16th Parliament · 1st Session
Mr.Speaker (Hon. W. M. Nairn) took the chair at 10.30 a.m., and read prayers.
– I understand that there has been in force for a considerable number of years a commercial treaty between the United Kingdom and Italy, and I am led to believe that its’ terms are in no way abrogated by the act of war, and that, upon the termination of the war, it may again become operative unless revoked by statute. Will the Prime Minister take suitable action with the British Government with a view to the revocation of this treaty, so that, at the termination of the war, any favoured nation treatment of Italy which involves Australia may not operate?
– I am not familiar with the present state of the matter. The possible future continuance of this treaty is a subject that has been under investigation by the Department of External Affairs. I shall discuss it with my colleague, the Minister for External Affairs, in order to decide whether I may make a precise statement about it next week.
– I ask the Minister for External Affairs: When will the appointment of Sir Frederick Eggleston as first Australian Minister to China be announced ? What is the reason for delaying the announcement, seeing that Cabinet made the appointment a week or more ago?Who is to be the Chinese Minister to Australia, and when is he expected to arrive in the Commonwealth ?
– The honorable gentleman has drawn somewhat on his imagination in order to mention a name in connexion with the appointment of an Australian Minister to China. The Prime Minister told the House a couple of days ago that a decision in the matter had been reached by the Government, and that, as a prerequisite to a public announcement, the name of the gentleman selected had been submitted to the Government of China for its approval. We have not yet been advised of any reciprocal appointment by China.
– I ask the AttorneyGeneral: Is it a fact that, as a result of the war, any person is free to use enemyowned Australian patents? If an invention’ has been patented by an enemy subject in Germany but not in Australia, is any person free to use such an invention in Australia?
– It is not a fact that, as a result of the war, any person is free to use enemy-owned patents in Australia; use without authority would lay the user open to legal proceedings for infringement of the patent. But, by section 6 of the Patents, Trade Marks, Designs and Copyright (War Powers) Act, the Commonwealth AttorneyGeneral is authorized, if he thinks that it is in the public interests so to do, to granta licence to any person to use such inventions. Licences in these terms have been issued in proper cases. In these circumstances, of course, enemy-owned patents may be used within the law. There is a number of German inventions which have not been patented. Particulars of these are available at the Patent Office.
– Yesterday, in answer to an interjection by the Assistant Minister (Mr. Collins), I commenced to say that I would be too frightened to enlist while the destinies of this country were controlledby the present Government. Before I could conclude my statement I was interrupted, with the result that some honorable members, and a section of the press, did. not hear the concluding portion of my remarks, which was lost in the uproar. Let me say, definitely, that if this country should ever be invaded I shall be found in the front line of those who are defending it, taking my chance, in common with my fellow-Australians, of surviving the conflict. I shall be prepared, if necessary, to shed my blood in the defence of a country which has given me, my wife, and my two children, birth and sustenance.
– I ask the Minister representing the PostmasterGeneral whether it is true, as a. press statement this morning declares, that one of the reasons for ceasing to publish the A. B.C. Weekly is a shortage of paper? I understood from a member of the Government last year that steps had been taken to procure sufficient supplies of paper to ensure the publication of this journal for a long time to come. Will the Minister produce next week a statement setting out what stocks of paper are held to-day by the Australian Broadcasting Commission, and what sales of paper have been made by that body to other institutions since the 1st July of last year?
– I have seen the press statement referred to. I shall be pleased to ask the Postmaster-General to give it his consideration, and make a reply.
– Is the Prime Minister aware that, during his absence, the Government was asked to give an undertaking that the House would hare an opportunity to discuss the proposal to discontinue the publication of the A.B.C. Weekly before any decision to close it was arrived at, and that the Acting Prime Minister (Mr. Fadden) replied that, subject to conditions, economic and otherwise, which might exist between then and the next meeting of the Parliament, the A.B.C. Weekly would be continued? If so, doeshe consider that it is fair and reasonable that action should have been taken to discontinue the publication without Parliament being given an opportunity to discuss the matter? What are the conditions, economic and otherwise, which have given rise to the decision to discontinue the publication of this journal without Parliament having discussed the matter? ‘ Will the Prime Minister provide an early opportunity for the House to discuss it, and will the publication of the journal be continued until that is done?
– Although the ques tion is addressed to the Prime Minister, it relates to a promise alleged to have been given by me. I did not understand that Parliament was to be given an opportunity to debate any proposal which the Government might put forward for the continuance or discontinuance of the A.B.C. Weekly. If I have misunderstood the position I express my regret. The Government, after full consideration, and after taking all factors into account, decided that publication should be discontinued. The reasons will be given at an appropriate time if honorable members so desire. I am convinced that, once honorable members are placed in possession of the facts, they will recognize that the Government did the right thing.
– I ask the Prime Minister whether it is a fact that the Government . intends to set up an authority similar to the Tariff Board, to deal with the continuance or otherwise of non-essential industries? If so, will the right honorable gentleman give the undertaking that this House will have an opportunity to discuss any of its decisions before they are put in operation, as it is now permitted to discuss the decisions of the Tariff Board? .
– The suggestion of the honorable member will be taken fully into consideration.
– I ask the Minister for the Army whether, under the National Emergency Regulations, members of Parliament throughout Australia are exempt from national defence service? If so, will the honorable gentleman consider the amendment of the relevant regulation, so that all members of Parliament will be eligible to serve, either in the Militia Forces in Australia or overseas?
– I cannot say offhand whether or not members of Parliament are in the exempt class. I see no reason why they should be.
Mr. HARRISON laid on the table the report and recommendations of the Tariff Board onthe following subject: -
Ordered to be printed.
Turkey and Germany - Britain and Turkey-Germanyand Russia- roumaniaandbessarabia.
-Can the Minister for External Affairs’ advise the House as to the effect which the pact of nonaggression and friendship signed at Ankara yesterday by Turkey and Germany will have upon the treaty formerly signed by Turkey and Great Britain? Is the honorable gentleman acquainted, through the agency of the British Foreign Office Intelligence Service, with the steps which led up to the signing of this pact? Has the British Foreign Office advised the Australian Government of the effect which the pact is likely to have on our forces which are fighting in Syria to-day, and ofthe degree to which it may assist the German movement of troops in that quarter?
– It is true that there has recently been concluded a non-aggression pact between Germany and Turkey. The central features of that treaty are that the contracting parties agree to respect each other’s integrity, and to exchange views and information regarding matters of common interest. It is equally true that the treaty in no way impinges on the contractual obligations of Turkey under its treaty with Great Britain. That was insisted upon by the Turkish Government, and has been specifically covered. Therefore, it is not anticipated that the completion of the treaty will interfere with the terms of the Anglo-Turkish treaty or of the undertakings which exist by reason of it.
– Has the Minister for External Affairs knowledge of any connexion between the negotiations between Turkey and Germany and between Britain and Turkey during the last six months, and the arrival in Britain of Rudolph Hess?
– The answer is in the negative.
– Has the Minister for External Affairs any information to give to the House regarding the press report this morning that Germany has attacked Russia?
– No. Inquiries made by me immediately before I entered the House this morning failed to provide any confirmation of the report, which apparently originated from unconfirmed broadcast statements in differentparts of the world.
– Can the Minister for External Affairs confirm the startling press statement that Roumania has entered Bessarabia?
– I thought that that was implicit in the answer given by me to a previous question. There is no confirmation of the report as to an ultimatum or an outbreak of hostilities in any of those fields.
Moratorium For Garage Proprietors
– Many garage proprietors, including returned soldiers of the last war, are faced with ruin because of petrol rationing. In view of the statement of the Prime Minister, that there must be equality of sacrifice in the promotion of the war effort, will the Government apply to these persons the provisions of a moratorium in relation to the rents that they have to pay to private landlords? Would it be possible to establish a tribunal for the readjustment of the rents of garages?
– The provisions of existing moratorium regulations are fairly wide; nevertheless, I shall have consideration given to the question raised by the honorable member.
– Next week Commonwealth and State Ministers will meet in Canberra. Owing to the serious inconvenience to those engaged in agricultural pursuits caused by the necessity to fill in numerous returns, and owing to the grave anomalies and. discrepancies brought about by the existing system under which Commonwealth,
State, and municipal authorities different methods of land valuation, will the Treasurer approach the States with a view to the establishment of one central land valuation office, whose valuations shall be made to apply to, and be accepted by, the Commonwealth, State, and municipal authorities for taxation and other purposes?
– I can assure the honorable member that, if sufficient time is left after debating the complex and aggravating subject of uniform taxation, I shall be pleased to bring before the conference the matter mentioned by the honorable gentleman.
– Can the Minister for the Army inform the House whether Lieutenant Packer, who is at present in camp at Puckapunyal, Victoria, is given special leave so that he can almost every night attend Menzies Hotel? Can the Minister also state whether Lieutenant Packer has special duties which take him to that quarter, and, if so, will he supply honorable members with any information he possesses as to the nature of such duties? Is Lieutenant Packer identical with the Mr. Packer who is connected with the Sydney Daily Telegraph? Has Lieutenant Packer had previously military experience, and, if not, can the Minister state the reasons why he has been given commissioned rank? Is it a fact that Lieutenant Packer has leased a considerable portion of the residential accommodation at the hotel at Broadford, and, if so, is this an indication that Lieutenant Packer does not expect, to be sent overseas? Finally, is it intended to change the name of the Puckapunyal camp to that of “ Packapunyal ‘’?
– Excluding the last question, I am able to inform the honorable member that Lieutenant Packer is attached to the armoured division, and gets no special consideration at all. Recently, he was at a newspaper proprietors’ conference regarding newsprint. An application was made that he should be given leave of absence for the period of two days, while the discussion on newsprint rationing took place. Apart from that, I am unaware of Lieutenant Packer having received any leave that has not been given to other officers. He is a member of the Australian Imperial Force, and, as far as I know, is a very good officer. He is connected with Consolidated Press Limited and expects to go overseas. Personally, I consider that he made a very big sacrifice when he enlisted.
SIR CLIVE McPHERSON.
– Can the Minister for Commerce inform the House what positions are held under the Department of Commerce by Sir Clive McPherson, and what is the remuneration received by him in respect of each position occupied by him ?
- Sir Clive McPherson is chairman . of the AustralianWheat Board, and also chairman of the Wheat Stabilization Board. Each of those positions carries a substantial salary, but Sir Clive has said that, for the duration of the war, he will not accept any payment at all in respect of them.
– Is the Minister for the Army now in a position to make a statement with regard to the procedure he intends to follow in connexion with the laying ofregulations upon the table of this House and the rightsof members in moving for their disallowance? All that I ask is that whatever procedure may be followed it shall, in the future, be applied commonly to all members. There should not be one interpretation for the benefit of the honorable member for Barton (Dr. Evatt) and another for me.
– The honorable member was good enough to indicate that he proposed to ask this question. As far as the Government is concerned, I am unaware of any differentiation between members in the interpretation placed on the Acts Interpretation Act. Section 48 of that act provides that if, after the expiration of fifteen sitting days, after notice of a motion for the disallowance of any regulation has been given in either House, “ in accordance with the last preceding sub-section” - those are the important words - the motion is not withdrawn or otherwise disposed of, the regulation shall be deemed to have been disallowed. The subsection referred to indicates that the motion must be one of which notice has been given at any time within fifteen days after regulations have been laid before the House. It seems, therefore, that, if a motion is to be in order under the section, it must be moved after the regulations have been laid on the table of the House. I am sure that that interpretation is supported by the Solicitor-General.
– I direct attention to a paragraph in to-day’s Sydney Morning Herald stating that contracts have been sighed by Australian firms for the supply of £1,000,000 worth of flannel and yarn, to India. In view of the fact that the Orange Knitting Mills have been closed down because of the refusal of the woollen mills at Alexandria to supply them with yarn, thusaggravating the economic disorganization in the country, will the Minister for Trade and Customs consider the advisability of prohibiting the export of yarn until supplies have been made available to Australian knitting mills?
– I shall be glad to have the matter referred to the Minister for Supply and a reply conveyed to the honorable member.
– Does the Prime Minister intend to ‘ move during the present sittings for the setting up of. a committee on taxation and prices, as was agreed to by the Government during the last sittings of Parliament?
– I indicated on Tuesday evening, during the course of my broadcast address, the nature of certain committees which the Government will ask the Parliament to set up, but the precise form that each committee should take is under consideration by the AdvisoryWar Council.
– Can the . Minister for Supply state when work will commence on the new small arms factory to be established at Welshpool, Western Australia ?
– I shall obtain the information andconvey it to the honorable member.
– Can the Treasurer state whether the Power Alcohol Committee’s report was furnished approximately two months ago? As the implementation of the committee’s recommendations is vital to thewar effort, when may the people expect the Government to act upon them, and when will copies of the report be made available to members of this House?
– The report of the committee will be presented to the House when it has received complete consideration by the Government. It is now before the Cabinet, but any reasonable honorable member will recognize that the Government has its time taken up at presentwith more urgent and important matters which must receive prior consideration. Action has already been taken to implement the recommendations of the committee, so far as immediate needs are concerned.. I refer to the utilization to the greatest possible extent of the available capacity for the immediate production of power alcohol. The major portion of the report deals with a long range policy, and this has been considered on the basis of collating information so that the recommendations may be given effect at the appropriate time when the Government has decided the methods to be adopted and the circumstances under which action shall be taken.
– Will the Prime Minister assist honorable members with regard to their private arrangements by indicating on which days next week and the following week the House is likely to sit?
– I propose to ask the House to sit next week on Tuesday, Wednesday and Thursday. Meetings of Commonwealth and State Ministers and of the Australian Agricultural Council will be held next Friday, and possibly on the following day. I suggest that in the following week the House might meet for four days.
– And the week after that?
-I cannot look so far ahead as that. It depends on the time occupied in the debates, including the debate on the motion of the honorable member for which I have promised an opportunity.
– Having regard to the inadequate allowances to dependants of members of the Australian Imperial Force serving overseas, will the Minister for Repatriation take steps to secure the appointment of a select committee to inquire into the many anomalies in the act with a view to their amendment?
– I shall discuss the matter with the Minister for Repatriation, and ask him whether he is prepared to bring the honorable member’s suggestion before Cabinet.
– Shortly after the outbreak of the present war, the Repatriation Act was amended to cover persons who served in this war, but because the word “ fishing “ was omitted from a certain section, the dependants of fishermen killed by enemy action are not entitled to repatriation benefits. The department has informed me that before they can be included an amendment of the act will be necessary. I ask the Prime Minister whether it will be possible to introduce a short amending bill during the present session to cover this point?
– I shall discuss the matter with the Minister for Repatriation.
– Is it a fact thata certain American engine was selected as the power unit for a kind of large tank which is to he manufactured in Australia for our armoured divisions? Is it a fact that 1,200 of these engines are now in transit to Australia? Is it true , that Mr. Hartnett, of General Motors-Holdens Limited and of the Directorate . of Supply, is the Australian agent for the firm which manufactures these engines in the United States of America? Has it now been decided that this particular kind of engine is unsuitable for the work for which it was ordered? If so, what does the Government propose to do with the 1,200 engines now in transit to this country?
– The honorable member’s information in regard to the ordering of these engines from the United States of America is correct, and they are intended for use in a certain kind of tank. The diesel engines to which the honorable member specifically referred are intended to be used in another kind of tank, which is the first to be constructed in Australia. The order for Cadillac engines was placed after full consultation with army experts, and the only consideration was to get the best engine for the job. Engines of all types were considered, as I am in a position to know from the information received from army technical advisers.
– The Minister has not answered my question. .
– Order !
– Can the Minister for the Navy state whether it is correct, as reported in the press to-day, that an enemy mine has been washed up on the coast of South Australia? If so) will the Minister give an assurance that minesweeping operations will be undertaken in that area ?
– I have not received such a report, though I have received reports in reference to mines swept up during the last fortnight. So far as I know, two mines have been washed up on different parts of the coast. Navalauthorities are of opinion that they are of the same clutch as that laid by an enemy vessel some time ago, one of which was responsible for damage to a coastal ship. Mine sweeping has been carried on fairly regularly. I understand that the waters to which the honorable member refers have been, and are being, swept, though I shall ascertain definitely whether or not this is so. If they are not being swept, I promise that they will be.
– Can the Minister for the Army explain the conflicting reports in this morning’s press concerning military operations in the vicinity of Solium, and along the Egyptian frontier? In these reports it is stated that our men have retired, and also that the operations have been successful, whilst, according to statements issued from Berlin, the Empire forces have suffered a reverse.
– It would be inadvisable for me to answer the honorable member’s question offhand. I shall go through the cables and, after discussion with the Prime Minister, make a statement later in the day.
– Certain members of the Australian Hide and Leather Board and of the Hides Appraisement Committee of New SouthWales are interested in large tanneries, and there is grave dissatisfaction in the tanning industry regarding the quantity and quality of the hides supplied. I have been told that in some instances tanners have to accept hides that are useless for their requirements, and that many of the best hides are being exported. “Will the Minister for Commerce take steps to have these organizations reconstructed by the appointment of independent men not directly connected with the industry?
– I repudiate the suggestion that the Hides and Leather Board is not one of the soundest and best in the country. It is truly representative of all interests that need to be represented, whilst its chairman is absolutely independent, being the secretary of the Department of Commerce. I shall consider any suggestions which the honorable member may put forward regarding the administration of the board.
– While the Government is on the economy hunt in regard to the use of newsprint, will the
Minister for the Army take steps to ensure that adequate supplies of paper are put aside for the preparation of necessary text-books, manuals and reports on fighting overseas? Will the Government seek to economize by. forbidding the issue of a lot of the useless stuff sent out by the Department of Information, much of it out of date, some of it uninformative, and more of it merely stupid?
– It seems to me that the Department of Information is doing a great deal of good work for which it is not given credit. As for military textbooks, it is only necessary to point out that newsprint will not be used in their preparation.
– Has the attention ofthe Minister for Customs been drawn to the enormous amount of space devoted by daily newspapers to advertisements? Before the Government imposes any further restrictions on the use of newsprint, will it take steps to regulate the proportions of space allotted in newspapers to news and advertisements?
– My attention has been drawn to the extraordinary amount of space devoted by newspapers to advertisements. Perhaps the most recent regulations in regard to the rationing of newsprint may do something to correct the existing position. However, I shall give consideration to the honorable member’s request.
Formal Motion for Adjournment
– I have received from the honorable member for East Sydney (Mr. Ward) an intimation that he desires to move the adjournment of the House for the purpose of discussing a definite matter of urgent public importance, namely, “ The industrial dispute existing at certain mines in New Guinea, and the lack of arbitration facilities to deal with industrial disputes in the Territory of New Guinea “.
Fine honorable members having risen in support of the motion,
.- I move -
That the House do now adjourn.
I have been, compelled to take this action by the failure of ibc Government, and particularly of the Minister in Charge of External Territories (Mr. Collins), to do anything to bring about a satisfactory settlement of the mining dispute in New Guinea, which has now been going on for three mouths. Before the mcn decided fo cease work, they asked for a round-table conference with the management of the mine, but the company refused to meet them. Therefore, they had no option but to leave their work in order to draw attention to their complaints. Men working in the “Territory of New Guinea are under the grave disability of having no direct representation, in this Parliament, and as a result New Guinea Goldfields Limited scorns to be of the opinion that it can impose upon them any conditions it likes. There is no arbitration system in New Guinea. But I understand that the conditions of employment are subject to agreement between the men and the employers. Thus, the men can be made to work under any conditions forced upon them by the management. When the men went on strike the general manager, a Mr. Kruttschnitt, demanded that they return to work as a precedent to consideration, of. their claims. The men, however, naturally enough, distrusted Mr. Kruttschnitt because he had failed previously to agree to a conference. The Commonwealth Government was then, asked to call a compulsory conference, but it refused; all that it did was to negotiate in some way with, tlie management, having little regard to the views of the men. The miners complain that they are required to work 4S hours a week underground and 56 hours on the surface with Sunday and overtime work paid for at ordinary rates, have no -day off and no paid holidays, that underground mining is done by the process of dry boring, which is injurious .to health, and that there is no pay for wet or hot places. About 120 men are involved in this dispute. The families of some are in Australia, and New Zealand, but others have established their homes in the territory. The mon were induced to go to New Guinea on an assurance that their conditions would at least be equivalent to those obtaining on Australian mine-fields, but they find that the conditions under which they -work are as I ha ve s. fa tod. The men’s requests are very moderate. They seek only a ‘44-hour week, ami an increase of pay from £1 os. to fi 10s. a shift, time and a half for overtime, pay for wet and hot places, one day oft’ a month, and abolition of dry boring. Those conditions have, operated in Australian mines for a great number of years. On the New Guinea gold-fields the cost of living is very high- as. everything has to be carried by air from Salamaua and Port Moresby. Furthermore, malaria, blackwater fever and Japanese fever cause a great deal of loss of time for which there is no compensation. One pound ten shillings a shift is poor compensation indeed for the enormous amount of time that the miners lose. Sometimes these illnesses arc fatal, but no compensation j.s payable to dependants. Lt will be seen therefore that the men have a just grievance. To go on strike was the only way in which they could direct attention to their complaints, because all their attempts to discuss them with .the company had. failed. Knowing that tlie Administration is sympathetic, the company has stopped the pay of the mcn, because it argues that the fares to New Guinea, which had been advanced to the men, have not been repaid. Amounts as high as £57 10s. owing to the men in wages have been retained. Moreover, the men whose families are living in the territory are housed on the company’s property and now the company has issued eviction orders against them. I understand that the cases will come before the court on Monday.
Another aspect of this matter is that white men avoid, as- much as they can the ‘ worst sections of the mines, but the kanakas are compelled to slay where they -are put or go to gaol.- Many kanakas have returned from the mines to the settlement heavily- infected with dust and in declining health. The company has no regard for their condition and pays no compensation. This company, if the names of the men in. control are a guide, would appear to be subject to foreign influence. I have already paid that the general manager’s name is Kruttschnitt He is the representative of the Mining Trust of London and of the American Steel Rolling Company. H« is married to one of the Guggenheimers, whoever they may be. The mine bos> is Klem Grosse. The white miners are demanding only white men’s conditions, but this Government has stood aside for three months while the dispute has gone on. I have had innumerable discussions with the Minister in Charge of External Territories and as the result I have sent many messages to the men which led them to believe that the Government intended to establish arbitration for them. Instead of that being done the Ministry has procrastinated, and many of the men have been compelled by starvation to return to work. Others have sought employment elsewhere, but the rest stand solid in demanding their rights. When I last spoke to the Minister about this matter, he admitted that the men had a just complaint and were entitled to ask for Australian conditions and that there could be no valid reason against extending the Australian arbitration system to the territory. But, he said, the strike had practically fizzled out and the men had. been compelled to go back to work. I remind the Minister that for three months those men lived under abominable conditions as the result of the action of the company. Some of them had to walk twelve miles over mountainous country in order . to get food. Their women and children were suffering. Now I find that the Government will confer with the directors of the company, one of whom is the Minister for the Interior (Senator Foll). The company argues that it cannot afford the conditions the men are demanding, but I noticed in the list of subscribers to the last war loan, a contribution of £10.000 by New Guinea Goldfields Limited. That contribution was made at the expense of the miners; it was money extracted from them by sweating. This Parliament has given to the Government unlimited powers, and it is a lasting disgrace that the Government should permit such conditions to operate in a territory which it controls. Members of this Parliament who know anything about mining - the honorable member for Hunter (Mr. James), for instance, who has had vast experience - are aware that the dry-boring process is dangerous. The men have asked for its abolition. Another complaint of the men is that the company flouts all safety regulations. Other members of the Opposition better acquainted with those regulations will deal with that aspect, but I can say that the company is seeking, regardless of the health and well-being of its employees, to extract as much .profit as is possible from its operations.
I anticipate the argument that the men refused arbitration. When the strike broke out the suggestion was made that the Chief Justice of the Supreme Court, who was then on circuit, might arbitrate in the dispute, but the men rejected the “proposal because they claimed that he had no industrial experience. They were’ ready and willing to accept arbitration by any man with experience and able to deal with the matter impartially. The mcn are still waiting to know whether the Government will establish arbitration for them. What is the reason for the delay? What was the need for the Government to discuss the matter with directors of the company ? Probably,, the company does not want arbitration, because, once arbitration is instituted in the territory to deal with this dispute, eventually not only will the white miners, as members of an organization, be able to claim decent rates of pay and conditions, but also the cheap kanaka labour may become organized, and want similar pay and conditions. There is no reasonable argument against the application of Australian conditions to a territory which Australia administers. Under present conditions, the mine management, a powerful and wealthy group, can close the mine and leave the men on the grass until they are starved into’ acceptance of whatever conditions are imposed. I urge the Government to delay no longer. The men have been three months on strike over very ordinary demands. The Government does not need even to use the National Security Act to deal with this situation. All that is necessary is an ordinance to establish arbitration. I hope that the matter having been ventilated in Parliament the men will be taken back to work next week under Australian conditions and rates of pay. Meanwhile the company should be ordered to withdraw the notices of eviction and to discontinue the court proceedings which are to open onMonday. Further delay in extending to Australians living in Australian territory Australian conditions of employment cannot be justified.
.- I wholeheartedly support the remarks of the honorable member for East Sydney (Mr. Ward). For some months, I have watched with misgiving the progress of this dispute in New Guinea, and have Been at a loss to understand why the reasonable requests of the miners have not been complied with. All they ask is that they be given an opportunity to submit their case to a properly-constituted tribunal. In his broadcast, address to the nation this week, the Prime Minister (Mr. Menzies) appealed to the nation to avoid stoppages of work and threatened to take disciplinary action against those who were responsible for strikes. Here is an opportunity for the right honorable gentleman to give effect to the industrial policy for which his Government alleges it stands, namely, conciliation and arbitration. The New Guinea miners are fully justified in taking drastic steps to draw attention to the wretched conditions of their employment. In spite of the repeated protests which they have made against the continuance of these wretched conditions, the Minister in charge of External Territories (Mr. Collins) has not lifted a finger in order to establish the requisite industrial machinery to deal with their grievances. I appeal to honorable members generally to support the honorable member forEast Sydney. If this motion be carried, it will serve as an instruction to the Government to set up immediately a properly constituted tribunal to hear the grievances of these men. The miners have repeatedly made an offer to the company to meet its representatives in conference with a view to bringing about a settlement of the dispute. They have given an undertaking to abide bythe decision of such a conference. The company, however, has refused their offer, and the men have been left with no alternative to a strike. They complain that underground workers are asked to work 48 hours a week under dangerous conditions. They say that no regulations have been issued governing ventilation of mines or the inspection of workings. In Australia, the maximum working week of underground miners is 40 hours, and adequate safeguards have been provided to protect the health of the miners as far as possible. According to information which I have received, surface miners in New Guinea are worked 56 hours a week. Further, underground dry boring, a process which is not permitted in any part of Australia, is customary in New Guinea. In these circumstances, surely honorable members generally will agree that the men have been justified in going to the extreme of striking in order to draw attention to their lot. By this morning’s mail I received from Western Australia the following copy of a resolution forwarded bythe miners in New Guinea to the Kalgoorlie miners’ organizations asking for their assistance in having the matter ventilated in the National Parliament : -
Weare desirous of immediate settlement of the dispute between New G uinea Gold fields Limited and its employees bylegislative action.The strike is now three months in progress, and no settlement is in view. We are faced with eviction orders by New Guinea Goldfields Limited.
I appeal to the Minister and to honorable members generally to support the temperate requests made by the honorable member for East Sydney. I earnestly trust that a definite assurance will be given to this Parliament to-day that the necessary machinery will be immediately set in motion to enable the miners to place their grievances before a properly-constituted tribunal. As a first step in the settlement of this dispute, the Minister should exercise his power to issue an instruction for the withdrawal of the eviction orders. Let the Government demonstrate in this matter that it adheres to its avowed policy of conciliation and arbitration as a means of settling industrial disputes.
.- I sincerely trust that the Minister will give a satisfactory reply to the very good case made out, by the honorable member for East Sydney (Mr. Ward), which was strengthened by the remarks of the honorablemember for Kalgoorlie (Mr.
Johnson), who is ‘thoroughly conversant with mining conditions in Australia. I have a very large gold and copper mine in my own electorate at Mou iri Morgan, where some 1,200. men are employed, . The miners at . Mount Morgan work under more favorable climatic conditions .than . obtain. in New Guinea, but I am sure that they ..would not tolerate, for 24 hours the .conditions under which -the miners in the mandated territory are expected to work. ‘ I am amazed that this dispute has been .allowed to go on for upwards of three months without, any attempt being made by the Government to bring the parties together in conference. According to the file of papers dealing with this dispute which 1 Iia ye seen,, the Loader of the Opposition (Mr. Curtin) has made representations to the Government in regard to this matter. Courteous replies have been furnished to him stating that consideration would be given to this or that aspect of the matter; but nothing further has been done. I understand that the Administrator of New Guinea went to the gold-fields and met representatives of both parties, but that he returned to Rabaul without having arrived at a satisfactory, settlement of the dispute. Before the men decided to strike they asked the management to arrange for a conference representative of both parties to the dispute; but the management refused the request. The miners had no choice hut to strike. A full statement of their case has been set out in a memorandum prepared by the secretary, of the Australian Labour party at Wau. According to the memorandum, the only claim the miners insist upon before they return to work is the payment of fi 10s. a shift. They argue that they are entitled to an increase. of pay because of the unsafe condition of the mine. Their claims are fortified by the evidence tendered at an inquest held recently to inquire info the deaths of two miners at Edie Greek. The evidence showed clearly that the miners were asked 1o work under conditions that would not be tolerated in any Australian mine. The Minister has an obligation to the House to explain why the Government did not take seine definite action to set up the necessary industrial machinery in order to enable this stoppage to be settled long before this. It is deplorable that on Monday next the mine-owners are to take steps to have evicted from their humble little shacks in the vicinity of the mine men who. are fighting for only a fair deal. One is -amazed to- read of the conditions under which these men are asked to work. Underground miners in New > Guinea work a 48-hour week, whereas in Australia under more favorable climatic conditions, the hours of labour for underground miners are limited to 40 a week, in addition, the men claim that they are paid for Sundays and overtime at the ordinary rate, and that Sunday work underground is prevalent. They say, further, that’ they never get a day off, that they are worked on. public holidays, that underground dry boring is the rule, and that surface workers have to work 56 hours a week. These conditions would not be tolerated anywhere in Australia or New Zealand. Those of us who represent mining districts know full well that, even after- the elimination of dry boring in Australia, miners’ phthisis in the industry was so extensive as to give cause for alarm. If dry boring is allowed to continue in New Guinea that complaint will become more prevalent there. Why has no regulation been gazetted to force the wealthy shareholders of New Guinea Goldfields Limited, who are known to have made a fortune out of this mine, to observe conditions that would enable the workers to carry on their ‘ occupations with some reasonable chance of avoiding that dreadful disease! The miners complain that no concessions are allowed for work in wet places or for hot ends in the mine, and that malaria., blackwater fever and Japanese river fever are prevalent and cause loss of time for which they receive no compensation. They say further that the cost of living is extremely high. At first sight fi 10s. a day may appear a big wage. A resident of Aus- tralia receiving a wage of fi 10s. a day would be able to live in a fair measure of comfort, but when considering what is fair remuneration for workers on the New Guinea gold-fields we must have regard to the different conditions there. For instance the cost of living is very high. Everything has to be flown to Wau from Salamaua or Port Moresby. Heavy costs are entailed in travelling to and from the Territory. Any man who goes to New Guinea knows full well that he will not be able to continue to work there year in and year out; he knows that he will have to, get away for a lengthy holiday at least once a year, if possible. Unfortunately, the wages paid to these men do not permit them to enjoy periodical holidays in Australia. I understand that many of the miners have their wives and families in Australia or New Zealand. After keeping themselves they have not sufficient money left from their wages to keep their families in Australia or New Zealand in a reasonable degree of comfort. They demand an increase of pay of 5s. a day; a 44-hour week; time and a half for overtime and Sundays; pay for wet places;” one day a month holiday pay; and the abolition of dry boring. The Minister should take advantage of the extraordinary powers possessed by the Government under the NationalSecurity Act to establish at once a tribunal to consider the claims of these men.
Mr.Collins. - That is under consideration.
– I do not think that that needs more than five minutes’ consideration. Such a tribunal should have been set up three months ago, and the company should have been forced to appear before it. The men have already expressed their willingness to submit their claims to a conference representative of both parties, but the company said, “We will not meet you in conference until you go back to work”. The company said that it would call a conference when the men returned to work. But before the men went on strike they asked for a conference and their request was refused. The dictatorial attitude of this company is similar to that which was adopted in the past by gold-mining companies as a whole in Australiauntil the men were able to organize themselves and became strong enough to demand better conditions, and the settlement of disputes by impartial tribunals. We are now told that this matter is under consideration. Meanwhile, these men are being branded as extremists and agitators, and one newspaper has referred to them as Communists, because they are standing up for their rights. These miners are typical of the best elements in the industrial movement in Australia. Many of them are natives of Australia, and their wives and families live here. The delay of three months which has already occurred is another instance of the procrastination that characterizes this Government. I have no doubt that if some wealthy shipping company, or other private concern, approached the Governmentwith a grievance, the matter would be immediately and favorably attended to. Action would not be delayed for even three days. These men should not now be asked to wait until a tribunal is appointed. They have not been given justice in this matter. For that reason, honorable members on this side wholeheartedly support the motion; and if further delay be not averted, the Opposition will consider taking further action in the matter.
– The matter raised by the honorable member for East Sydney (Mr. Ward) is most important. I do not propose to speak upon the merits of the miners’ complaint; but I support the proposal that a tribunal be set up in order to let the men know that their claims will receive just consideration. The party to which I belong has always stood for arbitration, and I now urge that that policy be extended to the Territory of New Guinea. I have visited the gold- fields in New Guinea on three occasions, and I imagine that since my last visit they have been greatly extended.
– They did not have tribunals in New Guinea then.
– Neither did tribunals exist there during theregime of the Scullin Government. However, I am not finding fault with the Scullin Government on that point, any more than I blame myself for having failed to provide tribunals when I was Minister in charge of the territories.
– My Government was not asked to set up tribunals; if it had been it would not have delayed for three months in attending to the matter.
– I am not accusing the right honorable gentleman; but neither was I asked to set upthese tribunals when I was the Minister in control of territories. On the only occasion that trouble arose on the gold-fields in New Guinea while I was Minister, I immediately invoked the aid of the Labour Government then in office in Queensland, and it graciously despatched Mr. MacGregor to the fields to inquire into the trouble. I should support a similar course being followed at this moment. As there is only one company in New Guinea, we should not, perhaps, be justified in setting up an arbitration court in that territory. At the same time, however, no reason exists why we should not provide a tribunal for New Guinea along the lines of those provided in the Australian Capital Territory and the Northern Territory. My association as a Minister with the miners in New Guinea was a happy one. The Administrator had the miners’ wholehearted support, and at no time received from them an unreasonable demand. Indeed, when I set up the Legislative Council in New Guinea. I was of opinion that many matters of this kind would be brought before that body, and, for that reason, I was careful to provide that the president of the Miners Federation should be a member of the Legislative Council. I found the gentleman who occupied the position at that time to be a very reasonable man, as, indeed, were all of the members of the executive of his organization. I deplore the fact that any delay at. all has been incurred in dealing with this dispute. It should have been settled immediately.I do not propose to discuss conditions of work on the fields in New Guinea, but generally they must be worse than conditions under which miners work in Australia.
Mr.Forde. - The honorable member does not approve of the eviction of these miners from their shacks?
– No. They are a long way from their homes, and for that reason alone, they deserve much more sympathetic consideration than would ordinarily be given to them were they working in Australia. This dispute emphasizes the need for this Parliament to exercise greater control over the affairs of our territories. The Administrators of the territories hold certain powers, and from time to time those powers are extended. I believe that they show a tendency to take too much power to themselves. When the Administrator visited these fields, and failed to bring about a settlement of this dispute, he should have immediately set up a tribunal to deal with the matter. He had power to do so. He could have appointed a magistrate to consider the matter, or could have referred it to a warden’s court. Since the Assistant Minister (Mr. Collins) has teen administering the territories I have found him to be most sympathetic. I was very glad to read in the press recently that he intended to visit New Guinea in order to investigate affairs personally. I suggest to him that even if this House is discussing important matters, he should not postpone such a visit. I am not asking him to act as an arbitrator in industrial disputes; but he could immediately set up a tribunal along the lines of the coal tribunals to deal with this dispute. I again urge the Government to give to the men, immediately, an opportunity to place their grievances before a tribunal.
– I support the motion. I endorse all that the honorable member for East Sydney (Mr. Ward) has said, and I do not intend to reiterate his remarks. I emphasize, however, that this matter involves more than the setting up of tribunals. Over a long period I have criticized the administration of the Territory of New Guinea. On one occasion., I ventilated in this House a case in which a man who flogged a native to death was sentenced to only ten years, and was released at the end of three years. The coroner who inquired into the deaths of the two men, Cooper and. Creevey, who were killed at the Edie Creek mine, made some startling comments about breaches of regulations on the part of the management of the mine. I urge honorable members to read the report of the inquest, which was published in the Morobe News of the 29 th March. The fact was disclosed that the man who was committed for trial in this case had been engaged for as long as fourteen hours a day on a winding-engine. Such work calls for the highest skill, and the greatest possible alertness at all times. I urge the appointment of a tribunal composed of representatives of both sides to settle this dispute. But the Government must go further than that. It should ask Parliament to appoint a select committee, representative of all parties, to investigate the administration .of the Territory of New Guinea. Certain matters which I have raised in this House from time to time force me. to the conclusion that the unfortunate natives have very little protection. I revealed how recruiting officers visited native villages to secure labour for mines and plantations prior to bringing them to centres, where they were offered for sale at prices fixed in accordance with their physical fitness. We claim that slavery has been abolished throughout the British Empire.; yet slavery is rampant in New Guinea, not only in the mines, but also on the plantations. In the case to which I have just referred, the native was flogged and thrown into a compound, where he was left helpless. His body became fly-blown, and he died. The offender flogged the native- until he himself became exhausted. He then commanded other natives to continue the flogging, and when they became tired, he resumed the flogging. The man was sentenced to ten years’ imprisonment, and, as I have pointed out, he was released at the end of three years. Contrast that sentence with the sentence of five years
Which was imposed upon a native who was found guilty of stealing two bottles of beer. That native was obliged to serve the whole of his sentence. I intend later to move for the appointment of a select committee to inquire into the administration of the Territory of New Guinea. For that reason, I again ask honorable members to read the report in the Morobe News to which I have referred. I have always urged the provision of safety measures in mines. A regulation in New Guinea provides that managers must be certificated: In this case, however, it was disclosed that the youth who managed the mine did not possess a certificate. The miners also ask for the same right3 of inspection as exist in the coal-mining industry in all parts of Australia. Under this system, a .man known as a check inspector goes about with the Government inspector, and if the men say that a place is unsafe they have the right to call him in. to make an inspection. That is a fair and reasonable request. They ask further that overtime work be paid for at tlie rate of time and a half. Where is there an industry in Australia in which overtime work is not paid for at that in tei Another request is for a 44-hour working week. Why should not .that be granted? The miners’ of this country- have it. Every one must admit that the men in New Guinea have to work in an atmosphere charged with all sorts of gases, and dust that practically eats away their lungs. The health of every goldminer is virtually exhausted after ten years of work in the industry. Honorable members can find comparatively young men at Kalgoorlie who to-day are absolutely done for physically. Are we expected to tolerate kanaka conditions for white men in this territory that we are supposed to administer under a mandate from the League of Nations? The nien have asked for holiday pay for one month in every year. That was granted recently to coal-miners in Australia. I shall bc honest- in this matter. Metalliferous mining is far more injurious to the health of miners than coal-mining. Yet the men in coal-mines suffer greatly from diseases of the lungs. I myself have been affected; after thirteen years outside of coal-mines I still spit coal dust from my lungs. I plead with the Government to settle this trouble in New Guinea immediately. I have taken part in inquiries by safety commissions, and I understand the problems of the -mining industry as seen from the points of view of the workers and the employers. I ash that a committee of inquiry be appointed for the purpose of arbitrating in- thi, dispute and. reviewing the mining regulations in New Guinea. The men. did everything humanly possible before they stopped work. They asked for a conference with the owners, and when that request failed they asked for a conference with the Administrator of the Territory iri an endeavour to obtain help from him. But the company said that the miners must accept the conditions imposed upon them, or the mines would be closed down. This company is holding large areas of gold-bearing country that are not being worked at the present time. At one time they were worked by miners who took up. leases, bu t somehow or other the com pony managed to buy .all of the leases, and to-day the men, who could have made a living by -washing for gold and obtaining perhaps 100 ozs. a month, are not permitted to do so. At least- they could have “worked in a clear atmosphere above ground, if the company, had not bought up the. leases. ‘.The Golden Ridges and Edie Creek mines ceased work merely because the managements refused to confer with the men, who asked for ibc establishment of some system of arbitration. The flagrant flouting of the mining regulations mentioned by the coroner in the case to. which I referred earlier is something which no Government should tolerate. If a regulation is broken in an Australian mine, the management responsible is immediately taken before a court. If a worker infringes a regulation he also is taken before a court without delay. In Australia it. is provided definitely that engine-drivers, particularly drivers of winding-engines, should not work more than eight hours a shift. Yet on the day when those two men were killed in New Guinea, Price was working fourteen hours a day. That was stated in the evidence. I hope that the Government will appoint a select committee to investigate the entire administration of New Guinea, where slavery is still practised.
.- I a.m amazed at the silence of the Assistant “Minister (Mr. Collins). Why have we not heard from him? A very simple request has been made by the honorable member for East Sydney (Mr. Ward), and it has been supported by many honorable members, including an important follower of the Government and exMinister of the Crown, the honorable member for Parkes (Sir Charles Marr). The Minister has been asked to -create machinery whereby this dispute in the gold-mining industry in New Guinea can be settled, but he sits at the table as dumb as an oyster. Speeches which have been made in this debate warrant an immediate reply from the honorable gentleman. Does he want all honorable members to make their speeches before he addresses the House, so that nobody will be left to criticize his remarks? If that be so, he is not acting fairly to the House. I ask the Minister to tell us, without delay, what he proposes to do. I shall not discuss in detail the rights and wrongs of this case, because they have been well ventilated, and the wrongs are so patent that it would be only a waste of time to expound them further. Is the Minister in favour of arbitration?
– Then why does the honorable gentleman not establish arbitration machinery? Is he in favour of the gold-mining company carrying on the- old traditional system of mining for profit that so .often brought tragedy to Great Britain and Europe? I refer to the method of dumping little homes on the properties of the mine-owners so as to give them the power to dictate slave COll:ditions to the workers. Why does the honorable gentleman not do something to stop this practice in New Guinea? He only needs- to rise and &ay that he will issue instructions immediately that the request made by the honorable member for East Sydney be put into effect, and there will be no more talk about this matter. The House will then be able to turn its attention to other important business of the nation. All that the honorable member for East Sydney wants i3 an undertaking that the eviction proceedings in New Guinea will be stopped at once, that the Minister will cable a direction that every action .contemplated by the owners against the men shall be suspended, and that the miners’ case shall be heard immediately. Does the “Government support dry boring”?
– No; dry boring is not practised in New Guinea.
– Dry boring has filled sanatoriums in this country with men expectorating their lungs away. It is not supported in any civilized country to-day. By permitting the practice in New Guinea., the Government is failing to justify the mandate which Australia holds over that territory, and it ought to be cited before the League of Nations that, gave the mandate.
– Dry boring has never operated in New Guinea.
– I say that it is going on there. It is prohibited by law in practically every civilized country in the world. We have evidence of its effect from the early days of rock, chopping, in our cities and metalliferous mining all over Australia. I ask the Minister whether he is in favour of arbitration or whether he supports the barbarous system of the mining company being allowed to build a few ramshackle houses on its own property and house its workers in them, so that it can threaten to evict the men and their families, as was done in Great Britain thousands of times in order to break strikes? Does the honorable gentleman want to perpetuate that system in a country over which Australia has a mandate? I say that the Government has broken the terms of the mandate, and it should be made to answer before the appropriate international court, if that court still exists. Is the honorable gentleman in favour of dry boring, which destroys miners with silicosis, miners’ phthisis and other afflictions? Is he in favour of companies being allowed to retain power to starve their employees into submission? I believe that the honorable gentleman is not in favour of any of these injustices, and that he will answer my questions satisfactorily. But he can prove his sincerity only by doing immediately what the honorable member for East Sydney has asked him to do.
– I delayed making a reply to the honorable member for East Sydney (Mr. Ward) so that every honorable member might state his views on this matter. The honorable member for East Sydney brought it to my notice some time ago, and I have discussed it with him.
– The honorable gentleman has also received correspondence on the subject from me.
– Yes, and I have replied to that correspondence. There has been some delay in obtaining from New Guinea the full information which was required by the Government. It could not be obtained merely by making a telephone call. I have discussed the matter with members of the company concerned. I do not want honorable members to think thatI am defending the company. I shall state the case in my capacity as Minister in charge of External Territories, and I shall deal with the aspect of the matter that has been placed before me. I have told the honorable member for East Sydney that the conditions of labour in the mines in New Guinea appear to me to be unreasonable.I repeat that. From what I have learned of them I consider that they are intolerable.
Mr.Riordan. - Thenwhy has the honorable gentleman waited threes months?
– The Government is guided by the administration of the territory. I have made inquiries in connection with this case, and the Government has been waiting to see whether the matter could be settled in New Guinea. I shall give the House the story as I have it before me. In reply to the honorable member for Werriwa (Mr. Lazzarini) I say that I am definitely in favour of arbitration, and that I favour decent and wholesome housing and living conditions for the miners. In every sphere of labour the working men must be given decent living conditions or they cannot provide the maximum of service which is sought from them. I have been Minister in charge of External Territories only for a short time, but I shall do my best to discharge my duties in this office favorably to all.
New Guinea Goldfields Limited conducts mining operations on Upper Ridges, Anderson’s Creek and Edie Creek in the Morobe District of the Territory of New Guinea. On the 13th March, 1941, the miners at Upper Ridges and Anderson’s Creek ceased work, and on the 17th March the miners at Edie Creek joined the others on strike. Negotiations were conducted between representatives of the miners and the chairman of directors and other officers of the company who, on the 26th March, submitted the following basis for settlement of the dispute: - First, a simultaneous resumption of work and a conference between the management and delegates; secondly, the general manager undertook to rectify immediately any causes of discontent that could be dealt with promptly; thirdly, the general manager stated that any increase of wages would require the approval of the board of directors, but he undertook to make any increase or improvement of conditions generally retrospective to the date of resumption. On the 26th March, representatives of the company declared that no communication of any sort, setting out the grievances of the miners or the reasons for the strike or their claims, had been submitted to the management of the company.
In view of the development of the dispute, the Administrator of New Guinea on the 29-th March intimated to the representatives of the miners and the company that he was proceeding to Wau. He asked that no action should be taken by either party that would be likely to protract or extend the dispute until he had had an opportunity to discuss the matter with both parties.
Accompanied by the Secretary for Mines, the Administrator arrived at Wau on the morning of the 1st April. He ascertained -that at a meeting of the miners at Edie Creek on the 30th March, alluvial miners had been declared “ black “ and that they had come out on strike at noon on Monday, the 31st March. It was stated that it had been arranged that the safety men were to stay on the job from 24 to 36 ‘hours after tlie Administrator’s arrival. The Administrator remained on the gold-fields until the 3rd’ April, using every endeavour to effect a settlement; but he reported on that day that all efforts had ended in a deadlock. The company had demanded a resumption, of work before a conference ; the miners required the conference prior to a resumption ; and neither party would budge.
On the afternoon of the 3rd April the safety nien were withdrawn from the mine. When at Wau, the Administrator offered every facility* for handling the dispute by voluntary arbitration. -He suggested that both parties should submit the matter under dispute to arbitration, and stated that he would ask the Acting Chief Judge of the Territory, who was due at Wau the next day for sittings of the Supreme Court, to act as arbitrator; or if the men preferred a board, it should consist of three members, one nominated by each party with the Acting Chief Judge as chairman. This suggestion was considered by the miners, who returned to the Administrator the following resolution : -
That arbitration will not bc acceptable. We desire the Administration and judicial powers to do all they can to arrange a conference.
The principal claim of the miners was for an- increase of wages from 25s. to 30s. a shift. Claims were also made for a 44-hour week instead of a 48-hour week, payment for overtime at time and a half, wet pay and one day a month holiday pay, and the abolition of dry boring. Statements were also made as to the inadequacy of the safety conditions at the mines. Requests- were made by the men and by the Australian Labour party at Wau on their behalf that the Government should arrange a Compulsory conference and that industrial legislation should be introduced to the territory. There is no such legislation in the territory at present, but there is a comprehensive piece of legislation known as tlie Mines and Works Regulations Ordinance 1935-1936 which regulates mining operations and contains provisions ki relation to conditions of employment, safe working, accidents, &c.
Regarding statements that have been made about the existence of dry boring, I have received a report from the -warden of the gold-fields as follows:- <
I have ascertained from Inspector of Mines, and also from general manager of New Guinea Goldfields Limited that water i3 laid on to every mine and the pipes are fixed as near as possible to every working face so that if water is not used during boring operations, it is not due to lack of facilities. The inspector informs mo that he has not since J 1)37, received a complaint from any employee to tlie effect’ that dry boring was proceeding in any location. The practice underground is that each underground miner has two or three groups of natives working under his supervision and. these natives in fact do all boring necessary. You are referred to -section 37 of Mines and Works Regulations Ordinance 1035-1931! wherein it is specfinally laid down that it is the underground miner’s responsibility to ensure that the natives under his supervision, do nothing to contravene the provisions of tlie said ordinance or the regulations thereunder. Regulation 35, under the said ordinance, makes it clear that when rock drills are being used there shall at all times be used such jets or sprays of water as will effectually keep the air free from, and prevent the accumulation of dust. This, I think, is sufficient to dismiss tlie striker’s complaint re dry boring practice.
– I understood the Minister to say that this was an impartial statement.
– I remind the honorable member for Dalley that the word3 were . contained in a report from the Mining Warden. The report continued -
The inspector has never, at any time, found it necessary to make any test for the purpose .of ascertaining the quantity of dust present in the air in working places of any of the company’s mines. On the contrary, he reports the ventilation inall mines as being normally good, in fact, surprisingly so. In certain locations fans have been installed for the purpose of circulating air, where necessary, as a temporary measure.
After the conference with the Administrator on the 2nd April, no further communication was received by the company from the strike committee, and, on the 9th April, the company advised by notice thai the underground operations were being indefinitely suspended. About 100 men were involved in the strike. On the 5th May, a number of the men commenced work at. Edie Creek; all were engaged on special safety work. On the 3rd June, the Administrator reported that 32 employees were working, seven applications for work had been received, three men were working elsewhere, and 30 had left the district. The Administrator advised also that 22 miners had not, up to that time, applied for work. They had received notice from the company to quit the houses which they occupied at Golden Ridges, and light and power had been cut off from those dwellings.
– They werenot prepared to “scab”.
– Of course, they were not! If they wished to strike, that was their business entirely. I am not blaming the men, and I am not attempting to defend the company. As the honorable member for East Sydney has deeply interested himself in the matter, and the Leader of the Opposition (Mr. Curtin) and the Deputy Leader of the Opposition (Mr. Forde) have written to me on the subject, I am placing before the House impartially all the information in my possession.
On the 5th June, I received the following telegram from one of the men who had been on strike: -
Majority of employees of New Guinea Goldfields now on field has resumed work. Negotiations with management for improved conditions proceeding. This majority dissociates itself from minority.
One phase of this dispute to which I direct the special attention of honorable members is the withdrawal of safety men on the 3rd April. Such a procedure is not adopted in any section of the mining industry in Australia on the occasion of the cessation of work.
This action caused a division amongst the strikers and, toa large extent, has influenced the majority of the men to decide to return to work.
– That is not true. The men were driven back to work by starvation.
– I remind the honorable member that there are two sides to every question. It. will be seen from this statement of the course of the strike that the absence of statutory provision for compulsory arbitration has not been a barrier to a settlement. The management of the company has, since the first day of the strike, expressed its willingness to meet the men in conference, provided they returned to work, and the Administrator has stated that he would facilitate a. conference and would assist such a discussion by all means possible, including the provision of the services of the Acting Chief Judge as chairman of voluntary arbitration. A few days after the commencement of the dispute, the representatives of the men were advised by the company that if they resumed work on the old basis, any new benefits resulting from a conference would be retrospective to the date of resumption.
Since the 5th May, 1941, the men have been returning to work; but one unfortunate result of the action in withdrawing the safety men is that, until certain damage is repaired, the company will be unable to absorb immediately all the men who want to resume. The mines must first.be placed in a safe condition. The company has intimated to me that immediately the men are ready to do so, the company will meet in conference representatives of the miners who have resumed work for the purpose of discussing terms and conditions of employment.
– The company refused the men’s request for a conference before the strike occurred.
– The company declares that the men went on strike without giving any notification of their grievances. I am merely reading information which has been supplied to me. The question of introducing industrial legislation for the territory is being considered with a view to determining whether any form of such legislation, in conjunction with the existing provisions relating to the control of mining operations, is necessary, having regard to the stage of development of the territory, its industries and the large number of natives employed in such industries. The Legislative Council of the territory discussed this matter very fully, and when the position was explained by the Chief Law Officer, members unanimously agreed that, at the present stage of territorial development, such a procedure was unwise. I do not agree with that view.
– Among the members of the Legislative Council is a miners’ representative. Did he agree with that decision ?
– I was not aware until now that there is a miners’ representative on the Legislative Council. I asked the company to submit to me a statement setting out what it was prepared to do, and I discussed the question of a settlement. I prepared the following suggestions for submission to the company as a basis of settlement: the company to grant a 44-hour working week, and pay overtime at the rate of time and a half; the men to return to work when the conditions mentioned are granted ; the conditions in the industry to be examined by an industrial magistrate, preferably one who has had experience of mining conditions in northern Queensland; and the company and the miners to agree to abide by the determination of such magistrate. If necessary, the determination could be expressed in an ordinance of the territory.
-so that is the kind of action that the Minister proposes to take.
– Those are my suggestions. I am an employer of labour, and I grant to my men decent conditions.
– What action will the Minister take if the company does not agree to the conditions?
– That matter would have to be discussed with the Prime Minister, but appropriate action would be. taken. I propose to read a letter addressed to. Mr. H. J. Hawkins, secretary, Amalgamated Society of Carpenters and Joiners of Australia, 96 James-street, Toowoomba, by the general Manager of New Guinea Gold-fields Limited, Mr. Kruttschnitt. It is-
Iam in receipt ofcopy of your letter of 13th May to theHonorableA. W.Fadden, Acting Prime Minister, also copy of letter to you of 27th May from the HonorableT. J. Collins, and copy of letter addressed to you by Mr. J.Farram, the secretary of this company, all in connexion with appeals being made to you from New Guinea, in connexion with a strike which started in March. I understand that the self-appointed strike committee has been soliciting assistance from various unions and associations in Australia, and that apparently material support has been given them without any questions having been asked concerning the employer’s side of the question. Iam pleased therefore to be able to give you the following factsrelating to the unfortunate industrial situation which has arisen in New Guinea in connexion with our underground operations : -
The fact that this strike was called before any grievances had been presented to the management and that safety men were withdrawn, are violations of the usual Australian practice in the handling of industrial disputes, which the company views most seriously. Our general manager’s office has always been open to employees, and we are at a loss to under- stand why the strike was called before any attempt was made to present the issues or grievances to the management in an orderly manlier. The only explanation available at the moment is found in some evidence that the strike was instigated and encouraged by influences outside of the company.
The company has at all times attempted to maintain a cordial relationship with its employees and to meet their demands for better working conditions, in so far as it could afford to meet them, and in this respect ourpublished statements show that underground mining in Morobe gold-fields of New Guinea is marginal in character and generally unprofitable.
A number of our employees have returned to work, and advice received by me fromthe general manager, dated 23rd May, shows that 33 men who were on strike are now working, and that sixteen additional employees have applied for reinstatement. Twenty-seven have left the territory, four working elsewhere and 23 arestill on strike.
A notice recently sent to the local secretary of the A.W.U. at Mount Isa by the selfappointed strike committee stated, among other things, that dry boring was the practice at New Guinea Gold-fields mining operations. For your information, all of our machines are wet machines, and furthermoreit would be a violation of the Mines and Works Regulations of the New Guinea Administration, and of our own underground rules, to carry out dry boring.
Grievances of employees in connexion with working conditions are often times real and justified, and I feel, in this instance, that some of the points raised, not before but after the strike, could have been adjusted in a satisfactory manner.
In view of the fact that, as already stated, this strike was called without any representations having been made to the management, that safety men were withdrawn, and that the Administrator’s offer of arbitration was flatly refused contrary to principles adhered to by Queensland unions. I have decided to send a copy of this letter to the general secretaries of the A.W.U… the A.E.U. and A.S. of C.& J. [Leave to continue given.]
– I asked the company to give me a copy of it. I desired to know all the facts concerning the dispute. It was hoped, of course, by the Administrator andalso by the Government, as each day went by, that a settlement would be reached, but unfortunately our hopes were not, realized.
– It was hoped to starve the men into submission!
– Not at all. It was hoped that an agreement would be reached between the company and the miners.
Mr.Rosevear. - Has the Minister any statement of the men’s views?
– I have not, at the moment, although I believe that a circular letter was issued by the chairman and secretary of the men’s organization.
Mr.clark. - How did the Minister know of the existence of the letter which he has just read?
– I asked the company to let me have all the information available concerning the dispute, and that letter was forwarded to me.
I have now been handed a. copy of the circular letter prepared by the men’s organization. It reads -
C/oPost Office, Wau,
Territory of New Guinea
Trades and Labour Council,
We, the. workers employed by New Guinea Goldfields Ltd., Wau, appeal to your organization for financial and moral support in our present struggle for an improvement in our wages and conditions.
Hitherto there has been no industrial organization in this Territory and wewere given to understand that any working-class organization in the Mandated Territory of New Guinea was illegal. We are now in possession of sufficient information to convince us that we have the power to organize and by our present action (five weeks on strike) show our determination to form an industrial organization that will improve our living conditions here.
Such conditions as were won by Australian and New Zealand workers thirty to forty years ago form the basis of our present demands.
Conditions here are forty-eight hours underground, Sunday and overtime at ordinary rates (Sunday work underground prevalent)-, fifty-six hours minimum on surface work, no day off, no paid holidays. Underground dryboring is the rule, which would not be tolerated anywhere in Australia and New Zealand; no concessions are allowed for wet places or hot ends; malaria, blackwater and Japanese river fevers cause great loss of time without compensation and are often fatal ; the cost of living is very high, everything being flown in from Salamaua or Port Moresby, also’ the heavy cost of travelling to and from the Territory are some of the things we have to contend with.
The company has now closed all messes and stopped all transport and most telephonic communication. Men must batch, and travel (in some cases) twelve miles of mountain road to get food. The company have confiscated our wages and debited our accounts with as much as £57 10s. fares to and from the Territory. About 50 per cent. of the men have dependents either on the field or in Australia or New Zealand, and about one hundred and twenty men (apart from women and children) are affected. Credits with the local storekeepers are being overtaxed and many of us are destitute, as we have been without pay since the month of February.Some desperate cases are now appearingamong us.
Although there is no sign of a settlement we are determined to carry thefight to a satisfactory conclusion. We have the full support of the executive of the official LabourParty,
Wau branch, which has been a source of strength in bringing our dispute before the Federal Government. Most of us have been active in Australian and New Zealand trade unions and many are still financial members.
Our demands are: Increase of 5s. per day, a forty-four-hour week, time and half for overtime, wet pay, one day per month holiday pay and abolition of dry-boring.
We would appreciate your support in our struggle for improved wages and conditions and to found an industrial organization in the Territory of New Guinea. An early reply by air mail willbe much appreciated.
Greetings to all workers of Australia and New Zealand.
John Doolan, Chairman
King Laurance, Hon. Sec
Mr.rosevear. -Did the warden make any observations concerning working conditions?
– He did, but he did not refer to rates of pay. He said, however, that the dry boring had never been practised in New Guinea, and, in that connexion, the observations in the men’s circular letter appear to be inaccurate.
– It seems to me that the warden cannot have visited the field.
– I am submitting to honorable members the facts as they have been presented to me. I assure the House that the request of the men has been sympathetically considered. I am anxious to do everything in my power to secure a settlement of the dispute.
I have also had furnished to me a comprehensive report on the whole subject, but as it is largely in accordance with the information that I have already submitted to the House, I shall not read it.
Mr.curtin. -Will the Minister tell me, in brief terms, exactly what he proposes to do?
– I have approached the company to see whether it is not possible to arrive at a compromise that will be acceptable to both parties, and have already drafted the suggestions I have outlined to honorable members concerning hours of labour and conditions.
Mr.Forde. - Is it intended to establish a proper tribunal?
– Yes; I hope that something satisfactory will be done in that connexion immediately.
– Will the honorable gentleman issue instructions that the intended evictions shall be stopped?
– Yes, definitely. I do not think that I can add anything more, except to give to the House an assurance that everything possible will be done to bring about a satisfactory settlement in regard to wages and working conditions so that operations may be resumed. As the territory is under the control of Australia, the conditions must be in conformity with those enjoyed by miners in this country.
.- The Minister has made it plain that he is submitting to the company certain specified standards in relation to rates of pay, hours of labour, overtime, and so on, which, he thinks, the company should observe. There surely can be no argument about dry boring, because the company says it is not practised, and the miners say that they want it abolished. There is no issue on that point. If doubt exists as to whether dry boring has been practised, some appropriate authority should be called upon to make a report on the subject. I suggest that it is very necessary that something more than a merely voluntary agreement should be made in relation to these operations. The terms of settlement should be stated in an- ordinance which should be gazetted and so made an enforcable instrument. I cannot understand one aspect of the dispute. We know that the men have been complaining about their conditions for some time, particularly in regard to wages, overtime rates and excesssive hours, but according to the Minister, no requests have been made to the company. Surely there must be a misunderstanding somewhere. It may be that the management regards itself as constituted quite outside the territory. Complaints may have been made to the mine manager or to the shift foreman, but obviously complaintsmust have been made, for the miners would not have spontaneously and without previous consideration and negotiation simply gone out on strike. The exceptional conduct of the men in withdrawing safety labour from the mines must have been due to their exasperation at the treatment they had received from the management, because it is traditional that miners who leave their work invariably agree that safety labour shall be retained. That this rule was not observed in this instance was no doubt due to the resentment that the men felt at the treatment they had received. It is well known that if safety labour is withdrawn from mines, increased dangers are likely to be encountered by the men when they go back to work. The miners themselves have just as much knowledge as the management can have on this matter, and they must have felt that they were being harshly treated to have anted as they did. I cannot conceive of them withdrawing safety labour unless that was the case.
– They tried, no doubt, to secure the conditions to which they thought they were entitled.
Mr.CURTIN. - But the company says that no. demand was made upon it. I cannot reconcile that statement with the extraordinary action taken by the miners in withdrawing safety workers.
This is an urgent matter, but I accept the assurance of the Minister that he will stop the evictions that have been planned for Monday next. That is a proper action to take. I also accept his assurance that he will endeavour to get the company to agree to the conditions which he has set out in the document that he read to us. I wish to know, however, what is likely to happen if the company does not agree to the conditions, and if it will not act so as to introduce practices in conformity with those outlined by the Minister?
– I shall bring the matter under the notice of Cabinet immediately.
– That does not satisfy me. I wish to be quite clear on this matter. The Minister has said that he is representing to the company that certain conditions should be observed and that he has recommended the adoption of his proposals. If the company refuses to meet, the wishes of the honorable gentleman, I want an undertaking not that Cabinet will merely consider the situation, but that it will gazette an ordinance fixing conditions in conformity with the Minister’s representations.
– If the company will not agree to the proposals that have been made I shall recommend to Cabinet that action be taken to impose them.
– I accept that undertaking.
Sitting suspended from12.46 to 2.15 p.m.
. - Because of the assurance which the Minister dealing with External Territories (Mr. Collins) has given to the Leader of the Opposition (Mr. Curtin) and the honorable member for East Sydney (Mr. Ward), I can curtail considerably what I had intended to say. The honorable gentleman has made it quite clear that the Government is prepared to investigatethis matter, and will not accept ex parte statements of the position. The honorable gentleman ought to visit the Mandated Territory, and personally inspect the conditions that obtain there.
– I hope to make such a visit as soon as possible, and examine the conditions, for my own benefit.
– Every body will be glad to hear that. The Minister appears to be imbued with a sense of fair play, and has shown a disposition to act accordingly when he is in possession of all of the facts. The full facts of this case have not yet been disclosed, although statements in respect of it have by members on both sides of the House. One must regret, that the existing arbitration system operates so slowly.
According to the verdict given by the coroner, the death of the two men who were killed in an accident while working at Edie Creek mine was due to lack of attention by the man who was in charge of the winding-engine. Having been a locomotive driver who has worked in a mine and also operated on the surface in conjunction with winding-engine drivers, I appreciate the responsibility which devolves upon men who follow such a calling. It seems to me that in this case the regulations were not observed by the management, although it has assured the Minister in the statement that he read to-day, that certain conditions operate. What is the good of such statements being made when we realize, as we must when we read the remarks of the coroner, that the observance of the conditions has been neglected, that the mine management is responsible for such neglect?
Responsibility has been fastened on to the unfortunate winding-engine driver. I remind the Minister that this man was on duty for fourteen hours on the day on which the accident occurred. Imagine a man being in charge of the lives of other men going down and coming up a shaft, for a continuous period of fourteen hours ! I venture to suggest that he did not remain at work after the accident had occurred. There is proof that the regulations were not observed. The coroner was satisfied of that. The Inspector of Mines, Mr. A. E. Fry, addressing the coroner at the conclusion of the evidence, said -
I have to comment upon.
The remarks of the coroner, when finding that Price had unlawfully killed Cooper and Creevey, the two men who lost their lives, were -
There may be some excuse in thathe had been working for avery lengthy period - fourteen hours. It seems to me to be far too long for a man in such a responsible position as he was in at that time.
These facts prove conclusively that the regulations made under the ordinance were ignored rather than observed. It is quite likely that the regulations dealing with the use of water in drilling and boring were also ignored. Those who, when working below ground, neglect to take advantage of the machinery provided, particularly when working on contract, risk their lives, if not immediately, in the course of a few years. Some men with whom I went to school undertook a contract, in the course of which they broke a world’s record. They did dry drilling and boring, and in consequence the majority of them died before reaching middle age from the effects of dust. These conditions should not be permitted in New Guinea, because it is an Australian mandate. I am astonished that a week of 44 hours is considered fair in a climate like that of New Guinea. Miners in Western Australia work only 40 hours weekly, and the engine-drivers there work a seven-hour day. This man, who was convicted of unlawfully killing two comrades - which would cause him very great grief - Was working for twice as long as is considered an ordinary day in Australia.
I shall not add to the comment and criticism that have been levelled from this side of the House, because the Minister’s assurance indicates that, even if the Government has failed to take action for three months, and on that account deserves to be criticized, it at least intends now to do something definite which may remove the trouble and give justice to the men.
– Out of the discussion, three points have emerged. The Minister (Mr. Collins) has practically admitted that most of what has been alleged by the honorable member for East Sydney (Mr. Ward) has some foundation in fact. The honorable gentleman has undertaken to make certain investigations, and to place certain proposals before Cabinet.
The next point which arises relates to the disabilities under which the people of New Guinea and Papua are living and working. I feel very strongly in this connexion. I heard the previous honorable member for Calare (Mr. Thorby) express in this House the view that it was time this Parliament decided that these territories should have direct representation in it. As matters stand at present, in New Guinea and Papua the eyes and ears of the Minister are the administrations of those territories. Parliament has no knowledge of what is happening there, except what it can learn through ministerial channels. It was extremely doubtful whether the Minister was correctly informed with respect to one or two of the points that he put forward this morning. With a view to the better development . and management of the external territories of the Commonwealth, the Government might very seriously consider their representation in this Parliament under conditions somewhat similar to the representation of the Northern Territory. I fully realize what arguments maybe raised constitutionally. To give such representation would be a departure from the usual British procedure in connexion with parliamentary representation, and would give to this Parliament a slight flavour of the method under which the French- colonial empire has been politically developed. I am prepared to listen to arguments on those points.
The other important point- on which the Minister was absolutely silent was the rather serious allegation of the honorable member for East Sydney - I do not know whether or not there is any foundation for it - that a certain Minister is a director of the company which was the object of the attack made this morning. There have been too many allegations in the press, over a number of weeks, in regard to the directorships held, or alleged to be held, by one member of the present Government, .and certain contracts, or what are alleged to be contracts - w 111011 were set out in very clear detail - in which those companies are implicated; The Ministry cannot simply listen to charges -of that na’ture and make no reply. The honour,- the integrity, and the propriety of Government and Parliament are involved, lt is high time that the matter was cleared up. For the Minister concerned, I have no feelings other than those of perfect friendliness - I think that he understands that - 10Ul, in the interests of political decency and propriety, the time is long overdue for him either to come into the open and admit that these charges are right, taking the course usually taken in such cases by Ministers, or to see that they are refuted and not repeated.
.- The facts with regard to this matter have been well presented by the honorable member for East ‘Sydney (Mr. Ward) and other speakers on both sides of the House. In these days of improved industrial conditions in mining spheres in Australia, it is rather alarming to find that in a territory under the control of the Commonwealth, the Government has been so lax as not to heed the requests of the miners in New Guinea for an improvement of their working conditions. The Minister for External Territories (Mr. Collins) has given certain undertakings, and I hope- that these will be given effect without delay, because in this matter time is of the essence of the contract. These men are suffering great hardships, particularly because of their isolation, and therefore the Government should deal with their request immediately.- The conditions asked for by them are entirely reasonable, and nobody in this House should object to the granting of their request. It has been suggested by the Minister that, instead of working 48 hours a week underground, they should be required to work only 44 hours a week, but I suggest that even that would not be a’ sufficient reduction of their hours. It has been stated that mining conditions in various parts of Australia provide for 40 or 42 hours a week underground. In the metalliferous mining industry at Broken Hill miners underground work 35 hours a week, whilst the men on the surface work 40 .hours a week. The conditions in New Guinea would probably be as arduous as they are at Broken Hill, or even more so, owing to the tropical climate. Certain allegations have been made on this side of the House, and the Minister has read statements by the mine management and the mining warden in the area concerned. It was pointed out by the Leader of the Opposition (Mr. Curtin) that he doubted the statement that the men had not given notice of their intention to strike. In my opinion some intimation must have been given of their intention in that regard. Therefore, I suggest that the greater part of the statement should he regarded doubtfully. I know that the Minister does not vouch for its accuracy, but merely puts it forward as one that has been handed to him. Therefore, there should be an investigation by an independent tribunal in order to sift the facts. According to information supplied to me through the miners’ organizations in New South Wales, which have been in communication with the miners in New Guinea, the statements placed before the House by the honorable member for East Sydney are accurate, and, if the matter were sifted by an independent tribunal, the improved conditions sought would, no doubt, be granted.
The honorable member for Barker (Mr. Archie Cameron) has raised a point in furtherance of what has been said previously by the honorable member for West Sydney (Mr. Beasley). He has stated that a certain member of the Government is a director of the particular company to which reference has been made. Therefore the Government should be anxious to set up a tribunal almost immediately to conduct an independent investigation of this matter.
– The position is that the present Minister has virtually condemned the actions of a company of which another Minister is a director.
– That shows his honesty of purpose.
– It shows the necessity for setting up a tribunal such as I have suggested, because it is thought here that the Government might be unduly influenced by the opinions and advice of a Minister who is actually a director of the company. Owing to statements made by that Minister, he is an an interested party. Honorable members will recall the time when Senator A. J. McLachlan resigned a ministerial portfolio because attention was drawn to the fact that he held seats on certain company directorates. I do not think it is properthat Ministers should be members of company directorates, particularly when privateand government interests conflict and come under the review of this Parliament.
– I did notmention that matter because I thought that every body knew well that the Minister referred to is a director of the company.
– I stress the point because the position in the Mandated Territory of New Guinea is different’ from that inthe Commonwealth, where industrial conditions and the interests of trading companies are reviewed by the Arbitration Courts. In the Mandated Territory of New Guinea these conditions are largely dealt with by the Government, and it should take immediate action to have the grievances of the miners adjusted.
.- The honorable member for Barker (Mr. Archie Cameron) has raised aspects of this matter which are not of transitory but of permanent importance. The first is the responsibility of this Parliament for the administration of Australia’s overseas empire. A. democracy has always been found to be the worst possible administrator or ruler of non-self-governing territories. I have a good recollection of the position described in one of W. H. Prescott’s books in which he explained why the conditions of the slaves in the Spanish West Indies was better than that of the slaves in the British West Indies. He stated that the Spanish West Indies were governed from Madrid, whereas the British West Indies were governed by the British settlers in the West Indies themselves. The Spanish centralized government, remote from the West Indies, enforced an absolutist rule upon the white settlers as well as the negroes, whereas in the BritishW est Indies the islands were governed in the interests of the white settlers. That is largely happening in Australia. We ought to give consideration to what has been suggested ‘by the honorable member for Barker, who says that the white settlers in our overseas territories should be given representation in this Parliament, as are the white people of the Northern Territory; but I think that we should go a good deal beyond that, and take steps to provide machinery which would ensure the frequent discussion of the conditions prevailing in those territories. Admittedly, official reports are circulated from time to time amongst members. Members represent constituencies, and they are naturally more interested in the affairs of people who vote for them than in the affairs of people who do not. Reports dealing with the administration of territories are studied more closely by persons outside Parliament than by. those inside it; at least, ‘ that has been my experience. Machinery should be set up in this Parliamentto ensure the proper consideration of such reports. They should be submitted to standing committees of Parliament, preferably committees of both Houses, and & minority of the committee should have the right to initiate a discussion in Parliament. It would not be of much use merely setting aside a day for discussion without generating an interest in the matter to be discussed. It was found in England that when a clay was set . aside for the consideration of Indian affairs, the discussion always took place before a very thin House. However, if a- minority of the standing committee on Papua, or Nauru, or New Guinea demanded a debate upon any particular matter, .anopportunity would have to be provided for the debate to take place. In that way honorable members would be acquainted with what was going on in the territory, and there is no doubt that, at the present time,- all sorts of things are happening of which we know nothing. I also suggest that men who go to territories under Commonwealth control to take up jobs, but who continue to maintain homes in the State in which they formerly resided, should retain their votes. If that were done, members of Parliament would have a greater interest in what goes on in. the territories.
– There would be ho need for that if each of the territories had a representative in this Parliament.
– I do not agree. The member would represent the dominant interest in the territory. I have a great admiration for the honorable member who represents the Northern Territory (Mr. Blain), but I am quite certain that he does not represent every body in the Northern Territory, nor can he put- the point of view of every one in the Northern Territory before the House. And, of course, a representative is not wholly concerned in bringing up the grievances of natives - especially where those grievances have their source in the conduct of white men.
I was interested in what the honorable member for Barker had to say about directorships. I maintain that no man who holds a directorship in a company, the interests of which may conflict with those of Australia, should be a member of Cabinet. That rule was- laid down in England by the last Gladstone Government,’ and though it was waived by the Government led by Lord Salisbury, it was enforced once more by the Campbell-Bannerman Government. I believe that it should be applied here. I have asked questions on the subject in. this House from time to time, and have been told that it is a private matter upon which the Government does not feel called upon to answer questions.- As a’ matter of fact, it is not a private matter at all. There should be the most complete disclosure of the directorships and other important interests held by members of the Cabinet and members of this Parliament. That is necessary in order to re-assure the people, because the Government wields enormous power to-day. By a stroke. of the pen it can make the fortune of one company, and ruin its competitors. That makes it all’ the more important that we should know the private interests of members of Parliament as well as of Cabinet Ministers.
.- Mines operating in mandated territories arc ‘in competition with Australian mining because of the labour conditions which obtain there. I have been informed by persons associated with mining’ operations in New Guinea and in the islands off the Australian coast that Australian labour conditions arc regarded as one of the greatest hindrances to the investment of capital in Australian mining concerns. This accounts for the fact that fields are idle in New South Wales even though gold is much more valuable now than it was when they went out of production. Labour conditions in Australia have been prescribed in accordance with our Australian standard of living. Eather than tolerate inferior living conditions in the territories, the Government should abandon . the mandated territories altogether. A great American, and a great citizen of the world, Abraham Lincoln, once said that no nation can survive half free and. half in thrall. Wc should not allow white men in the territories to be reduced to the condition of niggers.
Debate interrupted under Standing Order No. 257b.
Message recommending appropriation reported.
In Committee of Supply:
Motion (by Mr. Fadden) agreed to -
That there be granted to His Majesty, for or towards defraying the services of the year 1041-42 a. sum not exceeding £15,141,000.
Standing Orders suspended ; resolution adopted.
Resolution of Waysand Means founded on resolution of Supply, reported and adopted.
That Mr.Faddenand Mr. Spender do prepare andbring ina bill to carry out the foregoing resolution.
Bill brought up by Mr. Fadden, and read a first time.
– I move -
That the bill be now read a second time.
The purpose of this bill is to obtain the necessary appropriation of moneys to carry on the services of government until the annual appropriation acts for 1041-42 are approved by Parliament. The bill makes provision for expenditure of an amount of £15,141,000 for ordinary services for the period of the first two months of the financial year 1941-42. The provision may be summarized under the following heads: -
This bill provides only for the amount which is estimated to be sufficient to carry on the essential services on the basis of the appropriations passed by the Parliament for the financial year 1940-41. The items making up this total represent approximately one-sixth of those appropriations except in a. few cases where expenditure is heavier in the early months of the financial year than in the later months.
The provision for defence and war ser vices represents the estimated amount which will be available from revenue receipts for the first two months of the year after making allowance for our other obligations. In addition to the expenditure from this revenue defence vote there will of course bemuchgreater expenditure which will be covered by existing loan appropriations.
The usual provisions are made in the bill for “Refunds of Revenue “ and “ Advance to the Treasurer “, the amounts being £400,000 and £5,000,000 respectively. This latter amount is mainly required to carry on uncompleted works which will be in’ progress at the 30th June and also to cover unforeseen and miscellaneous expenditure. It will also temporarilyfinance the special grants to South Australia, Western Australia and Tasmania on the same basis as that approved by Parliament for the present financial year until bills can be submitted after receipt of the report of the Commonwealth Grants Commission. The amount is larger than is usually provided in a two months Supply Bill but is necessary to provide against war-time con tingencies.
Except in the case of defence and war services no provision is made in the bill for any new expenditure; no departure from existing policy is involved.
Debate (on motion by Mr. Curtin) adjourned.
Motion (by Mr. Fadden) - by leave - agreed to.
That Mr. Guy he appointed to fill the vacancy now existing on the House Committee.
Operations at Sollum - Fort Capuzzo.
– by leave - On the 15th June, Imperial forces, consisting of British and Indian troops and armoured units, attacked in the Sollum-Fort Capuzzo area and succeeded in occupying the high ground above Halfaga Pass and in capturing Fort Capuzzo. This was held despite three determined counterattacks by the enemy.
On the 16th June, it became evident that powerful enemy reinforcements of armoured fighting vehicles had arrived in the theatre of battle, and on the 17th enemy counter-attacks were launched with greatly superior armoured forces in face of which our forces withdrew to their original line. This withdrawal was accomplished without serious loss. Whilst it has to be admitted that we suffered substantial losses of armoured fighting vehicles, there is no doubt that the enemy had inflicted upon him serious losses of material and men and several hundred German prisoners fell into our hands. My information is that no Australian troops were employed in these operations.
Internees from England-Coastal Craft Employees : Pensions- Payroll Tax- Enlistment Challenges : Censorship ; “ Hansard “ Reports - Home Guard - Supply of Spun Yarn - Tobacco and Cigarettes - Hides Industry - Wheat Acreage - Rationing of Newsprint - Wool Appraisement Centres - Australian Imperial force: Assurance Policies - Communist Literature - Mining Industry - Social Legislation- Child Endowment - Electoral Laws : Public Service Candidates - Felt Hat Industry - War Pensions.
Motion (by Mr.Fadden) proposed -
That the House do now adjourn.
– I desire to bring to the notice of the Minister for theArmy (Mr. Spender) the unfortunate plight of many internees from England who are confined in the internment camps at Tatura and Hay. Recently, members of the Australian Labour party have received communications from Mr. Ernest Bevan, Sir Walter Citrine and other members of the British Labour party concerning the continued detention of a number of men who were interned in England during the panic period when the invasion of the Mother Country seemed imminent, and who were subsequently sent to Australia and lodged in internment camps here. By the courtesy of the Minister for the Army, I, in company with other honorable members, visited these internment camps some months ago, and interviewed these men without restriction. Many of the inter nees wore highly reputable members of the Amalgamated Society of Engineers and other Labour organizations in Great Britain when they were picked up in the sudden sweep of the coastal towns of England some time ago. At the time of their arrest there was no opportunity to make investigations concerning them. I understand that since we visited the camp a British officer has been engaged in investigating the records of many of these internees.
-That is so. The investigations are being carried out by Major Lay ton.
– Some of the internees had been engaged in England on very important work associated with the production of munitions before they were suddenly picked up. Some of them were interned simply because they were born in Germany or Austria. No regard was paid to the fact that many of them had been taken to England when they were mere children, and that other members of their families had been born after their arrival in England. One of the internees at Tatura, who was formerly a foreman engineer in a munition works in an English coastal town, has two brothers serving with the British forces. Although he was brought to England when he was but four years of age, and had been reared as a member of a British family, and is married to an English woman, his internment was justified on the ground that he was born in Germany, and that he had not taken out naturalization papers. Now 34 years of age, he is a highly skilled tool-maker and is anxious to work on munitions production in Australiaor to assist in the war effort in some way. He claims that he should be allowed either to work here or to go back to England. I understand thathis case is being inquired into by a representative of the British Government. When I saw him he was expecting to be released.
-Many of those men have already been sent back to England.
– When I went through the camps, I was informed that the British Government had to be consulted before any of the internees could be released.
– We are merely the custodians of these men for the British Government.
– I realize that. Recently, I received a communication from a Jewish internee named Herbert Littauer, a first-class engineer, who had been transferred from Singapore. This gentleman, seeing a report, in the newspaper that the honorable members for Macquarie (Mr. Chifley) and I had been investigating the machine tool position, wrote to me the following letter: -
Although I am interned at present, and whereas the Commonwealth Government declines as a matter of policy, to release in Australia Jewish refugees who were transferred fromSingapore; my communication might find your interest, and I take therefore, the liberty to address you. I was a designer for machine tools in the German rearmament industry until the pogroms of 1938, and I have done quite a lot of designing and developing work in this trade. Detailed information concerning myqualification and my professional experience are in possession of the Southern Command.Furthermore, I have submitted copies of; credentials, including those of the Johore Government and of machine tool experts of world-wide reputation.
May I be allowed to mention that the equipment which I have designed during my present internment, and which I have handed tothe Government for use has apparently found the interest of the authorities.
WhenIventured to write to you at this occasion,I have done so in order to emphasize that here in Australia experts are available who - although interned at present but entitled to presume a favorable statement of the Malayan Government in respect of their reliability-are badly waiting for permission to takepart in Australia’s war effort, and whoa re deeply concerned to be set aside so far. I. have to apologize for having taken up your time.
Owing to the acute shortage of machine tools in Australia the case of this man should be verycarefully considered. There are 1,600 internees at the camps at Tatura and Hay, including a handful of women. In both camps the internees band themselves into little groups, and each group has its captain to act as spokesman. Most of the internees are first-class tradesmen. Some are professional men capable of making binoculars and all sorts of things which are difficult to obtain in Australia. The officer in charge of the camp, Captain Tackaberry, showed me papers substantiating the claim of one internee that he had fine tools at Singapore insured for £2,000. Another internee said that he was a specialist in the manufacture of camouflage nets, which are very difficult to get in Australia. I understand that his offer to make these nets at the Tatura camp has since been accepted by the department. I ask the Minister to state what stage has been reached in the negotiations between himself and the British authorities in respect to the release of some of these men who the British people say should bereleased? .
– I can tell the honorable member that almost immediately.
– If the Minister will be good enough to reply now, I shall not detain the House any further in regard to the matter.
– This morning I asked the Minister for the Navy (Mr. Hughes) if the Government would amend the repatriation legislation in order to provide pensions to dependants of men employed on coastal fishing boats who lose their lives as the result of striking mines, or through enemy action. I have in mind the case of a woman with three children who is the widow of a second engineerwho lost his life when the boat onwhich he was serving was sunk off the New South Wales coast. She is now in destitute circumstances. When she appealed to me for assistance, I took up the matter with the Repatriation Department but was informed that that department had no power to deal with the matter. I was referred to the Commonwealth Navigation Officer who said that he could do nothing, and that it was a matter for the State Navigation Department. That department said it had no jurisdiction in the matter at all, and, subsequently, I was referred to the Attorney-General (Mr. Hughes) who, in turn, referred me back to the Repatriation Department. I ask the Government to take action as soon as possible to provide assistance to the widows and dependants of men of the class I have referred to. I understand that the relevant measures in Great Britain and Canada have been amended to provide pensions to dependants of men employed on fishing boats who lose their lives through enemy action.
– The honorable member may recall that consideration of an amending bill for the purpose he proposes was postponed in order to enable us to arrive at a satisfactory formula.
– My information is that our repatriation legislation is identical with the British and Canadian Repatriation Acts with the exception that theword “ fishing “ is omitted from our act, and, consequently, our legislation does not embrace men employed on fishing boats. I ask the Government to introduce as soon as possible the small amending measure which would be necessary to rectify this position.
– In view of the intimation given by the Minister for the Army (Mr. Spender) to the honorable member for Melbourne Ports (Mr.Holloway) that he will now make a statement dealing with cases of the kind raised by the honorable member, I shall not labour the subject which I now propose to raise. It concerns another internee at the camp at Tatura. He is Emil Stroh, who is a machine tool designing engineer. His brother, who is doing very exceptional work, lives in Australia, Stroh has applied on several occasions to be released. I am fully aware of the difficulties confronting the Government in matters of this kind. Stroh was one of many people who were taken into custody in the Malay States during the crisis of twelve months ago, and transferred to Australia. I realize that it would be detrimental to the interests of Australian workers if internees of ordinary skill who have been brought to this country from overseas were released and allowed to take jobs here while Australian people are out of work. In Stroh’s case, however, that objection does not arise, because he possesses exceptional qualifications as an engineer. In addition he is anxious and willing to serve in the war effort. I am aware that Major Layton has been investigating the position of these internees. When I brought Stroh’s case to the notice of the Minister for the Army, he replied that it was a matter for the Minister for Labour and National Service (Mr. Holt). That was some time ago, and I have since seen the Minister for Labour and National Service, but so far nothing has been done. When we need so urgently the skill possessed by men like Stroh, surely they could be released at least temporarily. No good purpose canbe served by detaining them indefinitely. Stroh is not only antiGerman but also strongly pro-British, and he is willing to do all he can in our war effort. The difficulty of honorable members in matters of this kind is that although their representations are most courteously acknowledged by Ministers, nothing ever seems to be done.
– Whether or not a man can assist in the war effort is a matter for the decision of the Minister for Labour and National Service.
– I knew that a well-known Melbourne firm, which is engaged in the fabrication of steel products, is willing to utilize the services of this man. Therefore, no question can arise as to whether or not he will be able to obtain employment. Nothing is held against Stroh except that he was one’ of those who were picked up in the crisis of twelve months ago. Stroh himself does not complain about that. He simply contends that as nothing has been found against him in the investigations conducted since he was interned six months ago, it should be possible to release him. In ordinary circumstances the procedure wouldbe to release him, but not to allow him to remain in the country I ask the Minister for the Army to give further consideration to this matter or, if necessary, to urge his colleague to deal with it expeditiously.
.- Yesterday I requested the Treasurer (Mr. Fadden) to exempt from pay-roll tax the Mothers and Babies Health Association of South Australia in respect of wages paid by that organization to nurses employed at its various centres. I have since handed a letter from the organization to the Treasurer, but I take thisopportunity to stress certain features of its work. It is purely a voluntary organization supported by private subscriptions. It operates numerous centres in the suburbs of Adelaide at which it employs trained nurses to instruct young mothers on the feeding and care of their infants. The organization is also obliged to pay sales tax upon many of the commodities it requires in its work. Scores of women give their services voluntarily in this work, and also help the association financially. It is hardly fair that an organization whichowes its existence to public-spirited citizens should be called upon to pay the pay-roll tax in respect of the nursesit employs in the interests of the health of the community as a whole. I have been approached on the subject a number of times, and I am sure that after the Minister has read the letter whichIshall hand to him he willagree thatmy representations are worthy of favorable consideration. I fail to see why an organization such asthis, which isfinanced by private subscriptions and which is doing work of benefit to the whole nation, should be called upon to pay the pay-roll tax. I ask the Minister to accede to my request.
– Recorded, in this morning’s press were certain challenges and counter-challenges made by honorable members on both sides of this House, and I have been informed that, consequent upon those challenges, certain incidents took place this morning in the King’s Hall. The Government has taken steps, throughthe censorship, to prohibit the publication of any report of those incidents, and I think it proper that I should inform the House of that, action, which has been taken with a view to preventing the discrediting of this Parliament, and particularly with a view to preventing what otherwise might be the adverse effect of the reports of such matters upon the public mind and upon the public war effort. Not only do I inform honorable members of the action that has been taken, but also I should like to go further - I do not want to say one word that would lead to a continuance of such challenges and counter challenges - and urge upon honorable members that we should refrain from engaging in such matters. They are not only inconsistent with the dignity and’ responsible leadership of Parliament but also they are, I believe, entirely out of harmony with the wishes of the great majority of honorable members, and certainly they are out of harmony with the wishes and responsible judgment ofthe community at large.
.- I desire to bring to the notice of the Minister for the Army (Mr. Spender) a letter that I have received from the Imperial Ex-Servicemen’s Reunion Association of Northern. Tasmania. This is normally a peace-time organization and, as its name indicates, it is composed of ex-service men. In peace-time its principal object is to bring together Imperial ex-service men at stated intervals with a view to preserving their interests. Since the outbreak of war the association has become more active, because its members wish to take some part in the defence of Australia, so far as their physical condition will enable them to do so. They are now interested in what is known as the Home Guard. This organization has grown throughout Australia to fairly substantial proportions. It seems that certain limitations have been imposed on the numerical strength of the Home Guard, and its chief difficulty appears to be not so much to induce sufficient men to join its ranks as to keep the membership down to the prescribed level. This enthusiasm seems to be a good thing in these days of crisis. The request that the association wishes to make through me is that no limitation should be imposed on the numerical strength of the Home Guard. I ask the Minister to allow the Home Guard to recruit ‘more members. The organization is of value because it helps to stimulate not only the war effort of men who are physically fit but also the war effort of the remainder of the community, which is a desirable thing. The Home Guard suffers from a shortage of uniforms and general equipment. I appeal to the Minister to investigate this matter and ascertain whether more equipment and uniforms can be provided. The Home Guard also asks that the new type of tommy-gun which has received a great deal of publicity in recent months should, if it is found to be a suitable weapon, be supplied to its members for training purposes as early as possible. We should encourage this organization which has the very best motives - the proper defence of Australia. Everything should be done to encourage men of the kind who belong to the Imperial Ex-Servicemen’s Reunion Association to help us in the war effort.
I shall he glad if the Minister will give favorable consideration to the request which I have made to him.
.- I wish to refer to several matters, but the most important of these relates to the censorship power which was referred to a few minutes ago by the Prime Minister (Mr. Menzies). As an old parliamentarian I regret anything that tends to bring Parliament into disrepute. But if Parliament is brought into disrepute it is as the result of the actions of its members and not as the result of any reports published in newspapers. My feeling is that what happened this morning was the outcome of incidents which took place in this House last night. One of the worst- features of those incidents was the baiting of an inexperienced member of this House by a Minister, who wound up by stating that he himself had been to war and challenging the new member to enlist with him. That was followed by what I regard as detestable insults to the race of the honorable member, a race of which, no doubt, he is proud and of which he has every reason to be proud. A censorship of what takes place is not justified and it would be most unfair if,* as I understand, nothing is to be allowed to be reported but the statement of the Prime Minister upon this matter. People should not be led to believe ‘.that honorable members have acquiesced in the exercise of the censorship in this way. If the honorable member for East Sydney (Mr. Ward) had not attended that meeting, would the matter have been censored? If ten honorable members opposite had accepted the challenge, would the affair have been censored? There should be no censorship, but the good sense of honorable members should make them resolve to avoid- recriminations. Honorable members cannot discuss a matter fairly and dispassionately in this -House if they feel that they will be met with the challenge : “ Why don’t you go to the war ? “ Such a challenge is much more damaging when it is directed to a -young and inexperienced member, as happened last night. If the Prime Minister considers that the imposition of the censorship is required to protect, the dignity of Parliament, I contend that the censorship was not provided for that purpose. The censorship was not introduced in order to protect, Parliament from making a fool of itself, or members of Parliament from making fools of themselves. If they wish to do that, they should have full licence to do so, and the public ought to know what is taking place. If the Government believes that the incident may prejudice recruiting, I recall that a similar occurrence took place in a much more striking .manner during the last war, and nobody thought of repressing the. publication of the facts. When an insult was thrown at .the honorable member for Batman’ (Mr. Brennan) against his’ courage, he retorted, in the only way open to him, that if the other member would be at a recruiting depot next morning, he would also be present. The honorable member for. Batman kept his word, but the other member was busily engaged in accumulating certificates from many parts of the Commonwealth testifying that his services were too valuable for him to risk his life on the battlefield. As I have declared, this occurrence should not be censored. Having heard the statement of the Prime Minister, honorable members will probably be inclined to drop the whole incident. In my opinion, it would be most unfair if the only reference that goes out to the public is the statement made by the Prime Minister. In addition, it would be unfair if any attempt be made to expunge from Ilansard my protest upon the matter, or to prevent its publication in the press.
Last week, I introduced to the Minister for Supply and Development (.Senator McBride) ‘ a deputation representing a number- of small traders whose living- is threatened. They are engaged in the manufacture of knitted overwear. Recently, when the department ordered that the supply of woollen yarn must bc limited, the manufacturers promptly received from spinners notice that their supplies would be cut off. The Minister heard the deputation courteously and considerately, .as is his wont, and I think that he was anxious- to do what he could for them. The difficulty which was raised was that the supply of spun yarn in this country is limited, not by the quantity of wool or labour available, but by the quantity of plant available to spin yarn, and, in consequence of that, woollen thread was not available for those traders. Whilst these people are unable to cope with the orders which they are receiving, the Government does not take the logical step of reducing the consumption of these articles. It continues to permit the importation and sale, of. imported knit wool which competes with their product. What happens is that Australian wool is sent overseas to Great -Britain, where it is manufactured into yarn and the product is re-exported to Australia. In this country it finds an exclusive market because the local enterprises are unable to obtain Australian spun yarn, with which to make knitwear. Recently the Melbourne Herald published the following advertisement: -
Made in Scotland - Braemar - Scotland sends us a new shipment of her world-famous knitteds - exclusive imports, all of famous luxury yarns, labelled to identify their quality - Pringle of Hawick, Braemar, Peter Scott. The incomparable knitteds that no one in the wide world has ever equalled, for thistledown softness, for blossomy colours. Some of pure Indian Cashmere, incredibly fine, other subtle minglings of cashmere-and-wool. Buttonup Jackets. Jumpers, short and long-sleeved, Cardigans* Twin Sets. Winter-warm colours include apricot brandy, flame, damson wine, moorland mist grey, greensward, browns and hazy flecks in quiet tones. All sizes! Come in at’ once, while the selection is. complete!
What will be the feeling of an Australian manufacturer of knitwear w7hen he is told that he cannot have spun yarn to carry “on his business, and that he will be unable to resume operations ‘ after the restriction ‘ is lifted because the market has been captured by British manufacturers ? I hope that ‘ the Minister will find. a means of supplying these people with spun yarn. If competition of this kind is to be permitted, the importation of spun yarn for use by Australian manufacturers will have to be allowed.
I have a suspicion that a number of government boards are being used by the persons who constitute them in the interests of their own businesses and their own trades. Recently, it ‘was brought to my notice what is happening in connexion with the sale of tobacco- and cigarettes. I have no sympathy for the person who tries to sell goods below a fair price, and the proper way to deal with that kind of trader, if the evil exists, is for the Government to fix a minimum price below which the article must not be sold. A. man found to be selling, tobacco and cigarettes at cut prices is placed upon a stop list. When he requires more supplies he must appear before the Quota Allotment Committee at the offices of the Deputy Prices Commissioner, 147 Collins-street, Melbourne. The committee, which is a government committee, is dominated by the large wholesalers and retailers; to whom he must divulge information as to the amount of rent he pays for his, premises and the value of his stock. In addition, he must promise to give to the Retail Tobacco Sellers Association, a bond that he will not sell his goods under the price which it fixes for them, and agree not to purchase tobacco from sources other than those named in the bond. I would not object to this practice if wholesalers, and retailers resorted to it in the ordinary way of business. What I take exception to is the use of a government agency for the purpose. If action to fix a minimum price be necessary, it should be given effect direct by regulation or by legislation. But that is not the position. I have a bond in my possession, and the person to whom it was issued must purchase his supplies from W. D. and H. O. Wills (Australia) Limited, Godfrey Phillips (Australia) Proprietary Limited, Carreras Limited, or Dudgeon and Arnell Proprietary Limited. They, of course, are not bound to supply him. Whilst this practice is adopted in the ordinary course of business, it should not be done through a government agency. I strongly object to tradesmen invested with governmental authority using, government machinery for the purpose of aggrandizing themselves .and exterminating, their competitors. .
.-This morning I brought to the - notice of the Minister for Commerce (Sir Earle Page) certain complaints concerning the activities- of the Hides Appraisement Committee of New South Wales. In reply, the Minister saw fit .to eulogize the members of the Hide and Leather Industries Board. He said that they were doing good work, but he added that if I would furnish him with specific information, he would give it consideration. The right honorable gentleman seemed to overlook that three weeks ago I brought certain facts tohis notice in this connexion, and asked that he should investigate the position. Since then I have heard nothing about the matter. The Minister may consider that this body is doing good work, but he might not be so pleased about the situation if he knew all of the facts. The Hides Appraisement Committee, about which I am specially concerned consists of certain tanners who are actively engaged in the trade and are able to adjudicate on hides submitted to competitors, who obviously are not in a position to make an effective protest against decisions that are recorded. To do so would probably invite victimization. But one gentlemanof 40 years’ experience in the trade is sufficiently independent to express his mind, and he has furnished me with the facts. One member of the appraisement committee is Mr. J. Chegwyn, who is deeply interested in the firm of Messrs. J. Chegwyn and Sons, and another is Mr. It. J. Anderson, who also has substantial interests in the industry. These two men are in the position of magistrates who can determine their own case. Their presence on the committee is a cause of grave dissatisfaction among tanners generally. Recently one of these individuals was allotted more than 1,000 hides while many of hiscompetitors were allocated less than 100 each. The third member of the committee, Mr. Brell; is a retired tanner who is considered to be fair in his adjudications.
Recently Mr. F. J. Anschau, who has furnished me with the facts of the case, wrote a letter on the subject to the Sydney Morning Herald, hut, unfortunately, whether because of the censorship or of other reasons I do not know, it was not published. I shall therefore bring it to the notice of the House. It reads -
TheSydney Morning Herald,
The writer being a practical master tanner for over 40 years has, during that time, tanned leather for the East Indies, China, Japan, London, and many other parts of the world, as well as having satisfactorily supplied big military orders for the Great War (19.14-18) and for many years supplied the Police Force of New South Wales.
At the Great War our soldierswere the best-shod men in the world, whileI recently readin one of our daily papers that our soldiers in this war would have to wear a thinner sole on their boots - that means a poorer quality sole-leather from which the boots are made, known to the trade as “ factory “leather.
Our hides are just as good in quality and quantity as they were 25 years ago. The specified leather in the last war was the same as was used for the police boots, specified as12 lb. bends, in some cases 11 lb. would be accepted if it was of the same substance and quality, but never under. Now to produce this quality and substance leather only heavy ox hides couldbe used.
The previous Government appointed what is known as the Appraisement Board, with the result that manyof the tanneries are not getting their proper selection of hides in either quality or quantity. Many of the hides allotted to them are utterly useless to produce their specific leather. it is no use their complaining; it is a matter of: Take those or go without - “Die dog or eat the hatchet “.
For many years past our weekly catalogues submitted at auction were round about 10,000 hides, which were ample forall the tanneries to obtain their full quantities, and as many more were sold privately and shipped away.
Now under the control of this bungling board ninny of the tanneries have to accept hides that are utterly useless for their specific requirements, particularly where heavy soleleather is made - as a proof of the above, get a quote from either of the tanneries or warehouses, for heavy sole-leather. Invariably the answer will be “We have very little heavy sole.”
Where are all our heavy meatworks’ hides going?
What has become of all our heavy Queensland hides?
True they may be a bit tick marked, but that is no detriment to wear and substance. Our boys are worthy of our best and while I am able to give them the benefit of my long years of experience, as regards advocating the best selection of hides to make the leather for their boots, my voice will be heard, particularly as I am independent of any victimization as regards getting my required allotment of hides.
Mr. Anschau knows what he is talking about, and his views should be carefully considered.
We all know that serious complaints have been made concerning the quality of theleather used in the manufacture of boots for our. troops.More than one scandal has beenrevealed in this connexion. Our troops in Greece had to cross over heavy mountainous country, and we havebeen informed that the leather in their boots was so poor that they had to finish their retreating journey practically barefooted.
Mr.Spender. - Who gave the honor able member that information?
– I read it in the press;
– Does the honorable gentleman believe all he reads in. the press? If he does, it is a serious reflection upon his intelligence.
– I do not accept everything that I read in the press, but in this instance there is strong evidence to support the statement.
The position is so serious that the Government should give earnest consideration to it. I suggest that these various boards and committees should be re-organized, with the object of making considerable alterations in their personnel, from citizens who are reputable and independent of trade influences. Unless some such action is taken, the committee to which I am particularly referring will be a kind of boomerang that will come back to injure the Government, to say nothing of the industry which it is intended to assist. Surely it is not too much to expect that our troops shall be provided with good-quality footwear. I regard the situation as serious. Though the Minister for the. Army (Mr. Spender) does not seem to be alarmed about it, I have some hope that the Minister for Commerce will cause a searching inquiry to be made into the matter. It is high time for a close investigation to be made into the operations of the Hides Appraisement Committee of New South Wales. If the facilities for such an investigation do not exist within the department, or whether they do or not, I suggest that a select committee of honorable members be appointed to inquire into the position. The duties of this appraisement committee are not being discharged impartially. I consider that vested interests are being favoured. The appraisement of hides should be made by an independent body. Surely, there are still independent persons of the requisite experience and integrity in this country to act upon these bodies. In view of the seriousness of the position inthe leather industry, I ask that an independent committee shall be appointed.
– I am glad that the honorable member for Reid (Mr. Morgan) has brought this subject to notice, for it gives me an opportunity to expose the absence of any foundation for his case.Although I amnot on oath in making these remarks, I assure the House that I am stating the facts. After I have made my statement, I feel confident that the honorable gentleman will realize that he has been completely misled.
The Australian Hide and leather Industries Board is a most representative and reputable organization. Its members are Mr. J. F. Murphy, chairman, who is the secretary of the Department of Commerce ; Mr. R. J. Anderson, deputy chairman, who is a retired business man, trusted throughout the whole leather industry of New South Wales, and standing high in the estimation of the whole leather world; Mr. T. Tehan, who is the producers’ representative and a Victorian cattle man and was elected by the cattle producers’ organization; Mr. S. T. Douglas, who is the representative of the hide merchants and exporters, and was elected by the organization interested in that section of the- industry; Mr. W. E. Hooper, who is the president of theFederal Master Tanners’ Association, and was unanimously chosen by the Australian tanning industry to represent it ; Mr. T. J. Cranitch, of New South Wales, who was chosen by the hide-brokers to represent them; Mr. E. J. Bowater, who represents the various Australian meat works; and Mr. P. G. Goldstein, who represents the manufacturers of leather footwear. All these representatives were elected by the various sections of the industry with which they are connected. It will be seen, therefore, that the board is thoroughly representative, and is capable of watching the interests of the entire industry. Its members are performing a most difficult task in a highly creditable way. There ha3 not been the slightest breath of suspicion against them. The men whom the honorable member ‘for Reid has in mind are members not of this board but of the. Hides Appraisement Committee, the only function of which is to determine the quality of the various hides that come into the possession of the Australian Hide and Leather Industries Board. The hides themselves are sold by public auction; consequently there is not the slightest chance of corruption. The suggestion that the Australian Hide and Leather Industries Board or the Hides Appraisement Committee’ has anything to do with the quality of the leather in the boots supplied to Australian troops, is a gross exaggeration; .because every bootmaker can buy any class of leather he chooses. All that the board does is control the trade in hides. I suggest that, before making a statement, the honorable member for Reid should make certain of the soundness of his premises.
– What is the reason for the dissatisfaction that exists?
– There is a good, deal of dissatisfaction among those who will not “ play the game “ in this particular industry. It has been found necessary to withdraw the export licence of one man who was mixing in his Warehouse hides” for home consumption and hides for export. To establish the difference between home consumption prices and export prices for equalization purposes, a reservation of 25 per cent, of certain classes’ of hides for export was arranged. I urge honorable members generally not to bring such matters into the public glare without complete previous investigation. It is most difficult to induce bodies of highly qualified men to undertake these tasks, which need expert knowledge. It is becoming more and more difficult as the war extends, and if they be attacked in public without real justification we shall find ourselves unable to secure their services.
– Will the right honorable gentleman admit that large quantities of the best quality hides have ‘been exported ?
– A certain quantity of hides is being exported. A large number of boots made in this country from Australian leather also is being exported. Australia has always prided itself on the fact that whatever it has sent overseas has been worthy of the name of Australia.’
I wish to answer certain statements made last night on the motion for the adjournment of the House by the honorable member for Gwydir .(Mr. Scully), relative to the administration of the Wheat Industry . Stabilization Plan. Since reading the honorable member’s statements, I have had an opportunity to make preliminary inquiries. He will, I am sure, forgive me for being unable to answer him completely, ‘because the files of the Wheat Industry Stabilization Board and the Wheat Board are in Melbourne.
I have been informed that the Wheat Industry Stabilization Board has not caused any notification to be sent to wheat-growers regarding the acreage which they may or may not sow this season. The :board has issued instructions to State organizations to forward to wheat-growers notifications regarding the registration of properties in accordance with the Wheat Industry. Stabilization Regulations. These notifications have taken the three following forms : -
Similarly, the board has instructed the Local Committees of Review to investigate and report on all applications for registration, irrespective of whether they are considered to be eligible or ineligible for registration. The honorable member referred to the definite instruction of the “Wheat Industry Stabilization Board to wheat-growers to sow a normal crop, but omitted to mention that a normal crop, as defined by. the Wheat Industry Stabilization Board, is the average of a wheat-grower’s sowings during the last four seasons. It would seem, from the honorable member’s statement, that the farm of the wheatgrower at Narrabri to which he referred, has not been a wheat farm in the past.
Mr.Scully. - That is not so.
– If the grower should feel aggrieved, he has the right of appeal. In all cases in which licences have been withheld, the men have been told that they can grow ten acres of wheat for their own use. Even if this farm has been regularly cropped in wheat, it would be surprising if the average sowings of that particular wheat-grower during the last four seasons, on a 300-acre farm, were 240 acres.
In the second case which the honorable member mentioned, ifhe correctly stated the facts, it is very likely that the advice forwarded to the farmer concerned - that his property would not be registered - is due to the fact that the property does not come within the definition of a wheat farm because wheat has not been grown on it during the three-year period from the 1st October, 1938, to the 1st April, 1941.
The Wheat Industry Stabilization Board is carrying out an extremely difficult task, and it is obvious that there will be anomalies to which the board will have to give special consideration. It was with the intention of avoiding injustices to any legitimate wheat-growers that the board decided to establish local committees of review, the principal function of which is to review applications already made to the board by wheatfarmers, and to recommend to the board the acreage that should be allotted to each applicant. I am making inquiries into the’ third case brought to my notice. If the honorable member will furnish me with detailed information regarding the other two cases he mentioned, I shall investigate them also at the earliest opportunity.
– I desire, very briefly, to comment upon what I conceive to be the disastrous folly implicit in the statement made by the Prime Minister (Mr. Menzies) regarding the censorship of certain incidents which are alleged to have occurred in and about the Parliament, relating to alleged challenges issued by certain members to other members in regard to enlistment for overseas service.
I am well aware that the press, owing largely to the deadly dullness of normal proceedings in this Parliament, are inclined to seize upon grotesque incidents of relatively small, importance. The reason, as I have suggested, is that reports of the proceedings in this Parliament do not normally make fascinating reading for the subscribers to newspapers, whereas accounts of such incidents as these are read with avidity. It is to be regretted, of course, that public taste is not higher than it is, and that men are not more studious of serious public affairs than they are. I submit that it is not the part of the Prime Minister, by the exercise of the censorship, to raise or change the tone of the public taste in that way. Where is the censorship to begin and where is it to end? These challenges arose out of some very serious statements which I addressed to the chamber in the course of a debate on which I have already spoken, and in respect of which I must not repeat myself, but statements, nevertheless, which. related to the matter of the possible enlistment of Ministers as a stimulus to recruiting. That speech has been recorded by the Mansard reporters, and I take it that, subject to anything thatthe Government may elect to do in an arbitrary way, and in defiance of the rules of the House, it will appear in due course in the columns of Hansard.
– The Government does not control what appears in Hansard.
– I quite understand that that is the position up to the present, and I have even gone to the length of congratulating the Government upon the fact th at, up to the present, no action has been taken to invest even you, Mr. Speaker, with authority to suppress the declarations of members on the floor of the House. I was asking where this policy is to begin and where it is to end. The Prime Minister himself has made a statement this afternoon in whichhe informed the House that he has put the machinery of the censorship into motion for the purpose of suppressing the publication in the press of matter relating to these incidents. Does that mean that his own speech on the subject will not be published in the press? Does it mean that the speech of the honorable member for Bourke (Mr. Blackburn),who presented a wellconsidered argument on the propriety of the. Prime Minister’s action, may not be referred to in the press? Does it mean that my own humble reference to the same subject will not appear in the press? I have reason to believe from what you, Mr. Speaker, have said, that those speeches will at least appear in the columns of Hansard. That means that the public is to be invited to search the columns of Hansard for the matter which interests them - a tedious process and one to which they are quite unaccustomed. Are we to understand that we may not speak of these things at public meetings, or are we invited not to mention them to our friends as matters of such piquant interest that at least we may drive a certain sectionof the public to the volumes of Hansard for the purpose of informing their minds? The whole thing is, in my view, incredibly foolish. The incidents referred to were, it is true, in a sense trifling in their nature, but they were not altogether uninformative, and they had some real value as indicating the attitude of honorable members on both sides of the House to the subject of shouldering obligations which they have invited others to accept. They were not altogether without their lesson in their own way, and, perhaps, -were worth recording and at least desirable, apparently, as reading-matter for the public.
Many of the meetings that should have been meetings of this House have been held in secret. We are apparently to extend this policy of secrecy. This
Parliament meets at an aloof spot in the great continent of Australia, and is largely cut off from public notice. How can we expect that it will enjoy any measure of respect from the people if they consider that the members whom they send here with a mission to express their views and discharge duties for them are to be coddled up in a glass case and kept remote from public criticism, and even from public observation?
The exigencies of war have required a limitation of the use of newsprint. This has imposed serious disabilities upon literary people, and, incidentally, upon working journalists, who are complaining against this action as being carried to the extent of inflicting unnecessary hardship upon them. We shall reduce the Parliament to little more than a fiasco if this policy be pursued. This is a Parliament of ordinary men who are sent here from electorates throughout Australia as persons with the ordinary weaknesses, the ordinary occasional flippancies, and the ordinary desire of honest men to do as fearlessly as they can the task imposed on them. The attitude of the Prime Minister will rebound upon himself, but the fact that he will bring discredit upon himself and his Government does not satisfy me as being sufficient compensation for the fact that the practice will bring this institution into disrepute.
. - I take this opportunity to bring to the notice of the Government, the Prime Minister (Mr. Menzies) and the Minister for Commerce (Sir Earle Page) a matter of vital importance to the State from which Icome, and, particularly, to the Geraldton district, which is an important part of my electorate. I refer to the establishment of wool appraisement centres at Geraldton and Albany. For the last eighteen months, wool-growers and the representatives of various public bodies have been urging the authorities to establish wool appraisement centres at those places. However, the Central Wool Committee, which is a creature of this Parliament, has put forward every conceivable excuse to prevent this being done. The small growers, particularly, havenot come out of the present deal very well, and considerable dissatisfaction exists regarding prices and the conditions under which wool is sold to the United Kingdom Government. Repeated requests have been made for an increase of price, and an improvement of conditions. The growers are not asking for excessive profits; all they want is a fair deal. They have experienced many adverse- seasons within recent years, and they are entitled to sympathetic consideration. However, the Government, and the Central “Wool Committee, instead of trying to assist them., seem to be anxious to place further burdens upon them. In, reply to representations, the Government said that it would be unfair to establish new appraisement centres as the extra cost involved would have to be borne by the Australian wool-growers. This is an astounding statement in view of the fact that the cost of establishing wool appraisement centres at Geraldton and Albany would 4>c infinitesimal compared with the extra cost which must be borne by the growers in paying freight on their wool to Fremantle. Moreover, it must not be forgotten that all costs after appraisement - that is, costs relating to the handling of wool from the store to the ship - are borne by the British Government, and are met by a special levy of £d. per lb. Prior 4o 1916, no wool sales were held in Westprn Australia, but during the last war it was considered both convenient and economic to have appraisement centres at Geraldton and Albany. This arrangement gave complete satisfaction to all parties, and worked very smoothly. It is true that, after the war, only Fremantle remained as a wool-selling centre, but while the war was in progress wool wasappraised at both the other places. One of the difficulties is that the. buyers are afraid that Geraldton and Albany may ^become permanent wool-selling centres after the war, and why shouldn’t they? Vested interests are always fighting for their own ends, but we should consider the interests of the producers. The ^Commonwealth Government stated that it would be wrong in principle to establish new appraisement centres; that centres should be set up only where auctions had been previously held over a period of years, the object being to interfere as little as possible with peace-time trading practices. “This shows that the Government and the Central Wool Committee appear to be more concerned with the interests of the buyers than with those of the growers. In 1916, the Government did interfere with peace-time practices, but if it had applied the principle which the present Government is seeking to apply, there would be no appraisement centres in Western Australia at all to-day. It is hard to reconcile the attitude of the Government, in giving every assistance to secondary “industries, with its attitude towards the wool-growers in Western Australia. Surely the primary producers are entitled to some consideration, seeing that they also are assisting the war effort. One of the reasons put forward by the Government for refusing the request of the growers is that the ships would experience difficulty in entering the Geraldton harbour. That is absurd. Wheat ships have used that harbour continuously to load wheat for various ports throughout the world, and no difficulty was experienced in loading wool at Geraldton in- 1916. . Since then, nearly £1,000,000 has been expended upon harbour improvements. The channel has been deepened, and there is no doubt that the harbour could accommodate all vessels which would be likely to load wool for the United Kingdom^ .The Mayor of Geraldton has: repeatedly stated that he can refute any suggestion that the port is not capable of accommodating wool ships. Geraldton possesses all the facilities necessary in a wool appraisement centre. The facilities were sufficient during the last war, and. they have been improved and extended since then. Storage and. handling space has been’ increased. After the wool is appraised, it is shipped direct to the United Kingdom. The Government has pointed out how necessary it is to economize in the use of shipping to ensure quick loading and quick departure for Britain. It is estimated by the Premier of Western Australia that between 50,000 and 60,000 bales of wool are produced annually in the Geraldton district alone. With the wool that would be diverted to Geraldton, if it were made an appraisement centre, about 95,000 bales would be treated there each year. It would be just -as economic to send ship’s to Geraldton to load wool as it would be to send, ships there to pick up wheat. The Government has contended that convoys from Geraldton could not be arranged, but that argument collapses when one realizes that it finds means whereby to arrange for’ the convoy of the wheat ships from that port. It would appear that the Government in concert with the Central Wool Committee is more anxious to safeguard the interests of the wool-buyers than those of the wool-growers. Facilities to the woolgrowers should be extended, not curtailed, because decentralization is essential to the progress of Australia.
Much correspondence has already passed between the State Government and the Commonwealth Government about the establishment of appraisement centres at Geraldton and Albany, and I appeal to the Minister for Commerce for reconsideration of the whole case. I also appeal to. the Prime Minister, who has had much to do with these negotiations, to do something to ensure that the wool-growers and the people in the Murchison and north-western districts of Western Australia, for which Geraldton is the port, receive the consideration they deserve.
– I assure the honorable member for Melbourne Ports (Mr. Holloway) that the question of the internees ‘ who were sent from Great Britain to Australia in the Dunera- has been thoroughly investigated. No doubt exists that many of them should never have been interned. That is frankly conceded by the British Government. The Commonwealth Government is merely the custodian of the internees. Major Layton who was sent to Australia to deal with their cases has been here for some time. I have discussed the problem with him, and I have before mc a summary of his findings. The internees can be placed in categories that readily present themselves to one’s mind. There are those persons who, for security reasons, should be interned, and there are those who should not be interned. In the second category, there are those who desire to return to England and- those who desire to remain in Australia, and in such lastmentioned class who can assist Australia in its war effort. It is to them that attention must first he directed, and I undertake to discuss with the Minister for
Labour and National Service (Mr. Holt), the best means whereby to deal with their problem. “It seems foolish not to use the services of men, even though they came here as internees, who have been gwen a clean sheet by the British Government through its representative here. Obviously, the services of any man about whom there was the slightest doubt could not be used. The only men who could be used are those who’ without, a shadow of doubt were wrongly interned, and who by reason of special qualifications can assist in the war effort.
Those internees who have been cleared of suspicion and who cither cannot directly assist in the war effort or desire to return to England present a very difficult problem. Our ability to send them back to England depends on shipping space of which sufficient is not available. It seems harsh, that they cannot bo released, in Australia, but there are obvious difficulties in the way of that being done. Nevertheless, I assure the honorable member for Melbourne. Ports that I shall consider the matters which he has- raised and a3 far as possible, consistent .with security, meet his wishes.
On the 30th. May the honorable mem- ber for Dalley (Mr. Rosevear) asked a question concerning the alleged cancellation of an assurance policy held by a member of the armed forces who is -on active service. I have had full, inquiries made, and have found that the cancellation referred to concerns an accident policy - not a life policy - held by a nian who is now serving in the Royal Australian Navy. The war-time position of accident policies is quite different from that of life policies. It is almost the universal practice for accident policies specifically to exclude risks arising as a result of war from, the risks against which the companies insure the policy-holders. The case to which the honorable member referred is such a one, and. there seems no doubt that the particular company involved in cancelling the policy was acting in accordance with the specified conditions on which the policy was issued. I am having an inquiry made in relation to various forms of insurance policies held by men sewing in the Australian Imperial Force and Australian Military Forces in order to see if any action is necessary to protect their interests. All the inquiries which I have had made so far disclose that there is no ground for complaint in relation to life policies held by members of the forces taken out before the outbreak of war. The companies appear to have acted very reasonably in regard to these policies, and I know of no instances to the contrary. However, the honorable member may be assured that my inquiry will’ cover all aspects of this subject, and that the interests of members of the forces will be protected.
– I bring to the notice of the AttorneyGeneral (Mr, Hughes) a matter which vitally affects the freedom which we ought to enjoy in Australia. I have received the following letter from the Portland branch of the Australian Labour party :-
The Portland branch of- tho Australian Labour party at its meeting held June 5th, 1941, decided that the following facts should be placed before our Parliamentary representatives and the central executive for their -information, and further that we call upon you as our federal Parliamentary representative to protest against this violation of “Australian Labour party rights of assembly and organization by bringing this matter hefore the Chief Commissioner of Police, and Parliament.
On April 20th, 1941, the police visited the homes of the president, secretary a”»!d treasurer of our branch. They visited the secretary’ first, saying that Communist literature had been distributed in the district, and ‘ that they had been informed that she was a Communist. They then searched her home and went through the Australian Labour party hooks. They read minutes and correspondence, and then wrote down the names of officers and’ members from the minutes of the annual meeting. They asked where and when meetings were held, looked through the receipts for halls, and asked whether meetings were held in homes. They were told the executive meetings had been held in the secretary’s home. They attempted to take, and finally gave back, a copy of Pamphlet No. 1, issued by tlie 3KI Labour Hour Broadcasting Committee, signed by Mr. Holland, M.L.A., and Mr. Young.
They also alleged that the secretary gave out Communist “ Vote Thus “ cards on election day (Federal). The fact is that the sec rotary, together with the sister of the treasurer, stood all day outside the booth, giving out Labour cards, and to the knowledge of any Labour party member, no Communist card.? were seen or heard of in the district. They then went to the home of the president, who pressed for the name of the person who had said he was a Communist, saying that he would fight the case in any civil court. They refused to. give a name, and later admitted that their information came from an anonymous letter. They asked searching questions about Labour party members and branch activities. finally they raided the home of the treasurer, and asked to see his Australian Labour party books.
On leaving the homes of all those visited, the police said they were satisfied, but this does not vindicate our branch, or its officers in the eyes of the public Nothing but an apology from the police can do this, and we feel that one is owing.
We. have already written to the Chief Commissioner of Police demanding an apology, hut only by the added weight of your support can we hope for justice.
Honorable members can visualize a comparatively small country town such as Portland where everybody is more or less known to his fellow townsmen, and what harm may be done to the unfortunate victims of tactics of this kind by some malicious or vindictive person who skulks behind an anonymous letter. Apparently there is no redress against these mischievous persons. Although the search of the premises may fail entirely to substantiate the charge of association with the Communist party, and completely exonerate the unfortunate victim of the raid, the. stigma remains. In my opinion it- is entirely wrong, un-British and’ un-Australian, to make a raid based solely on the malicious statements of an anonymous letter writer. People will be afraid to join the Labour party, quite apart from holding office in country branches, if at any time, on the mere accusation . of someone hiding under the mask of anonymity, the private homes of reputable citizens can be invaded. Before a raid is authorized the person responsible for laying the information should be required to disclose his identity to a magistrate .so that in the event of the charge not being substantiated civil proceedings could be instituted against him. Any other state of affairs is intolerable. If we allow7 this practice to continue we are merely getting down to the methods of the Gestapo.
– This is the new order.
– It is certainly not my idea of a new order. I know the president of the Portland branch of the Australian Labour party. He is an old
Labour man who was born as it were in the Australian Workers Union. He is no more a Communist than is the Minister for the Army (Mr. Spender). In spite of the fact that his loyalty is undoubted he was putto the indignity of having his home raided purely on the say-so of some malevolent person. The Australian Labour party will have to take steps to protect its members against indignities of this sort. I have no desire to be venomous but it is my opinion that if inquiries into this matter were instituted, they would disclose that the’ writer of the anonymous letter was a member of an opposing political organization.
– Oh, no !
– It is obvious that this move was made merely to discredit the the great party to which I belong and all associated with it. It is well known that the Australian Labour party has purged its ranks of those who had affiliations with Communism. The loyalty of the party should not be doubted. If we seek to find the subversive elements in our midst to-day we must look not among the Labour branches but in such places as the Millions Club. Only recently the Prime Minister of Great Britain found it necessary to put behind the bars a number of people holding high positions whoso loyalty was regarded by the people generally as beyond doubt. There are quite a few highly placed people in this country who also shouldbe put behind the bars. I feel very strongly on this matter. To call a. person a Communist is libellous unless it can be proved, and those against whom this charge has been levelled should have recourse against their accusers in the civil courts. In the case to which I have drawn attention an apology has been demanded from the police, but what apology can compensate the residents of a small country town for the stigma that must attach to proceedings of this kind? I have no doubt that every one in Portland very quickly learned of the raid. The anonymous letter writer knew what would be the result of his foul job. He knew that, although he could not substantiate his charges, at least some of the mud would stick. I appeal to the Attorney-General to take adequate steps to protect the public against malicious libels contained in such anonymous letters, and to ensure that, before the machinery of a raid is set; in motion, the accuser shall swear his information before a magistrate.
.- For a long time I have been appealing to the Government to preserve a proper balance between industry in the country and in the metropolitan areas. The wisdom of such a policy cannot be questioned. However, many industries in our rural districts are now in a state of chaos. The Government can do much to preserve the mining industry in rural districts. The interior of this continent was explored and. developed by those engaged in the gold-mining industry. This afternoon during the debate on the gold-fields dispute in New Guinea, certain of our boasted Australian patriots showed more concern about making profits in blacklabour countries than in developing industry in Australia. It has been suggested that one Commonwealth Minister is a director of a gold-mining company inNew Guinea which is really acting as a dummy for a foreign company. The United Australia party watches the interests of great (financial concerns which are always ready to exploit the public to their own advantage. When such an outlook isconsidered moral and ethical from the point of view of big business it is useless for me to cavil at the fact that a member, or supporter, of this Government is a director of a goldmining company. However, his action is reprehensible if the company in question be simply a dummy for a foreign company. But the point I emphasize is that whilst this Government enables foreign capital to exploit the gold resources of the mandated territory ofNew Guinea, it does nothing to encourage the development of our mineral resources in Australia. The mines at Lucknow, adjacent to Orange, are a £10,000,000 proposition, but to-day they are idle because investors are attracted to the mandated territory mentioned, where, as mining engineers who have reported on those fields have emphasized, considerable elasticity of the rules and regulations governing the working of the minesis allowed. On Australian mining-fields, particularlyin New South Wales, rules and regulations are strictly adhered to in the interests of the good conduct of the industry and, more particularly, for the protection of the workers. Such conditions, however, are not complied with in the mandated territory of New Guinea. In the past, when the price of gold was not so high as it is at present, millions of pounds was invested in the gold-mining industry in New South Wales. Many of the deposits then worked could profitably be re-opened to-day. But modern machinery is required, and they will not be re-opened so long as capital is encouraged to go elsewhere -to the detriment of this country. Vast deposits not only of gold but also of other minerals, such as, chrome, manganese, iron and molybdenite are available for exploitation in this country. But in respect of such deposits all of the available capital is attracted to mandated territories or adjacent areas, and the products of those fields are imported into Australia for use in the manufacture of steel required by the mun 1: tion industry. The Broken Hill Proprietary Company Limited, for instance, imports from New Caledonia manganese alloy which is mined and smelted by convict, labour. At one time that company had a manganese furnace at Newcastle but despite the existence of manganese deposits in New South Wales it demolished that furnace in order to take full advantage of the product of cheap labour. I urge the Government to arrange for those deposits in New South Wales . to be developed and to prohibit the importation of such ‘ ores. Developments in metallurgy during the last few years have now. made .it. possible to exploit small deposits which hitherto were regarded as unprofitable propositions. Consequently, it is not necessary to expend huge sums on the establishment of a blast furnace in order to smelt manganese. A small electric furnace capable of doing this work can be erected on each field itself. We do not require to pay attention only to large deposits of ore, because in this way small deposits, many of which in New South’ Wales are situated close to railways and handy to elec-, trie power, can be developed. These deposits, however, are not being exploited because, I strongly suspect, the big mining companies are determined not to allow outsiders to enter the industry. Recently I have had correspondence indirectly from Sweden where ferro alloys are being worked extensively. Swedish iron ore is recognized as the richest in the world, but the Swedish, deposits are no more extensive than those existing in New South Wales. The Swedes are using small electric furnaces. Similar types of furnace can be seen in Sydney, Melbourne, Newcastle and Lithgow. They ‘employ hydro-electric power which, although it is available practically on the fields of New South Wales from the Burrinjuck Dam, is not exploited. It was suggested to me in the correspondence mentioned that Sweden’s national banking reserve system enabled the working of these ore deposits. Wartime necessity will eventually compel .us to make our banking system more elastic, so that we also will be able to exploit our resources. Otherwise, if we should lose our supplies of ferro metals, such as chrome and manganese, as the result of insufficient shipping space or some other cause, our entire munition industry would have to cease production and we should be unable to defend Australia. We need only a small quantity of chrome metal in our munition industries, and the expenditure of perhaps £500,000 would guarantee the production of a sufficient quantity of metal in Australia. Nevertheless, we are not taking action in that direction. If the Government will do as I suggest, it will not only guarantee the necessary supply of metals, but also it will help to restore the balance of population that existed in Australia prior to the dislocation of . industry caused by the war, the drift of population from country towns because of the more attractive conditions in the metropolitan areas, and the calling up of young men for military service.
I shall refer now to our social legis-la tion, particularly that which relates to repatriation and other pensions. The administration of these laws- should be more elastic. When they were framed, the conditions that prevailed in Australia were vastly different from those which prevail to-day. In those days we did not have the spectacle of male members of families being called up for home defence training or enlisting for service abroad, leaving the other members of the family in a state of dire distress. Hardship is being inflicted upon many aged and invalid persons, and’ dependants of membersof the fighting forces because of the rigidity of the laws, and the fact that those who administer them must he guided by. the laws themselves and not by the policy of whichever government happens to be in power. The Government should take cognizance of this matter and make some improvements. This would help to preserve’ a sound, state of mind amongst the people, which is necessary at this time when enemy propaganda is designed to cause dissatisfaction, despair, and chaos.
.- I draw the attention of theAssistant Minister (Mr. Collins) to the fact that under our new child endowment legislation it will be possible for recipients of endowment to obtain their payments direct from a post office or have them deposited in a savings bank account. I suggest that the Invalid and Old-age Pensions Act be amended to permit of these pensions being paid into savings bank accounts if pensioners desire this to be done. Many old people are somewhat sensitive and do not like to stand in queues at post offices in order to draw what they regard as a charity. I believe that the old-age pension is not a charity. Aged persons have as much right to draw pensions as an ex-member of the SupremeCourt has to draw a pension for the services which he may have rendered to the community.
– Payment of pensions can be made by cheque at present
– Yes, but when a pension is paid by cheque, the recipient has to go to a storekeeper or to some other tradesman in order to cash it, and that has its disadvantages. In the first place the tradesman learns that the person is in receipt of an old-age pension, and. in the second place the pensioner is obliged to deal almost exclusively with that tradesman. The payment of pensions into savings bank accounts would obviate the difficulties that are inherent in the system of payment by cheque. I am sure that no honorable member will object to this suggestion.
I now refer the Assistant Minister to the case of a. Commonwealth public servant who contested unsuccessfully the last Senate elections in Victoria. He had to resign . his position in the Public Service in order to’ do so, and after the election he was readmitted under the provisions of an act which deals with such cases. However, he found that by resigninghe had lost his seniority, sick leave and furlough rights. Hehas received the following letter from the Deputy Director of Posts and Telegraphs in Melbourne: -
Referring to your application for the restora tion of privileges such as sick leave, furlough, and seniority following your re-appointment to the Service, your representations were placed before the Public Service Board, and advice is to hand that no pergonal interview is thought to be necessary as there is no provision in the law under which your previous service could be credited to you for sick leave, furlough, and seniority purposes. The board therefore regrets that the request contained in your memorandum of the 31st December, 1940, in this connexion cannot be complied with.
The Commonwealth Public Service Act should be amended in order to permit a public servant to contest an election without having to resign from his position.
Mr.Collins. - The matter will be considered by Cabinet at its next meeting.
– Such a provision already exists in New South Wales and Victoria. A. candidate’s resignation from the Public Service should not become necessary until he is elected. If he he defeated, he should be permitted to resume his occupation without loss of seniority or privileges. When the matter is considered by Cabinet, I hope that provision will he made for restoring to this man, and’ to others who may have been similarly disadvantaged, their full rights. Following the last federal elections, the Parliament of Victoria passed special legislation in order to protect the rights of two candidates who were members of the Public Service of that State, and to guard against similar happenings the Commonwealth should take immediate action so as to obviate a grave causefor complaint.
When appealing recently over Station 2BL for subscriptions for the Commonwealth £35,000,000 war loan, the Minister for Trade and Customs (Mr. Harrison) declared: “We should forgo our new hat, our silk stockings, our carpet or motor car until we can enjoy them in celebrating a great and glorious victory”. To the general expression of that sentiment, I have no objection. In time of national necessity, we should not, indulge in luxurious spending. But the members of the Felt Flatters Union in Victoria feel that the adjuration of the Minister may have a serious effect upon their industry and that the statement was unnecessary and entirely out of place. In addition, they assert that the non-wearing of hats is injurious to the health of individuals. I have been supplied with an extract from an article published in the Medical Journal of Australia, dated the 13th August, 1932, entitled “Prevention of Cancer of the Skin and Buccal Cavity”. The author, Dr. E.H. Molesworth, is an eminent lecturer in dermatology at the University of Sydney. The article was read at the Cancer Conference in Canberra in March, 1932, and portion of it is as follows : -
At this stage it is not necessary to repeat the arguments and array the facts which go to show that the great disproportion in the incidence of skin cancer inAustralia as compared with England is dueto an ionization effect by the ultra-violet compound of our abundant sunshine. I assume that it is generally accepted, in Australia, at least, that chronic irritation by ultra-violet rays, as by X-rays, can produce cancer. But this is not to be taken to mean that all cases of basal and squamous carcinoma of the skin occurring in Australia are held to be due to chronic sunburn irritation. We are often quite unable to guess what are the causes of those tumours which arise on covered parts or in persons who have not been exposed to chronic sunburn. Some of them seem to arise spontaneously, perhaps from cell rests, some as the development of malignant activity and as a result of chronic irritation in simple tumours like seborrhoeic warts, some in scars from burns or other injuries.
The article points out that constant exposure of the body, either on the beaches or in the non-wearing of hats, has a deleterious effect upon health. In justice to the union, because the employment of its members is affected, and in justice to Australians generally, because of the grave danger to their health resulting from the non-wearing of hats, I feel that I should make this statement.
One of my constituents considers that she has been the victim of a grave injustice arising from the administration of the Australian Soldiers Repatriation Act in its present form. In a recent letter to me, she thanked me for my efforts on her behalf, but added that she could not obtain a satisfactory decision from the Repatriation Commission, and asked me to pursue my inquiries in her interests. When her husband was alive, she received one-third of the maximum pension. Since his death, she has been paid only 5s. 5d. a week. She enclosed formy perusal a cutting from the Melbourne Herald which contained a summary of the pension rates payable to dependants of members of the Australian Imperial Force. The article stated that widows of men who were killed on active service, received pensions ranging from £2 7s. to £6 a fortnight. In almost every case, the figure was about £4 4s. a fortnight. My constituent declared that, whilst in the opinion of the Repatriation Commission her husband’s injuries were not due to war service, he had been very ill for a. long while. During the last three years of his life, he was bedridden and she was unable to seek employment because she had to attend to him. Circumstances compelled them to sell their home, which had cost them £590, and represented their life’s savings, and she incurred a number of debts. Her health, because of the strain of nursing her husband and through advancing years, is no longer good, and she finds difficulty in obtaining a position. I know that the Government will not be unsympathetic to cases of this nature, and I shall be glad if the Assistant Minister will investigate this unfortunate woman’s claim. Itmay be possible, in the near future, to amend the act in order to alleviate the hardship that has been imposed upon ageing widows who find that in this world of machinery and speed, they are unable to earn a living.
Mr.Collins. - If the honorable member will supply me with the woman’s name, I shall bring the matter before the notice of the appropriate-Minister.
Question resolved in the affirmative.
House adjourned at 5.2 p.m.
The following answers to questions were circulated: -
e asked the Minister for Defence Co-ordination, upon notice-
– The answers to the honorable member’s questions are as follows: -
n asked the Minister representing the Minister for the Interior, upon notice -
State for such premises?
– The information is being obtained.
l asked the Minister representing the Minister forthe Interior -
Commonwealth for each building compared with the rents paid by the civil occupiers?
– The information is being obtained.
On the 29th May, the honorable member for Parkes (Sir Charles Marr) asked’ the Minister for the Interior the following questions, without notice : -
Works Committee by Parliament for its report?
The Minister for the Interior has supplied the following answers: - 1.No.
s. - On the 2nd April the honorable member for Melbourne (Mr. Calwell) asked the following question, upon notice: -
What are the designations and salaries of the private secretaries, assistant private secretaries, typists, messengers and such like officers attached to each Minister, and which of these officers are (a) permanent and (b) temporary public servants?
I now supply tlie following information: - .
Cite as: Australia, House of Representatives, Debates, 20 June 1941, viewed 22 October 2017, <http://historichansard.net/hofreps/1941/19410620_reps_16_167/>.