16th Parliament · 1st Session
Mr. Speaker (Hon. W. M. Nairn) took the chair at 3 p.m., and read prayers.
– Will the Treasurer take steps to have exempted from the provisions of the Pay-roll Tax Assessment Act recently enacted the Mothers’ and Babies’ Health Association of South Australia, in view of the national importance of its work and the fact that the major portion, if not the whole, of its funds, is privately subscribed?
– Similar applications have been thoroughly investigated by the department, and I regret that it is not possible to grant exemption in such cases.
– Can the
Minister for the Army inform me whether it is true that Alderman Tait, a member of the Brisbane City Council, a short time ago visited the Australian Imperial Force in the Middle East on behalf of the Comforts Fund Organization; that upon his return to Brisbane he was given an appointment with the rank of honorary major in charge of the Comforts Fund Organization in Malaya; and that he was recalled from Malaya after having served there for only a few weeks? Can the honorable gentleman state whether or not Alderman Tait was recalled from Malaya as the result of certain information having reached his department of evasion by Alderman Tait of the censorship by carrying back to Australia from the Middle East and distributing to relatives and friends of men abroad, correspondence, photographs and other documents which had not passed the censorship?
– I am unable to answer the question in detail. I am aware that Alderman Tait visited the Middle East as Assistant Commissioner for the Comforts Fund Organization in
Queensland, that he returned to Australia, and that he subsequently went to Malaya. As to whether he has returned from Malaya, and the reasons for his return, I am without knowledge, but I shall obtain particulars and furnish them to the honorable member.
– Is the Ministerfor Commerce in a position to Bay when a further payment will be made in respect of Nos. 2 and 3 wheat pools, and a payment in respect of No. 4 wheat pool? If so, what will be the amount a bushel?
– The Government is now in consultation with the Commonwealth Bank Board with respect to this matter, and I hope to make a statement upon it in a day or two.
– Is the Minister for Commerce of the opinion that another payment will be made from No. 2 wheat pool, in addition to the 4s. a bushel already disbursed? If not, will the Minister furnish a balance-sheet in respect of No. 2 pool?
– As I stated in reply to an earlier question, the matter of final payments in respect of No.2 and No. 3 pools is being discussed, at present with the Commonwealth Bank Board. When those negotiations are completed, the amount to be paid will be disclosed, the payments made, and a balancesheet prepared.
– Since there is a good deal of misunderstanding as to what will happen in the event of the 1941-42 wheat harvest exceeding 140,000,000 bushels, will the Minister for Commerce clarify the position?
– The problem associated with any excess production of wheat over 140,000,000 bushels will be dealt with when it arises. At this juncture, it seems that the next harvest will not exceed that quantity.
– Does the Minister for Commerce contemplate any difficulty in respect of shipments of butter to the
United Kingdom next season? If there be likelihood of a carryover of sup- plies, will the right honorable gentleman indicate whether provision is being made in the butter producing States for the suitable storage of surplus production? Will he also make a general statement on the position?
– Provision has been made in the different States for additional storage, which will raise the capacity practically 75 per cent, above that which existed a year ago. I hope to be in a position to make a statement of the position generally, either this week or early next week.
– Will the Prime
Minister state whether or not the Department of Defence Co-ordination prepared a minute for submission toCabinet with respect to the repatriation of the wives of members of the fighting services overseas, especially the wives of men who have already been returned to Australia ? If so, what is the decision of Cabinet?
– I shall have a look into the matter, with which Iam not at present familiar, and shall advise the honorable member.
-I have just received the following telegram: -
Protest in House regarding Tasmanian members of Australian Imperial Force on final leave having to pay £3 boat fare. Privates and others forced to make a decent allowance to wives to keep up insurance payments,&c. Cannot afford to take trip home.
Will the Minister for the Army state whether or not Tasmaniaorce are advanced their boat fare to Tasmania? Are those who cannot afford to retunmembersof theAustralianImperialFrn to their homes at their own expense consequently compelled to leave Australia without taking final leave? If this be a fact, will the honorable gentleman have the matter rectified ?
– I shall be glad to have sympathetic consideration given to the request during the course of the afternoon.
– Is the Minister for Labour and National Service in a position to make a statement regarding the provision of housing adjacent to munition factories in South Australia, in order that large aggregations of employees in the different workshops may have this essential accommodation ?
– I am not in a position to give a detailed answer,but Mr. Brodie, the Chief Housing Officer of my department, left for South Australia last evening with the object of spending some days in that State upon an investigation of the problem to which the honorable member has referred.
– I ask the Treasurer whether Cabinet has considered the report of the committee appointed to inquire into the production of power alcohol in Australia? If so, why has the Government not announced its decision in this important matter, in view of the drastic petrol rationing proposed? Does the Government intend to adopt in their entirety the recommendations of the committee? If not, why not?
– The Power Alcohol Committee has furnished a report, in which it has made certain recommendations, some for immediate implementation and others embracing a long-range plan. The Government has given attention to those requiring immediate implementation, in order to step-up the production, of power alcohol. The long-range plan is being considered by Cabinet.
– Will the Prime Minister enlighten the House as to why such an important appointment as that of the governorship of the Commonwealth Bank has been held up for nearly ‘three months, and will he indicate whether any outside interests are being consulted with regard to this matter?
– As the honorable member says, this is an important matter, and it willbe dealt with finally by the
Government shortly. The only interest that will be considered is that of the Australian people and the proper and adequate carrying on of the central bank.
– Will the Prime Minister give an assurance that no official of a private trading bank will be appointed to that position ?
– I shall give no assurance, except that the best possible appointment will be made.
– As the Minister for the Army has received from me a copy of a letter from an insurance company, which clearly indicates that it is cancelling the assurance policies of men who enlist, I desire to know what the Minister will do about the matter?
– I saw the statement furnished by the honorable member, and I investigated it. I ascertained (that it related, not to a life assurance policy, but to an accident policy, and, as the considerations applying to accident policies are quite different from those applying to life assurance policies, the two cannot ‘be placed on the same footing. The question as <to whether any protection should be given to the holders of accident policies, and, if so, under what conditions it should be given, is now receiving my consideration.
– Oan the Prime Minister state in what way, and how far, .the provisions of .the United States of America Lease-Lend Act apply to Australia.
– I am sorry to say that it is not possible to give a precise answer to that question, which is one of many about which finality has not yet been reached by the Administration of the United States of America, but the honorable member may rest assured that the interests and needs of Australia are well kept to the fore in the discussions that are taking place in regard to that matter in the United States of America.
Position oe Captain Lees.
– Will the Minister foithe Army state whether Captain Lees still occupies the position of Commandant at the Holdsworthy Military Detention Barracks ? If he does, in view of the fact that the report of the governmental inquiry presided over by Mr. Davies declared that Captain Lees had been, guilty of a breach of military regulations, what action does the Minister propose to take with regard to this officer ? Does he propose to remove him from that position ?
– Instructions were issued some days ago - in fact, shortly after the termination of the recent sittings of this Parliament - that Captain Lees should be transferred to another position, and I ‘believe that that has been done.
– To what position has Captain Lees been transferred ? Does his transfer constitute promotion or loss of rank?
– I do not think that any loss of rank is involved in Captain Lee’s transfer. I shall ascertain the position to which he has been transferred, and inform the honorable member.
– In his broadcast speech, last evening the Prime Minister spoke of the appointment of parliamentary committees. Is the intention to appoint, amongst others, a committee to advise the Government on measures necessary to ensure the maintenance of our primary and rural industries, and security of tenure to those engaged in them, owing to the extremely severe conditions consequent upon the war and the loss of markets?
– I shall he happy to give immediate consideration to that matter, which, I think, might he taken into account in conjunction with the whole notion of parliamentary committees.
– As reports have repeatedly appeared in the press that, owing to the bombing of London and the fact that people there have been forced to leave their homes wearing only the clothes in which they stand, there is a shortage of the equipment necessary to keep them warm,I ask the Prime Minister whether he has read the report in. the Sydney Sun of yesterday, that 150,000 pairs of British blankets are being imported into Australia to relieve the shortage here, and that, as a result, there will be an increase of the price of blankets? If Australia cannot supply itself with sufficient blankets at a time like this, but has to obtain a supply from Great Britain, where, as everybody knows, there must be an acute shortage of such commodities, bow does the Prime Minister reconcile this position with the statement in his broadcast speech last night about properly mobilizing the resources of this country?
– I have not seen the paragraph referred to by the honorable member, but the matter was brought under my notice by one of his colleagues yesterday afternoon. I am in touch with the Minister for Supply in order to ascertain the exact position.
– Will the Minister for Commerce state the conditions under which the price of lamb is guaranteed? Is the guarantee given to the actual producer or to the exporter of the meat? Further, does the Government propose to take any measures to guarantee to the growers stabilized prices for other meats ?
– The scheme which has been introduced as the result of consultation between the Meat Board and myself relates to all classes of meat - not only mutton and lamb, but also beef and pig meats. The guaranteed price being paid is for export qualities and for export purposes. That is the price being paid for processed meat. The actual amount paid to the grower bears a close relationship to that price, and the Minister for Trade and Customs has, during the last fortnight, been making certain that the grower has been getting it.
– Can the Minister for Trade and Customs inform the House why lamb was sold to butchers on Wednesday, the 11th June, 1941, at 5½d. per lb., and lamb of similar quality was sold yesterday at 7d. per lb.?
– I shall obtain the information and make it available to the honorable member.
– Will the Treasurer inform the House as to the term of the engagement of members of the board of reference recently appointed under the War-time ProfitsTax Act?
– The only member of that board who has been appointed for a period is the chairman, who has a three yea rs’ contract.
– In view of the Prime
Minister’s statement last night regarding petrol rationing. I desire to ask him whether he is aware that many workers, particularly miners, travel to. their work in cars, two or three of them clubbing together and paying so much a week to defray the cost? Does he know that a great deal of petrol could be saved by requesting the New South Wales Transport Department to requisition workmen’s buses to transport miners between Swansea, Belmont, Redhead, and Burwood colleries, and also by continuing the train service to Greta instead of terminating it at Maitland as at present, thus rendering it unnecessary to run buses from the present terminus to Rutherford and Greta military camps where thousands of troops are travelling every week? If petrol rationing makes it impossible for the miners to use cars to take them to work where necessary, will the Prime Minister see that adequate bus services are provided by transferring these private troop-carrying buses to the transport of miners as I have already suggested ?
– I shall discuss the matters raised by the honorable member with the Minister for Supply this afternoon.
– “Will the Prime Minister state whether any plans have been prepared by which the monthly consumption of petrol in Australia is to be reduced from 20,000,000 gallons to 12,000,000 gallons? If so, will he, in fairness to all concerned, state what classes of motor users will be affected, and the extent of the additional restrictions that will be imposed upon them ?
– Plans have been prepared, and schedules setting forth the information sought by the honorable member were published to-day.
– For several years past the Defence Department has made available to unemployed parsons used and surplus military clothing. Will the Minister for the Army ascertain what quantity of surplus military clothing, if any, is available this year? If any is available, will he take the necessary steps to have it distributed to the unemployed of Brisbane and suburbs through the usual channels, namely, the State Government and the Social Service League?
– The honorable member’s request will receive consideration.
– Having regard to the urgent necessity for conserving petrol, will the Minister for the Army say what steps the Government proposes to take to further the extraction of oil from recognized shale deposits?
– I shall obtain the information for which the honorable member has asked, and convey it to him later.
– Will the Minister for the Army supply to the House the number of those members of the Australian Imperial Force who lost their lives in the operations in Greece and Crete, or who have subsequently died of wounds received in those operations?
– I shall give to the House to-morrow the latest figures with respect to those casualties as we know them for both the Grecian and Cretan campaigns. It is impossible, however, to know in what measure the information will be exact in regard to killed and wounded, as a large number of men is unaccounted for. Until the number taken prisoner is made known through the agency of the International Red Cross, it will be impossible to say what are the proportions- of killed, wounded and prisoners.
– In view of the urgent need for pontoon bridging for the military forces in New South Wales and Queensland, will the Minister for the Army take measures to relieve the congestion of orders for pontoons in South Australia by allocating some of the work to Brisbane in order to utilize the skilled man-power available in the boat-building industry in Queensland?
– I shall be glad to do so if it is possible, and I shall discuss the matter with the honorable member and with the Minister for Supply.
– Just before Parliament adjourned a fortnight ago, representations were made to the Treasurer and the Minister for Supply regarding the establishment of an industry in Tasmania for the manufacture of ovaltine. Can the Treasurer state whether approval has been given for this undertaking?
– As the company has complied with the requirements of the Government, approval has been given.
– Has the attention of the Attorney-General been drawn to a statement by Mr. R. B. Walker, a former United Australia party member for Hawkesbury in the New South Wales Parliament, and at present on trial before the Quarter Sessions in Sydney on a charge of conspiracy, to the effect that the present Acting Chief Justice of the High Court of Australia was an associate of- John Woolcott Forbes? Will the Attorney-General inquire from His Honour the extent of that association?
– My attention has not previously been drawn to the statement, but I shall have inquiries made, and acquaint the honorable member with the result. .
– In view of the fact that there is grave dissatisfaction among producers of tungsten ores, which are vital to the prosecution of our war effort, will the Minister for Supply take steps to extend the terms of reference of the committee appointed to investigate the production of copper so as to include also an investigation of the production and marketing of tungsten ores?
– I shall convey the honorable members request to the Minister for Supply, and find out to what degree it can be acceded to.
– Has the attention of the Minister for the Army been drawn to a statement in the Sydney Sun that military officers at compulsory recruiting depots have been instructed not to take notice of any representations made by members of Parliament on behalf of applicants for exemption from compulsory military training? Has that statement been issued with the approval of the Minister ?
– I have not seen the statement referred to by the honorable member. The instruction alleged to have been given to officers .at recruiting depots was certainly not given by me, nor with my approval. I doubtvery much whether such an instruction has been issued. Recently, the honorable member for Macquarie brought to my notice a case in which he had received a reply along the lines just indicated by the honorable member for Lang, and I immediately gave instructions that such a reply should be disregarded. Whilst I welcome the representations of honorable members to secure exemption from military service in respect of any case of hardship, I point out that correspondence of this kind is becoming most voluminous, and is to a large degree impeding the work of certain officers of my department.
– In view of the seriousness of this matter to many who apply for exemption from military service, and bearing in mind what the Minister has just said concerning the congestion being caused by the number of such applications, will he consider the advisability of providing additional staff to enable manpower officers to reply expeditiously to representations made by honorable members in support of the applications ?
– Yes. As I previously indicated to the House, the number of these applications has been very large, with the result that an overburden of work has been cast upon the man-power officers. To the extent to which I can assist them by providing additional staff, I am doing so; but it is not a simple matter to get the staff.
– Has the attention of the Minister in charge of the Council for Scientific and Industrial Research been drawn .to an advertisement published in the Gazette lust week inviting applications for the position of expert to report on winter diseases in oysters? Is such work regarded as a war activity? Are oysters required for war purposes?
– I have seen a reference in the press to the advertisement referred to by the honorable member. It was an advertisement for a junior officer to investigate the habits of oysters in New South Wales waters. 1 shall have inquiries made into the matter in order to ascertain the importance of this work.
Statement Regarding Political Disunity
– Has the attention of the Prime Minister been drawn to statements made by Mr. John Storey, one of the commissioners for aircraft production, who accompanied the right honorable gentleman overseas, which were published in the Sydney Morning Herald of the 7th June under the heading, “ War Orders Held Up”?
-Order ! The honorable member is not in order in reading from a newspaper.
– Mr. Storey said that there was political disunity in this country, and for this reason supplies of war material from the United States of America to Australia were being held up. Is Mr. Storey a public official, employed by the Commonwealth Government? If so, does the Government approve of such an official making damaging statements in regard to Australia’s war effort? Has any statement been issued on behalf of the Government to assure the United States of America that no political disunity exists in this country in relation to the prosecution of the war. If not, will such a statement be made in order to ensure the extension of the provisions of the Lease-Lend Act to Australia?
– I hesitate to answer the honorable member’s questions regarding Mr. Storey until I read the report which the honorable gentleman has before him. However, the only statements made by Mr. Storey which I have seen have related to industrial development in Australia with particular reference to aircraft, and this respect I have no doubt that everything Mr. Storey has said is of the greatest value.
– Is he a public official ?
– He is a public official. He is a member of the Aircraft Production Commission, and, as such, is in receipt of emoluments from the Commonwealth Government; and, I may say, he earns them. I suggest that the honorable mem’ber place the other questions he has asked on. the notice-paper.
– Following a speech which I made in this House on its last day of meeting the Prime Minister indicated that he would refer to the Minister for Labour and National Service my representations for the amendment of the relevant regulation to avoid unnecessary appeals by the coal-owners against, decisions of a local character by the Northern Coal Board. I ask the Minister for Labour and National Service whether the Prime Minister has conferred with him on that subject?
– I have discussed this matter with the Prime Minister, and I have since made inquiries into the allegations made by the honorable member and members of the Miners Federation, a deputation from which body waited upon me just before the last adjournment of the House. I am now awaiting an opportunity to discuss with the chairman of the Central Reference Board his own conclusions together with such information as I have been able .to gather for myself. Judge Drake-Brockman has been in Sydney for the last fortnight attending to coal board matters, and at the first opportunity I shall discuss with him the representations which have been made to me by the Miners Federation.
– Has the Minister for Labour and National Service given consideration to my suggestions for the smooth working of local reference boards, and particularly t.0 the request for the payment of witnesses and to granting to the chairman of the tribunal security of employment?
– Consideration has been given to the honorable member’s requests, and in fact, representations along similar lines have reached me from the chairman of the Central Coal Reference Board. As this matter also involves some consideration by my colleague, the AttorneyGeneral, discussions have been proceeding between the two departments and finality can bo reached on both matters, I think, in a. very short time.
– I ask the Minister for Commerce whether, in view of the persistent opposition of the Country party to the policy of protection on the ground that it is uneconomic and destructive of competition, he intends to urge Cabinet to adopt the request of the Graziers Association that the importation of furbearing animals be prohibited on the ground that the breeding of them would become competitive with the wool-growing industry.
– I am surprised that the honorable member is so misinformed on the policy of my party. I shall give consideration to the matter.
– Will the Minister for the Army give an assurance that he will refuse to accede to the request of certain local governing bodies that the services of prisoners of war should be made available for road-making purposes ?
– The matter of the employment of prisoners of war will be determined not upon municipal but upon national grounds.
– Has the Prime Minister given consideration to, and is lie prepared to make a statement upon, the representations which have been made by the Order of Christadelphians and others, to whom reference was made recently by the honorable member for Bourke (Mr. Blackburn) when speaking about conscientious objectors? Regarding this matter, has the right honorable gentleman considered the advisability of bringing the Commonwealth law more into line with that prevailing in Great Britain? Will he consider the creation of machinery for establishing greater uniformity as to penalties?
– .The matter referred to by the honorable member was raised by the honorable member for Bourke just before the House rose on the 30th May last. I then promised that I would give to it my personal consideration. I have done so, and the whole matter will shortly come before the War Cabinet t’or consideration. So soon as that has been given to it, I shall be able to announce the decision.
– Is the Minister for Trade and Customs aware that in the absence of a decision by the Government relating to the stabilization of potato prices, farmers who are now selling potatoes will be placed in a distinctly unfair position compared with those who sell potatoes after the Government has reached a decision, which it. has been promising to arrive at for the last three months?
– The Prices Commissioner has” been discussing with the Departments of Agriculture of the several
States various problems confronting the industry. In a short time, I hope a scheme will be evolved which will be perfectly satisfactory to the potato-growers.
– I ask the Minister for the Army the following questions: First, is it a fact that at the outbreak of war a warrant was issued for the arrest of Phillip Raoul Hentze and that he was permitted to retain his liberty on the personal guarantee of the Minister? Secondly, is it a fact that Hentze came to Australia, from Germany as a wool buyer in his father’s firm, which was known as Hentze and. Company, and which at that time represented Hardt and Company in Australia? Thirdly, has Military Intelligence declared such firm to be the No. 1 Nazi firm in Australia, and does Military Intelligence possess ‘information that young Hentze was in constant communication with Nazi officials in Germany? Fourthly, did thu Minister recommend this man for a position with the communications censor? Fifthly, did the Minister subsequently secure for young Hentze a position with the Central Wool Committee? Sixthly, is Hentze in any way related to the Minister?
– The man Hentze to whom the honorable member referred is married to my wife’s sister. He is not a. German. He is the son of a Belgian. His mother was a daughter of Sir Graham Berry, who is very well known in this country. He was born in Germany while his father was on an assignment there. He was educated in this country and has .lived here for practically the whole of his life. I at no time made any represento tions whatever to have him placed upon the censorship staff. I at no time made any representations to have bini appointed to a position on the Central Wool Committee, of which he is a member. His file can be examined by the honorable member, and it will be seen from a perusal of it, I believe, that he is given a “ clean sheet “ by the military authorities as far as any reconsideration for re-internment is concerned.
– What about the warrant for his internment?
– On the night of the outbreak of war he, his wife and his child were taken at midnight. His wife communicated with me; I indicated my knowledge of the man, and he was released.
– Will the Minister for the Navy indicate what progress has been made by the Naval Board regarding the construction of wooden ships in order to provide work for unemployed shipwrights, and replace some of the vessels which have been commandeered by the Navy?
– Offhand, I am not able to reply to the honorable member’s question, but I shall make inquiries and supply to him an answer later in the day.
Placement in Melbourne.
– Can the Minister for the Army inform the House why contractors to the Eastern Command who require materials from the Broken Hill Proprietary Company Limited or its subsidiaries, are obliged to place their orders with the Melbourne office of that company ?
– I am not aware of what the honorable member has said, but I shall ascertain the facts and the reason for the procedure of which he complains.
– Is the Minister for the
Army aware that there is still a vast army of unemployed people in this’ country, including many men under military age? As unemployment has a detrimental effect upon enlistments in that men without work are apt to ask what they have to fight for, I ask the Minister whether he will take steps to try to absorb the unemployed? Will he inform me what progress has been made in connection with the construction of roads adjacent to or between Port Stephens and Stockton Branch? These roads are of strategic importance, and were earnestly desired by the military authorities early this year. The Man-power and
Resources Survey Committee directed attention to the need for putting this work in hand immediately. I should like to know what has been done?
– The number of unemployed people in Australia is smaller now than it has been for many years. As I have already indicated to the honorable member, approval has been given for the reconditioning of several roads in the Port Stephens and Newcastle areas. Following upon a discussion I had with the honorable member this morning, I made contact with Mr. Cook, of the Department of the Interior, whose duty it is to implement decisions made in connexion with road works. Mr. Cook informed me that work on the roads under notice is proceeding at various stages. In respect of some of the roads, operations are only at the survey stage; but in respect of a number of others, the reconditioning is in progress.
Mr.CONELAN. - Will the Prime Minister inform me whether the Government has yet reached a decision concerning the appointment of an ambassador to China ? If so, will the right honorable gentleman announce to the House the name of the person selected ?
– A decision has been made, but the name of the gentleman concerned cannot be announced until the usual courtesy of submitting the name to the Government of China has been extended. As soon as the formalities have been complied with, an announcement will be made.
– Will the Minister for the Army inform me whether the main highways to the Corowa military camp and the Dubbo military camp are trafficable now in all weathers? If they are not, will the honorable gentleman take steps to see that men are put on full time instead of part time work on these roads ?
– I shall inquire into the position and later give the honorable member a reply to his question.
Debate resumed from the 28th May (vide page 24), on motion by Mr. Menzies -
That the following paper be printed : - Prime Minister’s Mission Abroad and War Position - Ministerial Statement by the Prime Minister, 28th May, 1941.
– Some considerable time has elapsed since the Prime Minister’s statement was read to the House, and in that period, the Government has been at work. Last night, the Prime Minister (Mr. Menzies) gave an outline of the Government’s intended action, which he called the “ prospectus of an unlimited war effort “. I take it that the purpose of this debate is to consider all these matters together, and to discuss, as openly as we can do in this Parliament, the present state of the war, how it affects Australia, what it is that we are doing, what it is that we should do, and howbest we can do what should be done. For my part, I am not disposed to spend much time in reviewing what has been done, or in re-stating what the Opposition regards as the general principles which govern our understanding of what the war requires. But I think I am entitled to say that a year or so ago, theAustralian Labour party laid down, broadly, that the entireresources of the country should be placed at the disposal of the Government for the safety of Australia and the prosecution of the war.
– Parliament also did that a year ago.
– It so happens, as the Prime Minister now reminds me, that subsequently - very shortly afterwards, but none the less subsequently - the Government introduced amendments to the National Security Act; but the fact is that for approximately a year, that amended act has been on the statutebook, and the Government, as I have had occasion to say not once but several times, has had from this Parliament a complete charter to do those things that are requisite for Australia’s security and for the prosecution of the war.
I do not think that there is much, to be gained by an undue dwelling upon the course of events during the past year. But I think it is clear to all of us that the war has pursued a course this year which must cause increased disquiet on the part of members of this Parliament and the people of this country. No one can gather any great amount ‘of satisfaction from the march of events this year. The fact is that our forces have been compelled to retire from position after position until we are faced with conditions in several theatres of war which makes it extremely difficult for the British Commonwealth of Nations to marshal its maximum capacity. That applies to both men and equipment. The battle of Britain and the battle of the Atlantic can be taken as one and the same, in that, by and large, the same forces are deployed, and the same general situation has to be faced.
– They are two different battles.
– They may be two different battles, but upon the people of Great Britain depends both the defence of Great Britain and the winning of the battle of the Atlantic.
The situation in the Mediterranean theatre of war is such as to make the dangers to Australia more obvious than they hitherto have been. The Mediterranean is no longer a highway of commerce between Australia and the Old World. It seems to me, therefore, that this is a time for the taking of definite steps to meet thesituation rather than for the making of long speeches about how things should be done. Our reverses in the Mediterranean have affected our capacity to maintain our forces there, and therefore to defend the Suez Canal, to mention only one aspect of the battle. Our capacity cannot be measured simply by the amount of equipment that we can get to our land forces. However efficiently our infantry may be equipped, and however well we succeed in furnishing supplies to our armed forces, the plain truth is that if any of our forces on land or sea are not as strongly supported in the air as are the forces, of the enemy, then our capacity on land and sea will not be sufficient to enableus to prevail. It is incontestable that it was the air power of the enemy which drove us out of
Greece; and from all that happened in Crete the cardinal fact emerged that the German air power opposed to us was far stronger than the air power that we could employ against it, with the result that we were driven out with very grievous losses. That brings me, as it must bring all Australians, to the conviction that the retention of what we now hold in North Africa, in Palestine, and in Syria, will largely be governed by the capacity of Great Britain and ourselves to provide fighting ‘planes of the requisite types and the required number, in order to ensure that the forces now fighting there shall have adequate air support. Upon this matter, I feel that I can speak with a certain degree of justification, for there are sitting opposite to me to-day honorable members who, three years ago, derided the possibility of air power being a decisive factor in- any world struggle.
– It has not been decisive yet.
– Let me make it clear that nobody on this side of the House has ever suggested that air power alone would be sufficient for the defence of a country, or the successful prosecution of any war in which it was engaged; hut we have said that the absence of equality of air power would practically negative the capacity of land’ 0r sea forces to defend themselves against either land or sea forces plus air forces. It amounts to this : Our capacity to survive will be determined, not by weakening our sea defences or by lessening the strength of our land forces, but by making certain that whatever be our capacity on land or sea, we- shall have added to it the maximum force that we can provide in the air; because the absence of a maximum air power must spell defeat for our land or sea forces.
– Had the honorable gentleman had his way, there would not have been Australian land or sea forces in the Middle East.
– Without attempting to argue with the honorable gentleman, I say that the strength of the British navy and the land forces engaged was not sufficient to defend either France or Belgium. I cite the British Prime Minister, who, dealing with what was achieved by the Royal Air Force in the defence of Britain, said that never was so much owed by so many to so few; which made it plain that had it not been for the strength and valour of the Royal Air Force last September, the battle for Britain might already have been lost. I do not say that it would have been; but at least I make clear to the country my opinion, that the maximum air power we can requisition in order to back up land and sea forces is indispensable to the fully equipped defence of this country, or to the full mobilization of our effort for the prosecution of the war. I therefore welcome the intention of the Prime Minister to appoint a Minister for Aircraft Production. I am also ready to accept whatever is considered requisite rationing of the consumption of petrol in Australia. I say that quite frankly. I know that great disability will be caused ; but I am not content, at this stage of the war, to allow the petrol stored in this country to be continually drained away while alternative ‘ transportation systems are available. There could be a very considerable increase of the utilization of State and other instrumentalities, particularly in respect of heavy traffic. Whatever dislocation may he caused by this rationing, it will be far safer to take the risk of such dislocation rather than to run the risk of having aircraft produced and have no petrol with which to fly them. It is also essential to take that risk in order to meet an increased mechanization of our army. Obviously, speed is of the essence of strength in modern warfare. Therefore, for the defence of Australia our army must be mechanized. But it would be useless to undertake the mechanization of our army if, at the point at which it had to move because the country was assailed, it were found that, because we had refused to take the risk of economic disturbance, we had not built up such storage as would enable us to have supplies of petrol when they were needed. I know that statements of hills sort may not be popular; hut they must be made. We need aircraft of. every description, not only in Australia but also to provide air support for our fighting forces in the Middle East. I suppose that that will require some consideration by the Imperial Government, in conjunction with the general question of the provision of equipment for its armies and its other forces in the different theatres of the world. I say with .great respect to the Prime Minister of England, if my words should ever reach him, that if a crucial battle is to be fought in the Middle East, Australia cannot afford that battle to go against it in circumstances that precluded the subsequent movement of the British Fleet into the Indian Ocean or the Atlantic Ocean; for if it were a “ last ditch “ battle, in which Alexandria was destroyed and the fleet in the Middle East was, in substance, put out of action, such a state of affairs would involve almost immediately the uselessness of Singapore as a bastion for the defence of Australia; instead of being a bastion for Australia, it would become merely a service station for an enemy. Therefore, T can accept the dictum that the battle in the Middle East is of crucial importance to Great Britain and to Australia. But those who put forward that contention have to accept the logic of it. In no circumstances must they take such risks that an overwhelming defeat in the Middle East would involve synchronously the loss of Singapore and inability to salvage the Mediterranean fleet into the Indian Ocean or the Atlantic Ocean. It must be clear that the major defeat we would suffer in that theatre, if we did not supply the maximum of air power, would present to our enemies opportunities of which we are convinced, on statements that have been made to us, and on our general consideration of the situation, full advantage would be taken. This most certainly involves consideration of the general problem of Australia; for, just as it is properly stated that, as things now stand, the Middle East and Singapore can be regarded as outer bastions of Australia, so must it be recognized in this country that no nation completely denudes its last line of defence, which is its own territory, in order to resist the enemy at an outpost. Both Chamberlain and Churchill have stated from time to time, that battles may be lost, and defeat may be suffered, in different places, but so long as that does not happen at certain other focal points, we are still able to carry on. I agree with that, and accept it. But I say that the obligation of Australia is to remember that it and New Zealand have primarily, in the Pacific and Indian oceans, a responsibility which can be said to correspond to that which Great Britain and the United States of America have in the Atlantic Ocean. Whilst I agree that this country should make provision to ensure that all the places round about us are garrisoned and equipped, none the less there must be some understanding of what represents the balance as between what we can do in those theatres and what we are called upon to do in Australia. The broadcast speech of the Prime Minister last night, linked with the declaration that the right honorable gentleman made in this House when he returned from abroad, has told us, if we needed telling, that this war is one of machines and equipment. There is no argument in respect of man-power. Whenever we let our thoughts dwell on what has occurred, we feel that we owe more than can ever be stated in words to the men who have joined the various forces. There will never come a time when this country will have any reason to do other than express the utmost pride in its manhood. Therefore, it is a question not alone of man-power for the forces, but also of the means whereby our forces may be put to the best possible use. For a thousand reasons, we cannot obtain equipment from distant parts of the world. We have to turn Australia into an arsenal, capable of producing the whole of the equipment that we need. I am not revealing a secret when I say that we also have to produce a good deal of the equipment that is needed in the Middle East, in India, for our forces in the northern parts of Australia, and for our sister dominion of New Zealand. When all is said and done, that obligation necessitates re-adjustment hot only of our economic life, but also of all the ordinary avocations of our men and women. The matter has to be worked out, on its merits. That, doubtless, will involve considerable curtailment of civil production; and I accept the view that if it is to be worked satisfactorily, there must be some rationing of civil consumption. I say to the
Prime Minister and to the Government, that we must have some measurement of what is proposed in the way of production, and the demands that that will make upon our skilled and unskilled workers and those others of our labour force who are capable of being trained. There will have to be some estimate of all that that means in the use of our man-power. That will have to be measured by what the Government regards as the requirement of men for service in distant theatres. It is well known, of course, that the party which I lead has always held the view that in a war of this description Australia would have to become increasingly self-reliant. It is also well known that, associated with that conception of the inevitability of our position, there necessarily comes a consideration of the extent to which Australia can make its manhood avail- able for service in distant theatre? There must be some assessment of the balance between the manhood required for production in Australia, and for defence within Australia, and the number of men we can use for service overseas. I know that the Government is committed to the voluntary principle of enlistment with regard to the expeditionary forces, and I accept that, but there is apparently a struggle for men going on now between the Air Force and the Army. They are viewing with each other to induce men to join. I realize that voluntary enlistment involves the making of appeals, but we have now to consider the appeals by both the Army and the Air Force in the light of the stupendous industrial and economic programme explicit in the speech by the Prime Minister last night, and the general outline given in his speech of three weeks ago. This involves the tremendous utilization of the manhood of Australia for war industries, the transfer of many men from the production of goods for civil use, and probably the displacement of men by women. These are practical problems that have to be solved. The added responsibility is imposed on the Government of seeing that wherever our men are called upon to fight, it receives, in co-operation with the British Government, the assurance that our men will fight as nearly as possible on terms ofequality, as far as equipment and air support arc concerned, with the forces against which they have to contend. A certain amount of thinking is going on throughout Australia in respect of what are now known to be the reasons why we were driven out of Greece and Crete. It is only reasonable to say that the Government of this country, and I hope also the Government of the United Kingdom, will have regard to what I believe to be the undoubted public feeling on this matter. I shall not attempt to put it into words. It is not. my business to say more than that, now our men are fighting in Libya and Syria, the obligation rests on the Governments of all the forces engaged on our side in those theatres to ensure that the only limitation which will affect theprovision of the necessary equipment - and I refer particularly to air support - is that of the means of getting it there. There ought, to be no other limitation. I know that that involves risks. It may involve taking so many planes from the defence of Great Britain, but it involves risks for Australia also, for we are engaged in a very large production of munitions and the like for war purposes, and a great part of that equipment is being despatched from Australia. I agree with that, for all of the risks in this war ought to be commonly shared. I would not accept for a moment the view that the whole of the munitions produced in Australia should be kept in this country, but I do say that the programme now unfolded before us involves so tremendous a transformation of our whole position as a nation that we have to ask ourselves what is the extent of the force that Australia can use outside this country, having regard to the inevitable obligation upon us to become the arsenal for the supply of ourselves, of India, of Malaya and of New Zealand. For, bear in mind, we have as close a relationship to the safety of New Zealand as Great Britain has to that of countries that are quite close to its shores. Just as the danger to Great Britain became overwhelmingly greater when France and Belgium fell, so, in the event of Australia being in doubt as to the capacity of New Zealand to hold out, the dangers to ourselves must increase at once. Since we have appointed a. High
Commissioner to Canada and a Minister to the United States of America, and have now agreed to send one to China, I think that there should immediately he an exchange of high commissioners between the Dominion of New Zealand and the Commonwealth, for I cannot disguise the fact that these two dominions have a very great responsibility, and having regard to what may but I hope will not happen, they will also face a common peril in the event of the war going increasingly against us.
There are a few other things which I feel disposed to say at this stage. The first is that in this general plan in which the greater part of the disciplinary incidence will inevitably fall on the workers, because it is they who are to be transferred from job to job and will be called upon to go without some of the things that ordinarily they might be able to get, the machinery whereby that is done should admit of the greatest amount of consultation, agreement and concert. I believe that the trade unions of Australia will respond with cheerfulness to the proposals which the Government will make to them when its plans are put into definite shape. General statements made by me about labour being willing to do this have to be translated into practice. It is not sufficient for me to say that the Labour movement of Australia will do its best to carry these things through. I do make that statement, hut at best itis a generalization. Ways and means must be devised whereby labour and industry can be brought in to play their part. The details whereby a transfer can be made from civil to war production can. then be worked out, not only more amicably, but also more effectively, than if done without concert or collaboration. The decision of the Government to expand the trade-union panel to make it more generally representative should be welcome, but the Department of Labour itself will have a full-sized job to deal with what the Minister for Labour and National Service will recognize as inevitably involving the consideration of a great number of small matters and also many major problems as they arise from time to time.
With respect to the vexed question of the rights and obligations of labour in war time, I think that the Prime Minister last night might have re-phrased a part of his speech, lt is not true that the tradeunion movement of Australia has had any association with the hold-up of war production. It is true that, here and there, grievances have been expressed and stopwork meetings have been held. There have actually been strikes- which have, perhaps, been of longer duration that one would have welcomed, but which, compared with strikes generally, have been settled much earlier than would have normally been the case. The Government did well when it accepted the advice of the Advisory War Council and devised conciliation machinery in order to assist in solving this problem, and I consider that it might have given that machinery a little longer experience, and perhaps a wider elaboration, before the Prime Minister stated that it was intended to prohibit strikes. There will be some confusion as to what is meant by a strike. Some organizations have very properly laid it down that a strike associated with a log, ultimatum or demand should hot take place without holding a full meeting of the members of the union concerned. As the result of a great deal of overtime being worked, the only practical way in which many unions can secure a meeting that will he representative of all. of their members, and not a meeting packed by a few who are eager to get a certain decision, is by holding what is called a stop-work meeting.
– Do not such meetings cut down production?
– Yes, but what is the union to do? If there is unrest on a job and propaganda is being indulged in, the executive officers have to .decide whether a demand shall he made for a new award or . whether a log shall be served on the employers, but the union is not able to decide as a union whether that demand shall be made on the employers or whether a log shall be served on them unless a decision has been reached toy the members themselves. One of the great weaknesses of trade unionism in Australia over all the years is the fact that decisions have been made by unions at meetings which have not been representative of the union membership. Therefore, if decisions are to be made- in time of war they should be reached at meetings which are truly representative of the great body of members of the unions. Many of these men are working such long hours and on such varying shifts that there are occasions when it is better to have a stop-work meeting involving the loss of two or three hours or even a day than risk the chaos and confusion that will result from the failure of the union to have a decision taken as to what shall be done.
– But stop-work meetings have not taken place only since overtime has been introduced.
– I am aware of that, but many stop-work meetings prior to overtime becoming general were due to the causes I now stress. I ask that the Government shall take well, into account the difficulties of the trade unions, the circumstances in which their members are working and the general way in which they are shaping before, in a moment of panic, or under newspaper pressure, it proceeds to presume that the unions are not pulling their weight, when, as a matter of fact, the great majority of the men have done nothing but pull their full weight.
– They have done great jobs, too.
– Yes. Last night the Prime Minister paid a well-deserved tribute to the great body of the Australian workers, and I am certain that the real test of these powers will be the way in which they are used. If they are to be used capriciously, without calm consideration, or without giving the unions an opportunity to state what their case really is, our next position may be worse than the present one, because we shall have created a feeling of bitterness and disappointment, whereas a proper statement of the case would have enabled appropriate remedies to be -devised. The Prime Minister has paid a tribute to the workers for what they have done since the commencement of the war, and I desire to pay my tribute to the Government for the way in which it has attempted to facilitate the working of the machinery for the settlement of industrial disputes, particularly in regard to the coal-mining industry. I do not hesitate to say what I think the Government ought to do, and I shall not go behind the door to say what the Government has done to help in these matters. I ask the Government to build on that foundation of collaboration with labour, rather than use this developing outlook on the war as a new reason for putting labour into a straightjacket, or for doing things which would please some commentators who can see no possibility of the nation being organized until labour is properly disciplined. [ Leave to continue given.’] 1 now come to the expressed intention of the Government to make arrangements whereby Parliament may be its own watch dog over the Government in the carrying out of this programme. It is intended, I gather, .to set up some parliamentary committees which will report to Parliament regarding what is being done. That is a very wise move, but I do ask the Government immediately to set about establishing a standing committee of both Houses, a body with all the powers of a select committee, which will report constantly to the Government upon matters affecting social security. Reference was made to the subject by the Prime Minister last night. In my opinion, the workers and the people are entitled to some instalments of the new social order as opportunity offers, while they are being called upon to make this great sacrifice.
– There will be no social security if we do not win the war.
– I agree that if we lose the war we shall have no say in the framing of any new social order, but whilst I recognize that, I point out that it will not be sufficient for the honorable member to say on the day when the war is victoriously ended that it does not matter what kind of social order we have.
– We shall deal with the matter then.
– Unless there is a great deal of thinking, and a great deal of preparation beforehand, and some kind o’f cohesion developed in the Parliament in respect of the principles of the new social order, there will not be any new social order at all. It is easy to be negative and say, “ You shan’t do this “. You can generally get a majority for “ No “, but when it comes to working out plans for some progressive action, the disputation regarding the nature of those plans, and the general structure to be evolved, is so great that even those who want something different have difficulty in agreeing upon just what they want, and thus the opposition wins easily. The members of this Parliament ought to be able, as the war proceeds, to say what they think about the situation as it develops. In any event, as the war moves from stage to stage, and the burdens become increasingly heavy upon the community as a whole, there ought to be some departure from the old social order, even while the war is being waged.
– It will be a pity if we do not get a new social order, because the old one will be gone.
– I agree. I return to the two points I touched upon earlier. The Government must early ascertain what is the strength of the air power that can be made available overseas to our fighting forces; further, it must ascertain the maximum, or, at any rate, the approximate strength of the forces that the Government believes it is capable of maintaining.
– As to the first point, the honorable member knows that I have been in consultation with the British Government on that matter for some time.
– I am making this speech in this way, not because I have any doubt regarding . what the Prime Minister has done, but because I want to make it unmistakably plain to whoever has any responsibility in this matter what is the strength of the opinion held in Australia regarding it. I have not spoken lightly, and I have said only what I believe should be said. What I have said I stick to, and I hope that those who have heard me will take cognizance of it.
I agree with the proposal of the Prime Minister to create a Ministry of Supply as well as one of Munitions. The proper procedure is to preserve the authority of Parliament to determine the number of Ministers, and the Government should state the number of Ministers required. At a time when the economic functions of the Commonwealth are constantly increasing, it is only proper that the Ministry should he strengthened to cope with the expanding responsibilities. It is not right to expect the work to be done by the same number of men as formerly. Moreover, the war is now twenty months old, and some Ministers have been bearing a heavy burden since it began. They have been working long, hours, and it is time that the burden was re-distributed. This is also true of the heads of some departments. A man may be able to carry a heavy load of responsibility for six months, or even twelve months, but he cannot do so indefinitely ; we must take heed of the tremendous toll being taken of the strength and stamina of certain officers of the Commonwealth as well as of certain Ministers.
When the matters referred to in the Prime Minister’s broadcast come before Parliament for consideration, we shall have something to say about each of them. This afternoon I have given merely a general outline of what is in my mind. The great truth to remember is that this Parliament will have no opportunity to serve the people unless our cause is crowned with victory. That is my most fervent conviction. The question of how victory is to be secured involves many problems which must be discussed in this Parliament on their merits. Suggestions will be made, and the Government must decide upon a course of action after hearing the best advice available. Just as all the people of the nation are now being called upon to do their best, in order that the country may do its best, so I maintain that, when the war is won we should, not as an expression of empty rhetoric, but in very fact, pledge ourselves to the service of the people as a whole. The people alone stand between Australia and defeat, just as the people stand between Great Britain and defeat, and Great. Britain and Australia must be saved for the proper use of all their people, and not as the happy hunting grounds of a privileged few.
.- I deprecate attempts by representatives of the Government here and in Great Britain, and by a section of the press, to prevent criticism of what are obviously grave errors of judgment by saying that such criticism is evidence of lack of patriotism. It is perfectly clear that grave errors of judgment were committed by somebody in regard to the Grecian campaign, and later in regard to the campaign in Crete. No Opposition which does its duty to the people can allow a government, or a group of persons, to stride blunderingly into error in seven league boots, and then to seek to hide behind a smoke screen of patriotism, or to deflect criticism from themselves by talking of the gallantry of our soldiers. Grave blunders have been made, and the people entertain serious misgivings regarding some of the things that were done in those two campaigns. The Minister for Trade and Customs (Mr. Harrison), speaking at a rally in Martin-place immediately after the Grecian campaign, said that it was cold-blooded murder to send men into battle if they were not properly equipped. I wonder what was running through his mind when he made that statement. Certainly the sentiments which he uttered have found an echo in the minds of a great many other persons. It was a grave error of judgment to send Australian or New Zealand troops, or troops of any other country, into the campaign in Greece without proper equipment and proper air protection in support of what seems to me to have been a somewhat quixotic notion of honour. It is obvious that adequate air protection was not given. Since the Prime Minister (Mr. Menzies) returned from abroad he has spoken of the tremendous work we now propose to do - indeed, a great deal has already been done - in order to speed up munition production and to improve the services. Frankly, we need to view the whole position, with regard to manpower and the purposes for which our man-power can be used. The plain fact is that although we have a Department of Defence Coordination, we have no real co-ordination in. recruitment of man-power for either the production of munitions or the fighting services. As my leader has pointed out, a competition is going on between two arms of the services. The statement has been made, and I take it to be correct, that the Government proposes to extend munition production to such a degree as to make Australia one of the important arsenals of the Empire. If we are to proceed along the lines now proposed, and every eligible man is to be recruited for the Air Force and Army, and, at the same time we are to undertake a tremendous production of munitions, I believe, bearing in mind that we have a population of only 7,000,000, that under these programmes, this country will eventually be bled white, or we shall find ourselves unable to carry on. Consequently, some attempt must be made to discover the real capacity of this country in both of those directions. If Australia is to become one of the arsenals of the Empire, is it proposed, at the same time, to carry the policy of recruiting for overseas to such a length that this country will be denuded of fighting man-power for the purposes of its own defence? Those, are matters to which the Government should give some thought.
I now come to the organization of the nation in regard to the war itself. The Prime Minister, in his speeches, has expressed some excellent ideas as to what ought to be done; but it is just as well to say to the Prime Minister that the people of Australia will judge him not by his rhetoric, but by the results he produces. As I have already said, the plain fact remains that the Department of Defence Co-ordination is not a department of co-ordination in the real sense of the word. There is a measure of division among the services themselves as to what ought to be done. We have men in sections of some services who could be more fittingly used in sections of the other services. Instances come to my mind of men who have asked to be released, so . that they could join the Navy where they were needed in a technical capacity, but the Army has refused to release them ; it preferred to keep them occupied in clerical work for which they did not even enlist. I do not know of a more individualistic service than the Air Force. I am not now speaking of any particular Minister, but there has never been any measure of co-operation on the part of any chief of the Air Force with any other section of the defence services. I do not want honorable members to take merely my word for that statement. They can go to the unions and the employers, and they will be informed of many instances of skilled men, with technical training, having been taken into the Air Force hut not having been used for the purposes for which they were enlisted. No attempt has been made by the Minister in charge of that department (Mr. McEwen), or by the Minister for Defence Co-ordination (Mr. Menzies) to determine whether those men were being properly used in those departments. I believe that whenever an appeal has been made to the Navy to release men, the Navy has usually acceded to such requests, whilst in many cases, the Army has shown some willingness to release men who had some measure of skill when they were wanted by other arms for some special purposes. But the attitude of the Air Force in this matter has been so apparent that it has been talked about at every street corner. No one has come to me officially and made complaints; but it is known to every one that skilled men drawn from the engineering industry, who have been enlisted in the Air Force, have been employed in sweeping paths, picking weeds and washing down planes, when, at the same time, there is a crying need for such men to be loaned to other services, at least until such time as the Air Force is ready to utilize their skill fully. They have been retained in the Air Force, and no attempt has been made by that service to meet the needs of other departments concerned with our war effort. For quite a considerable time, there was a grave suspicion of snobbery in the Air Force; there may still be ground for that suspicion. That is a matter which the Minister for Air might investigate. I emphasize these matters solely to show the necessity for not giving to some Minister, or to the chief of a particular service, the right to say who is wanted in his service, but to place that responsibility on someone under the direct control of the Prime Minister as Minister for Defence Co-ordination, who is not wrapped up in the interests of any particular service,- but whose concern is for the nation as a whole and the great effort it is making. Such an official should be deputed to see what are the needs of the respective services, and whether the skill of men in cases of the kind I have outlined cannot, be better utilized in the production of munitions, if not permanently, then even for some months, and in some instances for some weeks. The appointment of such an official is most desirable at a time, when highly-skilled tradesmen are so badly needed.
The Prime Minister has spoken about the acceleration of our war effort. In passing, I may say that it is also a byword that the Department of Defence Co-ordination itself is inextricably enmeshed in red tape, and that in no other department is there more delay in carrying out defence functions with regard to the war than in the very department of which the Prime Minister himself, as Minister for Defence Co-ordination, is the head. Recently. I saw in the press a statement by the honorable member for New England (Mr. Abbott) in which, without mentioning the specific instance, he elaborated on the long and tortuous road through which some transaction had to travel before it finally reached the point at which a decision was made. That is true; I say this to not only the Prime Minister but also every Minister. Honorable members must not think that I am not fully aware of the tremendous strain placed upon Ministers by the great amount of work they have to do. I do not charge any Minister particularly, but if our war effort is to be really accelerated there must be some delegation of authority by Ministers instead of allowing matters to pile up day after day, and week after week, awaiting the decision of one man, or the head of a department. That procedure might be all right in peace time, but not in war-time. Every man, charged with responsibility, from the Prime Minister down, must surround himself with men of (the greatest talent and capacity to reach decisions quickly, not, perhaps, on matters involving major Government policy, or which might produce major economic repercussions, but certainly on matters which can and must be decided promptly in order that we may get important things expeditiously done. Ministers should be able to place responsibility for such decisions on men capable of doing .these things on their behalf. If any service Minister thinks that he can handle all the things which the people think be should deal with, there will be no acceleration of our war effort. The Government talks about speeding up the war effort, but the right honorable member for North Sydney (Mr. Hughes) is Attorney-General and also Minister for the Navy. It is about time that the Government, and the Minister himself, realized that one can linger too long upon the stage. I do not like to have to say -these things, but if one wishes to be honest with the Government one mustsay what he believes to be the trouble. I do not wish -to be disrespectful to any Minister, but I do not believe that the holding of two portfolios by the right honorable member for North Sydney at such a time as the present is in the best interests of the nation.
I now wish to refer to the proposed tremendous effort in which we are to call into being all the forces we possibly can for carrying on the war. I do not speak in any carping spirit, because I know very well how difficult is the Government’s task, but while we are talking about great sacrifices, and demanding that the people shall make equal sacrifice, the plain fact remains that quite a number of people in this country, particularly big monopolies and big firms, are making a good thing out of this war. At the same time, I do not deny that quite a number of workers are doing better now than they did before the outbreak of war. But I draw the attention of the Government to the fact that a great number of small business people, primary producers and small farmers in country districts, see advancing upon them nearer and nearer each day the shadow of financial and economic ruin. I know that it is not easy to adjust these difficulties. A man may be only running a small motor garage or a shop ; and should he lose his business, his loss, so far as the community generally is concerned, will not appear to be very great. But the fact is that in many instances the savings and effort of a life-time are represented in these small businesses. To-day, however, they are mortgaged to the banks, and if the Government is not prepared to balance our economy so that producers can be enabled to continue at least a minimum of their operations, it will find that when the war is over, these people will have been driven off the land, and this country will be unable to carry on. It is the duty of the Government to keep in mind the fact that when the war is over, the task of restoring Australia to ordinary economic balance will be considerably greater if to-day disproportionate numbers of people are allowed to drift into a few avenues of activity - the production of munitions and the arms of the services - and, at the same time, the economic side, which has to do with the interests of business people in the country and the primary producers as a whole is entirely neglected.
In respect of the Department of Information, I personally consider that that department has been a trap. The clearest evidence for that statement is to be found in the fact that the people of this country are more and more inclined to listen to the statements of the enemy in preference to those issued by the department. Quite a number of our people are now looking to short wave messages broadcast from other countries, mostly coming- from enemy sources, because the statements issued by the Department of Information are so grotesquely distorted, or the department delays too long the giving of correct statements. Consequently, the people are completely losing faith in that department.
Most regrettably, the Prime Minister has allowed himself to be drawn into making a comment concerning the prohibition of strikes. Never in the history of Australia has there been such close co-operation as that which exists now between the trade union movement and its traditional political opponents. To my knowledge, no Leader of the Opposition in this Parliament has been more generous than the honorable member for Fremantle (Mr. Curtin) in his treatment of a government. Whatever Australia has to say about him, it must concede that he has always been not only fair but also generous in his criticism of his political opponents. When I see the jackal newspapers praising him when his policy suits their book, but tearing him to pieces when his advocacy on behalf of the Labour party does not meet with their approval, I wonder what form of gratitude exists in the press for a man who has rendered such outstanding service in the National Parliament. Devoid of selfish ambition, he has not sought to grasp for himself, when his party lacks the numerical strength to govern, the emoluments, glory and position of a Cabinet Minister. Australia is fast reaching a measure of co-operation by the workers which augurs well for a complete utilization of every resource in the country in connexion with the war effort. But the Prime Minister’s announcement regarding the prohibition of strikes may easily be interpreted as some kind of threat. That it was not intended as such is my earnest hope. Whilst I am by nature a very mild person, I accept threats as a challenge.
Another matter to which the right honorable gentleman referred, was the internment of ‘Communists. My personal opinion is that the political label that a man wears is not a sure criterion of his patriotism or capacity for work. If subversive- acts against the welfare of the community are to determine whether a man should be interned, quite a. number of supporters of the United Australia party should have been deprived of their liberty long before the outbreak of war. I fear that some tribunal, perhaps even a tin-pot military autocrat, will be empowered to judge whether a person is a Communist. Such a policy would lead to grave abuses, and would cause serious industrial trouble, because the power would be used, as it has been used in the past, to intern people merely because they disagreed with the political opinions of the government of the day. For that reason, this Government must guard carefully against the misuse of the power which last night the Prime Minister indicated would be taken.
Like the Leader of the Opposition, I appreciate greatly many of the Government’s acts regarding arbitration and conciliation. When the new, streamlined form of arbitration was introduced, the Government should have put on a new engine instead of continuing to employ the old one. Unfortunately, arbitration will still be conducted in a legal atmosphere, with a, full observance of all the formality and procedure which are associated with the ordinary courts. The honorable member for Hunter (Mr. James) directed the attention of the Minister for Labour and National Service (Mr. Holt) to what was occurring in regard to the coal tribunals. The Minister, who has worked hard, has done everything in his power to make the industrial machine run smoothly. Ho was very fair in the way in which he . constituted the miners’ tribunal; but at the base, there is an arbitration court composed of judges, and that in itself tends to prevent any desirable acceleration. If the rules of the House did not preclude me from making certain observations about the judges, I should do so on this occasion. A few . days ago, the honorable member for Watson (Mr. Falstein) asked the Prime Minister whether he would introduce legislation designed to prohibit men from occupying certain positions after they had attained the age of 65 years. Though the question was treated as a jest, it was really most serious. The accelerated machine, which the Government introduced to deal with arbitration, has at its head a man whose health demands that he should no longer occupy his position.
The production of munitions has been the subject of considerable discussion. The Labour party believes that the production of munitions should not be a profit-making medium for any member of the community, but great organizations and monopolies are making very handsome profits out of the war. Employed in the Ministry of Munitions are persons who are associated in certain enterprises that are making such profits. I do not agree with the statement that the production of munitions to date has not been highly commendable. In fact, Australians have achieved wonders in this sphere, though undoubtedly bungling and hold-ups _ have occurred. Despite the fact that Mr. Essington Lewis is the managing director of the Broken Hill Proprietary Company Limited, his capacity to organize on a grand scale has been well demonstrated- by his association with the Ministry - of Munitions. Whilst that organization has not been able to achieve everything, Mr. Lewis has done very well. With some of the criticism directed at the Director of Machine Tool Production, Mr. Thorpe, I do not agree. In my opinion, he has clone a very good job. To no public servant is the community more deeply indebted than it is to the controller of the administration of the Munitions Department, Mr. Jensen. Elsewhere in the ministry, however, there are some blanks. The Government should know of the general feeling that the Director of Aircraft Production secured his position, and retains it, because of his social standing. Admittedly, that is not a very pleasant thing to say, but the efforts in regard to aircraft production have not been all that they might be. Whoever is appointed Assistant Minister for Aircraft Production will have to overhaul that section. Australia owes a deep debt of gratitude to hundreds of public servants who, without fee or reward, burn the midnight oil in connexion with the war effort. True, many of them are wrapped up in red tape, but there is no lack of sincerity, hard work or honesty of purpose in their endeavour. As many departments are under-staffed the Government should co-opt from the States all men who could be spared for the purpose of assisting the Commonwealth’s war effort. I know of no meaner thing in public life than the decision which was made recently by the Premiers not to allow State officers, to be interrogated by the Commonwealth Manpower and Resources Committee. Most regrettably, Labour Ministers were parties to that decision ; but I am. con- ‘fident that the newly-elected Labour Government in New South Wale’s will not adopt such an attitude. The Commonwealth should take every opportunity to obtain from the States all suitable men in order that over-worked federal public servants may be given an opportunity to preserve their health.
Although in my speech I have indulged in some criticism, every member of the Labour party is prepared to give to the Government all possible co-operation in its war effort. My remarks to-day are not a reflection upon individuals. Comments have been made about the Army, but the Minister himself was a most efficient Treasurer, and rendered excellent service to Australia in reducing interest rates. In his present capacity, he has done his best to move fast. Honorable members, who have had experience of the operation of the services, appreciate the difficulty that is experienced in driving them along, particularly when a civilian is responsible for control. The policy of appointing lieutenant-colonels without regard for their military qualifications is regrettable. Years ago, one understood that a captain or a lieutenant-colonel had earned his rank by braving the dangers of war. Now a lieutenant-colonel may attain that rank through his ability to sing comic songs. The Minister for the Army has made an effort to do his job thoroughly and conscientiously, and, in many respects, he has been an excellent man in the position.
Every opportunity should be taken by the Government to cut away the red tape that enmeshes so many departments. I could enumerate hundreds of instances of its clogging and retarding effect. The public are gravely dissatisfied with the petrol position, not because rationing has been introduced, but because of the shocking waste of fuel by the military authorities. Months ago, I directed the attention of the Minister to this matter and suggested how it could be remedied. What has been done, and with what success, I cannot say, but the public has been made gravely uneasy by the scandalous waste of petrol by the military. As to the necessity for economy in the use of petrol, the public are not so seriously disturbed. They realize that consumption must be reduced, but they are gravely disturbed by the methods used to distribute such petrol as is available. When the petrol rationing scheme was launched the conditions were such as to provide a premium for liars. The statements that people made were accepted at face value and without investigation, with the result that petrol was rationed on a most inequitable basis and without regard to the purpose for which motor vehicles were to be used. I have made frequent appeals that all cases should be dealt with, on their merits. Two men may be doing the same class of work with the same class of vehicle in a primary ‘ producing industry, but one man may live 3 miles, and another 40 miles, from the town. Yet they are rationed on exactly the same scale. What we need is a proper distribution of the available petrol. I have asked that police officers in country districts should he authorized to determine the ration according to the merits of individual cases. In that way we could greatly improve our distributing methods.
My remarks have not been made in a spirit of captious criticism. I sincerely trust that the Government will take steps to act in full accord with the Prime Minister’s undertakings with the object of really speeding up our war effort, not by a feverish wave of emotionalism but by sound, common-sense, economic methods. The affairs of this country can and should, be conducted in a rational way, for there is ample evidence of willingness on the part of every body to co-operate in the best interests of the nation.
.- I do not intend .to speak at length, but the few points to which I shall devote my attention seem to me to require emphasis. I listened with attention to the speech delivered over the air by the Prime Minister (Mr. Menzies) last night, as I also listened to the speech which he delivered in this House on the 28th May last. The right honorable gentleman seemed to me, on both occasions, to be struggling with a desire to say something which would have the effect of flogging the flagging energies of the people of this country into a greater effort. If the Prime Minister did not actually accuse certain sections of the people of apathy, there was no doubt that some parts of his speech were open to that interpretation. His utterance could be described as an effort to disturb what he regarded1 as dangerous complacency on the part of the people. In my opinion there is no such complacency, hut if there were, certain sections of the press could be blamed for it.
Reports that have appeared in the press at different times seem to me to be directly contradictory of remarks made by the Prime Minister both in this
House last month and over the air last night. The right honorable gentleman told us a stirring but tragic story of the manner in which the people of England were facing the constant enemy bombings. He said that people everywhere in Great Britain were making sacrifices, but some press reports tell quite a different story. I shall cite some passages from an article which appeared on the leader page of the Sydney Morning Herald of the 23rd May last. Although I do not regard the Sydney Morning Herald in a very favorable light, it isconsidered to be one of the most important daily newspapers of the Commonwealth. Anything that it publishes must therefore be considered in quite a different way from articles published in small country newspapers or obscure journals with small circulations. The article to which I refer was contributed to the Sydney Morning Herald by the newspaper’s special correspondent in London. It stated among other things -
Unfortunately there are privileged sections who are still resisting fiercely any threat to what they regard as their rights and are selfishly and complacently asking others to bear the burdens which are necessary if victory is to be won.
The writer proceeded as follows : -
I have lived in England’s leading luxury hotel (facetiously referred to by my journalistic colleagues as my “gilded cage”). 1 have spent much time in other leading luxury hotels all over England. I have also stayed in country “ pubs “, and to-day I am sleeping on the floor in Fleet Street.
I saw so much that pained and oppressed me in these luxury places that I can honestly say that, if I had my choice between my “ gilded cage “ and a bed on the floor in Fleet Street, I would choose the bed on the floor.
He also wrote -
It seemed impossible to me as I sat amid gaudy and lavish surroundings and watched women in expensive evening gowns and smartly-tailored men ordering extravagant dinners and expensive drinks that the mass of the people were fighting desperately and with a magnificent courage against a savagery such as the world lias never seen before.
In their steel and concrete fortress, surrounded by huge brick blast walls, they are able to sit comfortably through the fiercest raid with hardly any evidence that buildings were being devastated and people dying all over the city. Even the roar of the huge guns a few hundred yards away come to them only as a muffled thudding.
When I told some of them stories of the Plymouth blitz that T. had seen, some of the experiences I had had in the East End and of the conditions in shelters and under-grounds. they either looked at me with astonishment or treated me as though I were an explorer returned from the wilds.
What I, and many other people, in Australia wish to know is : Who is telling the truth? The reports made to us by the
Prime Minister do not “ square “ with reports of the kind to which I have just referred, and it is little wonder that many people in . this country wish to be reassured as to the true position. The glaring discrepancy between the state of affairs described by the correspondent of the Sydney Morning Herald on the one hand, and by the Prime Minister on the other, requires some explanation. Our people want to know the truth. We have heard a great deal recently about the proposed new order, burt we need some guarantee that steps will be taken at once to provide for the new order. Action should not be delayed until the conclusion of the war.
The Prime Minister had a good deal to say last night about the shortage of man-power. Although he stated that the Government was pledged to the voluntary system of recruiting for overseas service, there was still an insistent “but” in his speech. “ But “, he said, “ recruiting is too slow “. The kind of propaganda proceeding in Australia at present is similar to the kind that preceded the attempt of the Government of the day to introduce conscription during the last war. We were told then that there was a serious slackness in recruiting and an urgent need to fill the gaps in the ranks. All I can say is that I and other honorable members on this side of the chamber have become sick and tired of listening to the stories of men who have offered their services during the’ present war and have been told that no place can be found for them. I believe that thousands of men in Australia have had their offers to serve rejected by the military authorities. One main wrote to me quite recently a pitiable tale. He said that he had attended a meeting in Martin-place at which an appeal had been made for wireless operators for the Royal Australian Air Force. Of course he had also seen advertisements in the press to the effect that wireless operators were needed. He promptly offered his services and received a reply to the effect that no more operators were required. Yet the same day he heard Brigadier-General Lloyd make an urgent appeal over the broadcasting network for wireless operators to enlist at once in the Air Force. That kind of thing is going on all the time. How is it that such appeals can be made when so many men are doing their utmost to get into the services?
I agree with what the Leader of the Opposition (Mr. Curtin) and the honor.able member for Macquarie (Mr. Chifley) have said concerning the trade union movement. I could not help noticing one naive touch in the Prime Minister’s statement last night. The right honorable gentleman said that the Government would regiment the trade unions. We were told that certain people would be placed in concentration camps if they did, or did not do,. certain things. The Prime Minister went on to say that any employers who failed to act as they should act would have their businesses taken from them. That was all the penalty they would suffer! No doubt if the Government took over any businesses under such conditions it would provide that the ordinary rate of profit should be paid to the proprietors. There might even be some premium, and it is possible that the employers who had misconducted themselves might be put in charge of the operation of the businesses. That kind of thing will not commend itself to us.
One other remark by the Prime Minister stirred me. It was the right honorable gentleman’s plain, cold-blooded statement to the effect that we must mortgage our future in. order to win the war. To whom are we to mortgage it?
– It is mortgaged now.
– Of course it is. Does the Prime Minister expect that we shall be agreeable to mortgage our future as we did during the war of 1914-18 and so cause a repetition of the worst depression that this country has ever known ? Are we to be expected to leave ourselves in the hands of the moneychangers and to pile up huge debts which later will have to be paid by the blood, sweat and tears of the men who fought for victory ? If we must mortgage our future we shall mortgage it only to ourselves. We should operate through our own financial institution. The Commonwealth Bank should be the only organization operating in relation to war indebtedness. If the Government is honest in its desire to mobilize the resources of this country in respect of materials, men and machinery it should draw upon the resources of the Commonwealth Bank. Money terms mean nothing in our present situation. If the Government wishes to float a loan it should act solely through the Commonwealth Bank. It should not permit other financial institutions to burden the people of this country with debts that will he unpayable after the war. It should take complete control of the financial resources of the country and arrange financial measures in accordance with the needs of the situation. I shall never agree to the piling of huge debts upon the shoulders of the people. I am totally opposed to the mortgaging of our future to financial institutions, many of which have foreign affiliations. That kind of thing was done during the lust war, and after the war the people’s savings were carved up and distributed among financial institutions without regard to nationality or equity. For that reason we shall not accept the Prime Minister’s statement that we must mortgage our future unless the mortgaging is to be done through our own financial institution.
– That is what is intended.
– If it is intended it is not being done, and the honorable gentleman knows that it is not being done. The forces behind the Prime Minister will not permit him to do it. The inescapable fact is that the world will not be able to carry the huge burden of debt that will remain after this war. Debts will have to be cancelled. That will be all the more necessary if we are to enter upon a new era in a decent civilization. The debts being incurred by Great Britain, Australia, and other countries in this war will never be paid, and we are humbugging ourselves if we say or think otherwise. If the economic system of this country cannot carry that burden, it has to go. Far better would it be to operate under a system by which the debt could easily be wiped out, if wiping out were necessary. I now refer to the terrible burden imposed on the economic structure in the last war by reason of the huge profits derived from the manufacture of armaments. Mr. Lloyd George, as Prime Minister1 of Great Britain, proved conclusively what a toll was taken of the resources of Great Britain in this respect.
Efforts are being made to convince us that to-day no profits are being thus derived. Leaving out of account the armaments manufactured in government workshops, the fact must not he overlooked that the Broken Hill Proprietary Company Limited, Lysaght’s Limited, and the Commonwealth Rolling Mills Limited control the industries which supply all the heavy materials that are needed. During 1914-18 it was claimed that the manufacturers of armaments were not making any profits, yet an investigation disclosed that they were charging the British Government £65 for a Lewis gun which that Government could make for £25, and 25s. 6d. for shell casings which it could make for 12s. In twelve months, the British Government saved £500,000,000. These facts were placed before the House of Commons in 1918 by Mr. Lloyd George himself. If the Prime Minister, and the Government that lie leads, are honest in their professions, and intend to do the job properly, let them install a costing system in the works of the Broken Hill Proprietary Company Limited, the Commonwealth Rolling Mills Limited and Lysaght’s Limited. Lloyd George took such action in 1916. Such a step would lead to correct information being obtained in regard to costs. If some men are to give their lives, and others to mortgage their future, as the Prime Minister has- said must be the case if this country is to be defended and democracy generally is to survive, these concerns ought to be very well satisfied if their industries are handed back to them intact when the war is over. What citizen of this country would not be made happy by the thought that when this war was over he would be- in a position at least as good as- he occupied when it commenced ? A few persons, of course, will make extra profits, and thereby place themselves in a better position, but the average citizen will not be anything like so well off as he was before the war. I say definitely to this House and to the country that under the present system of finance it will not be possible to mobilize the resources of Australia or to do one-half of what could be done in other ways. It is useless to wait for the flotation of loans, and to depend on the pence saved by children and the purchase of war savings certificates, because the necessary monetary resources are not available. Whatever lag there has been is the result of the inability of existing financial measures to do in the right way what is needed. I have heard a good deal to-day concerning aeroplanes. If we cannot obtain from overseas supplies of dolomite, we cannot build aircraft in Australia. During the last sittings of this House I was assured by a geologist, to whom I spoke in one of the lobbies, and I have been assured by other persons also, that we have plentiful material from which magnesium metal can be manufactured. Restriction of imports is proposed in order to stabilize the financial position of Australia. What is wrong with the exploitation of our dolomite resources, thus providing work for many who are still unemployed, and furnishing the material which is so essential to the production of aircraft in this country? Should the time arrive - we pray that it will not - when sea transport is further curtailed and these materials cannot be brought to Australia from overseas, our aircraft manufacturing industry will cease to function and no more aeroplanes will be made in this country. Not one of the thousands of persons to whom I have spoken is unprepared to do some.ducers everywhere admit that sacrifices tiling to help forward the war effort; business men, workers, and primary pro- have to be made. All are prepared to make those sacrifices; but there must be some degree of equality, and nobody must be permitted to grow rich out of profits derived from industrial undertakings. This is the psychology which has to be exploited; that is the opinion which is hold generally to-day, and the Government must realize that it exists. I have no wish to criticize. I admit that a good job has already been done. But since the adjournment of the House I have travelled extensively and have heard this opinion expressed openly. More evidence must be produced to show that there is to be a greater levelling of sacrifices. If that be guaranteed by the Government there will not bo found much lag on the part of the Australian people, even if there be any now. I shall never stand for the mort- gaging of Australia to institutions like the associated banks, as was done previously, because escape from our difficulties could be gained only by another depression, accompanied by the sweat, tears, and misery of tens of thousands of Australian people. The Labour party says that that shall not happen again. We have had that experience, and shall strive to our utmost to see that it is not repeated when this war has been won.
.- The statement made by the Prime Minister (Mr. Menzies) in this chamber two or three weeks ago was supplemented by the speech that the right honorable gentleman broadcast last evening. I was not able to listen to that speech, because I was travelling to Canberra, but I have been supplied to-day with a copy of it, and this morning I read a report of it in the press.
I wish first to refer to the distribution of our man-power. Only yesterday I read in a Tasmanian newspaper an unsigned article, of which I do not know the author and for which I could not find any authority, on “Man-power for war victory”. It reads -
Approximately 50.0,000 Australian men, or one in five between the ages of 18 years and 60 years, are in uniform or available for immediate mobilization. Added to this is a minimum of 150,000 munition workers. Within a year the Commonwealth will have at least 600,000 men in the fighting services at home and abroad, apart from the huge number required for munitions production and other vital industries.
The article went on to compare the effort being made on this occasion with what happened in the years 1914-18, in the following terms : -
In 1014-18, with a population of about 5,000,000 (2,000,000 fewer than to-day) Australia enlisted 416,800 mcn for the Australian Imperial Force by the end of four years. Air Force, home defence, and munitions requirements were all numerically negligible by present standards. Last August-comparable figures are not available officially - the Prime Minister announced enlistments for the lighting services overseas to be 157,714, of whom 119,000 were in the Australian Imperial Force, and 30,000 in the Royal Australian Air Force. Since then tens of thousands more have enlisted in the Australian Imperial Force; organization of the armoured division has begun, the Empire Air Scheme has been pushed on, the Navy has taken new men for ships from Australia’s yards, and Australia is maintaining a home defence force of volunteers and universal trainees which the Government has announced will not be allowed to fall below 250,000.
The point that I wish to make is, that during the last twenty months Australia has made fairly substantial strides in the organization of its man-power. Unlike our position during the last war, we are now, it is said, an arsenal for the British Empire. “We know from our own investigations, and from what we have been told by those who are in a position to express considered opinions, that we have advanced very considerably in the production of munitions of war, from the commencement of our operations in the year preceding the outbreak of hostilities. I am concerned to know what arc our limitations in respect of putting our men into uniform and sending them out of this country. We should be fairly well satisfied with the progress made up to date with respect to the men employed in the munitions factories; and enlisted in the different services. I have been approached in my electorate as well as in other electorates by scores of men and women, who complain that they have not been able to find a niche in the war effort. Those responsible to the Government for the marshalling of our man-power and economic resources have not done all that the people of this country expected of them. Nevertheless, I realize that much credit is due for the work that has already been accomplished. From my own observation, I am able to speak of the remarkably effective service that has been rendered in the production of munitions, and of the cordial co-operation that has been extended by the industrial movement. In response to the appeals of their leaders, the workmen of Australia have risen to the occasion in a most creditable manner. In the Melbourne press yesterday, I saw a half-page advertisement, which was headed “ We pledge the Australian trades union movement to work for a swift and complete victory”. The advertisement was attractively prepared and was illustrated with drawings of factories and ships. Under the caption, “ The 1 work for victory’ resolution”, it set out the following resolution of the convention of the Australasian Council of Trade Unions held on the 5th June: -
This Congress recalls and re affirms the declaration of the New South Wales and Victorian Branches of the A.C.T.U. and other sections of the Trade Union movement in 1930 and the Trade Union. Congress of 1040, supporting the war against Hitler and Fascism. We record our uncompromising determination to continue the struggle against the aggressor powers who are endeavouring to destroy personal liberty, industrial and political freedom, the right of collective bargaining and association and, therefore, pledge the Trade Union movement to work for a swift and complete victory for the cause of democracy against aggression and oppression.
We affirm that in order to prevent the possibility of individual profiteering by the war there should be brought about the immediate nationalization of the arms industries and the utilization of the national credit. We demand a substantia] immediate improvement in the standard of life and freedom of speech and assembly.
We extend our deepest sympathy to the relatives and friends of members of Australia’s overseas forces who have given their lives or suffered from wounds or illness whilst fighting to preserve democracy and express our highest appreciation of the bravery of Australian volunteer forces in overseas conflicts. Congress expresses its horror and condemnation of the barbaric and ruthless methods by which the forces of Nazism and Fascism are endeavouring to gain world control and domination.
This advertisement was published, not by the trade union movement, but by the Department of Information, which evidently considers that the sentiments expressed at the convention were such as to make a desirable impression upon the minds and lives of not only the working people, but also the community in general.
In his speech broadcast last evening the Prime Minister referred to the need for preventing industrial disputes. I join with the Leader of the Opposition (Mr. Curtin) in his comment upon that part of the speech, because I consider that the Prime Minister was rather ill-advised in regard to the declaration which he made on this matter, in view of the statement published by the Department of Information regarding the resolutions of the Australasian Council of Trade Unions Congress on two occasions. Day by day the leaders of the trade union movement throughout Australia, in their broadcast speeches, and in their declarations in public places, have repeatedly urged the workmen of this country to pull their weight in the war effort. I refer to the statement issued by the trade union leaders in the coal-mining industry only last week, imposing disciplinary measures against men who take upon themselves the responsibility of preventing the production of the coal which is urgently needed in connexion with the war effort. The Prime Minister has been back in Australia long enough to know the attitude of the trade union movement, and the sincerity of purpose of the great mass of the workingmen and women of Australia who are providing the sinews of war for their comrades overseas, in order to defeat the enemy that would destroy us. I agree with the Leader of the Opposition that caution shouldbe exercised before the Government proceeds any further with its proposals with regard to industrial disputes. The Prime Minister’s proposal to keep the wheels of industry moving is not consistent with the attitude adopted towards those employers who cause lockouts. If the Government took over the control of certain works, what would happen? Would the basis of payment to the employers be the cost of production plus 5 per cent, as in the cases of munition annexes to engineering workshops would no other penalty be imposed ? The Prime Minister has not told us. One cannot forget that some employers have placed forged stamps on leather of inferior quality intended for the use of the forces serving at home and overseas. As the honorable member for Macquarie (Mr. Chifley) has said, we should not adopt a high-handed attitude in our dealings with workmen who have extended to the Government greater co-operation in this war than at any other time in our history. The advice of the Leader of the Opposition is sound, and I hope that the Prime Minister will accept it.
The rationing of petrol is to be tightened up. This is inescapable if our man-power and resources are to he properly marshalled and our petrol stocks conserved. As the honorable member for Macquarie remarked, wastage has occurred in connexion with the defence services. I have heard of a three ton lorry having been used to carry a. colonel’sbag to a railway station, but, of course, it is difficult to obtain proof of acts of this kind.
– Or washing aeroplanes with petrol.
– Surely that has not been done. The tighteningup of the petrol rationing scheme will have a serious effect on the lives of the keepers of service stations and the mechanics employed in garages. Every effort must he made to utilize the services of these men in the best interests of the country. I have in mind a man 44 years of age, who owns a small garage.He is an excellent mechanic, and when the further restrictions of the use of petrol take place he will be forced out of business. He has been desirous of entering the Air Force for months, but he has been told that he is too old. There should be a niche somewhere in the forces for a good mechanic only 44 years of age. Every effort should be made to marshal our man-power to the best advantage.
I do not entirely support the methods by which the Government proposes to finance the war effort. We do not know exactly to what extent bank credit is to be utilized, but money is being obtained by means of loans and the issue of war savings certificates. Certain organizations and groups of men are making appeals to the public. In Tasmania, the response to the appeal for the purchase of war savings certificates has not been so great as it might have been. One reason for that is that defence expen- diturehas not been inflated in Tasmania to the same degree as in other States. Consequently, many Tasmanians have come to the mainland, and we have not the same flow of money through the community as is occurring on the mainland. Another reason is that our war organization in Tasmania is not so effective as it should be. The honorable member for Macquarie referred to the employment of aged men in work connected with our war effort. I have nothing personally against the man in charge of the sale of war savings certificates and loan appeals in Tasmania. Over a long period of years he has rendered very fine service to the community as a town clerk. But today he is nearly 80 years of age, and has reached the stage when he is not really capable of doing work of that kind. On the other hand a returned soldier, who was employed on this work temporarily and did an excellent job in forming war savings groups, is available to take charge of this activity. The Treasury, however, prefers to employ the older man. I do not refer to this matter in any carping spirit; but the wheels of our war effort are being clogged in this way. When the last loan was being floated this younger man visited country centres at his own expense to appeal for subscriptions. Undoubtedly, he has the capacity to express himself, and he puts his heart into the work. No doubt, also, he wants to do something in the war effort. The point I emphasize is that the employment of old men in work of this kind tends to retard the wai- effort. The time is long overdue for the Government to realize that such a state of affairs must be remedied. I cannot understand why this man’s services are retained when a young and vigorous man who is equally capable of expressing himself in public, and is willing and anxious to do the job, is available.
The proposal announced by the Prime Minister in his broadcast speech last night to appoint a number of parliamentary committees is excellent. To-day, the Government and the Opposition in this chamber are at one so. far as the prosecution of the war is concerned. Every Australian, I believe, is united in that aim ; the war must be won. We may not agree in respect of certain details of the prosecution of the war, but we arc united on the supreme issue of winning the war. The constitution of parliamentary committees will provide the Government with a greater degree of assistance than it has been able to obtain during the last twelve or eighteen months. Such a system will be of advantage to not only the Parliament but also the country as a whole. I entirely agree with that proposal. We shall thus be enabled to get closer together in the prosecution of the war. The suggestion made by the leader of the Opposition for the appointment of a standing committee on social services is also excellent.
The effect of the loss of markets on our primary producers, which was referred to this afternoon by the honorable mem ber for Werriwa (Mr. Lazzarini) is one of the most important problems confronting us to-day. The farmer is bound to suffer further as the result of the stricter rationing of petrol. After all, honorable members are not so busy in their electorates that they cannot afford to give more attention to these problems. At least, they are better able than Ministers to go into details of these matters, and I have no doubt that the investigation of such problems by parliamentary committees will bring about closer co-ordination in our war effort generally. Last week I made a tour of a portion of my electorate. I found that the subject of butter production and marketing was a very live question. Farmers in that portion of my electorate are milking more cows to the acre than in any other part of Australia. It is probably the best dairy land outside of Denmark. These people are very concerned as to what the future holds for them. They want to know what will happen to them should the bottom fall out of the butter market. In such an event they would be faced with ruin. Therefore steps must be taken to deal with that problem, which involves the provision of sufficient storage and refrigeration space. The potato-growers also are in great difficulty, although their conditions are not so bad as last year when they enjoyed a high, fixed maximum price. This year, however, they find that the market price is not sufficient to cover the cost of production. Consequently, they are looking to the Government to help them. These problems must be tackled, and I know of no better way in which that can be done than by investigation along the lines proposed by the Prime Minister in his speech to the nation last night. I have no intention of offering destructive criticism, but , I believe that the Government should seriously consider the matters with which I have just dealt. .Let us tighten up our’ organization wherever it requires to be tightened up, so that in the future we shall be able to marshal the whole of our economic, industrial and primary resources in a common effort to defeat the common foe.
.- At the outset I propose to deal with the speech broadcast by the Prime Minister (Mr. Menzies) last night. It has been said that speech is given to us to express thought ; the French Minister, Talleyrand, said that speech was given to us to hide thought; but it seems to me that to-day speech is given to us instead of thought. Certain parts of the Prime Minister’s speech were decidedly good, particularly those sections in which he spoke of the national control of roads, ships, land transport, coal-mines, and an all-in war effort. He also dealt with petrol rationing. I hope that discrimination will be used so as to give to the primary producer sufficient petrol to enable him to carry on. In this respect, Ministers should set an example by abandoning their luxury cars and making greater use of the railways. At the same time, I hope that luxury cars will not be provided to convey Ministers’ secretaries to and from railway stations. The people have sharp eyes, and when they see that sort of thing going on, they immediately conclude that Ministers who speak of the need for rationing petrol are not sincere.
I agree with the honorable member for Werriwa (Mr. Lazzarini) that the Prime Minister made a very bad mistake when he spoke about disciplining the trade unions and the workers. The right honorable gentleman should know that it is bad psychology to use a threat when there is no need for it. The people ‘of Australia do not re-act amicably to threats. They can be led very easily, but they cannot be driven. The Prime Minister’s remarks in that respect were in striking contrast to what he had to say about the banks. He said -
Some of you may feel particularly concerned about the banks. I may tell you at once that bank profits, which have been relatively small since the depression of 1930, have, in fact, in net terms, become smaller during the war.
But on financial and economic policy generally I want to say something briefly. The adequate financing of a great struggle without the destruction of all economic standards is a matter of peculiar difficulty. Everybody agrees, in the abstract, that we should concentrate our financial resources upon war, and that we should fully employ the credit of the nation for that purpose, just as in the same way a private citizen will be prepared to use not only his cash, but his credit, for the achievement of an important end.
But the use of national credit, as. it is called, must always be engaged in with one eye on the fact that soaring prices and interest rates which are the marks of inflation, and the stock in trade of the profiteer can do incalculable damage to millions of private citizens.
We have, therefore, throughout this war, and, I think, I can say with considerable success, aimed at a liberal use of the Central Bank, substantial taxation, extensive borrowing from our own people, and the control of prices through the Prices Commissioner, each factor being blended with the others with sufficient care to produce soundness and sanity.
Sitting suspended from 6.15 to 8 p.m.
– The Prime Minister said that since the depression in 1930 the profits of the banks have been relatively small. Why this solicitous attitude towards the banking institutions? It is evident that the Prime Minister’s broadcast had the imprimatur and endorsement of those institutions. It is evident that he represents them. If he proposes to take over railways and other activities, why not take over the most important activity of all, namely, banking? For the simple reason that the Government is not game to do so. The Prime Minister is the agent of those institutions, and I say that deliberately on the floor of this House. He used the expression “ relatively small “ in regard to hanking profits, meaning small in comparison with those earned during the depression. I remember reading some time ago that during the depression, that is, during 1931-32, the “Big Five” in England, namely, Barkleys, the Midland, Lloyds, Westminster and the National Provincial, earned published profits of between 16 per cent, and 18 per cent., and this at a time when the workers were unemployed because “ there was no money “, and when their wives and children were starving. I say that they made published profits, that is, profits exclusive of reserves A, B, C and D, especially D, bonus shares, and very large amounts written off for depreciation. We are now told by our Prime Minister that Ave must mortgage the future.
The honorable member for Werriwa pertinently asked this afternoon to whom are’ we to mortgage the future. I reply by pointing out that we are expected to mortgage the future to those same banking institutions which made their 16 per cent, to 18 per cent, profit during the depression. Apparently, those institutions are to carry on their business untrammelled during the period of the war. The principal street corners in all our cities throughout Australia are occupied by palatial buildings erected by the banks during the depression, or by the insurance companies, which are, if possible, somewhat worse than the banks.
Recently I inquired of the Prime Minister whether it was a fact that under the recently promulgated Moratorium Regulations, the insurance companies were empowered to charge members of the Australian Imperial Force 6 per cent, on unpaid premiums, and the answer of the Prime Minister was that they could charge up to 6 per cent. In spite of this we expect our young men to answer the call to serve their country overseas. That is bad business foresight on the part of the insurance companies. The interest on those unpaid premiums might very well have been wiped out or cut to 3 per cent., and I suggest that, if necessary, the Government might make up the difference. Surely we should not expect boys who are offering their lives for their country to pay 6 per cent, interest on the premiums, which, because of their service overseas, they are unable to keep up to date. There is no hope that this Government, or any other, will be able to achieve the maximum war effort unless it assumes control of banking facilities throughout the nation. Some time ago, I was charged by the Acting Prime Minister (Mr. Fadden) with seeking to follow Hitler. I say that we should follow Hitler and beat him at his own game. Hitler has nationalized the credit of Germany, and let us note what he is achieving thereby. “We must do the same. We had to follow him in the organization of panzer divisions. We had to follow him in the building of heavy tanks, and in the method of using them. We had to follow him in the use of dive bombers. If we are to outmanoeuvre him we must learn the lessons he has taught, and apply them better than he has done, and this applies also to the use of money.
The Prime Minister told us that we must mortgage the future. If we are to do that, what is the outlook? What is democracy to fight for? For my part, I hope that the time will come when we shall repudiate our war debt, because there is no hope of ever paying it. What are our men to do when they return from the war? Are they to be treated as were the men who returned from the last war, as hobos, and outcasts and worse? We had the spectacle recently of men who returned from this war being compelled to sit up in second-class railway carriages for twenty-four hours, weary, broken men who had been invalided home. Is that a foretaste of the new order ? Unless we start at the beginning with the thing that really matters - the credit of the nation - we shall get nowhere.
– I do not think that it is very satisfactory .that we should be continuing a debate of this kind after such a long interval. I listened with interest to what the Leader of the Opposition (Mr. Curtin) had to say, but I had a feeling which, I think, was shared by many other, honorable members, that the debate had become somewhat stale. Nevertheless, this is an important period in our history, and it is only right that some of us should state our views, whether they coincide with the views of the majority or not.
The problem, as I see it, is a threefold one. The first point has to do with the need for conserving money spent on goods which we do not require to use urgently. In this connexion, an important statement was published in the Melbourne Herald on the 4th April set-‘ ting forth the views of Lord Stamp, economic adviser to the British Government, who, with his wife and son, were recently killed by a German bomb in London. The statement is as follows: -
It is imperative that Australia in common with the other Dominions, should curtail luxury imports, especially from non-sterling countries. This applies particularly to petrol and newsprint.
The resultant saving, in dollars and ships would be the most important contribution that could bo made to the Empire’s war effort.
Australia is thinking of the war too much in terms of manpower and a magnificent scale of production. While these are very, valuable factors, they are no more essential than a reduction of consumption.
This does not embrace food, because Australia has plenty of that, especially since the surplus has been swollen by a substantial curtailment of exports to Britain.
But there are many commodities which could well be dispensed with or their consumption considerably lowered. . .
All the evidence at my disposal suggests that Australians have hardly begun to feci the effects of the war on their daily lives. I have often emphasized the vital importance of the curtailment of consumption, but there are fewer signs from Australia of activity of mind in response to it than from any other Dominion.
For example, South Africa got busy immediately, and recognized the importance of the question by appointing a “ thrift organizer “. There was also a good response from NewZealand.
It is understandable that Australia should consider the war primarily in terms of production and manpower, and not in terms of a reduction of consumption. Britain made the same error early in the war, but the unwisdom of such a policy was quickly appreciated.
The statement covers in a brief and adequate fashion the need for refraining from waste, of doing without those things which it is not necessary that we should consume.
The second part of the problem has to do with equipment. “We are all agreed as to the need for adequate equipment, and nobody who took part in the last war is likely to forget it. When I went to France during the last war, the supply of shells available to the army in those, days was very low. Nevertheless, we had to go. We had not the equipment, or the shells or the guns that the Germans had, but some one had to hold them up until the necessary equipment was ready. That has to be done in all wars. It is not a matter of having equipment equal to that of the enemy, if we have not got it, we have to do with What at our disposal until we can meet the enemy on equal terms. The Leader of the Opposition used the words : “ We must have a maximum of equality with those that we have to fight “. That of course, is obviously desirable. But if we have not got it, we have to do the best we can until we gain it. In 1916 I happened to be stationed for a time on Vimy Ridge where I saw almost daily three or four of our slow aeroplanes shot down in flames because they were not equal to the fast Fokkers of the Germans. No one can forget such a sight. It is easy for those who have not seen it to smile, but to stand there day after day and see our obsolete aeroplanes being shot down by the swift, up-to-date aeroplanes of the Germans was to give one a real sinking of the heart. Seldom did we then see one of the German planes brought down on that front. It was not until later that we were able to compete properly. In what I say about equipment, I am not to be misunderstood as stating that equipment does not play its part. When one speaks of an army, one naturally assumes equipment of every kind, shells, guns, planes, tanks, antitank guns and all the other modern forms of armament and munitions. It goes without saying that the soldier must have such things, but when all is said and done, it is not the weapons but the soldier himself, who makes the winning army. I have said more than once that in the last war it was not superior equipment that won for the Australians their successes.
– The honorable member is living in the past!
– At least I have a past! But I do not think that I am living entirely in the past. If I am, a great many people bear me company, because they still regard man-power as being the part which really counts. It was the fighting quality of the Australian which made him the redoubtable warrior that he was in the last war, and not the fact that he was better equipped than the Germans, because he was not better equipped than they were, n t any rate until almost the very end.
– Will the honorable member explain to the House why our forces were driven out of Greece and Crete?
– I shall come to that in due course. This country, which is mechanically and industriallyminded, has gone to extremes in this matter. People have the idea that by producing huge- masses of every kind of equipment they will overcome their enemies, so they need not bother greatly about man-power. To my mind, that theory is completely erroneous. The Prime Minister’s broadcast speech last night contained hardly any reference to the fact that we are terribly short of troops overseas. Unless we have troops, we cannot fight. The honorable member for Griffith (Mr. Conelan) asked me why our forces were driven out of Greece and Crete. On the one hand the Greeks’ equipment was inferior to that of the Italians, but for a long while they put up a magnificent performance. On the other hand, the British and French stored up vast supplies of equipment in France before the evacuation at Dunkirk last year, and in a few days the whole of it was taken. All of it disappeared, providing magnificent proof of the fact that unless a country has the men to fight, enormous supplies of equipment in itself are useless. We have become obsessed with the idea that industrial production will win this war for us. It will do nothing of the sort ! Whilst that factor is of great importance, unless we have the man-power to use it, we shall not play our part. The great industrial drive which I mentioned has been visible throughout the war in different ways, whether in the matter of the tinplate industry or the building of motor engines, or now in this demand for enormously increased production of material. If Australia is to play its part in the war, it must produce the men who will fight. This is the third part of the problem.
The numbers that will be sent overseas must be decided by the Government. That stands to reason, because the Government alone has all the information and can weigh the pros and cons. I wish that everybody would accept the fact that the Government should decide the matter. No government, whatever party it represents, is likely completely to denude Australia of its last line of defence. I concur with a statement by the honorable member for Barker (Mr. Archie Cameron) in the House before I returned to it, eighteen months ago, when he was taunted with the fact that he urged that three divisions should be sent abroad. One honorable member asked him, “ When three have been sent I suppose the honorable member will want four “, and the honorable member for Barker retorted, “ Yes, and then five.” I believe that to be the proper way on which this war should have been fought. The day will come when people will recognize that the honorable member for Barker gave to the House good advice. Every day brings it nearer. Every day it is more certain that we should have a far stronger force overseas than we have at present. I think that the services of men who had experience in the last war should have been more fully utilized than they have been; and I regret that the Government has not made more use of them up to the present. I admit, as one honorable member declared, that we are not so young as we were, but the same statement surely applies to the politician. He would not suggest that. the politician does not, within limits, gain increased judgment with age, and the same applies to the soldier. Until one has been at war, one lacks the tremendous background of what war means. He cannot get it by any kind of reading, talking, or listening to the wireless. The soldier realizes from experience what war means. The Returned Sailors and Soldiers League has been for years most insistent on the maintenance of our defences, and no one imagines that they have adopted that course . because they wish to have any more wars. Their action was prompted by a desire to see that we had our proper fire insurance.
Nothing has really been done yet to conserve any man-power of the country. The rural areas, which produce nineteentwentieths of our exports that bring new money to the country, are being denuded of men some of whom are finding employment in the munitions industry but the majority of whom probably are enlisting. The ridiculous discrepancy which exists between the payment of members of the Australian Imperial Force and the man in the munitions industry is obviously likely to drive men into munitions factories instead of into the expeditionary forces.
– How does the honorable member propose to bridge that discrepancy ?
– I am prepared to see the wages of the soldier increased, and those of the man in the munitions factory decreased. Particularly do I say that, if, as should be the case, the work of employees in the munitions industry is to be done by women more extensively in future than it has been in the past. Any number of factories and big shops are full of men of military age whose work can be perfectly well done by women. When I went through an ammunition factory in South Australia, I was told by one of the officials that women were much more suitable for the work in that particular establishment than were men. Their temperament was much more equable, they did not distress themselves so much about the work, and they stayed at their job for years until they left to be married. On the other hand, the man scowled at his work for two or three years, became nervy and decided to leave.
– Does the honorable member believe that women should receive the full rate of pay?
– Cheap labour!
– That does not get over the problem. The honorable member for East Sydney (Mr. Ward) seems to think that the difficulty is simply that of increasing or decreasing wages. So little does he know about international developments that he does not realize that the whole Empire is now at stake.
– And the profits of the profiteers are at stake.
– Order! I ask the honorable member for East Sydney to refrain from interjecting.
– I am quite prepared to admit that there are profiteers on both sides; and I do not stand for the profiteer in war-time. Incidentally, I recommend to the honorable member that he should work out a satisfactory definition of “ profiteer “. It is not quite so easy to do as he may think. I do not stand for the magnate profiteer whether he belongs to the country or the city, and I do not stand also for the masses of workmen who are trying to snatch a few shillings out of the present emergency. I speak as a private member. One of the advantages of doing so is that one may speak freely. Centuries ago, Milton wrote -
This is true Liberty, when freeborn Men,
Having to advise the Public, may speak free.
I am quite sure that some honorable members opposite would; like to have liberty to speak as freely as I do.
I now come to the Militia, which may well be linked with munitions. I have submitted to several members of the Government, and I now submit to the House, that too many people in this country are permitted to remain in reserved occupations. The book in which the list of reserved occupations is published is, in itself, large, but the number of people represented in the book is, of course, very much greater. It is, particularly, ridiculous that persons who have been reserved for work in primary production, on farms or otherwise, may nevertheless leave their reserved occupation and go to work on munitions at higher rates of pay. I contend that men reserved from military service for specific purposes should be obliged to remain in their reserved occupation; they should not be permitted to accept other kinds of work at higher rates of pay. I am quite certain that before long we shall have to reduce substantially our list of reserved occupations, and also the number of people who may remain in them.
One of the main issues confronting Australia at present relates to equipment. We owe a great deal to the Minister for Supply and Development (Senator McBride) for the work he has done. We also owe a good deal to Mr. Essington Lewis. I do not for a moment suggest that we do not also owe a great deal to thousands of persons whose names are unknown to us, for doing their share in providing equipment, but, after all, it is to the men who go overseas and risk their lives on the field of battle that we owe incalculably more than to any others. We hear a good deal to-day about the “ new order “ after the war. I think a great deal more of the “ new order “ in relation to the soldiers who return than I do in relation to those who are not playing their part to preserve even the existing order.
– Why is the honorable member not willing that decent rates of wages shall be paid?
– We are paying better rates of wages in Australia than are paid in any other part of the world with the exceptions, perhaps, of persons engaged in a few highly skilled occupations in the United States of America and Great Britain, and also, I suppose, in the old days, in Germany.In those countries, the choice is so much greater and standards in highly specialized industries so much higher. Take it over all, however, conditions in Australia are demonstrably better than conditions in other parts of the world. Do we not boast of our high standards of living? Is there any suggestion that our standard of living will be taken away from us? It is, of course, clear to me that all of our living standards will be greatly reduced by the time we get through this war. In fact, they must be reduced if we areto get through it at all.
– Apparently the honorable gentleman will be able to have only two dozen suits next year!
-I have no desire to indulge in personalities.
– The honorable member for East Sydney (Mr. Ward) is most offensive.
– Ho w are we to provide troops to send overseas to reinforce the men who are already serving there? Obviously, we have lost many men in both Greece and Crete, either as casualties or prisoners. What the soldier at the front requires more than anything else is reinforcements. Of course he needs armaments and ammunition, but most of all he looks to the filling of the gaps in the ranks round about him. [ noticed that the honorable member for East Sydney (Mr. Ward) and the honorable member for Lang (Mr. Mulcahy) intimated a few days ago that they intended to move in this House that all of the men who had been through the two campaigns in Greece and Crete should be granted furlough to return to Australia.
– That is right.
– Is there a man among us who would not gladly approve of such a proposal if it were practicable? But the truth is that we are not sending sufficient reinforcements to fill the gaps in the ranks. Had the proposal of the honorable member for Barker to send five divisions abroad been approved, we might have been able to bring some men home on furlough, but under existing conditions that is not possible.
– Would the honorable member be in favour of the Government which he supports introducing conscription?
– Of course I would. I said so all through my election campaign, and I also said so on my return six months ago, in this House. Surely, in the light of the happenings of the last six months, the honorable member himself must be wondering whether it may not be necessary to introduce conscription. In my opinion, conscription is almost inevitable, irrespective of which political party may be in power. It may be that the Labour party will have to introduce it.
– The honorable member would like to “ pass the buck “. He wants us to do the dirty work.
– Not at all. Conscription, in my opinion, is the only equitable, expeditious and democratic way to fight this war. I am entirely opposed to the present system under winch some families, because of their patriotic response to the nation’s needs, are in danger of losing all of their men, while other families are not willing to render service overseas. This system is absolutely undemocratic, and, as I have said from many platforms, I am not prepared to stand for it in this House or elsewhere. I stand where Sir William Irvine, Mr. Holman and Archbishop Kelly stood during the last war. I believe, as they believed, that the voluntary system is absolutely unfair. Every man who is of eligible age should be prepared to’ serve his country in its time of peril. It is not right to expect a family to send first one, a second, a third, and even a fourth and fifth son to fight, while other families will not send even one. Such a system is monstrous, and it is a scandal that it should be retained. Many Labour supporters, people who have been Labour supporters for most of their lives, believe as I do in this connexion. Many of them are quite prepared to do their share provided other people do theirs. I have a newspaper report here which I wish to put on record as my old friend, ex-Senator Dunn, used to say, “ for purposes of inclusion in Hansard”. The report, which deals with enlistments, appeared in the Adelaide Mail on the 7th June, and shows that the response is very much below requirements. It reads -
This week has been easily the worst since the inception of the new drive for Australian Imperial Force recruits, said the recruiting authorities to-day.
Incidentally it is quite wrong that highly trained military officers, whose services should be available for other purposes, should have to spend their time buttressing up the hopelessly inefficient and obviously inadequate voluntary system.
– I cannot sponsor every newspaper report. I may add that I should also be sorry to have to sponsor all the remarks of politicians. The report continued -
Applications for the Australian Imperial Force are below the quotas in all States of the Commonwealth. The general slump throughout Australia was less pronounced in New South Wales.
In New South Wales for the week ending last night, there were 588 applications compared with 682 for the week ending May 23, and 766 the following week. The State weekly quota is 975.
It will be seen that the lowest figure was equivalent to only 60 per cent, of requirements. The report proceeded -
In Victoria applications to. Thursday night were 291, compared with 480 for the week ending May 23, and 424 the following week.
South Australia has reported the extremely low total of 84 applications for the week to last night.
Recruiting authorities to-day express concern at the poor response.
I invite honorable members to compare Australia with New Zealand in this respect, particularly as the Leader of the Opposition referred this afternoon to th« sister dominion of New Zealand. The following report appeared in yesterday’s Melbourne Argus: -
A proclamation gazetted today directs the enrolment of the second division of the national reserve, comprising married men aged from 18 to 45. Only men aged from 21 to ‘40 will be balloted for oversea military service. Men under or over those ages will be balloted for territorial service.
It is not expected that any married men will be balloted until toward the end of the year, when men with no children will be called up first.
Can we justify our attitude in Australia, seeing that conscription has been in force in. Great Britain since the beginning of the war? I remind honorable members, in passing, of the statement made by Mr. Churchill a few days ago to the effect that 85,000 of the 90,000 mortal casualties among Empire troops in this war have been men from the Old Country. Although the Labour Government of New Zealand has introduced conscription, honorable gentlemen opposite continue to say, “ We, the most democratic people with the highest living standards in the world, pin our faith to the voluntary system “. Is it right that this should be a volunteers’ war?
– I should be pleased to do that. It certainly appears that the honorable member is not happy about my remarks concerning New Zealand.
A few days ago, the annual conference of the Australian Labour party in Sydney discussed our war effort. My information on this point is taken from the Age newspaper of yesterday’s date. [Leave to continue given.] I notice from the report that motions were passed to the effect that a Labour Government should be put in office to “ develop the war effort to the fullest extent “. What is the ordinary conception of the meaning of such a phrase? Can that mean other than that they are in favour of every method, including conscription?
– Evidently not. At the bottom of the report we find the following: -
Without debate, conference adopted a resolution moved by Mr. L. Lloyd Ross (A.R.U.) re-affirming hostility to conscription, and calling upon Federal and State politicians to campaign against conscription.
Can the honorable member for East Sydney, and if he should speak, will be give any moral or ethical reason which justifies the non- imposition of conscription ?
– I can give any number of reasons.
– Other than the wish of the individual that he shall not play his part, is there any reason which justifies his standing aside? 1 know of none. Very rarely has anybody the hardihood to attempt to advance reasons, because they are demonstrably full of flaws. Mr. Chamberlain who actually was in power in Great Britain following the giving of an undertaking that he would not apply conscription, when things became had decided that there was no alternative to the application of conscription, and it was applied. Sir John Simon, who left, the British Government at the beginning of the last war as an opponent of conscription, was a member of the Government which applied it in Great Britain on this occasion. In the last war, the hopelessness of attempting to obtain the necessary reinforcements without conscription was realized. There is a good deal of support for the idea that we can have masses of planes but you need not have masses of men. It has been pointed out that the Germans do not share that view, and that it is untenable is perfectly clear. When the Germans overran Greece, Crete, or North Africa they had masses of men. They made sure of getting what they wanted to get by having masses of men as well as masses of equipment. This policy may destroy Germany in the end because of the severity of its losses - that is a matter of opinion - but all the same, up to the present, its successes have been great. We are reaching the point where we shall need to have all the men we can spare in order to see that the Germans shall not advance very much farther. I need not develop that argument. In Germany, in spite of its colossal equipment and the fact that it has been preparing for this war for decades, and has a population of S0,000,000, speaking from memory, I believe that every man there up to 41 or 4?> years of age has been called up for service. Yet we talk about the voluntary system !
– Why does not the honorable member’s Government resign and go to the country on that issue?
– I am voicing not only my own views but also those of hundreds of thousands of the people of Australia, including leading soldiers as well as the bulk of the men who returned from the last war. We may have differences of opinion and of outlook, as well as, possibly, different ways of speaking. As one honorable member has suggested, there may even be differences of dress. But I suppose that nearly all of us have been born in Australia, and that we all desire to make a nation of this country - so far as I am concerned, within the British Empire. We want to make this a country for the future. There will always exist differences of opinion as to how that is to be achieved. One section - I may belong to it - may speak too conservatively. Another section - perhaps represented by the honorable member for East Sydney - may be too much on the left wing. How can we make a success out of a nation which, when it is attacked at its heart, does not compel its people, if necessary, to rise as a man in defence of the women, the children, and the homes of Australia ? What sort of feeling is there likely to be after the war? I suggest that intense bitterness will bc felt by the men who are at present overseas and their families. I am told that they are asking in their letters, “ What are you people thinking of out there? Do you not realize that we want reinforcements over here? “ What are those who come back going tu think of persons at home who have done nothing but profiteer on a big or a small scale? Some time ago, I said at a meeting that after this war I feared the feeling was going to be most acute. At the conclusion of the meeting a lady said to me, “ There is no need for you to say that it is going to be acute ; it is acute now “. That is true. Some may say that I should not make a speech of this sort, that it is bound to cause dissension inside Australia. I say that the dissension is already here. I know that one cannot draw any hard and fast line. I know that some of the best of our manhood cannot, or are not allowed to, go. abroad; and there are also some, maybe not of the best type, who have gone overseas. But, speaking generally, the flower of the manhood of the country may be killed off; and that is not good for any country. Had I my way, in addition to conscription I would lay it down that in a family of two sons, if one went overseas the second should, if possible, be retained in this country, whether he wanted to go or not, so that families would not be entirely wiped out.
– What would the honorable member do if there were only one son in the family? His class has small families. It is the working class that has the big families, and he knows it.
– This is not a class war, although parliamentarians may try to make it such. We know perfectly well that some of the best members of every section of the community are going abroad.
– How many sons has the honorable member?
– I have no sons ; but I do not think that that disqualifies me from approaching this matter in an absolutely impartial way. There seems to be an idea abroad that it is only the people of this generation whose lives are precious and should be conserved. That idea is held by only one section, though I am afraid that it is rather a large and a spoiled section. I know perfectly well that the men of my .time who went to the last war did not desire to be wiped out. I have no reason to believe that those who took part in the Boer war, the Sepoy mutiny, or the Wellington wars, desired to be killed. Within the Empire, the man-power of Great Britain, and subsequently of the dominions, has always known how to play its part when it came to a real crisis. I put it to this House, that if other portions of the Empire are doing much better than we are doing - I believe that they are - it is up to us to see that they do not get any further ahead than ourselves.
.- I welcome this continuation of the debate on the Prime Minister’s (Mr. Menzies; motion, mainly because it gives to me an opportunity to discuss the speech which the right honorable gentleman made last night. When I read in a newspaper this morning the report of that speech, I found that it was an expanded version of the speech that he delivered in June of last year. All that he now says was implied in that speech. The only difference between the speech of June, 1941, and the speech of June, 1940, is that the penal side of. his policy is emphasized to-day as it was not emphasized then. He was then appealing for Labour support of a policy which would enable him to do everything except send men overseas; support of a policy which would enable him to impose industrial conscription. To-day, having those powers, he tells the people what use he proposes to make of them, and emphasize* the penal side of his policy.
It is very interesting to realize that we in this country are living under conditions quite different from any we have had previously. Both of the two highly organized classes are doing well, the great capitalists on the one hand and the organized trade unions on the other hand. The organized capitalist is making profits as he never made them before. Because of the demands for labour, the trade unions are strong, and are able to make their own terms as they were not able for a long time. But a new kind of proletariat is arising composed of the small business man, the small fanner, the self-employed man. This class is being crushed out by the policy adopted by this Government and enacted by this Parliament. Every regulation, every proclamation, leaves in its wake a ripple of broken enterprises and ruined men. The taxation approved by this Parliament is making men surrender their life assurance policies, abandon other provision for the security of their families, and is causing them to take their children from the universities. The middle class of the small entrepreneurs and’ salaried employees is going to pieces as the result of the policy which is being applied. There is nothing for them in that policy. The prospectus, carefully and deliberately prepared by the Prime Minister with the approval of the Government, offers the small middle-class man of this country nothing but further disturbance. Everything done in this country is making it impossible for him to live. That brings me to the consideration of the industrial policy of the Prime Minister. There never has been a leader of the non-Labour party in Australia who has been so well- treated by organized labour in this country as has the present Prime Minister. There has never been a man who has had more easy access to the leaders of labour and a more ready opportunity to impress his opinions upon them. Yet the Prime Minister says, “ I am going to try to do something which Australia tried to do from 1906 to 1930, but has never succeeded in doing. I am going to prohibit strikes and punish the people engaged in them.” Every Government in Australasia has tried to do that. Some of them still have anti-strike laws on their statute-books but they cannot enforce them ; South Australia and Western Australia have them and cannot enforce them; the other States have had them and have repealed them. The Prime Minister thinks that by the placard of anti-strike legislation he will conciliate the monopolist in industry and finance, upon whose support his influence is based. If there are strikes to-day it is natural that they should occur at a time when labour finds itself in a relatively strong position. When organized labour is weak, men will pocket their grievances; hut, when organized labour is strong, they will seek redress. I think that it is possible to avoid strikes in war-time. The Australasian Council of Trade Unions has prepared machinery which would secure that nobody need go on strike and that grievances will be dealt with expeditiously by men who know the facts and are accustomed to the conditions in industry. The Government, however, has set aside that proposal, and has proposed a system which has been effectively criticized by the honorable member for Macquarie (Mr. Chifley). The Government proposed to refer every dispute to the Arbitration Court. I make my living to a great extent in that court, but I have said over and over again that, in my opinion, judges receiving £3,000 a year are unfit to decide the issues that arise between employers and employees. The position has been made worse to-day by the fact that there is an enormously increased volume of work before the industrial tribunals, but, apart from the coal industry, no new machinery has been devised. Every dispute has been forced through the bottle-neck of the
Arbitration Court. I ask the honorable member for Wakefield (Mr. DuncanHughes) to read the National Security Regulations. He will then see that the union which resorts to direct action is given an advantage over that which does not. The union which rejects direct action files its papers in the court and awaits the court’s convenience. The union which goes out on strike, decides to hold stop-work meetings, or passes resolutions about the action that it will take can have its case dealt with without delay. That is wrong. I believe that industrial machinery of a different kind could be set up in this country that would render it unnecessary for men to try to redress their grievances by direct action. In some cases we cannot expect direct action to he abandoned, for instance, in the case of the victimization of a unionist whose mates consider that he has been unfairly dismissed ; hut we could have machinery that would result in strikes, stoppages of work and stop-work meetings being greatly minimized in times of war.
The Prime Minister then reverts to the old technique of talking of the strike as the work of the agitator, ‘and particularly the Communist agitator. He and his advisers have read reports of discussions at the Melbourne Trades Hall and other places, and because Labour men and Communists have fought one another the Prime Minister chinks chat he can please members of the Labour party by attacking Communists. It will be found that, no matter how much Labour men are opposed to the Communists, they are not in favour of penal legislation being used against them. Labour men can settle their differences with Communists without the Government’s interference. What the Government has done has increased the Communist influence. When, after the war began, Poland and Finland were invaded, the Communist influence was at its nadir. All that was left was a gallant handful, mostly of young people, defending, in most difficult and discouraging circumstances, the policy of Soviet Russia. But the workers did not heed them. Thinking to please the political and religious foes of the Communists, the Government declared their party and their press illegal. The result was to turn in their direction a tide of popular sympathy and the proscribed men and their proscribed opinions are more influential now than they were eighteen months ago. The militant trade union leader, Communist or not, does not create industrial unrest. That unrest is the dissatisfaction of a rank and file who feel themselves now more than ever before able to insist on the redress of their grievances. If the rank and file choose a militant official, whether Communist or not, they do so because they think him best fitted to get them better wages and conditions. However pacific may be the personal disposition of the worker or whatever may be his religious or political belief, he is not satisfied with his lot or that of his class. I thought that the idea of the agitator being the cause of strikes had been discarded long ago. I know that he is unpopular because of his political views but all I am concerned with is the Communist in his industrial work. Although most of the unionists are antagonistic to the Communists, the Government will make a great mistake if it thinks that it can ingratiate itself with the masses of labour by passing penal legislation against Communists, whether they be members of unions or not.
The trade unions have asked for legislative preference, but the Prime Minister will not agree to that. He says “ I shall give to the Commonwealth Arbitration Court unfettered power to grant unconditional preference to unionists, saving only the rights of soldiers “. The Arbitration Court has, for 26 years, had conditional power, hedged in with all kinds of conditions, to give preference to unionists, but the court has refused to give it except in one case. It was prepared to do it in the clothing industry where a large number of women are employed. The court will continue to say that unless there is proof of discrimination against unionists it will not grant preference to them. The Prime Minister knows that as well as I do. He began his career of success as counsel for the trade unions. Other men may lack understanding and knowledge of these things: he does not.
The Prime Minister and his Government are making a mistake. I do not believe that the Treasurer (Mr. Fadden) would make such a mistake. The Prime Minister is creating disharmony and discord between capital and labour. He is leaning to those 18th century-minded employers who want strikes prohibited while they still retain power freely to dismiss their employees. The counterpart of the strike is the right of the employer to deal with his men as individual employees. We cannot take away from the employer the right to hire or “ fire “ as he likes, and we should not take away from the employee the right to strike. The employer deals most effectively with his men as individuals. The employees can deal effectively with their employers only if they do it collectively.
Now I come to the matter discussed by- the honorable member for Wakefield (Mr. Duncan-Hughes). I agree with him to the extent that the logical outcome of a recruiting policy is conscription. I believe that those who go on the platform and say that it is the duty of people to serve overseas have no argument in the. long run against the compulsory reinforcement of those serving overseas. Those who do this impliedly promise reinforcements, and also impliedly promise that if reinforcements cannot be obtained voluntarily they will be secured by compulsion. I personally have never believed in sending men overseas. At the federal conference of the Australian Labour party in June, 1940, the party declared that it agreed to sending men overseas on certain conditions, but I say that the conditions now are different, and that the conditions .on which it was said that the party would cease its support of recruiting have now come about. The party then resolved in favour of -
Necessary provisions for reinforcement of the Australian Imperial Force divisions, the extent of European participation by volunteer army to be determined by circumstances as they arise, having regard to the paramount necessity to Australia’s defence.
I believe that that paramount necessity of Australia’s defence demands that the main object of munitions production should be the defence of Australia, and that the first call on the manhood of this country is for its defence. I believe that we should no longer send men to the Middle East. I arn sorry that any have been sent, and 1 believe that those who are there should be recalled, to Australia or to lands adjacent to Australia. That is my own belief on the matter. 1 feel that the continued demand in this country to raise men for service overseas by the voluntary system means that in a short time we shall have no logical answer to the argument that we should compulsorily reinforce them. The man who urges men to go overseas can have no logical answer to the argument that there should be reinforcements by compulsion.
– Are we to take it that the policy of your party is against recruiting?
– The honorable member for Barker (Mr. Archie Cameron) is not anxious to get me into difficulties at all, but I am not afraid of that, because my views are well known, and have never been concealed.
– Surely the honorable member would not prefer to fight in Sydney and Newcastle instead of the Middle East.
– I believe, and have always believed, that we shall have to fight in Sydney and Newcastle. From the beginning of this war I have said that our membership of the British Commonwealth of Nations commits us to prepare for the defence of this country against invasion by Britain’s enemy, and that the only alternative was r.he dishonorable one of secession after the war had started. I believe that this country will be attacked, and that its resources should be reserved for its defence, just as the reserves of Britain are being used for its defence. I am glad to see those reserves being used for the defence of Britain. I would much sooner see Australian soldiers defending Britain, as the Canadians are doing, than fighting in the Middle East. In speaking to us during the last sittings of this House the Prime Minister told us that two divisions, an armoured division and an infantry division, mostly Australians, had gone up against twelve divisions of Italians. I do not know what emotion he thought should be aroused by that remark, but my emotion was that of horror at the tremendous risk being taken. In my opinion, our men have been wasted, and no one is more responsible for the waste of them than the Prime Minister. No man takes a less Australian view of Australia’s needs and Australia’s rights than does the Prime Minister. His speech last night was not the speech of a statesman. My conception of a statesman is one who, no matter what party he belongs to, puts the achievement and maintenance of national unity before all things. The Prime Minister has not done that. At the beginning of the war I thought he would, but then came the Corio by-election campaign, during which he branded all those who voted against his Government as potential supporters of Hitler. He 3aid that the eyes of Germany were on that by-election, and, in effect, that every vote cast for Labour would be a vote for Hitler. With all his good qualities - and he has -many - I do not regard him as a man who is capable of being in Australia the equivalent of Churchill in England. With all Churchill’s faults, I find in him a man who tries to be the common measure of British opinion, who refuses to be used by one section of the people against another. He is reckless, he has thrown away lives, but he is a great Englishman. I cannot see our Prime Minister filling, in Great Britain, let alone in Australia, the same role as Churchill fills.
– Generally speaking, it is not wise or pleasant to hold post-mortems, but the Australian Commonwealth has for some time been in a state in which a little talking over what has led up to the present state of affairs is overdue. The House to-night listened to a very interesting statement from the honorable member for Wakefield (Mr. DuncanHughes), a statement with which I entirely agree. The honorable member for Bourke (Mr. Blackburn) has just made a. pronouncement on the conscription issue which, I think, ought to be broadcast throughout Australia because, whatever his opinions may be on the wisdom of sending men outside Australia, we have never heard a more logical or more straightforward statement from any member of the Opposition on what must be done in order to reinforce our men serving overseas. When we remember what has been said in this House since the outbreak of war on this subject, and note the divisions that have taken place from time to time, we are obliged to remark on the changed attitude of the Opposition. I can understand the attitude of the honorable member for Bourke and of the honorable member for Batman (Mr. Brennan), but I find it difficult to understand the attitude of the majority of the members of the Opposition, or even to comment upon it adequately without resorting to Scripture, and recalling the words -
Joy shall be in heaven over one sinner that repenteth more than over ninety and nine just persons which need no repentance.
There is no record of a greater change of front on the question of participation in the war than that of the Australian Labour party.
– The honorable member does not object to that?
– No, I am pleased about it, just as I am pleased to see that the Americans as a nation are doing much more than I ever expected of them. As I say, I cannot refrain from remarking on the changed attitude of the Opposition since the outbreak of the war, nor can 1 forget one or two statements by the Prime Minister (Mr. Menzies). Shortly after the outbreak of war he said that we were not at war with the German people, but only with the Nazi Government, the rulers of Germany. My answer at that time was that we were at war, not only with the Nazi Government, but also with the German Air Force, the German Navy, the German Army, the German people and everything that was German, and that stands for to-day.
Since I have been a member of this House I have made a number of statements on military matters. In 1935, I made representations to the government of the day that it should commence arrangements for the garrisoning of Singapore, and the defence of Malaya, from this country. I was practically told that I did not know what I was talking about, that such an eventuality would never arise, or, at any rate, that it was so remote that we need not worry about it. In the same year, I published certain articles regarding the need for providing mobile armoured units in Australia. Some honorable members of Parliament agreed with me. Three of them, unfortunately, are not here now. They have been removed, and it is to be regretted. As long ago as 1935 there were members of this House who were studying military developments in Europe, but I do not think that much study of the kind was done by members of the Opposition. When we mentioned such matters we were told that we were merely raising bogeys. When I was Postmaster-General I went to Brisbane, and told the constituents of the honorable member for Brisbane (Mr. George Lawson) - by telephone after I left - that they, would be better off with a new fort at Coloundra than with a new post office. On another occasion I said that, if. we became involved in another war, with France as an ally, we would be let down, that France would crack under the first shock. There were members of this House at the time who said that I was pro-German. Of course, I was not proGerman or anti-French; I was merely trying to be up to date. Again, in February, 1939, I caused some disturbance by stating that the next Australian Imperial Force would not fight in France. Well, the present Australian Imperial Force has not fought in France, and is not likely to do so. Before the war broke out I, as Assistant Minister for Commerce, tried to secure the establishment of the flax industry in Australia. I could make no headway, but it is a pity that the Government had to do last year in a few weeks what ought to have been done in two or three years. In May, 1939, there ‘ was passed through this Parliament a National Register Bill, and if ever an important and necessary measure was mutilated and emasculated by political considerations it was that one. . In the form in which it was finally passed by Parliament, it was. not worth a row of pins, because the Opposition, voting in a solid phalanx, assisted by certain honorable members on this side of the House, had the happy idea that nothing concerning man-power really mattered. We could do anything we liked, so long as we left man-power alone. Then, after the war broke out, a measure which is generally referred to as the Motor Car Monopoly Bill was passed. I, as Leader of the Country party, moved an amendment - which was defeated by 46 votes to 11 - the purpose of which was that we should abandon this fantastic notion of manufacturing motor car engines, and get on with the construction of guns, ships, aeroplanes, and munitions. I now ask members of the Opposition, and those others who voted against me, whether I was right or wrong in that?
– The point is that if we had begun the manufacture of engines at that time we should now have £500,000 worth of tools and machines available for the manufacture of munitions.
– Other things were even more necessary than that. The Prime Minister made the rather significant statement last night that the fate of this country, whether we win or lose the war, will be determined in 1941. Apparently, that discovery was not made until half the year had already gone. Later I shall refer to that matter again. In respect of the conduct of the war, one of my chief criticisms of the Australian Government ever since the outbreak of the war, and for some time as a member of It, is that too little regard has been paid to the principles of war in the conduct of our operations. This started off in Norway where an excellent opportunity was afforded us if we had had the troops and the ships rightly disposed. But the story there was that we were rather late. All of us know the story of France. There, again, we. were outwitted ; the attack caine where we were not prepared for it. The nature of the attack was forecast, but for some reason or other the necessary preparations were not in hand. We know the story of the Low Countries, and later the campaign in south-eastern Europe. Whether the Government likes it or not, it is its responsibility to decide in what theatre of war we shall fight. That responsibility cannot be cast upon the generals. Governments decide the theatres of war; they appoint the commander-in-chief, and they allot to him the services, communications and supplies: I refer to this fact because I am afraid that before we are through with some of the campaigns we are now indulging in, there will be a tendency on the part of some people to look for scapegoats; they will want to blame other people, and I do not want to see the “ Y “ knocked off the name of a famous Australian general. Looking at the position to-day we have to consider particularly the Middle East.
– Muddle East.
– It would be a muddle if the honorable gentleman had anything to do with it. We have to look at the theatres of war, and see what they mean to the British Empire. To-day, the Leader of the Opposition (Mr. Curtin) had much to say about the Battle for Britain and the Battle for the Atlantic; and he used other current phrases.. I am not very much interested in the way some of the fighting is described in the press. I am no enthusiast for grandiloquent phrases; but there is a tendency to coin them, and they never pay. We had an excellent exhibition of that fact in North Africa not long ago. First, there is the position in the Atlantic. If Great Britain he defeated by Germany in the Atlantic Britain will be starved into submission, and Germany will not need’ to bear the cost of any expeditionary force. But in this fight Germany has two strings to its bow. If Great Britain wins the Battle of the Atlantic, it is still possible for Germany, if Germany has the forces and can get them to Britain, to defeat Britain by an invasion. These two things have to be provided against. They are two separate problems which we have to consider in relation to Great Britain itself. Then we have the very important theatre of the Far East in which we ourselves arc deeply interested. The position there affects not only ourselves and New Zealand, but must also vitally affect the future of South Africa, India, Burma, the Malay States, and the dozen or so British colonies and protectorates scattered in those areas. Next we have the other theatre in which Australian troops are predominantly engaged ; that is the Middle East.. For the time being we have to admit that so far as man-power is concerned, we are well behind Germany, and it is useless for the Prime Minister or the Leader of the Opposition, or any other honorable member, to talk about equality of man-power at present. That equality does not, exist and it is not in sight. Indeed, so far as the white areas of the British Empire are concerned, that equality can never be established because there is a far greater number of Germans in the Germany of to-day than there are whites in the British Empire. There was a time when it was said by the Turks that Allah gave the land to the Turks and the sea to the infidel. I think that we have to pay a little attention to that. In such areas we must rely predominantly on seapower at the present time. Sea-power is very important, and in order to exercise it, correct bases are essential. Finally, it is necessary for the Commonwealth to display a more than lively interest in the position that faces us in the Malay States.
Having looked at the Middle East as a theatre of war, we must try to define our objectives in that area. I say that one of the first is the security of our bases, namely, Palestine and Egypt. The second thing we should have done was to clear the Italians from Abyssinia, Eritrea and North Africa. We commenced that campaign very successfully. One of the most brilliant- military campaigns in history was that drive through to Benghazi by that very small force, which carried the grandiloquent title of the Imperial Army of the Nile. I do not detract from the fine achievements of that force which consisted of one armoured division and one infantry division. The tragedy is that that campaign was not completed, and that the drive was not continued right through to the French border, because one of the things we had to watch in the Middle East was the necessity for giving French North Africa and Syria something to lean upon. But the North African campaign at that time was going along easily. Our casualties were the lowest ever suffered in history. Having done part of the job, that force was divided, and some of it was sent to Greece. I do not want to be over-critical of a Minister of a Government which is not responsible to this House, but it is rather significant that Mr. Anthony Eden made a trip to that area just before that campaign started. I do not look upon him as one of the great geniuses of the British Empire when it comes to international relations. In the international sphere in respect of any theory of war, I should look upon him as I would a crow in a paddock in which there were a lot of ewes and lambs. Then there was a great necessity to drive through to French Tripoli, to clear up the bridge-head formed by Tripoli in North Africa. In that campaign, we saw the Navy being used for the transport of troops, a job for which it should not have to be used. Certain troops were sent across to Greece. Sooner or later, I have no doubt that the rights and wrongs of the campaign in Greece will be debated in this House.
– Does the honorable gentleman really think so?
– I have a few views myself on the employment of that force there. At this juncture, I say that it was not necessary to send troops to Mount Olympus to interview the gods there, nor was it necessary to send any to Thermopylae to report to the shade of Leonidas, because it was known that British and New Zealand troops could if necessary fight a hopeless battle there. Reverting to the subject of man-power raised by the honorable member for Wakefield, I point out that if you are the belligerent weakest in manpower, then it is all the more necessary for you to conserve the man-power you have trained. Again, I say that if this House had been wise enough early in the war to provide for the’ five divisions I then proposed, then owing to the influence we would have been ‘ able to exert our position in North Africa and in Syria’ might be entirely different from what it is to-day. Instead of having only one division to send to Wavell for the drive into Tripoli, we might have been able to provide three or four divisions in that area. All this lost, ground must be made up. Events will develop from time to time which will have to be considered very seriously. The fighting in Syria has not been cleared up. Our problem there is a little sterner, perhaps, than we have been led to expect by reading the reports by some people who have been in those areas. It has been stated by one German, who deals with troops in a large way, that the first principle of strategy is to concentrate your strongest forces against the enemy’s weakest forces. I trust that the Government, one of whose service Ministers has just come into the chamber will bear that strongly in mind when handling any force in the future. I am not one who raises his voice against the sending of men into action. It is to send men into action that we raise them, and once men are in a war they must go into action. However, the more men we have trained and equipped to go into action, then the better chance they have of coming out of action successfully. But when it comes to selecting battle grounds and theatres of war, certain considerations must he borne in mind by the Government. I simply say to the Government that no war can be run successfully on sentiment. There has been too much sentimental nonsense talked with regard to our participation in certain campaigns during this war. If we take a look at Greece - and, for the time being, I am prepared to be an Aunt Sally for the press - we must realize that it was a miracle that the Greeks were ever able to hold the Italians in the way they did. However, to expect them to disengage from the Italians and shift a great body of their forces with insufficient transport at their disposal to the Florina Gap, and meet one of the strongest German armies that has ever been sent to the Balkans, was asking too much of the Greeks. The men who agreed to things like that simply did not know what they were doing. That is all I have to say about that matter at this stage.
– What would be the honorable member’s view if the same men who advised the Government on that matter were still advising the Government?.
– I am not unmindful of that aspect. But the honorable member for West Sydney (Mr. Beasley) must not take me for a child.
– There is no “ catch “ in the question.
– It is a most interesting question.
My contention regarding the present position in Australia - a contention which I have never ceased, to advance since we entered upon this war - is that we must meet total war with total war. There is nothing else for it. I am asked to accept the Prime Minister’s statement as being the Government’s idea of total war. All I have to comment to this Parliament, and to the country to which I owe some responsibility, is that a wide gap exists between my notion of total war and that to which the Government has given expression. Although the speech of the right honorable gentleman contained no reference to man-power, to the necessity for mobilizing men and for training men, I noticed a statement that Service Ministers are to confer with lady heads of certain women’s organizations, and in the circumstances, I may be pardoned for telling the Government that it must do a good deal better than that. If the Government believes that this struggle will be satisfactorily settled over a cup of afternoon tea partaken with a few -ladies and the appointment of somebody out of a corset establishment as a squadron leader to the Air Force, it is making another mistake.
I could refer to many matters which are causing irritation to the forces and which should never have arisen, but I do not propose to weary the House with a recital of them. For some time the Deputy Leader of the Opposition (Mr. Forde) has occupied a very responsible position as a member of the Australian Advisory War Council, whatever that institution happens to be. My views on it were well known before it was constituted, and they have not changed. A short time ago Parliament adjourned for six days in order to allow honorable members to view the visiting American squadron in Sydney. My views on the subject were well known in certain quarters, and some very interesting meetings were held in various places, because some people seemed to think that I might do anything at any time. In that, of course, they were quite wrong; but I invite the Deputy Leader of the Opposition to express an opinion as to whether I was right or wrong on that occasion. Would not Parliament have been better employed in debating for three or four days the question of the employment, the reinforcement, the supply, and the training of our. men overseas instead of adjourning in order to allow honorable members t» visit. Sydney to see the American squadron? Only one answer could lbc given to that question. Once more, for some unaccountable reasons, I proved to be right. These matters are serious. This year Parliament has been rarely in session. Certain items “which appear on the notice-paper require urgent attention. Regulations. demand debate and decision, but again, I am left with the very, very awkward feeling of a distinct desire on the part of the Government to evade a decision upon such matters. These regulations could never bc justified in any country in which the Government understood the meaning of total war. In this country to-da.y, things are going on which would never be tolerated in any other country at war. Loud squeals are heard about petrol rationing. At “Warrnambool recently, a race meeting of three days’ duration was held, and numbers of horses were transported from Melbourne, by petrol-driven vehicles. Yet the Government is supposed to bc organizing the country for total war ! Although the petrol position is serious, speed boats continue to race across Port Phillip Bay and Sydney Harbour. It is disgusting. If the Government thinks that it is organizing Australia for total war and total defence along those lines, it may be deceiving itself, but it is not deceiving the great majority of the people. .
Before long many very awkward things will have to be done. The Government will have to take a grip of the man-power of this country. A feeling of apathy is abroad to-day that is not for the best. The honorable member for Wakefield referred to it,, and I am not unconscious of its existence. Advertisements have appeared in the newspapers; I do not know what they cost the taxpayer: but it. was most interesting to see the photographs of certain members of the Government and of the Opposition with the following caption, “ Ve speak to you as one “. That move was one of the most childish things I have ever seen.
– Is the honorable member jealous because he was omitted?
– Now, if the honorable member for East Sydney and I could be prevailed upon to agree to have our photographs published over the caption “ We speak to you as one ‘’, every newspaper in Australia would accept it free of charge, because that would be not an advertisement but news. [Leave to continue gwen.]
War to-day is much more complicated than ever before. A division, a battalion, or any unit has a greater variety of needs and requires much more intricate organization. A well equipped army in the field to-day contains units which were never utilized in the last war, and it stands to reason that the more complicated and technical the army becomes, the greater the necessity for intensively training the men who are to use the weapons. They have to be recruited early ; they have to get accustomed to the weapons ;. they have to be given ammunition for the weapons and taken out on large-scale manoeuvres; they must have experience of digging in and of moving, of protecting convoys, and of obtaining protection against air raids. Under the present system, that is not being done, and in certain quarters the necessity for this training is not. realized.
The Leader of the Opposition referred to the aircraft position. Honorable members opposite would be delighted if they could twist certain statements which I have made on more than one occasion and which are as true to-day as they were at the time they were delivered, namely, that a campaign cannot be won by aircraft alone. Aircraft must have bases from which they start and to which they return. They have to be protected in the air by other aircraft, and on the ground by gunfire. The big role that aircraft still has to play is first, that- of reconnaissance and’ observation, secondly, that, of bombing. If Germany were able to conduct a campaign with aircraft alone, then the Avar in Great Britain would have been over long ago. As it is, the Germans have made big concentrations on city after city. Whilst I do not decry the value of an air force, I regret the tendency, even in this 23rd month of the war, to look upon the position as being one in which we can rely on aircraft alone and forget about the navy and the infantry divisions. That is wrong. We must, take a very, careful stock of this situation. I admit frankly that I advocate conscription, because it is the only democratic method under which troops can be raised for active service. When talking about the campaign in Greece, honorable gentlemen opposite should study the history of that country, which was the motherland of democracy. They would find that whether it was Athens or Sparta, Elis or Thebes, every armed force of that community consisted of free men. If a man did not fight, he could not vote and, in some cities, he could not marry. The sooner we have it laid down that the duties of citizenship in Australia are not confined to voting at elections and to the payment of taxes, but include defending under arms, whenever the occasion arises, the soil and the interests of this country even beyond its territorial waters, the better it will be for Australia. If the members of the Opposition would look across the Tasman Sea to the sister dominion of New Zealand they would discover that the Labour Government there, which is as “ true blue “ or as “ true red “ as any Labour party in Australia, carries out successfully a policy of conscription for overseas service. If the Australian Labour party would follow that excellent example we might have in this country a much greater show of real unity than that which exists under the thin veneer of newspaper articles andwireless talks that we have to-day. We might then he able to produce out of such a condition of affairs, a real mobilization of the manpower of the country which we lack today, and for which no proposal of the Government has yet provided.
.- The directors of the Broken Hill Proprietary Company Limited must have been immensely pleased when they listened to the speech of the Prime Minister (Mr. Menzies) last night, because it is evident that the Government, which is under the domination of this big monopolistic group, intends so to organize the nation that the privileges of that enterprise will be preserved. In the jingoistic speeches that have been delivered to-day from the other side of the chamber, the slogan with which we commenced the war was not repeated. On that occasion we were told that we were fighting to defend democracy. That was the appeal which was made originally to the Labour movement; but in this discussion honorable members opposite have not mentioned it. Most members who support the Government approve of Nazi methods in every direction with one exception, and that is where the Nazi influence may be affecting the interests of the wealthy British capitalists in any part of the world. Some of them are now very outspoken. There were no conscriptionists among them during the general election campaign, for they all said that they intended to adhere strictly to the voluntary system of raising troops for overseas service, but one or two of them were a little more outspoken than their colleagues. The Minister for Trade and Customs (Mr. Harrison), for instance, was reported as having said on one occasion -
To apply democratic methods when we are facing an all-in war is absurd.
The Postmaster-General (Senator McLeay) said nothing about fighting this war for democracy but he did say -
I believe that if we had taken action against extremists, going back to the coal strike and interned them - there would be fewer strikes in Australia. We may be forced to do it yet, and I hope the Government will have the courage to do it.
The Treasurer (Mr. Fadden) was reported in the Adelaide News of the 10th February, 1941, as follows : -
If the noisy elements to whom we are subjected every day represented the average opinion of the workers in this country, I would say that the sooner we let Hitler run this country the better.
These honorable gentlemen would still like us to believe that we are fighting the war in order to defend democracy.
The Prime Minister himself was a proNazi right up to the outbreak of the war. He was reported in one of the Sydney daily newspapers as follows, when he was asked to comment upon a speech delivered by Hitler in the Reichstag: -
For myself, I repeat what I said when I came back from England last September - it is imperative that we should get to understand the German point of view, and so help to destroy the German delusion that the democratic countries do not understand her, and have no sympathy with any of her ambitions.
I know that when any public man offers the opinion that the German point of view ought to be studied and understood some fathead will accuse him of being a Nazi or u Fascist.
Bui even this should not deter us from appreciating the fact that what .the world wants more than anything else to-day is mutual understanding and tolerance.
We all remember, I am sure, the speech which the right honorable gentleman delivered in Perth shortly- after his return from a previous visit overseas in which he discussed the Hitler regime. He did not utter one word of protest against the attacks made by Hitler on the trade union movement, or against the action of Hitler in placing minorities in concentration camps. What is the right honorable gentleman proposing to do now? He wants to regiment the whole population for the purposes of the war. No one must dare criticize the Government. People who are branded as Communists must be placed in concentration camps. Officially there are no Communists in the country. What authority is to determine who are Communists? Where are they to be found?
I listened with a great deal of attention to the speech which the right honorable gentleman delivered in this House on the 28th May, and noted particularly his remark concerning politics. The right honorable gentleman had previously stated in a speech in the Sydney Town Hall that it depressed’ him to think that he had to return to Australia to play the diabolical game of politics and that he objected very strongly to it. But he has had nothing to say about the failure of the British Government to prevent, profiteering and the exploitation of the common people. In Great Britain to-day there is a great deal of food racketeering. Some people are hoarding foodstuffs with the object of forcing up prices. Other people are living in luxury hotels although some of their fellow citizens cannot get enough to eat. Many people have been bombed out of their homes but the racketeering landlords have skyrocketed rents. Moreover, homeless people who ask for accommodation in the homes of the well-to-do are turned away. The Prime Minister had nothing to say about what the British Government proposed to do to overcome these abuses. This glossing over of such abuses should demonstrate that the one who is “ playing “ the game of politics is the Prime Minister himself. I direct the attention of honorable members to the following report which appeared in a recent issue of the Sydney Morning Herald : -
BRITAIN UNDER BOMBING - CONTRASTS IN MISERY AND LUXURY.
Unfortunately there are privileged sections who are still resisting fiercely any threat to what they regard as their rights and are selfishly and complacently asking others to bear the burdens which are necessary if victory is to be won.
To some extent that kind of thing is going on in Australia.
The honorable member for Wakefield (Mr. Duncan-Hughes) said that every body should be called upon to make sacrifices, but he would have great difficulty in describing any sacrifices that he has made since the war began. Many of the workers of Australia have been denied reasonable conditions for many years, and numbers of single men have had to exist for long periods on a weekly dole of 8s. 6d. The honorable member for Wakefield said that we shall have to ration ourselves and make sacrifices. The unfortunate workers to whom I have referred have had to ration themselves for years. Many of thom are still required to do so. The sustenance provided for them is not sufficient to keep body and soul together.
Let us examine, for a moment, the proposals which the Prime Minister made last night. The honorable member for Wakefield and the honorable member for Barker (Mir. Archie Cameron) are now openly declaring themselves in favour of conscription. What the Government is proposing to introduce by subterfuge is a policy of economic conscription. I sincerely trust that no honorable member of the Labour party will be misled into accepting these proposals. In effect, the Government tells us that it proposes to order certain industries to close down, and to declare certain other industries as non-essential. The Manpower and Resources Survey Committee is to be called upon to review the list of reserved occupations. I ask honorable members opposite what is to happen to the men at present engaged in the newspaper industry who will lose their employment as the result of paper rationing? What is to happen, also, to the people who will lose their employment as the result of the intensified rationing of petrol? Is it intended that these men shall be absorbed immediately into other industries? Not at all, because the Government intends to make provision for the employment of women in many industries so that men may be released. In effect, the Government’s policy is designed to starve men so that they will be compelled to join the armed forces. I repeat that I sincerely trust that no membet of the Labour party will be misled into supporting such a policy.
We are told that insufficient recruits are offering for the services, and it has been stated that the voluntary recruiting campaign has been a failure. That is not surprising. It amazes me that so many men have offered for overseas service under the conditions laid down. The Government is- not prepared to pay the recruits a decent wage. It asks them to accept a miserable 5s. a day and to risk their lives on active service with poor equipment, while many other men, especially those who control our great industries improve their position and enlarge their profits as the result of the war.
There is no prospect in these days of a working man ever obtaining a commission in the Army because democratic methods in connexion with commissions has been abandoned. The procedure of those in control of Army affairs is to hand out favours to the privileged few. Commissions are provided for the sons of well-to-do families regardless of military experience or merit. The procedure for such young men seems to be to make some inquiry, and arrange for commissions, and after having done so to enlist. Under this system we find that social darlings without any military experience join the forces and are whisked away to an officers’ training school. They serve there for a few weeks and come out as full-blown officers, albeit without experience. As such they are placed in positions where they may lord it over other men with many years of military training and experience. Let me give a few specific instances -
Peter Playfair, eighteen years of age, son of the Honorable T. Playfair, M.L.C., of the Fresh Food and Ice Company, joined the forces and in a few weeks obtained & commission.
Anthony Hordern, junr., was sent to an officers’ training school.
Macfarlane V. Nathan, son of the very wealthy Mr. V. Nathan, enlisted in July, 1940. was made a corporal, and then sent to Duntroon Military College.
Phillip Lloyd Jones, son of one of the principals of David Jones Limited, took six weeks to become an officer.
This kind of thing is causing the ranks of the Army to seethe with discontent. A military order was issued from headquarters shortly after the outbreak of war to the effect that no man of more than 27 years of age is to be considered eligible for commissioned rank. That means that a large body of men who served in the Militia forces for years prior to the war and thereby gained valuable experience cannot be considered for commissioned rank. So much for the stupid military bureaucracy that is to-day in charge of our military affairs. It is scandalous that carefully selected young men from certain favoured families should be enabled to lord it over men with long and valuable military experience gained in service in the Militia, frequently in an honorary capacity, in the years prior to the outbreak of the war.
There is another reason for the discontent that is rife in the’ Army. While it is extremely difficult for men who have trained in the Militia to gain commissions, it is extremely easy foi* any man who held commissioned rank during the last war to obtain a commission in this war, though he may never see active service. In all of the States to-day it is a. common thing to find grey-headed, tottering old gentlemen wearing officers’ uniforms of almost any rank performing simple clerical work in the barracks and drawing substantial pay for so doing.
Earlier in this debate a speaker referred to the ease with which certain individuals are able to obtain commissions. We were reminded that, in one instance, the qualification was simply the ability to sing a comic song well. We all know that Jim Gerald is now a lieutenant-colonel. I understand that Jim Davidson also holds a commission because of his ability to conduct a jazz band. I feel quite sure that it would be possible to find a major’s crown for “ Mo “ should he enlist, and no doubt commissions could also be found for the tumblers in Wirth’s circus.
We may also call to mind the action of the Minister for the Army (Mr. Spender) in appointing himself a lieutenant-colonel. Bie went abroad for a trip without, I understand, the knowledge or consent of the Government, but entirely on his own initiative. I was amazed that he did not remain overseas for, after his return to Australia, he said on one occasion: “I discussed plans for Bardia before the attack was made “. Apparently the honorable gentleman genuinely thought that he had some claim to commissioned rank. At any rate he promoted himself to the rank of lieutenant-colonel. I believe he is in what is called the legal battalion, though I cannot understand what its functions are. Maybe it is intended to argue constitutional points with Hitler on some future occasion!
Mr.Wilson. - No doubt the legal battalion will be good at charges.
– But not at the sort of charges that win battles.
The inefficiency of theArmy is in my opinion due to the bureaucratic methods on which it is organized. Its procedure is most unjust in many respects. I have in mind the case of a young man who has seen two years’ service. He became ill and resigned his position. Subsequently he received the following communication : -
You are hereby required to deliver up to R.Q.M.S. 1 Bn., Drill Hall, Park-road, Paddington, on or before 21st May, 1941, the arms, accoutrements, and other military articles set out in this order, namely: -
If the above item has been returned show the No. of the official receipt for same.
Failure to comply with this order will render you liable to the penalty provided by Section 79 of the Defence Act 1903-1939. (See back of this form.)
That is signed by the lieutenant-colonel. Actually the pull-through had been returned. I may say that it was secondhand, and would probably cost about 3d. When the attention of the military authorities was drawn to the fact, he received a further letter which read -
Reference your letter of 11th September relative to the position of your son in regard to this Battalion. Cadet has returned all articles of Government property and is now discharged from the Cadet Detachment of the 1st Battalion. I regret through an oversight he received the notice mentioned in your letter.
Evidently, it was realized that he was able to produce the receipt, and after weeks had elapsed and a good deal of correspondence had passed, the military authorities were quite satisfied that this second-hand pull-through had been returned.
The Government accepts no responsibility in respect of men who join the Army, and, after having been in it for a period, become ill before leaving Australia through no fault of their own, and are discharged. It will not even endeavour to find them a job. I have received the following letter from the Repatriation Commission, in response to representations that I made: -
In reply to your communication dated 21st April, 1941, in which you make representations on behalf of the above-named, I desire to state that as Mr. Winkle apparently did not see service overseas, he is ineligible to register at this department for employment and sustenance.
There are many men who have given up their employment to join the army, have been trained, and because of illness have been unable to proceed overseas. The Government washes its hands of any responsibility to find such men a job, or to give them sustenance. This is what happens when a man has been overseas, has returned, and is to be given sustenance -
Ex-member £2 2s., wife 18s., and for each child under 16 years of age and dependent upon the member 7s. 6d. Provision only has been made in respect of three (3) children, i.e., no sustenance payment will be made available for the 4th, 5th or subsequent children.
The Government accepts no responsibility for the maintenance of children, after the third child, of men with large responsibilities who join the Army, serve overseas, and are returned to Australia.
Let us consider what is done in regard to men who returned from the last war. It is all very well to make high sounding speeches. The following is an advertisement that I have cut from the press: -
A reliable digger for all jobs, clerks, carpenters, joiners, painters, plasterers, gardeners, paper bangers, upholstery, cane and seagrass chairs, motor drivers, liftmen, porters, and labourers. First-class work guaranteed. Ring Employment Office B2S59.
I would say to honorable members opposite : If those who served in the last war are being treated as I have indicated, how can we expect better treatment of the many thousands who will return from this war, unless we have a government which is not under the heel of vested interests, but is free from such interests and is able to give effect to a proper policy on behalf of the people?
Honorable members have stated in this Parliament that if a boy goes into camp to undertake compulsory military training he is protected in relation to his employment after the completion of his training. Yet, in case after case loss of employment results, and on innumerable occasions, when the matter is submitted to the Commonwealth Crown Solicitor, and a prosecution is launched, only a nominal fine is imposed on the offending employer. In the majority of cases, the reply of the department is that there is no reason to prosecute. One employer was ordered to pay a fine of £15, with £4 ls. costs; but the trainee is still out of work. He certainly received £10 out of the fine, but what was the good of that to a boy who probably spent many years in this employment and was thrown on the industrial scrap-heap? These boys are not being fairly treated.
The Government has discriminated grievously in respect of internees, and this has led to a good deal of dissatisfaction throughout the country. I have had brought to my notice the case of a returned soldier of the last war, an Australian born, who has been arrested and placed in an internment camp. He does not know why, and the Government refuses to give any reason. Greek citizens, who are said to be our allies, have been interned without any reason being given for their internment. The authorities are still grabbing workers from different quarters and placing them in internment camps without giving any reason for their action. Yet privileged enemy aliens in the community are able to retain their liberty ! I raised at question time to-day a matter concerning a relative of the Minister for the Army (Mr. Spender), who admitted that the gentleman in question - Hentze - is his brother-in-law. The honorable gentleman did not make a complete reply to my question. I wanted to know whether the Department of Military Intelligence had made certain reports and recommendations with respect to this man; whether it was not reported and known by the Department of Military Intelligence that he. had been in constant touch with prominent Nazis in Germany; and whether it was not true that, after a warrant had been issued for his arrest and he had actually been taken to an internment camp, he was released on representations made, and personal guarantees given, by the Minister for the Army. The honorable gentleman admitted that he was questioned on the telephone and said in reply that he knew this chap ; and that subsequently he was released from internment. That is not sufficient for this House. Here is a man whom the Military Intelligence authorities thought fit to pick up and intern. He is released after a Minister of the Crown has spoken to the military authorities. Not only is he released, but he also occupies to-day a very responsible position in connexion with the wool appraisement scheme. That man, I repeat, is a brother-in-law of the Minister for the Army.
Then there is the case of Hermann Hamburg, of South Australia, in regard to whom I asked questions in this House, as the result of which I learned that he had been released on a bond, one of the conditions of which, I understand, is that he is not to return to South Australia during the period of the war. Homburg was a member of the antiLabour party, which in South Australia is known as the Liberal-Country party union. He had very prominent connexions and very influential friends, and thus was able to secure his release. I understand that when last heard of he was at liberty in Ballarat. I am not hero to judge Homburg. I do not know what evidence the Government or the military authorities had when he was interned.
But a mau who is interned is either guilty or innocent. If innocent, he should he given his liberty without any restriction or bond, and if guilty his right place is in an internment camp. Evidently the Government decided that a bond met the situation and that this man, who might be dangerous in Adelaide, would not be dangerous in Ballarat. As a matter of fact, he would be less dangerous in South Australia, where he is well known, than in Ballarat, where # probably he is practically a stranger. That is the way in which the Government is carrying on the war effort. Yet it wants the people of this country to make all sorts of sacrifices ! Men are being taken into the Army, or sent to compulsory training camps, regardless of what their personal circumstances may be. We know what the opinion of the Prime Minister was during the last war. Did he not resign a commission because, according to him, it was the right of every man to make his own decision as to whether or not he should serve in the Army? He was a trained soldier. He said that he had private, confidential and personal reasons for not wanting to serve in the last war. If it were correct for the right honorable gentleman to reserve those rights to himself during the last war, is it not logical to suggest that the manhood of Australia to-day should have the same right to determine whether their circumstances permit them to serve in the armed forces? That is the view that I take. No friends of the Government, or of the Prime Minister, will deter me and many members of my party from denouncing the Government for what we believe it is planning to do, namely, simply to organize this nation in the interests of the big captains of industry by whom it is controlled.
Let us examine the matter of finance, which was so ably dealt with by my colleague the honorable member for Maranoa (Mr. Baker). Honorable members opposite have referred to the use of national credit. I have taken the trouble to so through one or two balance-sheets of the Commonwealth Bank, and I advise honorable members to secure the balancesheets of that institution for the period ended the 31st December, 1939 and 1940.
They will find that these documents disclose that, at the 31st December, 1939, the Commonwealth Bank had Commonwealth Government securities to a total of £40,741,509, and that at the 31st December, 1940, it held Commonwealth securities to a total value of £25,278,963, a reduction of just on £15,500,000. The Commonwealth Savings Bank held Commonwealth Government securities amounting to £108,600,000 at the 31st December, 1939, and of a value of £103,000,000 at the 31st December, 1940. Compared with 1939, the value of the securities held at the 31st December, 1940, showed a reduction of over £21,000,000, which proves conclusively that the accommodation provided by this institution was actually reduced during that period, and that any banking accommodation obtained by the Government was provided by the private banks in the subscriptions they made to the loans that, were issued over a certain period. So much for the statement of Government members that national credit is being used to the limit of safety. If the Government is sincere in the statement made by the Prime Minister, that it wishes to restrict or to limit profits and to prevent profiteering, how can it justify such statements as I am now about to read? The honorable member for Melbourne (Mr. Calwell) asked the Treasurer on one occasion, whether he would be in favour of the insertion in our income tax legislation, of a provision to the effect that information furnished by big companies may be made public. The Treasurer replied : “ I certainly would not consent to such an amendment”. I interjected : “ The honorable gentleman’s bosses would not permit him to do so”; and the honorable gentleman said: “Bosses have nothing to do with it. If the Government became a party to the publication of information furnished under a bond of secrecy, it would say farewell to any prospect of obtaining substantial subscriptions to war loans from company sources.” This shows that these people advance their money, not because they particularly want to -help the country, but simply because they believe that it is a very good investment for them.
I have said that big business has control of the Government of this country.
It is said that many of its members are giving their services to the nation in an honorary capacity. Let us see whether that be so in the real sense, or whether they are merely serving their own interests. I have before me a letter which was handed to me by a gentleman who is a doctor of science and a fully qualified mineralogist. He stands very high in his. profession. Any honorable member is at liberty to peruse the communication if he so desires. Over a period of years, this gentleman has been endeavouring to evolve a formula for the treatment of certain metals which are required in the munitions industry. He eventually succeeded, and offered his formula to the Government. Here is the letter that he received in reply -
Your letter of the 27th June, addressed to the Director-General, has been passed on to me
It is noted you have evolved a cheap and effective means of producing powdered metals - aluminium, magnesium and zinc, and you will he communicated with should occasion require.
Atomized zinc is produced by the Electrolytic Zinc Company, and I would suggest that this company might be interested iri your process.
Director of Materials.
Sir Colin Fraser happens to be one of the advisers to the Government and managing director of Electrolytic Zinc Corporation Limited. This formula, which has been proved to be successful, was offered to the Commonwealth Government gratis, but was turned down by Sir Colin Fraser, who suggested that if the owner of the formula got into touch with the company of which he is the managing director, it might be interested in the process. That is only one instance of many in which gentlemen of this kind are serving their own interests.
The action of the brewing interests affords a striking example of profiteering. I understand that it is proposed to establish a parliamentary committee consisting of representatives of all parties to control and regulate profits. How can that be done, and what are the powers of this committee to be? Is it to have complete power to examine the taxation returns of large companies, and demand the production of all books and documents which the committee desires to peruse? Unless the committee has such powers, and also the power to limit profits, where it believes such action to be necessary, it will be so much humbug to talk about setting up such a committee. According to the Prime Minister, the Prices Commissioner, Professor Copland, has been working effectively in -restricting profiteering. Regarding the brewing industry, the Prices Commissioner said that a great deal of care had been exercised in seeing that the brewing companies were not exploiting the public. In September, 1939, the price of bottled beer was increased by Id. a bottle, and in November, 1940, there was a further increase of 2d. a bottle, making a total increase of 3s. a dozen. There are six bottles of beer to the gallon, and the increases of duty granted in September, 1939, and November, 1940, amounted to ls. a gallon. Therefore, the brewing interests passed on to the general public by way of increases of the price of bottled beer, an amount 200 per cent, in excess of the amount they should have been permitted to pass on. . It is not surprising that press reports have appeared under the heading “Record Brewery Profits. Carlton and United “. Similar profits have been made by all breweries. When the workers decided to have a beer strike against this exploitation, one of our national leaders - I refer to the Minister for the Interior (Senator Foll) - came forward with the statement that anybody who advocated a beer strike was a fifth columnist. According to that Minister, the way to win the war is not to produce more tanks, warships and shells, but to drink more beer ! These are the kind of men who are in charge of the affairs of this country. One would imagine that there is no proof of profiteering. [Leave to continue given.]
We were told that one of the reasons why the case relating to the military boots scandal was being sent to the High Court was that the Government desired to speed up the procedure. Some months have elapsed since the discovery that inferior military boots had been supplied by a certain manufacturer, but the case has not yet come before the High Court, and many members of the public are wondering when the Government will urge the court to deal with the matter. Honorable members recall what happened a little over twelve months ago when Labour members drew attention to the scandal in the boot industry. It was pointed out that an examiner in Sydney who had been rejecting military boots supplied by certain manufacturers had been removed from his position, and sent to another State. Although the matter was brought under the notice of the Government, nothing was done with regard to it. When the elections were in progress, advertisements appeared in the daily press, not advertising the wares of the particular manufacturer concerned, but telling the public that the Government had been getting full value for the money expended in the supply of boots to the Army, the Air Force and the Navy. The firm concerned was Fostar’s but the man behind the scene was Mr. Harry McEvoy, who was very friendly with the member of the Government who was being hotly assailed in Parramatta at that time in regard to this scandal. I do not know why the Government has been tardy in taking action against this firm, but I could make a shrewd guess. If honorable members desire first-hand information regarding the matter, I suggest that they refer to the member of whom I have just spoken. When our troops were being evacuated from Greece, many of them had no boots at all. Many of those who had been fighting Australia’s battle under arduous conditions in that theatre of war, had been sacrificed because of the greed of profiteers in this country, against whom the Government is not prepared to act. Many pairs of inferior boots were no doubt supplied to our troops, and were worn by them in Greece. The Government was prepared to risk the lives of these men because it was not willing to do the right thing. It has one eye on profits and the other on the winning of the war. We shall never get proper organization from a Government which is tied to vested interests, and whose members are interested in many directions in the profit earning capacity of many of our industries. The only way in which to organize the national effort properly is to eliminate private profit entirely.
The Prime Minister (Mr. Menzies) has declared that the iron and steel industry is the very basis of our war effort. If that be so, the Government should take over that industry entirely and run it in the interests of the nation. I would support the nationalization of the Australian iron and steel industry, and would limit the incomes of all individuals including members of Parliament, no matter from what source the income may be derived, to £500 a year during the present war. I doubt the sincerity of members of the Government, and that is why I have always urged that Labour should make a bid to govern this country. I believe that a Labour Government alone is the only kind of government that can organize the national war effort without showing special consideration for particular interests involved.
On a former occasion, I brought under notice the case of Mr. 0. J. Moir, of Fletcher-street, Bondi, who desired to place his factory at the disposal of the Government for war purposes, and who was prepared to work in it for wages.
Thi3 matter was brought to my notice on the 3rd July, 1940. I communicated with the then Minister for Supply and Development (Sir Frederick Stewart) on the 5th July, and received an acknowledgment dated the 10th July, stating that the matter had been brought to the notice of the Director-General of Munitions. I received no further word for some time, and wrote again on the 3rd October to the Minister, drawing attention to the fact that no decision in the matter had been reached. I received a reply, dated the 8th October, again acknowledging my representations, and stating that the matter was one for determination by the Department of Munitions. The Minister added that he was again asking the Director-General of Munitions to let me have a reply. I again waited, and, on the 8th November, I received a communication stating that the Government had established certain boards for the purpose of defence work. It was stated that in each State a Board of Area Management had been appointed, and that copies of the correspondence in connexion with Mr. Moir’s offer (had been forwarded to the New South Wales board for necessary action. On the 3rd January last, I wrote to the Minister for Munitions (Senator McBride) drawing his attention to the matter, and received an acknowledgment dated the 14th January, again telling me that the matter had been referred to the Board of Area Management. I wrote again on the 12th May to the Minister for Munitions, and eventually received a communication informing me that the decision of the Government was that it could not utilize the factory of Mr. Moir. iSo the matter was under consideration from July of last year to June of this year before the Minister or the Government could give a reply to Mr. Moir as to whether it was able to use his factory. In another case, representations were brought before the Government concerning a man who had a plant and premises, who was experienced in the manufacture of precision tools, and who desired to place these at the disposal of the Government. Negotiations continued for six months before a decision could be obtained.
When the Government was talking of throwing all the resources of the nation into this war, we naturally wanted to know what would happen to the members of the fighting services when they returned to these shores, and when also thousands of men would be thrown out of industry. Many industries have been established in the East, where an ample supply of cheap labour is available, and I am wondering whether these industries will be retained and many Australian workmen will be found walking the streets in search of employment after the war has been won. A Victoria Cross winner who died in Melbourne recently had been in necessitous circumstances for a number of years, and for long periods had been without work. Evidently, a Victoria Cross means nothing when the war is over, but, when the King’s Birthday honours are handed out, knighthoods are bestowed on certain persons. It would be interesting to find out why many of those who hold these decorations managed to secure them. It appears that a title given for reasons other than valour on the battle-field enables the. holder to obtain a lucrative position on company directorates, but, if a man has won the Victoria Cross, he can wear it and obtain the plaudits of the crowd on Anzac Day, and go without work or eke out a bare existence as best he can for the rest of the year. Now we find that the Government ha6 taken steps to advise the people what they should do in order to economize. We are told we must buy fewer suits of clothes, for instance. In the Sydney Morning Herald of the 7th January, I read the following: -
This year the crossroads of the world meet in New York - a few names, Rothschild, Maeterlinck, Lady Mendl, Lady Cunard, the Duchess of Sutherland, the Duchess of Leeds, Archdukes of Hapsburg, Princesses of Luxembourg, Queen Elizabeth’s nephews and niecesLady Mendl flew into the Waldorf-Astoria with ladders in her stockings and seventeen trunks followed by a freighter.. The Duchess of Sutherland was in her mackintosh carrying her jumbo diamond tiara. The Serbianborn Duchess of Leeds, who never wears a pair of stockings twice, was down to her last gross of hose.
What a sacrifice that must be for these aristocrats who have left, the field of battle! How our hearts bleed for them! If Labour ever obtains control we will not talk about equality of sacrifice - we will have it. There has been much talk about Labour co-operation in the war effort. The war could not be carried on for five minutes without the co-operation of Labour. Is it not Labour which mans the trenches, which sails the ships, and makes the munitions ? Yet, when surplus food is accumulating in this country the Government does not take steps to ensure that the people shall have plenty. It says, “Let us plow the apples into the ground. We cannot give them to the people because we cannot afford it”. The Government appointed a committee which is telling the “ common people “, as the Prime Minister called them how they should conduct themselves, and what they should eat. This committee has worked out a ration on a mathematical basis, as one might do for a horse. Here is its suggested diet for a family of five, the parents, and two boys, one fourteen and the other eight years old, and a girl twelve years old: For breakfast, the father - who is an active man doing strenuous work - is to have 12 oz. of oatmeal porridge, moderately thick, the 12 oz. to include the water. He is to have two slices of fried bread with two teaspoonsful of treacle. I do not know what would happen if he wanted another slice of bread. Probably some other member of the family would have to go without. . In addition, he is allowed a “ level “ teaspoonful of butter and cocoa. Great care must be taken, apparently, to see that by no chance does he have a heaped’ teaspoonful of butter or cocoa. The other members of the family are to receive something less. This ration reminds me somewhat of the menus in the parliamentary dining-room. For the “ Sunday special “ there is to be a leg of mutton, costing approximately ls. lid. After the family has had its Sunday meal off this joint, it goes to make shepherd’s pie, whatever that may be. Probably some honorable member of the Country party might be able to tell us. The same joint must also provide sandwiches for lunch on Monday and Tuesday, and mutton broth on Tuesday evening. There is no mention of how they are to dispose of the bone, but perhaps they will be allowed to throw it to the dog. Recently the Prime Minister said -
It may well be that after the war we are destined to enter a period of relative poverty. lt may be a struggle even to return to the old standard of life. That doesn’t matter so long as our fate in the post-war years is in our own hands.
I am not satisfied with the Government. [Further leave to continue given.] That is nothing new so far as I am concerned. As a matter of fact, I have never been satisfied with this Government. Apart from the fact that it is serving vested interests, I do not think that it is capable of running the affairs of the country. Even honorable members opposite who are serving in the forces, though they may think they are.. doing great work, are not getting results when judged by modern standards. Take the honorable member for Barker (Mr. Archie Cameron) who serves in the Intelligence Department. I think most honorable members will agree with me that an intelligence test should be applied to applicants’ for admission to this service. Some honorable members maintain that 5s. a day is enough for the boys who are serving in the armed forces, and they point to the wages paid to those working in munitions establishments. In answer to that; I point to the profits made by many such establishments, and by busi- ness interests generally. I do not care what the statisticians say, I know that undue profits are being made. Recently, the housewives in Adelaide protested against the inefficacy of the existing price-fixing machinery. They know that the cost of living is rising rapidly, so that even though some of the workers are receiving higher wages, they are no better off now than they were before. The only ones who are better off aTe the men who were previously out of work, and who have now been absorbed into industry.
We are told that this war must be financed. The fact is that the war is fought on the proceeds of current and past production, not on future production. Therefore, we should ask ourselves whether the people of Australia, who are slaving long hours to produce shells, tanks, aeroplanes, and other munitions of war, must go on paying for those things for years after the war when they have already paid for them with their sweat during the period of production. I agree with what many honorable members on this side have already said about the financing of the war. Does anybody suggest that work which requires doing in Germany will be left undone because there is not enough money? We were told when, the war started that Germany was financially weak, that it would have to win the war quickly if at all, because it was short of money. However, there has been no slackening of production in Germany for that reason. Germany has men and machines and materials, and it has put them to work by using the national credit. In Australia, we appointed committees to advise the Government on various works, and those committees, after exhaustive inquiries, have drawn up a schedule of works, some of which are marked as urgent, and others not so urgent. Among the urgent works are certain road-construction jobs which were recently undertaken. We have the men to do the work, and we have the necessary materials; yet, the men, after working for two weeks, are made to sit idle in. their tents for another two weeks because the Government says that there is no money with which to continue.. Could anything be more absurd or ridiculous? We can no longer take any notice of the statements of the Prime
Minister. He has retracted, and twisted, and backed and filled until we can have no faith in him. We know that he is not sincere when he speaks of attacking the profiteers and limiting their profits. What happened in the Abbco bread case? After the Abbco Bread Company Proprietary Limited had been convicted of supplying short-weight bread to the Army, and after a paltry fine had been imposed by the court in New South Wales, the Commonwealth Government rewarded the company by giving it another contract. I appeal to members of the Opposition to lose no opportunity to expose the shortcomings of the Government, and to let the people know what is going on. I want the war to be won by those opposed to Germany but I know that the best way to lose it is to keep the Menzies Government in office. If we are democrats, we know that it is all “ hooey “ to talk about the interruption of the country’s war effort by the holding of a general election. I say, let us have a general election. Let the Government place its proposals before the people because these proposals were never before the people at the time of the general election, and Labour is prepared to accept the decision of the people.
Debate (on motion by Mr. Marwick) adjourned.
Aircraft Production - War Pensions - Second-hand Mining Machinery - Copper Production - London Stokes Building, Melbourne - Coal Prices - Petrol Rationing - Australian Consolidated Industries Limited.
Motion (by Mr. Anthony) proposed -
That the House do now adjourn.
.- Today I drew the attention of the Prime Minister (Mr. Menzies) to a statement which appeared in the Sydney Morning Herald of the 7th June, setting forth the remarks of Mr. John Storey, of the Commonwealth Aircraft Commission, who accompanied the Prime Minister on his tour abroad. The Prime Minister said that he had not seen the statement. I take this opportunity to bring it under his notice. It is as follows: -
U.S. Doubts of Australia. disunity feared.
Mr. John Storey, of the. Commonwealth Aircraft Production Commission, said yesterday that the belief in the United States of America that there was political disunity in Australia was holding up orders for machines and materials needed by Australia for munitions production.
The extent of Australia’s munition production and industrial war effort was by no meant) well known in America.There had been cases where difficulties in getting equipment released for the Commonwealth had been overcome when officials were told the facts of Australia’s efforts.
Mr. Storey returned yesterday from five months’ negotiations in Britain and America.
He said that the opinion existed that there were split loyalties in Australia because of the apparent political disunity. This was interpreted overseas as representing disunity in Australia’s war activities. “ This was not helpful in the procuring of essential material and machines,” he said.
The supply of material and machines to
Australia depends on the opinion held by the U.S. Administration and the manufacturers of our capacity to use the material or equipment in the best interest of the war effort. “ United States manufacturers of these requirements have priority lists for long periods ahead. The Priorities Committee has to be convinced that they will be fully utilized before they can be made available to Australia.The impression they have of the political situation here is affecting the extent to which they are prepared to do so.”
That matter seems to be very significant. Prior to his appointment, Mr. Storey was a high executive officer in General Motor sHoldens Limited, which has vested interests in not only this country but also the United States of America.. Mr. Storey went on to say that Australian troops were the best, and that fact might have some influence on the people in the United States of America. It seems to me to be highly inappropriate for a public official to make a statement of that kind which will surely damage our war effort. It is well-known that, in so far as our war effort is concerned, no political disunity exists in this country. However, it seems that certain interests in the United States of America are endeavouring to influence political opinion here. The provisions of the Lease-Lend Act have not yet been extended to include Australia. For many years we have had the Bank of England control from Threadneedlestreet. Now that the control of the Bank of England is in effect being removed to Wall-street, it is very probable that every effort will be made by vested interests in the United States of America to influence political opinion in this country in the same way as the Bank of England has done in the past. I again urge the Government to investigate this matter in order to discover whether any influence of that kind is at work. I also urge it to ask the Government of the United States of America whether it proposes to . extend the provisions of the Lease-Lend Act to this country.
I now direct the attention of honorable members to another serious matter in relation to our own effort. A few days ago I was interviewed by a gentleman who was endeavouring to obtain important machinery for use in work associated with the war effort. In the course of a tour of investigation in New South Wales he visited sixteen copper mines which were operating a few years ago, but were subsequently closed owing to the fall of the price of copper. He found that although until quite recently valuable machinery of the kind he needed, such as winding engines, &c, was available in those mines, he had been preceded by a few days by buyers, who were operating for Brown and Dureau Proprietary Limited, of Melbourne, and that those buyers had purchased that machinery for a few hundred pounds, and the whole of it had been blown up with gelignite and converted into scrap iron for shipment to Japan.
– I am glad to have that assurance from the Assistant Minister, because we know that, with the cognizance of the Government, certain classes of war material have been going to Japan. That machinery was most valuable. It was needed in our war effort. Indeed a few days after this gentleman made his visit to those mines, an officer of the Department of Supply visited them in order to obtain the equipment for the department. The shortage of machine tools is invariably given as an excuse for our lag in the production of tanks and Bren guns, &c. That valuable machinery could have been taken over by the department, yet no effort was made to acquire it, or to prevent it being sold in the way I have described. In that connexion I draw the attention of the House to the following paragraph which was published in a Queensland paper recently: -
1000 MINES COULD PRODUCE COPPER.
Nearly 1000 mines, old and new, in northern Queensland could be worked to enable, copper production to be accelerated, a deputation told the Minister for Mines (Mr. D. A. Gledson) in Cairns to-day.
This large ore-producing territory, it was stated, was being excluded from war-time industries finance being allocated by the Federal Government.
The deputation also said that munition factories should be established in Atherton Tableland centres, where electric power was readily available.
There should be no shortage of copper in Australia at present, yet we are in short supply of this metal. Only a few weeks ago, however, it was reported that a ship conveying a consignment of copper worth £1,250,000 from South Africa to Australia had been sunk in the Indian Ocean. At the same time the Minister for Mines in Queensland has been told that nearly 1,000 mines in that State are available for copper production. The fact that those mines are idle to-day is due solely to the shortsighted policy of this Government in refusing to finance efforts to work them simply because the price of copper was low. But now, when the price of copper has again risen to a payable level, and these mines could readily be reopened, we find that valuable machinery has been blown up for scrap metal. Furthermore, we have been told that war manufacturers shall have to wait for further shipments of copper from South Africa to relieve the present shortage. Such a state of affairs is a travesty on the Government’s so-called war effort. The least the Government could have done was to have placed an embargo upon the disposal of this valuable machinery.
.- I desire to bring to the notice of the House certain anomalies in the administration of the Repatriation Commission in dealing with claims for pensions by ex-soldiers. I have in my hand two letters from the department concerning the cases of two ex-soldiers. Up to about three or four months ago the first, who is sixty years of age, and who fought in both the Boer war and the war of 1914- 18, was in receipt of a service pension. The second man fought in the last war, and his degree of incapacity has been reduced from 100 per cent, to 30 per cent.
The first point I emphasize is that the department seems to deal with many of these cases in a stereotyped fashion. The first man to whom I refer received the following advice from the department: -
With reference to your claim for acceptance of nerves, neuritis, sciatica and stomach trouble as due to war service, you are informed that after full investigation you were found to be suffering spondylitis and osteoarthritis, mild deafness, pulmonary fibrosis, arterio-sclerosis, and old injury to the chest.
He was refused, a war pension. In the second case the disabilities were diagnosed as gastric-neurosis, hyperchlorhydria, spondylitis and arteriosclerosis which the commission decided was due to war service. Although the diagnosis is practically the same in each of these two cases the commission refuses a pension to the older man, who is a resident of Manildra. He is now being prosecuted by the commission for the return of alleged over-payments of pension. He was receiving a service pension of £1 a week. Being a bush worker he was not able to look after himself when he fell sick. As he was refused medical assistance by the Repatriation Commissioner, he had to go to an hotel in order to obtain that consideration which he would have received in hospital, but which he could not afford. After a period of rest at the hotel his condition improved, but at the end of that period he found that he owed between £20 and £30 to the hotel-keeper for his accommodation. Being honest, he agreed to work for the hotel-keeper at whatever labour he could do in order to pay off his debt. The Repatriation Commission then said that he was earning more than £1 a week, although, as a matter of fact, he was not earning any money, but simply giving service to the hotel-keeper in payment for his accommodation during his period of illness when he was unable to fend for himself. It appears to me that the department has acted very inconsistently in granting a pension to the younger man, and, at the same time, refusing a pension to the older man, when the medical diagnosis in each case is similar. Originally, the younger man’s incapacity was rated at 100 per cent. He was suffering from a gunshot wound in a leg which he received at the landing at Gallipoli. His reputation and courage as a soldier was beyond reproach. However, after a period of treatment his degree of incapacity was reduced to 30 per cent. As he grows older his present injuries will become more aggravated. The two cases I have mentioned are only isolated instances of similar treatment being meted out by the Repatriation Commission to ex-soldier pensioners resident in my electorate. Surely the Government realizes that these men have friends throughout the country, and that when it is appealing for recruits they, and the friends of many other ex-soldiers who have received similar treatment at the hands of the commission, will point out to potential recruits that, when this Government promises that when they come back from the war after making the world safe for democracy, their sacrifices will be recognized, it is not likely that this Government, which is the modern prototype of the Government of twenty years ago, will be any more ready to honour its promises. The military authorities are seeking the reason for the lack of recruits. I have submitted to the House logical reasons why many young men are hesitating. They doubt the sincerity of the Government’s promise to ensure equality of sacrifice in the prosecution of the war. If the Government is capable of seeing the truth, it will rectify the injustice which has been done to the veterans of the last war, and such action, though belated, will stimulate recruiting.
– I make a further appeal to the Government in connexion with the London Stores Building in Melbourne, a portion of which the Department of the Interior has secured from the owners for the use of the Pay-roll
Tax Department, which will administer the child endowment scheme. About a fortnight ago, the honorable member for Henty (Mr. Coles) and the honorable member for Parkes (Sir Charles Marr) asked questions about it, and I mentioned the subject on the motion for the adjournment of the House; but apparently the Ministry is adamant in its determination not to do justice to the tenants of the building. They are to be dispossessed, because the owners will receive from the Government the benefit of a five-years’ lease with the possibility of an extension for a similar period. An added advantage is that the Government will make structural alterations costing £6,000. In those and many other ways, the Government will be a more profitable tenant than the people who are to be evicted. Of the 80 original tenants, about 60 have already left, but the remainder have asked me to make a statement on their behalf and to urge the Minister, if it is not yet too late, to stay his hand and acquire other premises in Melbourne, for instance, in the Century building.
These tenants claim that they have taken their stand for the following reasons: First, they felt that the “ sacrifice “ that the “London Stores Limited told them it was making did not involve equality of sacrifice at all. Secondly, they were advised by several United Australia party members and senators and many Opposition members and senators to stand firm and fully exhaust their legal rights. Thirdly, their legal advisers told them that under the National Security Regulations they could not be forced to quit unless the owner either sold the premises or desired to occupy them himself. On the 28th May, the tenants served a writ through the Supreme Court, Melbourne, on London Stores Limited. At the request of the firm several days later, the tenants agreed to allow the case to be adjourned to a time to be arranged, on the understanding that the status quo was to be maintained.
On the 6th June, the solicitor for the tenants wrote to the Department of the Interior asking for confirmation of the various press statements made by the Minister for the Interior (Senator
Foll) concerning the payment to his clients of compensation! The only reply that the solicitor has received is indirectly from the solicitors for London Stores Limited to the effect that the matter was being decided in Canberra. The status quo has not been kept. Walls have been knocked down around the rooms of nearly all of the remaining tenants. The resultant dust and rubble has made the carrying on of business almost an impossibility. That has been done despite the injunction order which is in operation. I raise the issue in the hope that the Department of the Interior will do justice to the tenants. If they are forced to leave their premises, they will carry the loss because there seems to be no immediate prospect of compensation being paid, and all the talk of equality of sacrifice is, in their opinion, of a chimerical nature. It is most unfair treatment of good citizens, who have been singled out because they are “ little “ people. Previously, I suggested that the Government could take over several stories of the Myer Emporium Limited, because a wealthy corporation can better afford to make the sacrifice than 80 small tenants. The Government, in spite of the Prime Minister’s statement that he is no longer interested in the maintenance of the “ old order “, is still very chary about interfering with the vested interests that dominate the “ old order “.
I now bring to the notice of the Assistant Minister some information concerning coal prices. A Melbourne firm of coal merchants sent to a number of fuel merchants on the 20th May last a circular letter which read -
We have to advise that Mr. Justice Drake-Brockman, Chairman of Central Reference Board (Coal-mining Industry) has issued an award granting wage increases of 4 per cent, to contract employees and 5 per cent, to non-contract employees which will increase the cost of coal at Newcastle on and after 19th instant.
Application is now being made to Commonwealth Prices Commissioner by Colliery Proprietors for authority to increase the price of coal to cover additional costs.
We therefore have to inform you the price of coal will bc advanced in Melbourne in consequence of increases at Newcastle, and we will let you know as soon as possible the amount of actual increase.
If ever there was a piece of arrogance, it is surely expressed in that letter. The firm treats the .Commonwealth Prices Commissioner as though he were a mere automaton to register increases, because the coal proprietors had decided to make application for the granting of the increase. It assumed, in the last paragraph, that the increase would be granted automatically. Bad and all as that is, I find from the accounts that have been rendered to one fuel merchant in May last that this particular firm had the audacity to insert on the monthly account, the f ollowing words : “ To extra 6d. per ton on coal purchased between the 17th and the 31st March.” The fuel merchant bought the coal in March and sold it to the general public. He has now no opportunity to pass on that increase to the purchasers of the coal during that period; but this avaricious firm, not satisfied with passing on the 4 per cent, to contractor employees, and 5 per cent, to noncontractor employees, decided to impose a further 6d. a ton on coal that was purchased a couple of months before the proposed increase. Even if the firm had obtained authority to increase the price of coal and make it retrospective, it has no right to ask a merchant, in such circumstances, to bear the loss occasioned by the increase. If anybody is to bear the loss it should not be the small man, but the coal-owners.
This evening, a constituent informed me that if the Government’s scheme for excluding certain types of motor car businesses from - access to supplies of petrol is given effect immediately, he will become insolvent overnight. This man conducts two businesses and he told me that there is one other big business of a like nature in Melbourne and five or six smaller businesses in and around the suburbs. He has 35 cars, valued at approximately £16,000. The major portion of his business is of a commercial nature, and is not pleasure-riding by people who can afford to hire a car and drive themselves. He assured me that, throughout Melbourne, 150 cars are affected by the Government’s decision regarding vehicles that are hired out to persons to drive themselves. Those 150 cars are doing more commercial work than taxicabs and the great majority are used for commercial purposes essential to the every-day life of the nation. In fact, a misapprehension exists regarding the purpose for which the cars are used. I am confident that the Parliament desires to ease as much as possible the difficulties of the people concerned in the industry, and I suggest that no action should be taken pending an investigation of the whole problem. The Government should allow the car-owners to put forward their contentions in order that, a more equitable system of restriction may be imposed. I hope that the Assistant Minister will give me an assurance that my constituent will have an opportunity to make representations to the Government. There can be no equality of sacrifice in a procedure that will send a firm into the bankruptcy court overnight through no fault of its own. The firm is willing to allow a departmental officer to examine its books to satisfy himself as to its bona fides.
Prior to the last adjournment of the House I asked the. Minister for Trade and Customs (Mr. Harrison) to lay on the table a report furnished to the Government by a departmental officer who was appointed to inquire into the alleged excess profits made last year by Australian Consolidated Industries Limited. The Minister stated that the report contained confidential information and that it would therefore not be proper to table it. I am sorry that the honorable gentleman took that attitude, for I am sure that the report contains matter that should be made available to honorable members. The details of the company’s transactions are set out in a report which appeared in the Melbourne Argus of last Monday from which I abstract the following particulars : -
£56,381 Increase in Year.
Profit of Australian Consolidated Industries Limited and its subsidiary companies for the year ended March 31 is disclosed at £489,652, after eliminating equity of outside shareholders, against a comparable figure of £433,271 in the year before. Latest profit is struck after providing for taxation (figure not disclosed), £244,536 for depreciation against £295,556 last year, and £33,762 directors’ fees and salaries against £31,430.
The company and its subsidiaries show for the year a gross profit of £721,040 from trading, against £714,298, while income from investments is shown at £48,004, against £49,146. Net profit of the parent company is shown at £403,495, a record, compared with £351,039 last year. Dividends of 9 per cent, on preference shares and of 8 per cent, (last year 7 per cent.) on ordinary shares take in all £335,753. [Leave to continue given.]
The profit made by the company seems to be abnormal, particularly as it relates to a year in which many people were making great sacrifices for war purposes. Seeing that so much information in relation to the company’s affairs has been published I cannot understand why honorable members should not be given access to the departmental report that they may satisfy themselves that the investigating officer was justified in his view that the profits were so excessive. It seems to me that they were definitely excessive and probably unconscionable.
– in reply-I shall bring under the notice of the appropriate Ministers the remarks made by honorable members on the several subjects that have been discussed.
In regard to the remarks of the honorable member for Melbourne (Mr. Calwell) concerning petrol rationing, I must point out that the Government’s plans have been made and the details of the new ration announced. It is unlikely that there will be any substantial departure from that decision. It is essential that our consumption of petrol shall be reduced to about 12,000,000 gallons a month and the new ration is designed on that basis. If concessions are to be given to some users who consider that they have been harshly treated, it will have to be at the expense of other users.
– Will the Assistant Minister give me an assurance that the company will have an opportunity to make representations?
– I cannot do that, but I shall bring the honorable member’s remarks to the notice of the Minister.
Question resolved in the affirmative.
The following papers were pre sented : -
Australian Soldiers’ Repatriation Act - Regulations - Statutory Rules 1941, No. 94.
Immigration Act - Regulations - Statutory Rules 1941, No. 66.
Judiciary Act and High Court Procedure Act - Rule of Court- Dated 6th May, 1941 (Statutory Rules 1941, No. 122).
Lands Acquisition Act - Land acquired -
For Defence purposes -
Cairns, Queensland (2).
For Postal purposes -
Kurrajong, New South Wales.
Manilla, New South Wales.
Mena Creek, Queensland.
National Security Act -
National Security (General) Regulations -Orders - Inventions and designs (39).
Regulations - Statutory Rules 1941, Nos. 112, 113, 114, 115, 116, 117, 118, 123.
Naval Defence Act - Regulations- Statutory Rules 1941, No. 124.
Norfolk Island Act - Regulations - 1941 - No. 1 (Public Service Ordinance).
Post and Telegraph Act - Regulations - Statutory Rules 1941, No. 126.
Seat of Government Acceptance Act and Seat of Government (Administration) Act - Ordinance - 1941 - No. 4 - Canberra Community Hospital.
House adjourned at 11.36 p.m.
The following answers to questions were circulated: -
d asked the Minister for Commerce, upon notice -
– The answers to the honorable member’s questions are as follows : -
Victoria, South Australia and Western Australia. They will act in an advisory capacity only and will report and make recommendations to the board. I shall arrange for the honorable member to be furnished with a copy of a statement covering the functions and duties of the committees, which has been issued for the guidance of members.
y asked the Prime Minister, upon notice -
In order to protect the primary producers of Australia by the fixation of minimum prices for primary products, which can only be effectively carried out by co-operation between the Commonwealth and States, will he arrange a conference with the State Ministers of Agriculture for the purpose of setting up the necessary organization to give effect to this important proposal?
– In any case where it is proposed to fix minimum prices for primary products and the co-operation of the Commonwealth and the States is necessary to enforce these prices, consideration will be given to the desirability of calling a conference of State Ministers of Agriculture.
Aerodrome at Western Junction.
y asked the Minister for Civil Aviation, upon notice -
– The answers to the honorable member’s questions are as follows : -
y asked the Minister for Commerce, upon notice -
Is it a fact that primary producers who are being urged to grow, and are desirous of, growing flax, peas and other produce for national services, are finding it almost impossible to secure fertilizer for this purpose? If so, will the Minister take whatever action is necessary to ensure that fertilizer will be made available to such primary producers?
– The question of superphosphate supplies is receiving the close attention of the Government at present. The importance of superphosphate in relation to specific industries is being studied with a view to ensuring that the most efficient use is made of the supplies available.
Canberra : Additional Office
d asked the Minister representing the Minister for the Interior, upon notice -
– The Minister for the Interior has supplied the following answers : -
l asked the Treasurer, upon notice -
– The answers to the honorable member’s questions are as follows : -
Housing : Home-building Loan Schemes.
d asked the Minister representing the Minister for the Interior, upon notice -
– The Minister for the Interior has supplied the following answers : -
s. - On the 30th May the honorable member for Melbourne (Mr. Calwell) asked me the following question, upon notice: -
I am now in a position to furnish the following reply: - 1. (a) Full Cabinet meetings (22nd January to 24th May, 1941). - Canberra 4, Sydney 8 and Melbourne 6. (b) War Cabinet meetings (22nd January to 24th May, 1941). - Canberra 7, Sydney 13, Melbourne 8. (c) Advisory War Council meetings (22nd January to 24th May, 1941 ). - Canberra 4, Sydney6, Melbourne 7. 2. (a) Full Cabinet meetings held in Canberra, 3rd September, 1939, to 30th May, 1941. - During parliamentary session, 51; during recess, 16. (b) War Cabinet meetings held in Canberra, 27th September, 1939, to 30th May, 1941. - During parliamentary session, 30; during recess, 9. (c) Advisory War Council meetings held in Canberra, 29th October, 1940, to 30th May, 1941. - During parliamentary session, 8; during recess, 5.
s. - On the 29 th May, the honorable member for Hindmarsh (Mr. Makin) asked the following questions, upon notice: -
The Minister for the Interior has supplied the following answers: -
This statement does not include miscellaneous leases, such as post offices, storage accommodation, &c, or accommodation occupied by defence activities under National Security Regulations.
Commonwealth Public Service: Dismissal of Temporary Employees; Appointments under Section 36a.
– On the 30th May, the honorable member for East Sydney (Mr. Ward) referred to the termination of the services of certain temporary employees in the Commonwealth Service.
I am advised by the Public Service Board that arising out of complaints received that men of an undesirable class were employed on the staffs of War Departments, and following ministerial approval of recommendations submitted by the Board of Business Administration, Department of Defence Co-ordination, in the matter, inquiries were made as to the records of persons (adult males) registered for employment in the Commonwealth Service and of those already employed. It was found that a number of persons had criminal convictions recorded against them, and in cases in which they had been convicted of stealing, false pretences or forgery, subsequent to their return from war service, their temporary employment in the Commonwealth Service was terminated after a reasonable period of notice. The general policy followed in connexion with the cases under notice is that where the offence of which a temporary employee has been convicted is of such a nature that, if it had been committed by a permanent officer of the Service, dismissal, with consequent disqualification for further employment, would have resulted, the services of the temporary employee should be dispensed with.
On the 29th May, the honorable member for Melbourne (Mr. Calwell) asked the following question, upon notice : -
I am now in a position to furnish the following reply: -
s. - On the 28th May, the honorable member for Melbourne (Mr. Calwell) asked the following question, upon notice -
The Minister for Information has supplied the following answers: -
Defence Forces : Legal Aid Department.
r.- On the 30th May, in reply to a question by the honorable member for Cook (Mr. Sheehan), without notice, I informed him that inquiries would be made concerning hie suggestion that a Legal Aid Department be established for the assistance of dependants of members of the forces.
I have since given consideration to the matter, and in view of the facilities which already exist and which have been provided voluntarily, it is not considered necessary for a Legal Aid Department to be established. The Law Societies in the various States have made the arrangements for providing free legal assistance to members of the forces, and the facilities in the various States are stated hereunder : -
Queensland. - A panel of solicitors has been organized to give free legal advice to members of the Australian
Imperial Force and their dependants. The solicitors visit Australian Imperial Force camps regularly.
New South Wales. - Free legal assistance, excluding out-of-pocket expenses, may be granted to necessitous members of the forces. Certain government departments provide free counsel and solicitor in litigation to poor persons.
Victoria, South Australia and Western Australia. - Free legal advice is given to members of the forces and their dependants.
Tasmania.- Free legal advice to members of the forces. canbebba: Transfer of Public Servants.
– On the 28th May, the honorable member for Melbourne (Mr. Calwell) asked a question, upon notice, regarding the number of public servants transferred to Melbourne and Sydney.
The total number of officers transferred from Canberra to Melbourne and Sydney from the outbreak of war (3rd September, 1939), up to and including the 28th May, 1941, the date of the honorable member’s question, was as follows: -
To Melbourne. - Number of officers transferred: Male 59, Female 9.(a)
To Sydney. - Number of officers transferred: Male 33, Female 9.(b)
Since the 28th May, the Pensions Staff (five male officers and three female officers) has been transferred to Sydney in connexion with the temporary establishment there of the Department of Social Services.
Cite as: Australia, House of Representatives, Debates, 18 June 1941, viewed 22 October 2017, <http://historichansard.net/hofreps/1941/19410618_reps_16_167/>.