for Australian goods. These include wearing apparel of various kinds, boots, shoes and slippers, woollen piece goods, toilet requisites, canned foodstuffs, cycles and cycle parts.
– Has an estimate been made of the value of our probable sales to Southern Rhodesia?
– Yes ; as I have already pointed out this agreement opens up a market valued at approximately £3,000,000.
– Does the Minister anticipate that we shall be able to ship £3,000,000 worth of goods to Southern Rhodesia?
– No; but the agreement will give us an opportunity to enter a market of that potential value. The present value of the Southern Rhodesian market to Australia is about £50,000. At present we are at a decided disadvantage as compared with the United Kingdom and some of the Dominions, particularly South Africa.
– Then it is not right to 3ay that we shall sell £3,000,000 worth of goods to Southern Rhodesia.
– I did not say that. I said that this agreement opens up the possibility of taking advantage of a market worth approximately £3,000,000. I should like to reply briefly to some general observations made by the honorable member for Kalgoorlie (Mr. Johnston). The honorable gentleman concentrated his remarks on asbestos. He said that, although there are large quantities of asbestos at grass in Western Australia, we were worsening the position of the asbestos producer by permitting the existing rate of duties to be continued in this agreement. That is not so. As a matter of fact we have agreed with the Southern Rhodesian Government to impose the lowest rate of duty applicable to asbestos. At the moment asbestos is duty free, but at some subsequent date it may carry a duty.
– It may!
– If an industry is worth while it generally succeeds in getting a duty under our protective policy. If asbestos should carry a duty we shall not have worsened the position of the industry in Western Australia; rather we shall have placed it in a more satisfactory position.
– Is not .South Africa much better off than Australia ?
– No. As a matter of fact in respect of many commodities we are on a comparable basis with South Africa. The honorable member is usually very interested in wheat, and I was rather surprised to find him championing the interests of the tobaccogrowers as against wheat-growers. In respect of wheat we are at an advantage compared with Canada. That position also applies with respect to butter and milk, two commodities produced in the honorable member’s electorate. The honorable member, however, chose to overlook the obvious advantages and confined his remarks exclusively to tobacco. I suggest that he cannot have it both ways. I commend this agreement to the House. I trust that honorable members will accept it, realizing that, in respect of 66 items, it will have a wonderfully beneficial effect on our secondary industries and on some of our major primary industries.
Question resolved in the affirmative.
Bill read a second time and reported from committee without amendment; report adopted.
Bill - by leave - read a third time.
In committee of Ways and Means:
Consideration resumed from the 26th March, 1941 (vide page 257), on motion by Mr. Harrison -
– The effect of the duties proposed is to reduce by 9d. per lb. the rates imposed on tobacco of Southern Rhodesian origin entered to be locally manufactured into tobacco and cigarettes. The proposals are consequent on the Southern Rhodesian Agreement Bill which was dealt with earlier and are necessary to give effect to the agreement, so far as the Commonwealth is concerned. As was stated in my introductory speech the proposals will take effect from a date to be fixed by proclamation, when the terms of the agreement shall have been approved by the respective governments.
Question resolved in the affirmative.
Standing Orders suspended; resolution adopted.
That Mr. Harrison and Sir Frederick Stewart do prepare and bring in a bill to carry out the foregoing resolution.
Bill brought up by Mr. Harrison and passedthrough all stages without amendment or debate.
Mr. McEWEN (Indi - Minister for
Air) [10.12].- I move-
That the bill be now read a second time.
The purpose of this bill is to amend section 8 of the Air Force Act 1923-1939 relating to the non-application of the Superannuation Act to members of the Air Force appointed or enlisted after the 3rd September, 1939, solely for service in time of war. Section 8 was inserted in the principal act by the Air Force Act 1939, and this amendment is designed to make it clear that officers and airmen appointed or enlisted in the Air Force for the duration of the war and any period thereafter shall also be excluded from the operation of the Superannuation Act. That effect was intended when section 8 was originally introducedinto the act in 1939, but it was subsequently found that it did not completely cover all classes of personnel enlisted for service during the war. The short amendment proposed in this bill will correct the position. Honorable members will appreciate that the Superannuation Act is designed primarily to provide superannuation pensions for servants of the Crown on their retirement, and that the Superannuation Fund was not intended to be applied in granting pensions to members of the Air Force who were enlisted solely for war service. Pensions payable in respect of cases of death or invalidity of members of the Air Force who are appointed or enlisted solely for war service will be governed by the provisions of the Australian Soldiers’ Repatriation Act 1920-1940.
Debate (on motion of Mr. Forde) adjourned.
– I move - That the bill be now read a second time.
On the 1st July, 1938, Act No. 15 of 1938, ratified and authorized certain agreements relating to the Empire air service between England and Australia. In the second schedule of that act, the form of agreement between Qantas Empire Airways Limited and the Commonwealth of Australia was approved. Included in the form of agreement which was duly executed were certain definitions of persons and authorities concerned in the operation of this agreement. At the time the original agreement was made, the Civil Aviation Board was in operation under the Department of Defence. On the 11th January, 1939, that board ceased to exist and the Department of Civil Aviation was constituted. The original agreement, however, provided that the Civil Aviation Board, the ControllerGeneral of Civil Aviation, the Minister for Defence, the Secretary, Department of Defence, and the Secretary, Civil Aviation Board, should deal with various matters mentioned in the agreement. Owing to the constitution of the Department of Civil Aviation, changes in organisation have resulted, and the original agreement is now administered by the Minister for Civil Aviation through that department.
It is therefore necessary and convenient for the Commonwealth Government to enter into a supplementary agreement with Qantas Empire Airways Limited which will provide for the deletion of titles which are no longer applicable, and the substitution of those which are now in use. These are clearly set out in the form of supplemental agreement included in the bill. There is no alteration of the objects secured in the original agreement. The hill simply provides for a supplementary agreement containing certain variations of the definitions of titles of persons and authorities concerned in administering the agreement. It also ratifies the actions taken by these persons since the constitution of the Department of Civil Aviation as from the 11th January, 1939.
.- As this is a non-contentious measure the purpose of which the Minister had previously explained to me, the Opposition does not intend to oppose it.
Question resolved in the affirmative.
Bill read a second time and reported from committee without amendment; report adopted.
Bill - by leave - read a third time.
– I move - That the hill he now read a second time.
This bill provides for a number of amendments in relation to the personnel of the Australian Broadcasting Commission, the employment of its officers, the powers and functions it discharges, and its technical services. Since the introduction of broadcasting, approximately eighteen years ago, its progress has been rapid and continuous throughout the country, until now broadcasting has become an industry in which tens of thousands of workers are engaged, millions of pounds of capital is invested and millions of people are entertained and informed.
Broadcasting in Australia was initiated under a plan which was devised at the unanimous request of a conference convened by the Postmaster-General. The system was then known as the “sealed set “ scheme because listeners were required to use receivers designed and sealed in such a way as to be responsive only to stations to which they subscribed. Because of this limitation the scheme made little appeal to the public. After a twelve months’ trial, the scheme was displaced in 1924 by a system, the fundamentals of which still remain, although certain developments have been found necessary in order to ensure satisfactory service throughout the Commonwealth.
In contrast with the limitation of listeners to the reception of a single programme, the new scheme encouraged the provision of alternative programmes for listeners by permitting the establishment, under licence from the PostmasterGeneral’s Department, of two classes of stations now known as class A, or national stations, maintained by listeners’ licence fees, and class B, or commercial stations, dependent for their income upon revenue from advertising.
In the first year of the new system 38,000 listeners’ licences were issued. By 1929, when the five-year licence period of the class A stations ended, the total number of listeners’ licences had grown to 300,000, and twenty broadcasting stations, eight class A and twelve class B, were in operation.
The national broadcasting service was instituted in 1929 to ensure a thoroughly nation-wide service, including better provision for country areas. The first Australian Broadcasting Commission Act was passed in 1932, and the commission, on the 1st July, 1932, assumed responsibility for the provision of “ adequate and comprehensive programmes “ and was required, in the words of the act -
To take, in the interests of the community, all such measures as in the opinion of the commission are conducive to the full development of suitable programmes for broadcasting.
The commission was also directed to encourage local talent, and to establish orchestras, choirs and bands in such a manner as would confer the greatest benefit on the listening public. It proceeded with its task with interest and enthusiasm. It spent considerable time in making a study of Australian conditions, and readily accepted the experience of older wireless broadcasting organizations in other parts of the world as a basis upon which to build. The huge area of the Commonwealth, its populous cities, its broad and sparsely peopled country districts, and its standards and facilities for entertainment, all received attention, and regard was also paid to the keen national interest in sport, the comparatively small local output of music and literature, the necessity for the encouragement of local artists, and the setting of standards commensurate with those prevailing overseas. The commission has always endeavoured to hold the balance fairly as between all interests and all competitive points of policy.
The fact cannot be disputed that the nature of the entertainment provided by the commission has played no small part in the rapid growth of broadcasting. In 1932 there were twelve national stations on the air, broadcasting for a total of about 50,000 hours. To-day 28 stations are broadcasting for a total of 150,000
Mr. Collins. hours. In 1932, the total number of licences was 369,936; the present figures are 1,268,130. There has thus been an increase of more than 300 per cent, in eight years.
While entertainment has naturally formed the core of the commission’s programmes, a comprehensive coverage of informative and educational services has also been provided. The programmes also meet the needs of the man on the land in respect of weather, markets and other reports. The daily educational broad.casts, pioneered by the commission in 1932 with 100 schools, have now captured an audience of children in more than 1,500 schools. Musical appreciation has been cultivated among the rising generation, not only by school broadcasts, but also by free orchestral concerts for young people in the capital cities. From small beginnings of some thirteen or fourteen players in Sydney and Melbourne the commission has established full-time symphony orchestras in all States. Choruses, a military band and two dance bands have also been formed and maintained. The number of players in fulltime employment is now more than 280. Sixty-six others are under regular engagement and, in addition, about 180 people are engaged frequently to augment the orchestras during the celebrity concert seasons. A study of the total fees paid during the twelve months ended the 30th June, 1940, indicates the encouragement given to Australian artists, for in that period overseas artists, including British, were paid £26,810, whilst Australian artists received £279,580.
The commission has also actively assisted Australian composers by arranging for performances of their works, and by bringing them to the notice of visiting celebrity artists. Other ways in which it has contributed to the development of the musical life of Australia have included co-operation with established musical bodies, assistance in musical competitions, and the arrangement of broadcasts for successful performers at the larger competitions. The commission has set up a productions department which has not only effected a great improvement in the standard of playwriting and production, but has also led to a remarkable development of Australian talent.
In arranging its unlimited range of talks, the commission has always stressed the point that the views expressed are those of the speakers and not of the commission, thus making possible the discussion of controversial subjects by authoritative speakers with differing views. The House will agree that this attitude in favour of freedom of discussion is not only characteristic of democratic people all over the world, but is also one of the features which distinguish democracy most sharply from totalitarianism.
The increasing importance of the news sessions has brought about almost a revolution in the scope and methods of presenting news. After the outbreak of war, a full-time news representative was appointed in London, and the commission also secured a service from the Exchange Telegraph Agency. In April, 1940, the commission dispensed with the Australian Associated Press service which, up to that time, had been its main source of overseas news, and purchased the right to rebroadcast in full any or all of the bulletins of the British Broadcasting Corporation. For this right it agreed to be responsible for the payment to Australian Associated Press of £3,000 per annum, half of which was to be contributed by the Australian Federation of Commercial Broadcasting Stations^’ which thereby became entitled to rebroadcast the news bulletins of the British Broadcasting Corporation. The commission was then no longer handicapped by having to keep hack overseas news until it had appeared in the newspapers. A cable service from New York still further enriched the news service of Australian listeners. News commentaries, which, of course, are the background to the news, demand in the commentators a high degree of knowledge and experience. Last year over 500 locally compiled news commentaries were broadcast. The number of individual commentators totalled about 40.
With the co-operation of the Department of Information, the commission, in December, 1939, instituted the broadcasting of short-wave programmes to certain overseas countries. This called for additional accommodation, extensive alterations to premises already occupied, and the engagement of a staff of translators, broadcasters, and assistants with the necessary language qualifications. The transmissions were made in English, French, German, Dutch and Spanish, and later Afrikaans and Italian. Each programme consists of a news bulletin, a talk, and music. The transmitters used are VLR and VLW, owned by the PostmasterGeneral’s Department, and VLQ, owned by Amalgamated Wireless (Australasia) Limited. In addition to the special departments mentioned already, the commission provides a wide range of services such as religious broadcasts, women’s and children’s sessions, sporting sessions, descriptive broadcasts, and recordings.
In considering the future of the commission, the Government has ‘been mainly concerned as to whether the intention of Parliament, as expressed in the act, has been carried out, and as to whether the results have been satisfactory and in the best interests of the community. As laid down in the act, it is the duty of the commission to provide the best possible programmes, subject to the limitations of the revenue available from broadcast listeners’ licences. While the Government believes that the commission has made an honest effort to meet the obligations imposed upon it, the responsibility of the Government is to satisfy itself whether anything further can be done to earn a greater measure of approval for the national broadcasting service. The Government considers that in four particular directions, as indicated at the outset of my speech, some advantage might be gained by making several amendments to the act. We all must agree that the commission has successfully prevented party politics from influencing its policy. I am sure that I express the wish of all honorable members when I say that it is hoped that broadcasting, with its wide ramifications, will for ever prevent political bias from affecting its service to the people.
The commission at the present time consists of five members. The bill provides that this number be increased to seven. Broader representation of interests on the commission has been the subject of much consideration, and the Government believes that the amendment now suggested will provide an opportunity to extend the sphere of interests represented on the commission. The Government deems it desirable to extend this field of representation iin order to include some one who will be representative of broad labour interests in the Commonwealth, not necessarily with the idea that such a representative shall be the mouthpiece of political labour, but rather that he shall be in a position to present the view of the very large body of listeners associated with the industrial sections of the community. There is no reason why, in making this appointment, a man imbued with a high sense of public service who will be capable of contributing materially to the common effort to develop broadcasting on sound and effective lines should not be secured. The increase of the number of members will also make it possible to include in the membership of the commission some one with a wellestablished reputation, who will be accepted by the community as an outstanding figure in university or other cultural circles. In proposing a broader representation of interests, it is not intended to open the way for sectional representation; the commission, as far as possible, should be composed of well-equipped persons capable of assessing the broadcasting tastes of the various sections of the community, and thus able to develop cultural aspects as well as to provide adequate entertainment of an appropriate character. The Government believes that the increase of the number of commissioners by admitting two additional members will assist materially in achieving these objectives. Repeated assertions have been made that members of the commission should be expert in some particular phase of broadcasting. This surely ignores the fact that the commissioners are administrators who, of necessity, must have qualities and experience which will enable them to judge men and check results. A wide knowledge of affairs is essential so that they may be capable of gauging the importance of different community interests. There is always a danger that experts will not be administrators, will not take the broad view embracing all interests, and will tend to fight for their own special interests. The best specialists available for the different branches of broadcasting should be employees, not members, of the commission. The period of appointment of the present members of the commission will expire on the. 30th June, 1941. In proposing that the number of members be increased from five to seven, the Government intends that the appointments shall take effect as from the 1st July, 1941. In order to ensure some degree of continuity of policy, it considers that the terms of appointment of all of the Commissioners should not expire at the same time. Therefore, the Commissioners will be appointed for differing periods at the start, in order to enable a system of retirement to be instituted so that two members will retire at the end of the first year, two at the end of the second year, and the chairman, vicechairman, and one other member at the end of the third year. From the outset, each member will be eligible, on his retirement, for re-appointment for further periods not exceeding three years.
The bill also proposes to modify the existing powers of the commission in relation to the appointment of officers. Section 15 of the Australian Broadcasting Commission Act provides that officers and servants appointed by the commission shall_ not be subject to the provisions of the Commonwealth Public Service Act, but shall be subject to such conditions, including tenure of office, as are determined by the commission. The employees of the commission fall into two main categories : first, those whose employment is of a permanent character and whose duties are of an executive or administrative nature, and, secondly, those whose duties are of a purely professional character. Naturally, those in the second category are mostly part-time employees who are engaged mainly for programme purposes. During the early stages of the establishment of a semi-government activity such as the Australian Broadcasting Commission, there were perhaps many advantages in permitting those -persons charged with the inauguration and ultimate establishment of the national broadcasting service to have complete freedom in the selection of employees and the determination of conditions of employment. However, now that the commission has been operating for over eight years and has its organization firmly established, and that some degree of permanency can be foreseen in its method of operation, there is much to be said in support of the conditions governing the selection and employment of permanent staff being made to conform to the provisions of the Public Service Act, either by bringing that section of the staff under the Public Service Act or having appropriate regulations issued under the Broadcasting Commission Act. The amendment proposed to be effected by clause 10 of the bill provides that officers and servants appointed by the commission shall be subject to such conditions “ as are prescribed “ instead of, as at the present time, “ as are determined by the commission “. In other words, section 15, as amended, will enable regulations to be made which will prescribe the conditions of employment of the officers of the commission. I point out that, at the present time, officers of the Repatriation Commission and the “War Service Homes Commission are employed in accordance with regulations made under the acts which constitute those commissions. The appointment and tenure of office of officers of the Commonwealth Council for Scientific and Industrial Research are similarly governed by regulations. Section 16 of the principal act refers to the functions of the commission. Clause 11 of the bill is for the purpose of defining more clearly the respective responsibilities of the commission and the post office in the carrying out of the provisions of the act. It also provides the necessary authority for the holding of public entertainments by the commission. This amendment follows the raising, from time to time, of doubts as to the legality of the conducting of public entertainments by the commission. Legal action was instigated against the commission on one occasion in order to prevent the commission from holding public entertainments, but the action did not come before the court. The net revenue of the commission has benefited over the past five years to the extent of over £92,000 as the result of these public entertainments.
I shall now comment briefly on the technical services associated with the national broadcasting system. As honorable members are aware, these services are provided by the Postal Department. From time to time, however, a certain amount of criticism has been expressed regarding this aspect of broadcasting, and at times some resentment has been voiced of the fact that the Postal Department should be permitted to take any part in the actual technical work of broadcasting. In order to appreciate the extent to which the post office organization and its plant are bound up with the broadcasting, it is necessary to bear in mind that Commonwealth territory covers almost 3,000,000 square miles, with a widely scattered population, apart from the capital cities. The Postal Department has established telephone facilities throughout the whole of the settled portions of Australia, and has trained technical staffs located in almost every town and village. It is in a position, therefore, to perform the technical services associated with broadcasting in an efficient manner and with a minimum of expenditure. More important still, it is able to make these services available at all hours of the day and night at very short notice. Actually, the provision of the technical services associated with broadcasting is so closely interwoven with the activities of the Postal Department that this is the only authority adequately equipped to undertake the work. Any other arrangement would obviously involve the duplication of plant and staff, and would require enormous expenditure of time and money. Clause 17 of the bill provides that “ the Governor-General may, if he is satisfied that it is necessary in the public interests, direct the commission to refrain from taking any action in the exercise of any of its powers conferred by this act “. The Government recognizes that there are many advantages in allowing the commission to exercise the widest possible powers, but in the light of experience it considers that occasions might arise when it would be necessary to direct the commission in some particular sphere of the commission’s activities. The Government desires that the commission shall continue to lay down its own policy, and that it shall be free from the control of the Minister in the conduct of the normal business of the commission. This clause has been framed with the intention that the commission shall act under the powers conferred on it by the act, and shall be subject to restrain only when any of its actions are considered to be at variance with national or imperial policy, or in conflict with public interest.
– As this bill was introduced in the Senate, I presume that the Minister expects this House to proceed with the consideration of it immediately. I am profoundly disappointed that, in view of all the attention that has been fixed upon broadcasting, particularly since the commencement of the war, all that the Government has seen fit to do is to increase the personnel of the Australian Broadcasting Commission, give to itself the right to veto certain decisions of the commission, and prescribe that, in respect of certain of its appointments, the commission shall conform not to its own wishes, but to such conditions as the Governor-General in Council may lay down. Obviously any proper consideration of broadcasting in Australia, and of the work of the commission, should embrace the whole subject; it should take into account the relations of the commission with the public and, therefore, the relations of other broadcasting systems with the public. The Minister said in his speech that, by increasing the number of national stations to 28, the commission had made very great progress. But he made no reference to the great increase of the number of commercial broadcasting stations, which are dealing with the same public, and whose activities surely should be taken into account when this Parliament is confronted with the general question of what should be done with broadcasting now after we have the benefit of years of experience.
– Commercial broadcasting is dealt with in another act.
– That is my complaint. Both acts should be brought together in a general bill which would enable Parliament to deal with the whole problem of providing the Australian public with broadcasting services. The arguments adduced ‘by the Minister in regard to the technical services which the Postal Department renders to the Australian Broadcasting Commission can only be assessed properly when we remember that the Postal Department renders technical services to the commercial stations also. Therefore, the degree to which the commission may be concerned about the problem of securing land lines from the Postal Department, and about the question of whether the Post Office or the commission should control the technical services in the studios, cannot properly be considered by us unless we deal with all the things that the Postal Department is called upon to do in relation to broadcasting. We know what it has to do for the Australian Broadcasting Commission, but it also has to provide the same kind of service to the commercial stations which are subject to the same linking-up in their relationship to one another as are the regional stations of the Australian Broadcasting Commission in their linking-up. What the Government really intends to do is to let the commission stand. There is no criticism of its administration. The Minister would give us to understand that everything that the commission has done is regarded as satisfactory. But then he tells us that it is proposed to increase the number of commissioners from five to seven, so that the Government will be able to appoint some one qualified to speak for cultural requirements. That is a clear implication that the present commission is not- so qualified.
– He is not far out.
– There is no need’ to increase the personnel of the commission from five to seven in order to appoint some one who can speak for cultural interests, because the term for which the present members of the commission were appointed will terminate on the 30th June next. If the Government thinks that the present members have not the qualifications necessary to serve the Australian public, it ought to substitute some more qualified person or persons for one or more of the persons now serving on the commission, rather than increase the personnel from five to seven. Whilst I agree that it is proper that the commission should include a representative of the trade unions, or of Labour thought as it is expressed in some quarters, it does not appear to me to be necessary to increase the personnel to seven in order to do that.
If it is intended to give to Labour representation on the commission, I put it to the Minister that, having regard to the status of Labour in Australia, he should give to Labour one-fifth of the representation on the commission instead of only one-seventh. I gather, although no statement has been made on the subject, that it is intended to reappoint the present members of the commission and to add two to their number, one of the new appointees to be a person representative of Labour in the broad sense, and the other to be representative of culture in the broad sense. In my opinion, that will convert the commission into a debating chamber. I agree, if there is to be a commission - and there is no means of getting rid of it at this stage - it ought, speaking by and large, to he composed of persons whose fitness for directing an instrumentality, which is in almost hourly contact with the Australian public and is engaged in administering this tremendously significant and, indeed, marvellous achievement of the age, is unquestioned, and whose judgment of what is best in the national interest can be relied upon. I have said that there should be some one on the commission qualified to speak for Labour, but I never presumed that that would necessitate an increase of the personnel of the commission. If it he intended to increase the commissioners to seven, I say emphatically that to give to Labour one representative will not do; in that event, Labour will be entitled to two representatives. I say that for the reason that during the last two or three weeks the commission has apparently been endeavouring to convince certain people that because of the reduction of the proportion of the licence-fee which is payable to the commission it must greatly contract the amount of employment that it provides. I understand that it has changed the relationship of artists to itself by varying their contracts, and that it talks of reducing the number of musicians whom it employs. I know that the proportion of each listener’s licence-fee that ‘the commission receives has been reduced from 12s. to 10s., but the commission appears to have overlooked that, although the proportion of each licence-fee which it now collects is less than it was, its total revenue is constantly mounting. Indeed, the revenue which the commission has collected appears to be so great that it has decided to set aside a large proportion of such revenue without any reference to the Minister at all. The provision that the Minister may veto certain decisions of the commission appears to me to he necessary. I go further, and say that the commission ought to be subject to the direction of the Minister as well as to his veto. After all, the Minister is responsible to the Parliament, and in time of great national emergency, the commission should have a sober realization of its duty to the country. At least it should be subject to Parliament. The commission owes its steadily rising revenue not only to the improvement of its own programmes, but also to the growth of public opinion which, of course, has been stimulated by world events. In times past, test cricket matches have contributed to an increase of licence-fees as much as has any specific type of programme which the commission itself has put forward. Since the war the number of listener’s licences held by the Australian public has risen by approximately 140,000 to a total of over 1,250,000. Clearly we are approaching saturation point. The commission handles each year over £600,000. Despite the reduction of the proportion of the licence-fee that is paid to it, the commission received £365,000 for the half-year ended on the 31st December last..
I do not consider that the commission is entitled to cut the payments to the. musicians and artists whom it employs. I am definitely of the opinion that the commission is grossly overloaded at the top with officials whose existence would be hard to justify. I believe it is a body too greatly inclined to give effect to the personal caprice of its members, rather than to any definite policy. Without, reflecting on the members of the present commission, some of whom have been appointed only recently, I say quite determinedly, that at no time has the personnel of the Australian Broadcasting Commission been such as to give confidence to the public or satisfaction to this Parliament. Appointees to the commission have not been pre-eminent for their qualifications in the sphere of the public service to which they have been appointed. I say that without making any invidious personal distinction. I wholeheartedly believe that not only should the right of veto be given to the Minister against decisions of the commission, but also that the Minister should have the power to instruct the commission. It cannot be said that the Minister might use that power capriciously because, if he did so, he would be answerable to this Parliament the. next day. It may be said that that would be tantamount to political interference with the commission. But even so, it would be parliamentary supervision over such major decisions as the commission may make from day to day or from week to week. Since the war commenced, the commission has not given to the Australian public anything in the way of a satisfactory news service, the reason being that it has tied itself by entering into a contract with the Australian Newspapers Proprietors Association instead of engaging in the recruitment of its own independent news service. This is a matter of major importance, because government in a democracy depends on the right of individual citizens to the free expression of their opinions, and it is of the utmost importance that the public shall get its information from sources which have no other interest than to tell the truth, and the whole truth. I cannot say that of the Australian press as it is at present conducted, because there, is hardly a great newspaper in Australia which is not grossly and unfairly partisan in its political outlook. In a section of the Australian press, there is a readiness so to colour facts and events as to make them appear to justify editorial policy. Some of the newspapers initiate campaigns and stunts in order to get things done. They seek, not only to inform public opinion, but also to direct public opinion, and to this end they frequently suppress ministerial statements. “We heard evidence in this House only a few days ago of the distortion by a newspaper of a ministerial statement. I make no complaint against a section of the press for what it has done to me personally in relation to my position in this Parliament, not on one occasion, but over a long period. I make no complaint because I should not be here if the newspapers had any great and over- riding influence on the Australian public; but when it comes to the suppression of ministerial statements, I put it to the House that the public ought not to allow its own national instrumentality to be associated with a monopoly control over the sources of public information. Since the war started, the Australian news section of the Australian Broadcasting Commission has been of no greater length or frequency than before this conflict began, with the single exception of a ten-minute summary of what takes place in this Parliament delivered in a broadcast from Canberra at 10.30 on the night of each sitting day. The whole of the Australian news sessions dealing with Australian events was covered by an agreement which allowed the commission to take Australian news from the newspapers for broadcasting on the following basis - five minutes each morning, five minutes at midday, and five minutes each evening, with the proviso that no “ new “ news . should be used after 7 p.m. Any news of great public significance which broke after 7 o’clock at night could not be transmitted over the national network at the news session the same night, but must be reserved for the newspapers to present to the public in their editions on the following morning. It was further provided that the commission should not collect its own news. Provided it was allowed to take from the press such items as could be broadcast in a period of fifteen minutes, it was not to establish a news service of its own. Those of us who have had any experience before the microphone know that from 100 to 120 words a minute is the maximum speed at which a broadcaster should speak. Thus, in fifteen minutes, only about 1,700 words can be spoken. The commission was not allowed to collect its own news from any source other than the newspapers, it could not establish political news services in the States, or supplement any item of news which appeared in the newspapers. There have been occasions when, under pressure, this rule was departed from, but that was the agreement which determined the commission’s news policy until very recently. The agreement expired a little while ago, and at a conference between representatives of the Australian Broadcasting Commission and of the press the newspapers sought to secure a new agreement which would prevent the commission from doing the following things: -
I put it to the House that no agreement should be entered into which would thus restrict the operations, and limit the usefulness, of a great national instrumentality such as the Australian Broadcasting Commission, That is why I propose that, news services should be established by the commission independently of the newspapers. We should make it clear that, by the word “ programme “, we mean news services as well as musical services. We should make it mandatory that the commission shall provide an adequate and independent news service under its own control, in addition to any contracts or arrangements it may make with other news-gathering agencies. I do not suggest that it should not make such contracts. The commission should employ its own staff, which would be as large and as efficient as the circumstances justify, but, in addition, it should employ other agencies. The newspapers, as well as employing their own news-gathering staffs, make contracts with the great international news services, and the Australian Broadcasting Commission is just as well able to enter into such contracts as are the newspapers. The British Broadcasting Corporation has its own news service, and it broadcasts news to the world. The Australian Broadcasting Commission, for the right to re-broadcast that service to the Australian public, must pay £3,000 a year to the Australian press interests. It is true that the commission has, since the outbreak of Avar, recouped itself from the commercial broadcasting stations half that amount. Thus we have the extraordinary position that the Australian Broadcasting Commission cannot re-broadcast news from the British Broadcasting Corporation’s service without paying toll to the Australian Press Association, and the same condition applies to the commercial broadcasting stations. The agreement providing for this is still in operation. The agreement which has been terminated is that which gave the commission the right to broadcast news items which had appeared in the press. Thus the commission is unable at short notice to put on special news services when deemed necessary, or to extend its news sessions when the need arises.
Let us consider the Canberra news session at 10.30 p.m. Here is an example of how it works. Not long ago, this Parliament met upon a certain day. The Government, prior to the meeting of Parliament, had arranged a reception to His Excellency the Minister representing the Emperor of Japan, and tendered him a luncheon at which speecheswere made. I do not say that they were important speeches because I made one of them, but one speech was made by the Acting Prime Minister (Mr. Fadden), and another was made by the Leader of the Opposition in the Australian Parliament. Later that day the Parliament had before it for consideration the fact that a great country, the United States of America, had taken certain action, and references to that action were made in Parliament by the Acting Prime Minister, and also by the Leader of the Opposition. After that, Parliament unanimously decided to adjourn in order to give a definite and significant intimation of how much it appreciated the visit of goodwill paid to this country by the fleet of another great Pacific power. Those were the happenings of that day. The commentator, who had to discuss those most interesting and significant occurrences, was limited to a period of ten minutes in which he could speak at most 1,200 words. The speech of the Acting Prime Minister at the luncheon took more than ten minutes, as did the speech which he delivered in this Parliament in connexion with the Aid to Democracies Bill passed by the Congress of the United States of America. My own humble part we can leave out of consideration, but the speeches of the Acting Prime Minister, and the significant decision to adjourn this Parliament, were of far greater importance to the Australian public than a great part of the evening’s programmes which were transmitted by the Australian Broadcasting Commission that night. The stipulation that there shall be a rigid time limit imposed upon the transmission of local news is too silly for anybody to regard as reasonable. Does a newspaper devote only the same amount of space to the same kind of news evening after evening or morning after morning? Sometimes an item can be dismissed in a short paragraph. Sometimes it is given all the significance of a double-column heading, while sometimes the newspaper gives to it the dramatic importance of a five-column streamer heading. It all depends upon the significance of the item itself, and the atmosphere associated with it. Parliament may go on from day to day dealing with routine matters and machinery bills which, however necessary, have not that deep importance for the future of Australia which some other business may have. Nevertheless, no matter what the nature of the news concerning the doings of Parliament, the commentator is allowed only ten minutes for his comments. If nothing of importance has happened, he must pad out his comment with references such as how bored members of Parliament look. I am not asking that the speeches of honorable members shall be transmitted to the Australian public. The press must not attempt that misrepresentation of what I am arguing. What I am saying is that, just as the newspapers each day, through their own professional staffs, give to the proceedings of Parliament such treatment as those proceedings deserve, so also should the commission’s trained staff give to those proceedings each night such treatment as they warrant. I say that the public should not be forced to depend for guidance on important public matters upon what they read in the columns of privately owned newspapers. The Minister has claimed that the Australia;Broadcasting Commission is not subject to political influence of any kind. I accept that statement, and I ask the newspapers and the public to accept it also. I ask that we shall give to this impartial commission freedom of action in regard to the broadcasting of news, so that it shall not be bound to a strictly limited news session. There has been no increase of the time allotted for the local news sessions since before the war. In the meantime, our armies have been in action in Africa, and our fleets in the Mediterranean. A great stimulus has been given to the production of munitions in Australia. The great Labour movement has placed itself behind this campaign for greater production, so that the requisites for the defence of the country may be available. Yet, despite all those great occurrences, the length of’ the local news sessions have remained the same since the beginning of the war. Honorable members have only to contrast that with the increased amount of information about the war which newspapers give to the public. Newspapers and the wireless are analogous, in that each has to supply to the people a news service to tell them what is happening throughout the world. In this respect, the service which the Australian Broadcasting Commission renders to the Australian public has not kept abreast with the march of time. The commission ought to be under no disability, at short notice, to broadcast a special news session, and if it has trouble with the PostmasterGeneral’s Department in respect of securing land lines, the department must overcome the difficulty. There is no insuperable obstacle in the way. Whilst I recognize that strains are placed upon the land lines at certain periods, that portion can be overcome if there is a determination to resolve the difficulty. If the Government does not propose to change the responsibility for conduct of the technical service, a Director of Technical Services should be appointed to operate within the Post Office so …that lines can be made available without protracted negotiations between the two departments, and the flexibility and fluidity essential to a broadcasting authority with direct contact with the people may be maintained. What would be said of me if I, as a news editor, informed the gentlemen of the composing room that I desired to bring out >a new edition, and they refused to co-operate? Obviously, difficulties may arise in bringing out an extra edition. Obviously, a close liaison must be preserved between the editorial and printing rooms in order that the edition may be produced. It is useless to have a news commentator or extra news service if technical difficulties hamper transmission. The Postmaster-General’s Department and the Australian Broadcasting Commission, in association, and with sympathetic co-ordination, have to march with the times. If the Government does give to the controller of programmes same right of direction .regarding the use of land lines at short notice, the principle of “ passing the buck “ will again be apparent. The Australian Broadcasting Commission will not be able to carry out a transmission because it cannot get the land line, and the Postmaster-General’s Department will not be able to make available the land line because it did not receive sufficient notice. That problem must be overcome. A Director of Technical Services in the Post Office to control the engineering side would be of great advantage.
There should be co-ordination between the programmes of the Australian Broadeasting Commission and of the commercial stations at the same hour. Alternate stations ought to evolve alternate programmes at the same hour. All of us do not have the same ideas as to what is pleasing entertainment to us at the same time. Therefore, there is great advantage in having not only national, but also commercial stations. At times, their programmes are much alike and “hookups “ between the commercial stations coinciding with the Australian Broadcasting Commission’s national programme become increasingly the practice: a large number of stations simultaneously broadcasting the same programme. Commercial stations should not be allowed to hook up. They should be granted a licence for a given zone, and he restricted to that area. Hook-ups should be available only to the national stations. Hookups have become a source of great advertising revenue to th,e commercial stations and* some make a considerable profit. Furthermore, they have the effect of completely distorting the purpose of broadcasting as such. Can anything be less aesthetic, or less dignified, than on a Sunday night to have a programme in which pleasing musical items are punctuated by exhortations to listeners to use somebody’s soap? Some period during which stations would not be permitted to engage in their advertising business should be declared. I recognize that they must have revenue; but as the issue of commercial broadcasting licences is restricted, thereby creating a monopoly, rigid control must be exercised over persons to whom such licences are granted. The supervision should apply to their programmes and activities. If I were to apply for a B-class broadcasting licence for Canberra or Melbourne, I should be unable to obtain one because all the wavelengths and the channels are full. To grant to another station a licence would be to distort all the existing programmes. Because of that, those who now have the licences possess all the advantages of exploiting this great service to mankind. They should not have that opportunity without being subjected to strong control. It is not sufficient that they should be reminded of some of the provisions of the original act; they should be told also that they must co-relate their programmes to those of the national stations in order to give to the public a choice of programme at the one hour in the one district. I shall vote against the proposal to increase the personnel of the commission from five to seven members because such an increase is unjustified. I do not believe in large commissions. I am not so much enamoured of one-man control. On that, I have an open mind. But, in my experience, any advantage between a large and a small commission falls on the side of the small body. To increase the personnel of the commission will be merely to add to the .number of one-track minds which will probably endeavour to get their own way in connexion with the work which the commission performs. I have noticed a great improvement in the service. In my opinion, the technical quality is higher than it was. The commission has learned a great deal. Whilst I have passed strictures upon the commission as such, I have nothing but admiration for the General Manager, the managers of the variousnational stations, and the staffs which carry out the work. I have a suspicion that the commission has been more than a f formulator of policy ; in my opinion, it has interfered too much with the management. Persons known to be proteges of certain members of the commission have been given opportunities out of all proportion’ to their merits or their qualifications. I do not think that criticism applies to the managers who, in all the States, are highly qualified and perform their duties most capably. The commission has also failed, in its formulation of policy,, to keep abreast of the times.
– Does the Leader of the Opposition consider that control of the Australian Broadcasting Commission is being taken away from the PostmasterGeneral ?
– I do not think so.
– The amendment substituting the word “ Minister “ for the “ Postmaster-General “ is unnecessary.
– I frankly do not know why it was inserted, and I intend later to seek an explanation. When I oppose the proposal to increase the personnel of the commission from five to seven, I shall not submit an amendment, but shall merely vote against the clause. I shall ask Parliament to assist me to ensure that the commission will establish and develop independent news services under its own control. That is imperative. National broadcasting services have been established in a number of countries, and it should not be impossible for the commission to arrange, by contract or by agreement, for an overseas service. Some of the great news services in the world can be made available. Furthermore, the commission should develop in Australia its own independent news service, and I hope that view will be expressed in the statute, so that there will be no escape from it. The Minister should have power not only to veto any acts of the commission but also, in certain circumstances, to give directions to it. I do not think that he would have to do that very often. The very fact that he possesses the power to veto and of direction will induce the commission more adequately to carry out the very great trusteeship that has devolved upon it.
– About two years ago, I had the opportunity of preparing an amending bill dealing with the Australian Broadcasting Commission. I deeply regret that the legislation now under consideration embodies none of the changes which I consider to be necessary in order to place the broadcasting commission upon a sound, business-like basis. Some people express doubt as to whether a commission is necessary. Personally, I regard the Australian Broadcasting Commission as a big government department. To-day it is practically a section of government activity; but for reasons not so well appreciated nine years ago, it was placed under the control, not of a director-general, but of a commission, which was to formulate policy. Whether or not there should be a commission depends entirely on the attitude which Parliament adopts towards the management of an institution like the Australian Broadcasting Commission. Whilst I personally favour the commission, I consider that it should consist of more than five members. In the past the commission interfered too much in the administration of the General Manager, who has not been given the latitude which he must have in order properly to carry out his duties. The function of the commission, as I see it, is to formulate policy and broadly to see that its aims are followed ; but one of my complaints is that the commission is much more concerned with the whys and wherefores of every tiddlywinking thing in the department than with performing its proper functions. Regarding the composition of the commission, I hold definite views. To begin with, it should represent as broad a crosssection of public opinion as can be obtained. Broadcasting, to be successful, must always be fairly close to the people. By contrast with the national stations the commercial broadcasting stations have a much better appreciation of what the public- wants. Probably the reason for that is because many of the executives of the commercial stations have had a much better opportunity to gauge public sentiment. The commission, as it is constituted to-day, is not representative of any particular interests. Its members were obviously selected without proper regard to their fitness to perform the duties of their office. It is not wise to appoint to the commission people who are merely artists, dramatists or playwrights. The first attribute of a commissioner should be, above all, common sense and a proper appreciation of what the people are thinking and wanting. In that respect the present members of the commission have failed rather signally notwithstanding their efforts to endeavour to carry out their functions to the satisfaction of the listening public. The Leader of the Opposition (Mr. Curtin) said a good deal about the news service. Only a little over two years ago the Prime Minister (Mr. Menzies) was obliged to go on the air twice in succession within the short period of about three weeks in order to contradict statements made by the press, which the press had refused to correct when asked to do so. I agree with the Leader of the Opposition that the bill should be amended to give to the Minister sufficient power to enable him to say not only that certain things shall not be done, but also that certain things must be done.
– A similar suggestion advanced by the Opposition was bitterly opposed by the Government when the Australian Broadcasting Commission Bill was ‘first brought down.
– An opportunity will be afforded during the committee stage to propose amendments designed to improve the commission. I cannot understand why the Government proposes to amend the act by striking out the word “ Postmaster-General “ whereever occurring, and inserting in its stead the word “ Minister “, unless it is intended that the control of the commission is to be handed over to some Minister other than the Postmaster-General. I suspect very strongly that that other Minister will be the Minister for Information. We all know that the staff of the Department of Information is drawn largely from the big newspaper concerns in Australia. I believe that this Parliament will do the country a grave disservice if it agrees to the control of broadcasting being taken out of the hands of the Postmaster-General. Broadcasting is closely linked with the PostmasterGeneral’s Department. At present the Postmaster-General administers the affairs of the commercial broadcasting stations by regulation. It is utterly impossible to have efficient working of the broadcasting system, either national or commercial, unless these two functions are closely linked with the PostmasterGeneral’s Department. The PostmasterGeneral is required to provide and maintain certain services, and it is comparatively easy for him to undertake the task of controlling commercial stations so that all these services are brought under one control. I see the possibility of more than one disability arising if the control of the commission is handed over to the Department of Information. Greater difficulties will immediately be experienced with regard to the provision of land lines. Another difficulty that I foresee is that hoary old question of whether the commission should have the right to set up its own technical service. I consider that unnecessary, ‘because under the present arrangement the whole of the resources of the technical staff of the PostmasterGeneral’s Department are available to the commission. Another important point is the status of the employees of the commission. The conditions of employment and the absence of security of tenure for the employees have not been good either for the commission or its employees. The employees can be divided into two broad classes. First, there are those whose work is of a purely routine character who might very well be brought under the control of the Public Service Board and have their salaries fixed by that body. Then there is another section, largely composed of artistic gentlemen who could not be placed under any authority but the commission itself. Whilst I have no complaints to make against the commission at this stage, I do stress the point that the encouragement of Australian talent should be uppermost in the minds of the members of the commission. In the past there has on occasions been an unfortunate tendency to overlook the value of Australian talent and to import expensive artists from overseas. When it becomes necessary to secure overseas artists, great care should be exercised in their selection.
During the committee stage I intend to propose certain amendments to improve the bill. I believe that the functions of the commission should be more clearly defined, and that certain doubts should be cleared up, particularly with regard to the news service. Another matter not yet touched upon by honorable members is the future of the A.B.C. Weekly. When the full story of that journal is told, I feel sure that honorable members will have a different conception of its usefulness. I remember well the occasion on which the commission reported that it had been advised by the Newspaper Proprietors Association that in future it would have to pay full advertising rates for all programmes published in the press. Prior to that programmes broadcast on the national network were published as news. I was told that the cost to the commission under the new arrangement would be not less than £90,000 per annum, a sum far in excess of any loss likely to be incurred in connexion with the A.B.C. Weekly. Had a little more toleration and cooperation been exhibited by the Newspaper Proprietors Association on that occasion, the necessity for the publication of the new journal would not have arisen. The borrowing power vested in the commission should be rescinded, and during the committee stage I propose to move an amendment to that end. I understand that when the parent bill was put through this House the intention was that the commission should have the power to borrow during the early stages of its activities when its revenue would not meet its outgoings. Now, however, the commission is flourishing, and has been able to set aside a tidy sum in government bonds and fixed deposits.
Sitting suspended from 11.43 p.m. to 12.15 a.m. (Thursday).
Thursday3, April 1941.
– I shall confine my remarks to the financial aspect of the Australian Broadcasting Commission’s operations. I greatly regret that provision has not been made in this bill to bring the commission under the same budgetary control as are other governmental activities. At present, broadcasting is conducted under a divided authority as to finance. The commission shares with the PostmasterGeneral’s Department the revenue obtained from licence-fees, and if we desire to ascertain the net results of its operations for any specified period, we must examine not only its own balance-sheet and profit and loss account, but also the profit and loss account of the PostmasterGeneral’s Department. For example, the commission’s profit and loss account for last year shows a profit of £47,254,but to that has to be added the profit of £13,256 made through broadcasting by the Postmaster-General’s Department. On previous occasions I have referred to the necessity to place the finances of the commission directly under the control of Parliament. At present, licence-fees are collected by the Postmaster-General’s Department, which makes a payment of 10s. from each fee to the Broadcasting Commission. The commission expends the money in performing its various functions. It is unfortunate that neither during the debate on the budget nor during the discussion on the Estimates do honorable members have an adequate opportunity to analyse the commission’s financial position. This year, we received the commission’s profit and loss account only a few weeks ago, and I question whether many honorable members have been able to examine it. The statement shows that whereas the revenue of the commission increased last year by only 7 per cent., the salaries paid by it increased by 33 per cent. Parliament is entitled to some explanation of that increase. A comparison of revenue and expenditure for 1937-38 and for this year reveals that whereas in that period the revenue has increased by 20 per cent., salaries have increased by nearly 50 per cent. This also emphasizes the necessity for bringing the commission under similar budgetary control to that of other government activities. The Estimates for the PostmasterGeneral’s Department and other Commonwealth departments must be submitted to Parliament annually and so may be examined, but no such obligation rests upon the Australian Broadcasting Commission and so its accounts are not subject to scrutiny. I have referred to this subject on other occasions because I can see no justification for the continuance of this differentiation.
– I think the honorable gentleman is right.
– I can understand that in the early stages of the operations of the commission, when it was an entirely new venture, some justification may have existed for this different treatment, but broadcasting has now become a more or less settled business and the commission’s finances should he subject to examination, like those of other government activities.
The Leader of the Opposition (Mr. Curtin) referred to the substantial reserve funds and accumulated profits held by the commission, which now amount to £476,000. The PostmasterGeneral’s Department, which has a turnover of £18,000,000 annually, is not permitted to retain for its own purposes a single penny of its surplus profits. The Constitution provides that the whole of the revenue of the department must he paid into Consolidated Revenue and the department may draw upon the Consolidated Revenue Fund only as provided, from time to time, by the Parliament.
– Would the honorable member favour placing the Australian Broadcasting Commission under the complete control of the Postmaster-General’s Department ?
– I do not, at the moment, advocate the adoption of that course; but I. am strongly of the opinion that the commission should be subject to budgetary control. That would give to honorable members a proper opportunity, at least annually, to examine its finances and discuss its operation. I do not reflect, in any way, upon the members of the commission in making these remarks. I simply oppose the continuation of the present financial policy of the commission.
– If the operations of the commission came before Parliament when the Estimates were under consideration, we should have an opportunity to discuss the allocation of funds for musical purposes, talks, news services, and so on.
– That was the point in the Ullswater report in connexion with broadcasting in Great Britain. It recommended that estimates in respect of broadcasting should be submitted to Parliament.
– Under that system the proposed expenditure on broadcasting could be properly supervised.
The honorable member for Barker (Mr. Archie Cameron) stated that the commission had the. right to borrow money. I have not examined the relevant provision of the act but I take it that any such power could be exercised only with the approval of the Government. I urge that careful consideration be given to my proposal that the financial basis of the commission be reviewed in order to ensure adequate parliamentary supervision of this instrumentality.
Certain features of the accounts of the commission require explanation. I notice that the amount expended under the heading “ other expenditure “ increased from £17,000 to £60,000 in one year. I do not suggest that there is anything wrong in this connexion, but it is surely proper that honorable members should be given an explanation of that item.
– Are the accounts subject to supervision by the Auditor-General?
– Yes, but of course the Auditor-General accepts the approval of the commission as to expenditure incurred. My point is that Parliament should have the final say in the control of this undertaking and that the best control over it is control of its finances. I hope that the Minister will give early and serious consideration to my proposal, so that the accounts of this undertaking may be brought before the Parliament each year.
– They do come before the Parliament.
– But there is no opportunity to discuss proposed expenditure before it is incurred.
I have no criticism to make of the personnel of the commission, but I am not altogether favorably disposed to increasing the number of members to seven. I believe that better results would be obtained from a commission of three capable men. An increase to seven may lead to still further increases, with the result that the commission would become unwieldly
– I was interested in the remarks of the honorable member for Lilley (Mr. Jolly). This matter was considered by the Ullswater Committee, which was appointed in Great Britain in 1936. A passage from Public Enterprise, edited by
William A. Robson, is instructive. In it Mr. Robson says that the Ullswater Committee made a number of inconsistent recommendations in connexion with finance. For instance it recommended that the estimates for broadcasting should be presented separately from those relating to the post office. The passage then proceeds :
The object of this excellent proposal is to enlarge the opportunities for Parliamentary discussion and control.
A footnote reads -
See also the remarks of the Assistant Postmaster-General : Hansard, 193(1, vol. 318. No. 34, col. 2784, from which it appears that a full day’s debate will be given to broadcasting on each year’s estimates.
Then follows a point mentioned by the honorable member for West Sydney (Mr. Beasley) : -
How can one reasonably demand more of a certain kind of programme feature - orchestral music, for example - unless one has some idea of the cost of the existing supply compared with other programme features?
Instead of dealing with the matter when a report relating to past expenditure comes before us, we should be able to discuss the estimates of proposed expenditure and the policy of the broadcasting authority, as well as the time to be allotted to various activities and cultural works.
The bill requires the commission to provide adequate and comprehensive programmes, and take such measures as it considers are conducive to the full development of programmes suitable for broadcasting. Members of the Musicians Union complain that, since the reduction of the proportion of the listeners’ licencefee which goes to the. commission from 12s. to 10s. a year, the commission’s ability to employ musicians and other artists has diminished. The commission is . now the principal employer of musicians in Australia. In future, instrumentalists and vocalists, and artists generally, must look to the commission as the chief source of employment. If the capacity of the commission to give employment to them is diminished by reason of the reduction of its grant, a considerable disservice has been done to music and art in this country. I am not so greatly concerned as is the Loader of the Opposition with the news-giving function of the Australian Broadcasting Commission. I fear that in that department there is grave danger of broadcasting generally becoming an agency of national propaganda, as in other countries. If we think that the newspapers are providing an inadequate news service, we should instead of attempting to set up the Australian Broadcasting Commission as a rival to them, endeavour so to control the newspapers that they will give better reports. On previous occasions I have suggested that newspapers should be under a legal obligation to publish communications on public matters supplied not only by the government of the day, but also by the different political parties in this country. I do not want the Australian Broadcasting Commission to become the principal newsagency in Australia because, in my opinion, it is becoming increasingly difficult to separate news from opinions. A monopoly of the news service is dangerous; but where more than one newsagency exists, it is possible to balance one against the other, because a person who does not like the way one newspaper presents the news, can change to another newspaper. The chief activity of any broadcasting agency should be cultural in its widest sense, and not merely giving to the people what the commission thinks they should be given, as Sir John Reith did in England. The people are entitled to whatever form of entertainment will tend to increase their happiness and enjoyment. Man does not live by news alone - not even news of battles or of Parliament. With all its defects, the Australian Broadcasting Commission has done useful work, and it ought to be permitted to do a great deal more.
I fail to see that any great advantage will be obtained by increasing the number of members of the commission. It seems to me that the only reason for the proposed increase is that, pursuant to a recommendation of the Ullswater Commission, the number of members of the British Broadcasting Corporation was increased from five to seven. I think that a commission of five members is just as likely to carry out -the work of the commission effectively as is a body of seven members.
– The bill is - like the curate’s egg - good in parts, and very bad in other parts. The proposal to extend the powers of the commission is reasonably good, but that to increase the number of members from five to seven and to allow the present members to remain as commissioners is a retrograde proposal. The claim has been made that the personnel of the commission is excellent, and I presume that the claim applies also to the technical advisers and those who arrange the programmes and generally direct the commission’s work. If the claim is intended to apply as a compliment to the members of the commission, I dissent. I consider that the only capable member on the commission as it is at present constituted is the chairman, and I contend that the other members were appointed not because of their knowledge of broadcasting or their fitness to undertake the management of the undertaking, but because of services they had rendered to certain persons having political power in this country. One member is Mr. Edward Charles Rigby. He is a distinguished Melbourne citizen who has served the State well in the sphere of municipal politics. I assert that his appointment was due entirely to the fact that he is a very important man in the electorate represented by the Prime Minister, and that his predecessor (Mr. Herbert Brookes) possessed far more knowledge of broadcasting. Mr. Rigby’s appointment was influenced by the fact that largesse had to be distributed or a pension provided for a political supporter of the United Australia party. Another member is Mrs. Elizabeth May Ramsay Couchman. She knows little about broadcasting despite the fact that she has been a member of the commission for seven years. She sought pre-selection by the United Australia party in Victoria as a candidate for the Senate at the last Commonwealth elections, and, if it were not for the fact that the age of chivalry has passed in that party, she might now be a senator for Victoria representing United Australia party interests. She was nominated by the Australian Women’s National League for pre-selection, allegedly because of the war situation. She was not selected by the United Australia party. The Australian Women’s National League, with which body Mrs. Couchman has been prominently associated for many years, agreed to accept the decision of the United Australia party. Mrs. Couchman, to use a colloquialism, took her beating like a man and continued to act as a prominent member in the Australian Women’s National League. She, too, I suppose had to be provided with a pension. The foisting of these two persons on the community as members of the reconstituted Australian Broadcasting Commission should not be continued by this Parliament. The statement has been made that the purpose of increasing the number of members of the commission from five to seven is to provide places for the present five members, a place for a member representing the Labour party, and another for one representing cultural interests. The Minister (Mi-. Collins) who represents the Postmaster-General in. this House does not deny that assertion. Does the Government intend to re-appoint the present five members?
– Possibly they will be re-appointed.
– -I admire the honorable gentleman’s candour. I have mentioned the chairman, Mrs. Couchman and Mr. Rigby. The other two members are excellent citizens in their own way but both are hard-boiled Tories. The gibe is constantly used that Victoria secures the bulk of Government contracts, but. on behalf of Victoria I offer two positions on the commission held by these two Victorian citizens to persons from other States, and I am sure that if my offer were accepted Victoria would not be the loser. These estimable people may possess qualifications for other positions, but not for the management of a huge undertaking like the Australian Broadcasting Commission. If I had my way I should not have representatives of political parties in charge of the management of the national broadcasting service or any other activity under the control of the Commonwealth Parliament. Persons should be appointed to these positions solely on the ground of fitness for the position, and not because of their political labels. If it were possible for the Assistant Minister to see the light I should suggest that he make provision for the abolition of the commission in order to place this huge undertaking under the direct control of Parliament. After the Labour party took office in New Zealand it passed in 1936 an amending act by which the broadcasting board which had controlled broadcasting in that dominion from 1932 to 1936 was abolished and the control of the national broadcasting service was vested in a Minister of the Crown. All properties, rights, liabilities and engagements of the board were transferred to the Crown. The administration of the service was placed in the hands of a director of broadcasting, who was made as much responsible to the Postmaster-General as is the Director-General of Posts and Telegraphs. If we can manage our huge postal and telegraph business with a director responsible to the PostmasterGeneral, surely our broadcasting undertaking can be managed in the same way. We certainly do not need a commission of five or seven members to manage the postal department. What a hue and cry there would be if it were suggested that political rejects should be appointed to a commission to manage the postal department! I see no particular reason for the Government’s proposal to remove control of the technical services of the national broadcasting system from the Postmaster-General to another Minister. I consider that the control of broadcasting is more closely related to the Postmaster-General than to any other Minister.
– I point out that clause 14 proposes a small amendment for the omission of the words “ the PostmasterGeneral “ in section 44 of the principal act, and the insertion in their stead of the words “ subject to this act, the Minister “.
– An honorable member reading the amendment in clause 14 has no further information to guide him, and therefore might be suspicious about the motive for the alteration proposed. That fact of itself would justify a suspicion that some change was imminent.
– This is a minor amendment substituting the word “ Minister “ for the words “ Postmaster-General “.
– In section 9 of the New Zealand act, provision is made for the appointment of an advisory body called the Broadcasting Advisory Council, to consist of not more than five members, to be appointed from time to time by the Governor-General on the recommendation of the Minister. The appointment to the council is for a period of two years, except that members may be re-appointed or removed from office by the GovernorGeneral. If the Government believes that some organization should be set up, let it he an advisory body whose duty will be to advise the director, but do not continue with a body with statutory powers to control the whole undertaking. Under the New Zealand act, no advertisement for the pecuniary benefit of any person may be broadcast from any broadcasting station, except commercial stations owned by the Crown. This is a departure which no government has thought to introduce in Australia. It means, not only that Aclass stations in New Zealand are permitted to accept advertisements, but also that they are the only stations which may do so.
I ask leave to continue my remarks on the next day of sitting.
Leave granted; debate adjourned.
The following bills were returned from the Senate without amendment or requests : -
Pay-roll Tax Assessment Bill 1941.
Pay-roll Tax Bill 1341.
Defence Bill 1041.
Crimes Bill 1041.
Acts Interpretation Bill 1041.
Debate resumed (vide page 570) on motion by Mr. MoEwen) -
That the bill bc now read a second time.
– This bill has been examined. It is non-contentious and the Opposition will allow it to go through.
Question resolved in the affirmative.
Bill read a second time and reported from committee without amendment; report adopted.
Bill - by leave - read a third time.
Holdsworthy Detention Camp : Com monwealth Man-power and Resources Survey Committee - Fodder Supplies for Army - Royal Australian Air Force : Examinations and Commissions; Equal Pay for Men andwomen; Women’s Auxiliary - Munition Workers - Universal Trainees’ Privileges - Class 2 Recruits.
Motion (by Mr. Fadden) proposed -
That the House do now adjourn.
– Some days ago, I brought under the notice of the House certain happenings at the Holdsworthy Detention Camp. As the result, the Minister for the Army (Mr. Spender) decided to order a form of inquiry which I considered to be distinctly unsatisfactory. Since making those disclosures in the House, I have had brought to my notice other matters so serious as to warrant mention in this chamber, even at this late hour. On the previous occasion, I referred to the brutality practised against certain inmates of the camp, but I was then unaware exactly how far that brutality extended. Since then, my’ attention has been directed to a case which, for some reason or other, has received no mention in the daily press. The facts are these : Honorable members will recollect that I mentioned the attempted escape of two of the inmates on the 2nd March, and told how they were eventually arrested and returned to the camp. I now find that there were three men in the cell from which the escape was made, but that only two of them attempted to escape. The third man, Sapper George Moore, did not attempt to escape. After the other two men had been apprehended, Moore was questioned by the guards as to whether he had intended to escape or whether he had assisted the other men to escape. I understand that they escaped from the cell through a fanlight after they had cut some wire. Moore denied that he had intended to escape or had in any way assisted the other men to leave the cell, and his denial was corroborated by them after their apprehension. Having been questioned and having refused to admit any guilt, Moore was replaced in his cell. The practice of the camp is that prisoners are allowed out of their cells for showers at 4 a.m. A few days later, when Moore was returning to his cell, he was struck a heavy blow on the back of the head, subjected to severe kicking, and thrown up against the steps of one of the cells. He was found in an insensible condition some time later. He is now dangerously ill, with, amongst other things, a fractured spine, at the Prince of Wales Repatriation Hospital, Randwick. His mother has been told that the probabilities are that he will never walk again. I had this case brought to my notice and, accompanied by Senator Ashley, I visited Moore at the hospital and had a conversation with him. He told me that since the attack, endeavours had been made to induce him to sign a statement that other inmates of the camp had been responsible for the attack. He had refused to sign any statement to that effect. After I had a conversation with him, I suggested that he place the facts in writing and here is what he wrote above his own signature: -
In reference to my injury received at Holdsworthy Det. Barracks, I was placed there for being A.W.L. While I was there two other soldiers in the same cell as myself decided to escape owing to the way they were being treated by the staff. They asked me to accompany them but I thought it would go easier for me if I stayed and put up with it. During the night I was awakened by whistles and gongs. The two soldiers referred to above had escaped but were soon caught and dealt with in no gentle manner. I was then approached by the staff and accused of legging them out of the window. They even tried to get the two who escaped to say I helped them out, but being pro.per men they would say nothing. I told the staff what had happened but I soon found out I was not takennotice of. A few days later I found a note written on the back of a razor blade wrapper saying how I would learn to keep my mouth shut. I was paraded and the note was given to the CO. of the camp. I was led to believe it came from some of the men. Whether it did or not I don’t know. They had me in a cell on my own; I asked to be associated with the men so as if they had anything against me they could openly accuse me, but there was nothing said so I was beginning to wonder what it was all about. A couple of mornings later
I was coming back from the showers when all of a sudden I got a punch on the backof the head and as I swung around I recognized a couple of the guards. J. was knocked against the steps of a cell and felt a couple of kicks, and then remembered no more until they took me back to the cells on a stretcher. This happened at 4 o’clock in the morning. About 9 a.m. the same day a doctor came to see me. He said that there was nothing wrong with me. I was told that the only way to get to the hospital was to agree to everything they said to me, which I did. A statement was put in my mouth but I never signed anything. On the following morning I was removed to theRandwick hospital, where I was X-rayed and it was found that I had a fractured spine, and I was put on the dangerously ill list. They are, I believe, trying to put the blame on to a certain person for my injury, hut if they do I am willing to take an oath that the person was not implicated.
This statement I have made is not for myself but to try and help the boys of the A.I.F. from being treated like the Nazis treat their victims. (Sgd.) George Moore.
That statement is conclusive proof that the inquiry intended by the Government is inadequate. I do not question the qualifications of the man appointed to make the inquiry, but the men look upon him as a government man to whom, fearing victimization, they are not prepared to give evidence. The case I have cited is that of a man’s life being jeopardized by brutal treatment. In this chamber there are men of legal experience - the honorable member for Bourke (Mr. Blackburn), the honorable member for Batman (Mr. Brennan), the honorable member for Barton (Mr. Evatt), the honorable member for Reid (Mr. Morgan), and the honorable member for Watson (Mr. Falstein) - qualified in the sifting of evidence to whom the soldiers would be ready to give testimony.
Moore has two brothers in the Army, one at Singapore and the other at Darwin. Since he has been in hospital the allotment which he had made to his mother has been stopped. Neither I nor he knows why. Perhaps the authorities think that if they continued the pay to the mother they would be accepting responsibility for the attack. Has an inquiry been held into that happening? If so, what was the result? Or is the Army holding back in order to get Moore into such a condition that he would be prepared to make a statement exculpating the guards? If so, the authorities are wasting their time. Moore wrote to me the letter which I have read. He will not retract that. I, therefore, urge upon the Government the need to satisfy the public and the men of the Australian Imperial Force, who have knowledge of what is happening in the detention camps, by holding a proper inquiry at which, I have no doubt, the charges that I have made would be substantiated. That inquiry must be conducted by an independent impartial tribunal, which would be charged with sifting these matters and with discovering whether these abuses of authority have been perpetrated. The proper inquiry would be by a select committee of Parliament or, preferably, because the soldiers would not have absolute confidence in the impartiality of Government supporters, a committee appointed from honorable members on this side of the House. I do not want to select the men for the job, but at least from those honorable members whom I have named the Government could choose a man or men to conduct the inquiry.
.Today and yesterday I directed questions to the Acting Prime Minister (Mr. Fadden) about correspondence which passed between his department and the Premier of New South Wales on the subject of the inquiries of the Commonwealth Man-power and Resources Survey Committee. The Acting Prime Minister, whose courtesy and frankness I appreciate, placed at my disposal the file on this matter. The file contains numerous letters, the substance of which I shall state. As far back as February this year, the Acting Prime Minister, through one of his officers, wrote to the Premiers requesting that they co-operate with the Commonwealth Man-power and Resources Survey Committee, which was set up by the Australian Advisory War Council, and to enable State officials to be approached by the committee in order that it might obtain direct from them the information it required. It was specifically asked that the committee be given direct access to the officers of the various State departments. That request was repeated in subsequent correspondence between the Acting Prime Minister and the Premier of New South
Wales, and between the chairman of the Man Power and Resources Survey Committee and the Premier. But Mr. Mair obstinately decreed that departmental officers were not to present themselves for personal examination by the committee. Whilst they were permitted to prepare statements for submission to the committee, such documents had first to be approved by the Premier or his department. In other words, the personal opinion, knowledge and experience of departmental officers were to be virtually censored by the Premier. The only persons who would be allowed by Mr. Mair to appear in person were State Ministers, but obviously, they would not have the wealth of detailed information that is possessed by departmental officers. On the 7th March the chairman of the committee addressed the following letter to Mr. Mair -
The committee would appreciate the same access to information and views in the State services as ithas received in the Federal service. The Acting Prime Minister evidently realized that this was necessary when he wrote to all State premiers on the 27th February, 1941, as follows - “ It is proposed that the committee should conduct a survey in each State and confer with those Commonwealth and State departments and organizations whose activities are closely related to the questions under review. The committee has already entered upon its work.
It would be greatly appreciated by the Commonwealth Government if your Government could see its way to co-operate in connexion with this matter to the fullest extent possible. In this connexion it would materially facilitate the committee’s work if you could arrange for the necessary authority to be given to enable any State official approached by the committee to supply direct any information desired by the committee in pursuance of its inquiries.”
Unfortunately, the committee’s work in this State has been delayed by the cancellation of the interviews that had been arranged on Wednesday last with officials of the Department of Labour and Industry and Works and Local Government. The committee is obliged to leave for Canberra and Melbourne at the weekend without the benefit of the conferences that it expected to have completed with those State officials this week.
The committee will be grateful if you will agree to comply fully with the request made by the Acting Prime Minister, in which case arrangements will be made to see a number of State officials when the committee returns to Sydney about a fortnight hence.
Thus, the investigations of the committee in New South Wales have been seriously delayed by the obstinacy of the Premier. Subsequently, Mr. Mair wrote to the Acting Prime Minister and to the chairman of the committee, repeating his decision that any approach to State departmental officers or Ministers of the Crown must be made, in the first place, through him or through his department, “ as the scope of the committee’s inquiries must inevitably lead to consideration of matters affecting State Government policy “. In other words, the policy of the State Government is more important than the Commonwealth’s war effort. Obviously, from the correspondence, the Premier is not co-operating fully with the committee. The facts having been brought under the notice of the Acting Prime Minister, he should enlarge the powers of the committee in order to overcome the impasse. So far, the Acting Prime Minister and the chairman have been very indulgent and patient towards the Premier; but unless action be taken promptly to increase the authority of the committee, the conferring of the necessary powers will be delayed until the House re-assembles several months hence. In the circumstances, it is regrettable that the Acting Prime Minister did not, secure the appointment of a select committee to undertake the investigation, because under the Standing Orders it would be clothed with specific authority to compel the attendance of witnesses. As the powers, functions and objectives of the committee are most obscure, the Acting Prime Minister should explain them to the House.
The Man-power and Resources Survey Committee should direct attention to the technical training of youths and others for employment in the munitions industry. The Minister for Labour and National Service, in a communication to me in January last, stated: -
The munition scheme is absorbing a considerable number of skilled men, and at present 1,030 skilled engineering tradesmen and precision tool-makers have qualified for munition employment. At the present time there are a further 2,000 going through the schools. The only thing preventing a substantial increase in the number of trainees is the restriction of available equipment, but we have a big plan in hand for increasing this.
Eighteen months have elapsed since the outbreak of war, and the Commonwealth requires 80,000 trained men for munitions work by next June. To date, a mere handful has been prepared for the job. The lag is caused by the lack of equipment for training operatives. Between 2,000 and 3,000 boys, who should be admitted to technical schools in the Metropolitan area of Melbourne each year, are turned away because of lack of accommodation, and most of them become unskilled workers. That is a problem which the committee must solve. In addition, it should endeavour to evolve a scheme for utilizing the equipment of small factories, the proprietors of which are eager to engage in defence work. A substantial stimulus could be given to the production of war materials if those industrial plants were pressed into service.
– I desire to bring under the notice of the Minister for the Army (Mr. Spender) a complaint concerning supplies of fodder to his department in Victoria. When the late Mr. Street was Minister for the Army, complaints were made to me about preferential treatment shown to one firm in regard to supplies of fodder. After I had discussed the matter with him, a distinct improvement of the position was reported, and the subsequent allocation of orders was fair and equitable. Recently, however, I was informed that a distinct preference is again being shown to one firm, and hints were made to me that such preference was due to “ influence at court “. I hesitate to make any charges, or even to insinuate that an officer of the department has used his influence to obtain orders for a firm with which he was associated. Will the Minister ascertain from his department what method is being used to-day in allocating orders for fodder in Victoria? It was said previously that orders were given principally to one firm, because it could supply chaff and fodder of a superior quality. When the late Mr. Street was Minister for the Army he agreed with me that, there was no reason why one firm should be given a preference on the ground of the quality of the fodder supplied by it, because the Army Department could specify that the article supplied should comply with the stan dard laid down by the State Department of Agriculture. In analysing the papers received from the Minister, I find that the firm complained of as having obtained the bulk of the business, received orders to the value of £5,700 for the year ended the 30th June, 1940, that the next highest amount, which was paid to another firm, was £3,300, that orders given to other firms ran into only three figures and that some firms got no orders at all. I repeat that one firm received a distinct preference. Towards the end of 1940 the firms that should have participated in the orders either received none or obtained reduced orders, whilst the orders given to the favoured firm either remained constant for the twelve months or were increased.
– I shall ascertain for the honorable member the system that is in operation in Victoria in regard to these orders.
– The Acting Prime Minister (Mr. Fadden) has allowed the honorable member for Reid (Mr. Morgan) to read the correspondence covering the negotiations between himself, the Premier of New South Wales, and myself, as chairman of the Manpower and Resources Survey Committee. Up to the present moment, I have considered that it was not my function to inform the House with regard to this matter. Without commenting on any policy conceptions that may actuate the Premier of New South Wales, I may say that it is quite impossible for the committee to complete its investigations in that State unless it has the same access to public officials there as it has had to Commonwealth officials, and has been promised with regard to officials in Victoria and other parts of Australia. The committee has already interviewed seventeen Commonwealth officials, and I fail to see that there should be any more objection to the examination of New South Wales officials than officers of the Commonwealth.
– What reason is given for the refusal of permission for New South Wales officials to be interviewed ?
– I do not think that the Premier of New South Wales has given a reason at all. He has merely indicated that he prefers that the committee should either state its requirements in writing, and obtain a reply from Ministers, or see the Ministers personally. There can he no question of interference with State policy, since all that the committee desires is information. I hope that the Premier of New South Wales may see the matter in that light at a later date. The House may be assured that the committee has lost no time in its investigations. A letter quoted by the honorable member for Reid indicates that some appointments made in Sydney during the early part of March were not kept; but the committee was able to deal with other subjects and to see other witnesses. T can assure the honorable member for Reid, and honorable members generally, that the time spent by the committee in Sydney was fully occupied, and that, if it is able to see officials of the New South Wales Government next week, the delay? that have occurred up to the present will be of no serious consequence. Since early March the committee has examined witnesses in Canberra and in Melbourne.It will return to Sydney to-morrow, at the conclusion of the present parliamentary sittings. If it is not able to interview the New South Wales Government officials between Friday of this week and Friday of next week, it will have been delayed; but the difficulties up to the present that the House knows about have not caused it any embarrassment.
The committee has not approached the Acting Prime Minister officially with regard to this matter. It has known that it could have access to him as soon as necessary, but it hoped that the position in New South Wales might change. The committee does not desire to have the powers of a royal commission. It would prefer to carry on in the way in which it is now working. By privately interviewing appropriate officials who administer the services which are closely related to the subject-matter of its investigation, the committee believes that it can more efficiently, more quickly and more cheaply accomplish its task than if it were granted the powers of a royal commission. Necessarily, its inquiries must extend to technical education. It is necessary for the committee to visit the technical colleges in Sydney, in order to ascertain how the trainees will fit into the. war industries and industries closely related to the war effort. That is only one of a number of branches of the investigation to which the committee must direct its attention. I hope that as ths result pf the correspondence which the honorable member for Reid has now perused, and the publicity given to the matter by the Acting Prime Minister, the committee will have no difficulty in obtaining the information that it desires in New South Wales.
– I direct the attention of the Minister for Air (Mr. McEwen) to a complaint which I received four or five weeks ago regarding the granting of commissions to successful candidates who sat for an examination held on the 18th and 19th September, 1940. So that the honorable gentleman may understand to what examination I refer I inform him that the examination paper was headed “Intermediate Examination No. 2 S.B.T.S. No. 1 Course. Held 18th and 19th September, 1940.” This matter was raised by “ a constituent of mine whose son succeeded in being placed third on the list of successful candidates. I understand that all of the 37 candidates who presented themselves for examination were successful. It was understood by these young men that they would receive their commissions in the order in which their names appeared on the list of successful candidates. It appears, however, that that has not been done. Although the young man in whom I am interested succeeded in gaining third place on the list, he had not yet been successful in securing his commission, but others placed much lower on the list have already had their commissions granted to them. I am told that the first three candidates on the list have not yet got their commissions although commissions have already been granted to those placed seventh, eighth, thirteenth, fifteenth, sixteenth, twenty-fourth and thirty-sixth on the list. It appears to me that the old school tie method is being adopted in connexion with these appointments. I am strengthened in this belief by the fact that a candidate named Grace, who was placed thirty-sixth on the list, and who,
I understand, is related to the well-known Grace Brothers of Sydney, has already received his commission. So that the Minister may he in a position to make full inquiries in regard to this matter, I inform him that the name of the candidate in whom I am interested is CorkranI understand he is now serving overseas. I trust that the Minister will make inquiries into this obvious injustice.
– The honorable member for Hindmarsh (Mr. Makin) and I have both made representations to the Minister for the Air (Mr. McEwen) regarding the employment in the Royal Australian Air Force of women on work interchangeable with men at a lower rate of pay. It should be an axiom that when women and men are employed on the same class of work, they should be paid the same rate of wages. Any other course is unfair to both the women and the men. Recently I asked the Minister some questions about the work done by women employed as wireless operators and teleprinter operators. The Minister answered -
There is no difference in the nature of the work of men and women wireless operators employed on ground wireless duties. There is no difference in the nature of the work of men and women teleprinter operators.
Yet the women are paid a rate of pay equivalent to approximately two-thirds of the rate paid to men employed on the same class of work. That is obviously unfair to both the men and the women. It was said in the press that this had been agreed to by the Advisory “War Council, but it was stated in this House and elsewhere by Labour representatives on the council that that was not so, and that the press was mistaken in saying so. I mention that because the matter has been taken up by interested people outside. 1 should like them to remember that the Labour members of the Advisory War Council have repudiated any responsibility for the fixing of lower rates of pay for women doing work which is interchangeable with men. I hope that the Minister will reconsider his decision in this respect and see that the same rates are paid to men and women alike.
– As the Minister (Mr. McEwen) knows,, at different times I have raised the subject of the employment of women in the Royal Australian Air Force. Yesterday I questioned the Minister for the Navy (Mr. Hughes) regarding a report that 50 women were to be engaged by the Royal Australian Navy for service as signallers. To-day I received a telegram from Adelaide in the following terms : -
Received authentic information stating women’s auxiliary to he associated with headquarters 4t]1 M.D. Can you see Minister for Army and stop further activities pending interview with you Saturday morning? This is very damaging. Breakaway members from Red Cross. Urgent action necessary.
It appears that it is now the policy of the Government to encourage the establishment of women’s auxiliaries associated with the Defence Forces.
– That is the first I have heard of it. I have given no such authority. Such an auxiliary as that’ mentioned in the telegram could not he formed without my authority. Certain arrangements have been made for the employment of nurses, but an auxiliary such as that mentioned in the telegram is. quite a different thing.
– The provision of an army nursing service is accepted as a necessary adjunct to. our fighting forces. It is said that there is a decided effort, particularly on the part of some of our socialites, to take some prominent part in auxiliaries associated with the fighting forces.
– Usually there is something behind these reports. It is likely that some officer in the Command has thought of the desirability of such an auxiliary and proposes to make a recommendation to me about it. I give the honorable member an assurance that this is the first I have heard of it.
– I ask the honorable gentleman to bring the matter under the notice of the Advisory War Council.
– In reply to the point raised by the honorable member for Bourke (Mr. Blackburn) it is the policy of the Government to pay the women who will be employed in the Women’s Air Auxiliary a rate equivalent to two-thirds of the rate paid for the same class of work to men in the Royal Australian Air Force. That policy was arrived at after some consideration, particularly because that practice is substantially followed in ordinary private industry. I undertake to bring before the Government the point which the honorable member has raised. This matter will be reconsidered by the Government. The honorable member will understand, however, that that statement must not be construed as an assurance that full rates of pay will be paid to women.
– ‘Will the Minister himself recommend the payment of full rates to women?
– It must be obvious to the honorable member that I cannot disclose to the House what I propose to recommend to the Government. I assure the honorable member that this matter will be reconsidered. The honorable member for Bourke referred to the deliberations of the Advisory War Council, and the attitude which certain members of the council may have adopted on this matter. It would be very undesirable if we were to establish the practice of discussing, either inside this House or outside, the attitude adopted in the Advisory War Council by any member, or by any section of members, of that body. Such a practice would render that body unworkable, just as the Cabinet would be rendered unworkable if we were to discuss even in Parliament the attitude adopted by individual Ministers on certain matters. As I feel sure that the honorable member will agree with me on that point, I do not propose to comment on the attitude that was adopted by any member of the Advisory War Council on this matter.
I have no personal knowledge of the case to which the honorable member for Brisbane (Mr. George Lawson) referred. However. I have a fairly complete knowledge of the practice that is followed generally in regard to matters of that kind. One-third of the Empire air trainees are commissioned immediately upon completion of their course, and an additional number, sufficient to make up to 50 per cent, of the total trainees, are commissioned after they enter a theatre of war. Examinations are held at various periods during their course of training, and at the termination of their training a final examination is conducted. That examination is partly written, partly oral and partly practical. However, marks which are awarded in this examination reflect principally the results of the written examination, and I am assured that those results by no means provide an adequate guide to the general relative entitlement of the various trainees to preference in the allocation of commissions. The case mentioned by the honorable member is only one of several in respect of which representations have been made to me. Many have been awarded commissions in preference to men who gained higher marks in their final written examination.
– I understand that this was the final examination.
– I took that to be the case. However, in addition to the record of a man’s knowledge as disclosed by the results of the written examination, other intangible qualities of leadership and power of command must be taken into consideration in the allocation of commissions. Any man who has had military experience will agree with that view.
– In that case, what is the value of the written examination?
– It provides a test of a man’s knowledge in respect of certain matters. However, in respect of a man’s qualifications in an actual theatre of war, knowledge is by no means the final test. I have made myself acquainted with the practice followed in awarding commissions, and I have thoroughly satisfied myself that no suggestion of old school tie methods or of favoritism is allowed to enter into the matter.
– There is always the risk of favoritism.
– That may be so. I should be very surprised if, throughout the whole of our fighting forces, favoritism did not creep in on some occasions. However, it is my duty to try to exclude favoritism entirely, and I shall always bear that in mind. I assure the honorable member for Brisbane that I shall interest myself in the specific case he has mentioned, and I shall inform him of my conclusions after I have examined the facts.
– I draw the attention of the Leader of the House to the following report which appeared in the SunNewsPictorial, Melbourne, on the 13th December under the headlines - “ 150,000 needed for munitions production. Idlelabour survey. Country areas to be tapped.” -
Country population centres will be surveyed by the Department of Labour to secure men for munitions production.
They are needed to meet expansion in output of munitions and component materials which will require 150,000 workers within twelve months. This was indicated to-night by the Minister for Labour and National Service (Mr. Holt) in a short-wave broadcast.
*’ With the new proposals we will bring into the munitions machine idle labour from all over the Commonwealth,” said Mr. Holt. “This applies particularly to labour resources from our country areas where an appropriate organization for marshalling idle man-power has not previously existed.”
In an interview Mr. Holt said it was too early yet to describe the proposed scheme, which was in the initial stage of investigation. It was essential to make the best use of idle labour in country districts, especially of men with some mechanical training, such as garage mechanics.
Australia’s prime task was to convert this country into a vast supply organization. That was how we could help Britain best, Mr. Holt added.
There were 15,000 people registered for work in munitions establishments in Melbourne at the time the Minister authorized that statement. Those honorable members who represent industrial districts situated within the Victorian capital have continuous demands made upon them by people who are encouraged to believe from official statements of that kind that work is available and that their services are really wanted. Most of those 15,000 men and women who were registered in December are still registered and awaiting employment. ‘Some of them have been registered for six, nine and twelve months. In reply to a letter which I wrote some days ago to the Employment Officer of the Department of Labour and National Service, Melbourne, inquiring when a number of my constituents were likely to receive calls for employment, I received the following reply: -
Unfortunately, there are no calls at present for unskilled assistance to .any of the government factories. It is therefore not possible to indicate what the prospects are of absorbing the great number of applicants registered.
If that is, in’ fact, the position, statements by Ministers of the kind to which I have referred are, apparently, so much persiflage. The lot of members of Parliament is made much more difficult by publication of misleading information on the prospects of immediate employment.
Another complaint to which I direct attention was brought under my notice only to-day by the secretary of the Tanners and Leather Dressers’ Union of Melbourne, Councillor W. Ryan. It relates to some universal trainees called up for service who were entitled to certain privileges under the wages board determination governing their employment which were denied them by the employers. Some of these men were called up for service on the Saturday morning before Melbourne Labour Day. Under the wages board determination they were entitled to be paid for the holiday because they had been employed in the industry within the previous fourteen days, but because they were called up for service on the previous Saturday morning their employers have refused to pay them. Thin is most unfair and I ask the Minister to give the complaint his immediate consideration. The men should receive the pay to which they are legally entitled. Many universal trainees are making substantial monetary sacrifices in order to serve their country. Some of them, to my own knowledge, are losing between £30 and £40, and they should not be compelled to lose more because an avaricious employer, urged on, it may be, by a shrewd industrial officer, is unwilling to pay them their dues. There is a legal obligation on the employers to pay these men their wages in respect of Labour Day and they should not be permitted to bluff their way out of the matter.
Still another complaint of which I trust the Minister for the Army will take cognizance relates to a number of men classified to class 2, that is, unfit for overseas service, who were enlisted for home defence and attached to the 19th Motor Transport Corps as motor drivers. They were recruited from all over Victoria and were sent to Alice Springs. After a hurried journey that took three days and was made under appalling conditions - twelve men were required to eat, live and sleep in a railway carriage - they were obliged immediately on their arrival to undertake fatigue duty. As 90 per cent, of them were class 2 men it must be obvious to the Minister that they were not physically fit for pick and shovel work. Several of them could, in fact, be described as cripples, for many of them were suffering from rather serious physical disabilities. It is unreasonable that men who leave good jobs to serve their country in home defence at this time of crisis should be required to do pick and shovel work which they are not really capable of performing. Some of the men are very annoyed and distressed at the experiences through which they have passed. I understand that they lay the chief blame on a Major Forster who is said to hate Victorians. The men are under the direct charge of a Captain Phillips who is doing his best to see that they get a fair deal, but in a conflict between a major and a captain the major, of course, wins. The men thought that they would be required to transport troops, but when they arrived at Alice Springs, they found that the motor driving was being done by young men of from twenty to 24 years of age, whilst they did the heavy laborious work of navvies. The duties of these men - performed, of all days, on a Sunday - included the filling of trucks with sand for the parade ground. It is astonishing that the trucks had to be filled by the middle-aged and somewhat physically unfit men, while the driving was done by young and physically fit men. A good many of these class 2 men saw service in the last war, and they are entitled to better treatment than they are receiving. They enlisted as motor drivers, not as navvies. I understand that there has been one riot in the town already, and that another is impending. I make that statement not as a threat but as a fact. If the conditions are as outlined to me I am not surprised that dissatisfaction has arisen. I can quite appreciate that in a rush job some difficulties and some unforeseen circumstances may occur, but these men should not be called upon to suffer undue hardship. This complaint, which should be treated as urgent, deserves the specially sympathetic attention of the Minister, for the men involved have generously offered their services to their country out of a sense of duty in a time of crisis.
– I assure the honorable member for Melbourne (Mr. Calwell) that I shall make immediate inquiries into the conditions of the men who have been called upon to serve at Alice Springs in the circumstances he has outlined. Considerable difficulties have to be overcome at times in the army in connexion with the movements of troops on short notice, and it is inevitable that hardships will occur. However, I shall give sympathetic consideration to this special case.
Immediate investigations will also be made into the alleged breach of a wages board determination by certain employers in the tanning and leather-dressing industry, to which the honorable member also referred. If the honorable gentleman can direct my attention to specific cases I shall give consideration to the launching of prosecutions.
I do not know whether the matter referred to by the honorable member for East Sydney (Mr. Ward) was discussed by him with the Inspector-General of Administration. If so, steps may have been taken already to investigate it. During last week-end I afforded the honorable member an opportunity, of which he availed himself for an hour, to place certain complaints before the Inspector-General. In the circumstances, I think that it may be better for him to incorporate in his report his investigations into this case. When the report comes to hand, it may be found that a further inquiry into matters generally affecting the detention camps should be undertaken. I do not commit myself to that course, because I first want to see the report of the Inspector-General of Administration.
– We may be in recess before the report comes to hand.
– That may be, but it will not stop me from acting. The Inspector-General of Administration saw me before he saw the honorable member for East Sydney. He said that he had seen a number of men, and bad not observed any reluctance on their part to come forward. I was interested in that statement because I wanted to find out whether that difficulty existed. I am as anxious to have this matter cleared up as is the honorable member. I shall ask the Inspector-General to include in his report a reference to the sapper mentioned by the honorable member for East Sydney. When his report comes to hand, I shall study it impartially, and if I think that a further inquiry is justified, I shall take action accordingly.
– Will the Minister inquire into the stoppage of pay ?
– Yes; I shall do so to-morrow.
Question resolved in the affirmative.
House adjourned at 1.56 a.m. (Thursday).
The following answers to questions were circulated : -
n asked the Minister for Labour and National Service, upon notice -
Is he prepared to constitute a committee for investigation into the causes of industrial illhealth and industrial fatigue with special relation to armament manufacture?
– On the 6th August, 1940, the Prime Minister, as Minister for Munitions, and the then Minister for Health, set up a committee consisting of Dr. H. E. Downes, of the Commonwealth Department of Health, as chairman, and Drs. C. Badham and D.O. Shiels, medical officers for industrial hygiene in New South Wales and Victoria respectively. The functions of this committee are to work in association with the Commonwealth Department of Health, the State Health Departments and the National Health and Medical Research Council, to advise on matters respecting the health of munition workers and hygiene of munition factories, whether government or private; and to act as a board of reference in regard to matters of hygiene and health generally. The committee has, since September last year, been discharging the functions contemplated in the question. It has already offered advice to the welfare division of my department, and will continue to collaborate with it.
n asked the Minister representing the Minister for Supply and Development, upon notice -
– The Minister for Supply and Development has supplied the following answers : -
Orders placed with the three principal firms specializing in local and imported tools are as follows : -
McPhersons (including Associated Machine tools ) -
y asked the Acting Prime Minister, upon notice -
– The question of the establishment of a mortgage bank as a branch of the Commonwealth Bank has not been lost sight of. The raising of capital for this purpose presents considerable difficulty by reason of the heavy demands of war finance. The matter will be given consideration by the Government assoon as it is appropriate in the light of our war requirements to do so.
d asked the Acting Prime Minister, upon notice -
– The answers to the honorable member’s questions are as follows : -
As the final dividend has been declared, it is expected that no further repayments will be received. The only asset held by the Commonwealth in respect of this transaction consists of 23.919 shares of a nominal value of £1 each, fully paid, in Ocean Steam Navigation Company Limited. The High Commissioner advises that their value is problematical, but a notional value of 2s.6d. each has been placed thereon. There is no free market for these securities, and it is impossible to anticipate when the market for them will be available.
d asked the Minister representing the Minister for the Interior, upon notice -
– The information is being obtained.
l asked the Acting Prime Minister, upon notice -
What are the designations and salaries of the private secretaries, assistant private secretaries, typists, messengers and such like officers attached to each Minister, and which of these officers are (a) permanent and (b) temporary public servants?
– The information is being obtained and will be furnished to the honorable member as soon as possible.
Housing of Munition Workers.
t.- On the 14th March, 1941, the honorable member for Werriwa (Mr. Lazzarini) asked, without notice, whether the official appointed by the Commonwealth Government to investigate the housing of munition workers would visit Port Kembla and Wollongong.
I now inform the honorable member that the Welfare Division of my department is concerned with the housing problems of munition workers, and Mr. Brodie, the special officer engaged on this work, has already visited Lithgow, Glen Davis, and Footscray, and is at present dealing with matters concerning the housing of workers in those places. It is probable that he will be able to visit Port Kembla and Wollongong as soon as he has completed the other urgent work which he now has in hand.
Australian Advisory War Council.
n asked the Acting Prime Minister -
– The answers to the honorable member’s questions are as follows : -
I, being chosen and admitted of His Majesty’s Australian Advisory War Council in the Commonwealth of Australia, do swear (or, in the case of affirmation, solemnly and sincerely affirm and declare) that I will to the best of my judgment at all times when thereto required freely give my counsel and advice to the Governor-General or Officer Administering the Government of the Commonwealth of Australia for the time being with respect to matters relating to the defence of the Commonwealth of Australia or the prosecution of the war, that I will not directly or indirectly reveal such matters as shall be debated in Council and committed to my secrecy, but that I will in all things be a true and faithful Councillor.
So help me, God! [In the ease of affirmation these words to be omitted.]
e asked the Minister representing the Postmaster-General, upon notice -
– The Postmaster-General has supplied the following answers: -
d asked the Minister representing the Postmaster-General, upon notice -
– The Postmaster-General has supplied the following answers : -
On the 27th March, the honorable member for Melbourne (Mr. Calwell) asked, without notice, the following questions : -
The Postmaster-General has provided the following replies : -
In November, 1939, the then PostmasterGeneral instructed the commission that work on the plans for head office and studios in Sydney should be abandoned for the time being, and that the Government was of opinion that the reserve held by the commission could be utilized to better purpose in war loans. At that time the commission had a building reserve of £269,700. In March, 1940, it invested £200,000 in Commonwealth war loan. Furthermore, the obligations imposed on the commission under section 35 of its act to ensure that its operations will be financially self-supporting, makes it necessary for the commission to budget for a surplus in case it encounters, during the closing months of its financial year, an unexpected setback either in the form of unforeseen expenditure orloss, or the failure of licence revenue to reach estimated levels.
Population Drift to Cities.
s. - -On the 27th March, the honorable member for Calare (Mr. Breen) asked the following question, without notice : -
Will the Minister for the Interior institute an investigation with a view to discovering the number of persons leaving the western districts of New South Wales for the metropolitan area, because of shortage of work in their own districts, or because they are being called up for military service?
There is no necessity for the Minister for the Interior to institute such an inquiry, because the subject is within the ambit of the Man-power Resources and Survey Committee already set up by the Government. The actual numbers of men drifting from rural districts for the reasons mentioned by the honorable member cannot be ascertained, because it is a factor that has steadily developed with the growth of the war effort, and it is continuous. It is, however, not restricted to the western districts of New South Wales, because the effect of enlistments and migration resulting from the comparative volume of employment in munitions production in the cities has had the same result in all States of the Commonwealth. The chairman of the Man-power Resources and Survey Committee, the honorable member for Robertson (Mr. Spooner), assures me that this has been indicated to him by the committee’s investigations into unused facilities and man-power in all parts of the Commonwealth. There is, however, a gradual but definite process in operation that is correcting the drift to the metropolitan areas. The establishment of munitions annexes and other war-time industries in various provincial centres is largely responsible for the drift, and it is my earnest desire to Bee the present policy expanded as rapidly as possible. In addition to the investigation of all potential man-power in Australia, the resources committee referred to is conducting exhaustive inquiry into iron ore and other raw material supplies that may have become economically workable because of existing war conditions. The western districts of New South Wales, and certainly some specific sections of the electorate of Calare, are assured of consideration in this regard.
Cite as: Australia, House of Representatives, Debates, 2 April 1941, viewed 22 October 2017, <http://historichansard.net/hofreps/1941/19410402_reps_16_166/>.