16th Parliament · 1st Session
Mr. Speaker (Hon. W. M. Nairn) took the chair at 10.30 a.m., and read prayers.
Estates of Deceased
– Has the Treasurer had an opportunity to consider the representations made to him during the budget session by members of the Opposition, that special rates of duty be fixed in respect of the estates of soldiers killed on active service? Having regard to the probability of civilian deaths arising from enemy action, will the honorable gentleman also consider the advisability of adopting the British practice in regard to the estates of persons other than members of the different services who may be killed as the result of enemy action?
– I am having the first matter examined, with a view to the introduction of appropriate legislation in conjunction with taxation measures. I shall give consideration to the second suggestion of the honorable member. Some representations have been made, with a view to the Australian practice being brought into line with the British practice.
– Has the AttorneyGeneral read the statement published yesterday in the Sydney Daily Telegraph dealing in detail with shocking atrocities said to have been perpetrated upon the residents of Hong Kong by the Japanese, with the comment that the Australian Governmenthad been made aware of what had occurred ? Is there any foundation for it? If so, will the honorable gentleman advise the House as to what person was responsible for supplying this information to the Sydney Daily Telegraph because of the shocking effect which publication of the statement must have on the morale of the women of Australia!
– Itis very difficult to answer the question fullyand frankly.
– Has the Government any information on the subject?
– The Government has had certain reports in reference to the matter, and has been in communication with the Government of the United Kingdom, to which all reports had been forwarded and which has accepted responsibility for dealing with the matter of their publication. The honorable member must realize that when reports of such a nature are received, the governments concerned must first make some investigation in order to establish their authenticity. If the honorable member cares to peruse the papers, I shall permit him to do so.
– I am concerned with the fact that some person has given the information to the Sydney Daily Telegraph; because it is aware that the Australian Government has the reports.
– I have no knowledge of that. No newspaper should be aware of the fact. I hope that the press will understand that the evil which the honorable member apprehends may be engendered by his asking the question to me in this House.
– The matter has already been published in the Sydney Daily Telegraph. Obviously, the information was furnished by a Government member.
– According to the published reports of statements made to the Government by Major-General Gordon Bennett, the Japanese made considerable use of Tommy guns in Malaya. Will the Minister for the Army avail himself of the offers of manufacturers, including Lysaghts and Carmichaels, for the production of the Owen and Stenn guns? Will the honorable gentleman hasten such projects and ensure that they are not impeded by the operations of the machine tools czar, Colonel Thorpe? According to Major-General Bennett, the Japanese adopted novel yet simple tactics, such as the use of bicycles in advancing along the beds of creeks. Will the Minister see that this example is followed by Australian troops, and also encourage the establish- ment in this country of guerilla units, such as the light horse unit proposed by Major-General Rankin, and many other proposals of a similar nature?
– A large order was given some time ago for the manufacture in Australia of the Owen gun. Because of the difficulties experienced in obtaining the necessary machine tools in order to enable mass production of the gun, I directed a fortnight ago that an important officer of my department should confer immediately with the Director of Machine Tools. The Minister for Munitions and I have had consultations on the matter, with the result that we hope that by the end of this week the whole of the machine tools necessa ry for themass production of the Owen gun will be supplied. A large order has al ready been given. As soon as mass production of the gun is achieved, a substantial order will be placed in other quarters for the manufacture of submachine guns. We appreciate the great importance of this weapon.MajorGeneral Gordon Bennett has made some very helpful recommendations to the Government, and they will be taken into consideration immediately.
– In view of the urgent necessity to conserve every kind of liquid fuel in Australia, will the Minister for Supply and Development consider the advisability of bringing under control any liquid fuel that is not at present subject to rationing; for example, kerosene?
– A measure of cont rol is exercised in regard to kerosene. If the honorable member considers that it is not sufficient, and is able to make a suggestion founded on some knowledge that he possesses, I shall be very pleased to hear him, in the hope that the general purpose of conserving fuel may thereby be assisted. Any suggestions of that nature are always helpful and will be welcomed.
Mr. CURTIN (Fremantle- Prime
Minister) [10.39]. - I move-
That the House, at its rising, adjourn to Wednesday, the 25th March next, at 3 p.m., unless Mr. Speaker shall, by telegram addressed toeach memberofthe House,fix an earlier date of meeting.
The Government recognizes its responsibility to Parliament. It accepts the view repeatedly put forward by members of its own party, namely, that Parliament should meet regularly for the purposes of consultation and review of the administration and conduct of the war. It is desirable that there shall be regularity in regard to the occasions upon which the Parliament shall meet, if that be practicable. A longer interval between meetings of the House than is contemplated in the motion will be required if the Treasurer is to produce legislation to give effect to certain portions of the reports laid on the table of the House late last night in relation to economic policy, particularly in respect of taxation. Therefore, when the House does resume on the 25th March, there will not be available, because of complications and difficulties associated with the preparation of the bills, an opportunity to discuss the Government’s legislative proposals. A longer interval will be required for the preparation of the legislation. I then purpose, with the approval of the House, that thereafter the House shall meet On the fourth Wednesday of each month for three sitting days. It can easily happen, of course, that three sitting days will not be sufficient to complete what the Government wishes to do, or to discuss the matters which the Opposition may wish to raise. I had intended that we should meet on the second Wednesday in each month, but the Leader of the Opposition (Mr. Fadden) has asked me to fix the 25th of March on this occasion. Therefore, I think that we should meet on the corresponding Wednesday of each month thereafter. That view was put forward by the honorable member for Barker (Mr. Archie Cameron), who stated that there should be some regularity regarding the date upon which members would be expected to meet.
– Yes. Every proposal for the adjournment of the House will be accompanied by the arrangement that Mr. Speaker shall, if necessity arises, summon honorable members at an earlier date than that specified.
– The Opposition wholeheartedly accepts the proposal of the Prime Minister. I am pleased that he has seen his way to accede to the request which I made to him this morning that the House should re-assemble on the 25th of this month. It is recognized that the Government will not be able to prepare legislation between now and then, but at the next meeting the House will be given an opportunity to consider the many regulations which the Government has reluctantly introduced during the period of recess. I now ask the Prime Minister to consider the withdrawal of regulation 77, dealing with the mobilization of services and property, which was tabled yesterday, and which we shall not have an opportunity to debate before the 25th March. It is a very important regulation, and is viewed seriously by the Opposition.
.- I should like to learn from the Prime Minister whether, on the reassembly of the House, we shall have an opportunity to debate the defence position in Australia, and matters arising out of the war which peculiarly relate to Australia. We have had several statements on international affairs which provided an opportunity to talk about the position of every country other than our own. Will an opportunity be given at our next meeting to consider the position of Australia in relation to defence, man-power and munitions?
– I do not object to the House adjourning until the 25th March, butI point out that a time must come when certain administrative acts of the Government, and certain war measures, will have to be debated in this House. The Pacific war has been raging for three months, and during that time we have seen what is probably the greatest upset in war that has ever taken place inthe history of the world ; yet the situation has never been debated in this House. We had a couple of secret meetings of members, and they were followed by one ministerial statement - a. very able one,I admit. - but it did not deal with certain salient features of Australia’s military position, or with the impact of the war on the Pacific situation generally. I do not say that the Government is trying to stave off such a debate, but we are running a very grave risk in making it appear to the people that we do not care. Certain regulations have been introduced during the last two or three weeks. Some of them, under the guise of preparing the country for war, are nothing more nor less than an attempt to bring in a new financial policy - to establish in this country an entirely new order. What order it is, God only knows, ‘because the Prime Minister and the Minister for Labour and National Service (Mr. Ward) seem to hold entirely opposite views concerning it. The Prime Minister has not yet clarified his own position, and that of his Government.
– I did that last night.
– The statement of the Prime Minister last night did not answer the two points raised by the right honorable member for Kooyong (Mr. Menzies). If the Prime Minister has not read the report of the speech made in this House yesterday by the Minister for Labour and National Service, in which two entirely new financial principles were put forward, then he does not know what is being done by members of his own Ministry. The House should not adjourn to-day until the Prime Minister has said whether the Minister for Labour and National Service speaks for the Government - until he either endorses or repudiates what that Minister said. There is no middle course. Either the statement of the Minister is right, and is supported by his colleagues, or it is wrong, and should be repudiated by his colleagues.
This House has a definite responsibility regarding the administrative acts of the Government in regard to the conduct of the war. If the House does not. take its responsibilities seriously a state of affairs will develop, the like of which we have not seenbefore, and I have no desire to see it. We want to go on according to the rules of law and order.
– I agreewith the statement of the honorable member for Barker (Mr.
Archie Cameron). Parliament meets at rare intervals,but when an honorable member asks a question, as the honorable member for Wentworth (Mr. Harrison) did yesterday, he is reprimanded on the grounds that he gave, in public, information of value to the enemy. Consequently,we might as well not meet at all. I am aware that the question which the honorable member asked would possibly have the effect that the Prime Minister (Mr.Curtin) said, but what other course is open to honorable members when Parliament so seldom meets? Are honorable members expected to accept, without reservation, every act of the Government? Throughout the country there is a general fear that Parliament is not performing its duty. People are asking why honorable members allow the Government to “get away” with so many of its acts. Naturally, I do not desire to criticize the efforts of the Government to place the country upon a proper war footing. In that respect it deserves the support of all honorable members and of all sections of the community. But in city and country, alike, people are taking the Government to task. Whilst every one will admit that the Government has done effective work in the defence of Australia, people declare that the Ministers are endeavouring to sneak in their own policy of socialism in the guise of the war effort. Some of the acts of the Government, such as the closing of private bank agencies in country districts, have no relation to the winning of the war. The general manager of the Bank of New South Wales, Sir Alfred Davidson, stated in Sydney this week that 50 per cent. of the staff of that institution had already enlisted. I should like to know whether a similar response has been made by officers of the Commonwealth Bank. At present, large agencies of private banks in country towns are being conducted by elderly managers and girl clerks. Obviously, the Government is sneaking in its policy of socialism for the purpose of destroying the existing banking system. From my private conversations with members of the Labour party, I have gainedan insight into their views upon the private banks. They consider that all banking institutions other than the Commonwealth Bank should be abolished, and they are now using the war as a means of carrying out their policy. By closing down agencies of private banks in country towns, the Government will destroy rural development. According to statements published in the press, 5,000 people transact their banking business at one bank in Geelong, whilst at Murwillumbah, in New South Wales, 500 people use one agency.
– Order! The honorable member is digressing.
– If you, Mr. Speaker, prevent me from developing my argument, I must conclude that you are doing exactly the same thing as the Labour party is doing.
– Order ! The honorable member must not proceed further on those lines.
– By that remark, Mr. Speaker, you have borne out what I have been saying. Parliament assembles for a couple of days for the purpose of discussing the critical war position, but I am prevented by the rules of the House from developing my argument. As Parliament meets so rarely, I have no opportunity to ventilate this subject. However, sir, I must bow to your ruling. I congratulate the Prime Minister upon agreeing to summon Parliament on the 25th March instead of a fortnight later, and I shall welcome a secret session, because I do not wish to attack the Government in public.
– Then what is the honorable member doing?
– I invite the honorable member to hear what I have to say at a secret meeting. At the present juncture, I shall not criticize the Government’s war effort, because we must meet the crisis with a united front.
.- I compliment the Prime Minister (Mr. Curtin) upon having advanced, by one fortnight, the date of the next meeting of the House. There are many things that honorable members who support the Government, and honorable members of the Opposition who are not members of the Advisory War Council, wish to learn , hut 1 entirely disagree with the utterances of the honorable member for EdenMonaro (Mr. Perkins), who said that the Government is taking advantage of thu war effort in order to sneak in the policy of the Labour party. Why should not the. Government do that? If the Government lias a policy, the electors expect effect to be given to it. I sincerely trust that the Prime Minister will not withdraw Statutory Rule No. 77, dealing with the mobilization of services and property. lt should operate until the next meeting of the Blouse, when honorable members should be given an opportunity to debate it. We had to submit to that practice when we were the Opposition, and Parliament was in recess for long periods. Although honorable members should lend every assistance to the Government in the conduct of the war, the Opposition is now protesting against this statutory rule. Let us get on with our -job. Already too much “hooey” has been heard from honorable members opposite.
– All honorable members must recognize the ready and democratic manner in which the Prime Minister has assented to the request that Parliament should not adjourn for five weeks. I am not clear, however, whether the Government proposes in future to summon Parliament one week in every four. If that be so, I join issue upon that point. We are the elected representatives of the people and our appointed place at the present juncture is in Canberra, sitting as the Parliament.
At the time of the evacuation of Dunkirk, the House of Commons met regularly three days a week. I remind honorable members that the Prime Minister referred recently to happenings in the Pacific war as being “ our Dunkirk “. The evacuation of Dunkirk commenced on the 29th May and ended on the 3rd Tune. The House of Commons met consistently three days a week from the 21st to the 23rd May, from the 28th to the 30t,h May, from the 4th to the 6th June, and from the 11th to the 13th June. That happened at a time of what was described by the Prime Minister of Great Britain, Mr. Churchill, as a “ colossal military disaster “. As Australia is facing a colossal military disaster in the Pacific, I urge that Parliament should, as far as possible, be kept in session. Admittedly, Ministers have heavy responsibilities to attend to, and perform a good deal of work of which private members see nothing; but if Ministers in England could attend to their parliamentary duties during the evacuation of Dunkirk, it is reasonable that Ministers here should do the same. It is particularly desirable that we should meet at a time when new laws are being made, not in the ordinary manner, but by regulation. I am much in accord with the remarks of the honorable member for Barker (Mr. Archie Cameron) regarding this matter. I consider most definitely that in the guise of national security regulations, certain things are being done which are of a purely party political nature. In that opinion we may be right or we may be wrong, but at least it is desirable that honorable members who hold those views should have an opportunity to express them in this chamber. When a regulation is promulgated, it is laid upon the table of the House and the initiative has to come from those who wish to criticize it. In the interests of democracy it is most desirable that the elected representative.0 of the country should have an early opportunity to criticize in Parliament such regulations, and, if necessary, move for their disallowance.
I am substantially in agreement wilh what has been said by the honorable member for Eden -Monaro (Mr. Perkin?) and I hope that the Prime Minister will fully consider the matter. Supporters of the Labour party, when in opposition, criticized the previous Government because Parliament was not summoned frequently, thus denying to them an opportunity to express their views upon the acts of the Administration. Times arc immensely more critical now. Parliament is our appointed place, and this is where we, as the elected representatives of the country, should have an opportunity In express our opinions.
.- I am pleasantly surprised to hear that the House is to meet on the 25th March. After we have met we should adopt the practice of sitting regularly. It is of great importance that we should do .=o. for Parliament is really the government of the country, because the parties are in such a state of equilibrium that no one party can say it has been chosen to govern the country. It is Parliament, not just the Ministry, that represents the country. Parliament, therefore, should be in constant session in order that matters which weigh upon the minds and consciences of members might be discussed in public, or, if that be not possible, in secret. In addition to that, I think that the flood of regulations necessitates frequent meetings of Parliament; otherwise we should have arbitrary government. The regulations which are being made may be deemed necessary, but I should like to hear them discussed and considered. Objections were taken to regulation 76 from the Opposition point of view. I have objections to it from another point of view, on the ground that it encourages mortgagees whose mortgagors are in default to call up the mortgages and sell the land in order to take advantage of the improved market given to them by the prevention of ordinary sales. Something on the lines of regulation 77 may be necessary, but it is a very dangerous regulation. In fact, some of the regulations that have been made empower the Government to take the property of the people without offering any compensation at all. I believe that these regulations are subject to the provisions of the Constitution as to just terms. But what just terms are no one knows, especially when we deal with such incorporeal property as goodwill. I had before me the case of a woman who bought a guest house. A few days after the purchase had been made she was told by the military authorities that she must vacate the house but that the furniture was not wanted, and that the best thing she. could do would be to sell it by auction. She was told that there was to be no compensation. I communicated with the Government and found that it was not at all desired to take the property. A great many people are in a state of panic. They fear that their property and their little businesses will be taken from them without payment.
If we cannot have constant meetings of Parliament, we should adopt the proposal made by the right honorable mem ber for Kooyong (Mr. Menzies) at the beginning of the war that parliamentary committees should be appointed to deal with regulations before they are gazetted. It is much easier to make representations to the Government about regulations before they are promulgated than to attack them afterwards. It would be a good thing to have various committees set up to deal with different categories of regulations. It would also be a good thing if we were to have meetings of members in the different States. For instance, when Ministers go to Melbourne, would it not be possible for them to address the Victorian members who would be able to ask questions? The same applies to Sydney and elsewhere.
Honorable Members. - What about Perth and the other capital cities, where Ministers never go?
– Victoria and New South Wales are differently situated from the other States. They contain not only a large proportion of the population, but also a large proportion of federal members.
– On a point of order, Mr. Speaker, are the remarks of the honorable member for Bourke (Mr. Blackburn) any more relevant to the question than were my remarks when I was ordered to sit down?
– The honorable member for Bourke is in order. He is giving reasons why Parliament should meet.
– As I said, I am glad that the House is to meet on the 25th March, and I think that the Government is probably wise in saying that the House should not meet until that date, having regard to the critical position which we face, so that the minds of Ministers may be free to deal with our problems. Nevertheless, Parliamen t ought to take responsibility for government and for making the people understand our governmental system. One of the things breeding panic and distrust among the people is the fact that the Government is not being carried on in the way to which they are accustomed. When Parliament is meeting people have the feeling that the Executive is more under control. I think the same way. When Parliament meets, the Executive hesitates to do things which it might otherwise do. The best way in which to protect the people is by having frequent and long sessions of Parliament.
– Observations made by honorable members on both sides of the House show they are not satisfied with the way in which Parliament has been meeting. I am pleased to have the assurance of the Prime Minister (Mr. Curtin) t hat it is proposed to remedy the situation. The reasons for the dissatisfaction of honorable members are obvious. The way in which representations made by honorable members to the Government are treated by the Government requires ventilation. When members of the Labour party were in opposition they toot advantage of all the forms of the House in order to bring to the notice of the Government matters which had no relevancy to the war. If they did not move the adjournment in order to raise various matters, they spoke at great length on the adjournment of the House. In direct contrast is the attitude of the present Opposition. Honorable members have not taken up the time of the House except to discuss matters relevant to the war, because they have a sense of responsibility. Yet, when they do take opportunities to question the present trend of government, they are made the subjects of violent personal attack by Ministers. When we ask questions or speak on the adjournment, we find that not only do we receive no answers, but also that our representations receive no consideration. I shall give two illustrations of this trend in the treatment of the Opposition by Ministers. To-day I asked a question. I could have spoken on the adjournment, but, preferring not to take up the time of the House, I took the short course. In asking that question I read from the Sydney Daily Telegraph of yesterday an extract which mentioned that stories of shocking atrocities by the Japanese had reached the Commonwealth Government. The fact that Hansard can be censored disproves the contention of the Attorney-General (Dr. Evatt) that, in raising this matter, I was defeating the very object which I was seeking to guard.
-Only because of the honorable member’s reference to atrocities, the authenticity of which he questioned. I have not seen the report.
– My object was to guard against leakage of Government information. Because I tried to do that I was attacked. Honorable members are being deprived of their right to freedom of expression. When the honorable member for Warringah (Mr. Spender) yesterday raised the matter of censorship regulations, which we have the right to discuss openly in this House, he directed attention to the fact that the Australian Broadcasting Commission had received certain instructions.
In that connexion I desire to refer to a letter written by the Australian BroadcastingCommission to a lady in Melbourne, whose name I shall not reveal, in orderto emphasize how necessary it is that Parliament shall be called together frequently, and for reasonable periods. The letter to which I refer was written to a constituent of the honorable member forFawkner (Mr. Holt) and, with his permission, I propose to hand it to the Prime Minister. It is signed by the acting general manager of the Australian Broadcasting Commission and it states that the commission is not absolutely responsible for all broadcasts made from its stations. Last night the honorable member for Warringah asked whether instructions had been given by a member of the Government to the Australian Broadcasting Commission to delete any reference to Mr. Churchill in broadcasts over the national network, or, at any rate, any references to him that might be favorable to him. That specific inquiry was not answered by the Prime Minister last night. As a matter of fact, he skipped over it.
It is particularly necessary that we shall be given the opportunity to discuss the new social order that is being introduced. If the Government persists in seeking to introduce this new order Australia will surely be split in two. In my view it is vital to the freedom of the Australian people and also to the rights and privileges of members of the Commonwealth Parliament that frequent meetings of Parliament shall be held.
The letter is dated the 9th February, and reads as follows: -
Thank you for your letter of 21st January in which you offer further comments on certain of the broadcast news sessions.
From its terms it is evident that you ‘assume that the commission is entirely responsible for all broadcasts that are made from its stations. This is not so. The act under which the commission works gives an overriding authority to the Government through the Minister. In these circumstances, I am sure you will understand that it would be improper for me either to indicate whether, and, if so, to what extent, such authority is exercised, or to express an opinion on the merits of the broadcasts to which you take exception.
– I link what I have read to the instructions that are alleged to have been issued to the Australian Broadcasting Commission.
– There is something of the’ Pharisee about the honorable member.
– That communication brought another letter from the lady to my colleague, the honorable member for Fawkner, which contained the following footnote: - 1 wrote about this before and have your answer of 20th January. I might add that while violent attacks on the British Government were going on on the national stations the Watchman reported that “ rigid- restrictions “ prevented him making any reference to the subJect.
Surely, in the light of what I have revealed, this whole subject requires investigation and discussion by members of the Parliament. Had honorable members opposite been sitting in opposition when things like this had happened, one of them would have moved the adjournment of the House in order to discuss the subject. They all would have strongly resisted any effort to restrict the broadcasting of overseas news. The fact is that at present there is a restriction of overseas news on the A class stations and it is possible to pick up the news on 2GB at the immediate point of interruption on the A class stations. Yet an agreement was reached between A class and B class stations that there would be no cutting down of overseas news. Why should the Government deny to people the right to hear expressions of opinion in respect of the British Government broadcast by the British Broadcasting Corporation?
– I rise to a point of order. The Prime Minister - has moved a motion for the adjournment of the House to a specified date. I submit that the remarks of the honorable member for Wentworth have nothing whatever to do with that motion. His long-winded statements are quite wide of the mark.
– Let the honorable gentleman go on.
– My view is that his remarks are entirely irrelevant.
– So far the observations of the honorable member for Wentworth have a bearing on the motion before the Chair.
– I do not intend to delay honorable members much longer on this subject. It is obvious that directions have been given to the Australian Broadcasting Commission to delete references to Mr. Churchill and the British Government.
– How can the honorable member deduce anything of that kind from the letter that he has read?
– I read the letter in conjunction with remarks by the Prime Minister with regard to our association with the British Empire, and I say that this House has a right to debate these subjects, especially in the light of certain other suspicious happenings.
– What does the honorable gentleman mean when he speaks of what I said about the British Government?
– I have in mind remarks made by the Prime Minister and other responsible Ministers some little time ago, and also the action of a responsible Minister in dismissing the Deputy Chief Censor in New South Wales.
– The Minister did not dismiss the Censor.
– At any rate, he placed him in such a position that he had no alternative but to resign.
– That is not the case.
– It is not desirable that that subject should be further discussed on this motion. It was fully discussed last night.
– Will the honorable gentleman clear up one point for me? I am sure that he will be kind enough to elucidate an observation he made to the effect that I had said something in the nature of a reflection upon the British Empire.
– I was referring to the statement made by the Prime Minister that in looking to the United States of America for help he would have no inhibitions with regard to the traditions of Australia and the British Empire.
– What has that got to do with this discussion?
– I associate it with the alleged instructions given to the Australian Broadcasting Commission to curtail mention of Mr. Churchill, and also with the agreement that there would be a restriction of the broadcast of overseas news.
– The debate is now very wide of the motion.
– I have nothing further to say on that aspect of the subject except to emphasize that it reveals the necessity for frequent meetings of the Parliament and the necessity for doing everything possible to preserve the rights of members of the Parliament, who surely are entitled to be heard on these issues.
I wish to refer to one other matter. We have had only a limited opportunity during this sessional period to speak on the motion for the adjournment of the House. I therefore wish to refer at this stage to a matter mentioned by the honorable member for Bourke (Mr. Blackburn). I have had brought to my notice the circumstances of a woman who, as the result of thrift during many years of toil by her husband who earned only the basic wage, acquired an equity in a small property at Villawood. The property was subsequently acquired by the Government for munitions purposes. The woman offered no objection, but naturally expected that her equity, £156, would be honoured. All she asked was that the Government should procure another block of land for her in close proximity to the one that was being taken from her. The Government not only refused to do this, but it also took over her equity of £156 for a miserable £25. Repeated representations have been made to the Government on the subject, but without result. It is necessary that Parliament should meet frequently in order that matters of this description may be ventilated and that honorable members may be kept informed of the manner in which the affairs of the country are being conducted. There are still many matters of deep concern to the people at large that should be discussed in the House, and the Government should make an opportunity available for their discussion. I am’ glad that the Prime Minister has agreed to call the House together earlier than was at first intended, for it will enable us to keep in closer touch with matters: affecting the rights and privileges of Unpeople.
– I wish to refer to the nature and duration of the proposed sittings of the Parliament. It would seem that there is every justification for the opinion of privatemembers that Parliament should not gointo recess for long periods. If that view had been insufficiently supported hitherto it was amply reinforced during yesterday and to-day. During these sittings very little reference has been madeto the plight of Australia. My view isthat the Government, having been placed in office, and certain honorable membershaving been given portfolios, they should be held responsible for the administration of the affairs of the country. They should! not be hampered in their work, but should have the fullest opportunity to attend to their administrative duties. The enemyis not, now just beyond our shores, but has actually attacked us. Short sessionsmay be convenient to members who represent constituencies in the eastern States, but they are most inconvenient to those who come -from the distant States. I. wish to return to Western Australia, because I believe that it is my duty tobe there at the present time. I intend to make the visit, whether or not I am able to be back in Canberra by the 25th March.. In arranging the meetings of thisParliament, some consideration should be- given to members from distant States, in order that they may at least be able to meet their people. The principal industries of Western Australia are in a very critical position, and are faced with unprecedented obstacles. The lives of the people of that State, at the moment, also are a matter for considerable concern. Ministers who are charged with the responsibility of administering the -departments of the Commonwealth should be enabled to devote to that task all the time that they need, if an effective job is to be done in the interests of this country.
– I congratulate the Prime Minister (Mr. Curtin) upon his proposal to have the House re-assemble at an earlier date than was originally proposed. I believe that at this particular time we should meet even more frequently than one week in every four weeks. The war has brought Australia, and the world in general, to a dangerous condition, and we shall be very seriously affected unless those of us who hold certain responsibilities keep more closely in contact with the activities of the war departments and truly represent the people by whom we are sent to this Parliament.
Certain of the matters that have been raised this morning are not relevant to the motion that we arc discussing. The Chair has been over-generous in having permitted some of the statements that have been made. I regret that the report of the Joint Committee on Broadcasting could not be produced before the adjournment.
-Order! The honorable member for Parkes is now ‘being guilty of the irrelevancy he has already condemned.
– If the House were to meet earlier, the report of the Joint Committee on Broadcasting could be submitted earlier. It may astound honorable members in many ..respects - for instance, in respect of interference by Ministers of not only the present Government, but also of preceding governments. The practice is becoming much more dangerous than it was formerly, and I suggest to the Parliament, but particularly to the Prime Minister, that the name? of Ministers be kept off the air entirely. Information given by Ministers in charge of departments has been used by our enemy overseas. There have been glaring instances of propaganda from other countries. 1 hope that when the House re-assembles on the 25th March these matters will be discussed immediately. The experts in our war departments should be given a freer hand in the promulgation of tactical undertakings. That would do more to assist the winning of the war than is done by speeches made in Parliament by amateur tacticians. The claim is made that members of Parliament know very little about the tactics of war, in the air. on the land, or on the sea. Therefore, the matter should be left to experts appointed to do this job. In regard to future sittings of the Parliament, I hope that matters of a highly technical and intricate nature will be discussed behind closed doors. I should choose to make my criticism in such circumstances, because I do not believe in helping the enemy by informing him of the ideas I hold on the war situation. I should prefer the Parliament to meet once a fortnight, were it not for the inconvenience that would he caused to members from distant States. We should then be kept closely in touch with all that is happening.
.- I support the motion. The House should congratulate the Government upon having agreed to meet more regularly in view of the existing circumstances, which make it impossible to judge what may happen from day to day.
The Government should take cognizance of press statements yesterday and to-day in regard to the attitude that is being adopted by Hi3 Honour Judge Drake-Brockman. As batman No. 1 to the Minister for Labour and National Service (Mr. Ward), I convened a conference when trouble was pending in the coal-mining industry. His Honour, il would appear, does not intend to continue to “play ball” any longer; he ha? refused to give a decision in a certain hours question.
-Order ! The honorable member must associate his remarks with the motion before the House.
– Previous speakers have dealt, with all manner of subjects. The matter that I wish to raise concerns trouble that will eventuate next Monday if the Government does not act quickly; eight of the largest collieries in Australia will then be idle. Yet you, sir, refuse to allow me to proceed ! I am trying to inform the Parliament of the facts, in order that it may decide whether or not His Honour has acted rightly. If
I am permitted to proceed-
– The honorable member is not.
– Then I shall see that no honorable member who follows me is permitted to discuss any matter that is outside the motion. If necessary, I am prepared to go to the length of incurring suspension from the sitting of the House in order to achieve that object. I have sat in my place patiently listening to other honorable members. The honorable member for Wentworth (Mr. Harrison) at no stage of his speech discussed the motion before the House. The opportunity is here presented to ventilate a matter that affects the welfare of the nation. We are approaching a crisis, and no petty standing order should prevent me from placing the matter before Parliament. There will not be another opportunity to do so until the 25th March next.
– The honorable member will have an opportunity on the motion for the adjournment of the House later to-day.
– How many members will then be in attendance? They will be running to catch the train to Sydney. This treatment of me is grossly unfair. I have submitted three reports in regard to coal production, and I have not had an opportunity to discuss one of them in this House, simply because the House does not meet regularly enough. I have not been in my home for six hours during the last five weeks because of the attempts that I have been making to settle trouble on the coal-fields. The matter that I wish to discuss is of vital importance. I warn the Government and the country that unless action be taken immediately there will be a big upheaval. There is no power on earth that can prevent it. Do you, sir, rule that I may not discuss the matter?
– The honorable member is entitled to make a reference to any subject that has a bearing upon the question of when and how often Parliament should meet, but he must not discuss in detail the merits of any subject which is outside the ambit of the motion.
– Then I shall resume my seat.
– I am pleased that the Prime Minister (Mr. Curtin) intends to call Parliament together again on the 25th of this month. I believe that if the Government and its supporters were to organize our war activities and formulate the necessary machinery to give effect to our determination to resist the enemy, Parliament need not meet so frequently. I consider that, in a time of war and crisis, the Parliament in a democracy is not the effective instrument that it is in peace-time. There must be a strong Executive, hindered as little as possible by the sprags which Parliament very often applies. But I am, at the present time, in favour of frequent meetings of Parliament because of the lack of any other machinery for dealing with the situation. I would say to the Prime Minister and the country that, despite the fact that we have been at war with Japan for three months, that Australian soil has been ravished by the enemy, and that we are in imminent peril, no forward move has been made in the direction of obtaining co-operation from this side of the House.
– The honorable member gave a splendid exhibition of co-operation yesterday and to-day !
– I propose to refer specifically to the activities of the Advisory War Council, which is at present the only medium of co-operation between the Opposition and the Government. What advantage has been taken of the existence of this body since Japan entered the war? Those matters which are of the greatest moment are never referred to the War Council.
– How does the honorable member know that?
– The Prime Minister himself stated, in relation to a very important matter, which I cannot name for the moment, that it had not been referred to the War Council. Regulation 76, for example, was not referred to the council.
– Order ! This debate is assuming a party aspect.
– It is a no-confidence debate.
– I ask honorable members to confine their remarks strictly to the motion, which refers to the date for the assembling of Parliament.
– I submit that I am in order, because I am referring to methods that might be adopted to obviate more frequent sittings of Parliament. Honorable members on this side of the House desire to co-operate with whatever Executive is in office. However, our cooperation has not been sought, and, that being so, frequent meetings of Parliament are the only substitute. When Parliament does meet, it is incumbent upon the Prime Minister and the Government to see that the time of Parliament is not unduly wasted.
– Hear, hear !
– I remind the Prime Minister that, since the 20th February, when there was a secret meeting of members of Parliament, the House has sat on four days out of fifteen. Members from distant constituencies in Western Australia, Tasmania and Queensland have had to dangle about Canberra, or somewhere nearby, in order to attend the sittings on those four days out of fifteen. If that is not a waste of national energy, I do not. know what is.
– I understand that many honorable members who remained here are on committees, and have been engaged very actively in concluding their reports. The honorable member ought to state all the facts to the public.
– There is no reason why we should conform to a 44-hour week, or should hold sittings on certain days only. Parliament might just as well continue to sit on Saturday, if necessary, rather than that every one should rush off to catch the 4.15 p.m. train on Friday afternoon. In fairness to those who represent distant constituencies, Parliament should, when called together, continue to sit until it has finished the job for which it was summoned. I should like now to refer to one other matter which was touched upon in the course of this debate.
– The honorable member must not proceed any further along those lines.
– I do not intend to do so, but I must protest against your action in giving licence to one side of the House and denying it to the other.
.- While I was listening with great attention to the honorable member for Wentworth (Mr. Harrison) addressing himself to this question,I concluded that this was an opportunity to air one’s views on any subject regarding which one had a grievance. I have not been so sure of that since hearing the honorable member for Eden-Monaro (Mr. Perkins), and after noting with some regret the difficult passage of the honorable member for Hunter (Mr. James). However, I am speaking now conscious of the fact that, as a kind of vicarious discipline, you would insist upon future speakers keepingmore rigidly to the point than did those who have already spoken. I remember on previous occasions speaking to motions similar to this one. I have spoken to them while I was a member of the Opposition, a position I have occupied more often than the one in which I now find myself. On those occasions, I said that Parliament should meet regularly, and that especially it should meet in times of crisis. I repeat that it is due to every elector of the Parliament of Australia that he should feel that his representative is in consultation with his fellow members and with members of the Government. I am firmly of opinion that the Government should be carried on from the Capital City of Australia. There is nothing which the Government can do, or which any Minister of the Crown can do, which cannot be done from Canberra. As I have said to Ministers of other governments, so I say to the Ministers of the present. Government, if they imagine that they are serving the national interest by interfering in matters of detailed administration which they can only imperfectly understand, they are in error, and are doing a grave disservice rather than a service to the people of Australia at this time of grave emergency. I think that this Government stands well in public estimation. I am not going to pursue that point, but a passing reference should not be out of order. If a plebiscite should be held, I believe that the Government would receive the endorsement of the people.
– Order !
– I am not threatening you in any way, Mr. Speaker.
– I ask the honorable member to discuss the subject before the Chair. So far he has not touched it.
– I feel neither surprised nor hurt to hear your comment on my behaviour. What I wish to say - subject, of course, to your approval - is that one reason why Parliament should meet frequently is that, though the Government is the creation of Parliament, it has not yet received the endorsement of the people. I made that point more than once when the right honorable member for Kooyong (Mr. Menzies) was leader of the House before he had received the endorsement of the people. It is very important to remember that the Government has not yet received popular endorsement, though I think it enjoys public esteem. However, until it has been endorsed, Parliament, which created it, should be frequently called together for the purpose of public discussion. I heard with great interest the honorable member for Eden-Monaro say that this Government, which is a Labour government-
– Is it?
– Well, it was elected by a majority of that party. You may have noticed with regret, Mr. Speaker, that I am not a member of it, but that is by the way.I heard with interest the honorable member for Eden-Monaro say that this Labour Government had gone so far as to implement certain phases of Labour policy. That is a very serious charge, and I am glad that the honorable member called my attention to what the Government had done, because I had not previously noted it. It is all the more important that Parliament should be the sooner called together because, during the sitting yesterday, there was a large a mount of criticism, and active dissent, from this side of the House in respect of a measure then before the House. I did not have, owing to the rush of business, an opportunity to speak on that measure. I apprehend, after listening to the honorable member for Wentworth, that it would not be entirely out of place if I made that speech now.
– I assure the honorable member that he would not get far.
– It should be borne in mind, too, that the parties are not holding meetings, as they normally do. That is an additional reason why Parliament should meet more frequently.
– We held a meeting this morning, because we are not frightened to do so.
– If the Labour party met this morning all I can say is that I was not invited to attend. However, I do not think that it met. It is most desirable that the parties should hold meetings from time to time, because all such gatherings form part of that consultation, collaboration and active cooperation which should be the distinguishing features of action in these days. I shall not submit without protest to the theory that the Government can get along very nicely without Parliament, and without party meetings.. I do not agree with that view. The Government must meet Parliament; and it must have discussion. We owe that to the electorate. I do not expect Ministers to remain in the House during the whole of the proceedings. Admittedly they are working very hard. Occasionally they make declarations over the air; but those declarations should be made more frequently in Parliament, Ministers should also submit themselves to questioning, though I do not want them to be embarrassed in any way. Sometimes I have heard on the air matters that I should like to discuss in this chamber; and I regret to say that on occasions the public has been hectored and lectured by speakers. One responsible Minister intimated that he would not submit to argument upon certain phases of public affairs. In this Parliament it is the fate of every Ministry-
– Let Parliament decide, any minute, whom it wants to be the head of the Government, and I shall accept the situation.
– Surely the Prime Minister will acknowledge that Parliament may indulge in argument?
– There is a proper time to argue.
– The Government must admit that the persons who created Parliament, and governments, have the right to express their opinions; butI must not be put in a position of censuring or challenging the Prime Minister. I did not rise for that purpose. I am speaking for Parliament, the creation of the people and the instrument of democracy, which we are fighting so strenuously to maintain. If we drag the parliamentary institution into contempt, we cannot expect others to respect it.
I am not at all pleased to learn that, as the result of murmur ings and mutterings in the lobbies, the meeting of Parliament has been advanced by a fortnight. Why should we not meet to-morrow, if necessary, or next Wednesday as usual? If we assembled for a couple of hours, several days a week, honorable members would have an opportunity for consultation and collaboration which, I insist, are necessary for the proper functioning of Parliament. I am dissatisfied with the proposal to adjourn Parliament until the 25th March. I am not at all pleased with the fact that the date has been brought forward by a fortnight. The representative of an industrial democratic electorate under the direction of accredited Labour organizations in that constituency, I speak particularly as the spokesman of the Thornbury branch - a very advanced branch - of my electorate,which has directed me to protest against the fact that Parliament does not meet more frequently. Consequently, I appeal to the Government to see that Parliament is not neglected and that no attempt is made by Ministers to evade their responsibility to Parliament.
.- I protest against the intention to adjourn this afternoon until the 25th March. In my opinion, Parliament should remain in session until certain vital matters are completed. One matter of major importance to this country affects the second largest industry in Australia, namely, the wheat-growing industry. The Government should announce its policy for the conduct of that industry before the House goes into recess. I warn honorable members who have booked their passages on the 4.15 p.m. train that it will not be my fault if the Houses rises in time for them to lea ve the National Capital at that hour. I shall do my utmost to keep the House in session until the future of the wheat-growing industry has been discussed by the representatives of agricultural constituencies. On the motion for the adjournment of the House this afternoon I shall certainly take the opportunity to discuss this important subject. Time is of the essence of the contract. In some wheat-growing districts, farmers are already sowing their crops, so that it is imperative that a decision be reached within the next few days.
– It will be reached.
– The problem has been toyed with for a long while. The Minister has made four different decisions in the last three weeks, and the honorable member for Wimmera (Mr. Wilson) has made the fifth. There are many honorable members whose knowledge of the wheat-growing industry is equal to that of the honorable member for Wimmera.
– Order !
– I emphasize that the House should be kept in session until the Government announces its policy for the future of the industry.
– Has not the honorable member reserved a berth on the train that leaves Canberra this evening?
– I have seen the list; the honorable member’s name appeared on it.
– It does not.
– But it does.
– I call the honorable member for Darling to order.
– I say that the honorable member is a stranger to the truth if he persists in making that charge against me. I have reserved a berth on the train which will leave Canberra on Sunday night, but I am prepared to remain here another month, if necessary, until the Government announces its policy for the wheat-growing industry.
It will not be my fault if the House rises before 4.15 p.m.
– in reply. - The usual practice, in regard to meetings of the House, is for the Government to indicate its desires to the Opposition, which then expresses its view upon the matter. No departure from that arrangement has been made, and all that I have done to-day has been to give effect to a discussion which I had with the Leader of the Opposition (Mr. Fadden). Incidentally, that discussion did not commence this morning. I took into account all the views that have been expressed by honorable members during this debate, and I knew that many members come from distant places. My problem was to decide whether it would be more sensible to meet a week before Easter, knowing that that meeting would either have to be carried on over the holidays, such as they are, involving dislocation of and disturbance to the arrangements of honorable gentlemen, or meet a week after Easter. After reviewing the matter, I considered that continuing the sitting without interruption, if that was the wish of the House, would be more practicable if we met a week after Easter. I indicated that view to the Opposition, which declared that it preferred to meet earlier; and as this Government has never had any hesitation in meeting Parliament, I immediately acceded to that wish. Yet it has taken an hour and twenty minutes, during which honorable gentlement have indulged in a tirade of criticism upon the general administration of the Government, to decide this simple matter. To the House and to the country I say clearly and distinctly that the ordinary opportunities which Parliament requires for the examination of all the administrative acts of governments in times of difficulty must be taken into account, having regard to the major duty that confronts the country. It is silly for any honorable member to assume that the normal functioning of Parliament, the normal functioning of government, or the normal consultation which is incidental to the proper democratic examination of governmental proposals, is at all feasible at this particular period in our history. I humbugneither myself nor the country by presuming to carry on in a normal way either in this Parliament, in the Cabinet room, or elsewhere.
– In other words, the Prime Minister says he cannot make the democratic system work now.
– I do not say that. The honorable member for Barker wants to live either at the North Pole or at the South Pole. Neither of those regions is habitable. The honorable member goes from one extreme to the other.
The honorable member for Wentworth (Mr. Harrison) referred to instructions alleged to have been given to the Australian Broadcasting Commission and I informed him that I had not given them. I now have a communication addressed by the chairman of the Australian Broadcasting Commission to the present Postmaster-General (Senator Ashley), dated the 25th February, 1942. In that letter the chairman says -
No instruction has been given by the present Government to the commission that criticism of domestic and political policy or actions should be suppressed.
The communication also states that on the 21st September, 1939, the then Postmaster-General (Mr. Harrison) gave over the telephone instructions which included the following: “Commentaries must be free of criticism of government action or policy “, and “ Commentators were to make no reference over the air to the fact that restrictions were being imposed upon their freedom “. That is all I have to say in reply to the remarks of the honorable member for Wentworth. I have said on a previous occasion that broadcasting is a vexed problem whether one is in office or not in office. It appears to me that the honorable member was annoyed yesterday and to-day because he is not in office.
– Order !
– I say that just as an aside, but it is a reasonable comment on the demeanour which has been displayed. The Joint Committee on Broadcasting has been at work. The honorable member for Parkes (Sir Charles Marr) has said that the report will shortly be ready. I acknowledge that in any broadcasting system there is bound to be room for difference of opinion as to what is fair or unfair. Particularly when a great part of the service must relate to comment on facts, with views being thrust among news, difficulty inevitably arises. I have never had any illusion that it was easy to make impartial comment. I have been the editor of a newspaper, and I know how difficult is the problem of impartial comment, and that applies to the Australian Broadcasting Commission as well as to any other system of presenting news and views to the public. I accept the problem as one of acute difficulty. No matter how it will be solved, there will still be room for dispute. I believe that the report of the committee ought to be made available. In the meantime, insofar as instructions have been issued to the Commission, they have been given only for the purpose of ensuring that the utmost impartiality shall be preserved. I do not want to say anything more about the session “ Canberra Calling”, because, as honorable gentlemen know, that has been discontinued. The Australian Broadcasting Commission proceeds on a news basis now.
– But who gave the instructions that the commercial broadcasting stations were to broadcast the Australian Broadcasting Commission’s news sessions?
– Nobody. I was not in a position to answer that question last night. Nobody gave such an instruction. The Commercial Broadcasting Federation requested the opportunity to share in the services. I remind myself, if I may, in parenthesis, that at the conference of newspaper editors and representatives of the Australian Broadcasting Commission and commercial broadcasting stations, which sat in this chamber for a whole clay under my presidency for the purpose of arriving at some arrangement in respect of censorship, broadcasting and news services generally, utmost agreement was reached. The criticism of honorable gentlemen here last night was absurd when contrasted with all the very sober and responsible views of the editors of the great journals in Australia. Censorship has been fairly and properly treated.
Coming now to other criticisms, the very next item on the notice-paper, in fact the business for to-day, relates to the very subject raised by the honorable member for Dalley (Mr. Rosevear).
– It does not.
– Why not?
– There is no opportunity in that to deal with Australian defence provisions. It is a debate on international affairs, not Australian defences.
– I think that it will afford the opportunity which the honorable member desires. However, yesterday I hoped that the debate on the Loan Bill would not take nearly the time it took, in view of the fact that there was no opposition to the measure. Parliament met recently and sat two full days in what is called a secret session. The utmost information available to the Government was placed before honorable gentlemen. To responsible members of this Parliament, I, as the head of a responsible government, say that I recognize the position of this Parliament. It is one of great difficulty. I recognized it as Leader of the Opposition. I endeavoured then to make this Parliament workable. I did my best to help the government of the day to carry on the functions of government. I felt that on the Leader of the Opposition devolved tremendous responsibilities, having regard to the circumstances, to ensure that this democratic system would at least manifest its capacity for sobriety and quick decisions to enable things which have to be done, whether by legislation or by executive action, to be done promptly. I remind myself of that long and difficult period. Now, I find myself here as head of the Government, and I say, as I interjected, without any personal reference to the honorable member for Batman (Mr. Brennan), that I accept this trusteeship which has come to me. I shall discharge it with all I have, because I know that thousands of my fellow citizens are giving their all in the most terrible and dangerous of all encounters. And honorable gentlemen opposite are not going to sit there pinpricking me, gibing at me from point to point and place to place, putting merely grit in my shoe so that the discomfort rather than the length- of the road snail be the thing which will destroy the Government and therefore the
Parliament and the country, because this Government is the only practicable government at the moment to carry on the administration of Australia and conduct thewar. I accept that responsibility and all it involves, but I say to the Opposition members that I am always ready to listen to reasonable, well-stated andshortly-stated criticism germane to the point. Furthermore, I am ready to take that criticism well into account and reflect it in the decisions of the Government. In any matter on which there is room for argument andwhich can be resolved by consultation, the Leader of the Opposition knows I am ready to meet him in theway that, as Leader of the Opposition, I was ever ready to meet the heads ofpreviousgovernments. If a committeewill best meet a particular problem, I am ready to set up that committee. So that the Government shall be answerable to the Parliament, I am ready to be answerable to the decisions of Parliament, but I shall not be amenable to controversy, muck-raking debates, fault-finding and mere holding up of decisions. The Government will make somewrong decisions, because sometimes it works hastily. It will come to findings the best in the circumstances, but probably, not as good as theywould be if we had longer time at our disposal. This Government stands here. It can be put outwhenever honorable members like, but while it is here it will govern.
Question resolved in the affirmative.
– In view of the grave peril inwhich Australia finds itself owing, in some degree, to the acute shipping shortage, which is aggravated by the failure to expedite the handling of cargo, will the Prime Minister do everything he possibly ran to overcome the bottleneckwhich exists in some Australian ports to-day? With the indulgence of honorable members, I shall cite a few instances of delays.
– Only if they are brief.
– They will make what I have said more understandable. I shall give the details to the Prime Minister. It appears that during last week and this week or two the Woniora, which normally requires four gangs, had only two gangs available to it and had to sail short of approximately 25 per cent. of its outward cargo. For the Lutana, which normally requires four gangs, only one gangwas available, although the vesselwas loaded partly with perishable cargo. The Lanena requires four gangs, but could get only one. This vessel was loaded largelywith commodities urgently required for defence purposes. The Wannon received only two gangs. The Wareatea required three gangs, but no labourwas offering.
– Order !
– I am aware that there have been delays. Some of the instances cited by the honorable member have been brought to my notice. Some of them may not have been. But I know sufficient about the matter in general to be able to say that action has been taken to deal with it. Some of the delays have been attributable to reasons which I shall give to the honorable member outside the chamber. Others have been owing to the fact that labour has been urgently required for other shipping requirements. The Maritime Council has been engaged on overcoming these difficulties, and I must say that Ave are indebted to Mr. Healy, the secretary of the Waterside Workers Federation, Sir Thomas Gordon and Sir Owen Dixon for the able help that they are rendering to the Government in overcoming this problem. I can see more daylight ahead.
Mr.CONELAN. - I understand that at a cost of £300,000 army ordnance stores are to be erected at Wodonga.I ask the Minister for the Army whether he does not think that this proposed building should have been made the matter of a reference to the Public Works Committee; alternatively, if the need is urgent, could not requirements have been met by erecting temporary buildings in series instead of such a costly permanent structure ?
– Honorable members will realize that, in view of the grave emergency which is upon us, it is necessary to proceed immediately withwhat are considered to be urgent public works. That renders it inadvisable to submit to the Public Works Committee many works which would otherwise be referred to it. Having due regard to those circumstances, I shall take into consideration the matter raised by the honorable member.
– The Minister for the Army recently announced that an army labour corps was to be called into being. The Australian Broadcasting Commission announced that the call-out would involve men to the age of 65 years, whereas the press gave the age as 60 years. Owing to the confusion which exists, will the Minister announce the agelimits, the purpose of the proposed labour corps the rates of pay, and so on?
– I made no statement whatever about a labour corps, and what i he press published and the Australian I! road cas ting Commission announced must be mere speculation.
– I direct the attention of the Minister for the Army to a recent statement, attributed to Mr. Sutherland, the general secretary of the Federated Engine Drivers and Firemen’s Association, that it was necessary to create industrial troubles in order to secure the prompt hearing of claims by the Arbitration Court. Is that the view of the Government? If not, will steps be taken to correct any wrong impression. This is necessary owing to the great importance of maintaining industrial production in Australia at its highest point.
– I have not seen a statement by Mr. Sutherland to that effect. The policy of the Government is conciliation and arbitration, and it will not be varied.
Deposits bt Holiday-makers - Neon Light Signs.
– Will the AttorneyGeneral indicate to me the present position regarding the return of deposits for accommodation made by intending holiday-makers at Christmas time? Is it intended to give protection under the
National Security Act to persons whose predicament was created by the Government’s action in cancelling holidays at that period?
– A statement was made on that subject by my colleague the Minister for Labour and National Service, after the Government had been asked to pass national security regulations to provide that deposits and payments in respect of holiday accommodation should be refundable after the holiday regulations were issued, and that was done. Later, regulations were also issued which imposed lighting restrictions which in turn interfered with the performance of a number of contracts in relation to Neon lighting. ‘ It was subsequently represented to the Government that relief should ‘be given in respect of these and other contracts. The Government was of the opinion that it would be wrong to pass regulation after regulation to deal with these contracts piecemeal. Regulations were therefore passed dealing comprehensively with the whole subject of interference with the performance of contracts by reason of the operation of national security regulations. It is competent for any person to apply for relief respecting the payment of deposits, and the like, in relation to contracts which have not been performed through the operation of national security regulations. That applies also to refunds of deposits for holiday accommodation.
– Is it not a fact that at present a person who sent a deposit from Sydney to Melbourne in respect of holiday accommodation would need to go to Melbourne to sue for the return of the money ?
– In ordinary cases, the return of the deposit, or of a portion of it, would be made by agreement.
– But what about when the request is refused, as many have been ?
– In such cases, the matter may be taken to court. The wellrecognized principle in such matters is that the person who sues shall take action in a court of the district of residence of the person from whom the money is demanded. That principle has been followed in the regulations. I do not think that in ordinary cases there should be great difficulty in the parties concerned making an amicable arrangement without having to go to court.
– I desire to ask certain questions of the Minister for the Army-
– I rise to. a point of order. I wish to know what principle guides you, Mr. Speaker, in making calls from the Chair. I have risen twenty times to ask a question, and the honorable member for Richmond (Mr. Anthony) also has risen several times. Neither of us has received a call. Yet I have noticed that some honorable gentlemen who have risen only once have been called. I am not personally upset about it. but I should like to know the principle upon which you make the calls.
– Both the honorable member for Eden-Monaro (Mr. Perkins) and the honorable member for Richmond f Mr. Anthony) have been called from the Chair to-day.
– I have not been called to ask a question.
– Nor have I.
– The honorable gentlemen have both been called, and have made speeches.
– That is quite a different thing.
– The honorable member for Forrest may proceed.
– I desire some information about enemy action against Western Australia, but any reply to questions, to be of value, would need to be given in secret. I therefore wish to know whether the Government will arrange for a secret meeting of senators and members some time later in the day in order that information may be given about the Government’s intentions respecting the defence of parts of the coast of Western Australia ?
– The honorable member will recollect that a secret meeting of senators and members was held last week.
– A. great deal has happened since then.
– If the honorable member for Forrest will interview me in my room at the conclusion of questions, I shall be glad to give him any information to which he is entitled regarding the defence of Western Australia.
– Has the Minister for Munitions noticed the criticism in the last annual report of the Auditor-General of the unsatisfactory state of the records concerning assets acquired by the Government as the result of expenditure on munitions annexes? Will the honorable gentleman investigate the subject in view of the eminent desirability, owing to the large amount of money involved, of having the records maintained in proper order?
– I have not yet seen the report of the Auditor-General, but 1 assure the honorable member that proper steps are being taken to ensure the safety of Commonwealth assets in premises acquired for munition purposes. Proper security is being obtained in all cases.
Mechanical Cutting and Loading Dispute - Production in Queensland.
– Will the Minister for Labour and National Service inform me whether trouble is likely on the coal-fields due to the introduction of a new coalcutting and mechanical loading device for work in connexion with the afternoon shift at the Richmond Main collieries? The reason given for the introduction of the machinery is that it would speed up production, by 150 to 200 tons, to 2,400 tons a day. Is the Minister aware that under the old method, with the use of the existing coal-cutting and puncher machinery, the output was as high as 3,000 tons a day? With the object of maintaining harmony in the industry, will the Minister consider providing for either the nationalization of the industry or the issue of regulations forbidding the introduction of the now machinery, seeing that it will lessen and not increase production, particularly if the men refuse to work.
– I have just received the report of the honorable member for Hunter (Mr. James) on this subject, but have not yet had an opportunity to examine it thoroughly. However, I know that it indicates that trouble is likely at the colliery unless prompt action be taken by the Government, The matter is now receiving attention. The nationalization of the coal-mining industry is obviously a matter for decision by the Government as a whole and not for any individual Minister. The suggestion that regulations should be issued at once to obviate the possibility of any trouble will receive my immediate attention.
– On several occasions I have asked the Minister for Supply and Development to inquire what could be done to speed up the production and utilization of coal in Queensland. The honorable gentleman undertook to examine the matter, in order to see whether further supplies of coal could be obtained in the State. Has he been able to make this inquiry? Can he say how much more coal is now being produced, and how many more men are now being employed in the industry, which is in a languishing condition?
– The previous Administration established a Coal Commission, and imposed upon it the duty ofkeeping constantly under notice the need for greater production of coal. The commissioner has devoted some attention to the Queensland coal deposits. When a question on the subject was asked recently, I stated that the matter had been discussed at the Premiers Conference, and at a conference between representatives of the Government and the miners, and that it was constantly under the notice of the Commissioner of New South Wales Railways. Every conceivable means has been adopted for the greater utilization of Queensland coal. The problem is one of transport. Coal can be brought to the surface, but cannot be transported from the place at which it is mined, because the Navy is constantly requisitioning vessels for mine-sweeping purposes. I should like the honorable member to believe that coal production is regarded as so important that the Coal Commissioner, to whom every credit must be given, is constantly on the job.
– Not one additional ounce has been sold.
– It is not possible to carry the statistics in my head. In order that the honorable member’s mind may be relieved, I shall ask the Commissioner to prepare a special report setting out the additional uses to which Queensland coal has been put since the present Government took office.
– Will the Treasurer give consideration to the introduction of an amendment to the National Security Regulations relating to war damage insurance, with the object of ensuring a proper proportion of insurance as between mortgagors and mortgagees?
– I shall be glad to discuss the matter with the honorable member.
Minors: Inadequate Training; Power of Attorney - Defaulting Universal Trainees
– Recently the Minister for the Army stated that nu Australian youth would be sent to a battle station without proper training. I hav, had the details put before me of the case of a lad who was in camp for only six weeks and who had had only two days on a rifle range, being included in the Darwin detail. I therefore ask the Minister for the Army whether he made his statement merely to allay the anxieties of honorable members, or whether, when he made it, he also issued an order to the military authorities to that effect? If such an instruction was issued, is the Minister’s order being disobeyed by some of his underlings?
– The House was noi sitting at the time this matter was brought to my notice by several honorable members who intimated that young men with very little training had been sent to tropical stations. I then gave a definite order that no young man under twenty years of age, without adequate training, was to go to a tropical station.
– Then the Minister’s orders have been disobeyed.
– That instruction was issued to all commands. It is quite possible that the case to which the honorable member has referred is that of a man who was sent away before the instruction was issued.
– That is not so.
– I shall be glad if the honorable member will give me particulars of the case. I shall have it investigated.
– I askthe AttorneyGeneral whether he will take steps to provide that power of attorney executed by soldiers under 21 years of age shall be given legal effect? In many cases power of attorney given by youngsoldiers are not legal because they were under age when the power was given. Unless prompt steps be taken in the matter the young men concerned may suffer serious financial loss.
– I shall look into the matter, in order to clear up any difficulties. I believe that it is already receiving the attention of my department.
– Will the Minister for the Army direct hisofficers to investigate further before arresting universal trainees who have not responded to the call-out at the particular time desired by the officer in charge of the camp? If the M inister makes inquiries he may find that it is not necessary to order the peremptory arrest of some of the man for whom the military authorities are looking, because they are engaged in the munitions industry.
– I shall take into consideration the suggestion made by the honorable member, hut he will realize that when the reserves are called out, every one in the group concerned is expectedto respond and obey the law of the country. There were previously young men who were in occupations that were not reserved. Since having been in camp,they have gone into war work, hut havenot advised the man-power officers. Sometimes, they are called out for service. It has happened that they havebeen put into camp and then, because of the nature of theirwork, given exemption. I have found, on investigating cases submitted to me, that frequently the Army authorities are not at fault.The trouble has occurred in consequence of men failing to advise the Army authorities of changes in their occupations.
– Last week, the Prime Minister promised to take up with the Minister for Aircraft, Production the matter of the impartial inquiry that was promised in connexion with allegations made by employees of the aircraft works, Lidcombe. This morning, I received the following letter from the Minister for Aircraft Production : -
The Prime Minister has drawn to my attention your inquiry as to whetherhe had considered the report of the Leader of the Opposition on the Aircraft Engine Factory, Lidcombe, and when the impartial inquiry by me would be set up to investigate certain charges which had been made against the management. As you are aware, the Advisory War Council appointed Mr. Fadden to make this inquiry andhis reporthasbeen presented to the Government.
As pointed out by the Prime Minister, however, this report is confidential and it isnot proposed to table it in the House.
I was given clearly to understand that this inquiry-
– Order! The honorable member must not makea lengthy statement.
– I wish to know whether the inquiry and reportmade by Mr. Fadden is the impartial inquiry that was promised to the workers in the industry. The workerswere given to understand-
– Is a further inquiry proposed ? Will an impartial inquiry by some independent person be ordered or, failing that, will a joint committee of honorable members be appointed to inquire into and report upon the conditions that exist in the whole of the industries that are engaged in aircraft production? Has the agreement relating to this industrybeen executed’? If so, when will it he tabled?
– I shall bring the honorable member’s question to the notice of the Prime Minister.
– I direct : theattention of honorable members to the practice of making statements when asking questions. It is permissible for an honorable member to make a short statement in order to base or explaina question, but such statements must be terse, and should not contain argument. I hope that, in future, honorable members will make more concise any statement that is considered to he a necessary preliminary to a question.
Treatment - Allotment Money
– I have received in a letter from a prominent citizen of Brisbane a press cutting which states that members of the Royal Australian Air Force in England have been treated as aliens. The statement has been checked by a press reporter, who vouches for its accuracy. Will the Minister for Air have the matter investigated!, in order to prevent the publication of such reports if they be not true, and have the conditions altered if the position be found to be as stated?
– I shall have the necessary inquiries made, with a view to a remedy being provided.
– Will the Minister for Air arrange with the British Government for the payment in Australia of allotment money due to the wives and dependants of those Australians who last year were recruited in this country by the Royal Australian Air Force for administrative work with the Royal Air Force overseas? Those who left Australia in the early stages were informed that they would have to make their own arrangements for the remittance of money to their families, but shortly afterwards arrangements were made between the two Governments for payments to be made locally; this has not been given retrospective effect. I know of one woman who has not received any money for three or four months.
– The honorable member was good enough to give me some indication! of the nature of the question he proposed to ask. Whatever arrangements were made dated from a period during; last year prior to the present Government assuming office; consequently, I am unaware as to whetheror not they have application to men who were enlisted in the early stages. I believe that they should apply to all; but if men are sent to countries in which it is difficult to arrange for payment in Australia, I do not know how that can be accomplished. I shall have inquiries made, however, with a view to providing a remedy which will enable all to be placed on the one basis, if possible.
– Has the attention of the Minister for Labour and National Service been directed to the increasingly serious position in the country districts in relation to the supply of man-power in the primary industries, owing’ in the first place to country enlistments, in the second place to call-ups for the Militia, and in the third place to the superior attractions offered by the munitions establishments in the cities? Will the honorable gentleman confer with the Minister for Commerce, in order that he may acquaint himself of the necessity for maintaining, in the national interest, food production in particular, and various other phases of primary production, with a view to ensuring that proper consideration shall be given to the man-power requirements of these industries?
– The whole subject of man-power and its use is being given the earnest consideration of the Government. I shall be happy to confer with my colleague, the Minister for Commerce, in regard to the particular phases mentioned by the honorable member, in order to see what relief may be given.
– Will the Minister for the Army inform me whether the Government intends at an early date to exercise control, for the remaining period of the war, over the liquorindustries and gambling, which are seriously hampering our war effort in certain ways?
– That matter is receiving the urgent attention of the Government.
– Has the Department of the Attorney-General considered whether gambling on races in which horses and dogs are engaged is inimical to the war effort? If so, does the honorable gentleman intend to deal with the matter legislatively? If he does, will he consider the advisability of placing gambling on the stock exchange on the same basis as gambling at “ the dogs “ and at horse race meetings?
– I do not think that my department has given this matter special attention. In fact, I doubt whether it is especially a matter for the department. I am sure, however, that the honorable member’s remarks will be noted, and that appropriate action will be taken at the proper time.
Sitting suspended from 12.47 to1.45 p.m.
Debate resumed from the 25th February (vide page 65), on motion by Dr. Evatt -
That the following paper be printed: - “ International Affairs - Ministerial Statement, 25th February. 1942”.
– The statement made by the Minister for External Affairs (Dr. Evatt) a few days ago dealt fairly comprehensively with Australia’s position in international affairs. He discussed the need for more effective co-ordination of our efforts with those of the United States of America, and the position of Sir Earle Page as a member of the British War Cabinet and of the Pacific Council, and he said that, unless we recognized the value of man-power our victory might he delayed. He pointed out that, in the final analysis, we can win only by taking offensive action, and by the proper co-ordination of the High Commands. With most of what the honorable gentleman said I am in agreement, hut there are matters of great importance to the people of this country which he did not touch upon at all. One of these is the growing tendency in Australia, largely as the result of ministerial statements, which have been published and broadcast, to harbour distrust of the most valued of our allies. Unless that tendency be scotched, the country will be divided at a time when unity is more essential than ever before. While the Minister paid a tribute to the efforts of Russia - and they are very gallant - and to the support given by the United States of America, there is not one word of tribute to the people of Great Britain for the part they have played in the war up to the present.
– That has been done repeatedly by the Prime Minister (Mr.
Curtin) and other Ministers. The honorable member is the only person who has raised a doubt.
– I direct attention to the fact that, throughout the whole of Australia, there is a widespread disposition to blame England for the position we are in. The Minister may shake his head, but I have travelled up ond down the country, and have been gravely concerned to note the growing suspicion with which the English war effort is being viewed, and I have had to listen to the comments which havebeen made regarding the help which Britain should have given to us. I do not say that anything has been done deliberately to foster those feelings, but I do say that the effect of certain ministerial statements, and of discussions which have taken place in the press, has been to promote from one end of Australia to the other a carping criticism of the British.
– That is not in the statement.
– I say that the statement implies something of that, because, whereas it specifically mentions the help of Russia and the United States of America, there is not one word in it about Great Britain or about Mr. Churchill.
– The honorable member is trying to read something into the statement that is not there.
– I am merely trying, in a realistic fashion, to direct attention to what is occurring in Australia to-day. I am not indulging in mere speculation. Every honorable member must know that there is a good deal of feeling on this point throughout Australia at the present time, and it is the duty of the Government to unite the people, to recognize and proclaim that our survival up to the present is due to the gallant fight put up by the people of Great Britain from June, 1940, when France collapsed, until July, 1941, when Russia came into the war. During the whole of that time, the full brunt of the Axis attack was borne by Britain alone. It was stated by the honorable member for Warringah (Mr. Spender) this morning that instructions had been given to the censorship authorities that the name of Mr. Churchill was not to be publicly mentioned.
– That has been denied by the Prime Minister, and I am certain that the statementis false.
– It gives rise to grave doubts when we note that the Australian Broadcasting Commission has substituted the tune Advance Australia Fair for that of The British Grenadiers, which used to be played before the broadcasting of the news session. I am not concerned with the merits of the two tunes, but the substitution of one for the other at the moment when all this feeling exists gives colour to the suspicion that there is more in this than mere coincidence. In making this protest, I am not voicing my own views only; I am expressing the opinions of tens of thousands of people throughout Australia. The press is full of letters protesting against what is going on, and I have received letters from remote parts of my constituency asking whether it does not appear that a deliberate effort is being made to foster bad feeling between Australia and Great Britain.
– Not only is no such effort being made, but the honorable member’s suggestion is calculated to do the harm of whichhe speaks.
-The honorable member’s remark is in line with his interjection when the honorable member for Wentworth (Mr. Harrison) was speaking this morning. When an honorable member on this side of the House draws attention to something of which every body is speaking outside the House, he is immediately charged with spreading gossip. The fact is that, when we speak of these things, we are properly ventilating in this Parliament something which is already the subject of public discussion outside. I hope that the Government will not treat rhis matter lightly, because it can have very serious repercussions. We know that the fall of France was due largely to the divisions and disunity created in that country by the enemy, and to the mistrust of their allies which was so carefully fostered in the minds of Frenchmen. We can recall the propaganda of the Germans in1 940 that the English were prepared to fight to the last Frenchman, and so on. The Government should combat the suspicion which appears to be growing in the minds of some of our own people, that we ought to cut the painter, that England has let us down, that we have not had a fair deal, that we sent our boys away to fight in the deserts and in foreign lands when they ought to be here in Australia, that the Air Force was not what it ought to have been, and so on. That sort, of talk is widespread, and it has not been generated of itself. It has come from some source. It could not have sprung suddenly into being all over Australia without having some source of inspiration. I am not charging the Government with being responsible for it; that is the last thing I want to do.
– Then why talk about it?
– Because it is better to have these things spoken of openly in the House than to have them whispered from mouth to mouth. It is the duty of this Government, a Government which functions under the British flag, to counter talk of this kind in the interests of Australia and of the Allies. The enemy is seeking to divide us. He has been successful in his efforts in this direction in other countries ; let him not succeed here. Upon the Government rests the responsibility to do what is necessary to stop the spread of this feeling.
– The Government is not responsible for every rumour.
– The Government is responsible for public morale, especially at a time when the enemy is at the gates. At this time, more than any other, we should keep our morale high. I charge the Government with having broadcast statements which have had the effect of infusing fear into the minds of the people, and of giving the enemy a wrong impression of the psychological state of the people at this time. I could easily give particulars of ministerial statements which were calculated to fill the people with fear, to lower their morale, and to inspire the enemy more than ourselves. What we need now is inspiration. We need courage, and the will to fight. We need to foster in the people a determination to resist the enemy. I believe that that will has been largely sapped by statements issued by responsible Ministers, both Commonwealth and State. In my electorate, police officers have made arrangements to slaughter cattle, evacuate stock and bum homesteads so that nothing of value will fall into the hands of an invader. Such preparations strike fear in the hearts of many people who, in the event of an attack, would become refugees and throng the roads. What could the visit of peace officers organized for this purpose create other than feelings of the utmost disquiet, thereby sapping the will to resist? The Government has not inspired people to resist.
– We lack the Churchill spirit.
– Yes. Australians could resist the invader. If all our resources be mobilized, we are strong enough physically to do so. We also possess spiritual strength, which is even more important in putting up a stout, successful fight. But we must have the will to resist as well as the physical means to do so. Unless the Government gives the necessary inspiration to people, we are already half beaten. The Government can do much to strengthen our defences instead of calling upon Great Britain, Russia or the United States of America to come to our aid, though they will do so when they can. At present, their means and the transport facilities available to them are limited. In any case, when a call for aid is sent, it should not be broadcast to every part of the world. It should be made through the ordinary channels of government. The negotiations should take place between government and government, and Tokyo and Berlin should not be informed of our plight. Our first job before we ask other people to help us is to ensure that Australia has reached the -maximum state of efficiency by organizing the whole of our resources. Much remains to be done in that respect. Three months have elapsed since Japan entered the war, thereby exposing Australia to grave peril, but though I have brought to the notice of the Government various important matters, I have seen very little headway. Undoubtedly some foundation work has been performed, but the simple things which could be done have been neglected. By “ simple things “, I mean the training of men in areas which may be the first to suffer attack. All men who live within 50 miles of the coast, from Cape York to Victoria, should be given some semblance of military training, even if it were only a few hours a day.
– Is not that being done ?
– Only a handful of men have been trained. The Government is responsible for making our defences as effective and efficient as our resources permit. Undoubtedly, we have every right to appeal to Great Britain and the United States of America for assistance. That right has been consolidated for us because we willingly sent our troops to operational theatres abroad, such as Libya, Syria, Malaya and Singapore. Our men were hardened in distant countries to make war agains the enemy. We have demonstrated that we are worthy of being given assistance and we have established a credit which should entitle us to all possible aid. In asking the United States of America and Great Britain for help, we request nothing more than our deeds entitle us to expect. I” fully agree with that attitude, but I also believe that we should, to the utmost of our capacity, organize the 7,000,000 persons in Australia. They are few enough to face the armed legions of Japan, which has an infinitely greater population.
– The honorable member should not overlook the fact that 2,000,000 members of our population are babies.
– We are opposed by a country with a population of 70,000,000, including babies. At first glance, it seems that 7,000,000 persons must resist 70,000,000, but that would be a very pessimistic way of viewing the situation. We are not facing 70,000,000 Japanese. Hundreds of thousands of Japanese troops are stationed in Manchuria in order to hold the line against Russia. Hundreds of thousands of Japanese are fighting in China. Others are stationed in Indo-China, Thailand and Malaya. Consequently, Australia will face only the residue which has not been absorbed in other theatres of war. For that reason, we have every reason to hope that if we organize ourselves properly we can make an effective resistance. But during the three months that have elapsed since Japan entered the war, we have not succeeded in adequately organizing our man-power. A good deal of talk has been heard about the determination of the Government to carry on a vigorous war policy, but, beyond that, our efforts have not gone very far. To the Minister for External Affairs (Dr. Evatt) I suggest that there is a means of utilizing more of our manpower. Along the coast-line particularly, and perhaps in the inland districts, business places could remain open from S a.m. until noon. At present they remain open until 5 p.m. and 6 p.m., and I ti ring a considerable part of the day trade is slack. The business people could be compelled to concentrate their activities within prescribed hours, and the remainder of the day could be devoted to the physical and military training of the men, who would thus be released. That suggestion is practicable. If the enemy strikes at Australia, we should have these men not as a rabble but with some knowledge of military discipline and of soldiering in order to enable them effectively to handle their weapons in the defence of the Commonwealth.
– With what weapons would they train?
– If they trained with broomsticks, as the Germans did years ago, they would acquire a knowledge of military discipline and formation, and would be making themselves physically fit for battle. If an enemy should land in Australia, men who can endure great hardship for more than a few hours will be required to delay his progress until effective military assistance arrives Naturally, I do not suggest that these men should be our first line of defence; but o»r coast-line is so long that in the event of a surprise attack, the men on the spot will have to bear the brunt of the first assault. Instead of being compelled to throw up their hands and surrender, they could be equipped in order to resist. So that the best use may be made of our man-power, every man capable of bearing arms should be given status to enable him to claim that he constitutes a part of the Military Forces of the Commonwealth. If he were captured, he would not then be treated as a guerilla, liable to be executed out of hand. At various conferences which I have attended, great confusion of ininti has existed among many of the delegates as to the part that the civilian population should play in an invasion. They asked whether civilians should resist thu enemy or wait until the Army arrived. Suggestions were made that if the civil population resisted, the Japanese would exact heavy reprisals. Consequently, status is a very important matter for the Government to consider.
Another matter I desire to mention is the internment of enemy aliens in this country. Statements by Ministers have appeared in the press. I think that the Attorney-General (Dr. Evatt) will know that I have made representations, not only to him, but also to other Ministers from time to time, and that so far nothing has been done.
– What has the honorable gentleman in mind?
– The internment of enemy aliens and the call-up of aliens for national service.
– Internment is a matter for the Department of the Army. Aliens are being called up for service.
– I have that impression, but I simply raised the matter so that the policy of the Government might be restated by the AttorneyGeneral. I am repeatedly receiving petitions from all over the country - from branches of the Returned Sailors, Soldiers and Airmen’s Imperial League of Australia and all sorts of citizen organizations - asking that some action be taken.
– I understand that in Queeusland internment has taken place on a large scale.
– I raised the matter so that publicity might be given to the statement of the Minister and so that the minds of many people might be reassured.
I do not intend to labour other matters I have in mind. It is extremely difficult to say in open session everything that one would desire to say. If one refers even obliquely to matters which one has at heart, there is considerable danger of giving away information. I should much prefer a secret sitting in order to discuss some of the things which I want to discuss. The principal point I make is that, if we are to win the war, as I am confident we can and shall, it will not be by the efforts of any particular nation alone; it will not be by the efforts of Russia, Great Britain, the United States of America or Australia alone; it will be by the combined efforts of all. We, therefore, have to work in such a way that we shall first retain the goodwill of other nations and, at the same time, maintain, within the British Empire itself, the cohesion which has existed right through the years. I believe that the British Empire is still the mightiest force for good in this world and the mightiest force for maintaining the principles of liberty and democracy. Anything done to weaken the bonds that bind us to Britain and other units of the Empire is a disservice to the cause that we all have most at heart, and, therefore, I urge the Government in its various proclamations to be particularly careful about what it says. I am not alleging that the Government is deliberately trying to weaken those bonds - that is the farthest thing from my mind - but some of its actions have tended to create in many minds the impression that it is. I realize that the Government members are as loyal and patriotic, and have as much at stake as have honorable members of the Opposition. If we lose the war we shall lose it completely. It will not be lost by the United Australia party or by Labour or by even Australia alone. It will be lost by the democratic peoples as a whole. We, therefore, all have the same vital interests at stake. I sincerely hope that we shall face the future as a united people. Those who can best unite the people are their leaders at the moment of crisis. A duty, therefore, devolves upon the Government to see that we remain united.
– The paramount thing in these times is surely the maintenance of public morale. Any expression that is likely to impair the solidarity and morale of the people weakens the national effort for the protection and the security of this country. The debate of the last two days has introduced many elements which do not render to this country the service expected from the occupants of public positions. Any sug gestion that there is fundamental weakness in our attitude as a constituent member of the British Commonwealth or in our internal circumstances saps the strength that this country should be able to put forth in order to prevent trespass upon our soil. If ever there were a time when the Australian people needed unity that time is this moment, but I am afraid that some of the statements that have been made tend to destroy instead of create unity. The honorable member for Richmond’ (Mr. Anthony) has striven hard to fasten on to this Government a suggestion that it is not wholeheartedly in the war with Great Britain.
– The honorable gentleman may seek to excuse himself, as he certainly will, but I say that, in spite of all the protestations and all the expressions with which he concluded his speech, he was desperately trying to make out a case against the Government and charge it with having made statements which might in some way be interpreted as containing a sinister suggestion against the interests of the United Kingdom and its war effort. I say most emphatically to the honorable member for Wakefield (Mr. Duncan-Hughes), who shows an inclination to interject, and all other honorable gentlemen opposite that thi? Government will not place its loyalty second to theirs or that of any one else. We have from the moment we took control of the treasury bench been 100 per cent, sincere in both action and desire to assist the Mother Country in every way possible. Furthermore, in all the close associations and consultations that have taken place we have sought so to dispose ourselves as to co-ordinate and synchronize our war effort with the whole of the effort that the great British people are putting into this fight. The sinister, vague and veiled suggestions made by members of the Opposition that there are limits to the loyalty of this? Government to the British Commonwealth of Nations and, particularly, to the Homeland itself, the United Kingdom., I deprecate with all the strength of mind, soul and heart that I possess. So does every other member of the Government. Prominent in the minds of honorable gentlemen opposite is the wrong conviction that they have a royal prerogative to occupancy of the treasury bench. They are upset to-day because they have been deprived of the prestige, social and otherwise, that would have come to them if they had been able to continue in power. But they are in for a long spell in Opposition. The attitude that they now adopt will not strengthen the feelings of the people either towards them or cowards the cause that they espouse. Their attitude is in distinct contrast to that shown by the Labour party when it occupied the Opposition benches. The records of this House prove how helpful were members of the Labour party in their efforts when the parties opposite held office. By pursuing their present course honorable gentlemen opposite are rendering a distinct disservice to Australia. If Opposition members think that they have matters which should be brought to the notice of the Government they should choose another occasion and should adopt a different approach.
There is another important matter to which I shall refer. Whilst we recognize our fidelity and allegiance to the United Kingdom, and whilst we acknowledge our responsibility to cooperate with other members of the British Commonwealth of Nations in all that can be done for the defence of democracy, we should not be unmindfall of the assistance that has been given no us, and other assistance that is promised to us, by the great Englishspeaking people of the United States of America. We should take care that no words of ours cast any reflection upon the efforts that are being made by all of die united nations to improve our common defence and our general relations. Statements made in this House recently suggest that an effort has been made by the Government to oast some slights upon our relations with the people of Great’ Britain. I deny that this is so. We do not slight any people who are giving us such substantial help to improve our security. I deprecate the suggestions of honorable members opposite that our relations with the United Kingdom are not cordial; or that they are in any way adversely affected by our attitude towards the people of the great ifpublic ‘of the- United States of America.
We may have, and express, a warmhearted cordiality towards the people of the United States of America and, at the same time, emphasize our cordial relations with the United Kingdom. Surely it is not only possible, but proper, for us to express at the same time our strong desire for a good understanding with the peoples of both countries. By so deporting ourselves as to indicate our desire for the most cordial relations to continue between the people of Australia and those of the United Kingdom and the United States of America we shall be serving the best interests of our country in these days of national stress and emergency.
If the high standard set for this debate by the Minister for External Affairs (Dr. Evatt), when he made his statement to the House, with the realism that is* characteristic of him, had been continued by other honorable gentlemen who have participated in the debate, great good might have been done. As it is, certain unfortunate statements have been made during the debate, which may impair our national effort. As a member of the Government I deprecate, with all the emphasis at my command, the gibes that have been made by the Opposition concerning the allegedly cool attitude of this Government towards the Government of the United Kingdom. Such gibes cannot he substantiated. In every way possible we are associating ourselves with the efforts of the Government of the United Kingdom, and by the coordination of effort and services are giving every help that this country can give at this time to the total war effort. In that way we shall best prove ourselves to he worthy of membership in the British Commonwealth of Nations.
– Surely the Minister does not suggest that his statement represents the true view of the Opposition.
– An attempt has been made to show that the Government, by some specious means, is trying to weaken the ties that bind our people to the people of Great Britain. If that be the desire and design of certain honorable members opposite, their words have been both futile and unworthy. It is therefore just as well that we should unmask what must- seem to many people to be the true intention of such honorable gentlemen, namely, to try to gain some cheap political advantage for themselves and to discredit this Government so that they may regain occupancy of the treasury bench. They should remember that by discrediting this Government they discredit the nation and do a distinct disservice to it at this time of national emergency. I hope, therefore, that in the future honorable gentlemen opposite who discuss these subjects, will do so with greater caution and with at least some of the discipline of mind that is demanded in these days, so that they may do greater justice to the issues at stake and indicate more accurately the true relations of this country to the people of the other united nations.
.- Parliament, and the nation at large, will appreciate the clear statement made by the Minister for External Affairs (Dr. Evatt) on the course of events overseas, but members of the Parliament, and our people generally, regret both the gaps in his statement and some of its contents. One gap was the sparsity of comments on the disasters suffered by Australia at Malaya, Singapore and Rabaul. It will be realized, of course, that it might have been unwise for the Government to make much, comment on this subject. However, the Prime Minister (Mr. Curtin) said this morning that the Government welcomed fair and constructive criticism. I feel it my duty, in this connexion, to mention the criticisms, by the Minister for External Affairs of Great Britain and Mr. Churchill concerning which he has already himself suffered public criticism in the columns of the press. The Sydney Morning Herald pointed out that it was President Roosevelt and not Mr. Churchill who refused to agree to the location of the Pacific Council in “Washington. The charge made in the Sydney Morning Herald against the Minister should be answered. Parliament and the Commonwealth are entitled to have all the facts made public, especially as what has been said so far has done less than justice to the Government of the United Kingdom, and has been somewhat injurious to the cause of Empire unity.
We all know and admit that Britain has made mistakes, but so has the United
States of America, and so has the Australian Commonwealth. Britain, on quite understandable grounds, believed that Japan would not strike. So did the United States of America, and so did member.’ of this Parliament and Government. Britain underestimated the strength and swiftness of the Japanese attack. So did the United States of America, and so did the Australian Commonwealth. These criticisms of Great Britain, correct a.some of them are, should have been made, if they had to be made at all, in private government despatches and not in public. For this reason the public criticisms have been deeply resented in Australia. The people of this country appreciate their debt to Britain and to Mr. Churchill. They appreciate also that only Britain and Mr. Churchill saved the world at the time Prance fell. Most Australians also have the decency to realize that it ill-befits a country which has remained unscathed at home during, two years of war, to snap at those who have suffered as the British people have suffered. Such public criticism lessens our good name in Britain. The British have been a broad-minded people towards the outer Empire, but, at times, and even now, there are signs that some people in Great Britain realize that parts of the outer Empire are not only an asset, but also a liability. We, in Australia, after all, are quite a small, even if we are a vocal, people. We have a smaller population than Portugal, or Holland, 01 Belgium. We shall not be wise to offend those who for 150 years have protected us by forces which have cost Great Britain infinitely more per head of population than we have been prepared to spend on our own defence. The British people are now bearing world-wide obligations, and it ill-befits a people who have suffered less,, spent less, and done less, to criticize a people who have done so much.
Then again - and I speak with some definite knowledge - the criticisms by Australia of Great Britain greatly lower our prestige in the United States of America. The Minister for. Munitions (Mr. Makin) has completely missed the point of our submissions in this connexion. I have spent a very considerable nine in America, and I know that many Americans have a warm admiration for Great Britain, an admiration that has grown much deeper since Britain under Mr. Churchill saved civilization after Dunkirk. The Americans are a very realistic people; they judge by results. Their attitude has been summed up by the American paper which said that Australia, was worth helping because of Gallipoli, Libya, Greece and Crete. We arc now hoping that the Americans will help us. The gravest responsibility of this Government is to see that it maintains an Australian policy which will show that we are worthy of American help. When peace comes our status at the conference table will be decided not by what Australia did in order to save its own skin, but by what it did in order to save the human race. Having been in America several times, on the last occasion just before the outbreak of the war, I have seen quite a lot of American isolationism and the American isolationist press. I have had the rather sad advantage, from our point of view, of having heard persons like Hoover and Elliot speak. If we peruse the American isolationist press over the last few weeks, we shall find that certain statements made in this country have done a good deal to injure the cause of Australia and Britain, and to harm our good friend, President Roosevelt. Those who make such criticisms need not think for one moment that they will meet with the approval of the President of the United States of America. President Roosevelt is a warm admirer of both Britain and Mr. Churchill, and lie will not, be impressed by any Australian criticisms of Britain, but, I know, will regard them as simply helping to foul the Allied nest. Nor does it please Americans very greatly to know that Australians, who arc hoping that American conscripts will help on this side of the Pacific, are the very people who denied to other endangered nations the help of Australian conscripts. It does not please the Americans to know that there are in Australia people who hope to be helped by American conscripts, yet, had they had their way, would not have sent a single’ Australian soldier out of this country in order to help other nations. That is a matter which, I submit, should have tire very serious consideration of the Australian Government; and it should be considered before the hour arrives when, as we hope, Australia will be asked to join in an offensive in the Pacific.
Parliament should realize the great extent to which the enemy is using, for propaganda purposes, unwise criticism of Britain, in addition to the press information which is cabled abroad, the enemy’ can pick up every statement that is made” on the national broadcasting network, as well as the broadcasts of the commercial stations, which can be relayed by vessels at sea. Anything which denotes difficulties or differences within Australia is immediately picked up and broadcast to the world by Berlin, Tokyo and Rome. What is worse, special broadcasts of Australian news are directed by Germany towards certain areas in which the enemy realizes that, they will do barm; for example, the disloyal section in South Africa. The Prime Minister said yesterday that ho considered that the broadcasting authorities had been negligent. I believe that some Ministers, too, have been negligent. The outstanding example of what may cause trouble was the statement made over the national network by the Minister for Labour and National Service (Mr. Ward). In effect he told the world, including the enemy, that the Government which went out of office only four months ago had left our defences weak, and the Department of the Army in a state of disorganization. If those statements were false, the Minister was simply lowering public confidence by indulging in inaccuracy; and if they were true, he was giving valuable information to the enemy. I shall show the immediate use that was made by the enemy of the statements made by the Minister for External Affairs (Dr. Evatt) on the 25th February last. On the 27th February, Tokyo radio told, the world that the Minister, in expressing extreme dissatisfaction with the Allied War Command, said that the Australian Government had protested against both London and Washington Governments. Berlin made an announcement on the same day that the Minister for External Affairs had warned- his people against the danger of setting hopes on imaginary estimates on paper of population and industry. This, said Berlin radio, was one of the most incisive rebukes that Churchill had had to endure from a dominion Minister.
– The honorable gentleman cannot fairly say such things. He began by saying that I had blamed Mr. Churchill for something that President Roosevelt had done. I hope that he will make that good.
– The Minister has every opportunity to make a correction. He has simply to say that the Sydney Morning Herald was mistaken, or had misreported him.
– I am certain that the criticism of the Sydney Morning Herald was due to the fact - natural in the circumstances, because my statement was a long one - that the only report which appeared in that newspaper omitted mention of the countries which had supported the Australian proposal for a Pacific War Council at Washington. Therefore, its comment was not based on die full statement that I had made.
– A tremendous number of criticisms of this type has been going over the air. Tokyo and Berlin have been making very strong criticisms, not only of the recent statement of the Minister for External Affairs, but also of statements made by the Prime Minister. The method adopted by Berlin, as I hope our Minister for Information knows, is to take a statement made in Australia and twist it slightly. There is always a certain degree of truth in it, and it is nearly always based ok something that has been unwisely said in Australia. Even neutral countries are broadcasting this Government’s criticisms of Britain, although in their case it cannot be said that the statements have been definitely twisted. Here is an example from Argentina, of the 28 th January last -
The Board of Information of the Australian Government declared on Monday that the British Government “ is securing Britain’s neecssary materials at the sacrifice of its Dominions “.
I do not wish to labour the point. I have made these quotations in order to show that both enemy and neutral countries are watching this Parliament and Ministry with the utmost care in order to make use of any possible indiscretion. I have watched enemy and neutral broadcast? very carefully over the last two years. They have used Australian mistakes to a very serious degree. It is particularly necessary for us to be careful because of the effect of enemy broadcasts in Australia. A lot of our people, unfortunately, are listening to Tokyo broadcasts, and it is very sad when they hav, missiles fired at them by Tokyo because of indiscreet statements made in Australia. We have heard a lot about the sending of scrap iron to Japan, which is being returned in the form of shells that are fired at us. There is another sort of missile which is just as dangerous in thi? war, and that is the missile of propaganda. We must be very careful to sei.’ that propaganda bombs. from Tokyo and Berlin are’ not charged with scrap put out by the Curtin Government. I urge the Government to use the utmost caution in its criticisms in international affairs.
There is just one other point that I want to make. We need to have a more optimistic outlook. The position in the Pacific from the viewpoint of Japan is a little different from the position from the viewpoint of Australia. Japanese communications are lengthening immensely, and it must be a very difficult problem for Japan to know whether to strike directly or to make its offensive iu the Pacific or the Atlantic. It cannot be unaware of the fact that an American fleet is taking up its position in the Pacific aud that a British fleet is being assembled in the Indian Ocean. Between them, Japan is faced with very difficult problems. Therefore, it is not we alone who have difficulties. For the first time, we are facing Avar in this country. A great many Australians are acting as though it is a most extraordinary thing, whereas Avar is not an infrequent condition in human affairs. We are very lucky, in that the British Navy has afforded us 150 years of peace. Even America, with all its strength and isolation, has had four huge wars fought in its territory in a period of 206”years, and has also had quite a number. of minor wars. We have to face what other less fortunate nations have faced many times in the past.
– And what every other dominion has had to face.
– That is so. We must also remember that, with strong and resolute leadership, and with the warm co-operation of our allies, this country can put up a magnificent defence. Above all, we should tell the people of Australia that they should take a long view, and not consider only this tiny corner of the Pacific. In the ultimate issue, this war and our future, will be decided by the vast populations and resources of the northern hemisphere, those of our grand allies, Britain, the United States of America and Russia, who are now massing in great and overwhelming strength.
.- We should congratulate the Minister for External Affairs (Dr. Evatt) upon the lucid explanation he has given us on international affairs. It is a welcome departure from the procedure of the past when we have had to listen to tedious historical reviews, and to accounts of events which had already been reported in the newspapers. On this occasion, the Minister put forward some sound and statesmanlike views which will have an important effect upon the direction of affairs in this country, in the Empire, and throughout the democratic world. I refer particularly to his statement regarding Australia’s right to be taken into the councils of the higher command in the determination of Pacific strategy, and also to his references to the granting of dominion status to India. The latter is a matter of paramount importance. If we are to come through this conflict victoriously, it can only be done by first settling the Indian question satisfactorily. Steps should immediately be taken to call together in conference the representatives of all the nations fighting for democratic ideals. The Atlantic Charter is pointed to as a statement of our war aims, and a foundation for the subsequent peace, but I remind honorable members that that charter was drawn up by two men in privacy in the middle of the Atlantic Ocean. It has notbeen referred to any of the governments of the democratic countries. Whilst we admire the ability and sincerity of purpose of the men responsible for drawing up that charter, it must be recognized that they did not, on that occasion, act in the democratic way. At a time when we are fighting for democratic ideals, we should, as far as possible, try to conduct our affairs in a democratic way. Therefore, the representatives of the democratic nations should be called together to decide upon our war aims, and to lay the foundations of a lasting peace. No one-man, nor any two men, can rule the world, or do the thinking for the world. We have had dictators in the past, such as Alexander, Caesar, Napoleon, and, to come to our own time, Mussolini and Hitler, but the affairs of the world can never be successfully or peacefully directed by such men. In our own case, only the representatives of democracy as a whole are qualifiedto lay down our war aims. The honorable member for Boothby (Dr. Price) admitted that mistakes have been made in the past by those directing the affairs of the British Empire. Surely we can discuss these matters dispassionately so as to learn from the mistakes of the past. Indeed, it is time we took stock of the position of the Empire to-day. In Britain itself there are 4,000,000 armed men standing in a purely defensive attitude while the nation, according to press reports, is given over to black marketing, food racketeering, and luxury living. According to a report published a few days ago, there is much apathy towards the war among a large section of the British population. Southern Ireland, which was until not long ago a member of the Empire, now remains neutral. In South Africa, 300 of the civil police of Johannesburg have been interned, and martial law has been declared. In India, 2,000 Congress leaders are in gaol, and the Legislative Council recently passed a resolution expressing disgust because Mr. Churchill stated that the Atlantic Charter did not apply to India, but only to the democracies. It is high’ time that something was done for that unfortunate country. The London DailyExpress, in a recent issue, stated: -
INDIA TO GET PARTIAL STATUS.
Britain will soon offer India “ a substantial instalment of dominion status “, the Daily Express political correspondent, says. “ The British Government will also ask all parties in India to confer and work out a plan for full dominion status Cor India after the war “,thecorrespondentadds. “ The British War Cabinet is stll discussing a modified form of dominion status for India during the war. “ Thisplan envisages that more Indians will enter the Government of India. The relationshipbetween the Government and the Viceroy will alsobe modified.”
At present the ‘Viceroy (‘Lord Linlithgow) is responsible only to the India Office in London.
In Calcutta (India) Sir Badnidas Goenka, one of India’s leading financiers and industrialists, blamed “ Britishvested interests “ for retarding India’s industrial development.
The suggestion hasbeen made that India should be given partial self-government. I maintain that India should he given full dominion status. Many Indian soldiers arc fighting for Great Britain, while in Burma the natives are assisting the Japanese. We do not want that sort of thing in India. We want to have the Indians behind the Allied cause. I quote the opinion of the London Times, one of the most conservative newspapers in the British Empire : -
If Britain wishes to remain a groat power, she must fully realize that changed conditions in the Far East require a complete alteration of her attitude to India, and China.
Making this forthright declaration to-day TheTimes adds that the fall of Singapore, seen in theperspective of history, may appear the greatest blow that has ever befallen the British Empire since the loss of the American colonies. “It is in one sense equally irretrievable”, it adds.
British dominion in the Far East cannot be restored- nor will there be any desire for its restoration in its former guise. “ But defeat may serve, as did the American defeat, as a. starting point of a fresh advance, and by adapting herself to changes and needs, Britain may again become a pioneer of new policies and new outlook. “Noother alternative is open if Britain wishes to remain a great power. She mast offer the world of the twentieth century something,the world needs. “ The spirit and machinery of British colonial administration in more than one continent has been staggeringlychallenged, which can only be met by a searching self-examination and far-reaching reform “. 1, too, ask that a searching examination be made of the position so that the affairs of the Empire may be placed upon a sounder foundation. In Burma, the Premier, U. Saw, was interned some time ago, and the Burmese natives in many country districts have, according to despatches from the American volunteer air group in south-west China, revolted and killed unarmed Britishers. The Burmese are assisting the Japanese inevery possible way, and the British are evacuating all large towns, including Mandalay. Contrast thatwith what is happening in the Philippines, where the Filipinos are fighting side by side with General Macarthur’s army. They are doing this because the Americans adopted a generous policy towards them, and gave them self-government. Indeed, in another two years they would have enjoyed complete independence. They are fighting now because they know that their own freedom, and the independence of their country, are at stake. The Federated Malay States are no longer British territory ; Shanghai, Hong Kong , and Singapore have gone one by one. Canada is rent over the conscription issue, and in Australia, according to the statement of an American pressman who travelled on the train between Melbourne and Canberra with members of the Cabinet, there exists the same atmosphere as was to be found in France before the fall of that country, and in Singapore before its recent capture by the enemy. There is a sense of mass frustration throughout the country. Every day people come to me in my office in the city, employees and employers alike, asking to be allowed to serve in some way. Many of them do not want payment; they want only to assist in the war effort. So far, the effort has been dominated by vested interests and red tape. The vested interests, which control the manufacture of armaments, are beginning to realize that they may have dug their own graves. Unfortunately, they may have dug ours also. It only remains for officialdom to swathe us in red tape, and we shallbe ready for interment. The Minister for the Army (Mr. Forde) has dispensed with the services of a number of the senior officers of the Army. That is a step in the right direction, because we need leaders with youth and vigour. However, it is not enough to make scapegoats of Army leaders, many of whom have done a very good job at home and abroad. The present critical position is not attributable to their lack of effort or fighting qualities. They have been “ let down “ on the production side. When I make that statement, I do not blame the workers, because they have been only too anxious to assist the war effort in every way. When they established production committees in an endeavour to increase production, their efforts were frustrated by those in control. On a number of occasions, I have referred to certain sinister influences which have been at work, particularly in the aircraft industry. The Minister for Aircraft Production (Senator Cameron) has admitted that selfish influences, with an un-Australian outlook, have delayed the production of aircraft in this country. After the outbreak of war, the production of aluminium in Australia was unsatisfactory, and I discovered that the local organization was associated with Industrial Gesellschaft of Germany. The records of the Registrar-General in Sydney contain that evidence. Other influences at work in the manufacture of machine tools have had a vital effect in holding up production. These matters should he dealt with in the manner suggested by the honorable member for Dalley (Mr. Rosevear). Parliament should discuss the subject of munitions production at a secret meeting because, to date, we have not had an opportunity to do so. In the past at secret meetings, Ministers have read long statements describing the progress that has been made in the munitions industry. Those statements looked very well on paper, but in the final analysis it is the practical application that counts. Any one who has studied industry as closely as I have will be convinced that many matters require the attention of the Government. Boards, directors and executives have been appointed to control various phases of the war effort, but the paramount consideration, which is production, has been left untouched. So far as I can ascertain, no person has been appointed for the purpose of launching a production drive in industry. That is a grave oversight. True, the Government has appointed a retired librarian, who spent 50 years among books, to organize certain phases of the war effort, but althoughhe may be a worthy man in many respects, I doubt whether he is capable of accelerating the output of munitions. If the Government discovers that our progress is being retarded by lack of technicians and machinery, we should post-haste emulate the example of the Soviet Union. When Russia was broken and disorganized as a result of civil war, the newly-established Soviet Government sent an economic mission to the United States of America and obtained the services of 100,000 technicians and highly-skilled executives. That wise policy enabled Russia to establish the industries which have played such a tremendous part in its present war effort. If Australia lacks technicians and machinery, the Commonwealth Government should immediately despatch an economic mission to the United States of America in order to remedy the position. If we can supply an army with adequate air strength, we shall smash any invasion fleet. The few soldiers who might succeed in landing wall be swept aside by our tommy-gun fire, or disposed of by guerillas organized by the honorable member for Bendigo (Mr. Rankin) and others with similar plans. Instead of trying to stifle criticism, we should act on the biblical injunction -
First cast out the beam out of thine own eye and then shall thou see clearly to cast out the mote out of thy brother’s eye.
I quote the following article by John Gordon, editor of the Sunday Express London : -
Faith in Future.
There is something wrong with this nation
Britain. We seem to have lost something vital.
Let’s try to see if we can discover what it is.
For, unless we find our soul very soon, the British Empire may only be an historic memory by this time next year.
And your wife, your children, no matter how big you are or how small, may be in a chain gang from which there is no release this side of the grave.
Why are the Germans, the Japanese, the Russians, the Chinese fighting this war better than we seem to be able to do?
I will tell you.
These nations are alight with a flame that has not yet been lit in us.
For sharply divergent reasons these four nations are aflame with the spirit of crusaders.
Yet to us, in our blindness, this is just one more war with no more purpose than the futilities for which we fought most of our past wars.
What put the Germans astride Europe? Not their tanks, guns, planes or modernized methods of war, but the blazing conviction in their hearts that they can conquer the world and be a master race among men.
What has sent the Japanese through the East like a scorching flame? Not just their implements of war, but their burning, fanatical belief that destiny has called them to be the Lords of Asia.
Why has only Russia in all Europe thrown back the conquering hordes of Germany?
Not just been use she was better prepared than us.
But because every Russian man and woman thinks of Russia as something belonging to them personally, something representing a way of life they have built with the inspiration of visionaries, something for the preservation of which death is a small price to pay.
Why have the Chinese, almost without guns or planes, been able for four years to stand unconquerable before the might of Japan, and be now virile and vigorous enough to swing into an offensive war with greater success than the immensely more powerful British Empire?
Because they, like the Russians, have seen the vision of a new world.
Each of these nations, good or evil, is fighting for a destiny in which it believes fanatically.
To each this war is a holy war.
Until we light a flame, like that, in Britain, until this war becomes a crusade for us, too, we cannot hope to measure our greatness with theirs.
And if we cannot, nothing is more certain ti ian that we shall not live.
Why should this be merely a war to us, and a crusade to our enemies and allies?
For the simple reason that you cannot have a crusade without a burning purpose behind it.
Need of Hope.
And so far our purpose seems to lie in some indefinite hazy dream between bolstering up ii dead system of not-too-scrupulous moneymaking and political jiggery-pokery, and the restoration after the war of trade union privileges.
These may seem very laudable things to many men.
But they are not the sort of things for which men rush to die.
Now, this country can be lifted into the war with a fervour equal to that of the Germans, the Japanese, the Russians, the Chinese.
Plant a seed of hope, plant the dream of a great destiny in the hearts of the people, and I doubt not that you will see such an h wakening as will startle the world.
Now, the man who is afraid to work too hard, the man who is afraid to get into khaki, and the man in uniform who is willing to fight but lacks the fighting frenzy, all have one thing lacking in common.
Their hearts have not been touched, their emotions have not been stirred. Is there an answer to their fears? There is.
Give them a great ideal to fight and work for, not just hazy words, but a new charter of life.
At long last there is a stirring in tincouncil chamber.
The first breeze of what 1 hope will swell to an invigorating wind is blowing through Whitehall.
Now is the time for a man to arise boh! enough to say: “The old system is dead. From this moment a new Britain will be born. “ We shall no longer tolerate the cruelties, the unfairnesses, the inequalities of the old one. We shall give you work and life.”
In conclusion let rae say that the Minister for External Affairs (Dr. Evatt) has made an excellent start. I say to him. “ Carry on the good work “.
.- The compass of my remarks has been considerably shortened by the speech of the honorable member for Boothby (Dr. Price), one of the best speeches delivered in the House for a long time. It is my regret that there were not more members in the House, particularly Ministers, when he spoke. He so effectively dealt with the subject which I had proposed to discuss that only a few comments from me will be required.
At the outset, I congratulate the Minister for External Affairs upon the industry and ability that he has displayed in the statement which he presented to the House, but in some respects it fell short of what one hoped would be placed before honorable members, if not in a statement on external affairs, then at least in a statement by the Prime Minister (Mr. Curtin). It is true that the Minister described the events which have taken place overseas, but he did not relate in any clear way the impact which those events have upon Australia and the people of Australia. Whilst I am not criticizing the Minister’s speech, I urge that an opportunity be given in the near future to honorable members to consider the defences of the country in relation to events overseas.
The primary point which was made in the Minister’s speech, apart from the recital of events abroad, was the method or machinery by which we are to collaborate and co-ordinate our war effort. I agree in general principle with a good deal of the Minister’s statement. Before the outbreak of war with Japan, dissatisfaction was expressed from both sides of the House with the inefficient and inadequate methods which were then t ol lowed in respect of collaboration between Great Britain and the Commonwealth. With the purpose in view of improving the existing machinery, the Government at that time advanced the proposition that the then Prime Minister (Mr. Menzies) should go to England in order to secure for Australia represents.tion in the British War Cabinet.
The Minister for External Affairs has given the history of the events that led up to the inauguration of the Pacific War Council, and all the imperfections of that body, although I think that he overburdened the imperfections by seeking to show its hypothetical clumsiness. Regarding the position in Great Britain we find, as the Minister revealed, that we are no better off regarding representation on the War Cabinet since the discussions with the British Prime Minister than we were before. To some degree that is no one’s fault.
There is, however, one matter to which I should draw attention. In his speech, the Minister brought to the notice of honorable members the request t hat went to Mr. Churchill for the representation of Australia in the British War Cabinet and he said -
Accordingly, the Commonwealth Government asked that its representative should have the right to bo heard /in’- the United Kingdo’m War Cabinet and. “in’ the formulation and direction of’ policy”. This request was agreed lo by Mr. Churchill. But when the Advisory War Council interpreted this decision as carrying with it membership of the War Cabinet, the British Prime Minister took the view that that was not in accordance with constitutional practice.
– That is to say, that membership was not.
– I only desire to correct the wrong impression that mighthave been formed. It is incorrect to say that “ the Advisory War Council interpreted this decision as carrying with it membership of the War Cabinet”. I think it was made clear then that the words quoted by the Minister did not involve membership of the British War Cabinet and that there was a looseness in the phraseology employed by the Government in its cablegram which led to the result which was achieved. The cold fact is that Mr. Churchill accepted in totality the proposition made by the Commonwealth Government; but in the meantime the British Prime Minister had announced the acceptance of the proposal of the Australian Government in the exact terms in which it had been advanced. The British Prime Minister could not have been more generous in his attitude. Since then, although the machinery is in substance the same as it was before, he has done his utmost to make available to the Commonwealth Government every facility for collaboration with the British Government.
So far as the Pacific War Council is concerned, t know, from what has been revealed to the Advisory War Council, that the Commonwealth Government if taking steps to’ secure centralization of authority in the Pacific zone, and I con;gratulate the Government on the course it is taking. I sometimes think, however, that we rely too much on the formula rather than the act. I have held and expressed for the last two months the view that the best way in which t>’ establish contact with the Government of the United States of America is by sending to Washington a Minister of State. Cables have been passing to and from and no satisfactory finality has been reached as to the nature of the machinery to be set up. All or many of the difficulties could have been overcome had an Australian Minister been sent to Washington two months ago to establish personal contact. The sands of time are running out, and while we are discussing the best machinery for the waging of the Pacific war, allied countries are being overrun. In 70 days the whole of the western Pacific, with the exception of Java, whose prospects of holding- out seem to be exceedingly poor, has come under the heel of Japan. Only four days after having left Australia, Dr. Van Mook, LieutenantGovernor of the Netherlands East Indies, was in the United States of America, where he discussed matters with the Government at Washington. We need a similar approach from this country. It is not yet too late to send to Washington an Australian Minister, accompanied by strategists. In the meantime the discussions on machinery could proceed. It is essential, as the Attorney-General pointed out, that we have the co-ordinating machinery, but we can place too much reliance on machinery as against personal contact.
In order to give point to what I arn saying, I recall to the minds of honorrable members the fact that on the 16th December a united war council, presided over by Mr. Duff Cooper, was set up at Singapore. It had a life of but a few weeks, and then failed utterly. It is a matter of great regret that the Commonwealth Government did not act quickly when Britain offered the opportunity, and send to represent it on that council one of its Ministers. No one can say that had it done so anything more could have been done than was done, but 1 believe that, had a Minister gone there instead of the substitute, Mr. Bowden, about whom I say nothing except that his qualifications to represent Australia in that capacity are doubtful, much might have been done for our men at Singapore. We might have had a much better appreciation of the Singapore defences, and, instead of a last ditch battle in Singapore, plans might have been evolved for the evacuation of our forces to Java instead of allowing them to fall into the hands of the enemy. It seems that we have made the worst of both worlds in that respect. Our representative in Washington, Mr. Casey, is doing a first-class job, and I do not criticize him, but he stands on a different plane, the diplomatic plane. What is needed is the presence in Washington of a Commonwealth Minister of State. Had one been there in the last two months he would have had a vital influence. He would have been able to inform the Government of the United States of America about our problems which are not properly understood in Washington.
The impression has gone abroad from the speech made by the Attorney-General that Mr. Chtircli/11 rejected the proposition that there should be a Pacific War Council located at Washington. I am prepared to accept, from the AttorneyGeneral a statement that the wrong construction was placed on his words.
– There still is a wrong construction placed on my words.
– I am glad to hear , the. .honorable member say so. People placed a wrong construction on what the Attorney-General said, because he is a man of great erudition and knows the meaning of words. Moreover it was a considered statement, and reading it normally, one could come to only one conclusion, namely, that the proposal of the Commonwealth Government for the establishment of a Pacific War Council in Washington was rejected by Mr. Churchill. I have no desire to indulge in captious criticism, but that construction is the natural consequence of the Attorney-General’s choice of words. I shall read what he said - . . the Commonwealth Government tried hard to secure the establishment in Washington of an inter-all ied body for the higher direction of the war in the Pacific. We preferred Washington as the venue but we desired above all that the Commonwealth should have the opportunity of conferring as an ally with the United States of America and China at the same council table and on a common footing. On neither point was our proposal acceptable although, as we subsequently ascertained,, it was favoured, in part, at least, by New Zealand. China and the Netherlands, which arc all se directly affected by the Pacific war. Eventually, in view of the urgency of the position, the Government accepted, on the 6th February, a proposal made by Mr. Churchill for a Far Eastern or Pacific Council to sit in London and to be composed of representatives of th* United Kingdom, Australia, New Zealand and the Netherlands.
The Attorney-General then proceeded to deal with hypothetical difficulties which arise in the establishment of a Pacific War Council in London, and, having dealt with them, he said - at no point whatever does any representative of this country meet any representative of the United States of America in any council, committee, or strategic hotly directly concerned in the controlling of the Allied war against Japan, or, for that matter, Germany . or Italy. I agree that this fact does not conclude the matter, for machinery is not always an obstacle.
He concluded by saying - . . we are most grateful to the President for hig ever-ready appreciation of the Commonwealth’s position.
Those words, I think, largely led to the difficulty which has arisen over the interpretation of the Attorney-General’s speech.
It is not perhaps so much a case of the words he used as of the words he failed to use. All members of the Advisory- War Council know very well that the Prime
Minister of Great Britain conveyed to the President of the United States of America the request of the Government, in which the Opposition members of that council concurred, that the Pacific War Council be set up at Washington and that the President, ever-ready to understand the difficulties of Australia, expressed the view that the machinery then in use was working satisfactorily and that there was no reason for it to be altered. I say that so that it will be clear to the public that there was no obstacle put forward, by Great Britain to the desires of the Government and the Advisory War Council that the Pacific War Council should be set up in Washington. It is due, not only to the people, but also to Mr. Churchill that that should be made plain.
I am glad that the honorable member for Richmond (Mr. Anthony) and the honorable member for Boothby (Dr. Price) drew attention to the anti-British feeling which is developing in this country. It is idle for us to shut our eyes to the growth of that sentiment; it exists. I should be the last person to suggest that it is owing to any one statement. If we go into the highways and the byways wo shall he surprised to discover how much anti-British sentiment has been engendered in Australia. We hear of the British Government having let Australia down. Those very words have been broadcast over the enemy radio. Enemy propaganda tells us that we have been abandoned ‘ by Great Britain. That is repeated here. Indeed, there have been occasions when statements made by public men in Australia have been used in the United States of America by the isolationist press to spread the same vicious doctrine as the enemy seeks to spread. The Prime Minister would be the first to realize how necessary it is that this tendency be arrested. Nothing could be more injurious to the war eff ort than division in the ranks of the Allies. Nothing would be more damaging to morale than for the Australian people to believe that they had been let down by Great Britain. We all share the obligation to go into the country and, by every means within our power, combat this tendency by making it clear that the difficulties which have arisen are owing, not to the reluctance of
Great Britain to help us, but rather to physical facts which we have to face. It is quite clear that we cannot expect a great deal of help from Great Britain for some time to come, not because of any unwillingness of Great Britain, but because oi the perils which beset it. That is why we must look to the United Statesof America for help. That great country has always shown a determination to helpus.
– Geographical considerations make the United States of America more able to assist Australia than is Great Britain.
– Yes. Geographically, the United States of America is better situated than is Great Britain. In any case Great Britain and the United States of America are working together. They cannot throw their whole resources into the one place. That fact too often escapes attention. This is total war. We cannot hope to win it by thinking in terms, of Australia alone or even of the Pacific alone. We can hope to win it only if we take the long view and regard it as a total war in which wo have to distribute our resources where they can best serve the exigencies of the moment. I agree entirely with the Attorney-General that it would be quite wrong to regard the war in Europe as a sole war and that it would be quite wrong to assume that, because they are allied, if Germany be beaten Japan will be beaten. The converse is equally true. We cannot hope to win this war by concentrating all our forces on the defeat of Japan. It is obvious to any one who has studied what has taken place that Germany, Italy and Japan are working in the closest concert. I think that we shall see with the arrival of the European spring a desperate attempt by Japan to seize the Persian Gulf, India and the Middle East, while Germany will strike eastward from the other side.
We must not think in terms of outown safety. Every one wants to see the devastation of war kept from this land, but no one would be so short-sighted as to think that we can win this war by adopting a defensive attitude. I do not accuse the Government of adopting a defensive attitude alone. That attitude is widely adopted throughout Australia. We cannot hope to win out, by concentrating on the Pacific war to the deprivation of other parts of the globe of essential supplies and forces.’ We can only hope to win it by realizing that it will last a long time and that in the winning we shall have to take our share of the knocks along with other nations. We have no special claim for immunity. We must apply a longterm policy for the co-ordination of our efforts to achieve ultimate victory. The Minister for External Affairs expressed the opinion that it would be quite wrong to postpone criticism of the Singapore debacle until after the war. I agree with that view. It is essential for us to direct our attention now to the lessons that we may learn from the disaster at Singapore. It would be wise, of course, to comment with restraint until the full facts are known, but sufficient seems to me to be known already to enable us to reach the following conclusions: First, that there was a breakdown of organization at Singapore of a very serious kind ; secondly, that there was a lack of co-ordination among the various branches of the Services; and, thirdly, that there was much to be desired in our leadership at Singapore, lt is essential that we should direct our attention to these matters now and see what bearing they have upon our own particular circumstances. We have seen ‘ the whole of the western Pacific’ pass from our control in a very short space of time. We now see Java in a desperate plight, and he would be a foolish man who believed that Java would be able to withstand the might of Japan. The Japanese have already struck at Darwin, Wyndham and Broome. Where will they next strike? This is important to us, because we must seek to judge where our enemy will assail us so that we may be ready to resist him. There has been a generally accepted view that any attack from Japan will come down our east coast. I am not so certain that that will be so. The attack of the enemy may be against Wyndham with the object of isolating Darwin, and of proceeding down the west coast of Australia. . Japan may also attempt to establish progressive inland bases from which its air force may operate to attack southern Australia. These matters may not be strictly germane to this debate, but they have some relation to events overseas.
Last evening I made some references to the censorship. I do not desire to repeat what I said then. The people of Australia, however, are feeling some bewilderment because of the lack of information about the war. We must do everything possible for security purposes, but it is my conviction that, consistent with security, much more information could be made available to the people than is being given to them. The people, need a better lead in respect of the facts and of what is being done. It has been said that if the morale of a people breaks the whole country falls. Morale is dependent primarily upon information being given to the people. They should be told the facts as fully as possible. My experience leads me to the conviction that there is sometimes a tendency to swing too far to the other extreme. I urge the Prime Minister, therefore, to provide the people with more facts. The people have been told practically nothing about the attack on Darwin. I realize that certain things cannot be published, but some people who were at Darwin during the raids are now back in the south, and they are speaking freely about the happenings at Darwin. Surely information available to them should be made available to the public at large and should also be made, available for examination by honorable members of this House. Otherwise there is a danger that exaggerated statements may become current in the community.
– How may it be proved that statements are exaggerated?
– In no way except by properly authenticated statements.
– Or by an authentic inquiry.
– That is so. Certain information should also be made available in respect of Java. It is my firm conviction that the people of Australia will make any sacrifice required, provided they are told where their duty lies and are taken into the confidence of the Government as fully as possible.
It was refreshing to hear from the Minister for External Affairs the review of recent events that he placed before us. but I urge that an early opportunity be provided for members of the House to debate not so much the international situation as the defence of this country.
Debate (on motion by Mr. Breen) adjourned.
– by leave - I desire to inform the House that a proclamation has been issued this day under the Defence Act calling out persons specified in Classes IV. and V., as set out in sub-section 3 of section 60 of the Defence Act, to enlist and serve as prescribed by that act and the regulations thereunder. I now lay on the table the following paper: -
Proclamation by the Governor-General, dated6th March, 1942, issued under section 60 of the Defence Act, calling upon persons in ClassesIV. and V. to enlist and serve.
Bill returned from the Senate without amendment.
Wheat Industry: Restriction of Pro duction ; Marginal Lands ; Seasonal Adversity; Flour Tax; Representation on Australian Wheat Board - Mobilization of Services and Property: Compensation - Industrial Arbitration : Coal-cutting Machinery; Employment of Women in Munitions Industries - Vulnerable Heavy Industries - Production of Minera ls - Defence Inventions - War Organization of Industry - Decentralization of Industry - Gold-mining - Goulburn Mental Asylum -AirRaid Alarm in Sydney - Werribee Beef - Advisory War Council - Horse-racing Broadcasts - Ministers: Assistance by Private Members - Shipping Delays.
Motion (by Mr. Curtin) proposed -
That the House do now adjourn.
.- I u rge upon the Government the need for an immediatepronouncement of policy concerning the wheat industry in relation to the coming season. Farmers are within a fortnight of seeding operations in certain States and it is imperative that they should know within a few days where they stand. In making this request I assure the Minister for Commerce (Mr. Scully) that I am actuated by a desire to be helpful and not critical. The honorable gentleman has been very good in his correspondence with me. Nevertheless, the policy of the Government has not yet been declared, and the position is becoming more serious every day. I realize that difficulties face the Government in providing for the shipment of our wheat overseas and in providing storage for wheat in Australia. I realize, also, the necessity for some restriction of acreage. It has been recognized throughout Australia for some time that restrictions would be necessary, but every body interested in the industry is of opinion that any restrictive measure? should be on an equitable basis. The wheat-growers of Australia are prepared to make any necessary sacrifice, provided that the sacrifice is equally shared by farmers throughout the Commonwealth. There must be no differentiation between States. The Government’s policy must be based on equal justice for all. I have heard it suggested within this building, and we all know that statements appeared in the press some time ago, that it was proposed to restrict the wheat acreage of Western Australia and South Australia by 66 per cent., which, it was calculated, would reduce the wheat production of Australia to about 100,000,000 bushels. I fail to see how the Government, can constitutionally differentiate between States in this matter. Any restriction of acreage should apply equally in all States. I hope that a definite pronouncement will be made without delay. Any differentiation would undoubtedly have inequitable effects. It would be impossible, for example, to measure the degree of compensation that should be provided for farmers who were prevented from sowing their usual acreage. It is probable that at the conclusion of hostilities there will bea very large quantity of wheat stored in Australia, which mightbe disposed of subsequently at a high price.This might easily be most advantageousto farmers who remained in full production and disadvantageous to farmers who were compelled to restrict their acreage. I appreciate the difficulties that have faced the
Minister for Commerce in dealing with these subjects. He has made three public statements since January, as the position of the industry has become more desperate. It has been suggested that the restriction should apply only to farmers sowing more than 300 acres. The fact that a man sows only a small acreage of wheat should not be regarded as conclusive evidence that he is a “small” farmer. Quite a number of big farmers grow only a limited quantity of wheat. This is necessary, in some areas, in order to sweeten the soil. A restriction of acreage such as has been proposed would be seriously detrimental to Western Australia. The following table based on statistics in the Commonwealth Year Rook is self-explanatory: -
It will be seen that on the average every Western Australian farmer puts about 100 acres more under wheat than do the farmers of the other States. The farmers in my State rely for their livelihood more than do the farmers of other States on their return from wheat production. I hope that the Minister will bear this important fact in mind. It would be a distinct disadvantage to Western Australia and South Australia to apply a 66 per cent, reduction. I am aware that the Ministers for Agriculture in Western Australia and South Australia have been in conference with the Minister for Commerce on this subject, and I know well that Mr. Wise knows the position of the industry in his State thoroughly. Doubtless he will have done his best to see that fair treatment is accorded to Western Australia. There has been a considerable volume of loose talk in regard to the storage of wheat, and the wheat position ‘ generally, in Western Australia. Much of it is of a commercial nature. I say very deliberately that certain interests in Australia have done their utmost to damn the bulk system which operates in Western Australia, for fear that it may be introduced in other States and, as a consequence, their livelihood destroyed. I refer particularly to representatives of jute merchants. It is interesting to note that the first criticism, levelled against the storage of wheat in; Western Australia came from those representatives on the Australian Wheat Board. That body paid a visit toWestern Australia, and commented very adversely on a stack of wheat in a particular area. I admit that the weevils are bad in that area. They are prevalent wherever wheat is stored for any length of time. It is impossible completely to destroy the weevil, but it is not impossible to mitigate its ravages. The position in that particular locality was mentioned in order to draw attention to what might become a major calamity in the wheat-growing industry of Western Australia. Yet, when that wheat was shifted only 0.32 per cent, of it was found not to be unliable; the balance of the contents of the bin was firstclass millable wheat. That gives the lie direct to the vested interests that have done their utmost during the last six oieight months to damn the scheme that has been operating in Western Australia. It will be readily realized that if the system were introduced in South Australia, and, also, in Victoria, a few jute merchants would have to look for now jobs. Even in the Canberra Times, a week or so ago, I read an article condemning the system adopted for the storage of wheat in Western Australia. A lot of the criticism is political, and most of it is from vested interests; consequently, it must be accepted with the greatest reserve by representatives of the Government. Recently the Minister, or the Government, saw fit to send the honorable member for Wimmera (Mr. Wilson) to Western Australia in order to investigate the position. I am not able to appraise the qualifications of the honorable member for such a task, but I say quite definitely that during the fortnight which the Assistant Minister for
Commerce spent in Western Australia he could have co-opted the services of every Western Australian member of this Parliament, at no expense to the country and at no inconvenience such as is caused to those who have to wait weeks for accommodation on the trans-Australian railway. At the request, I think, of the Prime Minister, in order to conserve finance for war needs, several parliamentary committees reversed the decision to pay visits to Western Australia. I strongly protested against the sending of the honorable member for Wimmera. If the Government did not care to ask members from Western Australia to do the job, it could have entrusted the task to representatives of the Australian Wheat Board, or to State officials. If these were not considered good enough, the investigation could have been undertaken by the Council for Scientific and Industrial Research. I understand that an officer of that body has been investigating the problem for quite a while, and believes that the weevil can be kept under control. As a matter of fact, it is the wheat-borer and. not the weevil which is doing the greatest damage, although the ultimate result is certainly the same. I warn the Minister to view with caution the reports that are made regularly by interests whose object is a selfish one, and who do not desire to help either the wheat-grower, or the Government in its storage problem. I do not know what policy has been evolved, but I sincerely hope that it will be made public very shortly; because it is necessary for the wheat-growers to make arrangements in respect of superphosphate. Everywhere throughout Australia, good wheat-growers are cultivating fallow, which is costly; and greater cost is incurred in the making of a decent seed bed in which to plant the wheat. I appeal to the Minister to make a pronouncement as early as possible. There is the utmost confusion in the wheatgrowing districts to-day because of the conflicting statements that have been made. When the honorable member for Wimmera reached Port Augusta on the return journey, he stated that he thought he would make to the Government a recommendation that would be acceptable and would solve the problem. I do not know that his qualifications are higher than those that are possessed by other honorable members who have been engaged in the industry. My one object is to get a final report as the result of the conferences held by the Minister, so that the wheat-growers will know where they stand, and whether they are to continue producing or are to go out of production.
.- The effect of certain regulations that have been made is to close up a number of small businesses, with the object of releasing men for war employment. Those whose businesses are closed have not done anything wrong; they merely have the misfortune to be closed up.
– Many of them do not employ any one.
– A number of them do not. It is clear that they are entitled to some form of compensation. The press has published the statement by one Minister that compensationis not to be paid. That is very unjust. Most of those whose businesses are to be closed are small operators, and the closure of the businesses will very largely benefit big competitors. The closure of some will not mean that the luxury goods they produced will not be consumed ; they will still be sold by warehouses that have large stocks. The small man who is producing the whole of his stock and selling it wholesale, will lose his business for all time. If suffering is to be caused as the result of war emergency, the burden should be distributed over the whole of the community. I understand that when a person’s property is taken, it must be done on just terms, the provisions of the Constitution prevailing over the regulations ; yet a man’s business, which is much more intangible than real or corporeal property, may be attacked without compensation. At all events, one Minister has said that there is not to be compensation. I trust that that is not the policy of the Government, but that the Commonwealth will compensate all those who, as the result of its actions, lose everything that they possess. The men whose businesses are closed are not being punished for anything they have done against the community, but are merely the victims of the
Government’s policy. That policy may be dictated by the necessities of the country - I suppose that it is - but the burden which it entails should certainly notrest where it first falls.
. -I desire very briefly to direct the attention of the Prime Minister (Mr. Curtin) to two matters. I shall not ask him to make a reply to-day, but I should like him to take them into consideration before the House next meets. Each of them, I believe, involves the same issue. There is a report in the press this morning which affects a problem that has arisen in connexion with one coal-mine - the problem of the use of mechanical loaders on the afternoon shift. I shall not proffer any view on the merits of the matter, because I am not sufficiently acquainted with it to hold one. The striking feature of the report, if it be true, is this: It appears th at the Coal Reference Board, duly set up as a piece of machinery and, I have understood, enjoying the general support of both sides of the House, formed a certain view. Subsequently, so the report states, a conference was convened at the request of the Minister for Labour and National Service (Mr. Ward). After that conference had taken place - the report goes on to say - the honorable member for Hunter (Mr. James), who convened the conference at the request of the Minister for Labour and National Service and who presided at the gathering, is understood to have informed the parties that he would recommend to the Minister that regulations be introduced prohibiting the use of the machines on the afternoon shift. If this be a correct report, a proposal is liable to come before the Government for its intervention by direct government action in what would otherwise be the decision of the duly appointed tribunal. I have no idea as to whether that matter has come before the Government, or as to whether the Government has formed any view concerning it; but I want to say - and I think that I can say it on behalf of every body who sits on this side of the House - that the principle of intervening by direct government action in order to prevent what would otherwise be a decision of a tribunal from coming into operation, is an extremely dangerous one. I am not saying that there are not cases in which such a power of intervention should be used; but it should be used very sparingly.
The other matter which I want to mention relates to the same problem. A statutory rule, No. 92, has been prepared, but I do not know whether it has been tabled, though it has been circulated. It relates to the employment of women, and deals with the matter of the remuneration of women employed particularly in munitions or aircraft production. I have no settled view as to what the pay should be for women so engaged, and I do not desire in any way to prejudice the consideration of the matter, even in my own mind. However, this regulation goes on to provide, after permitting or directing the employment of women, that the rates of pay they are to receive shall be prescribed by or under the regulation, and that, pending the issue of such regulation, the rates and conditions of employment shall be determined by the Minister for Munitions or the Minister for Aircraft Production, as the case may be.
– Was not that matter before the Arbitration Court?
– Undoubtedly, some proceedings were pending in the Arbitration Court, and such proceedings appear to have been adjourned pending the issue of these regulations. But the central matter to which I direct attention is this : we have for years in this country, with the consent of all political parties, and of both sides in industry, established a system of industrial arbitration. It has been enormously increased in scope since the war began. When I was Prime Minister, I received the fullest cooperation from the present Prime Minister in my endeavours to ensure that no dispute that possessed any reality should lack an umpire, an arbitrator, or a tribunal to hear it. I do not think that it has yet been suggested that the existing industrial tribunals are incapable of dealing with the matter of the proper payment of women, and I profoundly distrust the suggestion that wages and conditions should be fixed by regulation, or that, pending the issue of such regulations, two Ministers should be given power to lay down the law on matters which involve the most difficult points of principle.
– There was a prohibition of the employment of women in certain avenues of industry. We had to get over that hurdle and this is how we did it.
– I admit that the hurdle had to be got over, but I suggest that the Prime Minister has jumped four or five hurdles at once. As an old boy in the game, I say that one hurdle at a time is quite a good performance. If women are to be employed in these industries, then some one must determine wages and conditions, but, under the proposed procedure, those wages and conditions will, in the long run, be determined by executive action, and, in the short run, by Ministers of State. I do not say that there is any essential difference in the attitude of the Prime Minister to this matter and the attitude of honorable members on this side of the House, but I should be very reluctant to see the Government abandon the arbitration principle which has worked untold good in this country.
– I am grateful to the right honorable member for Kooyong (Mr. Menzies) for having brought forward the matter of the recommendation which, he says, I have made to the Government. It is true that I have made a recommendation to the Minister along the lines indicated by the right honorable gentleman, and my great hope is that, for the sake of peace in the industry, and in order to ensure maximum production, the Minister will accept my recommendation, and that the Government will act upon it. I regret that some representatives at the conference broke faith with me, and published my recommendation in the Sydney Morning Herald, which the right honorable member for Kooyong has cited. I have on many occasions in this House complained of the appointment as arbitrators in the coal industry of men entirely unacquainted with conditions in the industry. With all due respect to His Honour, Judge Drake-Brockman, I repeat that complaint.
– The miners themselves asked for him.
– They did not. I have tried for many years to induce various governments to listen to the plea of the miners, and appointas arbitrators men who understood something of the industry, instead of selecting some one merely because he had a university education, or had sat on the bench as a judge. The present trouble is one of long standing. A certain colliery proposed to introduce a mechanical loader in the afternoon shift on special work.
– Is the mechanical loader used on the morning shift?
– It works now on the morning shift, but the men object to its introduction on the afternoon shift in breach of an agreement they have for this special work to be done with another coal-cutting machine. After a fight, they were successful in having the afternoon shift abolished as long ago as the last war for general coal production, although it was allowed to he worked in special places. This mine developed an output of 3,100 tons under the old system, which involved the use of what is called the “ puncher “ machine. Since the introduction of the new machine, which not only cuts the coal, but loads it as well, the output has never been more than 1,800 tons. However, coal can be won more economically with the new machine. Fewer men are required, and even those employed, instead of receiving £2 10s. a day, as many of them did previously, receive only £1 10s. 9d. a day, plus 7½ per cent. for the afternoon shift. The men resent this, particularly at a time when commodity prices are rising. A further point of objection is that the new system introduces an increased element of danger. When two shifts are worked, and one man follows another to the face, he is in danger from overhanging coal that may have been left by the first man; whereas, if it be the same man who comes back the next day to that face, he knows what has been left, and is on his guard against it. Generally, the man going out will tell the incoming one of the danger, but sometimes he may forget, and then the life of the incoming man is in jeopardy. His Honour stated that, in giving his judgment - and I am quoting from the official transcript of the proceedings of the conference on the 26th January last - he was guided principally by precedents of the miners federation having allowed the use of this machine, and he cited as examples what had been done in the Burwood and Helensburgh collieries. As a matter of fact, the Burwood colliery was the first in which I ever worked, and the seam now being worked had never been opened up until recently, when this new machine was put in. It was a virgin seam, and the men did not know what the conditions would be like, or what the effect would be of using the machine. Therefore, they agreed to its being installed. In regard to the Helensburgh mine. His Honour, in an award issued on the 15th July, 1941, provided, that four places should be operated in the afternoon as well as in the day shift. From then right up until last Saturday, one of these places had travelled only 30 yards, and in other places the men had been able to work only four and a half shifts during the whole time. At the request of the Minister for Labour and National Service (Mr.Ward), I held a conference with the men and owners at Wollongong last Saturday, and found that Mr. Hickman, the chairman of the local tribunal, had amended the award of His Honour Judge Drake-Brockman, by reducing the four places to two. Even so. it was found impossible to work the mine. I am pleased to say that the owners, as a result of the conference, have now agreed that there shall be no afternoon shift at that place, and the machines have been pulled out. No objection has been forthcoming from Judge Drake- Brockman. Rather than see a stoppage of work take place in all the mines operated by this company, I recommended to the Minister that he forbid the introduction of machines into mines for the afternoon shift unless satisfactory conditions are allowed for its operation. That will overcome the difficulty. It will not set aside, as the right honorable member for Kooyong stated, the award of Judge Drake-Brockman. I have clarified the position. Now His Honour has refused to give a decision upon the matter of hours, and has adjourned the sitting of the Reference Board until next Monday in order to see whether the award will be observed. This brings me to the question of His Honour’s jurisdic tion in the matter. I have made it clear that Mr. Hickman, the chairman of the Local Reference Board, upset His Honour’s decision in respect of the Helensburgh colliery. Mr. Connell, who knows the coal-mining industry from A to Z, dealt with the dispute in the first instance, but was informed that he possessed no jurisdiction to do so. His Honour claimed to have that jurisdiction, but announced that his decision would apply only to the single colliery and that other cases would be dealt with on their merits. It is difficult to understand how the Richmond Main dispute reached the Central Reference Board, because coal regulations were issued, giving powers to local reference boards to deal with the matters before His Honour gave his decision. I can assume only one thing, namely, that the spirit of John Brown marches on over all agreements and precedents; what John Brown did in his lifetime is being continued now by the general superintendent, Mr. J. Johnson, who is also senior member of the Central Reference Board and a member of the Local Reference Board in Newcastle. He knew full well that Mr. Connell understood the position better than did His Honour ; but he considered that it would be most unfortunate for his company if Mr. Connell adjudicated in the case. Therefore, he decided to take the ease before His Honour, and in his suave manner, he “ put it all over “ the judge and obtained this decision.
Apparently the firm of John Brown has always enjoyed protection. John Brown was always championed by a judge of the High Court, Sir Adrian Knox, who was a beneficiary under his will. Now it seems that the present champion of the firm is His Honour Judge DrakeBrockman. Those are hard words, but they are true.
– Order! The honorable member must not criticize the motives of a judge.
– This dispute at the Richmond Main is identical with the dispute at the Metropolitan mine at Helensburgh. Why is it that one dispute could be dealt with by the Local Reference Board, whilst the other must be considered by the Central Reference Board ? His Honour admitted, on page 25 of the transcript of the proceedings, on the 4th March last, that this dispute would apply to no colliery other than those controlled by J. and A. Brown, Abermain and Seaham Company, and that each case would be treated on its merits. I cannot understand why the Central Reference Board intervened. Why has the firm of J. and A. Brown been given these privileges? Of course, Mr. Johnson, the general superintendent, is the senior member of the Central Reference Board !
– I thought the honorable member had a high opinion of Mr. Johnson?
– Yes, he has a considerable knowledge of the coal-mining industry.
– Is he a fair-minded man?
– He is very fair when dealing with others than his own company but is always prejudiced in the interests of the company that be represents. The right honorable member for Kooyong is prejudiced in favour of the United Australia party; I am prejudiced in favour of the Labour party and of the coal-miners.
– If the honorable member must have it, he wanted Mr. Johnson to be appointed as chairman of the board.
– I did, as chairman of the Coal Commission, not the board. Now, I am sure that a dislocation will occur, and I do not wish to see it. I say with due respect to His Honour that a man without a practical knowledge of the coal-mining industry should not be chosen to arbitrate in a dispute.
– The honorable member wanted Mr. Johnson to be chairman of the central tribunal.
– The honorable member should be fair. I preferred Mr. Johnson to Judge Drake-Brockman only if I could not have Mr. Connell. The honorable member should not say that I placed Mr. Johnson before Mr. Connell, because T did not do so. The right honorable member for Kooyong would not admit that.
– Yes, I say that Mr.
Johnson was the nominee of the honorable member.
I Extension cf time granted.]
– Of course, the right honorable member would: say anything for “ Li’l’ Harold “. However, it is most unfortunate that the adjudication was not left to a man who possessed a thorough knowledge of coal-mining. The miners are always prepared to accept the adjudication of a man who understands the problems of this most intricate industry. In this instance, however, the wool has been pulled over His Honour’s eyes. He does not understand the position. His Honour has been fooled into giving this decision by the statement that production will be increased to 2,400 tons a day if operations are conducted at six places with the full mechanized unit, whereas, if he had gone into the history of the mine he would have learned that over 3,000 tons had been produced by the old method. The miners contend that in order to produce more coal for the war effort, they will permit fifteen places to operate under the old system of production with the “ puncher “ machines. It is not denied that the miners would cut more coal under their proposal; but the question is not one of coal production, or of the nation’s requirements, so much as of the method by which the coal-owners can produce coal cheaply at the expense of the miners. Honorable members opposite would soon object if a proposal were made to reduce interest, or profits made by firms in which they are interested.
– Order !
– Is it not a matter of man-power?
– I have in my drawer in this building a list containing the names of 250 miners in the Newcastle district alone who are registered for employment and are now unemployed. Men are available for employment. 1 believe that, if the right approach were made to the miners, they would be prepared voluntarily to retire at 60 year.of age so that men who are now unemployed could be absorbed in the industry. They have already offered to do so.
I charge the Central Reference Board with having caused unnecessary trouble by trespassing upon matters that are of a purely local nature and could be dealt with by local boards. The function of the Central Reference Board should dp to deal only with major troubles which extend beyond the bounds of one district or State, or with the interpretation of its own awards. It should not deal with every pettifogging dispute which may arise from time to time. At present, every little trouble that arises in the coalmining industry is referred to the Central Reference Board for attention. That has caused congestion, which in turn has led to the men becoming irritable because their complaints are not dealt with. The Central Reference Board has developed into what may he termed a general appeals tribunal, or a’ high court, deciding matters with which the manager could deal and which the legislature never intended should be brought before the centra] hoard. When I brought these matters before the then Prime Minister (Mr. Menzies), I was treated as a mug”. But the right honorable gentleman listened to others. I asked him to reintroduce the Industrial Peace Act, under which the Babble tribunal functioned. During the operation of that legislation there was no dispute or challenge. That was because Mr. Babble came from a mining district and understood mining. The mine-owners influenced the then Prime Minister not to reintroduce the Industrial Peace Act. The right honorable gentleman would not listen to me.
– The honorable member’s colleagues who are now in office agreed with me; and they must agree with me still because they have not reintroduced that legislation.
– Certain machinery has been set up to deal with disputes, and any change now would cause a general upset because so many awards and decisions have already been made. Itwould be particularly hard to make a change during the war. It can be said, however, that the Hibble tribunal did not function in a general way, except when it made a general award. It functioned chiefly as a local tribunal in various places, but the Central Reference Board to-day provides its members with fulltime jobs. That was never intended. The sooner we get back to an arrangement under which that body will deal only with questions that are of an interdistrict nature, or in which the interpretation of its own awards is involved, the hi’tter it will be for the industry.
On page 9 of the transcript His Honour is reported to have said that he still holds that the proper body to deal with this dispute is the Central Reference Board, and that if its decision be wrong, the only place to correct it is in the High Court. When the Hibble tribunal existed there was no approach to the High Court, because the decision of that tribunal was final and binding, and there was no appeal from it. In the meantime, according to His. Honour, his decision stands and is unchallengeable. If that be so, why does he allow his decision of the loth July in respect of the Metropolitan mine at Helensburgh to be challenged ? His Honour is wrong in his statement on page 9. If his decision in regard to the Richmond Main colliery be unchallengeable, then Mr. Hickman, the chairman of the local tribunal at Wollongong, has contravened his judgment. His Honour did not refuse to preside because Mr. Hickman annulled his decision the day before yesterday in connexion with the Richmond Main colliery dispute, yet: because I had called thic conference he walked off the field and refused to play. The Richmond Main colliery developed two-thirds of its area under the old system of mining, but now, for the remaining one-third of that area, it proposes to revolutionize methods, thereby causing trouble. Those who propose these changes are not trying to promote harmony in the industry. On the contrary, they are causing disputes, and sending them on to the Central Reference Board for attention, thereby causing the congestion to which I have referred. Notwithstanding that this colliery produced 3,000 tons of coal a day under the old method, it is proposed to change the method. The nation is crying out for coal, and as coal can still be produced in large quantities under the old method, what necessity is there for a change?
– We want coal, but we are getting strikes.
– The honorable gentleman does not know what is happening. There is no section of workers in Australia which has taken stronger action in disciplining its members than the coalminers have done. Recently, a number of lads in my district were fined £5 each and dismissed from the industry altogether. As in the past, most of the trouble in the industry to-day is caused by lads. They think, as I thought when I was fourteen or fifteen years of age, that it is a wonderful thing to cause a stoppage at a mine. In my early mining days the older unionists did not think that a stoppage was so wonderful. The result was that some of the lads who had caused trouble were summoned, and I had to do seven days’ hard labour, with bread and water. The sooner we get back to that form of discipline the better it will be for the smooth working of the industry. I know what I am talking about. Honorable members interject and say that the miners are on strike. The miners are not on strike ! Their homes are a long way from the mines, sometimes 20 miles, and the pit top is the only place at which they can meet to discuss such matters as benevolent fund levies. Before meetings have been in progress five minutes, the manager blows the “ no-work “ whistle and the men have to go home.
– Order ! The honorable member’s time has expired.
.- I am glad that the honorable member for Swan (Mr. Marwick) has directed the attention of the Minister for Commerce (Mr. Scully) to the urgent need for a pronouncement as to the Commonwealth Government’s policy in regard to the next wheat season. We realize that Australia’s position to-day is serious in every conceivable way and also that the exigencies of the situation demand that throughout Australia the production of wheat must be restricted. Conditions do not allow of the export of wheat. In the absence of a ministerial statement about the position strong rumours are current that the plan to be adopted will act unfairly towards South Australia andWestern Australia. If we examine the wheat storage aspect of the problem we find that the eastern States have been able to unload much more of their past production in the last year or so than has been possible for either South Australia or Western Australia. When it was possible to charter ships to take wheat overseas, the vessels went to the eastern States and loaded the wheat from the silos in order that the silos would be ready to receive the wheat from the then forthcoming harvest. It was not necessary to take similar steps in South Australia and Western Australia because in those States the bag storage principle is followed and, notwithstanding statements to the contrary, the wheat which has been stored in bags in the last two years is in pretty fair order. The honorable member for Swan (Mr. Marwick) pointed out the falsity of statements that weevils had affected the bag-stored wheat in Western Australia. There has been no infestation of bagstored wheat in South Australia. The result of the policy which has been applied is that Western Australia and South Australia have on hand a larger proportion of their production than have the eastern States. Recently the Commonwealth Government appointed the honorable member for Wimmera (Mr. Wilson) and a Western Australian senator to investigate the wheat position. I do not consider that the Government acted fairly in doing so. I concede that the honorable member for Wimmera represents a wheat-growing district, but that does not make him a wheat expert; in fact he is not a wheat expert. The senator has never had any interest in wheat in his life. Yet they were commissioned to go around Australia and make decisions as to the future of the wheat industry. The better course for the Government to follow would have been to have consulted at Canberra federal members representing wheat-growing constituencies in the various States and thereby obtained opinions on which to base its policy, instead of sending all over the country two men, one of whom may know something about the requirements of hie own district, but nothing aboutconditions elsewhere, whilst the other knows nothing at all about wheat. As the result of their report, it is said, Western Australia and South Australia are to be deprived of a great proportion of their wheat-growing activities.
– That is not correct.
– Whether the honorable member for Wimmera gave it to the press or not I do not know, but the press has published the statement that he considers that the Western Australian and South Australian wheat acreage should be reduced this year. If this he the policy of the Government, it is another injustice to those two States, and is in line with the way in which they have been treated in the making of appointments to the Australian Wheat Board, on which the eastern States have the preponderance of representation. Two more men from New South Wales and one from Victoria have just been appointed to the board, whereas South Australia has only one representative on it and, at the most, Western Australia has two. The forecast policy is unjust in view of the fact that last year farmers >were licensed to grow wheat on fallow land. In South Australia a greater proportion of wheat, is grown on fallow land than in New South Wales. As a matter of fact, the farmers do not. fallow land for wheat ru New South Wales, where all they need to do is to plough the land and sow the seed. Thailand could be used equally well for grazing; It would not be so had if all States were treated alike in this matter, but South Australia and Western Australia appear to have been singled out for unfavorable treatment. For instance, it is proposed to pay only 12s. an acre compensation to farmers for land which has been fallowed and which will not be allowed to be sown. It costs at least £1 an acre to prepare fallow land for the crop, and the compensation proposed to be offered is- disproportionately small, especially since the land can be put to no other use. Unlike the land in New South Wales, which can be used for stock-raising, the land in South Australia rs unsuitable for any other purpose than wheat-growing.
– It was not suggested that the compensation payable in respect of fallow land thrown out of production be only 12s. an acre.
– Well, there is a story current that the average compensation will amount to ls. a bushel. The average crop in South Australia is only 12 bushels to the acre. No doubt we shall be told that the fallow land which must be thrown out of production - it is said to amount to 50 per cent, of the total - can be used for other purposes, for example, hay. Man-power is not available for the carting of hay. Great quantities in South Australia have never been carted, and remain in the fields. The farmer who has been licensed to fallow land for the current year should receive, every consideration. I know that man-power is needed badly and that the wheat industry should not attempt to retain its full production. I agree entirely with the principle of reduced production, provided the treatment of all States is equal and South Australia and Western Australia are not penalized in favour of the eastern States in respect of their internal economy. For instance, in South Australia over 30 per cent, of the total income derived from industry comes from the wheat industry, whereas in’ New South Wales and Victoria the relative percentage is below 2-0 per cent. I appeal to the Minister to make no discrimination whatever between the different States, but to endeavour to arrive at a fair all-round reduction of production.
.- It. appears to me that the representatives, of wheat-growing areas in Victoria, South Australia and Western Australia approach the problem of storing wheat in a way entirely different from that in which representatives of wheat-growing areas in New South Wales approach it. Whether the former honorable gentlemen view the problem in its true perspective, I cannot say. I realize that it presents varying aspects in the different States. ‘Consequently, different solutions must be sought. The bulk system of handling and storing wheat may have proved successful in. Western Australia. South Australia and Victoria; but when that system was tried in New South Wales in the 1939-40 record season, it proved a failure. In. the 1916-17 season, Professor Lefroy, a British Government expert, visited New South Wales and thoroughly investigated various methods of preserving large quantities of wheat which had been purchased by the British Government. He found that certain sites in New South Wales lent themselves to the preservation and handling of wheat in bags. The temperature of the wheat did not rise very considerably when it, was parcelled in 3-bushel bags, and certain mechanical principles were applied, in order to ventilate the stacks. At Goulburn, and Springhill, near Orange, wheat was kept for a period of nearly two years, when, in respect of deterioration due to weevils, it was found to be not only as good as when it was placed in the stacks, but also 12% per cent, heavier. Similar results were obtained in respect of the last harvest at Springhill. Only within the last month, the last of that wheat was shipped to New Zealand. At that centre, 1 saw in the stack some wheat which was received from a certain place in New South “Wales from which most of the wheat offering was refused because the inspectors reported that the area was infested with weevils. However, a certain number of bags of wheat from that area were stacked before action to reject the wheat was taken. When that stack was finally pulled down for shipment, the only bags affected by weevils were those which had been received from that area. Thi 3 showed that the weevil -was effectively isolated under this system of storage. It is well known that, in wheat which is allowed to stand for three months in big concrete silos in New South Wales, infection by weevil tends to spread, with the result that wheat loses its milling value to a considerable degree. That is the general experience in silos, even when the wheat is turned over. On the other band, I repeat no deterioration takes place when wheat is stored in small parcels in bags.
Various proposals have been made for the reduction of acreage and production generally. No such measures need be taken because, owing to the shortage of labour in the industry resulting from -.all-ups for military service, production will automatically decrease. Consequently, no action need be taken by the Government directly to decrease production. I have received many letters during the last few months from wheat-farmers, pointing out that, owing to the shortage of labour, they will not be able to put in full crops, and that in instances where a full crop might be put in, it will be impossible to harvest all of it. Consequently, if the industry is not interfered with and the farmer is left to his own resources, production will automatically decrease. Therefore, I strongly urge the Minister for Commerce (Mr. Scully) not to lay down any arbitrary rule in relation to the management of the industry in any State.
In spite of the fact that Western Australia has a fairly large surplus of wheat, no one can say, in view of the uncertainty of military developments within the next twelve months, whether a surplus of even 50,000,000 or 60,000,000 bushels now in storage in any part of the country will be sufficient to meet future needs. It is quite possible that, in the event of certain military developments, sufficient wheat may not be available even in wheatgrowing areas to supply local needs. That applies to not only Western Australia, but also the other States. Instead of discouraging the production of foodstuffs, the Government should encourage primary producers to increase production, even where a surplus seems certain. I again emphasize that, due to the shortage of labour, production of wheat will automatically decrease.
I am much concerned about the position that might arise if it became necessary for us suddenly to transfer heavy industries from the coast to inland towns. Apparently, we have learned nothing, in this respect, from the experiences of England and Russia. We have concentrated our industries and not spread them. Now that we realize that it may become necessary, almost overnight, to remove heavy industries from vulnerable coastal areas to less accessible inland localities, we find that the foundations upon which heavy industries must be built are not available in such areas. The technical advisers of the Government tell us that as it would take a considerable time to provide the groundwork in inland towns for heavy industries, it is not worth while, at this stage, to pursue the matter further. When n technical adviser visits an inland district to ascertain its potentialities as a location for heavy industries, his first inquiry is as to water supplies. It has been the practice in this country for every inland town to make its own arrangements for water for town, irrigation or power purposes. We have not learned the rudiments of national economy in this respect. Apart from one or two localities in New South Wales, water storage facilities are not available in country towns for the purposes of heavy industries. Certainly, hydro-electric power could not be easily or quickly provided. Such works of the kind as have been contemplated from time to time have been placed low on the priority list by the Loan Council, and practically nothing has been done to push ahead with the schemes. Now we are faced with labour shortages and a lack of the necessary materials for building reservoirs and providing reticulation. If, however, we throw up our hands in despair because the necessary foundational work has not been done to meet the contingency, the result will be deplorable. When the Americans came to Australia they found that very little had been done to provide adequate aerodromes and the like from which to operate air services; but they did not allow that fact to deter them from energetic action. The obstacle, in their view, was not insuperable, and they at once set to work to overcome it. We should similarly face the situation that now confronts us in regard to the possibility of our having to transfer heavy industries to localities where they would not be so subject to attack from warships or bombers. T hope to enlarge upon these remarks when an opportunity is provided for us, in the near future, to discuss matters relating to the defence of this country and the development of certain necessary essential industries inland.
A certain volume of correspondence has reached me lately from persons who are anxious to assist to work the mineral resources of this country in order to meet vital war needs. Because of our failure to develop our base-metal resources in a systematic way, many of our known mineral fields have not been brought into economic production. The people who have written to me on this subject are not actuated by ulterior motives. Their desire is to assist in the development of mineral resources so that both war and developmental needs may be met either from new fields or from fields which have hitherto not been economically workable because of the low prices ruling for base metals. [Extension of time granted.] Numbers of prospectors have expressed a desire to seek out new fields or to assist in the reopening of old mines. The Minister for Supply and Development (Mr. Beasley) has endeavoured to meet the situation by establishing a Minerals Committee under the chairmanship of Mr. J. M. Newman. That gentleman may be a competent technical adviser, but I question whether the machinery that is being established will be adequate to meet, the needs that I have in mind. It is necessary, in these days, to develop fields which may have proved unpayable in days gone by, or to seek out new deposits. The men to do this are prospectors and miners who, for one reason and another, are not engaged in war industries, and who have the time and ability requisite for the purpose. I suggest that the Government should make arrangements for the payment of an allowance to these men comparable with the basic wage, so that they may go out into likely localities for prospecting purposes. Mineral fields do not, a3 a rule, occur in town areas, otherwise those towns would be mining towns and, possibly, because of the trend of mining affairs in recent years, almost abandoned mining towns. It would be a great thing for this country if new mineral fields could be discovered or old workings revived in order to supply minerals which formerly could be obtained elsewhere more economically, but which now are not available. I have in mind minerals that are required in more or less small parcels for alloy purposes and the like. I strongly suggest to the Government that it should allocate for disbursement to prospectors a part of the amount of £500,000 which has been earmarked for mineral development in order that these men may be encouraged to meet a need that is to-day so urgent.
.- I desire to direct attention to certain aspects of the war organization of industry, mainly other than ‘ those mentioned by the honorable member for Bourke (Mr. Blackburn), and I am glad that the responsible Minister is at present in the chamber. The Prime Minister (Mr. Curtin) and some of his colleagues have referred at various times to the urgent necessity to organize the affairs of the country on a war footing, and I was glad to learn that a series of instructions had been issued by the Department for the War Organization of Industry to employers’ associations and individuals in this regard. I realize that large numbers of people who come into this scheme arc anxious to give of their best at the earliest possible moment. However, a large vacuum exists between the organization and employers and employees. I should like the Minister to look into this matter lo see if something can be done to speed up the process. Several cases have come under my notice during the last week or so. Apparently the department has laid down four general principles of operation: First, there is the elimination of all non-essential industries; secondly, the rationalization of the distribution of products obtained from industries which continue in operation; thirdly, the allocation of plant material and buildings; and fourthly, the allocation of man-power set free by the closing down of non-essential industries. I know of one employer in Dandenong who has quite a number of tradesmen and a fairly large plant which deals mostly with timber. At present he is able to obtain skilled men. The employers association to which he belongs passed on to him a departmental instruction, dated the 4th February. He went to Melbourne and saw certain officials of the Department of War Organization of Industry, from whom he obtained no help at all. He pointed out that instructions had been issued, but the officials were unable to indicate any particular avenue in which his plant and labour could be employed. He then went to the Ministry of Supply and Development and again he could obtain no assistance. The result was that he went home disappointed, and at present his men and plant are idle. I suggest to the Minister that it is necessary to fill up that »ap between the department and the people who will ultimately be affected. At the same time there is no doubt that the Government is already studying the problem along these lines.
I should like also to urge the necessity for decentralization. This matter was referred to by the honorable member for Calare (Mr. Breen), but the problem is general throughout the Commonwealth, ft is quite true that, for many very good reasons, certain heavy industries cannot be moved to country areas, but there is quite an amount of useful work which could be done in country towns, where labour is available and no housing problems arise. Obviously, from a military
point of view, it is very desirable that war industries should be dispersed to the greatest possible degree, and not concentrated in the capital cities. The question of freeing the transport system from the present overloaded conditions is also important. To-day trains, trams, and buses are overcrowded by men and women going to and from their work, and a great deal of time and energy is also expended in that manner. I ask the Minister, and through him, the Government, to give serious attention to this matter in an endeavour to see whether or not decentralization can be speeded up.
.- 1 did not intend to speak at this stage, but I have been informed that certain references have been made to my visit to Western Australia in connexion with the wheat industry, and I merely wish to make clear certain points in regard to that visit. It has been said that I made certain recommendations to the Government in relation to acreage restriction in Western Australia, South Australia, and possibly other States. I did in fact visit Western Australia and South Australia at the request of the Minister for Commerce (Mr. Scully) in order to make a survey of the wheat position, and in the briefest terms I should like to inform the House of what I found to be the position. In Western Australia to-day wheat production, in terms of present stocks, amounts to an aggregate of approximately 50,000,000 bushels. In South Australia there is somewhat less than that, the figure probably being nearer 30,000,000 bushels. In Western Australia also the infestation by weevils is causing a problem, and I could say a great deal in regard to the matter, but no doubt the report which I have made to the Minister will be made available to honorable members in the near future. Briefly, my views in regard to wheat production are these: We have a wheat surplus which cannot be reduced by means of export for some considerable time because I believe that, even after the war, there will still be a shortage of ships. Therefore, the European countries, in urgent need of foodstuffs at the end of the war, will obtain their requirements in the first instance from places which involve the shortest possible transport. In that respect the continent of America will probably have first call. Therefore I visualize that a considerable time will elapse before we shall be able to clear our stocks of wheat, particularly in Western Australia and South Australia. There is the danger of loss from weevil infestation.. Also, we have to take into consideration the fact that this nation is in a very critical position in regard to its defence. Invasion is threatened and we do not know what the future holds for us from week to week, or even from day to day. It is clear that we must mobilize all the forces at our disposal for the defence of this country. As we are assured of an ample supply of wheat, it is up to us to divert whatever man-power is available to the immediate task of defending the country. In view of the present vast stocks of wheat, to permit normal production’ to continue would, it seems to me, be rather a foolish policy. It would be’ more sensible to free for more important work in the defence activities of the country, so far as we may, the many young, ablebodied men who are now obliged to stay on the farms, and others who are connected with the production of this commodity, which, to a great degree, has become an embarrassment to the Government. That applies also to other industries. A considerable army of persons is engaged in servicing this industry, and keeping its machines in running order. Here is a large fund of skill, which might well be diverted to the production of requirements of which there is a shortage. If I were administering policy, I should say, “ Let us by all means do that which is most needed for the defence of this country”. It is not necessary to impose hardship on the farming community. It is well within the power of the Government to afford whatever protection may be needed. If the farmer is to be precluded, either now or in future, from producing the commodity which he must produce in order to meet his commitments and live, ‘he must be given protection and compensation. I have said so in the report that I have made. I believe that the production of this commodity should be restricted. I reached that conclusion after surveying the position fully from all points of view. The farmers are most anxious to co-operate in that direction; they, too, take the sensible view. I can understand the view of honorable members on my right, who have suddenly awakened to the need for protecting the farmers.
– We were fighting for them before the honorable gentleman became a member of this House.
– I have made my view clear, and I believe that it is based on sound premises. The defence of Australia is paramount at the present time. If it be necessary to call a halt to an industry which is producing far in excess of requirements, that is sound policy for the Government to follow. I hope that it will not hesitate to make such a decision when the time to do so arrives.
The revenue derived from the flour tax, a portion of which is allocated to the States for distribution among wheatgrowers on marginal lands, could be much better disbursed if it were made available in the form of an insurance fund for the assistance of growers who, in some parts of the wheat belt, suffer every year in some way from seasonal disabilities.. I hope that when the Australian Agricultural Council next meets it will take this matter into consideration, and that the States will be left more or less to deal with marginal lands, because they were responsible in the first instance for the settling of those areas. The collections made by means of the flour tax should be devoted to the purpose originally intended, in order that men who are doing a really good job may be assisted to remain on their lands. In many cases, it is impossible to define marginal lands, because the question is largely one of marginal settlers. Speaking generally, I repeat that I have not made a recommendation to the Government as to whether or not it should restrict wheat, production.
– The honorable member made a statement in the press.
– I invite the honorable member to produce any statement made by me which can be regarded as a recommendation to the Government. I surveyed the position, and informed the
Minister of the supplies of wheat and the attitude of the farmers. I am perfectly satisfied that, if my views were in accordance with those of honorable members who have been interjecting, they would not be acceptable to the wheatgrowers. I have no doubt that the Minister will make the position clear from the standpoint of himself and the Government.
– The right honorable member for Kooyong (Mr. Menzies) has referred to a regulation which applies to munitions establishments and concerns the employment of women labour. That regulation was promulgated by the Department of Labour, because it was believed to be a fact - or it was - that an industrial agreement with the munitions workers prohibited the employment of women in those establishments. The main purpose of the regulation was to permit such employment. It was thought advisable to provide that the remuneration should be fixed by the appropriate Ministers. The right honorable gentleman said that, as a general rule, there should not be interference with the fixation of wages by industrial tribunals. This is an illustration of the need for a regulation to be made in order to permit an industry to be carried on in an emergency.
– Is it not a fact that the court dealt with the industrial agreement in the metal trades award?
– I am not sure whether that is correct or not; but it was necessary to make the regulation in order to permit the employment of women.
The right honorable member for Kooyong also referred to the matter of an award of the Central Coal Reference Board. This matter is at present before the Government, consequently I do not wish to canvass the merits of it.
– I endorse the remarks of the honorable member for Swan (Mr. Marwick). I regret that, in view of the approach of the growing season, we are not, now dealing with a measure providing for the operation of the wheat industry. In a sense we are sparring in the dark. We are anxious for a decision to be made on this matter, but the Minister for Commerce (Mr. Scully) has done nothing more than make multifarious suggestions about the steps he should take. I remind the House, and particularly the Minister, that the wheat pool system was established on a Commonwealthwide basis, according to the provisions of our Constitution. This means that wheat-growers in all parts of Australia share alike in the proceeds of the scheme. One of the Minister’s proposals, as I understand it, is to differentiate between States in the allocation of sowing licences. That would be unconstitutional. The honorable member for Wimmera (Mr. Wilson) referred to the large stocks held in Western Australia and South Australia. Who is responsible for that ? The fact is that ordinary sales and despatches of wheat were effected in the eastern States, leaving the majority of the country’s yield unshipped in Western Australia and South Australia.
– It was not possible to get the wheat from the western States.
– That should not give rise to discrimination against those States. The statements made by the honorable member for Wimmera lead me to think that he is prejudiced against the western States. He spoke of weevilinfested wheat. It is estimated by competent authorities that weevil-infested wheat in Western Australia represents only 4.4 per cent. of the total quantity in that State. It is grossly unfair to allege that Western Australian wheat is seriously affected by weevil. The Government was ill-advised to send a wheatgrower from one State to adjudicate on the position of the wheat industry in another State. It was not a fair action. There are men in Western Australia who have as sound a knowledge of the wheat industry as has anybody in the world and to send a Victorian to that State was to attempt to teach one’s grandmother to suck eggs. I do not wish to belittle the honorable member for Wimmera, but I should like to know why he was selected by the Government. What are his high qualifications? He is about as well qualified as I am. I submit that no honorable member has contributed more to the wheat industry than. I have. I have been a wheat-grower for about 40 years.
It has been suggested that the goldmining industry in Western Australia, should’ be curtailed, if not suspended, in order to release man-power. It might be wise to do so, but it would deal a terrific blow to Western. Australia. That State has three great key industries - the goldmining industry, the wheat industry and the wool industry. There are other minor, though not unimportant, industries such as dairying and fruit-growing. Therefore Western Australia would suffer very severely if both gold-mining and wheatgrowing were curtailed drastically. Whatever decision the Minister for Commerce may reach, I hope that he will endeavour to conform to i lie spirit of the Constitution so as not to discriminate unfairly against any one State. I regret that a decision has not been made already. This Parliament will not meet again until the 25th March, when sowing will be almost due to commerce. When the Minister for Commerce was a member of the Opposition, he was an enthusiastic advocate of grower representation on the Australian Wheat Board and the State wheat committees. He favoured the election of representatives by the growers themselves. 1 am sorry that he has not adhered to that principle in selecting the present members of the board and its subordinate bodies.
– Are not the men whom T appointed to the board representatives of the growers ?
– They were not elected by the growers.
– They are grower representatives; they were the heads of the wheat-growers’ organizations in the various States.
– They may or may not be highly qualified men, but their appointment was on a par with the decision to send the honorable member for Wimmera (Mr. Wilson) to adjudicate on the wheat position in Western Australia. It would be much more satisfactory, as I have frequently heard the Minister declare, for the growers to have the privilege of electing their own representatives to the Australian Wheat Board. I cannot refrain from criticizing the honorable gentleman for neglecting to carry out his own suggestions when he has had the opportunity to do so. An equitable system of compensation should be introduced for farmers whose sowings are restricted.
As a matter of fact, I am doubtful whether we ought to restrict the production of foodstuffs in this country. It is distinctly possible that there will be a serious shortage of wheat soon, and that there will be a bigger demand than we can meet. Although the stocks of wheat in Western Australia total 50,000,000 bushels, every bushel of that quantity may be needed as well as every bushel that we can produce in the future, when we may suffer bad seasons. Armed forces from abroad are garrisoned in this country in order to defend us against our enemies, and they will require huge quantities of foodstuffs. Furthermore, our Allies overseas may find themselves in desperate need of wheat. Therefore, I question the wisdom of curtailing the production of foodstuffs at this time.
– I support the remarks of the honorable members for Swan (Mr. Marwick), Grey (Mr. Badman), and Forrest (Mr. Prowse), on the restriction of wheat production. I believe that the Government was wrongly advised when it decided to restrict wheat-growing. It is obvious that there will be a natural restriction of production as the result of the diversion of man-power from our primary industries to the armed forces and the munitions industries. On many big wheat, farms prior to the war there would be a farmer, two or three of his sons and a couple of hired men to do the work; today, possibly, there will be only the farmer, one son, and perhaps a man who is too old to do hard work. Australia has already been bombed, and those great wheat-stacks in Western Australia might easily be destroyed by incendiary bombs. It must be obvious to every one that when this war is over, millions of people in Europe and Asia will be starving. It is essential that we should maintain our wheat-growing industry, instead of taking people away from the country and crowding them into the cities. There is another aspect to consider: The honorable member for Wimmera (Mr. Wilson), who has posed in the past as a champion of the wheatgrower, has said of other honorable members of the Country party that they came here and, instead of looking after the interests of their constituents, they took the 30 pieces of silver. I tell him that there are many people in the country who looked upon him a little time ago as a champion of the wheat-growers, but who are now wondering who got the 30 pieces of silver. No doubt his recent trip toWestern Australia was a very pleasant jaunt, but I doubt whether it was of any use to the wheat-growers, and it is my belief that the Minister for Agriculture in the Government of Western Australia is now in Canberra trying to repair the damage done by the honorable member forWimmera when he was in the West.
Yesterday, I asked a series of questions of the Minister for Commerce. This is the first -
Is it a fact that a Minister has adversely criticized certain members of the Wheat Board on the ground that they did not represent the wheat-growers?
The answer which I received to that question was, “No”.
– Was he a. Minister at that time?
– I cannot argue the point as to whether he was a Minister then or not.
– The honorable member asked a direct question, and he received a direct reply.
-Here is another question that I asked -
Does the Minister for Commerce adhere to his statement that the growers should be allowed to elect their own representative?
To this question I received the following reply : -
Yes, when this is practicable.
I asked a third question in the following terms: -
If so, will he state when he proposesto have a growers’ representative appointed?
The reply which I received to that question is as follows : -
Appointments of additional grower representatives have beenmade to the Australian Wheat Board.
The fact is that they were not made as the result of a poll ofwheat-growers, and I have heard the Minister himself say that that was the only fair way in which to do it. One man was appointed, it is true, and everybody knows that the appointment was for services rendered. The final question was as follows: -
Will these appointments be made as a reward for services rendered to the Government, or will the representative be elected by a poll of wheat-growers?
To this question the following answer was supplied : -
Any further appointments, or the reconstitution of the board, will be made in accordance with the regulations, namely, by the Minister for Commerce, who will make appointmentsin such a manner as to ensure that the board will function in the best interests of the industry.
That represents a complete somersault by the Minister for Commerce. Before he became a member of the Government, he said that the growers should appoint their own representative to the board; now his attitude is that he will appoint only such persons as are in agreement with him. A few months ago, the Minister for Commerce fought very bitterly for the right of the big wheat-growers of New South Wales to grow as much wheat as they liked.
– He did the very opposite.
– He did what I have said, and I heard Sir Earle Page reply to him.
– The honorable member did not hear me make a statement of the kind which he has attributed to me.
– It is recorded in Hansard. The honorable member for Wimmera wrote to Mr. Powell, in Western Australia, asking him to help to knock out the wheat stabilization scheme, and Mr. Powell was foolish enough to publish the letter in the newspapers. Now these same people are prepared to turn a complete somersault, and refuse to consider the needs of the wheat farmer, but any workman in a munitions factory must be allowed to bump up his wages as much as he likes.
– That statement is an absolute misrepresentation.
– I have the paper in which the letter was published.
– Well, produce it.
– I can do so. The Government should think very seriously before taking any step that would put the wheat-growing industry back for ten years.
Some time ago, an Inventions Board was appointed by the Defence Department to consider such inventions as the Pomeroy explosive bullet, the Stevenson flash arrestor, and other devices of the kind. Its purpose was to test out inventions that might be of use to the army.
It turned out that the board proved to be a definite block to the acceptance of useful inventions. Eoi instance, the Stevenson flash arrestor is something for which we in the army have been looking for years. It is an excellent device, but it was before the board for 22 months, although very favorable reports had been made concerning it. It had survived such a test as the firing of 120,000 rounds through it with perfect success, yet it has not been put into production. I believe that the Government has appointed a new board, and some of the members are excellent men. The trouble is, however, that there is a staff of only two attached to the board, and consequently the board has great difficulty in implementing its decisions. I hope that what I have said in this regard will be brought before the Minister for the Army, and that he will give it earnest consideration.
.- It seems remarkable that on every occasion on which a member of the Opposition discusses the position of the wheat industry he tries to score at the expense of members of the Labour party. Why do not members of the Opposition say that for ten long years when they were in office they allowed the industry to drift from a reasonably sound position into a wholly deplorable one? Now they have the audacity to tell the Minister for Commerce (Mr. Scully) what he ought to do in the interests of the industry. When members of the Opposition had a majority in both branches of the legislature they were not confronted by insuperable war and shipping problems. They had every opportunity to assist the industry, but they lacked the will to do so. Now they are shedding crocodile tears during the greatest crisis in the history of the nation. For three successive seasons wheat has been piled up in Western Australia for weevils to eat, but the Opposition would not allow such wheat to be fed to human beings. Honorable members opposite ought to admit that the downfall of the industry has been brought about by the action of the members of the Country party in the Senate. When the Labour party was prepared to guarantee to the farmer the payment of 4s. a bushel, the proposal had to be approved by the Senate, but, unfortunately for the growers, the Labour party did not have the necessary majority in. that chamber and the proposal wasdefeated.
– That statement is not correct.
– What I have said is on record. The Minister for Commerce and I condemned the present wheat scheme from the first, on the ground that it is not .fair to the growers, and I hopethat it will be scrapped. The formerMinister for Commerce (Sir Earle Page) said that the scheme represented the efforts of 20 years. What a glorious effort it was to reduce the price of wheat below the cost of production! Members of the Opposition have the “ hide “ totell the present Government what it ought to do for the wheat-farmers, although during ten long years they did nothing to place the wheat industry on a sound, footing. What a government could not do in ten years it could not accomplish in 150 years, if it had not the will to do it. The present Ministry has been in office only a few short months, yet during that period it has given to the growers an opportunity to have their own representatives on the Wheat Board. Instead of the previous Government doing this, it said to the growers that they must be content to produce the wheat, allowing others to do the marketing and get the rake-off. That is why the wheat industry is in the deplorable position in which it finds itself to-day. It has never had a fair deal from the Opposition parties.
My views regarding the wheat industry are well known. I have favoured production on a bushel quota basis ever since I have been a member of this House, because I believe that such a scheme would enable the small farmers to secure a living. The big farmers have other avenues of income, such as returns from the sale of cattle, lambs and wool, hut the small growers depend almost entirely on the price they receive for their wheat. Under the present scheme the small farmer must inevitably go further into debt. When the new plan is finalized I hope that it will be based on a bushel quota, with a guaranteed price to the grower of not less than 4s. a bushel, cash on delivery. The farmer should not be given an advance of two shillings a bushel, and a few extra pence a bushel later, probably spread over three years. If he informed the railway authorities that he would pay his freight charges on machinery, oils, bags, Asc., when he received his wheat cheque, he would not get delivery, but in the past lie has been required to accept payment for his wheat by instalments. That is absolutely unfair. I hope that, the full price will be paid in cash on delivery.
– Although I realize that the time of the Minister for the Army (Mr. Forde) is fully taken up with the responsible wartime duties which devolve upon him. 1. direct his attention to a proposal that was made, I understand, about twelve months ago, for the mental hospital at Goulburn to be taken over by the Defence authorities for the purposes of a military hospital. I believe that some opposition was raised to the proposal by the people of Goulburn, who pointed out that it would be possible to build a hospital in that city at a moderate cost and within a reasonable period. A couple of months ago, however, the Government decided to take over the mental asylum, and convert it into a military hospital. This would mean the removal from Goulburn of a considerable number of harmless persons who have come to look upon the institution as a home, lt would be barbarously cruel to drag the inmates away from the institution at short notice. A number of persons from different parts of New South Wales have taken up residence in or near Goulburn in order to be near relatives who are inmates of this institution, and I hope that the Government will be able to obtain the necessary hospital accommodation without having to take over the mental asylum. I blame previous governments more than the present Ministry for having allowed many months to elapse without providing the hospital accommodation required for military purposes. Although large hospitals have been erected in Sydney, it is now considered that those institutions are exposed to enemy attack, and the Government is searching for hospitals in country districts. I point out that a considerable staff, including nurses and clerks, are employed at the Goulburn mental hospital and that business people in. Goulburn would suffer loss if the institution were, removed to another part of the State. At Cooma there is a large unused asylum which could be converted into a hospital capable of accommodating some hundred.-, of patients. It is a stone structure, but apparently the departmental officials have not considered its possibilities. I spoke to the Minister for the Army to-day regarding the Goulburn asylum, and b« told me that he understood that a compromise had been reached regarding the matter. The citizens of Goulburn, from the mayor down, having become alarmed at the proposal of the Government, decided that a deputation should be formed to wait upon the Minister but I know that the important war matters awaiting his attention make it impossible for him to investigate personally problems such as that of providing hospital accommodation. He must act on the advice of officers in whom he has faith, but he should not have too much faith in them. I could instance another proposal for the provision of a hospital which, as the result of protests, was abandoned. I hope that the mental hospital at Goulburn will not be acquired for military purposes, because New South Wales is in need to-day of institutions of this kind. Before a final decision is reached in the matter I .ask the Minister to exhaust every possible means of making other provision, so that the inmates of the institution at Goulburn will not be disturbed.
My attention has been directed to the fact that in Sydney to-day, an air raid alarm was sounded. As the result, considerable confusion was aroused in the city. I have not ascertained the official explanation as to why the alarm was given, but I have been informed that some women reported that they had seen strange aircraft over the town. Perhaps it was only a trial alarm for the purpose of making the people air-raid conscious, but if that be so I ask the Minister for Home Security (Mr. Lazzarini) to discontinue the practice. What will happen is that, if hostile aircraft happen to appear and the sirens sound, people will think that it is only another trial, and disregard the warning. By now, people have been well educated in air raid warnings. They know that when the alarm goes, they must seek cover without delay. Any false alarms will tend to make people casual.
– Discussing the proposal last week that Werribee beef should be marketed for public consumption, I asked the Minister for Commerce (Mr. Scully) to refrain from making a hasty decision. Whilst I would never impede any project of value to the war effort, we must be sure thai the reaction to any move will not bo greater than the action itself. On the last occasion when the scare of beef measles arose in Victoria, we know what happened. Not that there was a great danger to the health of the public of Melbourne, but people simply refused to eat the beef.
– They could not get the beef. because it was taken off the market.
– People could have obtained the beef if they had so desired. If the honorable member will examine the records, he will discover that the price of station beef declined greatly, and over a period of months the cattle industry of Victoria lost approximately £1,000,000 because of the scare. Fat cattle which were driven into the yards at Geelong on three or four occasions could not be sold. That serious position will recur if the Government decides to permit the marketing of Werribee beef. Alarm will again grip the public of Melbourne. They simply will not eat beef that has been fattened on the sewage farm, where conditions are not of the best, because danger to health must result. References have been made to an alarming shortage of beef in Australia and it has been suggested that, although the Werribee beef might not be sold to the public of Melbourne, it might be used for the purpose of victualling the Army.
– Who said that?
– The statement has been widely circulated. I should like the Minister for Commerce to issue a denial that it is intended to provide the Army with Werribee beef, because meat which has been rejected by the citizens of Melbourne should not be passed on to th, troops. I also ask the Minister to inform the House whether a decision has yet been reached, and the result of the negotiations which he conducted with the Government of Victoria.
.- I hope that before the House rises this evening the Minister for Commerce (Mr.
Scully) will issue the regulation to lift the ban on the sale of Werribee beef. .1 am familiar with the story of Werribee beef because I happened to be a commissioner of the Melbourne and Metropolitan .Board of Works which controls the farm upon which the cattle are depastured. That semi-governmental instrumentality lost £100,000 as the result of being compelled to sell prime cattle valued at £20 or £30 a head for 20s. or 30s. as “ chicken feed “ to people who proclaim themselves as the greatest egg producers in the Southern Hemisphere. Some years ago, the graziers started a scare that succeeded in stampeding the Government of Victoria into passing special legislation for the purpose of preventing the sale of this beef on the Victorian market.
– The opposition of the graziers began when the price of beef on the Victorian market fell to very low levels, and they lost hundreds of thousands of pounds.
– The opposition of the graziers in Victoria began when the Metropolitan Board of Works sent its cattle to the market at a time when beef was scarce and the graziers hoped to reap rich profits from the sale of their stock. They concluded that if they could prevent the marketing of the cattle owned by the Board of Works, they would receive higher prices for their beasts. At any rate, they succeeded in their campaign, which was based upon fallacious grounds. No scientific evidence was produced to justify the statement that the beef was in any way injurious to the health of human beings. The health of the people could have been injured, as the result of consuming the beef, only if they had eaten it raw. Boiling water will kill the tape-worm in the beef, and very few people eat beef which has not been roasted or baked. A much higher temperature than boiling point is required in order properly to roast or bake beef.
– Would the honorable member agree that the Council for Scientific and Industrial Research should conduct a test of the cattle from the irrigated portion of the farm?
– In my opinion, it is not necessary for the Council for Scientific and Industrial Research to make the test, because Professor Woodruff, of the
Melbourne University, leading medical authorities attached to the Eliza and Walter Hall Trust, and every leading medical authority in Australia with one exception, when asked to report, have declared that the meat is not injurious to the health of the public and that there is no reason why it should not be sold. The one exception to whom I referred is Sir John Harris, M.L.C.,but then, he is not a leading medical authority. He is the only doctor who, to my knowledge, has expressed a contrary opinion.
Sitting suspended from 6.18 to 7.30 p.m.
– Although I do not usually speak on the motion for the adjournment of the House, the circumstances connected with this debate are so unusual that I feel impelled to do so on this occasion. The honorable member for Wimmera (Mr. Wilson), who is the self-appointed champion of the wheat industry in this Parliament, had something to say about wheat this afternoon. There was a time when the word “ wheat “ could not be mentioned unless the honorable member was in his place. In those days he was almost glued to his seat, but now when wheat is mentioned he is either in the basement or on the roof. We had an example this afternoon of his keeper having to go out and discover where he was, and bring him in. The honorable gentleman then explained things somewhat vaguely, but instead of remaining in his place to hear what was said about the wheat industry, he, like the Scarlet Pimpernel, was here, there and everywhere except in his place.
– I have something to do besides talk.
– The honorable gentleman has turned a complete somersault with respect to the wheat industry. Not long ago he was about to leave for the United Kingdom and, like many other people who are about to leave on a long journey, he wrote a number of letters. Among the letters that he then wrote was one written on the 22nd November, 1941, to Mr. Powell, of Western Australia. It was published later in the Bruce Rock-Corrigin Post. In that letter the honorable gentleman said -
I do not know what your views are on the present wheat stabilization scheme, but I am being inundated with complaints. The attempt to control production by restriction of acreage seems to me to be doomed to failure. Certainly farmers in the main are very dissatisfied and are finding it impossible, due to labour problems, to cut excess acreages for hay . . . I am sure that next year there will be a great falling off in sowings and that our aggregate production in the 1942-43 harvest will be very considerably below the present year.
He then sought to enlighten Mr. Powell by stating that the Government intended to introduce a wheat stabilization scheme, and a mortgage bank, and that he was in constant touch with Treasury officials in relation to the details. I am indebted to the honorable member for Bendigo (Mr. Rankin) for supplying that newspaper clipping, because I am one of those nasty people who do not keep such clippings for themselves.
– The honorable member gets other nasty people to keep them for him.
– I generally find that there are people willing to help. There are some remarkable circumstances connected with the wheat industry at the present time. The honorable member for Wimmera went to Western Australia. I should like to know why he was sent there. In saying that, I am not challenging his capacity to go to Western Australia and return. Indeed, as he has proved that he can do so, there is no doubt about his ability in that direction. He was about to start on a longer journey which would have involved greater risks. He referred to those hazards in his letter. Having returned from Western Australia, he said that he had not made any recommendations to the Government although he had tendered certain advice. I admit that there is a fine distinction between making recommendations and tendering advice which you, Mr. Speaker, as a member of the legal fraternity, will appreciate. Honorable members would be enlightened if they could know the nature of the advice that the honorable gentleman tendered to the Government. If after a trip to Western Australia the honorable gentleman could tender advice which involved his making a complete somersault in regard to restrictions of acreage, what could we have expected from him had he gone to England and returned?
– I cannot see that there is any evidence of a somersault having been turned by me.
– I remind the honorable gentleman that “’ there is none so blind as he who will not see”. This afternoon the honorable gentleman spoke about wheat. We have heard many speeches from him on that subject, and no doubt he has listened to speeches from me on the same subject.
– I remember one speech in which the honorable gentleman said that the guaranteed price was too high, and that he would make it lower.
– That is so ; I did make that speech. After I went out of office, thereby no doubt causing ray friends much regret, my successor almost immediately raised the guaranteed price by 2d. or 3d. a bushel. I believe that the agreement that I came to with the State governments on the Saturday before I vacated office was a good one. It was a better .agreement than the farmers are likely to get under present conditions.
– Did the honorable member’s party agree to what he had done?
– To what party does the honorable gentleman belong?
– I am willing to enlighten the honorable member on that subject, but I do not think that he needs enlightment. I say, however, that I entertain no ill feeling towards those who were associated with me in that party. The honorable gentleman cannot get any political capital out of that. He cannot even get threepenn’orth of amusement, but as he has not paid his 3d. he is not entitled to the amusement. I simply say that the honorable member for Wimmera, as well as the Minister for Commerce (Mr. Scully), had to do u little in the way of explaining their attitude in regard to wheat. I know that it has become fashionable to appoint batmen to Ministers, but the only batman in this House that I recognize is the honorable member for Batman (Mr. Brennan) who seems to be unemployed. I do not suggest that the honorable gentleman is unemployable, but it would appear that no one wants him.
– That is true. I am nobody’s darling.
– The honorable gentleman has been left on the shelf to become dusty and rusty like an old clock. If it were necessary to send some one to Western Australia to find out whether the weevils break their necks by turning somersaults or by eating their way out of the grain, the Joint Committee on Rural Industries which I understand is still functioning should have been sent there. What were the special qualifications possessed by the honorable member for Wimmera that he should have been selected to go to Western Australia? The electorate of the honorable gentleman adjoins the district which I represent, and the conditions which apply to wheat-farming on his side of the border apply on my side also. I should therefore be interested to learn how it can be considered fair that John Cocky, a farmer in my electorate, should have the acreage under crop restricted by a certain percentage, whilst James Cocky, who lives in the adjoining electorate of Wimmera, should not be subject to similar restrictions. That is one of the niceties of war-time administration that I should like to have explained.
– Did not the honorable gentleman have something to do with an apple and pear scheme which provided for a higher price for fruit in one State than in another?
– Those prices related to different varieties of apples and pears. The honorable member for Ballarat (Mr. Pollard) who has been associated with me in dealing with apples and pears would find it hard to. oppose what I did in connexion with apples and pears.
– I approve of what the honorable gentleman did.
– Indeed, the honorable member was so enthusiastically in support of what I proposed to do that I suggested to his constituents that I should not mind having him for an Assistant Minister. One good turn always deserves another, and I think that I_should be able to get the honorable member for Ballarat to work with me in double harness very well. One thing which he does do in this chamber is keep a fatherly eye on the honorable member for Wimmera. If ever a member had a guardian angel in politics, it is that honorable member. Whether it be by mutual arrangement or by chance, the honorable member for Ballarat is a most effective guardian angel for the honorable member for Wimmera. He guarded him and then guided him when the fatal vote was taken last year. For about a month before that vote was taken I was sitting where the honorable member for Bourke (Mr. Blackburn) sits to-day. I used to watch the way in which the pearl of great price was guarded until at last it appeared on the ring. To-day, when the honorable member for Wimmera returned to the chamber, the reception he received was not that which would have been tendered to me by the Prime Minister (Mr, Curtin), who thinks that I should bc either at the North or South Pole. The way in which the honorable member for Wimmera sat down beside the honorable member for Ballarat was most interesting. This matter is most important. A lot has been said about the wheat industry and about what is wrong with it. When the Minister for Commerce sat on this side of the chamber he committed himself in all sorts of ways not to tolerate any interference with the wheat industry. I am not one of those who think that this war will be over shortly, and, in the next two or three years, we may have a much bigger population than we have now, because if this country is to be the military base which we understand it is to be, we must have troops here, and our requirements of wheat will be heavier. Exports may be down, but the quantity of our damaged wheat may be considerable. The honorable member for Bendigo (Mr. Rankin) referred to that risk this afternoon. Once a wheat stack is on fire it takes a lot of extinguishing. It is about as easy to extinguish as it is to stop an acrimonious debate in this chamber. The Government needs to proceed cautiously in restricting the production of wheat. The Government will find that the State governments are fairly well informed and act on a short co-operative basis. I have no reason to disparage the work of any of the batmen of the Ministers. I only say that with the ministerial experience that I have had, I would not carry on under such conditions. If a man accepts ministerial office he should be able to do the work or get out. I am sure that we are going to get our administrative system hopelessly cluttered up with these assistant cooks who have no administrative authority. They are only told to travel, come back and give advice. The Ministers do not need advice; action is needed more than advice. I leave the wheat industry there and with it the honorable member for Wimmera, having no doubt that he and I will have further occasion to discuss this matter again.
We shall not meet again for nearly three weeks. AH sorts of birds flutter around this place and they use a language which I understand. I have heard it whispered that some very important alterations of the powers and constitution of the Advisory War Council are pend1- ing. I may have been misinformed.
– The honorable member does not expect to be appointed a member.
– No, I have no more ambition to be a member of that council than I have to go to the infernal regions. In saying that, I mean no disrespect to any member of the council. But the Advisory War Council is an institution which I have fought ever since it was mooted. It is one of the worst menaces that this country has. That view is shared by other honorable members on each side of the House. [Extension of time granted.] If the Government is contemplating some change in the status, powers and membership of the Advisory War Council, there ought to be a debate in this chamber as to whether that council should or should not continue to function. I say without equivocation that my view is that the quicker it is wound up the better.
– What has the honorable member against the Advisory War Council?
– It is utterly useless. The Government would be well advised to look around before it tampers any further with that council. It has not functioned in the way that was anticipated and we do not want to be sold any more pups. Up to date, we have been sold one or two litters, and we do not want any more.
.- 1 speak, not as the representative of the. wheat-growers of Batman, who are not, even along the flats of the Merri Creek, very numerous and are not influential at election times ; but, as I did on another occasion, when we were talking about apples and pears, on behalf of those who are extensive users of a product which originates in the wheat seed. I refer, as honorable gentlemen of outstanding acumen will readily understand, to bread. I was struck by what one honorable gentleman opposite said this afternoon about the dangers of limiting the wheat crop. I think that the honorable member for Barker (Mr. Archie Cameron) said something about it, but the matter had been dealt with by another member at an earlier stage. It was one of those who speak from the wheat corner.
– It was the honorable member for Bendigo.
– Yes, the honorable gentleman from the golden city of Bendigo, from which I came originally. But, of course, he has only recently “ blown in “ there. All he runs is a little cabbage patch in the irrigation area. However much he knows about military matters, he knows little about wheat. The subject of the limitation of the wheat crop is very important. I hesitate to disagree with my expert friend, the honorable member for “Wimmera. (Mr. “Wilson), because I regard him as being the last word on wheat. I do not say that I shepherd him with the same assiduity as is displayed by the honorable member for Ballarat (Mr. Pollard). I have not constituted myself as a godfather to him. I do not conduct him to the right side of the House on crucial voting occasions, nor do I hail him as a saviour when a discussion on wheat is foreshadowed by the militant honorable member for Swan (Mr. Marwick). But I have great respect for him, and his knowledge of wheat. .1 do not agree with him when he suggests that, having regard to the present critical state of the war, and the necessity for providing man-power for active belligerent operations, it is therefore desirable to release men who are engaged in the production of wheat for active belligerent operations. “While rather accentuating the existence of a critical stage of the war, the honorable gentleman does not take the long view in regard to the possible consequences of war. One of those consequences, and, indeed, one of the problems of war, is the feeding of the civilian population. That may very well become critical and difficult. The bread supply of the people, as the foundation of feeding them, may become critically important. It is not only that our shipping may be hampered, or that we may have a large acces sion of troops in this country; there is also the fact that, at a critical stage, active belligerent operations may engross the labour of our manhood. Taken with the subsidiary facts of an increased population and the possible claim of an invading army, these developments may render the feeding of our people a real problem, involving difficulties of transport and the growth of foodstuffs. We cannot fail to keep that constantly in mind. War* are fought not for soldiers by soldiers, but by soldiers for the civil population ; and, unhappily, in modern warfare they are largely fought by the civil population itself. That being so, I should like to think that the people were proceeding with their normal activities for as long and as thoroughly as they can, but, especially, in the production of foodstuffs. I believe generally in maintaining the morale of the people by displaying an apparent unconcern of the enemy. You. do not want to be constantly preaching jeremiads about impending disasters. If politicians go out of their way to preach to the people about horrors to come, and seek to depress them - and it is greatly to the credit of the people that they decline to be depressed - the people may very well turn round after being hectored and lectured by politicians and say, “ Well, we think it is about time that we started hectoring and lecturing you, and that you gave us a let-up “. When we view the history of this dreadful calamity we cannot help feeling that the politicians and the military alike have not made very accurate forecasts and have not been proven true prophets of developments which now lie before us in all their sad wreckage as a chapter in our history. Consequently, I suggest that we should not preach these jeremiads, but should encourage the people to live their normal lives. We should encourage the farmer to plant all the wheat he can; we may want it. We may find ourselves short of bread, meat, and vegetables.. Already we hear that supplies of some of these things are short, and have to be distributed in homeopathic doses, even in this wonderful country which has so far been removed, but is no longer, from the scene of active belligerent operations. I believe that some honorable members have grave doubts about the policy of restricting the production of wheat, for many reasons, but principally for the reason that at a critical time and in the most difficult circumstances we may very well want more wheat and more bread than providence has seen, fit to send to us in any particular year. It is well said that we may have a drought in addition to other scourges; and I am quite sure that we deserve some punishment for our sins.
.- I rarely rise to speak on the motion for the adjournment of the House, but the opportunities of honorable members in these days to address themselves in Parliament to various public issues are limited, liven at question time it is not possible, within the period available, to submit all the questions on which we desire to elicit information. Consequently, we must take such other opportunities as the Standing Orders afford to obtain the information we desire. At questiontime to-day, as the honorable member for Barker (Mr. Archie Cameron) elegantly put it. “ the gate was shut too soon “.
I desire to obtain some information :i boUt certain ill-conceived, ill-advised and ill-considered regulations which the Government has issued. The honorable member for Bourke (Mr. Blackburn) referred to certain regulations which are having the effect of enforcing the closing nf many small businesses. This is going on not only in city areas, but also in country districts throughout Australia. Why is this so? Is it because the Government desires to save lighting? That cannot be the reason, for under the existing daylight-saving provision very little electricity is used for lighting purposes. Is it because of a desire to conserve man-power? That cannot be the reason either, because many of these small businesses are conducted by married couples above military age. Is it because of a desire to save power and coal? In Tasmania, at any rate, the shops could remain open fill night without the saving of a single ounce of coal, for the hydro-electric scheme of Tasmania does not require coal. I ask the Government to cause an investigation to be made into the justification for the particular regulations to which I am referring.
I direct attention, now, to a recent statement by thu Prime Minister in deprecation of what he described as “ bets and beer “. Steps have been taken to restrict the broadcasting of race descriptions. I shall not at the moment discuss whether racing is good or bad in itself. I wish to emphasize that if the Government were sincere in this matter, and desired to take effective action, it should have gone further than it has gone. The interstate broadcasting of race descriptions is simply a farce. Race broadcasts are permitted intra-state but not interstate. All that that means is that a person in Victoria who ‘wishes to hear race broadcasts in Sydney disregards the State relay stations and tunes in to the principal national station in New South Wales. Persons in New South Wales who wish to listen to Melbourne broadcasts merely tune in to 3LO and so get all the results they desire from Flemington. For this reason I submit that the Government’s plan to restrict racing by the prohibition of interstate broadcasts has failed miserably.
– Does the honorable gentleman think that all racing broadcasts should be prohibited?
– I definitely do. In these serious times such action would be fully warranted. My complaint at the moment is that the Government is only playing with the thing. Its policy is a joke.
During question time I desired to elicit some information from the AttorneyGeneral (Dr. Evatt) concerning what are coming to be known as ministerial batmen. 1 am almost induced to ask any honorable gentleman opposite who is without a job to hold up his hand as practically all of them, have been given some governmental appointments. I desire to know whether the AttorneyGeneral proposes to appoint the honorable member for Watson (Mr. Falstein) and the honorable member for Kennedy (Mr. Riordan) to assist him in certain of his work? If so, what extra remuneration will be paid to those honorable gentlemen, and what duties will they perform? Is it not a fact that all the work that they could do could be done by the Crown Solicitor and the officers of the Crown Law Department in the various States?
Another matter to which I desired to direct more attention during question time, hut was unable to do so in the time available, is of paramount importance. We must surely all recognize that it is of extreme consequence that” we keep all ships moving in and out of our various ports “as fast as possible. Because of the lack of shipping it is extremely necessary that we move heaven and earth to obtain the utmost service possible from the ships that are available. Yet numerous shipping delays are occurring. I do not blame the Government for what is happening, but I ask the Minister for Commerce (Mr. Scully), who is in charge of shipping, to make an investigation to ascertain whether more effective steps cannot be taken to expedite the handling of cargo at various ports, for this would enable the ships to make more frequent voyages. I have in mind a shipping company which, not long ago, was running one trip a week on a certain route with its available vessels, but delays have become so frequent that the period between trips has extended from ten to twelve days. This means that we are only getting about 50 per cent, of the service that we ought to be getting from these ships. I asked one question of the Prime Minister on this subject to-day, but in the time available was able to make only a limited submission to him. The honorable gentleman said that he would give immediate consideration to my question and I am sure that he will do so. The fact is that there is a bottle-neck at the port of Melbourne. Only half the quantity of labour is available to handle the shipping economically and expeditiously. In justification of that statement I cite the following specific instances which occurred between the 28th February and the 4th March of this year. Insufficient, labour was available to work the Woniora and she had to leave port having short shipped approximately 25 per cent, of her outward cargo. That is a very serious state of affairs in present circumstances. Only one gang was available to work the Lutana although four gangs would have been necessary to avoid delay. The Lanena had to be worked with one gang instead of four although she was loaded with urgently needed defence requirements. The Wannon could get only two gangs although four were needed. The Wareatea required three gangs for proper working but could not set even one. The Laranah could not obtain any labour, although she could have employed four gangs. The Naracoopa, which arrived last Wednesday with perishable goods and live-stock on board, was unable to obtain labour for unloading. The boat carried a considerable quantity of cheese and boxed butter. The weather was extremely hot, reaching as high as 105 degrees in the shade while the vessel was in port. The butter in the boxes became oily and ran all over the decks. A great deal of it was absolutely wasted and the remainder was seriously deteriorated in quality. I feel sure that it is only necessary to mention these matters to the Minister for Commerce to induce him to have a thorough inquiry made into the subject. If an insufficient number of the .members of the Waterside Workers Federation be available to work ships as they come into port, other men should be given an opportunity to accept employment.
– From where are the men to be obtained?
– We are told that 150 men are idle in the coal-fields area.
– Men could have been obtained at Melbourne. Employees in warehouses which required the goods on the ships were not allowed to work on the ships or to handle the cargo on the wharfs.
– I do not think that that statement can be correct, if thu circumstances are as outlined by the honorable member.
– -The plain fact is that only about half the labour required is available at Melbourne to enable the ships to be handled expeditiously. I urge the Government to give careful consideration to these submissions with a view to the taking of proper steps to rectify the position.
– The Minister for the Army (Mr. Forde) has asked me to inform the honorable member for EdenMonaro (Mr. Perkins) that an immediate investigation will be made into the matters relating to the Goulburn hospital raised by the honorable member.
With regard to the debate on the wheat industry opened by the honorable, member for Swan (Mr. Marwick) this afternoon, I should like to express appreciation of the temperate language used, and the -useful suggestion made, by all honorable members with one exception. The attack was aimed chiefly at the honorable member for Wimmera (Mr. Wilson) because of the fact that I, as Minister for Commerce, directed that honorable member to report on the wheat storage position and weevil infestation in Western Australia, a matter of vital importance to the Department of Commerce and to the Government. I have been considerably alarmed by the conflicting reports received. Previously I had made an investigation through different channels, but no two stories were alike, and in order to get a complete find accurate picture, I decided to appoint some one of outstanding ability who had ;i thorough knowledge of the wheat industry in Australia to make an investigation. Without hesitation I chose the honorable member for Wimmera, because I was convinced that he would be able to present a clear statement of the position. To assist the honorable member I sent a wheat expert from the Department of Commerce with him. When the honorable member returned he presented me with a report for which he is deserving of the highest commendation. The report is an excellent one, and it confirms a previous report submitted to me by Mr. Wilson, of the Council for Scientific and Industrial Research. I assure honorable members that weevil infestation in Western Australia is a very serious matter indeed. I shall quote a paragraph from the report prepared for me by Mr. Wilson, of the Council for Scientific and Industrial Research -
Without doubt the weevil problem in Western Australia is already serious. At Geraldton and Fremantle there are already vast weevil and lesser grain borer infestations in the bulkheads, and no means are available for dealing with the rapidly growing populations. One has only to see the No. 1 bulkhead at Geraldton, where, after less than a year’s storage, there is n heavy 18-in. surface infestation, and the even more severe infestations in the Government Store and C.O.R. bulkheads at Fremantle after eighteen months of storage, to become convinced of this.
Mr. Wilson continues in a similar strain, but what I have read is sufficient to indicate the seriousness of the wheat storage position in Western Australia. The Government is just as concerned with the future of the wheat industry in Australia as are honorable members oppo site, and I give an assurance that acreage restriction was considered only after much deliberation, research, and a number of conferences with various authorities. As a result of these activities we arrived at certain definite proposals to place before the respective State governments. It was never our intention to make a definite decision on any proposal involving restriction of acreage without taking the State governments concerned into our confidence, and it was with that object in view that we invited representatives of the two States in which wo thought it advisable to carry out investigations, to come to Canberra and confer with officials of my department, the Treasurer (Mr. Chifley) and myself on this all-important matter. We submitted certain proposals to these representatives and asked them to give us a complete picture of the position in their respective States. After lengthy deliberation, especially in Western Australia, opposition to any drastic restriction was expressed by the Minister for Agriculture of that State. He said that from the point of view of State economy, he advised no restriction of acreage. A similar attitude was adopted by the South Australian Minister of Agriculture. These gentlemen put before us arguments which were very much the same as those advanced by honorable members this afternoon. We informed the Governments of Western Australia and South Australia that proportionate compensation would be paid for any restriction of acreage. During the past few months new applications have been made to me by various wheat-growers’ organizations for a restriction of acreage in those two States, particularly Western Australia. Letters wore written to the Commerce Department by these organizations. One letter came from the man who is head of the Western Australian Farmers Cooperative Organization, and who is also a member of the Wheat Board, advising the Government to make drastic restrictions in wheat acreage in Western Australia. The following is an extract from that letter: -
In view of this position I really feel some much more drastic steps should be taken 1” curtail acreages, even though such policy varies as between State and State. Bearing in mind the fact that supers essential to wheat production will be very costly and, what is more important, rationed to, say, 50 or 60 per rent., acreage reduction is demanded to h far greater extent than that envisaged by the present stabilization based on normal acreages. I would also like you to bear in mind that farmers”” sons and other labourers are needed for national service, many of whom have already left the farms.
Looking at all these facts, does it not appear that the best national policy to fit present circumstances would be to enact (or offer) that to meet the grave storage problem in Western Australia, and possibly South Australia too, farmers should only crop one acre out of four acres allotted on the present stabilization quota. It would be necessary, of course, to recompense the farmers for throwing out of cultivation three-fourths of their cropping area, and this could bo done by paying, say, 1 2s. per acre on each of the three acres thrown out.
Similar letters nave been received from other organizations. Figures supplied by the Australian Wheat Board show that, at the end of 1942, there will be a carryover of 22,500,000 bushels in New South Wales, 29,500,000 bushels in Victoria, J4,250,000 bushels in South Australia, and 42,250,000 bushels in Western Australia, a total of 128,500,000 bushels. How cun it be thought that the Government was not concerned with the economy of Australia as a whole when it placed its proposals before the respective States? As the Prime Minister and I have said, State economy must be considered ; therefore, invitations were issued to representatives of the States to take part in a conference, and deliberations were held, as the result of which I shall resubmit the matter to Cabinet. I hope to be able to make, at an early date, a pronouncement which I think will be satisfactory. Consultations between the Wheat Stabilization Board, departmental officials, and representatives of the Australian Wheat Board have resulted in a basis of compensation being reached in the event of restriction being imposed. The determination was that ls. a bushel should be paid on the zone system. On that basis, areas with an average of 15 bushels to the acre would be paid 15s. an acre, and other areas in which the average is 21 or 22 bushels would receive more than ?1 an acre. When I placed that proposal before honorable members, the honorable member for Grey (Mr. Badman) mentioned the cost of preparing a firstclass fallow in which to sow wheat. My reply was, “You say that it would cost much more than the amount fixed. The Government will go so far as to compensate the grower up to the estimated cost of the preparation of the fallow.” Then the matter of superphosphate was raised. I replied, “ The Government will also meet you in that matter. If you have excess superphosphate on hand, the Government will purchase it from you.”
Mr. Batman. ; What about the pickled wheat ?
– I made the definite offer to take, at cost price, the whole of the pickled wheat that growers had for seed, in order that no hardship would be inflicted upon the growers in the respective States. Every aspect of the wheatgrowing industry was examined. In no circumstances would the Government or I do anything that might prove inimical to the wheat-grower, whatever restrictions were applied. I am a practical wheat-farmer, and I met the growers on their own ground. If any restriction had to be applied, the Government was willing to do the right thing by the respective States : therefore, it ill-becomes any one to say that we would deal harshly with any State, or single one out for specific treatment. I have dealt with the matter on its merits. Furthermore, the aspects placed before me at the conference will be conveyed by me to Cabinet, for final deliberation, which I hope will take place in a few days.
Only one other matter has been consistently raised by members from the wheat-growing States; it relates to the representation of the wheat-growers on the Australian Wheat Board. I have been a member of this Parliament since that board was established, and I have never heard any honorable member opposite, during the tenure of office of governments which they supported, bring any pressure to bear upon the administration to give to the growers representation on the Australian Wheat Board. That pressure had to wait until this Government came into power. Now, although we have been in office for only three months, for the first time in the history of the Australian Wheat Board there is a majority of bona fide representatives of the growers on the board. Further, for the first time in the history of primary production in Australia, there has been placed on every board which has come under review a majority of bona fide representatives of the primary producers. Therefore, why this shedding of crocodile tears about representation on the Australian Wheat Board, and the manner in which representatives have been selected? In all the years duringwhich honorable members opposite had an opportunity to give effect to a policy suitable to the whole of the wheatgrowing industry throughout Australia, they failed to take definite action in that direction.
I believe that I have said sufficient to make the people of Australia realize that if any restriction is applied it will be as equitable as possible, and that we are as solicitous of the welfare of the individual States and of the wheat-growers as it is humanly possible to be. I speak as the representative of the primary producing section of the Government when I say that in no circumstances and at no time will it tolerate any injustice being done to any State or any section of primary production.
Question resolved in the affirmative.
The following paper was presented : -
Wool - Report of the Central Wool Committee for season 1940-41.
House adjourned at 8.28 p.m. to Wednesday, the 25th March next, at 3 p.m., or an earlier date to be fixed by Mr. Speaker.
The following answers to questions were circulated: -
l asked the Minister for Munitions, upon notice -
– The answers to the honorable member’s questions are as follows: -
The department has no record of the private establishments engaged in the produc tion of munitions of war. The system is that the department will deal with major coordinating contractors only, and that these will farm out details to sub-assembly and sub-contractors.
l asked the Minister for Munitions, upon notice -
– It is regretted that with the limited staffs available and the necessity for their concentration upon work vital in the war effort, it is impracticable to supply the information in the form desired by the honorable member. If he desires information in respect of any particular firm, it can be supplied. It can be said, however, that no firm capable of making munitions, which means a firm already in possession of the requisite plant and skilled labour, should remain unutilized, and if the honorable member is aware of any such firm I shall be glad to have particulars so that I may obtain a report.
l asked the Prime Minister, upon notice -
– The answers to the honorable members questions are as follows : -
Typing assistance for members is also provided at Parliament House and various federal members’ rooms.
y asked the Minister for Commerce, upon notice -
– These questions will be the subject of an announcement by the Government at a very early date.
n asked the Minister for Commerce, upon notice -
– The answers to the honorable member’s questions are as follows : -
l asked the Treasurer, upon notice -
– This subject was recently examined by the production executive and I anticipate being able to make a statement very shortly.
Cite as: Australia, House of Representatives, Debates, 6 March 1942, viewed 22 October 2017, <http://historichansard.net/hofreps/1942/19420306_reps_16_170/>.