16th Parliament · 1st Session
Mr. Speaker (Hon. W.M. Nairn) took the chair at 2.30 p.m. and read prayers.
– Honorable members will have learned with regret of the death yesterday, in the United Kingdom, of Viscount Stonehaven, who was GovernorGeneral of Australia from 1925 to 1930. Prior to that appointment, he was member of the British House of Commons from 1910 to 1925, during which period he held the offices of Parliamentary UnderSecretary of State to the Home Office from 1919 to 1922, and Minister for Transport and First Commissioner of Works from 1922 to 1924. Thushe had an extensive and important experience in the House of Commons before being appointed to the high office of Governor-General of Australia. Honorable members will recall that it was during his occupancy of that office that the Commonwealth Parliament was opened at Canberra by His Royal Highness the then Duke of York, the present King.
While Governor-General of Australia, the late Viscount Stonehaven made himself, perhaps, as closely acquainted with every part of this continent as was any man who lived in it. He took a remarkably keen interest in everything associated with its development. From my own experience, gained on numerous occasions, I can say that, after his return to Great Britain, he proved himself a warm friend and a strong advocate of Australia, not only in the speeches that he made in the House of Lords, but also whenever an opportunity was presented to him in different parts of Great Britain. Any Australian Minister visiting Great Britain was always assured of a very special welcome by, and every possible assistance from, the deceased gentleman. I can recall his speaking on more than one occasion with point and force on behalf of this country, emphasizing its view in places where such emphasis would do the most good. He was, I believe, a genuinely warm-hearted friend of this country. I move -
That this House records its profound regret at the death of the Right Honorable Viscount Stonehaven, P.C., G.C.M.G., a former GovernorGeneral of the Commonwealth of Australia, and expresses its deep sympathy with Viscountess Stonehaven and family in their bereavement.
– I second the motion, and endorse all that the Prime Minister has said in appreciation and, indeed, admiration, of the services which the late Viscount Stonehaven rendered to Australia. Members of the Opposition have deep sympathy for his family.
Question resolved in the affirmative, honorable members standing in their places.
– I ask the Prime Minister, in the absence of the Minister for Trade and Customs, whether the report of the Tariff Board with respect to assistance to the fishing industry has yet received the consideration of the Government, and when it will be circulated to honorable members?
– I regret my inability to answer the question. I shall obtain an answer for the honorable member, and supply it to him to-morrow morning.
– A published statement with reference to the appointment of a controller of the coal-mining industry mentions that coal-owners are to be allowed to make a profit of 8 per cent. I ask the Prime Minister whether the calculation of the profit is to be made on watered stock or on the original capital?
– As the statement referred to by the honorable member was not made by me, I shall be glad if he will permit me to obtain an answer and furnish it to him to-morrow morning.
Funeral Expenses of Dependants
– In view of the relatively small rates of pay of members of the fighting services, and having regard to their contribution to the defence of this country, I ask the Prime Minister whether the Government will consider the payment of funeral expenses in the event of the death of any dependant of a member ?
– I shall have the question considered by my colleagues.
– Will the Minister representing the Minister for Supply inform me as to what members of the former oil cartel have been approached by the Minister with a view to their acting on the new Oil Advisory Committee ?
– I shall inquire of the Minister, and convey his reply to the honorable member.
– Will the Minister representing the Minister for Supply lay on the table of the House the names and interests of members of the defunct oil cartel and the names and interests of members and likely members of the Oil Advisory Committee in order that honorable members may know whether or not the interests represented on the oil cartel are not also represented on the Oil Advisory Committee under the same or different names?
– I shall convey the honorable member’s request to the Minister for Supply.
– During the discussion of the last budget, the undertaking was given that a conference would be held between the members of the Advisory War Council and the Commonwealth Bank Board in regard to financial policy. Will the Prime Minister state whether such a conference has been held ? If not, when will it be held, and when may Parliament expect to receive a report of the deliberations ?
– Pursuant to the arrangement mentioned, a meeting was held some considerable time ago. It is anticipated that during the next fortnight, when financial matters will be under active consideration, there will be a further meeting in order to resume the discussions then commenced.
– In view of the increasing prices of commodities, will the Treasurer have the pensions regulations altered, in order to permit pensioners to have an income of £1 instead of 12s. 6d. a week in addition to their pension?
– This is a matter of policy, which will be considered in conjunction with the preparation of the budget.
– When does the Minister for Social Services intend to issue instructions to the Pensions Department to recognize a permissible income, in the case of husbands, parents, or wives of applicants, of 50s. a family unit, in conformity with the resolution of this House early last month?
Sir FREDERICK STEWART.That matter is now before Cabinet.
– Is the Prime Minister yet in a position to make a statement on the issue that I raised on the motion for the adjournment of the House last night, with respect to the assistance which the Government intends to render to Russia, and the diplomatic and trade relations which may be established between that country and Australia?
– Part of that matter is covered by an answer to a question on the notice-paper to-day. Beyond that, I am not at present able to go, but I hope to be able to give further information on the subject before this sessional period ends.
Transfers from Canberra.
– Can the Prime Minister inform me what departments, if any, have been transferred from Canberra during the last three months?
– I cannot give the information offhand, but I shall have a statement prepared.
– I lay on the table of the House the f ollowing paper : -
Abbco Bread Contract - Report of Royal Commission. and move -
That the paper be printed.
Debate (on motion by Mr. Curtin) adjourned.
– I have received the following telegram which I desire to bring under the notice of the Prime Minister : -
The Charlton District Council Wheat and Wool-growers’ Association urges you demand immediate action obtain security of tenure and long range credit policy through. Commonwealth Bank for all primary producers to avert rural disaster.
Will the Prime Minister take action to protect these people who are being dispossessed of their properties and placed in extremely difficult circumstances because of the war?
– The matter raised by the honorablemember should be dealt with, I think, by considering particular problems. If he has in mind some particular problem which requires attention or some specific form of relief, C shall be glad if he will have a talk with me or with the Treasurer regarding it, so that we may bring it before Cabinet.
– Has the Minister for Commerce been in communication with the State governments and State Departments of Agriculture regarding his fodder conservation proposals, particularly in regard to the scheme for the conservation of fodder on the farm?
– The Government’s fodder conservation scheme fell into two parts: there was, first, the purchase and sale of fodder under the control of a federal board; and secondly, a proposal for working in conjunction with the State Departments of Agriculture for the conservation of fodder on the farm. The Commonwealth Government brought a proposal before the Loan Council to make available £250,000 to the States in order to ensure that fodder supplies would be conserved by farmers. Unfortunately, the State Premiers who attended the Loan Council threw out that proposal, so that the Commonwealth is unable to proceed with it.
– On the 15th July, I wrote to the Prime Minister about a man named Leslie Potter who had joined the Australian Navy, and was at that time in hospital in Perth. For nine and a half years he had been paying premiums on an insurance policy to the Metropolitan Accident Insurance Com pany, which cancelled the policy when he joined the Navy, and retained the premiums which he had paid. Does the Prime Minister propose to take any action regarding insurance companies which are cancelling policies and seizing premiums because policy-holders have joined the Navy?
– I am not familiar with the case, which had not previously been brought under my notice. If the honorable member will give me the details in his own way during the day, I shall have it looked into.
Payment of Income Tax in England.
– Is it a fact that members of the Royal Australian Air Force serving in England with the Royal Air Force are now to be relieved of the obligation to pay British income tax. If so, will tax already paid be refunded to members of the Royal Australian Air Force ?
– The British taxation authorities considered that, according to the terms of enlistment of officers and men of the Royal Australian Air Force serving with the Royal Air Force, they were liable to pay British income tax. I caused representations to be made to the authorities in the United Kingdom, as a result of which they have abandoned the position formerly taken up. I was not aware that any tax had, in fact, been paid.
– Quite a lot has been paid.
– It has not come to my notice, but I shall have inquiries made. I shall be glad to learn of specific cases in which tax has been paid, and I shall endeavour to obtain a refund.
– Will the Minister for the Army consider paying all reasonable funeral expenses of men who die, or are killed, in militia camps, in place of the present practice of paying £12 towards the cost of burial ? This amount is sufficient to pay the cost of a funeral only if it takes place near the camp site, but not if the burial takes place in the man’s home town near his relatives.
– I shall give consideration to the honorable member’s proposal.
– I desire to address to the Minister representing the Minister for the Interior a question relating to the necessity for providing additional hotel accommodation in Darwin. About a month ago, the Chamber of Commerce directed my attention to the serious lack of accommodation in the town, and advocated the granting of another licence.’ I emphasize, at this juncture, that I do not favour the granting of an additional licence in Darwin, but I suggest that an unlicensed hotel similar to the Hotel Canberra in Brisbane should be provided. I realize-
– Order ! Will the honorable member ask a question?
– Lack of accommodation presents a serious problem in Darwin-
– Order ! The honorable member will resume his seat.
– Will the Minister representing the Minister for the Interior send a radiogram to the Minister for the Interior so that on his next visit to Darwin, he may meet representatives of the local Chamber of Commerce and hear their views upon the matter? Will the honorable gentleman also impress upon the Minister the necessity for providing in Darwin an unlicensed hotel under Commonwealth control, the profits from which shall be devoted to the planning of the town?
– 1 shall be pleased to bring the matter to the notice of the Minister for the Interior.
– Is the Minister for External Affairs in a position to announce when the newly-appointed Chinese Minister to Australia will arrive in this country ?
Sir FREDERLCK STEWART.Whilst I am not able to give precise information: about the matter, the last news that the Government received was that the Minister will leave China in the near future.
– Will the AttorneyGeneral inform the House when the indictments which have been launched against certain firms in relation to army boot contracts will be heard?
– The information has been laid, the cases have been listed, and the matter is now awaiting hearing. The court will determine the date.
– That stage was reached some months ago.
– I am not the god of time.
– Will the Minister for Home Security inform me whether consideration has been given to the necessity for providing air-raid shelters for the employees of munition establishments, and the residents of Maribyrnong and Footscray? If so, will action be taken to provide air-raid protection’? If the matter has not yet been considered, will the Minister give his attention to it at the earliest possible moment?
– The matter is at present under consideration. As the honorable member is aware, the Commonwealth Government, acting upon the recommendations of the Defence Committee, has, up to the present time, advocated only planning with regard to shelters and evacuation. Eight priorities were laid down, and action is now being taken in respect of the first six, and planning in regard to the remainder. The subject of air-raid shelters will be discussed at the Air Raid Precautions Conference which will be attended by State Ministers and myself in Melbourne on the 25th and 26th August.
– I ask the Minister for the Army whether a decision has been reached regarding the complete manufacture in Australia of motor vehicles for the Army? If not, in view of the possibility of interruption to shipping in the Pacific, have steps been taken by the Army to secure an adequate supply of necessary materials from abroad?
– In reply to the first part of the question, I inform the honorable member that Cabinet, in recent weeks, decided against the proposition. However, the honorable gentleman may rest assured that every arrangement has been made to secure sufficient vehicles for the purposes of the Army.
– Will the Prime
Minister say whether the Government proposes to discontinue the letting of contracts under the cost-plus system for the manufacture of munitions and war equipment?
– As the problem has been engaging the attention of my colleague, the Minister for Munitions, I should not care, without reference to him, to make a statement about the progress which has been made. I shall confer with the Minister upon the subject, and supply the honorable member with an answer.
– Has the Treasurer
Been the disclosed profit of £2,500,000 which was made in the last financial year by the Broken Hill Proprietary Company Limited? Is the honorable gentleman aware that that sum represents a dividend of approximately 50 per cent. on the original capital? Will he take immediate steps to refer the company’s profits to the Prices Commissioner?
– I read in the press the disclosed profits of the company, and I shall take all possible steps to gather as much of them as I can into Consolidated Revenue.
– Has the Government yet evolve.d a scheme for the technical training of youths between the ages of 18 and 21 years? The Commonwealth’s scheme for the training of men for the munitions industry applies to males over the age of 21, whilst the States’ schemes apply to youths up to the age of eighteen years. No provision is made for young men between those ages.
– Order !
– As many of them who have been engaged in non-essential industries are now becoming unemployed
– Unemployed in war-time I
– Yes. Those who are not eligible for active military service and who have lost their employment in non-essential industries have no opportunity to be absorbed in the manufacture of munitions.
– Order! Will the honorable member ask the question?
– Will the Minister for Labour and National Service indicate whether the Government has evolved plans to enable youths between the ages of 18 and 21 years to obtain technical training ?
– The Commonwealth’s scheme of technical training for the production of munitions is open only to those over the age of 21 years. That limitation was fixed at the direct request of those unions which are affected by the dilution scheme, under which the trained men are placed as craftsmen in various skilled occupations. The unions insisted upon that condition before they consented to the dilution arrangement. The State Governments are responsible for technical training generally. I was not aware that technical training under the Department of Education of New South Wales terminated at the age of eighteen years. I shall be glad to investigate that aspect of the matter. If the honorable member has in mind particular individuals between the ages of 18 and 21 years, who have met with difficulty in obtaining employment, I shall be glad to have their cases investigated by the Commonwealth employment officer.
– Can the Prime
Minister inform the House whether there is any reason for the latest increase of the price of tea by 2d. per lb. sanctioned by the Acting Prices Commissioner, which brings the total increase since the war began to11d. per lb. ?
– I shall obtain an answer from the department and have it circulated.
– Will the Minister for the Army consider using the former internment camp at Orange as a militia training camp ?
– I am prepared to look into the matter.
– Will the Treasurer tell me whether distilleries for the pro- duction of power alcohol from wheat will be set up in towns in the heart of the wheat-growing areas or in metropolitan areas on the sea-board?
– A special committee has been set up to deal with the location of distilleries for the distillation of power alcohol from wheat. The committee will confer with the State Governments and have distilleries established at places which are considered to be most economical and where the requisite facilities are available.
– I ask the Prime Minister how he reconciles his published statement that the proprietors of the Sydney Morning Herald were amongst the biggest profiteers in the country with his continued declaration that effective Commonwealth machinery hasbeen established to eliminate profiteering in this country and, further, whether the evidence upon which he based his press statements concerning the profits of the Sydney Morning Herald have been placed before the Attorney-General with a view to a prosecution being launched?
– If my memory serves correctly, I said everything I had to say on that subject in the columns of the Sydney MorningHerald itself, and no doubt the honorable member followed it closely.
– Does the Prime Minister believe that he has satisfactorily discharged his public duty in having, in his opinion, adequately disposed of the incident with the proprietors of the Sydney Morning Herald?
– Order ! Questions based on belief are out of order.
– Is it a fact that the Prime Minister does not intend to place before the Attorney-General the evidence which he has concerning profiteering by the proprietors of the Sydney Morning Herald ? If so, does the right honorable gentleman propose to take any further action? If not, may his failure to do so be accepted as an indication that in the first place his statement was not based on fact?
– I have nothing to add to what I have already said - which doubtless will be regarded by the honorable gentleman as complete evidence of my incompetence.
– Will the Minister for the Army write a circular letter to every honorable member of Parliament urging him not to entertain correspondence from young constituents asking the local member to use influence in order to release them from either militia training or Australian Imperial Force camps?
– I have directed a circular regarding this matter to every member of the House. I have nothing further to add.
– Has the attention of Mr. Speaker been drawn to the report of a division appearing at page 867 of Hansard in which the member for NewEngland is paired with the member for Balaclava and also with the member for Riverina? Is that report any more accurate than some of the reports which have lately appeared in Hansard of speeches in this House?
– The Speaker exercises a general supervision of Hansard, but that supervision does not extend to checking division lists. On the whole Hansard is particularly accurate and the standard of the reporting is very high.
– Will the Prime
Minister cause investigations to be made of allegations published in a Sydney newspaper that the banned organization known as Jehovah’s Witnesses is now engaged in making gun parts in Sydney for the Department of Munitions?
– I have not heard of that, hut I shall have inquiries made into it.
– Does the Prime Minister intend to lay on the table of this House, the reports which have been prest! !i ted to him by the Man-power and Resources Survey Committee?
– -The reports of the committee were made to the War Cabinet, not to Parliament, and the question of whether reports dealing with defence matters and organization, which are normally confidential, ought to be laid on the table of the House is one which I shall discuss with my colleagues in the War Cabinet.
– Will the Minister representing the Minister for Supply lay on the table the file relating to the purchase of canned meat for the Army and Navy? I am dissatisfied with the information that I have received about this matter.
– I shall convey the honorable member’s request to the Minister for Supply.
– Is the Prime Minister aware that an authorized investigating committee has recommended to the Government that certain engineering establishments controlled by State instrumentalities are available, and should be used, for the manufacture of military tanks? If so, will the right honorable gentleman inform the House whether definite steps have been taken to commence the manufacture of tanks? If no steps have been taken, can he give any reason for the delay, in view of the urgent need for such equipment, for defence purposes, and will he ensure that the work shall be undertaken immediately?
– This question relates to the business of the Department of Munitions. If the honorable member will give me a copy of his question I shall have it conveyed to the Minister for Munitions who, no doubt, will supply an answer.
– I ask the Minister for Commerce whether the report published in the press that additional oil tankers have been secured to bring an additional 4,000,000 gallons of oil to Australia is correct? If so, were these tankers discovered as the result of the exposure of the operations of the oil cartel in Australia?
– The Minister for Supply has been able to secure several additional tankers for Australia. He did so on his own initiative and without any help.
– Will the Minister representing the Minister for Supply send an officer of the Copper and Bauxite Committee to inspect the copper deposits that were formerly worked in the area of New South Wales west of Orange, and also to report on the bauxite deposits that are known to exist in the Trundle district?
– I am prepared to discuss with the Minister for Supply the advisability of doing so.
– In view of the announcement made some time ago that provision would be made for the issuing of free rail passes to soldiers in uniform when on leave, I ask the Minister for the Army whether an instruction has been issued to the Eastern Command to grant this concession, and if so, whether it has been withdrawn from soldiers in any camps ?
– I shall make inquiries so that an exact answer may be given to the honorable member.
– Has the Prime Minister, or any other member of the Cabinet, recently considered the advisability of releasing the men Thomas and Ratliff, who are now in prison, and if not, will the right honorable gentleman give consideration to the matter immediately ?
– The matter was recently reconsidered by’ the Cabinet, which decided to adhere to its former decision.
– I ask a question of the Minister for Commerce in connexion with a recent visit which the right honorable gentleman paid to his own electorate, in company with members of the Liquid Fuel Control Board, in order to form committees to deal with petrol rationing as applied to members of primary producers’ organizations and others. Will the Minister grant facilities to other honorable members representing country electorates, so that we may interview primary producers’ organizations, in company with the Liquid Fuel Control Board, with a view to relieving the acute shortage of petrol in country districts!
– I am sure that the Minister for Supply will he pleased to assist the honorable member in the formation of local advisory committees, as he is confident that this is the proper way in which to limit the hardships and anomalies that have arisen under the petrol-rationing scheme.
– Will- the Minister representing the Minister for Supply consider the advisability of appointing sergeants of police in country districts as advisers to the Liquid Fuel Control Board regarding the amount of petrol which should be made available to farmers and others who are in difficulties as the result of fuel restrictions?
– On behalf of the Minister representing the Minister for Supply, I shall explain to the honorable member the procedure that has been adopted. It is the practice to nominate police officers in country districts as the agents of the Liquid Fuel Control Board. The advisory committees, which
I have already mentioned, have been formed in order to assist police officers and act in the capacity of courts of appeal. The services of members of the police forces are being used in all parts of Australia.
-In view of the advancing years of members of the original Australian Imperial Force who are now serving in the Garrison Forces, I ask the Minister for the Army when the Government intends to allot deferred pay to these men in order that they may make some provision for their existence after the war ;, also when may the House expect to hear some announcement from the Government as to increased allowances for dependants of members of the Australian Imperial Force who are serving overseas and of members of the Militia Forces ?
– As to the first pert of the question, a similar inquiry now stands on the notice-paper. As to the second part, an announcement will be made at the appropriate time.
– In view of the increasing cost of producing wool, which is not commensurate with the low prices received by the growers, I ask the Prime Minister whether, during his approaching visit to Great Britain, he will confer with the Imperial authorities-
– Is that a statement of policy ?
– Yes. Will the right honorable gentleman approach the Imperial authorities with a view to arranging for the payment of prices more commensurate with cost of production, seeing that Australian wool is now being sold in the United States of America for 4s. per lb.?
– This matter comes within the jurisdiction of the Minister for Commerce. I shall ask him to provide the honorable member with an answer to the question. I value the condition which the honorable member attached to it. I should like to talk to him about it later.
Statement by Economist.
– Has the Minister for the Army seen the statement which was published in the Sydney Morning Herald under the headings, “Living Standards: Reduction urged by Economist “ ? The statement, which was attributed to Mr. C. V. Janes, economist of the Bank of New South Wales, was to the effect that Australia could not maintain
– Order ! Quotations from newspapers must not be introduced into questions.
– The statement was that Australia could not carry on the present war effort on the present standards of living, and that these standards would have to be reduced. Does the Minister not consider that the statement was very near to being subversive?
– I have read the statement. I understand that Mr. Janes repudiates it. In any event, I see nothing subversive about such a statement which is merely an expression of opinion. If such expression of opinion be subversive, then many people in this country are guilty of making subversive statements.
Deferred Pay - Voluntary Aid Detachment Service
– Will the Minister for the Army inform me whether it is a fact that the Government decided recently to grant deferred pay to members of the Australian Imperial Force at Darwin? If that is to be done, will the deferred pay date from the time of the Minister’s decision or from the time when the soldier entered upon his service ?
– The Government’s decision was that members of the Australian Imperial Force detained in Australia should draw deferred pay to commence and accrue after six months’ service, or after the soldier concerned had been removed to an operational station whichever date was the earlier. Consequently, in some cases, the decision will have a retrospective effect.
– I ask the Minister for the Army whether it is the inten tion of the Government to grant deferred pay to members of the Australian military forces who may be stationed at Darwin or in other territories of the Commonwealth ?
– A question on that subject is already on the notice-paper.
– I ask the Minister for the Army whether it is intended that the Voluntary Aid Detachments which are to be sent abroad after a meagre training covering a few months of service shall’ take the place of fully-qualified nurses in hospitals where members of the Australian Imperial Force are receiving treatment? If not will the honorable gentleman explain to me what service the Voluntary Aid Detachments are intended to render abroad?
– The answer to the first part of the honorable member’s question is “ No “. The answer to the second part of it is that there are many duties which the Voluntary Aid Detachments will be able to perform and for which they have been trained in accordance with prescribed standards. The duties they will discharge overseas will be similar to their duties in this country. Purely as an example, they will discharge duties like those at present being discharged in connexion with the “ blood bank “ at the Sydney Hospital. The duties will be important, but they will not be such as are usually discharged by trained nurses.
– I ask the Minister for War Organization of Industry whether he has yet had any consultations with trade union leaders concerning the war organization of industry, or whether he proposes to hold such consultations?
– I have already stated publicly that I intend to confer with the leaders of industry and the leaders of trade unions, but such consultations will need to be on specific matters which arise from time to time. I do not regard it as falling within my functions to hold conferences with trade union leaders on general industrial matters, but I shall hold such conferences on matters related to the organization of particular industries, where the continuity of the production of an industry may be concerned, or where the employment of persons engaged in such industries may be affected.
– Is the Minister for External Territories able to tell me why a company desirous of exploring a certain area in New Guinea which is believed to contain oil deposits of commercial significance has been refused permission to make the desired explorations, seeing that the company is prepared to accede to any practicable conditions the Government sees fit to stipulate ?
– The reason why the company has not been permitted to make its exploration is that the territory to which it desires to go is in an uncontrolled area. To grant such permission would cut directly across an ordinance of the territory. During my recent visit to New Guinea, I was not able to obtain any information to bear out the statements made by certain honorable members concerning this particular company. As a matter of fact, a Mr. Townsend, whose name was used in this House as an authority in support of the company’s contentions, told me that what had been said on behalf of the company to the effect that oil had been found in the particular portion of the territory which it desired to explore was “ too fantastic for words “. Mr. Townsend went so far as to say that no white man had been in the part of the territory where oil was said to have been found.
– Is the Minister for External Territories able to make a statement regarding the progress being made with the inquiry into the New Guinea Gold-fields dispute?
– Earlier this week I received a communication from the Commonwealth Conciliation officer, Mr. Blakeley, to the effect that he anticipated that his inquiry would conclude yesterday. He has not yet furnished me with a report, but I understand, from his communication, that things are proceeding satisfactorily.
– Will the Prime Minister inform me whether the Government approves of the practice of members of Parliament continuing to draw their parliamentary allowances in addition to payment as members of the Defence Forces? I ask this question, having .in view the general dissatisfaction of the lower ranks of the fighting services because of the inadequacy of the pay they receive?
– I offer my personal view on this subject. There has never been a prohibition against a member of Parliament earning income apart from his allowance by doing any work that he is prepared to do, and I know of no reason why the business of fighting for his country should be excluded from that category.
– I ask leave to make a personal explanation. In view of the question asked by the honorable member for East Sydney (Mr. Ward), I point out that, so far as I know, only two members of this House aTe going abroad on active service. One other honorable member may do so, though, of course, service in the Royal Australian Air Force and the Australian Imperial Force need not be confined to the few. In my own case, I shall not receive any payment as a member of the Royal Australian Air Force except, perhaps, in seven years’ time, when a portion of my pay may come to me through the redemption of certain war savings certificates. The rest of the money to which I am entitled will be available for use by the Government without interest for the period of the war. I should not have made these facts public, if the honorable member for East Sydney had not asked his question.
– Having in mind the question just asked by the honorable member for East Sydney, I ask the Prime Minister whether it is a fact that a limbless ex-soldier member of the Senate was “ jockeyed “ by some one else out of emoluments to which he was entitled?
Question not answered.
– Will the Minister for Commerce make arrangements for the branding of meat at all abattoirs so as to denote its quality, with the object of preventing butchers and others from charging high-grade prices for low-grade meats ?
– At present the constitutional power of the Government is limited to the branding of meat for export, but I have already requested the various State governments to give effect to the suggestion made by the honorable member.
– Will the Treasurer agree to confer with the representatives of the trade unions concerning the harsh interpretation that is being given to section 10 of the Commonwealth Workmen’s Compensation Act, with a view to introducing amendments to the act to meet the objections of trade unionists engaged in industrial activities?
– I shall be pleased to do so, and after hearing their case, I shall consider the whole position.
– In view of the fact that Australia’s primary products are still being sold at the prices in force at the beginning of the war, I ask the Minister for Commerce whether he will take steps to purchase bulk supplies of certain overseas primary products needed in Australia, but not produced here, with the object of distributing them at reasonable prices to the Australian consumers? I have in mind such an Empire product as tea, the price of which has increased greatly in Australia.
– If the honorable member will supply a list of the commodities he wishes to have examined, I shall be glad to consider his proposition.
Ministerial Representation in London.
Debate resumed from the 20th August (vide page 11), on motion by Mr. Menzies -
That the following paper be printed: - Recent Developments in International Affairs and Proposal that Prime Minister should visit London - Ministerial Statement by the Prime Minister, 20th August, 1941.
– Yesterday, the Prime Minister (Mr. Menzies) made to the House a statement in which he indicated substantially the purposes governing the summoning of Parliament.
Whilst the right honorable gentleman reviewed, very shortly and generally, the state of the war in its various theatres, he directed attention particularly to the developments in the Far East, and to the decision of the Government that it was desirable that the Prime Minister of Australia should immediately re-visit England. The reason for my making a short statement now is that the right honorable gentleman said that he did not feel disposed to act upon that decision of the Cabinet, because of the balance of parties in Parliament. The words that he used were -
Having regard to the balance of parties in Parliament, I have indicated that it would not be practicable for me to go abroad at present except with the approval of all parties.
This morning, the Federal Parliamentary Labour party assembled, and adopted the following declaration: -
The Labour party declares -
That declaration is stated clearly and simply. It emphasizes the gravity of the war as it affects the Commonwealth. Yesterday, at the private meeting of both Houses, I indicated as fully ais I could - and much more fully than I can indicate to-day - circumstances which 1 consider warrant every body in Australia regarding the position of our country as one of gravity. It is clear that the circumstances in the world at large have not improved, from the stand-point of Australia. There has been no decision in the battle of the Atlantic or the battle of the Middle East, and there is grave uncertainty in respect of the position in the Pacific - an uncertainty which has been increased for the worse as the result of what has occurred in the last few months.
It will be recalled that when, in February of this year, the members of the War Cabinet agreed that a declaration should be made jointly to the people of Australia by the Acting Prime Minister (Mr. Fadden), myself, and the honorable member for West Sydney (Mr. Beasley), there was not an occupation of Indo-China by Japan, nor was there any exhibition of a policy which has led to the adoption by certain countries of sanctions against Japan; there was not the spectacle of vast Japanese armies moving into Indo-China, and the establishment of military and air bases in that country by Japan. I think it must be clear, too, that at that stage of the war - in total - the’ conduct of the Government at Vichy was not so distasteful to us as it has since become. The important occurrence in the European theatre since February was the invasion of Russia by Germany. Whilst 1 have the utmost confidence in the final outcome of’ the war, it is clear to my mind that it would he sheer delusion if, at this juncture, we were to presume that in the Atlantic, in North Africa, in the Mediterranean at large, or in the
Pacific the struggle has assumed a character which portends a decision favorable to ourselves. We are, at the moment, as badly situated as we have ever been since the collapse of France; because Germany is waging a war with very formidable forces, over vast areas, and against very great opposition. The portentousness of the situation should make us, not less confident of its final result, but all the more resolute to take those steps which common sense suggests are requisite to deal with it. We should view the matter as realists. We should stare facts in the face, draw what lessons we can from them, and shape our course accordingly. I cannot imagine the defence of Australia by ourselves alone being practicable iri total. Vast as has been the effort which Australia has made, in respect of certain essential parts of our equipment we are still dependent upon imports, which must cross the seas. Yet, so satisfactory has been our development and our expansion that our collaborators in this struggle are dependent upon items that we can supply. Thus, some sort of associated endeavour in respect of total mobilization is demanded, for the more effective use of the resources of the different collaborators in this cause. Concerning the United States of America, I merely express the utmost satisfaction with the declarations which its President has made from time to time. I hope that I do not regard them too optimistically; but I believe that I have the right to view them with much greater satisfaction than Herr Hitler could dare to feel. That is the view which I take of the general significance of the statements which from time to time have been made by the President of the United States of America, the declarations made by his Secretary of State, and such decisions as can he said to have been made by either the Government or the people of the United States of America. Because the present struggle is as we have described it on previous occasions, the Labour movement once again affirms its belief that there is not between us and Great Britain any possibility of division in the matter. We stand for the same things, and against the same foe, and we hope to attain the same objectives. We claim to be equal partners with Great
Britain, and consider that the Government of the United Kingdom owes it to us so to regard us. Although we consider that our necessities make it imperative for the Prime Minister of Australia to remain in this country in order to deal - as our declaration says - with the Administration in Australia, and with all the very complicated problems which we ourselves have to resolve in order not only to do our utmost in our own defence, but also to contribute to the common cause, none the less we feel that Australia is entitled to have its view constantly placed before the British War Cabinet. The Parliament, the Government, and the people of Australia are warranted, in view of all that Australia has done, is doing, and proposes to do, in saying to the Government of the United Kingdom: “ We desire to have our view of war policy placed before the Cabinet in Great Britain by such a representative as we deem most suitable for the purpose, having regard to the other work which has to be done in Australia. Whilst in the past it has been a matter of general practice that the Prime Minister of Australia should, as a gesture of courtesy, be admitted to the discussions of the British War Cabinet, in order to place before it the view of Australia, the exigencies of the war now make it necessary that that gentleman shall remain in Australia to lead his Administration. Therefore, as it is important that our view should ‘be put before you, we ask you to accept, not the representative of Australia that you would choose, but the representative of Australia which the Australian Government may choose”. Whether or not that will be acceptable to the Government of the United Kingdom, the Opposition makes that declaration as representing its view of what is right, having regard to all the circumstances. I do not consider that I need here elaborate what I said yesterday to honorable members of both Houses, when I frankly told my colleagues in this Parliament everything that was in my heart, and said what I believed was necessary in order to defend Australia to the utmost of our capacity, and to do our best in the common cause. I instanced a number of problems that involved conversations with other governments, that involved understandings with other governments, that involved the making of declarations to certain governments 60 that they might be deflected from the course which they otherwise might follow. The steps which we should take in connexion with these matters I do not now feel disposed to discuss.
The Prime Minister has said that it would not be practicable for him to go abroad without the approval of all parties. The Labour party does not give its approval. At the same time, we are quite ready, not merely to agree, but also to urge, that there should be provided by the Government of the United . Kingdom means whereby the opinion of Australia shall be constantly placed before the War Cabinet. My own belief is that it cannot be done by a Minister who would be absent from Australia for some long period of time. The progress of this war produces changes, sometimes from day to day, and, as events shape themselves, it may be necessary for us to be represented in England by somebody closely conversant with the actual position in Australia - with the position in regard to our resources in men, the places where they should be used, our resources of raw material, our manufacturing capacity, the extent to which we are dependent on production in other places, and the shipping that is available between the various collaterals. All these matters require to be reviewed from day to day, and involve immediate communication with Australia’s representative in London, so that the British War Cabinet, if it does things which we do not like, will at least do them with a full understanding of what Australia wants. The Prime Minister, since his return to Australia, gave to this Parliament and to the country a prospectus for an unlimited war effort, and we are awaiting the taking of the necessary steps to ensure that our war effort is appropriately accelerated. With great respect to the right honorable gentleman, I say that the Prime Minister of this country at this time has such important work to do here and now that our representation in the British War Cabinet must be left to some one else.
Mr. HUGHES (North Sydney-
Leader of the Opposition (Mr. Curtin) in his speech yesterday did a great service to Australia and to his party. He approached this question - the greatest of all questions - in a manner worthy of the great party which he leads. He said then, and he has repeated to-day, that this matter is of transcendent importance, overshadowing party and all other considerations. What is it that we are discussing? We are discussing the safety of Australia. The honorable the Leader of the Opposition said to-day - and I invite the attention of honorable members to this point - that the safety of Australia is something which we cannot ensure.
– Of ourselves, by ourselves.
– We cannot ensure it. If Australia is in danger and if we can not of ourselves ensure its safety then there is nothing we ought not to do, no effort we ought not to make, in order to make this country safe. The Leader of the Opposition said yesterday - and I agree with him - that although we can send more troops to Malaya, or to the Middle East, to hold the gateways through which an enemy might come to our country, these will not of themselves suffice. What is wanted, and what must be had if by any means we can obtain it, is adequate naval strength inthe Pacific.
– Yes, I said that.
– We can get that only from Britain. Of course, we are hoping that it may be supplemented by aid from our friend overseas, from the United States of America, whose leader has given us encouragement and comfort on many occasions, and who recently addressed words of hope to the world. We know very well, however, that only Britain can induce the United States of America to throw in its lot with us, and send its ships into the Pacific. It is then to Britain we must turn. We cannot defend ourselves. Although we have been nearly two years at war, we have not seen the faintest smudge of the enemy’s smoke on the horizon. War has raged fiercely in other lands, but we have gone peacefully on our old and sheltered way. There never was a time during the whole 150 years of our occupancy of this continent when our peace was more profound than it is at the present time. We have lived here as peacefully as a child lying in its mother’s arms, not because of anythingwe have done, but because of the protection of Britain. But now the war, which has hitherto been for us only a spectacle, something we could see on the films, something we could read about, threatens to come here, and we are naturally gravely concerned. As the Leader of the Opposition has told us, the forces at our disposal will not of themselves ensure our safety. If we were to train all ablebodied men in the country, and equip them with all the most modern implements of war, still that would not suffice. What we want, as the honorable gentleman has said, is naval strength in the Pacific and we can get it only from Britain. It is because Britain still controls the sea after two years of war that we have remained at peace in Australia. Britain’s navy has kept the enemy forces at a distance; but those naval forces were created, and have been maintained, by Britain for the defence of Britain as well as the defence of the Empire as a whole. I put it to honorable members to consider this point: The enemy is now within 20 miles of Britain, which has been battered sorely, terribly, for the last twelve months. Britain, however, still stands erect, having defied the most ferocious attacks of the enemy, and is now carrying the war into the enemy’s territory. The Royal Air Force has done, and is doing, wonderful things, but without command of the sea, not a plane could have been put into the air, or have been kept there. It is Britain’s command of the sea that enables us to discuss these matters to-day in this peacef ul atmosphere. The need for strengthening British naval forces in the Pacific is urgent and imperative. The safety of Australia cannot be secured by any other means. We must rid our minds of those illusions which have been created by 150 years of perfect peace. That peace has been enjoyed by us because, and only because, Britain has been able to keep all enemies from our doors. I am one who, in season and out of season, has lauded the Australian Imperial Force. I cannot speak in terms of too high eulogy of what they have done. They made for themselves a lasting name. They established traditions upon which future generations of Australians will model themselves. They have inspired the second Australian Imperial Force, whose members went out resolved to follow in their fathers’ footsteps. Yet, but for the British navy, and the power of the British Empire, there would not to-day be an Australian, white and free.
We seek the aid of the British navy to strengthen the naval forces in the Pacific. The British navy has been built and is maintained by the people of Britain for the defence of Britain and the Empire. Upon its power and vigilance the very existence of Britain and of every part of the Empire depends. Without its protection the food supplies upon which more than half the population of Britain are dependent could not reach them. Vital war material essential to the prosecution of the war, and every gallon of petrol used in Britain for the Royal Air Force must be brought from overseas. Australia wants Britain to detach some great ships now engaged in policing the sea-lanes night and day and in convoying the great merchant fleets which are carrying vital food and war supplies to Britain. We are going to say, “Lend us your ships. Let them come here - never mind yourselves “. That is what it amounts to. That is the request we are to make of those six or seven men who comprise the British War Cabinet, the men who are deciding the destinies of the Empire and of the civilized world. We have to bring before those men the vital needs of Australia, and how are we to do it? Honorable members opposite contend that the way to do it is to send, not the Prime Minister, but some chosen representative. Apparently, that work is not worthy, or of sufficient importance, to warrant us in sending the Prime Minister abroad! The Labour party declares that the right honorable gentleman’s place is in Australia. If honorable members opposite believe, as the Leader of the Opposition (Mr. Curtin) believes, that the danger is grave, and may at any moment become graver, and nothing that we can do can save us except additional naval forces in the Pacific, then surely they must insist that nothing shall stand in the way of ensuring national safety.
Frankly, I do not believe that the British Government would entertain the proposal to send any Minister other than the Prime Minister. Yesterday, the right honorable gentleman submitted good and sufficient reasons why any other Minister should not be despatched. What is given to one dominion must be given to all. This country, it is true, is more vitally concerned, through its position in the Pacific, than any other dominion with the exception, perhaps, of New Zealand. But the British Government has to consider the circumstances of the whole Empire. I do not believe for one moment that the British Government would agree to the proposition put forward by the Leader of the Opposition on behalf of the Labour party. Even if the British Government did consent to it, the chosen Minister would have to persuade the British War Cabinet, which has supreme control of these mighty ships, and which, whether we are represented or not, has control of our destinies, that the needs, of Australia were so vital and so urgent that these ships should be withdrawn from other seas and sent to the Pacific. The War Cabinet directs the fleet that has shielded us from the aggressor for 150 years. If we are to convince the War Cabinet that such naval forces as will be adequate to ensure our safety should be sent to the Pacific, the task calls for the services of the best representative that Australia can send. If it is not a matter of life oi’ death, we are simply wasting our time. If it be a mere political stunt, let nobody go. But honorable members know” that not only Ministers, but also the Leader of the Opposition, have stated that the situation is grave, and they have been told that only adequate naval forces in the Pacific can deal with it.
Some persons contend that the proposal to send the Prime Minister to London is simply a political stunt, that it is designed to make political capital out of a grave national danger. In my opinion, the Prime Minister should go to the seat of Empire as the representative of this country, charged with this great mission. He has to persuade, to induce, and to put. forward the views of Australia. To do this he must speak as one who has all the authority this country can give to him. I can speak as one who has had some experience of this. When during the last war I spent some 21 months away from Australia, I put forward the views of this country. I spoke as Prime Minister and for a united people. As the result, the affairs of this Empire had taken a turn different from that which they would otherwise have taken. I make that statement without boasting. By the admission of the Leader of the Opposition, the Prime Minister is the representative of Australia; he is a man so eminently qualified to represent Australia that he must not even leave it because he is the best man to guide its destinies. At this time, London is the only place from which Australia can be guided. Mr. Menzies must go there because no other man is or can be an adequate substitute. He is a man who, apart from being the Prime Minister, is eminently qualified to propound to such a conclave the views of Australia. He can hold his own with members of the British War Cabinet. He has already done so. Honorable members are able to judge of his qualifications. They know him. But, above all, he is the representative of Australia. Some honorable members contend that the right honorable gentleman should go to London, but not as Prime Minister. Would they send him forth discredited by the withdrawal of their support? Is that the way to achieve what they want? Or is he to go without the assurance of political stability upon which his influence is based and without which it ceases to exist? When I represented Australia overseas during the last war, political stability existed here. When I spoke for Australia, I spoke with the assurance that the Parliament of the Commonwealth and the people of the Commonwealth supported me. The only one way by which the Prime Minister can have that assurance is through the support of all parties in this Parliament. Now, the Leader of the Opposition has propounded another proposal that, not the right honorable gentleman, but somebody else, should go to London. Evidently, the need is not considered to be urgent. It may, indeed, be ignored. AnybodY may go. I have no doubt that, if some honorable members had their way, the imprimatur of this Parliament would be placed on anybody. To such a man, some honorable members would entrust a mission which, they agree, is vital to the very existence of Australia. This would submerge patriotism in party. It is not what I expect from a national parliament, confronted with the present grave situation. The circumstances call for the representation of Australia in London. If such representation is to be effective, it must be in the British War Cabinet. If the representative is to attend meetings of the War Cabinet, he must speak for Australia with all the influence and all the weight that belongs to a united country. If Australia speaks with two voices when the Prime Minister is in England, what must be the reaction upon world opinion? On the isolationists in the United States of America, who are howling and barking at the heels of the great President, we heap ridicule, contempt and denunciation. With the enemy massing forces within a few days’ sail of us, we continue to “boggle” because it is not politically expedient that Mr. Menzies should go to London. If it were politically expedient, the right honorable gentleman would go, because there can be no other objection to his being entrusted with this mission. But if he is to go, he must go as the representative not of a party, but of the Parliament of the Commonwealth and of the country. This is a question not only for Australia, but also for the Empire. Upon us rests a great responsibility. We are the garrison of a great outpost of Empire, which we hold for the white races. Australia is a vital strategical post of Empire. Pointing out those facts, the Prime Minister, clothed with the authority of the whole Parliament, would put our case convincingly to the War Cabinet. Certainly no one could put it better than he. But unless he possesses that authority and is ensured of political stability during his absence, his influence must count for naught.
Some people object to the proposal on the ground that the Prime Minister should not be absent from Australia for an indefinite period. Such an attitude is absurd. The Leader of the Opposition pointed out that the situation changes from day to day, from week to week, from month to month. Less than a month has elapsed since Japanese forces poured into Indo-China. Tomorrow, they may enter Thailand. A fortnight hence, where will they be? There is not a day, not an hour to Lose, because time runs on like a swiftly flowing stream. Now is our opportunity to mould our destiny to arrest the forces arrayed against us. Everything that can be urged why Mr. Menzies should not go, because of the need for the retention of his services in Australia, falls to the ground. The Leader of the Opposition declared that we cannot save ourselves.
– Nor can any other country in the world save itself. The democracies have to stand together or, one by one, they will be taken. That is what my declaration meant.
– What the Leader of the Opposition said is perfectly true, but the application to ourselves is very special. Even the United States of America cannot stand alone; but its circumstances are vastly different from our own.
– Quite so.
– No part of the British Empire, with the exception perhaps of Canada, can hope to resist aggression by a first-class power; but our circumstances are such as to make resistance almost hopeless.
– Notwithstanding our equality with Great Britain in this struggle, the right honorable gentleman contends that Great Britain will not listen to our needs unless we send the Prime Minister himself torepresent us in London.
– The Attorney-General wants us to plead with Great Britain.
– I did not say that. If all that had to be done could be accomplished by the transmission of a message, no personal representation would be needed ; we could achieve our purpose just as effectively by radiogram.
– Oh !
– Does the Leader of the Opposition see any virtue in personal contact?
– There is enormous virtue in personal contact.
– Does the person himself matter at all?
– Has one person more influence than another, and is he likely to put a case more effectively than another ?
– Does not the Leader of the Opposition consider that the man with the greatest influence should represent the whole country?
– Yes; but I cannot conceive of any man having greater authority to represent his country than he who has been chosen by the executive Government.
– Yes, if he is chosen by the executive Government; put broadly, that would be right.
– That is how I am putting it.
– The honorable member puts it broadly in order that I may not examine it narrowly. I do examine it narrowly, and I find that the Opposition is able to overturn the executive Governmen by a gesture. The executive Government of this country has declared what it wants to be done, and the Leader of the Opposition has risen and said that that shall not be done.
– We should not have come into this except for the Government’s decision that the matter was one for all parties to decide. If the Government were treating this matter as an ordinary act of government, it would have done what it considered necessary and stood by it.
– These are words: let us look at the fact. This direction to the executive Government - because that is what the honorable gentleman’s statement amounts to - would not have been delivered if we did not make it a condition that the Prime Minister should not go unless the three parties agreed.
– They do not agree.
– If thehonorable member wants an explanation, let him look around. Nobody knows better than he that the state of the parties in this House makes it essential, in the interest of Australia, that the Prime Minister shall go to Great Britain with the approval of the Parliament. Otherwise, his influence would be quite inadequate, and he would be held up to derision; he would amount to nothing, and the British people would say : “ Here is a country which declares itself to be in dire peril, but which refuses to send home its Prime Minister, the man who knows whence the peril comes and the man who has the backing of the people “. I am content to leave the case as I have presented it. In my opinion the Leader of the Opposition has left that broad path upon which he walked yesterday with such distinction and credit to himself and the country, and is now going along some devious by-path.
– I shall counter that statement with a personal explanation.
– What the right honorable gentleman has said indicates base ingratitude. What the Leader of the Opposition said yesterday was said in secret. The Attorney-General is not playing the game; he has never known how to play it.
– All I am saying is that the position created now is this : Australia is in great peril. It cannot save itself. Representation in Great Britain is essential. That representation should be of the highest quality and the highest character. The Leader of the Opposition knows very well that he himself, if he were placed in the position of the Prime Minister of this country, would not undertake a commission abroad in these circumstances, no matter what came or went. I say to the honorable gentleman, in order that there may be no misunderstanding, that we have offered to him and his colleagues time and again the opportunity to form a national government on terms of perfect equality. They have rejected that which would give them at least full assurance that nothing would be done against their will.
– This is not 1916.
– The danger is greater. We now approach the Opposition in a time of great peril and ask for its support and co-operation, that support which it has given us with the Advisory War Council, that cooperation which it has extended to us ungrudgingly, that co-operation without which the Government of this country could not have been carried on. We are asking the Opposition now to co-operate with us, not for an unlimited period, but for a season, in order to allow the Prime Minister of this country to go abroad representing a united Australia and a united Parliament.
Motion (by Mr. Fadden) proposed -
That the debate be now adjourned.
Opposition Members. - No ; the Prime Minister agreed to allow the debate to continue.
– I understand that the Leader of the Opposition (Mr. Curtin) desires to make a personal explanation.
– The Prime Minister asked across the table whether I was ready to go on.
– On Supply. I then got into conversation with the Leader of the Opposition and suggested that, as no good purpose would be served by prolonging this debate at this stage, we might as well go on with the Supply Bill.
Motion - by leave - withdrawn.
.- I was amazed by the speech delivered by the Attorney-General (Mr. Hughes). It consisted of special pleading as to why the Prime Minister (Mr. Menzies) should now go to England. If we can take notice of rumours, the speech of the AttorneyGeneral was not altogether disinterested. His remarks about the Leader of the Opposition (Mr. Curtin) were most unfair and were indicative of the base ingratitude of the Government for the co-operation which has been’ extended by honorable gentlemen on this side of the House, particularly the Leader of the Opposition, to the Government in organizing Australia for a top-gear war effort. According to the Attorney-General, the Ca’binet of the United. Kingdom will not listen unless the Prime Minister himself goes to London at the present time. I do not agree with that. The Prime Minister in his speech yesterday said -
I do not offer any criticism of the Prime Minister of Great Britain or of his War Cabinet. In my visit earlier in the year, I found thom in the highest degree cooperative, willing to listen to the Australian view, willing to attach significance and weight to special Australian interests.
What has happened since to indicate that nobody but the Prime Minister of this country can put the case for Australia in England to-day? I disagree entirely that that is so. The Prime Minister of New Zealand went to Great Britain on a short visit; he is about to return to New Zealand. The Prime Minister of this country was in England for five or six months, and he placed before the British Government certain views about Greece and Crete, and the disposition of naval units in the Pacific. Those requests could have been placed before the British Government with as great success by an accredited representative of Australia, because we know what were the results of the representations that were made. I do not believe that Great Britain is not fully appreciative of Australia’s wonderful co-operation in the war effort. The inference to be drawn from the
Attorney-General’s speech is that it is not. Great Britain is fully appreciative of how the Australian Imperial Forcehas borne the brunt of the attack in the Middle East, of how members of the Royal Australian Air Force have helped to develop the Empire air scheme, and of the wonderful name that the Royal Australian Navy has made for itself. Great Britain will not quibble about representations that might be made to it by an1 accredited Australian Minister representing the executive Government of the Commonwealth of Australia. I do not believe for a moment that it would turn a deaf ear to our representations, merely because they did not come from our Prime Minister. If this be a matter of life and death to Australia, as the Minister for the Navy has said, surely the British Government will not expect this Commonwealth - which is assisting the fight against Nazi oppression to the fullest degree with the Australian Imperial Force, the Royal Australian Air Force, the Royal Australian Navy, and its munitions programme - to deprive itself of the services of its Prime Minister, the man whose job is to co-ordinate our defence efforts and to organize the country by virtue of his overriding authority. The suggestion of the Minister for the Navy is a slur on the British Government’s willingness to co-operate with Australia. He has not proved his case. We know that Field Marshal Smuts has not gone to London. When he visited Cairo, an Australian Minister said that this indicated that he would go on to London. But he did not do so; he returned to Pretoria,. Mr. MacKenzie King said, before he left Canada, that he would pay only a flying visit to Great Britain. He has sent two or three Ministers to London since the outbreak of war. They have not failed in their tasks, although they have not held the position of Prime Minister of Canada. I consider that an accredited Australian Minister in London, whoever he might, be, would be listened to with courtesy and respect as the representative of one of the great dominions which have a record of great work in the allied cause, not only in this war, but also in the war of 1914-18. The people should be told the whole story of the political manoeuvring to get rid of the Prime Minister. Members of the Government want to send him to London, not because they consider him to be the best man to represent Australia, but because some of them believe that they ought to occupy the post of Prime Minister, and each of them is anxious to have Mr. Menzies out of the way so that he may be displaced from office here. That is evident from the political strategy that has been employed. We know that a meeting of Cabinet was held in Melbourne on a Thursday and that, on the Friday, the newspapers announced that a full meeting of Cabinet would be held in Melbourne on the following Monday in order to discuss the political situation. I submit that a number of Ministers stayed in Melbourne from the Thursday until the Monday because they saw in this meeting an opportunity to dispose of the Prime Minister by sending him to Great Britain. They considered that he had become a political liability to the Government. All this special pleading on behalf of the right honorable gentleman’s proposal is not disinterested. It shows the base ingratitude of the Government. I agree with everything that the Leader of the Opposition said yesterday, and not one word that he has uttered to-day is inconsistent with that speech. He stated that the Opposition considered the international situation to he so grave as to demand the presence in Australia of the Prime Minister in order to direct the organization of a total war effort. For this reason we are opposed to the proposal to send the Prime Minister out of tic country at this time. Nevertheless, we recognize the importance of having an Australian representative in London. Is it because Ministers and their supporters want to send one particular man overseas, and believe that they can send him only in the capacity of Prime Minister, that they have taken umbrage at the decision of the Labour party? The Government asked the various parties represented in this chamber to pronounce their views on the proposal. We considered it, and we came to the decision which was announced here this afternoon by the Leader of the Opposition in moderate but effective terms, which should have been accepted by every honorable member.
I believe that the Prime Minister disregarded the chief value of the Prime Ministership when he said, on the eve of his departure for a tour of the Commonwealth a few weeks ago, that somebody else could do the administrative work and that he could be consulted by telephone. The man who is the head and front of the Australian Government should remain in Australia because, if the international situation is as grave as I believe it to be, he must be in a position to exchange views with his fellow Cabinet Ministers and the chiefs of the Service Departments. This work cannot be done effectively by long-distance telephone calls. On a previous occasion when the Prime Minister was on the other side of the world, we were told that important decisions could not be made because the Prime Minister wanted them deferred until he returned to Australia. Even in normal times it is difficult for a government to carry on when its Prime Minister is overseas, but in’ time of war it is doubly
– I have not addressed this Parliament for over a year, and I now make a few observations in the nature of a swan-song, as I shall not be with honorable members again for perhaps a few years. However, I hope to see .some honorable gentlemen again in this chamber. Over the years, as a member of this Parliament, I have always advocated adequate defence of Australia. My political opponents will agree that I have not hesitated to criticize not only the Opposition, if it failed- in any way to give Australia the protection which is its due, but also the Government. In fact, this was one reason why I resigned from the Ministry about three years ago upon my return from a tour abroad, during which I saw something of the trend of events in Germany, which caused me to desire to see Australia placed in a proper state of readiness for defence. I had no opportunity myself as a Minister to ensure that our defence preparations were adequate, but as Minister for Trade and Customs I had the opportunity to make Australia industrially strong. I believe that the effectiveness of our preparations in that regard now is due in considerable measure to work done in that period. Too few read Hansard, but there it can be seen that I contended during the first month of this war that we should send an Australian Imperial Force abroad, that we should garrison Singapore, and that we should establish a base for supplies and shipping in the East. I suggested that this base should be established at Colombo; however, it is now at Delhi. I urged also that we should push on with a shipbuilding programme, and implement the full provisions of the Defence Act so that Australia’s war effort should reach maximum strength. Most of those schemes are now in operation, and the question which most concerns us to-day relates to greater cooperation within the Empire in order to achieve that unity which is essential to a victorious campaign. I doubt whether all of us in Australia realize the dangers that confront us. In Canberra sometimes we seem to be in an unreal world; petty subjects are discussed, and there is bickering and controversy quite inconsistent with the gravity of the crisis, which is the most serious in the history of the world. To-day our problem is one of fulfilment or failure. Failure may mean the crushing of the Empire for al! time, or perhaps reversion for a period to the conditions of the Dark Ages with liberty, justice and freedom obliterated under the heel of the Hun. I say this advisedly. Upon my return from Germany in 1938, I tried to awaken this country to the ruthless and brutal efficiency of the Nazi machine. Germany is a nation which for centuries has been fed on the belief that it is a master race, and that might is right. Whenever a strong leader has been thrown up, be he the upstart Hitler, Frederick the Great, Bismarck, or the late Kaiser - all men of ferocious ambition - he has led his people in unity towards what they conceive to be their destiny. We had freedom, but did not value it; we would almost let it go by default because, by the grace of geography, this country in its isolation is not fully aware of the dangers which threaten the world and which ultimately will come here.
The question we must answer to-day is: Can Australia achieve greater solidarity? That word is often used by members of the Opposition. I have at all times tried to remain aloof from party politics. I have been condemned as an independent and a critic. But I believe that it does not matter who represents us to-day in the councils of ‘the Empire, so long as he is the best whom we can send and so long as he . speaks for a united Australia. This question of representation is an old one. It goes back to colonial days.
Honorable members well know of the clash then between Alfred Deakin and Lord Salisbury, when Mr”. Deakin repudiated the thought that we were a nation of planters and primary producers. He pointed out that we had a destiny as a nation and responsibilities in the Pacific. That has since been fully appreciated. During the last Great “War, The right honorable member for North Sydney (Mr. Hughes) represented Australia in Great Britain as Prime Minister, and by his voice in the councils of the Empire was able to do a great deal for this country. He had many conflicts with that dynamic Welshman, Mr: Lloyd George, in just the same way as, in the post-Ottawa conferences, the present Prime Minister (Mr. Menzies) and the Minister for Commerce (Sir Earle Page) and I met difficulties in presenting the Australian view to the then Ministers. of Great Britain. Britain lias long traditions which make it the home of the greatest race on earth. Some of those traditions die hard. Australia is a young country with a different outlook, in some respects, from that of Great Britain; but some of the British Ministers who were reared in the Manchester school could not appreciate our View, particularly in trade matters. It was only after much repetition that they were brought to realize the economic differences between the United Kingdom and Australia and our character and faith as a nation. Yet they were great men. I shall not mention their names. I, personally, was confronted, morning after morning, in the Dominions Office by these men, and only after months of discussion were we able to bring them to our point of view in the matter of economic defence. If we have that difficulty in trade matters, it must be obvious that it may be a thousand times more difficult to get them to see our view to-day. Consequently, it is good to know that the Labour party agrees with the Government that Australia should be represented in Great Britain. It is satisfactory to know that there is a good deal of unanimity among us to-day.
-. - That unanimity is a great gain.
– I agree with the honorable member. We have a great Australian in Mr. S. M. Bruce in London at present. At first, I was of the opinion that Mr. Bruce could give us all the representation that was necessary. When I was in London in 1938, I realized that Mr. Bruce was persona grata with all British Ministers. He knew England better than any other Australian. But his value is limited in consequence of his present status. I said that we should have given him greater status, but I am fully cognizant of the present difficulties, and I feel now that our representative should be the Prims Minister or a senior Minister. Whoever he may be, he should be in the closest possible touch with the Commonwealth Government. If the Prime Minister or another goes, he would then have Mr. Bruce at his elbow, so to speak; alone, difficulties would be encountered.
– What kind of difficulties ?
– There might be difficulties of entree. If we had a representative without the necessary status, he could hardly sit in the British War Cabinet.
– That is begging the question.
– It is “top-hat” stuff.
– We follow the tradition of the Mother of Parliaments. The honorable member for West Sydney (Mr. Beasley) says it is “ top-hat” stuff. Yet, yesterday, when a member of the Senate was in this chamber at a certain period, an honorable gentleman opposite shouted out that there was a stranger in the House.
– That was a joke.
– I realize that; but I wish to make it clear that whoever represents Australia in Great Britain must he fully authorized. Mr. Bruce will have contact with many people of importance privately and personally, but if we send a senior Minister to .London, or even the Prime Minister himself, he will be in closer touch with British Ministers. There will be his opposite number on the other side of the table. When in Great Britain as Minister- for Trade and Customs, I had the closest possible contact with the President of the Board of
Trade and with other British Ministers handling commercial matters. If our Prime Minister went to Great Britain, he would have the closest possible contact with the Prime Minister of Great Britain himself. In this matter I am putting all personal considerations completely on one side. If the Deputy Leader of the Opposition (Mr. Forde) or the honorable member for West Sydney were in office and were suggested as our representative I would say the same about them as I am saying about members of the present Ministry. We should get the strongest representation.
– Surely the honorable member would not say that the Prime Minister of Great Britain would refuse to allow the accredited representative of Australia to confer, with him on matters related to the war effort, or would refuse a seat in the British War Cabinet to the authorized representative of the Commonwealth Government.
– 1 would say that the Prime Minister of Great Britain would not be so discourteous as to refuse to meet anybody. I myself met the right honorable gentleman in the United Kingdom and he deigned to confer with me ; but it is another matter for him to take anybody into solemn, conclave on intimate Empire matters that he would not discuss with some of his own Cabinet Ministers.
We ought to appreciate the realities of the position to-day. Honorable members have taken a good deal of comfort from the fact that Russia is in the war with us. I know something about Russia and particularly the southern parts of it where the campaign is being waged to-day. I do not believe for a moment that the German drive on Leningrad and Moscow is so serious as the drive in the south. Honorable members must bear in mind that the German armies have taken Nikolaiev and that the country adjacent to Odessa is being overrun. Odessa is a large, important city and is the principal port of the Black Sea. It would be a great advantage to the Germans if they could take this port and gain access to all the treasures of the Ukraine. If they do that, they will have achieved a large part of their objective. We must not indulge in any wish ful thinking on this subject. We are pleased that Russia is on our side, but we must remember that the Germans have sent 250 divisions against Russia, and that if those divisions had not been sent against Russia they would probably have been sent against us. Thank God we have a Navy and an Air Force, and our Army will no doubt be back in the European field again for the ultimate victory. It is fortunate for civilization and democracy that this clash has taken place in Russia, but we must not forget that Germany is very close to victory there. I do not make that statement pessimistically. But we must bear in mind that when Russia was in great danger in .1917 its rulers made a separate peace with. Germany at BrestLitovsk. What if an acceptable peace were offered to Russia to-day? Let us remember that Russia did not come in against Germany but that Germany attacked Russia. Russia was, in fact, at the outbreak of war, a signatory of a pact with Germany. But Germany attacked Russia and is seeking to smash the Russian armies because they are a potential enemy and because Russia has resources which Germany desires to organize for the destruction of the British Empire. If Germany is able to win a victory against Russia, the German armies will re-appear on the western front and the Luftwaffe will again come in full force against Great Britain with greater danger to our country than ever. Let us be grateful that the Empire air training scheme has been brought to its present stage of development. Thank God the Royal Air Force won the first great victory of this war for Great Britain when, in one day last year, 187 German aircraft - some people believed more than 200 - were shot down, and that on subsequent days several hundreds more were destroyed. That victory was, in my view, as decisive as Trafalgar or the dispersal of the Spanish Armada. It was Germany’s first real defeat and, as Mr. Churchill said, never before in history had so few done so much for so many. The Royal Air Force has been enormously reinforced by young airmen from Canada, Australia, New Zealand, ‘ and .South Africa, among whom it is a privilege to serve.
In all .these circumstances, surely honorable members can agree to put trivial things on one side and to realize that, with the enemy at our gates, the time for speeches is past. Does any one believe that Japan can be diverted from its objective by speeches that may be made here? Japan has a definite belief that it is destined to be the mistress of Eastern Asia, to bring a new order there, just as Germany believes it has a mission to bring a new order into Europe. The Japanese are already in Indo-China and they will Balkanize the East, just as Germany overran the Balkans by penetration and conquest. Japan will not hesitate to strike if Britain suffers a defeat. You a3k : “ Why are not British ships brought to Singapore?” We must bear in mind that the Mother Country is fighting a desperate battle in the Atlantic. The enemy every day flies its reconnaissance aeroplanes from Norway around Britain to France in order to ascertain the position of convoys and to strike at them. The false Frenchmen of Vichy have undoubtedly joined up with Italy and Germany. In the last war, the French, Italian, Japanese and American navies fought with us. Now the three former are against us, and Britain began the war with fewer destroyers than she had in the last war. Some of these she has already lost. Our navy is spread out thinly all over the world. We should not ask too much of Great Britain. We should do all we can for ourselves. The naval strategy of Great Britain - I shall not reveal the source of my information - waa to rely on France to deal with the Italians in the Mediterranean. Britain intended to deal with the Germans wherever they were to be found. Australia should have had a battleship as it had during the last war, but, unfortunately, did not possess one. As things are, Britain has had principally to defend us on the seas. If Japan should become obstreperous, British ships would sally forth in a sortie from Singapore. That has not yet happened, but it may. I do not intend to say anything about this neighbour who is not our enemy yet; but Japan’ is a definite signatory of the Axis Pact, and, as, such, is allied with Berlin and with Berlin’s jackal accomplice, Rome. If Britain surfers defeat at the hands of these enemies, Australia also will go down, and the greatest empire of all times will sink into oblivion. We have been inclined, sometimes, to think that any man who raised his voice in defence of the Empire was a jingoist. It is jingoism for people to indulge in flag-waving and lip service on anniversary occasions instead of practical patriotism, but we may render a signal service to the Empire in this Parliament or elsewhere if we do our best to promote the laudable objectives of Great Britain. To-day the Empire is receiving material assistance from all parts of the world, but actually Great Britain is still fighting alone.
– And winning!
– Yes, and winning; but we must close our ranks. There should not be a voice raised in this Parliament or anywhere else in this country to prejudice the Empire’s war effort.
I should like to see the best available man sent from Australia to represent us in Great Britain. We should send abroad the man with the widest knowledge of affairs in this country. At the moment I think that that man is the Prime Minister, but whether he or some other person ultimately goes, that person should take to Great Britain a message from a united Australia. He should be able to say that we are a united people. I know that if I so much as mentioned the desirability of forming a national government my remarks would be met with derisive laughter. I advocated the formation of a national government before the war started. I saw the portents, and said that Australian public men should follow the example of the men of our fighting services. We should have unity in this country. We shall be unworthy of the men of Tobruk who are to-day fighting, so resolutely and giving their all in the interests of their- country if we cannot solve our difficulties and unite for the common good. We must not allow small difficulties to defeat or divide us. If the approach to a national government has been made in the wrong way, let us start again. Let the Prime Minister say to the honorable member for West Sydney (M r. Beasley) and to the honorable member for East Sydney (Mr. Ward) if that be desirable - for all men have their virtues as well as their shortcomings - “ You can be of service in the Government. I want you, irrespective of your past affiliations and of your past castiron allegiance to caucus, to join with me in a common effort for the common good. We have a special job in which you can give good service to the nation “. In such service no man can deputize for another. What is needed is personal service. Just as the Prime Minister of Great Britain made a request to Mr. Bevin for special service in connexion with production - a service which Mr. Bevin has rendered so successfully - and to Mr. Morrison for special service in another sphere, so the Prime Minister of this country should be able to make a request to any honorable member for service of the kind he may be specially fitted to render.
During the last war I saw what damage could be done. I was unfortunately a prisoner of the enemy. I have never talked in this strain before in this Parliament. I read in the enemy press that Australia had rejected conscription, and that it was squabbling about this and that. What splendid food for the enemy ! I have seen British prisoners die of starvation and hunger and misery. And it can happen here. When small things are magnified out of all proportion, and labour troubles are started which hamper the war effort, we do wrong, and unwittingly play into the hands of the enemy. This is my last message: Let us endeavour to have a national government, so that we may be able to say that we have achieved unity and will adequately help in the march to victory.
.- The House should bc grateful to the honorable member for Balaclava (Mr. White) for the spirit of his remarks. With most of what he said-, we agree; with certain of his remarks, we disagree; but he has imparted to the debate a spirit which enables the House to consider the proposal placed before it. After all, we are not discussing the position of the Empire at large, or the situation in every quarter of the globe. In substance, the House is considering only one proposal, namely, whether the Prime Minister (Mr.
Menzies) should, at the present moment, visit England. The mission upon which it was proposed that he should go was indefinite; the length of his stay was nut fixed ; the status he was to enjoy was not determined. The Opposition’, as ite Leader (Mr. Curtin) and Deputy Leader (Mr. Forde) have explained, is not willing to consent to such a proposition. Yet, as the honorable member for Balaclava has pointed out, there is a good deal of agreement in the resolution passed by our party. We agree that Australia should have a representative in London. This is the question we have to discuss : Is there only one man in the Commonwealth who at this moment should represent Australia in Great Britain? That is the case which the Attorney-General (Mr. Hughes) has put to the House. I do not believe that it is fair to say of the British Government that some other representative would not have entree to all the circles which count in London or in Britain. The British Government would take up the same attitude towards Australia, whatever representative we selected. The Attorney-General attempted to have this matter dealt with in a false atmosphere. Despite his wide experience in persuasion, he defeated his own ends. For example, what better advocate could Australia have in London than the right honorable gentleman himself, if he were selected? The honorable member for Balaclava would approve of that. The personality of the individual sent to represent Australia would not be the determining factor in London. As has been pointed out, this is not Australia’s war, any more than it is Britain’s; we stand or fall together.
The situation is utterly unreal. My view is based on grounds broader than those of other honorable members. I agree that the situation in which Australia finds itself is one of gravity. It has been so ever since Japan adhered to the Axis. I have said publicly, and I n*ow repeat, that during the period between Saturday the Sth August, and the 12th August, the possibility of war with Japan on account of Thailand was exaggerated. . The matter is purely one of evidence; it can be determined in one way or the other by a consideration of the statements that have been made and the facts which are now known.
My colleague the Deputy Leader of the Opposition has referred to the makebelieve, and the build-up. The Prime Minister was in Adelaide. Cables were expected. The situation was supposed to be deteriorating hour by hour, and day by day. Before this House and the country I say that, whoever was responsible, that was an untrue build-up; it was an exaggeration which did damage to Australia. It probably damaged our relations with Powers that count. It was a perfect example of what may be described as “ playing at politics “. The war effort could not be injured more greatly than by alarming the people of Australia unnecessarily. That exaggeration could not have been accidental, but must have been intended to create in Australia an atmosphere favorable to the proposed plan of the Government. The amazing part is that, although the situation was said to be deteriorating suddenly after the 8th August, immediately after Cabinet had decided that the Prime Minister should go to England, not a word was heard of the special crisis over Thailand and the imminence of war. This suggests that it was hoped and believed in some quarters that the atmosphere would be favorable to what was proposed. The result sought to be obtained was obtained by the Cabinet decision of the 12th August, when the crisis abruptly ceased and normal activities were apparently restored. The Prime Minister said in Adelaide on the 9th August: “ The people of Australia are standing hushed in their breath, in the most vital hour in the history of Australia “. “Whoever was responsible gave a misleading impression of the true situation. That is one reason why I find it very difficult to dissociate what was done from the general proposal now being debated. Damage was caused to Australia. Our securities on the markets of New York and London were depreciated. Cables from those centres, published after that date, showed that between the 8th and the 12th August the situation, so far from deteriorating, actually improved.
– With 48 Japanese warships proceeding to Saigon, would not the honorable member regard the situation as deteriorating?
– It is clear from the press, and from what the House knows, that the situation was exaggerated; and not accidentally. No more was heard about the crisis over Thailand, and the imminence of war, until the Minister for Commerce (Sir Earle Page) repeated last Monday the statement that Australia was in imminent danger of invasion. I suggest that that was an exaggeration. The right honorable gentleman added that if this particular proposal - that the Prime Minister should go abroad - were defeated, or not accepted, the only result would be a political crisis, followed by an election - which would be “ treasonable “. I say again that an atmosphere of alarm ought not to have been created. I find it difficult - although I shall try to overcome the difficulty - to dissociate these events from the present proposal.
As to the general question: I believe, first, that the British Government would give every right of entree or access to any Minister or person selected by the Government of Australia, equally with the Prime Minister. Anything else would be unworthy of the British Government and its great Prime Minister. We can dismiss such a thought as being merely a flourish of the AttorneyGeneral, which is quite unconvincing. I point out to the House and the public that during the last war the present Prime Minister of South Africa, Field Marshal Smuts, who was not then the Prime Minister of his dominion, sat in the Imperial War Cabinet. The argument that nothing could be done unless the precise office of Prime Minister were borne by the representative of the Commonwealth is absurd. Whether the representative of Australia should become a member of the Imperial Cabinet is a matter which is not determined by the resolution of our party. Great difficulties would be associated with such a situation; for example, would Australia be bound by the decision of such a Cabinet, without the consent of the Australian Government? The Deputy Prime Minister (Mr. Fadden) would say “No; the Australian Government must be a party to any decision made “. If that be so, then the British. Cabinet might well say: “ This shows that we cannot have an Imperial Cabinet whose decisions will bind every dominion represented therein “. I cannot imagine more being expected of any political party in this country than a resolution of the character now suggested. It admits the gravity of the general war position. It says - and is it not true? - that if the position in the Pacific be one of general gravity, then we need to improve the defences of Australia to the greatest possible degree, and for that reason the Prime Minister - who recently announced his prospectus for the expansion and improvement of our war effort - should remain here. Is not that a reasonable proposition to put to the House and the country? We go further, and say positively that if the Commonwealth Government thinks that further representation of its view is needed in England, we approve in principle, leaving for determination in England and Australia the best means of giving effect to that policy. I was amazed at the reiteration by the AttorneyGeneral of the statement that the British Cabinet will listen to only one person from Australia - the Prime Minister. I do not think that that is true. The British Government will help us to the utmost we can expect, whoever may be representative of Australia. The next question is : What member of the Government would be best qualified to state our case? But it is not a case at all. Every day they are working with us and we with them. We are not pleading before ‘some remote tribunal. People in the United Kingdom, as well as Australians, have a duty to Australia ; they know that, and do not need to be reminded of it.
– Do they know our conditions as well as we do?
– Probably not in detail; therefore, it is desirable that our views be presented continuously. This theory that, only one man in the country, the one who happens to be Prime Minister, can represent us, is quite untenable. I have no doubt that there are other members of the Ministry who could put our case excellently from time to time as occasion requires. I do ask that the matter be considered in the spirit evinced by the honorable member for Balaclava (Mr. White). If it is necessary to go on with the proposal, why not adopt the suggestion of the Labour party? The
Minister for the Navy (Mr. Hughes) says that there is not a day to lose. Neither there is. There is not a day to be lost in this country in improving our defences - we are all agreed upon that. Not one speaker on the opposite side has suggested that the Opposition is not cooperating in every way in the Government’s war effort.
– That is the plain duty of the Opposition.
– Of course it is ; we are not taking any credit for it, but it indicates the degree of unanimity that has been achieved.
The Minister for the Navy has shown that he utterly misunderstands the situation. The plain fact is that the Prime Minister of Australia should remain in Australia. The Premier of Canada, Mr. MacKenzie King, although he has just -left on a flying visit to England, has stated that he recognizes that the duty of the Premier of Canada is to remain in Canada. Field-Marshal Smuts, the Premier of South Africa, and Mr. Fraser, the Premier of New Zealand, have expressed the opinion that their proper places are in their respective countries. The suggestion which we have put forward is a great improvement upon the ‘Government’s proposal. It leaves open for future consideration what should be done from time to time. I protest against the note of politics which the Minister for the Navy sought to introduce into the discussion. The Government is responsible for the war effort of Australia, and the Prime Minister himself has admitted that there is a great deal to be done if we are to fulfil the prospectus which he announced upon his return from his last visit to England. Every effort should be made to put that programme into operation, and the Opposition will co-operate as it has always done. The Minister for the Navy probably revealed the real reason behind the Government’s proposal when he said, “ Ah, but if a member of the Executive other than the Prime Minister represents Australia, you might turn the Government out of office “. The Government cannot expect, even at a time like this, to enjoy indefinite immunity when so many matters not directly related to the war have to be decided, including taxation measures which will distribute the burden of the war among various sections of the public. We shall not accept every proposal of the Government for an indefinite period ahead, and that is another reason why we think that the Prime Minister should remain in Australia.
.- The issue before the House is whether or not the Prime Minister (Mr. Menzies) should go to England, and the issue must be decided by the various parties in this Parliament. The method of arriving at a decision was laid down by the Prime Minister himself, with the support of his colleagues in the Ministry. Personally, I think that wrong tactics have been followed. The obligation has been placed on the Opposition to say whether or not the Prime Minister shall go to England, because he himself has said that, on the decision of the Opposition, will depend whether or not he goes. He stated that his going would depend upon the unanimous decision of the parties reached in an unfettered manner. Now the Opposition has decided that the Prime Minister should not go to Great Britain, and the Prime Minister must make up his mind whether he will abide by that decision. There is an alternative. The Opposition has suggested that Australia should be represented by a Minister. It is evident that the British Government would accept a statement from this Government that, owing to our present political difficulties, it was not practicable for the Prime Minister to go abroad, particularly for any length of time. It is to be noted that there has been no mention of a specific time in the proposal put forward by the Government. I maintain that representations should be made to the British Government immediately in order to ascertain its views on this matter. The Minister for the Navy has, in categorical terms, declared that no person other than the Prime Minister could represent Australia in the War Cabinet; that, in fact, only the Prime Minister could take a seat in the War Cabinet. Indeed, the Prime Minister himself has said that it would be impossible for any one except the Prime Minister to represent Australia, whoever the Prime Minister might be. I have here conclu sive evidence that that was not the view taken during the last war. At page 1734 of Lloyd George’s Memoirs, there is reproduced the following message which was sent to the dominion Premiers: -
I wish to explain that what His Majesty’s Government contemplates is not a session oi the ordinary Imperial Conference, but a special War Conference of the Empire. They, therefore, invite your Prime Minister to attend a series of special and continuous meetings of the War Cabinet in order to consider urgent questions affecting the prosecution of the war, the possible conditions on which, in agreement with our allies, we could assent to its termination, and the problems which would then immediately arise. For the purpose of these meetings, your Prime Minister would be a member of the War Cabinet.
In view of the extreme urgency of the subjects of discussion, as well of their supreme importance, it is hoped that your Prime Minister may find it possible, in spite of the serious inconvenience involved, to attend at an early date, not later than the end of February. While His Majesty’s Government earnestly desire the presence of your Prime Minister himself, they hope that if he sees insuperable difficulty he will carefully consider the question of nominating a substitute, as they would regard it as a serious misfortune if any dominion were left unrepresented.
– That is conclusive evidence that any Minister would be accepted.
– Of course it is. Before the Prime Minister reaches a decision, I should like to hear his views on this point. As was pointed out by the honorable member for Barton (Dr. Evatt), South Africa was represented at that conference by Lieutenant-General Smuts, K.C., then Minister for Defence in the Union of South Africa. I understand that he continued to be a member of the British War Cabinet for two years, and Lloyd George has made eulogistic references to the part that he played in the councils of the Empire. There is no reason, therefore, why we should not communicate with the British Government, explain our position frankly, and ask it to accept as our representative some Minister other than the Prime Minister. We can call him Envoy Extraordinary, or Plenipotentiary, or what we will, but he should be given full power to represent Australia. Of course, it would be possible for us to go on without being represented in the British War Cabinet, but I suggest that such a course would be absurd. The alternative is for the Prime Minister to visit
England, notwithstanding the decision of the Labour party. It must not be forgotten that, although the right honorable member for North Sydney (Mr. Hughes) represented Australia on two occasions in the British War Cabinet during the last war, he led a government which enjoyed a substantial majority in this Parliament. The position is quite different now. I believe that the present Prime Minister has outstanding qualifications which fit him to represent Australia in the councils of the Empire, but it is for the Government to determine who its representative shall be.
.- I assure honorable members that I recognize the gravity of the situation, but I join with other members of the Opposition in saying that its gravity has been grossly exaggerated by the Government for the purpose of obtaining a political advantage. I do not share with some members of the Opposition the belief that Australia is defenceless; nor do I agree with the statement of the Minister for the Navy (Mr. Hughes), that this country could not of itself adequately defend ite shores. This leads us to consider whether the Government has been adequately discharging its duties since the beginning of the war. Yesterday, we had a secret meeting of members of Parliament, and I believe that the holding of that secret meeting was a part of the political set-up designed to create an appropriate atmosphere, and to convince the public that the position was so grave that it was not safe to say in open session the things that had to be said. I challenge any honorable member who attended the secret meeting yesterday to tell rae one disclosure that could not have been made in the presence of the public, Hansard, and the pres3. The Government simply informed us that a foreign country had occupied French Indo-China. Weeks ago, the public read in the press about that occurrence. No new peril was revealed. I mention that, in order to reassure the people about the situation in the Pacific. When I attended the secret meeting, I expected the Government to lay before honorable members all of the evidence that it possessed, including advices received from abroad, about the international situation. None of that evidence was produced. Now, the Deputy Leader of the Opposition (Mr. Forde), supported hy the honorable member for Barton (Dr. Evatt) and the honorable member for West Sydney (Mr. Beasley), who are members of the Advisory War Council, have submitted conclusive evidence tha.t movements and events, such as the special meeting of Cabinet, were arranged before the publication in the press of the statement regarding the deterioration of the position in the Pacific. Upon his return from abroad recently, the Prime Minister deprecated the alleged existence of a situation that demanded indulgence in the “ diabolical game of party politics “. It therefore ill-becomes the right honorable gentleman to use the present position for the purpose of extricating himself and hia party from a difficult political situation. But that is precisely what he is endeavouring to do.
The discussion now centres in the person who should represent Australia in London. Whatever may be said of the qualities of the Prime Minister in certain directions - and undoubtedly he possesses ability in certain directions - the attributes to which some honorable members have referred have unfortunately not been used to the advantage of this country. If he has ability in some directions, he certainly lacks judgment in many others. He would be most ill-suited to advise the British Government about moves which should be taken in order to safeguard the welfare of Australia.
When the right honorable gentleman returned from abroad some years ago, before he became Prime Minister and before Australia was at war, he spoke in eulogistic terms of the Nazi regime. On more than one occasion he, and members of his party, have displayed some regard for the new order which Hitler has established in Germany. As an illustration of his lack of judgment, I remind the House that he supported the appeasement policy of the Chamberlain Government. Reference to Hansard will disclose that the right honorable gentleman approved of Mr. Chamberlain’s policy, and that he defended the German occupation of Czechoslovakia. The acquiescence of the British-speaking peoples in that seizure represented one of the greatest blows struck against democratic nations iu favour of the Hitler regime. When Germany overran Czechoslovakia, it immediately immobilized one of the most efficient and powerful European armies of the day. The enormous Czechoslovakian munitions industry, which was handed over to the enemy, was of incalculable value to the Nazis. The waterside workers on the South Coast of New South Wales, who were the first to realize the danger of the Nazi menace, refused to load pig-iron for shipment to Japan, an Axis partner. Using threats and coercion, the Government compelled the unionists to load the cargoes for their Eastern destination.
The affair of the Yampi Sound ironore leases will still be fresh in the minds of honorable members. A suggestion was made that the ban upon the export of iron-ore bad been imposed at the behest of the Broken Hill Proprietary Company Limited. Upon examining the regulations, we discovered evidence that the Broken Hill Proprietary Company Limited had some hand in the action of the Government. Despite the imposi-tion of the ban, a subsequent regulation empowered the Minister to issue an export licence when he approved of an application. So far as I can gather, licences to export iron1 ore were granted to certain approved business organizations.
I was amazed to hear some honorable members opposite declare that we must co-operate with Russia in order to defeat the common foe. With their advocacy, I wholeheartedly agree. But for many years, some of those honorable members not only opposed any collaboration with the Soviet but also fostered a hostile spirit against Russia in the belief that one day the great democratic powers would unite to attack it. Now, they have changed their opinions, as they are quite entitled to do, but at least they should have the courage to admit their error and give credit to the Opposition for having correctly judged the situation. When Russia occupied portions of Finland, honorable members opposite fulminated against the aggressor, and urged the British Government to declare war against the Soviet, in order to assist the Finns. To-day the
Finns are allied with Nazi Germany, and no more is heard of the demand that Britain and Australia should aid them. Events have justified the Russian move, which was designed to force back its frontier at points where Finnish territory imperilled the defence of Leningrad.
– Did not heroic Russia invade Poland, and make a treaty with the Nazi Government?
– The interjection proves what I am endeavouring to make plain to the country, namely, that many people who now advocate the granting of aid to Russia wish, in their hearts, that the Soviet will fall before the German hordes. Their fervent hope is that Russia and Germany will become so exhausted that the British, by conserving their strength, will be able to impose their will upon those nations. The honorable member for Balaclava (Mr. White) was most pessimistic about the prospects of the Russian armies, stating that they now faced defeat. I disagree with that view. Russia has a magnificent, wellequipped army, which is well led by able generals who have proved their ability in the present difficult situation. I am of opinion’ that the fate of Australia will be determined on the steppes of Russia. A few weeks ago the Sydney Morning Herald published an article in which the Prime Minister was likened to a half-back in a football team. If we carry the comparison a little further, we can say that the Prime Minister has taken the dummy in this match.
Although the Japanese are attempting to assist their Axis partners, they themselves are in a dangerous position. When speaking of our own situation, we should not overlook that of Japan. As a member of the Axis, Japan, no doubt, is endeavouring to assist Italy and Germany in every possible direction. One way is to cause alarm in every quarter of the globe where the Japanese have influence, in order to compel the allied nations to concentrate substantial forces in those areas, and thus weaken the armies in the centres of conflict where the outcome of the struggle will be determined. If the Russian army becomes immobilized, it is doubtful whether we can successfully continue the war.
Too many speeches have been made, and too little action has been in evidence. There should be no suggestion of “ pulling punches “ in this war because we dislike the political opinions of the leaders of a particular allied, country. Great Britain, the United States of America, Australia, and the other democracies will find themselves in a tough spot if the Russian armies he defeated in their struggle against the Nazi invader. I am of opinion that the Russians will successfully resist the Germans and that when they eventually counter-attack, they will roll back the Nazi armies. But the Government has not endeavoured on all occasions to assist the countries which have been waging war against Nazi-ism. As a member of the League of Nations, Australia is a signatory to many pacts, some of which guarantee the security of China. When it suited our purpose, the Government advised the British authorities to close the Burma Road, although China was desperately in need of arms and munitions which passed along that route. In plain language, we were prepared to sacrifice China, which was fighting against an Axis partner, because it suited our own book to do so. At this stage, Australians must combat any suggestion of “ pulling punches “ for the purpose of letting the Soviet down. The British Prime Minister, supported by public opinion, has declared that Russia and the other democracies are to-day fighting against a common enemy - the Nazi terror - and we should do everything in our power to support the Soviet Government in order to bring the war to a successful conclusion.
In one of his public pronouncements, the Prime Minister stated that the struggle was being waged not against Hitler alone, but against the German people, and that we must conduct a war of extermination. In what way did that help the allied cause?
– The right honorable gentleman’s statement was broadcast in Germany.
– It has done us a great disservice. In Germany to-day there are millions of people who hate the Hitler regime and look for ths day when they can assist in its overthrow. Yet, there has been placed in the hands of the German Government by our Prime Minister a weapon which can be used very effectively to eliminate the anti-Hitler movement, whereas we should be doing all in our power to assist and promote the growth of that movement. The result of such tactics as those employed by the Prime Minister in that address must be to throw into the wins of Hitler those millions of Germans who nominally would be opposed to him. Now that the Prime Minister’s utterances have been broadcast throughout Germany, those people have no alternative to supporting the German Government to the utmost in order that they may be able to overthrow the powers which now are ranged against them. The Prime Minister has been indiscreet in his statements. This is not party politics, as I shall show in a moment, but the only people who can give proper representation to Australian opinion to-day are the representatives of the Labour party. Most honorable members have at times spoken eulogistically about Labour’s representatives on the Advisory War Council; they have applauded the efforts of the Leader of the Opposition, so they can raise no question as to the veracity of the honorable gentleman and his colleagues. Those representatives have criticized this Government on many tilings, such as the failure of the Government adequately to organize Australia for its own defence, to eliminate profiteering, to provide for the organization of industry, in order to ensure an immense output of munitions, aircraft and everything required for the conduct of the war. They have been critical of the Government’s handling of the oil situation, which was exposed by the honorable member for West Sydney (Mr. Beasley), who showed that it was with the approval of the Government that tankers had been diverted from Australia for the benefit of members of the Axis. Yet we are told that this is the Ministry behind which we should stand in order to make it appear, not only to this country, but also to the world at large that Australia stands united behind its Government. As an
Australian, the greatest disservice that I could do to my country would be to lead the public to the opinion that this Government was doing everything that it could do to organize Australia. Why, the Government is protecting profiteers! How can we have good government, from a government which represents people who have one eye on profits and the other on the country’s needs. Consider the Broken Hill Proprietary Company Limited. It is stretching out its tentacles in all directions and strangling the small men and the middlemen, and so are its allied monopolists, who occupy such a powerful position in this country that it is recognized that the Prime Minister is nothing less than the representative of Australian monopolies, particularly the Broken Hill Proprietary Company Limited. In order to show how the Government protects profiteers, I need only cite the answer that was given to me to-day by the Prime Minister when I asked him a question about his allegations of profiteering against the proprietors of the Sydney Morning Herald. When the Sydney Morning Herald became critical of the Prime Minister, probably because its proprietors wanted to supplant him with a “Pretender to the Throne “, he came into conflict with them and over a period of days the truth for once came to light. The Prime Minister and the Sydney Morning Herald exchanged nasty remarks about each other, and the right honorable gentleman accused the newspaper proprietors of being amongst the prominent profiteers of this country. Yet since the war began the Government has claimed that it has established effective control over profitmaking and that no profiteer or profiteering exists in this country, and that nobody is making profits out of the war. Again, I ask how the Prime Minister can reconcile that statement with his charge of profiteering- against the proprietors of the Sydney Morning Herald.
– Evidently they have the right to profiteer so long as they do not criticize the Government.
– That would seem to be so. The Prime Minister, as a responsible man, would not make that charge against an influential newspaper unless he had com* evidence to support him. He is not an irresponsible man; he is the head of the Government, and would give thought to any statement which he made for press publication. Accordingly he must have had some evidence on which to base his accusation. The Sydney Morning Herald challenged him to produce that evidence, but he failed to take up the challenge. He now believes that the issue is closed, because he wants it closed. But, if he has evidence that the proprietors of the Sydney Morning Herald were profiteering, there is only one thing for him to do in order to satisfy the people, and that is launch a prosecution against them. Running true to form, however, the Government continues to give the proprietors of the Sydney Morning Herald, along with all other profiteers, any amount of protection.
I said that the Government was using the present situation for political purposes. I refer the House to the dispute in which the honorable member for Martin (Mr. McCall) and the Prime Minister were engaged. Honorable members doubtless read the statement in the Sydney press in which the honorable member for Martin said that the Prime Minister, backed by certain members of Cabinet, was definitely endeavouring to create a situation which could give rise to a “ law-and-order “ election. That is true. The Government is casting its plans in order to create industrial turmoil, not to serve the country, but for sordid private and political reasons. The Government has before it now a proposal to increase the pay of members of the Defence Forces. No doubt, when it believes that the time is ripe it will do that. It is amazing that although the Government has been pressed by this party ever since the war began to improve the wage standards of the men in the Defence Forces, only now is it preparing to do so.
– At the last elections the Labour party was accused of political bribery when it advocated an increase of pay to soldiers.
– The interjection of the honorable member for Ballarat (Mr. Pollard) anticipated my own thoughts. The atmosphere reeks, and I have more than grounds for suspicion that the Government is endeavouring to set the stage for another general election. The election is not wanted now, because the parties opposite recognize that they and the Prime Minister are unpopular. They do not want the election to be on the budget issue, because they believe that they would lose on that issue. They believe, however, that by creating an industrial upheaval and by increasing the pay of members of the Defence Forces, they will create the right atmosphere for a “lawandorder “ election. Every manoeuvre has shown that that is the purpose of the Government.
I defy the Government to specify any occasion when it has accepted advice given to it by the Labour members of the Advisory War Council or when they have been asked for advice on major matters of policy affecting this country. I instance the campaigns in Greece and Crete. The Prime Minister when in Great Britain was nothing less than a “yes” man. He approved of and agreed with everything submitted to him. There is no one in this Commonwealth who would not recognize that great errors were made in those campaigns. Our men were sent into battle ill equipped, unsupported by the air arm and with no possible chance of succeeding against the forces which were arrayed against them. The Prime Minister admits that on behalf of the Government of Australia he tendered certain advice to the British Government. If that sort of advice is the best advice that can be given to the Imperial authorities on behalf of Australia we should be better off without any representation in Great Britain. The Advisory War Council was not consulted on that matter. The only matters ever submitted to that council are those on which its opinion is wanted after action has already been taken, or innocuous things such as the departure of Lady Blarney to join her husband overseas. The Prime Minister when he was overseas went so far as to rebuke the Advisory War Council for having expressed an opinion about a matter of great concern to this country. I think that the best thing that could happen to this country, in the circumstances, is a change of Government, and the sooner it comes the better. This Government could not claim that it had not had ample opportunity to show whether it had the capacity properly to organize this country. We have suffered reverses in every theatre of war, because we lacked organization. This Government is not capable of procuring that organization which is needed; it has bungled everything submitted for discussion or determination. A change of Government, therefore, is imperative.
The honorable member for Capricornia (Mr. Forde) said that it was necessary to nationalize the Broken Hill Proprietary Limited and the honorable member for Bendigo (Mr. Rankin) supported that opinion.
– I said that I should take over the Broken. Hill Proprietary Limited for the duration of the war.
– There are other honorable gentlemen on the opposite side of the House who would nationalize the Broken Hill Proprietary Limited ; among them, is the honorable member for Parkes (Sir Charles Marr). Not only dp I support the views expressed in regard to the Broken Hill Proprietary Limited, but also I take the proposition a stage further. The day is fast approaching when the control of the means of production not only of defence needs but also of the needs of families will be taken entirely out of the hands of individuals and organized and run in the interests of the State generally, not in the interests of a few exploiters. We have heard men talk about the new order that will come after the war. There is only one new order acceptable to the workers which can and will supplant the present order, and that is the social ownership) and control of production, distribution and exchange. Honorable members opposite who talk about the new order cannot even provide for the men who have been invalided home from the Front. Those men are put on sustenance for three months and then thrown on to the scrap heap. If that is the best that they can do now when every man’s labour should be used to the utmost, what sort of new order can we expect from them after the war?
Silting suspended from 5.59 to 8 p.m.
– I believe that I said sufficient before the dinner adjournment to convince honorable members who are not bound, as party hacks, to the decisions of their leaders, that a change of government is imperative. I have here extracts from newspaper articles which show that despite what has been suggested by the members of the Government, there was no actual crisis in this country. One newspaper published an article under the heading: “Stock Exchange Stability: Public Confidence “. It is well known that the big business interests have their fingers on the national pulse, and they would certainly be aware of any critical situation. The fact that there was stability on the Stock Exchange is conclusive evidence that the situation was not critical. The Financial News of London stated -
It is regrettable if holders of Australian bonds lost any sleep over the political possibilities in the ocean which is appropriately called “ Pacific “. If risks exist due to a third power’s policy their nature has been clearly evident for a long time - precisely since 1931. Recent events may have increasingly drawn attention to these factors but they have not changed them.
It should be obvious to everybody that this so-called crisis was only a political set-up designed to extricate the Prime Minister and his colleagues from difficulties of their own making. The honorable member for Parkes (Sir Charles Marr) stated some time ago that the Ministry was dominated by big Melbourne business interests. The honorable gentleman is in a position to know whether that is so or not, because he was a member of a government of the same political colour as the present Government; although he is now on the back benches, he is still able to speak on this subject with authority. I accept his statement as additional evidence in support of my claims. Because the Government is serving these big financial interests, it is powerless to take all of the steps that are essential to the adequate defence of Australia. Mr. Weaver, a member of the New South Wales Parliament, said recently that about 80 men in Melbourne and Sydney controlled £200,000,000 of capital, and that an inner circle of about 20 of them virtually dominated the financial interests of Australia. He might have amplified his statement by pointing out that these men dominate not only the financial interests of Australia but also the policy of the present Government. I have already told the House how the Prime Minister evaded the consequences of his statement that the proprietors of the Sydney Morning Herald were amongst the leading profiteers of this country. When giving evidence before the Parliamentary Committee on Profits, Mr. C. C. Peace, a former officer of the Taxation Branch of the Commonwealth Treasury, criticized the failure of the Government to control and tax adequately the excess profits of monopoly corporations. By virtue of his former position in the Taxation Branch, Mr. Peace was able to speak authoritatively. The Prime Minister apparently was unable to answer his charges and the newspapers reported that he would make only this comment: “ I am familiar with Mr. Peace’s political views “.
– The honorable member’s time has expired.
Debate (on motion by Mr. Fadden) adjourned.
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 1941-42 a sum not exceeding £11,576,000.
Standing Orders suspended; resolution adopted.
Resolution of Ways and Means, founded on resolution of Supply, reported and adopted.
That Mr. Fadden and Mr. Abbott do prepare and bring in a 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.
Supply Act (No. 1) 1941-42 covered a period of two months up to the 31st August, 1941. Supply is now sought for a further period of two months to the 3.1st October. This bill makes provision for an amount of £11,576,000 to meet expenditure under the following heads : -
These amounts are based on the rates of expenditure approved in the appropriation for 1940-41. Only in a few isolated items, in connexion with which t?he expenditure is heavier in the earlier part of the year, has the proportion of one-third of last year’s provision been exceeded. The provision made for Defence and War Services in this bill, and in Supply Act (No. 1) 1941-42 represents the amount which will be available from revenue receipts for the first four months of the year, after making allowance for other obligations. In addition to the expenditure from this Defence vote there will, of course, be much greater expenditure which will be covered by existing loan appropriations. No provision has been made under tha head “’ Advance to the Treasurer “, as the amount of £5,000,000 provided in Supply Act (No. 1) 1941-42 is adequate for requirements. Except in respect of Defence and War Services, no provision is made in the bill for any new expenditure, and no departure from existing policy is involved.
– The provision which the Treasurer (Mr. Fadden) has asked the House to make is intended to extend the Supply which has already been provided for July and August to cover the months of September and October. This is a necessary provision until the budget has been considered and the authority of Parliament has been invoked for the revenue and expenditure proposals of the Government. I offer no opposition to the passage of the bill, but I ask that certain assurances bc given to the House, for it must be obvious that, when Supply has been granted to His Majesty, the Government has power to keep Parliament in recess during the whole period covered by the vote. I am aware that numerous assurances have been given that this power will not be used, but I emphasize that it is desirable that Parliament should have ample time in which to consider important matters of taxation and other financial policy which the budget will bring before it. We should have more time than has been given to us on some previous occasions to deal with these matters. I ask the Treasurer to assure me that, when the House rises at the conclusion of the present sittings, the period of the adjournment will he not longer than three weeks, and that Parliament will then deal with the budget, if it is ready, or with such other legislation as the Government may have prepared. In any event, I seek an assurance that the budget will be brought into this House before the end of September so that the whole of October will be available to Parliament for the discussion of the important problems which it will raise. I wish to ensure that Parliament will not be asked to dispose of the budget debate within a brief time limit as an alternative to being asked again to vote Supply to TI is Majesty. That is a reasonable expectation on my pant, and I anticipate that the Treasurer will give me the assurance for which I ask.
– I have no hesitation in assuring the honorable member that the House will meet again within two weeks, or, at the most, within three weeks, from the end of this sitting period, and that the budget will be brought down not later than the end of September.
– That means that the motion to provide for the resumption of the session when the House rises after this sessional period will name a date of meeting not more distant than two weeks or. at the most, three weeks. I hope that the period will be only two weeks. The Treasurer has also made it clear that the budget will be introduced not later than the end of September. I can understand, in view of a certain decision that has been made to-day, that the Government may desire a little time to consider several important subjects. That being the case, and as the Treasurer has assured the House that Parliament will have command of the administration over the period mentioned, I agree to the passage of this bill.
.- In view of the assurance that the Treasurer (Mr. Fadden) has given to the Leader of the Opposition (Mr. Curtin) that the House will meet again within a fortnight, or, at most, three weeks, of the end of this period of the session, and that the budget will be brought down not later than the end of September, I shall not oppose the passage of this bill. I appreciate that the Treasurer will be a busy man, for probably the next five or six weeks, in shaping his budget. I read in the newspapers a week or so ago, that the budget had already been fashioned and presented to Cabinet. I do not know whether that is a fact.
– Probably we shall learn, some day, not to believe everything that we read in the newspapers.
– Perhaps I should say that I happen to know, from certain sources, that the Treasurer presented a budget to Cabinet, but that only an hour and a half was available to consider it. The honorable gentleman has since thought it desirable to reshape the budget, and it will be interesting to see the form in which it finally appears. No doubt the Government will endeavour to provide for increased taxation, compulsory loans, and so forth. It is clearly recognized to-day by all persons who have studied our financial position and methods of paying for the war, that the Treasurer will have to make a greater use than hitherto of the credit resources of the nation through the Commonwealth Bank in order to finance the war effort, and to provide for some necessary reproductive works in the States. I shall reserve further observations on this subject until the budget is submitted.
The first matter to which I direct special attention at this moment is the necessity to decentralize our defence expenditure. I ask the Treasurer to place the remarks I shall make on this subject before the appropriate Ministers. I represent an electorate as large as the State of Victoria, which, so far, has not benefited from defence expenditure. Many factories in my constituency, while not so pretentious as some factories in the capital cities, ave quite capable of a substantial output of munitions. I strongly urge, therefore, that the production of munitions should be decentralized to a far greater degree than hitherto. The capacity of country centres should be fully used in this connexion. It is well known that, in consequence of enlistments for overseas service, the withdrawal of men for militia training, and the enticement of workers to the capital cities where they may engage in munitions work, the population of many country towns is being sadly depleted1. This reduction of population has caused houses and shops to be vacated and business generally to flag in country towns. The magnetic influence of the munition factories of the capital cities has drawn thousands of men away from country areas. It is most unwise, from the defence point of view, to centralize defence expenditure in capital cities. 1 am glad to notice that the Government is departing to some degree from this policy, for provision is being made for the building of munition factories capable of employing up to 500 persons each at Albury, Goulburn, and Wagga. That is good so far as it goes, but similar factories should be erected in distant country towns. I believe that the Mam-power and Resources Survey Committee will have some valuable recommendations to make on this subject. The committee has recently travelled in Queensland as far north as Cairns, and has visited Rockhampton, Mount Morgan, Bundaberg, Toowoomba, Warwick, and other Queensland country towns. Its report will doubtless be valuable.
The vexatious incidence of the patrol rationing scheme also requires more consideration than it has had from the Government. Many persons in my electorate have been seriously handicapped in their primary-producing operations, because they have been unable to obtain sufficient petrol to carry on their essential activities. I know of men who, living at a distance from the railway station in their area, have been gravely inconvenienced.
– Some of them have not been able to obtains any petrol for ordinary running purposes.
– That is so. I suggest that local committees be appointed to recommend methods of correcting the many anomalies that have occurred. The services of the police force throughout Australia should also be utilized to a greater degree by the Government to investigate claims that are made for a more equitable distribution of petrol. Few people know the needs of primary producers better than the local sergeants of police. In travelling through my electorate a few weeks ago I found that local police officers were not even being asked to report upon this important subject. Decisions were made in the capital cities by persons who could not possibly know the needs of rural people. The hardships imposed on taxi-drivers in country towns should also be considered. A taxi-driver in Gladstone, for example, was allowed only one gallon of petrol a day. That is unreasonable. On such an allowance it is impossible for a taxi-driver to meet his commitments and maintain his family. In such a town, where there are steep hills, the use of producer-gas units is out of the question1. As the town is also li miles from the railway station, taxi-drivers a’re entitled to more consideration. At Rockhampton some taxidrivers get an allowance of petrol which yields them only 2s. a day.
Much inconvenience is also being felt in country towns in consequence of the restriction of building operations. In towns where no defence buildings are being erected the curtailment of work on the building of schools, dwelling houses and the ]ike-is most unfair. I am pleased to admit that, in respect of some specific complaints I have made to the Treasurer, the restrictions have been relaxed, but 1 hope that the public authority in charge of this subject will be less severe than hitherto in its decisions. Carpenters, bricklayers, and other persons engaged in the building trades in country towns are suffering acutely through their inability to obtain employment.
I wish now to make an appeal to the Government for more generous treatment of the cotton industry of Australia, as its development is of considerable concern, not only to Queensland, where the cotton is grown, but also to many centres in the southern States where spinning operations are conducted. I urge the Government to stabilize the cotton-growing industry by guaranteeing the growers an average price of at least 5¼d. per lb. for seed cotton. Such a guarantee is absolutely necessary if the farmers are to be expected to grow more cotton to meet Australia’s requirements. Australia needs about 100,000 bales of cotton per annum, and as the result of our widening use of cotton in secondary production, the demand for the locally-grown article is increasing. Last year our production totalled only 12,000 hales, with the result that spinners had to import raw cotton. The cotton industry is inextricably woven into our defence fabric. Cotton is used in the manufacture of high explosives and in the making of much other defence equipment. As the shortage of shipping makes it difficult to obtain supplies of raw cotton from the United States of America or Egypt everything possible ought to be done to increase our local output. The price guarantee policy which I advocate would’ stabilize not only the primary production side of the industry, but also its manufacturing activities. I urge the Minister for Trade and Customs to give favorable consideration to the numerous requests that have been made to him by the Queensland Cotton Board and representatives of the industry in other States to provide a guaranteed average price of not less than 5¼d. per lb. for seed cotton. I believe that that would give a great impetus to cotton-growing. This can be said to be a small man’s industry. It has enabled closer settlement to he considerably developed in central Queensland, where men have cleared scrub land, planted a few acres with cotton, and also carried on dairying and pig-raising operations. Others would be prepared to follow their example with reasonable assurance against loss. An immediate pronouncement by the Government of its intention to come to their assistance is absolutely essential. It should also co-operate with the Queensland Government, in making available the finance needed in respect of water conservation and irrigation.
Individual water conservation and irrigation plants have been established throughout the cotton-growing areas, and have been responsible for an increase of the production of cotton from an average of 300 lb, an acre of seed cotton under dry conditions, to one of 1,500 lb. an acre under irrigation conditions. So soon as water conservation and irrigation wa3 adopted in the United States of America, the average production became approximately 1,600 lb. an acre. An equal production could be obtained in Queensland, but the seasons are uncertain; rain does not fall at .the right time, and sometimes on that account a crop is not obtained, or it is so small as not to be payable. This matter has merely been toyed with, because of insufficient finance. The Queensland Government has assisted materially, by the establishment of research stations. It has brought to this country scientists and experts to engage in research in connexion with soil, and the pests which attack the industry; and, generally, it has shown every sympathy and desire, to the extent of its financial resources, to make available the funds needed to establish individual water conservation and irrigation plants. But the matter should be tackled comprehensively, by the provision of funds by the Commonwealth for the inauguration of bigger schemes throughout the cotton-growing areas. This is absolutely essential, in order to cope with the increasing demand for raw cotton by the spinning mills in the southern States. That demand is approximately 100,000 bales this year, and it will reach 300,000 bales in the next couple of . years. I hope that the Government will make an immediate decision on the request of the Queensland Cotton Board. The matter could properly be raised at the next Premiers Conference. The Queensland Premier, and the Minister for Agriculture, are deeply interested ; and I have been requested by the Queensland Cotton Board to place the matter before the Commonwealth Ministry and Parliament.
The Government has had under consideration a proposal for the establishment of a copper refinery at Mount Morgan, in central Queensland. Australia produces to-day much below its requirements of blister copper, supplies of which have to be imported from South Africa and other countries - an operation which is made exceedingly difficult by the present shortage of shipping. For some time, the Government has had before it proposals for assistance with a view to increasing copper production. One such proposal emanated from central Queensland, and I am glad that the Government has granted a loan of £10,000 towards meeting the cost of testing and developing one of the mines in that district. What has been done there should be done in other parts of Australia. It should be possible to produce the whole of Australia’s requirements of copper. The Minister for Supply should investigate the matter very seriously. The original Mount Morgan Gold Mining Company Limited established at Port Kembla the only copper refinery in Australia. When that company ceased to operate some years ago, and disposed of its assets, the copper refinery at Port Kembla fell into the hands of interests located in Collins House, Melbourne. I believe that one of the men chiefly interested in the Port Kembla refinery is a member of a committee which has been asked to report to the Government as to whether assistance should be given in respect of the establishment of another copper refinery at Mount Morgan. It is considered that, because of this influence in Collins House, the Government has not been given a favorable report in regard to that proposal.
This matter is interwoven with the very important question of the decentralization of secondary industries in Australia. Mount Morgan is some 30 miles distant from Rockhampton, is about 1,100 feet above sea level, and is only 40 or 50 miles distant from an almost unlimited supply of coal. This possesses great possibilities in connexion with extensive power electricity schemes. Quite a number of industries allied to copper could be established ; the copper having been refined, mills for drawing copper wire, and numerous other allied industries, could be begun. There could also be set up in the neighbourhood munition works which, by giving employment to the young people of the district, and thus offsetting the attractions of the capital cities, would keep them in the country.
The Government also has before it a proposal for assistance towards the establishment of a plant for the production of pyrites at Mount Morgan. There has been far too much delay in coming to a decision in this matter. I realize, of course, that Ministers are busy; but the matter has been before a committee so long that one wonders whether a report upon it will ever be made. The panties concerned are justifiably becoming impatient.Union officials and representative business men ask me whenever I visit the district when a decision is likely to be obtained from the Government. I ask thePostmaster-General (Mr. Collins), himself a representative of a country district, to see that; finality is reached.
In the consideration of the budget, the Government, should do something practical to assist soldiers and their dependants, by increasing their pay and allowances. Since the outbreak of the war, the Labour party has fought consistently for better rates of pay for members of the Australian Imperial Force and the Militia, and their dependants. It will be remembered that, the Government first proposed to pay members of the Australian Imperial Force 5s. a day, plus1s. a day deferred pay after embarkation, 2s. 6d. a day in respect of a wife, and 9d. a day in respect of each dependent child. Mainly as the result of the persistent efforts of the Labour Opposition in this Parliament, and its numerical strength, the Government was forced to increase the rates to those that operate to-day.
Since the war began, the cost of living has increased considerably, and it continues to increase. Statistics show that, in respect of food, clothing, and rent, the increase has been approximately 9 per cent. It can be stated quite safely, in general terms, that the increase has been from 20 per cent. to 25 per cent. As an example, consider the enormous increase of house rents. I could mention other items. The Arbitration Court has made numerous adjustments of salaries and wages, in order to meetat least a portion of the increase. It is true that invalid and old-age pensioners have received an additional amount.
– The honorable member knows that, on Tuesday last, the full Cabinet unanimously agreed to the principle that the rates, of pay for soldiers should be increased.
-We have just been advisedby the Treasurer (Mr. Fadden) not to believe what we read in the newspapers. The Government may have agreed to the principle, but we have not yet heard what the new rates are to be, and the soldiers have not received an increase. I want to make representations before finality is reached on the budget. “Flying kites” in newspapers will not appease those who believe that the rates of pay of soldiers and their dependants should be substantially increased. Something more than a decision in regard to principle is needed, glad though we are to have even that. If the Minister can tell me exactly what the new rates are to be, I shall say whether I think they are reasonable or not. I have read in the newspapers of a fight in the Cabinet, in which the Minister for the Army (Mr. Spender), stood very determinedly for an increase.
Mr.Collins. - I refute that. Until last Tuesday, the matter was never discussed in Cabinet.
– I have read of a determined fight for an increase having been made by the Minister for the Army, and opposed by the Treasurer.
– It was never discussed.
– What I have said has been stated persistently in the newspapers. I thought that where there was smoke there was bound to be fire. Evidently, there is division of opinion in the Cabinet.
Mr.Collins. - No!
– Should that division exist, honorable members should avail themselves of this, the last opportunity they will have before the budget is formulated, to stress the claims of soldiers and their dependants.
– I repeat, that until Tuesday last there was not a discussion in Cabinet concerning the matter; and there has never been a division of opinion regarding it.
– I have in mind the very determined fight which honorable members on this side had to make to obtain the increase very grudgingly given last year. That increase had literally to.be forced from the Government, which at that time was unanimously opposed to the proposal until it realized that it would meet political disaster unless it granted a slight concession. It is true that the invalid and old-age pensioners are to get a small increase to meet the increased cost of living, but I remind the Postmaster-General (Mr. Collins) that the dependants of soldiers who are risking their lives overseas do not share in this increase. The least that the Government can do is to increase their allowances. According to the somewhat vague statement of the Postmaster-General, Cabinet has agreed to the principle of increased pay for soldiers, but we have not .been told what the increases are to be, or whether the benefit will extend to the dependants of soldiers. Of course, the Government may have in mind some form of deferred pay. On a previous occasion, when the Country party was- not represented in the Ministry, some of its members were loud in their criticism of the Government for not granting an increase of soldiers’ pay. We thought that they were going to stand with us in demanding an increase, but then they ran away, and it was announced that they would support the Government’s proposal for some form of deferred increase, a sort of Kathleen Mavourneen arrangement - the soldiers might get it in five or six years’ time, or they might never get it at all. We want the Government to grant an increase that will apply immediately. We want the Government to reconsider the matter before its budget is formulated, and particularly that it should increase allowances to soldiers’ dependants. I remind the Government that soldiers who served in the last war, and who are now receiving pensions, are not receiving the same value for their money as they did at the time the pensions were granted, because the cost of living is higher now than it was then. Is the proposed increase large enough to cover the increased cost of living? It is impossible to stress too much the sacrifices which soldiers and their families are making in the service of their country. Many men have given up lucrative positions in order to enter the Army. Some of them have given their very lives to protect this country and the property of those who remain behind. I do not think that the soldiers will be satisfied if their request for better treatment is simply pushed aside on the ground that money cannot be found. They, and their dependants, will insist upon the money being made available. Had this Government been allowed to have its way, members of the Australian Imperial Force and their dependants would not be receiving anything like as much as they are getting to-day. It is mainly due to the representations of honorable members on this side of the House that increases were granted in the 1940-41 budget. At that time, the Leader of the Opposition (Mr. Curtin) submitted a motion which provided for increased pay and allowances. At first, the Government said that it could not accept the proposal, but after some discussion, it agreed to make a domestic allowance of 7s. a week to wives with a child or children. The scale in force at that time was 5s. a day for the soldier, ls. deferred pay, 2s. 6d. for a wife, and 9d. for each dependent child. The Labour party’s proposal was 7s. a day for the soldier, 3s. for the wife, ls. deferred pay, and ls. 6d. for each child. Ministers at that time said that the Labour party was trying to bribe the soldiers, but now that they have approved of the principle of increasing soldiers’ pay, they may have discovered a new name for it. I maintain that increases are long overdue.
– Why does not the Labour party go into office and itself fix the rate of pay?
– -Unfortunately, the electors did not give us a majority in this Parliament. If they had, we should not have hesitated to apply our policy. If the honorable member feels like supporting the policy of the Opposition in the matter of soldiers’ pay, we might still be able to do something. The new scale of pay which the Government brought in was 5s. a day for the soldier, 2s. deferred pay, 3s. for the wife, ls. 6d. a day for each dependent child, plus ls. a day allowance to wives with a child or children. The present rates for the Militia are 5s. a day for the soldier, 3s. a day for the wife, and ls. 6d. a day for each child. Labour’s proposal is for 8s. a day for the soldier, 3s. for the wife, and ls. 6d. for each child. Single men, many of whom subscribe to the family exchequer, receive only the same amount as did soldiers in i914, although the basic wage was then only £2 13s., whereas to-day it is £4. I hope that the Treasurer will heed our representations when he is reshaping his budget, that budget which had already been considered by Cabinet in Melbourne before Ministers got the bright idea of sending the Prime Minister overseas. This was intended to secure for the Government immunity from attack, and perhaps it was thought then that it would not matter what kind of budget was brought in. Now that the Prime Minister is not going overseas, he will be able to bend all his energies to his task as Minister for Defence Coordination, and put into operation that, bold defence policy which he enunciated in the Sydney Town Hall upon his return from Great Britain. He will be able to discuss with his colleagues this important subject of better pay for soldiers, and better allowances for their dependants. I have received numerous communications from soldiers and their dependants, and from soldiers’ organizations, urging me to put their case before the Government. If we did not use this opportunity we would not be able to get the ear of the Government before the budget is formulated. “I believe that the PostmasterGeneral is sympathetic, and we may be able to squeeze something more out of the Government. “We did not think last year that we would get any increase; it looked quite hopeless at one stage. The responsibility rests upon the Government to do the right thing by those who are fighting for this country overseas, and have performed deeds of heroism in Greece, Crete, Libya and Syria. T ask the Postmaster-General to use his influence with the leader of his party who, as Treasurer, is charged with the responsibility of finding the money that will be needed for increased pay to the soldiers. We have the opportunity only rarely to interview the Treasurer, but the Postmaster-General, who is his political bed-fellow, has many such opportunities. We know that tonight the Treasurer is very disturbed because the Prime Minister is not going overseas.
– Who said that?
– We know that the Treasurer is disturbed; Cabinet is probably meeting in order to survey the political situation with particular reference to its own position. Last night, the prospect looked so brilliant; to-night, it appears to be shrouded in gloom. We hope that the uncertainty will not put the Treasurer in a bad mood, and that he will resignedly accept the philosophy that “ everything happens for the best “. Perhaps the honorable gentleman will console himself with the thought that, in the final analysis, it might be better if he does not become Acting Prime Minister or Domestic Prime Minister. The POSitmasterGeneral, as the political “stablemate” of the Treasurer, now has a rare opportunity to place our views before the honorable gentleman. When he does so, he should emphasize the claims of soldiers and soldiers’ dependants for an increase of pay and allowances. I also ask the Postmaster-General to refer to Cabinet such vital matters as petrol rationing, and the special claims of country districts for a relaxation of the restrictions upon the building industry, which are throwing carpenters out of work. The necessity for decentralizing munition factories is another important consideration. The adoption of such a policy will induce people to remain in the rural areas, instead of being enticed, as they are now, to large centres of population.
– Never within my recollection has the Deputy Leader of the Opposition (Mr. Forde) been in better oratorical form than he was this evening. He displayed daring and a sense of humour which neither his friends nor his enemies suspected that he possessed. But it is all very well for the honorable gentleman to come to the table of the House, make a great oratorical show, and then retire to those comfortable green cushions, the colour of which is so pleasing to his eyes. The stern, cold fact is that the Opposition is not satisfied with certain actions of the Government. I put it very clearly to the honorable gentleman that the purpose of a party in politics is to govern. If it does not intend to govern, it has no right to contest elections. Unless it is prepared to take the proper steps to remedy the condition of which it complains, it should refrain from expressing dissatisfaction. Every one of us finds cause for complaint in the conduct of the present Government, but I have no intention of sharpening my knife this evening for the purpose of taking scalps.
Even in time of war, a definite responsibility devolves on Parliament to do certain things. Unfortunately, Parliament is not shouldering that responsibility. Instead of our justifying the democratic system of government under which we are attempting to work, a very big gap exists between the actual attempt and the realization. To-day, Parliament is justifying every gibe that Hitler and Mussolini have cast at democracy, because our system is not functioning properly. Parliament is not taking its responsibility seriously. Too much talk is heard about what should be done. Personal and party politics loom too prominently, and the Opposition is too “ office-shy “. Doubtless some honorable gentlemen on this side of the House fondly believe that the political and military heavens would crash upon the world if they were to relinquish office. To them I say, with very great respect and with the best of good feeling, that, if on their way to their hotels this evening, a meteorite should knock them over - or what is more likely, a motor car should strike them - Parliament would assemble, place on record what wonderful fellows they were, adjourn for a day in honour of their memory, and then get on with the job. Any ideas of indispensability should be banished from their minds. To members of the Opposition, I say that it is useless for them to come here and indulge in shadow-sparring, only to disappear in a few days into the wilds of Sydney, Melbourne, and other thickly-populated centres, leaving the matter to rest. The country expects something better of this Parliament than it has been getting since the last election. The meetings of this legislature reflect no credit upon it, and the position will not be accepted by the country. Through various actions and delinquencies, Parliament is creating an avalanche of resentment which will sweep this institution out of existence, or compel an important reform of its proceedings.
– Or of its personnel !
– Yes. If a dissolution be forced, the people will have every justification for expressing their resentment at the way in which the affairs of the country have been conducted by Parliament during the last twelve months. Unfortunately, I am unable to discern any inclination on the -part of Parliament to settle down to real work relating to the stern prosecution of the war and the defence of the country. One of the worst things that I have heard in these debates is that the budget will be recast. The commander who tries to alter his plans once he has set his forces in motion is an idiot, or worse. This Government cannot make stab after stab at the production of a budget which it thinks will create, between the Opposition and itself, a certain degree of satisfaction. We saw that fearful compromise on the last budget. This evening the Deputy Leader of the Opposition evidently spoke off his guard when he mentioned that the Opposition, no doubt, would be able to squeeze a little more out of the Government. That admission was most illuminating. The Government has never possessed an ounce of real authority in Parliament since it compromised on its budget last year. A government which compromises on its budget cannot exercise authority, though it can remain in office and Ministers can continue to draw their parliamentary allowances. Before a government can attempt, to administer a continent and conduct a war successfully, it must be able to govern itself. Time after time, we see lamentable exhibitions of the incapacity of the present Government ‘ to stand up to its decisions. The Army has a saying that, at all costs, one must avoid order, counterorder and disorder.
– What could any government do when the honorable member constitutes its majority?
– Since so much thunder has been heard to-night about the. representation of Australia in the British War Cabinet, I am of the opinion that it would not be a bad thing for the country if all honorable members, with the exception of myself, went to London. If that were done, decisions that I made in the morning would not be eaten for dinner in the evening. The country would certainly get on with the job. In making that statement, I do not contend that I am the only honorable member who is cast in that mould; but I invite the honorable member for Dalley (Mr. Rosevear) to sleep upon my proposal and give me his considered opinion on it to-morrow.
Referring to the “ wonderful position of the democracies “ as the result of great Russian victories, an honorable member declared this afternoon that Australia should render all possible aid to the great Soviet Republic. Since the RussoGerman war began eight weeks ago, I have maintained silence’ upon this interesting subject. The time has come when we should calmly and dispassionately consider the facts. Stalin is not fighting on our side by choice. For a long time speculation was rife as to whether he would fight at all. That uncertainty was settled on the 22nd June by our enemy Hitler, who walked over the border into Russia and decided that Stalin should fight. I have some misgivings as to whether the gentleman with the big moustache will fight for very long. Some frightful inroads have been made into his territory during the last few weeks. If honorable members study maps of the Donetz basin and the Dneiper River area, which form a large part of the Ukraine, they will see that the Russians are in an awkward position. The House should not be deluded into believing that the Germans cannot fight a winter campaign in Russia. They fought a winter campaign on that front for three years during the last war, and in addition, they fought a winter campaign on the western front and on the Italian frontier, and policed the Balkans. So let us not be deluded into the belief that winter will come to our assistance, and that the German armies will dissolve, while the Russian forces remain intact. I deprecate every word that has been said in public to-day about the necessity for sending assistance to Russia.
Everything said in this Parliament in the debate on the war goes to show that we are not able to provide all the munitions and services that we want for our selves. That is the position, and the crux of the argument as to whether we should send some Minister to London is that we want to send someone there in order to get assistance for ourselves, something which. Great Britain and, if need be, the United States of America can spare and which we need very badly. I know of nothing that we have to spare, whether it be armaments, munitions, medical supplies or - this is important and I know something about it - transports or men. If it comes to the question of foodstuffs, Russia is a much bigger producer of every one of those things, with the possible exception of wool, than we ourselves are. So, we shall not ‘be of much assistance to Russia there. I say to the House and through it to the country that the primary objective of this Parliament and of every man in it who is a 100 per cent. Australian ought to be to ensure that our men, resources and services are organized and held for our own British purposes, and 1 tell the House that we shall have to have both hands full if we are to conserve and use them to the best advantage in getting out on the right side in good time.
A good deal of debate has taken place in this chamber in the last couple of days on the position in the Far East. I shall make one or two observations about that because the position of ourselves and Siam, or Thailand, as it is now called, has been raised with a certain amount of vehemence and at the same time, to my mind, forgetfulness. It is not long since the Thai Government walked into Indo-China and took those portions of Indo-China to which it thought it had a title, but I did not hear any debate in this chamber as to the rights or wrongs of that; I did not hear the Thai Government called an aggressor. But we are faced to-day with the action of Ja”pan, an action which I do not think any reasonable man in this chamber could say was a surprise to him. It was inherent in the situation. The Leader of the Opposition put it baldly when he said that Japan would strike whenever it paid it to do so, that it was only a matter of time; the objective was there, it had been there for a. few years, and the only elements in question now were time and order of priority in which countries would be taken. Therefore the position in regard to Thailand is not new; but it is a position in which we have an interest which is of infinitely greater importance to us than any socalled interests that we might have in the Union of Socialist Soviet Republics. Personally, my attitude to the Russo.German war is that it was an act of mercy or of Providence for two great thieves to fall out. No matter what is reached in the realm of morals or of tolerance at home or abroad, everything which we can truthfully accuse the German Government of having done, we can, with equal truth, accuse the Russian Government of having done earlier and perhaps over a greater territory. Taking a clearly objective view of the Russian situation, I say that it is a good thing for us that these two great international thieves have fallen out, but it is only a good thing to the extent to which we use the opportunity created by the Russo-German war to put the British Empire in a better state to meet inevitable attack. From our point of view it does not matter who wins the RussoGerman war, because the British Empire is committed to fight the winner. If the victor be Germany we fight at once; we fight, most likely, by the invasion of Great Britain almost certainly by a German thrust down through, the Near East to the oil wells of Persia and, perhaps, to Suez and, maybe, into India, and from India, not a long way these days, down to Singapore. There are great possibilities in a German victory on the Russian front, but, if the Russians should win, do not nin away with the idea that those gentlemen in Moscow are a lot of people who have suddenly grown the wings of angels and quote nothing but scripture. They will go on quoting the doctrines of Marx, of Lenin, and of Stalin, or whoever is in charge of Russia io-da.y, and undermine civilization and the moral standards, for which Christianity stands, whenever they get the opportunity. And they will fight, as fight they must sooner or later! Let us get very clearly into our heads that which ever side wins, we fight. We fight Ger- many immediately, if it be the winner, and Russia, very little later, if it be the winner. From that reasoning, it is better from our point of view: that Russia should win rather than Germany, ‘because we should be given vital time in which to prepare ourselves.
– Which side does the honorable member want to win, Russia or Germany?
– I pointed out that from our point of view it is better that Russia should win because that would give us time in which to prepare for the inevitable conflict.
– Does the honorable member not think that in the circumstances his remarks are rather indiscreet?
– Not in the slighest degree; The days of diplomacy in which the honorable gentleman and I were raised are gone, and, if the honorable member likes to look at the Moscow papers, as I have had occasion to do now and again, he will see in them wonderful things about ourselves. No doubt, since the 21st June, the tune has changed. The papers may have changed, but the policy behind them has not.
There are a few things in Australia at which the Government should look. The first’ is the subject of man-power. I hate having to recur to that subject.
– I hope that the honorable gentleman’s speech will suffer at the hands of the censor the fate which befell one of my speeches.
– It would not be the first time that I have been subject to censorship; perhaps I have done a little of it myself. We have a women’s naval organization, a women’s air force, and now the Minister for the Army (Mr. Spender) has launched out afresh. It is most humiliating that we should have a Government prepared to ask women to do all sorts of things connected with the war and not ask men, and still less, make men, do them. The situation is humiliating, and it is not helped when we see public statements by the Minister for the Army such as he made on his return from Libya and the conquest of Bardia, in which he said that what was wanted in the Middle East was the softening influence of women. It would he a good thing for this country if some of the softening influence of women could be exported to some of our enemies. It would also be a good thing if we had more of the hardening things on which armies are trained and conducted. Let us get out of our minds that armies can be trained with softening influence. The first responsibility of the manhood of any country is to defend their country; there is no need to call on women until man-power has been committed to the full, and we are a long way from that at present, a very long way indeed.
I am not happy about the petrol position. A lot remains to be done to devise a reasonable method of rationing. As far as I can see there is, to put it mildly, a premium on inaccuracy. The man who tells the biggest “ fib “ gets the best ration. That is how petrol rationing is being run at present. A good deal could be done if a system were evolved under which there were some local authorities to decide on these matters. I was interested to hear the honorable member for Capricornia (Mr. Forde) refer to the local police. One locality in my electorate has suggested to the Government that it would be a good thing if a local committee were set up consisting of the district postmaster, the senior constable and the district clerk, or the shire clerk, as he is called in some places, in order to supervise local petrol rationing. Those three men would know the local circumstances and the conditions under which each person in the locality worked. There would not then be the all too frequent complaints about such things as a racemeeting at Murray Bridge which, I am told, was attended by no less than 25 bookmakers who travelled the 52 miles from Adelaide and back by motor car. Race meetings are not necessary in order to win the war, and bookmaking should not be an exempt occupation. Further, the provision of petrol to enable racegoers to get to race-courses should be struck out of calculations at once.
– What is to happen to the thousands of people dependent on the racing industry for their livelihood?
– The racing industry ! The honorable gentleman might just as well talk to me about the money-lending industry. Horse-racing is of as much use to this country as is the money-lending industry in winning the war. We must divert men to the production of munitions, to the armed forces and to the services which will supply them, and horse-racing will not help us to do that.
– Bookmakers have trains on which to travel.
– Yes. As with the Murray Bridge meeting, a special race train was run to the Warrnambool races and, side by side with the train service, the Government allowed motor fuel to be supplied to enable people to travel to the meeting. It is particularly wrong when people in the same area, the producers of cheese and butter and the things which the Government says are so necessary, are denied the right to have the milk lorry call at the farms. That sort of thing cannot go on. It is administration which is unacceptable to me, the kind of administration which somebody has to clean up, and I hope that it will be cleaned up before the budget in its amended, semi-amended, or any other form, reaches this House.
These are serious times, and it is no use for us to try to tell the people of this country that all is well in the Commonwealth Parliament. The man in the street knows that all is not well ; he knows that some things are sadly lacking here, and I trust that before long we shall be able to get down to some form of stability. I am not at all particular as to how that stability is brought about. I do not think that these are times in which anybody should be worrying at all about party or personal matters. These are times of such seriousness that we should have in office only those men who are capable of doing the work of government satisfactorily. As I said in this House last year, when I was a member of the Government, men who make grievous failures in war-time must make way for others. We cannot afford a repetition of their mistakes. Therefore, I repeat, with the best of good feeling towards members of both the Government and the Opposition, that some very important changes must be made in this institution and in the method of conducting its business. It will be a good thing for the Parliament and the country when they are made.
– This is an appropriate occasion .to raise the subject of the conduct of Commonwealth Treasury and taxation officials in connexion with the child endowment scheme. I am sorry that the Treasurer (Mr. Fadden) is not present at the moment because, in effect, I charge him with having given a direction in regard to concessional deductions from income for taxation purposes, which he has not authority to give. I have asked the honorable gentleman to inform the House on what authority the Postmaster-General’s Department has been instructed to disallow the £50 dependent child deduction when computing the amount of Commonwealth and State income tax payable by each officer of the department.
– That applies to all Commonwealth departments.
– This question arose out of correspondence which I have received from an officer of the Postmaster-General’s Department, who has made the following statement to me : -
X have been disallowed the £50 dependent eli i Id deduction in respect to two of my children - I have three. If you will refer to the Postmaster-General’s Department’s Monthly Circular for New South Wales for July, you will see in the first paragraph where officers of the department will, from 10th July, 1941, be taxed on the basis of no concessional £50 for children in excess of one. I hold a certificate of exemption to August, 1942, yet my department is taking 3s. 6d. ft fortnight out of my salary in Federal tax. . All I have attained from the National Child Endowment Scheme is a straight out decrease of £1 per annum and an increase of ls. 6d. a week in ray tax. Your advice in this matter will be appreciated.
After I had directed the question to the Treasurer to-day, I received a letter in answer to my previous correspondence on the subject from a Treasury official, Mr. J. Brophy, who wrote on behalf of the Secretary to the Treasury. The letter stated : -
In determining the conditions of these special arrangements, the Treasurer approved that they should operate from’ the first pay in July and that advantage be taken of departmental procedure and records to give an officer all concessional deductions from income, except that of £50 for each dependent child in excess of one. When the Child Endowment Bill was introduced into Parliament, it was stated that the Government proposed to amend the Income
Tax Assessment Act to disallow the concessional deduction in respect of each child in excess of one under the age of sixteen years. .
This document, signed by a responsible officer of the Treasury, declares that on the authority of some alleged statement in Parliament regarding future legislation, all Government departments have been directed to adopt this illegal practice. That goes beyond the limit of action that the Parliament should permit. No officer of the Treasury has any right to issue an instruction of this character without legal authority to do so. Nor has any officer of the pay section of the PostmasterGeneral’s Department any right to make illegal deductions from the salaries of employees of that department. Therefore, I consider that, without further ado, the deductions that have been made should be refunded ; it is even possible that some compensation is due to the officers who have been affected. This scheme of child endowment has proved, under examination, to be in the nature of a trick perpetrated upon the community. It was introduced as the result of a suggestion made by the Arbitration Court after a very exhaustive inquiry into costs of living in Australia. The court suggested that the best way in which to meet rising costs of living was to introduce a Commonwealth scheme of child endowment. This scheme was then introduced, no doubt, as a substitute for the wage increases that the workers were entitled to receive. If the workers had received their due increment, as disclosed by the examination of the index figures by the Arbitration Court, their wage3 would have been substantially increased. But they did not receive the increment. Parliament finally approved of the endowment scheme for the purpose of offsetting this lag. Honorable members on this side of the chamber considered the scheme to be acceptable, chiefly because a need existed for a Commonwealth-wide plan of child endowment.
– Not merely because it was a satisfactory substitute for an increase of the basic wage.
– That is true. We considered that the principle of child endowment was very important. It was a social reform which had been talked about for many years, but which had not been introduced anywhere except in the State of New South Wales. For this reason we regarded the scheme as a step forward along the path of social reform. Now we learn that, instead of making endowment payments a real benefit to the people as we believed they would be, the Government has offset the amount which the workers receive in respect of their children by disallowing the concessional taxation deductions in respect of all but the first child in any family under the age of sixteen years. This has been done without any legal authority. The taxation law has not yet been amended in order to permit of this change being made. The Parliament has not approved of such action. Surely we have not reached a stage at which the country is governed on the basis of statements alleged to have been made in the Parliament. I am surprised beyond expression to know that any responsible officer such as the gentleman who signed the letter which I received to-day from the Treasury should have the brazen effrontery to sign correspondence setting forth ii practice for which he has no authority of any kind. The issue involved is a most serious one.
– If any illegal deductions have been made, they will be legally restored to the persons affected.
– Is it right to make the deductions?
– Not if what the honorable member says is correct.
– It has been admitted to me that it is not right.
– If any money has been illegally deducted from the salaries of Commonwealth officers, the practice is definitely wrong.
– I ask the Minister: What right has any officer of any Commonwealth department to deduct from officers’ salaries amounts in respect of taxation unless the deduction has been sanctioned by the Parliament?
– Definitely none.
– Taxation is irksome enough when all is said and done, but it is much more so when such action is taken without legal authority. I direct attention to what is being done with regard to taxation assessments for income earned during the year 1940-41. In respect of this income the Taxation Department proposes to permit concessional deductions for only one child in each family. The argument advanced by the Taxation Department in support of this action is that taxation assessments are based upon the previous year’s income. I admit that that is the general guiding principle of taxation, but its application in respect of the child endowment scheme for this year is entirely wrong. In the first place, the child endowment scheme did not come into operation until July, 1941. Therefore, even if there be any merit in the department’s argument in favour of exclusion of the concessional allowance of £50 each for all but the first child under sixteen years of age in any family, the practice cannot equitably apply to the 1940-41 year of income, when child endowment was not paid. Why is the Government, through the Taxation Department, robbing taxpayers of their concessional rights? The child endowment scheme has been rigged against the workers. The Government already has a long record of rigging. A considerable amount of publicity was given to the scheme when it was introduced. Ministers spoke of the methods that would be used in applying it, and said that rates of income would not be taken into consideration. Child endowment was supposed to be a. real benefit to families throughout the Commonwealth. Almost every honorable member was given the impression that endowment was to be an addition to any other social benefits that existed at that time. No honorable member believed that the Government would give endowment with one hand and take it away with the other, but that is what has happened. Furthermore, in respect of the year 1940-41, the Government is doubling back over a period when child endowment did not apply. I am confident that when this matter is fully examined by Parliament, even the supporters of the Government will disapprove of its actions. Most honorable gentlemen on the Government side of the chamber who spoke on the legislation dealing with child endowment, expressed the view that this should be a means of giving to the children of the
Commonwealth something which they would not otherwise receive.
– Is the budget being altered to provide for this?
– An instruction has been issued through the Taxation Department to the Deputy Commissioners in the various States to the effect that in making assessments on returns furnished for 1940-41 the concessional deduction for children shall apply to only one child. I complain strongly about that unwarranted assumption of authority. Secondly, I complain that deductions are already being made from salaries week by week, as was done last year, although no authority has yet been given by Parliament for such action to be taken this year. I have discussed this matter with the Clerk of this House, and I find that these weekly deductions are being applied to members of Parliament. Obviously, therefore, a general instruction must have been issued to all government departments.
– Was it issued by the Treasurer?
– I am not in a position to say who issued the instruction. All I know is that it is being obeyed by departmental officers. Seeing that Parliament has not yet reached a decision on either of the two points to which I have referred, I consider that the action being taken is definitely illegal, and that the person who gave it should be called to book.
– It is the law of the big stick.
– There should be square dealing in all these matters. Governments should have regard to the rights and authority of the Parliament in these matters. I make my specific complaint on behalf of officers of the Postal Department, many of whom have a continual struggle to make ends meet. I do not think any one would contend that postal officers are overpaid. They are, however, rendering a wonderful service to the whole community and their interests should be protected.
– Should Parliament deal with public officers or with Ministers in this connexion ? That is the point.
– That should be determined. If an alderman of a municipal council issued an instruction to a town clerk, or if a shire councillor issued an instruction to the clerk of the shire council, to do- something not provided for by the Local Government Act, undoubtedly the officer concerned would refuse to obey the instruction and no one would blame him. In such cases where unauthorized impositions are made surcharges may be applied. Possibly a surcharge could be applied to a Minister in a case such as the one with which I am dealing. I do not know what Ministers would say if they were called upon to foot the bill. No instruction should have been issued to or by the Commissioner of Taxation or any Deputy Commissioner unless such instruction was clearly in conformity with the law. It is entirely wrong that in a year in which no child endowment was payable taxation officers should have been instructed to deal with concessional deductions for children on a basis of only one child. It was stated when the Child Endowment Bill was before Parliament that the new law would probably involve taxpayers in the middle income range in some slight loss. I take the view that even’ that might be justifiable in view of the fact that persons in the lower income ranges would benefit by this legislation ; but the instructions that have been given by the Treasury are illegal and should be withdrawn immediately.
.- This bill provides for the granting of a sum of £11,576,000 out of the Consolidated Revenue Fund for the services of the current financial year, the amount being intended to cover the months of September and October. This is the second Supply Bill for this financial year, the first having provided an amount of more than £15,000,000 for the months of July and August. I ask the Treasurer to inform me whether the lower amount for the next two months is due to the fact that no provision is being made in this bill for an advance to the Treasurer, whereas, in the last Supply Bill, an amount of £5,000,000 was provided for that purpose. It is possible that a considerable part of that sum still remains unexpended.
I am intrigued, too, by the difference in the provision being made for defence and war services. For the next two months an amount of £7,594,160 is being provided under this heading, whereas in the last Supply Bill the amount so provided was £5,552,000. For the four months, therefore, the amount provided is a little in excess of £13,000,000, which means that our total expenditure from revenue under this heading for the year, assuming a similar basis for the remaining eight months, would be about £39,000,000. Our total defence expenditure from revenue last year was £65,000,000. It is fair to assume that a considerably greater expenditure will be necessary this year. I wish to know from what source the Government is proposing to provide whatever amount is needed in excess of £39,000,000, which, on the basis of the two Supply Bills so far submitted to us, will be the expenditure this year from revenue. It may be, of course, that larger amounts, will be provided for the remaining part of the year, but we are entitled to full information on the point.
– I shall bring the honorable member’s inquiry to the notice of the Treasurer.
– I notice also that the amount proposed to be voted for the Postmaster-General’s Department under this bill is £2,006,140, whereas the amount so provided in the previous Supply Bill was £2,866,000. In comparing the details of the expenditure proposed under this bill with similar information in the schedule to the last Supply Bill, [ find a considerable reduction in many items. If my memory serves me well, the honorable member for Wakefield (Mr. Duncan-Hughes) criticized the amount provided in the last bill for expenditure by the Postmaster-General. Is this reduction of £800,000 due to his remarks?
I regret exceedingly that it has been necessary to delay the introduction of the budget. The budget should be submitted to Parliament as early as possible in the financial year. In the past, owing to the delay in bringing down the budget, honorable members have had to agree to the Government’s proposals after only hasty consideration, and the taxation measures brought in as the result of the budget have frequently been passed without due consideration of details. This has caused many anomalies. I appeal to the Government to give honorable members ample time to examine, in detail, all the provisions of the budget. The community is entitled to a fair opportunity to calculate the amount which the Government proposes to take from it for taxation purposes from time to time. These are two substantial reasons in justification of an early introduction of the budget. A further reason is that our finance officers should be given every opportunity to make the most advantageous approach possible to the loan market. They can do this only if reasonable time is provided for the purpose. I therefore ask the Government .to introduce the budget as early as possible in each financial year.
I now wish to make a reference to two matters mentioned in the report of the Auditor-General for the year ended the 30th June, 1940, which is the last report available to us. The Auditor-General submits a valuable report to the Parliament each year, but I regret that, due to lack of time, the document does not receive from Parliament the attention that it deserves. The particular inquiry that I make at the moment is whether the observations of the AuditorGeneral concerning the “ disregard of Contract Board procedure”, referred to in paragraph 99 of his report, and also his remarks concerning “ contracts arranged by Central Contract Board or District Contract Boards “, referred to in paragraph 100 of his report, have received any attention from the Government. I consider that both subjects warrant the most careful scrutiny. I ask that a statement be made on this point prior to the conclusion of this debate.
.- I consider that the debate on the motion for the second reading of this bill provides an appropriate opportunity to refer to some issues that arose from the last meeting of the Australian Loan Council. No doubt honorable members are aware that the people of New South Wales recently expressed their desire concerning how they should be represented in the State Parrliament for the next three years, and that they returned an overwhelming majority of Labour members. During the election campaign the Labour party, through its leader, undertook, if it were returned to power, to put in hand such public works as could be carried out consistent with Australia’s war effort. The Commonwealth Co-ordinator-General of Works, prior to the meeting of the Loan Council, gave some consideration to the maximum amount that could be provided for public works in New South Wales and other States after ordinary maintenance had been covered. He pruned the estimates furnished by the Government of New South Wales, and ultimately recommended that the Loan Council should provide for all the States an amount from loan a little in excess of £24,000,000. When that recommendation came before the Loan Council, the Commonwealth Treasurer took action which resulted in the amount proposed by the CoordinatorGeneral of Works being reduced to about £20,000,000. I shall not, at this stage, embark upon a detailed consideration of the kinds of works upon which the Government of New South Wales proposed that the money should be expended. But I would impress upon honorable members that, if the Commonwealth is to be permitted, through the Treasurer, to exercise three votes, as he did on that occasion in the Loan Council, very grave embarrassment may be caused to the Governments of the States. It seems extraordinary that the Premiers of South Australia and Tasmania, representing approximately one-tenth of the Commonwealth, should be able, with the assistance of the Commonwealth, to say that the Governments which represent the people in the larger States, particularly New South Wales and Victoria, shall not be permitted to have the amount which the Premiers of those States consider is the minimum with which they can hope to carry on their administrations.
– Does not the honorable member consider that all States are entitled to equal voting strength?
– That may be; but 1 say quite frankly that democratic principles are not observed if the Com monwealth can exercise two deliberative votes and one casting vote. I understand that the reason why the Premier of Tasmania was induced to vote for the Commonwealth was, that the federal Treasurer promised that his State would have the right to nominate the chairman of the Commonwealth Grants Commission, and that it would receive also a more liberal Commonwealth grant; the figure mentioned, I believe, was £100,000. By holding out that promise, and exciting those expectations, the Commonwealth was able, with the use of its two deliberative votes and one casting vote, to withhold from New South Wales a sum which would have permitted the Government of that State to carry out works and maintain services that are absolutely essential to the prosecution of the war.
In addition to defence work, the ordinary maintenance of hospital services and air raid precaution operations must be suspended. If the Commonwealth is genuine in the claim that it wishes to see a total war effort, why should it withhold funds from New South Wales, and thus leave that large and vulnerable State unprotected in the event of air attack? The Loan Council has outlived its usefulness, and the determination of what money shall be granted to the States out of loan funds should be made on the floor of this Parliament. No longer have the elected representatives of the people the right to say what shall be done in respect of moneys raised by way of loan; the Loan Council has been foisted on the people, and in accordance with its recommendations the ‘Commonwealth Bank makes available the necessary credit to carry out works. It is time that the Commonwealth fully appreciated the reality of the need to make available to the Government of New .South Wales a sum which would enable it to carry out essential services. By protesting on the one hand the genuineness of its desire that Australia shall be defended as fully as possible with whatever material and equipment can be made available, and refusing on the other hand to make available a sum sufficient to enable such material and equipment to be provided, the Commonwealth Government displays inconsistency.
In the matter of inconsistency, I am rather amazed that the honorable member for Barker (,Mr. Archie Cameron), whilst affirming that different complaints have been made against the Government, can yet remain a very good supporter of the Government. Not at any time has the honorable member indicated to the House that he would be prepared to support a Labour government in office, or would give to a Labour government in office as much co-operation as the Labour Opposition is giving to the Government at this time.
I pass on to a proposal for the removal of national broadcasting station 2BL from its present location in the centre of a very thickly populated area in the middle of my electorate. I have had lengthy correspondence with the PostmasterGeneral >in relation to the removal of this station, and am assured that there is no technical objection to it. Apparently, the only objection is that a sum of approximately £10,000 cannot be found for the purpose.
– What harm does it do?
– I am reliably informed that the mast of the station is the first thing which can be sighted by ships approaching the coast from south of Sydney. In my opinion, it would be one of the targets to which an enemy air attack would first be directed ; not only that, but it would also serve as a landmark for the direction of such an attack. I doubt very much whether an invading enemy would consider whether the bombs which it dropped were likely to fall on the broadcasting station or on the residents in its immediate neighbourhood. If the Commonwealth wishes to give practical evidence, by a simple gesture, of its anxiety to take air raid precautions, it should remove from the eastern suburbs of Sydney that broadcasting station, which is a menace to the lives of those who reside in its immediate neighbourhood.
I understand that a gentleman named Maurice Francis, a leading radio personality in Australia with an income of approximately £2,000 a year, joined the Australian Imperial Force, mainly for a sentimental reason - because his father was killed in the last war. No sooner had he joined, than his presence was detected by the Department of Informa tion, which summoned him to Melbourne. Private Francis went to Melbourne, and occupied a suite of rooms at Menzies’ Hotel for a fortnight before he was requested to report. During the whole of that time, 1 believe, he was paid a salary of £42 a week, in addition to the expenses of his suite at Menzies’ Hotel, being defrayed. At the end of a fortnight Sir Keith Murdoch called for Private Francis and explained certain ideas which he wanted carried out by means of radio propaganda. After some hundreds of pounds had been expended in the preparation of copy and the production of certain radio serials and propaganda, it was decided to drop the proposal. Because of his disgust at what had taken place, Private Francis asked to be transferred back to New South Wales. That, however, was not done, for he was appointed to the Armoured Division and sent to an officers’ training school at Puckapunyal. From there he returned a week ago with the rank of sergeant. He informed me that although some examination papers which he saw at Puckapunyal had been marked “fail”, the candidates who submitted them had since received commissions. I understand, too, that the colonel in charge of the camp has built at Puckapunyal, at his own expense, a bungalow in which he frequently holds parties and entertains ladies. This Hone ought not to grant money to enable such a state of affairs to continue.
– Is the honorable member for or against the sergeant?
– As I have said, Sergeant Francis joined the Australian Imperial Force because his father was killed in action in the last war. Until recently Sergeant Francis had not taken any active part in politics, but he is so disgusted with the conduct of the Army that he has offered to write whatever pamphlets or propaganda the Australian Labour party may desire him to write in the event of an election. If desired, J should have pleasure in inviting SergeantFrancis to give, evidence before the Joint. Committee on War Expenditure. That such a state of affairs should be allowed to exist is disgraceful. It will not continue after the budget comes before Parliament if I can prevent it.
– I associate myself with the remarks of the Deputy Leader of the Opposition (Mr. Forde) in relation to the pay of soldiers and their dependants. I agree with everything he said on the subject. At an early date, the Government should do more than agree in principle to the payments to soldiers and their dependants being increased.
– And universal trainees too.
– I refer to all branches of the fighting Services. I. assume that the Minister, and honorable members generally, on the other side are aware of the difficulties which beset many dependants of soldiers. The payments to them should have been increased Long ago. Indeed, they should never have been on the present basis. The excellent case presented by the Deputy Leader of the Opposition should receive the wholehearted support of honorable members on both sides of the House.
The honorable member for “West Sydney (Mr. Beasley) referred to the disallowance for income tax purposes of the concessional deduction in respect of children whose parents are now entitled to child endowment. I am reliably informed that child endowment would not have been introduced were it not that the Arbitration Court could not have deferred much longer the granting of an increased basic wage. Any such increase would have had a greater effect on industry than is contemplated under the existing scheme of child endowment. It is an interesting fact that although child endowment was scarcely mentioned during the last election campaign, almost without warning the Government brought forward a scheme to provide for it. The Government proposed to obtain money for the purpose in various ways, but I do not think any honorable member, on this side of the House at least, contemplated that £2,000,000 was to be raised by an alteration of the basis of the tax on incomes earned last year, when child endowment was not in operation. I believe that pressure by various organizations for an increase of the basic wage led to the introduction of the present scheme of child endowment. If that be so, industry is getting off more lightly than if an increase of the basic wage had been granted. There is some merit in this method of increasing the purchasing power of the people, for, in its present form, child endowment does pass on spending power to those who have the greatest responsibility inthe community. The attitude of the Government towards these people is mean; the taxpayer, therefore, is mean.
I again bring before the PostmasterGeneral (Mr. Collins) the inadequacy of the remuneration of non-official postmasters. I am indebted to the present Postmaster-General for informing me that an adjustment of the rates of pay of these officers in order to compensate them for the extra duties that they have now to perform is being made, but it would appear, according to letters which I have received, that that adjustment has not yet taken place. If that be the position, the Minister should explain when the increased allowance is likely to be paid. I again remind him that these non-official postal officers are performing a good deal of additional work and, therefore, should be compensated.
I desire to draw attention to what appears to me to be the improper practice of the present. Government in regard to the holding of the Cabinet meetings. In these days Cabinet meetings are held mainly in Sydney or Melbourne. When I referred to this matter previously, the Prime Minister (Mr. Menzies) said that it was desirable to hold the meetings in Melbourne because the head-quarters of the Defence Department were there, and it was explained that certain officers were being transferred to Melbourne because that would save travelling expenses. However, when the Prime Minister was abroad, and the Treasurer (Mr. Fadden) was acting in his stead, Cabinet meetings were held mainly in Sydney, presumably because that was where the Treasurer’s home was situated, and it did not seem to be of any importance that the head-quarters of the Defence Department was in Melbourne. At the end of last week, a series of Cabinet meetings was held in Melbourne. On Monday of this week.it was stated in the press that Cabinet was to meet on the following day in Sydney.
Thus, Ministers after meeting in Melbourne at the end of the week, travelled to Sydney to meet there for one day, and then came on to Canberra for the opening of Parliament yesterday. It cannot be argued that this sort of thing is justified. We know that the Ministers must, in the performance of their duties, travel from place to place, but I cannot see that it is necessary for them to drag their staffs around with them from Melbourne to Sydney and then to Canberra for Cabinet meetings that should never be held anywhere but in Canberra. The present practice involves unnecessary travelling expenses.
– Cabinet meetings are held where the heads of the departments most concerned happen to be situated, and where most of the documents are. The point to be considered is whether it would be more economical to bring the Ministers to Sydney or Melbourne, as the case may be, or the departmental heads and the documents from one city to another.
– That is the argument usually advanced, I know, but it seems to me that there must be some other reason for thus persistently changing the venue of Cabinet meetings. After all, Canberra is the national capital, and heads of departments should be brought here to be in attendance on Cabinet, if necessary. Cabinet Ministers appear to exhibit a marked reluctance to staying in Canberra any longer than they must. Several departmental heads have been transferred from Canberra to other cities within recent months, the reason advanced in some instances being that sufficient office accommodation was not available in Canberra. This recalls the disturbance which was caused some time ago when the Public Works Committee opposed the proposal of the Government to erect two temporary office buildings in Canberra. The committee recommended an alternative building scheme by which greater accommodation could be provided for the expenditure of less money, but the Government, when it could not get its own way, refused to go on with any building scheme in Canberra. I would welcome the support of the honorable member for Wakefield (Mr. Duncan-Hughes) in this matter, if he is interested in foster ing the development of Canberra. Let him raise his voice in support of keeping Government departments in Canberra, and of bringing back here such of those departments as have been transferred elsewhere. Let us make of Canberra what it was intended to be - the national capital in fact, and not in name only. It may be that Melbourne has such a tremendous pull with the Government that Cabinet meetings are frequently held there.
– The erection of another large building in Canberra has just been approved.
– I am glad to hear that, but since I have returned to Canberra I have been advised that a considerable exodus of officers from various departments to either Melbourne or Sydney has occurred, whilst the transfer of others is pending. We know that the Invalid and Old-age Pensions Department has already been transferred to Sydney.
– Hear, hear !
– The honorable member for East Sydney (Mr. Ward) thinks that this Parliament should sit move frequently, and therefore he should assist in having Commonwealth departments established in Canberra so that members may have ready access to them when the Parliament is in session. If members from the southern States wish to interview the Commissioner of Pensions, they now have to make a special journey of 200 miles from Canberra to Sydney in order to do so. Will the Canberra hospital buildings, which are to be vacated shortly be used for the housing of the staffs of some of the departments? The present buildings should be converted into government offices, so that some of the officials who have been transferred to other States may be brought back,, and others kept here. I suggest also that the Albert Hall should be used for office purposes for the duration of the war. The slight inconvenience that that might occasion to the citizens of Canberra should not be a bar to the temporary use of the buildings for the housing of Government officials. The matters which give me most concern are the unnecessary travelling indulged in by Ministers in attending Cabinet meetings in Melbourne and Sydney, and the reluctance of eke Government to bring any more Commonwealth officials to Canberra. The policy of transferring officers from the national capital to other capital cities is wrong in principle, as is also the wasteful and unjustifiable expenditure incurred by Ministers in attending Cabinet meetings.
– I understand that some members of the Royal Australian Air Force have found that when they enlisted their insurance policies automatically ceased to cover the aeronautical risk. I believe that fifteen companies have accepted that risk in Australia, and I appeal to the Government to promulgate regulations under the National Security Act to compel all companies to accept that risk, more particularly those which have issued polices to young men who have enlisted in the Royal Australian Air Force and may have been paying premiums on their policies for fifteen or sixteen years. It seems unfair that they should lose the benefits of their policies merely because they have decided to serve their country. As such action by insurance companies is a deterrent to enlistment, I hope that the Government will exercise its powers under the National Security Act to bring all insurance companies into line with respect to the aeronautical risk.
Some months ago it was decided to build a munition factory in Western Australia, and the people of that State are becoming restless because of the slow progress being made with regard to the matter. If there is a good reason for the delay I hope that it will be made known, and if the work is proceeding satisfactorily I trust that the Government wi1! push on with it at the earliest opportunity.
I also ask the Government to give serious consideration to the matter of compelling the private banks of Australia to bring their interest rates into line with those charged by the Commonwealth Bank. I understand that there is now a difference of about If per cent. If the Commonwealth Bank can profitably lend money at, say’4£ per cent., it should also be profitable for the associated banks to lend it at a similar rate.
– Even that rate is too high.
– 1 believe that it is. J. hope that the Government will give immediate consideration to the matter, and use its powers under the National Security Act to make the interest rates uniform.
.- I bring under the notice of the Minister for the Army (Mr. Spender) the grievous circumstances of ex-members of the second Australian Imperial Force who, by reason of illness contracted during their period of service, are to-day placed in a very unfortunate position through having been discharged without compensation or other consideration on account of the state of their health. It is necessary for these men to have had six months’ service before becoming eligible for repatriation benefits, and as these have not served in a theatre of war, they are not eligible to receive a service pension. During their military service, they may contract serious illness, which may be an aggravation of an old complaint; their health becomes impaired and they are discharged from the fighting services. Although upon enlisting they were subjected to a rigorous medical examination, so soon as their health deteriorates the Army repudiates any further obligation to the men and to their dependants.
To illustrate my contention, I cite the case of Mr. Walsh, of Adelaide. Before the Army accepted Mr. Walsh he submitted to radiographic examination and passed the test. Despatched to Central Australia, he evidently contracted a chill which has now developed into a serious, pulmonary condition. He entered the Bedford Park Sanatorium for treatment, and the military subsequently decided to discharge him. I immediately asked the Minister for the Army (Mr. Spender) to refrain from taking action in order that he might undertake a personal investigation of the case.’ Now, the Minister has informed me that the Army proposes to discharge Mr. Walsh, but that he will be provided for in accordance with the terms of an agreement between the Commonwealth and the States. When questioned, the Premier of South Australia replied that, to his knowledge, no agreement existed.
Evidently Mr. “Walsh is to be discharged from tha Army and no provision will be made for him. “When I drew the attention of the Repatriation Department to the matter, officials seemed to regard his medical examination as not being so thorough as tests that are sometimes employed ; but the very fact that the military accepted Mr. “Walsh and despatched him to Central Australia places on the Commonwealth a definite obligation to see that he is restored to health before he is discharged and that during that time his dependants receive adequate sustenance. It is outrageous to discharge a member of the fighting services, and withhold repatriation benefits from him, when he suffers a lapse in health. I earnestly seek an immediate provision for this and other cases which are an undoubted obligation on the nation.
When I learned that the PostmasterGeneral’s Department proposed to construct a trunk line from Adelaide to Darwin, I obtained an assurance from it that the work would be undertaken by employees of that department at. award rates, with the proviso that the military would transport essential materials over a certain section of the route. The sections between Adelaide and Alice Springs, and Birdum and Darwin will be built by the department, but approximately 600 miles of line between Alice Springs and Birdum will be constructed by gangs of thirteen mcn, of whom nine will be members of the military forces. Instead of paying wages of £8 a week as prescribed by the award, the Government will pay to the troops approximately £2 10s. a week. The fact that two-thirds of this labour will be recruited from the military for what is positively a civil job indicates that the Government is seeking to evade the payment of award rates for this particular service. The Postal Department, which last year made a profit . of nearly £4,000,000, has no justification for using military labour upon a civil undertaking, and postal workers’ organizations are deeply resentful of the proposal, which is definitely contrary to the promise made to mc. I ask the Postmaster-General (Mr. Collins) to inquire into this genuine grievance, which arises out of the Government’s endeavour to escape its legal obligation to pay award rates.
.- I propose to deal briefly with one or two matters which I think are of general importance. The first was raised by the honorable member for West Sydney (Mr. ‘ Beasley). If what he says is correct, and no doubt it is, the Government, through its officials, is deducting by way of tax weekly or fortnightly sums from the salaries of Government servants., and is doing so without warrant from an act of parliament. There was a time when, if an action of that kind were pointed out in a representative assembly, every member would rise in his place and denounce it. Ever since the passing of the Bill of Bights it has been a fundamental principle of our Constitution that only by an act of parliament can a tax be levied on the subject.. The letter which the honorable member read to the House explains what is now being done by the order of the Treasurer (Mr. Fadden). I can hardly believe that the Treasurer would do such a thing. The writer of the letter, a gentleman named. Brophy, is not personally responsible for this illegal practice. He merely explains the procedure adopted by the Treasury. If, in anticipation of what Parliament may do, Government officials deduct money in this illegal way the matter is one of the most serious that could be brought before the Parliament. I entirely agree with the remarks made by the honorable member for West Sydney.
I propose to read a brief extract from a decision given by Lord Parker, an eminent English judge in chancery, in a case somewhat similar to that mentioned by the honorable member for West Sydney. A very famous litigant, Thomas Gibson Bowles, sued the Bank of England. In delivering judgment Lord Parker said -
A resolution of the Committee of the House of Commons for Ways and Means, assenting to income tax at a certain Tate for the ensuing financial year, does not, either per se, or after adoption by the House of Commons, authorize the Crown to levy on the subject the tax bo assented to before the tax has been actually imposed by act of parliament; nor can the Bank of England, before the tax is so imposed by statute, lawfully deduct any income tax from the dividends payable by the bank to a stockholder without the assent of the holder.
Even in a case where the House of Commons, through its Committee of Wave and Means-, assented to the tax, and the resolution was adopted by the Souse and in spite of the long constitutional practice permitting the deductions to be made in such cases, the court held that it was illegal. Here, by the fiat of the Treasurer or some Government official, money is being taken from the subject. It is outrageous to think that the law can be defied in anticipation nf what Parliament inlay do hereafter. Ten years ago, during a great economic crisis the Government of New South Wales refused to obey certain regulations and the Governor of the State dismissed that Ministry because it had openly defied the law of the land. If what the honorable member has read from the letter is correct, there is open defiance of the law of the land by Treasury officials, and every one of them associated with this practice is probably engaged in a punishable conspiracy. Is there no. regard for the fact that Parliament, and Parliament alone, can tax the subject? This is a matter of the utmost gravity. If the case as stated by the honorable member for West Sydney is correct, 1 trust that the Minister will draw the attention, not only of the Treasurer, but also of the Prime Minister, to this very grave breach of the law. The honorable member acted rightly in bringing this matter before the House. Parliament should not adjourn until we have been given an assurance from the Government chat the wrong will be righted. Whether the tax will be imposed for the ensuing year at the same rate as that imposed last year is entirely a matter for the decision of the Parliament. To act in this way in anticipation of the passing of a statute is unprecedented in the history of the Commonwealth.
The other matter to which I propose to refer briefly was raised by the honorable member for Barker in the course of an eloquent speech. I greatly regret that the honorable member should embark upon an attack on Russia which was perhaps calculated to shake the morale of the people, not only of this country, but also of all British countries. No good purpose can he served by delving into the history of countries which are now our allies in this war. Russia is now our ally, and the British Prime Minister has announced that we are bound by treaty to assist Russia to the best of our ability. I do not know what Australia can do to carry out that obligation. Possibly, what we can do will not assist Russia very much. Nevertheless, both countries are under an obligation mutually to help each other for the purpose of defeating Germany. Great Britain and Russia have jointly agreed not to sign a separate treaty of peace with Germany. We have, therefore, a full military alliance with that power and the honorable member should not use his great gifts of oratory to attack its foundations. Of what use is it to talk now about the motives of the Russian leaders? Should we not realize that every day the Russians resist the onslaught of Germany is a clay gained for us? If Russia fails against Germany, will not our own troops in the Middle East be threatened by Germany? Apart from any considerations of honour, it is to our advantage to do everything to assist our ally. I regret that, in the course of an otherwise interesting speech, all of which was eloquently expressed, the honorable gentleman so forgot himself as to make an indirect but undoubtedly serious attack on an ally of Great Britain.
– I did not forget; I remembered.
– If the honorable gentleman deliberately made the attack, I am all the more surprised. If he had made a speech of that kind in relation to France before that country collapsed, it would’ have been regarded as subversive and seditious. I know nothing of the military strength of Russia or of the relative strength of Germany. We believe that Germany’s mechanized might is the greatest ever seen in the history of the world. A treaty having been entered into between Great Britain and Russia, surely it is our duty at least to help Russia within the limits of our resources, not, of course, putting the claims of Russia before those of Great Britain or of our own country. At the very least, we should not suggest that the resistance of the Russians will soon be overpowered and that it does not matter very much which of the two countries wins the conflict. That was the insinuation of the honorable gentleman. He was doubtful. He said, in his generosity, that it might be better, just a little better, perhaps 51 to 49, if Russia won instead of Germany. When we become allies of countries such as Greece, Turkey, or other countries, it is not usual to go into their political antecedents; so why should an exception be made of Russia? We should regard Russia as our ally, bound to us by treaty.
– Russia’s treaties are not worth the paper on which they are written; that has been proved often.
– There is another statement saying that a treaty with Russia is not worth anything I
– Ask the Finns and the Letts!
– Ask the Finns and the Letts ! What a suggestion ! Such a remark is destructive of the hopes of this country and of Great Britain, and should be compared with the remarks of two persons whom the honorable member professes to admire, one the President of the United States of America, who referred to the Russians’ splendid resistance, and the other the Prime Minister of Great Britain, who has on several occasions expressed admiration of the magnificent display of Russia against a better organized military power. The remarks of the honorable member are unworthy. I record my protest against them, so that, against one record, there will be a record of the remarks of others who disagree strongly with him and who think that we ought to do all that we can to assist Russia, not only because of the alliance between Great Britain and Russia, but also because the fate of our own soldiers in the Middle East will be affected by the fate of Russia.
.- At question time to-day, I suggested that at the various abattoirs of this country meat should be branded in order that consumers might know whether they are buying what they had asked for and were paying for, or a substitute. It is common knowledge that substitution of meats takes place in butchers’ shops all over the country, and it would be a simple process for the Department of Commerce to en sure that throughout Australia carcasses shall be branded in such a way that any cut from the beast would show the grade brand. I was advised by the Minister for Commerce (Sir Earle Page) that that matter was one for the States to attend to, but the Commonwealth Government has taken upon itself the fixing of prices of lamb and other meats and the control of marketing. It is also necessary that it should frame regulations under the National Security Act to compel the branding of meat in the way that I have suggested in order that the public might be protected.
The War Profits Committee of which I am a member was recently told that certain commodities which we import are beyond the control of the Commonwealth Prices Commissioner, for instance, tea, has risen by lid. per lb. since the beginning of the war, an exorbitant rise. In order to counter that, I suggest that the Government should take action to purchase bulk supplies of tea, rubber, or any other commodity which it is necessary to import, either for human consumption, or for the war effort. The Government, having huge financial and other resources at its command, is much better able to buy in bulk than are private traders, whose resources are limited and who are in competition with each other. The example was set in the last war by the Government of New Zealand, which overcame the difficulty of increased prices of imported commodities, such as sugar, wheat and leather, by buying in bulk.
At the outbreak of war, the prices of Australian primary products for sale abroad were largely fixed, and the principle was laid down in this Parliament that it was not the desire of Australia to profit at the expense of Great Britain and other parts of the Empire in the supply of commodities. We find as the result that we are accepting for our exports prices which were reasonable at the beginning of the war, but which are not so reasonable now, if the rises of prices of other primary commodities which we import are any guide. The prices of many of those products have risen exorbitantly. Again, I instance tea. The Government should immediately negotiate with other parts of the Empire for an agreement designed to prevent the exploitation of the Australian consumers. There is no justification for the present high price of tea, because there is an abundant supply available. Wholesalers and retailers are receiving over 90 per cent, of their original requirements. Since tea is in daily use, greater consideration should be given by the Government to its price, and I strongly urge that it make representations to the sources of supply in order to stabilize its price at a lower level. The same applies to other necessary commodities.
Another matter to which I direct the attention of the Government is one which was dealt with by the honorable member for Gwydir (Mr. Scully) who spoke about the proposed erection of distilleries in Australia for the extraction of power alcohol from wheat. I understand that it is the intention of the Government to erect one large distillery in each State. To-day the honorable member for Wimmera (Mr. Wilson) asked whether the plants would be located in the cities or in country areas. He received an unsatisfactory reply. I consider that numerous small plants should be provided in widelyscattered country districts in preference to a few large plants adjacent to the cities. I am told that these plants consist of distinct units which could easily be located in the country districts where wheat is available. I have been informed that power alcohol can be produced from small units quite as economically as from large units. It is reasonable therefore to request, that the plants be distributed throughout the rural areas. Under this procedure the power alcohol would be produced in centres where it could be used. Another reason in favour of the construction of small plants in country towns is that that policy would assist to stabilize such towns. As honorable members are well a ware, many men are being attracted from country towns to the cities where work is available in munition factories at better rates of pay than can be obtained in the country districts. This suggests the wisdom of distributing our munition work over a wider area. Unless some such policy is applied, our country towns will continue to stagnate seriously and many more shops will be closed and dwellings deserted. If steps are not taken now to preserve the interests of country business and producing communities, the Government will face a problem of vast dimensions after the war, when it will have to rehabilitate these local centres. We should be taking steps now to provide for peace conditions. The problem should not be hidden away until it is forced into our view. Small industries, such as power alcohol distilling and certain munitionmaking activities, could be established in country towns with immense advantage to the national economy. By this means, unemployment in rural areas and also the insolvency of many business people would be avoided. Unless we are careful, our economy will sink, after the war, to the lowest depth it reached during the last depression. We should start in war time to provide for peace time or we shall be just as unprepared for the conditions that will then overtake us as we were unprepared to meet war-time conditions through not providing for them in peace time.
I appeal to the Government to take immediate steps to grant an. increased rate of pension to our invalid and aged people who depend on the pension for their livelihood. The latest statistics reveal that the cost of living has increased by 9 per cent, since the outbreak of the war. Because invalid and old-age pensions have not been similarly increased our pensioners are, in many instances, living under deplorable conditions. Provision should be made in the budget for an increase of the pension to at least 25s. a week. The Government should also introduce an amendment of the law to provide that pensioners may earn up to £1 a week in addition to their pension instead of 12s. 6d. a week as at present. The increases that have occurred in the cost of living have revealed the miserable inadequacy of the present rate of pension. I also urge that the Government should issue blankets to pensioners who are unable to buy them. Blankets are perhaps more necessary to pensioners than to people who earn a reasonable wage; but blankets are almost unprocurable and most expensive. For that reason they should be provided for pensioners by the Government. The housing conditions of many pensioners also need improvement.
We have been informed that the Government intends to adopt a comprehensive housing scheme for munition workers. Such people should, of course, enjoy reasonable housing conditions, but so also should our pensioners who are unable, from their present pension rates, to meet even moderate house rents. Food, clothing and shelter are a ceaseless anxiety to pensioners, and I urge the Government to ease the lot of this deserving section of the community by increasing the rate of pension to not less than 25s. a week.
.- I take this opportunity to appeal to the Government to grant some additional assistance to the tobacco-growers of this country. Australians spend large sums of money annually on tobacco and as so much leaf has to be imported a large proportion of this money finds its way overseas. We should grow within Australia the leaf required for manufacturing the tobacco that is smoked here.
– The honorable member supported the Lyons Government when it robbed the tobacco-growers of the protection they were once enjoying.
– That statement is untrue. The tobacco-growers have been unfortunate in their seasonal conditions in recent years. If they could be sure of a guaranteed price for their product they would make considerable headway and the Commonwealth Government would substantially improve our exchange position. The growers of Western Australia ask not that money should be given to them, but that it should be made available on loan until the tobacco crop, which would be security for the loan, can be sold. The Commonwealth, in helping, would run no risk of loss. That is a reasonable proposition. The people of Western Australia are suffering more severely than the people of other States from the effects of the war, yet they are expected to continue to pay the same rate of tax as the people in other parts of the Commonwealth. The manufacturers and merchants of the cities are reaping quite a harvest from the huge war expenditure. The centralization of that expenditure as far as possible would be in the interests of the people.
There has not been sufficient research into the possibilities of shipbuilding in different parts of Australia. All manner of ships would be useful everywhere, especially after the war; wooden vessels of as low as 750 and 1,000 tons will be very much needed. Tugs have been commandeered by the Navy Department for duty in the ports and along the coast. The Government could make a greater spread of the expenditure than is now being made. Machinery and competent tradesmen throughout the country could be used more extensively as an adjunct to munitions production. I am quite satisfied that in my own division there are all the workmen, timber, yards and water facilities needed for the building of ships.
I stress the advisability of giving greater consideration to the interests of growers in the appointment of boards to handle primary products. When the Commonwealth Government made arrangements with the Government of the United Kingdom for the sale of Australian wool, the Central Wool Committee was appointed. That body is too greatly in sympa thy with the middlemen - the broker and the buyer. It has been my experience that the attempt is made to dictate terms in connexion with wool appraisement which are beyond the capacity of the Government to handle. Greater grower control on boards of this character would give a good deal more satisfaction. It has been stated to-night that when the cost of living rises, industrial tribunals are asked to raise wages and appeals are made on behalf of pensioners and soldiers. The wool production of Australia was sold two or three years ago at a stated figure, and some cognizance should now be taken of the increases that have since occurred in relation to costs of production, due to war and other causes. Wool-growers should not be called upon to bear these overloading costs. When the price of superphosphate increased in New Zealand, the Government of that dominion bore the whole of the increase. The Commonwealth should act similarly. I am not speaking on behalf of the big squatter. I point out that 50 per cent, of the wool produced in Australia is grown by 5 per cent, of the pastoralists, whilst the remaining 50 per cent, is grown by 95 per cent. Therefore, the bulk of those who grow wool are small men, and they are just making a living, and not even that in many cases.
– Would the honorable member exclude the big man from any benefit ?
– I like to give a fair deal to every section. I do not blame a man for being enterprising in life, and would not make a criminal of him, as the honorable member for East Sydney (Mr. Ward) apparently would. The wool produced by the men who have had additional costs loaded on them is being re-sold outside Australia at 3s., 4s. and 5s. per lb. Even though there is some “ come back “ in regard to the profits made on sales to neutral countries, the time is overdue for reconsideration of the price paid to Australian growers ; and if that be not desired, the Government should consider the equity of bearing the increases that have occurred in respect of costs since the price was fixed.
.- Continuously over the air, through the columns of the press, and in every other way, the people are being asked to give 100 per cent, to the war effort - to be wholeheartedly with the Empire and Australia - yet it is a remarkable fact that the best advantage is not being taken of the man-power resources which are available for the training of our forces. Recently I was interviewed at Innisfail, in my electorate, by a man who had been trained in the Old Country. He fought in the last war, and had a firstclass discharge from the Imperial authorities. He came to Australia, and has since been associated with the Militia. From the outbreak of the war he has been a camp instructor. Recently, upon attaining the age of 50 yeans, he was passed out, on the ground that he was too old to continue to discharge the duties on which he was engaged. A few months ago, while he was an officer in the camp at Bowen, he passed a Commonwealth Medical Board for admission into the Australian Imperial Force, which proves that his constitutional condition is sound. That there is a shortage of trained officers is proved by the fact that recently, at Innisfail, six young men who had joined the Australian Imperial Force as privates were made acting corporals and sent to Cairns on instructional duty. However capable and deserving they may have been in that connexion, surely they would not be so good as a man who had had years of experience in actual warfare as well as in peace-time! Experiences of .this kind offer no encouragement to others to do their bit in connexion with the war effort. I regard it as monstrous that a man 50 years of age is not considered capable of even instructing or assisting young men to learn the art of war. This is not an isolated case. During a recent visit to Tully, I had placed before me the case of a capable young electrician who could have secured a good position in civil life in Cairns had he cared to accept it. He was advised by the Air Force authorities in Brisbane to report for examination and approval on the 31st July. On the 28 th July he received a letter advising him to attend at Brisbane at 12 noon on the 31st July, and to take his lunch with him. He was also advised to go to his doctor and have his ears cleaned of wax in order to facilitate his medical examination later. The stupidity of these people is so pronounced that one cannot understand why they occupy their present positions. Tully is 970 miles from Brisbane, yet this man was expected to undertake the journey at his own expense. Such discouragement to enlist is, unfortunately, not an isolated case. Another man in the same district had trained in morse seven men who are now in the Air Force, yet he is waiting for the department to say whether he is considered to be competent to impart information to others. Several months ago he applied for a position as an instructor. He occupies a position which entitles him to a fairly good wage, but he is prepared to accept military pay in order to render the service of which he is most capable. I have information that his services in his present position are greatly appreciated, yet he is refused the opportunity to make them available to the fighting forces.
The pay of a cook is 2s. a day more than is paid to a private. A man whom I know enlisted as a private, but since hie enlistment he has acted as cook in two different camps. After he had gone through the first camp, in which he was paid as a private, he asked for the extra 2s. a day which is payable to cooks, but he was told that as he had enlisted as a private he would have to be content with a private’s pay. That is not the way to get the best service from men. No question as to this man’s ability as a cook arises. He acted as cook for 90 days, but did not receive the extra pay to which he was entitled. The officer commanding the camp says that he is not entitled to the extra pay because he did not offer his services as a cook in the first instance. Such stupidity is causing a lot of discontent among the men for whom this man cooks, because they know that he is not getting a fair deal.
Another matter which is exercising the minds of many people is the alleged shortage of wool in Australia when, at the same time, ships are being loaded with wool for Japan. Near Bowen, men who are working in freezers have been told that there are no flannel shirts available for them, and consequently they are working in cotton singlets with fleecy lining. The fact that wool is available for export to Japan, when our own men who need woollen clothing cannot get it, is causing dissatisfaction and discontent. Irrespective of any international contracts the provision of necessary clothing for our own people is of more importance than supplying wool to foreign countries.
Probably about 100 persons throughout Australia who have lived in this country for many years and would otherwise be entitled to old-age pensions are denied pensions because of the places in which they were born. A former Treasurer, Mr. Casey, said that he would look into this matter with a view to rectifying it. To-day, I received from Ingham a letter written on behalf of a woman who was born in Fiji and married in that country to an Englishman. Later, the couple came to North Queensland, where they had seven children. Two sons of this woman are fighting in the present war. She has no private means and no one to support her ; all of her children are married. It is a disgrace to the Government that this woman cannot get a pension merely because she was born in Fiji. The undertaking given by Mr. Casey should be honoured.
– How long has she been in Australia?
– She has been here for nearly 40 years, and has reared a family in this country. The Commissioner of Pensions is bound by the present act and cannot grant her a pension. I have made representations on this subject on numerous occasions. One of the persons affected is 70 years of age and has lived in Australia for 53 years, but although a British subject, he cannot get a pension because he was born in Asia. The Mayor of Townsville, who has known him for 40 years, says that he has been a good citizen and has been employed in the construction of railways, clearing land, and in other useful ways. It is monstrous that these people cannot get pensions because of the provisions of the present act, and it is a disgrace that the Government has not introduced amending legislation. It would not take long to pass such legislation through this House.
Another vexed question is that of petrol rationing. Of all the stupid things which have been done in this country, the rationing of petrol is probably the worst. In my electorate, and I have no doubt in other districts also, many people are seriously affected by the present regulations. I have in mind some people who are engaged in dairying, and have been in the habit of sending their milk and cream to a small factory at Silkwood. One man brings in the milk and cream for a number of dairymen along the Innisfail to Milla Milla road, a distance of 19 miles, but the system of rationing is such that he gets only sufficient petrol to enable him to bring in these products for two and a half weeks in each month. Further south, in the same district, another man has been bringing to the factory supplies of cream from fourteen dairy farmers. He, too, cannot maintain continuous supplies to the factory. It has been suggested that, instead of using motor lorries, these producers should use horses and wagons to convey their milk and cream to the factories, but I point out that carts are practically things of the past, and that even if blacksmith shops were established to render the necessary service there are few blacksmiths available to do the work. Similarly, there are no wheelwrights to make carts or to repair those which may be damaged. Moreover, there are few harness-makers in the community and, even if there were more of them, they would experience difficulty in obtaining leather for the harness. The factory to which I have referred has two lorries which are used to convey milk and cream, but the manager told me recently that when the rationing of petrol was further reduced as from the 1st August the company would be unable to bring in cream for more than about two-thirds of each month. It would be better to discontinue the supply of petrol to owners of private cars in the cities and to increase the allowance of petrol to primary producers in the country. The recommendations of the police authorities at various centres have been given effect in a number of instances, but generally the advice 1 of these officers is not sought. The Commonwealth Fuel Control Board has done some foolish things. The honorable member for Barker (Mr. Archie Cameron) was not far wrong when he said that the man who can tell the biggest fib gets the most fuel. In the Silkwood area a young man gets three gallons of petrol a month for his motor bicycle. He has to travel seven or eight miles to his work, which would be a long way to walk; yet there are men in the cities who are given a larger allowance although they can travel by tram or bus or train. The chairman of directors of the butter factory is allowed only three gallons a month to run his car, although he must travel 12 miles to the factory, and is responsible for paying the staff there. Here is a further example of official stupidity. There are three taxi-drivers in Townsville all using cars of the same kind - Chevrolets, in fact, of the same year and the same horse-power - and all running over the same roads. One of them, a married man with a family, is allowed 33 gallons monthly, whereas the two others, both single men, are allowed 52 gallons and 53 gallons respectively. Another man is allowed 80 gallons a month. Yesterday, I asked the following question on notice : -
Will the Minister representing the Minister for Supply and Development supply a statement showing the amount of petrol issued to private users per month in Perth, Adelaide,
Melbourne, Ballarat, Launceston, Hobart, Sydney, Newcastle and Brisbane.
I mentioned those places because all of them are provided with public transport systems, which are not available in country towns. Here is the answer received -
Petrol is issued to private users on a basis of one thousand miles per annum throughout the Commonwealth. Figures for localized areas are not available.
If that is the extent of the information on which the Fuel Control Board is working, then God help Australia ! It is an insult to anyone’s intelligence to expect that he should be satisfied with an answer of that kind, and I certainly do not intend to let the matter rest there. If the hundreds of thousands of gallons which are wasted in the cities were distributed among primary producers so that they might carry on the necessary work of the country it would be better for all of us. The Fuel Control Board is not doing the right thing by people in the country districts, as is shown by thi3 example: A young man named Dunn keeps a general store in my electorate. I have known him since he was a boy, and I knew his father before him. In the course of his business he must deliver goods to places up to 20 miles distant from his store, and the deliveries can be made only by motor lorry; yet his petrol allowance enables him to make deliveries during only two weeks out of four. That is a scandalous state of affairs. The local sergeant of police, with whom I discussed the matter, informed me that the position was exactly as had been stated by Dunn. The quantity of petrol which he normally required could easily be checked because he had made a claim in respect of it in hia income tax returns. It is much more economical for goods to be delivered by the storekeeper than for each customer to come in his own car and collect his goods, so that there is a clear case for the storekeeper being given an adequate allowance. If the decision in regard to such matters lay in the hands of a local committee, or with the local sergeant of police, anomalies of the kind I have just mentioned would not arise.
.- The fact that the Government has set up a committee to examine, the effect of the war on primary industries indicates that it recognizes the importance of protecting those industries during this critical period. In normal times, Australia’s exports include nearly 60 per cent, of primary products. It is appropriate at this time to consider the effect of the budget on primary production. We know that various acts of Government policy during recent months have had a depressing effect on primary industries, and upon the number of persons employed in them. The effect of the “wheat stabilization scheme, the regulation prohibiting the slaughtering of lambs, and the operation of the apple and pear acquisition scheme has resulted in driving many people from rural industries, and this, in turn, has had the effect of reducing the population of country towns. In addition, many men from the country have enlisted in the fighting services, while others have been attracted to tha cities by the establishment of war industries in those places. In 1939, which was before the full impact of the Government’s war policy upon primary production had been felt, Dr. Richardson stated that the. number of those engaged in primary industries had declined by 22,000 as compared with 1911. Despite the fact that the population has been drifting from the rural to the metropolitan areas, production has not been adversely affected ; in fact, the effect has been the reverse. Im 1911, there were 212,000 persons engaged in primary production in Australia, and, in 1039, there were 1S9,000, but although there were 22,000 fewer persons engaged, they produced four and a half times as much butter, three times as much wheat, four times as many pigs and a great deal more wool than was produced 30 years ago. The improvement of the methods of production has built up such a capacity to produce that fewer people are necessary year by year to enable primary production! to be carried on. What will be the effect on the people of the rural areas of the further diminution of population on account of the restriction of production? The effect that the taxation system will have on a position that is already bad should be seriously considered when the Government brings down its budget proposals. The last budget has had the effect of making the cost of public utilities i» country towns so exorbitant that the people in those areas have refrained from using them. That has contributed in its turn to the refusal of shire councils and of urban councils in rural areas to maintain and expand public utilities to the degree that those bodies would have normally done.
I now cite the effect of the budget on the costs that have to be met by a shire council in the central west of New South Wales. Prior to the war, this council ordered a diesel electrical generating unit from England. The cost was in. the vicinity of £9,000, but in consequence of taxes imposed by the budget, the cost to the council was increased by almost £1,000. In normal times, the extra cost when spread over the total population of that community, would not have represented a serious increase, but the population is decreasing because of the influences to which I have referred, with the result that the per capita cost showed a considerable increase and the position was further aggravated by reason of the present system of taxation. That is merely one example of the evil effect of an ill-considered system of taxation that has been imposed without regard to the burdens that have to be met by certain sections of the community. I shall also give an example of the way in which costs have a. snowballing effect when taxes are imposed, irrespective of what section of the community has to meet them. People in rural areas meet their commitments to various distributing organizations on a half-yearly or on a crop basis. That system of finance which has developed over a long period of years cannot be upset over night, and the distributors who have to make provision to finance the supply of commodities that these people require have also to arrange their finance over yearly, two-yearly or, perhaps, five-yearly periods. The goods are invoiced at the prices at country towns, and that cost is partly made up of rail freight. Sales tax is imposed on the rail freight as well as on the cost of the article, if produced in a metropolitan area, or, if imported, on the primage, customs and excise duties. Therefore, people in country areas have a double burden to bear compared with those in metropolitan areas. I urge the Treasurer (Mr. Fadden) to have regard to the burden which each section of the community is called upon to bear.
I bring to the notice of the Minister representing the Minister for Supply and Development (Senator McLeay) the lack of consideration shown by the authorities who administer the petrol rationing scheme. Many country people, recognizing the need for the conservation of petrol, have, of their own accord, equipped their motor vehicles with producergas units, but a certain quantity of petrol is needed by them to carry on their transport operations. A constituent of mine who changed over to producergas units over twelve months ago has a 4-ton1 Bedford truck and a farm tractor. He requires an irreducible minimum of 4 gallons of petrol a month in order to start up his truck and tractor.
Silting suspended from 12 midnight to 12.80 a.m. (Friday).
Friday, 22 August, 19 UL [Quorum formed.)
– Although many people have installed producer-gas units on motor vehicles, they still require a small quantity of petrol. One man needed a minimum of four gallons a month for the purpose of carrying on his occupation. When petrol rationing was introduced, officials applied a. rule-of-thumb measure for the purpose of deciding the allowance that should be granted to him. As the result, his ration was reduced by one-half. The Fuel Control Board might well have cancelled his issue. Common sense does not seem to be used when public servants apply arbitrary regulations. I have a circular which was sent from the Fuel Control Board to subordinate officials who apply the rules to the unfortunate individuals who come within their ambit. It reads -
The .board has directed me to say, that the gravity of the petrol situation is such, that additional supplies can only be authorized for the performance of essential work, and that even this type of usage must be restricted. It is imperative, therefore, that you reduce your consumption to a minimum and that prior to .proceeding with your application you undertake a complete review of your requirements with a view to eliminating the necessity for additional supplies or to at least ensure that no greater quantity is applied for than is necessary for essential activities.
If a grain of common sense had been used by those who administer petrol rationing, they would have realized that, such a circular was unnecessary. To issue it was simply to waste paper; and the Government is urging the public to conserve supplies. A man who requires only four gallons a month for a tractor and a 3-ton truck is not wasting petrol; yet the ‘board resolved that his irreducible minimum should be cut by one-half.
In rural areas, a dentist has to travel from a populous centre to small settlements within a radius of 50 or 60 miles because his practice, if confined to one town, would not provide him with a living. One dentist, who resides at Orange, and who travels 602 miles a month by motor car, applied for 34 gallons of petrol. Adopting ruleofthumb methods officials reduced his allowance by the arbitrary percentage with the result that one section of his patients will have to suffer the agonies of toothache until officialdom relents. Recently, I had the unenviable experience of being obliged to borrow four ration tickets to enable me to proceed by car to my home. When I applied to the local authority for supplies I received the stereotyped reply that the consumption of petrol must be reduced. As a member of Parliament, I have the privilege of being able to travel by rail free of charge, and consequently I use the trains wherever possible. But despite the fact that my use of petrol is most economical, I am informed that I must reduce my consumption. The Government has travelled1 a little way along the road of common sense by allowing police officers discretionary power in certain instances to issue nation tickets ; but that does not go far enough. The board, instead of simply receiving the recommendation of its advisers, should act upon their views as to the merits of claims.
Although the report of the Power Alcohol Committee of Inquiry has been printed, the subject unfortunately has not been debated in the House. As has been demonstrated by persons making applications for petrol in order to enable their to carry on their businesses, some experimentation has been conducted with producer-gas units and other systems of propulsion. The report contains some illuminating information regarding the possibilities of using power alcohol only to step up the horse power of an engine, instead of a mixture of petrol and power alcohol. This would be sold as an ethyl alcohol compound. Whilst dealing with this matter, I direct attention to a paragraph appearing on page 72 of the report. Accredited engineers declared that the use of power alcohol only, and gas from a suction gas plant, will step up high compression engines; and most motor car engines built since 1935 are high compression cylinder jobs. The Government has decided to establish distilleries for the purpose of converting wheat into power alcohol. Experts have calculated the quantity of power alcohol that would be produced from this process, with a view to determining a mixture on the basis of 85 per cent, petrol and 15 per cent, power alcohol. If the evidence of such authoritative people as have advised the Power Alcohol Committee of Inquiry can be credited, the Government could considerably increase the production of power alcohol from wheat by encouraging the users of producer gas units to test a mixture of power alcohol and producer gas rather than a compound of power alcohol and petrol in order to step up power. That would not only save dollar exchange but also provide a greater avenue for the utilization of our surplus wheat. One of the distilleries to be established in New South Wales will produce 10,000,000 gallons of power alcohol per annum. On the basis of 2^ gallons of power alcohol to each bushel of wheat, only 3,000,000 bushels of wheat will be used annually in New South Wales for the production of power alcohol. That will do little to overcome the difficulties in relation to the utilization of our surplus wheat. Present portents do not favour a normal wheat crop in New South Wales this year. If the prospects do not improve in the next month the Government representatives on the local wheat committees will have a difficult task in trying to induce farmers to intensify cultivation of the acreage already planted rather than to restrict acreage.
I prefaced my remarks by drawing the attention of the Government to the need for considering the effect of the budget on primary production. I have endeavoured to point out the pernicious effect that various actions of the Government have had on production during the last twelve months. When a representative of a primary producing constituency criticizes the Government for its sins of omission and commission, it is incumbent on him to suggest ways and means of curing the evils to which he directs attention. I have already suggested that the Government should undertake an education campaign in the use of power alcohol in association with producer gas units. As a means of attracting population to the rural areas, our potentialities for the production of base metals should be fully exploited. We read in the press to-day, and it is logical to assume, that the incursion of the German hordes in the. Ukraine will deprive Russia of its principal sources of iron ore as well as its principal iron and steel works. An agreement has been arrived at between Great Britain, the United States of America, and the dominions to give all possible aid to Russia and it is apparent that, as the result of the loss of its own supplies, Russia will he dependent on outside sources for its requirements of steel. Therefore, we should do everything possible to develop the production of base metal’ in Australia. The United States of America has recently had to curtail the use of steel in non-essential industries in order that the supply for its munitions industry may be maintained, and also to permit an uninterrupted flow of exports of pig iron, steel or manufactured articles to ] Britain. Australia is sending steel and iron to our allies. We have been asked to increase our supply, but we are incapable of doing so, first, because we have not the necessary facilities for smelting additional quantities of crude ores, and, secondly, because we are not exploiting our potential fields to the fullest degree. It was estimated some time ago that, based on the consumption for 1939, we have only about ten years’ supply of iron ore in Australia. When that estimate was made many fields that could supply base metals such as iron ore had not been properly surveyed. Because of the needs of the war, more intensive prospecting has been undertaken and new fields have now been opened up. The development of these new fields has proved that there is a much greater supply of these valuable metals in Australia than was shown by the cursory surveys undertaken in the past. The point I wish to make is that we are not exploiting our known fields to the fullest degree. For instance, six months ago, I called the attention of the Government to the effect that certain interests apparently intended to convey iron ore from Whyalla in South Australia, across the New South Wales railway system for smelting at Port Kembla and Newcastle, in spite of the fact that the iron ore-fields at Carcoar, Cadia and Tallawang in New South Wales, which were the first fields to be exploited in Australia, were still capable of producing millions of tons of iron ore. The responsible authorities saw that those fields could not be neglected and since then they have been re-opened. In the course of the exploitation of these known deposits, others were also opened up, the most important of them being the Broula field, a mountain of iron ore near the town of Cowra. After long negotiations .and much haggling on the part of the Broken Hill Proprietary Company Limited, the company agreed to take ore from Broula by rail from near Cowra at a price of about 10s. a ton. The first price offered for the ore was 7s. 6d. a ton. Five- tons of ore, which is 60 per cent, metal, would produce three tons of metal. Therefore, the Broken Hill Proprietary Company Limited is paying about 17s. a ton for the equivalent of a ton of metal. The. addition of another 17s. a ton for freight and smelting charges at 2s. 6d. a ton, brings the cost of a ton of pig iron to the Broken Hill Proprietary Company Limited to about £2. When certain charges were laid against the Broken Hill Proprietary Company Limited and the Prime Minister rushed to its defence, the chairman of directors claimed that the Broken Hill Proprietary Company Limited was patriotically offering pig iron to the
Government, and to companies using pig iron in war industries, at the wonderful price of £5 a ton, which he claimed allowed no profit. Why, £5 a ton is more than 100 per cent, above what the pig iron costs the Broken Hill Proprietary Company Limited ! One can never ascertain the costs of the Broken Hill Proprietary Company Limited from an audit of its books, hut those people with whom it negotiates for the purchase of raw material can, by a process of logical reasoning, arrive at the figures for themselves.
An alleged shortage of .manganese is actually holding up the munitions programme in some respects. Yet, near Grenfell, there is a deposit of manganese which has produced 1,000,000 tons. That was the sole field on which the industry at Lithgow relied for its manganese supplies. When the industry closed down so good was the product of the field that it was exported, even to Germany. The market collapsed in the depression and the mine was closed down and has not since been worked. We hope that the needs of the situation will bring the existence of the field to the notice of the powers that be.
Another essential requirement is aluminium. Only last week I walked over deposits of bauxite with 60 per cent, alumina content. It is not uneconomical to work, because it is almost on the surface, beneath not more than S inches of overburden. In spite of the fact that the deposits of bauxite in this country are known, the Government is importing from the Butch East Indies 50,000 tons of bauxite, which is no better than that which we already possess. We are still short of supplies of aluminium, although we have the means to produce all of our needs. The Government proposes to set up in Australia machinery for the production of aluminium from our own bauxite. I hope that when that does take place, the Government will do the job itself instead of subsidizing private concerns to create a monopoly which, in the long run, will react against the industry and the people.
There is also a shortage of copper in spite of the fact that copper deposits abound in this country. We are having the bitter experience in the central-west of New South Wales of not being able to take electric power to certain towns because of the shortage of copper cable. This shortage is due, not to a shortage of machinery with which to draw the wire in Australia, because we have the means to do so, but to the fact that we have not sufficient refined metal, although we have ample supplies of copper ore. There is no difficulty in smelting this ore, because 50 years ago there were places in the back country where old-time furnaces,, fuelled with wood, were used for smelting copper ore. It is not that we have not the knowledge; we have not the initiative to get; to work and get the copper out of the ground and smelt it in modern furnaces. That is a fine state of affairs in a country which boasts about its wonderful progress in the manufacture of metal goods and its establishment of secondary industries.
Mention of power brings me to the matter of our failure to use potential sources of power. In the last month, I inspected the Wyangala Dam and saw the water flowing through the great needle valves to the towns along the Lachlan River. That reservoir is the only concrete reservoir in Australia which is designed on the latest Swedish pattern. Every other dam will, in time, crumble. The biggest of the lot, the Burrenjuck, is ( rumbling now, because obsolete engineering principles were applied in ite construction. When the Wyangala Dam was designed, provision was made for the incorporation of hydro-turbines for the generation of electricity.Those big valves are still there to turn the big water turbines. Every day, practically, for the last two years the needle valves have been turning the water into the river course. Water turbines were not installed originally, because certain engineering authorities considered that the water would be required warily for irrigation purposes. [Extension of Hine granted.] The plain fact is that we have not been using the potentials of power in our water conservation plants, for we have not installed the machinery necessary to generate electrical power. Now that we would like to draw upon these sources of power, we find ourselves without the necessary metal. We are not using other sources of power a vailable to us. We have extensive deposits of lowgrade coal from which we could generate power, but we are not using them. These deposits are to be found in numerous places throughout the western district of New South Wales and elsewhere in Australia, but, because of the richer coal at Newcastle, Lithgow and Kembla, we have neglected our low-grade resources. It, might, be all right in normal times to depend upon our high-grade coal, but in times like these we could do with all the power that we can possibly generate, and it is deplorable that we are not in a position to use these resources.
The Government should be doing far more than it is doing to exploit our shale measures. As honorable members arc well aware, the industrial activities of the whole country have been seriously disorganized because of our lack of petrol for transport purposes. It is not too much to say that some industries are in a chaotic condition because our internal combustion engines have been rendered largely ineffective through the lack of petrol. Yet with some display of initiative we could undoubtedly meet, the situation to a considerable degree. During last week I was present at a. gas works at Orange, where shale was used instead of coal, and the experiment was satisfactory. One ton of shale from the Newnes measures produces 17,000 cubic feet of gas through the retort, whereas one ton of Lithgow coal retorts only 10,000 cubic feet of gas. Why arc we not using more shale and less coal for this purpose, thereby leaving the coal available for fuel purposes for which shale is not suitable? Large quantities of our good grade coal could be diverted to other purposes through the use of shale for gas production. In every coal-mining town of New South Wales unemployed coal miners are to be found who would willingly become shale miners. Such a re-organization of our labour resources would be immensely valuable to the whole country.
I commend these suggestions to the Government, and trust that when the budget is being considered by Cabinet, some attention will be paid to them. I am particularly desirous that the burden of taxation shall fall mainly on the shoulders of those able to bear it.
Honorable members have been called from long distances to attend this special meeting of Parliament. During our proceedings yesterday we were asked a simple question, namely, whether we would agree to a proposal that the Prime Minister (Mr. Menzies) should go to London. The Labour party, after due consideration of the issues involved, has given a simple and direct answer to the question. Because the Attorney-General (Mr. Hughes) did not like our answer he became very riled and tried to treat us like a party of recalcitrant school children. He even twisted the words of the Leader of the Opposition (Mr. Curtin) to suit his own purposes. The more we look at the situation that confronts us, the more clearly we realize that it is simply a “ set up “, and a political stunt. It is an outstanding example of political expediency.
– Order ! The honorable member may not discuss, on this motion, a subject which already appears on tho notice-paper under another heading.
– I thought that I was in order in dealing with any subject on a supply bill, but I ‘bow to the ruling of the Chair.
The next subject to which I shall refer is the promised increase of the rate of pay of the Navy, the Australian Imperial Force, the Militia, and the Royal Australian Air Force. I hope that the new rates will represent a substantial advance. T can see no reason why men who join the fighting services should not be paid at least the basic wage. I shall be told that the country cannot afford it, but I hope, presently, to show clearly that that is not the case. We should equip our men better than we have done hitherto. In this connexion I direct the attention of honorable members to the following newspaper report, dated the 10th July, 1941, of a speech delivered in the House of Commons : -
Mr. E. A. Brabner (Conservative. Hythe) wore the uniform of a Fleet Air Arm lieutenant when he made his maiden speech. He said that he escaped from Crete in an extremely battered plane before German parachutists landed. “ There has been almost a lack of the most important war materials in Greece, Crete, Libya, and Syria”, he said. “ It is .perhaps incredible, but I can assure the House that we at Malemi (Crete) were rarely able to put more than two planes into the air for continuous patrol in daylight. There were no heavy anti-aircraft guns at Malemi. “ British tanks did marvellously against the Italians, but not so well against the Germans because they were too slow and too few. Between 70 and 80 per cent, of our tanks broke down in .Greece before they ever saw the enemy “, added Mr. Brabner
That is rather tragic. If we send our young men overseas, we should at least have them equipped as well as the enemy they have to meet. This Government has failed to equip them in many ways and in many places.
I asked the Prime Minister if it were a fact that, under the National Security Act, insurance companies were allowed to charge members of the Australian Imperial Force 6 per cent, on unpaid life assurance premiums, and the right honorable gentleman replied that they could charge up to 6 per cent. That is deplorable. At least those companies might have reduced their interest rate, even if they did not wipe it out completely. The men who go abroad are risking everything in order to protect the property of insurance companies and the lives of their members.
I shall now deal with’ the bungle which has occurred in connexion with petrol rationing. Daily, we receive telegrams and letters on this subject. I quote the following as an example: -
To-day’s radio announcement August petrol ration tickets unavailable after Saturday regarded as trick regulation penalizing country consumers many of whom will be forced to abandon one of their already inadequate monthly journies to town due to not hearing announcement or inability to make journey in time allowed. Implore you use every effort have regulation immediately cancelled also urge need establishment local committee and relaxation restrictions country centres.
Quite recently, I attended an agricultural show at Taroom, which is a good distance from the railway. I there spoke to people who live more than 100 miles from a railway, and was told that they were allowed 10 gallons of petrol a month.
Petrol rationing has reached an oppressive stage in relation to people in the country, and primary producers are being hit very heavily by it. When I made an appeal to the Minister- for Supply, his reply was as follows: - 1 suggest that you advise your correspondent that if he feels he is entitled to a greater ration than he is at present receiving, he should submit his claims to the State Liquid Fuel Control Board in Brisbane or, if there is a Local Committee close to where he is situated, he should apply to that committee.
That is, the appeal should be from Caesar to Caesar. The Liquid Fuel Control Board allots the ration, and any appeal for an alteration must be made to that body. There is something radically wrong in that connexion. I have received the following letter : -
I am taking the privilege of writing to you, as wc are not to send complaints to the Liquid Fuel Board.
I am one of the unfortunate ones who gave an honest estimate of the least petrol I could do with for the duration. Namely sixteen gallons. The first month of rationing I did all I could to even save on that.
As I was not always able to apply in time to get my month’s supply of tickets, in May I was limited to fourteen gallons, but owing to living so far from town I did not get in on the proper date, so had to wait for my June tickets. I was surprised to find on applying that I was only entitled to nine gallons; that was on the 5th June.
I am a returned soldier, and never in the best of health, and have a wife and two children, also my mother-in-law, an old lady of eighty-odd years, living with me.
Owing to illness on July 28th, I had to go to the nearest doctor, 52 miles distant, and not knowing the new restrictions re dates of collecting tickets, also the new law compelling us to collect every month and not to use last month’s tickets, I have lost the whole of my miserly July’s issue, and found on applying to the post office that I am now cut down to five gallons. These five gallons were my August issue, although I had not received any in July.
I am writing this in order to show that in the case of a poor man, this complying with certain dates in a month is impossible.
I tried to protest, as I knew that five gallons would not bring me home, but was told that it was no use complaining. They treat the man miles out of town the same as a man about town. Also they take no consideration of the man who honestly gave the least quantity necessary to carry him through. Also I have received a rough deal because I only collected my tickets when I could afford to buy petrol.
On the other hand are men who gave themselves a terrific margin, asking for a hundredodd gallons, when they only needed fifty.
Their percentage hasn’t worked down to their normal supply necessary yet, with all deductions. But of course they are squatters and big land-holders, who can lay in £100 worth of petrol at a time.
Why doesn’t the Liquid Fuel Board take a run around the country and look at the hundreds of gallons hoarded up by those type of men.
The position is thus with me, next month, September, I will be cut down to two gallons. Surely, sir. the ridiculous side of the situation must “present itself to you.
The five gallons received by me for August petered out three miles front home on my return journey from visiting the doctor. We had to walk home, and tow the car home with horses next day.
That is why I thought I would ask you to advise me how to go about getting a reasonable supply. I do not waste it or store it, and cannot afford to hire taxi-cars to drive me around. So, could do on nine gallons a month. But here I am on the 2nd of August, with no tickets whatever, as I used my August issue on the 29th July.
I know of people, living in town with taxis at their door, who are receiving 24 gallons a month for private cars. They are lucky enough to be near the post office on the correct date, whereas I live eight miles off the mail route and only one mail per week, and my nearest neighbour is twelve miles away by road.
It means that if I miss the mail I will receive no petrol tickets, and if I am ill or any of the family, I will have to go by dray or horseback to catch a mailman, who has only a wool lorry and no conveniences for passengers either in health or sickness.
All the carriers take mail contracts these days, there are no passenger cars like the old mail coaches.
So the position in the country for a landless worker is not very promising.
That is typical of many communications. We are advised by the Minister to approach the Liquid Fuel Control Board ; yet my correspondents inform me that, if they write to the board they receive no reply. I hope that the Minister will straighten the matter out. It is having a very serious effect on primary producers and others who live inland far from a railway.
I now read a paragraph which appeared in the Canberra Times of the 20th August.
Seventeen Government cars were placed at the disposal of a privileged section of the arrivals for the sitting of Parliament. thisimpressive fleet of Government cars at Canberra railway station yesterday bore witness to the extent to which petrol rationing is affecting Commonwealth Ministers and their staffs.
The cars are stated officially to have been sent for the purpose of conveying Ministers, official secretaries and “ other officials “ to their respective places of residence in Canberra.
In explanation of the use of the Canberra “panzer” unit for this important war operation, it was stated that every car carried four passengers. It was learned that a total of 358 passengers arrived at Canberra by rail yesterday. On this figure, something like 270 or more passengers used public and private transport, and the use of Government cars was reserved for the privileged.
That is setting a very bad example. Persons who live away from the railways and towns are getting a raw deal. These men are the backbone of the country and they should be treated fairly. I appeal to the Minister to be more liberal in granting petrol to people who live away from the railways.
I agree with those who have spoken of the wisdom of extracting power alcohol from wheat. I understand that one plant for this purpose is to be established in each State. I hope that the distilleries will be located in the wheat areas. In Queensland one of them might well be established in Dalby where there is a flour mill. There are other centres with strong claims for the establishment of power alcohol plants.
I appeal to the Government to introduce a moratorium to cover workers in rural industries and to give security to primary producers. The Treasurer (Mr. Fadden) has said that there are difficulties in the way of doing this. Of course there are difficulties. Before the war these people obtained credit from the banks in order to develop their holdings, but now the banks are asking them to reduce their overdrafts. I hope that this matter will be taken up by the Treasurer and that these people will be afforded security and protection.
– That appears to be so. If the Government cannot grant relief to these primary producers, it is not doing its duty. The question which confronts us is whether the banks or the Government should rule Australia.
– If the honorable member will supply me with examples I shall look into them.
– I shall do so.
There is need for a reform of our monetary system. In this connexionI shall read an extract taken from the London Times, one of the most conservative newspapers in the Empire. It is significant that the Australian daily press made no reference to the statement, which is as follows: -
Our financial and economic authorities have been staggered by the “miraculous feat” of Nazi finance. The achievement has been so surprising that for a long time outside critics were inclined to regard it as an optical illusion. So far Germany seems to have had no serious difficulty in financing the war. Nothing is ever heard of the necessity for increasing taxation, compulsory savings or the issue of enormous war loans. Quite the contrary. Recently one important tax was abolished. Hitler seems to have discovered the secret of making something out of nothing, and to have evolved a system based on perpetual motion. These changes may well call for drastic readjustment in our established conventions. In military matters the French General Staff enjoyed up to a few months ago a prestige similar to that of our own authorities in finance and business. A hidebound persistence in methods and doctrines which were sound fifty years ago may easily prove as costly in the financial and economic field as in the field of actual war. It might not lose the war; it would almost certainly lose the peace. We should study the Nazi’s achievements, prepared to adopt whatever may be useful in it.
I commend that extract from the London Times to the Treasurer in connexion with his forthcoming budget. I hope that, there will be a carefully controlled expansion of credit, and accompanying it effective price control. Our present price fixing system is not effective because there is profiteering on all sides, and prices are rising. The price of tea, for instance, has increased by11d. per lb. since the war began. Some time ago the Treasurer said that he was thinking of expanding credit, but I imagine that he had in mind that the private banks would fix the limit.
Instead of sending pork to England, Australia is sending as much lamb as can be shipped. The reason is that the rich grazier produces the fat lamb, whereas pork is generally produced by small farmers. The present Government acts only in the interests of the privileged few at the expense of the many.
Country newspapers are being given a very raw deal. They are forced to insert in their columns material for which they are not paid, whereas the newspapers which are controlled by the Murdoch group are given many well-paid advertisements. The country press is being forced out of existence, as part of a plan to drive small businesses to the wall.
I hope that the cotton growers will he given a subsidy in order to enable them to supply Australia’s requirements of cotton.
The hour has struck. For the past two years the heels of the Menzies Government have been ever dogged by the hounds of futility and frustration. Not even by accident has it ever been able to do the right thing.
.I protest against the action of the Government in keeping Parliament sitting until the early hours of the morning. It is a ridiculous travesty of parliamentary procedure, that, after waiting for six weeks for Parliament to open, we should, upon the second sitting day, be required to stay up until 2 o’clock in the morning to discuss matters of urgent public importance. In the four years during which I have been a member of this Parliament [ can remember only one occasion when private members have been allowed a grievance day; so they are compelled to use the opportunity provided by budget debates and discussions on Supply bills to bring forward matters which intimately concern their electorates. lt has been stated that the Government is prepared to increase the pay of men serving in the Australian Imperial Force, the Royal Australian Air Force, and the Navy. However, the Government appears to have overlooked one of the most important arms of the service; I refer to the members of the permanent military forces. These men are prevented from joining the Australian Imperial Force unless they first resign from the permanent forces, thus sacrificing pension rights which have accrued to them through years of service. They should receive equal consideration with other members of the fighting services.
The Government closed the financial year with a surplus of £16,000,000, which it has used to defray the charges of the defence services. It is quite probable that the Government will again overestimate its expenditure, hoping that the people will not be too critical of a wartime government. When protests are made against the demands of the Government on the workers, a clamour is raised against the lack of patriotism of the workers and their political representatives.
The Postmaster-General’s .Department has been a wonderful asset to the Government, having earned increasing revenues every year. This year there was a surplus of several millions of pounds, which went into Consolidated Revenue. When the public ask that some of this money be expended upon providing improved services, they are told that the money is needed to finance the war effort. I understand that the Government proposes to increase charges to private telephone subscribers by id. for each telephone call. For years past the department has been advertising the advantages of a telephone in every home, yet when householders apply for a telephone they are told that it is impossible to provide one in less than three or four months. It is stated that the existing lines are overcrowded, and that the service cannot, therefore, be improved ; and this notwithstanding the fact that the telephone branch is one of the most remunerative in the department.
M.r. Collins. - The delay is occasioned chiefly by lack of equipment.
– For years I have been asking for an automatic telephone exchange at Mascot, which is one of the most important industrial centres in Australia. More industries are carried on in Mascot than in any other suburban area in Australia, and most of them are vital to the war effort. In 1931, the then member for Cook (Mr. Riley) asked for an automatic exchange. In 1934, Mr. Garden, who succeeded him, also asked for an automatic exchange at Mascot. In 1937, when I became the representative for Cook, I too asked for an automatic exchange, and in 1941 I am still asking for it. Mascot is the aerial gateway to Australia, having within its boundaries the most important aerodrome in the continent. Yet, the small residential suburb of Drummoyne is provided with an automatic telephone exchange, while Mascot has to go without. The industries of Australia should have all necessary facilities for carrying on their activities, and an automatic telephone exchange should undoubtedly be provided at Mascot.
The whole of the money to be voted for the Department of Health is apparently to be expended on administrative work. Some time ago the Government provided a certain sum for the investigation of cases of tuberculosis among the children of returned soldiers. That sum was reduced from about £4,000 in one year to about £250 in the following year, but this year no provision whatever is made for this work. I feel confident that when the budget is brought down’ it will be found that the Government has overlooked the fact that we still have in our midst ex-soldiers who participated in the war of 1914 to 1918.
The sale of the wool clip to the Central Wool Committee was arranged for the period of the war, and for twelve months afterwards, at the rate of ls. Id. per lb., and it was also agreed that the wool-scourers of Australia should be supplied with sufficient greasy wool to keep their plants working at full capacity. Up to 3,000 men are normally employed in the wool-scouring industry in Botany, but I have letters stating that the requisite greasy wool supplies have not been made available to the scourers. The Minister for Commerce (Sir Earle Page) has stated that the Central Wool Committee controls the quantities of wool released for scouring in Australia. Its failure to release sufficient wool for scouring is a complete violation of the agreement with the committee. We know that wool which is purchased in Australia at ls. Id. per lb. is worth 4s. 4d. per lb. on resale to neutral countries, and that the wool-growers of Australia will lose on the transaction until the end of the war, owing to the low price being paid to them, although in war-time the producers are entitled to at least a remunerative price for their commodity. Owing to the failure to supply the quantity of woo] required by scourers and fellmongers, half of the men who should be engaged in the industry in the Botany district are now unemployed.
Child endowment payments are now being made through post offices and banks, but those payments are not permitted to be made through Commonwealth Bank agencies, which are equivalent to post office agencies of the Commonwealth Bank. In , my electorate, some Commonwealth Bank agencies are located 2 or 3 miles from suburban post offices, and their managers have made application for the right to pay child endowment, but the Government insists on making the payments only by bank cheques and through the ordinary post office organization. I urge that the Government should give consideration to the granting to the Commonwealth Bank agencies of the right to make these payments.
Once again I protest against the action of the Department of the Interior in transferrin? Commonwealth Government officials from Canberra to various State capital cities. The Public Works Committee recently recommended that various empty offices in Canberra be utilized by government departments. The Minister for the Interior (Senator Foll) refused to adopt the recommendation of the committee, and it is now known that two departments have recently been transferred to Sydney. The cost of administration has thus been greatly increased, and departmental work has been disorganized. Canberra should be the home of the central administrative staffs, yet we have the spectacle of Ministers transferring departments or some of their officials, willy-nilly to the various capital cities. Representations on these matters have been made by responsible bodies, but the Minister for the Interior has refused to comply with the requests made to him. Large sums are being paid in rent in several of the State capitals for Commonwealth administrative offices, although in Canberra empty offices are to be seen close to Parliament
House itself. Canberra is supposed to be the home of, not only the Commonwealth Parliament, but also Commonwealth Government departments; yet the Minister for the Interior ignores Canberra and transfers departments to any capital city that suits them. I oppose such action and claim that the Minister should immediately give consideration to the transfer of such departments back to Canberra.
Recently, the House carried a motion, which was submitted by the honorable member for Hunter (Mr. James), to the effect that the permissible income of the family unit should be increased from £1 10s. to £2 10s. The implication was that the allowance in respect of a family of four would be £8 a week before the family would become ineligible to receive a pension for an invalid member. Unfortunately, the Government has failed to give effect to that opinion of the chamber. I hope that the budget will contain the requisite provision for the increase of the permissible income of the family unit and for an increase of the invalid and old-age pensions.
– Because of the deterioration of the situation in the Pacific, Parliament has been summoned to meet. After sitting for only three days, it will hasten into recess for a period of at least two weeks. If justification existed for calling Parliament together one week earlier than was expected, there is every reason why the Government should keep it in session for more than three days. That is certainly a short space of time in which to enable honorable members to express their views upon many matters that concern their constituents, and to seek information about the state of the country’s defences. As usual, the Government is treating Parliament with scant respect. [ do not asperse its motives for calling Parliament together in order to ascertain the will of the legislature regarding the proposal to despatch the Prime Minister (Mr. Menzies) to Great Britain. But when the opinions of the respective parties were ascertained, the opportunity was created for the Government to vouch safe some information to honorable members about the provision of equipment for our fighting services and for Empire units. To date, the Government has made no statement about those matters.
On two occasions this year, honorable members have assembled in secret meetings to receive information, all of it valuable, about the progress which is being made adequately and effectively to provide equipment and munitions for our armed forces, upon whose success depends our salvation. The last occasion presented’ a much better picture than did the first; but even then, we were not given so much consoling information as we would have liked. As representatives of the people, we have a right to expect the Government to lay before us the latest information at its disposal so that we may be in a position more satisfactorily to discharge our responsibilities to the nation. Surely every honorable member is entitled to be told precisely what is happening in our munitions establishments, and to know that the very best is being done to provide equipment and arms, which are so essential to victory. If we were given that information, we should be in a position to say whether the Government, in its general policy, and the administration on its part were doing all that could be reasonably expected in this crisis with the facilities at their disposal. But in the secret meeting yesterday, we were given no information whatever upon this important phase of Parliament’s work. All that we were told were facts that were fairly well known generally, upon which we were expected to make a decision on the general proposition that the Prime Minister would better serve the interests of the nation by being in London than by remaining in Australia.
It came as an unpleasant surprise to me to discover that the Government proposed to scurry into recess after the third day of meeting. There is any amount of work for Parliament to justify its continuing in session for at least another week before the curtain falls, and the Government feels safe for a little longer. One day next week, we could have another secret meeting, at which we could be given all the latest information about the production of munitions and equipment. Surely honorable members are not expecting too much when they ask that Service Ministers should supply those details to them. It seems that the Government’s salvation is of greater importance to it than the provision of all available information to honorable members, who are anxious to learn the facts. If the international situation were so grave as the Government stated, the House should not go into recess, but should remain in session until the crisis eases. We hope that it will ease, because we are not anxious to be embroiled in hostilities with a power so near to us as the one involved in the discussions at the moment, unless our national interests are in danger. I feel that the situation has eased somewhat in the last few days, and I trust that it will continue to improve. At the same time, Parliament should not adjourn until the situation has been clarified sufficiently to enable us to believe that, for the time being, the danger has passed. The Government does not seem to be satisfied to wait, like Mr. Micawber, for something to turn up, but wishes to hasten into recess, where it will probably create a false impression in the community that the Labour party is not entitled to govern because it will not be able to control industrial turmoil, and because its accession to office would mean instability of administration and lack of confidence generally in its capacity to govern. Suggestions have been made that, in their anxiety to get rid of the Prime Minister, some members of the Government were playing a game of party politics. Certain statements have been made by members on the Government side which reflect upon the sincerity of the assertions of some Ministers that their desire that the Prime Minister should go to London was inspired by altruistic motives. Time alone will tell how far those statements are justified. In my opinion, it would have been better if the Ministers whose names have been bandied about gave an assurance that those statements were without foundation. Many people believe that there is some foundation for a good many of the rumours that have been circulated. I ask leave to continue my remarks at the next sitting.
Leave granted; debate adjourned.
Motion (by Mr. Fadden) agreed to -
That the House, at its rising, adjourn until this day at 2 p.m.
Motion (by Mr. Fadden) proposed -
That the House do now adjourn.
.- I wish to direct the attention of the Treasurer (Mr. Fadden) to the point raised by the honorable member for West Sydney (Mr. Beasley), with which I also dealt briefly earlier in the debate, that weekly or fortnightly deductions of income tax are made from the salaries of public servants without the authority of an act of Parliament. I ask the Treasurer to look into the matter as one of great urgency.
– in reply - The remarks of the honorable member for West Sydney (Mr. Beasley) have already been brought under my notice. I draw attention to the fact that, under the instalment plan, instalments of tax are based on estimates of income, and adjustments are readily made upon application or objection. When the final assessment is made, any proven over-payment is readily adjusted. The action of the Treasury in collecting instalments of income tax was founded on a decision made as to the basis of financing the child endowment scheme. No protest was made against that basis when the Child Endowment Bill was passed through this House.
Question resolved in the affirmative.
The following papers were presented : -
New Guinea - Report to Council of League of Nations on Administration of Territory of New Guinea, for year 1939-40.
Australian Soldiers’ Repatriation Act - War Pensions Entitlement Appeal Tribunal - Report for year 1940-41.
Canned Fruits Export Control Act - RegulationsStatutory Rules 1041, No. 157.
Commonwealth Public Service Act - Regulations - Statutory Rules 1041, Nos. 158, 191.
Dairy Produce Export Control Act - Regulations - Statutory Rules 1941, No. 156.
Lands Acquisition Act - Land acquired for Defence purposes - Amberley, Queensland.
National Debt Sinking Fund Act - National Debt Commission - Eighteenth Annual Report, for year 1940-41.
National Security Act -
Butter and Cheese Acquisition Regulations - Order - Acquisition.
National Security (Apple and Pear Acquisition ) Regulations - Order - Apple and Pear Acquisition 1940-41.
National Security (Emergency Supplies) Regulations - Rules - New South Wales, Queensland (3), South Australia, Tasmania, and Victoria.
Patents Act - Regulations - Statutory Rules 1941, No. 198.
Tractor Bounty Act - Return for year 1940-41.
House adjourned at 2.10 a.m. (Friday)..
n asked the Minister representing the Minister for Information, upon notice -
s. - The Minister forInformation has supplied the following answers . -
n asked the Prime Minister, upon notice -
– The answers to the honorable member’s questions are as follows : -
s asked the Minister representing the Minister for Supply and Development, upon notice -
Will he supply a statement showing the amount of petrol issued to private users per month in Perth, Adelaide, Melbourne, Ballarat, Launceston, Hobart, Sydney, Newcastle and Brisbane ?
– The Minister for Supply and Development has supplied the following answer: -
Petrol is issued to private users on a basis of 1,000 miles per annum throughout the Commonwealth. Figures for localized areas are not available.
s asked the Treasurer, upon notice -
Since the renewal of the Federal Aid Roads Agreement between the Commonwealth and the several States, what sum has been expended each year in each State under the altered conditions of that agreement for the provision of harbours, havens, shelters, jetties, channelling, beacons and beacon lights and the like.
– The information will be obtained.
r asked the Treasurer, upon notice -
– Inquiries are being made and a reply will be furnished as
Boon as possible.
d asked the Prime Minister, upon notice -
– The information is being obtained and will be furnished to the honorable member as soon as possible.
y asked the Treasurer, upon notice -
– The answers to the honorable member’s questions are as follows : - 1 and 2. The Government has already made provision under the National Security (War Service Moratorium) Regulations for the protection of members of the Forces holding life assurance policies.
y asked the Minister for Trade and Customs, upon notice -
– The answers to the honorable member’s questions are as follows : -
Cite as: Australia, House of Representatives, Debates, 21 August 1941, viewed 22 October 2017, <http://historichansard.net/hofreps/1941/19410821_reps_16_168/>.