16th Parliament · 1st Session
Mr. Speaker (Hon. W. M. Nairn) took the chair at 2.30 p.m., and read prayers.
Motion (by Mr. Curtin) - by leave - agreed to -
That a joint meeting of membersof the Senate and of the House of Representatives be convened for 4.30 p.m. this day for the purpose of discussing in secret the present war and hearing confidential reports in relation thereto.
Motion (by Mr. Curtin) - by leave - agreed to -
That Mr. Rosevear be discharged from attendance on the Joint Committee on War Expenditure.
That the foregoing resolution be communicated to the Senate by message.
Motion (by Mr. Beasley) - by leave - agreed to -
That, in accordance with the provisions of the Australian Broadcasting Act 1942, the following members be appointed members of the Parliamentary Standing Committee on Broadcasting: - Mr. Barnard, Mr. Calwell, Mr. Johnson. Sir Charles Marr, Dr. Price and Mr. Riordan.
– In view of the widespread indignation expressed throughout Australia, and the declaration that the de facto widow provisions of the Widows’ Pensions Act are an affront to the womanhood of Australia, as well as an outrage on the ethical standards of the community, will the Minister for Social Services introduce legislation to repeal the objectionable provisions to which such strong exception has been taken, in order that honorable members may be given an opportunity to reconsider them?
– In the first place, I do not agree that there is widespread indignation in respect of the provisions towhich the honorable member has referred. Secondly, action along the lines suggested by him is a matter of policy for consideration by the Government.
– Has the attention of the Prime Minister been drawn to the fact that a regulation gazetted by the Minister for the Army in 1941 contained a provision empowering the payment of a dependant’s allowance to de facto wives?
-But for the honorable member, my attention would not have been drawn to it. I shall have his reference verified.
– I ask the AttorneyGeneral whether, within recent weeks, the movement of aliens has been so liberalized as to permit them to travel unrestricted within a radius of15 miles of capital cities, and that the days on which they are obliged to report have been so extended as to permit them to report at longer intervals than were previously provided? Are Sir Henry Manning and Mr. A. B. Piddington, K.C., engaged in a perusal of the files relating to aliens in Australia? If so, for what purpose?
– The first matter referred to is in the hands of the Director-General of Security. I believe that certain alterations are being made, but I am not aware of their exact nature. A conference upon matters which include that matter is to be held in Canberra on Saturday. The two gentlemen mentioned in the latter part of the honorable member’s question who are distinguished members of the bar, have been asked to look at a number of files in order to ascertain whether or not greater expedition can be shown in dealing with a number of outstanding cases. It is probable that several more statutory committees will be set up for that purpose.
– Will the Minister for the Army give the assurance that lads or young men who are still attending school will not be called up for service in the Army upon attaining the age of eighteen years?
– Unless the Defence Act be amended, it will be carried out in its present form.
-Regulation 13 of the National Security (Potatoes) Regulations made under Statutory Rules 1942, No. 199, provides that, subject to any direction of the Minister for Commerce, the Australian Potato Committee may, by order, regulate or prohibit the production, supply, distribution, sale or disposal of potatoes. Has the Minister, by direction, forbidden the production of potatoes by other than those who have entered into an agreement which has been submitted to producers by the Australian Potato Committee ?
– A ban has not been placed upon the production of potatoes by any independent or private growers who have not entered into specialcontracts with the respective Departments of Agriculture in the States.
– In view of the necessity for the preservation of meat, when does the Minister for Commerce expect that a plant for the dehydration of mutton will be established at Newcastle?
– All expedition is being shown in connexion with the establishment of dehydration plants at the different abattoirs in New South Wales, Victoria, and Queensland. A special committee is at work with that object. As Newcastle has been chosen as one of the sites, the honorable member may rest assured that everything possible will be done to hasten the erection of dehydration plant there.
– Can the Minister for Labour and National Service say what progress has been made by the Man Powler Directorate with putting into effect the three-years plan which, according to the press, was being prepared for seasonal primary industries? Will the Minister make a considered statement to Parliament on the subject?
– The sub-committee of Cabinet, which,was appointed to consider the matters pertaining to man-power, has submitted a report which is now being considered by the Government. I hope that it will be possible to make a full statement very soon.
– Is the Minister for the Army able to make a statement on the matter of leave from the Army for men required in primary industries for shearing and other purposes?
– I shall be glad to give full particulars to the honorable gentleman during the secret meeting, but I assure him that the Adjutant-Genera will view sympathetically applications for the release of men for shearing and other purposes associated with primary production.I discussed this matter with the Adjutant-General this morning.
– Will the Minister for the Army state what action has been taken by the Army authorities in relation to the disparaging statements made last June regarding the supposed release of 1,200 men from the Army for engagement in the sugar industry, one statement being that only 600 of the men released had commenced work? Will the honorable gentleman inform the House of the circumstances under which these men were released and, if the allegations have stated the facts correctly, whether all the men released have since been returned to the Army?
-I have a report, which I shall make available to the honorable gentleman to-morrow. I know that the statements to which he has referred were a gross exaggeration of the facts. There was no foundation for the statement that 400 or 500 men had been released from the Army and had not presented themselves for work anywhere.
– I ask the Minister for Munitions whether any progress is being made with the proposal to build wooden ships, lighters and pontoons in Tasmania? Can he give an assurance that the construction of these vessels will be accelerated ?
– I have been in consultation with the Minister for Supply and Development (Mr. Beasley) with reference to some of the facilities required for the construction of these vessels. At the present time, a complete survey is being made of the available facilities throughout Australia,including those in Tasmania, and we hope at an early date to be able to indicate what action shall be taken.
– Will the Attorney-General arrange to have tabled in the House the order made by Mr. A. Blakeley, the Commonwealth Conciliation Commissioner, directing the reinstatement of Mr. E. J. Rice in his employment with the Commonwealth Aircraft Corporation, together with the reasons given by Mr. Blakeley in support of the order?
– I shall do so.
– Having regard to the shortage of labour in rural industries, will the Minister for Social Services consider amending the Invalid and Old-age Pensions Act to enable those pensioners who are physically capable to earn the equivalent of the basic wage without prejudice to their pensions, just as blind pensioners are allowed to do?
– A flat answer to the honorable member’s question would be “ No “, but I do not like to put it that way. Logically, there is no move reason why we should amend the law to enable old-age pensioners to earn the basic wage, and then receive a pension as a bonus, than there is why we should confer this privilege upon any other section of the community. As for blind persons, it is generally argued - and rightly so, I think - that they have a claim for special treatment, and that is why the concession referred to by the honorable member was granted to them. The real answer to the honorable member’s question is that oldage pensioners may now earn the basic wage, or more than that amount, if they like.
– But I have in mind particularly those who are able to work only two or three days a week.
– Well, let them earn for two or three days a week if they like. If a man foregoes his pension and then finds that he cannot continue working, he may leave his job and his pension will be immediately restored. It has been laid down as a part of the policy of the department that a pension shall be paid on the first pension pay day after a claim is lodged. Thus, no pensioner will suffer if he relinquishes his pension temporarily, because he believes that he can earn more than £32 a year. The Government will be glad to see as many pensioners as possible working, provided they do not injure their health.
– But by doing so, they will prejudice their pension rights.
– That is not so. As I have explained, their pensions will be restored as from the first pension pay day after they lodge their applications.
– Has the Prime Minister seen the severe press criticism of the alleged lavish and wasteful expenditure on furniture for Government offices? With a view to preventing such reports from adversely affecting the campaign for the buying of war saving3 certificates, and in order to re-assure the public who are being asked to practise war-time economies, will the Prime Minister have the charges investigated by the Joint Committee on War Expenditure?
– I have seen the criticism which appeared this morning, and I have also seen the reply of the officer in charge, who denies the allegations. However, I shall have the matter investigated.
– Has the Minister for Commerce arranged for an adequate supply of labour to be made available to abattoirs for the coming killing season? If not, will he give an assurance that this will be done because, if labour be not available, prices will slump and the lambgrowers will suffer?
– I am aware of the possibility of a shortage of labour for the killing season, having regard especially to our efforts to establish a reserve of meat for the fighting services, and also the demands of the lamb season. I have consulted with the Minister foi’ National Service and with the Director-
General of Man Power, and we are doing all that is possible to secure the release of butchers from the Army.
– Is the Prime Minister aware that, owing to the abolition of Saturday work for members of the Storemen and Packers Union, there is an accumulation of as many as 800 wool trucks in Darling Harbour, Sydney, each week-end ? If so, can he say whether the Government has done anything to enable the trucks to be unloaded before the following Monday in order that they may be returned to the country during the weekend ? The matter is important in view of the shortage of transport, and because the delay is said to be occasioning a deficiency of 2,000 loadings a week. If unloading were expedited some of the trucks could be released for the carriage of coal.
– I know of the matter to which the honorable member has referred, and I took action in connexion with it this week. I find that the wool brokers are not prepared to pay overtime rates, but I also find that the Storemen and Packers Union was not willing to work overtime. I have directed that the necessary steps shall be taken, to bring about au alteration of the circumstances, and the Minister for Labour and National Service, at my direction, has summoned the parties to attend a conference for the purpose of reaching a settlement. Whether they determine it or not, the Government is resolved that there shall be no loss of efficiency in the handling .of cargoes or ships. I have to pay my tribute to the officers of all the unions engaged in handling ships and cargoes on the wharfs for the magnificent co-operation that they have given to the Government in an extremely difficult matter.
– Will the Minister for Labour and National Service inform me whether it is a fact that at a meeting held in Sydney last month he stated -
Myer’s, of Melbourne. were deemed to have been guilty of overcharging the public to the extent of £250,000 and the only action taken was to compel them to refund to the public a like sum by marking down the prices of their goods. The penalty of proved cases of profiteering should be nothing less than a severe term of imprisonment or work in a labour battalion?
If the Minister made that statement, I ask him to inform me when he became aware of this position? What action did he then take against this and other firms which have overcharged the public?
– The statement that has been attributed to me is perfectly correct. It has been my opinion for some considerable time that the penalties imposed on profiteers were not sufficiently harsh and the reason why effective action has not been taken in such cases is that honorable gentlemen opposite, including the honorable member for Wentworth, have been so strenuous in their efforts to protect the profiteers, thereby hampering the activities of the Government.
– I ask the Minister for Labour and National Service to inform me whether it is a fact that, whereas men called up for military service have the right to appeal to a court of petty sessions in certain circumstances against a decision of the manpower authorities, older men, some of whom are returned soldiers from the last war. and who have sons serving in the present war, have no right of appeal to such n court against whimsical decisions of man-power authorities when they are called up for service with the Allied Works Council? If that be so. what steps does the Minister propose to take for the purpose of ensuring that men called up for service with the Allied Works Council shall have the same right of approach to a court of petty sessions as have younger persons who are called up for military service? Is it also a fact, that aliens, friendly or otherwise, who are called up for service are equally dependent upon the whim or caprice of man-power authorities? Will the Minister ensure that in these latter cases, some authority will be appointed to determine in what service these men can best be used for tone war effort rather than allow the matter to remain, as at present, in the hands of more or less incompetent man-power authorities?
– The Allied Works Council is not under my control as Minister for Labour and National Service.
– The officers who do the work are in the Department of Labour and National Service.
– The Minister for the Interior controls the Allied Works Council. Men who are called up for military service have the right of appeal to a magistrate when they consider that thai should be granted exemption on the ground of undue hardship.
– Not always.
– The honorable member for Melbourne said that men who are called up on behalf of the Allied Works Council have to be approved by officers of the Department of Labour and National Service. I am not aware of any instance in which that has happened. The position is that the Allied Works Council is responsible for its own calls for manpower. All that the man-power officials are called upon to do is to indicate to the Allied Works Council any man who. being engaged in an essential industry, is not available for the call-up.
– In Melbourne, the man-power officers determine whether a man is to go in or stay out under all circumstances.
– If the honorable member will bring to my notice specific instances of man-power officers having exceeded their powers in regard to these particular call-ups, I shall attend to the matter immediately.
– What about the right of appeal ?
– The Prime Minister informs me that magistrates have now been appointed to hear such appeals.
– When were they appointed ?
– I do not know.
– They had not been appointed last week.
– I am of opinion that when men are called up for service, whether with the Allied Works Council or with the Array, and they believe that their service will impose great hardship upon them or their dependants, the final decision should not rest with a departmental officer. A person who desires relief should have the right of appeal. If I can do anything to assist to remove this difficulty, I shall be only too pleased to act.
– In to-day’s issue of the Canberra Times appears a statement relating to a communication from the Prime Minister to the Premier of South Australia, Mr. Playford, regarding the central control of electrical equipment by the Commonwealth. The report states -
One of the features of the proposal would be the formation of a central pool of electrical generation equipment to be financed in the first instance by the Commonwealth, which will be available to supply any part of Australia.
Will the Prime Minister explore the possibility of providing from the pool of electrical generating machinery, turbines and power-house machinery for the purpose of utilizing the waters of the Wyangala dam and the Lachlan River in New South Wales?
– The Commonwealth Government is anxious to ensure that the most effective use shall be made of all electrical equipment in Australia, and the Department of Munitions is taking the requisite steps to achieve this objective. The use to which this electrical equipment will be put will be decided upon the basis of the paramount urgencies which certain aspects of the war dictate. The suggestion made by the honorable member will be considered when the allocation is being made.
– Will the Minister for Commerce lay upon the table of the House or otherwise make available to honorable members the two reports of the special committee that was appointed about ten weeks ago to inquire into conditions in the dairying industry? Can the Minister indicate the Government’s decision regarding an increase of price of butter which, it is understood, was recommended by that committee as being necessary to ensure equity in the butter producing industry? Was the Minister correctly reported in the press as having stated that before the increased price for butter could be granted, the consumers’ interests would have to be considered? If that be so, did the Minister apply the same principle when he approved of the recent increase of the price for wheat?
– The honorable member’s reference to protection of the consumers’ interests is absolutely incorrect. The report of the Dairy Committee which inquired into the whole matter is now being considered by a subcommittee of Cabinet.
– Will it be released?
– After consideration, the report will be made available.
– Will the Treasurer consider having pension payments made into savings bank accounts in order to meet the convenience of pensioners, queueing up at post offices, and conserve man-power in the various departments which handle these payments ?
– I do not know that there is any particular saving to be made by paying the money into savings bank accounts, but I am prepared to consider the honorable gentleman’s proposal. I point out, however, that there is a wide difference of opinion amongst pensioners as to how they should be paid. Many of them like to draw the pension on a particular day. Apparently, for them it is a day out and they have an opportunity to meet their friends. They do not all want to have their pension paid by cheque or into a savings bank account.
– Will the Prime Minister inform the House of the reply given to the request of the trade union conference in Melbourne last June that the Government should introduce by national security regulation the policy of compulsory unionism?
– No reply was given.
– Can the Minister for Commerce tell me whether considerable sums of money are still held in wheat pools Nos. 2, 3 and 4? If that is the case, when does he propose to disburse that money to the rightful owners?
– Two of those wheat pools have been practically completed, except perhaps for a small balance representing a fraction of1d. a bushel. I shall have inquiries made about the other pool, and, if there is any sum of money still outstanding, I shall confer with the Treasurer regarding the possibility of a furtherpayment.
Minors Sent to Battle Stations - Acquisition of Properties Contagious Diseases - Call-up Hardship Cases - Court Martial Sentences.
– Following correspondence I have had withthe Minister for the Army concerning complaints of parents that lads of eighteen years, untrained or with very little training, had been sent to advanced battle stations, I ask the honorable gentleman whether he has not repeatedly stated in the House and in the press that no member of the forces who had not been properly trained orwas not over eighteen years of age would be sent to such battle stations? Whyis this continuing to happen, and what action is the Minister taking to stop this very undesirable practice?
– This is another matter with which I shall deal at the secret meeting.
– Will the Minister for the Army make inquiries to see whether something can be done to obviate the long delays that take place in the settlement of claims made in respect of properties acquired by the Department of the Army? Such delays have caused a great deal of embarrassment to certain individuals.
– This subject has been receiving my closest consideration. A complete re-organization of the Hirings Department of the Army is in progress. When it has been completed, I believe that more expeditious decisions will be practicable with advantage to many people.
– Will the Minister for the Army take immediate action to prevent the military authorities from establishing in a thickly populated garden suburb a camp for the purpose of isolatingsoldiers suffering fromcontagious diseases ?
– I shall discuss the matter with the honorable member later. Consideration will be given to any representations that he may make.
– Is the Minister for the Army aware that in numerous instances married men who have been called up for service in the Army have strong claims to have their cases reviewed on compassionate grounds by a magistrate, but find that a magistrate has no jurisdiction to hear and determine the matter, because they are under the control of the Army? Will the honorable gentleman see that this matter is rectified, and that these men shall have the right of appeal before being taken into the Army?
– I take it that the complaint is that sufficient time does not elapse, between the call-up of the men for medical examination and their being sworn in as members of the Army, to enable them to appeal to a police magistrate on the grounds of hardship.
– They have no right to appeal.
– I am assured by the military authorities that ample time is allowed, after the call-up and the medical examination, for application to be made to a police magistrate, but that in many instances the application is not lodged until a man has been notified that he must present himself at a certain drill hall; then, having been attested, it is too late for him to lodge an appeal. I shall give the fullest consideration to the honorable member’s representations.
– Will the Minister for the Army review the court martial sentences imposed on some members of the Australian Imperial Force who have returned to Australia from the Middle East, some of which are very vicious? Will he also instruct that those men who have been sentenced to a term of imprisonment shall serve their sentences in military, not in civil, gaols ?
– I shall discuss the subjectmatter of the question with the Commander-in-Chief at the first opportunity.
– In accordance with the terms of reference, I bring up a statement from the Joint Committee on
War Expenditure indicating the subjects on which confidential memorandums have been addressed to the Prime Minister for the consideration of the War Cabinet.
– In view of the fact that national necessity has already made imperative that a generous increase of the price paid to producers of butter and cream shall be at once announced, will the Minister for Commerce say what action is being taken, or is likely to be taken at an early date to that end, and what will be the amount of the increase?
– I assure the honorable member that the report of the Dairy Committee is being considered with all expedition. The matter will be fully determined a3 quickly as is humanly possible.
- Mr. Speaker, in view of your position being non-party, I want to know whether the report appearing in a Western Australian newspaper, in which you severely criticized the present Government, indicates that it is your intention to resign the speakership?
– Towards the end of the last sessional period the Prime Minister indicated that he would make an investigation of the activities of the Department of Information and of the publicity services generally. In view of the reduced vote for the Department of Information provided in the budget, I ask the right honorable gentleman whether he will indicate what administrative changes, if any, have been made following his review ?
– The nature of the answer would be such that it could be given more appropriately when honorable members are considering the Estimates for the Department of Information.
– Has the Prime Minister noticed the drab appearance of the King’s Hall since the removal of the paintings and other exhibits from it? So as not to get the austerity campaign under way too early will the right honorable gentleman arrange for a picture of the Paddington Town Hall, on the occasion of a recent meeting, the composite photograph of “ the Big Five and also a certain telegram signed by his own right hand, to be exhibited in the King’s Hall?
– I have no authority over what exhibits may be displayed or denied display in the King’s Hall.
– The right honorable gentleman seems to have no authority over one of his Ministers either.
– Prior to last May blind pensioners were exempt from taxation. In that month, however, the Minister for Social Services introduced a measure, which honorable members approved, for liberalizing payments to blind pensioners, but no provision was made to exempt them from taxation. Will the Treasurer provide, by regulation or otherwise, for such exemption?
– The honorable gentleman’s proposal will be examined.
– Is the Treasurer aware that a Minister of the Government of New South Wales has announced his intention to introduce a measure to provide for a new land tax upon rural holdings in that State? Does the Treasurer consider it wise that such a tax should be imposed and thus reduce the amount of money available to meet the financial requirements of the Commonwealth in war-time ?
– I was not aware of the proposal mentioned by the honorable member. Whether a State Government should be prevented from imposing such a tax is more a matter of government policy than a matter for comment by one Minister.
– Has the Minister for the Army yet received the report of the Canteens Inquiry Committee; and, if so, will he say when he expects to lay it upon the table?
– The Canteens Inquiry Committee’s report has been received and it is at present the subject of discussion by the Attorney-General and myself. I hope to lay the report upon the table next week.
– I bring to the notice of the Minister for Labour and National Service the case of a man who applied to the West Maitland police court for exemption from the military call-up. The magistrate granted exemption for six months. A man-power officer who, apparently, did not like the complexion, or colour of the hair, of the successful applicant, refused to accept the magistrate’s decision and told the person concerned that he would “ wipe “ it. In view of the undemocratic character of such action, I ask the Minister for Labour and National Service whether he will issue regulations to prevent a man-power officer from vetoing a decision of a magistrate?
– I have some knowledg of the occurrence to which the honorable gentleman has referred, and I propose to make a detailed statement within a few days.
– Will the Minister for Supply and Development tell me whether he has been kept fully informed of the great extent and high quality of the recently discovered bauxite deposits in Gippsland? Will he also say whether the difficulties formerly encountered in obtaining equipment from abroad to deal with the bauxite have been overcome? I should like to know what progress has been made towards producing aluminium from the bauxite stage as against the mere fabrication of imported aluminium ingots ?
– The Department of Supply and Development has been kept fully advised of the high quality of the bauxite in the Gippsland district.
– Does that relate to the recent discoveries?
– I do not know exactly what the honorable member regards as “ recent “. The general position in relation to bauxite in Gippsland is well known. Samples tested have been well up to standard. The point raised by the honorable member in relation to equipment is not so easily met. For a long time we have been pressing for the supply of equipment for this purpose from the United States of America. The Attorney-General (Dr. Evatt) took the subject up while he was in America recently. We have succeeded in getting additional equipment for treating ingots for the rolling mills to be erected in a town in Victoria, but so far we have not succeeded in obtaining equipment for the treatment of the bauxite. In order to satisfy the American authorities in this connexion, we must secure the support of the American lease-lend representatives in Australia. Steps have been taken, through the Allied Supply Council, to secure this endorsement. Everything that can be done in this connexion has been done and certain representations have been conveyed to the Government of the United States of America. The whole problem is difficult, but we are taking all steps within our power to secure the requisite approval. We shall continue to press our claim until success has been achieved.
– Owing to the shortage of leather supplies, due to the requirements of the defence forces, will the Minister for Supply and Development take whatever action is open to him in order to ensure that supplies of leather belting for harvest machinery and of copper rivets for belt repairs shall be made available in country towns in anticipation of the forthcoming wheat harvest? Further, in view of the reduced supplies of heavy footwear and sole leather that are available in country stores, will he consider the provision of further supplies?
– This matter has been the subject of correspondence. The heavy demand for footwear for the forces has made serious inroads upon the supplies of leather that are available for belting and other purposes ; at present, of the suitable leather available 80 per cent. is used for defence purposes, 5 per cent, for industrial power purposes, and 15 per cent, for essential services and civilian footwear. The spreading of supplies is a difficult matter. Hides are being procured from New Zealand, and 38,000 have been landed from South America within the last two weeks. Every attempt is being made to keep supplies at the highest level. The department has distributed 500,000 pairs of boots through normal trading channels. Originally, these were intended for Delhi, but they have been made available in all States in Australia. In addition, 785,000 pairs of half-soles have been made available, in an endeavour to ease the footwear position. I ask the honorable member for Riverina, or any other honorable member who may know of difficulties in obtaining supplies of belting in country districts, to communicate with the Controller of Leather and Footwear. The department will ensure that supplies shall be made available. I shall need to refer to the Minister for Munitions the matter of copper rivets for belt repairs.
– I have received many telegrams and telephone calls, stating that shearing in various sheds, not only in my electorate, but also in Riverina and Calare, has been held up as the result of bad weather, and that the Man Power authorities have refused to grant an extension of time for the completion of shearing operations. On account of the urgency of the matter, will the Minister for Labour and National Service instruct, the man-power officers under his control that where shearing operations are interrupted by wet weather an extension of time may be granted for the few days necessary to complete the shearing at the sheds affected?
– Complaints on this subject have been made to me. The matter has been referred for immediate attention to the Director-‘General of Man Power. It is hoped that appropriate action to overcome the difficulty will be taken.
– Will the Minister for Supply and Development lay on the table of the House the papers relating to the selection of a site for a power alcohol distillery in Victoria?
– I do not consider that the papers should be laid on the table at this stage. If the honorable member desires to have any information in connexion with the size of the plant, the purpose it is to serve, the amount of wheat that will be used in the distillation process, or on any other aspect, 1 shall be pleased to discuss the matter with him.
– Will the Minister for Supply and Development state by whose direction successful tenderers for Commonwealth Government textile contracts have been advised that before their contracts can be ratified they must call upon the secretary of the Amalgamated Clothing Union and sign an agreement, the purport of which is that every employee in the service of the contractor must become a financial member of the union? If compulsory unionism be the policy of the Government, would it not be more dignified to have that provision inserted in the main contract instead of having it in a nongovernment document?
– I took steps to bring under one head all clothing trade manufacturers doing work for the Government. I believed that if one section of the clothing manufacturers had to observe a given set of conditions, all others should be brought into line with them. Upon that premise, I proceeded to deal with the work that was to be carried out for th, Government. I should like the honorable member to know, and I am sure that he will be pleased to hear, that there has been a ready and most satisfactory response to the request.
– What alternative had the contractors?
– The alternative is that they need not undertake the work. The court, when dealing with this matter, made a decision regarding the right? of unionists in this industry. It also made provision for out-work sections, under which permits were granted to some persons. The fact is that 95.6 pe» cent, of the manufacturers in New South Wales have agreed to work under the conditions laid down.
Sir FREDERICK STEWART.They had no option.
– It was a case of no agreement, no contract.
– The manufacturers may exercise their own choice in the matter of taking contracts. They are not compelled to do so. If they do not like to work under those conditions they need not. I cannot see what honorable members are worrying about; the manufacturers as a whole are not dissatisfied. Apparently, only some honorable members here are not satisfied. Those engaged in the trade are best able to determine what practices ought to be followed, and they have willingly agreed to this arrangement. To-day I pay a tribute to the great majority of clothing manufacturers, who have rendered to the Government a service of which they have reason to be proud. Therefore, it is not unreasonable that they should believe that all manufacturers should be placed upon the one level. There has been little or no complaint - in fact, there is almost complete harmony in the trade.
.- by leave - I propose to analyse some aspects of the international position with which Australia is specially concerned. I also shall take leave to refer to some of the work performed by the mission to Britain and the United States, from which I recently returned. As it is nearly six months ago since I left Australia, it is convenient to make some comparison of the position then and now.
In a period of about three months after its entry into the war, Japan has acquired nothing less than the physical structure of a new economic empire. On the 23rd January, Rabaul and Bougainville, in the Solomons group, were taken. By the 15th February Malaya and Singapore had been occupied. On the 19th February the invasion of Java commenced. The attack on Timor started on the 2l3t February. On the 27th February the battle of the Java Seas took place. By the 14th March Java had fallen, and both Lae and Salamaua in New Guinea were occupied.
What was the position of Australia at that time? Darwin had. been badly mauled and was grievously threatened. An all-out enemy move against Moresby was expected daily. The north-east coast of the continent itself was in great jeopardy. Our communications with the United States seemed likely to be cut as the enemy moved farther southwards in the vital Solomons group. The A.B.D.A. strategic area under General Wavell had been dissolved, but responsibility for the strategic direction and control of the defence of Australia and New Zealand was not yet settled. We were weak in air strength; we were short of tanks and other equipment; our veteran Australian Imperial Force units had not returned. Those were dark days for Australia and New Zealand.
Late in February a conference was held at Melbourne between the Advisory War Council and Messrs. Sullivan and Coates, representing the New Zealand War Cabinet. Future historians may well regard that conference as of special importance. As a result, a new strategic area was planned to include both Australia and New Zealand, and it was suggested that, because of the special United States concern in the Pacific, the supreme operational command should be entrusted to a United States officer. The suggestion was a bold one. There have been few occasions in history when a self-governing nation has placed its defence, and all its military resources, under the control of an ally, no matter how powerful. The new proposal was accepted while I was at Washington. The joint plan of Australia and New Zealand was modified to this extent - that the actual jurisdictional area of the South-west Pacific, including Australia, was made separate from that of the South Pacific area, including New Zealand. But each area was placed under the supreme operational command of a distinguished United States officer, each being responsible in turn to the United States Chiefs-of-Staff. Simultaneously, the President announced that the United States had accepted what was vaguely but deliberately described as the “ responsibility “ for both Australia and New
Zealand. That primary responsibility still rests on the United States.
The case for Australia had to be stressed by the mission from two distinct but converging viewpoints. First, to the United States the great significance of Australia was its strategic significance as the only remaining land base joining the Indian and the Pacific Oceans, from which an offensive against Japan might subsequently be developed. Second, from an Empire point of view, a deadly blow to British prestige would result if any part of Australia or New Zealand was overrun by such an enemy as the Japanese. Of course, there was nothing inconsistent in these two approaches, and in my view, our insistence and persistence on .both have been justified by the event. Gradually, we have found that the Pacific theatre of war has been assessed at a higher relative degree of importance than many authorities were at first disposed to admit. The tremendous danger of Japan’s strength, ambition and cunning is now realized to a greater degree. Further, there is a growing realization that, as a result of the battles of Cor.nl Sea, Midway, and the Solomons, the United Nations may be presented with opportunities to strike further telling blows, and if such opportunities are not grasped, they disappear.
The directives in respect of both Pacific areas were drafted at Washington and agreed to by both Australia and New Zealand. As the Australian Prime Minister conveniently described it, the agreed strategy in relation to the Southwest Pacific was primarily of a defensive or holding character, the defensive to be followed by offensive action at a later stage. But it is clear that the strategical arrangements were provisional only. Plans of such a character have to be modified, contracted, or expanded according to the changing developments of n world war. For instance, strategic arrangements made way back in January last, before Japan’s thrusts had gathered their subsequent momentum, were not. necessarily applicable to the situation in April, still less to that in September. In the Pacific there are three theatres in form but really one in substance. In all three the executive authority over tha Supreme Commander has been committed to the United States Chiefs-of-Staff. As Japan regards the Pacific as one gre: theatre of war, so must the United Nations.
Nothing is more remarkable than the magnificent recovery of the United States fleet since the disastrous attack on its capital ships at Pearl Harbour in December last. There were not a few who regarded that attack as putting the United States Navy out of the Pacific war for at least eighteen months. Events have proved otherwise. If I may say so, I believe that, whilst the immediate credit has gone in the main to others, the planning and determination of Admiral King, Commander-in-Chief of the United States Navy, have been largely responsible for the blows delivered against the enemy in the Coral Sea and at Midway. Further, .there has not yet been an adequate appreciation of the boldness and ingenuity of the recent northern thrust of United States and Australian forces over a very great distance towards the Solomons. With regard to Admiral King, I remember vividly a discussion at Washington on the vexed question of the separation of operational areas in the Pacific. I was reassured and impressed at Admiral King’s saying: “I don’t care what or where the areas are. I’ll hit this fellow wherever. I can get at him - wherever the areas are. And I’ll hit him good and hard “. That he has succeeded in doing.
This illustrates and emphasizes another point. The first task of our mission was to obtain approval to the creation of a Pacific War Council at Washington so that Australia could meet Britain, the United States and the other Pacific nations at the same cabinet table with a view to co-ordinating our war effort against Japan. Thanks both to the President and to Mr. Churchill, the task of creating the War Council was accomplished. The machinery was set up, and I had the honour of being the first representative of Australia on the council.
But machinery is useless unless it functions efficiently. It has worked efficiently because President Roosevelt was determined that it should ‘ so’ work. The body meets at least once- a’ week. The President always takes the - chair, and . the accredited representatives of Britain, China, Canada, Australia, New Zealand, the Netherlands, and now the Philippines, are always present. While the Council is not executive in character, important matters on the political side, and to some extent also on the military side, are finalized at the Council. This is often possible because the President is also the Commander-in-Chief of ali United States forces.
The working of such a Council necessarily brings into sharp focus the claims and needs of all the Pacific theatres of war; it ensures that the Pacific shall not be overlooked in the measurement from time to time by the strategic authorities of the claims made by each theatre commander to a fair proportion of the munitions and equipment in the common pool of the United Nations.
Another task of the mission was to increase and accelerate the allocation and despatch of the supplies which early in March last we needed so desperately. As the Prime Minister has already indicated publicly, one result of our work was a very substantial flow to Australia and the other Pacific areas of aircraft, tanks, and other vital equipment and supplies.
Of course it is obvious that the rapidly changing situation not only in various parts of the Pacific, but in other theatres of war must lead to retardation as well as acceleration of supplies. The needs of actual battle are imperative. For instance in the case of the Midway battle, temporary diversions from other Pacific theatres played a great part in the final victory which altered in our favour the balance of naval power in the Pacific. I cannot give figures, but the total number of combat aeroplanes which have actually been received in this theatre since March has been very substantial - far beyond our wildest hopes in the black days of February.
The assistance we have received from the United States is not measured alone in aircraft, munitions or personnel. At all times, both in London and Washington, the mission was in close touch with Ministers here. As a result of constant communication with my colleague, the Minister for Supply, the whole position of essential and vital supplies of raw materials was kept in1 rapid motion. We made arrangements with the War Production Board, the Petroleum Coordinating Authorities and the Combined Raw Materials Board and other bodies in Washington. As a consequence the supply position in Australia has very materially improved. Again I cannot give figures, but comparing 1st April last with the latest available data there has been a very great improvement in the Australian stock position in respect of such vital materials as tinplate, aviation spirit, motor spirit, power kerosene, illuminating kerosene, lubricating oils, diesel oil, cotton, raw rubber and aluminium. In addition, there has been an important increase since the 1st April of the quantity of essential materials actually received from the United States for the manufacture of munitions in Australia. These increased supplies have arrived in Australia in appreciable quantities, thus improving the general situation. Included in the items referred to are machine tools which are so necessary for munitions production in this country. From what I ‘have said the House will be able to gather something of our fierce concentration on the vital problem of supplying Australia with aircraft, munitions, and other materials of war.
From the United States the Mission proceeded to Britain. Here I should say that much of the unity and strength of our common cause depends upon the close comradeship of Mr. Churchill and President Roosevelt. Even before Janan attacked Pearl Harbour, these two leaders were working in the cause of democracy, as witness their promulgation of the Atlantic Charter in August of last year. That association has become far more intimate in the exigencies of war, and has been extended to include the leaders of Russia, China and the British dominions.
In London I made specific arrangements with Mr. Churchill bearing upon the defence of Australia. These arrangements included a special contribution of equipment in accordance with requisitions forwarded to me by the Service authorities in Australia. Another splendid contribution, which Britain agreed to, will be of inestimable value to our defence. I shall never forget the occasion when the matter was decided. We had discussed the problem of. Australia for some considerable time when Mr. Churchill sent for a very high ranking officer and put the proposal to him. At first the officer was not over-enthusiastic. “It’ll hurt so-and-so” he said, naming another distinguished officer. “ What’s that ? “ said the Prime Minister. “ Yes, it’ll hurt him a great deal”, was the reply. “ Very well “, said Mr. Churchill, “ unless it hurts him it is not going to be of much use to Australia. It has got to be done “.
I must add this : The people . of Britain are heart and soul with us. In Australia’s anxieties and vicissitudes, we all remember the sufferings and sacrifices the British people endured in 1940 and the never-to-be-forgotten valour of the airmen who then saved from alien domination not only Britain but the United States, Australia and all the world. The immensity of the British effort to-day - men and women alike - cannot be overstated. They all agreed that Australia had deserved help, and must be helped. There was no need for argument. In every place I visited, every meeting I attended from the Parliament at Westminster to the factories in Yorkshire, the reaction was the same. The British people’s desire was this - to be as much with us in the battle for Australia as Australians had been with them, not only in the battle of Britain but also in almost every great battle in almost every theatre of the war.
While in Britain I had the opportunity of useful discussions with members of the special Russian delegation to Britain and the United States, led by the Commissar for Foreign Affairs, M. Molotov. I was impressed with their deep detestation of the Nazi invader, their tenacity, their fortitude, their confidence. Even then, they seemed to anticipate the possibility of serious military reverses during the present European summer. These have occurred. It is not for me to foretell the future, or make a guess at the outcome or duration of the struggle. But, as we look back and re-read the opinions of the so-called experts who, in June of last year, forecast that only three or four, or at the most five, weeks would elapse before the German military machine crushed the Russian armies, and as we also remember the ups and downs of fifteen months of terrific fighting, it i.clear that the continuance of Russia’s titanic resistance is still one of the main hopes of this world.
In connexion with Russia, a striking incident occurred during the period in which I was representing Australia on the War Cabinet in London. During the spring months of this year, land-based enemy aircraft operating from Norway were making the task of the convoys to Russia tremendously hazardous. Some losses were certain. Very great, losses seemed probable. But the Russians badly needed the tanks and the aeroplanes. In a moment of some doubt and grave anxiety the Prime Minister, Mr. Churchill, gave the lead, saying, “ All the equipment that gets through on this convoy will be used by the Russians in the critical summer fighting. They will need every plane and every tank. We mus aid Russia. The convoys must simply fight their way in.” As it turned out, the bold decision thus taken proved right, for the first convoy fought its way in after comparatively small damage. The equipment got through.
While I was in London, the treaty of alliance between Britain and Soviet Russia was negotiated and signed. This treaty re-affirmed the principles laid down in the declaration of the Atlantic Charter of the 14th August, 1941. Because the Soviet and Japan are at peace, the treaty was directed very specifically against Hitlerite Germany and Germany’s satellite associates in Europe. But, in my opinion, the broader and more important features of the treaty are the provisions directed to the post-war period. Thus article 3 binds the parties to adopt common action to preserve peace and to resist aggression in the post-war period. The Anglo-Russian alliance is to continue for a period of twenty years after the war. It was agreed that, during the post-war period, both parties should work together for the organization of economic prosperity.
Pacific power. It is essential to the future of the Pacific that Australia should always remain on the closest terms of friendship with Russia. The Government hopes that, in the very near future, that friendship will be evidenced and confirmed.
It is becoming more and more clear that the military overthrow of our enemies, although our primary aim, will in no way be obstructed, but will be assisted if positive plans be now laid as to the course to be pursued in the postwar period. In this connexion the past declarations of the leaders of the United Nations are an important starting point, especially the principles of the Atlantic Charter and the President’s subsequent declaration of the four freedoms.
While in the United States, I found many who were particularly anxious to have promulgated a special charter covering the future of the peoples of the Pacific and of South-east Asia. Why not, it was said, establish a Pacific and Asiatic Charter on the lines of the Atlantic Charter ? This question shows a misunderstanding of the true position.
By subscribing to the Atlantic Charter all the United Nations have now declared -
First: Their countries seek no aggrandizement, territorial or other.
Second: They desire to see no territorial changes that do not accord with the freely expressed wishes of the people concerned.
Third: They respect the right of all peoples to choose the form of government under which they will live; and they wish to see sovereign rights and selfgovernment restored to those who have been forcibly deprived of them.
The United Nations have also expressed their hope for a peace which will “ afford to all nations the means of dwelling in safety within their own boundaries, and which will afford assurance that all the men in all the lands may live out their lives in freedom from fear and want” - the sixth principle of the charter. They have also declared that, while they believe in the eventual abandonment of the use of force, aggressor nations must be disarmed pending the establishment of a wider and permanent system of general security - the eighth principle.
But the name “Atlantic Charter” which has been given to this declaration does not refer only to the Atlantic region or to powers having interests in the Atlantic. The charter derives its name from the place where it was signed. The 28 nations which have subscribed to it extend around the globe, and the declaration is universal in its scope and application. It follows that the future of the regions of the Pacific and of South-east Asia are to be governed by the broad principles of the Atlantic Charter.
Some consequences of this may properly be suggested. The first principle which must be applied is that of security. Accordingly, in keeping with the eighth principle of the charter, there should be established a system of general security which will be as effective in these Pacific and Asiatic regions as in all other parts of the world. Pending the establishment of such a system, the aggressor must be disarmed. And that aggressor is Japan - the only Pacific power which since 1931 has systematically employed its armed forces for the purpose of territorial aggrandizement.
Whilst security comes first, the charter also assures to the peoples ofSoutheastern Asia and the South-west Pacific that they shall be able to live out their lives in freedom from want as well as in freedom from fear. These peoples cannot be excluded from the system of economic collaboration which the United Nations have envisaged. Again, it is elementary that the future development of the people of China will no longer be obstructed by such restrictions on their self-respect and their right of selfgovernment as are involved in the almost exploded doctrine of ex-territoriality. Equally we look forward to the people of India developing into a truly selfgoverning nation. It is to be hoped that they will soon understand thatselfgoverning British Dominions like Australia are none the less self-governing because they owe allegiance to the King, or because they are associated together as members of the British Commonwealth of Nations, or because they are resolved to resist the invader to the death.
Australia, as one of the countries of the South-west Pacific, will have a particular interest in closer economic relations with its nearer neighbours. For some years past, Japan has propagated the notion of a co-prosperity sphere. But, ever since 1931, and increasingly so since it commenced to exploit the newlyoccupied areas in Malaya, the Philippines and the East Indies, it has become plain that the so-called co-prosperity sphere means only this - that Japan is to get the prosperity while the subject peoples get a lower standard of living, and the status of serfs or slaves.
In the post-war world the reorganization of these regions cannot be on the Japanese system. “We are now fighting to end that system. Moreover, our postwar order in the Pacific cannot be for the sole benefit of one power or group of powers. Its dominant purpose must be that of benefiting the peoples everywhere. If “freedom from want” means anything, it means that the age of unfair exploitation is over. If the attainment of a higher and better standard of life for all the Pacific peoples involves any changes in forms of government or administration, either as a means of progress or as a consequence of it, the United Nations must be ready to make the necessary changes. In short, we must found future Pacific policy on the doctrine of trusteeship for the benefit of all the Pacific peoples. That doctrine the Commonwealth has endeavoured to carry out in New Guinea under the mandates system of the League of Nations. Japan’s record as a mandatory power only proves that a solemn trust can be betrayed.
I would therefore say this : It is impossible’ to view with satisfaction the present position of the forces of the United Nations in many theatres of the world war. The very serious position in Russia and the disappointing setbacks we have received in the Middle East are sufficient to banish the slightest tendency towards complacency.
But, in the Pacific theatre of war, the outlook is much brighter than seemed possible six months ago. Support and help have reached us in substantial quantities, mainly from the United States, which is primarily responsible, but also in some important respects from Britain itself.
So far, the Supreme Commander, armed with this support and with the enormously increased strength of Australian land forces, has been able to protect the Commonwealth itself against the enemy invader. The Japanese have not had many successes during the last six months. They suffered three tremendous reverses in the Coral Sea, at Midway, and recently in the Solomons. Australian forces have had a spectacular success at Milne Bay. Not so well known but great in importance has been the magnificent guerilla fight being waged by Australian and Dutch troops in Timor. That story, when fully told, will be one of the epics of the war.
Certain broad questions may fairly be asked in relation to Australia’s war effort since Japan’s unprovoked attack on our territories. The first question is: “Has Australia’s voice been heard in the Supreme Councils of the war ? “ The answer is : “ Yes, to a greatly increased extent. Some of the new machinery has been described. But there is constant communication on the major matters of war policy between the head of the Commonwealth Government and the leaders of the United Nations overseas “. Then it may be asked, “ Has Australia’s voice, though heard, been of effect ? “ It is too early to give a final answer, but I venture to submit that here, too, the answer should be - “ Yes, to a very substantial extent, and the effect will not diminish but increase as the days go by “.
A final question may well be posed : “Is the Government satisfied with the position so far as this theatre of war is concerned ? “ I think the proper answer to this question is, “ No, we are not satisfied ; we dare not be satisfied while what we care for most is still in deadly peril; we shall never be satisfied until the enemy is thrown back and finally overthrown “.
It is on that note of warning I prefer to finish, and, in support, I quote from a recent despatch from Sir Frederic Eggleston, Australia’s Minister in China - a key post in these days of crisis. He said -
All those nations whose destiny is involved in the fate of the Pacific area must be constantly oil the alert to see that the strategy necessary to secure their safety is not forgotten in European pre-occupations, and that the machinery for ensuring that decisions in this area are properly taken is kept functioning with adequate interest and support. I believe it is to the credit of His Majesty’s Government in the Commonwealth of Australia that vast improvements have been made. Why it should have been necessary for you to fight for it with such insistence I do not know, for more than 9,000,000 Britishpeople live on the Pacific and Indian Oceans, and they have made most important contributions to the cause in this and the last war. The idea that Britain can survive if she loses all her resources and people in this area is a fallacy.
While therefore we note the improvement in the Pacific generally and here in particular, too much is at stake for us to ease up for a moment. Our efforts must be unremitting. As has well been said -
When everything is at stake, dear and valuable to man, as man ; when there is but the one dreadful alternative of entire loss, or final recovery of truth and freedom, it is no time to stand up on trifles and moot points; the great object is to be secured first, and at all hazards.
I lay on the table the following paper : -
International Affairs - Mission Overseas -
Ministerial Statement, 3rd September, 1942. and move -
That the paper be printed.
Debate (on motion by Mr. Fadden) adjourned.
The following papers were pre sented : -
Defence Act - Royal Military College - Report for 1941.
National Debt Sinking Fund Act - National Debt Commission - Nineteenth Annual Report for year 1941-42.
National Security Act - National Security (General ) Regulations - Orders- - -
Prohibiting work on land (12).
Taking possession of land.&c. (84).
Use of land (8).
National Security (Supplementary)
Regulations - Statement of Australian Banking Statistics for the five quarters ended 30th June. 1942.
House adjourned at 4.3 p.m.
The following answers to questions were circulated: -
k asked the Minister for Commerce, upon notice -
Will he have inquiries made to ascertain the reason why there is such a wide margin between the average price paid for rabbit skins in Western Australia and that paid in the eastern States?
– The quality of Western Australian rabbit skins is considerably below that of skins produced in the eastern States, and the users of rabbit skins in Australia and overseas have not shown any liking for the former. There is no direct export of skins from Western Australia, and they are mostly bought on behalf of shippers in the eastern States, probably for blending in the export pack. My department has been investigating whether the differences in quality and additional handling and freight charges fully account for the price margin. When these investigations are completed I shall inform the honorable member.
e asked the Minister for Commerce, upon notice -
Will lie inform the House the number of rabbit skins sold during the months of April, May, June and July in each of the States of the Commonwealth, and the average price realized
– The information is being obtained.
Oil Production at Glen Davis and Berrima.
y. - On the 3rd June the honorable member for Eden-Monaro (Mr. Perkins) asked me a question, without notice, concerning the production of oil at Glen Davis and Berrima. T am now in a position to inform the honorable member that while I cannot quote figures in the present war situation, there has been some diminution of output at Glen Davis due in the main to phenomenally dry weather conditions and to the condition of the plant. The plant position has received the attention of the Government and every effort is being made to improve it, but considerable difficulties are being experienced under the present abnormal conditions. Production at Berrima is on a small scale only and the output consists of a shale distillate. This project is under the control of private enterprise.
Cite as: Australia, House of Representatives, Debates, 3 September 1942, viewed 22 October 2017, <http://historichansard.net/hofreps/1942/19420903_reps_16_172/>.