16th Parliament · 1st Session
Mr. Speaker (Hon. W.M. Nairn) took the chair at 3 p.m., and read prayers.
Reports–Milk Supplied to Factories
– Will the Minister for Commerce and Agriculture submit a motion for the printing of the report by the Tariff Board on the dairying industry, which was laid on the table of the House last week, so that those interested may obtain copies?
– I shall give consideration to the request, and confer with the Printing Committee with regard to it.
– Is the Minister for Supply and Shipping aware that the price paid to farmers who formerly supplied butterfat to butter factories, but now supply milk to condensates, is less than the price paid to butterfat suppliers? If so, will the Minister inform the House whether action is being taken to have the price of milk supplied to condensates increased to parity with the price of butterfat supplied to butter factories ?
– The Department of Supply and Shipping found it necessary to request the Dairy Produce Board of the Department of Commerce and Agriculture to divert milk to condensates, in order that adequate supplies of condensed milk might be made available to the fighting services. That procedure has, I understand, deprived some dairymen of the subsidy formerly received by them for supplying butterfat. I have asked the department to bring the matter to the notice of the Dairy Produce Board, and the Minister for Commerce and Agriculture has just informed me that the Prices Commissioner has been asked to investigate it.
– Is the Minister for Commerce and Agriculture yet in a position to lay on the table of the House the report promised in December last of the special committee that has reported to the Government on the dairying industry! Apparently the Minister now has the report.Will he move that it be printed ?
– I have before me the report referred to, and I shall lay it on the table. I am not prepared to move that it be printed, but I have a limited supply of stencilled copies for distribution to honorable members.
– On Friday, the Minister for Transport intimated that he would investigate current proposals for a serious curtailment of suburban bus services in Melbourne metropolitan area. Has the Minister had an opportunity to do that, and has he given attention to the service to which I have particularly drawn his attention ?
-I have had an opportunity to look into the matter, and correspondence is being forwarded to the honorable member to-day, setting out the full facts of the position.
– Has the attention of the Minister for Labour and National Service been drawn to the fact that increased use is being made of mothercraft nurses for domestic work in homes. It is said that in that way certain people are circumventing the order relating to the employment of domestic servants. If this matter has not been brought to the notice of the Minister, will he ask the manpower authorities to look into it, in order to see that the order shall not be contravened ?
– I have no doubt that many efforts will be made to contravene the domestic servants order, and the honorable member’s question gives the first indication that I have had that this is one of the methods being employed. I shall have inquiries made, and take immediate steps to prevent people from avoiding their responsibilities.
– Can the Prime Minis ter say whether the volume of criticism in the United States of America with regard to the limitation placed on the Use of the Australian Militia is so great that it was necessary for the Australian Minister to
Washington, Sir Owen Dixon, to makehis recent broadcast regarding this matter, and is there any censorship in Australia of news items and articles published in the press of the United States of America?
- Sir Owen Dixon represents the Commonwealth in the United States of America, and chooses the themes upon which he makes statements. He is under no instructions as to what he shall say, and he interprets the attitude of the Commonwealth Government in accordance with his own assessment of the position and the facts. What he said in the United States in the broadcast referred to gave a much wider outline of the position of Australia than the reports in the press indicate. There is no censorship in Australia of news items or articles published in any part of the world, unless they affect military security.
Auction Selling of Livestock
– Has the Minister for Commerce and Agriculture read an article published in Queensland CountryLife, of the 28th January last, headed “Hands Off Auction Selling of Livestock”? If so, will he make a statement to clarify the position ?
– Reprints of the article referred to were received in my office. There is no justification for saying that the Government has in any way attempted to interfere with the public auctioning of livestock. Such action is not, and never will be, contemplated by the Government. Such statements merely indicate propaganda on the part of opponents of the appointment of the Australian Meat Industry Commission, who have adopted a specious way of trying to mislead the public. I say, without hesitation, that the Government, has no intention to interfere with ordinary public auctions.
– On Friday last, the Commonwealth Deputy Commissioner of Taxation in Sydney stated that tax now being collected was in fact tax on the current year’s income. It was based on the income of the previous year, he said, but that period was merely adopted as a standard for assessing the tax, which was not a levy on the 1941-42 income. Does the Treasurer believe that that statement conflicts with the statement which he made to me in answer to a question on Friday last, and can he say whether there is any doubt in the minds of officers of his department as to the law on this point? If the opinion of the Deputy Commissioner of Taxation is correct, as many people believe, does the Treasurer now think that he can apply the payasyougo system of tax collection for the year 1943-44, thereby converting the year of income into the year of tax?
– I do not propose to enter into a disputation as to whether tax is collected on the current year’s income or on the past year’s income. I am prepared to have the point examined by the Taxation Department, in conjunction with the Crown Law authorities. I believe that the general understanding among taxpayers is that the tax they pay this year represents tax upon last year’s income. This view is supported by the practice of collecting tax from the estate of a deceased person. It is not generally assumed that the deceased person paid his tax prior to his death.
Alleged Waste and Inefficiency - Workers’ Homes - Manufacturing Operations
– Has the Minister for Munitions read an article published in Smith’s Weekly in which it is stated that he must leave the Ministry, the reason being that in a number of munitions establishments there is serious inefficiency, leading to grave waste of public money? It is also stated that in some establishments essential machine tools, that could be used elsewhere, are lying idle. In view of the grave nature of these charges, will the Minister have investigation made in order to learn the names of the firms involved, and will he then make a report to the House?
– I should like to know whether the honorable member for Martin is prepared to sponsor the allegations in the article referred to, which, by the way, I have not read. I do not feel under any particular obligation to take serious notice of the charges brought by Smith’s Weekly. However, if honorable members desire to bring before me matters affecting my department, I shall have them examined, and shall prepare a report upon them.
– Has the Minister for Labour and National Service considered representations made to him by local government authorities and other organizations in the Maitland district that he should suspend the building of the homes, or rather hovels, that are being erected for munitions workers in that area ? Does not the Minister think that there is too great a distinction between the quality of these dwellings and that of the houses being erected for the executive officers of munitions factories at costs of between £1,200 and £2,000, and containing such conveniences as hot and cold water, electric bath heaters, and motor garages, which themselves cost more than the buildings that are described asworkers’ homes?Will the Minister order the suspension of further building operations until he has been able to inspect the buildings?
– I have received complaints from the Maitland district on this subject. A full inquiry is being made, and I hope to be able to give the honorable member a reply within the next few days.
– I ask the Minister for Munitions whether there is any justification for rumours current in Sydney that recently several large establishments have been closed down for periods of from one to three weeks for departmental reasons, and that during those periods the staffs of such establishments have been allowed full pay ?
– I do not think that such rumours arc justified. However, I shall make inquiries into the matter.
– Can the Minister for Supply and Shipping state what progress is being made with the establishment of power alcohol distilleries in the various States ? If progress has been satisfactory, can he say when the spirit distilled from wheat will be available for public use?
– It is hoped that one distillery will he in operation by the end of June, and another by the end of the year. As for the others, it will be some time next year before they can be in production. I am prepared to give the honorable member more detailed information if he so desires.
– Can the Minister for the Army say who was responsible for the fact that, on the 27th January, a Red Cross railway car containing twelve wounded South Australian soldiers, who were stretcher cases, was left standing for about seven hours in the broiling sun in the Spencerstreet railway yard at Melbourne, where the shade temperature was 106 degrees? Is it a fact that no provision was made for a liberal supply of cold water with which to quench their thirst, and that, had not Red Cross ladies been present to fan the wounded men, they would have suffered considerably more than they did? Will the Minister give instructions that there shall be no similar instances of neglect of our wounded in the future?
– This is the first I have heard of the incident referred to, andI shall certainly give instructions that nothing of the kind shall occur again.
– Has the Prime Minister read the report which appeared in the CanberraTimes of the 29th January under the following headings - “ Japanese Forces Poised for New Attack “-
– The honorable member may not read a newspaper report when asking a question, but he may state the substance of it.
– Unless I preface my question with extracts from the report, I shall find considerable difficulty in conveying my meaning to the right honorable gentleman. If the Chair will permit me to continue, I shall be brief. The headings are: -
Concentrations inBases Close to Australia.
Reports of a similar nature appear in the press throughout Australia.
Can the Prime Minister say why this information has not been issued in his own name or hi the name of the responsible Minister, since the reports give Canberra as the source of the information and indicate that the Government is aware of what is taking place? Will the right honorable gentleman say whether there is any foundation for these reports, and, if not, will he explain to the House why newspapers are permitted to publish such alarmist statements.
– I have read the report referred to by the honorable gentleman; it was brought to my notice by the Leader of the Opposition (Mr. Fadden) yesterday. The statements published in the newspaper referred to do not conform with the facts as I know them. However, the purport of the report, namely, that the enemy is endeavouring to strengthen its position on the outer fringe of islands which lie between Australia and enemy territory is, I believe, the truth. And because it is the truth, it is essential that the Government shall lake every action of which it is capable in order to match the enemy on that outer fringe of islands. I am not responsible for all the reports which appear in the press, or for the interpretation placed upon them. Australia is a country in which the freedom of the press ha3 continued without interference by any government since the war commenced. The only purpose of censorship is to prevent the dissemination of news which would bo. of use to the enemy.
– Censorship bears on the morale of the home population.
– That is a matter of opinion, rather than of fact. The things which affect morale cannot be set out specifically; they arc matters for the judgment, of individual censors or of the Chief Censor. Censorship is the job of the censor; it is not my job.
– Is the Minister for Supply and Shipping aware that Army personnel are visiting manufacturing establishments, particularly those engaged in the manufacture of jam, and felling the manufacturers to withhold the distribution of jams, but are not giving any orders for supply, with the result that manufacturers are now holding heavy stocks of jam and do not know what to do with them?
– I do not know of specific instances of the kind referred to by the honorable member. If he will supply me with the names of the factories concerned, and the districts in which they arc situated, I shall investigate the position.
– One factory is that of J. Ambrose Proprietary Limited, at Kogarah.
– Is it a fact that hoi water retting plants have been established in connexion with Victorian flax mills? If so, will the Minister for Supply and Shipping, in the interests of economy, direct that similar plants be installed at the three flax mills in Western Australia ?
– Owing to a rearrangement of ministerial duties, matters associated with the flax industry are now dealt with by Senator Fraser. In view of the technical aspects of the industry which are involved in the honorable member’s question, I should not like to give an answer without some investigation.’ I shall be pleased to get the information sought by the honorable gentleman, and forward it to him.
– In view of the fact that the lend-lease arrangements with the United States of America are now working in reverse, will the Prime Minister consider making a statement in the near future, either in the House or at a secret meeting of members and senators, setting out the degree to which the arrangements are operating, and also the basis of the valuation of goods being exchanged with the United States of America?
– I shall give consideration to the making of a statement along the lines indicated by the honorable gentleman.
– In view of the fact that whilst civil motor vehicles are forced to comply with brown-out regulations, whereas military motor vehicles are frequently driven at night with headlights at full strength, is the Minister for Home Security of the opinion that military motor vehicles would not be distinguished by an enemy; and, if so, will he say why it ds necessary to impose on civil vehicles restrictions which do not apply also to military vehicles?
– The : brown-out regulations apply to all motor vehicles.
– They are not being observed by all vehicles.
– In each State proper authorities ha%’e been authorized to take action against persons who offend against the brown-out regulations. Those regulations do not discriminate between military and civilian vehicles. I have had numerous complaints of the disregard of these regulations, and wherever possible we trace offenders.
– The military authorities disregard the regulations.
– If the honorable gentleman will supply me with particulars of any military vehicle whose driver has disregarded the regulations, I shall see what can be done about it. Numerous letters come to my office complaining that the military authorities constantly break the regulations, but in almost every instance there is no mention of the number of the vehicle, or other specific information which would enable an investigation to be made. If specific instances of the violation of the regulations be supplied to me, action will be taken against the offenders.
– Can the Treasurer say whether the booklet which he proposes to issue concerning the raising of loans by the Commonwealth Government will give full information concerning the raising of loans externally as well as within Australia; and, particularly, will there be detailed information regarding brokerage, commission, and other expenses incurred in connexion with the raising of loans, including the Austerity Loan ?
– There is no intention to issue any booklet relating specifi cally to the raising of loans, but it is proposed to issue a booklet which will contain information showing what Australia has done in connexion with the war. I admit that one of the objectives will be that the people of Australia shall learn how the money provided by them by means of taxes and loans has been expended in preserving the freedom of this country.
– Can the Minister for Commerce and Agriculture tell me what progress has been made with the establishment of dehydration plants, particularly those for the dehydration of mutton, in New South Wales? How many plants have been established, and is it intended to add to their number?
– Mutton dehydration plants are being established in Victoria and New South Wales. I think the first will come into operation within a few weeks at Aberdeen, New South Wales. Another plant is being established at Orange. It is intended that wherever sufficient inducement, such as killing facilities, offers, further plants shall be established.
– In view of the short supply of many classes of fresh fruit, will the Minister for Supply and Shipping instruct commercial fruit-canners and jam-makers to confine their operations to classes of fruit in plentiful supply?
– Our trouble at the moment is lack of man-power. We are having great difficulty in getting the necessary assistance in the canneries and the orchards. Frequent appeals for labour over the air and on the screen have not brought the desired results. In the ‘last few days, we have had to seek the aid of the Department of the Army, and we are now using 450 soldiers for fruit-picking and in the canneries. We are trying to do the best we can to solve this seriously difficult problem.
– The Treasurer promised to confer with the representatives of charitable institutions with regard to the recent amendment of the Income Tax Assessment Act relating to the taxation of charitable gifts. If the Treasurer has conferred with those representatives, what was the result of the conference?
– I did meet a fairly large deputation of representatives of the charitable organizations of Victoria. It was introduced by the honorable member for Melbourne (Mr. Calwell). I discussed with the deputation at some length the proposals that its members made regarding the particular amendment of which they complained. Having heard the representations of the various organizations, I have not felt disposed to make any alteration of the present law.
– I ask the Prime Minister whether the Government intends to apply the policy of continually restricting the sport of the working class. I refer in particular to the restriction imposed by the Government on the carriage of the poor man’s “ racehorse “, the greyhound, and the further restriction, according to the press, of starting price betting. If the Prime Minister does intend that these restrictions, which mainly affect the class of people I represent, shall be applied, will he give consideration to restricting the operations of those people who are able to spend huge sums on the acquisition of yearlings while a worker must obtain permission to expend more than £350 on a dwelling? Will he place a restriction on prices paid at yearling sales?
– The position of the Commonwealth Government in regard to sport is clear. A regulation made under the National Security Act has been gazetted giving to the Premiers the power to regulate athletic meetings, race meetings, trotting meetings, coursing meetings and the like. They have complete power in that respect with the exception that they shall not allow horse racing on the first Saturday in each month. The Commonwealth Government decided that there should be prohibition of horse racing and trotting on the first Saturday in each month because it was imperative to bring home to the people of Australia the obligation to use some part of their spare time, at least once a month, for purposes integrally related to the prosecution of the war. With respect to startingprice betting, the Commonwealth Government has no authority to deal with illegal, or even legal betting. But repeated complaints have been made to me by the State authorities that the telephonic and telegraphic facilities provided by the Commonwealth Government are a considerable aid to the carrying on of what they consider to be illegal betting organizations. I consulted the chairman of the two principal racing clubs in Australia, and they impressed me with the view that a good deal of the activity in relation to what is called “ black market “ betting is distinctly detrimental to legitimate racing. Under the Posts and Telegraphs Act we have issued the necessary instructions that officers of the PostmasterGeneral’s Department shall give to responsible police officers such assistance as they seek in their inquiries.
– But it is not intended to “ tap “ telephone conversations ?
– It is not intended to listenin to any telephone conversations. There are many silent telephone numbers in Australia, and it has been represented to me that the relevant telephones are used in certain instances for the purpose of carrying on illegal betting. When police certify that that is the case that silent telephone number will be no longer permitted.
– Is the Prime Minister aware that, since he introduced the raceless Saturday, the training of horses has continued, the staffs of trainers and of the race clubs are still employed in the week in which there is no Saturday race meeting, and that there have been record attendances at the meetings which follow the raceless Saturdays, with a record turnover by bookmakers and the totalizator ? If those facts have been brought to his attention, I should like him to say what benefit he considers accrues to the war effort as the result of the discontinuance of racing on the first Saturday in each month?
– The facts are that last year the amount of money which was pouring into the totalizators and the coffers of bookmakers in Australia was considered by me and my advisers to be detrimental to the general war effort. We also came to the conclusion that the volume of labour involved in the carrying on of horseracing in Australia was, having regard to the demands on manpower, generally excessive. I had consultation’s on the subject ; and it was pointed out tome that the number of persons engaged in the training and preparation of horses was steadily dwindling, and that those who were continuing in the business were not eligible for military service, and were, for the most part, engaged for a considerable time during the week, in avocations that were useful to the war effort.For such periods they worked in munitions factories, or in other war establishments. The reasons for the prohibition of racing on the first Saturday of the month were first, to reduce the excessive preoccupation of many people on racingas a means of livelihood. With the enemy thundering at our gates, we felt it to be imperative that all people should have the fact brought home to them that every citizen could perform important duties in preparing himself, and the members of his family, for some service which would minimize the depredations which the enemy could cause if he attacked us. Our policy was positive as well as negative. Secondly, we felt it to be imperative to reduce the quantity of transport available to the racing business in Australia.
– What about the record crowds on the second Saturday of each month?
– That has to be measured against the number of race meetings that used to be held over the entire year. My information is that by restricting, racing to 40 Saturdays in the year the aggregate attendance at race meetings is now less than it was when there was. a greater number of meetings ina greater number of places.
– In December I asked the Minister for War Organization of Industry whether there was any truth in the rumour that was circulating in Kandos to the effect that a departmental committee had recommended the closing of the Kandos cement works. The Minister told me that he had not seen the report but that it would be considered in due course. Has that report been considered by him and the Government? Is there any possibility of the closing of the Kandos cement works.
– The report has been received and considered by the Government. There is no intention at present to close the Kandos cement works.
– Does the Minister for War Organization of Industry propose to raise, or abolish, the limit of £350 above which no new home is allowed to be built ? If he is not prepared to increase that limit, how can he reconcile the spending of from 200 guineas to 8,000 guineas in the purchase of stock at yearling sales for purposes of horseracing, which is causing so much of the expenditure which the Prime Minister is endeavouring to restrict?
– It is true that, at present, the erection of homes of a greater value than, approximately, £350 is prohibited. That provision is. necessary in order to release manpower for thewar effort. Prices which are being paid for stock at yearling sales do not come within my jurisdiction. However, the purchase of horses at such sales does not involve the release or utilization of labour.
Debate resumed from the 29th January (vide page 226), on motion by Mr. C urt in -
That this House, at its first 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 manpower 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.
.- At this stage of the debate, which was initiated by the Prime Minister (Mr. Curtin) last week, it is hardly necessary for me to identify myself with the view, already expressed by honorable members on this side of the chamber, that the resolution, in substance, merely reiterates something that requires no reiteration whatever, namely, our loyalty to the allied cause, and our determination to prosecute the war fully in concert with our Allies. If any nation among the United Nations has a reason for prosecuting this war to the end in full co-operation with its Allies it is Australia, because no nation in the present conflict stands in greater danger, or has more to lose as the result of defeat. Further, no other white nation faces as we do the possibility of being overwhelmedby a race of a different colour. Consequently, we do not require at any time to reaffirm our loyalty to our partners in this conflict, or our determination to fight it to a finish. However, when we consider the implementing of the resolution, and examine just how loyal we are to our Allies, and exactly what we are doing to prosecute the war to the full, we must turn the searchlight upon some declarations of Government policy, and upon some of the methods being adopted by the Government to give effect to its fine words. First, I say to the Government and to the Prime Minister that, if the Government feels dissatisfied to any degree with the amount of support being given to Australia by the United States of America or Great Britain, the proper means of voicing such dissatisfaction is not by making an appeal to the world, which is heard, not only in the homes of the people of the United States of America and Great Britain, but also in the executive offices of the enemy in Tokyo, Rome and Berlin. The very fact that the Prime Minister (Mr. Curtin) and the Minister for External Affairs (Dr. Evatt) went over the heads of President Roosevelt and Mr. Churchill to implore the people of the United States of America to grant more assistance to this country, reveals to the enemy vital weaknesses in our defence system.
– What should the Prime Minister have done?
– The proper course for him to adopt was to make direct but confidential representations to the Executives of Great Britain and the United States of America, and to request the Australian Minister in Washington, Sir Owen Dixon, and the High Commissioner in Great Britain, Mr. S. M. Bruce, to emphasize our just claims for aid. . If the Prime Minister considers that Australia is being denied materials which its war effort entitles it to receive, the Government should not “ pull its punches “.
The public is warned continually that careless talk costs lives. In my opinion, the danger arises not from the military knowledge of a loquacious soldier, or the incautious utterances of some obscure individual in a public place, but from the inferences which the enemy draws from speeches of responsible Ministers. Captain Liddell Hart, who is regarded as one of our leading commentators on military matters, referred in his recently published book, This Expanding War, to this danger. He wrote -
Commonsense should be applied to what is known as careless talk. It is worth emphasizing two lessons of experience. The first is that there is actually no historical foundation for the statement contained in the posters with which we are all familiar that in the last war careless talk cost thousands of lives. As military historians are aware, it is a very remarkable fact that nothing of importance was learnt by enemy agents in that way, although it did gain valuable inferences from careless speeches made by Ministers. This fact has’ a bearing on the second point. As the head of our military intelligence remarked some time ago, the most serious leakages come from the top.
The Prime Minister and the Minister for External Affairs, while expressing the loyalty of Australia to its allies, went over the heads of the leaders of Great Britain and the United States of America in order .to make imploring supplications to the common people of those countries. I suspect the genuineness of those appeals. In my opinion, the purpose was not so much’ to secure results, because the Government knows perfectly well -that such tactics will not bear fruit, as to manufacture political propaganda for local consumption in order to indicate that the Government is doing something.
– That is a shameful thing to say.
– I repeat that the real purpose of those broadcasts was political. The appeals were not made to the -people of the United States of America with the object of achieving quick results, because the Government knows that if it desires to make its voice heard effectively in “Washington, the Prime Minister must make personal representations to President Roosevelt. To broadcast an appeal for succour, which the enemy will interpret as indicating the parlous condition of our defences, is to expose Australia to grave danger. Last week, an historic meeting was held at Casablanca between the President of -the United States of America and the Prime Minister of Great Britain. The Commonwealth Government has now .been in office for nearly fifteen months, and the time has arrived when the Prime Minister himself should follow their great example and visit Washington and London for the purpose of discussing with those great men the vital requirements of this country.
– Was Australia invited to send a representative to the conference at Casablanca?
– The Prime Minister has claimed that the Pacific theatre of war is being left to caretakers and that Australia is not receiving from the armaments pool the weapons that its exertions entitle the country to expect. The only way in which to remedy the position is for the Prime Minister to make personal representations to President Roosevelt and Mr. Churchill. Par liament should tell the right honorable gentleman in unmistakable language that his duty is not to delegate his responsibility to Sir Owen Dixon and Mr. Bruce, or to broadcast appeals that convey valuable information to the enemy, but to visit Washington and London.
With one statement in the Prime Minister’s speech to Parliament, I am in complete accord. The right honorable gentleman rightly deplored the pronounced spirit of complacency which has descended upon the Australian people during the last two months. Never was optimism so badly misplaced. Australia is just as seriously threatened in February, 1943, as it was in February, 1942, when Singapore fell, although the danger may not be so close to our doorstep. The reason for the air of complacency lies in the lead that the Government has given on many important matters, causing thoughtless people to conclude that the danger has passed. One of the first things to affect the judgment of the people is the fact that last December Parliament was called together for two days for the purpose, honorable members believed, of amending the Defence Act in order to enable the Citizen Military Forces to combat the enemy beyond Australian territories. Although the Prime Minister bad declared that the amendment was imperative, Parliament adjourned after two days. We achieved nothing, because we were not permitted to do anything. Last week when Parliament was again summoned, we frittered away valuable time and did nothing constructive, unless some people consider that mere talking is constructive. I do not. We wasted three valuable days in debating a subject which did not require discussion because it was a self -evident truth. Therefore it is understandable that people might think that everything is all right while the Government carries om in this happygolucky fashion. It is in my opinion a matter of very great urgency that the things which the Prime Minister said in November were vital should be done without delay, but after three months of complacency we have not vet approached the real subject for which the country is anxiously waiting. I am not permitted by the Standing Orders to discuss that particular matter now, but it has taken us all this time to reach something which three months ago the Prime Minister said was vital. One of the things largely upsetting the community and leading to a hostile feeling against the Government is the spate of regulations, many of them completely unnecessary, which has been thrown out upon the public. Never a day goes by without some regulation being issued by the Department of War Organization of Industry. I admit that the majority of them are probably necessary, and would most likely have to be. enacted by whatever government was in power if it wanted to do its job; but other irritating regulations ‘appear to be introduced simply because of an itch to interfere on the part of the professors, .economists, and other cap-and-gown’ gentlemen whom the Minister for War Organization of Industry (Mr. Dedman) cherishes. It is noteworthy that in the set-up of his department, which has a very vital bearing on the life of every industry im Australia, the only previous experience of the man who has the responsibility of telling the retail trade of New South Wales how it ought to organize itself and of advising all sorts of industries how they should function is that of the former Sydney public librarian, although otherwise he is a most estimable gentleman. He is charged with the whole administration of this particular branch of the Government. His is the task .of telling everybody how industry should be run. In those conditions it is understandable why there is so much irritation throughout the community. At the head-quarters of the department in Melbourne one can hardly move without tripping over a professor, an economist, an accountant, or somebody or other whose particular qualification for his job is that he has had no experience in business or industry. That appears to be the standard sought for in his advisers by the Minister. I suggest that many of these very fine professors and other gentlemen, who know something about the theory of business, would not be able to run a hot-pie stand successfully, yet they have the audacity to tell practical men just how business ought to function, how it should be rationalized, and how it should carry on in order to be efficient. The Minister for War Organization of Industry, who is now sitting at the table, selects these gentlemen, and does it to his own satisfaction, although not to the satisfaction of the community. I can assure him that the pin-pricks and irritation which the community is experiencing at his hands is largely due to the fact that the people whom he has put in control of affairs are those whose principal qualification is that they have had no practical experience of the things that they are expected to do. I suggest also to the Government that if it really wants to prosecute an effective war effort - and I believe it does, although there may be differences of opinion as to the best way to do it - it ought to study the speech which M. Stalin made at Moscow on the 6th November last. I have a great admiration for the Russian leader, and for the manner in which he has organized his nation to resist the invader, although I am not an admirer of the Communist policy generally. Nevertheless, M. Stalin has done a very fine job for Russia and what he says is an example for other democratic leaders to follow. These were the words he used -
Our objectives during the year have included a strong rear on our fighting front. There has been a radical improvement in the work of our enterprises working for the front, and in strengthening ‘labour and discipline in the rear.
How much has labour and discipline in Australia been strengthened in the rear by the present Government ? Possibly the Minister at the table (Mr. Dedman) can answer that question to his own satisfaction, but many people in the Commonwealth believe that there has not been that effective discipline in the rear of the fighting forces which is necessary for our well-being. M. Stalin went on to say -
Russians have realized their duty and responsibility to their country and to their defenders at the front. Idlers have become less, and organized and disciplined people, fully obsessed with a sense of civic duty, have become more and more numerous.
What is a sense of civic duty? Is the call for sacrifice and austerity which the Prime Minister has continually made, merely words, or should the Government translate it into fact? We might examine that from the bottom of the scale to the top, particularly in the light of the Government’s unwillingness to touch those in the income tax field who it considers might be its supporters, and to grapple with the inflation problem by means of post-war credits or compulsory loans, whichever one likes to call them, or else by getting low down in the taxation field so that the overflow of purchasing power may be drawn off in the form of taxation. ‘ Has the Government grappled with that problem in the lower ranges of income? On the other hand, when the nation is called upon to practise austerity, is it not reasonable that the Government should apply its austere conditions to its own new appointees? I draw attention tothe fact that during the past month the Government has appointed two high officers it may have appointed more, but I draw particular attention to these two. One appointment isthatof Mr. Bulcock as Director of Agriculture at a salary of £2,000 a year. Is that austerity?What are Mr. Bulcock’s duties? He is being paid more, including what he receives from the Queensland Government, than is the Secretary for the Army, who has the whole work of administration of a big department on his shoulders, or the Secretary for Commerce, into whose department he goes, or the Secretary for the Navy, or, with one or two exceptions, practically every other permanent head of the Public Service, all of them men with years of experience and training. The duties of this gentleman from Queensland are very nebulous. I have not yet been able to find out exactly what they are, or where his authority begins and ends, but he has been appointed for seven years as an example of austerity at a salary of £2,000 a year. In spite of the fact that the Minister for Labour and National Service (Mr. Ward) has many times declared, from his seat on the Government benches, that £500 a year should be the maximum income for any man, as a member of Cabinet he has brought in one of his pals from Queensland at a salary of £2,000 a year, or £40 a week, plus, I presume, £2 2s. a day expenses. Then there is Dr. Coombs, who, although no doubt a competent young man, has been taken from a subordinate position in the Commonwealth Treasury where he was employed at a salary of £600, £700, or £800 a year, and, within the space of a few months, given jobs which bring him a total salary of £2,000 a year £1,400 as Director of Post-war Reconstruction and £600 a year as a member of the Commonwealth Bank Board. And these are the gentlemen who are calling upon the nation to make sacrifices and proclaiming that austerity must be our watchword. At one end of the scale, the Government is paying high salaries to its supporters, and at the other it is refusing to take essential steps to arrest inflation ; yet, in the face of these things, we are asked to carry a motion by the Prime Minister, affirming Australia’s determination to do its utmost, in concert with other allied countries, to achieve the greatest possible war effort.
I should like to direct the attention of the Minister for War Organization of Industry and of his staff of professors, economists and so on, to another very serious matter. Should the rate at which supplies of civilian goods are diminishing continue owing to the activities of the Minister and his advisers, then, if this war lasts for a matter of years, we shall be in a very serious predicament.
– Can the honorable member give me some concrete example of the shortages to which he is referring?
– Yes, children’s, clothing. If the Minister had any young children, he would be fully aware of that shortage.
– That has nothing whatever to do with my department.
– I could citeother examples. Factories have been ordered to turn out soldiers uniforms and other war requirements on a full-time basis and have ceased to manufacture children’s clothing. The pool of such clothing in the community is diminishing rapidly because there has been no proper organization of resources or an effective distribution of work over factories to ensure that children, as well as soldiers and adults generally, can obtain their fair share. If the Minister wishes to check up on the accuracy of my remarks he should go into any retail store, where he will find out very quickly what the position is. The shortage is being aggravated every month because of lack of organization. The Minister for War Organization of Industry claims that the matter has nothing to do with Lis department. If that be so, I should like to know what department does accept responsibility. If the appointment of librarians as industrial organizers be an example of the policy that is being pursued by his department, perhaps he will suggest, that the question that I have raised is one for the Minister for Commerce or some other Minister.
Whilst I agree that there is no room for complacency at the present time, and that the danger to this country is likely to continue for some considerable time, I sec no reason why the Government should continue to act as it did a year ago when it had a spasm of the “ jitters “ and when almost every Minister was appealing over the air to all and sundry to come to our aid. Many regulations which were brought into force in February of last year when Singapore fell have little justification in February of this year. For instance, twelve months ago the Department of the Army ordered the seizure of all small boats on our coastal rivers, and had them taken miles inland and drawn up on the banks of the rivers where they have cracked, rotted, and decayed. It is true that there has been some relaxation of the regulations in the last few months, but the conditions imposed make it very difficult for any one living on a river bank or beside a lake who possesses a boat, to use it. I cite this matter as an example of the irritations caused by many regulations, the policing of which is merely a waste of man-power. At present farmers and other residents along river banks have to waste their time going to a police station to get a permit before a boat can be used. Police constables in these areas tell me that much of their time is taken up in making out permits of this kind, the issue of which is not necessary under existing conditions. Why is that waste of manpower permitted to continue? I submit that the time has come for a review of these regulations in an endeavour to reach a. more rational basis for their application, as the need for many of them is not nearly so- great- as it was twelve months ago. I refer particularly to the black-out regulations. Of what use is it now to black-out towns which are 15, 20 or 30 miles from the coast? Of what use is it to compel motorists to fit hoods to the headlights of their cars when, as I indicated at questiontime, only a few military vehicles observe the lighting regulations? Those irritating restrictions serve no useful purpose, but, on the contrary, involve a waste of man-power and steel in the manufacture of hoods, &c, and result in an increased number of accidents. Those matters call for review in the light of present-day conditions. Because there was good reason for the introduction of a regulation twelve months ago, it should not necessarily be foisted upon the community for all time. I trust that the Government will give some consideration to that matter.
I should like also to draw attention to another of Australia’s obligations which comes within the ambit of this motion. If Australia expects to obtain a fair share of war goods from the pool held by Great Britain and the United States of America, we should be doing our part in supplying the greatest possible quantity of foodstuffs to the Allied Nations, and to the Mother Country in particular. I am afraid that we have been falling down on the job. I ask the Minister for Commerce and Agriculture (Mr. Scully) to examine this matter, and determine to what degree we are fulfilling the requirements of the United Kingdon for butter, wheat and other foodstuffs.
– We are not falling, down at all. We are supplying more than they can take. That is a definite answer to the honorable member.
– If we can supply more than Great Britain can take perhaps the Minister will tell the House how far our target figures are being realized, particularly in respect of butter. If those figures are not being- reached, I should like to know why.
– We have gone beyond the target figure in regard to butter.
– I shall be happy to have the figures, but I have great doubt about our ability to meet the targetfigures in a normal season. At present we are enjoying one of the best seasons that this country has experienced for many years.
– The honorable member seems to think that it is a pity that that is so.
– One thing that the Minister for War Organization of Industry is unable to disorganize is weather conditions, although I have no doubt that if he endeavoured to rationalize the weather there would be just as big a mess as there has been with everything else that he has tried to rationalize in this country. Fortunately, the weather is beyond him.
Another matter to which I should like to refer is the man-power position in rural districts. Should the war last for a number of years, as seems possible at present, a much more sympathetic attitude will have to be adopted towards the release of men from the Army for farm work. To-day there is no pool of labour upon which rural industries can draw. In addition to the men who have enlisted in the services, men and women from country districts have gravitated to the cities to undertake munitions work. The result is that there is no reservoir of labour in the country to meet the drain caused by the normal drift of old people out of employment.
– How can the honorable member support conscription after talking in this way?
– I do not support conscription on the basis that every man can serve his country only if he is wearing khaki or air force blue. I believe that there is a job for every body in a total war effort. It does not necessarily follow that the job must be done with a bayonet, or some other weapon. The weapons that we have to fight with are not only those wielded by the soldiers at the front. I have previously quoted the remark of the Russian leader that solidarity behind the front line is one of the most important factors in a country at war. If the honorable member for Melbourne desires a specific answer to his interjection I say to him that there should be equality of sacrifice by every body in this country and that the Government should determine whether men can most usefully serve the nation on a farm, producing munitions, or in the front line. That is my conception of conscription in a total war. We are being forced by our enemies to adopt their methods. We must do it in order that we may be able, after the war is over, to revert to our own form of government. [Extension of time granted.]
I am glad that the Minister for Labour and National Service (Mr. Ward) is in the chamber and that, in his presence, the honorable member for Melbourne has raised the general issue of conscription, because on Friday afternoon, the Minister, in his usual cheer-rousing fashion, advocated the conscription of wealth. That is an easy phrase to use, but I ask the Minister to tell us what he means by it. Last week I heard the Treasurer (Mr. Chifley) deliver a well-balanced and clear exposition of the Government’s policy. The honorable gentleman referred to taxation, war contributions, and general financial policy in a way that was understandable. Although I disagreed with some of his remarks, I was able to appreciate his point of view. But when the Minister for Labour and National Service speaks loosely about the conscription of wealth I consider that I am entitled to ask him to explain, in detail, what he means. Does he believe that every person who owns a cottage, and every company which owns a factory should surrender them to the Government? Does the honorable gentleman believe that every person in the community should become a government employee and be subject to him and to his satellites? Does he believe that all bank deposits, all privately owned funds, and all possessions of every” description, should be placed under Government control, by what he calls the conscription of wealth ? Does he think that every motor car, every race-horse, and every means of transport should be brought within the scope of his so-called conscription process? I do not believe that the Minister understands his own rabbleraising, cheer-exciting sentiments. It is one thing to display a placard calling for the conscription of wealth and using such slogans as, “ Make the rich man poor and the poor man rich and we all shall be happy”; it is quite another thing to give effect to such loose sentiments. Does the Minister consider that the Government should take and use the whole of the income that persons earn in a given year? Does he consider that the earning power of all projects in the community should be brought completely within the control of the Government? Does He think that it is possible for the plant and equipment of factories to be managed by persons without skill and experience in such work? Does he imagine for a moment that if Imperial Chemical Industries Limited and the Broken Hill Proprietary Company Limited were brought under complete Government control they would be more efficiently conducted and would become capable of making a greater contribution to a successful war effort? When the Minister for the Army (Mr. Forde) was sitting on this side of the House he frequently advocated the nationalization of the Broken Hill Proprietary Company Limited. Does he believe that that policy would result in a greater output of munitions? Our experience of government management of business enterprises would not support such a belief. When I speak of government management I have in mind management not only by the present Government, but also by governments supported by the parties on this side of the chamber. I do not believe that such a policy would, help the war effort. I do not believe that the management of private enterprises by civil servants would give us more munitions, more foodstuffs, more clothing, more footwear, or more of other essential requirements. Such enterprises must be managed by persons with the requisite experience. If the Minister for Labour and National Service has in mind a form of conscription of wealth which would result in a complete change-over of the management of production he should say so. It is his bounden duty to explain clearly to honorable members and to the country just what he means. He should not make statements which tend to lead the workers and the community generally to believe that the impossible can be done. The honorable gentleman should be more guarded in his statements. In particular, he should support his views by logical argument. So far, he has not advanced any reasonable grounds to justify us in believing that the conscription of wealth would bring great benefits to the country.
The Government should take some steps to control the bureaucracy which it is fastening upon the community. If there is one thing more than another which is irritating the public to-day it is the vast and increasing number of bureaucrats who are telling the people what they should do, how they should do it, where they should do it, what forms they should fill in, where they should go to fill them in, how they should fill them in, and so on. Unfortunately, many people are administering regulations to-day who have had no previous experience of that kind. Ministers should overhaul, their own departments every now and then.
I have sensed a growing insolence on the part of many officials. Members of Parliament have a direct responsibility to their constituents to present complaints and endeavour to have them rectified ; but. I have had the utmost difficulty in obtaining answers, within a reasonable time, to letters and questions which I have addressed to various departments. I have in mind, particularly, the Department of Trade and Custom’s, the Department of War Organization of Industry, and ‘the Department of Labour and National Service. In some instances weeks pass before one can obtain replies. To one question which I addressed to the Department of Labour and National Service I got a reply after six weeks.
– Perhaps the officers could not read the honorable gentleman’s letter.
– That facetious interjection is characteristic of the Minister. When he makes such remarks, how can he expect some of his subordinate officers to treat members of Parliament in any other than the scurvy way in which they do treat them on occasions? It seems that they receive encouragement from the Minister himself to do so. At times I have found great difficulty in obtaining interviews with even minor officials, although I concede that I have received uniform courtesy from Ministers. Ministers themselves should see that courteous and prompt attention is given to honorable members when they present legitimate complaints to various departments. If Ministers fail to respond to the appeals of citizens, and replies are not given to just complaints, the democratic system fails.
– Has the honorable member a definite complaint to lay regarding the administration of my department? He does not answer my question.
– When returned soldiers protest against what they regard as inadequate pensions, they merit a better reply from the Minister for Repatriation than to be called fifth columnists.
-Who has applied that name to them?
– The Minister was reported to have said that that protest was only the cry of the fifth columnists.
– That is incorrect. I have asked the honorable member to make a specific complaint and he cannot do it.
– I have voiced the complaints made by many honorable members on both sides of the chamber regarding the arbitrary use of power by departmental officials, and I claim that Ministers should see that that power is not abused.
I shall now refer to a matter that concerns the Department of Trade and Customs. Hotelkeepers have applied for increased rations of beer and spirituous liquors, but have been unable to get replies from any source for weeks. I personally have made representations on their behalf, and have met with no more success than the hotelkeepers themselves. The bureaucrats show a complete disregard of the rights of ordinary citizens, but there must eventually be a “show down”. The bureaucrats who aretrying to regiment the community must themselves be regimented. Each Minister should investigate the position in his own department, and determine whether an overhaul is required.
Australia is still in great danger. The organization of our defence is in the hands of the Government of the day led by the Prime Minister. If what the right honorable gentleman said in the speech which was broadcast to the world a week ago was correct, and Australia is not being fairly treated in the matter of supplies from the pool of allied resources, and if the South-west Pacific
Area has been left to a holding force of caretakers, the clear duty of the Prime Minister is to go to Washington and discuss the matter with President Roosevelt and his chiefs of staff. The right honorable gentleman should then, possibly, go on to London, and have a similar talk with Mr.. Churchill. If he really meant what he said in his speech, he should apply personally to President Roosevelt and to Mr.. Churchill rather than make an appeal directly to the people of the United States of America. The Prime Minister hasbeen in office for a sufficiently long period to make him the only person in Australia suitable for such a mission. He has the prestige to go abroad and achieve what is necessary in the interests of this country. Such a responsibility could not be delegated to anybody else. I hope that the right honorable gentleman will give serious consideration to the proposal.
– Theremarks of the honorable member for Richmond (Mr. Anthony) indicate clearly what the catch-cry will be at the next appeal to the people. Many elections have been won by using high-sounding rallying cries. I have no doubt that our opponents will indulge in wild flights of the imagination at the next elections, and make extravagant claims regarding the degree to which Australia is being governed by a bureaucracy. My 23 years’ experience in this chamber has caused me to realizethat on many occasions a political trick of that kind has been successful. The anti-Labour forces, and particularly the anti-Labour press, have often capitalized perhaps one word, and thus led a large section of the people to form a false impression of the significance of the word. I hope that the public has now become too wise to be deceived by this old trick, and will demand facts rather than flights of the imagination.
I have been amazed the way in which honorable gentlemen opposite have sought to disparage and even discourage the war efforts, particularly in the factories of this country. A magnificent contribution is being madeby the industrial workers, and facts and figures could be made available to honorable members in support of that contention. Some of the disparaging allegations made in regard to the efforts of the workers, particularly those engaged in some of the major war industries, astonish me. I should say that our allies would be encouraged far more by the excellent results being obtained in Australian workshops than by repeated requests for their aid, without ourselves providing to the maximum extent of our resources the equipment and other supplies that we are capable of producing. The contribution of the honorable member for Warringah (Mr. Spender) to the debate was particularly helpful, and I wish that other honorable members on this side of the House could see their way to following his example. Too often we hear it said, as the honorable member for New England (Mr. Abbott) stated a few days ago, that we should abandon munitions undertakings, which represent the finest achievement of Australian industry, in favour of obtaining our supplies from overseas. I am convinced that such a policy would not he in the best interests of Australia or of the United Nations.
Last week, the honorable member for Wentworth (Mr. Harrison) asked me to make a statement regarding certain allegations published in the press about Australia’s munitions programme, and this is a suitable time to do so. The whole technique of war has been increasingly developed to utilize the power of the machine, and has imposed on the industrial resources of the nations an evergrowing responsibility to provide the most modern weapons, and means of scientific and mechanical aid. It was very early declared by the leaders of the Allied Nations that it would he in the workshop.of the world that the weapons of victory would be forged, and that it was useless to expect men to undertake the gigantic task of defeating powerful enemies unless their equipment was equal, or superior, to that possessed by those against whom they were to do combat. Acting upon that conviction, the leaders of the United Nations converted all resources to the prosecution of the war. Australia, in common with other units of the British Empire, has planned so that the members of its fighting services shall be adequatelyequipped and supplied. From the com mencement of the war with Japan, the production and equipment of munitions has been given the highest order oi priority, so that the tragedy of “ too little too late” should not be allowed to continue, and the lives of brave men thus placed unnecessarily in danger. While all this has been going steadily forward, extravagant statements have been made concerning alleged inefficiency and lack of production in the munitions industry. Rarely, however, have specific instances been cited. The latest to join in this disparagement of Australia’s war effort is the former Director of Gun Ammunition Production, Mr. W. J. Smith, who charges me, as the Minister for Munitions, with permitting the inefficient conduct of Australia’s munitions industry. He also makes allegations of political interference. I do not intend to descend to the same level of bad taste as did Mr. Smith, but I must answer some of his specific charges of mismanagement. In a press statement, he said -
South Australia, Mr. Makin’s own State, provides an example of waste resulting from munitions administration. There annexes have been built far beyond the possibility of their being manned.
Let me point out that the programme which is now being questioned by Mr. Smith was actually developed during his term as Director of Gun Ammunition Production, and much of it during the term of office of my predecessor, Senator McBride. So far as I am aware, notone word was ever said by Mr. Smith to indicate that, in his opinion, any of those projects was inadvisable on the ground that the factories could not be manned. As a matter of fact, certain of the factories in the city of Adelaide have actually produced more than their estimated capacity, measured by the output of English factories. In other words, Australian workmen have been able to surpass the production of their English counterparts, who had the advantage of greater experience and familiarity with the work.
– Did not Mr. Smith have to refund £48,000 which he had overcharged the Commonwealth.
– That might be an interesting point, but it does not come within the scope of my present remarks. Certain production units which it was originally intended to concentrate in a single metropolitan factory have, for reasons associated with man-power, been transferred to country towns. This policy of decentralization will not only help to overcome man-power difficulties, but will also relieve the pressure on housing in the cities, and on the transport-systems of the States. Those are the reasons which prompted “the Government to follow this course, but it has been condemned by Mr. Smith, no doubt, because one result might be that an increasing volume of work would not be flowing to Australian Consolidated Industries Limited. I propose to ensure that Australia is industrially mobilized to the greatest possible degree, and that cannot be done unless, we bring our war industries to country centres where’ there are man-power reserves which, up to the time that I took office, had not been tapped. This policy will have the effect of stabilizing our country communities by keeping the population in country districts, instead of allowing it to drift to the cities, thus accentuating problems already acute. It also has the advantage of affording greater security by spreading our munitions plants over a wider area. Results already secured at factories in country areas are most gratifying and fully justify our confidence in their development. Thus criticism of the Government for dispersing our munitions factories will not bear investigation. The wisdom of this policy must be evident to all thinking person.For man-power reasons these factories have been transferred to country towns. Difficulties associated with the housing of workers in Adelaide and other capital cities have necessitated the sending of machines to country districts, where factories can be manned, by local residents. Considerations of common sense and security commend this course. It is significant that no complaint from persons engaged in private industry has reached me in this connexion. Those who do not know the facts may indulge in denunciation of the Government and say that whilst some factories are undermanned others are overstaffed, but persons actually engaged in the production of munitions who are sincerely desirous of helping Australia’s war effort know better. It is true that at times a portion of a factory may be idle, but that does not necessarily mean any lag in Australia’s war effort. For instance, plant and machinery installed for the manufacture of .303 ammunition is not at present being used to its full capacity. The reason’ is that the demand for this class of ammunition in the various theatres of war has not been so great as if our forces had been engaged in fullscale operations, and consequently reserves of ammunition have accumulated. But who will say that that machinery may not yet be required to work at full capacity. It certainly would be working at high pressure if an enemy actually invaded this country. If that did happen and there was not available plant and machinery capable of meeting the needs of the fighting services I, as Minister for Munitions, would rightly be condemned. In addition to providing for any such emergency, factories have been distributed throughout Australia, so that from whatever direction an attack may come, we shall be capable of supplying the necessary ammunition in the shortest possible time. I am confident that the knowledge that factories, fully equipped to meet any call made upon them, are available in different parts of Australia is a source of consolation to the people of this country.
Mr.. Smith was Director of Gun Ammunition Production for a period of ten months after I became Minister for Munitions, but for only three months of that period did he apply himself directly to his duties. In that time he met me twice, not once, as be himself stated. It may interest honorable members if I recall the circumstances of those meetings. As the honorable member for Melbourne (Ma-. Calwell) may remember, representations had been made to me regarding the installation of a government die-casting machine at the works of Australian Consolidated Industries Limited at Spotswood. I decided to see the set-up of that machine for myself, and accordingly Mr. Smith received me at the works, where he explained the working of the die-casting plant, as well as certain improvements which he claimed to have effected. He then conducted me to the plant which was engaged in1 producing 25-pounder shells. It included the forging plant. In each instance Mr.
Smith explained the various operations and discussed them with me. Later, I received representatives of the Newport workshops and Victorian Railways Union who expressed concern that the 25- pounder shell unit was to be transferred to a private establishment. I thereupon arranged that a delegation consisting of representatives of the Victorian Railways Union and of men employed at the Newport workshops should visit both the Newport works and those of Australian Consolidated Industries Limited. Mr. ‘Smith was present on that occasion, and we discussed the arrangements that he was making for the production of 2’5-pou-nder shells, and also the operations associated with the manufacture of 3.7 shells at Newport. The discussions between Mr. Smith and myself concerned only the matters that I have mentioned. My recital of them to-day may, perhaps, recall them to Mr. Smith’s memory.
– Machinery valued at £S0,000 was brought to Australia from the United States of America, hut instead of being installed in> a government factory it was placed in an annexe of Australian Consolidated Industries Limited during the period that Mr. Smith was Director of Gun Ammunition Production.
– Representations made by the honorable member for Melbourne led me to make a minute on the papers instructing that the plant in question shall be removed to a government factory when the war-time contracts on which it is employed are completed. That will ensure that the plant will remain the property of the Commonwealth, and will not be disposed of at a bargain price to some private concern.
The best answer to the general statements alleging inefficiency is to supply the production figures of almost every munitions project. In respect of both quantities and prices of munitions items and defence equipment they show that the position to-day is immeasurably more favorable than it was twelve months ago. Production figures are higher and costs are lower. If any honorable member is sufficiently interested in this matter to seek a comparison of the figures, 1 shall be glad to make them, available for his closest scrutiny.
– Is there any truth in the statement that the Minister discussed with Mr. Smith certain matters associated with race-horses?
– Of all the subjects that I might have discussed with him none would be more remote from my thoughts than rare-horses. I am not interested in race-horses, and have no knowledge of their performances. I should be a very poor person to come to for any advice about racing, for I have no knowledge that would be of service to anybody in that respect. Mr. Smith’s statement was ^responsibly untruthful, and it does not do justice to a man who occupied a responsible position in the Commonwealth’s war organization. Although Mr. Smith may have opinions different from mine, I am unaware why I have incurred his ill will. The only two consultations that I had with Mr. Smith were conducted in a most friendly way, and they concerned matters of production at the works of Australian Consolidated Industries Limited, at Spotswood, in one instance, and at the Newport workshops in the other. Mr. Smith’s criticism must reflect upon his own nominee for the position, Mr. Mirls. However, I declare most emphatically that Mr. Mirls has done excellent service. That is borne out by the ever-growing expansion of the production figures in the directorate under his control.
There are other allegations supporting a personal attack upon myself which cannot go unanswered, since they reflect upon the management of what is recognized as one of the most efficiently conducted engineering plants in the Commonwealth, namely, the Government Ordnance Factory. The attack was launched in a Sydney weekly newspaper, which, as most honorable members arc aware, is under a new proprietary, of which the controlling interest is held by the firm of which Mr. Smith is managing director. It accordingly bears evidence of inspiration. The allegation therein that in that factory are to be found 280 breech rings, made at great cost, which are useless, is utterly false. The weapon in question is produced in a machine shop at the ordnance factory, which is staffed by no less than 99 per cent, of dilutee trainees, who have had no more than a month’s technical training and no trade experience. That shop is also engaged in the manufacture ofone of the most complicated instruments of war which Australia has undertaken. Commencing under improvised conditions, pioneering a new and difficult production job, these Australian workers, while still in the experimental and training stage, produced percentages of scrap that were not by any standard unusually high. Those percentages are being very sharply reduced. This section of the factory, so far from inviting criticism, deserves the highest commendation for a magnificent job done under conditions as to dilution of labour which I believe are without parallel in private industry. Finally, Mr. Smith indicated that he would be glad to devote his experience and energy to the efficient development of war industry, and would be proud to exercise his full powers for his country. I shall read the letter which Mr. Smith forwarded to me in 1942, for it is an eloquent answer to him in January, 1943:- 12th August, 1942.
Minister for the Navy and Munitions,
I desire to tender you my resignation as Director of Gun Ammunition Production.
I feel that my services are no longer necessary in that department,and consequently my time can be applied to better advantage directing affairs in my own company’s war production efforts.
Yours faithfully, (Sgd.) W. J. Smith.
The resignation was accepted.
What I have said shows the extravagance and irresponsibility of Mr. Smith’s criticism. He has done a grave injustice to men and women of this country, whether they are employed in government factories or in private industry. Security reasons forbid me from telling the full story now, but when it can be told the people will warmly commend what has been done. We have laid a foundation upon which we shall be able to build in the post-war period, when our men will return to civil life rightly expecting to be rehabilitated.
.- The House has been treated in the last halfhour or so to a somewhat detailed explanation by the Minister for Munitions (Mr. Makin), of the differences which have developedbetween him and the former Director of Gun Ammunition Production, Mr. W. J. Smith. No doubt, it is all very interesting. One is compelled to realize that, in an ex parte statement, only one side of the case is presented, and that generally there is something to be said from the other side. If reports are correct, Mr. Smith is likely to take the forum of his own newspaper, Smith’s Weekly, to present his side of the story, but the public will probably never be completely enlightened on all the facts. Therefore, I do not find it useful to offer further observations on that matter. On occasions when the Prime Minister submits a motion of this nature to the Parliament, it is very necessary that Ministers should support him by endeavouring to give to Parliament, and through it to the people, as complete and accurate a picture of matters of high importance as security considerations will permit. I regret that Ministers have not more widely availed themselves of that opportunity in this instance. Perhaps, the present is not exactly the right moment to do so. In any case, this picture can be presented without haste. However, at least one matter of instant urgency is awaiting our consideration. Parliament was called together on last Wednesday, a date fixed by the Prime Minister in response to urging from honorable members on this side of the House that the Parliament re-assemble at the earliest possible moment to consider legislation embodying proposals emerging from the Prime Minister’s deliberations with his party organizations. I could say quite a lot about the ethics of that procedure; but I do not propose to deal with that aspect at this juncture. Last Wednesday was the day chosen by the Prime Minister as the earliest upon which Parliament couldbe called together in order to give legislative effect to those matters which he declared in December last to be of great urgency. To-day, a week later, Parliament is deliberating this very general motion, the terms of which offer not the slightest scope for difference of opinion in the minds of honorable members, or the people. Bearing that fact in mind, the Government has exhibited a poor sense of perspective in arranging its time-table for the consideration of the various measures to be brought before us this session.
– If that is so, why so much stone-walling?
– The Government is in charge of the business of the House; and it knows that the Opposition would be quite willing that this motion be placed very low on the business paper in order to make way for the consideration of the Militia proposal as a matter of urgency. However, in the wisdom of the Prime Minister, or for reasons of expediency, we are continuing the discussion on this motion. That being the case, the opportunity should be taken to explain in detail the present war position to the people and the Parliament, because the whole-hearted co-operation of the people can best be secured when they believe that they are being taken as fully into the confidence of the Government as security considerations will permit. That brings me to a matter upon which I feel strongly. I refer to a report which appeared last Friday, under glaring and, in fact, alarming streamer head-lines, in every major newspaper in the Commonwealth. I have before me the issue of the Canberra Times of that date, across the front page of which, for almost the full width of the paper, run the following head-lines: -
Troops and Planes Ready fob Major Thrust to South.
Concentrations in Bases Close to Australia.
The introduction to the report reads -
Evidence that the Japanese are preparing for a major thrust against Australia is contained in reports which have reached the Government during the last few days.
The report carries an air of urgency and desperate importance.
– I know nothing of the kind. Certainly, I know, as every honorable member knows, that the Japanese are gathered around the northern perimeter of Australia.
– That is serious.
– Yes; it is serious. We know that our men have fought gallantly and with great success inNew Guinea, and that our American allies have fought with similar gallantry and success in the Solomon Islands. We know that where war is being carried on, concentrations arc continually being made. I make it perfectly clear that I should he the last to minimize the importance to Australia of the danger of attack upon our country constituted by the presence on our doorstep week after week of Japanese concentrations. We must not be lulled by the constancy of that danger into any indifference towards it. That very constancy makes it all the more imperative that the people should be able to trust reports which are issued from day to day, and from week to week, of occurrences and possible developments in that theatre. If it be not true that an invasion attempt on this country is imminent, as this report declares, the Government should not permit such a report to be published. The Government has permitted the publication of that report. Although I have read to the House the headings from only one newspaper, the report, in substance, has been reproduced in every newspaper of importance throughout Australia. The only reasonable deduction one can draw from that fact is that these reports arose from a common source. The question I ask, and which I feel should be answered, is, “ What is the common source?” If it be true that evidence that the Japanese are preparing for a major thrust against Australia is contained in reports which have reached the Government during the last few days, Ministers should be prepared to take responsibility for such reports.
– Senior Opposition members of the Advisory War Council declared that the report is “ hooey “. That is in the press too.
– This report appeared in every major newspaper throughout the Commonwealth. Every journal carried the same story, and stated categorically that reports of an imminent major attempt against this country have been flowing to the Government during the last few days. If that be true, such information should be given to the people under ministerial authority. If it be untrue, these alarming and disturbing stories should not he related to the people.
– If the story contains 80 per cent, of the truth, is it right for a member of the Advisory War Council to describe it as “ all hooey “ ?
– To the best of my knowledge, no member of the Advisory War Council said that it was “all hooey “.
– Is not the danger present all the time?
– Of course it is. But I warn the Government that it can cry, “ Wolf, wolf “, too often, so that if the invasion attempt eventually occurs, and the warning is given, people will not heed it. That is the crux of my criticism.
On previous occasions, I have criticized the practice of this Government of issuing important statements anonymously. When Mr. R. G. Casey resigned his position as Australian Minister in Washington, the Australian press was flooded with verbatim passages from secret and personal cables which had passed between the Prime Minister of G reat Britain and himself, and with reported conversations between a former Prime Minister of the Commonwealth and himself. That information was released in Canberra by an anonymous government spokesman. To-day, I repeat my protest against this practice about making anonymous statements on matters of the highest importance. No doubt whatever should be left in the minds of the people regarding the authenticity of any statement of great consequence to this country. In addition, no doubts should be created in the minds of our kinsmen in Great Britain and our allies regarding the accuracy of what is declared to be a matter of fact. If, as this article says, Australia is to experience an attempted invasion within the next few days, the Australian people should be given an authoritative warning by the Prime Minister. If they are not given such a warning, I doubt the justification for the publication of such a statement. If the article can be substantiated by facts, it is only right that allied govern ments with whom we are associated, and allied people with whom we are affiliated, should be told of the danger, not anonymously, but by a responsible Minister. I hope that the attention which has been directed to this bad practice will cause an abrupt cessation of these inspired anonymous statements, and that the PrimeMinister, and his Ministers, will assume responsibility for the issuing of warnings, because no doubt should be created in the mind of the public regarding their accuracy. It would be had if the people believed thatthey could not trust the news in our press. If that suspicion were widely held, Australian morale would he affected. We have endeavoured, quite legitimately, to strike a blow at morale in enemy countries by casting well-justified doubts upon the accuracy of the propaganda issued by their governments. We should not leave ourselves vulnerable to similar attacks by our enemies. Admittedly, the Australian press has been guilty at times of irresponsibility in publishing items relating to the security of the country, or in placing a certain interpretation on an event.
– In the main, the press has been very good to this Government.
– The press has been more than generous to this Government.
– The press has been very generous to me, has it not?
– From time to time, a Commonwealth Minister has to wear a camelhair coat. I had that unfortunate experience for a few days. The victim can only do his best to wear it without complaint. In my opinion, the press has generally presented accurately to the people the facts of the war; and I should be sorry if the clarity and accuracy of reports, as presented to the Australian public, and cabled to our allies, were distorted by anonymous and irresponsible statements inspired by governmental sources.
.- When the Prime Minister (Mr. Curtin) surveyed the general war situation last week, he very rightly stressed the danger that exists so close to our shores. But the Leader of the Opposition (Mr. Fadden), strangely enough, ignored that situation and proceeded to mount his favorite hobby horse of a balanced financial policy for this country, as if the war situation did not exist. The Prime Minister told us at length about the aggravated war situation which still confronts Australia, and of our needs, even after fifteen months of assistance from the United States of America. All of us are conscious of the great and valuable help that the United States of America has rendered to us in many ways. In a broadcast address recently, the AttorneyGeneral (Dr. Evatt) dealt with leaselend aid and reciprocal lease-lend aid, and expressed the gratitude of this nation to the people who may be regarded more as our associates than as our allies in this awful struggle. I, too, should like to make some observations on the general war situation, and later comment on the case as presented by members of the Opposition. In almost every instance, honorable members opposite ignored the the danger near our coast, and dealt with the trivialities of the present position.
Some days ago, a conference was held at Casablanca in North Africa between President Roosevelt and Mr. Churchill. Despite the presence of the President of the United States of America and the Prime Minister of Great Britain and. their large and important staffs, the conference appears to have achieved very little. No high political or military representatives of China or Russia attended the meeting. Their absence was certainly unfortunate, and in my view, was not coincidental. Our prospects of a final victory are much brighter in January, 1943, than they were in January, 1942, but in spite of that fact, all is not well with the allied cause when two great powers see fit to absent themselves from such an important gathering. Whatever may have been the cause of that abstention, let us hope that a complete understanding will eventually be reached between all the allies in this grim and fateful struggle. Quite recently we were advised by the daily press that a Chinese military delegation had returned from Washington in protest because it was unable to secure agreement with its views. The Chinese need planes, tanks and other equipment and certainly cannot be expected to fight on without them. China’s gallant struggle against Japanese imperialism for seven
long years cannot continue much longer without increased support from America’s huge productive effort. For evidence in support of that contention I refer honorable members to the cables in to-day’s press in which Madame Chiang Kai-shek and Madame Wellington Koo are quoted as having stressed in America the great need of their country for the essentials of victory. China’s peril concerns all its allies, because if China falls Russia’s maritime provinces no less than Australia and New Zealand will be more greatly menaced than ever before. It is to our national interest, therefore, that the Australian Government should strongly supplement every effort China may make to get an ever-increasing share of the means of victory. -China has the men and needs the arms. The Prime Minister’s appeal to America the other night was criticized by the honorable member for Richmond (Mr. Anthony) as an appeal above the head of the American Government to the American people, but it was rightly designed to bring home to the American people what a stupendous task it was for a nation of 7,000,000 people to hold 3,000,000 square miles of territory in the common effort and to make it a basis for future successful operations against the Japanese imperialists. The honorable member for Richmond suggested that the Prime Minister should go to England. I am opposed to any Prime Minister leaving Australia during his term of office.
– There would have been no Casablanca conference if other countries had adopted that policy.
– There may have been good reasons why the British Prime Minister and the American President should meet at Casablanca, but I am afraid that the history of this country proves that with few exceptions every Prime Minister who has left these shores has come back not a stronger Australian, but rather as one prepared to compromise the interests of this nation in some way or other. I believe that Australian Prime Ministers should stay in Australia during their terms of office.
– Lest their eyes might be fully opened?
– The views of the honorable member for Gippsland and mine upon what an Australian Prime Minister should stand for may differ. I am afraid that theatmosphere of London and other places as notconducive to the development of a strong Australian attitudean attitudeof putting Australian interests first. The right honorable member for North Sydney (Mr. Hughes) went to London during the last war, became the darling of the duchesses, forgot all his pristine fervour for democratic and radical reform, and arrived back in this (country a conscriptionist who was prepared to abandon all his former principles. Ultimately, of course, he found himself in the ranks of his former politicalenemies.
– The right honorable member for North Sydney was the best Prime Minister this country ever had.
– I disagree entirely with the view of the honorable member for Henty. I think that the best Australian prime ministers are Labour party prime ministers who do not desert their party.
– What is the honorable member for Henty doing on that side of the House if that is what he says about ‘the right honorable member for North Sydney?
– That is for the honorable member for Barker to find cut, if he can. I am not concerned with the views of the honorable member for Henty any more than I am with those of the honorable member for Barker in that respect. If there is any merit in the proposal of the honorable member for Richmond, then let the right honorable the Attorney-General make another trip around the world, or, better still, let us send the Deputy Prime Minister (Mr. Forde) to London, and see what he can do. I think that the suggestion contained by inference in the speech of the honorable member for Richmond, that the Australian Prime Minister was guilty of some nefarious act in speaking direct to the people of Great Britain, as well as the people of America, is worthy of the strongest condemnation, because the right honorable gentleman who at present leads the Government of Australia is particularly concerned, as he ought to be, in getting all the assistance that America can give to this country. He had to admit a little whileback thatthe assistance that Australia was getting from America hadbeen reducedto a trickle. Australianswere shocked to hear that statement. sir Frederick Stewart. - How much help are we going to give to the Americans in the Solomon Islands under the new defence zoning plan which the Government proposes?
– Australia has done more in this war thanany other allied nation has done up to date. Thehonorable member for Parramatta, who wants to send Australians ali round the world to fight in every country but their own, is strangely blind to the fact that atthis moment no country is more menaced than Australia, and that the duty of the Australian Government is primarily to save this nation. To do that it has to maintain practically all its forces inside Australia. Only in that way can it properly discharge its responsibility. The fact is that to hold this country we need twenty-five divisions, and we have not anything like that number within ourborders. I am reminded by the honorable member for Reid (Mr. Morgan) that no ‘less an authority than the Commander-in-Chief of the Allied Forces in the South-West Pacific, whose opinion honorable members opposite wouldnot dare to challenge - I refer to General Douglas MacArthur - has said that Australia is doing more than its share.
– Is it not decidedly better to fight in any other country than our own?
– As a military principle it is better to fight outside than inside our own territory, but it is not militarily feasible that the whole of the manhood of Australia should be sent out of it to fight in Timor, Borneo or elsewhere against an enemy whose forces are at least ten times as strong as ours. That enemy has sufficient shipping to send very large forces to the rear of any force that we send from here andcould then attack this country successfully because it would be denuded of its troops. The Deputy Prime Minister is quite capable of representing Australia’s needs in Washington and London, and I hope that, if the
Governmentfeelsobligedtosendarepre- sentativehewithbechosenforthetask. AustraliaandChina,nolessthanNew Zealand andCanada,arePacificpowers equally with the United States, of America.We havea common enemy, andhisoverthrowismore important to usatthismomentthananythingthat takesplaceinsomeothertheaterofwar. TheCasablancaconferencedecided,appa- rently,tosticktothe”beat-Hitler-first” policy. To European minds that is a perfectly logical, attitude, but to Pacific peoples it may be disastrous. It is certainly true that, the European campaigns might last for years, and the assistance promised to this country after Hitler, is successfully overthrown may never arrive in time to help us withstand a more ferocious and unrelenting foe than Europe has facedor will ever have to face. The aid Australia is getting, and has been getting for some time now, is very small. It cannot remain at the trickle mentioned by the Prime Minister, if Australia is to survive. It must be vastly increased, and the Australian people will, expect the National Government to continue to urgeour claims in Washington and London.
SirFrederick Stewart. -Formore American conscripts in Australian, waters?
– I am not asking for that. If America called for volunteers, to fight in these waters it would probablyfind as big a response amongst its population as Australia found in its popu- lation when it asked f or volunteers to go out of Australiatofightinthisand the last war.
– Are American sailors and airmen conscripts?
– All the members of the Royal Australian Air Force and the Royal Australian Navy are volunteers, and so as the honorable member for Bourke reminds me, are the American airmen and seamen, as well as the marines. The honorable member for Parramatta (Sir- Frederick Stewart), and other honorable members opposite who talk conscription to-day, went to the electors two years ago as anticonscriptionists. The honorable member for Parramatta was a memberof a government which, at the request of the
Labourparty,insertedaclauseinthe NationalSecurityActprovidingthat thatlegislationwouldnotbeusedto enforce conscription upon the Australian people. The honorable member not only said that much,but at that time he was an opponent of conscription for overseas service.
– That is absolutely untrue.
– Then the honorable member was singularly silent onthe matter.
– He was not. a supporter.
– Of course he was not a supporter. He never said that he was a supporter. If he let the amendment to the National Security Act go through without making his position clear, as he now seems so eager to do, he failed in hisduty. I believe that the honorable member’s conversion to a policy of conscription, is very recent.
– The honorable member’s belief, like most of his statements, is quite without foundation.
– Time will tell whether that is so. I have no hesitation in making my own attitude to this matter quite clear. It seems to annoy honorable in.em.b.crs opposite that any honorable member in this, chamber should suggest that the “ beat-Hitler-first “ policy is one that may be disastrous to this country. They believe in supporting the policy of Mr. Winston Churchill, whatever it mightbe they believe in sacrificing. Australian interests if necessary in order that the policy of the British Prime Minister may be pursued.. Like the people of Russia and China, we in Australia may need to express in an equally definite manner our dissatisfaction at the manner in which our just and reasonable claims are being ignored and our possible fate disregarded. No country, has done more than Australia in the common cause, and the broadcast appeal’s which the Prime Minister. (Mr. Curtin) has made to Washington on several occasions were amplyjustified and I believe are fully supported by the Australian people. The first appeal was made in January of last year and it was followed next day by an explanation, but, in my view, the Prime Minister’s statement of the position was so good that it needed neither an apology nor even an explanation. I trust that he will not relax his efforts to make this country safe. Time is not with us; it is with our enemies. If Mr. Churchill does not yet realize that fact, he must be made to understand it very soon. Our defence is primarily our own responsibility, and the present Government is perfectly justified in telling our plight to our own people and to our Allies. “We have thousands of Royal Australian Air Force pilots- and ground crews abroad engaged in active operations in the main theatres of war, and we have a right to say to the British Government and to the Government of the United States of America that sufficient aircraft should be sent to this country to enable those men to be employed in the defence of Australia.
I draw the attention of honorable members to the following article which appeared in the Melbourne Herald in September of last year: -
There is sufficient Australian flying manpower dispersed in Britain to operate at least a score of the Royal Australian Air Force squadrons and by 1943 it is expected that the figure will be reached, but the Air Ministry’s tendency - which is unavoidable because air crew components are arriving irregularly - has been to intermix Australians throughout the Royal Air force with Britons, Canadians, Africans, New Zealanders, Poles, Americans, French and Czechs.
Nevertheless, the Australian Air Board’s wishes are being met by the slow, but sure, establishment of all-Australian squadrons.
If we had twenty Royal Australian Air Force squadrons with their trained ground crews operating in this country to-day instead of in various parts of. Europe, our future would seem very much brighter than it does at this moment. I do not know the origin of the various articles which appear in the press from time to time regarding the imminence of an attack by the Japanese upon our shores. Allegedly, they emanate from government sources, but I dc not consider them to be of any particular moment because the threat to this country is more or less permanent, and is always grave. “Whether or not such warnings originate in government circles, they are, in my opinion, designed to bring home to the Australian people the fact that the spirit of complacency of which the Prime Minister has spoken must not be permitted to continue. I do not believe that there is any sinister intent in this propaganda, and I am certain that the statements are not made for any political purpose. Honorable members opposite seem to be unduly concerned with the fact that in recent times the press has referred to the possibility, or even the imminence, of an attack upon this country.
In his speech upon this motion the Leader of the Opposition (Mr. Fadden) dealt almost exclusively with financial policy. He told us that we must have a proper balance between taxation, loans, and bank credit. The honorable member for Robertson (Mr. Spooner), who followed him, analysed the Treasurer’s figures at some length, and to his own satisfaction - I do not think that he satisfied anybody else - proved that we are using an excessive amount of bank credit. The honorable member cannot have it all ways. He was Assistant Treasurer of a government in New South. Wales during the depression years, and it is not on record that he went to the Loan Council at that time and suggested that there should be an expansion of credit for the purpose of keeping people in employment or assisting the farming community. It is not on record that any member of the Government in which he held the position of Assistant Treasurer was in favour of using national credit. Apparently, he does not believe in using national credit at any time or under any circumstances. He certainly opposes now what he terms the excessive use of national credit. In my opinion there cannot be excessive use of national credit in war-time with all the various controls then operating. He certainly did not pursue a policy of reflation, nor did he urge upon the Loan Council that there should be a release of credit to counter the evils of deflation that were causing so much distress and suffering amongst the people of New South Wales in the depression years. The honorable gentleman would have the people believe that dire evils will fall upon them if this Government uses the national credit. I well remember that about the time the honorable gentleman became a member of an anti-Labour government in New South Wales he and his colleagues granted remissions of taxation, amounting to £20,000 to firms like David Jones Limited, of Sydney. Yet the honorable gentleman expected single unemployed men in New South Wales to exist at that time on 5s. 6d. a week ! The United Australia party Government in power in the Commonwealth Parliament at that time reduced invalid and old-age pensions from 17s. 6d. a week, at which figure they had been fixed under financial emergency legislation, to 15s. a week, and, at the same time, remitted taxation to its own wealthy supporters and, in particular, to wealthy land-owners, totalling about £9,000,000. That was said to _be sound finance. I have no doubt that if an anti-Labour government happened to be in power at the end of the war it would at once proceed to reduce Government expenditure, and to confer benefits upon its own political friends. It would, doubtless, reduce taxation on incomes in the higher ranges, and increase it on incomes in the lower ranges; it would reduce social benefits, and, by the usual anti-Labour methods, try to make the capitalist system function a little better a little longer. The authority on which honorable gentlemen opposite justify their post-war credit system is that of a man named J. M. Keynes, who, because of his support for the capitalist system in Great Britain and his help to economists interested in bolstering up vested interests, was elevated to the House of Lords and is now known as Baron Keynes. In further recognition of his effort to preserve the capitalist system, Baron Keynes was also made a director of the Bank of England. I suppose it is appropriate enough that honorable gentlemen opposite should support the system advocated by such a personage, but the Labour party is opposed to it or any other system of postwar credits or compulsory loans because it knows very well that it will not work. What would happen under such a system ? The people would lend their money to the Government, but the Government would never be able to repay it. When the time came for repayment, new loans would have to be raised and the Government would have to borrow more money te pay back the money originally borrowed. There would be borrowing ad infinitum. The people would be obliged to continue to tax themselves in order to pay interest to themselves. In other words, we should live by taking in one another’s washing. That seems to be the only solution that honorable gentlemen opposite have for our financial problems.
The Opposition is continually belittling the working people of this country. We are told that people on the lower income ranges should be taxed. Under the policy proposed by honorable gentlemen opposite, the workers would be required to bear a heavy proportion of direct taxation, notwithstanding that they are bearing all the weight of indirect taxation.
– All the weight?
– Yes. The man on the basic wage with a big family to keep pays a heavy impost under the bread tax. He pays heavily through the sales tax for the clothes that he and his family need. He also has to pay heavily in excise duties for any beer that he buys, or tobacco that he smokes, or for any entertainment tickets that he or the members of his family may purchase. The wealthy interests of the community pay only a relatively insignificant impost in indirect taxation compared with that which the workers pay. The high cost of living and high indirect taxation place an almost intolerable burden on the working man. Because of these factors he can make ends meet only with extreme difficulty. The honorable member for Richmond (Mr. Anthony) referred to the very high cost of babies’ clothes. Much more could be said along that line. Some necessaries of life are not only extremely expensive to-day, but are almost unobtainable in certain capital cities. Yet honorable gentlemen opposite say : “ Well, about £500,000,000 annually of the the working-classes are in receipt of national income, and they must be made to pay some of the money back to maintain the government of the country.” The position in my own electorate is that one in seven of the electors is in receipt of an old-age- or invalid pension. Those persons are expectedto live on 26s. a week at a time when many of the necessaries of life are almost unprocurable.
-What about the new social security proposals?
-I have no doubt that when the new social security legislation comes before the House, the honorable member for Barker (Mr. Archie Cameron) will run true to form and vote against it. He is the really hard-boiled conservative in this House, and I do not expect him to do anything to support the class which I represent here. Many other people in the community who are living on pensions or superannuation payments of one kind or another, which frequently do not exceed £2 a week, are struggling for their very existence. Yet honorable gentlemen opposite suggest that they should be called upon to, as they put it, “ bear a fair share of taxation in order to maintain the war effort “. I am in favour of a ceiling income. I would not mind if the figure were fixed at £300 a year. I would not touch any one below that figure, but, if necessary, I. would bring all other incomes down to it. In that way we should ensure equality of sacrifice. Honorable gentlemen opposite do not favour a ceiling income.. They desire to throw as much of the burden of taxation as possible, even to breaking point, on to the shoulders of people in the lower income ranges. That policy will always be opposed by the Labour party.
Notwithstanding the efforts of honorable gentlemen opposite to belittle the working-class, the fact remains that the working people of this country are working harder during this war than they worked during the last war. They arc also working harder than the working people of Europe and the United States of America. I have obtained, from official sources, a statement showing the number of industrial disputes in Australia, Great Britain and the United States of America in the two periods 1914-18 and 1939-42. In Australia the average number of disputes annually in the period 1914-18 was 389; the average number in the period 1939-42 was 484. The number of working days lost in 1914-18 was 1,707, but the comparative figure for 1939-42 is 834.[ Extension of time granted.] The complete table reads -
Itwould be of great benefit to Australia if representatives ofthe workers were given an increased share in the administration of the war effort. I propose to quote from an article published last November in The Annals of the American Academy of Political and Social Science. The article is entitled, “Trade Unions’ Part in Britain’s War Effort “ and was written by Mr. J. V.Radcliffe, who has been Labour correspondent and a leading writer of the London Times for the last twenty years, and was previously parliamentary correspondent of that journal. Mr,Radcliffe, after pointing out that in England there is asystem of collaboration with the Ministry of Labour by the TradeUnions General Council and the Employers Federation, states -
This complicated task was given to the Ministry of Labour., which was transformed into a Ministry of Labourand National Service. No major step in either the control or the regulation of industrial man-power and the release of men, and more recently women, for the armed forces has been taken without prior consultation with the joint advisory council to the Minister of Labour, or the more compact joint consultative committee. A “joint-“ body in this connexion means one in which employers and work people are associated on equal terms.
I commend that fact to the attention of the Government, because much of the present difficulty might he overcome if there were a joint bodysuch as the Australasian Council of Trade Unions has oftenrecommended to the present and previous governments. The article continues -
When, in the third year of the war, the great departurewasmadefrom reservation at specified age levels - the ages varying according to theimportance of the occupation to the war effort-to individual deferment of call-up, in order to ensure that men are notonly in an essential occupation but are doing essential work, the change had already been considered and approved by the joint consultative committee of employers and trade unionists.
If a number of the matters which are now decided by professorsand others were first submitted toa joint consultative body representing employers and trade unions, much of the criticism that has been aroused would probably have been obviated, because the efficiency with which the British body does its work would undoubtedly be reflected in deci sions that would be made in Australia. Mr.Radcliffe further states -
All the way, the trade unions, theemployers, and the Government are working in unison. Atthe top the Minister of Production’s own advisory committee consists of 23 members, of whom sixrepresent the Trade Union Congress, threethe British Employers’ Confederation andthreetheFederation ofBritish Industries, and eleven are chosen from the vice-chairmen of the regional boards. Five of theselected vice-chairmen are trade union members. It has been arrangedby these trade union members that they will themselves meet before each meeting of the advisory committee, in order to pool the knowledge and experience of the trade union head-quarters and thatderised from the regions and from individual factories in the regions.. .
The joint production committees in the factories are not anoutcome of theCitrine report,but of agreementsbetween the engineering unions, the Ministry of Supply,and the engineering employers’ federation.
Untilwe follow theBritish systemI fear that we shall not get the maximum production of which we are capable. Honorable members opposite probably are not favorable to the idea ofgiving to the workers some share of the management of industry, but it was found during the last war, as it hasalready been found during this war, that in no other way can a full war effort he obtained from the workers.
The publication contains other ‘interesting articles which I commendto honorable members. One of them, which is entitled “Planning Against Post-war Depression “, was written by Dr. Alan E. Sweezy, Associate Professor of Economics at WilliamsCollege, Williamstown, Massachusetts. He was formerly instructor in Economics at Harvard and & . member of the Division ofResearch and Statistics of the FederalReserve Board. He is the author of several articles dealing with economic problems. That article contains as fine a statement of the difficulties that are likely to be encountered, in the post-war world, as well as the methods to be adopted to meet them, as any thatI have seen. In it Dr. Sweezy says -
Any future programme of government spending must break away from the relief concept and concentrate on tilings the community, and particularly the mass of low-income consumers, really need. It must concentrate on housing, health, education, art, recreation; onsecurity against old age, sickness, accident, and temporary unemploymentand on conservation of basic natural resources.
I hope that the Treasurer (Mr. Chifley), in his new position as Minister for Postwar Reconstruction, will be given all the assistance possible so that plans for the post-war period may be prepared before the war ends. When the war started we were unprepared for it. The defence organization which we now have was not in existence; it had to be built up by painful and slow means. Therefore I urge that preparations be put in hand immediately to plan effectively for the post-war era. We need a general staff for that work just as we need a general staff to direct war operations. We need also the blue prints for the work to be done in the post-war period. They should be filed away, ready for use when the men and women now employed on war work of various kinds are discharged from the fighting services, the munitions factories, and other avenues of war employment. It is essential that the department shall exist in fact as well as in name, and therefore I hope that at an early date the Minister for Post-war Reconstruction will outline to the Parliament the work which his department will undertake.
Debate (on motion by Mr. Hutchinson) adjourned.
Sitting suspended from 6.15 to 8 p.m.
– I move -
That thebill be now read a second time.
Section 49 of the Defence Act reads -
Members of the Defence Force who are members of the Military Forces shall not be required, unless they voluntarily agree to do so, to serve beyond the limits of the Commonwealth and those of any Territory under the authority of the Commonwealth.
Sub-section 5a (1) provides that
This Act shall extend to the Territories of the Commonwealth as if each of those Territories were part of the Commonwealth.
Section 13a of the National Security
Act includes the following proviso: -
Provided that nothing in this section shall authorize the imposition of any form of compulsory service beyond the limits of Australia.
Clause 4 of the bill provides that -
Notwithstanding anything contained in the Defence Act 1903-1941, or in the National Security Act 1939-1940, any member of the Citizen Military Forces may be required to serve in such area contained in the Southwestern Pacific Zone as is specified by proclamation.
The South Western Pacific Zone is defined in clause 3 as “ the area bounded on the west by the one hundred and tenth meridian of east longitude, on the north by the Equator and on the east by the one hundred and fifty-ninth meridian of east longitude.” The boundaries of the zone in the bill have been determined in the light of the following considerations: -
I shall deal with these considerations first, and with certain criticisms later. In the first place, the zone for the employment of the Citizen Military Forces must be within the scope of General MacArthur’s operational command. As explained to Parliament on an earlier occasion, the world has been divided by Mr. Churchill and Mr. Roosevelt into areas for the strategical control of operations. Australia and adjacent islands, and waters to the north, are now in the South-West Pacific Area. Its boundaries were fixed at Washington, and concurred in by the then Commonwealth Government. Originally, it was the desire of both the Commonwealth and New Zealand Governments that their countries should be in the one strategic zone, but New Zealand and other islands to the east of Australia were included in the South Pacific Area.
All the combat sections of the Australian naval, land and air forces, with the exception of certain base and static defence units, have been assigned to the operational control of General MacArthur as Commander-in-Chief of the South-West Pacific Area. Thi3 has not meant that the naval and air forces in the South- West Pacific Area, which possess greater mobility than the land forces, have been limited to that area. On the contrary, H.M.A.S. Canberra was unfortunately lost while co-operating in an operation in the South Pacific Area. Similarly, air forces based in the South-West Pacific Area have co-operated in the operations against Japanese forces in the Solomons.
The primary aim of global strategy, as agreed upon by Mr. Churchill and President Roosevelt, is the defeat of Germany first, after which the full resources of the United Nations will be concentrated on Japan. This, of course, imposes limitations on the additional forces that can be made available in the Pacific, the extent of offensive operations, and the regions in which our forces can operate.
The directive to General MacArthur, as Commander-in-Chief of the South-West Pacific Area, was issued by President Roosevelt, and was agreed to by the Governments of Australia, New Zealand, the United Kingdom, the Netherlands and the United States. It specifies the objectives which his operations will be designed to accomplish. The first phase of the campaign in the South-West Pacific Area, which ended with the recent destruction of the Japanese army in Papua, was directed to ensuring the security of Australia as a base by removing the immediate threat of invasion to the eastern part of Australia. The sphere of land operations, with the exception of small Australian Imperial Force units in Timor and Dutch New Guinea, has been on Australian territory within the meaning of the Defence Act.
The defence of Australia is not confined to its territorial limits. Provided adequate forces are available, it can best be secured by denying to the enemy the outer screen of islands from which attacks can be launched on the mainland. The occupation of these outposts also provides points of vantage from, which offensive action can ultimately be developed.
At present, by reason of the holding strategy in the Pacific, the strength of the allied forces, and the superior strategical position of the enemy in the archipelagos of the Pacific, with air fields for landbased aircraft, we are still in the defensive stage. With the passage of this bill, the whole of the Australian forces, naval, land and air, will be available to the Commander-in-Chief for employment in the South-Western Pacific Zone, as defined in the bill.
Great significance is to be attached to the statement recently made by General MacArthur on the lessons of the Papuan campaign. The Commander-in-Chief stated that these operations were an extraordinary demonstration of the manner in which air power, closely integrated with ground forces, and under the central direction of one commander, can enable effective blows to be struck at Japan’s sprawling hold on the archipelagos in the Pacific. This technique is a substitute for difficult amphibious operations of an island-to-island nature under earlier conceptions of warfare, which would require vast resources in naval and merchant ships, and would entail opposed landings against strongly defended positions with costly losses in men. This closely co-ordinated use of land forces and air power will, therefore, conserve both man-power and the shipping necessary to bring them and their equipment to this theatre of operations.
The ultimate defeat of Japan in the Pacific Ocean will hinge upon naval and air strength offensively employed, and supported by land forces for the occupation of enemy bases, and the seizure and defence of those required for allied operations. Great armies will not be required, but Australia will make the maximum contribution of which it is capable on land, sea and in the air.
Every member of the Advisory War Council knows that the Chiefs of Staff have stated that the land and air forces necessary to ensure the defence of vital areas on the mainland of Australia to meet all possible contingencies of the strategical situation exceed Australia’s resources. This advice has also been endorsed by General MacArthur. It is evident, therefore, that so long as the holding strategy obtains, with consequent restriction on the forces available to the South-west Pacific Area, Australia is primarily concerned with defence against aggression, and limitedoffensive action to ensure this.
When General MacArthur is in. a position to assume the offensive I envisage that he will move forward with an allied expeditionary force. Up to the limits of the area denned in the bill this could include the whole of the Australian naval land and air forces. I assume, however, that he will re-assign to the Australian Government and its service commanders the responsibility for the defence of his main base, which is Australia. His line of communication areas, represented by re-conquered territories, will also require to. be protected. Considerable forces will be required for these purposes.. By the time Australia has made the maximum contribution of which it is capable to the allied expeditionary force, to the protection, of base and line of communication areas, and has also replaced its casualties, it will have stretched, its capacity to the utmost.
The Australian Army comprises four Australian ImperialForce divisions, three of. which are in Australia and one in the Middle East, together with an unspecified number of Citizen Force divisions. It is not generally known that, on the entry of Italy into the war, certain units of the 9th Division, reinforcements and corps troops, were diverted to the United Kingdom, where they were organized into the 9th Division for the defence of Britain against invasion. This division, which, was later transferred to the Middle East, where it withstood the siege of Tobruk, and figured so conspicuously in the operations at El Alamein, therefore really became an additional overseas commitment. At one stage, the Australian military advisers had grave doubts about Australia’s capacity to maintain four Australian Imperial Force divisions, but, thanks to the number of volunteers offering from the Citizen Forces, it has not been necessary to reduce the number of these splendid, battle trained formations.
The man-power situation, and the capacity of Australia to maintain the Australian Imperial Force and the Citizen Military Forces divisions that have been raised, is constantly under review by the Government and its military advisers. A disturbing feature of the. Papuan campaign has been the high incidence of tropical diseases, the figures, being four times greater than the battle casualties. The Japanese appear to be no more immune than others, but they of course, possess far greater reserves of man-power. As the future operations in the SouthWest Pacific Area will be in malarial areas, the relation of strength to resources in the light of wastage rates, isbeing carefully, examined by the Defence Committee..
I repeat that Australia will maintain in the field the maximum, strength of which it is capable; that the CommanderinChief will have these forces at his disposal anywhere in the South- Western Pacific Zone ; and that beyond this region Australia will make the maximum contribution of which it is capable;
It is the intention, after the passage of the measure, to proclaim the whole of the South- Western Pacific Zone, as defined in the bill, as an area in which the Citizen. Forces may be required to serve. This course gives no information to the enemy as to the direction from which he may expect the first blows.
Under clause 5, the legislation will continue in existence until the expiration of six months after the end of the war.No one can forecast at this stage the nature and form of the machinery which it is hoped, to provide: for the maintenance of peace in the post-war world. After the war, the provisions of the Defence Act can be considered by the Government of the day in the light of the machinery that is established for the maintenance of national security.
The following are the main criticisms that have been raised regarding the provisions of the bill:-
As to the criticism that the Defence Act should have been amended earlier, section 49 of the Defence Act limiting the liability for service abroad to volunteers was inserted in the original Defence Act. in 1903 and has remained operative to this date. I offer no criticism of any of the governments throughout the last four years which with majorities in both Houses of this Parliament, took no steps to amend that section of the act. After the last war, the leaders of the Australian Imperial Force made a recommendation to the government of the day that an essential part of the preparations for the defence of Australia against Japanese aggression was an amendment of the Defence Act. No government had seen fit to act on that advice. The right honorable member for Kooyong (Mr. Menzies), when Prime Minister, introduced an amendment to the National Security Act in June, 1940, seeking authority to make regulations requiring persons to place themselves, their services, and their property at the disposal of theCommonwealth, as may be necessary or expedient for securing the public safety, the defence of the Commonwealth andthe territories of the Commonwealth, or the efficient prosecution of the war. As mentioned earlier, a proviso was inserted that nothing in the section was to authorize the imposition of any form of compulsory service beyond the limits of the Commonwealth and the territories under its control. I repeat that I do not criticize previous governments. However, I would say to the clamorous critics, who are now so courageous and omniscient as to what should be done, that, if they are right, they stand impeached by their own words, for they failed to do what they had the power and opportunity to do. The excuse of these critics for their acts of omission is that we were not at war with Japan, or that the Leader of the Opposition (Mr. Fad den) wrote to me on the 17th December, 1941, offering the support of the Opposition for a measure designed to empower the Government to employ any Australian troops in any area vitally necessary for the defence of Australia.
Every person who has held ministerial office knows that Australian defence plans have always beenbased on the threat of Japanese invasion. It isanaxiom of military planning that one does not prepare for war in general, but for a particular war -which represents one’s greatest risk. I refuse to allow these critics to parade as virtues now, what were, according totheir line of argument, grave errors of omission before December, 1941.
The criticism that the delay in the amendment of the Defence Act has prejudiced operations in the South-west Pacific Area is entirely groundless, as, with the exception of small Australian Imperial Force units in Timor and Dutch New Guinea, the operations have been on Australian territory. The CommanderinChief has not lacked the full use of our whole resources nor been impeded in his operations in any manner whatsoever.
In regard to thecriticism that thebill should provide that the Citizen Forces be required toserve anywhere, I repeat that no government has ever amended section 49 of the Defence Act, whichprovides that members of the Defence Force who are members of the Military Forces shall not be required to serve overseas, unless they voluntarily agree to doso. Voluntaryism has, therefore, been the traditional policy of the Australian people for this class of unrestricted service abroad. A similar principle applies in the case of the Royal Australian Navy and Royal Australian Air Force. It is also noted that Field Marshal Smuts proposes that it shall apply to the service of South African soldiers beyondthe continentof Africa. The basic reasons for this attitude are simple and understandable. The predominant partner of the Empire, Great Britain, and the most powerful of the United Nations, Great Britain and the United States of America, determine the higher strategy. They, of course, have the greatest responsibilities and the greatest resources. The governments of the Dominions have largely passive roles in higher strategy, except for their responsibility for the local defence of their territories to the maximum of their capacity and the contributions they can make in other theatres, in the light of the strategical situation in their own regions.
It is, therefore, not surprising that the feeling of the people is that unrestricted service overseas in theatres’ outside the control and influence of their own governments should be on a voluntary basis.
I consider it a fallacy to suggest that a small nation like Australia, confronted with the problem of defending a large continent with a small population, should be expected, when faced with a life and death struggle in its own region, to send forces to other theatres. It is not in the same position as are the great nations which, after providing for the security of their home territories, have a substantial margin of strength for service in other parts, of the world. The only test by which this question can be judged is that of the facts of the military position. It is a plain fact that Australia’s strength is not sufficient to meet all the contingencies of the military situation with which it may at any time be confronted, and the strength of the Allied Forces in the South-West Pacific Area is inadequate to provide for more than a holding strategy with limited offensive action.
Mr. Churchill showed breadth of vision and understanding of the position with which we were, and still are, confronted when he informed the Government in January, 1942, that no obstacle would be raised to the return of the Australian Imperial Force to defend its own homeland. Some critics who had the opportunity and power to amend the Defence Act according to their own ideas, claim that the proposed amendment is parochial and isolationist. I heard the same expression used in 1937, when the Labour party urged the application of a defence policy that would have enabled Australia to be better prepared to face this war. That the policy was correct and prophetic is proved by the fact that the pattern of Australia’s war effort to-day coincides so closely with it.
The extent of the boundaries in the defined area is based on strategical and military considerations which I have already mentioned. As the area which the Allied Nations occupy in the SouthWest Pacific Area is confined to Australia and the southern part of New Guinea, the extension of the provisions of the Defence Act has to be related to the immediate defence of Australia and prospective offensive action. With a holding strategy in the South-west Pacific Zone, our primary responsibility is the defence of Australia as- the main base. It will not be fully secure until the enemy has been driven from the adjacent islands. Then we shall have to provide adequate garrisons for holding these recaptured territories. Finally, we shall have to play our part in the Allied Expeditionary Force, which will be a spearhead for offensive action against the Japanese, in conjunction with Allied naval and air forces.
The bill provides for all that the Citizen Forces are likely to be able to undertake under the strategy contemplated in the South-West Pacific Area, but that is not the limit of extent of Australia’s effort. The Navy, Australian Imperial Force and the Royal Australian Air Force are still available for operations in any theatre in the world when the strategical situation in the South-west Pacific Area permits of their release. I would state further that, except for the loss of some of our splendid ships which cannot be replaced, the strength of the forces capable of being sent overseas will be as great as, if not greater than, the forces which the previous Government had abroad when Japan had not come into the war. It is a disparagement of Australia’s efforts in other theatres on sea, land and in the air to suggest that these boundaries represent any unwillingness to co-operate in operations beyond them.
Criticism has been made that the Citizen Forces cannot serve in Malaya and the Solomons. This quite ignores the strategical set-up in the South-West Pacific Area. Our forces are assigned to the Commander-in-Chief of the SouthWest Pacific Area, whose sphere of command does not extend to those regions. I would repeat, however, that when the position permits, Australian forces will be available in any theatre in which they can best be employed. The criticism that, because the boundaries of the area do not extend to Malaya, the Government is abandoning Australian prisoners of war in that region is a gross distortion of the position and the facts, and creates unwarranted anxiety in the minds of their relatives. I repeat that, if our forces are assigned to General MacArthur who is conducting one campaign in the Southwestern Pacific Zone, how can they be placed at the disposal of Field-Marshal Wavell who is conducting another campaign in the Indian area which embraces Malaya? It would be equally true to say that we are abandoning our prisoners of war in Germany and Italy because the boundaries of the zone do not extend to Europe! When the time comes to use forces from the South-West Pacific Area in another theatre, it will be soon enough for the critics to raise their voices on this matter. At present, their ideas cut across the whole strategical set-up of the campaign. Their adoption would result only in chaos and defeat, with the consequence of endless servitude for these Australian prisoners of war. The Government has no intention- of following any course other than the soundest military course, which will result in the earliest possible release of these men.
Australia has played its part in other theatres and it is- now bent on the concentration of the maximum strength in the South-West Pacific Area in order to ensure that the holding strategy shall, in fact, hold. No one can forecast how long it will take to defeat Germany and how much longer will be required to overthrow Japan. In the meantime, all sorts of hazards and risks have to be run in the Pacific. The longer Japan has to consolidate its position the stronger it will become. The Government intends to do all in its power to ensure the security of Australia, both to avoid the ravages of war on our own territory and to develop and make it secure as a base for offensive operations. It also intends that the Australian naval, land and air forces shall play their part in the offensive for the ultimate defeat of Japan.
The Commonwealth Government has assigned to General MacArthur all the forces it possesses. It now says to him: “ We will extend the area within which the Citizen Military Forces may be used. When your offensive exceeds the boundaries of this zone, you shall have in your Allied Expeditionary Force the maximum naval, land and air components that can be furnished, having regard to the needs of defending your base, which is Australia, and your line of communication areas, which are the territories you conquer; and Having regard to the capacity of Australian man-power to maintain the forces that have been raised “.
Australia has once been perilously near to the brink of disaster. No nation, not even Britain, has been in greater danger of invasion and yet lacked the resources with which to defend itself. We possess neither a large navy nor a large air force, and the most effective part of our Army was overseas when Singapore fell. Our inability to despatch battle-trained troops to the New Guinea area to stem the J apanese advance almost let Japan into a base from which the whole of eastern Australia would have been vulnerable to attack. This would have neutralized Australia as a base from which the United Nations could attack Japan. When the holding phase is passed, when the enemy has been driven beyond the boundaries laid down, and when the size of the Australian naval, land and air forces which go forward from this area are realized, it will then be early enough for the critics to complain about the extent of Australia’s co-operation. We may go through many trials in the Pacific before then, but the immediate aim and responsibility of the Government to the Australian people is to ensure the security of Australia as a base; to co-operate in driving the enemy from threatened points of attack; and to co-operate in offensive action from the jumping-off points as soon as the strength of the forces in the South-West Pacific Area permit.
If the rapidly increasing naval and air strength of the United Nations enables a heavy or even mortal blow to be struck at Japan before the conflict in Europe is finished, the situation in the Pacific will undergo a transformation. While we have no doubt that American sea and air power will continue to be employed with effective results, we are not entitled, at this stage, to count on such a happening.
I commend the bill to the House. It conforms to the requirements of Australia’s position in relation to the total war. It meets the obligation primarily resting on ourselves to defend ourselves with the maximum of our resources, and to make the greatest contribution to the allied effort in .the South-West Pacific Area. The bill is drafted in accordance with -the realities of our problems.
Debate (on motion by Mr. Fadden) adjourned.
Debate resumed (vide page 264).
– Before the Prime Minister (Mr. Curtin) moved the second reading of the Defence (Citizen Military -Forces) Bill which, as its provisions become’ more clearly understood, will humble this nation, the House was discussing the statement submitted to us last Wednesday. That statement is somewhat similar -to an earlier statement of last year in that matters of first moment are omitted. For example, in the statement of last year the Prime Minister failed to refer to the only really live issue then arising from the war, namely, the use of the’ Militia outside Australia. This subject was, however, raised .by the Leader of the Opposition (Mr. Fadden) and it became the main issue at that time. Ho pointed out to the Prime Minister that the .Government was disregarding the rights of this Parliament by seeking the permission of an outside body to introduce a vital war measure. The Opposition has, at all times., been .prepared to enable the Government to overcome all obstacles to the full prosecution of our war effort. It has always been prepared to lift all restrictions relating to the areas in which our forces can be asked to serve. Clearly, therefore, it . was the Prime Minister’s duty not to go behind the back of Parliament to some other body, but to meet Parliament and ask the Opposition to assist -him. The Prime Minister, however, has not taken that course. Within recent weeks various trade union executives have considered the matter with -a view to advising the Government. The Prime Minister, .posing as a leader of this country at war, by-passed this Parliament and went cap in hand to an outside body with the request to let him introduce the Defence (Citizen Military Forces) Bill. After all the unnecessary delay thus incurred, we anticipated that when Parliament reassembled last week we should be asked to .proceed with important measures. We expected to deal immediately with the Defence (Citizen Military Forces.) Bill. We also believed that by the end of last week -a measure relating :to the finances -of the country would have been brought down. Consequently, we were somewhat astonished to have placed before us a statement which, apart from reviewing the war situation, which we are told is serious, .was founded on a motion that to a .large degree was quite unnecessary. Indeed, the third paragraph of the motion, which speaks of Australia making a full war effort, using all our available manpower, is so much hypocrisy and humbug. However, this debate gives an opportunity to honorable members to bring forward matters of moment to the country. I propose, therefore, to deal with a project which is causing a good deal of concern in Victoria, where it is openly criticized, and is described as a scandal involving political corruption. I refer to the construction of a distillery at Warracknabeal for the .production of power alcohol from wheat. The construction. of the distillery at that particular place against -all the advice of experts has excited the .curiosity of the people of Victoria and many honorable members who have on several occasions asked that the file -relating to the project be laid on the table .of the House. That .request has ;not yet been granted. We know that although our present stocks of -petrol are .reasonably good, the tanker problem is ewer present, and that the withdrawal of any tanker from the Australian run would ,-ha-ye a serious effect. We know that the problem as to whether we shall be able to maintain on ,the Australian run the present number of tankers is causing .grave anxiety to the Government. Consequently, .the necessity to produce liquid fuel in this country is very great. For that reason, in conjunction with the utilization of our enormous surplus of wheat, the proposal to erect distilleries in different parts .of Australia was brought before this House. I agreed with the statement made at that time, that the erection of distilleries must be undertaken as part of our war effort, although it could not perhaps be regarded as economically sound. Every honorable gentleman realizes our necessity to produce liquid fuel, and, at the sama time, to. find means, of utilizing our enormous surplus of wheat. The Government of the day examined possible sites for the establishment of these distilleries. In Victoria the State Government appointed a committee to investigate the claims of different localities as sites for a distillery for the production of power alcohol from wheat. That committee was not representative of political parties in any way whatever. It consisted of experts chosen by the State- Government. After surveying Victoria and giving full consideration to the various factors involved, such as the availability of supplies of wheat, transport, fuel and cost of production, &c., it selected Dimboola as the best site. It also recommended other centres, but without placing them in any order of preference, namely, Swan Hill, Bendigo, Ballarat, Shepparton and Yarrawonga. It made no mention whatever of Warracknabeal. For some unexplained reason the present Government was not too happy about that committee’s first choice, Dimboola. That committee said nothing in its report about a site in the federal electorate of Wimmera. The present Government decided that it would have another investigation into the matter, and it appointed Mr. Harman, of the Colonial Sugar Refining Company Limited, Mr. Jewell, of the Victorian State Agricultural Department, and Mr. Smith, of the Department of Supply and Shipping to conduct the investigation. As is well known in Victoria, a State motor car was placed at the disposal of this committee, which toured the State in order to decide what locality in its opinion was best suited for a distillery for the production of power alcohol from wheat. having regard to the same factors that were considered by the Victorian State committee, namely, availability of supplies of wheat, transport, fuel and the general cost of production. The second committees selected Bendigo as the best site for the distillery, and among the other centres it mentioned, Warracknabeal was well down on the list. Further, I understand - and I invite the Government to deny my statement - that the second committee was actually asked by the Government, to visit Warracknabeal. In view of that fact alone, I should be justified in asking that a select committee be ap pointed’ to inquire into the matter. Despite the recommendations of both committees, Warracknabeal was selected as, the site of the. distillery, and- the reports, of the committees were pigeonholed.
– Why was Warracknabeal selected?
– That is the question which I want the Government, to answer. It is believed in Victoria that party political- considerations played a hig part in the selection of Warracknabeal. We. know that that, town is situated in. the federal electorate of Wimmera and that the. Government’s, tenure of office, in this Parliament largely depends on the vote of the. honorable member for Wimmera (Mr. Wilson). My statement, if not exact, is substantially correct- and I challenge the Government to. produce the file- to controvert it. The cost per gallon of producing power alcohol at Warracknabeal will be considerably greater than at Bendigo or Dimboola. An additional burden, of £25,000 or £30,000 a year will be imposed on the taxpayers: for the privilege of having this distillery at Warracknabeal in the federal electorate of Wimmera. I understand also that the additional cost of erecting the distillery in that town will be between £35,000 and £40,000. Finally, there would be greater delay in the erection of the plant at Warracknabeal than at the recommended centres. These statements,, as I have said, have been made not in an irresponsible spirit but with a full knowledge of the facts. I challenge the Government to lay on the table of the House the file relating to the erection of this distillery. So widespread is the charge of political corruption in Victoria that I consider a select committee should be appointed immediately to investigate the reports on the selection of the site and to ascertain why, in the name of clean politics, Warracknabeal was selected instead of one. of the other centres. I urge the Government to accede to my request, because the interests not only of Cabinet but also of this national legislature demand that charges which are being freely made in Victoria shall be found to. be cither incorrect or correct.
Some honorable members have expressed the grave fear, not that wo are doing too much in this war, but that manpower is being wasted in various directions instead of being profitably employed elsewhere. Shortly after the outbreak of hostilities, the then Prime Minister (Mr. Menzies) launched a grand production drive. At the time the British Empire stood alone in the world against the power of the Axis. It was obvious in those days that Australia would have to marshal all its resources in order to drive the machines of war production to the limit of their capacity. Since the present Government took office, production has further expanded even if only in certain limited directions. In view of our limited population, many people wondered how we could maintain the strength of our fighting forces, man idle factories and preserve the economic life of the community. With the entry of the United States of America into the war, the whole position altered overnight. Australia had for an ally the most industrialized country in the world. I expected that the production executives of Australia would immediately confer with the production executives of Great Britain and the United States of America for the purpose of ascertaining where our energies could be devoted to the best advantage in the manufacture of particular equipment for which our plants were best suited and which would not impose a severe strain upon our man-power. Unfortunately, that expectation was not realized. One honorable member urged the abandonment of the construction of tanks in Australia because certain vital parts had to be imported from the United States of America and a great deal of manpower was being wasted in the production of only a small number of these machines. I do not know whether or not that contention was justified ; I have no data that would enable me to reach a proper conclusion. But I believe that the whole question of Australian production must be overhauled for the purpose of meeting present-day demands. The British Empire is no longer alone in this war. It has the powerful support of Russia and the United States of America. If we are wasting man-power by diverting considerable numbers of men to the manufacture of small quantities of war equipment which could be obtained from the huge factories of the United States of America, we should review our production plans and direct our efforts into thom channels that offer better prospects of success.
In the lower part of my electorate lives a large alien element, composed mainly of Italians. By devious means, they escaped the attentions of the manpower authorities, and this immunity, together with their increasing prosperity, has caused considerable resentment. They have expanded their properties, and the rising prices for their commodities have enabled them to reap a rich reward. One typical case I brought to the notice of the Minister for the Army (Mr. Forde). The father was an Italian. He had three sons of military age. Australian lads in the district had enlisted, or been called up for military service, but the Italians continued to work on their farms, and prospered. The farms of the Australian settlers, because of the shortage of labour, carried on only under intense difficulties. I wrote to the Minister for the Army about the position and my letter was referred to the Deputy Director of Man Power, Melbourne. His reply reads -
As you are aware, it is the policy of the Government at the present time, to conserve to rural production, all remaining labour, and in implementing this policy, this directorate has deferred the call-up for military or allied works service of all men engaged full-time in primary production. The men concerned are so engaged, and consequently their call-up has been deferred in the same manner as if they were natural-born Australians.
It is realized that especially in districts such as Sylvan, where there has been some congregation of foreign-born farmers, the fact that such men are not called up must give rise to adverse comment, but at the same time it should be appreciated that the task of this directorate is to give effect to the Government’s policy with regard to the use of all available man-power in the best interests of the national effort, and when, as in this
Cil se, it is considered that those concerned are of more value to that effort as primary producers than they would he in another field of national service, there is no alternative but to allow them to continue in their present occupation.
In conclusion, I would add that Mr. Hutchinson may he assured that under present conditions, no Australian youth who is engaged in a similar manner to these Italian-born youths will be called up for service, but the fact that the latter may be in a better position so far as labour is concerned than some Australian farmers is not, and cannot be considered by this directorate in determining whether or not they shall be called up.
It, was, in effect, a matter of Government policy. When the man-power authorities ceased to draw labour from the primary producing industries, thousands of Australian lads from the land were serving in the fighting forces and the aliens, who had not volunteered for military service, and who had escaped the compulsory call-up by some devious means, were granted protection to continue their agricultural pursuits. They are waxing fat on this nation’s hardships. The position must be rectified. In this instance, three young single Italians are working a 25-acre block. No Australian-owned holding in the district enjoys such an excess of man-power. If the position be permitted to continue, it will give rise to serious trouble. Australian farmers, with the assistance of their wives, are expending great efforts in an endeavour to maintain production, and they express righteous indignation when they see aliens, many of whom are openly antagonistic to the British way of life, protected from military service. The rate at which they are amassing money at the present time will give them a big advantage in the post-war era of reconstruction to acquire the properties of Australians whose sons fought in this war. If an alien family has three sons, I consider that two of them should serve this country, if not in the Army, then with the Allied Works Council.
The extravagance of the Government on most of the big jobs undertaken by the Allied Works Council and in other directions is a scandal. Speaking in this chamber some time ago, the honorable member for Corangamite (Mr. McDonald) referred to the earnings of the crew of the dredge Matthew Flinders. On a voyage from Melbourne to Fremantle, which lasted a fortnight, the second cook received wages amounting to £65. The master received £186. In addition, award wages and expenses were paid on the journey back to Melbourne.
– When did that occur?
– The facts are reported in Hansard. The waste which occurs on aerodromes which I. could mention is causing serious discontent amongst the public in these centres. I know of farmers who left their farms, took their tractors with them, and began to work, but they did not continue for very long. They were soon stopped, being told : “ We do not do that here “. One of them said, “ All you have to do is to keep your tractor engine running, and you will get your £45 a fortnight.” Another man, who was on the Corowa site for six months, said that in that time there had been only one month’s real work done. Contrasting with this extravagant pouring out of money without sufficient work being done for it, is the story told by the Leader of the Opposition (Mr. Fadden) of approximately £204,000,000 worth of treasurybills being raised to help to meet our war expenditure - in other words, by IOU’s on the Commonwealth, another form of inflated currency. To-day we heard the honorable member for Melbourne (Mr. Calwell) tell the story of prices going up. Is it any wonder, when there is extravagance and insufficient work done for the money received, and almost unlimited inflation, that the honorable member for Melbourne, who represents a constituency containing many poor people, talks about prices rising? All this is the result of Labour’s way of doing things. It will not attempt to curtail or regulate the spending power of the community, and direct it into channels which will help the war effort. It will rather try to pay for the war by using another method of finance, which appears different, but has the same result. The value of the deferred pay of the soldiers is going down day by day, whilst this form of government financing continues. We all regarded this debate as mere propaganda, and would much sooner have seen the time used for other and better purposes, but if we seize the opportunity to talk about some of these things, then we are doing something which is really in the best interests of the nation.
.- 1 desire to make some comments on the motion moved by the Prime Minister (Mr. Curtin). It is wise to remind the
House of its terms, as we may have forgotten precisely what they are. It is as follows : -
That this House, at its first 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 ite 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 reinstatement and advancement and for the dependants of those who have died or been disabledas a consequence of thewar; and (3). 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.
I thoroughly agree with the motion. It is most opportune and proper that the House should affirm in those terms its determination to do those things which are embodied in it.
The motion is most appropriate, and I deplore the scene which took place in this chamber when the Prime Minister submitted it. If the people of Australia could only have seen for themselves what occurred on that occasion, they would be able to judge for themselves what is meant by this game of party politics. It is a matter for regret that in the operation of our democracy, which means so much to us, the game of party politics has to go on as it does. Even in North Africa we have seen it in operation, and the resultant disunity which has occurred. I am glad to say that we have not reached the stage of shooting our opnonents, as happened there, and I hope that we never shall.
-. - Does the honorable member think that we ought to dispense altogether with party government, and have a national government?
– I have never offered any opposition to such a procedure. If it can be shown that it will bring about national unity, by all means let us have it, but when we see incidents such as occurred here, when the Prime Minister moved this motion, we can only come to the conclusion that there is no compatibility between the points of view of the parties in this chamber. A great campaign is being conducted to-day throughout the length andbreadth of Australia by the forces which are opposed to the Government, and which fear that the regimentation that is taking place to ensure a maximum war effort will in some degree be retained or maintained when the conflict is over, and that, to whatever degree it is maintained, it may interfere adversely with the operations of private profit-making in whieh those engaged in the campaign are interested. I am not going into that matter, beyond saying that the evidence is abundant on every hand that such a campaign is taking place. I cannot see how, with such a campaign in operation, there can be unity of effort in this war to the degree that there should be. I regret it. If any way could be shown by which it might be obviated, the House should fall into line at once. The press is playing an important part in the campaign to which I have referred. We have what we call a free press as part of our democracy. We have conferred great privileges of freedom upon the press. We have allowed it to criticize from all angles, but I must say that that freedom has in many cases been changed to what one might describe as licence to abuse and to misrepresent. Where that occurs, and it is occurring daily, it involves a great menace to our democracy and to our freedom. I exemplify that in this way by saying that there is no greater discrediter of our democratic institution of. Parliament than the press. It takes a special delight in holding it up to ridicule by criticizing it, and by casting doubt upon the integrity of members of the Government and of the Parliament. Whilst we have that sort of thing going on, and whilst we find that the press is merely casting doubts, but not backing up ite assertions or suggestions by bringing forward any concrete facts to prove them, it is doing serious damage to our freeinstitutions. I believe that it is the solemn duty of this nation, and of this Government, to take some positive steps. iii the interests of those ideals for which we .are fighting and for -which we ace sacrificing so much to-da.y. to put a stop to such a practice. I do not suggest anything of a negative nature. I would suggest something positive whereby, if there be misrepresentation of the activities of any responsible public -man, it shall be obligatory upon the newspaper concerned to publish in like manner a full explana. tion by the person who has been so misrepresented. I feel that that must be done. If the position is allowed to drift much longer, .our democratic system of government will be in great danger.
I wish to refer briefly to statements that have appeared in the American press, .and have been reprinted here, which have a tendency to damage the -splendid relationships- that exist between ourselves, and our great ally, the United States of America. I allude to statements to the effect that perhaps we are not doing as much as we ought in connexion with the war effort, and that we should impose upon ourselves a total form of conscription such as obtains in America. I deplore that sort of press propaganda. Wherever it originates it is most regrettable, and I believe that in this instance also the f reedom of the press is being used in a way that is damaging to the cause that we are fighting for. Some action might well be taken to prevent that sort of propaganda being disseminated. There is before the House a bill on which we shall be able to say something further in that respect.
The honorable member for Deakin (Mr. Hutchinson) made very pointed references to the establishment of a distillery for the production of power alcohol from wheat. He traced in his own way certain actions and procedure which led up to the selection of a site in Victoria. I say to the honorable member, to the House and to all who may be concerned in the honorable member’s extraordinarily wild and unwarranted assertions^ that there is no foundation in fact for them. The first statement that I wish to nail is that the production of power alcohol at that particular centre will cost more than at certain other places. That is wrong. It was proved-
– Who proved it?
– I am making -a statement that is just as good as the honor., awe member’s
– Was it pr.ov.ed by a select committee?
-I am sure that -the Government would -welcome, as I would, the fullest inquiry into this question. It would prove conclusively that -the -situation of this .particular power alcohol plant is ideal, centred as it is in the very heart of the finest wheat-growing district of Australia, where there is an -unlimited and continuous ‘ supply pf wheat, and where without question it can be delivered straight into the distillery -from the farmers’ wagons at a saving pf 2d. a bushel as com-par-ed with .the proposed site recommended by the committee to which the honorable member referred. That is the answer t.o misrepresentation No. 1. Instead of making a loss of £30,000 I should say that in the course of years probably hundreds of thousands of pounds -will be saved.
– Who ascertained all these facts ?
-r-The facts ave those which a special .committee was appointed to investigate. It was told to make inquiries as to whether a suitable site could be found for a distillery in Victoria. It duly submitted a report, which contained, if I remember aright, -the names [of something like fifteen sites in Victoria.
– Was Warracknabeal amongst them:?
-r-Yes, Warracknabeal was amongst them. That was during the life of the previous Government. When the present Administration assumed office it was decided to make some further inquiries, and a small committee was appointed -for that purpose. As the honorable member for Deakin has correctly stated, that committee included a representative of the Colonial Sugar Refining Company Limited, a representative of the Victorian Department of Agriculture, and a representative of the Department of Supply and Shipping. It examined the fifteen sites and narrowed the choice to a much smaller number. I say quite frankly that, according to the information at my disposal, the committee did no,t recommend the present site.
– Who recommended it ?
– Ultimately additional evidence was obtained by the committee.
– From whom was the evidence obtained?
– If honorable members opposite get the select committee for which they ask, they may be able to find that out.
– Will the honorable member support the appointment of a select committee?
– Yes. As a consequence of the additional evidence which the committee obtained the virtues of the present site became perfectly obvious, and I take it that the ‘Government in its wisdom decided upon that location. That is the whole story.
– On whose advice was Warracknabeal selected ?
– I do not know, but the fact remains that it was chosen. Any investigation that may be made will vindicate fully the Government’s decision, and honorable members opposite will find that they have been barking up the wrong tree. Certain honorable members opposite have endeavoured to show that there was an ulterior motive in the Government’s action, and some suggestion of corruption. There are many precedents for-
– Suggestions of corruption ?
– No, for a government not accepting the recommendation of a committee. I leave the suggestions of corruption to the honorable member for Barker (Mr. Archie Cameron), who may be an expert on such matters. If there were no other reason for selecting the present site for the power alcohol distillery, the factor of decentralization would be, and should be, the major consideration. If Australian industries are to be decentralized we must be prepared to pay the price, but in this case no additional cost whatever was involved.
Returning for a moment to the subject of political corruption, I point out that such a statement is a very glib one. For instance, at the last general elections, the right honorable member for Kooyong (Mr. Menzies) promised the people of Ballarat a munitions factory, and they got it. One might suggest that that action savoured of political corruption, and pur suing the matter further, one could suggest that every government decision to establish a new project was based on ulterior motives; but I refuse to believe such insinuations.
Having disposed of that matter to my satisfaction, at least, and, I am sure, to the satisfaction of the majority of honorable members, there are one or two other important questions to which I would like to refer. First, I shall deal with the serious position that has arisen in regard to the supply of labour to primary industries, and the danger of losing at least a portion of the very valuable food crops which have yet to be harvested. I have in mind, particularly dried vine fruits which to-day have a high priority on the food list, and are urgently required for our troops, for export to our Allies, and for home consumption. The value of these fruits to our Allies is great, yet we find that despite the organization of voluntary labour, it has been impossible to secure sufficient workers to gather the crop. Indeed, the shortage totals thousands of hands. Boys and girls attending schools have been recruited, and the full powers of the Department of Labour and National Service have been exploited in an endeavour to secure labour from other primary industries such as wheat-growing, which at the moment may not be fully engaged in seasonal work. In Victoria and in other States men and women are being virtually conscripted and sent to the districts, where the work of harvesting this crop is now in progress or is about to begin; but there is still a great shortage of labour, and I would impress upon the Government the need to survey very carefully its plans for the calling-up of men for the armed forces, in order to ensure that we shall not lose valuable and urgently required crops. This is a serious matter, and I suggest that all honorable members should acquaint themselves of the true position. If they do so they will realize that we are facing a great danger, and may lose very heavily in these foodstuffs.
In conclusion I advise the Government to take notice of the attempt that is being made to discredit the good work that it is doing. The achievements of this Administration compare more than favorably with those of any government that preceded it. I should like to review briefly some of the things that have been done by this Government, and I make no apology for doing so. I am vitally interested in these matters because, although I am not a member of the party which is now in occupation of the treasury bench, I am giving that party my qualified support. I consider that the job of governing this country is being done much better by this Administration than it was by the previous Government. There can be no doubt about that, and if the people of Australia were told the truth, they would know exactly how to deal with the propaganda against the Government which is being spread throughout the country. As an example of the accomplishments of the Labour Administration, let us take what has been done for the soldiers: Increases of pay and allowances to members of our fighting services and their dependants amount to more than £18,000,000 a year. Consider also what has been done for the dairying industry, the position of which has been very much misrepresented by certain interested bodies. Before the advent of the present Government the price of butter-fat remained pegged at the 1939 level. Since this Government came into office increases have been granted, and- a gesture to the industry has been made by the granting of a subsidy of £2,000,000, which at .least is an indication of the Government’3 interest. Honorable members should be fair in regard to these matters. I wish to be absolutely fair. I understand that the report which was tabled in this House to-day and which I have not yet had an opportunity to examine, contains certain recommendations which, if given effect to, would greatly improve conditions in the dairying industry. I am sure that the Government will have the co-operation of all Country party members at least in implementing these recommendations. Also, there has been an improvement in the wool position which has brought a total increase of £9,000,000 to the woolgrowers of this country. That was brought about through the good offices of the Attorney-General (Dr. Evatt) when he was in London.
– The right honorable member for Cowper (Sir Earle Page) did that.
– That is a deliberate misstatement.
– In answer to the interjection by the honorable member for Hume (Mr. Collins), I need only point out that some Country party members were opposed to asking for an increase. I could go on and refer to the increases of invalid and old-age, and widows’ pensions, and many other similar improvements that have been effected by this Government, but I do not propose to go through the list. The facts speak for themselves. The Government has tackled its job in a capable manner and should it continue in office, I have no doubt that it will be given- full marks for its efforts.
.- I congratulate the Government upon the introduction of the motion which is now under discussion. It is evidence of the Government’s sincerity in its endeavours to achieve a full war effort in this country. Considering that for many years honorable members opposite held the reins of government and did nothing, some of the speeches that they have made on this occasion are rather remarkable. Although they themselves achieved nothing of any great significance while in occupation of the treasury bench they are full of criticism of the alleged shortcomings of this Administration. When this Government assumed office Australia’s defences were in a shocking state. We were open to invasion from every quarter, and I say without qualification that had the previous Administration not been displaced when it was, Australia would not be in our hands to-day. We still hold this country although admittedly there are black clouds on the horizon, but we are in an infinitely better position to defend ourselves than we have ever been due mainly to the foresight of the present Government.
There is only one matter upon which I am not in agreement with the Government, and that is the financing of the war. Honorable members opposite have, as usual, raised, the bogy of inflation. The Leader of the Opposition (Mr. Fadden) devoted almost his entire speech to this topic, and one would have gathered that he was debating a peace-time budget rather than one providing- almost entirely for war services. After all, what are we fighting for ? We are fighting for freedom.
The -men who are fighting this war, and a’lso their sons and daughters, would be shackled all their lives if the financial policy of the Opposition were accepted. My only complaint against the Curtin Government is that it is not using national cred it to the limit of safety. We all know something of the suffering that was caused by deflation during the depression, but very little is being said about that ‘in these days by the honorable gentlemen opposite. The honorable member for Robertson (Mr. Spooner), who is regarded, in some quarters; as an authority on finance, tells us that the people have a greater purchasing power -now than ever before, but as goods are not obtainable they should be obliged to invest their money in compulsory loans. In my opinion people should be allowed to purchase the goods that are available, but at rigidly fixed prices. People who profiteer should be punished with the utmost rigor. Price control and rationing, if applied effectively, would prevent inflation. I agree with the honorable member for Melbourne (Mr. Calwell) about the position of many working-class people. During the depression these people had no money to spend so they could not spend it; to-day they have money to spend, but the price of goods is so high that they are -una Die to purchase all their requirements. Probably in the next financial year we will have to provide for an expenditure of £500,000,000 or £600,000,000. A few years ago, when our estimated expenditure was between £50,000,000 and £60;000,000 per annum, we were told that money could not be found for necessary public works. In I hose days people were denied employment and, in consequence, they suffered severely. Let me ask honorable gentlemen opposite how people are to provide for their old age if, on the one hand, when money is plentiful, they are not able to save because the money is taken away by taxation which, is wrong; and if, on the other hand, when it is scarce, they cannot obtain it? Obviously in either case the working people will never be able to make any headway, nor will they be able adequately to provide for their families. In such circumstances parents can never hope to give their children the education that is desirable.
Some honorable gentlemen opposite seem to think *hat it would be a terrible thing if a working man were allowed to save and keep £1,000 in his banking account. They consider that the Government should take such savings by -taxation. I -think that people should be able to save their money so (that -after the war they Vi-l-l be in a posi tion to make a new start in life. Unless people have some such reserves they cannot be expected to meet housing costs and living expenses. I do not agree with the view that the ^Government should compel people to make all their money available for war purposes. I consider that war needs could be met by making heavier drafts on national credit.
A good deal has been said about price control and profiteering. If T had my way I would make the penalties for profiteering much heavier than they are. If prices are fixed by the prescribed authority and the sellers of goods charged a price in excess of the fixed price, I would send them to gaol for ten years without the option of a fine. That would quickly stop profiteering. We all have heard, I suppose, of a leading hotelkeeper in Sydney who, not long ago, was found guilty of adding 15 per cent, of water to the beer he was selling. He was let off with a fine of £50. Does any honorable gentleman think that that was an adequate fine for such an offence.? I consider that that man should have been delicensed and sent to gaol for ten years. The Myer Emporium Limited of Melbourne was guilty of profiteering in a gross way. ‘The company illegitimately took £250,000 from the people. Why was it treated with such leniency? The money was taken from the poor people in the community and the firm “ got away with it “ ! These things are happening while our soldiers are fighting on practically every battlefield in the world.
Many of our men had to fight, in the early days of the war, without properequipment. Why were they so illequipped? It was because the previous; anti-Labour Government refused to provide money for defence purposes. Forthat reason many of our men did not havea chance, even when they got into thebattle line. For several years before thewai large numbers of our population wereunderfed, ill-clad and badly housed be- cause the anti-Labour Government of the day would not provide money for’ their needs. I congratulate this Government upon its decision to introduce legislation, even during the greatest war in history,, which will provide for greatly improved social services which will make the conditions of the poor people better than they have ever been..
Let me return for the moment to the subject of inflation. We have, in this country, a great national bank, the Commonwealth Bank of Australia, which was established for the benefit of the people. Its power should be used to the fullest possible degree. If the Government needs, to draw upon national credit to an amount of even £2,000,000,000, it should do so. Where is the sense in our borrowing money from private sources when credits, canbe made available from Commonwealth Bank thus piling up a huge national debt which will cripple posterity? If we obtain the money from the Commonwealth Bank on the security of the national resourcesof the country no one would lose anything . I consider that debts may be automatically cancelled just as they may be automatically incurred. Such a policy, of course, would not suit the financial institutions which: honorable gentlemen opposite represent. We all will remember that a few months after the war started a former Prime Minister (Mr. Menzies) said, “ We must mortgage the future “. We have already mortgaged it. Honorable gentlemen opposite are very ready to talk about a proposed new order and an intended new deal. How do they anticipate giving effect to their ideas? They have been strangely silent on that important point. I consider that the workers will get. a new deal only when the Government is prepared to draw on our national credit resources as fully as the needs of the case require.
I wish now to say a few words in the interests’ of the primary producers, who, I think we all will agree, are standing stoutly behind our war effort. An honorable gentleman opposite who was an Assistant Minister in the previous Government, had a good deal to say not long ago about the prices of dairy products, wheat and other rural crops. What did he do whilehe was a member of the pre vious Ministry in order to ensure that the primary producers would get a fair price for their products? He did absolutely nothing. In consequence of the inaction of anti-Labour governments during a period of about twenty years many of our primary producers were brought to the verge of bankruptcy. When this, Government assumed office primary production was in a serious state of disorganization. During the regime of the previous Government pigs were sold for1d. each, or 1s. a dozen, like bananas in a glutted market. Porkers were sold at one period for 2d. per lb. Honorable gentlemen opposite did nothing whatever during the long period their parties were in power in order to improve the lot. of the primary producers. When this Government assumed office the wheat scheme, known throughout my district as the Nock-Page scheme, was immediately scrapped. I congratulate the present Minister for Commerce and Agriculture (Mr. Scully) on his proposal to pay each grower 4s. a bushel for his wheat, up to 3.000 bushels. Honorable gentlemen opposite have asked why this Government does not guarantee 5s. or 6s. a bushel for wheat. The fact is, of course, that although the previous Government told the farmers they would receive. 3s. 4d. a. bushel for their wheat under the 3s. l0d. f..o.b. scheme, the farmers have received only 2s. 4d., as the guarantee was 3s. 10d. less all costs, and I do not expect that they will get much more. That is the best that honorable gentlemen opposite could do after twenty years of office, notwithstanding that the Royal Commission on the Wheat Industry, of which Sir Herbert. Gepp was chairman, reported that the cost of producing wheat was about 3s. 6d. a bushel. I do not believe that the farmers would ever have got very much, help from an anti-Labour Government. For that reason I congratulate the independent members of this House who made it possible for the present Government to assume office..
I congratulate the Minister for Commerce and Agriculture upon the action he has taken recently to assist the pig industry. Nothing so beneficial has been done for this industry since I was a child. I well remember the long years, during which the farmers had to drive their stock to the markets and take any price that was offered to them. In my opinion the only hope that the primary producers have of getting a fair deal is for a sympathetic Government, such as that at present in office, to guarantee them a price for their products based on the cost of production, plus something for their own labour. The money to finance such schemes may be obtained from the Commonwealth Bank. I sincerely trust that before this period of the session ends legislation will be passed to provide for the establishment of a mortgage branch of the Commonwealth Bank. There should be no difficulty in making the necessary financial arrangements.
I conclude by complimenting the Government upon its administration, and expressing the hope that when the dark clouds of war have been dispelled and peace has been restored, it will still be in office to carry on its beneficent work. In my opinion the only hope for the peopleis the monetization of the nation’s wealth, and the tilling of the land for production. Recently, with other members of the Joint Committee on Rural Industries I visited the property of a retired sugargrower in Queensland. I believe that we were all amazed to discover how much use could be made of 3 acres of land. The owner of the property was able to produce tropical fruits and vegetables of all descriptions. In fact he was able to engage in almost all agricultural activities, though, of course, he had no room for sheep and cattle. We had brought home to us what could he done with land under a national scheme of irrigation. The resources of Australia are so great, and the soil responds so well to irrigation, that under a system of organized production the people of this country could be provided with the necessaries of life at prices which all could afford to pay, but that could be done only by the proper utilization of the national credit. In Queensland there is a bountiful production of cotton, sugar, tobacco, pineapples, bananas, and other products, but it would be of no use to settle returned soldiers on uncleared land in that State or any other State, as before they would be able to obtain a living from such land it would have to be cleared and a home, with such ameni ties as electric light, erected upon it. Every returned soldier should also be provided with a £1,000 bond, so that he would never have need to fear want or loss of his home. I compliment the Government upon what it has already done, and what it intends to do, for the people of this country.
– I have risen to participate in this debate because of some of the accusations levelled against the present Government by members of the Opposition, who have at last roused themselves into fighting form. They now probably think that the immediate danger to Australia has passed, and they are showing the instincts of a mongrel dog, which puts its tail down when a fight is in progress, and puts it up again when the fight is over, thinking that it has won the fight. When I was elected to this Parliament the Labour party was in opposition, and I soon realized that the parties supporting the government of the day were divided into many groups and had many leaders. This country was in grave danger even at that time. When the war began, the Prime Minister (Mr. Curtin), as Leader of the Opposition, was helpful to the government of the day to the point of generosity, and the experience in industrial matters of the most able men on the Labour side was gladly placed at the disposal of that Government. The Labour Opposition did nothing to embarrass it in its war effort, but what a feeble effort it was! Members and their supporters were intriguing with one another for portfolios and leaving “ big business “ to carry on the war effort. Matters came to such a pass that the then Government was defeated, not by the Opposition, but by itself. I consider it necessary to remind the Opposition of the generous support which the Labour party gave to it on that occasion. Then the Labour party assumed control, and undertook the government of the Commonwealth without a majority in either branch of the legislature, a circumstance unique in the history of this country.
A change of government took place shortly before Japan entered the war. Prior to hostilities, the opponents of the Labour party declared that there was no clanger of war. Probably they were too blind to the facts to realize the gravity of the situation, but even three years previously the present Prime Minister had warned honorable members opposite that Australia must be defended, even if only by great bomber squadrons. The enemy was practically on our doorstep, but honorable members opposite ignored that fact, and, instead of preparing for the defence of Australia, adopted the policy of sending our troops overseas. The people accepted the defence policy of the Opposition in 1937, but it will be a tragedy if they do so again. The sending of our troops over seas merely encouraged the enemy to attack Australia. In glancing through a former speech by the present Prime Minister, I noticed that he had been even condemned for bringing Australian troops back from overseas in order to defend our own country! When Japan entered the war we had practically no means of defence, and it is providential that the enemy did not immediately attack us. Yet the previous Government was even prepared to accede to a request that Australian troops be sent to Burma. The Opposition has accused the Prime Minister of “ squealing “ to the United States of America.
We also hear criticism of the steps taken by the Minister for War Organization of Industry (Mr. Dedman), although his department had been established three months before the Labour party assumed power. Our troops in Malaya, Crete and Libya .all complained that had they been supplied with the necessary equipment and air support they would have been able to repel the enemy. The Labour Government has been forced to place men and women in munitions factories in order to provide our troops with the tommy guns and other equipment which they needed, and which should have been made available two years previously by an anti-Labour government. We hear no complaints to-day that our troops have not the equipment which they need. The present Government has found it necessary to impose great restrictions and hardship upon the people, and particularly upon the workers, in order to produce a maximum war effort; but members of the Opposition, instead of helping to impress upon the public the necessity for this action, are embarrassing the Government for party political reasons. The people should be reminded of these facts, because they are apt to forget them. In a great national crisis the people have to turn to the Labour party, but I warn them of the aftermath of war. They should take care that they are not fooled again, unless they are prepared to be saddled with the same old economic system as that under which they have struggled for many years. According to articles published in the press, people are beginning to imagine that the present wartime restrictions, and even the rationing of commodities, are unnecessary. I have no doubt that they would accept the situation cheerfully if they were convinced of the necessity for the restrictions. Yet we find the Opposition trying to inflame the minds of the people, even regarding the rationing of such unimportant commodities as icing sugar. I am convinced that Australia, with its population of 7,000,000, has made a war effort at least equal, in proportion to its population, to that of any of the Allied Nations.
The Minister for Munitions (Mr. Makin) has given an impressive account of Australia’s production of munitions. The present Government holds no brief for the large profit-making industrial establishments, whether controlled by companies or individuals. Although he is supposed to be a representative of the farmers, the honorable member for Richmond (Mr. Anthony) has criticized one of the best appointments that . has been made by the present Government. I refer to the appointment of Mr. Bulcock as Commonwealth Director of Agriculture. That appointment was strongly recommended by the Joint Committee on Rural Industries, of which I am a member. The chairman is the honorable member for Moreton (Mr. Francis), and the committee is composed of members representing all sides in politics. I am convinced that this will prove to be a most valuable investment for Australia. I am a farmer, and I was astounded to hear the honorable member for New England (Mr. Abbott) oppose the establishment of wool appraisement centres in country districts. 1 can only conclude that he is more concerned for the interests of the brokers - the men who are farming the farmers - than for the farmers themselves. He belongs to a party that was ready to tear the skies down a few years ago in order to bring about decentralization, yet he now condemns the first small sleD that has been taken in that direction. The only possible interests to -which the new policy of decentralization could be detrimental arc those of the brokers. If the honorable member had any vision he would say that not one bale of raw wool should be shipped out of Australia. It should be processed here, and then exported, thus enabling ils, in that way, to maintain a much larger population in Australia. The honorable .member, who allegedly represents country interests, also opposed water conservation schemes, which every one knows are absolutely vital to the proper development of Australia. I know that the representatives of the genuine farmei’3 are all in favour of the establishment of wool appraisement centres in country districts. Many honorable members opposite give lip service to tho principle of decentralization but, although they had plenty of opportunities to apply that policy, nothing was ever done. Now, when the present Government makes a move in that direction, they condemn it. This evil of overcentralization has existed for a long time. Even before the war, wool from Victorian country districts was railed to Melbourne, sometimes for a distance of 300 miles, at a cost of £3 a ton for freight, when it could have been shipped from ports only 50 miles away, to which the freight was not more than £1 a ton. I remember one man who took a great interest in seeking to promote the development of one of the outer Victorian ports. On one occasion, his aged mother asked him what he had been doing when he had spent a good deal of the day in the company of some visitors. He replied that he had been showing the gentlemen the facilities available at the jetty in an endeavour to persuade them to assist in the development of the port. His mother said to him, “Don’t worry, nothing will come of it. Your father used to do that years ago, but nothing was ever done1’. Unfortunately, some of the alleged champions of country interests are themselves opposed to measures which would be in the best interests of the country.
– The same men opposed the proposal for a revision of the wool agreement.
– That is so. I am a wool-grower, and I tried to obtain a revision of the agreement, but all my efforts were opposed by those who Maimed to be the representatives of the fanners. The present Government ‘is removing from the various boards of control the representatives of the middlemen, and putting representatives of tho producers in their places. That is all to the good. The previous Government urged the farmers to raise more pigs, but it gave no price guarantee, with the result that the farmers suffered severely from the resultant slump. The present opposition to the control of the industry ‘is coming, not from the farmers, hut from the dealers. At the present time, a whispering campaign is in progress charging the Government with wasteful expenditure in regard to these and other matters. The honorable member for Deakin (Mr. Hutchinson) repeated some of the charges in this House recently, but he was unable to substantiate any of them. This campaign is having the effect of alarming the public, and I have received letters from all over my electorate asking- me for an .explanation of this allegedly wasteful expenditure. I placed the charges before the “War Expenditure Committee for investigation, and it approached a man who had been responsible for circulating some of the stories to which I have referred, but he was unable to establish the truth of any of them. He admitted his charges were founded on hearsay. I believe that all charges of this kind should be investigated, and if the person responsible for publishing them is unable to substantiate them he should be put in gaol. The Labour party is now governing this country, and we should be receiving from the Opposition the same generous support which -we gave the previous Government when we were in opposition. Honorable members opposite should cease their attempts to excite public opinion for purely political reasons.
.- I rise particularly to reply to the honorable member for. Wentworth (Mr. Harrison), who> made, a violent attack upon, some of my constituents; who. are coal-miners. The honorable member should acquaint himself with, the- facts before he attackspeople whose’ loyalty has: been, proved in many ways, not the least of which has been their1 willingness to risk their’ lives inpast wars, as well as the present war.. I cannot allow his attacks on these- peopleto go- unchallenged. I admit that some of the stoppages which have occurred in; the coal-mining- industry could have been avoided by .the1 exercise of a little discretion and tact. I d© not excuse- the miners, for their action in every stoppage that ha® taken place, nor shall I attempt te excuse the coal-owners for the stoppages which their actions have amused. At such a time in. the- history of this country it behoves every person in the community to pull his full weight. If there- be faults we should try to set matters right rather than indulge in criticism of one another ; we should at least offer helpful suggestions with a view to deciding between those who cry out for justice and those who look only for profits out of the war. I shall not attempt to defend every stoppage that has taken place in the coalmining industry. My mind is broad enough to realize that there are two sides to every question. From a long experience of the coal-mining industry I have learned that the great trouble is that, although means have been provided for the settling of disputes, stoppages will continue to occur unless, in addition to the pegging of wages, conditions in the industry also are pegged. I think that it will be conceded that I have gone out of my way to maintain peace in the coal-mining industry. I have travelled through various parts of Hew South Wales in .an attempt to settle disputes, and I can claim to have been fairly successful. But I cannot settle a dispute, nor can Mr. Justice DrakeBrockman or the chairman of any local reference board settle a dispute, if the coal-owners make deductions from, a coal.miner’s pay, leaving him with no redress except to call the attention, of his mates to the departure f rom a custom which has prevailed for 25 to 30 years. They are told to appeal to the reference board to have such, deductions confirmed- Why should not the coal-owners be com pelled- to go to the reference board before they change, the- conditions- of any man’s employment?! Such a change may be equivalent to a reduction, of wages.. Much of the criticism levelled, at, coal-miners is unjustified because many of the stoppages for which they are blamed- are due, not. to- any action or inaction om their part, but to breakdowns of the machinery. The newspapers which give prominence to, the stoppages never attribute them to a, breakdown1 of machinery or to a lack of transport facilities-; they endeavour to create the- impression, that the miners are- not playing the- game, and have gone on strike; Even some of the strikes, which, lead to stoppages may be due ta unjustified changes of conditions imposed by the owners. I have presided at a number of conferences,, and I have found that it. is frequently admitted that changes have been made m respect of such matters-, as yardage rates. In- some instances! the Water Board has leased coal bearing land under an agreement in which it has. specified drives of certain widths, because of the danger of subsidences; if the drives were -wider. Owners have not kept to the agreement,, and rather- than admit to- the Water Board that -they had committed a breach of an agreement associated with, their leases they have paid men for driving S. yards when the; maximum drive allowed under the agreement was- 6 yards. Should a subsidence occur., the Water Board would be justified- in claiming compensation for any of its plant that may be- destroyed… I have been supplied by the secretary of the- Australian Federated. -Coal and Shale Employees. Association,. Mr. Grant,, withfigures which show incontestably that,, despite all the problems that have beset the coal-mining industry, there, has been a. substantial- increase of coal produced since 1927. In 1927, 24,494 employeesworked above and below ground in. the industry. That figure embraces- every one in .the industry - men, boys and managerial staffs. In that year 11,126>114 tons of coal were mined, or an average of 439 tons, a year for each employee. Only about 50 per cent, of that number would have been working at’ the face hewing coal. Therefore tha average production of coal by an employee engaged, on the actual operation! of mining would be about double that figure. In 1935, .the number of employees of all description was reduced to 12,880, about half of those employed in 1927, and they produced 8,698,579 tons, an average of 652 tons each. In 1941, 17,351 employees produced 11,765,698 tons. That is an increase of about 50,000 tons over the. production in 1927, and it gives an average of 678.5 tons per annum produced by every one employed in the industry. All records of coal production were broken itv 1942. The number of persons employed in the industry was 17,067, a reduction of about 300 from 1941 owing to enlistments and retirements from the industry. Those employees bad a total output of 12,227,SS0 tons, or an average of 715 tons each. When we get down to facts we see that these men are working. They do work; they work harder than any men employed in any other industry and their conditions could not be described as reasonable or even normal, because sanitation is lacking, the air is foul, and safety provisions are absent in many instances. The air is filled with dust and gases, and the men in the industry know that they will not live to a great age owing to the infections to which they become quickly susceptible. They are a very charitable community. They live to themselves, and make all their own provision for social benefits. They are men of the finest type. Unfortunately, however, they seem to have lost control over the youths engaged in the industry. There have been some stoppages which I could not possibly justify. The youths responsible for them ought to have done to them what was done to me and any mates when I was an irresponsible youth engaged in the coal-mining industry and ready, without justification or excuse, to stop work. When we did, out places were taken by the seniors, and the mines went on working. The senior men to-day have a wrong conception of loyalty to the boys, and they think it would be wrong for them to replace them when they stop work. My father did not think it wrong to take my place when I laid down tools. I, with others, was in prison for seven1 days for having stopped a mine. I had to go cap in hand, not to the boss, but to the union executive in order to get back to the mine.
I say to the miners to-day, with all respect, because I depend on them for political support, that I could not justify all the stoppages. Rut I would not remain silent when I heard the honorable member for Wentworth blame the miners for all the stoppages. They are not to blame for them all. They must take their share of the blame, but not all. If the honorable member were courageous enough to accompany me to the coal-fields, I should see that he got a good hearing, and he would learn that what I have said is true. It is entirely wrong for members of the Opposition to attack the coal-miners without having the slightest acquaintance with the industry. If the honorable member for Wentworth visited the mines he would find that the miners are true democrats and men ringing with sincerity. Unfortunately, however, owing to a false sense of loyalty, they have let discipline over the youths get out of their control. They must retake that control and discipline those who are responsible for unnecessary stoppages. The Government, too, ought to come down upon the owners when they endeavour, as they have endeavoured from time to time, to change conditions. I pay tribute to the right honorable member for Kooyong (Mr. Menzies) who at least had the courage to go to the coalfields, observe the conditions, and come back to this Parliament without indulging in the carping criticism indulged in by the honorable member for Wentworth.
Let us be fair. The tribunals say, “ Before you strike, you must use the industrial machinery that has been established to settle pending trouble “. That may be all right, but how would honorable members like it if the Clerk of the House, Mr. Green, who writes to us a delightfully courteous letter, to which we never have the decency to reply, when he is sending us our allowances, reduced the money in our pay envelopes by £20 ? We would kick up a row ! Well the miners often find that the amount of money in their pay envelopes, which they have been receiving sometimes’ for 20 or 30 years, have been reduced owing to the owners changing their conditions. If it is good enough for the tribunals to say : “ We cannot hear your case. You must resume work under the changed conditions “, it should go further and inflict a heavy penalty on the management for changing established conditions and, in addition, make payments retrospective from the date of the change. The men would then continue to work. There has been a stoppage at Millfield. I think that they have resumed work at that mine. They have been forced to go back and work under the changed conditions, which means that they now have to bore holes before a place is cut. Coal production in Queensland has also increased. But, of course, critics of the miners among honorable members opposite would not know anything about that. They would not think of visiting the mines as I have done, going among the men and speaking to them in order to be able to understand their problems. Recently, I visited the Mr Mulligan mine, 100 miles north of Cairns, and as the result of my appeal those men agreed to work twelve days a fortnight. Coal production has also increased in Tasmania and Western Australia. I repeat that last year the miners in Kew South Wales, whom honorable members opposite criticize most severely, created an all-time production record.” I again emphasize that whereas in 1927 the annual production for each man averaged 439 tons, the production for each man last year averaged 715 tons.
– The use of improved machinery would contribute to the increase of production.
– I admit that; but, at the same time, the number of miners employed last year was substantially lower than in 1927. I shall bring the comparison right up to date by giving the figures for the first three weeks of this year. In that period the coalminers in New South Wales produced 682,284 tons, compared with 683,524 tons produced in the first three weeks of 1942. This year, however, there were three fewer working days, whereas twelve months ago the miners worked the full three weeks. Despite this fact, production this year was only approximately 1,000 tons less. It is a pity that some honorable members opposite do not criticize the coal-owners. I suppose that one cannot expect them to do that, because they depend upon them for their party political funds. I do not receive any donations from the coal-miners ; they do not subscribe to party political funds. I defend them because I have been brought up with them. I understand them. I have coal-dust in my blood. I am proud of a life-long association with them, and believe that they are more sinned against than sinning. The coal-miners are fine people. It is unfair for anybody to assail the coal-miners who does not try to make himself conversant with the conditions under which they are obliged to work. I admit that some honorable members opposite, but very few of them, have taken the trouble to go among the miners. It is a pity that more of them do not visit the mines and display towards the miners ordinary human sympathy. The proportion of casualties among coal-miners is greater than that among workers in any other industry. Many people wonder why it is difficult to get the coal-miners to work through the Christmas holidays. I understand the attitude of the miners in that respect. I accompanied the Attorney-General (Dr. Evatt) on his visit to the coal-fields just before Christmas, when he asked the miners to work through the holidays in order to obtain the fullest possible production. However, the coal-miners have a peculiar psychology. As Christmas draws near, the average coal-miner resolves to give his wife and kiddies a day at the seaside. Owing to the dangers of their occupation they are afraid that they will not be able to do so. Three fatalities occurred even during the three days which were worked at Christmas in response to the Attorney-General’s recent appeal. The honorable member for Swan (Mr. Marwick) said that the use of improved machinery would be partly responsible for the increase of production. I point out that machinery breakdowns are not infrequent; but we never read of such occurrences in the press. In addition, transport hold-ups often occur. However, the press merely reports stoppages at the mines, and says nothing about these factors. The result is that people, like the honorable member for Wentworth, conclude that the stoppages are due to the activities of Communists, and a ‘barrage of criticism is rained on the miners. Most of the stoppages are not caused by the miners, although, I repeat, some of the stoppages are not justified.. At present, the, coalowners are carrying on a systematic campaign of propaganda in order to poison, public opinion against the miners. In this respect I mention Mr. Gregory Foster^, an executive officer in the industry, many of whose statements have been published in the press. Unfortunately, the public regard such statements as accurate-. Mr. Foster is associated with an organization which is a breakaway from the coal-owners’ organization. He represents several small groups which lie controls.. Recently he sent a letter to the Attorney-General making allegations against the Coal Commission which were quite unfounded. He made a statement to the press in which he said that at one sitting of the commission one of bis managers had to stand down until the miners’ representative was heard, because the commission, would have to pay the latter overtime for waiting. Members of the commission resented that allegation,, and when. Mr.. Foster appeared before them he naturally took exception- to the set-up of the commission. At first, he said that he was not going to appear before the commission. However, he sat in the- court,, and, later, endeavoured to- obtain permission to appear, not. for any coal’ company; but for the manager of a certain, company. In replY. Judge- D-ra-ke-Brockman. told him to sit down, and said- that if. he. persisted in his- attempt, to be heard he- would be ordered from the court Mr. Foster is the kind of coal-mine executive, who is causing all of the trouble in the collieries.
I do not want to- criticize- the Government. I am therefore compelled to pull1 my punches in regard to this matter. Unfortunately, the Minister for- Trade and Customs (Senator Keane) is- not here, nor is his representative, but. I urge the Government to consider the hardships which not only miners- but men. in heavy industries, working: hard- all day, have- to put up with.. At knock-off time they like to. havea drink of beer- on their way home in order to- get an appetite for a meal, but they find that they cannot obtain a drink of the amber fluid. They resent this. All the- black-coated workers in the cities and towns can have their beer throughout theday, but. when the workers knock off they find, week- after week, especially in the outback, that there is no beer available.
– The beer was-, off at. Canberra at the week-end.
-.: - I have never seen it. off here. It should, be available in all the industrial centres, in the heavy war- industries, or in the mines, where the men> are choked, with- dust and gases. They are entitled to a drink of beer when they knock off work, and no restriction should be- put upon them. If restrictions- must be imposed-, they should operate uponthe men who are not working hard. It is time that the Government took this matter into consideration. Recently I was at Collinsville. in the electorate of the honorable member for Herbert (Mr. Martens), for five days. The temperature was about 108 degrees, in the- shade, but there was not a drink of beer to be had. If these men were to take up the attitude that when the beer was available they were going to have a day off for a “ beano “, and get a drink when the business people and others were able to have it, they could not be blamed. That is the sort of thing that the Government is courting. [Extension of time granted.] The Government of New South Wales has. passed, the Coal and Shale Oil Miners Pensions Act, by which the retiring age of miners is fixed at 60 years, and a. pension! ispayable on retirement. Owing; to that act some of the- miners are compelled to apply for the Commonwealth old-age pension, or invalid pension, but the State Government deducts the amount of the Commonwealth pension from their State pension-, underthe new act. That is entirely wrong; Many of the men have been compelled to- refund to the State Pensions Department, the amounts that they have received by way of old-age, or invalid: pensions from the Commonwealth. Section 41 of the Commonwealth Invalid and Old-age Pensions- Act definitely provides that no- one has the right to- levy upon a Commonwealth pension. Thewords of the section- are -
Subject to this: net, a pension shall: bc absolutely inalienable- whether By way- or in consequence of sale,, assignment,, change, execution, insolvency, or otherwise- howsoever;.
I should think that no officer of the New South. Wales; Government has’ the right, to. demand: from any miner a- refund’ of
Hie amount of tho Commonwealth pension. Tho Minister, in a letter to me dated the 11th January this year, says, among other things -
Having regard to the information contained above, it will bc appreciated that, as payment of Old-age pension has not been disturbed, there hoa been no breach of section 41 of the Invalid and Old-age Pensions Act. The matter .is therefore one for discussion with thu .’State Mines Department. Section 41 of the Commonwealth Invalid and Old-age Pensions Act is not. of course, applicable to a pension paid under the Coal and Shale Oil’ Miners Pensions Act of Now South Wales.
I did not ask that I asked the Commonwealth Government to stop the State Government from requiring the miners ro refund the amount of the Commonwealth pension. A good deal of feeling has been caused about the matter. The Now South Wales act has been enacted only -recently. The best way to adjust the matter is for the Commonwealth Government to introduce a bill to apply the New South Wales scheme of miners’ pensions on retirement at the age of 60 generally throughout Australia, and in that way make it a Commonwealth measure, as was done in the case of widows’ pensions and child endowment.
Question resolved in the affirmative.
Motion (by Mr.. Forde) proposed -
That tho House do now adjourn.
.- On Friday last I drew the attention of the Minister for Munitions (Mr. Makin) to the bad drafting of an “electricity generator and engine investigation” order made under National Security (General) Regulations, and published ira the Gazette on the 20fh January last. I said that the order, as published in the Gazette and also in the press, was so vague that it appeared to cover ‘all engines and generators which could generate electricity, and, as it demanded detailed returns, it was disturbing to persons owning such machinery as farm lighting plants. The Minister, in his reply, said that he could not understand how I had misconstrued the order. He added that the regulations could not possibly apply to motor vehicles or farm -lighting plants. I shall quote briefly From the order as it is an example of the mass of orders with which this Government is burdening and bewildering the public. Paragraph 2 provides that- “ Electricity generator “ means and includes any machine used or capable of being used for the generation of electricity;
Engine “ means and includes any steam engine, steam turbine, gas engine, diesel engine, crude oil engine, petrol engine or water turbine, used or capable of being used for driving an electricity generator.
Paragraph 3 reads -
Any person other than an Electricity Undertaking as defined in regulation 4 of the National Security (Mobilization of Electricity Supply) Regulations who at the date of this Order has in his possession or under his custody or control any electricity generator and/or engine shall furnish to the Controller of Electricity Supply on or before the fourteenth day of February One thousand nine hundred and forty-three a return nf each such electricity .generator and/or engine.
It is quite clear that an ordinary citizen would take these paragraphs to mean what they say, .and “would believe them to have application to any engine or generator which .can generate electricity, including farm plants and the like. The people of Australia are law abiding and do not wish to fail to comply with orders or to commit offences. ‘They are keenly anxious to help in the war effort and it is unfair to trade on their honesty and patriotism by such orders as this is. The issue of such orders can only bring the law into disrepute. The matter is important in regard to both the order itself and the general point of view. The flood of regulations and orders under the National Security Act is rapidly swelling. Last year the Government issued ‘55’7 regulations and laid 7,714 orders under statutory rules on the table of the Senate. I point out, also, that the order to which I am. referring was not signed by the Minister himself. Lt is signed, “ J. K~. Jensen, Delegate of the Minister of State for Munitions “. ‘Obviously if high officials can push out thousands of orders a year the dangers of bureaucracy and regimentation become greater than ever. I do not intend this evening to discuss the dangers of government hy regulation.; its inroads on parliamentary government; or the way in which it is advancing bureaucracy and regimentation. I simply quote this order in protest against the way in which the Minister misstated the position in his reply to me last Friday, and in order also to give the House a concrete example of a growing and dangerous practice which is alarming the public.
– in reply - I shall bring to the notice of the Minister for Munitions (Mr. Makin) the remarks made by the honorable member for Boothby (Dr. Price). The honorable gentleman said that 557 regulations had been issued by the Government last year, and 7,714 orders under statutory rules had been laid on the table of the Senate. The honorable gentleman must realize that we are living in much more serious times since Japan entered the war. The times demanded that drastic action should be taken to regiment the nation for war. Such action was absolutely necessary in order to convert this country from a peace footing to a war basis. The alternative to what the honorable gentleman has called bureaucracy and regimentation was to allow the nation to drift aimlessly along and ultimately to drop over the precipice to disaster. Complacency and “ business as usual “ could not be tolerated after Japan entered the war. Every effort had to be made to prevent Japan from attacking our northern areas. The Government had to take strong action to meet the position. Whilst the regulations that have been issued no doubt interfere with the freedom, privileges and profits of certain people they were absolutely necessary. Without them Australia may have been overrun by the Japanese.
I am sure that the Minister for Munitions will give his usual courteous reply to the representations that the honorable gentleman has made.
Question resolved in the affirmative.
The following papers were presented : -
Arbitration (Public Service) Act - Determination by the Arbitrator, &c. - 1943 - No. 5 - Arms, Explosives and Munition Workers’ Federation of Australia; Amalgamated Engineering Union; and Australasian Society of Engineers.
Canned Fruits Export Control Act - Sixteenth Annual Report of the Australian Canned Fruits Board, for year 1941-42, together with Statement by Minister regarding the operation of the Act.
Customs Act - Regulations - Statutory Rules 1943, No. 11.
Dairy Produce Export Control Act - Seventeenth Annual Report of the Australian Dairy Produce Board, for year 1941-42, together with Statement by Minister regarding the operation of the Act.
Dairying Industry - Interim and Second Reports of Committee appointed to report on matters affecting the Dairying Industry.
Dried Fruits Export Control Act - Eighteenth Annual Report of the Dried Fruits Control Board, for year 1941-42, together with Statement by Minister regarding the operation of the Act.
Lands Acquisition Act - Land acquired for Commonwealth purposes -
Glen Davis, New South Wales.
Pat’s River, Flinders Island, Tasmania.
Meat Export Control Act - Seventh Annual
Report of the Australian Meat Board, for year 1941-42, together with Statement by Minister regarding the operation of the Act.
National Security Act -
National Security (Civil Defence Workers’ Compensation) Regulations - Order by State Premier - Tasmania.
National Security (General) Regulations - Orders -
Control of -
Electricity generator and engine investigation.
Prohibited places (2).
Prohibiting work on land (7).
Taking possession of land, &c. (180).
Use of land (9).
Northern Territory Acceptance Act and Northern Territory (Administration) Act - Ordinances - 1943 -
No. 1 - Licensing.
No. 2 - Darwin Rates (War-time Remission) .
Wine Overseas Marketing Act - Fourteenth Annual Report of the Australian Wine Board, for year 1941-42, together with Statement by Minister regarding the operation of the Act.
House adjourned at 10.59 p.m.
The following answers to questions were circulated: -
y asked the Minister for Supply and Shipping, upon notice -
– The answers to the honorable member’s questions are as follows : -
Mb. W. J. Smith.
n. - On the 29 th January the honorable member for Dalley (Mr. Rosevear) drew my attention to a statement which appeared in the Sydney press to the effect that the former Director of Gun Ammunition Production (Mr. W. J. Smith) had claimed that he was responsible for the creation of at least twenty new developments in Commonwealth Government factories. The honorable member asked if the experiments were conducted in Government annexes, who was the owner of the patents, and if the Government paid any royalties on them.
I am now in a position to inform the honorable member that a claim was made by Australian Consolidated Industries Limited, of which company, I understand, Mr. Smith is managing director, for an unspecified amount in lieu of patents which, it has been stated, it was intended to take out for these several devices. This claim was later withdrawn, and a claim is now being made for £1,300, to cover what is stated to be the expenses involved in the workshops of Australian Consolidated Industries Limited, through the introduction of these ideas into several government factories where the processing of a certain class of shell and fuze is undertaken. This claim is at present under consideration.
I should like to state, however, that if any attempt be made to take out patent rights for the devices in question, my department intends to approach the Crown Law authorities for advice as to the legality of any such action, in view of the fact that at the time of the development of these ideas Mr. Smith was actually an employee of the Commonwealth Munitions Department and possessed special knowledge because of his access to government factories and workshops, and therefore it would be held that the ideas are in fact the property of the Commonwealth. Whether Mr. Smith received a salary or not makes not the slightest difference in the basic principles involved. No amounts will be paid to Mr. Smith unless the Commonwealth is thoroughly convinced that there is an obligation on its part to satisfy any claims that may be made.
Superannuation Fund : Deductions from Pensions.
asked the Treasurer, upon notice -
Will he state the total amount of the sums deducted from the pensions of Commonwealth superannuated officers under the Financial Emergency Act 1931 -1933?
y. - The answer to the honorable member’s question is as follows : -
The total amount deducted from pensions under the Financial Emergency Act was £143,444. Of this amount, £6,482 was refunded to pensioners who had transferred their State rights to the Superannuation Board, in view of a High Court decision. The net amount of deductions was therefore £136,962.
Australian Army: Recall of Troops from New Guinea.
Mr.Calwell asked the Minister for the Army, upon notice -
Will he recall from New Guinea to Australian stations, all men who have served for six months and more in that forward area?
– Recreation leave for all troops in New Guinea accumulates at the rate of two days clear each month, and is made available when aman returns to the mainland. An arbitrary period of time such as is mentioned by the honorable member is not compatible with operational requirements, and in fact it would be most unfair to some units,which have arrived in New Guinea within the last few months only, to be thrust immediately intothe fiercest parts of the fighting. The recent successes in Papua were achieved not so much by virtue of the fact that our organization is better than the Japanese, or that we have good facilities for the production of supplies and equipment, but by reason of the fact that man for man our fighting troops were more than a match for the Japanese in grim determination and dogged persistency. It should be kept in mind that some administrative units such as workshops and transport, although no doubt just as essential to the success of a campaign as the actualfightingunits, do not incur casualties from wounds and sickness at anything like the same rate, and it would be most unfortunate if the transfer to the mainland of a unit that had just emerged from the battle zone, but which had beenin New Guinea less than six months, were held up because a unit of the former type having had more than six months’ service occupied all available shipping. It is desired to reiterate the recent warning of the Prime Minister against relaxing our vigilance merely because the opposition in Papua has been overcome. It is still necessary to maintain large garrisons in the vulnerable areas in expectation of attack, just as was done at Milne Bay before the attack there. The relief of personnel and units which have suffered by reason of their stay in New Guinea is a continuing programme, but for security reasons it is not desired to release details of these reliefs. For the foregoing reasons it is not possible to agree to the request concerning a -fixed time limit of service, but the honorable member may rest assured that every effort is being made to . relieve the units in New Guinea, firstly, those which have suffered in actual operations, and, secondly, those which have been there the longest time.
y asked the Minister for Transport, upon notice -
– The answers to the honorable member’s questions are as follows : -
k asked the Minister for Commerce and Agriculture, upon notice -
– The answers to the honorable member’s questions, are as follows : -
Cite as: Australia, House of Representatives, Debates, 3 February 1943, viewed 22 October 2017, <http://historichansard.net/hofreps/1943/19430203_reps_16_173/>.