16th Parliament · 1st Session
Mr. Speaker (Hon. W. M. Nairn) took the chair at 2.30 p.m., and read prayers.
-Is the Deputy Prime Minister able to make a statement in regard to the coal-mining industry? Will he indicate what the position is, following the declaration made by the Prime Minister yesterday, and state whether any mines are idle to-day; if there be any, will he state the names of the mines, the number of men involved, and the causes of idleness ?
– In the unavoidable absence of the Prime Minister, I have to say that the declaration made yesterday by the right honorable gentleman stands, and that the law will take its course. I have not had a report as to any mine that is idle to-day, but I shall make inquiries and inform the right honorable gentleman later.
– I ask the Deputy Prime Minister whether the Coal Commissioner, as the press of Monday and Tuesday has stated, has applied Statutory Rule No. 168 to the striking miners at Millfield-Greta ? If so, will the honorable gentleman explain the statement of the Minister for Labour and National Service, as reported in to-day’s Sydney Morning Herald, that he had directed Mr. Connell to call a compulsory conference in an attempt to secure peace on the coal-fields before Statutory Rule No. 168 was applied?
– I have not seen what has appeared in the newspapers, but J shall peruse them and reply to the honorable gentleman later.
– Has the Minister for Labour and National Service a report to make as to the success or otherwise of the compulsory conference that he convened for to-day? Did Gregory Foster, the secretary, and Sneddon, the manager, of Millfield-Greta colliery, attend the conference at 11.44 a.m. although it was convened for 11 a.m., and walk out at 12.5 p.m. ?
– I have not yet had an official report, but I have heard from other sources statements similar to those made by the honorable member. I am having urgent messages despatched in order to ascertain exactly what has happened.’ So soon as the replies are received I shall make known their contents.
– I ask the Minister for Supply and Development whether notices were served on the strikers at Mill field -Greta colliery in the terms of
Statutory Rule No. 168 ?” Is it intended to withdraw any notices that were issued, or to enforce them?
– The procedure under StatutoryRule No. 168 is different from that under the previous regulations. StatutoryRuleNo- 168 gives power to the Coal Commissioner to remove an indus try from the list of protected industries, and also provides that the man-power authorities and thearmy authorities may be notified. The idea behind the statutory rule is undoubtedly that those employed in the industry may be required to serve in the army, or in some other capacity.
– -In the Army or in the Labour Corps.
– Have notices been served ?
– I am not sure. The matter is being handled directly by ; the Coal Commission. I know, however, that the necessary machinery hasbeen set in motion, and advice tendered to the proper authorities.
– Can the Minister for Labour andNational Service say whether it was an appeal from a decision of a local reference board presided ‘over by Mr. Connell that Judge Drake-Brockman recently upheld, with the result that the men at the Millfield colliery wenton strike’? Is it the same Mr. Connell who ha? now been appointed to preside over the compulsory conference which has been called to consider this dispute?
– Yes, it was on anappeal from the decision of the local reference board presided over by Mr. Connell that J udge Drake-Brockman gave his judgment, and it is true that it is the same Mr. Connell who has been appointed to preside over the conference.
– When the Minister for Labour and National Service last night accused the mine management of the Millfield-Greta mine of not having the mine ready for working to-day, did he know that the information that the men would go back to work this morning was not conveyed to the management until a late hour, and, in fact, was not heard by the secretary of the “Northern Collieries until the 9 p.m. broadcast news session? ‘Did he know that, although : the mine management had the mine ready for working for several days prior to the 12th May, it was advised in writing by the Coal Commissioner on that day not to prepare the mine until further notice? Is he aware that the secretary of the Northern Collieries stated to-day that, since action was taken under StatutoryRule No. 168, permission was granted in writing by the chairman of the Coal Commission for the pit not to be prepared for work until further notice?
– It is not my practice to make accusations against any one without being able to substantiate them. During the debate on the motion for the adjournment of the House last night, ] made a statement of f act ; I did not make any accusations. I said that the men had expressed their willingness to return to work this morning, and that, when the management was notified to this effect, it stated that the pit was not ready. ‘The truth of my statement has since been proved by events. The men presented themselves for work, but the management advised them that the pit was not ready. That is a statement of fact.
– It was a suppression of the truth, not a statement of fact.
– That remark is out of order.
– I submit that no honorable member is entitled to accuse another honorable member of suppressing the truth.
– I withdraw the statement.
– The facts are that the men, with three dissentients, agreed to return to work, and the management did not have the mine ready. I have been advised by the honorable member for Hunter (Mr. James), who knows much more about the coal-mining industry than does any other honorable member in this House, that it would have been possible for the management to have the pit ready upon one hour’s notice, so that the men might have resumed production.
– Under what authority did the Minister for Labour and National Service summon the compulsory conference to-day between the management and employees of the MillfieldGreta mine?
– I am at a loss to understand who advised the honorable member that I had convened a compulsory conference. I can suggest to him that he should not take for granted what appears in the newspapers or what the mine-owners may advise him by telephone.
– The Minister referred to the compulsory conference on the motion for the adjournment of the House last night.
– That is not correct. The facts are that I convened a conference of the parties, and when I was informed that it was unlikely that the mineowners would attend, I announced that the Government would take a very serious view of any failure on their part to be present. I have used the powers which are vested in me under regulations to convene a conference of the parties to a dispute, because the policy of this Government is one of conciliation as well as arbitration. . I was of opinion that if we were able to bring the parties together we could settle the dispute. I owe apology to nobody for the action that I took, and the honorable member can always rest assured that any decision which I make is in complete conformity with the powers that I possess.
– Will the Deputy Prime Minister inform me whether the miners at the Wongawilli and Pelaw Main collieries are on strike? What is the position regarding strikes at other mines on the northern coal-fields?
– I mentioned earlier that this matter does not come within the ambit of my work as Minister for the Army. I have been fully occupied since 9 a.m. to-day with many matters, and no report on the position on the coalfields in New South Wales has been presented to me. However, I am assured that one mine which was idle yesterday is working to-day. I believe that is the Millfield-Greta colliery.
– Two other mines have ceased work.
– The attitude of the Government was emphasized by the Prime Minister yesterday. His statement has the backing of the Government and the law will prevail.
– The Deputy Prime Minister has stated that the law will be permitted to take its course against coal-miners who are on strike, and that the Coal Commission has notified the Army and man-power authorities of the names of the persons responsible for the cessation of work at the Millfield-Greta mine. Will the Minister inform me whether the Government has instructed the Army and man-power authorities to withhold the action which would normally follow such notification ?
– I remind the honorable member that the regulation can be implemented only by the Prime Minister. A delicate stage has now been reached in this matter, and questions of the kind asked by the honorable member tend not to settle the dispute, but to provoke trouble. Evidently the honorable member is actuated by a desire to provoke further trouble and to embarrass the Government.
– Order !
– Has the Minister for Supply and Development received a report from the executive officer of the Coal Commission, Mr. Jack, in which it was stated that the Wongawilli colliery has stopped producing because the management has, in distinct breach of an understanding with the miners, refused to pay holiday pay at double rates? Is not this the same colliery which refused to pay yardage rates to miners, an action for which I suggested that the owners should be prosecuted? Further, is it a fact that Mr. Jack stated that the Pelaw Main colliery is idle because the management refused to conform to conditions which have applied for the last 30 years, namely payment to wheelers for the lifting-on of skips? If the facts are correctly stated, what action does the Minister for Supply and Development propose to take with a view to instructing the chairman of the Coal Commission to apply Statutory Rule No. 168 to the coal mineowners ?
– A question relating to the application of the regulations under Statutory Rule No. 168 is not properly directed to me as Minister for Supply and Development.
– One of the honorable gentleman’s offsiders does the work.
– Certain public officers are subject to directions from more than one department in these matters. It would take too long to read to the House the full report that has been submitted on this dispute. In the Wongawilli stoppage it would appear that the interpretation of the award has been questioned by both parties.
– But the miners get the blame for all the stoppages.
– The Government would like to see this matter referred to a reference board for determination.
– But, this custom has been enjoyed by the miners for many years.
– I have already indicated that the report I have received indicates that the points raised are debatable. Both parties are interpreting the award as they consider it should be interpreted, and in such circumstances my personal opinion is that the colliery should remain open, the miners should continue at work, and a reference board should make a decision on the facts.
– The practice is a breach of the award. The owners should go to a tribunal before they alter a condition.
– It may be argued that the practice is not a contravention of the award, and I am not sufficiently conversant with the facts to say whether it is or is not.
– A reference board would be competent to decide.
– A matter of that description should be decided by the appropriate authority. After all, the miners will not lose by it.
– And the country will obtain coal if the men remain at work.
– The best methodto deal with the subject is to approach the Local Reference Board. The main desire of the Department of Supply and Development is to get coal. It is not for me to enter into a controversy about this matter. If there be some argument about the appropriate payment to the miners - and the report indicates that there is, although both sides consider that they are in the right - the reference board should be asked to decide who is right and who is wrong. When that decision has been made the Government will see that it is carried out.
– The honorable member for Hunter earlier this afternoon asked whether I had received a report in regard to a conference which was held in Newcastle in connexion with the coal dispute. I was not able to answer the question at the time, but I have since received the following telegram from the Chairman of the Maitland Reference Board, Mr. Connell : -
Convened conference as directed delayed time to suit convenience of owners. Owners appeared at 11.45 and made following statement: I am summoned here under the direction of the Minister to attend. Chairman of Central Reference Board made an award owners expect men employed, at Millfield to return to work under this award owners stated that no good purpose could be served by this conference as they have seen in past conferences that the chairman would make certain recommendations conflicting with the award. Also stated all parties to dispute not present and claimed military representative should be present owners representatives refused to take part and left conference at 12.5 p.m. Awaiting your instruction.
– In view of the failure of the Minister for Labour and National Service to answer two points in my previous question, I now ask him whether he will clear them up, or whether I am to take his silence as an affirmative answer? The first point is -
Did he know that although the mine management had the mine ready for working for several days prior to the 12th May, it was advised in writing by the Coal Commissioner on that day not to prepare the mine until further notice?
– I rise to order. Is the honorable member entitled to base his question on a question already asked?
– If the answer that the honorable gentleman received was not clear, he may ask another question on the subject for the purpose of clarification but not for the purposes of argument.
– The second point with which the Minister did not deal was -
Is he aware that the secretary of the Northern Collieries stated to-day that, since action was taken under the regulations covered by StatutoryRule168, permission was granted in writing by the chairman of the Coal Commission for the pit not to be prepared for work until further notice?
– I am not aware that the mine-owners had the pit ready for work at the time mentioned by the honorable gentleman. As a matter of fact, I am not so much in their confidence as is the honorable gentleman. As to the second point, I have not been advised ‘that any communications have passed between the coal-owners and the Coal Commissioner, but now that the honorable member has mentioned such communications - and I take it that he has done so authoritatively - I shall ascertain what communications have passed, and I am sure that I shall read them with great interest.
– Is the Acting Attorney-General able to say whether Dr. Evatt has had conferred upon him the distinguished honour of appointment to the position of a Privy Councillor ?
- His Excellency the Governor-General, Lord Gowrie, has received advice that His Majesty the King has been pleased to approve of the appointment of the Honorable Herbert Vere Evatt, Attorney-General and Minister for External Affairs of the Commonwealth of Australia, to be a member of His Majesty’s Most Honorable Privy Council.
COLOUR Patches - -RESERVES
– by leave - Within the last few weeks, I have been asked questions in this House by several honorable members, and have received many letters and inquiries, regarding the wearing of colour patches by members of the Australian Imperial Force.
I have ascertained that recently, when certain members of the forces who had volunteered for service with the Australian Imperial Force were allotted to a unit of the Australian Military Forces, they were ordered to discontinue wearing their Australian Imperial Force colour patches. They refused to obey this order and in consequence were charged with disobedience and fined. They should have obeyed the order, and then made a complaint. The matter, however, is being investigated by the CommanderinChief of the Allied Land Forces in the
South-west Pacific, General Sir Thomas Blarney, and if any injustice has occurred, it will be rectified.
The position in regard to the wearing of colour patches has been considered further, and I have made the following decisions, which are based on recommendations made by General Sir Thomas Blarney : -
It will be remembered that some time ago an Australian Imperial Force reserve was created. In general terms, this meant that members of Citizen Military Force units who wished to enlist for Australian Imperial Force service had their names placed on an Australian Imperial Force reserve list, but remained with their Citizen Military Force units.
Favorable consideration is now being given to the completion of the Australian imperial Force reserve, so that the personnel on the reserve may be regarded as members of the Australian Imperial Force. Furthermore, any other members of the Australian Military Forces who desire to enlist in the Australian Imperial Force will be accepted as such so soon as the necessary arrangements can be made, and will be similarly treated in regard to the wearing of colour patches. Advice of these decisions will be sent out in the ordinary way to military units.
– Has the attention of the Minister for the Army been drawn to the following article, which appeared in to-day’s issue of the Sydney Morning H erald : -
Considerable indignation has been caused among accredited American, British and Australian war correspondents by the publication of well-informed details of the action in the Coral Sea in an article under the name of Sir Keith Murdoch, chairman of the Herald and Weekly Times, Melbourne.
The article appeared in some Australian newspapers.
The correspondents protest that the article contains details that they have had in their possession for some days but have been prevented by regulations from sending to their papers.
They also complain that Sir Keith Murdoch has committed several breaches of the regulations in his story.
For some days correspondents at this advanced Allied base have been in possession of considerably more information concerning the Coral Sea action than they have been allowed to write. Much of it could have been revealed to the Australian public without offending against security, but recent instructions have curbed the activities of the correspondents.
If the Minister finds that there has been a breach of the censorship regulations, will he see that action is taken to deal with the Melbourne Herald and other newspapers which have offended? Will he inquire whether other newspapers in the various capital cities have offended recently against censorship regulations by divulging information which, for security reasons, should not have been published ?
– I have not read the newspaper article referred to. I shall do so, and then discuss the matter with the Commonwealth Censor.
Relations Between Houses
– Is the Deputy Prime Minister aware that a member of the Senate yesterday made a violent attack on His Majesty’s Minister of State for Labour and National Service? If so, will he inform the honorable senator that Ministers of State are responsible only to this branch of the legislature, and will he further request the honorable senator to mind his own business, if possible.
– Order ! There is a rule of courtesy between the two Houses of the Parliament that neither chamber should take cognizance of references to it made in the other chamber.
– I should like you to inform me, Mr. Speaker, whether your ruling implies that you will not permit an honorable member of this House to ask questions relating to the deliberations or decisions of the Senate?
– The practice has been not to permit in one chamber references to debates, particularly controversial debates, in the other chamber. If such references were allowed they would lead to conflicts between the two branches of the legislature. For that reason, presiding officers have rigidly enforced the rule against permitting members of one chamber to indulge in personal comments upon members of the other. It may be that the honorable gentleman had some cause for bringing the matter before the House, but this Chamber would create a very bad precedent if it allowed the rule to be broken. Standing Order No. 270 reads-
No member shall allude to any debate of the current session in the Senate or to any measure pending therein.
– Yesterday, an honorable senator made a ruthless attack on me and your ruling, Mr. Speaker, debars me from replying to it in this House.
– Order ! The honorable member is making a statement.
– I should like your ruling upon the matter. The honorable senator challenged the veracity of a statement that I had made, and your ruling prevents me from replying to him.
– The matter to which the honorable member referred arose last week when this House took the unusual course of giving to the honorable member for Kalgoorlie general leave to make a statement. The right to make a personal explanation is granted by the House almost as a matter of course, but it is not the practice to grant leave to make a general statement in which an honorable member may say what he likes. Tt is competent, however, for the honorable member to ask for leave to make a statement, and for the House to grant such leave.
– A business depression has descended upon the city of Cairns as the result of the evacuation of a section of the community, and its geographical proximity to the war zone. The National Security (Debtors’ Relief) Regulations do not adequately cover all cases of distress, and the business community is carrying on only by utilizing its very limited reserves. As many business men in Cairns are on the verge of ruin, will the acting Attorney-General consider the advisability of proclaiming a moratorium to grant them relief?
– If the honorable member will prepare a memorandum on the plight of business men in the Cairns district, the information will give me a basis for discussing with the SolicitorGeneral whether action can be taken to relieve their position.
– The Government has appealed to invalid and old-age pensioners to assist the war effort by every means in their power. “Will the Minister for Social Services ensure that invalid pensioners who undertake honorary work will bc permitted to retain their pensions? In addition, will he review pensions which have been suspended on this account?
– All pensioners who have a complaint about the suspension of their pensions may have the matter reviewed at any time, but I cannot give a guarantee that the payments to pensioners who accept work will not be affected.
– Does that apply to honorary work performed by invalid pensioners ?
– Invalid pensioners are not supposed to be able to work. It is for that reason that they are granted a pension. If they perform honorary work which does not involve physical strain, their pensions will not be affected. For example, ‘they would be entitled to deliver messages.
– Is the Minister for Supply and Development to consider the introduction of a rationing scheme for rubber-wear for milking machines with particular application to what are known as inflations, so that dairymen may be able to obtain supplies and continue to use those machines at a time when, owing to the depletion of labour, hand-milking is absolutely impossible?
– The important matter raised by the honorable member for Gippsland reminds me of some correspondence I received during the week forcibly stressing the need for close attention to be paid to the requirements of the dairying industry. Honorable members will readily appreciate my inability to canvass the rubber position generally, but I am particularly anxious that the matter raised by the honorable member shall be attended to. I agree entirely as to the need to make supplies available so far as it is humanly possible for us to do so.
Payments from Pools - Stabilized Price.
– Is the Minister for Commerce able to state when further payments will be made to wheat-growers from the 1939-40, 1940-41 and 1941-42 wheat pools ?
– The whole matter of final payments is now under review so far as the earlier pools are concerned. The previous Government, on an estimated crop of 140,000,000 bushels, guaranteed an initial payment of 3s. 8d. forbulk wheat and 3s . 10d. for bagged wheat f.o.b. A certain amount of money was allocated to the pool for that purpose and was agreed to by representatives of the wheat-growers throughout Australia. The crop amounted to 153,000,000 bushels, and the fund created was, therefore, insufficient to pay more than 3s. 6d. a bushel. When costs have been subtracted, there will be little left from which to make further payments to the growers from the 1941-42 pool.
– In view of the inadequacy of the present wheat scheme from the point of view of returns to the growers, has the Minister for Commerce under consideration an alternative method of payment for next season’s wheat?
– I have always questioned the worth of the present scheme, and when it was before the Parliament, 1. challenged the estimates of what would be the financial position of the pool. My forecast on that occasion has been borne out. I am now investigating a scheme whereby there will be a guaranteed payment on a bushelage basis for at least a portion of the crop that will be sufficient to provide the ordinary wheat-grower with sufficient money to meet his commitments. It is absolutely impossible for him to do that under the present scheme. 1. hope to be able to make an early statement of the Government’s future policy on wheat.
– Will the Minister for Commerce have prepared a statement for submission to this House showing the financial results of a guarantee given by a previous government in respect of last year’s wheat crop, how the grower will fare under the guarantee, what will be the difference between the 3s.10d. a bushel that the grower thought he would get and the amount, about 3s. a bushel, that he actually received and how the difference between that amount and the guaranteed price is accounted for?
– I shall have prepared as early as possible a full statement setting out the financial position of the existing wheat pool.
– Was the Minister for Commerce correctly reported in the Sydney Morning Herald of the 3rd April as having told a meeting of farmers at West Wyalong, New South Wales, that he was in favour of a scheme to pay growers a stabilized price of 4s. net a bushel for the first 3,000 bushels of wheat per unit of production? If so, will the honorable gentleman’s recommendation to Cabinet be in those terms?
– The report is correct, and my recommendation will be in the terms stated.
– I ask the Minister representing the Postmaster-General whether he will make available to honorable members the annual report and balance-sheet of the Australian Broadcasting Commission and the annual report of the Postmaster-General’s department for the year ended the 30th June, 1941, as it is desirable that honorable members should have copies of those reports before they are called upon to consider the Australian Broadcasting Bill? I understand that reports have been printed, but have not yet been tabled.
– I shall place the honorable member’s question before the Postmaster-General.
Deposits by Holiday-makers.
– I ask the Acting Attorney-General whether any action has yet been taken to amend the National Security (Contracts Adjustment) Regulations in order to provide an inexpensive and expeditious method by which people may recover deposits on holiday bookings made last Christmas?
– On the 7th May the honorable member for Hunter (Mr. James) asked a similar question. He drew the attention of the Minister for Labour and National Service to the fact that certain coal-miners who had paid deposits on cottages for the Christinas holidays had not yet received any refund, and asked what action would the Minister take to ensure that refunds were made in full and as expeditiously as possible. The National Security (Contracts Adjustment) Regulations provide that where a tribunal is satisfied that, by reason of circumstances attributable to the war or to the operation of any national security regulation, the performance of any contract has become impossible or, so far as the person applying for relief is concerned, has become inequitable or unduly onerous, the tribunal may provide’ for the repayment in whole or in part of any amount paid in pursuance of the contract. It is the court, and not the Minister, that is empowered to order refunds of deposits in such cases, and any person desirous of obtaining a refund should apply to the court of petty sessions nearest his place of residence for relief.
– I ask the Minister representing the Minister for Trade and Customs whether it is a fact, as recently reported in the press, that the price of beer and spirits in the Australian Capital Territory was fixed on the 15th April last? If so, will he inquire from the Minister for Trade and Customs why, in view of repeated complaints about the blatant profiteering of hotels in Canberra, action was not taken before then to fix liquor prices? Will the Minister also obtain for the information of this House a statement showing the prices fixed for the principal brands of beer and spirits in the Australian Capital Territory, compared with those fixed for similar commodities in Sydney?
– I shall convey the honorable member’s question to the Minister for Trade and Customs.
– I ask the Deputy Prime Minister, as representing the Minister for the Interior (Senator Collings), whether, in view of the fact that black-out or brown-out conditions in most Australian capital cities have been considerably modified on the advice of the military authorities, action will be taken to modify the black-out conditions in Canberra ? On a foggy night it would be practically impossible for any person to leave Parliament House and reach his place of abode in safety. Will the honorable gentleman assure the House that if a favorable decision be made the relaxation will apply at once?
– I shall discuss this question with the Minister for the Interior and the Minister for Home Security later this afternoon.
– - Is the Deputy Prime Minister aware that the worst offenders against the black-out and brownout regulations, and also against the regulations providing for the protection of glass windows, are Commonwealth authorities? Will the honorable gentleman consider placing the protection of buildings and the supervision of the black-out and brown-out regulations in government buildings under one authority? Will he also ensure that the people affected are informed how they can satisfy the regulations ?
– I shall do so.
– Will the Minister for Supply and Development inform me whether Sir Bertram Stevens, formerly Australia’s representative on the Eastern Group Supply Council at Delhi, is still on the Commonwealth pay-roll ? If so, when is it anticipated that he will cease to receive remuneration from the Commonwealth ?
– He is not now on the Commonwealth pay-roll.
Committee of Inquiry
– Has the Minister for the Army yet received the report of the committee that has been appointed to inquire into the position in relation to small fishing-boats, and small craft generally, immobilized under Government orders? Will the honorable gentleman give me the names of the members of the committee? Will he also make the report available if it has come to hand, particularly insofar as it relates to future action in regard to such craft?
– The members of the committee are Mr. J. M. Hardy, chartered accountant and experienced yachtsman, and Mr. R. S. Westhorp, senior shipwright surveyor, Marine Services Board, Sydney. Those gentlemen were appointed last Friday to report upon the following subjects : -
The Department of the Navy acted at the request of the Department of the Army in this matter because our military advisers, after their experience in Malaya of the use of small craft by the enemy along the Malayan coasts, recommended that the thousands of small boats along the coasts of Australia should be immobilized1 so that they could be of no possible value to the enemy in the event of an attempted invasion. The Government recognizes that serious inconvenience has been suffered by many people who use small boats for fishing and pleasure purposes, and also, presumably, for fishing as a livelihood, but, as the Department of the Army was faced with i he possibility of the use of these boats by the enemy, it considered that they should be immobilized without delay. The Government recognizes a duty, in the circumstances, to compensate the people concerned for any losses they have incurred.
– Why was not a boatbuilder appointed to the committee, instead of a yachtsman?
– Mr. Westhorp, the senior shipwright surveyor of the Maritime Services Board, was appointed because it was understood that he was one of tlie best authorities on .boat-building in Australia. A chartered accountant was associated with him to assist in calculating any compensation that might be recommended. The committee has already begun its investigations and has communicated with me on certain aspects of the subject. It will devote attention, first, to the compensation that should be payable in respect of damage to boats after they were taken into Commonwealth custody. I have requested that immediate action be taken, and I am sure that I shall receive an interim report soon. The honorable member for Hunter has been persistent in his representations that people who have suffered loss through the immobilization of their small craft should be compensated by the Government, but it must be borne in mind that the paramount consideration at the moment is the defence of the country.
SUPPLY. (Grievance Day.)
Question negatived -
That Mr. Speaker do now leave the chair and that the House resolve itself into a Committee of Supply.
Debate resumed from the 30th April (vide page 714) on motion by Mr. Chifley -
That the bill be now read a second time.
– The Opposition will offer no objection to this measure. We recognize that these are abnormal times and that it is necessary for the Government to draw upon every possible source of revenue. Under normal conditions, we should not have associated ourselves with the proposed increases of rates. One could debate and criticize the various exemptions, and make comparisons of the different grades and rates attached to the commodities that the Treasurer seeks to tax. but no good purpose would thereby be served. We realize that the raising of additional revenue is an urgent matter, and that sales tax is one method to which both the present and previous administrations have resorted for that purpose. Therefore, we shall not obstruct the passage of the measure.
Question resolved in the affirmative.
Bill read a second time, and reported from committee without amendment or debate ; report adopted:
Bill - by leave - read a third time.
– I move -
That the bill be now read a second time.
In order that I might honour an undertaking given to the honorable member for Parkes (Sir Charles Marr), it was proposed not to proceed with this measure until he was available to continue the debate on the motion for the second reading. Circumstances in relation to the business-paper have since arisen, however, which make it necessary to proceed with it immediately. The Leader of the Opposition (Mr. Fadden) has consented to the non-observance of the earlier arrangement, and I trust that I shall be pardoned on that account.
Early in July, 1941, a joint parliamentary committee, consisting of Senator Gibson as chairman, the honorable member for Parkes (Sir Charles Marr), Senator Amour, and the honorable members for Melbourne (Mr. Calwell), Boothby (Dr. Price), and Kennedy (Mr. Riordan) was appointed to inquire into and report upon wireless broadcasting within and from Australia, with particular reference to the following questions : -
The report of the committee was circulated some time ago, and doubtless honorable members have perused it. It discloses that the committee examined 154 witnesses, and that evidence was heard in five of the States. A full and comprehensive document was compiled as the result of the committee’s investigations. The Government has given careful consideration to the report, and has introduced the bill for the purpose of giving effect to the recommendations made by the committee.
The bill is notable in that, for the first time since the inception of broadcasting, provisions are embodied in one measure enabling commercial as well as national broadcasting to be governed in Australia. In the debate that doubtless will ensue, honorable members will have an opportunity to take stock of the whole of the broadcasting system, and to determine what methods, in their opinion, should be employed in order that the broadcasts of news and other matters in Australia may be placed on a smooth basis. A number of new methods has been devised, and generally the aim has been to utilize this great service, as far as possible, for the betterment of the people of this country.
At this stage, I pay a tribute to the painstaking efforts of the committee, in the extensive field that it covered. There is no doubt that it faithfully discharged its functions in the time and energy it devoted to the subject. I feel sure that the House will agree that, in the information it has collected, and the suggestions it has made, the committee has rendered a distinct service to this Parliament. Honorable members will also agree that the report is valuable insofar as it assists towards a determination of the legislation upon which broadcasting shall be developed.
The importance of broadcasting in Australia is proved by the fact that it now provides entertainment and education in 80 per cent, of the homes of the Commonwealth. It is true that within recent years it has progressed from being an expensive novelty, enjoyed by a few, to the stage when a receiver is an almost indispensable adjunct of the social amenities of the home. Its development has undoubtedly conferred great benefit on the nation generally.
The war has emphasized the value placed upon broadcasting by our enemies. For years, in their preparations for hostilities, they have not neglected to give to it a place almost equal to that accorded to their other preparations.. They have used it for the purpose of maintaining the -morale of their own people on the one hand, and encompassing the destruction of their foes on the other hand. In the years that preceded the outbreak of hostilities, they established throughout the world a most elaborate espionage system, which enabled them to obtain from various sources information that could be relayed from their stations in order to mislead and lower the morale of the people in countries in which the accuracy of their assertions could not be checked. Further, they have used the system in order to lower the resistance of neutral countries by means of specially selected pronouncements, in which connexion Quislings have been employed. For this class of work they have succeeded in obtaining the services of men with an appropriate accent; but in spite of all their efforts, accents will not win the battle of wave-lengths that is progressing throughout the world. Through every agency, they have endeavoured not only to destroy physically with implements of war, but also to corrupt the minds of those who tune in to the almost unceasing sessions of propaganda from Berlin, Borne and Tokyo.
We in Australia have endeavoured to keep pace with the rest of the world in the development of broadcasting, ft is interesting to make a short survey of the history of broadcasting in this country. The year 1923 saw the beginning of broadcasting in Australia. A conference of interests associated with radio was called by the Government, and recommended the “ sealed set “ system, by which sets were sealed to exclude other than certain programmes. Four stations began services under this plan, two in Sydney, one in Melbourne, and one in Perth ; but, finally, the system had to be abandoned. In 1924, a new plan was evolved, providing for two classes of stations - A class stations, which were to be maintained by revenue from listeners’ licence-fees, and B class stations to be maintained out of revenue’ from advertisers. By 1929, there were eight A class stations and twelve B class stations, with a total of 300,000 listeners. Stations of both kinds were licensed by the Postmaster-General on prescribed conditions. The weakness of the system at that stage lay in the fact that a great majority of listeners resided in the metropolitan areas. Companies controlling the stations restricted their operations to large centres of population, where most revenue could be obtained. Moreover, licensees in Victoria and New South Wales were able to provide more comprehensive services because they were serving larger populations and receiving greater revenues. This and other factors led to the appointment in 1927 of a royal commission to inquire into the whole subject. The report of the commission recommended that fees collected from listeners be pooled, in order to provide a sufficient income for all A class stations in all States. The proposals of the commission were exhaustively considered by the then Government in consultation with the companies operating the services, but so many difficulties were encountered that the Government finally decided that it would be best to establish a national system of broadcasting. It became clear a>t that time that a clear-cut distinction would have to be made between stations providing programmes of a national character, and those which were dependent on revenue from advertising. In July, 1928, a new scheme was evolved under which A class stations, with the exception of two hitherto owned by private companies, were purchased or leased by the Government. Those two stations continued to operate under agreement with the department for a few years until their plant was replaced by modern transmitters installed by the PostmasterGeneral’s Department. The B class stations then became what are now known as commercial stations. A temporary arrangement provided for private enterprise to supply national broadcasting programmes on a three years contract. The companies’ entertainers gave good service, but the Government decided in May, 1932, to set up a commission to control broadcasting from national stations, and to tate all measures necessary for the provision of suitable programmes. The functions of the commission were set forth as follows: -
The commission shall provide and shall broadcast from the national broadcasting stations adequate and comprehensive programmes, and shall take in the interest of the community, all such measures as, in the opinion of the commission, are conducive to tlie full development of suitable broadcasting programmes.
The commission was required to take over the existing studios, and to become responsible for the provision of additional studios, but all technical studio apparatus and broadcasting stations were to remain under the control of the Postmaster-General’s Department. It was also provided that the department would provide, without cost, the connecting programme transmission needed for simultaneous broadcasting from two or more stations. At the same time, action was taken by the Postmaster-General to provide a greater coverage by the establishment of regional stations in country centres, and by modernizing equipment.
The national broadcasting service as it exists to-day came into operation in July, 1932. At that time, there were 370,000 licensed listeners, who were served by twelve national stations and 43 commercial stations. The development of both services during the last ten years has been remarkable, and approximately 100,000 additional homes have been equipped each year with receiving sets. To-day, there are 1,324,000 licensed listeners, 27 national stations, and 99 commercial stations operating on medium waves. In addition, three shortwave stations are providing services to listeners in remote parts of the Commonwealth. During the war, these short-wave stations are helping to counteract the effect of enemy propaganda by telling the story of Australia’s effort in the conflict.
Parliament acted wisely in appointing a joint committee to investigate broadcasting before amending legislation was introduced. This is a point which cannot be to much stressed. I have listened to many debates in the House on the subject of broadcasting, and most of them have been of a highly controversial nature. When evolving a method of control, it is important that conditions shall be sufficiently elastic to permit of progress, and yet sufficiently rigid to ensure that there shall be no misuse of the broadcasting services. Except for the inclusion of certain new provisions to give effect to recommendations of the joint committee, this bill is, to all intents and purposes, a re-enactment of existing laws of the Commonwealth. The provisions of the Australian Broadcasting Commission Act, aud of such wireless telegraphy regulations as are applicable to commercial stations, form the basis of the measure, which is divided into five parts.
Part 1 deals with the preliminary features of the measure. Part 2 incorporates the provisions of the Australian Broadcasting Commission Act with appropriate amendments. Part 3 embodies such regulations under the Wireless Telegraphy Act as are appropriate to this bill. Part 4 provides for lie creation of a Parliamentary Standing Committee on Broadcasting, as recommended by the joint committee. Part 5 includes the provisions of the Australian Broadcasting Commission Act, and regulations under the Wireless Telegraphy Act which are applicable to both services, and some important new provisions which are recommended by the joint committee.
Under clause 7, the head office of the Australian Broadcasting Commission will be established in the Australian Capital Territory on or before a date to be fixed by the Minister. Since the commission was first constituted1, one of the members has been a woman. That is regarded as being most desirable and clause 8 provides for the appointment of at least one woman. In order to ensure stability and continuity of policy, the appointment of commissioners, under clause 9, will be for definite periods. To safeguard against drastic changes of the constitution of the commission, the terms of appointment of the various commissioners have been so arranged that not more than two will retire in any one year. The remuneration of the chairman and the vicechairman will be increased. The new rate for the chairman will be £1,250 per annum and for the vice-chairman £500 per annum, compared with the existing rates of £500 and £400 respectively. Other members of the commission will receive £300 per annum.
Clause 16 requires the general manager of the Australian Broadcasting Commission to be present at all meetings of the commission, if .practicable, but the commission in its discretion may direct him to retire temporarily from any meeting. Conditions relating to the staff of the commission are set out in clause 17. One of the features is that the commission is required to hold open competitive examinations on lines similar to the practice of the Commonwealth Public Service and to select its recruits from the successful candidates in the order of merit. However, this condition may be waived by the commission in respect of certain prescribed positions for which special attainments are necessary.
Clause 23 provides that if the Minister exercises his existing power to require the commission to transmit certain matters in the public interest, he shall issue his direction in writing.
The commission’s proportion of the listener’s licence-fee will be increased, under clause 27, from 10s. to lis. per annum. On the basis of the number of licences now in force, the increase will provide the commission with additional revenue totalling ,-£66,200 per annum. The present apportionment is 10s. to the Australian Broadcasting Commission and 10s. to Consolidated Revenue. The Government does not consider that the time is opportune to adopt the committee’s alternative recommendation that the listener’s licence-fee should be increased to £1 ls. per annum.
Commercial broadcasting stations will be permitted to continue their operations on much the same lines as in the past, but certain restrictions are imposed on them regarding advertisements. Clause 69 provides for the conditions under which advertisements will be permitted on Sundays, to be prescribed by regulation. In the same clause, advertisements relating to patent medicines are limited to those approved ‘by Commonwealth or State health authorities. The joint committee expressed the view that there should be some safeguard against the capricious rejection of the advertisements of certain classes of practitioners. The provision which is made in subclause 7, for appeal to the Minister against any decision of the health authorities, will meet the view of the joint committee in this regard.
Under section 75 each licensee must submit in prescribed form an annual balance-sheet and profit and loss account.
In the past, Parliament has had few opportunities to review the development of the broadcasting services, but that position wall be remedied by the important innovation which is provided in Part IV. of the bill. Provision is made for the appointment of a parliamentary standing committee, to which either
House of Parliament by resolution or the Minister, may refer for investigation and report any matter affecting broadcasting in the Commonwealth. The Australian Broadcasting Commission and the Australian Federation of Commercial Broadcasting Stations will be given the opportunity to submit matters to the committee through the Minister.
Regarding the appointment of advisory committees, the Government has departed slightly from the recommendation of the joint committee. The existing Australian Broadcasting Commission Act provides that the commission may appoint advisory committees in each State, and the joint committee recommended that the appointment of these committees should be made mandatory on the commission. The Government is of opinion that it would be in the best interests of broadcasting if there were a representative advisory committee in each State to note the public reaction to broadcasting programmes and to make suggestions for improvements not only in the national but also in the commercial service.
– Who will receive the reports ?
– The reports will bs submitted to the Minister or to the commission, but it appears to me that the Minister must be the principal authority in order that Parliament shall have an opportunity to discuss any subjects that are raised and, if necessary, give directions relating to them. Clause 95 provides that the Minister shall appoint a broadcasting advisory committee in each State.
In clause 96, provision is made for the encouragement of local talent, and it is stipulated that 2 per cent, of the total time occupied in the transmission of music by both national and commercial stations shall be devoted to the work of Australian composers.
The broadcasting of political talks will be dealt with in an amendment which i shall move in committee. Political addresses will be prohibited after the Wednesday preceding each Federal or State election. The name of each speaker and the political party on behalf of which he speaks must be disclosed. Dramatized political broadcasts will be forbidden. The commission will still bo permitted to determine to what degree and in what manner political speeches shall be broadcast from national stations; but, in accordance with the recommendation of the joint committee, the present practice of the commission regarding the granting of facilities at election time will be referred, as soon as practicable, to the parliamentary standing committee.
Honorable members will unanimously support the views expressed by the committee concerning the broadcasting of items which are contrary to accepted standards of propriety. The imposition of penalties for any offence of this kind is authorized in clauses 97 and 93, but the Government sincerely hopes that there will be no occasion to invoke these powers in order to ensure that any unsavoury items shall be eliminated from programmes. Talks on medical subjects are prohibited by cla.use 100, unless they have first been approved by the Commonwealth Director-General of Health, or, with his concurrence, the medical officer of a State. Provision is also made for an aggrieved person to appeal to the Minister against any such decision.
Clause 104 stipulates the fee which is to be paid by listeners for their licences. The granting of free licences to the blind will be continued and the clause extends the concession to schools with an enrolment of fewer than 50 pupils. Licences will be granted at one-half of the prescribed fees to invalid and old-age pensioners who live alone. Additional fees will be paid in respect of receivers in motor cars and in other cases where more than one receiver is installed by any licensee.
It is difficult to foretell what the future holds for the nation in respect of developments which may occur in facsimile, television and frequency modulation services. Accordingly, section 109 provides the desirable precaution that no licences .shall be granted for these transmission.’ except on the recommendation of the parliamentary standing committee. The only really important change in the bill which is not the result of a direct recommendation of the joint committee is contained in clause 57, which gives to the Minister the right to suspend licences. In this connexion, however, the committee stated -
Individually, the stations are under the control of the Postmaster-General, whose only disciplinary power under the regulations now in force is to cancel or to refuse to renew licences.
The Government is fully in accord with the opinions of the joint committee as to the desirability of agreement being reached between the Australian Broadcasting Commission and newspaper organizations, and also with its view concerning the performing right fee payable by the commission and the Federation of Commercial Stations to the Australasian Performing Right Association. There are, however, valid objections to providing for either of these matters in this bill, but it is the intention of the Government to give further consideration to both subjects. I invite a frank and full debate so that honorable members may have the opportunity of suggesting any further improvements for the betterment of the broadcasting services of the Commonwealth. Steps are being taken to give effect as soon as possible to a number of the joint committee’s proposals which do not require legislative enactment.
Debate (on motion by Dr. PRICE) adjourned.
Bill presented by Mr. Holloway, and read a first time.
– by leave - 1 move -
That the bill be now read a second time.
Included in the recommendations made to Parliament by the Joint Committee on Social Security in its first interim report was a proposal to pay pensions to widows with dependent children, widows over 50 years, widows in ill health, widows in destitute circumstances immediately after the death of their husbands, deserted wives, and wives whose husbands arc inmates of mental hospitals and to dependent children under the age of sixteen years. The Government has given careful consideration to the extremely valuable reports of this committee, and after an examination of the evidence has decided to introduce this bill providing pensions or allowances to the classes mentioned. For more than a quarter of a century my association with the less fortunate citizens of the community has convinced me of the necessity for this measure, and it gives me much pleasure to have the privilege of submitting the bill to the House.
Before mentioning particulars more directly concerning the proposed legislation, I wish to place on record this Government’s appreciation of the action of the New South Wales . Government in placing at my disposal the services of experienced officers of the State Public Service. They are familiar with the widows’ pensions scheme operating in that State, and without their help and advice it would not have been possible to prepare this bill in the very limited time at our disposal. I wish also to make similar expressions to the Solicitor-General and those of his officers who have devoted long periods to the drafting of the measure. I must also express my thanks to the staff of the Department of Social Services.
Almost every civilized country has recognized that the premature death of the breadwinner is one of the major causes of poverty, and in recent years provision for widows and children by contributory and non-contributory pension schemes has spread rapidly. In England ever since the report of the Royal Commission on the Poor Laws in 1909, it has been clear that widowhood is one of the chief causes of destitution, and in 1936 as a result of a comprehensive investigation the United States of America Social Security Board established the fact that “ the problem of economic insecurity is particularly acute in broken families headed by a woman “. The findings of the board emphasized the significance of the social security programme in its relation to widows and children. The Government believes that it would be unreasonable to expect the community at large to support every widow regardless of age and economic circumstances. Some have been left in a relatively comfortable position and a young widow without children frequently finds no difficulty in providing for herself. Those with young children and those beyond middle life or in ill health are the ones with whom the Government is mainly concerned. The widow with a young family has an important trusteeship. She is responsible for the rearing and training of those from whom the future leaders of this nation will be drawn. If this task proves too great for her slender resources there is every justification for government aid.
For the information of honorable members I now propose to make passing reference to provision which has been made in other countries for widows and children. In several European countries provision for the widow- and children of a deceased insured person is made under contributory schemes providing for invalid and old-age pensions. Pensions for the widow and children are usually based on the invalid and old-age pension to which the deceased was entitled, but the proportion varies considerably in different countries from 20 per cent, to 50 per cent, for the widow, and from 10 per cent, to 50 per cent, for the children. Pensions to widows and children were paid in Great Britain, France, Germany, Austria, Belgium and the Netherlands, and there was a noncontributory scheme in Denmark under which indigent widows had the right to a public contribution towards the support of their children under the age of fourteen years.
In 1939 there were in Great Britain some 3,900,000 persons drawing pensions, including 650,000 widows and 275,000 dependent children, and of these pensions some 550,000 were noncontributory. Whilst at first social insurance schemes in Great Britain were directed at the protection of the workman himself, the necessity for making provision for the family when death removed the breadwinner has increasingly claimed attention. The fifteen years’ debate which followed the report of the Royal Commission on the Poor Laws culminated in the passage of the Widows’, Orphans’ and Old-age Contributory Pensions Act 1925. All persons insured under the national health insurance scheme, whether as employed or voluntary contributors, are within the scope of the widows’ and orphans’ scheme.
There is no statutory provision for assistance to widows who cannot benefit under the contributory insurance scheme, but it is the function of an Assistance Board reconstituted in 1940, during the present war, to look after such persons and to see that they are given monetary assistance. Thus the British system as it appears at present is that a widow, whether or not she is incapable of work or is required to support children, is entitled to a pension if her husband has been a contributor to the insurance scheme. If the pension so obtained be insufficient, as it- almost certainly will be in the absence of other provision, the widow may apply to the Assistance Board. If she has never come within the scope of the insurance scheme, she may also apply to the Assistance Board. In both latter contingencies a rigid inquiry will be made into her means’, but the principle is definitely established that every widow is entitled to some assistance. Recent amendments have liberalized the scheme.
The latest information to hand relating to France refers to 1933, at which date every French citizen supporting more than three children and having insufficient means for their up-bringing was entitled to an ‘annual allowance for each child beyond the third under thirteen years of age. If the children are SUPported by the mother alone, assistance is given for every child beyond the first. In Germany, invalidity and old-age insurance for persons employed in industry, commerce and agriculture was introduced in 1889, and in 1911 widows’ and orphans’ insurance was added. There are two main insurance schemes, one covering all manual workers and the other, salaried employees. Under the manual workers’ scheme, widows’ pensions are payable to all insured persons who are widows incapable of work or have completed their sixty-fifth year. Public assistance of a non-insurance character is given to widows who cannot qualify for the insurance scheme. Such assistance includes medical attention, payment of part of the costs of confinement, maternity benefit, and nursing benefit.
Until the passage of the Social Security Act there were no widows’ pensions in the United States of America, but for 30 years various States had given what .is termed mothers’ aid. Death of the father is a universally accepted reason for aid, and other reasons include desertion, physical or mental incapacity or imprisonment of the father, or divorce of the parents. Residential qualifications are required, and at least one child must be under a prescribed age. The resources of the family must be insufficient to provide proper maintenance and care for the children, and the mother must be mentally and morally fit to have the care of the children. Amendments to the Social Security Act approved in August, 1939, broadened the social security programme to include survivors’ insurance, and changed the basic principles and direction of the national old-age insurance programme. Whereas the 1935 act limited the monthly annuities to the insured workers- themselves, the 1939 old-age and survivors’ insurance plan extended benefits to the aged wives and widows of the insured to their dependent minor children, to younger widows with minor children to support, and, when there were no survivors, to aged parents wholly dependent on deceased insured persons. The American scheme is very complex, but in essence it is the same as the British scheme, except that contributions are graduated and benefits depend on the amount contributed.
Canada does not have a full widows’ pension scheme, but allowances are given in respect of dependent children to mothers or to foster-mothers. The responsibility for this work belongs to the provinces or municipalities. Generally, before benefit will be given the mother must he without adequate means of properly maintaining the children.
In South Africa, under the Children’s Protection Act, maintenance grants can be secured for children committed to private institutions, or child welfare societies, or ordered to remain in the care and custody of their mothers who are widows, or the wives of husbands who, owing to circumstances beyond their control, are unable to maintain their children properly.
New Zealand, prior to the passing of the Social Security Act, had a noncontributory scheme provided by the Widows’ Pensions Act 1911. The Social Security Act substituted a contributory pension for this non-contributory pension, but New Zealand has departed from the insurance principle by imposing a means test. Every person who is continuously resident in New Zealand is liable to pay the social security contribution, which consists of a registration fee and a charge on all salaries, wages and other income, amounting to ls. in the £1. For this contribution numerous benefits are obtainable, amongst them being widows’ and orphans’ benefits. No widow under 50 who has not had one or more children can qualify for benefit under the Social Security Act. The rate of benefit is £91 a year for a widow with one child under sixteen, plus a further £26 a year for each additional child under sixteen, with a maximum benefit of £234 a year. A widow may have an income of £78 a year from other sources without reducing the benefit. When her youngest child reaches the age of sixteen years the widows’ benefit may continue at £52 a year throughout widowhood. A childless widow is also entitled to a benefit of £52 a year provided she became a widow after attaining the age of 50 years and had been married for more than five years, or had attained the ago of 50 years, had become a widow after the age of 40 years and her marriage had continued for not less than ten years, and fifteen years had elapsed since the date of her marriage. Applicants of this class are allowed to receive other income amounting to £52 a year. Orphans under sixteen are entitled to a benefit not exceeding £39 a year, reduced by the amount of any other income received for the benefit of the orphans.
In Australia, the New South Wales and Victorian Governments give pensions to widows, but the Victorian scheme is very limited, costing only about £20,000 annually. A widow in Victoria is given 6s. to 15s. weekly, and her children up to the age of 14, 6s. to 12s. weekly. Less than 1,000 widows receive the pension in Victoria as against about 7,000 in New South Wales.
Widows’ pensions were first paid in New South Wales early in 1926. The maximum pension payable was £1 a week for the widow and 10s. a week for each eligible child under fourteen. A widow may ako receive a pension if she has a child under sixteen who is suffering from mental or physical disability, or who possesses special scholastic ability and is dependent wholly or mainly upon her for support. If she be not le3S than 50 years of age and be in destitute circumstances; or if on tlie death of her husband she he left unprovided for, the pension is payable for six months only. In 1941 7,000 pensions were paid in New South Wales to a value of over £600,000. The widow is subjected to a residence, means and character test. The pension is reduced by £1 per annum for each £1 of the widows’ income in excess of £39 a year. Part of the earnings of her children are also deducted from her net income. By amending legislation last week the maximum rate was raised to £1 5s. a week, and the provisions were slightly liberalized in other directions.
It has been shown that with the exception of the two States mentioned there has been a somewhat lamentable disregard of the welfare of widows and children in Australia. The Commonwealth Government believes that residents of all States should enjoy social benefits on a uniform basis, and in pursuance of that po gay submits what merits description as a major advance in Commonwealth social legislation. This bill can only be regarded as a commencement. It makes no pretence at perfection and will certainly be subjected to such amendment as experience shows to be necessary, and will assuredly be followed by further development of federal social services in a manner that will provide real social security for all our people.
The object of this bill is to provide pensions and allowances to widows and unendowed children, subject to compliance with prescribed conditions regarding age and means. In preparing the legislation, the New South Wales system has been closely adhered to and whilst eligible Class “ A “ widows in that State will probably benefit very little, if at all. under the federal scheme, others will, and widows in other parts of the Commonwealth will receive the proposed federal benefits with considerable pleasure. It has been decided to include as widows, de facto widows, a woman who is not legally named, but who lived on a bona fide permanent domestic basis for the three years immediately preceding the death of the man with whom she lived ; a deserted wife who has taken legal action against her husband for desertion; a woman who lias been granted a divorce and has not remarried; and a woman whose husband or de facto husband is an inmate of a hospital for the insane.
There are three class groups of widows who will benefit. The first class includes widows of any age who are maintaining at least one child under the age of sixteen years. For this class, the maximum allowance is £78 per annum and the means test closely resembles that in force in New South Wales. Because children are involved, the Government has made this a reasonably liberal test and in addition to excluding personal property, including the house in which she resides and furniture, it has permitted the ownership of £1,000 without seriously affecting the maximum rate of pension.
In the second class there are widows over 50 years of age without dependent children. In this class the maximum rate is £65 per annum and the means test to be applied is the same as now exists for invalid and old-age pensions purposes with which all honorable members are familiar.
The third class consists of widows under 50 years of age without dependent children, who find themselves in indigent circumstances upon the death of their husbands. For this class an allowance at the maximum rate of 25s. a week will be approved for a period not exceeding six months immediately following the husband’s death. The commissioner will take into account the circumstances regarding income, property and earning capacity. It is intended generally that if after the payment of all reasonable expenses such as hospital, medical, funeral or other debts of the deceased husband, the amount remaining for the widow does not exceed £50, a temporary allowance will be granted.
Whilst the conditions vary somewhat according to each category, the following primary qualifications apply in all instances: -
It is intended to pay pensions monthly in arrear as from the 30th day of June next. The first payment will be due on the 27th July. In Victoria, such allowances are now paid monthly in arrear and in New South Wales they are paid fortnightly. It is hoped that the allowances will be paid on lines closely following those fixed for child endowment purposes.
Claim forms will be obtainable shortly from all post offices or from the office of the Deputy Commissioner ‘ for Pensions in each State. .On completion the forms should be forwarded to the Deputy Commissioner for Pensions at the capital city of the State in which the claimant resides. Those from the Australian Capital Territory should be sent to the Deputy Commissioner in New South Wales, and those from the Northern Territory to the Deputy Commissioner in Adelaide. Pensions and allowances will be subject to review largely on a system applicable to invalid and old-age pensions. Generally speaking, it is hoped that once an allowance has been granted it will be continued for a lengthy period.
– Is it not hoped that some of the widows will re-marry?
– That is hoped, of course, but the Government also hopes that the rate of pension will not chop and change in respect of particular pensioners, and so cause increased clerical work.
I am confident that all honorable members will be pleased to assist in passing this measure, which will afford some help to about 30,000 widows and 21,000 children. The estimated cost of the scheme is about £1,600,000 per annum.
The Labour party, as honorable members generally are aware, has had widows’ pensions on its political platform for more than 20 years. About fifteen years ago the present Prime Minister (Mr. Curtin) was a member pf the royal commission appointed by the Bruce-Page Government to inquire into and report upon pensions generally, unemployment, and child endowment, and even at that time he strongly urged the introduction of a scheme for the payment of widows’ pensions. I am certain that the right honorable gentleman is pleased that a measure of this description is being submitted to the Parliament during his term of office as Prime Minister. I hope that the bill will be given a speedy passage through the Parliament.
Debate (on motion by Sir Frederick Stewart) adjourned.
Bill received from the Senate and (on motion by Mr. Beasley) read a first time.
– by leave - I move -
That the bill be now read a second time.
This is a short measure to effect an amendment of the Excise Act 1901-1934 in order to enable the Department of Trade and Customs to issue regulations for the control of goods which come within the ambit of an excise tariff proposal. The Excise Act as it stands provides for the issue of regulations for “ excisable goods “ only. “Excisable goods” are defined in. the act as goods in respect of which excise duty is imposed by the Parliament. Legal opinion is to the effect that goods which are the subject of an excise tariff proposal do not come within the meaning of that definition. It is, therefore, considered necessary that the act be amended to enlarge the definition of “excisable goods “ in order to include goods the subject of an excise tariff proposal.
The principle underlying the bill is strongly recommended for favorable consideration by honorable members. Its adoption is most desirable and will solve a difficulty which at present exists in the making of excise regulations for the protection of the revenue, relative to fresh items incorporated in the excise tariff.
The bill consists of four clauses, two of which are machinery. Clause 3 relates to the definition to which I have already referred. Clause 4 provides that when an excise proposal imposes duties on goods previously free, the manufacturer of those goods shall be allowed two months from the date of the introduction of the proposal in order to comply with the provisions of the Excise Act, relating to registration and licence, but excise control will commence immediately.
Until 1941 it was the practice of the department to make excise regulations under excise tariff proposals, but following a conference, with officers of the Attorney-General’s Department, it was revealed that considerable doubt existed as to the legality of that practice. After mature consideration the AttorneyGeneral’s Department stated that, to place the matter beyond doubt, the Excise Act should be amended. Since the holding of the conference it has been necessary, in order to safeguard the revenue, to issue a regulation relating to excise under the National Security Act, but this has been done in regard to one item only, viz., carbonic acid gas. When this bill becomes law it is intended to cancel the regulation issued under the National Security Act and to issue a new regulation under the Excise Act.
Question resolved in the affirmative.
Bill read a second time, and reported from committee without amendment or debate; report adopted.
Bill - by leave - read a third time.
Debate resumed from the 29th April (vide page 615) on motion by Mr. Dedman -
That the following paper be printed: - “Activities of Department of War Organization of Industry - Ministerial Statement “.
.- Last week, the Minister for War Organization of Industry (Mr. Dedman) made a statement concom ing the activities of his department. The House yesterday, on a formal motion for adjournment, had an opportunity to debate certain limited phases of the activities of that department. The debate was accompanied by a certain degree of heat and humour, the humour, of course, being introduced quite unconsciously by the Minister. 1 hope that the debate to-day may be on the broader aspects of the department, and that the House will pay some attention to the policy of the Government as well as to an examination of whether the department is functioning in a manner that is calculated to be in the best interests of the nation under present conditions.
The Minister’s statement gave a conspicuous outline of rationalization as the honorable gentleman hopes to be able to apply it over a range of industry in the future. I say “ in the future “ advisedly, because so far very little rationalization has actually been put into operation. The speech contained few references to what I regard as a far more important subject under the conditions of to-day. I refer to the need for rationing, which, if properly operated, would obviate the necessity for a good deal of the harmful rationalization of which the honorable gentleman spoke. Indeed, it appears to me that it is with a view to escaping from the difficulties and, perhaps, the political complications associated with rationing, that the honorable gentleman is avoiding it, so far as he is able to do so, and is endeavouring to proceed by the method of rationalization, with all its harmful effects on Australian industry and the machinery of commerce, upon which this country must depend in the future.
I propose to state briefly the economic situation in which Australia finds itself after nearly three years of war. Particularly during the last two years, since munitions manufacture was expanded, there has been brought into being a vastly increased spending power, a very large proportion of which is in the hands of small income earners. This arises not only from the expansion of the manufacture of munitions but also from the production of all other goods that arc required for war activities. The very existence of that increased spending has resulted in a greater demand within the community for goods of a nonwar character. In turn, this has accelerated production in Australian factories, and has multiplied the amount, of money in circulation, thus increasing the difficulties caused by the increase of the purchasing power. This pervades the whole of the Australian industrial system. Whether it applies to raw materials or to parts for munitions, using the word “ munitions “ in the widest sense - guns, aeroplanes, or whatever else be the subject of manufacture for the purposes of this war - and whether it bc for the feeding and clothing of armies in Australia, using the word “armies” also in the widest sense - the army, the navy or the air force - there has been created an additional demand for the products of factories that are concerned in the manufacture of such commodities. The problem has been aggravated by diminution of imports, as the result of very properly imposed restrictions. Consequently, there is constantly passing into circulation, purely internally, within this country, an ever-increasing flow of money. The problem was known by the Fadden Government when its budget of September, 1941, was being framed. That Government knew that it had to deal with it in the year 1942; failing which, it took the risk, firstly, of damage being done to Australia’s financial structure; secondly, of withdrawal from the fighting services of materials required for munitions, clothing, and food ; and thirdly, of withholding the man-power so essential to the nation from both the fighting services and the munitions factories. That Government decided to deal with the problem. It realized that the only constructive method of treatment was to introduce a system for the direct rationing of supplies. Unfortunately, the remedy has been left too long by the present Government to be wholly effective. The schemes outlined by the Minister for the rationalization of industry convey the impression that he is trying to construct a dam after the river is in flood. The Government’s scheme would set up a competitive demand for civil requirements that would limit the capacity of the nation to employ man-power, material and finance to meet our war requirements.
– How does finance come into it?
– I was wondering about that.
– The honorable member should not have wondered; he is an authority on finance, as he has told us many times. The more money that circulates in the form of wages, and the more money that is used for the purchase of materials for the supply of civil requirements, the more is withdrawn from the total available to the Government for financing the war. If out of a total wages payment of £1,000,000, an amount of £200,000 be made available to the
Treasury in one form or another, then the ability of the Government to finance the purchase and manufacture of munitions must be increased by that amount. If, however, that £200,000 be expended upon the purchase of further materials for the manufacture of civil requirements, then the Government will be deprived, not only of so much man-power and material, but also of much-needed financial support. The purpose of rationing is partly to economise in manpower and material, partly to economise in the use of goods that are in short supply, but also to co-ordinate the finances of the country with the available supply of man-power and material, and to arrange for the equitable distribution of the nation’s resources. The Minister should be clear in his mind that the implementing of the budget proposals depends upon the success of his department in properly rationing the expenditure of the people, thus controlling the supply of man-power and bringing back to the Treasury funds necessary for the prosecution of the war. The conditions of which I have complained set up a competitive demand. The artificial conditions arising from the over-expenditure of money may threaten the nation with a measure of inflation because of unhealthy spending at a time when the nation relies upon the issue of credit to bridge the gap between revenue and expenditure owing to war conditions.
– How much overexpenditure has there been?
– According to the budget, war expenditure for this financial year was estimated at £220,000,000, but that amount has been greatly exceeded. The Treasurer (Mr. Chifley) has said so, and I heard the Prime Minister (Mr. Curtin) say in Melbourne that war expenditure this year would possibly amount to £280,000,000. It is clear that the receipts from taxation and other sources will not reach that amount, and, even after loan raisings are added, there will be over-expenditure of about £70,000,000.
– Doe3 the honorable member call bank credit overexpenditure ?
– I have not called bank credit anything; I have not used the term. I said that expenditure this year will exceed revenue by about £70,000,000. That must be financed, and Parliament is prepared for it to be financed, as are those who are advising the Government; but the responsibility is upon Parliament and the Government to see that measures are taken to provide the checks that will prevent the rise of unreal and artificial conditions. “We must ensure that there shall be withdrawn from circulation such sums of money as will provide proper security for the issue of whatever short-term credits may be necessary to meet the needs of the situation. We are now approaching the 30th June, and it is quite evident that the financial difficulties of the year which will begin on the 1st July next will be much greater even than those of the year now drawing to a close. The gap which must be bridged this year between receipts and expenditure will be much wider next year. Those of us who, in the past, have urged that the nation’s resources should be used during periods of depression and in times of emergency must accept the responsibility of seeing that our policies are applied in such a way that there will be no unfortunate repercussions. If there be such repercussions, then many of the advantages which we are fighting to retain, many of our cherished possessions, will be lost during the postwar period, and those who will feel the loss most are the people who are being carefully guarded under the Minister’s present proposals.
I have stated the position in this way in order to indicate that present conditions will, if suitable steps be not taken, diminish the nation’s capacity to wage war and may, at the same time, threaten the solvency of the country. Surely these are matters which demand consideration from the Government!
There are two methods of dealing with the problem, and I propose to analyse them. I shall call them the direct method, and the indirect method. The direct method is that which the Minister has chosen, up to the present, not to use; and the indirect methods are those which he outlined in his speech last week, and others which various Ministers have indicated as being government policy. One of the direct methods is to tax more heavily than at present the lower and middle ranges of income, so bringing into the Treasury in cash increased revenues, and withdrawing that amount of money from unhealthy circulation. A second method is to introduce a rationing scheme that will compel substantial reductions of the consumption of civil goods, and force people to save money which is now being used to aggravate our economic difficulties. No system of rationing is sound unless it covers the whole range of public spending and -prevents people from diverting their expenditure from one channel to another. If these direct methods were adopted, the Government would bring into consolidated revenue a larger sura of money than at present, and increase deposits in the Commonwealth Savings Bank, subscriptions to Commonwealth loans, and purchases of war savings certificates. Those sums would extend the capacity of the nation’s bank to use shortterm credit, wherever it is necessary, with greater security, and to meet the requirements of the Government. But these direct methods present political difficulties. They need tobe understood by the people, and a government which introduces them may suffer frommisunderstanding on their part. It is not easy to put into operation complicated schemes of rationing and taxation and convince the people that, in their own interests, these direct methods are necessary. For that reason, the direct methods have not been used by the present Government in the way in which they should have been employed.
– The previous Government did not use them, either.
– If the honorable member wishes me to analyse the history of Commonwealth finance during the last two years, I shall not oblige him now. It would involve a recounting of the history of the budget of 1940-41, and the efforts which were then made to increasetaxation on certain ranges of income. At present, I am dealing with what is the right thing for the Government to do to-day. The honorable member should bear in mind that the financial difficulties of Australia developed very strongly during 1941. The production of munitions began in real earnest in 1940 and towards the end of last year, increased expenditure resulting from that and from other formsof manufacture, commenced to have a marked effect upon the monetary circulation, man-power and materials.
Mr.ROSEVEAR. - The previous Govern ment was guilty of mal-distribution of workn or war requirements.
– Whether or not one State received a little more work than another does not matter now. If mistakes were made, we should be happy to forget them, and realize that the only thing which matters to-day is to keep Australia on an even keel.
A few moments ago, I mentioned certain indirect methods which the Government and the Minister have chosen as being easier to put into operation than the direct methods. There are indirect methods of controlling production and finance. For example, bans have been placed upon the investment of money, and the purchase of property. At first, those restrictions were complete and thorough, but they were withdrawn and re-issued in another form. Obviously, the Government recognized that they were unsound and unfair, and would have unexpected repercussions. The restrictions also affected the capacity of some people to carry on their normal lives, and had the disadvantageous effect of conferring benefits upon other sections of the community. Control of investments and the purchase of property was an effort to make up by a flow of moneys from one end of the financial system for the losses that resulted, because the Government was not prepared to act, to moneys from the other end of the system. Increasing restrictions have been imposed upon the building trade. Some of them were necessary and advisable, because of the necessity to conserve man-power and materials. But the degree to which the restrictions have been used as an ancillary method of strengthening the financial system was probably unnecessary at this stage.
– The honorable member was a member of several committees which drafted those regulations.
-I had no hand in drafting the regulations that restricted building. In this matter, I do not wish to be misunderstood. I agree that there is a need for substantial restrictions of building, but I do not consider that the drastic restrictions which the Government introduced were necessary.
The Government announced a proposal to limit profits to 4 per cent. That policy has not yet been put into force, but if it be implemented it will cause untold harm in Australia because it will divert the money flow at the wrong end of the financial system. The purpose of the policy is to divert the whole of the flow from one end, instead of equalizing the flow from all branches of the industrial system. Efforts have been made to peg prices throughout the Commonwealth. With price fixation, 1 am entirely in accord. 1 regard the fixation of prices, on the whole, as one of the major achievements of the previous Government. Overlooking possible mistakes here and there, I consider that the system, taken by and large, has been very successfully operated without endeavouring, by artificial means, to peg prices at certain dates. Finally, the Minister for War Organization of Industry (Mr. Dedman) last week announced an expensive and comprehensive scheme of rationalization of industry.
Those are some of the indirect methods of controlling the conditions which I described earlier in my speech. So that I shall not be misunderstood, I emphasize that some action is necessary to control investments, restrict building and limit profits. But profits have already been limited by the war-time company tax. Price fixation and some rationalization of industry will be found necessary. There should be a properly co-ordinated and balanced system of putting these schemes into operation. As we apply rationing, there should bo some measure of taxation of the lower groups of income.
– What would that achieve ?
-I do not propose to enter into a controversy with the honorable member on that subject. It may he the subject of legislation, and the honorable member may then be surprised to find how strong a case exists for the establishment, and preservation of Australian industry in the interests of the people, he represents, 90 per cent, of whom depend on wages and thus on the stability and preservation of industry. If he does such things as will undermine and destroy industry, he will do a cruel and worthless thing to his constituents. The honorable member will also find that the case against artificial limitation of profits in the way contemplated is much stronger than he thinks. Rut that matter is outside the scope of this debate. By completely neglecting direct treatment of Australia’s problems and by concentrating its energies upon indirect and largely artificial methods, the Government is doing a grave disservice to Australia in regard to both its capacity to finance this war without inflation and the conservation of material and man-power that the conduct of the war demands. So, in this atmosphere, the Minister made his statement last week. He outlined a large number of measures, some of them crude and unnecessary, of rationalization which he intends to apply to industry, on the development of which Australia’s future will depend. This country needs rationing far more than rationalization. Rationalization may be necessary as a complement to rationing if the reduction of the demands of the people by rationing is not sufficient. When the purchasing power of the people is reduced, there is an automatic lessening of surplus production. A sound and comprehensive scheme of rationing would give to the Government the result it needs.
– How far has rationalization proceeded in England?
– In order to answer the honorable gentleman’s question, I should have to be equipped with reference books and notes. I do not claim to be a walking encyclopaedia.
Mr.Calwell. - But the honorable member is laying down a principle.
–The honorable member will find that what I have said represents largely the policy of other countries. Public spending has been controlledby rationing, and also rationalization has been applied as a supplementary measure. Rationalization in itself will not achieve the desired results. It will not transfer to war industries in sufficient volume man-power, money or materials now excessively used in producing goods for civil consumption. It will merely transfer public spending from one to another civil channel and man-power from one to another non-war activity and leave the Government where it stands. Australia’s need on the economic front to-day is to revise the plan of taxation of the income groups that enjoy surplus spending-power, a plan of rationing, and a scheme of rationalization, where necessary, in order to re-organize industries that can supply to war industries the needed surplus man-power and materials. The Minister’s plan is to force the re-organization of industries while leaving money in circulation, and that method will not give to war industry the impetus that is represented in the present over-momentum of production. All this amounts to is running away from the real job because of difficulties. The Minister’s policy is an evasion of the Government’s clear duty, which is contained in the course I have outlined. His plan seems to be easier because it does not appear to affect the people. It looks so easy to the official mind to enforce changes upon industry, but the Minister has not removed the cause of the trouble; the disease remains, and so long as that is the case difficulties will continue and will give rise to greater difficulties. I am glad to have had this opportunity to-day because it appears that there is still time to sound a note of warning. The Minister’s speech indicates clearly that so far he has taken few definite steps to bring rationalization about. [Extension of time granted.]
The Minister said -
I can best describe the progress that has been made … by giving the House some examples of the results which particular rationalization schemes can produce.
Note that he said “ can produce “ -
I must emphasize, however, that most of the plans I shall mention have yet to receive the consideration of the Production Executive, and in many cases important difficulties have still to be cleared up. Accordingly, none of the details I mention should be interpreted as a final commitment to any particular course of action.
So, if there is a chance of diverting the Minister from his policy, that chance is presented now, for, whilst he has indicated to the House many things that he has in mind to do, few have been put before the Production Executive of Cabinet, and so far they amount to little more than pious hopes. I hope that the Minister will deal with the policy of his department in a more constructive manner. What he to-day describes as rationalization is a menace to the existence of thousands of small businesses in this country. With .rationalization the weakest must go to the wall and industry will get into the hands of the larger businesses - I shall not call them “ monopolies “, because the word is unfair - and those thousands of small businesses, of which Australia is so proud, will lose their connexions, and be forced out of existence. That will be one of the consequences of the policy on which the Minister is working to-day. He is tackling the problem at the wrong end. He is not endeavouring to harmonize the needs of the Australian war effort with post-war reconstruction. Like every other serious-minded person in the community I am prepared for a lengthy war. We have made up our minds that we must go through with it, and that we should go through with it, however long it may be. We do not know what is in store for us, and present-day conditions may change sooner than we expect. The time will come when the country will need to use all its recuperative powers. Australia’s hope in the days to come, when we shall be bridging the interval between the cessation of the war and the restoration of normal conditions, will rest on the quick functioning of its industries. If that be interfered with by the Minister by the introduction of artificial methods, by so-called rationalization, by forcing some industries out of existence and crippling others, and by causing them to lose the balance they still enjoy of conditions created in the past, the Minister will be doing a most unfair thing to the country.
Yesterday, I did not have time to complete certain remarks I had intended to make in relation to the Department of War Organization of Industry. I realize that the Minister cannot personally attend to everything undertaken by his department, and that the policy adopted by the Government in- connexion with the department has to be carried out throughout the Commonwealth. The Minister must have a staff competent to advise him and to see that the decisions of Cabinet and the Minister are put into effect. Under existing conditions it is essential that the Department of War Organization of Industry should include nien from Australian industry who understand the problems with which . they will be required to deal whether they apply to primary or secondary industries. Such men are available and are willing to give their time to solve these problems during war-time in an effort to maintain the stability of Australian industry. It is expecting too much of the official mind t? ask that a public servant should become an expert in all branches of industry when he has not had training in them. How is it to be supposed that a man who, for the whole of his life, has lived in the rarefied atmosphere of a highly specialized government department - although he may be an intelligent and competent officer - can successfully undertake control of business problems or the technicalities of industry? If the Minister expects to be successful in the position he occupies he must take the advice and help of men who have a knowledge of the problems with which the honorable gentleman is expected to deal.
– That is a very unfair attack upon public servants.
– It is not. The honorable member for Melbourne who, as an ex-public servant has been appointed to this House, and hopes to enrich us with his knowledge on various matters, seems to think that a public servant’s knowledge applied in any other direction must be equally effective. That is not necessarily so. I should never attack public servants, as such, because I have too much respect for them ; I am a great admirer of their ability. I ask public servants, however, to recognize their limitations in the same way as we recognize ours. They .cannot have the necessary knowledge of all the problems that are likely to arise in industry to enable them properly to advise the Minister.
– Are not the economists doing that work?
– The economists are only a part of the trouble. I shall now make reference to one particular case, and I do so with a great deal of hesitancy because the gentleman concerned is -a personal friend of mine; he was for fifteen years my neighbour, and I have the highest regard for him. Mr. W. H. Ifould was a highly responsible officer of the State Government of New South Wales when I was a Minister in . that State, and I probably have more personal knowledge of Mr. Ifould than has any other member of this House. Nobody has a higher regard for his ability, his patriotism, his good intentions and his thorough reliability than I have. Mr. Ifould is a good citizen, a man of whom any city should be proud. He was Government Librarian in New South Wales for a large part of his life, and on reaching the retiring age he was appointed Deputy Director of War Organization of Industry in New South Wales. Is it fair that such an appointment should have been made? Putting aside what is due to industries generally, to Australia, the working people and every one else, is it fair to Mr. Ifould that he should be asked to accept ‘this position at his age ? He is a man capable of doing a wonderful job for Australia in some other sphere.
– He is doing a good job now.
– If Mr. Ifould is able to understand all the complications of industry and to do the job that Australia needs in that sphere t o-day, then my only comment is that there is something very wrong with industry generally. Many people have been wasting time spending all their working life, trying to learn something which apparently can be picked up in a few weeks by a public servant after he has reached the retiring age. The position should not be trifled with at present. The Minister should reconstruct his department and find men of experience and capacity to do the work. He should forget the prevailing suspicious attitude of many ofhis supporters that every businessman is an enemy of the Labour Government, in war-time or any other time. The Minister should be guided by the advice of men of experience, and that would enable him to overcome many of his difficulties. This week we have seen how one decision made by ‘the Minister has landed him into enough confusion and trouble. That, however is only a small portion of the troubles that the honorable gentleman is likely to experience. I advise the honorable gentleman to get, behind him men of experience and ability.
– The honorable gentleman will not have a Mother’s Day to get him out of the trouble next time.
.- Last week, when the Minister for War Organization of Industry (Mr. Dedman) made a statement in this House in connexion with the activities of his department, I asked certain questions about the prohibition of the manufacture of 60 specified articles in certain States of the Commonwealth. The Minister replied that he had closed down the manufacture of such articles in certain States because of the acuteness of the man-power problem in those States. It was claimed that the decision was dictated by the manpower problems in Western Australia, but the Minister was not in that State long enough to know what man-power would be released for war purposes by the prohibition order. I doubt if more than half a dozen of the 60 articles named are produced in that State, and the to my mind prohibition order was a penalty imposition on the States which are doing the greatest war job. I resent that Western Australian, South Australian and Victorian manufacturers should have been prohibited from manufacturing certain articles while the makers of similar goods in New South Wales were unaffected by the order. It was differentiation of the worst kind. The Minister made a statement to the effect that in the interests of the Allied cause he had to obtain immediately a certain number of men for war industries. On a population basis, the honorable gentleman estimated that in Western Australia the number of men required would be about 21,000, if the Allied demands for labour were to be met. Before the Minister attempted to arrive at any definite figure, he should have ascertained the number of enlistments from Western Australia and given special consideration to the drift of skilled labour to the munitions industries in South Australia and Victoria. Several thousand men have left Western Australia to do war work in the Eastern States. Moreover, the enlistments in Western Australia have been 1.5 per cent, greater than those of any other State. Large numbers of girls also have left Western Australia for the eastern States to engage in war work. During the week that the Minister for War Organization of Industry was in Western Australia, three train loads of girls left the State for work in the eastern States. These factors should have been taken into account in determining the number of men to he taken from industries in Western Australia. I believe that the real reason why the prohibition was made and 21,000 men were ordered to be taken from industry was that the Government wished to offer a sop to the gold-mining interests in order to counteract the effect of its contemplated prohibition order in respect of that industry. The man-power officers in Western Australia have acted as they have done probably through no fault of their own. I have the greatest admiration for the Deputy Director of Man-power in Western Australia, Mr. Stitfold, as a public servant and an administrator, but I believe that he lacks the experience essential to an officer charged with the important duty of removing men from key industries. The difficulties of providing foodstuffs for the services and civilians have not beer sufficiently appreciated, particularly in Western Australia. The provision of foodstuffs needs careful planning. The food that we are consuming to-day, for example, was produced as the result of plans made twelve months ago. Apparently the Government has realized the seriousness of the situation only in the last month or so, for hitherto scant consideration has been given to labour required for the production of foodstuffs during the next twelve months. Our manpower officers should have included individuals with a thorough knowledge of the primary-producing industries. The schedule of reserved occupations and industrial priorities indicates clearly that it was prepared by public servants or others with very little knowledge of our food-producing industries. Careful consideration has, however, obviously been given to big manufacturing industries, and the list of reserved occupations creates the impression that it had been made with the object of retaining as many persons as possible in the manufacturing industries, so that their operations will not be unduly hampered.
A few days ago the Minister mentioned in this House a case that I brought under his notice in Western Australia recently; but the honorable gentleman did not give all the facts. The individual for whom exemption was desired owned 22 heifers, which had been taken from a dairy farm to another property pending calving.
– The man was not actually milking the 22 cattle?
– No; but he informed the man-power officers that two or three of the heifers would calve during each of the succeeding four or five weeks. The Minister referred to the man as a “ fattener “, for he had 40 head of sheep as well as the cattle. He may be a fattener, but stock need to be fattened if they are to be sold for killing. If the man had not taken the twenty heifers from a dairy farm, they would have had to graze on that farm probably to the detriment of milking cows. The man was= told by the man-power officer that as his was a one-man business it would have to be discontinued. I object strongly to the fact that the man was given only from the 24th April to the 1st May. seven days, to make arrangements to dispose of twenty-odd cattle, 40 sheep and three horses, and to take certain necessary steps in connexion with the protection of a dwelling-house estimated to cost £500, which was within three weeks of completion. That, I suggest, was an unreasonably limited time to allow the man to straighten out his affairs before going into camp. I feel sure that if Mr. Stitfeld had had some discretionary power, he would have given the man at least another fortnight, to arrange his affairs. The man’s operations were being carried on in jarrah country which, if left unoccupied, would revert to its natural state within twelve.’ or fifteen months. I pointed out to the Minister that the man was a member of the Volunteer Defence Corps, and had been associated with it or with the Home Guards, as the organization was previously known, ever since the beginning of the war. In my view, it would be reasonable to allow such men to continue to carry on their ordinary occupations, and to serve their country in the Volunteer Defence Corps. Has the Minister given any consideration to my submissions on that point? Last year this man grew 5 tons of potatoes in his spare time. I was hoping that this year he would be able to produce between 50 and 60 tons of potatoes. However, my strongest objection to the action of the authorities in this case is that it allowed the man such a ridiculously short time to dispose of his stock, and to make arrangements to protect his new dwelling-house from vandals while he himself was in camp.
– I remind the honorable gentleman that the case to which he refers really came within the authority of the Minister for Labour and National Service.
– That may be so, but while the Minister for War Organization of Industry was in Western Australia he issued certain instructions on behalf of the Minister for Labour and National Service which had to be carried into effect by the Deputy Director of Man-power. The officer informed me : “ I was given by the Minister a set of conditions; and he suggested that I should tighten up on all exemptions “. I replied, “ Does that mean in relation to primary production?” He said, “ Yes, we have to tighten up on those industries “. In these positions we should have men possessing a thorough knowledge of industry and of the careful planning that must be made well ahead in respect of the production of foodstuffs. I have yet to learn that there are on the different man-power boards, particularly in Western Australia, men who possess such knowledge. Already man-power had been withdrawn to the limit from farming properties before the blanket exemption became operative. On my own farm, on which’ never fewer than eight men had been employed, I am now endeavouring to carry on with two men. Hundreds of sheep will be lost off it. Nearly every farm, in Western Australia will suffer similarly. A married man, 40 years of age, who left my farm, walked round a petrol depot in Fremantle, only 150 yards from the waterfront, carrying a single-barrelled shotgun, during the first month after he was called up. How could he have served his country better than in the production of foodstuffs? I have letters galore ask ing for the release of men for the planting of seed. The Deputy-Director of Man-power in Western Australia told me that the quantity of wheat available in that State is sufficient to feed us for 50 years. I do not dispute that; but, it could easily be destroyed overnight. If the reserves of wheat are so great, the Government should say “ We do not want you to grow more wheat “, and should enable us to get into another occupation that would at least make it possible to keep the farms intact. We could, at all events, produce the meats and other commodities that are required.
I have also had occasion to approach the man-power authorities in respect of the release of certain highly-skilled men whose function was to look after 48,000,000 bushels of wheat. That was not considered a reserved occupation. The wheat having been placed in store, it would appear that, in the opinion of the man-power officers, there is no longer need to look after it. I have had occasion to approach the army authorities in respect of the release of several men. In one instance, I sought the release of a man 41 years of age to shift the apples and pears of an orchardist who has two sons in the Royal Australian Air Force in the Middle East, and a third son in a bomber squadron in England. I. asked the army officer if he realized that the Army had to be fed. He replied “ That is not my function. I am here to get an army, and how it should be fed is someone else’s responsibility “. That has been the attitude of the Army for so long that a very dangerous position has been reached in regard to the feeding of the troops.
I appeal to the Minister to take action immediately in regard to shearers and crutchers; otherwise, a large number of sheep will be destroyed by blow-fly, and many will not be shorn. In the town of Kellerberrin, during the registration of men, two young fellows who had just returned from the north, where they had been shearing for seven and a half months, handed in their papers as shearers, and were told by the man-power officer to fill in fresh forms describing themselves as labourers. Foolishly, they did so. When they are again needed for shearing, they will not be available.
I appeal to tlie’ Minister to give particular consideration to members of the Volunteer Defence Corps, who have been doing good work in their own time since the outbreak of war, some of them even prior to that event. There has been a home guard in my own town since at least eighteen months before the commencement of hostilities. Men who arc thoroughly trained should be allowed to produce the foodstuffs needed by this country and to continue their training at week-ends or at night time as they choose. Men in this category have been called up in large numbers, and some of them will have to be released if the foodstuffs needed for the feeding of the Army and the civil population are to be produced.
.- In his effort to carry into effect proposals that would enable the whole of the economic resources and man-power of the community to be mobilized for war purposes, the Minister for War Organization of Industry (Mr. Dedman) made a mistake when he appealed to the people for their co-operation. Such a mistake is excusable in a man possessing the temperament of the honorable gentleman, and his faith in the patriotism of the people. He over-estimated the patriotism of one section, which, unfortunately, was able to precipitate a minor crisis in the every-day business life of the community. After all, the purchase of clothing in the course of a normal day’s trading is a small matter compared with what the nation is doing in the course of its total war effort. Much has been said by members of the Opposition regarding the effect which the action of the Minister might have in depriving the general body of workers of the opportunity to obtain supplies of clothing for the coming winter; but the people who are able to go to the shops while the majority of their fellows are engaged for twelve hours a day upon war work, or work ancillary to the war effort, are deserving of no consideration from the Government. The person who could rush in and buy twenty pairs of shoes, or £20 or £30 worth of other clothing, is not the sort of person whom the Minister for War Organization of Industry represents. People who are stampeded into a buying orgy by a statement that rationing has become necessary are parasites, and arbitrary action must be taken to restrain them so that each member of the community may obtain a fair share of what is available.
The Government has brought down a scheme for the mobilization of the nation’s resources for a 100 per cent, war effort. The only pledge which this Government made was that it would completely mobilize the resources of the nation for the prosecution of the war, and when it assumed office it took immediate measures to honour that pledge. The Labour party was conscious of the danger which confronts Australia, and it had little faith in the ability of the previous Government to arouse the enthusiasm of people for the prosecution of the war, or even to organize them properly so that they might ward off attack and preserve Australia from domination by the enemy. Therefore, the Labour party set about to defeat the Fadden Government, and having itself come into power, resolved that, no matter who was hurt in the process, the nation’s resources should be fully mobilized. Now we are hearing squeals from some of those who have been hurt. They are coming, not only from the weak members in our own ranks, but also from those privileged persons who, up till now, have regarded this world as merely a playground for the fortunate persons who, by one method or another, have come to own the means of production, distribution, and exchange. The Labour Government, of which the Minister for War Organization of Industry is such an effective member, has brought Australia to such a condition that we have good hope that, even with our small resources in man-power and materials, we shall be able to perform the task that lies before us.
One of the Government’s economic proposals is the pegging of man-power, and is designed to turn our available labour resources into those channels where it will be most effective in the prosecution of the war, having regard always to the needs of the fighting services. No one can cavil at such a proposal. We have a limited population, and are confronted by an enemy ten times .our number. It is not enough to strike an average of work units per man, and require each worker to attain that output. It is a physical impossibility for 7,000,000 people, who make only an average effort, to tip the scales against an enemy with a population of 70,000,000 people. From each individual we must obtain more than the average, and that can be achieved only by the co-operation and goodwill of every member of the community. If the Minister had enforced an arbitrary rule to compel people to obey the instructions of the Government, that co-operation and goodwill would have been withheld. The spirit embodied in the lines -
Theirs not to make reply,
Theirs not to reason why is not acceptable to many people. They are prepared tosubmit to inconvenience only when they know the reason for it. Therefore, the Minister set out to educate the general public and, in spite of insidious press propaganda, the general community is willingly co-operating to make the scheme a success. One member of the Opposition declared that rural industries have been disorganized by the indiscriminate withdrawal of labour. Farmers have complained to me about this chaos, but they assured me, “If it is required to win the war, take my farm as well as my employees “. People are reasonable enough when they are told why the Government expects them to do certain things. The honorable member for Kalgoorlie (Mr. Johnson) explained to representatives of the gold-mining industry that they must provide manpower for the war effort, whatever the sacrifice. When the industry understood the situation, it cheerfully complied with the request of the Government. Throughout the Commonwealth, small business men are willingly co-operating. Barbers, grocers and many others, if unfit for service in the fighting forces, have found employment in munitions factories. If the Government explains to the general public its reasons for the pegging of wages, prices and profits, the mistakes which the people, and not the Minister, made during the week-end following the announcement of the proposal to ration clothing will be avoided in future. They will profit by past mistakes when further plans are implemented for the war organization of industry.
.- A few days ago, I made some remarks about the Department of the Army, the Department of Labour and National Service, and the Department of War Organization of Industry. I described the Department of War Organization of Industry as a department that “ organized nothing and disorganized everything “. The Minister did not agree with that succinct description, but then, no good Minister would agree with such scathing criticism of his department. The events of the last few days have satisfied me that, consciously or unconsciously, I had donned the mantle of the prophet. What happened during the week-end shows that there is a good deal in my statement that this department is disorganizing industry.
– The honorable member must have obtained that mantle before the rush began.
– What happened on Saturday was a gross reflection upon the people who participated in the rush, and I assure the honorable member for Fawkner (Mr. Holt) that neither I nor any member of my family took part in it. We have no desire to augment our frugal stocks at the expense of anybody else. We shall accept what we shall get in common with every other member of the community.
It is useless for the Government to appeal to the patriotism of the people in matters of food and clothing, because, rightly or wrongly, the great majority have conceived the idea that some persons are having a very good time out of the war situation, and are making big profits. They believe that for a fortunate few there are opportunities to secure even greater wealth than before the outbreak of war. All governments have failed to compel those who have the good things of life to share in the real sacrifice which the majority of the people are making, and that is the root cause of the distrust of all government announcements.
A lot of buying has occurred during the last few days in Melbourne and, presumably, in other capital cities, because Melbourne does not get all of the war contracts. Yesterday, I stated that I had no objection to the great’ majority of the people replenishing their wardrobes.
For ten years they went without many of the necessaries of life, and it is only since the outbreak of war, and following the adoption of a new financial policy which a former Treasurer, Mr. R. G. Casey, described in the words, “ The sky is the limit “ that many people have been able to obtain that which all of us would like to see as the irreducible minimum for every person. But there has been no equality of sacrifice. It is true that some sections of the working class are earning large sums, that in some war industries, in particular, overtime payments arc substantial, and that the economic condition of many workers has improved considerably. It is also true that the great majority of workers still receive approximately the basic wage. Before the war, a considerable section subsisted upon an income which was substantially less than the basic wage. If altered circumstances have given to many people the opportunity to acquire a few clothes. boots and other goods, such as blankets, of which many did not have a sufficiency, I can see no cause for complaint, and I refuse to join in condemnation of them for their prodigal expenditure of money. If thi position has been as bad as the Government believes for months past, it should have acted months ago and not waited until now. If it could wait for three months it could wait for another three, four or five weeks until the Government Printer has delivered the ration coupons and until the various committees have been set up to supervise rationing.
– The honorable member knows that there is a waa: in the Pacific?
– Yes, but what has happened in the Pacific should not be used to cause panic in the general community. I was offered the very doubtful honour of membership of a rationing committee. It was even suggested that my distinguished colleague, the honorable member for Dalley (Mr. Rosevear), might like to bring to bear his talents upon this subject. The honorable member for Dalley and I did not regard the honour as being very great and did not desire to be associated with the administration of a policy in the formulation of which we had had no say. In any case, I should rather not be a member of any rationing committee, because, for one thing, I am not convinced that wholesale rationing is necessary or that the methods that are being or are to be applied are right. I am certain that the fathers and mothers of big families, or what are called big families, for three or four children are, unfortunately, in the view of most people, a big family, will get very little when the coupons are eventually issued. In the Melbourne Herald last night five columns were devoted to a description of scenes in city stores ‘because of rationing. There were also references to what was happening in Sydney, where one store was said to have closed at 9.10 a.m., and another at 9.30; a third had decided to close down until the Government had made up its mind as to what it wanted to do about rationing. If the present position be allowed to continue for the next three weeks, there will be absolute chaos. I mention three weeks because- it is said in the press that rationing by coupons will come into force about three weeks hence. I do not know who are to be the rationers, but I have little faith in that class of person. If they make as large a success with rationing clothes as they have with rationing petrol, cigarettes and liquor, there will be few people left with faith in Parliament or democracy. We are creating a lot of philosophical anarchists - people who believe there is no good in authority at all and that all that Parliament has succeeded in doing is to make their position worse. It is true that there is a war in the Pacific, but the Minister’s observations were so hackneyed in the mouths of the man-power and national service officers and area officers and all sorts of hirelings, upwards and downwards, between executive heads and messenger boys, that it is .really an insult to one’s intelligence to be asked the question. The Minister for War Organization of Industry has had difficulties. He had to assemble quickly a large staff. He has the assistance of some capable officers of the Public Service, but, like his colleague, the Minister for Labour and National Service, he has had wished on to him a number of people of whom he would be well advised to rid himself as quickly as possible, because they will not only prove an embarrassment to him and his colleagues, but also jeopardize the success of whatever plans have been devised. I have seen some of the officers who administer the Department of War Organization of Industry. In addition to the few competent officials there are octogenarians, septuagenarians, broken-down car salesmen, who lived by their wits before the war broke out, and second-rate suburban solicitors, who could not even earn a respectable living before the war. Now, these persons, “ drest in a little brief authority”, are quite important in their own estimation. Some of them, somehow or other, have acquired military titles. In Melbourne, one major and two captains are associated with the Department of Labour and National Service, and they use their titles; at least they did until I brought the matter to the notice of the Minister. One of them, a gentleman who calls himself Major Mander, issued instructions to the man-power officers, who were given complete authority to call up men for service and to decide whether the industries with which they were associated were essential or non-essential, and generally to dispose of people’s lives and fortunes as if they really did not count. This Major Mander instructed his manpower officers that they were to become increasingly harsh in their treatment of applications for exemption. They were not to be fair, impartial or reasonable.
– There arc many of his type about,
– Yes, and they are, unfortunately, on the Government’s payroll. They ought to be off it. It would be better if a lot of those people, and some magistrates who hear applications for exemption, were in the Army rather than those whom they are trying to push into it. All honorable members know of families with several sons serving overseas, and the remaining son told to get into the Army. This is done without any regard to equity or humanity.
– That is only because no instruction has been issued by the Government.
– I believe that there is truth in what the honorable member says, but it is equally true that, because of some of the instructions of the kind
I complain of, we have reached a sorry state in the affairs of executive government.
– The place is full of them.
– The Minister for Labour and National Service did not know that the instructions had been issued and acted upon until they were brought to his notice at least five weeks after they had become operative. We have reached a state of affairs that can well be described as deplorable.
– Give the Minister a chance; he is busy producing peace in the coal industry.
– I shall compliment the honorable gentleman if he dispenses with the services of Major Mander and a few other gentlemen of his class, and if there be people in the coal-mining industry who are disturbing the peace in that industry, I shall be glad if the Minister for Labour and National Service will clear them out also. The Minister for War Organization of Industry (Mr. Dedman) was asked yesterday whether he had consulted Mr. Norman Myer on the clothes rationing question. The honorable gentleman did not reply. I had hoped that he did not consult Mr. Norman Myer, but I now have reason to believe that that gentleman was one of the Minister’s advisers. Mr. Norman Myer gave the honorable gentleman bad advice, and it was partly on that bad advice that the Minister acted. Mr. Myer is a very slick gentleman who succeeded to the managing-directorship of Myer Emporium Limited, Melbourne and Adelaide. I understand that whereas the normal stock in Myer Emporium Limited would he valued at approximately £1,000,000, by a system of forward buying the stock was accumulated to approximately £2,000,000. The bankers who had loaned anything up to £500,000 on overdraft to finance the over-stocking, began to press Myer Emporium Limited for a reduction of the debt. At that stage, many things which previously were not available in the store were thrown on to the sale tables and the emporium acquired a considerable amount of business from other stores by means of continual sales. At a certain stage Mr. Norman Myer made representations to the Minister - whether he was invited to interview the honorable gentleman or whether he came without invitation I do not know, but he got there - and he misrepresented the clothing position entirely to the Minister. The 25 per cent, reduction of sales recently ordered, based on sales in the corresponding week of last year, was applied in the case of Myer Emporium Limited on inflated stocks. Buyers went around Australia purchasing whatever goods were available, to be held in warehouses and to be brought out for sale when top prices were obtainable. Thanks to the recent action of the Government in the introduction of the clothes rationing scheme, the Myer Emporium Limited is in a position to secure a tremendous advantage over its rivals. The emporium was declared by the pricefixing authority because it robbed the people of Melbourne of nearly £250,000 by over-charging. Mr. Norman Myer was given time in which to pay back that money and. it was agreed that retail prices should be reduced so that the total sum would be repaid over a. two-year period. That shrewd gentleman, however, proposes to reduce his prices to a level that will enable him to pay back the £250,000 in twelve months. What he will give back by way of reduced prices docs not involve the emporium in any losses, and it has placed the emporium in a position in which it can dislocate the whole retail clothing trade in Melbourne, if not in Australia. The Myer Emporium Limited is under-selling others and is succeeding because the rationing proposals which are now brought forward have entrenched the store in an almost impregnable position.
Sitting suspended from 6.15 to S p.m..
– I was relating the story of Mr. Norman Myer, and his unfortunate, malign influence upon the decisions of this Government because the Minister had accepted his counsel. His firm was listed for having made a profit of approximately £250,000 in excess of what it was entitled to make. At one time, Mr. Norman Myer was a member of the Board of Business Administration and, as such, gave to the Government - strangely enough - a lot of presumably good advice as to how other persons might be prevented from profiteering. He was not dismissed from the board, but was told that his services were no longer required and was permitted to resign from his office. I understand that he received a letter of thanks for his past services. The fact that his services had been dispensed with, and that he offended so grossly against the public interest, should prevent his being consulted by any Minister on any matter of Government policy at any time, either now or in the future. Anything that he does is in the interests of Norman Myer, not in the interests of this nation. If he is to be judged by his conduct up to date, whatever else he may be he is not a very good Australian. I regret that he had any influence on the mind of the Minister in connexion with rationing.
Reference was made by the honorable member for Swan (Mr. Marwick) to the deliberate misleading of two shearers by a man-power officer, in that he had advised them to register as labourers, in consequence of which the farming community in the electorate of the honorable member is suffering. That is but one instance of many that could be cited, of the actions of persons occupying similar positions. I have it on the authority of a fellow-member of the Victorian central executive of the Australian Labour party, Daniel Bowman by name, that in the western district of Victoria, the man-power officer called up all the available manpower without any regard to the interests of the farming community or to the availability of food supplies for the metropolitan area of Melbourne; or, for that matter, the needs of our fighting forces. When Mr. Bowman and the Warrnambool Council waited on this officer, his reply to them was characteristic of that of his class, who are abusing their authority to-day. He said that the women could dig the potatoes and bag the onions. At the very time when crops are waiting to be dug for transport to the city, the citizens of Melbourne are threatened with a ration of 1 lb. of potatoes a week. That certainly is a press statement; but the majority of the population expects such a happening. At the very time when there is not sufficient man-power in the country districts to harvest crops and to provide the labour that is necessary for the needs of our primary industries, the State of Tasmania has had a potato season that has never been excelled. I am given to understand, on the authority of an honorable member from Tasmania, that 60,000 bags of potatoes are being shipped to the mainland from that State each week. Instead of a planned, organized effort, there is nothing but chaos and disorganization everywhere; and the position is becoming worse. The Minister for Commerce (Mr. Scully) is concerned about the supplies of beef and pig meat to the American soldiers, particularly because, for some reason or other, they have never acquired a taste for and do not like either mutton or lamb. It is a responsibility of the Commonwealth Government to see that they are provided with an adequate supply of food. At the moment, the Minister is doing his utmost to secure the raising of larger litters of pigs in various parts of Australia, to -which end he has made concessions by way of a reduction of the price of wheat by 9d. a bushel and a guarantee on behalf of the Government to purchase any surplus production of pig meats. All the good intentions of the Government will be thwarted, however, unless sufficient man-power be made available to enable the necessary work to be done. The Minister has won the approbation of the pig-breeding industry because of his handling of this matter, and I am given to understand by those who know that he is regarded a-s the first Minister who has given sympathetic consideration to the requests of this industry. The latest regulation - issued, I understand, by somebody who probably knows nothing about the wool industry, and as much about the shearing of sheep - ordains that shearing in the western district of Victoria shall take place some time in December. A wool man who i3 a member of this Parliament told me that story only last evening. How anybody expects sheep to carry their wool until the middle of summer before being shorn, because of some regulation issued by the Department of War Organization of Industry, baffles comprehension.
– Even if the sheep did carry the fleece, it would be full of seed.
– Of course it would ; it would be so filthy and unusable that the wool industry would suffer a tremendous loss, merely because of stupid intervention by a government department which is trying to regulate the supply of shearers from Cape York to Cape Howe.
Within the last hour or so, I have had a telephone conversation with a member of my household in Melbourne. I understand that the rush ‘on the departmental stores has continued to-day with the same determination, and in the same atmosphere of panic, as have characterized the whole of the proceedings since Saturday last. The rush was very bad yesterday. It is just as bad to-day, and there will be no improvement during the next three weeks. I am told that the trouble is partially due to the fact that stocks of Australian materials which were available twelve months ago, have now been either frozen or their sale so seriously restricted that in respect of many lines the public is dependent upon imported articles which sell at an enhanced profit. With the same amount of money, the quantity that can be purchased is less than it was twelve months ago. That is a most unfortunate state of affairs. But the needs of the people must be satisfied, particularly those of big families. Although the restriction is to the value of sales in the corresponding week of la3t year, the quantity that can be purchased is much less because of the difference of price. The unfortunate people are struggling to secure what they believe to be left of the wreck, and are being compelled to approach moneylenders in order to obtain temporary accommodation to enable them to satisfy their requirements before it is too late.
– Make the story as bad as possible.
– Unlike the honorable member for Wentworth, I do not colour my stories, and have no desire to prejudice the situation. “ I am in the place where I am demanded by conscience to speak the truth, and therefore the truth I speak, impugn it whoso list.” That is the motto of the Melbourne Argus. Seeing that that journal no longer has any use for it, I shall adopt it, even at the risk of being successfully charged with theft.
The Government has regulated the business of hire purchase and cash orders. Unfortunately, regulations have not yet been issued to govern the business - if it may be so called - of money lending. There would be only one good money lenders act, in my opinion, and that is one which knocked money lending out of existence completely. Usury was condemned in Biblical days, and I can see no reason why, two thousand years after the establishment of Christianity, we should continue to condone the payment of interest on money that is lent. At all events, the Commonwealth Parliament has not done anything to regulate money lending. Some of the States have relatively good money lenders acts, whilst in others the legislation is not worth very much. I impress upon the Treasurer (Mr. Chifley) that it is vitally necessary that a regulation be gazetted immediately to restrain these harpies, who always prey on the necessities of the people and doubtless are taking full advantage of the opportunities afforded to them at this particular moment. However, the real way to cure the present rush is for the Minister to say “You can have all the clothes you want, until rationing is instituted three weeks hence. The Government is sure that there will be enough stocks for all “. I believe that it is not too late to do that. If it be not done, if the existing position be allowed to continue, even more extraordinary scenes than those so far witnessed will take place before the next three weeks have passed. I well remember that a few years ago a run on the Commonwealth Bank was attempted, following the collapse of the Savings Bank of New South Wales.
– Brought about by Jack Lang.
– Brought about by the political antagonists of the then Premier of that State. The honorable member for Wentworth knows full well that the closing of the Savings Bank of New South Wales was the result of propaganda instigated by those who wanted to destroy the State government of the day. There was another move against the Commonwealth Bank. I well remember listening to a broadcast by Sir Robert Gibson, the then chairman of the Commonwealth Bank board, in which he invited any person who had any doubts as to the solvency of that institution to go along on the following day and ask for the payment of his account in full. He said “ So long as people continue to come, we shall print note3 with which to pay them. We invite anybody who has any doubt to take all his money out of the Commonwealth Bank”. That speech stopped the anticipated rush, and restored complete confidence in the solvency of the Commonwealth Bank. Some similar measure is necessary if the Government is to stop the present buying rush, which otherwise will not abate one iota within the next three weeks.
I was in an inquisitive mood while the honorable member for Robertson (Mr. Spooner) was speaking. I do not disagree with a lot of his contentions and some of his answers to my questions. I certainly agree that, as a result of the plans now being formulated, preparatory to being promulgated, small businesses will be entirely smashed. The only beneficiaries of the projected planned scheme will be the big industries. The honorable member said that it was unfair to term these industries “ monopolies “. I am not at all squeamish in that regard. I call them “monopolies”. If I cannot do so, I call them “combines”; and if I cannot call them “ combines I call them “ trusts “. At any rate, they are the big industries, that are dominated by accumulated capital, and generally are run not by the shareholders but by highlypaid executive officers. Those who own shares, and do so well out of them, contribute nothing in thought or anything else to the success of the undertakings. As a result of the actions of this Labour government, it is possible that many small industries will be ruined, and more grist will be brought to the mill of the big undertakings. [Extension of time granted.’]
I disagree with the honorable member for Robertson (Mr. Spooner), who advocated heavier taxation of those on the lower incomes. The workers receive only just about enough to live on, and I see no reason why heavier burdens should be placed upon them. In any case, it is unfair to make a comparison between the amount of income tax paid by those receiving large incomes and those receiving smaller ones, and then to suggest that their relative contributions to the revenue can be judged in that way. The burden of indirect taxation, such as sales tax, excise duties, and other abominations of the kind which this House loves so well, falls much more heavily on those in receipt of small incomes than on those who are better off. Yesterday, this House passed amendments to the Sales Tax Act in three minutes without any opposition from honorable members on either side of the House. If we add together all the taxation, both direct and indirect, paid by those on small incomes, it will be found that such persons contribute more to the revenue of the country than is generally supposed.
– It is a Labour government that is doing the things of which the honorable member complains.
– It is merely following the bad example set by the government in which the honorable member for Wentworth (Mr. Harrison) was a distinguished ornament. The policy of the Labour party provides for the progressive reduction of sales tax, but, unfortunately, we have become used to this form of taxation, which appears to be painless. It is, in fact, a dishonest method, and its ill effects are not immediately understood. It will probably be some years before we can persuade Parliament that the sales tax ought to be abolished.
The honorable member for Robertson referred to the appointment of Mr, Ifould, and this leads me to say something about these estimable citizens who have recently been appointed to government positions. We were told that Mr. Ifould had valuable contacts. He used to be chief librarian at the Mitchell Library. I do not know whether his contacts were with people who read books there, but I know that he went to the Trades Hall in Sydney and said that he knew nothing about the industrial Labour movement. He was, I believe, visiting that institution for the first time. Instead of appointing men of that kind, no matter how estimable they may be as citizens - and I cast no reflections on Mr. Ifould., because he certainly served the State well in one capacity - the Government would be better advised to consult with representatives of the trade unions, and allow them to have some say in the making of appointments. It is unfortunate that some of those who have been appointed, such as Mr. Ifould and Mr. Belmore, arenon persona grata with the Labour movement.
– And like Mr. Theodore, for instance.
- Mr. Theodore is the only recent appointee of the Labour Government who has served the Labour movement with distinction. I pay a tribute to his outstanding ability. One could look through the membership of both Houses of this Parliament over the last ten years without finding another man who possessed such genius as Mr. Theodore, or who would be better fitted to assist the country in this time of crisis. My great regret is that his services are not available to the country in this Parliament at the present time. To those who object to the appointment of Mr. Theodore, I say that he is worth a whole paddock full of them - to use a good Country party expression.
Australia’s great problem to-day is shortage of man-power and woman-power to supply the needs of the fighting services, the munitions industry, and essential civil occupations. We have set ourselves a prodigious task. When I was in Adelaide some time ago with the Joint Committee on Broadcasting, members of the committee, when the hearing of evidence was completed about 5 o’clock in the afternoon, used to visit munitions factories in order to learn as much as they could of Australia’s war effort. In one factory we saw nineteen women working turret lathes, and later we saw twenty women working lathes of another type. Strangely enough, the women were working the lathes while men were doing the heavy work bringing up the 25-lb. shell cases to them. No doubt, we shall have to make still greater efforts in the future, but we must try to ease the burden on the people as much as possible. Men and women employed in retail shops in the capital cities find that, after a few hour’s trading, there is nothing more to be done for the day. One shop in a Melbourne suburb, which is probably typical of many others, sold out its entire weekly quota in an hour, and then closed down for the rest of the week. If that continues, the employees will soon be out of a job and then, if they are unable to find other employment immediately, they will become candidates for the dole. It will be an extraordinary commentary on our capacity to govern, if we are unable to transfer people from one industry to another without subjecting them to the ignominy of having to take the dole. Surely we saw enough of that during the depression, when the economic development of the country was thrown back for perhaps twenty years. Many of the shop assistants, who are good unionists, are embittered when they contemplate the future which they see opening to them. If they are to be transferred to other industries, it should be done in a rational way. It should not be done by smashing the industries in which they are employed, and throwing the workers out on the streets to fend for themselves. I said by way of interjection a little while ago that the trouble with Australia was that there were too many economists advising the Government. I have no faith in economists. They are the alleged professors of what is called “ the dismal science “. The only thing true about that is the adjective. It is dismal, but it is not a science. There is nothing scientific about destroying other people’s businesses. During the years before the war, all sorts of experiments were practised on the people as if they were so many white mice in a laboratory. Professors of economics were trying by role-of -thumb methods to find ways out of impasses created by the defects of our banking system.
The Government should take warning from the rising tide of criticism, particularly from representatives of the Labour movement, of its mishandling of the rationing of food and clothing, the taking of man-power from essential industries such ,as farming, ‘and the general disregard evinced by the administrative bureaucracy of the interests of the people, who are just as anxious to win the war as is any member of the Government or any highly paid government official. There is a touch of hysteria about many of the things being done at the present time. I repeat what I have often said - I represent what is probably one of the poorest electorates in Australia. My 0 011stituents are likely to suffer most from the mistakes of the Government. Therefore, I protest against action which would deprive basic wage-earners of the necessaries of life, or of an opportunity to earn a little more than has been possible up to the present.
.- This debate provides honorable members with an opportunity to discuss the operations of the Department of War Organization of Industry. The name of the department suggests its importance, its potentialities and the consequences of its activities. But as the organization is full of potentialities, its decisions can be fraught, in the same degree, with hazards for the industrial community. We hear sonorous words like “ rationalization “, “ co-ordination “, “ non-essential “ and “ overlapping “. All those concepts have an attractive ring in the ears of the zealous administrator, and he may be pardoned if he occasionally forgets that he is dealing with human beings, and attempts to push his fellow citizens around as if they were robots. The concept of the economic man is one which doctrinaire Ministers have held, in the past, only to find that when their theories were given practical effect, the economic man reacted in a different and more arbitrary way from that which they fondly imagined when they outlined their theories in print. Therefore, I hope that the Minister will profit from the painful results, already apparent, of tlie work of the department, and will curb overzealousness when it is likely to have the effect of treating the citizens of the Commonwealth as something other than very tough and vocal human beings.
The object of the organization is to provide the men and materials that are required for the war effort. As the process was already developed to a considerable degree before this organization was established, it was clear that the additional men and materials could be secured only from the pool that had been retained by private industry. Private industry has not been prone to keep for itself more man-power or material requirements than were necessary to maintain it in a condition of economic prosperity. Therefore, departmental interference with the operation of private industry must cause a measure of dislocation and actual hardship. That has been one of the inevitable consequences of the work of the department. The point that I desire to make at this stage is that there must be a rational assessment of the capacity of the country and all the risks which it is proposed to cover, because Australia, with a vast territory and a small population, cannot hope to do all the things that a country of the size and with the natural resources and man-power of the United States of America can achieve. If we examine the ambitious objective that Australia has undertaken in this war, it is clear from the evidence of our daily experience that we have strained our resources, in many instances, virtually to breaking point. Therefore, the Government must examine the problem of how to allocate for various war requirements, the. resources which are available to it.
The Government has obviously been aware of the importance of this matter, because it appointed the Minister as chairman of the Production Executive. One of the first matters that he should investigate is the tremendous inroads which the recent alteration of army policy is making into the man-power resources of the country. I mentioned earlier that we cannot hope to cover every possible risk. If we create a vast army which will insure us beyond all peradventure against invasion, other fields of activity must suffer. In my view, the present policy of attempting to build up an enormous home army i? wasteful. Certainly, there is a risk to be met; hut I contend that we can safeguard against it by a better disposition of man-power, and a greater concentration on aerial and naval strength, and on the creation of a more mobile, fullyequipped and mechanized home army. Every section of industry, almost without exception - I exclude “ protected “ undertakings - has been deprived to the bare bone of the man-power available to it. In this country, about 1,500,000 men are between the ages of eighteen and 45 years. We have embarked upon a grandiose munitions programme, built up a strong air force and expanded our navy beyond all recognition. In addition, we have undertaken the task of supplying the needs, in terms of foodstuffs, of allied forces in Australia, and we shall continue to send to Great Britain and troops quartered in the Middle East large quantities pf provisions. Consequently, we must have a proper scientific and reasoned investigation of the disposition of our man-power. Private industries have reached the stage where they must replace employees of military age with older men. The Government wishes them to continue their operations, but the officers of the Department of Labour and National Service, when asked whether older men are available to fill the vacancies, must perforce reply that none can be found. It is fundamental to the work of the department that it should survey whether the present allocation of man-power is wasteful Or is securing the best results for the Commonwealth as a whole.
Another instance of the necessity for this analysis of the degree of risk is to be seen in some of the large cities in the southern States in the provision of airraid shelters, and the boarding up of shop windows. These activities engage a host of carpenters who are urgently required elsewhere, and are using up many thousands of feet of valuable timber which is needed for other essential work. Unquestionably there is a danger which must be faced, but can it be claimed, on a proper assessment of all the risks that confront the community that this work is not a wasteful use of men and materials.
I come now to a very cogent and relevant point. What is the department to organize? To get the best results for the country, it must so organize industry as to divert men, women and materials from those places where they are least required to places where they are urgently needed. If that is to be done effectively, we must make a beginning on the groups which can provide not mere handfuls but vast numbers of people. The department must concentrate, first, on those sections of industry which are least essential and which can release large numbers of men and women. By way of illustration, I snail mention an example which has occurred during the last few days of the stupidity that sometimes characterizes the actions of the department. There is, in the precincts of the House, a solitary barber who attends to the tonsorial needs of 100 members of Parliament, and unnamed and uncountable hordes of public officers, who dart out from time to time from the warren that is Parliament House. This tradesman is to be called up for military service. It is not suggested that another barber will be made available in his place. Therefore, we may assume that there will be that interference with the morale of honorable members and public officers which will result from unattended locks, or from the unsightly beards which some bald-headed members would have to develop. Ministers of the Crown, who are extremely busy, will be obliged to use official motor cars, which consume valuable petrol, for the purpose of visiting the distant shopping centres of Canberra in order to have their hair cut. Private members will be obliged to devote more time in the capital cities for the same purpose.
– That statement is absurd, when applied to honorable members who travel to their homes every week-end.
– My contention, which apparently has not penetrated what one would regard as the accessible skull of the honorable member for Bass (Mr. Barnard), is that the service has to be given somewhere. Where could it be given more conveniently and with less waste of time than in this building? I agree that my illustration represents an absurd extreme, but it will assist honorable members to appreciate the confusion and dislocation which is taking place in industry to-day.
The department must weigh very carefully whether the apparent saving made either in man-power or in raw materials is not offset by inconvenience and dislocation. When- the Minister gives full effect to his plans, he should look for those sources from which large numbers of people can be drawn, without fiddling around with sections of industry where great dislocation would yield only a small number of men. As a further instance, I read recently of a proposal in New South Wales to limit the amount of laundering that may be undertaken. Washing is the only operation that will be done. One of the best arguments for rationalization is provided by the organization of the domestic services of the community, for the purpose of saving the time of individuals. In these times, it is not simply a case of people sending clothes to the laundry in order to spare themselves in* convenience. They are preoccupied with war work, or some useful public work. Very few idlers are to be found in the community at present. The proposal to reduce the services performed by laundries will release a handful of female labour, but will involve thousands of householders in unnecessary inconvenience and waste of time. If the department proceeds along those lines, it will only irritate and upset the community without securing for the war effort the results that it intended. Announcements of policy ought to be made by the Minister himself, and not by heads of departmental sections, who are frequently inclined to air their own views before they have been even considered by the Minister, let alone approved. One now reads in the press that, if certain plans submitted to the Minister be adopted, certain events will follow. The community needs to be told what is required of it, but that method of telling it creates suspicion and uneasiness. An unco-operative spirit develops in the industrial community because it is not aware precisely of what is required. Far more discretion than apparently is now allowed should be given to those who are to apply policy. Discretion ought to have been applied in the following two cases which have come to my notic’e. Jewellery ig not essential in war-time, but a 50-year-old veteran of the last war, not in generally good health and certainly not equipped to do an active job in other directions or to serve in the fighting forces, had a small jewellery manufacturing business. The only other male in the business was a cripple, useless for any form of war service. Yet, this small business which had been developed by the toil of the proprietor, had to shut down because of the general policy. Another returned soldier manufactured cake ornaments and artificial flowers - again not essential. Starting work at 7 a.m. each day for twenty years the proprietor and his wife developed their enterprise to the stage where it was employing 100 hands and flourishing. He was given ten days in which to close down, and was not allowed to complete even orders which were in hand or to use raw materials useless for any other purpose. The exercise of discretion and humanity in both cases would have eased the position of each, avoided bitterness, and in no way interfered with the war effort.
I join with the honorable member for Melbourne (Mr. Calwell) in saying that men suddenly given great authority should regard those with whose destinies they have to deal as fellow Australians and human beings, who have rights to be preserved and feelings which can be considered. The Minister should consult and use the services of the organized bodies of employers and employees in industry when he has to put his plans into effect. I know that it is his general practice to consult, in the first place, organized bodies when he has decided on a policy, but it is a question not so much of prior consultation as of making use of these bodies to administer the plans after they have been adopted. It may happen in some cases that sections of industry will play a selfish role and try to keep more men and a larger share of business than perhaps war conditions would justify, but as a rule he would find that his fellow citizens in positions of responsibility and authority would play the game by him and the country. That would save him the task of developing an enormous bureaucracy and would at the same time achieve far better results. Again with the honorable member for Melbourne, I express the fear held generally in the community that the Minister’s officers .may be more successful in displacing people from what may be termed non-essential industries than in absorbing displaced people in useful war work. The feeling is rife that there should he ample opportunity for absorption at the same rate as displacement from industry. The work of the department is impeded and weakened, too, by the general suspicion that the Government as a whole is using the opportunity presented to it by the conditions of war and its occupancy of the treasury bench to put into effect parts of its traditional peace-time policy of “ socialism in our time “. The Department of War Organization of Industry comes under more suspicion than other departments because of the very nature of its activities.
– And because of the Minister administering it.
– Yes, it is unfortunate that some of the Minister’s utterances here and elsewhere have lent certain colour to that belief. Unless the industrial community is convinced that the action which is being taken is designed solely and deliberately to give a stronger and more successful war “effort, the Minister will not do away with the current suspicion and achieve the co-operation which is needed from industry if this re-organization process is to be carried through in full measure. I have mentioned the “need for minimum interference by the department in- industrial activities. I doubt whether any Minister of the present Government has had experience as a proprietor, or as a principal executive in handling a going concern. For that reason, there is not sufficient appreciation of the delicate nature of a business or trading concern. The establishment and development of businesses may occupy a life-time or several life-times of work but they are easy to destroy, so I repeat that, rather than fiddle with industries in order to secure handsful of men from certain directions, it would be better to concentrate on a few sections of industry. The rationalization of transport is an illustration of how great saving of man-power can be made without vital interferences with the businesses affected.
We understood that the Department of Labour and National Service and the Department of War Organization of Industry would have complete authority over the man-power resources of the country. At any rate, the objective of the previous government was that once it had laid down general lines of policy both departments would be the arbiters as regards man-power between the conflicting claims of the fighting forces, the munitions industry, and private industry generally. Whether that represents the policy of this Government I am unable to say, but it would appear that these departments are far from having authority which, on any proper view, should be theirs if a fair and sensible disposition of our resources is to take place. We have read of man-power officers being overruled by the army authorities. The position must be clarified by the Government. It is essential that there should be some final authority to say where men should go. The Government should back those departments with the full force of its authority in order to ensure that effect will be given to its decisions. The fighting forces have their own problems to meet and intend to meet them as fully as they can; obviously, therefore, if that authority is not given, other sections of the community will bo starved of man-power while an unwieldy and enormous military machine is built. Obviously the Department of War Organization of Industry must tread warily. We have not seen enough of its work to speak in great detail about the results it has achieved. We have seen, unfortunately, some of the consequences of the doctrinaire efforts of zealous amateurs in the rationing proposals which have already been given some preliminary effect. The department has potentialities for great good, but could destroy for many years valuable industrial elements in the community to which we look for the absorption after the war of the men who will be released from the various ‘phases of war work.
Mr. MORGAN (Reid) [8.53 1. - I realize that the Minister for War Organization of Industry (Mr. Dedman) has a difficult and unenviable task, and I do not wish to make it any more difficult. I ako appreciate the fact that he has undertaken that task with courage and sincerity and that he cannot please every body in the work he is carrying out. If he tries to do so, it will be another case of the man, the boy and the donkey ending in the ditch. In fact, he will find it extremely difficult to keep out of the ditch even now. At the same time, there are a few aspects that have come under my notice on which I wish to comment. I trust that the Minister will accept the advice of other honorable members in regard to the selection of his advisers. Obviously in the vast task that he has to perform he has to rely a good deal on the advice and assistance of others. I trust that he will be particularly careful to satisfy himself, not only in regard to the competence and experience of his advisers, but also as to what interests they are connected with, so that he will not be misled into a repetition of the incident which was brought to the notice of the House by the honorable member for Dalley (Mr. Rosevear). He should consult people experienced in industry and in the trade union movement. Zoning has been instituted by the Minister, and in certain respects it might be advantageous. Much depends on the way iu which zoning is introduced and administered. Reference was made in the press recently to many homes being without milk during a change-over to a zoning system in Sydney -
Many suburban families received no milk at all to-day, when the new block system of delivery was introduced in areas embracing 75,000 homes. Thousands of other homes got their milk hours later than formerly, and in some areas milkmen were still trying to complete their rounds as late as 10.30 a.m.
Milk zoning and the rationing of clothing have had a common effect - both have caused much confusion. The Minister for War Organization of Industry must carefully administer the zoning system to see that it does not get into the hands of a few monopolistic concerns. I trust that local government organizations, which have the facilities and staff available, will be considered in conjunction with any zoning scheme that is introduced. If that were done it would tend to give consumers some say in the matter, inasmuch as they would appoint the aldermen or councillors who, in turn, would be the local governing body in charge of rationing services. Abuses, discourtesy and inefficiency sometimes creep into schemes of this description, and if the local governing authorities were in control, the consumers, at the ballot-box, would be able to obtain some measure of redress. Zoning authorities who did not give proper service would be appropriately dealt with. We have been told that maximum and minimum prices would be fixed for different commodities. Unfortunately, the maximum price fixed for bread has become the minimum. The fixation of prices, if properly carried out, would tend, in conjunction with zoning, to a more economical service being given, which should result in the supply of cheaper articles to the consumer.
The major bottleneck in our war industry has been the tendency to concentrate war production in the hands of certain large concerns. Had it not been for that tendency, I venture to say that our war effort would have been much farther ahead than it is at present. Undoubtedly, a considerable amount of good work has been done in our war industries, but the proof of the pudding is in the eating. Whore are the thousands of aeroplanes, guns and tanks that we should have provided for our fighting services?
– Articles of that description are not made in backyard factories. Mining is essential to produce such goods. What would the Government have done without the assistance of the Broken Hill Proprietary Company Limited?
– Much good work has been done by the Broken Hill Proprietary Company Limited and similar organizations. There is an unfortunate tendency, however, to set up cartels by concentrating our war industries into fewer manufacturing concerns. The right honorable member for Kooyong (Mr. Menzies), when Prime Minister, visited Great ^Britain and on his return announced a prospectus for the war effort. That prospectus has been followed in part by the Minister for War Organization of Industry. We were told that in Great Britain many of the smaller manufacturing concerns had been frozen for the duration of the war. It is safe to say that if they have been frozen for the duration, the last has been heard of them. In that country alone between 3,000 and 4,000 small concerns were placed in cold storage, and that seems to be the tendency here. Recently I referred to the electroplating industry and said that steps were being taken to concentrate 100 firms engaged in electroplating, mostly in connexion with war industry, into five large concerns. It would have meant setting up in the industry a virtual monopoly which probably would persist after the war. We all know from our experience how the cartels have brought about the present unfortunate world-wide conflict. Large concerns operating in Germany financed the Nazis into power because they realized that the people of Germany were moving towards a democratic form of government. In the same way, industrial magnates in Italy financed Mussolini in his march on Rome because it appeared to them that the people of Italy were veering towards a form of socialism. Similarly, in Japan, where a democratic form of government appeared to be developing since the end of the Great War. Under the influence of the large cartels operating in that country, the present leaders, who have linked up with the Axis and brought Japan into the war, were placed in power.
– Surely the honorable member does not believe that about Japan?
– Similar influences have been operating in almost every democratic country at present engaged in the war. Recently it was announced in the newspapers that the Gestapo’s long arm had reached into Congress in the United States of America. A Sydney newspaper published the following statement : -
The “ long arm “ of the Gestapo forced George Hill, secretary of Representative Hamilton Fish (leading Isolationist) to lie last autumn to a grand jury investigating German propaganda, Prosecutor William Maloney declared in Washington District Court to-day.
Presenting the Government’s summation at Hill’s trial on two perjury charges, the prosecutor declared -
Hill is an important cog in the most vicious and effective propaganda machine the world has ever seen. It is so diabolically clever it was able to use the Halls of Congress to spread its lies and half-truths to divide and conquer us like France and Norway.
Key Men Smashed.
The United States Treasury has ousted and barred from the premises the five leading German-born executives of the General Aniline Corporation. This corporation is the American subsidiary of the giant German dye trust I.G. Farbenindistries. An official statement says the ousted executives have “ prosonified for years Nazi domination over the company “. It adds: “Additional corrective actions will be forthcoming “.
I.G. Farbenindistries for years has not only organized Nazi economic influence throughout the world, but has carried out industrial and military espionage under cover of harmless commercial activity.
Following that article, there were disclosures during an inquiry in the United States of America in relation to the Standard Oil Company. I quote another newspaper report -
Standard Oil and other big business corporations are again under fire.
Irving Lipkowitz, a Justice Department spokesman, alleges that Standard Oil’s own files disprove the company’s claim that its association with the German I.G. Farben benefited the United States. “United States patents issued to I.G. Farben were manipulated with disconcerting frequency to hamper rather than to stimulate production in the United States “ the spokesman said.
The Justice Department told the Senate Patents Committee that the Britishdominated Dutch Shell Company co-operated with the Germans in breaking the British blockade after the outbreak of war. Shell did not break off negotiations with I.G. Farben until the day Queen Wilhelmina fled Holland.
The newspaper extracts which I have read indicate how certain influences have been operating against the democracies in other parts of the world. Similar tendencies are now in evidence in this country. I have referred previously to the Aluminium Trust which has spread its tentacles to this country. The records of the Registrar-General in Sydney show that, prior to the outbreak of the war, that concern, known as the British Aluminium Company, was linked up with I.G. Farbenindistries, Germany. After the war started, the name was altered and the shareholding interests of the German concern were deleted from the records of the company. Have those interests vanished into thin air or have arrangements been made similar to those arrived at under the cartels in other parts of the world, where, it has been shown, certain arrangements have been made in relation to the post-war position ? The disclosures in regard to the Standard Oil Company show that at the time the United States of America came into the war the Standard Oil Company was negotiating a post-war plan for trading with Japan through the Mitsui interests. Similar arrangements applied to machine tools. It was disclosed in this House re cently that zinc and lead were being shipped to Japan just prior to that country entering the war, because there was no arrangement with that country for the exchange of machine tools. Obviously a reciprocal agreement should have been made.
The influences of the major oil companies are still being felt in Australia. Some time ago the United States Government offered Australia financial assistance under the lease-lend legislation. When it appeared that steps would be taken by the authorities handling the matter on behalf of Australia to endeavour to obtain lubricating oils under the lease-lend arrangement, certain of the major oil companies went to considerable pains to stop the proposal. A representative of the oil companies visited the United States armed with credentials from the government in office at that time. He made every effort to induce the lease-lend authorities to prevent lubricating oil from being imported to Australia under the arrangement, and asked that the oils should come in through the major oil companies, and be paid for in the usual way. Where is the patriotism of the shareholders in those companies? Lubricating oil was costing Australia millions of pounds, but the major oil companies were so patriotic, and were so concerned for the interests of Australia, that they made every endeavour to prevent the oil from coming to this country under the lease-lend arrangement. They did not cease when their efforts in the United States were unsuccessful, because the companies endeavoured to use their influence through local authorities here. I am pleased to say that the present government took a definite stand, with the result that lubricating oil does come into Australia under the lease-lend agreement, despite the efforts of the major oil companies.
Many shale oil concerns and other organizations are anxious to produce synthetic petrol for the benefit of the people of the Commonwealth, but certain influences are endeavouring to prevent an extension of those operations. I have continually endeavoured to induce the Government to utilize for the extension of our war industries small factories which are at present idle in New South Wales.
– New South Wales is not the only State in which there are idle factories.
– The Joint Committee on War Expenditure received definite evidence that there are idle factories not only in New South Wales, but also in other States. The producing capacity of those factories should be utilized in furtherance of the war effort. I think it is wrong that there should be any further concentration of industries to the detriment of the small men. Instead of scrapping the so-called nonessential industries by closing them down and transferring their plant and labour to other places, it should be a simple proposition to convert many of them to war production. The majority of the proprietors are willing and anxious to do what they can, hut because war contracts were not made available to them by the previous administration, they have been closed and their machinery made available to larger concerns.
I agree with an article contributed to the Sydney Morning Herald some time ago by a Sydney engineer, Mr. Ghys. Although he is not well known to the general public, Mr. Ghys is recognized in the trade as a man of considerable knowledge and experience. On the subject of small workshops, Mr. Ghys said : -
For over two years engineers have been in close touch with the Government through their association in an effort to launch industry on to war materials. They are still waiting and romain engaged, mostly one shift in making for the most part unnecessary articles. Why this waste of potential? Do the authorities understand the capabilities of our existing workshops? There are workshops close to Sydney capable of producing complete tanks between them; engines and bodywork. There are also smaller shops capable of assisting in the same work. These shops mentioned are short of work. The authorities must get rid of the idea that a tremendous building with massive administrative offices and scores of gardeners in the grounds is required to make aeroplane manufacture possible.
The small engineer in this country has been snubbed because he is small, though in the past he has done great work. With a small market he has produced goods equal to those produced anywhere in the world. Take an article, whether an aeroplane part, car or machine of any kind, to an Australian engineer, and he will produce it to the required size, shape and strength. This is done thousands of times a week with satisfactory results. Why then are we told that we have not the equipment to make aeroplanes. EverY small engineer in Germany for many years lias been making aeroplane parts, with the result that Germany outnumbers us by far in the most vital weapon. Are our engineers less capable than the Germans? I, as one who knows both, can answer that with an emphatic “ No ! “.
A committee of small practical private engineers should bc nominated by the engineers themselves. The machine should be dismantled and the engineers asked to choose the parts which they could best make. It would be found that in a very short time these small workshops would equip themselves and produce large quantities of aeroplane parts without disorganizing their usual work.
Had that policy been carried out, our war effort would be in a more advanced state than it is. I have received no fewer than 40 letters from proprietors of different workshops in Sydney and suburbs, offering to make their establishments available to the Government in furtherance of the war effort. An agitation led to the formation of an organization of over 250 small manufacturers who were anxious to place their resources at the disposal of the government of the day. The number of employees in each of the establishments concerned ranges from 5 to 200 or 300.
I trust that, even at this late stage, the Minister will give this matter his serious consideration; that he will not allow small industries to go out of existence, but will utilize and foster them in such a way that they may become important cogs in the wheels of our war industries.
.- All of us appreciate the difficulties of the task that confronts the Minister for War Organization of Industry (Mr. Dedman). Some person has to administer this department and not every one can be an expert in the organization of industry. A Minister is not necessarily expected to be expert in the work of the department he administers. Under our system of government, the Prime Minister is limited in his selection of personnel, and has to place in appropriate positions such honorable members as he has at his disposal. It has fallen to the lot df the present occupant of that office to place in the position of Minister for War Organization of Industry the honorable member for Corio. I do not criticize that honorable gentleman on the grounds that he has not an extensive knowledge of either industry or organization. Similarly, I do not criticize the fact that the Minister for Supply and Development (Mr. Beasley), who is discharging his duties very capably, may not have had previous knowledge of the particular functions that he has to discharge. That applies also to the Minister for Munitions (Mr. Makin) and the Minister for Air (Mr. Drakeford). But I trust that Ministers approach the performance of their tasks with a receptive mind, and are capable of enlisting the aid of others and of weighing the various facts and representations placed before them. Unfortunately, many Opposition members consider that the Minister for War Organization of Industry lacks not only the necessary qualification of previous experience but also that receptivity of mind that is essential for the administration of such an important department. Judging by the criticism and lack of support of the honorable gentleman by Government members yesterday, they are of the same opinion. These observations are made in the hope that he will pay a little heed to the advice of those who are competent to offer it, and will not blunder into the commission of acts that may have not only repercussions upon the Government but also disastrous consequences to the community as a whole.
– The honorable member is very concerned for the Government.
– I am concerned for the administration of the affairs of this country in war-time, and the position in which tens of thousands of individuals have been placed during the last few days by reason of the lack of foresight displayed by the honorable gentleman. A wide experience of business, industry or organization was not needed in order to foresee the chaos that would result from his premature pronouncement in regard to restriction of the sales of clothing. At one time in the life of this Government, it was suggested that he might fill the position of Treasurer. Had that been fulfilled, and had he made a similar pronouncement in relation to finance, the rush on banking institutions would have been far greater than was the rush to purchase clothing. He would be well advised to seek the aid of men who have had long experience in industry, and are competent to direct him.
To a meeting of representatives of banking institutions on- Monday, the 2nd March, the honorable gentleman outlined a plan for the re-organization of their industry.
– In a very good speech.
– Provided that his facts were correct, and provided also that he did not distort facts. I am in a position to question the accuracy of some of them. I refer in particular to his statement in regard to the excess number of banks in certain country towns. He instanced Geelong, with a population of 40,000, which had eight trading banks and two savings banks. He contrasted that position- with the position of other country towns, one of which was Murwillumbah, in which I reside and about which I consequently have exact knowledge. He said that Murwillumbah, with a population of 4,500, had eight trading banks in addition to the Commonwealth Bank and the Commonwealth Savings Bank, or 572 persons to each institution. The honorable gentleman either was misinformed as to the position or deliberately used the figures in such a way as to support a case which otherwise could not be substantiated. Murwillumbah is the centre of an intensely settled farming district which has a population, within a radius of less than twenty miles, of 20,000 persons. Thus the eight trading banks serve not 4,580 but 20,000 persons, the majority of whom are small farmers. Nearly every one of these has an account with a trading bank, and a very large proportion is working on overdrafts. Had the Minister wished to make a correct statement of the fact3, he would have said that there was one bank for approximately every 2,000 persons, instead of for every 572 persons. That is quite a different story. I have mentioned the population in the municipality of Murwillumbah and the Tweed Shire. Those people are directly served by the banks that I have named. The Minister backed up his suggestion to the banks by a display of power, and threat. Although he has stated that he did not issue specific instructions for the closing of branches, it was well recognized that unless they took action in connexion with those places at which he “pointed the bone “, more drastic measures might be adopted by him; consequently, such branches were closed.
– That is a lie!
– I ask that that expression be withdrawn.
– I demand a withdrawal of the expression.
– Having made clear what I think of the honorable member’s statement-
– The Minister must make an unconditional withdrawal.
– I withdraw.
– I have made an absolute statement of fact. I have the Minister’s speech to the representatives of the trading banks, in which he referred to a number of towns which, according to him, were over-banked. He cited figures which I have shown are a complete distortion of the facts. The result of his speech was the closing of three banks in the town of Murwillumbah. If the Minister says that that is an incorrect statement of the facts, I should like to know in what way I may correct it.
– The honorable member has been agitating for man-power, and now that it is being provided he does not want it.
– The experience of residents of Murwillumbah has, no doubt, been repeated in many other country centres. As the result of the Minister’3 declaration and veiled threat - I know that the bankers took his statement as a threat - three banks closed down in Murwillumbah. He stated in his speech in the House that two interests would be served by a reduction of the number of banks in country centres. In the first place, man-power would be conserved, and, secondly, there would be a conservation of bank premises. As the result of the closing down of three banks in Murwillumbah, six employees were displaced, but 700 accounts had to be transferred to the remaining banks in the town, which will find it necessary to employ four more men in order to handle the extra accounts. Those banks were already short-staffed, so there was a net saving of two elderly men. There are now three vacant bank premises in the town to add to the large number of empty premises to be found in most country towns. It is well known that business has declined in country towns which have not a military camp or a munitions industry in the neighbourhood. Yet the Minister says that good use could he made of the premises vacated by banks
I also draw attention to the statement by the Minister that a thorough reconstruction of industry, dictated by the exigencies of national survival, is now in hand, and that social and political objectives have no part in it, except that unnecessary sacrifices must be avoided. We on the Opposition side of the House should be much happier if we felt convinced that social and political objectives had no part in the present efforts of the Government and of the Minister in relation to war problems, but, the discovery that the exigencies of war are frequently used as an excuse to implement social and political objectives does not produce that degree of co-operation and confidence which the Government should have at this juncture. If there be any lack of co-operation on the part of the Opposition, it is and will be because of the apparent placing of political and social objectives before the real War objectives. I am not concerned about the banks as such, but I am concerned as to what is happening to persons in country centres who for many years have been dealing with those institutions. As the result of the closing down of some of the banks, many farmers who have been good citizens, but have not been able to reduce their overdrafts, have been unable to find banks that are prepared to take over their accounts. Consequently, men who formerly did their business with the local branches of the banks situated a few miles from their holdings, have had to transfer their accounts to branches from 60 to 100 miles distant.
The Minister has told us that plans for the re-organization of industry are being pushed forward very rapidly. I trust that, during the next week or two, he will increase the speed at which he has been working.
– Does the honorable member refer to the plans for the reorganization of banking?
– I refer now to the restrictions imposed upon the sale of clothing. Despite the self-satisfaction of the Minister, I suggest that he should take a walk through the department stores, or through any clothing establishments in the capital cities or country towns on any day during the next week or two; in order to ascertain for himself the result of his policy of restriction. No man engaged in a full-time occupation has the slightest chance of purchasing any article of apparel that he may require until real rationing is put into operation. The man or woman who does not happen to be on the doorstep of a clothing store within a few minutes of the opening time has no chance of purchasing his or her requirements. Will the Minister allow those conditions to continue until rationing is in operation? Will he be content to allow tens of thousands of working people, who are engaged in all kinds of industries from about 8 a.m. until a late hour in the evening, to be deprived of an opportunity to purchase the clothing that they require, whilst members of the leisured class have the first choice of the goods available? Is such a policy equitable? The Minister is in duty bound immediately to review the consequences of his action, and take steps as rapidly as possible to repair the injury that has been done to a large number of citizens. The Minister and also the Prime Minister (Mr. Curtin) have asked for the cooperation of the Opposition. The Minister has pointed out that the trade unions have rendered valuable assistance to his organization. A clothing rationing commission has been appointed, and it was announced to-day that the chairman is the honorable member for Henty (Mr. Coles), and that the other members are the honorable member for Martin (Mr. McCall) and Senator Armstrong. Why has not provision been made for adequate representation of the workers who will be seriously affected by the rationing of wearing apparel? The only member of the commission who could be regarded as an official representative of the workers is Senator Armstrong. One would have expected that a Labour government would have insisted on the majority of the members of the commission being representatives of the workers, but two of the three members have been selected from outside the Labour party. Is the party so lacking in able men, other than those at present engaged in ministerial duties, that the Government was afraid to appoint two of its own followers to the commission, but selected two outcasts from the United Australia party? Will the Minister inform .the House of the reason which actuated him in recommending the appointment of two nonLabour members, and only one member of the Labour party to such an important commission, which should have had a preponderance of government representatives ?
– The Minister for War Organization of Industry is not in charge of rationing. He made no recommendation regarding the matter.
– I remind the Treasurer that I directed my question not only to the Minister for War Organization of Industry, but also to the Prime Minister. I am surprised to learn that the Minister for War Organization of Industry is not also in charge of rationing, because it would seem to be part and parcel of his duties; but if he is not in* charge of rationing, I can assure him that we on this side of the House feel much happier about it.
I should also like to ask the Minister for War Organization of Industry whether there is any collaboration between his department, the Department of Labour and National Service, and the Department of the Army regarding the calling-up of men employed in private industry? Does he know whether the Army can absorb, equip and train the men as rapidly as they are being called up? Would it not be better, in some instances, if the men were allowed to remain in their jobs producing something useful until the Army was in a position to use them effectively? I have reason to believe that, in the military camps, many men are standing around who, for a number of reasons, are not being trained. I should like to know whether there is proper co-ordination between the various departments, or whether each pursues its own way without reference to the others. The department carrying the imposing title of War Organization of Industry should take the initiative in bringing about the necessary coordination.
– Will the honorable member admit that the chiefs of staff, who are conducting the military operations of this country, should have some say in such matters?
– Certainly; “ but there should be collaboration between them and the Government.
– This Government takes some notice of its military advisers; it does not seek advice from bush strategists.
– From banana-farmers, for instance.
– My banana-farming began when, with no other equipment than a tent, a mattock, a brush-hook, and a few tools, I went into the bush. To have attained to my present position from that beginning is something of which I have reason to be proud.
– From log cabin to White House.
– It is a very worthy effort, but it does not qualify the honorable member to advise the Government on matters affecting military strategy.
– I do not pretend to be a military strategist, but after having noted the performances of some of our professional military strategists, I think that I, as a layman, am qualified to express an opinion regarding matters which are self-evident. I am not questioning the advice tendered to the Government by the Army authorities, but the Government is entitled to some -“pinions of its own. The Army is not familiar with the man-power problem vI industry. It cannot be expected to be acquainted with matters pertaining to production, or to know how many men should be retained on the farms, and how much butter, wheat and other foods are needed for the supply of the services and the civil population. It is the duty of the Government, which ought to possess that knowledge, to consult with the Army authorities, and thus to arrive at a decision as to how the available man-power ought to be employed.
– I agree with the honorable member, and that is being done.
– Referring to the retail trade, the Minister for War Organization of Industry made some observations with which I agree. I believe that the trade could be reorganized in such a way as to release many persons for national service in one way or another. At present, the shops remain open for far too long a period each day, and perhaps for too many days in the week, for the business they are able to do. It has been demonstrated during the last day or two that shops can dispose of the whole of their quota in an hour or two. It ought to be possible to educate the public to do their shopping within certain specified times. If the shops were closed for a full day each week, employees would be able to join the Volunteer Defence Corps or the Voluntary Aid Division, as the case may be, or take up air raid precautions or enemy raid precautions or first-aid work, while also carrying on their ordinary occupations.
– The honorable member’s suggestion is somewhat belated. That has been examined.
– I am not belated with my suggestion, nor do I believe that the position has been examined, and I have some personal experience of this matter also. (Extension of time granted.,
– I rise to a point of order. Does not the honorable member’s statement amount to an assertion that I am telling lies?
– I must acknowledge that I did not hear the honorable member’s statement.
– I said that I was not satisfied that I am belated in my reference to the matter of closing retail shops for part of the normal trading period, nor was I satisfied that the position had been examined by the Government.
– The Minister said that he did not believe that it had been examined.
– I said that I did not believe that it had been examined by the Government in the way that I believe to be necessary.
– I did not hear your ruling on the point of order, Mr. Deputy Speaker.
– If the Minister acknowledges that the repetition by the honorable member of his statement is correct, then the honorable member was not out of order.
– The Minister said the Government had examined tha possibility of closing retail shops for half a day or a day each week so that employees might take up some war activity. I maintain that, if the suggestion has been examined by the Government, the examination was very cursory. I initiated a movement on the north coast of New South Wales about two months ago for the introduction of such a scheme. I persuaded the business people of an important country town to close all businesses for half a day each week so that male employees might train with the Volunteer Defence Corps, and women with the Voluntary Aid Detachment, or take up National Emergency Service work, &c. About 260 women were released, and about 150 men. However, the scheme broke down because one firm, which is controlled by the Burn3 Philp Company, an organization which might be expected to do a little better than merely what it was required to do by law, refused to join in. It was the only firm which refused, but the others felt that they could not allow this firm to benefit by their sacrifices, and so the scheme fell through. Mr. Loxton, the manager of this firm - Penneys of Brisbane, which is controlled by Burns Philp and Company - said that he had telegraphed the Prime Minister to find out whether the Government was behind this scheme, but he had not been able to obtain a satisfactory reply. The Minister for War Organization of Industry said that my suggestion was belated, and that the Government had already examined the proposal. I say emphatically that if it did examine the proposal it was also responsible for the breakdown of the scheme.
When I drew attention some days ago to the shortage of farm labour, the Minister for War Organization pf Industry said that there was no shortage of foodstuffs, and he asked me to name the commodities of which there was a shortage. I remind honorable members that, besides the obligation to feed the people of Australia, we have also a duty to supply food to the people of Great Britain. If the people of Great Britain should be unable to obtain sufficient food, how could they carry on the war? The Minister should have been aware that Australia had entered into a contract to supply to Great Britain 60,000 tons of butter last year, but fell short of that quantity by many thousands of tons. The labour position on the farms has probably gone too far now to be rectified in the ordinary way. The trouble is due, not only to the calling up of men for military service, but also to the attraction of labour by munitions industries, and by other industries which are able to offer more attractive conditions. I represent a country constituency, and it is my opinion that the primary producers are taking more of the hard knocks of this war than any other section of the community. Mention has been made of restrictions upon the delivery of meat and bread, which are being introduced as part of the plan to rationalize industry. If such restrictions mean that the farmers will have to travel to their nearest townships or country stores to obtain their requirements, I cannot see that there will be any saving of man-power, motor fuel, tyres, oil, and so on. Obviously, it is far better for a storekeeper to serve 20, 30 or 40 farmers, than it is for each of those farmers to travel to the store to obtain his supplies.
– How far away from the shopping centres do these farmers live?
– Probably 5, 10 or 20 miles.
– The prohibition upon the delivery of meat is only in respect of customers who reside within .1 mile of a butcher’s shop.
– I am glad to have the Minister’s assurance on that point. During the past few days I have received quite a number of letters from tradesmen in country areas who have informed me that they have been ordered to cut down deliveries. The difficulty that I have encountered in regard to this matter has been to ascertain whether representations should be made to the Department of “War Organization of Industry, the Department of Transport, the Department of Labour and National Service, or the Department of Supply and Development. I should be obliged if the Minister for War Organization could assure me that his department is the one to which representations in regard to the restriction of deliveries by traders should be made. I suggest also to the Minister that before he takes drastic action to close down various industries which he and his advisers regard as nonessential, he should make sure that all labour at present available shall first be absorbed. While there is unabsorbed labour available for munitions work, it is not necessary to close down other industries, and throw many people out of their jobs. I suggest to the Minister that there is still a great reservoir of female labour which could be employed. Recently I visited a large munitions establishment in the country and the manager informed me that more than half of the work that was being done at that factory was of a light nature, and could be done as well and as efficiently by women. He said also that SOO women had permanent homes in the vicinity of the factory, and that many of them were willing to accept employment, but their services have not been availed of by the Government for various reasons, one of the most important of which was that strong opposition from the trade unions would be encountered. That is a problem which will have to be solved by the Government before it throws out of work thousands of old employees who have spent their lifetime in their jobs and have no knowledge of any other task. The absorption of all labour at present available should be the first objective of the Department of War Organization of Industry. Honorable members on this side of the House realize the grave difficulties which confront the Minister in this regard, and we sym- pathize sincerely with him because of the enormity of his task. I am sure that every one realizes that the job which the Minister has undertaken is a colossal one, but I suggest that he would be in a better position to carry out his work if he were a little more receptive of views expressed by honorable members on both sides of the House, and by people who have had long experience in industry. It is all very well for the Minister to tell us that he has been privately advised in regard to this matter or . that matter by officers whose names he keeps secret. Whoever those advisers may have been in the past, I am afraid that they have not been good ones. The Opposition wishes the Minister well in the discharge of his very responsible task, but we trust that he will listen a little more to experienced advisers and will not approach the problems that confront him with hard-and-fast preconceived theoretical ideas that are not practicable in war-time.
.- I should not have participated in this debate had I not wished to support certain suggestions which have been made to the Minister for War Organization of Industry (Mr. Dedman), and to which I hope that he will give serious consideration. I strongly support the contention that local knowledge should be availed of in dealing with the man-power problem. Recently the Government decided that most of the men engaged in the goldmining industry should be transferred to more important war work. The trouble is that if the gold-miners be taken haphazardly from this industry the results will be disastrous. All gold-mines cannot be treated alike. Should a mine be well developed and thoroughly protected, it may remain in a good state of preservation for quite a long time, even although it is not in active operation, but, if a mine is not well developed, any substantial decrease of the number of operatives will cause it to deteriorate quickly, and the chances are that if it remains idle for any considerable period it will be ruined, and will never be re-opened. Therefore, I suggest that when the withdrawal of man-power from the goldmining industry is being considered, the co-operation of experts who know the mines and the districts in which they are situated should be sought. The Government of Western Australia has a State Mines Department to which are attached mining engineers whose advice would be of great value in ascertaining the number of employees that could be withdrawn safely from various mines. The same thing applies to a large degree to the pastoral industry in Western Australia. That State has just passed through one of the most devastating droughts in its history. The drought lasted for six years, and reduced many pastoral districts to areas of scorched earth. Now the drought has broken, and the sheep that have been saved will have to be shorn immediately. Unless sufficient labour be made available, heavy losses will be experienced owing to the blow-fly menace. Therefore, the industry should not be hampered until shearing is completed. When the Minister visited Western Australia, I introduced to him a deputation representing the Pastoralists Association and the Australian Workers Union. As the result of his efforts, a number of shearers was temporarily released from the Army for the purpose of relieving the acute man-power position in the pastoral industry. The Minister appreciates the problem, and I urge him to give earnest consideration to it.
The farming industry is in a similar plight. As the result of heavy enlistments in the fighting forces, farmers are now struggling to work their properties without sufficient labour. If the Army indiscriminately calls up men in the age groups without regard for the part that they are playing in this industry, disastrous results may follow. I welcome the suggestion that a person with local knowledge of the requirements of an industry should be co-opted by the manpower committee to advise it when employees are being withdrawn. If that proposal were adopted, some of the hardship would be alleviated. I sympathize with the Minister, because his task is most unenviable. Our perilous situation necessitates the calling up of men for military service, and this is not the time to raise bogies and obstacles that increase the difficulty of administering the department. In conclusion, I appeal to tha Minister to give sym pathetic consideration to the requirements of the gold-mining, pastoral and farming industries.
– Australia is now in such a perilous position that our plight is comparable with that of Great Britain at the time of the collapse of France. The public must be prepared to accept rationing of many lines of goods. The two principal arguments in support of rationing are that it enables every body to obtain a fair share of what is available, and damps down an enormous volume of consumer purchasing power, thereby forcing people to deposit their money in banks, or hoard it. Whatever they choose to do, that money cannot be placed in circulation, provided the rationing scheme covers a sufficiently wide range of commodities. I agree with the references to the hard and stony path that the Minister for War Organization of Industry (Mr. Dedman) has to tread. In my opinion, the department has been wrongly named. It should have been called the Ministry for the Organization of Industry for War, because that is its function. Apart from industry, every man must be organized, not for personal gain or the security of his property, but for the purpose of preserving this country from the Japanese. It is useless to burke the question. If Japan overruns Australia, we shall be the coolies and they will be the masters. We must be prepared to sacrifice everything in order to save Australia from the invader.
The Minister holds one of the most important portfolios, because his duty is to divert men from non-essential to war industries. His task is a distasteful one, and can be achieved only by careful planning. The unseemly scramble for clothing that followed his announcement of the proposal to ration wearing apparel and textiles was an example of the result of poor planning, and he must work his economists and advisers overtime in future in order to prevent a recurrence of that mistake. The Minister must calculate the production required for the war effort, civil needs and our overseas commitments, consistent with our ability to fulfil them. His job is to provide sufficient man-power and womanpower to meet the demands of the production schedule. As the Minister is chairman of the Production Executive of Cabinet, he is, in effect, the co-ordinator of all industry, whether it be engaged in civil or war production. One of his greatest tasks is to decide the amount of new production that Australia can undertake. For a long while we have permitted various parts of our organization to go helter-skelter into the manufacture of war materials, though we may not be able to accomplish our objectives, and much of that work is not in balanced relation to the problem of man-power. Some years ago, Ludendorff published Der Total Krieg, which probably had a greater effect upon the German nation than Hitler’s Mein Kampf. Ludendorff pointed out that a country engaged in a total war must have twelve civilians for every soldier in the field. That contention should bc borne in mind by the Minister.
The Department of War Organization of Industry should investigate the manufacture in Australia of certain line8 of munitions and equipment. I refer particularly to tanks and aircraft, and shipbuilding. An enormous quantity of material, and a great volume of labour, are being used in the construction of tanks, but the production can only be very small. In the United States of America, the greatest industrial plants in the world are commencing the mass production of tanks. I urge the Minister to look at this matter in relation to the available shipping space from the United States of America to Australia. We can easily manufacture many things much simpler to make, and of greater urgency in the waging of the war, than tanks. In the laying down of air-fields for bomber aircraft, steel mats are required. These mats are very heavy, and occupy an enormous amount of space in ships coming to this country. However, their construction is simple. The Minister should conduct an investigation with a view to discovering whether it would not be wiser to embark on the manufacture of lines of this kind, which we can readily manufacture, rather than launch ‘ upon the manufacture of such complex articles as tanks. Any tank manufactured in this country must necessarily be of different design from tanks which are being mass produced in the United States of America, and will call for the establishment of separate ordnance supplies in the field to service it. The same observation applies to aircraft manufactured in Australia. We arc capable of making relatively few aircraft in this country. We should find out whether the number of planes we are turning out is even equal to the number that is going out of action owing to our inability to keep up to date on their repair. The skilled labour and machine tools now used in aircraft production could be better used if they were concentrated on repair work on the planus now being brought to this country. Our main concern is to ensure that the maximum number of aircraft shall be kept in operation.
My third point concerns the shipbuilding programme of the Government. Many of the large ships now under construction in this country will not be put into commission for some years. In the meantime, their construction will absorb an enormous amount of steel plate. In addition, the engines required for these ships will have to be imported and will take up considerable cargo space. I believe that the battle for Australia will be decided before we shall require these’ ships. Consequently, the man-power and materials employed in their construction are really being wasted. A great change in Australia’s general position took place as the result of the attack on Pearl Harbour. That attack had the effect of releasing us from the necessity of building up dollar exchange in the United States of America. It has also made that country more disposed to make available to us goods under the lease-lend programme. The United States of America is no longer neutral; and it must, therefore, be more favorably disposed towards us as its ally against Japan. I take it that is the reason why the Government now recognizes that the same necessity for gold production in this country does not exist now as prior to the attack on Pearl Harbour. As a member of the Opposition I say frankly that I admire the courage of the honorable member for Kalgoorlie (Mr. Johnson) in telling his constituents bluntly that the gold-mining industry must now be largely curtailed. Th-3 Minister, as the head of the Porduction Executive, must study our short-range rather than our long-range policy, with regard to the battle of Australia. Many of our great munitions projects will not come into operation for some years. If proceeded with they will consume an enormous amount of man-power and material. “We should review these projects in order to see whether it is really essential that they be proceeded with. Very probably, the man-power required for them could be more profitably used in the rapid construction of strategic roads and aerodromes, on which the fate of Australia will ultimately depend.
We must maintain balance between all industries and not merely between those industries directly related to war production. It is useless to say that one particular industry has a claim to an unlimited supply of man-power. Our man-power and woman-power, both of which are in short supply, must be adequately distributed among all industries, having regard, of course, to the needs of the war effort.
My final point concerns the Government’s food production programme. It has been pointed out in this debate that food supplies must be rationed in order to meet the requirements of our own and American troops. The Americans are partial to foods which are not generally preferred by Australians. Whilst we like mutton, they prefer beef and pork; they also like certain cereals, and lettuce and salads, and foods of that description. I take it that the production of most of these foods will be largely conducted in the rich areas on the eastern seaboard, and equally rich areas in Victoria and the south-west of Western Australia. We shall not achieve the maximum production unless the organization charged with the handling of this work is widely decentralized. The people best able to obtain the maximum production are the agricultural societies which exist in every important centre throughout rural Australia. The Minister should build up local committees to handle this matter. The machinery of the agricultural societies could be used very effectively in conjunction with the Council for Scientific and Industrial Research and the State Departments of Agriculture. I believe that greater production will be obtained in this way than by any other method.
The Minister should also relate the intake of man-power to the armed forces to the equipment available for their training. Three essentials in the establishment of air-fields, are, flying personnel, up-to-date aerodromes, and efficient aircraft. If sufficient planes are not available, a paper organization is useless. It is futile to enrol enormous numbers of men in the air force, or any other force, when equipment, or planes, essential for training and fighting are not available. It is futile to take men out of industry in order to put them into positions where they can do nothing, but kick their heels in idleness. What I have said about the Air Force in that respect also applies to the Army. It is of little use to put men into uniform unless they have the equipment, the tanks and the like, with which to train. One final suggestion to the Minister for War Organization of Industry is that he go through the munitions factories and comb out the men who could be well replaced by women. The fate of Australia depends on its making its maximum effort, and rules of unions or rules of property must not be allowed to stand in the way of our making that effort to save Australia from destruction.
Debate (on motion by Mr. Fadden) adjourned.
The following bills were returned from the Senate without amendment or requests : -
Invalid and Old-age Pensions Bill 1042. Maternity Allowance Bill 1942. Child Endowment Bill 1942. Sales Tax Bills ( Nos. 1 to 9) 1942. Sales Tax (Exemptions and Classifications) Bill 1942.
– 1 present the following paper: -
Report of the committee of senators and members appointed to consider the Estate Duty Assessment Bill and the Gift Duty Assessment Bill.
The recommendations of the committee will be adopted by the Government.
House adjourned at 10.33 p.m.
The following answers to questions were circulated: -
l asked the Minister representing the Postmaster-General, upon notice -
Inquiries are being made and the honorable member will be informed as early as possible.
d asked the Minister representing the Minister for the Interior, upon notice -
– The Minister for the Interior has supplied the following answers : -
n asked the Minister for Air, upon notice -
– The answers to the honorable member’s questions are as follows : -
Royal Australian Air Force: Badge of Service.
d. - On Friday, the 8th May, the honorable member for Moreton (Mr. Francis) asked the following question, without notice; -
Has the Minister for Air seen in to-day’s Sydney press the report that Aircraftman Jack Dennis Arthur, of New South Wales, who is stated to have served with the Royal Australian Air Force in Papua for more than two years, contracted malaria, was discharged as medically unfit, and was denied a returned soldier’s badge, being given merely a volunteer’s badge? Will the honorable gentleman examine the position in respect of thisman and other members of the Royal Australian Air Force who may have served in the same area, and make a statement to the House next week?
The airman mentioned in the press cutting referred to by the honorable member was discharged as medically unfit after service only in Australia and Papua and was issued with the General Service Badge on the 20th April, 1942. The only other type of badge which calls for consideration in this case is the Returned from Active Service Badge which is issuable only to those personnel who have served in countries beyond Australia and its territories.
Race Meeting at Randwick.
– Yesterday the honorable member for New England (Mr. Abbott) asked the following question, without notice: -
Is the Minister for the Army aware that a meeting under the auspices of Tultersall’s Club is to be held at Randwick race-course on the 23rd May next? Is it correct that, in order that this meeting may be held, certain American units will be forced to break camp! If bo, does the honorable gentleman consider that such action will tend to engender in our allies confidence with regard to our war effort?.
I have been informed that the holding of a race meeting at Randwick on the 23rd May will not in any way interfere with the functions of the Army. The hours during which the course will be used for the meeting will be between 1 p.m. and 5 p.m. The race meeting on the 23rd May and another on the 13th June are for charitable purposes to raise money for the Red Cross and prisoners of war funds. Racing has been seriously curtailed in Australia under war conditions. Major racing events are still being held in England and no good purpose can be served by the absolute curtailment of racing at Randwick.
Cite as: Australia, House of Representatives, Debates, 14 May 1942, viewed 22 October 2017, <http://historichansard.net/hofreps/1942/19420514_reps_16_170/>.