16th Parliament · 1st Session
Mr. SPEAKER (Hon. W. M. Nairn) took the chair at 2.30 p.m., and read prayers.
– I ask you, Mr. Speaker, why there has been omitted from a speech by the honorable member for Bourke (Mr. Blackburn), reported at page 1700 of Hansard No. 18, on the 10th December last, the statement of that honorable member with regard to a map of the South-west Pacific, and mentioning particularly the difficulties he had encountered in obtaining from the Government a map that had been shown to the trade unions? Why does the same volume of Hansard publish at page 1708 a report of comments by the honorable member for Batman on these remarks of the honorable member for Bourke, in view of the omission of the original statement? Were the remarks of the honorable member for Bourke censored, or was he requested to agree to their deletion from his speech? Is it within the province of an honorable member to delete from a report of his speech a lengthy statement, a part of which is of purely political importance? Does not this incident establish a dangerous precedent, in that permission has been given for important alterations to he made to the records of our parliamentary proceedings?
– The speech of the honorable member for Bourke on the occasion referred to mentioned in some detail the boundaries of what is known as the South-west Pacific area. The Prime Minister immediately interpolated that the statements should bo censored.
– They had already been published in that morning’s press.
– If I may say so with respect, I held the same opinion as the Prime Minister, namely, that these statements giving the boundaries of the area in which it was proposed that Australia should wage war operations should not be disclosed to the public.
– You, too, sir, were nine hours behind.
– Order! The honorable member for Melbourne is distinctly out’ of order. I consulted the honorable member for Bourke, and he agreed that the matter should not be published. In the circumstances, I instructed that his statement in respect of the South-west Pacific ama should be deleted from the report of his speech. The honorable member for Bourke, during his speech, was asked to divulge the source pf his information. He said that he had requested permission to see a map that had been shown to other persons who had been deliberating on the same subject. That statement also was deleted from the report of his speech, because the publication in Hansard of an isolated reference without an explanatory context would produce a record that was not intelligible. Tho honorable member for Batman made a passing reference to the South-west Pacific area.
– Do not drag mo into the matter.
-The honorable member for Boothby, in asking his’ question, referred to the honorable member. I did not consider that there was any need to interfere with the publication of the reference by the honorable member for Batman.
– I rise to order. When a passage has been excised from the report of a speech of an honorable member, either by arrangement with the honorable member concerned or in exercise of the discretion which this House has reposed in you, Mr. Speaker, is it not customary for an indication to be given of the deletion having been made? Why was that not done in this instance? As the most censored honorable member of this House, I have had some experience of such matters.
– It is not the practice to indicate that an honorable member’s speech has been censored, for such an indication might cause interested parties to seek to learn the censored matter.
- by leave- After I had made in this House the statement to which attention has been directed, the
Prime Minister said that, on the ground of national security, the matter ought to be censored; in the hearing of the House he directed the press accordingly. Subsequently, a letter was passed on to me by Mr. Speaker, in which the censor had asked, for the same reason, that certain passages should be deleted from the Hansard report of my speech. As this was put on the ground of national security, I readily agreed. I interviewed Mr. Speaker, and at my suggestion not merely the passages to which the censor had objected but also the whole of my reference to the map, were deleted. That was my proposal, I think you will remember, sir, and you accepted it. I said that I was not prepared to be made responsible for a garbled report of my speech. The censored particulars had actually been communicated to the members of three State executives of the Labour party. I have since found that the map, exactly as I had described it to the House had been published in the Christian Science Monitor of the 26th October, 1942, which was a considerable time before my speech had been delivered. I cannot see how a reference to a map published in America, and circulated throughout the world, can be regarded as prejudical to national security.
– On a further point of order, I ask how it comes about that a direction from the Security Service, or any other service, can be conveyed through Mr. Speaker, or by any other means, to a member of this House, either suggesting or requiring the amendment, alteration, or deletion of anything that has been said in this place? I have always understood that this Parliament is the supreme authority in this country. Parliament should be - though at times it is not under present conditions - the supreme power in this country, and it is an act of impudence on the part of any department to approach you, who are the selected mouthpiece of this place, with a suggestion as to how the records of Parliament should be kept. A clear ruling should be laid down on this point as early as possible.
– I do not take instructions from the Censor or from any body else, but I can best perform my duties if I go for information to the best sources available. If the Censor, in the interests of national security, tells me that, in his opinion, something ought to be deleted from the record, I am very glad to consider his representations, but, in the final analysis, I have to make up my own mind, and the ultimate decision is mine. However, I am not above taking advice from the Minister for the Army (Mr. Forde) or the Censor, or the Leader of the Opposition (Mr. Fadden), or even from the honorable member for Barker (Mr. Archie Cameron).
– Are we to understand that you have ruled that it is your duty and responsibility to censor speeches made by honorable members in this House, and that even if an honorable member objects you have the power to impose your will on him, and order the deletion from Mansard of such parts of his speech as you and your advisors may consider objectionable or dangerous, or, for some other reason, unsuitable for inclusion in the permanent record?
– My statement contained no such meaning, and I make no such claim. No honorable member’s speech is censored except after consultation with him and with his approval. If it should ever happen that some honorable member declines to fall in with my proposals with regard to the censoring of his speech, I shall then deal with the situation as best I can. Up to the present, however, I have been so fortunate as to reach an agreement with honorable members on every occasion, and I hope to be able to do so in the future.
– Do you agree with my statement of the facts?
Mr, F. M. FORDE, M.P.
Attitude to 1914-18 War.
– I desire to make a personal explanation. While the Prime Minister (Mr. Curtin) was addressing the House on the war situation on Wednesday, the honorable member for Hume (Mr. Collins) interjected that I was a conscientious objector in the last war. This statement is absolutely untrue, and is on all fours with other statements being circulated by interested people in a whispering campaign against democratic leaders in this country. I was never, at any time, a conscientious objector. As a matter of fact, during the last war, I was elected twice to the Queensland Parliament, on the second occasion with a record majority. Immediately after the war, I was again elected to the Queensland Parliament. In 1922 I was elected to the Commonwealth Parliament, and have continuously represented Capricornia since that time.
In a speech which I delivered in the Queensland Parliament on the 9th July, 1917, when moving the adoption of the Address in Reply, I clearly stated that my sentiments were all in favour of the war. and in favour of the fullest support of ibc ‘.soldiers. To clear this matter up once and for all, I summarize the text of relevant portions of that speech as follows : -
The Governor’s remarks on the part that Queenslanders are playing in this great war are undoubtedly pleasing to honorable members of this House, because they know that many thousands of our gallant young men sailed away from Australia to fight, not so much as a duty, but as a proud privilege to uphold the honour and glory of the British Empire and by their valorous deeds on Gallipoli and the fields of France, inscribed iri letters of blood an j in perishable name for Australia. The Labour Government is mindful of the welfare of those returned soldiers. 1 fully appreciate what the Government is doing for the soldiers, because as one who has a brother wounded at the Front I am apprehensive of the welfare of these men on their return. I am pleased that I am n member of the Rockhampton branch of the War Council because I feel sure from the personnel of that Council that very good work will be done.
I have never deviated from the sentiment expressed in that speech during the whole of my career. Furthermore, I was chosen in 1916, because I was president of the Rockhampton branch of the Australian Natives Association, to be the principal speaker with Bishop Halford, Anglican Bishop of Rockhampton, at the first Anzac Day celebration in Rockhampton. That fact speaks for itself.
It is well known that, since this war began., rumours of one kind and another have been circulated about Ministers and men in high positions in Australia. This is one of the familiar methods adopted by fifth columnists and enemy agents to besmirch their reputations, and try to undermine the confidence of the men of the fighting forces, and of the people generally, in the nation’s leaders. It is known to me that the rumour that I was a conscientious objector in the last war began to be circulated about me after 1 became Deputy Prime Minister and Minister for the Army. This is a malicious rumour in which there is no truth whatever, and which has obviously been circulated) with the intention of damaging me as a Minister of this Government. Members of the Government and members of the Opposition have their political differences, but no honorable member can be justified in accepting am! helping to spread rumours and lying propaganda as the truth, by putting them forward in Parliament with a view to damaging the reputation and work of Ministers of the Crown, or of private members. I leave it to the sense of justice of the honorable member for Hume to dictate the withdrawal of his remark about me.
– I desire to make a personal explanation. I did make certain statements yesterday, and I say now to the Minister for the Army that I will withdraw nothing. The statements I made may have been painful to the Minister, but I took them from the press. However, rather than refer again to anything published’ in the Century or in other newspapers about the Prime Minister (Mr. Curtin) and the Minister for the Army, I am prepared to leave the matter where it is, and say no more about it.
– It is alleged that members of the Volunteer Defence Corps are required to surrender coupons for the purchase of their Army summer uniforms. The matter was brought before the notice of the Director of Rationing in New South Wales, who replied that the men must produce coupons in order to supply themselves with these items of equipment. I now ask the Minister for the Army to confer with the Minister for Trade and Customs with the view to having the practice stopped?
– I shall do so.
– During the last couple of years the price of firewood in Tasmania has been considerably increased. I ask the Minister representing the Minister for Trade and Customs whether he is prepared to lay on the table of the Library the file relating to the retail price of firewood sold to the people of Tasmania in the last eighteen months?
– I shall consult the Minister for Trade and Customs and endeavour to persuade him to meet the wishes of the honorable member.
– I have received the following telegram : -
Thanks your wire 25th. General manager to-day interviewed Under-Secretary Mines and Mr. Dedman’s deputy Taylor and stated company’s position with regard man-power is now such that even if aliens call-up deferred shut down in near future inevitable and he is now planning suspend ore breaking operations end of month preparatory to maintenance only basis. We appreciate your efforts in matter but feel that further endeavours secure exemption men in question now not warranted.
That refers to the recent withdrawal of twenty machine miners who are enemy aliens from a mine in Western Australia. I ask the Minister for War Organization of Industry whether this call-up is not a. contravention of the agreement entered into by him with the Government of Western Australia in regard to the number of men who were to be permitted to renin in in the gold-mining industry in Western Australia.
– The agreement which this Government entered into with the Government of Western Australia provided for the call-up of a certain number of enemy aliens among the men whom it was considered could be obtained from the gold-mining industry. The call-up of those enemy aliens is in no way a contravention of that agreement, because the number of men still remaining in the gold-mining industry in Western Australia is still slightly in excess of the number agreed upon. I assure the honorable gentleman that the Government has no intention of departing from the agreement until further discussions have taken place with the Government of Western Australia, as originally provided for.
– Did the Minister for Commerce and Agriculture undertake to pay wheat-growers upon delivery at railway sidings 4s. a bushel on wheat up to 3,000 bushels? Does the Minister -know that 2s. a bushel is being paid on wheat in bags and ls. lOd. on wheat in silos and that, owing to the failure of the Government to carry out the undertaking to pay 4s. a bushel, many farmers are being placed in an embarrassing position, as they have committed themselves in anticipation of the fulfilment of the promise made by the Minister? When will the Minister’s promise be carried out in full ?
– The assertions contained in the question are not correct as tens of thousands of payments have been made in full. The only payments which have not been made in full are those which concern the wheat of growers whose quota is in question. In order that there should be as little delay as possible and to relieve the financial burdens of the wheat-growers, I instructed the Australian Wheat Board to make immediate payments of 2s. a bushel, on the bag basis, on all wheat delivered and that in all cases in which the quota had been determined - and those cases number tens of thousands - 4s. a. bushel was to be paid. I assure the honorable member that I will again take up this matter with the Australian Wheat Board and ensure that the wishes of the Government shall be carried out. The money for the payments in respect of the quota, wheat and of the wheat from farmers whose quota position had. not. been determined was made available early in December in order that there should be no delay or breaking of the contract entered into between the Government and the wheat-growers.
– In order that the anxieties of wheat-growers may be allayed I ask the Minister for Commerce and Agriculture whether it is intended to continue for the 1943-44 wheat harvest the plan which operated in respect of the 1942-43 harvest?
– The wheat plan was brought into operation for the current season. The matter of its continuation or otherwise has not yet been considered by Cabinet, but the earliest possible opportunity will be taken by Cabinet to consider this matter, and I do not think that the wheat-growers have any need for fear in that direction.
– I present two reports of the special committee of senators and members appointed to report upon amendments to the Australian Soldiers’ Repatriation Act. I intend to bring in a bill during the present sittings on the lines of the committee’s reports.
– A constituent of mine has reported to me that while he was away from his home a police officer, apparently at the instigation of the taxation authorities, called and asked his wife detailed questions as to his financial circumstances. I ask the Treasurer whether, if this practice is in operation, he has any knowledge of it and, if he has no knowledge, whether he will have inquiries made and make a statement to this House ?
– I have no knowledge of the circumstances mentioned by the honorable member. I do know, of course, that from time to time inquiries are made by officers and representatives of the taxation department.
– By police officers?
– I was not a ware thatany police officers are used on behalf of the Commissioner of Taxation, but I shall have inquiries made and inform the honorable member of the result.
– I lay on the table the following paper: - .
Dairying Industry - Report by the Tariff Board on allocation of assistance under the Dairying Industry Assistance Act 1942.
The Government has adopted the recommendations of the board.
Remission of Customs Duties
– I ask the Minister representing the Minister for Trade and Customs whether the Government has yet reached a decision on the matter of duty charged on motion picture projectors imported for use by the fighting forces ?
– by leave- The Government has decided to place on the Estimates a sum to cover the customs duties due on the motion picture projectors imported by the Australian Comforts Fund and for which that organization has requested admission into the Commonwealth free of duties. This concession is subject to an undertaking being given by the Australian Comforts Fund that the projectors will not be used for the screening of films before public audiences and will not be disposed of in any way without the prior consent of the Commonwealth Government. The concession will apply to those particular projectors only and is not to be regarded as a precedent for the admission free of duty of any other dutiable goods which may be imported by the Australian Comforts Fund or any similar body. If organizations such as the Australian Comforts Fund desire to import into the Commonwealth goods which are dutiable under the Customs Tariff, exemption from duty is not to be expected unless the whole of the facts are placed before the Government before the goods are ordered and a favorable decision received from the Government.
– I ask the Minister for Supply and Shipping whether any progress has been made towards the production of aluminium from Gippsland bauxite or any other Australian Bauxite?
– I could not do justice to the question by attempting to answer it impromptu. The progress depends upon the co-operation of other governments and their representatives, and all possible steps have been taken to secure their support. Representatives of the Commonwealth Government have been sent abroad for the purpose of examining methods in the United
States of America and the United Kingdom, and hydro-electric machinery has already been imported. But so many factors are associated with the matter that I shall have prepared a statement on all phases of it. dehydration; of mutton.
– Grave dissatisfaction exists in western Queensland as the result of the delay that has occurred in establishing mutton dehydration plants there. 1 ask the Minister for Commerce and Agriculture to inform the House whether plants will be erected in western Queensland, and if so, at wheat centres?
– The Government is most anxious to ensure that mutton dehydrators will be established in western Queensland because it considers that that region is one of the best sources for the supply of meat for this purpose. Recently, the Meat Commission investigated the matter, and I shall supply the honorable member with the latest details.
– Is the Minister representing the Minister for the Interior aware of the difficulty that government employees experience in obtaining board and lodging in Canberra? Will he inquire into the matter for the purpose of preventing the exploitation of young female employees who are compelled to reside in the Australian Capital Territory, and are living away from their homes for the first time?
– All honorable members are aware that the problem of accommodation in Canberra is acute. My colleague, the Minister for the Interior, possesses certain powers to deal with the matter, and I shall bring the question to his notice.
– Has the attention of the Minister for Commerce and Agriculture been drawn to a report from Newcastle in the Daily Telegraph of the 26th January, entitled “ See Ruin of Pig Industry “, in which it is stated -
Maitland meat producers believe the Government’s pig meat prices will mean the end of the industry in that district.
In view of the urgent necessity to procure pig meats for the forces and to make up for the dire loss of pigs caused by the outbreak of swine fever in New South Wales, will the Minister request the Prices Commissioner to withhold the suggested schedule of pig meat prices to the producer, so that only the wholesale price of bacon will remain fixed as at present?
– The prices of pig meats have already been extensively investigated. Only recently, the council of the pig industry met in Melbourne, and despatched a deputation to interview me in Canberra. On that occasion, the representatives suggested the fixa tion of a price of 8£d. per lb., and asked the Commonwealth Government to guarantee to purchase the output for a period of approximately two years. After consultation with Cabinet, I gave an undertaking that the Commonwealth Government would purchase pig meats for a period up to two years, and the question of price was referred to the Meat Commission and the Prices Commissioner. As the result of this investigation, a price of 8J per lb. was adopted. That is only id. per lb. less than the price suggested by the representatives of the pig industry. In addition, certain expenses would be borne by the Meat Commission, and that relief would increase the return to pig producers by Id. per lb. for first-grade meat. Other safeguards also were provided for the purpose of preventing exploitation by speculators. The producers may send their stock to the nearest abattoirs, and the Meat Commission will pay the price which I have indicated on the hook, and will be responsible for the freights. Everything possible has been done by the Meat Commission and the Prices Commissioner to ensure that the producers shall receive a fair price, and I assure the honorable member that my experience in different parts of Australia indicates that the objectors to the price are not the producers but the speculators and other processors. They have waxed fat on the industry for a long time.
– Doubtless Ministers as well as honorable members have received a circular letter from the Society of Friends relating to the. relief of starving people in Europe and Asia. I ask the Minister for External Affairs, as the representative of the Government of one of the greatest primary producing countries in the world, whether Cabinet has explored methods by which wheat may be sent to those countries for the purpose of relieving famine and destitution.
– Some relief has already been given, and work has been done in connexion with this subject. Relief has been sent to the people of Greece and France by arrangement with various governments. However, if the honorable member will make available to me the letter to which he referred, and supplement it with any suggestions he has to offer, I shall give consideration to the whole subject and furnish a more detailed reply to him.
– Will the Minister for Commerce and Agriculture direct, those responsible for the rationing of superphosphate in Western Australia to apply to its distribution in that State the same principles as arc applied in the eastern States, so that there may be no differentiation between primary producers?
– I shall take the matter up immediately with the Superphosphate Industry Committee, which, as honorable members are aware, is representative of various government departments and also of the growers’ organizations and the manufacturers. I assure the honorable member .that the Government would not consider for a moment such an outrageous proposition as differentiation among the producers in the various States, to the detriment of Western Australia. I shall have the whole subject investigated to uncertain whether any justification exists for such a suggestion.
– The honorable gentleman made such a. promise two months ago.
– And I acted upon it.
– Is the Minister representing the Minister for Trade and Customs able to say whether it is a fact that. cigarettes and tobacco are being distributed to American troops in this country free of duty, and that such troops are able to purchase such cigarettes at 6d. per packet of twenty? Does not the Minister consider that the time has arrived for cigarettes and tobacco to be made available to Australian troops free of duty?
– I do not know whether the position is as stated by the honorable member.
– I assure the Minister that it is so.
– I shall refer the subject to the Minister for Trade and Customs to see what can be done about it.
– I ask the Minister for Transport whether a proposal has been made seriously to restrict the road service operating between St. Mary’s, and Launceston in Tasmania? Is the honorable gentleman aware that the rail service in that locality is most unsatisfactory and that the present road service is valuable in connexion with the war effort? The curtailment of the road service would not effect any saving in petrol, rubber or manpower. If such a. proposal has been made, will the honorable gentleman take steps to ensure that the existing road service shall be continued until a full inquiry can be made into it-he subject?
– My department is at present making a complete survey of road services throughout Australia, particularly those operating parallel with railway lines. The service referred to by the honorable member for Wilmot has already been the subject of representations to me by other honorable members representing Tasmanian constituencies. .1 have the whole matter at present under review.
– Has the Prime Minister received a circular letter from the. Returned Sailors, Soldiers and Airmen’s Imperial League of Australia, which sets out what the organization considers in be the minimum repatriation benefits thai should apply after the war? If so, does the right honorable gentleman agree thai the submissions are reasonable, and will he take steps to ensure that they are incorporated in the repatriation legislation to be submitted to the Parliament shortly ?
– I am unable to say whether the particular communication to which the honorable member has referred has reached my office. Many general proposals have been submitted to the Government by various organizations, including the Returned Sailors, Soldiers and Airmen’s Imperial League of Australia. A special committee has recently considered the subject and submitted a report upon it to .the Government. That report has been the basis of Cabinet deliberations, although other representations have also been considered. A bill will be submitted to Parliament, shortly which will incorporate the Government’s decisions. Cabinet has given the closest consideration to the best kinds of repatriation benefits which can b« provided.
– I ask the Prime Minister whether he is aware that the nien employed in a Sydney war factory known as “ Austral Bronze “ absented themselves in a body from production work on the afternoon of the 26th January, stating that they wished to join parties on beaches? Was such action in conflict with National Security (Holiday) Regulations? If so, what action does the Government propose to take in the matter? Would the Prime Minister regard such action as an instance of the co-operation of the trade union movement in the war effort to which be referred yesterday? In giving consideration to this subject will the right honorable gentleman ascertain whether the beaches referred to were those adjacent to Buna, and Gona?
– The form in which the honorable gentleman has put his question makes quite clear the purpose of it. I have not received a report on the incident to which he has referred. I know that men have absented themselves from work on given days. I know also that such abstention from work has been against the decisions of their organizations, which have imposed penalties upon the men for breaches of their rules.
I know also that the Attorney-General has instituted legal proceedings against persons who have absented themselves from work and that the courts have given decisions in such cases. To the very utmost of its capacity the Government is endeavouring to ensure a maximum war production. Broadly, the workers of Australia have responded magnificently to the requests which the Government has made. Notwithstanding that there may be spots on the sun, I consider that the record of the trade unionists of this country bears more than favorable comparison with that of unionists in any other country.
– Having in mind the fact that last Tuesday was observed as Australia Day, I ask the Prime Minister whether, when the extended term of the present Governor-General expires a few months hence, the Government will recommend the appointment of an Australianborn citizen as Governor-General?
– I am happy to say that the Government does not intend to give any consideration to the appointment of a new Governor-General, for it is quite happy about the services which the present Governor-General, Lord Gowrie, is rendering to Australia. When the need arises to consider the making of a new appointment, the Government charged with that responsibility will bring its best attention to bear upon the subject in order to ensure that due regard will be paid to the wishes of the people as a whole.
– Will the Prime Minister inform me whether any decision has been taken to restore the Sunday afternoon broadcasts from Wesley Church, Melbourne, as a normal feature of programmes of the Australian Broadcasting Commission? If not, how does the subject now stand?
– A deputation waited upon me, and certain views were exchanged between us. I offered my view upon what might be done. I told the deputation, a? I now tell the House, that under the Australian Broadcasting Act I am not the authority to administer the broadcasting service, but that I had no doubt that I was qualified to offer views to the Australian Broadcasting Commission and was quite certain that it would give to them reasonable consideration. The deputation thanked me for what I had said. It undertook to make a new submission to the Commission and to let me have the reply. I have not yet had from the deputation the reply to its latest submission to the Commission.
– Has the Minister for War Organization of Industry seen in the Sydney Sun of the 3rd January, photographs purporting to show that an order issued by his department prevents women from obtaining suitably fitting dresses, and causes a wastage of material ? If the assertion is correct, will the honorable gentleman, in view of the serious consequences that may ensue from the action referred to, consider whether the regulations should be altered?
– My attention has been directed to the publication in the Sydney Sun of the article and photographs referred to. I am in a position to state that the photographs were deliberately faked. The history of the matter is as follows : On the 30th December last, the Sydney Sun published an article under heading “ Austerity or Bust “. The article stated that under a recent regulation of the Department of War Organization of Industry the length of women’s dresses would correspond to the bust measurements of the women who wore them. Such a thing, of course, would be ridiculous. My department got in touch with the Sydney Sun, and pointed out that no regulation with regard to women’s dresses had been issued by it since the month of July previously, and that, when those regulations had been issued, the Sydney Sun had itself complimented the department on the very fine job it had done in having achieved certain more or less standardized styles. On the 3rd January, however, the Sydney Sun published a further article and the two photographs to which the honorable member has referred. One of the photographs was of a rather stoutish girl, wearing a dress which reached to her ankles; the other was of a rather slim girl, wearing a dress that ended above her knees.It was obvious to my department that these photographs were faked. Inquiries were made, and we succeeded in getting in touch with the two girls in one of the large Sydney departmental stores. Statutory declarations have been obtained from them. A photographer, who was in uniform, approached them and asked if they would consent to wear certain dresses and have their photographs taken in them. One of the girls was asked to pad her waist with brown paper. The House may consider this a laughing matter, but it is most serious indeed when the press descends to such deliberate misrepresentation. The photographer then asked this girl to put on the dress. It, of course, reached to her ankles. Not content with that, he mounted a stepladder, in order that the photograph might appear as it was published in the newspaper. When the other girl had donned the dress, the photographer descended a flight of steps and had her stand on the top step in order that the shortness of the frock might be emphasized; and that is how it appeared in the photograph. So I say that these photographs were deliberately faked. I have taken up the matter with Associated Newspapers, the company which publishes the Sydney Bun, and have asked for an explanation. When that has been furnished, I shall consider what further action shall be taken.
– Has the Treasurer given consideration to the effect on tax revenue of the present system of making refunds of excess profits to the public, which in the final analysis will mean that in many instances the Treasury will bear the greater part of the burden?
– Certain investigations have been made. The matter will be further investigated, and I shall advise the honorable member of the result.
– In view of the Prime Minister’s warning about the urgent need for a total war effort, will the Minister for Labour and National Service give to the House the names of those persons who, in a time of great national peril, have sought from his department permission to employ five domestic servants ? If this permission were granted, selfindulgent individuals would be given the exclusive enjoyment of the services of five adults, who would thus be diverted from war production.
– Order ! ‘ Comment in a question is out of order.
– Quite a number of applications for permission to employ domestic servants have been made to my department. I am not, at the moment, in possession of the details, but I shall have inquiries made immediately and shall supply the honorable member with as much information as I can obtain.
– by leave - I move -
That leave of absence for two months be given to the right honorable member for Yarra (Mr. Scullin), on the ground of ill health.
I am glad to say that the right honorable member for Yarra has been able to leave hospital; but for some considerable time he will not be able to attend to his parliamentary duties. I am certain that the House would wish me to convey to him its sincere good wishes for his speedy and complete recovery.
Honorable Members. - Hear, hear!
Question resolved in the affirmative.
– I ask the Minister for Supply and Shipping whether the report is correct that during la3t week-end in Sydney it was necessary to draw upon trained airmen from Bradfield Park to engage in wharflabouring duties, in order to unload important munitions, because certain waterside workers had refused to handle that cargo? If the report is correct, what action, if any, is contemplated against the offenders?
– I have no detailed information on the point raised by the honorable member. There have been occasions when what is known as a Docks Operating Company has loaded ships and, 1 understand, has also unloaded them. The particular occasion referred to has not been reported to me, but I shall ask the Controller of Shipping to advise me of the details.
– On the 11th December the Prime Minister said that he would, at the next sitting of Parliament, lay upon the table of the House the report of the committee which investigated the dairying industry. Can he say when the report will be tabled?
– Probably to-morrow.
– Is it a fact that, while potato growers outside a 25-mile radius of Sydney must accept prices fixed by the Potato Committee, prices which range from £6 to £10 a ton, those within that radius may sell potatoes at prices ranging from £16 to £18 a ton? If that be the position, will the Minister take remedial action?
– I do not know whether the position is as the honorable member has stated, but I shall get in touch with the Potato Committee and obtain full information on the matter as soon as possible.
– Can the Prime Minister say whether Cabinet has yet. considered the report and recommendations of the War Industries Survey Committee which was appointed last year to examine conditions in Tasmania?
– Most of the recommendations of the committee have already been given effect by the various departments concerned. Some matters necessitate further inquiry, and they will be submitted to Cabinet for consideration. I hope that decisions on those matters will be made very shortly,
Local Bodies asu Road Machinery.
– Some months ago, the Allied Works Council impressed the road-making machinery owned by various local authorities, particularly shire councils. Since then the roads under the control of those local bodies have fallen into disrepair. Both the Biggenden ‘ and Strath-mine Shire ‘Councils have asked for the return of certain machinery, including bull-dozers; or, alternatively, for the repair of the roads by the Allied Works Council itself. Will the Prime Minister see that one or the other of those requests is granted?
– The Allied Works Council has been obliged to impress much machinery, and labour, for the carrying out of important military projects. By arrangement with the State governments, and with the assistance of various municipalities, the council has had made available to it a good part of the road construction equipment formerly in the possession of those municipalities. It is true that the roads for which the municipalities are responsible are not now as well kept as before, and it may be that some are in need of immediate repair. At the same time, although the Allied Works Council has achieved a great deal, it must still concentrate on the programme before it if the various projects are to be brought to a successful conclusion. I am afraid that in this matter we have a conflict between military requirements and the maintenance of ordinary civilian services. The council will, as soon as possible, hand the machinery back to the Tocal bodies so that the roads may be properly attended to.
– Where the machinery is not being used for the time being it could be lent back temporarily to the municipalities.
– That is being done.
– Not in all cases.
– No, not in all cases, but the distances to be covered, and the time involved, are matters which must, be taken into account.
– Will the Prime Minister look into the two cases which I cited?
– I shall ask the Allied Works Council to consider them.
– I understand that the attention of the Minister for Munitions has been called to the public utterance of Mr. W. J. Smith, formerly Director of Gun Ammunition, in which he stated that there is much waste of time and overlapping of effort in the production of munitions of war. Is the Minister aware that this condition existed before Mr. Smith relinquished his position, and even before the present Government took office? Is he aware that the attention of the War Expenditure Committee has been drawn to the matter? Will he appoint a War Production Directorate with a view to removing difficulties of the kind, and will be ensure that the Director shall be free of vested interests ?
– It is the constant desire of the Government to promote increased efficiency in war industries, and much success has been achieved in this direction, as is indicated by the everincreasing production figures, particularly during the last twelve months. However, I have no doubt that further improvements can be effected, and it will be our endeavour to do so. I have in mind a valuable suggestion made by the honorable member for Reid (Mr. Morgan) some time ago to the effect that a production engineer should be appointed to advise the department. Recently, Mr. Forde, who was formerly associated with the Government’s small arms factory at Lithgow, returned from the United States of America, where he gained much valuable experience, and it is now proposed to utilize his services as production engineer. It will be his duty to visit the various munitions factories, and make suggestions for an increase of production, and for the promotion of greater efficiency.
– Can the AttorneyGeneral say whether it is a fact that members of the organization known as Jehovah’s Witnesses are going through the country from door to door in very much the same way as they have always clone? In view of the fact that the ban on the Communist party has already been lifted, is it now proposed to lift the ban on this subversive organization also?
– No. it is not proposed to lift the ban. The Security Department is taking steps to prevent members of the organization from going about canvassing from door to door.
– They came to my own door.
– That may be, but where proof is forthcoming the Security Director is taking strong action, and some members have been placed under severe restrictions.
– I ask the AttorneyGeneral whether he has seen the report in the Brisbane Courier-Mail of Saturday last that since the Government had lifted the ban on communism late last month the membership of the Communist party in Australia had, according to information received by members of the Labour party, increased by 20,000. Has the right honorable gentleman any information to “confirm this report? If not, will he institute immediate inquiries and report the result to the House? Will the right honorable gentleman also state the reasons for the lifting of the ban on thu Communist party? Is it a fact that the ban was lifted so that this element might pursue its course while living in the reflected glory of the great Russian armies? Is it a fact that industrial strikes and absenteeism have increased since the lifting of theban?
– The honorable member’s question almost invites a. debate. The reasons for the lifting of the general prohibition were given in a statement issued by the Government in December. Those reasons broadly were: first, (he ban was imposed in 1940 because of the war position at that time when Soviet Russia was neutral. Since then the position has entirely altered because of the entry of Soviet Russia into the war as our ally. Secondly, reports that we had were to the effect that persons with communist views were not only not interfering with the war effort, but were assisting war production as far as possible. That report, which was made after careful investigation, was summarized in the press when the statement was made. Experience has shown that, since Soviet Russia entered the war as our ally, persons with Communist views have been endeavouring to foster the war effort. So far as stoppages are concerned, I assure the honorable member, again relying on reports, that these people, so far as we can ascertain, are not only not responsible for stoppages, but are doing their very bestto prevent them. So far as increased membership of the Communist party is concerned, I have no information to show that the report cited by the honorable member is accurate, but if the figure is 20,000 I should imagine it is much less than the previous membership of the party when it was formerly a lawful body; if so, there has been no increase. Finally, I impress on the honorable member that, when the general prohibition was lifted, two things were done in substitution. First, undertakings were obtained in relation to war production from the committee of the Communist party; and, secondly, new regulations were issued making it an offence on the part of any one, communist or non-com- munist. to advocate violence for the purpose of effecting any political measure whatsoever.
Debate resumed from the 27th January(vide page 30), on motion by Mr. Curtin -
That this House, at itsfirst meeting in the year 1943, in the fourth year of war with Germany and Italy, and in the second year of war with Japan, declares -
Australia’s indissoluble unity with the British Commonwealth of Nations, and its unswerving loyalty to the cause of the United Nations and its admiration for the heroic efforts of the Allied forces ;.
Its pride in the bravery and achievements of the Australian forces, in all theatres, and its intention to make provision for their re-instatement and advancement and for the dependants of those who have died or been disabled as a consequence of the war; and
Its determination to use the whole of the man-power and material resources of the nation in order to ensure the maximum war effort necessary to bring about victory, and arising therefrom to provide the requisite measures to promote the national welfare of the whole of the Australian people.
– Yesterday afternoon, the Prime Minister (Mr. Curtin), having moved a declaratory resolution, addressed the House on certain matters relating to the war. That resolution sought from Parliament a declaration under three headings. First, Parliament was asked to declare Australia’s indissoluble unity with the British Commonwealth of Nations, its unswerving loyalty to the cause of the United Nations, and its admiration for the heroic efforts of the Allied forces. Secondly, Parliament was asked to declare its pride in the bravery and achievements of the Australian forces, in all theatres, and its intention to make provision for their reinstatement and advancement, and for the dependants of those who have died or been disabled as a consequence of the war. Thirdly, Parliament was asked to declare its determination to use the whole of the man-power and material resources of the nation in order to ensure the maximum war effort necessary to bring about victory, and arising therefrom to provide the requisite measures to promote the national welfare of the whole of the Australian people.
Before making some general observations on several subjects to which I consider public attention should be directed at this stage, I intend to say something regarding the motion. My first reaction is to question the necessity for such a resolution. I remind the Prime Minister that on the 16th December, 1941, this Parliament carried a resolution pledging itself to take every step deemed necessary to defend this Commonwealth and its territories, to carry on hostilities in association with our allies, and to achieve final victory over our enemies. Surely, that pledge is sufficient! It is binding upon members of this House just as rauch to-day a.* it was when agreed to in December. J 941, shortly after Japan entered the conflict.
It appears to me, therefore, that even though we are in general agreement with the motion, its passage will not do anything towards strengthening the war effort. Whilst I agree with the sentiments expressed in the motion, I disagree with ihe way in which the Ministry has been endeavouring to implement the policy outlined in it. The mere adoption by this Parliament of the motion will not do anything concrete to provide for the reinstatement and advancement of members of the Australian forces, or for the dependants of those who have died or been disabled.
It is futile for this Parliament to express its determination to use the nation’s man-power and material resources in order to ensure the maximum effort necessary to achieve victory unless sound measures be taken to give the nation a maximum war effort. The very foundations upon which the nation’s war effort must be based are a sound financial policy and sound and efficient administration.
Therefore, I propose to address myself to the financial policy adopted by the Curtin Government. Fourteen months have elapsed since the first Labour budget, was introduced. On that, occasion, I charged the Government with failing to meet the realities of the position, though I admit that the brief period which elapsed between Labour’s taking office and the presentation of the budget did not afford the Ministry much opportunity to evolve a considered financial policy. But Labour’s second budget, presented eleven months after the Curtin Ministry came into office, revealed that, for political reasons, the Government had again failed to measure up to the necessity for a sound war-time financial policy. To avoid incurring the displeasure of a large body of its followers and the risk of losing their votes, the Government refused to distribute the taxation burden in an equitable manner. As I observed at the time, the Government was floundering up to its neck in inflation, while crying plaintively for austerity.
I shall examine the effects of the Government’s unsound financial policy, which is slowly but surely shackling the war effort. Modern warfare is exceedingly costly. Consequently, upon the Government in control of the nation, quite irrespective of party, falls the major responsibility of financing the conflict. This must be done along lines which will give rapid and adequate results with a minimum of injury to the nation’s present and future economic structure.
To gain some idea of the magnitude of war-time finance, I shall cite the cases of Great Britain and the United States of America which have furnished, abundant evidence that the colossal cost of war is not to be permitted to curtail initiative. The estimates of expenditure from the British Exchequer in the current financial year is nearly £5,000,000,000. President Roosevelt has submitted to Congress a Budget memorandum involving the expenditure of $100,0!00,000,000- equal to more than £30,000,000,000 in Australian currency. Relatively, the British and American figures make our war expenditure, even on the latest amended estimates, appear very small indeed. However, these old established countries have reserves of capital that have no parallel in Australia. At the same time, we must face the position that Australia’s war bill, no matter how great it may be, must be met. Already we have had striking evidence of how our war expenditure has grown to almost unbelievable proportions. It will continue to mount. Consequently there rests upon the Government the responsibility of distributing the burden in an equitable and scientific manner.
If Australia is to survive, the people will have to pay the price. Accordingly, the Government must ensure that our war-time financial obligations are spread over all eligible persons, according to their capacity to pay. This will not only lighten the individual pressure but also have the very important advantage of unifying the population in the spirit of service and sacrifice. Of that important consideration we should not lose sight. We cannot ignore the vitally important fact that the war into which this country was plunged by the Axis is everybody’s war. The very existence, rights, liberties, and property of all sections and of every individual have been challenged. Grave danger confronts us. The men of our fighting forces are waging war, and giving their lives not for any one section, or for any individual; they are fighting for every one. Upon every Australian, with the exception of children and incapacitated adults, rests an obligation to contribute towards the cost, of security, of honour, and of ultimate victory.
When the United Australia party and the United Country party constituted the Government, they endeavoured to introduce measures through which every Australian would have honoured that obligation. My endeavour to do so in October, 1941, resulted in the defeat of my Government. In opposition, we have adhered rigidly to our policy under which Australians would bear their fair share of war expenditure. So far, the Government has very discreditably shirked the admittedly unpleasant job of putting the people in their proper places in the financial fighting front. There are thi-ee means of obtaining the requisite revenue, namely, taxation, borrowing, and the expansion of bank credit. They need to be delicately balanced and controlled. In addition, the third method must be used cautiously, otherwise inflation, with its evil consequences, especially for the working classes with small or no reserves, is unavoidable. The plain duty of Parliament is to enforce this high principle of individual liability, but this cannot be done without jettisoning party prejudices and class-consciousness, or incurring the risk of displeasing this or that class, which may claim immunity. The broad basis of efficient war finance must be impartial and national.
Clearly the Government, even allowing for the success of the recent Austerity Loan, is not obtaining from the whole of the Australian people the money which is urgently needed for the prosecution of the war. The minority of our population are already being taxed to the limit, whilst the majority, who are either totally exempt, or are comparatively lightly taxed, prefer one of two courses ; to spend or to hoard. Surplus funds, which are put into savings banks, represent resources which the owners wish to protect from Treasury demands for war finance. In other words, the voluntary system of finance, which is so dear to the Labour party, has proved to he a failure.
I shall now refer to another feature of the Government’s financial policy. The treasury-bill position that has developed since this Government came into office is serious. In order to enable honorable members to appreciate the recklessness of Labour’s financial policy in this respect, I point out that at the end of June. 104!. when I was Treasurer, treasury- bills outstanding on behalf of the Commonwealth Government totalled only £1/750.000. Twelve months later, at the end of the financial year, 1942, the Curtin Government had year, 1949, outstanding in treasury-bills. That huge sum had been raised by the simple but inflationary process of discounting treasury-bills with the Commonwealth Bank. The Labour party has now been in control of the affairs of this country for fifteen months and treasury-bills outstanding at this moment reach the alarm ing figure of £203,000,000. When I prepared my speech, the latest available figure was £1.36,200,000, but I decided to ascertain, if possible, the exact figure at this moment, and I was astonished to learn that it had reached £203,000,000. Actually, the unfunded debt in Australia has now reached the record amount of more than £249,000,000 of which over £46,000.000 is represented by treasury-bills issued on behalf of the States. The State figure has remained fairly stationary. More than 45 per cent, of war expenditure has been met in the last six months by the simple device of borrowing against treasury-bill I O Us from the central bank ! In the second half of this financial year, the Government will have to find a considerable additional sum by the issue of treasury-bills. What is meant by this unfunded debt? In plain, everyday, language it means that the Government lacks tie courage adequately to provide for its ever-increasing war-time needs from revenue or loan raising, or both. It chooses to resort to definite credit expansion - the easy yet exceedingly dangerous way of inflation.
Uncontrolled inflation has been die ruin of great empires. I.t is only because: a huge number of restrictions are in operation to-day that we are being saved from disaster. The wage-earners of Australia, in particular, should realize the clanger of inflation. The controls now operating are alone saving them from disaster. Inflation seriously depreciate.thc value of bank deposits, life insurance policies, government bonds, war saving’ certificates, mortgages, debentures, preference shares, the deferred pay of our -crvice personnel, and pensions provided under our repatriation legislation. By embarking upon a policy of deliberate inflation when it is appealing to the people for subscriptions to war loans and for the purchase of war savings certificates, the Government is committing an act in the nature of a confidence trick. Bonds and certificates will not be worth what subscribers are putting into them.
Under the present voluntary loan system, unpatriotic people evade the losses due to inflation by putting their money into goods which have an increasing value. It should be axiomatic that if we, at home, can do anything to help our fighting men when they return, we should do it. No sacrifice on our part can repay our debt to them. Yet, under the Government’s financial policy, large sections of the community are not being asked to accept their fair share of the financial burden. Instead, their spending power is being increased by ever-increasing drafts of credit expansion. This spending power is undoubtedly inflating prices. A £5 note to-day will buy less than £4 worth of goods. This is undoubtedly due to Government policy. It is no secret that inflation is increasing seriously. The Government is steadily whittling down values in terms of goods and services. It is also seriously reducing the value of the deferred pay of service personnel. Because of this inflationary policy, a soldiers’ deferred pay of say, £100, may be worth only £80 in terms of pre-war money; but worse still, at the rate the Government is going, it may be worth only £50 at the end of the war. If we reach a position of uncontrolled inflation after the war, deferred pay may be worth nothing at all. It is useless for the Government, to talk about post-war reconstruction while it is neglecting to pay any regard to the value of the deferred pay and pensions without which our fighting men will have little hope of reinstatement in post-war civil life.
Worse than all this, is the danger which Government policy threatens to the whole fabric of the social and economic life to which our service personnel must return. Whilst. I agree that a certain measure of wartime control is desirable, and even inescapable, there are limits beyond which we should not go. The Government is exceeding those limits largely because it is neglecting to deal with its financial problems, and is adopting roundabout and bureaucratic methods to hide this neglect. So long as these deplorable tactics are pursued manpower, materials and money will continue to be wasted in Government maladministration. The Government is wasting an increasing proportion of the taxpayers’ money on much wartime administration which would be unnecessary if the straightforward and businesslike methods of raising money for war needs from revenue and public loans were adopted instead of the credit expansion method. A certain degree of inflation seems to be inevitable in wartime, but visible inflation is not nearly so dangerous as inflation which is cloaked by war-time control and is therefore more or less invisible. This invisible inflation must necessarily have serious consequences in the postwar period. One such consequence will be that when the bands of control are removed there will be a flood of spending which may swamp us in a sea of uncontrolled inflation. The inflationary evils of the present day may be postponed until after the war, but they must then inevitably engulf not only civilians but also the returned men, who deserve better treatment. The outlook for reconstruction is therefore not bright.
The only alternative to what I have stated is that the war-time controls must be continued indefinitely. If that should happen, we should be in a position of having fought the war for the doubtful privilege of living, after the war, the present-day regimented lives of our enemies. The Government’s financial policy is playing into the hands of extremists who openly advocate a totalitarian form of economy, the exact nature of which is disguised. It is the excuse and justification for much needless regimentation. Summed up, labour’s financial policy threatens to bring disaster to the nation.
I turn now to the all-important subject of man-power, which has assumed increasing significance since Japan entered the war. As the nation’s war-time activities have become intensified, the problem of allocating man-power between essential activities and fighting services has become extremely difficult. The Government must, however, accept considerable blame for its mishandling of the problem. More than a year ago, the Prime Minister announced that the Production Executive of Cabinet would handle decisions on matters of policy affecting the control amd direction of labour resources ; that the Department of War Organization .’of Industry; would plan and formulate proposals on which policy would be based ; and that the execution of approved policy would be centred in the Minister for Labour and National Service. This particular Minister was given sweeping powers. In the words of the Prime Minister, he was being clothed with the necessary authority to ensure the maximum national effort and the elimination of existing disabilities; to conserve industries and establishments vital to Australia’s defence; to conserve individuals whose qualifications should not be lost to industry ; to protect vital industries from loss due to labour turnover; and to take action to ensure that vital industries were fully manned.
I cite these functions to indicate to the Parliament and the nation the highly responsible duties of the Minister for Labour and National Service. Let us examine how the honorable gentleman regarded those responsibilities, On the day following the Prime Minister’s announcement, he declared that complete nationalization was absolutely essential. He expressed the opinion that very soon, the Government, in carrying out the policy of diverting everything to the winning of the war, would be obliged to take over completely many of the basic industries. He insisted that nationalization pf industry was the Government’s policy, and challenged those of his ministerial colleagues who disagreed with that view to disclose their identity. So far as I am aware, his challenge has not been taken up. About the same time, the honorable gentleman stated that he was disturbed and alarmed at the frequent interruptions to industry that had been caused by disputes which rightly should be the subject of inquiry by established tribunals. He then declared, “ If the Government cannot enforce its authority, it ceases to be a government”. In the light of his subsequent actions, I must express amazement at his statement.
If an admission that the administration of the man-power position has been bungled is needed, we have only to go to the Minister for Labour and National Service. In July last he agreed that man-power problems had not been handled as satisfactorily as they might have been. Instead of admitting that the bungling had been due to his own actions, he sought to pass the blame on to the authorities working under him. He alleged that State authorities were unsympathetic to the policy of the Commonwealth Government, and made a despicable attack upon State public servants, who were not in a position to reply to his charges. The Government’s handling of man-power problems has been characterized by ministerial and, in many instances, administrative muddling for which the Ministry deserves the severest censure. Withouta proper plan, as a basis, and without a proper measure of co-ordination between the departments concerned in the allocation of man-power, the Government went ahead seeking to meet the nation’s man-power requirements. The result is well known. Men were taken from essential industries and put into the Army; subsequently many of them had to be returned to those industries. Rural industries were so denuded of man-power that many producers had to go out of business, whilst the maintenance of adequate supplies of foodstuffs for civilians and the fighting services was seriously jeopardized. In other instances, it has not been found possible profitably to employ in essential industries persons called up for that purpose. The power of “ call-up “ was frequently abused. That this criticism of muddling in the administration of man -power is not one-sided, is borne out by criticisms byLabour members of Parliament and representative members of trade unions. Recently, the Prime Minister made the very disquieting statement that the manpower situation was such that war production might have to be curtailed or the fighting services be starved of reinforcements. Surely, such a position couldnot have arisen had there been in operation a properly balanced plan forthe distribu tion and utilization of man-power. Since then, according to the press, the Government has been examining the situation, and has decided that a body known as the War Commitments Committee, of which the Director-General of Man Power, Mr. Wurth, is chairman, is to be the body charged with the responsibility of advising War Cabinet in the work of formulating and planning man-power policy. The Opposition, before expressing its views on this new arrangement, would welcome a comprehensive outline of what the Government has in mind to rectify the position that has developed.
I wish now to direct attention to a very serious aspect of the man-power position. As I mentioned earlier this month, it is ironicalthat while the Prime Minister was commenting on the shortage of manpower, a large number of men engaged in war industries were on strike, and I had also been informed that certain war industries were not working at full capacity. What have the Minister for Labour and National Service, the Production Executive of Cabinet, consisting of Several Ministers, and other members of the Cabinet, done to rectify this position? It is the Government’s immediate responsibility to ensure that those engaged in protected and essential industries shall be made to work. The Metal Trades Association has brought to my notice the following instances of dislocation of important war industries as the result of strikes for trivial reasons during 1941 : -
On the 1st January, 119 employees were involved in a strike in which 1,930 hours were lost because a company refused to allow an intoxicated employee to start work.
On the 1st May, 136 employees were on strike for two days with a loss of 2,176 hours because the men demanded to be paid on the job instead of at the pay office.
On the 26th June, 931 employees caused a loss of 93,100 hours over a demand for double rates for working the 11 p.m. shift on King’s Birthday.
On the 24th August, 412½ hours were lost in a Sydney industry on account of the dismissal of a number of men for disobeying the company’s non-smoking rules.
On the 14th September, 1,294 hours were lost following a demand that these dismissed men should be reinstated.
On the 15th September, 6,221 hours were lost in another industry when the men refused to work with an unfinancial unionist.
On the 12th October, the fact that certain employees were not members of two particular unions resulted in a loss of 13,200 hours in another Sydney industry.
On the 27th November, 5,376 hours were lost at a Sydney works over a demand for payment for a day not worked because of heavy rain.
In December, a six weeks’ strike commenced at an important Sydney industry over the employment of seven females, and resulted in the loss of 99,840 hours.
The Government, before making further demands upon man-power, should take such action as will ensure that strikes such as these are not tolerated, and that man-power at present employed is used to the fullest capacity.
The Prime Minister’s declaration that preceding governments had displayed a great deal of energy in organizing and developing the capacity of Australia to participate in the war, came in striking contrast to the oft-repeated statements of several supposedly responsible Labour Ministers. These statements have been to the effect that when the Curtin Government came into power, Australia was in a defenceless state. I say emphatically that in many instances Ministers and Labour members have made these statements knowing full well that they were false. They have deliberately misrepresented the position in order to suit their own political ends. The Prime Minister stated that since Japan entered the war, more than 500,000 men had been transferred from, civil occupation. What the right honorable gentleman did not state was that, in respect of those who had gone into war industries, there already existed, when Labour took office, a great many of the establishments in which those men had been absorbed. Their transfer was largely made possible through the planning and the groundwork that had been done by preceding non-Labour governments.
In amplification of the Prime Minister’s statement regarding the preparation for war and defence by preceding administrations, I should like to indicate by facts and figures what had been achieved up to within a few months of Labour taking office. In considering these, I ask the House and the nation to bear in mind that during the terms of the Menzies and Fadden Governments, Japan had not entered the war. The total armed force in Australia on the 30th June, 1941, represented a proportion of at least one in four of the Australian male population between IS and 40 yeai’3 of age. There were about 400,000 men under arms in the three fighting services. In addition, Australia had a Volunteer Defence Corps or home guard with an establishment of 50,000. The extent of naval expansion can be gauged from the fact that in terms of personnel the strength in 1941 was more than three times greater than when war broke out. A shipbuilding programme, distributed on a Commonwealth basis, was in operation, and there had been eighteen launchings between the outbreak of war and May, 1941. Merchant ship construction was under way, and preparatory work on the graving dock at Sydney was being carried out. The Australian Imperial Force and the Militia Forces gave Australia an. army at least ten times as strong as it was in 1938, whilst an armoured division was coming into being. The Royal Australian Air Force was from sixteen to eighteen times its prewar strength in personnel, whilst many thousands of men had been recruited under the Empire air scheme and were being trained.
The development of munitions production had so rapidly created direct employment that for every one man at a bench or lathe in September, 1939, there were at least 90 men in 1941. That is to say, the list of munitions workers had increased by 2,000 per cent., and it continued increasing each month. Capital expenditure approved by the War Cabinet for the munitions programme from the outbreak of war to June, 1941, totalled nearly £34,000,000.
An essential part of the planning was the provision of production plant. Australia had to make or build the plant to produce many classes of munitions. In less than two years we virtually created a machine-tools and precision-tools industry. The provision of that industry enabled the Labour Administration to carry out munitions production and to develop it to meet the changing circumstances of war. -Another important achievement of the non-Labour Administration was the establishment of the aircraft production industry. [Extension of time granted.]
During his visit to Great Britain, the then Prime Minister (Mr. Menzies) paid special attention to aircraft production in that country and also in the United States of America, and he and his expert officers investigated types of planes suitable for Australia’s defence. By June, 1941, aircraft production operations were spread over three States. They were of a magnitude which involved technique and skill in manufacture not previously attempted in Australia. Many thousands of Australians were employed, and a solid foundation was laid for the wide expansion of the industry in post-war years, and for the supply of aircraft which undoubtedly will be needed for commercial aircraft services.
In addition, the Government had successfully negotiated with the United Kingdom for the purchase of Australia’s principal primary products. It had established an authority to control prices, and had pledged itself to prevent profiteering in war-time and to protect consumers.
It was refreshing to find the Prime Minister giving credit to preceding governments for what they had done to defend Australia. The Labour party, much though many of its members would like to do so, cannot ignore the fact that the preceding administration laid a solid foundation upon which the present Ministry has. been able to build. “When in government we based our defence plans on the needs of the nation at that time. We were guided by what our experts and those of the United Kingdom advised us should be done for the effective defence of Australia and the proper conduct of the war. We were not called upon to make the defence plans that the present Government has been called upon to make, because Japan was not in the conflict. We did, however, take every action deemed necessary to meet the situation that existed between Sep- tember, 1939, and the defeat of my Government in October, 1941.
– The Leader of the Opposition (Mr. Fadden) referred to the financial conduct of the war. It is rather amusing at times to hear various members of the Opposition, and even their right honorable leader, implying that if the Opposition were in power it would be able to finance the war entirely out of taxation and loans from the public.
– We have never said that.
– No, not in so many words, but that implication has been there all the time. Those who imply anything of the kind are attempting to delude the public or they are, in fact, deluding themselves.
– No such proposition was contained in any budget brought down by the last Government.
– No direct statement of the kind was ever made, I agree, but it has frequently been suggested. The plain fact is that, the rate of public expenditure being what it is, no government in Australia can obtain from the public by taxation and loans enough to pay for the war as it proceeds, and it is just as well for every body to understand that clearly. Any suggestion to the contrary is mere political cant.
There are aspects regarding the use of bank credit which always require the closest examination, and call for rigid control. We can all agree that the use of bank credit is permissible up to the point where the whole of the man-power of the country is employed, and all the productive resources of the community are being fully utilized. When that point has been passed, there can be no question but that the further use of bank credit must produce inflationary tendencies. It is true that in som<> respects that stage has already been reached in Australia. There is more money in the hands of the public than there are goods available to purchase,, and as a consequence some competition is set up which tends to increase pricesunless they are so rigidly controlled that no increase can take place. Even then, if sellers are to receive what honorable members regard as a fair margin of profit, some price increase is inevitable. Tie greatest increase of the cost of living since the war has been in respect of clothing. As a matter of fact, the price of food has fallen in the last quarter. It is true that the fall was only by a decimal point, but it is also true that it followed a period when there was a very grievous drought in this country and when there was a tremendous demand for various commodities that come into the cost of Jiving, and were in short supply; they included potatoes and onions. There is no question that there has been a substantial increase of the prices of clothing. I do not think it necessary for me to tell honorable members what happens in regard to raw materials which we have to obtain) from overseas. We are in the hands of profiteers in the overseas countries. We cannot dictate the price which we shall pay. That is beyond the scope of our prices control. Consider tea, for instance. For tea we have to pay whatever price is demanded. We have no control over the prices of things we buy overseas. Again, so far as the price of clothing is concerned, the price of wool to the Australian manufacturers has had to be increased commensurate with the increased price under the purchase contract with the Government of the United Kingdom. That may be only a small item, but I. cite it as another reason why the costs of clothing in which wool is used have increased. The honorable member for New England will not attempt to refute the statement that the price of wool to the Australian manufacturer has been increased.
– It has only been brought to the level of the British contract price.
– That is perfectly true. The honorable member regards that as merely justice to the Australian wool-grower. But he will not dispute theeffect that that increase has had on the price of clothing.
– lt is not a big item.
– I said that it was only a. minor item. I gave it merely as another illustration of why clothing costa have risen. In addition, the textile industry is working more shifts and it is paying penalty rates for shifts which were not worked in peace-time. Moreover, the industry has had to employ a great number of people who are not, nearly so efficient as were those who worked in the industry in peace-time. According to the Commonwealth Statistician, 30 per cent, or 35 per cent. - perhaps 40 per cent., although he did not say so - of the increased costs are costs over which the Government can have no control. Honorable members may submit a. remedy for that - the subsidizing of raw materials used in the manufacture of clothing or the subsidizing of primary products which enter into the cost-of-living regimen, as in Great Britain and Ca.nada. Indeed, we may have to consider following suit.
– Butter is already subsidized.
– Yes ; so are several other commodities. That is a policy which any country at war has to consider and. in many cases, adopt. The increased cost of living in this country is not so great as that in Great Britain, where it is said that taxation and the procurement of money .by means of loans have reached the highest possible level. The cost of living in Great Britain has increased by 29 per cent. It is perfectly true that Great Britain depends more than we do on imports, over the prices of which the authorities there have no control. But there it is - a 29 per centincrease of the cost of living in Great Britain, in spite of all the controls imposed, which honorable gentlemen regard as completely desirable. I realize that there is an excessive purchasing power in the hands of the people. lt is a great danger, but it cannot be cured by taxation and it can be controlled only up to a point by prices control. No matter what taxation is imposed or how heavy it may be, in this country there is, as there is probably in every country at war, the unusual circumstance that, whereas, in peace-time, perhaps only one member of the household worked, now both wife and husband are working. 1 know hundreds of wives of soldiers who are working in munitions factories. Many -of them, work overtime and on night shift for which they get considerable rates of pay. In addition, they receive allowances from their husbands, many of whom have their pay made up by their peace-time employers - various governments, and private banks, for instance. I know of hundreds of husbands in receipt of excellent pay whose wives are now working, although they did not work before. There are thousands of children working during their holidays. In a great many households, even if the incomes of individuals were reduced to £3 a week, there would still be available a tremendously greater amount of money than was available in peace-time. I have often thought with amusement of the tremendous horror expressed by some honorable members of the Opposition when there was talk of aggregating the incomes of husbands and wives for income tax purposes. I am not advocating that now; I am merely emphasizing that nothing could be done that would entirely cure the excess spending power which has been brought about are the result of wives entering industry.
– Does the honorable member say that nothing could be done bv means of taxation ?
– No. I said that the position could never ‘be cured completely in any country at war. There will always be a measure of “black marketing “. People will always buy and sell at excessive prices. If the Opposition were completely honest politically it would concede the point. There is a difference of opinion between the Opposition and the Government as to how much additional money can be obtained for the purpose of paying for the war - not completely paying for it, of course, for, if the Opposition parties were in power, they would not be game to attempt to impose a policy of paying for the war completely either by means of taxation or by raising loans from the public, or to say to the public, “ The money obtained from taxation and loans will dictate the extent to which we shall fight in this war “. No government, regardless of its political beliefs, could pay for this war at the present Tate of expenditure by loans from the public and taxation.
– That has never been suggested.
– If honorable members opposite are completely honest with themselves, they will admit that they contend that more could be collected from taxes than is being done to pay for the war, and that the purchasing power of the public could thereby be reduced.
– That is logical.
– Then the Opposition should not endeavour to deceive the public, into believing that the cost of the war can be met from day to day by taxes and loans, thus obviating the necessity for using bank credit.
– No one has suggested that. -
– I desire to make the position perfectly clear to the country, because I have read some absurd statements about the matter.
I now propose to examine the financial proposals of the previous Government. Admittedly, a lot of water has flowed under the bridge during the last eighteen months, but I remind the House that the previous Government budgeted to obtain an additional £7,000,000 from taxation and £25,000,000 from compulsory loans.
– At that time, the budget totalled only £200,000,000; but the latest budget amounted to £500,000,000.
– The previous Government never pretended that the additional £32,000,000 would meet the war expenditure.
– No, but it was sufficient to balance the increasing expenditure.
– I shall give the cold, hard facts. The. previous Government budgeted for an additional £32,000,000 to meet the rising cost of the war; but now, honorable members opposite advocate the adoption of a “ pay-as-you-go “ policy. Surely the previous Government did not consider that the introduction of compulsory loans would bridge the gap between expenditure and revenue. If Parliament had accepted the principle of compulsory loans, the indebtedness of the country would have been increased. The previous Government did not even indicate to the people when the compulsory loans would be repaid to them.
– They would have been repaid after the war.
– Honorable members opposite must not deceive themselves that compulsory loans, in addition to taxation, would meet the cost of the war. Indeed, some honorable members opposite, including the present Leader of the Opposition, suggested that a reduction of taxes should accompany the introduction of compulsory loans. I state these facts plainly, without quoting a mass of statistics to support my contention. Recently, the right honorable member for Kooyong (Mr. Menzies) was reported in the press as having said that if the Government applied to civilians a system of deferred pay similar to that which applies to the services, an additional £150,000,000 per annum would be collected. Of course the right honorable gentleman has too much common sense to have made such a statement. The report did not point out that in addition to his pay the soldier receives free living, medical attention, dental treats ment and clothing, whilst an allowance is paid to his dependants. But the report is interesting, because it indicates the material that the conservative press will publish for the purpose of deluding the public. Generally speaking, honorable members opposite have not mentioned a definite figure regarding the amount of tax which, in their opinion, could be collected from the public. The only exception is the honorable member for New England (Mr. Abbott), but he allowed his imagination to go beyond the bounds of practicability.
– That is a matter of opinion.
– We shall see. If an additional £45,000,000 in taxes were collected, the rates in Australia would be as heavy as the taxes and post-war credit scheme applying in Great Britain.
– Is that income tax?
– That statement is only true of certain categories.
– I agree with honorable members opposite that any money collected from the public by way of compulsory loans or by post-war Credits has the same effect as taxation in reducing purchasing power and thus preventing inflationary tendencies which, as the result of competition, force up the price of commodities. But honorable members should not think that Great Britain is paying for the war with a heavy scale of taxation. In New Zealand, which has not adopted the policy of compulsory loans, taxes are heavier than in most countries. The expansion of bank credit in Great Britain is, to quote the words of one observer, “growing at an alarming rate “. True, ‘Great Britain is selling foreign securities in an effort to make up the difference between expenditure and revenue, and, naturally, that will have a bad effect upon the economy of the country in the post-war period. But I emphasize that in the last budget introduced by the Chancellor of the Exchequer, any increase of the rates of direct taxation was almost negligible.
– Because the Government has got it all.
– The honorable member has impaled himself upon my very hard point. He says : “ The Government has got it all.” How then can he explain the fact that national credit has increased in England by 27-^ per cent, since the last budget was presented ? He should chew over that fact. Although it is alleged that the British Government has got all that it can get by taxation, and although it has not increased taxation greatly in recent months, the use of national credit is being increased in the United Kingdom day by day. That is true also of Germany, Russia, Italy and the United States of America.
– National credit is being pumped in at the top, but taken out at the bottom.
– If the honorable member had studied economics, he would know that all that is pumped in can never be taken out. Even that which is extracted takes .time to filter through to the bottom. Not only has taxation remained almost stationary in Great Britain in recent months, but also the Chancellor of the Exchequer said, not long ago, that he thought that taxation had reached almost saturation point.
We should be realistic. We should take care that we do not convey an impression to the general public that war costs can be met in these days from taxation. Some of the broad generalizations uttered by honorable gentlemen opposite tend to create such an impression, but no such conclusion can be justified by the facts. We cannot meet our war expenditure out of taxation. I shall have something more to say on that subject a little later when certain financial measures are before the House, and I shall then deal in more detail with certain points raised by the Leader of the Opposition.
I wish now to consider the man-power position in broad outline. The Minister for Labour and National Service (Mr. Ward) will no doubt deal with specific observations of the Leader of the Opposition, but I point out that the previous Government had certain advantages when it had to face the man-power position. It assumed office while there were still large numbers of people clamouring for employment in our factories, some of whom had been almost on the verge of starvation for years.
– That has not been so since a few months after the beginning of the war.
– I can tell the honorable gentleman that only in the last six or eight months has the reservoir of unemployed people been practically dried up in my own electorate. Until almost, as recently as that time, employment officers were required to attend for two days a week at certain points in my electorate to deal with people seeking employment. I do not wish to cast any reflections upon the previous Government, but I have always believed that sooner or later the war objective which we had set ourselves in Australia would require any government to take drastic measures. When I was sitting in opposition, I acknowledged the soundness of certain man-power appointments made by the Government of the day, but I believed, even at that time, that unpopular action would have to be taken in order to enable us to reach our production objectives. During the term of office of the previous Government there was always available a reservoir of unemployed people. Although it was steadily drying up at one stage, in a town in my own electorate 2,500 people were unemployed. The figure was gradually reduced until there were no unemployed persons at all available there.
The man-power organization of Australia ha? done a splendid job. 1 pay tribute to the Director-General of Man
Power (Mr. Wurth), and to his deputy directors who, in circumstances of tremendous difficulty, have achieved remarkably fine results. I do not suggest that mistakes have not been made. We all are fallible. Ministers, departmental heads, other public servants, and private individuals all make mistakes. In times such as these mistakes are more frequent than in normal times when the problems which have to be considered can be dealt with in a more leisurely way. In war-time everything has to be done under pressure and the common capacity of mankind to commit errors of judgment and to make mistakes is more apparent in such circumstances. For this reason I pay tribute to the value of the services which have been .rendered, in circumstances of extreme difficulty, by those who have had to.deal with the man-power position in this country in the last year or so. It was inevitable that, from the Minister downwards, they would suffer severe criticism. I was rather surprised, as a matter of fact, that the Leader of the Opposition did not refer in more detail to what had been done, but probably he had learned a lesson from the way in which the Minister for War Organization of Industry (Mr. Dedman) “ cleaned up “ several of his critics during the last sessional period. The honorable member for Robertson (Mr. Spooner) left only the shell of an organization for dealing with man-power when he handed over the department to the present Minister. He had mot time to do very much more than visualize a general policy. The man-power position became extremely difficult after Japan entered the war, and at that time we all knew beyond question that unpopular things would have to be done. The Minister for War Organization of Industry has had a most difficult, trying and exasperating job. He has not been able to grant a single concession to anybody. He has had to say to people that, irrespective of their own desires and inclinations, they must do this, that, or the other job. He realized that a nation of 7,000,000 people would have to be organized and regimented to the utmost degree in order to face attack by a nation of 70,000,000 people. Consequently, he had to go forward with his job regardless of the effect of his work on individuals. His sole concern was to ensure that, to the greatest possible degree, the nation would be put on a war footing. I noticed the other day that the regimentation of -the people of Great Britain had reached such a pitch that even the manufacture of ice-cream - a luxury enjoyed by small children all over the world’ - had had to be discontinued by government orders. The abolition of the manufacture and distribution of ice cream resulted in throwing out of employment 150,000 persons, many of whom were half crippled or were invalids. Thousands of them could not be adequately used in the war effort; nevertheless a very considerable contribution to it, in respect of material and man-power, was thereby obtained. I am not attempting to argue that any Minister in this Government, or the Government collectively, does not make mistakes; but I do say that the Government did not have a pleasant task when it set out to make every man and woman, and every material resource, available to the war effort, in order that this country might be as fully equipped as possible for the protection of the liberty that we enjoy. I share with most members of this Parliament the view that it matters not what may happen to us at an election so long as this country remains safe. As Treasurer, I have had to do a lot of hard things. Nobody likes being unpopular. Treasurers are notoriously unpopular; they are loved by nobody, not even by their own colleagues. The hand of every man is against them. Nobody wants to give them anything, hut every body wants to get something from them. A Treasurer cannot afford to be a Santa Claus, and many of the requests made to him have to be refused. It has not been a pleasure to me to be the Minister responsible for the imposition of severe taxation on the people of this country.
There is a tendency on the part of some honorable members to seize every opportunity to sneer at the workers. I heard the honorable member for Wentworth (Mr. Harrison) ask a question which was definitely intended to cast a reflection on, and to disparage, the workers generally. I know that there are persons who have done well out of this war. Some of them may be in the ranks of the workers; but there are also many in other sections of the community. They are far better off than they were in peace-time. As a matter of fact, many persons attached to the services who are not in grave, danger, are better off than they were in. peace-time.
– Too many of them.
– That may be. All the profiteers are not to be found in any one section. In every section there are persons who are determined to do well out of whatever is going. Some of the greatest rackets in the history of the world would have been operated in this country during the war, had control not been exercised. There are persons who were prepared to speculate in housing. Because England did not take steps to stabilize the value of houses at a decent level, houses are being sold now at three times the value placed on them by the War Damage Commission in that country, and plots of land for the purpose of growing vegetables, which previous to the war averaged £50 an acre, are now being sold at £200 an acre. There are some - a minority I admit - who, unless steps be taken to curb their activities, will do their utmost to rob the community. The injury is not confined to the actual robbery ; the morale of the community also is affected. It is very dispiriting to the people to learn that some persons are engaged in racketeering, and getting whatever benefit can be obtained out of the war. I regret the tendency to sneer at the workers. They have not had a very cheerful job in this country. Women have given up their homes ; long hours have been worked ; extensive travelling has been done, by the industrial unite in war industries. It is extremely difficult for the average citizen in the street to understand the reasons for the restrictions that have been placed upon him, the privations he has had to suffer, and the sacrifices he has had to make. In thousands of instances, these men say to themselves: “In peace-time, I had to stand at a factory gate seeking a joh, or attend a police station to receive a dole “. In war-time, when they have had an opportunity to earn a little money with which they could furnish their homes, buy decent clothes, and have a better standard of existence generally, the Government says to them, “You cannot have these things “. Not all of them understand why they are deprived of them, and we are not able to tell them. Members of this Parliament have been informed of the very dire peril in which this country stands. They have been given confidential details of the difficulties of the Allied Nations in this groat struggle with the Axis powers. T behave been told of the difficulties in regard to shipping and the shortage of materials. They have an intimate knowledge of the situation. They have some power and glory, because, as members of the Federal Parliament, they know what is happening and secrets have been confided to them. But the great masses of the people know nothing. To them is not given any power or glory; they are not acclaimed by anybody. Day after day they have to wend their weary way to work, in trams, trains and buses, hours before they are due to commence duty >and hours after they have ceased duty. They have to do their shopping under the greatest difficulties. They are not able to purchase the things that they need; many, indeed, have no time in which to shop. Having experienced difficulties and hardship in the years of peace, they do not recognize that this great democracy has outstanding advantages. In war-time, we expect them to give of their very best to this country which neglected them during peace-time. [Extension of time granted.^ The sons of some men who were on a dole of 5s. 9d. a week have given their lives for this country. Those of them who did not volunteer were called up for service. These people do not feel any great satisfaction in reflecting on the way in which they have been treated. They wonder what sort of a democracy it is which is unmindful of their interests in peace-time, yet in war-time says to them, “ Give us of your best in the factory or the field; give your lives for this country”. What happened previously must never occur again. I hope that every member of this House will pledge himself to use his utmost endea- vours to that end. As a member of the Government, I say definitely that steps are to be taken so far as they reasonably can be, in order to ensure that those social injustices shall not recur in the years when peace shall have been regained.
.- I am glad that the Treasurer (Mr. Chifley) has introduced into the debate a note which, if we follow it, will prevent us from following what appeared to be the previous trend, namely, a party dispute. I agree with him, and so should every other honorable member, that the function of all is first to wage the war successfully, and then, at its conclusion, to ensure that this country shall be worth living in. 1 applaud the sentiments which he expressed in that regard. But the debate was initiated by the Prime Minister (Mr. Curtin) upon an entirely different note. It was initiated by submitting for adoption certain declarations which I should not have thought needed any adoption by this House. Either the Government is not ready with its legislative programme, or it is engaging in window-dressing on political lines. The Treasurer, at least, has made it clear that his purpose is to discharge his duty as he sees it to the country, and that should be the resolve of every honorable member of this House. Unfortunately, from time to time during the last fourteen months, statements have been made by members of the Ministry drawing comparisons - and I think odious comparisons - between what has been accomplished by this Government and what was accomplished by the last. Therefore, I believe that the speech delivered- to-day by the Leader of the Opposition was overdue. It was necessary, in the circumstances, to make a statement showing the extent to which the last Government, during its term of office, contributed to the defence of Australia. As the Treasurer said, every government while in power is subject to criticism, and may make mistakes, but I do not think that it serves any national purpose to be con.tinually comparing records of various governments during time of war.
The speech of the Prime Minister consisted of two parts. In the first part he drew a comparison between what had been accomplished by his Government and what had been done by the last Government, and only under pressure did he pay a generous tribute to what the last Government had in fact done. The second part of his speech consisted of a rehash, and a poor re-hash if I may say so, of what he had said the previous night in a radio broadcast. I hope that there will be an end of this drawing of comparisons between the records of governments, but since the matter has been raised, I propose to say something about one phase of the last Government’s activities, namely, the Army. lt would have been an extraordinary thing if, following upon the fall of Singapore, any government in power had not taken steps immediately to strengthen greatly the defences of Aus’ tralia. Therefore, it is only to be expected that the armed forces of this country should have been increased during the last twelve months, and I say that without any desire to withhold due praise for the efforts of the present Government. However, it is idle to compare what has been done by the Administration since the entry of Japan into the war with what was done before, without keeping in mind the facts to which I have drawn attention. “We were told that the strength of the Army had been increased two and a half times since December, 1941. Of course, it has. If I were to go hack over the twelve months preceding my retirement from, office, I could, no doubt point out that the armed forces had increased by comparable proportions. I have the figures before me, but for some reason it is not customary to cite figures regarding our forces, though this information is regularly published in respect of both the Canadian and South African forces. There may be security reasons for withholding the information here, and I do not challenge the practice, but it does limit discussion. We may say that our armed strength has been increased two and a half times in twelve months, but that does not help very much, because we do not know what the numbers were at the beginning. The point to be remembered is that when the Prime Minister speaks of the number of our armed forces being increased two and a half times, those numbers include those- mem bers of the Australian Imperial Force who returned to Australia from overseas. Two divisions were brought back, together with corps troops, in total more than two-thirds of the number of men whom we had sent overseas. Whilst I pay full tribute to the work of the Militia, it has to be recognized that those two divisions’ of the Australian Imperial Force took the brunt of the fighting against the enemy in New Guinea, and they were given this job because they were seasoned men. It was the last Government which sent them overseas in the first place, frequently in the teeth of bitter opposition. I am not mentioning these things merely for the purpose of drawing a comparison between the records of the two governments. What does it matter who does the work? The important thing is that we get on with the job.
I now desire to make some observations which may be of assistance to the Government. The first relates to man-power. It is true, as the Treasurer has said, that our man-power resources have been fully drawn upon, but that does not mean that there are not men in the armed forces who could be better employed, or that there are not men engaged in the production of munitions whose places could be taken by women. Some revision is long overdue. Reports have been made month by month on the subject by the DirectorGeneral of Man Power, and the problem has been growing in seriousness during the last nine or ten months. Nevertheless, only yesterday the Government made a statement acknowledging the need to call more heavily upon the services of women. When I was in office I urged, frequently against the arguments of my colleagues, the need to employ more women on war work. I know that it is an unpopular attitude, but it is high time that action in this direction were taken. My second point is in regard to the organization of the Army itself. The effective strength of an army cannot be gauged from numbers alone, any more than one can gauge a. country’s war effort by noting the amount of money expended. It seems to me. that, as we are using all the available men for the Services, we should now see how the Services themselves are being used. I believe that we have fashioned our armed forces too much on the model of continental armies. We should realize that Ave have a peculiar problem in Australia, and that we should not necessarily follow practice in Europe where immense armies are frequently operated in restricted spheres. We should also consider whether every man in the Army is doing a job of real value. I know that many are not. I say that as an objective statement, because I know how difficult it is to weed them out. Inside the services you will find a large body of men not performing any real function in defence of the country. The time has come when the services will have to do as private industry has had to do, make two or three do what five did before. YOU will find in any unit, even fighting units, numbers of men doing clerical and other work that they should not be called upon to do. I do not say that every man in uniform should be a “ commando “, but we must develop more on the lines of making every man, as far as possible, a fighting man. We have a large number of men in our military forces at present, but the number of actual fighting men is exceedingly limited. Because our supply of man-power is limited, the obligation is on us to examine our Army organization in order to ascertain whether it cannot be put on a better fighting basis. That is my first comment.
My second comment will deal with the munitions programme. The honorable member for New England (Mr. Abbott), recently contributed to the press an excellent letter on this subject which is well worth looking .at. He referred to the need for us to reorientate ourselves in respect of the munitions programme. J had myself drawn attention to this need on my return from overseas. Our munitions programme was largely determined before the entry of the United States of America into the war. That programme has been substantially adhered to, with additions since the outbreak of war against Japan. That warrants this consideration : are we spreading ourselves too much at this stage of the war in respect of industrial development, and our munitions programme, having regard to, first, the diminishing supply of man-power, and, secondly, the entry of the United States of America with its huge industrial resources into the war? In support of the view that we may be, I shall cite two examples. The first is in respect of tanks. We have a huge tank production programme which is calling upon a vast quantity of our industrial and man-power resources. I should think that it is common knowledge that a large number of tanks has been brought from the United States of America. Is that source of supply still open? Are we assured of sufficient tanks from the United States of America for the forces coming from that country? If so, is there any wisdom in our having a huge tank manufacturing programme which we planned in different circumstances? It has been said that we have suffered before from having been left high and dry through our source of supply overseas having dried up. If we have reached that stage of thought, we are taking a very pessimistic view of the ability of our Allies to maintain supply lines across the Pacific. If we can get tanks from the United States of America, what is the purpose of utilizing so much of our industrial resources and manpower in manufacturing tanks at a rate which, for the next eighteen months or so, cannot be expected to produce many? I come now to my second example. We know that when the Minister for the Army came into office, the manufacture of the Owen gun was at the experimental stage.
– It was on blue prints for a long time when the honorable member was the Minister for the Army.
– It did not take very long after the Owen gun first came to my notice for the order for 2,000 experimental guns to be placed.
– Then it must have been for a long time before the notice of some one else.
– It was not long before my notice or before the notice of any member of the last Ministry. At any rate, I am not concerned with merits. I. do know, however, that one high executive of the Munitions Department declared that the manufacture of the Owen gun was purely political. Members of the Ministry know to whom I am referring. I disputed that declaration at the time it was made, and I dispute it now. It was fortunate th at we were able to go ahead with the manufacture of the Owen gun. I think it saved many Australian lives in New Guinea. But, it is very likely that facilities for the manufacture of the gun which were denied could have been made available had there been a rationalization of the munitions programme.
– I do not think that that is right.
– I have reason to believe that the Owen gun was for a long time not favoured by certain officials of the Munitions Department.
– 1 have good reason to dispute that.
– And I have good reason to say it. There is need for reorientation of the munitions programme, because of the entry of the United States of America into the war. That country has huge production facilities, lt can supply many items that our troops need. It can supply all our needs, plus wastage, of certain items if the supplies are assured of coming here.
– That is just the point - if we are assured!
– I know that we have certain supplies of many items here which we have imported and are continuing to import, but nevertheless, we are continuing to manufacture them. For security reasons I will not name them. The Minister for the Army knows what they are. 1 repeat that our programme needs reorientation so that we shall not push our man-power into the manufacture of some items when there is a greater demand for other items.
There is the matter of shipbuilding. 1 know that the Minister for the Navy is giving that matter his attention. There may be further facilities that we could make available for ship repairs. I came back from my short stay overseas with this conviction: Taking a long-range view of the war in the Pacific, one of the best things we could do in assisting the war effort would be to provide full facilities for the repair of vessels’ in Australian waters. In the United States of America I saw ships that had had to traverse the Pacific for repairs which could have been effected here but for our limited facilities. It is better to sacrifice shipbuilding than to impede in the slightest degree the repair of ships.
– Shipbuilding does not in any way impede that.
– The Minister for the Navy is satisfied. He may be right and I and my advisers wrong. But in providing the utmost facilities for ship repair we shall be doing a first-class job.
– Hear, hear!
– We should be assisting our American allies if we provided those facilities.
That is an aspect of the story as it concerns our man-power problem. Woman-power in this country has been untapped, compared with what has been done in Great Britain. From discussions I had in Great Britain I know the degree to which women have been called upon there. Practically all single women between the ages of eighteen and 35 have been employed for war purposes. The same applies to married women between those ages with no dependants less than fourteen years of age. The number of women in Great Britain employed in war service is very nearly the total population of this country. That shows that we must rapidly and continually draw upon the women of this country if we are to make an effort comparable with that of Great Britain. Yesterday, the Prime Minister stated that we have not suffered the ordeal that Great Britain has endured, and that it is our duty in the face of peril to conduct ourselves as the United Kingdom has done. We shall not be able to produce our maximum effort until we draw upon the woman-power pf the country as Great Britain has done. At the moment, that reservoir remains very largely untapped.
In his broadcast last Tuesday evening, the Prime Minister directed the attention of the American public to the necessity for concentrating more powerful forces in the Pacific. I do not pretend to be able to give strategical reasons for or against the contention that a grave danger menaces Australia at the moment. It is sufficient for people to know that hundreds of thousands of Japanese are concentrated to the north of our shores to make them apprehensive for the safety of the country. As to the degree to which we are in danger, opinions differ.
Australians hold a most decided opinion, because they are close to the Japanese menace. The farther one is away from Australia, the less that danger seems to be. It is most important to examine the situation in its proper perspective. The people of Great Britain have been living in the vortex of war for more than two years. The battle has been brought to their cities and their homes. Looking across the Straits of Dover, they see German-occupied Europe. Therefore, it is only natural that their eyes should be concentrated upon the European theatre; and that position will become accentuated with the development of offensive operations in Europe for the purpose of relieving the Russians.
– The distance from Dover to Calais is less than the distance from New Guinea to Australia.
– -Less by over 1,000 miles. On a clear day, the face of the clock in the tower at Calais can be seen from the English shore. As the British have been living with that danger for more than two years, it is only natural that their minds should be directed primarily to the European scene. In the United States of America opinions differ regarding the relative importance of the European and Pacific theatres of war. From the Middle West to the East Coast people generally concentrate their attention upon the European theatre. From the Middle West to the West Coast, there is a different outlook, and eyes are turned towards Japan and operations in the Pacific. 1 direct attention to these matters only to emphasize what I have said on previous occasions, namely, that no good purpose is served by engaging in a public debate upon matters of strategy. In making that statement I do not; criticize the Prime Minister, because the right honorable gentleman1 is naturally anxious that Australia shall be safeguarded, and I applaud the service that he has rendered to this country. However, I am convinced that the only way in which our voice will be heard is by personal contact. Our voice in London is a wee one ; I say that without any criticism of the High Commissioner, Mr. S. M. Bruce, who is doing a splendid job. The position1 is similar at Washington. After all, Australia has a population of only 7,000,000 people and is situated great distances from the United States of America and Great Britain. Last year, many Americans expressed the opinion that Australia possessed no strategical importance in the Pacific. Some of us have read or listened to similar views expressed by leading commentators, who frequently reflect the opinion of influential and official circles. The high hopes that we placed on the value of the Pacific War Council in Washington have not been realized. It is idle for us to imagine that that body will accomplish any purpose in determining strategy. The cold, hard fact is’ that the Council does not determine strategy. Indeed, it seems to me rather to be a body which receives plans after they have been determined by planning committees. If we desire to place greater emphasis upon the importance of the Pacific, we shall achieve it only by personal contact. This month, we were treated to the grand spectacle of President Roosevelt and Mr. Churchill meeting in North Africa. That conference was held because personal contact was the only way in which those great leaders could formulate their joint policies. During my visit to the United States of America and the United Kingdom, I found that many people in authority were of opinion that Australia was in no real danger.
– Some authorities also considered that Singapore would not ‘be lost.
– I agree. I also notice a tendency on the part of some persons in authority in the United States of America and Great Britain to become irritated because of suggestions made in the public forum regarding strategy. I see no reason why a Commonwealth Minister should not visit the United States of America at threemonthly intervals. I make that suggestion without any desire to reflect upon the work of the Australian Minister in Washington (Sir Owen Dixon). He performs a specific function. But as has been well demonstrated time after time, it is on the political plane that decisions are made, and it is the political prestige of the man who speaks that largely determines the decisions. I urge upon the Prime Minister the necessity for making a personal contact with authoritative circles in the United States of America, because I am certain that without it our voice will not be properly heard.
While I was abroad, I found an abysamal ignorance of Australian conditions and problem^. To a large degree, the press reflects the views of the public and of persons in authority. Unfortunately, no real publicity is given in America to Australia’s cause, and I believe that a large sum of money could be expended with advantage in advertising our war effort and our special needs. At present, the Commonwealth publicity officer has limited resources which do not enable him to put the best ease for Australia properly before the American public. The expenditure of a large sum of money in the United States of America for the purpose of publicizing our needs, aims and achievements would return good dividends.
I agree with thu Treasurer (Mr. Chifley) that in war-time, the Government, irrespective of its political views, must have recourse to central bank credit. The limit to which taxes may ‘be levied upon a large range of incomes has almost been reached, but one class tends to become represented less and less in this Parliament. I refer to the middle class, including the professional, executive, and skilled labouring classes. As I represent such an electorate, possibly I can speak on the subject with a greater degree of authority than can many other honorable members. I know of the hardships that have been imposed upon these people. They have substantial recurring commitments, such as life assurance, and are purchasing their dwellings upon mortgage. To-day, the Government is tending to give greater power to big companies, whose proportions seem always to be increasing. The vested interests of the country are big Companies on the one hand, and industrial labour on the other. I do not quarrel with the right of labour to organize for the purpose of obtaining improved conditions. I do not quarrel, either, about the right of capital to stabilize and entrench itself. But between the upper and nether millstones the middle- class section of the community is being crushed. The small business man upon whom we have been so dependent is being eliminated. I know that hardship is inevitable in times like these; but I hope that some greater consideration can be given to the persons to whom I am referring. At one stage a proposal was under consideration for alleviating the financial position of persons of limited resources who had entered into commitments before the war and who were facing bankruptcy. Although that proposal did not come into effect, I sincerely trust that something of the kind may still be practicable.
– Some people had commitments prior to the war because they had money; other persons had no commitments because they had no money.
– I quite appreciate that fact, but I believe that more should be done than has been done to assist people in the middle ranges of income who had entered into bona fide commitments a considerable period before the war. I am not so much concerned about the people who committed themselves financially immediately prior to the war. Unless something be done to assist middle class people, whose position is being represented less and less in this Parliament, they will face absolute disaster. I hope, therefore, that in any new taxation and other plans that come up for consideration some regard will be paid to this section of the community. It could be done without diminishing our war effort.
Unless we call up our woman-power quickly, and train women to take the place of the men who are being directed to serve elsewhere, our war effort will diminish rather than expand. It is idle to tell me that because we expended so much on the war last year and are spending so much more on it this year we are making a greater war effort, because I know that the purchasing power of money is diminishing, all the time. What matters is not how much we are spending, but how much we are getting for what we spend. I have no desire to review the changed financial outlook of certain members of the Ministry since this Government has been in office. That would serve no useful purpose. We have to face the fact that we cannot escape the financial burden of the war. It will fall upon the people in spite of anything that we can do. We must, however, try to avoid the serious effects of over-inflation. Inflation always has an adverse effect upon the poorer section of the people.
– The honorable gentleman’s views are not very different from the views of members of the Government.
– Whether that be so or not, I must express my views. I have said on other occasions that I regard inflation with the most serious misgivings. I am sure that its ill effects will fall most heavily upon the people who have not much of this world’s goods and for whom - though some honorable member opposite may be surprised to hear me say it - I have the greatest sympathy. I have said previously, and I repeat, that there is no easy way to finance the war. Irrespective of the political complexion of the government in office at any given time, war finance must be difficult. We shall only add to our difficulties if wedo not arrest the inflationary tendencies to which I have referred. Whilst we cannot entirely avoid inflationary tendencies during war-time, we can keep them under strict control. I hope that the Government will bear that fact in mind and will face the difficulties of the situation resolutely. Because I have a sincere interest in the welfare of the masses of the people, I urge the Government to take the present unsatisfactory position in hand without delay.
Debate (on motion by Mr. Barnard) adjourned.
.- I move -
That the Schedule to the Excise Tariff 1921-1939, as proposed to bo amended by Excise Tariff Proposals, be further amended as hereinafter set out, and that on and after the twenty-ninth day of January, One thousand nine hundred and forty-three, at nine o'clock in the forenoon, reckoned according to summer time in the Australian Capital Territory, duties of Excise be collected in pursuance o f the Excise Tariff 1921-1 939 as so amended. That in this Resolution " Excise Tariff Proposals " mean the Excise Tariff Proposals introduced i nto the House of Representatives on the following dates, namely : - 5th March, 1942 ; 25th March, 1942 ; and 2nd September, 1942.
This motion gives effect to a recent decision by Cabinet that producers ‘of motor .spirit from indigenous shale and coal shall receive protection until August, 1955, to the amount of 7.4d. a gallon over imported spirit and 5.5d. over spirit produced in Australia from imported crude ‘oil. This is not an entirely new concession, for, in 1-940, it was decided that -such protection should be granted until 1955., but only to those producers »f spirit from indigenous shale and coal who were in production of such spirit un or before ‘the 21st August, 1942. Excise tariff proposals introduced on the 20th August, 1940, .gave effect to that decision.
War-time circumstances beyond their control have prevented many Inns from complying with the condition as to the date on -which production should be commenced in ‘order to obtain the concessional rate, and the position has arisen that two or more firms producing the same product -are paying different rates of ‘duty. This motion will remove that anomaly.
– I take Advantage of the opportunity that has been afforded to honorable members by the Prime Minister (Mr, Curtin), in the motion that he submitted yesterday, to express their views on the conduct of the war, to make a retrospective survey of what has occurred since Japan entered the conflict, and to advance constructive ideas as to how Australians part in the Struggle may be accelerated. The declarations made by the motion of the right honorable gentleman will be subscribed to by every member of this House. It is no doubt true that the problem of what, measures should fee adopted for the prosecution of the war would be approached in p. different way by governments having different characteristics. After all, the political outlook cannot be dissociated from such matters. The approach to Ihe general subject, and the set-tip, determine in some degree the manner in which the war operations shall be conducted. There will always be room for differences of opinion in regard to the manner of approach. Nevertheless, there is <no reason why, in a ‘parliament constituted as this is, with almost 50 per cent, of its members supporting one side of politics and the remainder .supporting the other side, there should not be something approaching unanimity of spirit. After all, -the primary object is the .prosecution -of the war. We want first to be able to maintain our approach to questions relating to the form ‘of life fiat we shall follow. This involves . main.tenance of the democratic system of government, which is government by the people for the people. Up to that point, we -are in agreement. But I d’o not believe that anybody ‘considers that the system <et democratic government in existence in Ais ‘country prior t& the war was satisfactory except as a basis upon which 4* build a more substantial structure. Nobody who took .an interest in the public life of this country during the depression years, and experienced tire conditions that then prevailed, will assert that we should return to the conditions that operated prior to the outbreak of war. Those of us who heard it were deeply stirred by the admirable speech delivered by the Treasurer (Mr. Chifley) earlier this afternoon. Relating his experiences in his own electorate, he told of the struggles of people who were out of employment and bad to subsist on the dole. Nobody will affirm that such a state of society, in a land that is literally flowing with milk and honey, should be continued. We agree that, our -democratic way of life must be preserved, but in the post-war period we want to be able to provide for everyone a fairer measure of the good things of life.
There has been a different -approach to the conduct of the war during the last year or two years. I agree with the statement of some honorable members that a review of what was done by those who occupied the treasury bench prior to the advent of the -Labour Government, and a comparison with what has been done by the present Administration, would not get us very far. It is inevitable, however, that such comparisons *will be made, particularly as they were invited by the Opposition only yesterday afternoon. When the Prime Minister began bis address, interjections flowed from the Opposition. Many of the comparisons made ;by the right honorable gentleman were in reply to those interjections; naturally, having been baited, he wished to defend his own Administration. So the debate proceeded. I do not believe that we can make much progress by continuing along those lines. It is perfectly true that anti-Labour administrations laid some of the foundations upon which this Government has built. Where I join issue with certain honorable members is in regard to the acceleration of the pace by those who now occupy the treasury bench. They utilized the foundations that had. been provided, in order to build at the rate that was needed if we were to play our part adequately as a unit of the Commonwealth of Nations.
Mir. Blackburn. - The conditions accelerated the pace.
– It is fair to say that the conditions helped to accelerate the pace. The fact remains, however, that acceleration had begun previously. Ministers got down to the job immediately, and made decisions. Not all of them were right decisions; but at least the result was to cause rapid movement in the field and in the workshop. A manpower organization was set up. It has been stated this afternoon, and it is generally admitted, that when the Minister for War Organization of Industry (Mr. Dedman) assumed control, no work had been undertaken. It was left to him to set up the whole of the organization and get down to business. There are one or two matters in connexion with that department to which I desire to draw attention. It is perfectly true, as the Treasurer has stated, that the Minister for War Organization of Industry has done a remarkably fine job while he has been in charge of that department. Of course he has done things that have, hurt people. He has done things which have displeased many members of the community, including men. bers of this House. He has had to take men out of their ordinary civil occupations, and make them available for war production. He has had to restrict the range of goods available for purchase by the public. These are unpopular actions, and no man occupying the position could, in the circumstances, hope to be popular. The Leader of the Opposition, and those others who have spoken on his side, have confined their criticism to the Treasury and to the Department of Labour and National Service. The Treasurer has replied effectively to criticism of the Government’s financial methods. It is extraordinary to me that the anti-Labour parties have persisted in raising this bogy of inflation in an attempt to scare the more timid members of the community. They say that the Labour party is not prepared to follow orthodox financial methods. On the other hand, there are those who criticize the Government for sticking too closely to the methods of orthodox finance, and for not using sufficiently the credit resources of the country. During the years preceding the war, we were told that the only safe way to finance the country was to stick to orthodox financial methods. If you wanted, to build homes for the workers you had to borrow the money from private financial institutions. If you wanted to finance primary production you had to do it with borrowed money. However, when it comes to fighting a war, the whole outlook changes, and even the last Government was able to find millions of pounds from the credit resources of the country. I read in to-day’s issue of the Sydney Morning Herald the following report of what is being done in England in the way of utilizing the credit resources of the nation : -
The Chancellor of the Exchequer, Sir Kingsley Wood, moved a supplementary vote of credit of £900,000.000 and a vote of credit for £1,000,000,000 for war expenditure in the House of Commons yesterday.
He said that in recent weeks war expenditure had been at the rate of about £14,000,000 a day.
When he had asked for the last vote of £1,000,000,000 on October 20, the daily average expenditure was £12,750,000. “ Information available “, he added, “ suggests that expenditure overseas in North Africa, Libya and other parte of the world has probably now taken the place of rising production at borne as the main factor determining the increase in the vote of credit expenditure. “ I can also suggest that we are now incurring substantial expenditure in this country by way of reciprocal aid to our Allies.”
The votes of credit were agreed to.
We are now at war, and we do not have to follow the methods of orthodox finance. In England, war expenditure is at the rate of £14,000,000 a day; here it is at the rate of £1,000,000 a day. When we compare that expenditure with the conditions in pre-war days when governments had not a shilling to spend for the relief of unemployment, one becomes a little disgusted at the cry that the country is heading for ruin because the Government does -not adhere to orthodox financial methods. This criticism appears to me to be in keeping with the old practice of playing on the fears of the people rather than appealing to their intelligence. I hope that after the war we shall enter an era of prosperity for the masses of the people. I hope that the present Government will remain in office long enough to put into operation some of the measures necessary to make the lot of the ordinary nian and woman very much better than it has been in the past. We should not wait until the war is over before beginning to do what is necessary. I am glad that the Government has given heed to the reports and recommendations of the Social Security ‘Committee, and that legislation is to be placed before Parliament this session to give effect to some of those recommendations, even while the war is proceeding. I have travelled over much of Australia as a member of the Social Security Committee, and the evidence given before that committee by well-informed and thinking persons has merely served to strengthen my own conviction that if we defer action until after the war there will be no satisfactory post-war reconstruction! at all. In this regard, I am glad to note that action for the improvement of social conditions is already being taken in Great Britain and the United States of America. Despite what was said by the “honorable member for Warringah (Mr. Spender) regarding the effect on lower incomes of an inflationary tendency, it is evident that the purpose of the Opposition in making statements of that kind during the last year of the life of this Parliament is merely political. Such critics are not concerned with the soundness of the arguments they advance.
I join with what the Treasurer, said about man-power. It was said in this chamber yesterday by interjection - and it is frequently said by honorable members in speeches - that the workers in industry are not playing the part that they ought to play. Only this afternoon we had read to us a list of the man-hours that have been lost or wasted because of industrial disputes. It was not made clear whether the disputes were due entirely to the workers or to genuine disagreements with the managements, but, on the face of it, the loss is very bad at a time when man-power is at a premium. I, however, make this point in connexion with our man-power. In the depression, as the Treasurer pointed out, the dole rather than work was the rule. I know many skilled tradesmen who lived on sustenance in the depression. ‘Some men holding high positions in engineering establishments to-day were forced to live in bag hut3 around Sydney because jobs were not to be had. Those men to-day are working long hours, although before the war they were not even able to buy a job and were kicked from pillar to post by the police and had their huts searched whenever anything was stolen. They lived under constant suspicion because society was not able to find work for them. Now these men are working from 7.30 in the morning to 6.30 at night without the opportunity even to go out and buy themselves some tobacco or clothes or get a hair-cut. One can well imagine that in those circumstances very small mole-hills can appear to be mountains. I suggest that that is one of the reasons why we have hold-ups in industry.
Sitting suspended from 6.15 to 8 p.m.
– The Labour movement has shown an excellent spirit in this period of crisis. If any one had prophesied five years ago that man-power would be conscripted in this country with the approval of the Labour movement generally, I would not have believed it. The trade unions have agreed to the complete marshalling of our man-power for the effective prosecution of the war, because no one realizes the importance of this conflict more than the working man in the shops and in the factories. Instead of drawing special attention to stoppages for political purposes, the Leader of the Opposition would have been better advised to compliment the men who have made possible this magnificent prosecution of the war effort.
– A word of praise for the boys in the jungle would not be out of place. ‘
– No one could pay a higher tribute than I do to the efforts of our soldiers, not only in the jungle, but also in every other theatre of war. But honorable members opposite should not lose sight of the fact that our boys in the workshops also are rendering loyal service to the country. In contrast to this spirit of sacrifice, some persons have set up black markets for the purpose of exploiting the community. Their object is t-o make the greatest possible gain out of this period of crisis. A few of the offenders have been convicted, but many have yet to be brought to justice.
I have heard a suggestion that some wc:uc:i who are not permitted to employ more than one domestic, adopt the practice of engaging women with a knowledge of nursing to care for the children, while they do the housework. I ask the Minister for Labour and National Service (Mr. Ward) to ascertain whether women with a training in mothercraft are being exploited in this manner?
From time to time, I have expressed the view that the Minister for War Organization of Industry (Mr. Dedman) has done an excellent job. The actions of this much-criticized department have not always met with my approval, and things might have been done differently if time had not pressed and there had been precedents to follow. However, the fact remains, that a great deal of splendid work has been carried out in most difficult circumstances. It is a department that, because of the nature of its work, could not hope to escape criticism. I ask the Minister to consider the shortage of various articles in common domestic use, because lack of them is causing serious inconvenience. For example, the Government has prohibited the importation of cutlery, although supplies are available in Great Britain. The shortage of hardware is also acute. Lack of flannel underclothing, usually worn by men in outback areas and in timber mills, is another inconvenience, because the men are now obliged to use a lighter flannel which requires the same number of coupons as the heavier material ‘but is unsuitable for the class of service. I ask the Minister to ascertain whether it is possible to release some of this heavy flannel underclothing for civilian use. Because of its dark colour, it does not show the dirt and does not require the scrubbing which causes’ the lighter type of flannel to shrink. I regret that previous governments lacked the foresight to marshall and co-ordinate the manpower of the country, because the display of a little vision on their part would have obviated some of the troubles that now beset us. The shortage of civilian supplies has become acute, because reserves which were accumulated twelve months or two years ago are practically exhausted and new supplies are not coming on to the market to replace them. Warehousemen and retailers in Launceston have directed my attention to these problems. I ask the Minister to see whether action can be taken to overcome the difficulties.
Naturally, I support the motion that was submitted by the Prime Minister yesterday. We must marshal our manpower and resources for the successful prosecution of the war, but we must also bear in mind that the defeat of the enemy is not an end in itself. Post-war reconstruction and planning for the peace must be done now. These matters should proceed side by side. I am gratified to learn that the Government will bring down, during this period, a substantial legislative programme which will usher in better and more important things for our people after the war.
.- This afternoon, the Treasurer (Mr. Chifley) built up a case that would have commanded great admiration and respect if it had been founded upon correct premises. Every one” will agree with many of his statements. I desire to refer more particularly to that portion of his speech in which he challenged any attack upon the Government’s policy to date of relying almost entirely “upon bank credits to meet the deficit that could not be financed from taxation at existing rates and loans. In that part of his speech, the Treasurer was on unsound ground. So far as I am aware, no honorable member on this side of the chamber - certainly not the Leader of the Opposition (Mr. Fadden) to whom the Treasurer replied - has advanced the theory that the difference between expenditure and revenue could be financed entirely by loans and taxation. In his budget speech of September, 1941 - which, I. remind honorable members, was the cause of an adverse vote which defeated the Fadden Government - the present Leader of the Opposition said -
In November. 1939, the Acting Treasurer described the Government’s financial policy as “ a balanced programme of taxation, borrowing from the public, borrowing from the blinking system. The balance between these three methods of finance must change from time to time and the determining factors will lie largely economic “. To that statement of policy the Government strongly adheres.
The right honorable gentleman made a similar statement in 1940, for on that occasion also he observed that the war could be financed only by means of a proper balance of three sources, namely, revenue, using the word “ revenue “ in the sense of income received from taxation, borrowings from the public, and a judicious use of credit issued by the central bank.
The question is : Where lies the line of safety? Where is the point whichwould mark a discreet and judicious use of the nation’s credit, and an avoidance of a policy which would lead to undue price increase that would react adversely on the public and particularly upon the economically less fortunate members of Mie public? The weakness in the present financial position has occurred because this Government has departed from the sound principles laid down in the budget of 1941.
– Who is to be the judge of that?
– I hope that the honorable member will not be the judge of it. I am expressing my opinion, as I am entitled to do. I consider that the Government has departed from the sound principles enunciated in the 1941 budget, for it has depended too much upon central bank credit and has thereby overstrained the- nation’s financial resources.
In 1941. the Fadden Government endeavoured to introduce in this country a system of post-war credits. I propose to review the financial history of the last sixteen months in order to show what result would have been obtained if post-war credits had been agreed- to, and also to show the serious position in. which we now are because that policy was not applied. Had the post-war credits plan of the Fadden Government been adopted, our financial position would have been vastly different from what it is now, and we should have been able to face the financial year which begins on the 1st J July with a far greater degree of certainty than is now possible for us. The Treasurer correctly stated this afternoon that the 1941 budget provided for the raising of a sum of only £34,000,000. of which £9,000,000 was to come from the taxation of lower incomes and £25,000,000 from the application of the proposed system of post-war credits. That is perfectly true. But the war expenditure foreshadowed in the 1941 budget was only £222.000,000. Japan had not then entered the war. Our war expenditure had risen considerably during the preceding year and, of course, since then it has increased enormously. To-day, it totals about £510,000,000 per annum. In October last, the Treasurer estimated that war expenditure would reach £440,000,000 in this financial year.. I have recently read a press statement, which I believe was official, that another £70,000,000 will be needed to meet the war expenditure for this year. When I addressed myself to the Chifley budget of 1942, I suggested that the expenditure would probably be £470,000,000. Although the Treasurer now suggests that it will reach £510,000,000, I should not be surprised if it turned out to be £550,000,000. Had the system of post-wax credits proposed by the Fadden Government been adopted and the raisings by that means been increased in proportion to our war expenditure, and had the taxation of lower incomes also been dealt with proportionately, our collections from those sources would, now be at the rate of £SO,000,000 per annum.
– Mostly from the working class.
– Not all of it; but I shall leave that point for the moment. As the honorable member for Melbourne (Mr. Calwell) was once a treasury official Lis authority to speak on this subject must be unchallengeable, but he must realize that inflation which must result from the unwise use of national credit affects the working classes more seriously than other classes.
– Who says that inflation has occurred?
– Inflationary tendencies are fairly obvious to every body to-day. If the post-war credit plan had been applied as from October, 1941, and raisings from that source had increased proportionately to war expenditure, we should have raised, by that means, before next June, approximately £12.5,000,000. I shall return to that figure presently.
I wish first to bring up to date, as nearly as I may from the official financial information that has been published in the press, the estimates of expenditure for 1942-43. Last October the Treasurer stated that we should need to spend approximately £549,000,000 on the war and for ordinary Government expenditure. We have since been told that that figure must be increased by another £70,000,000. The deficiency between that total and the amount which the Treasurer has provided for, is approximately £370,000,000. We have been informed that additional taxing measures will be introduced by which it is estimated that an additional £20,000,000 will be received before next June. I may say, therefore, that, in round figures, the Government will have to provide for a deficit of £350,000,000 this year. It may be that my calculations are conservative, and that the figure will be nearer £400,000,000. Towards this huge sum the Treasurer has raised £80,000,000 of new money by means of the £100,000,000 loan of a month or two ago. The other £20,000,000 of that sum was for conversion purposes. I hope that I may be excused for dealing in fairly round figures.
– The honorable gentleman is only about £100,000,000 out in his calculations so far.
– I disagree with the honorable member. I believe that my calculations are fairly accurate. In my opinion the Treasurer will be exceedingly fortunate if, with the help of all of us, he is able to raise another £100,000,000 from loans before next June. If he does this, he will still have to depend upon treasury-bill finance from the central bank this year for approximately £170,000,000. That means that hy the end of June the amount of central bank credit issued by the Commonwealth Bank will be nearly £250,000,000. The Leader of the Opposition said this afternoon that the last figure he had seen was £204,000,000, to which must be added £45,000,000 issued for State purposes. I should like the House to consider again my previous estimate. If a system of post-war credits had been applied in October, 1941, and had been increased progressively as war expenditure rose, it would have yielded £125,000,000 by June next. In other words, the bank credit accommodation to the Government by June next, instead of being £250,000,000 might have been only £125,000,000. That would have been a reasonable balance between the three sources of income upon which the Government depended for war finance. It would have been a figure upon which the Government might more confidently have faced the future than it now faces it with an accommodation of £250,000,000 That is the answer to the Treasurer, who said, “Can you show us how differently you would finance the war ; how, if you relied upon taxation and loans from the public, you would avoid entirely the issue of central bank credit? “ We have never said that we would avoid the issue of central bank credit. On the contrary, we have said that we would issue central bank credit, but would keep it in reasonable and moderate control, and prevent it from having an effect upon prices which would be injurious to us all.
– Does the honorable member suggest that if £125,000,000 were raised by means of post-war credit, the same amount as we have obtained could have been raised by means of loans?
– The incidence would also have to be increased.
– I admit that the Treasurer may be right to a very small degree. But the bulk of that money was to have come from incomes which had not contributed largely to the taxation fund ; and the menace to this country during the last sixteen months has been the snowballing effect of the expenditure of those moneys which lay in the hands of certain groups. But that is only one part of the picture. The issue of bank credit to an amount of £250,000,000 has had a very important influence on the rise of prices from 9 per cent, above parity in October, 1941, to 22 per cent, at the present time. This is one of the causes of the increased expenditure of the Government. Does not the Government realize that one of the factors in the increased war expenditure is the rising costs attributable to the issue of excessive bank credit? So the dog chases its tail in ever-widening circles. If it were possible to make a close analysis, the Government would find that a percentage of its increased expenditure this year is attributable to the fact that it did not, as was intended in October, 1941, withdraw from circulation those surplus moneys which have played havoc during the period that has just been completed. The issue of so much credit, and the presence in the hands of the public of so much spending power, have been the principal reasons why the Government has been compelled to rely increasingly upon intense controls, which have been injurious to the financial and trading systems. I say definitely that the defeat of the Fadden budget in September, 1941, and the failure to introduce a post-war credit scheme and to increase it progressively as war expenditure rose, are the cause of the treasury-bill issue being to-day twice as high as it otherwise would have been. This same influence is the cause of at least some portion of the increase of 13 per cent, in price levels during the last sixteen months. Further, it is the cause of a percentage of the increased war expenditure with which the Government is now faced, because price rises are reflected in war supplies just as in any other commodity.
– Will the honorable member explain the direct impact of the increased credit on prices?
– The issue of credit, and the presence of so much money in the hands of the public, causing an increasing demand as against a smaller volume of supply.
– That would be so without price-fixing.
– But price-fixing has never been claimed to be a complete control. Price fixation, I admit, is a palliative.
– The honorable member is speaking broadly. I want to know what i3 the direct impact.
– The honorable member used that expression, and now asks me to explain it.
– I want to know, because I cannot find any direct impact.
– If the public did not have for circulation and expenditure the moneys it holds to-day, there would not be the same demand as now exists for commodities, consequently there would not be the same pressure upon prices. The price levels created by demand have led in some instances to increased prices, in other instances to increased wages, and in still other instances to increased values for materials..
– I am not convinced.
– The honorable member expresses a view which is opposed to the experience of countries in which unlimited credit has been issued.
– If there were no pricefixing, that would be the position; but price-fixing prevents that.
– I hope that the honorable member will not attribute to the Prices Commissioner any superhuman qualities. That official can only do his best in the prevailing circumstances. If the honorable member tells me that it is possible, in face of the pressure of money to the extent I have mentioned, to control prices in all circumstances, then I do not agree with him. The existence of this circulating fund h,as had a very large influence upon the demand for material. It has been a disturbing competitor with the requirements of the Government for war supplies.
– Wages are pegged.
– I hope that the honorable member does not really believe that wages are pegged. That is not correct. The reason for the intense controls applied by the Government, some having only a faint relation to war objects and others intended to make spending difficult, is that huge sums have been left in circulation which would have been withdrawn had the principles of the 1941 budget been allowed to apply. The proof of the correctness of what I say lies in the fact that after sixteen months it would now appear, from reports circulated in the press, that at this advanced hour the Government intends to retrace its steps, and to introduce additional taxation. I hope that it does so. I am not expressing any opinion upon the details or the machinery of the legislation; but in broad principle I hope that the Government will make amends for the last sixteen months, and endeavour to withdraw from circulation the moneys that have done so much damage during that period. In doing so, it will acknowledge that the 1941 budget was a correct statement of policy to be applied to the war expenditure of this nation. The point has now been reached of the Government saying, “ We were wrong in September, 1941. We misjudged the position. We moved an amendment to your budget, which said that there should be a new financial plan. We have looked for sixteen months for a financial plan, and have come to the conclusion that the only sound plan is yours which we defeated and upon which we put you out of office “. The Treasurer may say, “ We shall take the whole of the money from the worker and keep it, whereas you were proposing to take £9 and return to him £25 “. My reply would be, “ I would rather be the worker who had £25 returned to him than he who received nothing”.
– They would never get a penny of post-war credits, and the honorable member knows it.
– The honorable member should not make such statements, in the interests of either the Government which he supports or the nation. I say definitely that there is an obligation upon every honorable member to preach to the public that the nation’s obligations will always be met. whatever government may be in power.
– It would be a physical impossibility to repay the money.
– We are discussing financial possibilities. What the honorable member now says is what a few misguided persons said after the Napoleonic wars. They had no confidence in either the strength or the stability of their country; they had no confidence in the financial morality of the Government that they supported. The honorable member has no right to say that post-war credits will not be repaid. Government commitments will always be met. It is true that they will be financed, as they always have been in the past, by means of sinking fund contributions, and the repayment and renewal of loans periodically. The structure of the public debt will be honoured by either this Government or any other Government which hopes to retain public confidence. Let me tell the honorable member that if there should come a time when the public debt was not honoured, trade unions, friendly societies, and life insurance companies, would be the first to be destroyed. When he utters such sentiments in this House, he does a great disservice to the people whom he claims to represent. Whether or not we agree with this Government, it is the duty of every one to stand behind it upon finance; to criticize it if we do not agree with its policy, but in regard to the structure of public finance to support it on all occasions, and whenever it wants money to do our utmost to help to’ raise it. Whenever there is any question of the stability of public finance, every honorable member on this side will support the Government to the limit.
– I hope that they will do better than they did in 1931.
– That is a long while ago, and I do not think the story is worth reviving.
– The lesson i3 worth learning.
– If the honorable member wishes it to be revived, I assert that the failure of the Government Savings Bank of New South Wales was due to the public having lost faith and confidence in his political party and their leaders in New South Wales.
– A royal commission found that a political plot was responsible for the closing of the Government Savings Bank of New South Wales, and the honorable member knows it.
– The honorable member knows perfectly well that the brand of politics which he supported in New South Wales was responsible for the public losing confidence in its own government savings bank. The depositors rushed’ the bank in such numbers that it was obliged to close its doors. So long as party politics are kept out of finance, and all parties stand behind financial institutions and government obligations, experiences of this sort will never be repeated.
I consider that the man-power position in this country has been grossly misjudged since Japan entered the war in December, 1941. That was the opportunity for the Government to recognize that new factors had arisen affecting, the man-power position, factors which made it necessary to review the situation in order to gauge what was possible and what was not possible. Before then, we were obliged to supply men for service abroad, and also to maintain some defence forces for the security of Australia itself, but not to nearly the same extent as became immediately necessary when Japan entered the war. The previous Government had embarked upon an extensive policy of munitions production. In a period of. two years a great number of factories had been established, and plans laid for producing supplies to be sent abroad. We had, in a manner not believed possible, equipped ourselves with tools and gauges for the manufacture of munitions. Already production was considerable, and the foundations had been laid for a tremendous expansion almost immediately afterwards. When Japan entered the war. it was the duty of the Government to review the whole position because of the new demands upon man-power. At that time, a third and very large draft was made upon the man-power resources of the country for the construction of defence works within Australia for the use of our own forces and those of our Allies. As 1942 proceeded, the Allied Works Council called up a great number of men, a much greater number than was ever expected in 1941, yet it appears that the Government took no stock of the situation. [Extension of time granted.] It was urgently necessary, as a matter of high policy, to make an estimate of the total man-power resources of Australia, and to allocate man-power in preferences according to the- need of the three fields of activity, the fighting services,, war industries, and allied works activities. This, however, was not done. During 1942, astronomical figures- were cited by Government spokesmen regarding the number of persons taken from civil industry and transferred either to war industry or to -the services. We were told what was being done, and what it was proposed to do-. Then, just as the year ended, we were suddenly told that the man-power reserves of the country were exhausted. No official hint had been given of this possibility during 1942. The plain fact is that there are not enough men and wo,men in the country to go round’. There are not enough men in Australia to supply the needs of the three great branches of war activity on the basis upon which they were established. Either the Government did not know the- facts, or it concealed them. Many of us sensed the true position some time earlier, and we know now that the Government missed a wonderful opportunity to survey the position, and to allocate available man-power resources so that we might be fully effective in all three branches of defence, instead of not being fully effective in any one of them. In October last, during my speech on the budget, without knowledge- of what the Government was going to announce three mouths later, I made it clear that, in my opinion, the Government was trying to do the impossible-.. It was trying by regulation and control to interfere with industries that were essential-for civil requirements. I hope that the Government will thi3 session introduce taxation measures, and a system of post-war credits, with a view to rectifying the omissions of the last sixteen months, and correcting the present financial position. When by these means the Government ha3 drawn the surplus money from circulation, it will no longer find it necessary to impose rigid and foolish controls of the kind to which it resorted in an endeavour to overcome the ill effects of its financial policy.
– Members of the Government are becoming rather tired of listening to the protestations of members of the Opposition that their only desire is to assist the Government, whilst at the same time they are filling the newspapers in every capital city with propaganda designed to undermine and destroy the Government. I say to the honorable member for Robertson (Mr. Spooner) that when he says that the people lost faith in the Government Savings Bank of New South Wales-
– I did not say that they lost faith in the bank, but that they lost faith in the Government of New South Wales.
– I say to him and his “ heelers “, as did the Royal ‘Commission on Banking and Monetary Systems, that the Government Savings Bank of New South Wales was closed as the result of a political plot.
– I was not in politics then.
– No, but the honorable member came in immediately afterwards. He obtained place and pay as the result of what he did. There was no member of the Labour party on the commission.
– What about Mr. Chifley?
– Well, he was the only one. All the other members were economists or bankers. The commission found that the New South Wales Savings Bank was closed because of a political plot of very much the same kind as is being hatched now for the purpose of destroying this Government.
It is easy for the honorable member for Robertson to get up in this chamber and mouth platitudes. He asked for a properly balanced system as between taxation, loans, and the issue of bank credit. What did he mean by that? He was just mouthing words. What should be the perTcentage of taxation, what the percentage of loans, and what the percentage of bank credit? The honorable member offered us no information on that point. He merely said something thai sounded well. He told us that in the first year he would raise £34,000,000 by a system of post-war credits, and then went on to say that he would increase this amount to £147,000,000. The fact is, of course, that if the Government had taken £34,000,000 under a system of post-war credits, other financial channels upon which the Government had been drawing would have been dried up by a corresponding amount. Does the honorable member suggest that none of the people from whom he would levy compulsory loans are now contributing to government loans? If he looks up the records he will find that millions of pounds have been contributed by the purchase of bonds of low denomination. That money was not contributed by the wealthy financial institutions. The honorable member then went on to say that the Government was neglecting to tax adequately a very large section of the community. The section to which he referred has always paid more than its share in indirect taxation. The smokers, and the men who drink their pint of beer, have, in the mass, always contributed more than any other section of the community, because they are the largest section. An enormous amount of revenue is raised by indirect taxation. Every time sales tax or excise duties are raised, that section of the community of which the honorable member speaks is hit the hardest.
Apparently, at this time, the war is forgotten by honorable members opposite. I hardly heard a word from the honorable member for Robertson about the war with Japan. He spoke about damaging the commercial life of the community, and about possible injury to the banking system, because he is steeped in that psychology. What do we care about damage to the banking system so long as we win the war ? We shall mend it afterwards. What do we care about damage to the commercial system? The resources of Australia are enormous, and we can mend that system afterwards. The honorable member spoke of the line where safety ends and disaster begins. The only disaster which we fear at the present time is defeat by the enemy, and this Government has mobilized the defences of the country until they are 200 per cent, stronger than they were when it took office. That is our answer to the honorable member. The honorable member for Robertson referred to the balance that should be maintained between taxation, loans and bank credit. That balance must be disturbed if this war goes on. Do honorable members opposite say thatafter we have raised all the money possible by loans and taxation we should fold our hands and tell the Japanese to come and take the country? That suggestion is implicit in the argument of the honorable member for Robertson. The honorable member is aware of this, but this is an election year, and anything will serve as a cry to embarrass the Government, or to make the people believe that the Government’s financial policy is unsound. All this propaganda - these streamers in the newspapers, this reference to the threat of inflation - is very like the campaign that was waged for five years in New South Wales until it culminated in a plot to destroy the financial stability of that State as a preliminary step to destroying its government. The greatest hindrance to the war effort, the greatest injury that could be done to the country at the present time, is to create unrest and distrust in the minds of the people. The capitalist press is full of the subversive statements of the right honorable member for Darling Downs (Mr. Fadden). Ever since he become Leader of the Opposition he has been talking about the need for national unity and a national government. He repeated his appeal for a national government only two or three days ago. National unity! My heavens! We had a display of ityesterday. Honorable gentlemen opposite were thrown out of office because they could not agree amongst themselves. Why, the honorable member for Barker (Mr. Archie Cameron) rushed out of the Country party room saying that his colleagues were double-crossers. He called them one name which you, Mr. Speaker, would not allow me to use in this chamber. The Country party, he said, was honeycombed with intrigue for position. He left that party to join the United Australia party, which he found to be even more honeycombed with intrigue than the Country party. These people who want a national government were turned out of office because for twelve months they would not do the work of this country, preferring to intrigue amongst themselves for party leadership. I ask you, Mr. Speaker, to take your mind back to the conditions which operated in Europe in the three years before war broke out. The democracies of Europe were undermined by dissension and distrust. My reading of the history of those times tells me that every democratic bastion in Europe fell because governments were rotten through the same influences as those which destroyed the Government that was composed of the parties opposite. The thing that saved the Australian democratic bastion was the assumption of office by the Labour party. We convinced the people that a democracy could fight a war against totalitarianism. We mobilized the country and stripped it for total war, and the only thing that can save the democracy of this country from the threats of Japan and the threat of fascism within Australia is the continuance of our party in office. The people will say that at the next election despite the insidious attacks of the Opposition. We say boldly that whatever weapons need to be forged, bank credit or not, to bring together the men, materials and machinery needed to turn out the equipment of war, this Government will not be deterred from forging those weapons by any talk about undermining the financial structure of the country. If the Japanese come into Australia there will be no financial structure left. Commercialism and financial soundness, which are talked about so much by the Leader of the Opposition, are debatable subjects, and such debates can well be left until the post-war period. Our present job is to defeat Japan. That transcends everything else. We shall straighten the other things out afterwards in a good Australian way as we have straightened out things before. By carrying on as they are at present with the aid ‘ of the black headings of the capitalist press, honorable gentlemen opposite are doing more than a disservice to Australia. They are acting as the enemy’s fifth column.
– I do. not propose to engage in the antics- of the Minister for Home Security- (Mr. Lazzarini), but some of the things he said require answering: The honorable member said that the Opposition had been endeavouring to embarrass the Government, but the hulk of the Government’s embarrassment comes, as was pointed out in the Baity Telegraph this morning, from its own supporters, from the honorable member for Melbourne (Mr. Calwell), for instance. That honorable gentleman made the most destructive statements ever made in this House about the financial system. He has, in fact, thrown doubt on whether this Government, or any other Australian: government, wilt meet its. liabilities.. That is- the worst kind of destructive criticism that could ever be voiced by an honorable member. The. Minister for Home Security showed utter cowardice in not calling the honorable mem-ber for Melbourne to order, and I am surprised that, he does not hang his head in shame. What loyalty has the honorable member for- Melbourne shown to the Government? If this Government falls, it will be because of the white ants within rather than any elements outside. The Minister for Home Security referred to the “ many millions that small subscribers had subscribed to the war loans. I realize that small people have subscribed large amounts - not large individually, because they have not the money to subscribe large amounts - but talk about the many millions subscribed by them shows that the Minister is as conversant with the facts as he is with the personnel and the reports of the Royal Commission on Banking and Monetary Systems. The honorable member’s ignorance is so abysmal that he did not even know that his own Treasurer was a member of that royal commission.
– I had forgotten.
– Now the honorable member says that he forgot. The brownout that he has imposed upon the whole of Australia has browned out his own intelligence. For the benefit of the hon orable member, here are the subscriptions of new money in the last loan:: -
Where are the millions of pounds which the Minister says; have been subscribed by small subscribers-? The honorable gentleman is. so used to the word “ millions “ rolling off his tongue, that he cannot save himself from saying- it at the least provocation. Why, he is always talking about the millions of pounds of centra,!’ bank credit that could be produced’. If the millions of pounds from central bank credit came as- readily as do the words from his lips; there would be no need for loans, or taxes either. What did happen was that the subscribers of amounts of £500 or more provided £59,000,000 of the £82,000,00© raised. I therefore ask the Minister to be more accurate if he- wants to -be treated seriously. I suggest to him that when he refers to what took place in this chamber yesterday, he should also refer to what occurred this afternoon when his colleague the Treasurer- (Mr. Chifley) spoke. The Minister would be well advised- to model his speeches on that of the Treasurer, who spoke with sincerity and is honestly desirous of helping his country in its hour of greatest peril.
The Prime Minister (Mr. Curtin) concluded hi3 speech yesterday with the statement that criticism should be motivated by the desire to make matters work more efficiently than they have worked. He said that he had no criticism to offer in respect of previous governments who had met the situation as it then confronted them, and the present Government was doing the same. I think that the position in Australia to-day is such that we have to develop the full potential of our war effort. That can t»e developed only by the best use of our man-power. All this talk on finance, figures and so on docs not matter. In the end, what will crush the Japanese nation will be the best possible use of the man-power of Australia, the weapons of war created by the men, and the fighting ability of our troops. I again direct the attention of honorable members to the geography of Australia. We have a vast continent and production centres many thousands of miles apart. These factors make our position with regard to the manu.facture of munitions more and more difficult. They make our transport problem, with the break of gauge, still more difficult. There is a third factor in Australia to which attention has not. been drawn in this House either in this debate or, as far as I can remember, in any other debate, and that is the extraordinary shortage of deep-sea ports. There are only three ports, with the exception of Hobart, which will take vessels with a depth of 33 feet. Consequently, all the large convoys from America can only be handled slowly in the deep-sea ports of Australia. For instance, in -the port of Melbourne, until a vessel gets its draught under 26 feet, it is impossible for it to pull under the only crane in Melbourne that will lift heavy weights. That is an antique crane which was built, I understand, about 1876. It is a fixture and the boat has to be moved- backwards and forwards, while the cargo is lifted from the different holds. If a vessel wants to come from another dock, the vessel which is unloading has to be moved.
There is a definite limitation on the capacity of 7,000,000 people to produce men for the forces and weapons of war and food in unlimited quantities. This was evident many months ago. The Man Power and Resources Survey Committee, appointed by the late Government, of which the honorable member for Dalley (Mr. Rosevear), the Minister for Air (Mr. Drakeford) and the Minister for Health (Mr. Holloway) were such distinguished members- -
– And the honorable member himself.
– Modesty forbids me to mention myself. At any rate, that committee directed attention to the deplorable position arising in South Australia at that time with regard to man-power. Factory after factory, munitions works after munitions works, and private factories were being established. This Government has had that report before it for the sixteen months it has been in office, and the building of munitions factories has continued ; factories have come into production, or attempted to do so, and they are totally overweighted on the man-power existing in Australia to-day. There is evidence that there has been no planning in regard to the number of factories. There has been no coordination between the Munitions Department, the Department of Aircraft Production, other government bodies, and private industry. There has been no control of the building of factories or the selection of sites. The result is that we have arrived at a position in regard to man-power in Australia which the Prime Minister recently described as one of the utmost gravity.
The Government should immediately establish a committee with the power to override, if necessary, the decisions of the Director-General of Munitions, for the purpose of ensuring that the apparently endless diversity of munitions production in Australia shall cease. Whilst our capacity to produce munitions is limited, huge factories, which will not come into production for years, are being erected in various parts of the country. When they begin to produce, Ave shall probably have a repetition of the spectacle that the Attorney-General (Dr. Evatt) witnessed recently on a tour in New South Wales. Unless a stocktaking of our capacity to man these factories be made shortly many of them will not be able to operate because of lack of man-power and woman-power.
Prior to the entry of Russia into the war, and the treacherous attack of the Japanese on Pearl Harbour, the position of the British Empire was so desperate that Australia had to exert every effort to produce munitions. Recently honorable members received some startling information about the weakness of the Empire at the time of the collapse of
France. There were only four aeroplanes at Malta and 168 aircraft in Egypt and the Middle East. On the border of Abyssinia 2,500 British soldiers faced an Italian army of 100,000 men. Admiral Sir Andrew Cunningham, with light forces, sought combat with a powerful Italian fleet and gradually whittled away its strength. Upon reading that information, we begin to realize the enormously difficult position in which the British Empire was placed. Until Japan struck at the United States of America, we had no alternative to attempting to make all classes of munitions in this country, but the position has undergone a radical change during the last twelve months. The production of the United States of America is leaping ahead, and a new stream of war material is reaching the United Nations. Australia has probably reached the limit of its resources of man-power, and if reinforcements for the fighting forces are to be maintained, we must endeavour to secure additional manpower. “Where shall we get it? At this juncture I desire to make some suggestions for the benefit of the Minister for the Army (Mr. Forde) and his colleagues. First, the Army should be investigated for the purpose of ascertaining whether many men in the B class are performing duties which are not comparable in value to the national effort to the jobs that they could be doing in civil life. To-day, I received a letter from an official body reporting on man-power in a country district of New South Wales. It pointed out that a man who is now doing labour battalion work on the wharves owns 2,500 sheep. During his absence his sister is doing her utmost to look after thom, but she cannot manage the work, and the sheep are dying of blowfly. That is a definite loss to the nation. Doubtless, many similar cases could be cited. It is the duty of the Government to comb the Army for those men.
Our whole production programme should also be revised. The Government should ask whether there is any advantage in building 9,000 ton steamers. They occupy valuable man hours and require an enormous quantity of plating. Despite our efforts, only one of these vessels has been launched to date. In view of the rapidly expanding production in the shipyards of Henry Kaiser and others in the United States of America, Australia is simply wasting time and effort in building these ships. In the sea-lanes between Guadalcanal and Honolulu, there may be seen numbers of damaged vessels en route to Pearl Harbour, many hundreds of miles from Guadalcanal and the combat areas of the south Pacific. They could be brought to the eastern seaports of Australia for repairs in our shipyards, and the man-power which is occupied in building 9,000-ton vessels should be used for the work. In my opinion, the workmen would be better employed in building corvettes and lighters to work our very shallow ports from open roadsteads, so that war materials from the United States of America may be brought much closer to the combat areas. This suggestion would shorten the journeys of the vessels so that in the course of a year, they would be able to make more voyages than at the present time.
The Government should also ascertain whether the construction of aircraft in Australia is worth all the man-power and labour that we are expending upon it. I betray no secrets when I say that these machines are not built in one factory. The parts are made in a number of factories, and their transport to a central point of assembly increases the strain on our already overburdened railway system. In addition, our attempt to construct aircraft absorbs man-power and machine tools and thereby hinders repair work on allied planes that have been damaged in the northern combat areas. It is to our advantage to be able to repair modern aircraft that have been, brought to Australia, rather than slowly make small numbers of aircraft. In my opinion we made a grave error when we decided to manufacture a purely Australian type of aeroplane. I do not refer to the Beaufort bomber; I am forecasting things to come. If we proceed with the plan, we shall simply increase the ordnance problems of the Royal Australian Air Force and complicate the difficulties regarding spare parts.
The manufacture of tanks in Australia has also led to the immobilization of a tremendous number of men, and occupies an almost incalculable number of man-hours. Before the entry of the United States of America into the war, the scheme for the manufacture of tanks in this country possessed some merit, but the position has now altered. The Government would be well advised to abandon the manufacture of tanks, and rely upon supplies from the United States of America. At present, the engines, tracks and transmissions are imported, though the hulls are made locally. The manufacture of tanks gives rise to serious ordnance problems. Whilst large quantities of spare parts are needed, our output of tanks is so small that they could not inflict any real damage on an invader. In addition, they have a bad effect in delaying the repair of ships, and absorb skilled tradesmen and machine tools so sadly required in other avenues.
The Prime Minister has stated that the man-power position in Australia is of the utmost gravity. Unfortunately, the use of man-power appears to be wasted at times for purely political purposes. I regret to make that statement, because the Treasurer this afternoon kept the debate upon a high plane, but I am confident that I can support my contention. I refer particularly to the proposal of the Government to build country wool appraisement centres. The Australian Wool-Growers Council and the Australian Wool Producers Federation, which represent the whole of the organized wool producers of Australia have, within the last few days and many times during the last- few months, protested against the erection of these stores in the country. A .report which I read in the Sydney Morning Herald states -
It waa purely a political -move, said Mr. B. Cole, a farmer member of the Central Wool Committee. As a matter of policy, he said it was unsound.
As the Prime Minister has described the man-power position as being one of the utmost gravity, it is wickedly wrong for the Government to authorize the erection of wool appraisement stores. The work will occupy approximately 24,000 man-weeks, and the stores have not been asked for by the producers or the Central Wool Committee. Furthermore, their erection will not assist one wit to relieve the transport problems of Australia. Even at this late hour, the
Government should withdraw its authority for this wasteful expenditure of man-power. Some Ministers, for political purposes, have apparently told people living in country districts that the time is now ripe for embarking on vast irrigation schemes. I do not include the Prime Minister in their number, because their statement is contrary to his policy. But the Minister for Commerce and Agriculture was reported in the Northern Daily Leader to have made remarks which justify my complaint. Referring to that honorable gentleman, Mr. A. Ritchins, secretary of the National Water Conservation and Development League, whose headquarters are at Tamworth, is reported to have made the following observations: -
I feel that I am not divulging any confidences when I state that a few weeks ago the Minister unhesitatingly agreed that one of the most urgent works that Australia will have to undertake is the water conservation and irrigation project.
With that I agree, but according to Mr. Ritchins, the Minister added: “ This was not a work for the future, but a. job which must be commenced at once.” In view of the difficulties of the man-power situation, which the Prime Minister has outlined, I am at a loss to understand how one of his colleagues could make such a remark. The making of it indicates to me a condition of political dishonesty which is almost unbelievable. Such statements are not at all helpful to the war effort, and the sooner the Prime Minister takes steps to prevent Ministers from making such utterances, the better it will be for thi3 country.
– If there are any political impostors in this country, they belong to the honorable member’s party.
– The first job that we have to do is to defeat Japan. Although a good deal has been said recently about fighting Japan through the malarial green hells of the islands towards the north of Australia, the way that Japan will be conquered is the way that an octopus must be conquered. An octopus must be struck at the heart. Then its tentacles begin to lose their grip upon their victims. It will only be when we can strike at the heart of Japan that it will loosen its grip of the territories it hai conquered.
The Prime Minister has recently made appeals through, the newspapers for greater assistance for Australia from the United States of America in order to increase the pressure of the fight iri the South-west Pacific Area. Every one will agree that such assistance is necessary and that the sooner it is forthcoming, the better; but I consider that the Prime Minister has done a disservice to this country !y going over the heads of the President of the United States of America and the Prime Minister of the United Kingdom and making appeals in 1 lie American press for such assistance. Before that was done, every other step should have been taken to obtain the desired assistance from the United States of America.
– How does the honorable member know that other steps were not taken?
– I could tell the honorable member that also. By making appeals through the press of America, the Prime Minister has made this an issue in American domestic politics. The Republican party has taken up his cry, and Australia is likely to become a catspaw of American party politics, with the result that the merits of our case may be overlooked. In my opinion, the Prime Minister should make personal contact with the President of the United States of America and with the Prime Minister of Great Britain as every other leader of the United Nations has done, with the exception of M. Stalin, who has not been able to leave Russia because of the severity of the fighting in that country. The three men who will have most influence in the determination of world issues in the next few years are Churchill, Roosevelt and Stalin. For that reason, it would be highly desirable for our Prime Minister to make personal contact with these leaders or, at any rate, with President Roosevelt and Mr. Churchill. If our Prime Minister could visit Washington and contact the production executives of the United Nations, he would bc able to discuss effectively with them ways and means by which our capacity for production could be coordinated with the production capacity of the other United Nations, and he would also be able to discuss the best way in which help could be given to this country to meet the serious threats which we still face in the South-west Pacific Area. J. believe that it is the duty of the Prime Minister, in the interests of this country, to visit Washington at an early date, and I am sure that I speak for the Leader of the Opposition and for other members of the Opposition parties when I say that none of us would embarrass the right honorable gentleman in any way while he was on such a visit.
– ‘Hear, hear!
– With air transport, such a visit need occupy only fifteen days, with five clays at Washington, and the lime would he well spent. I ask the right honorable gentleman to give serious consideration to this proposal and also to the other constructive criticism I have offered of the Government’s policy. The Prime Minister should take the earliest possible opportunity of making personal contact with Mr. Churchill and President Roosevelt, as Field-Marshal . Smuts and other leaders of the Allied Nations have clone.
– I support the motion. .Some opposition has been expressed to the first paragraph of it, which declares -
Australia’s indissoluble unity with the British Commonwealth of Nations, and its unswerving loyalty to the cause of the United Nations and its admiration for the heroic efforts of the Allied forces.
It has been said this declaration is redundant, but in view of recent happenings in this country, I consider that, it is desirable that we should re-affirm our unity of outlook and aims. We all know that a whispering campaign is in progress against the Government, and that the financial resources of certain big institutions are being used for the purpose of making insidious attacks upon the Ministry, notwithstanding that the fine work it is doing in connexion with the war effort. Such conduct smacks of fifth column activity, and should be prohibited. These interests, which are engaged in what has every appearance of electioneering, are, in fact, using for propaganda purposes the funds of shareholders, many of whom are strong supporters of this Government in its war effort, although I am quite well aware, also, that certain other notoriously monopolistic organizations are behind the move to bolster up the forces against the Government. What is happening raises the question of whether the directors of certain companies have any authority from their shareholders to use, for this purpose, the funds that are being expended. I am quite satisfied that many small shareholders of public companies are strong supporters of the Government and that they would strongly protest if they had the opportunity to do so, against what is being done in their name by certain company directors. It would not be inappropriate for the Attorney-General to look into this subject. If these company directors have no authority to use the funds at their disposal for this purpose they should be prevented from doing so ; if they can use company funds without seeking, specific authority to do so, our company law should be tightened up.
– Would the honorable gentleman apply the same principle to the use of trade- union funds?
– I would; but as a matter of hard fact practically all the trade unions are affiliated with the Labour party. In any case, trade union executives must obtain authority for the expenditure of union funds for political purposes. In some instances a two- thirds majority is necessary for any such authorization. Company executives should be required to obtain similar authority to spend company funds for political purposes, I am sure that tha great majority of company shareholders in Australia are proud of the. manner in which the Prime Minister has applied himself to his responsible duties. They also, appreciate the devotion with which this, Government has applied itself to the problems of Government, and, in particular, to the defence of Australia. When this Government, assumed office Australia was in a serious state of unpreparedness. The. Prime Minister, in my opinion, has- been over generous in paying tribute to what previous administrations did to provide far tha defence of Australia. If the Japanese had known how defenceless we really were, they would have walked straight into Australia and our people would have been exterminated or, at the very least, have become slaves of an alien race. The Prime Minister was largely responsible for obtaining the help which has come to us from the United States of America in the form of equipment - «d fighting forces. He was also largely responsible for the return to Australia of large numbers of the Australian Imperial Force who were fighting abroad. The bringing of these men back to defend their own kith and kin was strongly criticized by some honorable gentlemen opposite who argued that they should have been sent to Burma. The Government has applied itself to its. duty to provide for the defence of the country in a way that has won the warmest approbation from many people who previously were not at all favorable to the Labour party. Moreover, as the result of action by this Government more than 500,000 men and women have been transferred from civil production to war production or to the. fighting services. In these circumstances the criticism to which the Government has been subjected, and the propaganda that is afoot with the object of securing an early election are quite unjustified. The actions of some, honorable members opposite in this connexion do- not redound to their credit. I do not believe in political post-mortems, and I regret that some honorable gentlemen opposite have looked back as far as the time of the last war in order to try to cast aspersions on honorable gentlemen holding important portfolios in this Ministry. Men who have been giving their utmost in the service of the country have been subjected to most unjustifiable criticism. If tactics of that kind are to be employed, we shall not need to go back as far as the last war to discover reasons for adversely criticizing some honorable gentlemen opposite, for they have advocated even since the outbreak of the war the adoption of appeasement measures towards Japan- similar to those previously adopted towards Germany and the Axis, though 1 do not suggest, for a moment, that their action has been taken except for the purpose of helping the country, according to- their- queer appreciation of the. needs of the situation].
– The honorable gentleman is talking plain nonsense.
– What else could be said in view of the fact that even since the beginning of the war pig iron, scrap iron, and even lead and zinc, have been shipped to Japan? [Quorum formed.] Honorable members who have raised this subject might well have left it alone. I have received a communication from the father of a young man who was one of those left in Malaya and since not heard of. Just before Singapore was taken, the father received a letter from the boy, who wrote very feelingly about some scrap iron that had been sent over by the Japanese. A young lieutenant in the Navy, who was in Timor, but escaped, said that he saw scrap iron which had come down from Japanese aircraft, and that it had on it “N.S.W.G.R.” and “ Chrysler Corporation “. One thing that can be said of the Japanese is that they have returned to us some of the things that we sent to them, although not in a pleasant form.
Reference has been made to the manner in which the Government has conducted the war industries and has attended to production. Many of the hold-ups and wastage of man-power referred to by the honorable member for New England (Mr. Abbott) are the direct result of the policy laid down by the previous administration, which handed over to the representatives of big business the control of war industry, and, instead of utilizing the factory space that was available, constructed large establishments and costly annexes and installed new machines at considerable cost while machines in existing factories remained idle. After two years of war, I led a deputation of nearly 300 factory proprietors in New South Wales, who complained that their establishments had not been able to obtain war orders. Their complete idleness was due to the wrong policy that had previously been adopted.
– The Attorney-General (Dr. Evatt) discovered such an establishment quite recently.
– The policy has been to concentrate production in some of the States, and certain influences are still operating in that direction. A factory in New South Wales recently dismissed 250 men and women because of the lack of orders, due to their diversion to other States on account of the concentration of factories in those States by a previous administration. The propaganda campaign that has been launched indicates that powerful influences are still operating in this country and, in fact, throughout the world. I read recently of a gathering of pretenders to monarchies in various countries in Europe. They held a meeting in London with the object of taking steps to usurp power in those countries after the war. I have also read that in Vichy Prance 100 of the 200 families which practically own France are on the side of the Axis in the struggle and the other 100 are on our side. Therefore, it is a case of “ heads they win, tails we lose “. Similar influences are operating in this country, and it is necessary to ascertain the source of the funds with which this propaganda campaign is being conducted.
Reference has been made to the (methods used in financing the war. I agree that there are certain matters that still need our attention. I do not concur in all the methods that have so far been adopted, and certainly am not in accord with those advocated by honorable members opposite. We have had too much orthodox finance in the conduct of the war. Recently, we had the spectacle of the delivery of tobacco for the troops, and the release of moving picture equipment for their entertainment, a gift of the United States of America, being held up until the committee of the Australia Comforts Fund had gone into the highways and byways to collect the money that was needed to pay the duty on them. That is deplorable. It is indicative of the wrong policy that has been in operation for many years, particularly in regard to the tariff. The attitude adopted towards the importation of machines has been a major cause of hold-up in war production. Although we have not had the industries which produce certain machines, a prohibitive duty has been imposed. The importation of such machinery before the war would have resulted in the establishment of hundreds of new industries which later could have been changed over to war production. Our policy has been perverted from the protection of industry to the protection of monopoly. Instead of being imposed on production goods, duty has been imposed on capital goods. This has prevented importation of machinery for the establishment of new industries, which would have operated for our benefit.
The war can be more adequately financed, not by imposing further burdens on the workers, but hy a capital levy which would skim some of the fat from those who have accumulated wealth in good times. The policy of utilizing credit has been criticized on the ground that it causes inflation. A capital levy would be the means of establishing a real basis for the issue of national credit, because it would be the means of taxing back to the nation some of the wealth that has come into the hands of large accumulators in times of peace. The employment of such resources in the war effort would be a real insurance for those who have been fortunate enough to accumulate the wealth which the members of the defence services are fighting to preserve. Only the other day. I was impressed by the proportions to which the national debt had risen. Some idea of who really won the last war is given by the fact that the interest bill, on the national debt is £55,000,000 per annum; whereas the nation pays only £7,000,000 in pensions and other allowances to returned soldiers of the last war and this war, who fought and sacrificed their health, even their lives, to maintain the security of that capital.
The second paragraph of the Prime Minister’s motion reads -
Its pride in the bravery and achievements of the Australian forces, in all theatres, and its intention to make provision for their reinstatement and advancement, and for the dependants of those who have died or been disabled as a consequence of the war.
I arn glad to note that the Government has in mind the needs of the fighting services and their dependants. I am sure that it will see that adequate provision shall be made for them. It has already taken practical steps along those lines, by having set up a Repatriation Committee to consider and recommend amendment of the Australian Soldiers Repatriation Act so as to meet the con ditions of the present war. I was sorry that, although it was an all-party committee, it was not set up as a Select Committee, which could have heard evidence in public. Had that been done, those who so desired could have stated their views and been cross-examined, leading others in the community to follow their example. Unfortunately, a wrong procedure was adopted by the committee when it decided to conduct its proceedings m camera and merely to ask for statements from members of various organizations. Honorable members were invited to submit a statement of their ideas. Had the committee taken evidence of individual cases, it would have discovered a sad state of affairs in regard to the pensions and allowances that are paid to members of the fighting services and their dependants. There are five ex-soldiers on the committee and I am sure that they will advance suggestions that will tend to make the act a decent piece of legislation. Before legislation was introduced in Canada, a committee consisting of 60 representatives of all sections of the community was set up. A very fine act was passed as the result of that committee’s deliberations and recommendations. I have not had an opportunity to analyse the reports that were tabled to-day, but I was able to glean something of their contents previously. I understood that their main recommendations are the rectification of certain anomalies in the repatriation law, and an all-round increase of the pension payable to returned soldiers by 20 per cent. The committee is on the right track in regard to many of the anomalies, but it has entirely missed the most important point; because, without going into the manner in which the law is administered, it would not be able to obtain a true idea of the position. The whole crux of the trouble is the administration, and I am satisfied from my experience and observations that a complete overhaul is needed, particularly in regard to the medical side. From what I have observed, the Repatriation Commission has been working on an entirely wrong basis. For example, a soldier maybe suffering from half a dozen different complaints. At the beginning of his war service, he might have had latent disabilities. lu normal times, .without the stress and strain of warfare,he might have been able to overcome them, because of the margin ot resistance in the majority of human beings; but. under the stress of warfare that, margin is removed, and in many instances complete disability results. One would think that the principle adopted in the compensation courts would apply - that if a person had latent disability, and an accident, or the conditions of his employment, contributed1 to total disability, that disability would be regarded as entitling him to compensation. But the commission merely takes the number of diseases front which the soldier is supposed’ to be suffering; selects those which it alleges have been caused by war service, and says. “ “We will allow you one-tenth “ or “ one-twentieth “’. For this reason, ridiculous amounts such as 2s., 3s., 10s. and 20s. a week are paid. In fact, 4s. l£d. appears to be the pre- railing amount. The- medical assessors are working on a wrong principle. They sio not understand the circumstances, or are not carrying out the spirit of the act as this Parliament laid it down. Therefore, I should like the Repatriation Committee to continue its deliberations. It should be an all-party standing committee) which would at all times see that any problems were dealt with immediately. I shall give an indication of the manner in which medical assessments are made. I noted the other day evidence given by Dr. Kestevan, at the Allied Works Council inquiry in Sydney. He said that the methods adopted are somewhat similar to those adopted by army doctors in the last war. According to him, at one camp - I believe it was Tocumwal - he had had to examine 300 men in eight hours. I put it to honorable members : Would’ it be possible to make a complete examination in such a time - approximately one and a half miinutes for each mau, assuming that the doctor went through without a rest and without meals? Honorable members can see how injustices have resulted because of incomplete medical examination and incorrect diagnosis. Men are put through like sausages pass through a machine when they are to be sent away to fight; but when they return, a fine-tooth comb is used in order to determine whether their disabilities- may be attributed to a latent condition and not to war service’. This is a matter which should be cleared up- immediately. The other- day the attention of the Minister for Repatriation was called’ to the case of- a returned soldier from the present war, a young man who was one of the 750. Australian soldiers taken prisoner by the Japanese at Rabaul. This man saw his mates trussed up two by two and taken into the scrub to be shot. He himself was shot and bayoneted, and left for- dead. He bad eleven bayonet wounds in him ; yet on his return he was given a paltry pension.
– Does the honorable member say he was given a pension for bayonet wounds?
– I did not say that.
– Does the honorable member say that any man returned to Australia, with eleven bayonet wounds in his body?
– The Minister did not deny the story when it appeared in the press.
– I am not going to devote my time to denying everything that appears in the press.
– It was stated that this man was not examined for- bayonet wounds, but only for neurosis.
– Who said that he was suffering from bayonet wounds?
– He said so himself.
– We have no proof of it.
– The department’s own doctors examined him, and they could have confirmed his statement that he was suffering from bayonet woundsStories of this kind are- coming to light every day, and where there is smoke there is fire. I know that the Minister has the interests of the returned soldiers at heart, and I am asking him to investigate the matter further. If justice cannot be done to these men through the ordinary departmental channels, then I ask that a Board of inquiry be appointed,, a royal commission if necessary, to find out whether the administration is lettingthe present Government down as it let down other governments. I could quote- dozens of cases in which the treatment. of returned soldiershasbeen unsatisfactory. It is not a matter of what appears in the press; it is a matter of what every honorable member knows. A pension increase of 20 per cent. is not enough. The returned soldiers’ organizations are asking for an increase of 50 per cent. Reference has been made to the case of one returned soldier, with an income of £1,000 a year who is receiving a full war pension of £2 2s. a week. That is not much satisfaction to a constituent, of mine, who is a married man with two children and who, although unemployed, receives a war pension of only 3s.8d. a week. He is incapacitated, and must rely upon the State for relief.
– What war disabilities does he suffer from?
– He has certain disabilities which have been accepted by the department, and others, such as neuresthenia and fibrosis, which were not accepted. I maintain, however, that if it were not for his war injuries, he would be able to overcome his other disabilities and carry on his ordinary occupation.
The third paragraph of the Prime Minister’s motion reads -
I agree with some of the statements of the honorable member for New England (Mr. Abbott). Many matters in regard to war production require attention, but it must be remembered that the inland factories referred to by the honorable member were established in theirpresent situation at a time when it was thought possible that the Japanese would be able to attack and destroy war industries situated near the coast. It is hoped that the need will never arise to put these shadow factories into full production. I do not accept the honorable member’s contention that Ave should leave the manufacture of aeroplanes and tanks to overseas countries, while we concentrate on supplying fighting men. Such a policy would be a bad one for Australia, either in war or in pence. I admit that, at the present time, there is a good deal of overlapping,waste and inefficiency which could be prevented by the setting up of a Directorate of Production, as has been done in England and in the United States of America. I quote the following from an article which was published recently in Smith’s Weekly: -
Smith’s declared early in the piece that the problem of war industry was production management.
Every labour-saying idea in modern production technique had to be brought to bear upon industry. Again and againSmith’s has stated that unless this was recognized Australia would hit trouble.
Skilled production managers, Smith’s argued, were more imperative than pulling in workers by the hundred thousand. Plants must be laid out and directed to save every unnecessary movement. A dozen able production managers were, in the circumstances, worth a hundred thousand workers.
In that connexion, a wrong policy was applied in Australia, where the authorities concentrated on obtaining skilled operatives, without bothering to foster executive capacity to direct their efforts. Some time ago, I had an interview with the chairman of the Area Board of Management in Sydney, who said that the place was “ lousy “ with executives and managers whom he was unable to place. He wanted skilled workers. A highly skilled executive, who had been earning £3,000 a year, offered his services gratis to the board, and the offer was turned down. I am glad that the Minister for Munitions (Mr. Makin) has agreed to the appointment of a production engineer because, although the Government, has accomplished much in the promotion of efficiency, there is still room for improvement. [Extension of time granted.’] In the United States of America, war production increased tenfold during 1942 as compared with the previous years because they concentrated on utilizing existing factories. The following article was published in Truth in March last: -
ACTION! ACTION! ACTION!
New York. Saturday. - The United States this week finds itself in the throes of a paroxysm. Members of Congress are being inundated by letters demanding action. Every small town Chamber of Commerce is meeting and passing resolutions calling for action.
The whole nation appears to have become one solid pressure group dedicated tothe one purpose of producing action. Congressmen are told to get action. The Presidentis toldto get action.
All of a sudden it has dawned on tens of millions of people that their soldiers are dying abroad while in Washington there is not action. Donald Kelson, the production Czar, when he took over his duties found some labour leaders on the side lines willing to throw themselves into the war effort but unwilling to pay a price in lowered standards and restricted rights which were not balanced by equal sacrifices by big business.
Employers Won’t Co-operate
He knew that he needed Labour and he took the courageous step of inviting Labour to join with the management in directing the campaign to increase war production. Thereupon Labour left the side lines and since then Mr. Nelson has found that his trouble is with local employers who do not care to sit down with Labour.
If Labour directs, i.t no longer is Labour, say the employers. It is elevated to management. And co-operation has now become a commodity which Mr. Nelson is having some difficulty in selling to all the manufacturer? of America.
This week Mr. Nelson’s office produced a dramatic radio show keyed to rally patriotism and loyalty behind the production drive.
It did not openly mention the share Labour is to have with Management in directing the new effort.
Tt berated unco-operative labour unions and company officials equally.
What it was trying to do was to rally public opinion to bring pressure for co-operation.
We should aim at bringing about true co-operation between management and employers, and I am glad to see that the Minister for Labour and National Service f Mr. Ward) is working towards this end. In Great Britain, joint production committees, representative of the workers and of the management, have been set up, and, as a result of their efforts, there have been no ‘prosecutions for absenteeism in Great Britain during the last six months. I know that the Minister for Labour and National Service is anxious that similar committees should be set up here. The workers are willing to co-operate, as are many of the employers. Unfortunately, some of the employers are hanging back, and they will not fall into line unless the Government takes the lead. There is a very fine spirit of co-operation among the munitions workers in my electorate, as is indicated by the following resolution which was carried by the shop committee of the Chullora aircraft works : -
This shop committee, realizing the present grave national emergency, and the menace that a victory for the Axis powers means to the working-class movement, pledges itself to work for the greatest possible output of aircraft, and for national unity of the entire people of Australia behind the Federal Labour Government in the fight against world Fascism.
I am convinced that if officially-sponsored production committees were set up in Australian factories, production would be increased, and general efficiency would be promoted. The American ambassador to Great Britain, Mr. John G. Winant, in his last annual report as Director of the International Labour Office, said: -
The democracies cannot survive unless they achieve effective co-operation among their governments and organizations of employers and workers.
The positive value of such co-operation has been demonstrated in Britain.
In Britain ever deepening of the national emergency has extended the .principles and practices of responsible collaboration.
In this fact lies the strength and unity of purpose of the British people to-day.
If the Government could infuse that spirit of co-operation between employers and employees in this country and would sponsor production committees, we should have a greater effort and true national unity.
While on that subject, I wish to say something in regard to the restrictive operation of many of the regulations that have been made. I pay tribute to what the Government has done, but it must be admitted that hampering influences are still at work in the Public Service. Any one who moves in industry knows that the manner of carrying out many of the regulations is damaging. I do not always agree with what is said in the press, but I am inclined to agree with the following extracts from an article recently published in the Sydney Morning Herald: -
More than 80 per cent, of the rapidly swelling flood of National Security Regulations directly or indirectly hamper the manufacturing and distributing trades. As a consequence, seriously depleted clerical and shop staffs have to divert a considerable number of weekly working hours from urgent business to the tasks of making out returns, answering questionnaires, and preparing complicated applications for endless permits.
Respect for the regular public servant has grown, however, since the increase of regulations has necessitated the employment of thousands of men totally inexperienced in the spheres over which they become petty dictators. Some have obtained their jobs by political or other influence, and abuse their authority. It is not surprising, then, that officials in different departments disagree on the interpretation of a regulation. There have been cases where the head of a department and one of his subordinates have disagreed on the meaning of a regulation, and some regulations are being differently interpreted in every State. frequently the regulations issued by one Minister conflict with those issued by another. A factory occupies the whole of a big block in an inner Sydney suburb with the exception of a section measuring 2,000 square feet. A recent regulation stipulates that a certain class of goods turned out by the factory must undergo a further process. To carry out this order the factory required the section and found that the owner was willing to sell at a high price. Before it could proceed, however, it had to obtain the following permits under various regulations: - (1) Authority from the Treasury to purchase; (2) consent of another authority to get the tenant out; (3) authority to pull down the old house on the land; (4) authority from W.O.I, to erect a building to house plant; (5) permits to get different parts of the plant.
After three months the company owning the factory has not yet secured No. 1 permit, and anywhere along the chain authority may be refused.
We cannot win the war in that way. We must adopt more efficient and expeditious methods. That is why I advocate the setting up of a production directorate. Surely we have a man with the skill and ability to create a drive for production and to break through these regulations in order to get down to the kernel of things. That was stressed in a letter which I received this morning from a gentleman high in the Public Service associated with the war effort who in ordinary times is in private business. In fact, he was in peace-time associated with the steel industry. Some of the ideas which he has set out in his letter he introduced into the steel industry, and they have contributed to the high efficiency which that industry has obtained even under private direction. This is what he said -
Recently, we were told that Dr. Evatt stood aghast at the discovery of a large idle munitions factory. Much press comment has also been made on partial absenteeism in war factories generally, and also again to the fore is the expected cure by shop committees, which will assist management by putting the third degree on absentees.
The remedy does not lie that way, but in the creation of an interest motive in managers and workmen alike. Absenteeism is not confined to industry, as press reports would lead you to believe, but it has its counterpart in the absence without leave from the Army and from the Civil Constructional Corps.
We do not hear of any soldiers absent without leave near the front line, but of many who go absent without leave from the rear to get to the front.
The monotony of doing the same task day after day tires the individual, who seeks escape in the only way open to him - absence.
With the introduction of mass-production methods and the drafting of man-power into jobs whether liked or not, there lias been created a legion of square pegs in round holes. Man-power restrictions on change of occupation have prevented the normal movement oi individuals from one class of work to another until jobs suitable to personal ideas were found.
Thousands of workmen and women doing war work to-day are suffering from the ennui that a change of occupation cures and they cannot take that cure.
Ministerial appeals for more and more production are just abstract statements to the average man and legislation to punish absenteeism has done nothing but cause trouble so far.
A drastic change in the whole set up is required. Interest must be aroused and sustained, and all workers must be shown the relationship of their particular work to the men in the firing line. The part that the effort of each worker bears te the whole must be plainly told, daily and continuously. It is not normal or to be expected that the average man or woman in the present safety of an Australian factory or office will feel that his or her job has a direct bearing on Australia’s ability to support its front line and even the absence of one workman from his safe job for one day may cause the loss of dozens of Australian soldiers’ lives and bring the horrors of war to every door.
We should recognize that basic viewpoint and attack it on the job, not only over the radio and by the press.
It is often said that if bombs were to commence falling on our cities, there would not be an hour’s work lost and production would rise. That is probably true, but the reason would be that the factory and other workers would then feel themselves to be front-line workers and their jobs would have personal safety and self-preservation interest. Such interest motive can be engendered without bombs falling, and steps must be taken to do it.
The success of a football team is assured when each member can relate his efforts to the team’s results. The maximum production will only be secured from our mim iti ons factories when every worker can relate his efforts and absence to his factory’s output and his factory’s output to the total war effort necessary to win the war.
There are soldiers’ fathers, brothers, sisters, sweethearts and even wives and mothers working in munitions factories. The efforts ot these workers could set an example to all if their daily tasks were seen by them as being almost the equivalent to standing with the boys in the front line facing the enemy.
Fighting men alone cannot win this war. Backed by the maximum national effort, they cannot lose.
Over two and a half years ago, I drew the then Government’s attention to the need, inter alia, to educate all workers in the essentiality of the individual task, and I have repeated it over and over again in communications and before committees.
Acting along the lines proposed can no longer be delayed if absenteeism is to be cut down and the maximum effort and production obtained.
Those are some ideas from a man with considerable experience, and I hope that the production engineer whom the Minister for Munitions has appointed will take those ideas into consideration. If he does so, we shall have a greater war effort and we shall utilize to the greatest degree what we have.I hope that there will be a combing out of the overlapping man-power so that we shall have the full number to back up the members of the fighting services.
Debate (on motion by Mr. Jolly) adjourned.
Royalaustralian Air Force: Punish ment of Sergeantk. M. Gregor - Australia First Movement - Rationalizationof Newspapers - Feeding ok Troops in New Guinea: “Battle for Rice Dump “ - Australian Army : Disbandmentofmilitia Battalion; Transfers to Austraiian Imperial Forge.
Motion (by Mr. Curtin) proposed -
That the House do now adjourn.
. I am reluctant to question any decision which the Royal Australian Air Force tribunals may make, but the matter which 1 am now raising contains an important principle which may affect the future of every young man who enters the force. I refer to the case of Kenneth Munro Gregor, who entered the Air Force direct from college at the age of nineteen. After twelve months in the service he reached the rank of sergeant pilot, and he had a very good record. This lad, in the course of his duties, was in control of an aeroplane at Narrandera last September. An accidentoccurred and a man was killed. Some damage was done to the aircraft and Gregor himself suffered rather severe in juries. There is no question apparently that there was a breach of the regulations. Gregor was tried by court martial, convicted, and sentenced to twelve months imprisonment and dismissal from the Air Force. I am not cavilling at the sentence, although I consider it severe, for it was imposed by a tribunal much the same as a judicial tribunal in civil life, and there are means of appealing against the sentence if Gregor elects to do so. I make it clear, therefore, that in bringing this matter forward I am not seeking Gregor’s release. That is a matter for the constituted authority. What I am objecting to, and what any parent with a boy in the Air Force would object to, is that because of an admitted accident this decent, clean-living lad just out of school was thrown into Goulburn gaol to associate possibly with criminals of the worst type. From Goulburn gaol he was transferred to Long Bay and later to another civil prison at Bathurst. Although he may have deserved the sentence; of twelve months imprisonment, he should not be compelled to serve it in a civil gaol in association with many undesirable characters. An offender of this kind should be placed in a special army or air force detention camp. The breach of the regulations that this boy committed was not a civil offence.
In reply to my contention, the Minister may declare that the ordinary civilian w,ho is convicted of manslaughter may serve a sentence in a civil gaol, but that is an unfair comparison. A clean living boy who was formerly the captain of his school, this youth enlisted in the most dangerous of the combatant services, namely, the Air Force. Because of overenthusiasm, he flew his machine at a low altitude, causing it to collide with an obstacle. I do not criticize the sentence; he is at liberty to appeal against it. My plea is made, not only for this lad, hut also for every member of the Royal Australian Air Force, because others may be placed in a similar position as a result of committing a breach of Air Force regulations. Offenders of this class would not abscond if given work to do. They could be confined to barracks, or be sent to a prison farm, but they should not be confined in a civil penitentiary where their characters may be destroyed. This lad’s parents are highly .respected citizens whom I have known for years, but I do not plead his case for that reason. I have raised the matter because it may affect many of the tens of thousands of lads in the Royal Australian Air Force.
– .1 direct attention to the fact that those unfortunate persons who were arrested and interned as members of the Australia First Movement about twelve months ago and who were subsequently released, have been refused their legitimate claims for legal expenses which they incurred in an attempt to clear their characters. Honorable members will recall the circumstances in which an announcement was made to this House that a plot had been discovered to assassinate Cabinet Ministers and certain other persons. It was said that in consequence of this discovery a number of persons had been imprisoned in Western Australia and New South Wales. Ultimately, it was found that the alarm, as affecting the members of the organization in New South Wales, was in the nature of a mare’s nest. The AttorneyGeneral (Dr. Evatt) made a statement in the House regarding the internments, and I am afraid that he aggravated the injury to the persons concerned, because he justified the action of the Government with quotations from letters which some of them had allegedly written. The impression was given, and the inference was clear, that all the persons concerned were such as would write those letters, or had written them. In actual fact, the extracts were taken from letters written by only three of them. I understand that those three persons are still detained. The honorable member for Bourke (Mr. Blackburn) and I, on this side of the chamber, with some other honorable members, have protested from time to time against the iniquitous treatment to which these unfortunate people have been subjected. All of them are Australian-bora and one of them is married to a returned nurse of the last war. That lady has written to me advising that the legal costs of her husband’s defence amounted to £113 16s. Id. The inquiry was farcical. The court consisted of a judge and two lawyers, and the accused were not told the nature of the charges against them, but were invited to prove to the satisfaction of tie so-called court why they should not be interned. As they did not know why they had been interned, it was rather difficult for them to prove to the court why they should not have been interned. However, this question of tribunals is another affair. The fact is that the reputations of “the persons who were interned have been seriously and possibly irrevocably damaged. They have been put to a great deal of trouble and expense and now that they have been released, the least the Government, can do is to reimburse those who incurred legal expenses in trying to establish their innocence.
– Worse than legal expenses is the fact that some of them waited six months for trial.
– If time permitted, I could elaborate that matter - the treatment meted out to those persons who are our own nationals and to other persons, and the inordinate and indefensible delays that occur from the time that the persons are incarcerated until they are permitted to exercise the privilege which the Government freely admits is their due, namely, to have their case against their internment reviewed by a judicial body. .Sometimes six months elapses before they are given an opportunity to appeal, and months pass before they know the result. In the case of members of the Australia First movement, two or three months elapsed before they knew the result of their appeals. Even in the case of those who were found not guilty of subversive intent or action, several months more elapsed before they were released. I bring the matter before the notice of the Attorney-General (Dr. Evatt) in the hope that he will take appropriate action.
I have a printed circular, dated the 1st August, 1942, which is marked “Private and Confidential “, and which was circulated as a memorandum to the staff of The Herald and Weekly Times Limited, Melbourne. It dealt with the difficulties of the newspaper world, and the Government’s rationalization schemes. It boasted of the number of members in the newspaper world who are in the forces, and of the great reductions which the newspapers themselves had made in the use of newsprint, and vehicles, and of the saving of petrol and rubber. A very interesting statement appears on page 5 of the document, dealing with the rationalization proposals which had been advanced by the Minister for War Organization of Industry (Mr. Dedman). Referring to his proposal to restrict the issue of morning and evening newspapers to one paper only for each capital city, the circular claimed that the newspaper opposed the plan and added, “In this we have the support of Cabinet”. I desire to know whether The Herald and Weekly Times Limited has any particular right to know whether it did, or did not, have the support of Cabinet against the Minister. How did the management obtain that information?
– One might ask how the honorable member obtained the circular.
– I shall satisfy the curiosity of the honorable member for Barker (Mr. Archie Cameron) by informing him that I obtained it from a member of the staff of the Herald.
– I am not curious, but Sir Keith Murdoch may be.
Mr.CALWELL.- I see in this document the main reason why the newspapers are so viciously antagonistic towards the Minister. When he said that the newspaper world should amalgamate so that there would be only one morning and. one evening paper in each capital city, he was demanding that they should make sacrifices equal with those of many small businesses. But the newspaper magnates do not want to make sacrifices, or to have such a scheme forced upon them. Accordingly, they declared a vendetta against the Minister.
– Is it possible also that the Minister had a vicious outlook on the newspapers ?
– I do not attempt to defend all the proposals that the Minister has advanced; but I consider that, in this instance, he was justified in the action he proposed. I regret that whilst Cabinet will support many of his schemes, Ministers let him down badly in this matter. If the Cabinet had supported the Minister for War
Organization of Industry we should have had less trouble from the newspapers than we are having. I thought that the interesting information which I have just revealed to honorable members should be made public in defence of the Minister for War Organization of Industry. A good deal of objectionable matter which is not helpful in any way’ to the war effort is still being published in the press. One Sydney morning newspaper published a statement yesterday that the shipping losses of the Allies last year totalled between 7,000,000 and 9,000,000 tons. Of what good is information of that kind except to the enemy? We know that our losses have been heavy, but there is surely no sense in publishing such statements.
– They are published in the American press.
– That is a matter for the American authorities to deal with. I consider that in certain respects our newspapers should be even more severely censored than they are at present.
A report appeared in a newspaper published in a town on the northern rivers of New South Wales which, in my opinion, should have been forbidden publication for the reason that it could do nothing except depress and grieve the relatives of men engaged in combatant operations in New Guinea. The report read as follows: -
(From our own correspondent, George Johnston. )
Somewhere in New Guinea, Sunday.
One of the battles of the Buna-Goua area the Australian and American troops will remember will be “ the battle for the rice dump “ now raging along the Soputa trail. It began four clays ago, and is still continuing.
On Tuesday, Australians moving north from Soputa towards Sanananda Point saw ahead of them a huge Japanese food dump of hundreds of sacks of rice, . dehydrated vegetables and canned onions - enough food for a whole battalion.
The Australians attacked vigorously, but the Japanese wanted that food, too. They replied with a hail of machine-gun bullets and mortar fire.
The report undoubtedly leaves the impression that Australian ‘troops were obliged to fight for Japanese rice dumps in order to obtain food. Such statements are ridiculous. I have received a letter from a gentleman who lives at Cowper, in the Clarence River district, protesting strongly against the publication of such reports. This gentleman had a son who was engaged in offensive operations from Iorobaiwa Ridge to Kokoda, and he naturally felt perturbed at the thought that his boy was obliged to fight in that way for food. I cannot accept the suggestion in the report that the QuartermasterGeneral’s Department had left Army units four days without food.
The next matter to which I shall refer relates to the disbandment, in Western Australia last October, of a battalion. The commanding officer of the battalion, Lieutenant-Colonel Watson, did practically no work from October to December. He was then sent to Victoria to look for another military job, but eventually he was discharged. He is 39 years of age and, so far as he knows, is in perfect health. He has volunteered for the Australian Imperial Force on numerous occasions. He has an excellent record. Although the nation has spent several thousands of pounds on his training, he is now doing, a clerical job in a life insurance office. Two warrant officers, six sergeants, and about twenty corporals in the same battalion had an experience which has cost the community a large sum. I do not make any charge against the Minister for the Army, or any other member of the Government, on this matter. I refer to it in order to show that our military machine is not working as it should be working,, after three years of war. These noncommissioned officers had an extraordinary experience. They were sent from their battalion head-quarters 290 miles to Claremont, Western Australia, where they stayed for three days. They then travelled 14 miles to Coogee, where they remained for two days. No jobs being available for them there, they were sent back to Claremont where they arrived in the middle of the night. Nobody wanted them and they slept that night on the railway station. Next day they were sent to Moora, where they were not wanted, and the following day they went on to Irwin. They stayed there for fourteen days, during which they had no occupation. Their next journey was 290 miles to Midland Junction where they were tem porarily attached to another battalion although there was still no work for them. After resting there for four days they were granted annual leave and then left for Melbourne. They were told that they could try to find jobs for themselves in Melbourne. They tried to do so, but those who had any prospect of success were told that they would have to return to Western Australia in order to be drafted back to Melbourne. I suppose that even those who do not succeed in Melbourne will also have to renew their western wanderings. The Government should look into this subject. Such ridiculous tracking backwards and forwards should not be permitted.
Speaking of Moora reminds me of another unsatisfactory situation affecting our troops. I have learned from men who were located at Moora that objectionable attempts have been made there to coerce men into transferring from the Citizen Military Forces to the Australian Imperial Force. I would not think of offering objection to voluntary transfers from one branch of the service to the other, but I strongly object to the action of certain officers who have tried to coerce men into enlisting in the Australian Imperial Force. I know one young man in the Citizen Military Forces who has refused to transfer to the Australian Imperial Force for reasons which he regards as justifiable. He has a brother in the Australian Imperial Force and his father is a returned soldier from the last war. There are several young children in the family, and this man has declined to enlist in the Australian Imperial Force because he considers it to be his duty to be available to help his family in case anything should happen to his father. Such men should not be harassed by officers who desire to obtain 75 per cent, of volunteers in their militia unit in order to transfer the whole unit to the Australian Imperial Force. On one occasion four truckloads, each containing 28 men, were taken seven miles from their camp to a picture-show in Moora. After the show they were urged by their officers to volunteer for the Australian Imperial Force. They were told that those who did not volunteer could walk back to the camp. Some of the men were so indignant that they decided to walk home. They rightly declined to he dragooned into enlisting. I ask the Minister for the Army to take steps to ensure that members of the Militia shall neither ‘be dragooned nor coerced in this way into enlisting in the Australian Imperial Force. I refuse to accept the assurance so often given that such coercion is not being applied.
.- The honorable member for Melbourne (Mr. Calwell) has raised a number of matters relating to departments under the control of other Ministers. Those matters will be brought to the notice of the Ministers concerned who, no doubt, will furnish replies to the honorable member.
The particular matter to which I wish to refer is that raised by the honorable member for Richmond (Mr. Anthony) who cited the case of K. M. Gregor, a member of the Royal Australian Air Force. This case has been made the subject of a press campaign against the Air Board and its administration, and that campaign cannot be dissociated from the remarks of the honorable member for Richmond, notwithstanding that he put his case temperately. The honorable member wrote to me on the subject, as did several other honorable members, and replies were furnished. Later, a letter to the man’s parents appeared in a certain weekly journal. It has been used as the basis for an attack, in which reference has been made to the prisons in which Gregor was incarcerated and also to the treatment meted out to him. It had been alleged that he was unfairly treated. As the honorable member for Richmond mentioned to me that he proposed to raise certain aspects of this case in the House, I have prepared a statement, which I propose to place on record, so that there shall be less confusion than now appears to exist in the minds of many people regarding the case of Sergeant Gregor.
– I have not raised the question of the sentence imposed upon him.
– No, but the question has been raised publicly, and I propose to make the position clear, because I object to being made the subject of attacks alleging unfair treatment when such attacks are based on incorrect information, and are apparently inspired by a desire to reflect unjustly on the administration.
– I am not reflecting on the administration.
– That is so. 1 dissociate the honorable member from any attempt to reflect on the administration or on the nature of the sentence. The position is that this case has been made the subject of a campaign in which there has been a demand for Gregor to be set free. I shall not deal with the offence committed by him, because in so doing I might prejudice his case. The court martial of Sergeant Gregor has undoubtedly had a great deal of publicity, and has been the subject of certain representations to me by members of this House. First, I think it important to emphasize that this case was dealt with by a properly constituted tribunal duly authorized by law, the evidence and findings of which were reviewed by the appropriate authority, who confirmed the findings as befitting the evidence. In view of the possibility of Sergeant Gregor appealing against the sentence awarded by court martial, all members of the House will, I feel sure, agree that it is most undesirable that any comment indicating the opinion of the Minister, the Air Board, or other authority should be made at this stage. It has been stated that Sergeant Gregor intends to appeal against his sentence and, although the trial took place and sentence was passed on the 3rd November last, he has not yet lodged an appeal or complained through official channels in any other manner concerning the sentence. It is, of course, open to Sergeant Gregor to lodge his appeal to the Air Board, and later, if he so desires, to the Governor-General. It is highly important, in these circumstances, that nothing should be done or said which might appear likely to prejudice his appeal if and when made. If any injustice has been done, the only authorities who can rectify it are the Air Board and the Governor-General, on appeal by Sergeant Gregor. The fact that Sergeant Gregor has the right of appeal to those authorities was pointed out to persons inquiring on his behalf over a month ago. For obvious reasons, neither the Minister nor the Air Force authorities concerned can. enter into a controversy regarding a matter which may become sub judice in the event of an appeal being lodged. Without encroaching on those particular aspects, I regard it as desirable to correct several of the misstatements which appeared in a recent article in a weekly journal, which lias given to this case a considerable amount of space and publicity. That article went so far as to say that Sergeant Gregor did not elect to defend himself. I point, out to honorable members that Gregor was defended by an officer, who cross-examined witnesses and addressed the court on his behalf. The accused himself gave evidence on oath in his own defence. Sergeant Gregor was given all the facilities to ensure proper defence in his own interests. The article also stated that at the civil court proceedings on a charge of manslaughter, the Commonwealth Attorney-General (Dr. Evatt) did not file a bill.. Honorable members will appreciate the fact that Commonwealth law officers had nothing whatever to do with the matter which, at that stage, was one solely for the New South Wales Crown Law authorities. As the result of the action of Sergeant Gregor, one man was killed and seven others were injured. I shall not comment on the occurrence, but those are the facts. If there was to be a charge of manslaughter, it was a matter for the Crown Law authorities of the State, and. the Commonwealth AttorneyGeneral would have nothing to do with it.
Certain other points could similarly be disposed of but, as I have already pointed out, the case is sub judice and I refuse to enter into any controversy as to its merits or demerits or the justice or injustice of the sentence awarded. The House may be definitely assured that, in accordance with the practice always followed by the service, Sergeant Gregor’s appeal, if and when received, will have immediate consideration by the Air Board., with full regard to any further facts that he may furnish in support of such appeal, and that the decision of the board will be promulgated at the earliest possible date. The honorable member for Richmond complained that this man was placed in an ordinary gaol, first at Goulburn and later at Long Bay. That is true; I do not dispute it. It is also true that other men who were courtmartialled when the previous Government was in office were treated in a similar way. That is the usual practice.
– I ask for a reform of that system.
– With the growth of. the Army and the Air Force, it is probable that more cases of men being confined in ordinary gaols will occur. In Victoria, it is the practice to send men who have been found guilty of military or Air Force offences to the Bendigo gaol should their sentence be for a period of six months or longer. That gaol has not been used for ordinary criminals for some time.
– Men imprisoned there are not forced to mix with ordinary criminals.
– Nor do they mix with ordinary criminals at Goulburn or Long Bay; they are kept entirely apart. Fortunately, there are not many cases of this kind in the Air Force, and, therefore, there has been no good reason to set up a gaol system, with warders and other officials to deal with offenders.
– These men are in a criminal atmosphere, whether segregated from other prisoners or not.
– I admit that I would not like my son to be imprisoned in an ordinary gaol if he had infringed some regulation.
– That is the whole point.
– The difficulties ought to be appreciated by honorable members. A departure from the present practice would involve the provision of a separate gaol. That is a matter which may be worth considering, but it is entirely wrong to say that these men must necessarily be forced to associate with criminals. There is no justification for it.
– It is not a misconception in Tasmania, because there they are mixed up.
– The honorable member for Denison has made an interjection which may have a bearing on this particular case ; but I am assured by the authorities that these men are kept separate from the criminal cases that are generally confined in a gaol.
– Do I understand the Minister to say that the question of whether or not a prosecution will follow is still pending?
– No. A bill was not filed. It was alleged in the weekly journal which has been conducting this campaign that the Commonwealth Attorney-General did not file a bill for manslaughter. This was advanced as a justification for the assertion that he was not guilty of any crime. At the stage when manslaughter was being considered, the matter was entirely one for the New South Wales authorities, as the death had occurred in that State. It is still possible, and alw:ays has been, for Gregor to appeal. I so notified the honorable member for Richmond (Mr. Anthony), and the two or three other persons who wrote to me. No action along those lines has been taken, but a campaign has been launched. It is quite within the bounds of possibility that if an appeal were lodged some mitigation of the sentence would be made. I should not like to say that it would. The matter would be dealt with on its merits. As to the place in which the man has been confined, I have been given authoritative advice that he is incarcerated in Emu Plains prison, which is a specialist establishment. In it are approximately 100 civilian prisoners, who are engaged principally in dairying and agricultural pursuits. At present, a number of them are engaged in harvesting and haymaking. The prisoners are first offenders under the age of 25 years. As a matter of fact, they are allowed to listen to the radio at night, and they enjoy other amenities which I believe the majority of persons would consider indicate that they are not being treated as hardened criminals. I do not think that any of the men involved in these punishments incurred them as the result of wilful action. Some of them, however, have been highly negligent. I am now speaking generally, and not particularly of Gregor’s case. It is argued that members of the Royal Australian Air Force have to take certain risks. Comment has been made from time to time as to the high ratio of air accidents. If the men are allowed to continue to take risks without disciplinary action of some kind being taken, other lives may be lost, or men may be seriously and permanently disabled. Lives have been lost on many occasions as the result of disobedience of flying orders. Something has to be done in order to prevent that, and for the preservation of proper discipline within the force. I consider that the complaints concerning the incarceration of these persons in civil gaols arose from the fact that there are not sufficient members of the Air Force undergoing punishment to warrant the establishment of a gaol for their detention. Whether the Army, the Air Force, and other service establishments should not set up some kind of a prison, in which men may be punished for offences without being associated in any way with a criminal gaol, is a matter that may well be worthy of consideration. I. do not consider that there is justification for the criticism that has been directed to the Gregor case.
Question resolved in the affirmative.
The following papers were pre sented : -
Air Force Act - Regulations - Statutory Rules 1942, No. 543.
Apple and Pear Organization Act - Regulations - Statutory Rules 1942, No. 190.
Arbitration (Public Service) ActDeterminations by the Arbitrator, &c. - 1943 -
No. 1. - Federated Public Service Assistants’ Association of Australia.
No. 2 - Line Inspectors’ Association, Commonwealth of Australia.
No. 3. - Commonwealth Temporary Clerks’ Association; and Arms, Explosives and Munition Workers’ Federation of Australia.
No. 4. - Commonwealth Storemen and Packers’ Union of Australia and Commonwealth Naval Storehousemen’s Association.
Audit Act - Regulations - Statutory Rules 1942, Nos. 523, 542.
Cable and Wire Bounty Act - Return for year 1941-42 (Substitute copy).
Canned Fruits Export Control Act - RegulationsStatutory Rules 1942, No. 194.
Commonwealth Employees’ Compensation Act - Regulations - Statutory Rules 1942, No. 528.
Commonwealth Public Service Act - Regulations - Statutory Rules 1942, No. 552.
Customs Act - Proclamations prohibiting the Exportation (except under certain conditions) of -
Kyanite; Sillimanite (dated 22nd December,1942).
Sewing and embroidery threads of silk or syntheticfibre (dated 13th January, 1943).
Dairy Produce Export Control Act - RegulationsStatutory Rules 1942, No. 192.
Defence Act - Regulations - Statutory Rules - 1942, Nos. 555, 556. 1943, No. 17.
Defence Act and Naval Defence Act Regulations - Statutory Rules 1942, No. 544.
Income Tax Assessment Act - Regulations - Statutory Rules 1942, No. 553.
Lands Acquisition Act-Land acquired for Commonwealth purposes -
Bathurst, New South Wales.
Beverley, South Australia.
Mile End, South Australia.
Mount Martha, Victoria.
Narrogin, Western Australia.
New Farm, Queensland.
Oodnadatta, South Australia.
Perth, Western Australia.
Rhodes, New South Wales.
Wagga Wagga, New South Wales.
Wolseley, South Australia.
Meat Export Control Act - Regulations - Statutory Rules 1 942, No. 1 93.
National Security Act -
Australian Barley Board Regulations - Order - Barley acquisition.
National Security (Apple and Pear Acquisition) Regulations - Order - Apple and Pear Acquisition 1942-1943.
National Security (Camouflage) Regulations - Order - Camouflage of vehicles.
National Security (Capital Issues) Regulations - Order - Exemption.
National Security (Emergency Control) Regulations - Order - Military powers during emergency.
National Security (Exchange Control) Regulations - Order - Sterling area.
National Security (Field Peas Acquisition) Regulations - Order - Field peas acquisition.
National Security (General) Regulations - Orders -
Basis of compensation (2).
Bread control (South Australia).
Bread industry (Australian Capital
Territory), (New South Wales), (Queensland), (Tasmania), (Victoria) and (Western Australia).
Control of -
Clothing (Feminine outerwear). (Knitted outerwear), (Knitted underwear ) , ( Male outerwear ) , (Men’s half hose) and (Shirts, collars and pyjamas).
Electric dry battery manufacture.
Electric torch case manufacture.
Hand and garden tools.
Liquor (Interstate supplies of beer ) .
Manufacture of shovels.
Ice industry (Victoria).
Inventions and designs (349).
Milk industry (New South Wales) .
Navigation (Port Stephens - Private craft).
Prohibiting work on land (7).
Prohibition of non-essential production.
Regulation of transport.
Requisitioning of agricultural im plements and machinery.
Restriction of pastrycooks’ goods (New South Wales).
Restrictions on new manufactures - Exemptions (2).
Taking possession of land,&c. (414).
Use of land (19).
Orders by State Premiers - New South
Wales (3), Queeusland (3), Tasmania (G), Victoria (3), Western Australia.
National Security (General) Regulations and National Security (Supplementary) Regulations - Orders by State Premier -New South Wales (3).
National Security (Industrial Lighting) Regulations - Order - Interior artificial lighting.
National Security (Industrial Property) Regulations - Orders - Inventions and designs (54).
National Security (Land Transport) Regulations -
Direction by Land Transport Board - Directorate of Emergency Road Transport for State of Victoria.
New South Wales (No. 4), South Australia (No. 10), Victoria (No. 8).
National Security (Man Power) Regulations - Orders -
Man Power (Certificate of exemption ) .
Man Power (Exemption from service ) .
Protected undertakings (119).
Regulation of engagement of employees - Exemption.
National Security (Maritime Industry) Regulations - Orders - Nos. 34, 35.
National Security (Potatoes) Regulations -Order- No. 10.
National Security (Prices) Regulations - Orders - Nos. 876-896.
National Security (Rationing) Regulations - Orders - Nos. 13-20.
National Security (Supplementary) Regulations -
Order - Provision of first-aid facilities.
Orders by State Premiers - New South Wales, South Australia (2), Tasmania (4). Victoria. Western Australia (3).
National Security (Vegetable Seeds) Regulations - Order - Declaration of prescribed vegetable.
Regulations - Statutory Rules - 1942. Nos. 524. 525,526, 527, 535. 536, 537. 53S, 530, 540, 541, 545. 540, 547, 551, 557. 1943. Nos. 1. 2. 3. 4, 5,6. 7, 8. 9. 10, 12, 13, 14, 15,19.
Navigation Act - Regulations - Statutory Rules 1942. No. 520.
Northern Territory Acceptance Act and Northern Territory (Administration) Act- Regulations - 1942 -
No. 2 (Slaughtering Ordinance).
No. 3 (Rules under Local Courts Ordinance) .
No. 4 (Health Ordinance).
Post and Telegraph Act- Regulations -
Statutory Rules 1942, Nos. 550, 554.
Seat of Government Acceptance Act and Seat of Government (Administration) Act - Ordinances - 1942 - No. 20 - Trespass on Common wealth Lands.
No. 1 - Careless Use ofFire.
No. 2- Motor Traffic.
No. 3 - Liquor.
Wine Overseas Marketing Act - Regulations -Statutory Rules 1942. No. 191.
Women’s Employment Act - Regulations - Statutory Rules 1942, No. 548.
House adjourned at 11.10 p.m.
The following answers to questions were circulated : -
e asked the Minister representing the Minister for the Interior, upon notice -
In view of the serious allegations of the ill treatment of natives under the control of the Commonwealth in the Northern Territory, and the resignation of a police officer in this connexion, will he lay on the table all files containing references to the ill treatment of natives during the last twelve months?
– The Minister for the Interior has supplied the following answer : -
The only references made to the department during the last twelve months in regard to alleged ill treatment of natives in the Northern Territory were those contained in letters from the Anthropological Society of South Australia and the Aborigines Protection League of South Australia. Reports in regard to these representations have been received and are now being considered by the Minister for the Interior. An additional communication was received from the Australian Federation of Women Voters. Adelaide, relating in general terms to the ill treatment of aboriginal women in the territory, but a full reply to this communication was sent to the federation some weeks ago. No good purpose would be served by laying these papers on the table of the House, but if the honorable member so desires they may be perused at the Department of the Interior.
l asked the Minister for the Army, upon notice -
– My inquiries disclose that the deferment of call-up of John Allen Mendes was approved by the man-power authorities, and any suggestion that he had paid £100 to secure exemption from military service would therefore appear to be a matter for investigation by the Director-General of Man Power. Regarding the statement of the honorable member for Bendigo that Mendes had experienced no difficulty in keeping the male staff of the hotel out of the Army, I have to advise that no records are held by my department of the numbers of employees of firms who have volunteered or been called up for military service, and in the circumstances I am not in a position to refute any assertion of this character. I might add that Mendes was called up for military duty, with the approval of the man-power authorities, in Sydney, before the allegation, was made. He applied to a police magistrate for exemption on the grounds of hardship and the magistrate allowed him six weeks’ exemption to enable him to make arrangements for the control of his business. He was subsequently called up for military duty and entered camp on 6th November, 1942.
t asked the Minister for the Army, upon notice -
– The answers to the honorablemember’s questions are as follows : -
A general routine Army order issued throughout Australia on 10th July was as follows : - “ Universal Service personnel, who on being called up are under the age of twenty years, will be allotted to training units and will not be posted to units until they have received six months’ training, unless after three months’ training they reach the age of twenty years.”
No variations of this order can be made by commanding officers without the prior approval of Army Head-quarters.
l asked the Minister for the Army, upon notice -
Will he lay on the table of the House a list of punishments meted out to returning members of the Australian Imperial Force by courts martial cither on their way back to Australia or since their return?
– It is considered that the men concerned have already been sufficiently punished without the addition of publicity to their cases, and it is contrary to the policy of the Army to disclose the personal military records of soldiers. The honorable member can rest assured that the judicial system established in the Australian Army is similar to that in the British Army which has -been commended by a recent royal commission as one of the fairest in the world. The laws of evidence and procedure are substantially the same as those applied in civil courts and in all cases the onus is upon the prosecution to prove its case beyond reasonable doubt. Wherever practicable the court martial is assisted by a Judge Advocate who is an officer with legal qualifications, and the services of a defending officer are made available to an accused soldier. All findings of guilt and sentences are ineffective until they are confirmed by a senior officer holding a delegation to confirm such findings and sentences from the GovernorGeneral, and before confirmation they are reported upon by a legal staff officer and reviewed by the confirming officer. After confirmation they are again reported upon by the Judge Advocate-General or Deputy Judge Advocate-General and again reviewed bythe Adjutant-General. On all reviews not only is the legality of the findings and sentence considered, but also the question of whether the sentence is excessive or not. Provision has also been made for all sentences of imprisonment or detention over 28 days to be reviewed by an appropriate authority from time to time with a view to suspension or remission for good conduct. Soldiers convicted by court martial have also the right to appeal against the conviction and sentence, and these appeals are always carefully considered by the appropriate authorities. Only a small percentage of the soldiers who have been sentenced by court martial have appealed against the findings of guilty or sentence against them.
Amendment op Commonwealth Electoral (War-time) Act.
l asked the Minister representing the Minister for the Interior, upon notice -
Will the Government introduce legislation during the present session to amend the Commonwealth Electoral (War-time) Act so that members of the armed forces who reach the age of 21 years whilst on service in Australia will be enabled to vote at Commonwealth and State elections?
– The Minister for the Interior has supplied the following answer : -
The matter will receive consideration so far as the Commonwealth is concerned.
Cite as: Australia, House of Representatives, Debates, 28 January 1943, viewed 22 October 2017, <http://historichansard.net/hofreps/1943/19430128_reps_16_173/>.