16th Parliament · 1st Session
Mr. Speaker (Hon. W. M. Nairn) took the chair at 10.30 a.m., and read prayers.
– Has the Prime Minister noticed that certain morning newspapers yesterday published summaries of reports by the Joint Committees on Profits and War Expenditure, prior to such reports being presented to Parliament? Will the Government consider action to prevent newspapers from publishing information contained in reports before the reports reach the Parliament?
– Unfortunately for myself, I was not able to read yesterday’s newspapers ; consequently I did not notice the publication of summaries of reports which had not been laid upon the table of this House. I shall consider the suggestion contained in the honorable gentleman’s question.
– The tabling of the report of the Joint Committee on Broadcasting was delayed for a month in order that it might be printed, and copies of it might be immediately available to honorable members. Upon inquiry yesterday, I learned that I could not obtain a copy of this report. Will you, Mr. Speaker, rule as to whether or not copies of reports of Parliamentary Committees shall be made available to members of this House before they can be procured by outsiders ?
-The copy of this report laid upon the table of the House is available to honorable members for perusal. It is understood that a very small number of copies was available last Wednesday, and these were distributed by the committee to the press. The matter of the printing and distribution of further copies of his report is in the hands of the President of the Senate. Of course, we must have regard to tho printing difficulties in the present situation, but, subject to that, I shall endeavour to ensure that every facility is given to honorable members to obtain at the earliest possible opportunity copies of reports furnished by parliamentary committees.
– I ask the Prime Minister when honorable members may expect action to give effect to the declared policy of the Government for the stabilization of primary industries?
– I cannot indicate the precise date. “ Stabilization “ is a wide term, and covers a very big field of organization and activity. The Minister for Commerce has already announced the application of the policy of stabilization to different commodities and products. 1 have no doubt that, as time moves on, the honorable gentleman will seek to make further applications of the policy to other primary industries.
– Has the Prime Minister noticed in the press the statement that President Roosevelt is taking steps to displace “ dollar a year “ men who hold honorary directorships, because official investigation has shown that they have been unable to dissociate themselves from their private interests in their dealings on behalf of the Government? Will the honorable gentleman launch a similar investigation is order to ascertain whether any such honorary directors in Australia are susceptible to the same human trait, and whether the activities of any of them have retarded the production of war materials, particularly aluminium, aero engines, and machine tools ?
– As I said in reply to an earlier question, I have not seen very much of what has appeared in the press quite recently. I did not know that President Roosevelt had made the statement or had taken the action mentioned by the honorable member. I know of no instance in which those who are engage”! in advising the Australian Government have placed their private interests before their public duties.
– What about aluminium ?
– I have said that J know of no instance of it. If any specific information can be given to me, I shall most certainly take it into account. 1 have this to say : that whether they be business men, representatives of trade unions or any one else whom this Government asks to advise it, the Government is satisfied of their probity and patriotism.
– I ask the Treasurer whether certain rented properties arc restricted to a net return of 4 per cent., although owners of properties held an fixed mortgage are still obliged to pay 54 per cent, and even higher? If so, will the honorable gentleman consider the advisability of granting to the Fair Rents Court the power to adjust the anomaly?
– I am not acquainted with all the circumstances that are implicit in tho honorable member’s question, but I shall have a reply prepared for him.
Tabling - Disallowance - Hardships
– Will the Prime Minister see that action is taken to have tabled immediately all regulations that arc issued in any interval between meetings of the Parliament, in order that the Parliament may deal with them promptly?
– In tininterval between meetings of the House will it be possible for you, Mr. Speaker, with the assistance of the Standing Orders Committee if necessary, to deal with the tangle that has been caused as the result of a decision given in the Senate yesterday, I believe, which casts into the melting-pot the whole question of the manner and method of disallowing regulations? If tha decision given in the
Senate be correct, certain procedure insisted on by this House a year ago is wrong, and hundreds of things done in connexion with aliens tribunals are illegal. I understand that yesterday’s decision was advised by the SolicitorGeneral’s Department. The effect of it is, that we have the ridiculous position of one House of the Parliament ruling in one way, and the other House ruling in an entirely different way, in regard to the disallowance of regulations. Would it be possible to have the matter cleared up, so that the rights of private members in connexion with the present flood of regulations will be preserved, and will not he dependent upon the caprice or the interests of those who for the time being happen to be Ministers of the Crown?
– I have been giving consideration to previous rulings in connexion with the disallowance of regulations. I am afraid that I shall not be able to follow all of them. Each matter will have tobe determined as it arises in the House.
– In this period of unprecedented crisis, theGovernment is publishing numerous regulations, and honorable members experience great difficulty in ascertaining, for the purpose of investigating complaints, the identity of the persons who are authorized to carry out the instructions contained therein. I ask the Prime Minister to cause to be published prominently in the Press, simultaneously with the regulations, the authorities who are empowered to adjust any hardship or suffering that the regulations may pause? Alternatively, will the honorable gentleman ensure that circulars containing the information are despatched to honorable senators and honorable members? If that be done, their heavy burden of work will be somewhat reduced.
– I shall do my best to give effect to the request.
– Will the Minister for Commerce say whether any instructions have been given for the compulsory removal of stock from the coastal districts of Queensland and New South Wales?
– I am glad that the honorable member has raised this matter, because much confusion has been caused by persons with no proper authority issuing circulars which state that certain descriptions of stock must be evacuated. That is not so. No directions have been given by my department, which is in control of stock dispersal arrangements. No regulations have even yet been gazetted in regard to the matter. Therefore, I wish to warn the public in the coastal areas of New South Wales and Queensland that there is definitely no intention on the part of the Common- . wealth Government to give directions for the dispersal of stock.
– Will the Prime Minister give consideration to allotting a portion of the time while Parliament is sitting next month to a secret meeting?
– In the interval between now and the resumption of the sittings of the Parliament I shall consider the honorable member’s suggestion.
– Is the Minister for Munitions aware that a great number of small laundries and dry cleaning establishments are being denied supplies of white spirit because they do not deal directly with the Shell Company of Australia Limited? Will he see that they are given a fair share of spirit?
– I shall be glad to give further consideration to the matter, but 1 point out that this commodity is in very short supply, and it is essential for aircraft production. I have had to restrict drastically the supply of this commodity to all persons formerly using it for business purposes.
– I do not object to that, but I want every one to get his fair share.
– No favours will be given to any one. If any firms have been unfairly treated, I shall take appropriate action to rectify the position.
– Can the Minister for Labour and National Service say when the long-promised amended list of reserved occupations, which has already been published in part in the press, will be printed and distributed to honorable members?
– If any honorable member desires to be supplied with a copy of the list it will be made available to him upon application to my department.
– Was the Minister for Munitions correctly reported in the press recently as having described as fifth column work certain press criticism of the activities of the director of machine tools, and as having stated that he had placed a censorship ban on such criticism? Will the Minister indicate whether the ban extends to any criticism of the actions of Colonel Thorpe in regard to the infamous cost-plus scheme?
– I have made no statement which would justify the conclusions drawn in the newspaper article referred to. No censorship restrictions have been imposed by me, or by any one else that I know of, regarding criticism of Colonel Thorpe or of any one else in my department. I did, however, express my warm disapproval of certain of the criticisms which I considered were being unfairly levelled against the machine tools branch of my department. I also indicated that criticism should be of a constructive nature, and should not be indulged in unless it could he supported by facts.
– I ask the Minister for Munitions whether he, or any one in his department, is responsible for private business men and officials of the Munitions Department being subjected to a kind of third degree by members of the Criminal Investigation Branch in New South Wales? Was this investigation by the New South Wales police for the purpose of securing information against Colonel Thorpe, or was it for the purpose of intimidating some of his critics?
– I have no knowledge of any action of the kind referred to, and certainly no authority was given by me or, so far as I know, by any official of my department, for any kind of investigation of this matter.
– Will the Minister have the matter inquired into?
– I will.
– Having regard to the changes that are to take place in Western Australia regarding the growing, handling and storing of wheat, and having regard also to the conflicting reports which have appeared from time to time in the press regarding damageby weevils, will the Minister for Commerce release to honorable members the reports prepared by Dr. Wilson, of the Council for Scientific and Industrial Research. Mr. A. Wilson, M.H.R., and Senator Clothier, who have investigated the matter ?
– Has the Minister for the Army seen in the press reports that the British Government is still awaiting the report of Major-General Gordon Bennett on the operations in Malaya and Singapore ? If the report has not already been completed, will he see that its preparation is expedited? Is it proposed to institute any further inquiries into all aspects of Major-General Bennett’s escape from Singapore, with a view to establishing the duty of a general in such circumstances - whether he should remain with his troops or whether he should escape? In view of the fact that high military appointments are apparently being contemplated in the near future, will the Minister take steps to ensure that our successful officers in the Middle East are not overlooked?
– Since Major-General Gordon Bennett returned, he has been fully occupied in preparing a report for me, as Minister for the Army, on the campaign in Malaya and Singapore. Office accommodation and a staff have been provided for him for that purpose. A special request was made by the British War Office for a comprehensive report by Major-General Bennett on the whole Malayan campaign, together with any suggestions and recommendations he was disposed to make in the light of the knowledge which he had gained in the course of the campaign. I have not yet been advised that the reports are completed, but I understand that if not already finished, they are nearing completion. When Major-General Bennett returned to Australia, he attended a meeting of the War Cabinet which was also attended by Chiefs of Staff. He made a full, frank, and fearless statement regarding the whole Malayan campaign and the surrender at Singapore and explained that he had left Singapore two hours after the time of surrender. The unanimous feeling of members of the War Cabinet and of Chiefs of Staff, after hearing the explanation, was one of absolute confidence in Major-General Bennett. When an army surrenders, the leaders are taken away from the men, and are thereafter not allowed to see them or to have any influence with them. There is a mistaken idea that they are allowed to remain with the men after capture, and may, therefore, be in a position to influence the treatment which the men receive. That is not so. As a matter of fact, the higher the rank of an officer the less likelihood there is of his being allowed to remain in contact with his men. I have discussed the matter with leading members of the Military Board, and they are unanimously of the opinion that, as Major-General Bennett remained in Singapore until after the time of surrender, he must be completely exonerated, and that there is no ground for the laying of any charge against him. The opinion was expressed that he will be of much more use to Australia by coming here, having regard to the intimate knowledge which he has gained of the tactics employed by the Japanese, and that this should justify his appointment to an active command in the future. I assure the honorable member that full consideration is being given to the claims of other gallant officers returning from the Middle East in the making of important appointments that will have to be made to the very much enlarged Australian Army now available to defend the country.
– Is 1she Minister for Health aware that the sale of white bread has been forbidden in Great Britain, so that manufacturers must supply wholemeal bread from which none of the nutriment has been removed ? Have the Com monwealth authorities completed their investigation of this matter, as promised by the Minister for Health and by his predecessor ?
– I have read something of the difficulties being experienced in Great Britain in this respect, but I do not know whether we are to understand that there is a strong objection to the use of white bread, or whether the use of wholemeal bread has been ordered because there is a shortage of white flour. Investigations have been made by Dr. Cumpston and his staff on several occasions, but I do not know with what result. As a matter of fact, I do not think that they have taken the matter very seriously, but I shall find out what has been done.
– Will the Minister representing the Minister for Trade and Customs ensure that the price of almonds, when fixed, shall apply throughout the Commonwealth? My reason for asking is that at the present time, the price is fixed only in South Australia, and what the grower is forced to sell at a certain price in that State is sold at a very heavy premium after the commodity changes hands elsewhere.
– I shall be pleased to bring the observations of the honorable member to the notice of the Minister for Trade and Customs, and particularly to the Prices Commissioner.
Mr. ROSEVEAR Is the Minister for the Army yet in a position to make a statement in reply to the question which was asked on Thursday, concerning the allegation that some privates of the Australian Imperial Force who had escaped from Malaya have been imprisoned as deserters? Have the investigations been completed and, if so, will the Minister make a statement so that the House may judge whether any discrimination is made between the treatment meted out to escaped generals and that given 1» escaped privates?
– I have no evidence that any privates escaped from Singapore, but I have called for a report upon certain statements which appeared in a newspaper. Whilst that report has not yet come to hand, I shall probably receive it to-day and I shall then make it available to the honorable gentleman. Personally, I do not believe that any privates have escaped from Malaya; nor do I believe that any generals escaped from Singapore before the surrender. We have definite evidence that that escape occurred after the surrender.
– When the inquiry has been completed and the men are exonerated, as I believe they will be, will the Minister ensure that they shall be granted leave to return to their homes? [ understand that they have been detained in Western Australia and have suffered a good deal. In my opinion they are entitled to a period of leave.
– I shall give sympathetic consideration to the suggestion.
– As we have lost valuable supplies of tin through the Japanese occupation of Malaya, will the Minister for Supply and Development consider the advisability of increasing the price of tin in Australia in order that many small “ shows “ may be brought into production, and many mines, which are on the point of closing because of the- unprofitable price, may continue to operate ?
– I emphasized some weeks ago, and again this week, the necessity for the adoption of an equalization arrangement regarding the price of tin. The Minerals Committee which investigated the matter, approved the adoption of that policy and I have endorsed that decision. The next step will be to refer the matter to the Prices Commissioner, and I shall use my best endeavours to equalize the payments, as the honorable member has suggested.
– Will the Minister for the Army consider the advisability of simplifying the uniform of commissioned officers in the fighting forces with a view to eliminating the expensive colouring and gold braid which are now so scarce in Australia?
– Consideration will bp given to the suggestion.
– I ask the Minister for War Organization of Industry to inform the House what provision has been made for the maintenance of the livelihood of persons who were engaged in non-essential industries that have now been closed? They have been deprived entirely of their means of livelihood anr] have virtually been thrown on to the scrap heap.
– Most of the individuals who lost their employment as th, result of the operation of a regulation issued by my department to close nonessential industries have been re-absorbed elsewhere. Where it can be proved that, because of invalidity or old age, it is impossible to re-absorb an individual, he can obtain sustenance payments from the Department of Social Services.
– What scale of relief is granted to men and women who have been displaced and for whom no employment can be found? To what department must they apply for assistance? Has a questionnaire been printed for that purpose and if so, where are the forms obtainable?
– The payments are made by the Department of Social Services, but I am not aware whether a questionnaire has been printed. The scale of relief, which depends upon the circumstances of the applicant, is adequate, and exceeds the rates paid to soldiers. In the circumstances, the individuals concerned have little cause for complaint. They are being adequately cared for.
– Recently, the Commonwealth Government negotiated with the Imperial Government an agreement to increase the price of wolfram from 60s. to 100s. a cwt. Will the Minister for Supply and Development inform me what machinery exists for the subsidizing of persons now engaged in the mining of wolfram and scheelite?
– The policy of the Government is partly explained by a reference which I made earlier to-day to the Minerals Committee. In the first instance, the BauxiteCommittee examined the deposits of bauxite throughout Australia and upon the completion of that investigation the Government enlarged the personnel in order that it might survey the matters which the honorable member for Watson mentioned. That work is now being undertaken. The Committee has made many recommendations for assisting the industry, not only financially but also by providing labour. I could mention a considerable number of those recommendations, and describe the action that the Government has taken in order to give effect to them. Regarding wolfram, I do not propose to give any particulars to the House, but I am happy to say that good progress has been made.
– I ask the Minister for
Commerce to take steps to see that the retail price of apples is kept in reasonable ratio to the wholesale price? In the past, the public has been obliged to pay as much as 5s. a dozen for apples for which the Department of Commerce paid 5s. a case.
– The administration of the Apple and Pear Board is controlled by the Assistant Minister for Commerce (SenatorFraser), to whom I shall refer the question asked by the honorable member. The policy of the Government, as enunciated to the Apple and Pear Board, is that apples and pears shall be liberally distributed to the general public at a reasonable price. We desire to avoid the mistakes which were made in connexion with the previous pool, and to safeguard the public against high prices.
– Is the Minister for War Organization of Industry aware that, despite the fact that large stocks of fine steel chain, used by soldiers to carry identification discs, are held in Sydney, manufacturers are not allowed to send supplies to Queensland stores, although there are probably more soldiers in Queensland than in any other State and Queensland civilians are almost in the war zone? Will the Minister take steps to ensure that Queensland shall get its fair share of this chain?
– I am not aware that the position is as the honorable member has stated. I shall, however, inquire into the position and take the necessary action to ensure that any surplus stocks of that commodity available in New South Wales shall be sent to Queensland where they are needed.
– Will the Minister for the Army indicate whether further proceedings are contemplated against members of the Australia First Movement, to whom he referred yesterday? The honorable gentleman announced that they had been guilty of conduct tantamount to high treason, including conspiracy to betraytheir country and to assassinate prominent persons? Surely such serious changes cannot be met simply by interning the culprits ?
– Order !
– Will the Minister inform the House whether appropriate charges will be preferred against those persons ?
– The first step taken by the Government was to intern the persons concerned. As to whether further proceedings will be taken against them, the matter is being considered by the Commonwealth Solicitor-General.
Formal Motion fob Adjournment.
– I have received from the honorable member for Darling Downs (Mr. Fadden) an intimation that he desires to move the adjournment of the House for the purpose of discussing a definite matter of urgent public importance, namely, “The disclosure in the House of Representatives, on the 26th March, 1942, by the Minister for the Army, of a treasonable plot “.
– I move -
That the House do now adjourn.
– Is the motion supported ?
Five honorable members having risen in support of the motion,
– The disclosures of the Minister for the Army (Mr. Forde) about treasonable activity by members of the Australia First Movement came as a severe shock to this Parliament and to’ the whole of Australia. The fact that twenty persons have been arrested is nothing unusual, but charges of an. intention to establish in Australia a Quisling government to co-operate with and give assistance to the King’s enemies, to sabotage vital defence works, and to assassinate certain unnamed individuals are without parallel in Australian history and in British history, at any rate since the Guy Fawkes plot. Arrests of this description must be followed by trial for treason. The Prime Minister (Mr. Curtin) has said that the matter is being investigated by the AttorneyGeneral’s Department and that appropriate action will be taken ; but the Opposition’s view is that immediate action ought to be taken, and that it should be the maximum action in view of the seriousness of the charges. Mere internment of persons believed to be guilty of treason is utterly unsatisfactory. Public opinion is stirred on account of the presence in this country of a number of aliens whose allegiance is openly questioned. The handling of the alien question since the outbreak of war has been characterised by the usual British consideration for the individual, but that can no longer be tolerated, especially in view of the success which has unfortunately attended the Japanese drive southward. It is no longer a question of the rights of individuals. The safety of the nation is at stake, and if people of our own race have been so base as to enter into commitments to the enemy, or to conspire to do so, they should be tried for their lives. Swift retribution to those who have earned it may deter all other foolish people who may be tempted to seek personal safety at the expense of national security. According to the Minister for the Army, the military authorities have for a considerable time been investigating the activities of the Australia First Movement. In view of his revelations, it is surprising to learn that on Saturday, the 14th March, the Prime Minister in a short-wave broadcast to the American peoples declared “ We have no qualms and there is no fifth column in Australia “. The investigations to which the Minister for the Army alluded yesterday must have been in progress when the Prime Minister made that broadcast. I am moved by the latest disclosures to say that it is time that the Government took steps to exercise a considerably greater degree of vigilance over the activities of the numerous organizations of which one has heard from time to time since the outbreak of war. Among these bodies is one styling itself the New South Wales Legal Rights Committee. This body held a meeting in the Sydney Town Hall on Wednesday last and, according to the Sydney Morning Herald, the principal speaker was Alderman F. W. Paterson, of Townsville. Will the Prime Minister institute immediate inquiries about Mr. Paterson ? Is he the gentleman who was convicted and fined at Townsville last year for utterances in contravention of the National Security Act? If so, does the Prime Minister consider it advisable to allow him such latitude as he appears to enjoy?
The time is opportune to link the disclosures made yesterday with the position of aliens in this country. Generally, since the outbreak of war and, especially, since Japan started its southward drive, which has brought Australia into imminent danger and has overrun parts of our island territories, the people of Australia, particularly in Northern Queensland, have been gravely concerned about the position of aliens. Queensland is not the only State with alien population,but in the northern townships of Queensland there is a concentration of enemy aliens, and I submit that action should be taken to put a curb on their activities. The necessity to control our alien population becomes greater when we learn that it has been found necessary to arrest and intern twenty of our own people. All enemy aliens should be immediately interned. At least, steps should be taken to remove them from coastal districts.
– Would the honorable member intern all enemy aliens?
– Yes, the lot of them.
– Where would the honorable gentleman put them?
– What an argument! It is equal to saying that because internment camps are full, no further internments should be made. I know that the problem is difficult. Since the outbreak of war. it has had close examination. Japan’s entry into the war, however, has made the position acute. The disclosures made by the Minister for the Army show how acute it is. I have made frequent press statements to the effect that people who have information indicating subversive actions by enemy aliens have the duty to place it before the authorities. I know that much untruth has been spoken on this subject; unthinking people have exaggerated the position; but the fact remains that there is an aggregation of enemy aliens in certain localities of Australia which can only be described as danger points. Those enemy aliens would be an army to help the Japanese if they landed in this country. The position of enemy aliens should he considered in parallel with the activities of the Australia First Movement. My considered opinion is that -
The ranks of all people who have become naturalized Australians in the last five years should be combed. Many reasons exist for people to become naturalized citizens of this country. An alien cannot become the owner of land in Queensland, unless he is naturalized. Naturalization is necessary before an alien can obtain the benefits of the Aus tralian pensions system. In orderto exercise the franchise, an alien must become naturalized. There are, therefore, many inducements for aliens to become naturalized. In the altered circumstances, it is advisable that recent eases of naturalization - applications which have been granted in the last three or five years - should be thoroughly examined in order that we may play safe. The safety-first principle must be adopted, and I hope that the Government will take immediate steps on the lines I have suggested in order as far as possible to minimize our risk and eliminate those elements in our midst whose activities are not in the best interests of Australia’s security and the winning of this war.
– The motion of the Leader of the Opposition (Mr. Fadden) related to the revelations of treasonable practice recently made, but most of his speech was concerned with the position of aliens. It is interesting to notice that the only charge of treasonable action made in this country has been a charge of action by Australian persons. There has been nocharge of treasonable practices by aliens. I shall deal first with charges relating to actions by Australians themselves. A man against whom evidence of treasonable practices exists shouldbe brought to speedy trial, and every body should be anxious to do nothing that would prejudice a fair trial. One of the great glories of the British people has been their solicitude for a fair trial of persons charged with high treason. Long before anything was done to protect persons charged with committing felonies, the British law provided the greatest guarantees for the fair trial of persons charged with, treason, particularly that they should be defended at the expense of the Government. This House should not prejudice the trial of those persons. If they are alleged to be guilty of treasonable practices, their conduct should be investigated by a jury sitting under the direction and guidance of a judge. Neither newspapers nor legislators should be allowed to prejudice the fair trial of those persons, and they should not be detained in gaol without an early trial. Either they should be liberated speedily or speedily prosecuted, and no man should be interned or held in prison merely on suspicion, because he has been the associate of some of those persons who have been accused of treasonable practices. Some of those named are persons from whom I have had letters. I remember one person who is now named as guilty of treasonable relations with Japan. The last communication I received from him was an attack upon me for being antiBritish because I opposed the sending of Australian troops overseas.
– Who has named anybody?
– I have heard names mentioned, and I say that that is grossly unfair. The persons against whom there is evidence of treasonable practices should be brought to speedy trial, and until they ‘have been tried this House and the country generally should suspend its judgment, and nothing should be said to render their trial unfair.
I had the great pleasure of listening to remarks made by a front bench colleague of the Leader of the Opposition (Mr. Fadden) the other night. The speech was penetrated by a spirit of true liberalism. The honorable member for Fawkner (Mr. Holt) made an appeal to this House that the benefits of the war injuries compensation regulations should be extended to persons of enemy nation origin living in this country and allowed to carry on their businesses. Many persons in Australia who are of enemy alien origin are more afraid of the conquest of this country than are a great number of Australians. The refugee Jew is more afraid of the conquest of Australia than are many Australians. Several years ago many Australians admired the system of government which prevails in Germany and Italy, and openly expressed their admiration. Many prominent members of this House have done so. They were free to do that some time ago. We should not lightly assume that people who have come among us, and have been admitted to this country as refugees, are conspiring against the liberty and integrity of the country which is their host. In the panic which succeeded the retreat from Dunkirk, large numbers of people in England were interned, and some of them were prominent anti-Nazi GermanE. one of whom had written several books against Germany and was supplying valuable information to the British Government. He was interned, and I understand that, while in an internment camp, he contracted a disease which impaired his health and ultimately caused hisdeath. I believe that this Government and the last administration were animated by a liberal spirit, and have not assumed that a man was guilty of conspiracy merely because of his race or associations. No doubt that is the spirit that actuates the people of Australia, and I consider that the Leader of the Opposition, in his speech, was led farther than he really intended to go. I do not think he would suggest for a moment that every person of German or Austrian extraction is a potential enemy. If so, where would he draw the line? Would he assume that every Belgian, Hollander and Pole is n natural friend of Australia? It would be absurd to suggest that every such person in Australia is a natural friend, or that every alien, including Germans, is a natural enemy.
.- The disclosures made yesterday by the Minister for the Army (Mr. Forde) that many members of the Australia First Movement have been guilty of treasonable conduct and a desire to appoint a Quisling government to assist the enemy, to assassinate prominent citizens and to overthrow democratic government in this country provide one of the most striking examples of fifth column activity ever revealed in Australian history. The observations made from time to time by the Prime Minister and other members of the Government that fifth columnists are at work in this country must convince the Government and the people that adequate steps are not being taken to counter the menace. I pay’ tribute to those who discovered the activities of these people, and I urge that the personnel of the Investigation Branch which in most instances has done extraordinarily good work, be increased. There should be more intense activity in watching the movements of people of this character. Those who are not for Australia are against it, and they should bc treated as enemies. Their internment alone does not satisfy me, and it should not be satisfactory to the Government. If we are to be satisfied merely with their internment, we cannot hope to defend Australia adequately. I direct the attention of honorable members to a paragraph in a speech delivered recently by Dr. W. G. Goddard, director of the Round Table Club in Queensland, who forcefully drew attention of the people to this menace. In the course of his remarks he quoted the following excerpt from a speech by Marshal Enrico Caviglia at a conference of the Grand Fascist Council at San Remo, in the presence of Mussolini -
A great new empire embracing China, Man.chukuo, Mongolia and Tibet will emerge in the Far East within the next twenty years. This new empire, which will bc Japanese, will lie highly modernized, and its prestige will become so great that Oceania will submit to its attraction. Italians who are in Oceania ure the vanguard of that Japanese Empire, which I mentioned. Care has been taken in their selection, and especial care must be taken in future, as they have a special mission to perform. They have been migrated to the south .sew to prepare the way for Japan, as ta.pan is the natural country to drive everything British out of the Pacific.
The fact that Mussolini was present, and that no protest was made against the speech by any member of the Grand Fascist Council, must convince honorable members that the mission with which those Italian Fascists were charged had the support of the whole of the Italian people. The speech indicated carefully laid plans for selected Italian migrants to act as an advance guard for the Japanese. That is fifth column activity of the worst kind. I ask that enemy aliens of Italian extraction be carefully watched. To-day, their activities are mostly centred in north Queensland.
– What about the Germans?
– We have no evidence that Germans have been commissioned to carry out similar duties. If the Prime Minister (Mr. Curtin) knows of such activities by Germans, -he should take action in the matter. Most Germans in Australia to-day, who were residents of this country during the last war, have displayed commendable restraint and proved themselves good Australians. All ‘Germans who have displayed enemy sympathies have, so far as I am aware, been interned, and I do not hesitate to say that they should be interned ; but there is a number of Germans of my acquaintance in Australia who are as loyal as it is possible to be.
– That is the problem with which we are confronted when it is suggested that all enemy aliens should be interned.
– In view of the statements that I have submitted, I urge the Government to see that the Fascist advance guard specially sent to Australia to co-operate with the Japanese shall be carefully watched and promptly dealt with. The personnel of the department now employed in observing activities of this kind should be doubled, and even quadrupled. Although many Italians have been detailed to do special jobs, I do not say that all Italians in Australia are fifth columnists, or members of the advance guard that is preparing for the attack on Australia by Japan; but increased activity is required in the suppression of fifth columnists in this country. The measures taken must be prompt and effective.
– The whole subject, of the safety of the Commonwealth is constantly receiving the attention of the Government, and so also has what has. been described as the preservation of the essentia] principles of British justice and fair dealing. They both go together. The honorable member for Moreton (Mr. Francis) has said that, because of a statement made in Italy to a meeting of the Fascist Grand Council, this Government, must watch very closely the conduct of Italians in Australia. Most certainly that is what the Government ought to do. The proposition submitted to the Government this morning is in two parts. One is that al] enemy aliens should lie interned. The honorable member for Moreton (Mr. Francis) says that he knows of hundreds of Germans whose conduct during this war has been above reproach.
– And Italians, too.
– That fact is well established. Military intelligence, home security officers, and officials of both Commonwealth and State departments are able to point to what they believe to be the irreproachable conduct in this crisis of great numbers of persons who can be described technically as enemy aliens. On the other hand, the Minister for the Army , (Mr. Forde) yesterday told the House of persons, not enemy aliens, who had to he dealt with because their activities were endangering the safety of the State.
– They have not been dealt with.
– The honorable gentleman may have his views on that subject, but I point out that in this country there are processes of law which the present Government will observe. The first obligation on the Government when this evidence was submitted to it by its intelligence departments was not to judge on the facts for itself, or to decide whether the persons concerned were guilty or not guilty, but to take the elementary precaution of removing them from any possibility of carrying on their activities until such time as the evidence was examined. That the Government did. The Government does not seek to prejudice the trial of these persons by naming them, but, acting promptly on the advice of military intelligence, it took steps to ensure that they would not be free to carry on subversive activities. The Solicitor-General has the matter under his careful consideration. The right honorable member for North Sydney (Mr. Hughes), who has had experience as Attorney-General, knows how that department functions. He knows that there is no political interference with the ordinary processes of law. The only action which the present Government has taken has been to give a direction that persons suspected of engaging in activities which would be of assistance to an enemy shall not be free to carry on those activities. That is all that the Government has done. The Leader of the Opposition says that we should intern more enemy aliens. I do not propose to give the numbers, or the names, of the persons who have been interned since the war began, but I point out that the struggle has continued for two and a half years, and that compared with the numbers of persons interned during the first two years of the war, the number of internments during the last four months has doubled.
– For good reasons.
Mr.CURTIN.-Yes. I suggest that that very fact of itself is an indication that the Government does not need any spur from the Opposition to see where its duty lies. Surely no person in this House will declare for the mass internment of enemy aliens. That being so, there has to be some process of selective internment; and that means investigationby properly appointed officers. That is what is going on now.
– It is not intense enough.
– As honorable members know, these investigations are now entirely under the control of the Army. The House also knows that the Commissioner of Police in New South Wales has been appointed Director-General of the department which makes these investigations. It is true that there are Army officers working under his direction, but the important point is that a civilian accustomed to the detection of crime and to the preservation of public order, a man who was highly recommended for the positionbecause of his great experience and exceptional gifts, is in charge of the department.
– He is a fascist-minded gentleman.
– He has to deal with fascist-disposed persons.
– He has dealt with the Labour movement in his day.
Mr.CURTIN.- He dealt also with the New Guard, as the Minister for Supply and Development (Mr.Beasley) has pointed out.
– He is like Fouché who, during the French Revolution and later, served every government to his own advantage.
– My own qualifications to decide who would be the best man for this job are not very great. That statement applies to a number of appointments which the Government makes, and, therefore, before making any appointment the Government seeks advice from those who are qualified to give it. Appointments are not made upon the basis of political or personal partiality. From the panel of names which those who have knowledge of the subject submit to me the Government makes the appointment. So far as I am aware, I have never met the Director-General of the department, but he was recommended to me as a highlyqualified man for the position. He held office under the Government of New South Wales for a number of years, and it may interest the honorable member for Melbourne (Mr. Calwell) to know that he was strongly recommended by Mr. Duncan, the Commissioner of Police in Victoria.
– Mr. Duncan does not know Australia. He has been in this country only about five minutes.
– The honorable gentleman may argue until he is black in the face, but the Government made the appointment believing that it was a good one, and will stick to it.
– The Government has also stuck to other bad appointments that it has made.
– The honorable gentleman no doubt believes that some of the appointments which have been made have been particularly bad ones.
– He probably has in mind some appointments to Cabinet!
– I do not know. The Australia First movement has been under the constant observation of Military Intelligence for several months. The previous Government had it under observation. As the result of that observation, twenty persons concerning whom a prima facie case has been established by Military Intelligence have been interned. I do not know if any more persons will be arrested. The whole processes of the law will be invoked; the civil authority will be directed to formulate charges on the evidence that is available. 1 agree with the honorable member for Bourke (Mr. Blackburn) that there ought to be no prejudicing of the fair trial of these people, and that they ought to be given every opportunity to establish their innocence, if they are innocent.
With respect to the treatment of aliens generally, I say that the Government does not believe in taking people en bloc and throwing them into internment camps. The Government believes that that policy is entirely at variance with all that we are fighting for. The war in which we are engaged is not a racial war: it is rather a philosophic war.
– That is going abit too far:
– It is a war of ideas and ideals.
– It is a war against Germany and other enemies who are fighting against us.
– Of course it is; but I decline to accept the line-up of nations as we see it in the world to-day as a racial line-up.
– I do.
– It is not racial.
– In dealing with enemy subjects the Government is adhering to the principles which the previous Government laid down.
– That is a different matter.
– Conditions are different to-day.
– Does the honorable member for Indisay that the Government should intern every German and Italian in Australia?
– The answer of the Government is that officers, both military and civil, have been instructed to apprehend immediately every person whom they suspect of having subversive tendencies.
– The object of the Leader of the Opposition (Mr. Fadden) in submitting his motion to the House this morning was made perfectly clear, first by himself and, since then, by the Prime Minister (Mr. Curtin). Yesterday the Minister for the Army (Mr. Forde) made disclosures which, as the Leader of the Opposition said, were without precedent in this country. Those disclosures make such a demand on our credulity that, even now, we can hardly believe them. The possibilities are so catastrophic that the Leader of the Opposition has believed it to be imperative to draw the attention of the country to them.
Like the honorable member for Bourke (Mr. Blackburn), I do not pretend to try these people who have been arrested and interned. They will be charged with acting against the interests of the Commonwealth, and will have the right to establish their innocence, if they can do so. The point that I wish the Minister for the Army to realize is that the difficulty of dealing with these matters increases every day. The Prime Minister has directed our attention to the fact that whereas during the first two years of the war not many persons were interned in Australia, during the last three or four months the number of internees has been much greater. The reason is that circumstances have changed entirely during the last three or four months. Until December, 1941, Australians were practically only spectators in the war; now they are participants in it. Before Japan entered the war, Australians sat, as it were, in the reserve, far away from the range of the guns; to-day they are in the front line. In such circumstances, when a person says, “I am in favour of meeting the Japan&se and hailing them as friends and. brothers “, even our traditional adherence to the basic principles of British justice receives a rude jolt.
The real purpose of the Australia First Movement is to prepare the way for the coming of the Japanese. Its members emphasize Australia’s right to make a separate peace. What is that but defeatism! What is that but the policy that overwhelmed France! We must never think of surrender. The man who first mentions surrender in this country is a traitor to Australia. So these people stand convicted. Their general purpose is revealed. They sent their spies and shock troops into Western Australia; and they were arrested. They are disclosing the real purpose of this movement. What is the Government doing with the nien who started the movement in New South Wales? They still walk the streets.
– They do. Has Stephenson been interned?
– I am not mentioning names. The bulk of the internments have been in New South Wales.
– If the Minister for the Army (Mr. Forde) assures me that none of these men is still free I shall be perfectly satisfied; but while one of them roams at large I shall not be satisfied. We cannot make war in this fashion - blithering about the Bill of Rights and habeas corpus and things of that kind. This is war; and the man who says he will betray us deserves death. The honorable gentleman told us yesterday that the Government had a little list of the persons whom the movement had marked out for assassination. It is a pity that he did not give that list to us. If my name is on it I shall know what to do. I shall see to it that any of these gentlemen who are not interned wilT not need interning. The position in respect of aliens is difficult; but it hato be dealt with. The Government cannot intern all aliens. As a broad general’ statement the claim that we should intern *lft aliens arrests attention ; it is spectacular and grandiose. But we cannot dothat. However, the Government can do something in the matter. It cannot intern all, but it can and ought to intern, a good many. It now has the responsibility to see that potential traitors - - persons who only await an opportunity to betray Australia - shall be placed where they can do no harm. In northern Queensland there are thousands of these.. They are our enemies. They are sent here to spy out the land and prepare theway for the enemy. They should beinterned. I have already quoted remarks from a speech made by Dr. Goddard and my colleague, the honorable member for Moreton (Mr. Francis), hasrepeated that extract. Men such asthese are Fascists; they are member? of fascist organizations, and have been selected for this very purpose. I am quite sure that the Government is doing what it can to deal with the situation. However, I urge that while it is guided by the eternal principles of justice for which we are fighting, it must not allow its feet .to be hobbled, its hands to be tied, or its vision to be clouded. We are at war ; and every one in this country should understand that we are at war. Those who are betraying us, or hampering us in our effort to defeat the enemy, must, whatever cover they operate under. te brought before the bar of justice without further ado. I have said what I think should be done in this matter. However, these men have not yet been proved to be guilty. If and when their guilt is proved that will be the time to deal with them.
.- A good deal of my time as a member of this House is taken up, during war-time at least, in urging the people and the Government not to descend to the practices and principles attributed to our enemies. I have sternly reprobated the practice known as attrocity mongering, recollecting that a gentleman in Great Britain who has now been raised to the peerage, has compiled a very respectable volume devoted to the exposure of the long list of calumnies which have at various times been perpetrated and circulated against our enemies. Among the practices which I have reprobated in the interests of my own country, which interests I have deeply at heart, is that of the baiting of aliens. “When the Leader of the Opposition (Mr. Fadden) was addressing himself to this subject and was speaking of the disposition of aliens I asked him where he would place them. 1 was assuming that he admitted- as a fact, as the right honorable member for North Sydney (Mr. Hughes) admits, that it was not a practical proposition any more than it would be’ a desirable proposition, to intern all aliens. Many who are known technically as enemy aliens are married to Australian women, and in many cases have reared Australian families. [ti some cases which occur to my mind, they have also dependants and relatives who are naturalized, or natural horn, British subjects, and are in every way acknowledged to be exemplary citizens. The Leader of the Opposition contended that they must be taken away from the coast. We should not lightly, or foolishly, or with prejudice, encumber the Australian taxpayers with a great variety of unnecessary obligations and complications. If an alien be found to be safe, that is, law-abiding, and, perhaps, is in fact in Australia by reason of his prejudice against the government of an enemy country from which he came, what advantage is to be gained by breaking up his home and saddling the maintenance of his dependants and himself upon the
Australian taxpayers? Such a policy would be mere passion and prejudice. It would be nothing less than unreasoning bigotry ; and I cannot help thinking that in some instance such promptings arise merely as an emotional expression of anger, because in the international struggle things may not at a particular time be going as well for us as we desire. I entirely concur with the view expressed by the honorable member for Bourke (Mr. Blackburn) that these persons against whom these clearly diabolical practices are alleged should, if evidence exists to support the charges made against them, be put upon their trial. I decline absolutely to accept an ex parte statement in regard to their guilt, even from such an unimpeachable authority as the Minister for the Army (Mr. Forde). I have had a fairly lengthy experience of these matters. I know only too well the fierce vindictiveness with which the regime of the right honorable member for North Sydney during the last war pursued persons of enemy ancestry and enemy associations, and with what relentlessness his Government utterly disregarded the practices and principles of what is known as British justice. I am not one of those who regard justice as being a peculiarly British characteristic. That is why I do not adopt the phrase. Justice is a spiritual, psychological, arid moral virtue. It emanates from a spiritual authority superior even to the honorable member for Bendigo (Mr. Rankin), or the right honorable member for North Sydney, or Great Britain. Where a charge can bc laid it should be laid, and a trial held in open court. The practice established by the Menzies Government of holding some sort of inquiry before persons were interned, was wise. I know that the honorable member for Barker. (Mr. Archie Cameron) disagrees with that view. Nevertheless, I hold to it tenaciously.
– The honorable member’s time has expired.
– I desire to support very briefly the motion which has been brought before the House by the Leader of the Opposition (Mr. Fadden). It is important that public attention should be directed to this matter at this time particularly in view of one remark made by the Prime Minister (Mr. Curtin), from which I desire publicly to dissociate myself. The honorable gentleman said that this was a philosophical war. In my opinion we are observing too many refinements altogether. The cold fact is that we are at war with a people, in fact several peoples, and we should treat them as our enemies. At the beginning of this conflict there wa3 too much nonsense talked about the Empire being at war with Hitler and not with the German people, but any one who has made a study of German history will realize that the German people axe fully responsible for their leaders and support them. It is time that we realized that fact. We are opposed by ruthless enemies and we must deal with them as ruthlessly as they would deal with us. I regret that the Prime Minister has given the impression that the basis of the war is merely philosophical. If that were so, then those people who had been carrying on undercover activities of a subversive nature in this community could claim that their crime was merely the advocacy of a different philosophy. There can be no baser crime than treason. It is odious at any time, but in periods of emergency such as the present, treason merits only one punishment, death, and the sooner we adopt that attitude the better it will be for all of us. Some time ago it was claimed that there was no fifth column work going on in this country. Yet here we have had revealed to us the existence of what I prefer to call by the old-fashioned name, treason, because that is the only way that such activities can be described. I am afraid that the term fifth column is apt to take our minds away from the serious nature of such activities.
– Does the honorable member not think that the people against whom accusations are made should be given a trial?
– I shall come to that. As a lawyer I do not wish to prejudice anybody’s case. I am dealing, not with any individuals, but with the subject-matter and endeavouring to indicate my approach to it. The honorable member for Batman’s ideas, in respect of matters British and others, are so well! known to the House that it is not necessary for me to bother with further interjections from him. I am convinced that in regard to the revelations made by the Minister for the Army (Mr. Forde) yesterday, the people of Australia will not. be satisfied until those who are involved are brought to book. This is a case in which there can be no doubt whatsoever that proper investigation will bring theculprits to book, because the Minister for the Army has in his possession documents which, it is claimed, set out elaborate plans for sabotaging vulnerable points inthis country, and indicate methods calculated to make resistance to the Japanese impossible. Apparently the documents also include plans for the assassination of prominent people and set out a proclamation purporting to be a welcome to this country, as friends and liberators, of the Japanese leaders and army. These documents have been discovered in such circumstances that there should be no difficulty in connecting them with the people responsible. The public of Australia will expect that within a measurable space of time investigation officers will be able to find the individuals concerned, and bring them to trial.
I should like to refer now to the general question of aliens. Prior to the outbreak of war with Japan the question of interning aliens in this country was quite different to what it is now. At that time the prospect of an attack upon this country was substantially remote, because we were removed by thousands of miles from the scenes of battle. The entry of Japan into the struggle has made a substantial difference to the degree of proof required before an alien is interned. It seems to me that whereas previously some evidence was required before a person could be kept in internment, now the very least suspicion is sufficient justification for that action. Take the case of the State of Queensland. I have always realized that great difficulties are associated with mass internment of aliens. I believe that people wishing to carry on nefarious activities usually work under the cloak of naturalization, and, therefore, I have held very definite views with regard to the advisability of carrying out mass internment of aliens. But now the situation of Queensland is dangerous. Japan has moved into Lae and Salamaua, and this has brought the north-east coast of Australia within range of action. “We cannot afford to take any risk whatsoever. To do so would be recreant to the trust which the people of Australia have reposed in this Parliament.
– Especially when we know what has happened in other countries!
– Yes. The same thing could happen here and will happen here unless we take the strongest possible action. Here is an example of Australians having so debased themselves as to surrender completely to the enemy - Australians who, in their own country, are aiding and abetting enemies who would rape and despoil this land. If that can be done, and is being done by Australians, how much more likely is it that people of alien origin will do likewise if given the opportunity? Knowing some of the difficulties associated with this problem, I urge the Government to adopt a more ruthless attitude towards enemy aliens in this country, many of whom are no doubt engaged in under-cover activities.
There is another matter .which comes to my mind. I do not wish to make any charge against Communists generally, because I realize that after Russia’s entry into the war many Communists who previously opposed the war felt obliged to support it. At the moment I am not concerned with their reasons for doing so. The important point is that they changed their outlook and are now supporting us in this conflict, whatever their reasons may be. However, I am sure that the Minister for the Army will realize that certain sections of the Communist movement are largely political in their outlook. The Minister will agree that there has been ample evidence of the Communist party ‘having endeavoured to place Communist cells in the military forces. If such activities be permitted to continue, how can we expect to maintain the morale of our Army, which may at any moment be called upon to resist the enemy at our gates?
– Is the honorable member referring to Australian-born Communists ?
– Yes. Any one who walks round the streets knows that rumours, which I am convinced are deliberately engendered, are constantly in circulation. There is a feeling of bewilderment among sections of the people, and there must be some subversive influence behind it. I am sure that every honorable member of this House, no matter what his political views may be. wishes to see such influences stamped out. I repeat that we have to adopt a completely ruthless attitude. Every one who is guilty of subversive conduct, whether it be implicit or overt, should be brought to book.
– The ease from the Government’s point of view was put by the Prime Minister (Mr. Curtin) in a very eloquent, concise and temperate manner. I made a certain announcement yesterday in reply to a question as to what had been done in regard to members of the so-called Australia First Movement. For security reasons I did not mention the names of these people, and I consider that at present it is not advisable to give such information and much other information that I could disclose. “Whilst I agree that it is essential to be on the safe side and to deal firmly and even ruthlessly with people who are engaged in subversive activities in the present dangerous situation, we should not allow prejudices to deviate us from the path of British justice and fair play. For that reason it is unwise to prejudge cases, as the honorable member for Warringah (Mr. Spender) has said. There are processes of law open to those who consider that they have been wrongly interned. They are entitled to appeal for release and have their cases heard by a tribunal which has already been constituted.
– The case of the Australia First movement is not in that category.
– I speak after consultation with the Commonwealth SolicitorGeneral. I shall deal with the prosecution side later. Under the law as it stands to-day any one who believes that he has been wrongly interned may apply to a tribunal which, as I have said, has already been constituted, and which has dealt with large numbers of cases. Actually there are two different kinds of internment tribunals; one deals with aliens and the other with British subjects. These tribunals are presided over by Supreme Court judges. Some British subjects were interned quite recently, and their cases are now under the consideration of the Commonwealth SolicitorGeneral who will advise the Government as to what action should be taken. We hope to have a report from that gentleman in the near future and, under the Crimes Act those persons against whom it is believed that we have sufficient evidence will be arraigned before a Supreme Court judge and jury for trial. Honorable members may rest assured that the Government will take whatever action is advisable. I am merely stating the legal position as it has been indicated to me by the Solicitor General. With regard to internments generally, I realize that the increasing seriousness of the war position, and the coming of the conflict to our own shores, necessitate an intensification of the control of aliens. That policy is now being pursued. Whilst it is contrary to the principles of British justice to discriminate unfairly against any member of the community, in times such as these we shall not hesitate to take whatever steps are necessary to ensure the safety of the lives and property of the people of Australia. As the Prime Minister said there are now twice as many people in the internment camps as there were when the Labor Party assumed office, although the war had then been going for two years. That, of course, is due mainly to the fact that the war has come closer to Australia, and that we are now in imminent danger of a ttack.
– Also, we have had to deal with many more enemy aliens because of the entry of Japan into the war.
– Yes, the position was considerably changed because of the advent of an enemy whose territory was situated geographically closer to this continent. We cannot afford to he mealymouthed when we are discussing plans for the safety of Australia. Practical and well-considered steps must be taken in order to preserve our security, and we must not allow prejudice to cause us to do anything contrary to the principles of British justice. That is the attitude of the Government. A curfew extending from 8 p.m. to 5 a.m. has been imposed upon enemy aliens in Queensland, and large numbers of enemy subjects from all parts of Australia have been interned because, although no evidence has been produced, there are grounds for grave suspicion of their activities. Naturalized subjects of enemy origin who are loyal to Australia must be encouraged to remain loyal, and the Government must be careful not to treat them unfairly. However, if any reasonable grounds for suspicion exist, they must be penalized. The Government has also introduced a system of calling up enemy aliens for service in labour units. Many of them have already been taken away from the vulnerable coastal areas of Queensland to perform useful work elsewhere, and others will be called up in the near future.
– How many have been called up?
– I am prepared to supply the figures to the honorable member privately,but I do not want to publish them. This system was not attempted by previous governments.
– Does that call-up affect naturalized aliens?
Mr.FORDE. - I was referringto enemy aliens, not to naturalized subjects who are liable to the call-up and all obligations under the Defence Act. Many naturalized subjects are serving in the Militia Force, and many of them have sons on service with all branches of our fighting forces. There is not a breath of suspicion against them. I realize that, as the war-time position becomes more severe, it will probably be necessary for the Government to take further measures to protect the country against subversive activities. Therefore, I have appointed a special officer to deal exclusively with this problem. He has been at work for some weeks, and he will submit his report to the Government at an early date, when the War Cabinet will consider it. The Government will do everything necessary to maintain the security of the nation, but it will not tolerate atrocities such as those for which we have condemned other nations, and it will not interfere with the rights of decent, honorable and patriotic citizens. The members of the Australia First Movement have been interned because the Government is mindful of the necessity for vigilance. Charges will be made against these men and they will be given an opportunity to answer them. But the Government cannot do everything in a day. The men have been interned as a first precaution, and the matter is being further investigated by the Attorney-General’s Department with a view to preparing a report for the guidance of the Government as to future action.
– Some time ago a broadcast from Tokyo astounded certain Australians by stating that there was afoot in this country a movement which was destined to work in conjunction with Japanese forces when they landed here. The head-quarters of this movement was said to be in another part of the British Empire. When this statement was reported in the press, it caused consternation amongst those of us who were studying the trend of events within Australia. The next news that we had of this organization was announced yesterday, when the Minister for the Army (Mr. Forde) informed the House of the internment of certain Australians of whose treasonable activities he had certain documentary evidence. This traitorous movement, the like of which has never been known in Australia before, must cause the Government and people great concern.
– What about the New Guard? That was a treasonable organization, and the honorable member was a member of it.
– My honorable friend has never had the spunk to belong either to the Red Army or to the New Guard. He is neutral in everything. I listened with a great deal of interest to the statement that was made this morning by the Prime Minister. Had it been made yesterday there might have been no need for the Leader of the Opposition to submit this motion for the adjournment of the House. But the Government gave no indication yesterday that positive action would be taken against these persons who have been accused of treason.
– The House was informed, in answer to a question which was asked to-day, of the action which the SolicitorGeneral had recommended to be taken.
– It was an inspired question.
– It was not inspired.
– The honorable member for Bourke (Mr. Blackburn) and the Prime Minister both said that we should not prejudice the case of these men, and they referred to British justice. I agree with much of what the Prime Minister said, and, if he had spoken earlier, he would have lifted a great load from the minds of honorable members on this side of the House. The case has now been prejudiced, hut not by honorable members on this side of the chamber. It was prejudiced by the publication in the press of the statement made by the Minister for the Army, together with the names of certain persons who were stated to be leaders of the Australia First Movement. Justice is often perverted in courts of law because of publicity that is given to cases through the newspapers, and by other means. I say that this case has already been prejudiced, but not by any action taken by members of the Opposition.
– Does the honorable member suggest that the Government has disclosed the names of any persons in this case?
– No. The Minister’s statement yesterday was clear, but it said either too little or too much. If the accusations had been founded merely on suspicion, the Government would have had a clear right to intern these people. But they were supported by documentary evidence of plans to assassinate prominent public men. If such documents are in the hands of the Government - andI have no doubt that they are - stronger action than internment should have been taken immediately. The persons implicated in the plot should have been indicted before a criminal court.
– The Government has interned them as a firststep; it will prosecute later.
– Internment would have been satisfactory on the ground of mere suspicion. But the Minister stated that he was in possession of certain documents. The existence of such evidence warranted an indictment of the parties to them.
– The Attorney-General’s Department is considering what further action should be taken, and the Government will act as soon as its recommendation is made.
– Honorable members opposite have stated that the case has been prejudiced by the action of the Leader of the Opposition in moving for the adjournment of the House. We were concerned yesterday. about the Minister’s statement regarding the internment of these men, because we know the Labour party’s policy with regard to capital punishment. We were afraid ‘ that the Government would take no further action against the men.
– This movement was at work before the present Government came into office, but previous governments did not secure evidence of its subversive activities.
– (Specific action could not be taken without proper evidence. Evidence has now been made available to the Minister, and he has taken prompt action. I commend him for doing so, and I have no fault to find on that account. In fact, he has done a rattling good job. Nevertheless, I consider that he should have either withheld some of the information which he gave to the House yesterday afternoon or indicted the persons concerned before a criminal court. A democracy offers greater opportunities for treasonable activities than does any totalitarian country because of the freedom which it gives to its citizens. Therefore, it behoves us to be exceedingly careful so that we shall not give licence to members of movements which spring up in various guises almost overnight as tie result of the activities of enemy agents. It is time that we adopted totalitarian methods in our fight for existence against totalitarian states, so that at least we may have, at the end of the war, the liberties which we now enjoy. We all know what happened in Holland, Norway, and Malaya, and we know what is likely to happen in Australia if the activities of hostile aliens be not curtailed. We must adopt methods entirely different from those to which we were accustomed in times of peace. We must be ruthless in our treatment of persons suspected of subversive activity. We should intern them, collect evidence, and then indict them before a criminal court. In the event of their guilt being proved, we should be absolutely ruthless in inflicting upon them the appropriate penalties. I am in agreement with much of what the honorable member for Bourke said to-day. but last night he said that we should not indulge in ruthlessness because it was opposed to civilized practices. I say to him that when we are fighting an enemy who uses jungle methods of warfare, we must use jungle methods also. When the barbarian commits atrocities, as he has done, we can tame him only by employing methods that will make him realize the full weight of the forces that ari arrayed against him. Therefore I say to the House that we should be ruthless in stamping out all enemy activity. When proof is produced that men of our own flesh and blood have engaged in treasonable activities, we should impose the full penalties of the law upon them. The Minister for the Army prejudiced the case against the members of the Australia First Movement when he made his statement to the House yesterday afternoon without having first laid definite charges against them in a criminal court.
Sitting suspended from 12.45 to 2.15 p.m.
.- I was interested to hear the honorable member for Wentworth (Mr. Harrison) suggest that if the Leader of the Opposition (Mr. Fadden) had known certain things yesterday that he knows to-day he probably would not have submitted this motion. That may be true. But the Leader of the Opposition spent most of his time condemning a procedure which he knows has been effective to a large degree in the last two or three weeks. He told us yesterday that he had recently visited north Queensland. Therefore, he must know as well as I do that more than 600 men have been taken out of two districts there during the last fortnight or so. That is a fairly large number of people to remove from such an area. In my view, some of the statements of the Leader of the
Opposition cannot be justified, particularly as be is as well advised as any other honorable member of the House on these subjects. The honorable gentleman referred to the prosecution of Mr. F. W. Paterson, of Townsville. Yet he knows very well of Mr. Paterson’s activities for a long time past. It was a government which the honorable gentleman supported, if not the Government he led, that declared an illegal body the organization with which Mr. Paterson was connected. I said at that time, and I say now, that the declaring of that organization as an illegal body simply had the effect of driving it underground. An organization driven underground may still carry on its work. In some cases it may work more effectively than before it was driven underground. I believe that it was foolish to declare the Communist organization illegal. Mir. Paterson is a clever and dangerous man who has been able to use his position in a remarkable way to state his views. If the organization had not been declared illegal, he would have continued openly to declare his political beliefs. Because he has been refused the right to speak openly, he has been accorded a certain sympathy by some people, including many who do not support the Labour movement. Mr. Paterson addressed certain meetings in Townsville, and I have no doubt that the Leader of the Opposition is well aware of the amount that was subscribed at those meetings to help him. The larger amounts in the subscription lists were certainly not subscribed by Labour supporters. Mr. Paterson received a great deal of sympathy, because the view was held bysome people that he had been wrongly treated. I informed the previous Minister for the Army (M.r. Spender) that I thought it was an unwise act to declare the Communist organization illegal. In any case, Mr. Paterson has paid the penalty for his conduct, according to the view of the. legal authority which tried the case. The Leader of the Opposition knows very well my personal attitude on this matter, but that is entirely beside the question. Mr. Paterson went to Sydney and addressed a meeting recently; but that is not by any means the first meeting of the kind that he has addressed in Sydney. He addressed meetings there
while the present Leader of the Opposition was either Acting Prime Minister or Prime Minister. The name that Mr. Paterson applied to himself at that time was not Communist. If he had been allowed to address meetings as a declared Communist he would certainly have done so, and I do not think that he would have done any more harm by the adoption of that course. I say quite frankly that there are men in internment in Australia to-day for whom I have a great regard. I shall continue to hold them in esteem until it has been proved that they have done wrong. I think, in particular, of one very good friend of mine who is interned. He has contributed money to war loans in this country, in all instances free of interest, and also has made money available to the Government without interest for the duration of the war and for six months thereafter. I know of certain other men whose names I gave to the Minister for the Army (Mr. Forde), who were interned for a few hours and then released. One such man has made the statement openly that it cost him a good deal of money to get out. I do not know how true that is. I have been accused by certain individuals in my electorate of having been responsible for approaching the Minister for the Army in the interests of certain aliens. I have not approached cither this Minister or his predecessor to secure the release of anybody. I have asked that certain cases should be investigated, to ascertain whether statements made in letters written to me were correct, and to ensure that justice would be done in respect of certain individuals. All I am concerned about is that persons who are interned shall be dealt with justly, and not unjustly.
The honorable member for Moreton (Mr. Francis) has made an attack on the Italians in north Queensland. Mention was made also of an individual who was a Fascist leader and a member of the Grand Council. The man to whom I have referred as having made his money available to the Government, free of interest has refused, on many occasions, to meet a representative of Mussolini. My reason for making that statement is that I wish to make clear why I am opposed to the wholesale internment of persons. I have received, copies of resolutions carried at many public meetings requesting me to support the policy of the .wholesale internment of enemy aliens, whether they are or are not naturalized. My opinion is that our chief concern should be to ensure justice to these people. If certain persons have done wrong, they should be interned whether they have, or have not, been naturalized. We talk a good deal about British justice, but justice is justice in Britain, Australia, or any other country. The honorable member for Batman (Mr. Brennan) made some apt remarks on that subject. Our concern should be to give these aliens justice. The internment of a good many individuals has resulted from the entry of Japan into the war. If more activity had been shown in this direction previously, in order to ascertain whether certain individuals ought to have been interned, it would have been a good thing for the country. Of course, some persons should be interned who have not been interned, and other persons who have been interned should be released.
I agree with the Minister for the Army that until such time as persons are known to have been guilty of misdemeanors, they should not be penalized. As to tho individuals referred to in the Minister’s statement yesterday, all I have to say is that it is not internment they deserve, but something very different. In spite of the danger of being dubbed something that I am not, I consider that if these persons are guilty of the charges levelled against them, they should be dealt with promptly and in a proper way. I know of some interned enemy aliens who were released a few hours before the appeal tribunals were established by the previous Government. I do not know how they obtained their release, but I know that no persons have been released because I have asked for their release. My view is that persons involved in these matters should be accorded a proper trial. What I know of many Italians in North Queensland has led me to the opinion that the wholesale internment of aliens, and even of so-called enemy aliens, is not a proper procedure. There are enemy aliens in Australia who fear far more the treatment that they may get from their own nationals than the treatment they are likely to get from Australia. I also know of unnaturalized Italians who are far. more loyal to Australia than many naturalized Italians.
I was interested to hear the Leader of the Opposition say that an investigation should be made into all cases of naturalization during the last two or three years. Personally, I should be surprised to learn that many people had been naturalized during the last two and a half years. 3 am satisfied that in certain case3 the investigation officers have acted wrongly. Men have been naturalized who should not have been naturalized. The reason given to me in letters written to me by the former Minister for the Interior (Senator Foll) why certain people had not been granted naturalization was that their knowledge of the English language was insufficient. I am not greatly concerned about that phase of the subject. I have been interviewed by Italians in north Queensland who have been denied naturalization, and their explanations have been put to me by other Italians in quite clear language although those persons also have been refused naturalization because their knowledge of English was said to be insufficient. There are persons in north Queensland who have spoken openly about how much they have had to “ put up “ in order to get their naturalization papers. I cannot say whether the statements of such individuals are in accord with the facts, but I arn quite convinced that an investigation should be made into such cases by a person other than the local constable. Whether enemy aliens are interned or not, I trust that the.y will get justice. I do not intend to write letters to members of the Ministry in connexion with the internment of individuals; all I hope is that they will receive just treatment.
– In approaching this subject we should divest ourselves of all party political bias, and face the problem as realistically as possible. Discussion concerning the action of previous governments will not get us far at this stage. Our main consideration should be: What is the best thing to do now for the protection of Australia, having in mind the prospects of an enemy attack on this country? I propose, therefore, to touch on only one or two points that I think should receive attention. I shall not rehearse circumstances referred to by other honorable members in connexion with the Australia First Movement, other than to say that the individuals who have been apprehended are entitled to a fair trial. It is possible that injustice may have been done, but if, on trial, it is disclosed that these individuals, or any of them, have been guilty of the conduct alleged by the Minister for the Army (Mr. Forde) in his statement to the House yesterday, the penalty that should be applied in extreme cases is the extreme penalty - death. If people are allowed to hatch crimes against our country the ultimate result to the nation must be tragic. All such conduct should therefore be discouraged with the utmost vigour. I disagree with the dictum of the Prime Minister (Mr. Curtin) concerning the enemy alien internment problem. The honorable gentleman said that Military Intelligence had instructions to apprehend every person suspected of subversive activities. That approach to the problem is neither sufficient nor satisfying. It is possible that the most dangerous persons in. the community may not lay themselves open to suspicion. Another approach in addition to suspicion or evidence is necessary, and that is the demands of national security and national safety. In Queensland, and also in parts of my own electorate, there are congregations of aliens. Some arc naturalized and some are not. To me an enemy alien remains an enemy alien whether he has, or has not, been naturalized and. as such, he is a potential danger to the country if the opportunity should occur to enable him to act dangerously.
– Persons who have been naturalized are not aliens.
– That is a legal distinction which does not mean anything to nae. I do not consider that naturalization alters a man’s outlook or his fundamental beliefs. There is a great deal of truth in the lines of Scott -
Breathes there a man, with soul so dead,
Who never to himself hath said,
This is my own, my native land?
Every worthwhile person must always retain some love for the country of his birth, and the legal process of naturali zation is not likely to alter that fact. I do not advocate the wholesale internment of people because they happen to have been born in Germany, Italy, or some other country which is at present at enmity with Australia. Such a procedure would be both unreasonable and unnecessary. But we should take cognizance of the strategical situation of Australia, and the dangers to which it might be subjected by the congregation in certain parts of the Commonwealth of large colonies of aliens who may or may not be loyal. For example, in north Queensland there are large communities of enemy aliens, most of whom, perhaps, are naturalized. Many of them, probably, declare that they are loyal to the British throne and to the Commonwealth of Australia. They may, indeed, be sincere in their protestations ; we are not in a position to know. But we do know that, if the enemy were to land on the north coast of Queensland, there would be a large number of persons there whom one might reasonably suspect of being ready to give him aid when danger to themselves from Commonwealth action no longer would exist. Many women, formerly residents of Townsville, Cairns and Innisfail, who have come to my district on the north coast of New South “Wales, have told me that the reason they vacated those districts was that they feared this particular menace more than the prospect of immediate invasion. This disquiet exists in the minds of a large number of persons along the coastline. If there are colonies of aliens established within easy distance of a landing place, it would be a fundamental facing up to realism to disperse them in some way. I am not saying that they should be interned unnecessarily. Internment is one of the most wasteful actions that could be taken.
– Does the honorable member infer that the Commonwealth Government is not doing anything?
– I am not inferring anything. The Minister always jumps to the wrong conclusion. I realize that the Government is doing something, and I am not impugning it on account of its failure to take further action. But I arn suggesting that action additional to that already taken is necessary. I have said that I disagree with the Prime Minister’s statement that those who are being and will be interned are persons against whom Military Intelligence has some evidence or suspicion. That is not sufficient. A number of enemy aliens may be naturalized, may invest in war loans, and may do everything to proclaim their attachment to Australia. Nevertheless, they should not bo allowed to continue to reside in close proximity to a munitions factory. Enemy aliens, whether naturalized or not, whether professing patriotism and loyalty or not, who are resident alongside a strategic bridge, ought not to be permitted to reside there any longer. Enemy aliens who may or may not constitute a fifth column, if located along the coastline, close to the beaches, in Queensland and northern New South Wales, might remain quite true and loyal to Australia when the enemy arrived, if he did arrive. On the other hand, there is every reason to suspect that quite a number of them would assist the enemy, because of their national affiliations and the natural feeling one has for one’s native land. Those are the points that I desire particularly to bring to the notice of the Government. I, do not wish to act vindictively against any enemy alien because he happens to be in our midst; but we should sterilize any opportunity he may have, if he so desires, to do damage to this country in a moment of crisis. Do not deal unjustly with him, but put him out of action.
– The honorable member’s time has expired.
.- I do not wish to prolong the debate unduly, because already sufficient has been said; perhaps too much. I have risen because the honorable member for Wentworth (Mr. Harrison) has suggested that the question which earlier in the day I put to the Minister for the Army (Mr. Forde) was inspired.
– Of course it was.
– I assure the House that, as the Minister has already stated, it was purely spontaneous on my part. My mind was disturbed, as I can quite understand the minds of honorable members on both sides of the House must be, by the revelations made by .the Minister yesterday. I understand that the motion has been properly brought forward. But the Opposition might well have desisted from its intention to raise the matter, because the effect is merely to confuse the issue and to tend to inflame the public mind. The assurance given by the Minister might have been deemed to be sufficient. The Opposition asks that a fair and public trial shall be given to those who have been interned. I cannot quite see how that can be brought about if the public mind is inflamed and there is an atmosphere that is prejudicial to a fair trial and the observance of the principles of British justice which we propound. The Prime Minister (Mr. Curtin) has put the position clearly. He has pointed out that two issues are involved. First, there is the. matter of self-preservation; and secondly, the preservation of those principles of British justice for which we are fighting. The honorable member for Bourke (Mr. Blackburn), also, in that clear style which characterizes his handling of a matter from a legal standpoint, has stated what methods should be’ adopted in order to bring these persons to trial. Appropriate charges should be made against them if the investigation discloses that there is any evidence in support of an offence. There should also be a full inquiry into the particular organization to which these persons belong. There are means by which it can be dealt with. It can be declared an illegal organization, if its aims and objects are in conformity with the disclosures made in the Minister’s report. That would protect not only the community generally, but also any innocent persons who may have been drawn into the organization because of its innocentsounding title and’ the fact that, on their face, its aims and objects appear to be legal. I read, this morning, remarks by a lady who claims to be a high executive of the organization, in which she stated that she was astounded at the revelations, and affirmed that she is entirely innocent of any wrongful motives in her association with the movement. In fairness to such persons, there should be a full and impartial public inquiry. I do not wish to comment in any way on the facts, or to indicate what punishment should be imposed in the event of guilt being proved in any instance. I have no doubt that, in such circumstances, appropriate action would be taken.
.- The motion has been provoked as much by a publication in this morning’s Canberra Times as by any other factor. Referring to the statement made yesterday by the Minister for the Army (Mr. Forde), that newspaper said -
Mr. Curtin last night declined to amplify Mr. Forde’s statements, or to indicate what punishment would be inflicted, if any, for what Mr. Forde had described as “ treasonable practices “. Mr. Curtin said, however, that the matter was in the hands of the military authorities, who perhaps might contemplate further action. Persons who were interned had the right to appeal against their internment. He declined to release the names of the persons concerned.
It was the implication embodied in what purports to be an accurate report of the interview with the Prime Minister that is exercising the minds of members of the Opposition. The Minister for the Army stated that certain persons had been interned because of the discovery of evidence of their treasonable intent - indeed, of their treasonable practices - and the Prime Minister was reported to have said that if further action was contemplated, it might be taken by the Army authorities. It has now been made clear by the Prime Minister that the report does not accurately indicate the intentions of the Government. The Prime Minister has said that civil action shall succeed this preliminary internment if sufficient evidence is disclosed, and that assurance is satisfactory to the Opposition. However, I am just a little concerned with one aspect of the matter. It is undeniably right that where prima facie evidence is discovered of treasonable practice or intent on the part of any resident of this country, his trial upon indictment should follow; but in order to prove a person’s guilt in a court of law, complete proof must be produced. In British courts, it sometimes happens that accused persons are not found guilty, and are discharged, because it is impossible completely to prove their guilt, but that does not remove from the mind of the court a strong suspicion of their guilt.
– The standard is what should satisfy a reasonable man.
– That is true, and I do not question it. That is the foundation of British justice, but when the security of the nation is at stake, as in war-time, something more should be required in order to secure the release of a suspected person than mere failure to provide complete proof of guilt. It may well be that the Government will be in some difficulty as to whether it should order the release of persons under suspicion even though it has not been found possible definitely to prove their guilt. While I am quite content in peace-time to take my place with those who fight for the personal freedom and security of the individual, in time of peril, I have no hesitation in placing the security of the community above that of the individual. I shall take the risk of perpetrating injustice against an individual so that the security of the nation may be preserved. I endorse the action of the Government, and I am prepared to go so far as to say that no suspected person should be released from internment while there’ remain any grounds of suspicion against him.
Debate interrupted under Standing Order No. 257b.
I move -
That the amendments of the National Security (Man Power) Regulations made by Statutory Rules 1942, No. 102, be disallowed.
This is a motion to disallow the regulations made under Statutory Rules 1942, No. 102, which provide for amendments of the National Security (Man Power) Regulations. In order to make clear the objections of the Opposition to this amendment, it. is necessary for me to go back to the main regulations which have been amended. The main regulations are in Statutory Rules 1942, No. 34. and came into force on the 31st January last, and the material regulations are 14, 15 and 16. In the original regulations, it is provided that an employer carrying on a protected undertaking shall not, except with the permission in writing of the Director-General of Man Power or a person authorized by him, terminate, except for serious misconduct, the employment in the undertaking of any person employed therein. The effect of the regulations was to prevent an employer from dismissing any employee except in the case of serious misconduct. I do not challenge in time of war regulations which inhibit the right of an employer to dismiss employees, just as the right of employees to change their employment is inhibited. The serious aspect of this amendment is that, whereas under the original regulations permission was given to the employer to dismiss an employee for serious misconduct, a different code has now been set up to control the right of dismissal by the employer. This is very serious, because it leads to uncertainty as to what cases are covered by the regulations, and it will, moreover, have a serious effect on the efficiency of undertakings directly associated with the production of munitions. It has been my experience, limited though that may be, that if employees are satisfied that the employer cannot dismiss them without invoking the use of complicated machinery, there will always be some who will tend to defy authority, and in that way affect production. The amended regulations provide that the words “ except for serious misconduct in paragraph a of sub-regulation 1 of regulation 14 of the original regulation, shall be omitted.
– What regulation is that?
– Regulation 14. The first amendment enacted by Statutory Rule No. 102 provides that an employer carrying on a protected undertaking shall not, except with the permission in writing of the DirectorGeneral of Man Power, terminate the employment of any person in that protected undertaking. The position is that, subject to what I have to say about the new regulation 16a, in regulation 2 of Statutory Rules 1942, No. 102, the employer is prevented from dismissing any employee in a protected undertaking; and that regulation gives to the employer only the right of suspension in certain circumstances. For my part, I consider that it is exceedingly unwise to interfere, except by specific modification, with the common law rights of employer and employee. It seems to me that in this particular case the Government has sought to introduce a new code which, I venture to suggest to the Minister for Labour and National Service (Mr. Ward), will inevitably lead to difficulties. My criticism is not a captious one, and I hope that no honorable member will declare that my objection has been based to serve any special interests. The international situation demands. the most effective mobilization of industry, and the most effective methods of giving effect to that principle.
-Will these regulations apply to factories owned by the Government?
– Giving an answer off-hand, I think that they will. The new regulation 16a provides -
Where any employer carrying on a protected undertaking has reason to believe that any person employed therein has been guilty of serious misconduct, the employer may suspend that person from duty and shall forthwith submit to the Director-General, or to a person in the State in which the undertaking is carried on and authorized by the DirectorGeneral to act under this regulation, a statement in writing setting out the grounds for the suspension.
The position is that only when the employer has reason to believe that serious misconduct has been committed by the employee is he entitled to take steps to terminate the engagement of the employee. The procedure can be briefly described. Upon the receipt of the notification of suspension from the employer, the Director-General of Man Power or, the person to whom he has delegated authority, must investigate the circumstances that brought about’ the dismissal. I remind the Minister thai the time within which that investigation shall be conducted is not indicated. One knows that the delay so occasioned may be long. But even that inquiry does not determine the matter. Within seven days of the Director-General of Man Power giving his decision, an appeal may be made to the local Appeal Board. The provision of such extensive and complicated machinery to deal with this simple matter is not likely to increase the efficiency of our war effort. On the contrary, I believe that the efficiency of our war effort will be impeded, because it is my conviction that what is needed most at present is discipline in the community. Very strong cause should be shown before the House accepts this provision.
I now direct the attention of the Minister to certain matters which, I consider, he would not seek to justify and which, if ray interpretation of them be correct, are not covered by the regulations. Every lawyer knows that it is most difficult to define “ misconduct “. I know of no code which determines what is precisely misconduct, and I know of no way of approach that will determine the problem. The amended regulation implies serious misconduct in relation to the duties which the employee is discharging. What I am about to say is important for the purpose of showing the danger of interfering with the established system of law, except by modification. In this case, the Government has substituted an entirely new code. What has been developed in the law has been the result of a great deal of human experience. Certain cases are not covered by the regulation, and I propose to instance some of them. An employer may discover, after giving a position of trust to a person, that the man had once committed embezzlement! I venture to say, and I invite the assistance of honorable members who have had a legal training, that that point is not covered by this regulation, because the words “guilty of serious misconduct “ would certainly be construed as having relation to serious misconduct in the employment ‘ in respect of which the termination of service is sought by the employer. Then again, a man employed in a factory where women and girls are also engaged, might be found to be a moral pervert. Whilst his pathological condition has nothing whatever to do with the work that he performs in the factory, it is something of vital importance in determining whether he should, or should not, continue in employment there. Other instances which no one would seek to justify will commend themselves to any lawyer in the House. In my opinion, the employer should be entitled to say that the embezzler or the moral pervert should remain no longer in his employ.
It was once contended that an employer could not dismiss an employee except for misconduct committed in the course of his employment; but, and for reasons which commend themselves to every honorable member, that contention was negatived. In this instance, I- point out the danger which results from substituting another code of employment for the common law code. I admitted, at the beginning of my remarks, that I am quite prepared to see that the rights of the employee are protected. If the Government compels an employee to remain in a certain factory and not to transfer to another job without permission, it requires some corresponding inhibition upon the right of the employer to dismiss. But the correct way in which to approach the matter is to preserve to the employer the right to dismiss upon any ground which is now allowed by law, except on the mere ground of the giving of due notice. In order to make the position clear, I point out that every employer has the right at common law to terminate employment by giving to the employee the requisite notice of the termination of his hiring. Under some awards that period of notice is a day, a week, or longer. As I stated, I agree that when an employee is compelled to remain in a particular industry, it is quite right that no longer should the employer’s right to dismiss him, on the ground of notice, adhere to him. But, subject to that, I urge upon the Minister that if we seek to promote efficiency and to maintain discipline in industry, the right of dismissal, apart from that which is determined upon notice, should be preserved to the employer, subject to one safeguard. The safeguard which I suggest is that, when an employer is dismissing an employee, the employee shall have the right to approach the local appeal board direct. Let us abolish this complicated and unnecessary machinery. But so that there will be no capricious exercise of the right of- dismissal, and no victimization of the . employee, I suggest that there should be, from that dismissal, an appeal direct to the local appeal board. That covers all cases, such as the two I instanced, where there is justification for dismissal other than that provided for in the regulations, but, at the same time, the right of the employee to appeal to an appeal board is preserved, and, if the dismissal is found to be wrong the employee is to be reinstated and paid all wages due to him from the time of his suspension. That is a reasonable and proper proposition.
– The honorable member would not debar a man from employment because, say, ten years ago he had a black mark against him.
– -Certainly not. I gave examples of cases where the right of dismissal should exist when offences bear direct relationship to employment. That disposes of my first point.
The second matter of moment affects employees. I now direct attention to regulation 15 of Statutory Rules, 1934, No. 34, which contains the original manpower regulations. It reads -
Since the Director-General of Man Power has the right to direct an individual, who is registered at the National Service Office as unemployed, to take employment in any part of Australia, and since that individual may not leave that employ ment, except by the consent of the Director-General of Man Power, it follows that there is an obligation on the employer to keep him in that employment until the Director-General of Man Power gives to him permission to leave. That gives added point to my first argument. There are many grounds, including incompetency and drunkenness, on which an employer ought to be entitled to dismiss an employee, and it is extremely unwise to interfere with the primary right of dismissal. Regulation 16 under Statutory Rules 1942, No. 34, gives the right of appeal to local appeal boards. It reads - 16.- (l) If-
That regulation has no relation to those people who are not in protected industries, but who can be called up under regulation 15 and directed by the Director-General of Man Power to go to any part of Australia. Once a person of that description arrives at his directed place of employment he has the right of appeal only if he is aggrieved by reason of the direction given to him. I point out the importance of the word “ direction “. The only direction which can be given under regulation 15 is a direction to go to a certain place. In sub-regulation 4 of regulation 15 there is a prohibition, but a prohibition is quite distinct from a direction. That sub-regulation reads -
If the Director-General of Man Power refuses the request of the employee to change his employment, it is not a direction, but a prohibition, and it seems to me that the employee has no right whatever to appeal against it. I cannot imagine that that was intended by the Minister. It is only proper that the employee should have the right to appeal against not being allowed to change his employment. That is wrapped up in my first argument, because sub-regulation 3 of regulation 15 imposes upon the employer the responsibility to pay to the employee engaged by him under subregulation 3 of regulation 15 the award wage regardless whether he is competent or whatever the circumstances might be while he is in employment, and that employment can cease only when the Director-General gives to the employee permission to leave.
The Opposition contends : First, that the right, of dismissal should be maintained, except the right to dismiss on the grounds of insufficient notice, that the employee should have the right to appeal against dismissal, and that, in the event of the appeal being allowed, accrued wages from the time of suspension should be paid to the employee who should be entitled to reinstatement. Secondly, that the employee, who is directed under regulation 15 to take employment in specified places and takes that employment, should have the right to appeal against the refusal of the Director-General to allow him to change that employment. I hope and believe that, the Ministry will approach this matter along reasonable lines.
– The honorable member for Warringah (Mr. Spender) is under a misapprehension as to what the Man Power Regulations do provide and as to the Government’s intentions. To discuss these regulations it is necessary to know their background. When the regulations were brought down they imposed great restrictions upon the use which workers might make of their powers of labour. They have no choice in leaving their employment or in transferring to another establishment. They, surrendered that right, because they ‘recognized the needs of the Government in carrying out ite intensive defence programme. The unions quite rightly said that if the workers were entirely to forfeit their right to change their employment, it was only logical that the employer should likewise be limited and have no- right to dismiss. Under the regulations as originally framed, an employer could dismiss an employee for serious misconduct, and it was left to the employer to determine what constituted serious misconduct. It would have been possible for an employer to’ say that an employee had been guilty of serious misconduct if he had been attending to legitimate trade union business on the works, and for doing so he could have dismissed the employee. Therefore, the trade unionists, who were vitally concerned about the effect of the regulations, said that if their freedom of action in changing their place of employment was to be limited, the power of the employers to dismiss them should be similarly restricted. The amending regulations, to which the honorable member for Warringah has taken exception, offer a much more effective way of dealing with such cases as they arise= There is no case that would not be covered by the regulations as now amended. If an employee arrived at his work in an allegedly drunken state, or was alleged to be guilty of embezzlement, the employer would have the right to suspend him. The matter would then be reported to the Department of Labour and National Service and an investigation of the circumstances would be made. A report on the matter would be submitted to the department and a determination made by it as to whether the suspension was or was not justified. If either party was dissatisfied, he would have the right to go to the appeal tribunal. Both employer and employee still have that right. The manpower regulations practically amount to industrial conscription, but industrial conscription cannot be carried out without the co-operation of the organized workers. We can assign men to certain jobs, and compel them to remain on them, but we cannot compel them to maintain production at a satisfactory level, because there are many methods by which- they could defeat the objects of the Government.
– That would be serious misconduct.
– Although we can compel men to remain on certain jobs, it would, be difficult to compel them to continue production. Co-operation of the organized trade unions is essential. In- some instances, . disciplinary action against individual trade unionists is essential. Workers may occasionally defy both the Government and the trade union officials, but the Government is anxious to obtain maximum production. It desires efficiency in the workshops, and the trade unions are prepared to co-operate with it. The employees have made reasonable requests that restrictions similar to those imposed on them with regard to their right to change their places of employment should be placed on the employers in respect of their right to dismiss workers. If an employee is suspended without reason, and the department determines that the suspension was unwarranted, the employer, will be required to reinstate the suspended person in his employment and pay him the wages of which he was deprived during the term of his suspension.
The honorable member for Warringah has asked why either party should not have the right to go direct to the appeal tribunal. Many of the disputes that arise from time to time are of a trivial- nature, and, if we provided for immediate access to the appeal tribunal, its work would be so congested that a long series of delays would occur in reaching determinations. In many cases submitted to the department no appeal will be lodged by either the employer or the employee. Only in cases where disagreement arises over the decision of the department will there be an appeal. This practice will speed up the procedure in arriving at decisions. The Government has said that it desires to streamline the arbitration machinery, in order to prevent delays that cause unrest in industry, and the amended regulations will have a good effect. They apply to the Government, as an employer, as well as to private employers.
At a trade union congress held in Melbourne on the 12th February last, these man-power proposals of the Government were discussed with representatives of practically every important trade union in the Commonwealth. Very few unions were not represented either directly or indirectly. It would be safe to say that it was the most representative trade union congress ever held in this country. The Government’s proposals were discussed by the delegates because the Government wanted to have the co-operation of the trade union movement. As I have said, the Government’s industrial programme would not have’ been worth the paper on which it was printed without the co-operation of the trade unions. The delegates submitted a number of requests, some of which are embodied in the regulations under consideration. They pointed- out how easy it would be for employers to victimize employees. As honorable members know, there have been instances of victimization of employees in the past, and employees have had great difficulty in having their grievances rectified. Indeed, in some instances matters in dispute have not been rectified, with the result that industrial unrest has been caused. The Government wanted to avoid such causes of “ unrest. Honorable gentlemen will agree that it is preferable to place some restriction on unscrupulous employers in order to prevent upheavals in industry. Employers can be divided into two classes - those who would not stoop to unfair practices, and those who are unscrupulous enough to avail themselves of every opportunity to serve their own interests. Many employers strongly object to the presence of union representatives in their works, and, at times, disputes have arisen because employers have endeavoured to restrict the activities of union organizers and officials. The adoption of the proposals put forward by the honorable member for Warringah, would mean that we would go back to those days when the employer was a law unto himself in his own establishment.
– That is not my proposal. .
– I listened carefully to the honorable gentleman and that is the impression that I gained from his remarks. He wants us to go back to the old system under which an employer was supreme in his own establishment.
– As to the right of dismissal.
– The original regulations placed no restrictions whatever on emp1 overs, although at first glance it would appear to be otherwise. The honorable gentleman spoke of the rights of employers, but neither employers nor employees have rights which are greater than the right of the Government to have its programme for thedefence of this country carried out.
– I conceded that point.
– Men who talk about an all-in war effort have in mind only the contribution which they think should be made by employees; they consider that the employers, and the wealthy sections of the community generally, should continue to enjoy all the privileges that have been theirs in the past, whilst other sections of the community should make sacrifices. The Government believes that in accepting these regulations the trade union movement has made the greatest sacrifice of personal liberty that any section of organized workers in any country has ever made voluntarily. These trade unionists have voluntarily relinquished many hard-won rights; therefore, the Government is not prepared to alter the procedure that has been laid down. It believes that that procedure provides the most effective way of dealing with the matters covered by these regulations. The honorable member for Warringah has placed on theseregulations a certain legal interpretation, but other legal gentlemen may give entirely different opinions. My experience is that it is just as easy to get as many legal opinions in favour of one view as can be assembled in favour of another view.
The Government will not deprive the employer of his right to suspend an employee for serious misconduct. The employer will, in the first instance, determine what constitutes serious misconduct. Should the suspension prove to be unwarranted, the employer will be penalized by having to reinstate the employee and pay him for the time of his suspension ; but should the suspension be held to be justified, the services of the suspended employee shall be deemed to have terminated on the date of his suspension.
The honorable gentleman also referred to the power of the Government in respect of unemployed persons. Another great sacrifice of liberty which the workers have accepted is that registered unemployed may be directed to proceed to any place, and there to carry out any work of which the Government considers them to be capable. As compensation for that loss of liberty those who were unemployed are to be protected by being guaranteed award rates of pay, suitable accommodation, and generally trade union conditions of employment. They are also to be provided with free transport to and from their place of employment. What objection can there be to that?
– I do not object to it.
– Men so protected may not leave their places of employment without the authority of the DirectorGeneral of Man Power; in practice, that means that they may not leave their employment without the permission of the Government. A further condition of such protection is that men directedto undertake certain work must stay on the job until the work has been completed, unless they are permitted to leave earlier. That power is necessary because otherwise men on reaching the place to which they were directed to proceed could immediately leave without commencing work.
Another question that arises is the treatment of men who have been employed on work that has been completed. The honorable member for Warringah said that they could not leave, and that their employer could not dismiss them.
Mr.Spender. - I did not say that. I pointed out that a man could not leave his employment without the permission of the Director-General of Man Power, and that if such permission were not forthcoming he could not be dismissed by his employer.
– I disagree with the honorable gentleman. In my opinion, the employer would retain his right to suspend, but not to dismiss, any employee. In most cases which will come under this heading, the employer will be the Commonwealth Government. So far, no case has arisen in which unemployed workers have been directed to proceed to any given place to undertake work. I doubt very much whether such a case will arise. However, provided unemployed men are offered award wages and conditions of work with suitable housing, and free transport to and from their place of employment, they will be. willing to proceed to such places as they are directed to go. However, the occasion to apply this provision may never arise. The honorable member for Warringah, therefore, is only shadow-sparring. He is dealing purely with hypothetical cases. In any case, should unemployed men be directed to go to a certain place is it feasible to suggest that the Government would he so foolish as to continue to hold them at any centre after they had completed their work? Obviously, it would be to the advantage of the Government to return them immediately to their place of engagement, or to find work for them elsewhere.
– I did not raise that argument at all; that was raised by interjection.
– At any rate, it was raised by an honorable member opposite. The honorable member for Warringah has endeavoured to make a good case out of poor material. I emphasize that we are only beginning to apply these manpower regulations. We have not yet completed the compilation of the manpower register and, therefore, cannot give full effect to these proposals. The honorable member for Warringah now asks this Parliament to destroy the machinery we have just set up before it has been given a fair trial. I ask the House to give the regulations a trial. The Government will watch the position closely. We are determined that, in applying the laws of this country, no privilege will be preserved for any section of the community. We shall not give to employers any privilege at a time when employees are being asked to give up practically all their rights. Co-operation cannot be secured by coercion. It can be obtained only by winning the goodwill of the trade union movement and the workers as a whole. The Government must co-operate with the workers. With this object in view it has discussed its man-power proposals with the representatives of the workers, and has removed from its original proposals this feature to which the workers have taken serious objection. The honorable member for Warringah now asks us to reinsert some of those objectionable features in these regulations. If that be done, the trade union movement will withdraw its guarantee to co-operate to the greatest possible degree in the Government’s plans. I hope, therefore, that the House will allow these regulations to remain until they have at least been given a fair trial.
– I support the motion moved by the honorable member for Warringah (Mr. Spender). I am sorry that the Minister for Labour and National Service (Mr. ‘Ward), who dealt with this subject at some length, did not appreciate the point made by my colleague. I agree entirely with the Minister that it is- impossible to expect, or deserve, the wholehearted cooperation of the workers unless they are assured that their interests are amply safeguarded. I agree entirely with the efforts which he and other Ministers have made to attain, and deserve, that cooperation. However, I do not agree that the regulations as framed are likely to accomplish what either the workers or the Government desire. What is it we need? The Minister gave utterance to our wish, namely, to ensure the maximum output. That is what we are trying to achieve ; and no amount of glossing over the matter will hide the fact that industrial conscription is applied under these and other regulations. The workers of this country have lost all right of disposing freely of their labour and, in such circumstances, it is proper that they should be given the most positive assurance that the employers shall not take advantage of them. Admitting that what we need is the maximum output, we are compelled to surrender the right of freedom of contract for which honorable members on both sides of the House have stood for time immemorial, because of the imminent peril to our whole national structure, economic, social and industrial. We now say to Jones, Smith and Robinson, “ You will do this, or that “. At the same time, we take away from, employers their right to dismiss an employee for any reason. As the honorable member for Warringah pointed out. that right has always been limited by law or agreement. An employer cannot “sack” a man on the spot except in certain circumstances and unless he pays to the employee so dismissed certain compensation. That aspect, however, does not enter into this matter. The point at issue is something entirely different and I am sorry that the Minister has not recognized it. In dealing with the matter of serious misconduct at such length he revealed an entire misconception ofthe matter at issue. Serious misconduct cannot properly arise out of an industrial matter. A man may be employed in a shop in which women are employed. He may be entirely competent in his work but he may be a pervert or an immoral person, and any immoral offence he may commit can be dealt with under the law. What we need to promote by means of regulations of this kind, or by whatever other means we possess, is the highest possible efficiency in industry. The employer, therefore, should have the right to dismiss an employee on the ground of inefficiency provided the employee has the right to go to a tribunal which is to be created, together with the right of appeal, or, as the honorable member for Warringah suggests, the right to appeal direct. I shall not argue as to which procedure is preferable. Obviously the more direct method is the better. Probably the best method would be to appoint an officer in each establishment of any dimensions bo whom such matters could be referred immediately, providing at the same time the right of appeal. My contention is that this should notbe a question of serious misconduct. An employer should determine whether or not in fact theefficiency of his establishment is being maintained at the highest possible standard. Every body realizes that we are hard put to it at present to get competent labour. Men are going into workshops with only a rudimentary knowledge of the processes being carried out in those establishments. However, the Government looks to the employer to see that he turns out work considered to be of fair quantity. The employer therefore must have the right to say to Jones or Smith: “That will not do; you must stand off”. Is inability to turn out a certain number of items per day serious misconduct? I should not be prepared to say so. Supposing that a machine operated by a competent employee can produce 50 articles in a. day, but one controlled by another employee can produce only twenty articles daily. Is the latter employee guilty of serious misconduct?
– Such a matter could be referred to the department for investigation.
– That is what I am coming to. All I ask is that “ serious misconduct” should be clearly defined.
– There would be no need for a dismissal. The matter could be reported to the department and investigated.
– I quite agree with that. It is true that we shall be able to watch how this machinery works and then amend it if necessary. All I am pointing out is that, as the paramount desire to-day is maximum efficiency and output, we should see to it that inefficiency is the gravest delinquency of which an operative can be guilty. But it is not serious misconduct; it is simply inefficiency. Obviously, if the Minister or I were to take on a. job of which we had no knowledge, even with all the will in the world, we could not possibly be as competent as an experienced man. That is all I am putting to the Government. I quite understand the attitude taken up by the Minister.
– In order to obtain maximum production, would the- right honorable member give the department the right to dismiss an inefficient manager.
– Yes. What is sauce for the goose is sauce for the gander. Certainly we must have efficient employers, and as it appears likely that the Government will become the largest employer, if it has not already assumed that role, efficiency on the part of managers and sub-managers who are government servants is of the greatest importance.
– I am referring to private enterprise.
– What applies to the workmen should also apply to the managers. The honorable member for Warringah said the right of an employer to dismiss an employee for any reason at all is retained, but is limited, in effect, by the right of appeal to the representative of the department and to a court. Actually, there is not a great deal of difference between our views and those held by honorable members opposite in regard to this matter. If a man be dismissed, he should have the right of appeal; his interests should be safeguarded. I hope that the Minister will give the matter consideration from that point of view, and agree to the suggested amendments.
Debate (on motion by Mr. Brennan) adjourned.
– I move -
That the House, at its rising, adjourn to Wednesday, the 29th April, at 3 p.m., unless Mr. Speaker shall, by telegram addressed to each member of the House, fix anearlier date of meeting.
As only three weeks have elapsed since the House last adjourned, the Government has not been able to prepare any legislation for consideration at these sittings, but it will have a legislative programme ready when Parliament reassembles on the 29th April.
– D. V.
– In view of all that we have heard, I think that we can rely confidently, not only upon this Parliament, but also upon the citizens of this country, being able to carry on the affairs of the nation on the 29th April. With that strongly in mind, I desire the Government to have time to prepare a legislative programme for presentation to Parliament. In the meantime, there are tremendously important administrative tasks to be done, and what I said in my statement on the war situation will be adhered to by the Government. Probably the next sittings will last longer than one week; they may take three weeks. It was intended that Parliament should meet at least one week in each month, but I ask honorable members to accept the new arrangement, and to make their plans accordingly.
– It seems to be a long adjournment.
– The motion whichI have just moved provides that Mr. Speaker may fix an earlier date of meeting should that be necessary. The intention is that the Government should have sufficient time to formulate its legislative programme. The adjournment period, of course, includes Easter.
Question resolved in the affirmative.
Social Legislation - Pensions: Old- age; War - Impressment of Machinery - Employment of Women - Price of Sugar - Australiafirst Movement - Treasonable Conspiracy - Internment of Enemy Aliens - Electric Power Resources -Werri- bee Beef - Municipalities : Compensation for Additional Responsibilities - Liquor Trade : Hotel Hours Compensation for War Injuries - “ Government Spokesman “ - AuthorityforGovernment Pronouncements - Price of Apples - Scorched Earth Policy - Co-ordination of Commonwealth Departments - Defence Forces : Notifications of Death to Next-of-kin - Shipment of Tasmanian Timber - Day of Prayer : Advertisement - Military Training of Youths.
Motion (by Mr. Curtin) proposed -
That the House do now adjourn.
– In accordance with the promise made by the Prime Minister (Mr. Curtin) yesterday, I make the following statement on the Government’s social security plan for the near future : -
On the 29th October last, I intimated to the House that the Government proposed . to submit an amendment of the Invalid and Old-age Pensions Act providing for an increase of the amount payable to 25s. a week as from the firstpay day in April this year. The Government has been reviewing social legislation generally, with the object of submittinga number of other measures to improve our social legislation, and it has been decider: that the amendment regarding invalid and old-age pensions should be submitted in conjunction with the other measures, all of which it is hoped will be in operation from the first pay day in the new financial year, which is the 9th July next but that the additional payment to invalid and old-age pensioners should be made retrospective to the 2nd April. This will fulfil the promise made that these pensions would be increased to 25s. early this year.
Other proposals for which bills are being prepared cover the following : -
– A constituent of mine has brought to my notice a state of affairs which I am sure will appeal to the sympathies of the Government and every honorable member. Her son was killed in action in Malaya. She was granted a military pension of 23s. a week - the price of her son, who was her main, if not her only, support. Last week, she was notified by the Pensions Department that her old-age pension of 24s. a week had been cancelled because she was in receipt of a military pension. That woman has sacrificed her son on the altar of her country, and because of this she must receive from the Government1s. a week less than she received before his death. There is something wrong there, and there must be an end to it. A military pension ought to stand, no matter what comes or goes, and I am sure that the Minister for Social Services (Mr. Holloway), who has just given notice of farreaching social measures, will support my contention. I am confident that the Government will remedy the position.
. -Certain war industries in my electorate are being dislocated seriously as the result of the seizure of important machines.I did not raise this matter during the debate on the motion for the disallowance of Statutory Rules 1942, No. 77, because the machines were not seized under the powers conferred by those regulations.
During the debate the Prime Minister (Mr. Curtin) gave an assurance that the powers would not be exercised except under ministerial authority. In view of what is happening to the companies which I mention, and others, I consider that the same policy should be applied in respect of the seizure of their machines. The honorable member for Dalley (Mr. Rosevear) said that an attempt was made to take control over one company by an official who was financially interested in a rival concern. On one occasion a Herbert turret lathe was seized from a firm known as Carmichaels. It was operating twelve hours a day on the manufacture of ammunition boxes for 25- pounder guns and blood bottles for the Army. The result of the seizure was a seriousdelay of production, not only from this machine, but also from a number of other machines engaged on associated work. In order to see whether the machine could have been obtained from another source, I communicated with a machinery merchant. He told me that, although identical machines were not available, a machine of a competitive type was lying on a wharf at Melbourne. Its release could have been secured through the Directorate of Machine Tools. Therefore, if proper inquiry had been made, there would have been no need to disturb production at Carmichael’s works. Two machines were seized from the Purcell Engineering Company Proprietary Limited, which is engaged in the manufacture of lathes and other important equipment. It is strange that the companies affected are in direct competition with the interests of persons concerned with the seizure of the machines. Officials who have been appointed to the Directorate of Machine Tools for the duration of the war are connected with rival concerns. A completely independent official should have authority to decide when and from what places machines should be seized. A machine was commandeered from Vincent’s engineering works at Enfield, and as the result, production was seriously dislocated. Howard Auto Cultivators Limited received a machine on a Friday morning. It was installed on the Saturday morning, but on the following Monday, officials of the Directorate of
Machine Tools had the machine removed from its concrete bed and sent elsewhere. I understand that some of the machines which have been seized are required for the production of the Owen gun. That may bc true, but many manufacturers consider that there has been unfair discrimination. Their fears would be allayed if an independent authority were appointed to supervise the allocation of machine tools. The production of Owen guns has been allotted to John Lysaght (Australia) Proprietary Limited. A simple way of handling the problem of obtaining machine tools for thi3 work would be to farm out the manufacture of components to firms which have machines that are not working 24 hours a day. Such valuable machines should be in full production instead of being used for only twelve hours a day. I understand that the firms from which machines have been seized are willing to co-operate with other firms in the manufacture of war equipment. The system is entirely wrong. It is no more logical than would be the removal of a man’s stomach because, through lack of food, it was able to work only half time. The proper thing to do in such a ease would be to feed the man. The removal of his- stomach would throw his whole body out of action. That is comparable with what is happening in this industry. By taking one machine away, other machines are being rendered less useful. I hope that the Minister for Supply and Development (Mr. Beasley) will take steps to ensure that these matters are supervised by independent persons.
.- I desire to mention, without debating it, a matter which arises from the issue of Statutory Rules 1942, No. 146, dealing with the employment of women. This statutory rule has just been circulated, but so far as I know, it has not yet been tabled. The regulations under the rule provide for the setting up of a new authority, to be called the Women’s Employment Board, to deal with the employment of women and to fix the rates of pay for women employed. The procedure proposed to be established under these regulations will cut directly across the general principle of industrial arbi tration’. I am not inviting the Minister for Supply and Development (Mr. Beasley,), who 13 sitting at the table, to discuss the subject at this stage. I suggest to him, however, that he should request the Government carefully to reconsider the matter before the next sitting of- the House. If the statutory rule is tabled, the Opposition intends to take such steps as are open bo it to test the matter in the House. I ask that these remarks be conveyed to the Minister for Labour and National Service (Mr. Ward).
.- Recently the Minister for Supply and Development (Mr. Beasley) . made a statement to the press that the price of sugar might be increased owing to the likelihood of sugar having to be transported from North Queensland to the southern States by rail. I suggest to the honorable gentleman that it will be most difficult to transport sugar south by rail. My information is to the effect that in the area of Townsville, and further north, about 100,000 tons of raw sugar are held. Assuming that each train could bring 350 tons of sugar south, it would make an enormous demand upon our railway system to transport the sugar. Furthermore, the cost of train haulage would be excessive. The making of statements such as that to which I have referred, undoubtedly causes people to hoard commodities. Immediately that statement was made, customers rushed to grocers’ shops in order to buy sugar, obviously for the purpose of hoarding. People adopt this course, first, in order to be sure that they will have sugar ; and, secondly, in order to avoid having to pay a higher price for it. A statement appeared in the press subsequently, though I cannot say who was responsible for it, to the effect that sugar was likely to be rationed. I find it difficult to understand the reasons for that statement. According to information obtained from the Colonial Sugar Refining Company Limited, more sugar has been made available in the last two or three months than in any similar period. That surely shows that large quantities of sugar are procurable. That statement also caused difficulties. I was pleased to hear the
Minister say to-day in reply to a question that. I asked him that it was not necessary for customers to buy other goods from grocers in order to obtain 1 lb. of sugar or a small quantity of tea. Nevertheless, that kind of thing is being done. Grocers are saying to their customers that only 1 lb. of sugar may be supplied to each purchaser because so little sugar is -.available. In my view, it is entirely wrong for members of the Government to make statements of the kind to which I have referred, for it at once causes people to hoard supplies. If the need arises for limiting supplies of particular commodities, statements to that effect should be followed immediately by regulations imposing the restrictions. When the statement was made a few days ago that supplies of beer were to be curtailed, regulations were immediately issued and new trading hours were fixed to operate from the next day. That procedure should be followed whenever the need arises to curtail supplies. It is not sufficient to tell people that they will be prosecuted for hoarding. I am informed that large quantities of sugar are available in north Queensland, although I am aware of the transport difficulties. I protest, however, against premature statements being made to the effect that the price of sugar may be increased and the rationing of supplies may be imposed.
.- I take this opportunity, the only one that has been available to me, to emphasize one or two points which have arisen from the debate earlier to-day concerning action against members of the Australia First Movement. Yesterday the Minister for the Army (Mr. Forde) made the strongest possible allegations that certain persons had been guilty of the most serious crime of treason.
– Order! Except by the indulgence of the House, the honorable member may not discuss, at this stage, a subject that has already been debated in the House to-day.
– I rise to a point of order. I submit that any honorable member may discuss any matter on the motion for the adjournment of the
House. There is no limit to the subjects that may be raised on this motion.
-If the honorable member disagrees with my ruling, he may move that it be dissented from.
– Under such a ruling honorable members would be gagged. I suggest that Mr. Speaker be invited to give a ruling on the subject.
– Does not the embargo apply only to subjects that have been determined ?
– As the subject to which the honorable member for Boothby (Dr. Price) has alluded was fully debated on a formal motion for the adjournment of the House to-day, it will not be in order for the honorable gentleman to resume the discussion at this stage.
– The matter cannot be allowed to rest here. The Leader of the Opposition (Mr. Fadden) should move that the ruling be dissented from. Otherwise, honorable members will be gagged.
– The honorable member for Boothby may address the House on any other subject that has not been debated to-day.
– In dealing with the terms of the indictment which the Minister for the Army blazoned forth to the world yesterday, the Canberra Times this morning published an interview with the Prime Minister (Mr. Curtin), in the course of which the honorable gentleman was reported to have said that the matter was in the hands of the military authorities.
– Order ! The honorable . member for Boothby must surely have misunderstood my ruling. He may not continue tq address the House on that subject.
– That is a most impossible ruling.
– The honorable member for Boothby, or any other honorable member, has his remedy if he objects to a ruling from the Chair. A motion of dissent may be made.
– Will the honorable member for Boothby be in order in expressing generally his views concerning what he considers would be the proper action for a government to take upon the discovery of treasonable activities in this country, not necessarily relating to one particular incident?
– I am not prepared, without consideration, to give a ruling on that point. Except by indulgence of the House,shoulditdesirethat amatterofnationalimportancebyre- ferredto,thehonourablemembermaynot proceed.
– May I ask on what standing order you base your ruling, Mr. Deputy Speaker?
-It is based on precedent.
– I ask for a standing order, not a precedent.
– It appears that this matter is governed by Standing Order No. 266, which states -
No member shall allude to any debate of the same session upon a question or bill not being then under discussion, nor to any speech made in committee, except by the indulgence of the House for personal explanations.
The question is, whether this matter is one “ not being then under discussion “. Is this matter at present under discussion?
– It has been under discussion at this sitting.
– I submit, with all respect, if that be the standing order upon which Mr. Deputy Speaker relies for his ruling, that this matter has been disposed of and is not at present under discussion.
– That is the standing order which has been in the mind of the Chair. The Chair has already said that the honorable member for Boothby may proceed onlyby the indulgence of the House.
-Would I be in order in moving that the honorable member for Boothby have leave to continue his speech ?
– It would need to be by the unanimous indulgence of the House. If that indulgence were obtained, it would be in accordance with the standing order.
Motion (by Mr. Blackburn) agreed to-
That the honorable member for Boothby be further heard.
– I appreciate what the House has done on my behalf. The point is important. A number of members on this side wished to speak on this subject, and had intended to do so earlier. The point that I make is that the Minister for the Army has made very strong allegations of treasonable conspiracy. The Canberra Times has reported an alleged interview with the Prime Minister, in which that honorable gentleman said that the matter was in the hands of the military authorities, “who might, perhaps, contemplate further action.” That was not a very strong statement. A further disturbing fact is that these persons have been arrested and interned. They have not been imprisoned pending a criminal trial for the treason alleged against them. I am very glad that there is an opportunity to ventilate the matter, because the accusation of treasonable conspiracy against these twenty persons is, perhaps, the most serious accusation that has been made in the history of Australia, and one of the most serious in the history of the British people. It embraces elaborate plans to welcome and assist a Japanese invading army, to assassinate Australian leaders, and to sabotage our defences. I cannot imagine anything that would be not only more treasonable but also more inhuman, in view of the Japanese record. These persons, who are probably Australian white citizens, are alleged to have plotted to betray white men, women and children, to a people whose military forces have a perfectly ghastly record - a record which, unfortunately, has to some extent been suppressed by the censorship of this country. Had it been published more freely, there might be fewer white people who would allegedly be traitors. We know that the Japanese have perpetrated unbelievable cruelties in China. We have had from Hong Kong the story of the commission of the most terrible atrocities. Refugees from Malaya have the names of the white managers of rubber plantations who, having been left behind by order of their companies, have been murdered. One can understand, although it is hard to do so, treachery in countries such as Burma, where the Buddhist priesthood is strongly opposed to
Christianity, and the lawless elements detest the peace and the improvements that have followed the rule of the British Government; but one cannot understand conspiracies by white people in a prosperous country like the Australian Commonwealth. Even Italians and ‘Germans would be most unwise to conspire with the Japanese. There is no love between Hitler and Japan. Japan is playing its own game, and it hates all white people. Those Germans and Italians in Australia who at present think that they are sitting safely on the fence would very soon he sitting on barbed wire if Japan’s entry into this country were facilitated by means of a conspiracy. In spite of these things, we have this attitude by the Government, which is not altogether reassuring. Both the Prime Minister and the Minister for the Army have stated to-day that the matter is in the hands pf the Solicitor-General to consider what action shall be taken. No one on the Government side has yet followed up this tremendous charge of the Minister for the Army by saying that the Government intends to take the firmest line possible. T submit that a firm line is essential. Internment is not sufficient. These persons should be tried and, if found guilty, should be punished for treason to the fullest degree allowed by the law. The public 13 extremely anxious about the present position, lest the fifth-column methods and activities of the Germans, Italians and Japanese may be repeated in this country. They are anxious because of reports - which probably are quite inaccurate, but yet have been published - of Lutheran treachery in New Guinea. They are anxious because of the reports that there has been treachery at Darwin, and that it was found necessary to shoot the proprietor of one of the pearling fleet.? there. The stories of refugees from Darwin uncover facts which may presage, in treachery, a repetition of the record of Pearl Harbour. These reports may be untrue, but I submit that if the Government does not act with firmness now, after the Minister for the Army has made some of the strongest allegations ever made in the history of the British Empire, the anxiety of the public will change into alarm. That alarm will be due to the fact that the Government, after alleging these crimes, failed to take the strongest possible measures against those alleged to have plotted treachery.
– I wish to draw the attention of the Government to the potential power resources, whether hydro-electric or steam, which exist in areas west of the Blue Mountains. A commission of very distinguished electrical engineers consisting of Messrs. Randell. Palmer and Tritton, of Great Britain, reported in 1937 to the Government of New South Wales on the power resources of that State, and strongly recommended that a hydro-electric generating plant should be installed at Wyangala Dam. The commission reported that a plant at the Wyangala Dam would be capable of generating 10,000 kilowatts. Recently, the Minister for Supply and Development (Mr. Beasley) directed a committee of experts and economists to examine the resources of several western towns in New South Wales in order to assess their capacity to supply power and water for the manufacture of power alcohol. I urge the Minister for Supply and Development, during the next few weeks, to give serious consideration to this subject and instruct his experts to make a summary of the power resources which are now available in the same manner as the committee did so effectively in 1937.
If the Minister is impressed with the necessity for constructing reservoirs in the areas that I have mentioned, he should not be deterred by complaints about lack of labour. The country strongly supports the view that prisoners of war should be employed upon such projects. A Gallup poll, which was taken in February and March, disclosed that 86 per cent, of our people favoured the use of prisoners of war labour.
– The poll showed also that the country was in favour of conscription.
– The subject of conscription is in a different category because it is controversial ; the employment of prisoners of war upon useful public works is endorsed by an overwhelming majority of Australians. The construction of water-conservation projects would suitably employ prisoners of war, because large bodies of men would be engaged and the problem of guarding them would not be so great as it is when the men are thinly distributed over large farming areas. On farm work the employment of prisoners of war is impracticable, because a guard is required to watch one or two men. The excuse which was advanced up to the outbreak of war that the country could not afford to construct such works no longer applies. The fallacy of that contention has been amply demonstrated. The monetary cost is of little concern if the work contributes to the preservation of the country. The arguments against such works being carried out are the lack of manpower and materials. My answer is that prisoners of war will supply the labour, whilst the materials required for the construction of reservoirs are not needed in the war effort.
– I. take this opportunity, while the Minister for Commerce (Mr. Scully) i3 present, to allude to the proposal to lift, in the near future, the ban upon the marketing of beef from the Werribee sewage farm. If that action is taken without the necessary safeguards, a very grave disservice will be done to many beef -raisers in Victoria. When this subject was debated on Wednesday evening, some honorable members declared that the “big beef barons” were responsible for the imposition of the. ban. The number of “big beef barons” in Victoria can be counted on the fingers of one hand.
– So the “little beef barons “ were responsible.
– I am deeply concerned about the plight of the small men. Thousands of them purchased store stock in New South Wales and Queensland at high prices. If the Werribee beef is marketed, we shall witness a repetition of the previous experience when prices declined seriously and consumption was reduced. I forecast that the small men will lose a sum equal to- that which they lost on the last occasion, namely, £1,000,000. Some honorable members opposite asserted that these men fear the competition that will be encountered from the Werribee beef in the fat stock market. My reply to that statement is that the quantity of fat stock which will come from the Werribee sewage farm will make no difference, as it represents only 2 per cent, of the fat stock sold at Newmarket. It is only one week’s supply, so the marketing of that meat will not materially affect prices. There is one fact that the Minister has evidently overlooked. During the last scare concerning the sale of Werribee beef the consumption of beef in Victoria fell by 40 per cent., and the price by 25 per cent. I am not holding a brief for any one; that is a statement of fact; and the Minister must seriously consider the previous experience before he lifts the ban. If the honorable gentleman has definitely made up his mind to act, there is a proper course to pursue. Thousands of people have declared that they will not knowingly eat beef from the Werribee sewage farm. If the origin of the meat be stamped upon the carcass, they will be able to refuse to accept Werribee beef; at the same time, members of the Housewives Association of Victoria and other persons who asked the Minister to lift, the ban will be able to purchase the meat. If the lifting, of the ban be justified, no hardship will then be inflicted upon any one. But if the meat is marketed willy-nilly, the consumption of beef will be reduced and prices will steadily decline. That will deal a severe blow to the small producers in Victoria, who forward fat stock to the market each week. It was also suggested that some men were holding back stock in order to increase the price of beef. That is too silly for words. Once a beast is fattened, the next job is to market it, and the man who- attempts to hold fat cattle through a period like this is riding for a fall, because they will soon slip back to good store quality, and cannot be sold in the fat cattle market.
The Commonwealth and State Governments have imposed additional work upon the municipalities of Australia. The State Government has asked the municipalities to devise plans for evacuation. The War Damage Commission has asked them to provide the machinery for collecting its funds. The Liquid Fuel Control Board has asked them to undertake the revision of motor spirit consumers’ licences. This work can be carried out by the municipalities more effectively, expeditiously and economically than by any other body, but it will involve them in a great deal of extra expense, and impose a further heavy burden upon their staffs already depleted by enlistments and the military call-up. The municipalities have willingly undertaken this extra work, but it is only fair that they should be recompensed in order to enable them to increase their staffs. Their ordinary work has suffered as the result of these additional responsibilities. In order to cope with their work, the staffs of some municipal councils are working eighteen or nineteen hours a day.
– The honorable member for Reid (Mr. Morgan) mentioned the impressment of machine tools from engineering shops engaged on war work, and said that as the result those shops were hampered in carrying out their contracts. He implied that the Director of Machine Tools, Colonel Thorpe, had some direct’ influence in this matter. I assure the House that that is not so. It is quite true that machine tools are impressed from firms engaged on defence work, but that is because the shops to which the tools are transferred are engaged on work of a higher order of priority. In order that the work in these shops will be carried out as quickly as possible, it is necessary that their equipment be reinforced from the machine tools of other shops whose work is not so urgent. Colonel Thorpe has absolutely nothing to do with determining priorities. They are determined by the Defence Board, and the Department of Munitions has no voice in the matter. Its duty is to carry out in the quickest possible time the production of urgently needed equipment and munitions.
– Colonel Thorpe is one of the Commonwealth’s most able servants.
– I believe that myself. I have no reason to have other than the highest opinion of the abilities and integrity of the Director of Machine Tools. I shall not allow reflections upon his work as an official of my department to pass unchallenged, but I make it quite clear to the honorable member that impressment of machine tools is dictated by the needs of the moment. I concede that Howard Auto Cultivators Limited and the
Purcell Engineering Company Limited are engaged on important defence work, and that some of their machine tools have been impressed for other workshops. The reason is that those other workshops are engaged upon work of a higher priority than theirs. I hope that that will be’ a sufficient answer for the honorable gentleman. I hope that the repeated complaints made in this House about matters such as this will not create false impressions amongst honorable members. I do not mind complaint or criticism, but very often it is based on lack of information or understanding. It is impossible to make a public announcement as to why certain equipment is required more urgently than other equipment. Sometimes that is a matter of strictest secrecy. The Government must exercise its powers in such a way as to ensure that the best results shall accrue to the country.
.- The Government realizes, I think, the great and growing concern that exists in Australia at present regarding the treatment of aliens. It has received from me, and I know from other honorable members, a large number of representations which reflect, the feelings of large sections of the population. I have been written to about this matter by branches of the Returned Sailors, Soldiers and Airmen’s Imperial League of Australia, municipal and shire councils, and other organizations whose concern I share. In this country to-day there are many enemy aliens and naturalized Australians of enemy origin who enjoy unrestricted liberty. Some of them, no doubt, are hostile. One cannot delve into the feelings of all men except with difficulty and, doubtless, many hostile enemy aliens remain at large. A second large section of these people might be described as neutral. They sit on the fence prepared to jump to whichever side they deem best. It is only reasonable to assume that in the event of an invasion attended by some success, these neutrals would do their best to help the enemy if only to save their own skins. The third section consists of those people who have definite pro-allied sympathies. I have had some experience’ in dealing with aliens both in this and in the last war, and I propose to offer a few suggestions to the Government as to the manner in which, in my opinion, this difficult matter could best be dealt with. In Germany, and in the other Axis countries, some thousands of allied subjects were promptly interned at the outbreak of war and as far as I know they are still interned.
– The honorable member for Warringah (Mr. Spender) said last year that there were a number of allied subjects in Germany who were not interned, and that that fact had influenced the attitude of the Commonwealth Government to enemy subjects in Australia.
– My information was to the contrary. We may assume that a large proportion of the Allied subjects in Axis countries are interned. In Australia there are many aliens and a large number of refugees who have fled to this country, but they are anti-fascist in their sympathies. That, of course, complicates the position in Australia, and divides persons of enemy origin into two classes. Unless we deal with the matter properly, we may not only do injustice to individuals, but also reduce our own efficiency. The policy adopted by the Government has been to say that all enemy aliens against whom there is any suspicion should be interned, and I admit that a great number of them should be interned. In other words, the onus of proof rests on the Government to show that they constitute a threat to our security before any action is taken. My suggestion is that instead of the onus of proof resting on one side, the Government should accept in principle the internment of all enemy aliens, subject to exemption being granted to those who can show good reason why they should not be interned. I do not contend that it is advisable that the net should be thrown around all aliens now at liberty in Australia, but steps might be taken to do that by degrees. Those who cannot prove that they have good faith towards Australia should be interned.
Another class comprises naturalized Australians of enemy origin. I and other members have received requests that all of these should be interned, but I consider that they fall within two categories. Many of such naturalized Australians are extremely loyal. Honorable members are aware that many Australians of Teutonic origin are among our ;most efficient and loyal citizens. I suggest that naturalized aliens should not be interned unless there is reasonable proof that they are hostile. How far back should we go in making special inquiries regarding the activities of naturalized Australians of enemy origin? From the date when Italy joined the. Axis powers, all Italians who have come to Australia should be regarded as suspect. I know from personal experience that it has been the practice of countries such as Germany and Italy to send their nationals abroad to obtain naturalization in other countries for the purpose of obtaining confidential positions, and thereby acquiring information useful to their homeland. This has been done in all countries, including Australia. As to the activities of Germans in Australia, the time to which we should go back would be 1933, when Hitler came into power. There is no proof that, prior to that date, Germany had welllaid plans for world conquest. I share the views of the honorable member for Bourke (Mr. Blackburn) as to the necessity for upholding the traditions of British justice.
– An honorable member is not in order in alluding to statements made in a debate that took place earlier in the day.
– I am as anxious as any member of this House to uphold the traditions of British justice, but I am equally desirous of maintaining the security of this country, which can be preserved only by taking drastic action against certain aliens now at liberty.
.- I was rather disagreeably surprised to-day to. learn in conversation that some members of the Government, if not the Cabinet, were considering measures in relation to liquor control which would mean the- extension of hotel closing hours in Victoria beyond 6 p.m. If such action were taken, it would be resented by a great majority of the people of that State as not merely causing immediate injury to them, but as breaking down the principle of the 6 p.m. closing of hotels. Once that principle were departed from, it might well be that it would not be again observed. I believe that 6 o’clock closing has been of great benefit to Victoria, and I would not accept any extension of the hours of closing beyond 6 p.m. «3 compensated by a later opening hour. What is suggested is that licensed premises should be opened later in the morning and kept open later in the evening. I warn the Government againstany interference with the hours observed for the sale of liquor in Victoria. If it did so, great injury would result to domestic peace in that State and to the people generally. If left to himself, I do not believe that the Premier of Victoria (“Mr. Dunstan) would extend the trading hours of hotels as suggested ; but it has been mentioned to me that some Ministers are considering a proposal by which a blanket regulation should be promulgated under the National Security Act with regard to the closing hours of hotels in all .States, so that in Victoria licensed premises could be kept open after 6 p.m. I have said very little upon this matter, because I do not consider that anybody should use the war to take an advantage in a controversial issue, and I have urged the people of Victoria not. to use the war in order to secure an advantage for the temperance movement. I cannot see how an extension of the trading hours beyond 6 o’clock would help the war effort. On the contrary, I believe that the war effort would be retarded by such action and that a great injury would be done to Victoria.
By transcribing a British regulation, the Government has done an injury to the working people of Australia. In the National Security (War Injuries Compensation) Regulations, the Government sets up a scheme of pensions for persons who. suffer war injuries. The rates of pension are not so generous as are provided under the workmen’s compensation statutes of the Commonwealth and the States. Were it not for these regulations a person who sustains a war injury while engaged in his ordinary occupation would be entitled to workmen’s compensation at rates in excess of those now payable.
So far as it is material regulation 70 of Statutory Rules 1942, No. 9 reads -
There shall not be payable, whether to the person injured or to any other person, in respect of any war injury, any such compensa-tion or damages as, but for the provisions of this regulation -
would be payable under any law of the Commonwealth, or a State or Territory of the Commonwealth, relating to compensation to workmen or employees (including employees of the Commonwealth) for injuries suffered in the course of their employment;
I have taken the trouble to compare the regulation with the British regulation, and can say that it is a transcription of the latter. Let us contemplate the case of a man who sustains a war injury while at work. Under these regulations he is not entitled to the compensation payable under the workmen’s compensation law, but is forced to accept an inferior scheme of pensions under which compensation at a lower rate i3 payable. It is most desirable that workers should not be deterred from carrying on their work while war conditions exist. If our cities were being bombed, or this country were invaded by an enemy, it would still be necessary for many persons to engage in their ordinary occupations. The effect of these regulations may be so unfair to workers who sustain war injuries that I am confident that I have only to bring the matter to the notice of the Minister for Supply and Development- (Mr. Beasley), who is familiar with compensation matters, to obtain his immediate attention to it with the result, I hope, that the regulations will be altered.
Mr. McEWEN (Indi) r5.4].- Since the present Government came into office statements attributed to “a government spokesman “ have appeared from time to time in the press. I should like the Minister in charge of the House to explain what is meant by the release of statements - I presume that they are released - by these unnamed individuals as it would appear that there is a plurality of anonymous spokes-men for the Government.
– What device did the Government, of which the honorable member was a Minister, use to inform the public ?
– Generally, the Government made official statements in the names of Ministers. However, I am referring not to the practice adopted by the previous Government, but to the existing practice, which seems to be a complete and serious departure from the accepted principle of ministerial responsibility which has obtained hitherto in this country. When an announcement of importance is to made on behalf of the Government the proper procedure is for it to be made by either the authorizing department, such as the Department of Information or a Minister of State. I can see no need for a system under which important statements are made by anonymous persons. In my opinion, the Government should tell the people of Australia what authority is to be attached to statements which appear in the press on the authority of “ a government spokesman “. What is his status? Is he one particular individual, or does the term refer to a group of individuals who are authorized to make statements? It would be well if the Government were to disclose the names of these persons. The Government should explain why it has departed from the system of making announcements by Ministers. Is there any difference between the importance to be attached to a statement made by a Minister over his own name and a statement attributed to “ a government spokesman ?” Is the authenticity of a statement made in the name of a Minister to be unquestioned and is a statement made by an anonymous spokesman to be regarded as having less authority? Is the first a statement of fact and the other merely something in the nature of a rumour?
– It may be political propaganda.
– During recent years we have been accustomed to this form of propaganda from Axis countries, notably Japan. During recent years Japan, above all other countries, used this device ‘ to promulgate statements which are invariably of a propaganda character. Surely we, in Australia, do not need this form of propaganda. In Great Britain and in the United States of America, statements of importance are invariably attributed to some named authority. In the latter country, the President himself frequently makes statements over his own name and by his own authority, on other occasions statements are issued, or announcements made, by his private secretary over his own name. I am not able to quote at the moment statements of the kind to which I refer. All honorable members have seen some of them. I have been concerned over this matter for some time; but I have been prompted to refer to it at this juncture because of the publication in last Friday’s press of an important statement which was attributed only to “ a government spokesman That statement referred to the recent appointment of Mr. Casey as a member of the War Cabinet of the United Kingdom and his resignation as Australian Minister in Washington. That matter was not only of great intrinsic importance and interest, but at that time and since the subject of great public controversy. The first release of any particulars dealing with it was through the daily press of last Friday, the report in one newspaper covering three columns on the front page and being continued on an inside page of that journal. The only authority given for the report was “ a government spokesman “. Not only was it couched in propagandist terms - the whole statement was calculated to lead readers to a certain conclusion - but it also perpetrated what C believe to be the unprecedented offence of disclosing the contents of secret conversations and cables. Those matters were published for the world to read, yet the only authority given for their publication was “ a government spokesman “. The statement purported to be a report of a most personal conversation between the right honorable member for Kooyong (Mr. Menzies) when he was Prime Minister and Mr. Casey, which the former is alleged to have repeated on his return from the United States of America. If “ a government spokesman “ is to be permitted in this fashion to give to the world what purports to be a record of a very personal conversation between the Prime Minister of this country and its Minister Plenipotentiary in another country, then things have come to a sorry pass in this country.
– And it was an invention.
– If we cannot maintain a decent regard for the secrecy of confidential conversations, I fail to see how the practices of democracy can be continued. An even worse feature of this matter was that this long story of “ a government spokesman “ also purported to recount with absolute authority, and in very great detail, a series of highly secret cobles exchanged between the Prime Minister of Australia and the Prime Minister of Great Britain, and between the former and Australia’s Minister in Washington. It not only purported to quote the contents of those cables in a generalway - it actually quoted the exact words of those cables - but in such a way that readers would not gather that the exact words of those cables were being used. Subsequently, the White Paper dealing with this incident, revealed that the exact wording of secret cables exchanged between the Prime Minister of Australia and the Prime Minister of Great Britain, and between the former and Australia’s Minister in Washington, were quoted in this report before the members of this Parliament were permitted to know the contents of those communications.
– So, the spokesman must have been a Minister who was hiding his identity, or a subordinate who bad no right to see the documents.
– I was coming to that very point. I hope that my remarks will elicit a reply. The people of Australia are entitled to be told the authority for statements of this kind. Are they to understand that, for some reason or other, which may or may not be disclosed, Ministers intend to adopt the practice of giving information to the press while at the same time they suppress their own names and attribute their reports to government spokesmen? We should have an answer to that question. On the other hand, has the Government, selected an individual, or a number of individuals, as its spokesmen? If that be so, can we not, be told the names and status of such individuals? If not, why can we not be given that information ? If this is not merely a subterfuge, I should like to know - and this is very important - whether an official, whose status might be disclosed, has been given authority to speak for the Government, and whether that official has placed before him the secret and personal cables exchanged between the heads of this Government and other governments. I have had considerable experience as Minister for External Affairs, and I know that it is the practice of heads of this Government and other governments, to exchange purely personal cables of which even the Minister for External Affairs is not acquainted. I entirely approve of that practice. Otherwise, how could our family of Empire nations carry on in their mutual interests? I believe that the Prime Minister (Mr. Curtin) believes in this practice; but it certainly cannot be continued if secret cables are to be laid open to the scrutiny of some “ Government spokesman “. That would instantly restrict the free exchange of views between the headsof this and other governments. If the disclosure of these very personal cables between the present Prime Minister and the Prime Minister of Great Britain does not restrict indefinitely the exchange of personal views between the heads of governments, it will at least for a very long time restrict their freedom of expression in such communications. I regard this new practice which, so far as I am aware, has been previously adopted only in Axis countries, as unnecessary and unjustified, and, indeed, very unwise. For the reasons which I have just given, itis a very dangerous practice. But if it is to continue - and that is a matter for the Government to decide - the Government should make quite clear to the people of Australia, and to the members of this Parliament, what authority is to be attached in future to reports issued by Government spokesmen. Further, I see no reason why the Government should not disclose the names of these individuals.
.- I desire to deal very briefly with the apple and pear acquisition scheme, particularly as it applies to apple-growers in Queensland. From the mists of antiquity right down the corridor of time the apple seems to have been the symbol of discord. We have all heard the story of Eve and the apple, and I am sure that most of us have read, no doubt with mixed feelings, the story of Atlanta and the apples.
Then, of course, there was the interesting tale of the apples in the garden of Hesperides. Shakespeare’s well-known allusion to this fruit, “Like a goodly apple rotten at the core “, is also familiar. Then again, there is the. neat story of the two boys who sought to divide an apple evenly. The boy with whom the apple was to be shared finally asked the possessor of the coveted fruit for the core. The reply was “ There ain’t goin’ to be no core “. Most definitely the apple is a source of discord in the Stanthorpe district of Queensland, which is in the electorate of Maranoa. There, the plight of the apple-growers is tragic. They are getting a very raw deal indeed. They are allowed ten units for a bushel case, and until recently the price for each unit has been 4d., making a total of 3s. 4d. for a case containing between twelve dozen and fourteen dozen apples. As the result of strong representations made by the State member for Maranoa and myself, the Minister for Commerce (Mr. Scully) raised the price to 6d. per unit, making a total of 5s. a case. Rut these cases are sold on the Brisbane market at anything up to fi each. In my opinion the grower should get a much bigger proportion of the retail value of his product. Notwithstanding the relief given by the Minister for Commerce (Mr. Scully) in that direction, I contend that the growers are entitled to a ‘little more. The apple-producers in Queensland work under special difficulties. In drought seasons apples are scarce, and in normal times there is great danger of damage by hail. Labour is costly, and, although just as much labour is required, the trees do not bear as heavily as they do in Tasmania, averaging only from li bushels to 2 bushels a tree. Last year the Australian taxpayers contributed approximately £1,500,000 to the apple and pear acquisition scheme, and I have been informed on good authority that no less than 5,000,000 bushel cases of good apples were buried, dumped, or fed to pigs. That is a tragic state of affairs in a country where the people need this class of food so badly. The position is aggravated now by the presence in Australia of large numbers of allied troops. After all, our cardinal obligation is to feed the men of our fighting forces and the allied troops in this country. Every one knows that the first obligation resting upon a military leader is to feed his men. I strongly believe that the apple-producer should get more than 5s. a case. The following is an extract from a letter written to Senator Brown and myself by the State member for Carnarvon, Mr. Paul Hilton :-
The increasing unit price has appeased, ti) some extent, the growers of the late varieties of apples, but the people who produced the varieties marketed in January and February ave still very sore. The early varieties are a much lighter crop than the late ones and they always bring higher prices. Most of the early stuff brought fi and over per case, but the growers will receive 5s. and in many instances less than that.
The apple and pear acquisition scheme is an ill-conceived one, and it should be put into the melting-pot. It cannot be improved ; it must be recast entirely. TVc must remember that it was introduced primarily because of the lack of shipping occasioned by the war, and its object was to give the growers a fair price for their product. Under the present conditions the growers in Queensland are not getting a fair price, and I make a very strong appeal to the Minis ter for Commerce for some action to alleviate the position of these unfortunate people. I have had quite a lot of dealings with the Minister lately, and I know that he is sympathetic to the applegrowers. I trust that they will be exempted from the scheme. If there is one section of the community that needs sympathetic treatment, it is the men who produce the food, both for our fighting forces and our civil population.
.- There are several matters to which I should like to draw the attention of the Government. The first is the conflict which apparently exists between State and Commonwealth authorities in regard to war precautions that should be taken by civilians. For instance, the application of a scorched-earth policy is beingadvocated relentlessly by the Government of New South Wales. People are being urged by that administration and its officers to destroy every thing that may bc of value to the enemy. Police officers arebeing sent around the country districts, and in many cases they are advising farmers to destroy their pigs now, to evacuate their stock, and to take certain other actions which could lead only to a great deal of alarm at the present. On the other hand, the Commonwealth authorities are advising the people to stand firm. In consequence of this conflict of advice there is great confusion, particularly in the coastal areas, where the first impact of attack may reasonably be expected. I have received a letter from the Town Clerk of Casino, one of the large towns in northern New South Wales, pointing out the great difficulty which local government authorities are experiencing in deciding upon the right course of action. He informed me that officers of the Metropolitan Fire Brigade are at present in the Casino district organizing a scorched earth policy. Before committing itself to a decision, the town council wishes to know whether this policy is approved and authorized by the Bligh Command and by the Commonwealth Government. The ‘Government should clarify the position. Af ter the Com. monwealth has delegated certain powers to State Premiei’3 under the National Security Act and the Premiers have exercised those powers in a way which conflicts with Commonwealth policy, which authority is to be supreme? The time has arrived for the Government to make an authoritative declaration, particularly on the subject of the disagreement between advocates of the “ standfast “ policy and those of the “ run “ policy. One or the other must be adopted. I have my own ideas about what ought to bc done, but the Commonwealth Government should make a definite pronoun cement for the benefit of the people as a whole.
I refer to another matter which is indicative of lack of co-ordination between Commonwealth departments in relation to defence organization. At a certain point on the coast in my electorate there is a lighthouse where an observation post, manned by detachments from the Volunteer Defence Corps, has been established. These men occupied a wooden building ‘ which previously was vacant for a number of years. Recently they were served by the Marine Branch of the Department of Commerce with a notice to vacate the building because it was wanted for use as a fowl house. A fowl house is not needed there, although the construction of one was commenced about two years ago. Apparently these men must be removed from an important point of observation because of something which is of no consequence to the war effort.
– What would a- fowl house have to do with the Marine Branch ?
– Apparently it would accommodate poultry to provide the lighthouse keeper’s Sunday dinner. The position is ludicrous, and a closer degree of co-ordination between Commonwealth departments should be brought about.
I refer now to the method used by the Army Department to notify the nextofkin of the death of members of the armed forces. A woman residing on the Tweed River, in my electorate, had a shocking experience recently when her husband, Lieutenant Young, of the garrison forces, died suddenly at Warner’s Bay. She spoke to him on the telephone one evening, and on the following morning she received an intimation that he had died suddenly. It came in the form of a rough pencilled note which was delivered by a person on horseback. That was the only intimation she received that day of her husband’s death. The shock of the news affected her so much that she has not yet recovered.
– Did that intimation come from the Army authorities?
– The message was transmitted by telephone to the postmistress, who wrote it out on a slip of paper.
– Perhaps the message was telephoned to the postmistress to be delivered as a telegram.
– It was a telephoned message, not a telegram. The notification was not intentionally cruel, but it had a severe effect upon the widow. Nothing can be done to remedy that mistake now, but I want to prevent a repetition of it. I urge the Government to make a statement of its attitude towards the scorched-earth policy and to endeavour to secure greater coordination of policies as between the Commonwealth and the States on defence matters.
Mr. DUNCAN-HUGHES (Wakefield) 5.38]. - I rise now to refer to a subjectwhich was discussed earlier by the honorable member for Flinders (Mr. Ryan),’ because none of U3 can be sure that ho will have many more opportunities to speak of these things with good effect. I refer to the problem of enemy aliens and Australians of enemy descent. We all know that many men belonging to both of these classes are loyal to Australia. But I believe that many others are disloyal, and, as the honorable member for Flinders has said, many others will “ sit on the fence “ in readiness to step discreetly to one side or the other as circumstances may dictate. It is a strange fact that some of the most disloyal people in Australia are people of British birth but of foreign descent. Many of them are even more dangerous to the nation than enemy aliens. Attention has long ago been directed to this danger by two such diverse authorities as the Premier of Queensland, Mr. Forgan Smith, and the Commissioner of Police in South Australia, General Leane. They warned the people that, unless they keep their eyes open in order to ensure that they are not betrayed by these disloyalists, they will have only themselves to blame if the worst happens. One would expect the people to take heed of warnings issued independently by two such responsible persons. The reasons why that should be so should be plain, particularly when we consider the number of enemy agents who visited Australia during the period of peace, the manner in which they were entertained and the persons who entertained them. In such circumstances, suspicions might be expected to arise. The actions of persons who live in cities are not so noticeable as those of persons who live in the country, but I arn well aware that in country areas numbers of men are generally regarded, in their own neighbourhoods, as disloyal. I have repeatedly heard it said of certain persons: “ Do you know that they are regarded as disloyal? “ In such circumstances, surely it is not unreasonable to expect that something will be done about it. Australia’s attitude on this question throughout the war period has been exceedingly weak. The natural Australian attitude of mind on these matters is such that people do not regard their neighbours as disloyal unless they have good reasons for doing so. I have repeatedly made statements to that effect on the public platform. No man in this country is likely to be regarded by his companions as disloyal unless some evidence i3 available to support such an opinion. I was glad to hear a Minister say to-day that the Government’s attitude on this issue had been strengthened recently, but I support the request of the honorable member for Flinders that the Government’s attitude should’ be still further reinforced, and that immediate steps should be taken to that end. Our position is infinitely more dangerous to-day than it has been hitherto, and stronger measures of control over enemy aliens and disloyalists should be exercised. The nature of the evidence that should be needed to indicate hostile designs by such persons should not need to be so strong to-day as it was in the past. I noticed a statement in the press a few days ago to the effect that General MacArthur would have the great advantage in this country of knowing that there were no fifth-column activities here. I say that that is not so. Apart from what transpired in this House yesterday, plenty of evidence is available of the” activities of fifth columnists in Australia, and the time has come for strong action to be taken onthe subject. I urge upon the Government the need for the most rigid scrutiny of the activities of any person who may be suspected of indulging in fifth-column activities. We should make sure that such persons do not find themselves in a position to do the damage here that they have been able to do in other countries. We surely do not wish to he confronted with a similar menace to that which confronted the Danes, the Poles, and, more particularly, the Dutch. We should not allow fifth columnists to gain a foothold here, and we should do ali in our power to reduce to an absolute minimum any possibility of hostile action by aliens.
– The matter raised yesterday during question-time in relation to the Australia First Movement cannot be allowed to rest where it is. The statement on the subject by the Minister for the Army (Mr. Forde) was, as the Leader of the Opposition (Mr. Fadden) said to-day, the most staggering statement made in Parliament since the days when Guy Fawkes attempted to blow up the British House of Commons. Certain principles involved in these issues should be examined. If we have in our midst Australian nationals who are determined to ally themselves with, and to give assistance, accommodation and encouragement to, the King’s enemies, the course of the Government is clear beyond question, and there is no impediment whatsoever in the way of its doing what ought to be done. The proper thing for the Government to do is to arrest these people and charge them with the crime that lias been alleged against them. I am glad that the Acting Attorney-General (Mr. Beasley) is in the chamber. I put it to him that it will be a most unfortunate and improper thing if the pathway to the criminal courts of this country must run through an internment camp. My reasons for making that statement must be obvious. Interning a person is an entirely different thing from charging him with sabotage, conspiracy, attempted assassination, or treason. In my view it was most unfortunate that this matter was introduced into the House as it was yesterday. The Opposition has been chided with having approached these issues with prejudice, but it was quite clear to every honorable member of the House yesterday that the Minister for the Army brought into the chamber a prepared statement which he read in answer to a question that he obviously knew would be asked of him. The Minister was not taken off his guard. He did not say something in the stress of debate which, perhaps, in a calmer moment and on consideration, he might not have said. It is interesting to me that there should be any hesitation on the part of the Government in dealing with a case like this. It is only a few days ago - on the 14th March to be exact - that the Prime Minister made a broadcast statement to the people of the United States of America.
– What does the honorable member mean by “ hesitation “ ?
– I say definitely that these men who have gone into internment should have gone into gaol. If they were apprehended on the grounds alleged yesterday by the Minister for the Army, they certainly should not have gone into an internment camp. That is not the place for them. There are British nationals in internment camps to-day. Incidentally some of them would be better out of the camps; but they have not been charged with any crime. They have been put where they are for reasons of public safety, not because they have done anything against the State. The same kind of thing has happened in Great Britain. We all know of the internment of the notorious Sir Oswald Mosley. So far as I am aware, no charge has been made against him. I believe that a libel action has occurred but that is quite a different matter. I do not desire to name local ‘ citizens who have been interned, though I could do so if necessary. Such persons have been dealt with in this way, not because they have broken the laws of the country, but because the Government considers that public safety demands that they should be under surveillance.
– The Tower of London is still iu use!
– But we have no Tower here.
– In view of the extravagant expenditure on various buildings in this city, and of recent happenings, it is perhaps a pity that some of the money wa3 not spent in building a Tower of Canberra. The Government Whip (Mr. Conelan) would probably be an excellent person to lay the foundationstone of such a building.
I am glad that you are in the chair at the moment, Mr. Speaker, because I wish to refer to a matter that occurred earlier this afternoon when Mr. Deputy Speaker (Mr. Prowse) was presiding over our deliberations. A ruling was given from the Chair by that honorable gentleman to the effect that the honorable member for Boothby (Dr. Price) was out of order in referring to a subject that has been debated earlier to-day.
– On the motion for the adjournment of the House it is not permissible to allude at length to a debate that occurred earlier in the day. Whether such a ruling should operate to prevent any reference to a subject that had been raised on a formal motion for adjournment, I shall not say to-day. It is beyond question that when a subject has been debated and a determination made upon it, it must not be discussed by any means at a later stage. If a debate has been adjourned, it must not be anticipated. In this matter there was not a conclusion of the debate. At some future time whenI am in the chair, the question may arise as to whether or not honorable members who have been prevented by effluxion of time from saying what they wished to say, are thereby debarred from discussing the matter on the motion for the adjourn- ment of the House. I shall then give a ruling. The House gave leave to an honorable member to continue his speech, and it is not for me to interfere with what was done.
– I thank you for those observations, Mr. Speaker. I merely wish to direct your attention to Hansard of the 24th March, 1936, on which date the then honorable member for Griffith, at 3.17 p.m., moved a forma! motion for the adjournment of the House for the purpose of discussing a definite matter of urgent public importance, namely, “ the execution fixed for tomorrow of Ludwig Schmidt in the Territory of New Guinea “. That debate was interrupted under Standing Order 257b.. after having lasted for a period sufficient to provide matter covering about ten pages of Hansard. At 10.36 p.m. on the same day on motion by Mr. Archdale Parkhill, “ That the House do now adjourn “, the same honorable member again raised the question. Shortly afterwards, the Speaker of that day, the Honorable George James Bell, called a member to order and delivered himself of the following: -
I have already asked the honorable member not to refer to the debate that took place earlier in the sitting. It is unusual, on a motion for the adjournment of the House, to have a discussion concerning a matter which was the subject of debate earlier in the day ; but there is nothing in the Standing Orders to prevent it. The Standing Orders do, however, forbid reference to a previous debate during the same session.
– What I have said is in agreement with the ruling of the previous Speaker (Sir George Bell). I do not now give a ruling as to whether or not this matter may be debated on the motion for the adjournment of the House, because the House has already made a decision with which I do not intend to interfere. But, notwithstanding that decision of the House, I say that no honorable member is entitled, on the motion for the adjournment of the House, to refer to a debate that took place earlier in the day. No honorable member is entitled to allude to arguments that were used, or speeches that were made, earlier in the day. With that reservation, I do not intend to prevent the honorable member from discussing the matter.
– You have said, sir, that the House has already decided that the matter may be debated.
– The House gave leave to one honorable member to discuss the matter. It would be unfair were I to discriminate by refusing to give leave to others.
– You are not ruling that another honorable member may discuss the matter?
– I do not wish to give a ruling on the main subject, for the reason that the House has already had a ruling from the Deputy Speaker. It would be quite contrary to practice for the House to appeal to the Speaker against a ruling of the Deputy Speaker, and it would be improper of me to offer an opinion. The House decides questions of order the moment they arise, and there is no appeal to the Speaker should the Deputy Speaker then be in the chair. Therefore, I am not offering any opinion in regard to the ruling of the Deputy Speaker. But I do say that no honorable member, speaking on the motion for the adjournment of the House, is entitled to answer what was said at an earlier stage of the sitting.
– It is out of that very point that the whole trouble arose; because the honorable member for Boothby did not allude to the debate which took place this morning, any more than did the debate which took place on the motion for the adjournment of the House on the 24th March, 1936, allude to an earlier debate on the same subject, except when an honorable member was called to order by the Speaker of that day.
– If there is no question of order before the House, does the honorable member wish to speak to the main subject?
– The matter relates to a statement that was made by the Minister for the Army in this House yesterday. Am I entitled to discuss freely a statement made by a Minister of State, in answer to a question, in this House yesterday?
-The honorable member may proceed.
– I simply wish to point out that, in 1936, the then Speaker, when a second point arose, said-
– There is no need to discuss a question of order, because none is before the House.
– I want to quote from Hansard.
– The honorable member is entitled to do so, but not upon a question of order when there is not a question of order before the House.
– I wish to direct your attention to the matter, in order that you may look into it. I shall give it to you privately; it appears at page 507 of volume 14!). You will there find justification for my contention.
The question under discussion, which was introduced by the Minister for the Army yesterday, is very important, and one that, in my opinion, should be determined immediately by the Government. Telling me that the matter is in the hands of the Solicitor-General is not satisfactory. Very far-reaching inquiries must have been made before the Minister for the Army yesterday afternoon, in answer to a question, read a prepared typewritten statement, which now appears in Hansard and is the property of the Parliament of the country. Therefore, the matter should not be subject to delay. “ The mills of God grind slowly “, and so does the Attorney-General’s Department. This is one of the occasions on which a little acceleration might be infused into the methods which usually distinguish the Attorney-General’s Department when dealing with subjects of this nature. In my opinion, the Attorney-General’s Department has been guilty of untold delays in the handling of matters as between the Army, the Navy and certain persons in this country.
– Order 1 The honorable member’s time has expired.
.- I direct the attention of the Minister for Supply and Development (Mr. Beasley), and the House, to a telegram that I have just received from the Minister for Agriculture in Tasmania, Mr. D’Alton, in reference to a matter which is of extreme importance to that State. It reads -
Impossible to get Tasmanian timber shipped to mainland. Continual representations to shipping control have been entirely fruitless. Present aggregate of timber approximately two and a half million feet. Urgent defence orders cannot be supplied without statement made by Department of Munitions also Kessell, Commonwealth Timber Controller. If no relief in shipping conditions given a general reduction in production must take place in Tasmania despite urgent need of timber for defence purposes.
The telegram is self-explanatory. It deals with the subject of shipping delays between the mainland and Tasmania, delays which are in some measure due to the present extraordinary circumstances. This matter has been the subject of complaint, for some time, but when delays affect the transport of material needed for defence purposes, the situation becomes urgent. At any time, the shipping of timber from Tasmania to the mainland is important enough, but at this time it assumes paramount importance, not only to Tasmania, but also to the national war effort. Apparently, the Minister for Agriculture in Tasmania has received more information on this subject than has come into my possession as a member of a committee inquiring into Tasmania’s war disabilities. He has made representations, but they have not borne fruit and, as a last resort, he has sent me this telegram. I bring this matter to the notice of the Minister for Supply and Development in the hope that, if he cannot deal with it himself, he will bring it to the attention of the appropriate Minister.
.- About a fortnight ago, the Prime Minister (Mr. Curtin) urged the heads of religious denominations in Australia to organize a day of prayer. About the time that his request appeared in the daily press, an advertisement, paid for by public funds, was published in all the metropolitan newspapers telling the people what they ought to do because of the worsening war situation. I have a copy of that advertisement here, cut from the Melbourne AT mt,* of the 11th March. It shows bombs falling on the towns of Darwin, Wyndham and Broome, and was evidently designed to make the people of Australia think more deeply of the danger that confronted them. With that general purpose I have no quarrel, but there was an hysterical note about the wording of the advertisement that was likely to do more harm than good. Also, there is one passage in the advertisement to which I take strenuous objection. Part of the letterpress is as follows : -
Now death rains down from Australian skies: Japanese bombs blast destruction on Australian soil . . . and into the ears of Australian women and children dins the ghastly rattle of machine guns.
What is your answer? Are you going to hide your head under metaphorical bed clothes and mutter prayers . . . or are you going to stand on your two feet and fight these battle-drunk invaders?
There seems to be a gross inconsistency between the wording of that advertisement and the Prime Minister’s request to the leaders of religious denominations to organize a day of prayer in order to invoke divine assistance. I do not think that there is anything unmanly in people praying for victory, and it ill becomes the officials of any department to insert advertisements of this sort in the daily press at the public expense.
– What department was responsible?
– The advertisement was prepared by the Department of Information. This particular advertisement was followed by others to which 1 take no exception, although their general tone seems to me to betoken a poor knowledge of psychology. They are more likely to depress or offend people than stir them to greater effort, which, I take it, is their purpose.
The other matter concerns the despatch of youths of eighteen years of age with no military training to action stations in this country. Yesterday, the Minister for the Army (Mr. Forde) made a statement on this subject, a statement obviously prepared for him by his military advisers. In it various arguments were advanced to justify an action against which the public conscience rebels. I have here particulars of a number of young men who were taken into camp and then, after a few weeks, sent away without any training to action stations. If we have reached the stage where we must depend on the efforts of untrained boys to save us from defeat, it is a grave reflection on those who, in the past, were charged with the defence of the country, and it would seem almost impossible, in the circumstances, to avert disaster. However, I do not agree that there is any need to treat these youths as is being done at present. The first case is that of VX205807, 106th Anti-Tank Regiment, Gunner James McConnell. He was IS years of age on the 7th January, 1942. He was called up for service, and entered Balcombe camp on the 27th February. He left Balcombe on the 13th or 14th March. He was sent to Seymour as one of a reinforcement allotted to an anti-tank company with previous training, and expects to be sent north immediately. He has had no final leave. The officer who welcomed the reinforcements to the anti-tank company told them that they had been allotted to a suicide unit, and that they had better learn about anti-tank guns within the next fortnight. The second case is that of VX205873, D company, 46th Battalion, Private Don Tierney, who was 18 years of age on the 23rd December, 1&41. He was called up for service, entered Balcombe camp on the 27th February, and left on the 14th March. He was sent to Bonegilla in the infantry, and received final leave on the 16th March, preparatory to being sent, north. On the 19th March, he was sent to Queensland.
The next case refers to VX155823 Private P. J. J. Lawrence. He entered camp at Mount Martha on the 13tb January. A few days later he became ill and was admitted to the camp hospital, where he remained until the 27th January. Then he was moved to the
Repatriation General Hospital, and was an inmate of that institution until the 15th February. From the Repatriation General Hospital he was transferred to the Broadmeadows Camp, where he remained until the 16th March. After spending two days in the Broadmeadows Convalescent Hospital he was ordered to report at the 10th Training Battalion. On the 24th March he was allotted to the 22nd Battalion, and was given 24 hours’ pre-embarkation leave. His actual training did not exceed seven days. He never fired a rifle, or handled a gas-mask, until the day before he was sent to a battle station. In fact, he had never worn a steel helmet. This man, who is about 25 years of age, is a State school teacher. Of course, he is a few years older than the two men to whom I referred earlier, but his case is on allfours with their own. It supports my complaint that untrained men are being sent to action stations.
The next case was reported to me by a correspondent in New South Wales, who was inspired to write after he had read the statement of the Minister for the Army (Mr. Forde). He is not known to me, but I shall quote from his letter. He refers to NX227986 John Rupert Bourke, a compulsory trainee, aged nineteen years. He was called up in Sydney on the 5th November, 1941. By Christmas Day he had not been issued with even a change of clothing. In fact, he possessed only one pair of khaki shorts, and a khaki shirt. His sisters bought for him a pair of shorts and a shirt which they gave to him on Boxing Day. On the 26th December he informed his family that he expected to move from the Sydney Show Ground to Bondi Beach. That was the last word that his sisters had from him until they received from him an air-mail letter which bore the Port Moresby post-mark of the 12th January, 1942. The correspondent informs me that the boy at thetime of his father’s death was six years of age, whilst the mother died when he was eleven years of age. He has never had permanent work; he has had only two or three paltry dead-end jobs. He has no vote, yet he is sent untrained to face the Japanese invasion, to “ hold the gate “ in the name of liberty, justice and religion. My correspondent then quoted the following passage from the Scriptures: -
These people worship Me with their mouths but their hearts are far from Me.
The correspondent adds -
This boy is the son of my wife’s late sister; his mother’s brother, Lieutenant Rupert Cradick, of the Second Battalion, was killed at Lone Pine, 6th August, 1915; I am a returned soldier of the world war, having enlisted in the Australian Imperial Force in August, 1914, and I was attested for the Second Australian Imperial Force, 5th June, 1940.
There are other comments upon questions which were asked and answered in the House, and I ask leave to have them incorporated in Hansard. [Leave granted.] They read - [Assurance of Army Minister Forde, as reported in Sydney Morning Herald, the 22nd January, 1942.]
Use of Militiamen in Tropics.
An assurance was given by the Minister for the Army (Mr. Forde) to-day that no untrained militiamen were being or would be sent to Darwin or territories outside Australia proper. Numbers of militiamen were being called up and sent to Adelaide for training and for use “wherever their services were required “, he added. As Darwin was supplied with troops from Adelaide, it was likely that a percentage of men sent to Adelaide would eventually go to Darwin if they were required.
Specific instructions had been issued that no youths, after only a few weeks in camp, should be sent to tropical stations. [Sydney Morning Herald, the 12th February, 1942.]
Minimum age for the Australian Imperial Force is nineteen and youths of this age must produce their parents’ or guardians’ consent.
But a compulsory trainee of nineteen ‘is spirited away, untrained, to Port Moresby, without the knowledge or consent of his guardian, or the knowledge of any of his relatives that he was to leave Sydney. [Sydney Morning Herald, the 11th March, 1942.]
On the 11th March, 1942, the Minister for the Army (Mr. Forde) replied to my representations through Mr. C. A. Morgan, M.H.K. -
It is regretted that Private J. R. Bourke’s return to his home State cannot be favorably considered at this juncture. The Commonwealth Government, on the recommendation of its military advisers some time ago, fixed eighteen years of age as the age at which every available male shall begin to discharge ‘his obligations to preserve the integrity of the Commonwealth. It is inevitable, therefore, that young men of this age will be infiltrated through units called upon for such purpose, and experience has proved that they are able to stand the rigours of tropical service as well as, and in many cases better than, those of more mature years.
On the 18th March, 1942, when forwarding to me this reply of the Minister for the Army, Mr. Forde, Mr. C. A. Morgan, M.H.R., stated -
In view of the Minister’s letter, I think any further request for Private Bourke’s return would be futile. [SydneyMorning Herald, the 20th March. 1942.]
By direction of the Military Board,no youths of eighteen are to he posted to action stations. Where they are already posted, they will be withdrawn and assigned to other duties. Protests that some youths in the youngest age group have been called up and sent quickly to action posts have reached members of the Government. They brought the matter before the War Cabinet. Military authorities are understood to have agreed that the use of very young soldiers at action stations should be avoided as far as possible. The policy in future, therefore, will be to post youths of eighteen and nineteen for less arduous duty, and to ensure that those up to twenty years shallbe thoroughly instructed and trained before being sent to action stations.
The cases cited are but a few of thousands throughout the Commonwealth. The Minister for the Army declared yesterday that the morale of units would be shaken if boys of eighteen years of age were withdrawn from them. I fail to understand how that could be so, in view of the fact that the youths had so little training before they were sent to their battle stations. In fact in some instances they had been with their units for only two days, or at the most a week before going to action stations. How can the morale of the Army be affected if untrained boys are not sent to action stations with the trained members of their unit? The reverse, I suggest, is likely to bo the truth. The morale of a unit is likely to be gravely affected if untrained youths have to take their place alongside trained men. It is not fair to commanding officers to be asked to hold the “ front gate “ of a country, if they have to depend on untrained boys to defend important positions. The idea of sending youngsters after only a few weeks’ training to serve in an anti-tank unit passes my comprehension. How any young fellow, withscarcely any knowledge of an anti tank gun, can be expected to have the steadiness let alone the knowledge of a trained man, is baffling to me.
I ask the Minister in charge of the House (Mr. Beasley) to emphasize to Cabinet the necessity for reviewing the recent order of the Military Board permitting these youths to be sent to battle stations. I understand that if a youth was a member of the Militia Forces at the 18th March, he could be sent away with his unit. But if he were called into camp after that date, he must be left at his home station until he is adequately trained to be of some service to the Army. The Minister further informed the House yesterday that according to a decision of War Cabinet youths under the age of twenty would be withdrawn from places like Port Moresby and Darwin. I hope that the cases to which I have referred will be investigated. Untrained men who have been sent to those theatres of war, should, in the interests of the safety of the unit to which they are attached, be brought back for proper training. The order of the Military Board which empowers commanders of units to take untrained youths front the more populous States to serve at action stations should be reviewed.
.- Many subjects have been referred to in the course of this debate, and I shall bring them to the notice of the appropriate Ministers. The right honorable member for Kooyong (Mr. Menzies) after referring to Statutory Rules 1942, No. 146, stated that in due course the Opposition would take steps to prevent its i mplementation .
– He did not say that.
– The right honorable gentleman claimed that the implementation of this rule would violate the principles of arbitration.
– He said that the Opposition would take appropriate action at the proper time.
– The action has yet to be determined?
– That is so.
– The purpose of the statutory rule is to establish a tribunal to deal with matters concerning the introduction of female labour into war industries. It is an arbitration tribunal. Many such tribunals are set up from time to time to deal with special subjects in industry. I think that I can -say on behalf of the Minister in charge of the department that that is the real purpose of the regulations embodied in the statutory rule mentioned; but in due course, as the right honorable member -aid, the matter can be debated.
The honorable member for Herbert (Mr. Martens) referred to a statement alleged to have been made by me about the price of sugar. I am most reluctant to say anything that would suggest that C have been misreported or misquoted by the press, but what actually happened is that I had an informal conversation with a number of pressmen which was not actually meant for publication. We dealt with many commodity shortages and the reasons for the shortages. Sugar was mentioned. We discussed the fact that the shortage of sugar was owing largely to the lack of transport. If sugar had to be transported by rail, the cost to consumers would be higher. I did not wish to imply that the price of sugar would increase because of that fact. There might be other ways in which such an increased cost could be met. It is an illustration of the need to be more guarded in one’s talk, even “ off the record “.
Another matter was raised which Mr. Speaker has ruled may not be discussed on thi’ motion for the adjournment of the House. The Minister for the Army (Mr. Forde) has made u statement in connexion with the Australia First Movement upon reports submitted to him. The Department of the Army is now dealing with this matter and it has not yet been referred to mc for final action by the AttorneyGeneral’s Department. I am unable to give details as to how the report upon which the Minister made his statement was arrived at, but he received it only a few days ago. He took immediate steps to place certain members of this organization where they can no longer do. what it is alleged they were doing or attempting to do. In the meantime he has taken the necessary steps to prepare evidence to lay the necessary charges. I cannot understand why there, is a suggestion of hesitation on the part of the Minister for the Army. In spite of the haste with which : we may wish to deal with problems, it is advisable at all times that the premises upon which we set out to deal with them be sound. Investigations must be complete and charges properly made. If the AttorneyGeneral’s Department has been slow in some respects, as suggested, perhaps a wise course has been followed. Very often, if a case is not properly presented, it is dismissed. It is wise to ensure that charges in such serious matters as this question involves shall be sheeted home and penalties imposed. There is no need for me to say that the Government will follow this matter right through.
– It is unusual to name the crime before you lay the charge.
– I do not know whether that is the case, actually. I am unable to advance any reasons why the Minister made the statement. It may be interesting to honorable members to know that, when he made it, it was the first I had heard of it.
The honorable member for Calare (Mr. Breen) referred to potential sources of supplies of electrical energy. Unfortunately, in days of peace, duplication of power resources was not developed to the degree that would be, welcome now. We are faced with the problem of doing the best we can with what we have. The difficulty of obtaining equipment is an important factor. I agree with the honorable member that the Government must keep a close eye on the power situation and take whatever steps are necessary to substitute power supplies, should any be destroyed by enemy action, so that the war effort will he undisturbed. The honorable member for Corangamite (Mr. McDonald) referred to the extra work which was being imposed on municipal councils and instanced evacuation problems, war damage insurance, and revision of motor spirit consumers’ licences. The. municipalities possess the best organization for this class of work. ‘ They know the localities and in most instances, if not all, have a highly trained staff. The Government was wise in using their organizations.
– Does the Minister not think that they ought to be recompensed for this extra work?
– I do, but men who hold executive positions in governmental and semi-governmental bodies are willing to do everything they can, physically at any rate, to help the country in a national emergency. The honorable member for Corangamite had in mind the extra financial strain imposed on the councils.
– It has been very severe.
– It is legitimate to ask that they be recompensed. I believe that if they make representations to the Treasury through the local government associations, such representations will receive satisfactory consideration.
– “We did, but we did not get much satisfaction.
– Well, there is no harm in trying again. The Treasurer may on this matter be more difficult to deal with than I am.
I do not intend to say much about the enemy alien question, which was discussed at length to-day. We all feel keenly about the need to take every precaution. If the honorable member for Boothby (Dr. Price), who laid stress on the subject, can bring to the notice of the Government evidence of people of enemy alien origin engaged in subversive practices, I should like him to do so. We hear a lot of gossip - not that we should entirely discard or discount it - but on occasions we find it arises on account of some one trying to work off an old prejudice. 1 do not put that up as a shield or as an excuse, because the proper thing to do is to investigate everything. That is the idea behind the army’s decision to take over this matter entirely. An organization has been set up under the control of the Commissioner of Police in New South Wales who will make the supervision of aliens his responsibility and he will utilize the police forces of all States and the Commonwealth to obtain evidence with respect to enemy aliens’ activities. When they are found guilty of subversive activities no mercy will be shown to any of them.
The subject of workmen’s compensation and its relation to compensation for war injuries was raised by the honorable member for Bourke (Mr. Blackburn). That is a matter for the Treasurer (Mr. Chifley). The regulations were drawn up by the Treasury, which has to finance the payments. I shall bring the matter to the notice of the Treasurer, and ask that a decision be made regarding it.
A controversial subject was raised by the honorable member for Indi (Mr. McEwen), who referred to broadcast and press statements made on the authority of “ a government spokesman “. I am not in a position to name that person, or say whether authority has been given for such a title to be used. It is difficult at. times to know how to assess the criticism heard regarding statements made by Ministers from time to time. I have listened to strong criticism of the use of the national broadcasting stations by Ministers, who are said to have issued too many radio statements from their departments. That criticism has come from, many quarters, and in recent weeks the national stations, I understand, have confined themselves largely to statements emanating from government departments rather than from particular Ministers. Whether the honorable member for Indi was considering the matter from that position I am unable to say, but, in some instances, newspapers themselves may have attributed statements to “ a government spokesman “ as a means of introducing a subject to which they desired to give publicity. However, that is hardly borne out by the observations of the honorable member, who referred to a series of cabled messages that had been published as emanating from “ a government spokesman “, which, he said proved later to be identical with the original cablegrams. I am not sure whether the contents of some of those cablegrams were already known to the British Broadcasting Corporation, and I cannot say whether the contents of some of them had been obtained from sources beyond Australia. In any case there is no harm in state- ments being made on matters on which the Government considers the public should be informed bearing the imprimatur of the Government.
– The Minister sees no objection to naming the authority cited?
– I should be willing to sponsor any statement made by me concerning the Government.
The application of the scorched-earth policy, to which reference was made by the honorable member for Richmond (Mr. Anthony), is a matter for the Army. It is unfortunate if misunderstanding has arisen between the Commonwealth and the States. No doubt the States have been organizing for this work on the basis of the desirability of preparedness, and perhaps the confusion has arisen from that fact. In Malaya and Singapore it appealed that goods that might have been destroyed had been left in the hands of the enemy, including, I understand, large parcels of rubber which Australia tried to obtain, but argument took place for a fortnight as to who actually owned the rubber. There is something to be said in favour of the necessity for preparing plans and establishing an organization for the application of the scorched-earth policy, but it is difficult to complete such plans in a country like Australia, to whose shores war has never previously come. “We can well appreciate the confusion that might arise. I shall ask the Minister for Home Security (Mr. Lazzarini) to take whatever steps he can with regard to the matter. It might be wise to use the broadcasting service to some degree in order to prevent the public from being unduly alarmed. The Government does not desire to lead the people to believe that there is to be general evacuation, but rather intends that there shall be a determination to stand fast. The remarks of General MacArthur were an inspiration to us in that regard, and what he said might well form the model for statements broadcast to the people on this matter, and for any other announcements that may be made. The people should be urged to stand fast and fight, and not run away.
The difficulty experienced in conveying timber from Tasmania to the mainland is due to shipping problems. I am aware that these problems have affected the timber trade on the south coast of New South “Wales, but I am not sure about the position in Tasmania.
– Tasmania has been seriously affected.
– Vessels formerly engaged in the timber trade have been taken over by the Department of the Navy for the purpose of mine-sweeping, and it is for the Government to decide how these vessels can best be used. The Government will endeavour to organize shipping so that there will be no delay at ports. The work of discharging and loading cargo will be carried on for 24 hours a day. The Government realizes that, instead of vessels idling at the wharfs, every hour profitably employed will be in favour of the nation in the great task that lies ahead of it. If we do that, we shall have done our best with the resources at our disposal.
The honorable member for Melbourne (Mr. Calwell) mentioned several cases of youths having been called up for military service and having been sent to their battle stations after only a few days’ training. The cases mentioned by him at Queensland and Seymour were weak, but the Port Moresby case was sufficiently strong to warrant a special investigation. This matter was raised by a colleague of the honorable member for Indi (Mr. McEwen) at a meeting of the Advisory War Council recently, when attention was drawn to the need for something to be done regarding it. The Minister for the Army rightly acquiesced, and said he had issued instructions that lads were to be fully trained before being sent to their battle stations. In such a large organization as the Army, it is impossible to prevent isolated cases in which directions issued are not observed, but when a mistake is discovered, a correction is made, and an order is issued that the mistake must not he repeated.
Question resolved in the affirmative.
The. following papers were presented : -
Defence Act - Regulations - Statutory Rules 1942, Nos. 114, 120.
National Security Act - Regulations - Statutory Rules 1942, Nos. 81, 92, 112, 113. 125, 126, 132, 133, 134, 137, 138, 139, 140.
Northern Territory Acceptance Act and Northern Territory (Administration) Act - Ordinance - 1942 - No. 2 - Military Roads.
House adjourned at 6.40 p.m. to Wednesday, the 29th April next, at 3 p.m., or an earlier date and hour to be fixed by Mr. Speaker.
The following answers to questions were circulated:-
Australian Metropolitan Press - Profits and Prices.
– On Wednesday, the 25th March, I undertook to supply the honorable member for Watson (Mr. Falstein) with information regarding the salary and allowances paid to the Australian Minister in Washington. The desired information is as follows: -
y asked the Prime Minister, upon notice -
– The answers to the honorable member’s questions are as follows : -
Production of Power Alcohol from Wheat.
y asked the Minister for Commerce, upon notice -
– The answers to the honorable member’s questions are as follows : -
n asked the Minister for Air, upon notice -
– The answers to the honorable member’s questions are as follows : - 1.No. Approximately 70 commissions in addition to those granted to air crew trainees cm graduation have been grunted to Royal Australian Air Force Empire air training scheme personnel serving with the Royal Air Force. Advice as to individual postings of those personnel is not furnished to the Royal Australian Air Force. 2. (a) No. (b) As the result of strong representations made to Air Ministry definite assurances have been received from Royal Australian Air Force overseas head-quarters that the commissioning of Royal Australian Air Force overseas personnel is being expedited, while appropriate steps are being taken to ensure that the full quota of commissions due in respect of Royal Australian Air Force personnel is granted.
Cite as: Australia, House of Representatives, Debates, 27 March 1942, viewed 22 October 2017, <http://historichansard.net/hofreps/1942/19420327_reps_16_170/>.