16th Parliament · 1st Session
M.r. SPEAKER .(Hon. W. BT. Nairn) took the chair at 3 p.m., and read prayers.
– Honorable members will have received with very sincere regret the sad news of the death of Major the Honorable A. H. P. Hore-Ruthven, the only son of Their Excellencies the GovernorGeneral and the Lady Gowrie, who died as the result of wounds received in action.
Their Excellencies, by their personalqualities, have endeared themselves to the Australian people. I am sure that they will be comforted by the knowledge of the sympathy that will be felt for them in the loss of their gallant son.
I move -
That this House records its sincere regret at the death on active service of Major the Hon. Alexander Hardinge Patrick Hore-Ruthven Rifle Brigade, only son of Their Excellencies the Governor -General and the Lady Gowrie, and tenders its deep sympathy to Their Excellencies and to the widow and family of the late gallant gentleman
– The Opposition endorses the sentiments expressed by the Prime Minister and associates itself with the motion conveying sympathy to Their Excellencies the Governor-General and the Lady Gowrie.
Question resolved in the affirmative, honorable members standing in their places.
– I ask the Minister for Commerce and Agriculture whether there is any foundation for the report that the Australian Wheat Board is approaching the Jute Advisory Committee with a view to the board taking over in future the whole of the importation and distribution in Australia of cornsacks for wheat and barley. If so, is not this contrary to the decision made by the Government at the inception of the Jute Advisory ‘Committee, thai cornsacks should be imported and distributed through the usual trade channels?
– I shall have full inquiries made, and shall reply to the honorable member later.
– Have you, Mr. Speaker, received from the honorable member for Balaclava (Mr. White) a cablegram stating how he would desire to vote on the Defence (Citizen Military Forces) Bill last week ? Does this justify the action that I took to obtain a pair for the honorable member?
– I have received a cablegram from the honorable member for Balaclava. Ordinarily, an honorable member who is absent is not entitled to place his views before the House; but as the subject of a pair for the honorable member for Balaclava on the Defence (Citizen Military Forces) Bill was referred to in a personal explanation last Friday, perhaps I may properly read his message. It states -
As a member of the House of ^Representatives overseas, I feel I must declare my attitude to the Militia Bill. I declare my strong opposition to the measure and approval of any proposal for extension to proper participation, and ask that my pair be accordingly used, where possible, for such purpose.
– I wish to make a personal explanation. I reiterate what I said last Friday. When the honorable member for Griffith stated that he had paired the honorable member for Balaclava with a member of the Government party, I objected, because I did not know, and had no means of ascertaining, the views of the honorable member. Not until now have I been aware that you, Mr. Speaker, had received a cablegram from him ; and even now I do not know the date on which you received the message. The honorable member for Darwin (Sir George Bell) was seeking a pair, but was unable to obtain one. Had 1 known the views of the honorable member for Balaclava, I would have arranged for those two honorable members to pair. In the circumstances, it was impossible for me to make such an arrangement for any one to be paired with the honorable member for Balaclava.
Inmates of Charitable Institutions
– Has the Minister for Health and Social Services been able to make a decision regarding the request put te him by various charitable institutions in Victoria, at a deputation that waited oi>. him recently, namely, that inmates of charitable institutions who become eligible for an invalid or old-age pension subsequent to admittance shall be placed on the same basis of eligibility as persons who become’ eligible prior to entry?
– The deputation that waited upon me, although a representative one, spoke only for institutions in Victoria. I have set machinery in motion in order to ascertain the probable effect of the granting of the request on an Australia-wide basis. When this information is received I shall discuss the matter with my Cabinet colleagues, after which I shall probably .have a proposal to place before honorable members.
– Last Friday the honorable member for Denison asked the Minister for the Interior, through me, a question relating to the acquisition of Beaumaris Gardens, Hobart. On behalf of the Minister for the Interior, I have to inform the honorable member that these gardens are a part of the Domain, and are owned by the Stats Government and the Hobart City Council. A difference of opinion as to the value of them has arisen. The State Taxation Valuer is at present consulting with the valuers of the State Government and the Hobart City Council, with a view to negotiating a satisfactory price.
– Has the Prime Minister seen in yesterday’s Sydney Morning Herald the report that the. totalizator investments at Rosehill races on Saturday established a record for a suburban racecourse, being £37,030. compared with (he £13,803 invested at the correspond ing meeting last year ? In view of the recent warning issued by the right honorable gentleman concerning the gravity of the man-power situation and the necessity to divert all available money to- the prosecution of the war, will he make a statement concerning the effectiveness or otherwise of the restrictions imposed by th p Government on war-time racing?
– My attention has not been directed to any increase of receipts at the Rosehill course last Saturday compared with previous race meetings held there, but I am advised that the amount of money which has been invested in what is called betting, either on or off the course, is falling. That is an estimate arrived at by those who say that they are competent to judge. No means exist whereby it can be verified, because so much money was invested in ways that did not permit of a check that only an approximate estimate of the volume of the transactions can be made. The Government believed that it was necessary to reduce -the amount of racing, not only as it would affect the amount of money invested in betting, but also in order that the people of Australia should be brought to a more sober realization of the fact that we are at war, and, indeed, in danger. The Government thought that at least one Saturday in each month should, be devoted to purposes which would not only improve .public morale, but would also augment participation in war activities by citizens generally. I am convinced that the steps which the Government has taken, even if not so effective as some would wish, have been steps in the right direction.
– Can the Minister representing the Minister for the Interior say whether it is a fact that the accounts branch of the Allied Works Council has paid out to dependants of Commonwealth Constructional Corps workers about £6,000 which should not be paid, and that there has been considerable confusion in rectifying the error? Is lack of efficient labour hampering the branch so much that its work is about three months in arrear? If so, what does the Government intend to do in the matter?
– I shall bring the honorable member’s question to the notice of the Minister for the Interior, and I hope to be able to furnish a reply at the next sitting.
– Did the Prime Minister have the pleasure of listening to the broadcast address of the right honorable member for Kooyong (Mr. Menzies) to his “ radio fans “ last Friday, in which, when referring to his attitude to the bill relating to the use of the Militia Forces, he said -
Towards the end of the week and at the week-end I went through a period of veryclose and critical self-examination. I began to see more and more plainly that I was impaled on the horns of a dilemma. . . . Full reflection at the week-end away from the rather artificial political atmosphere of Canberra
– Order !
– It is only a short quotation that I wish to read, Mr. Speaker. It continues - convinced me beyond question that if my considered and publicly stated opinion is to have any value-
-Order ! The honorable member should ask his question.
– Before new standing orders are adopted will the Prime Minister refer the report of the Standing Orders Committee back to the committee with a view to setting aside, on the resumption of business each week, after prayers, a. special period of atonement to enable honorable members -to purge themselves of any baneful thoughts or intentions with which they have become contaminated
– Order ! That is not a legitimate question.
Question not answered.
Appointment OF CADETS.
– Wall the Minister for External Affairs consider the advisability of giving to the House a statement setting out his plans with respect .to the recruitment and training of personnel for his department?
– I shall do so.
– Is it a fact that Sir Bertram Stevens was called up by officials of the Department of Labour arid National Service for service with the Allied Works Council, and that, as the result of intervention by some person or persons, he was granted an exemption? If so, will the Minister have an investigation made, preferably by Sir Harry Brown, as to the reasons why the Allied Works Council was not allowed to introduce Sir Bertram to the business end of a pick, or, maybe, a shovel?
– Prior to hearing the honorable member’s question I had not heard the excellent news. I assure him that I shall have inquiries made immediately, and that so far as the man-power authorities are concerned, I shall see thai no obstacle is placed in the way of Sir Bertram Stevens doing some useful work.
– I have here a copy of u journal called The Standard - a twelve-page publication which is described a’s the official organ of the Labour party - numbered volume 1, No. 1. In view of the rationing of newsprint, and the fact that many country newspapers have been compelled to go out of business on that account, can the Prime Minister say why permission lias- been given for a Labour organization to publish a twelve-page journal?
– The matter is one entirely for the Minister for Trade and Customs. I know very little, about the subject, although I understand that The Standard is, in. fact, a continuation of a journal known as the Metal Trades Journal which has been in circulation for some years, but has now changed its name. I understand also that as the result of the change there has been no increased demand on newsprint.
Mir. Anthony. - As the copy which I hold is volume 1, No. 3, it must be a new journal.
– The Metal Trades Journal was acquired -as a going concern. Since its acquisition there has been a change of name. I shall obtain further details from the Minister for Trade and Customs, and supply the information to the honorable member.
– by leave - I move -
That, in accordance with the provisions of the Commonwealth Public Works Committee Act 1913-1936, the following proposed works be referred to the Parliamentary Standing Committee on Public Works for investigation and report: - Newnes and Baerami shale oil proposals.
– Will the Minister also include the Temi shale deposits at Murrurundi?
– I lay on the table the following paper: -
Reports and estimates furnished by thu American Board of Economic Warfare Mission in connexion with the proposed works.
By arrangement with the Government of the United States of America and at the request of the Commonwealth Government a mission of American experts recently arrived in Australia to inquire into the development of liquid fuel from deposits of shale in this country. That mission has furnished its reports, which recommend the development of the shale oil industry in Australia on a much larger scale than this Parliament contemplated when it agreed to invest money in the development of the industry at Glen Davis. The Government intends to proceed with the Glen Davis project to the extent of the original agreement, namely, the production of 9,000,000 or 10,000,000 gallons of fuel oil per annum. We consider, however, that, before embarking on additional expenditure with a view to increasing that output to 24,000,000 gallons per annum, and bef ore taking into consideration the development of the industry at Baerami, Parliament itself should have the opportunity to examine the proposal, through the Public Works Committee.
– How long is it expected that the Public Works Committee will take to make this investigation?
– Frankly, I want the committee to be as quick as it can. The expenditure involved in the additions proposed by the American mission would be considerable, and I consider it most desirable that, quite apart from whatever inquiries my department may make, Parliament should be aware of all the facts. The report of the Public Works Committee would supply it with those facts. I should prefer inquiry into the Temi shale deposit at Murrurundi, mentioned by the honorable member for New England (Mr. Abbott), to remain in abeyance, because regard must be had to the availability of men and materials and the assistance that we can obtain from the Government of the United States of America as the result of the mission’s report. I ask the House to confine this inquiry to the Glen Davis and the Baerami proposals. When the committee has made its report Parliament will be able to debate the matter fully.
– Will consideration be given to the man-power requirements?
– Yes. That matter has been dealt with in the memorandum that has been drawn up for submission to the Public Works Committee.
.- I appreciate the reasons advanced by the Minister for Supply and Shipping (Mr. Beasley) regarding the need for the Public Works Committee to expedite its inquiry. Will the report of the American mission be made immediately to honorable members?
– I have laid that report on the table.
– I impress upon the Minister the fact that in Tasmania and other States there are deposits of shale, some of which have been favorably reported upon. They, too, may be capable of development, and should be inquired into by the Public Works Committee.
.- I realize the need to develop the extraction of oil from shale, but I remind the House, and particularly the Minister for Supply and Shipping (Mr. Beasley), that all political parties at election times promised in policy speeches to develop the industry of extracting oil from coal as well. Governments of countries closer than Australia is to the petroleum markets of the world have developed the extraction of oil from coal, as well as shale, to a very large degree. Great Britain went in very extensively for the extraction of oil from coal, and, early in the war, Germany made the hydrogenation plant at BillinghamonTees one of the first targets for its bombs, because it was aware that by destroying this plant it would seriously hamper Britain’s war effort. This motion provides an opportunity for the Government to invite the Public Works Committee to inquire into the possibilities of extracting oil from Australian coal. The United States of America, Japan and Germany, have developed extensive processes for extracting oil from coal. Ever since 1930, the policy speeches of political party leaders, Labour and non-Labour party alike, have promised that Australia would follow the lead of those countries. As a practical miner, I claim that the cost of miming coal is 50 per cent, cheaper than shale and that the oil content of shale is not 50 per cent, greater than that of coal. Analysis of Maitland coal shows that it has an oil content 10 or 15 per cent, greater than that of English coal. I therefore ask the Minister to give further consideration to this matter. I need not refer the honorable gentleman to his own speeches on this subject, but I remind him that the Prime Minister (Mr. Curtin) has repeatedly advocated the development of the coal oil industry. The late Right Honorable J. A. Lyons also advocated the development of the industry, but neither bis Government nor any succeeding government has done anything to translate advocacy into practice.
– I should like to know why it is intended that the inquiry by the Public Works Committee shall be confined to the Glen Davis and Baerami shale deposits. I know that the Minister for Supply and Shipping (Mr. Beasley) has been requested to allow the American experts to investigate the possibilities of economically extracting oil from other shale deposits in Australia, notably in Tasmania. I offer no opinion as to whether a motor spirit could be economically extracted from, shale to be found in those other fields, but people qualified to speak on the subject are reasonably confident about the prospects. Many experts have reported on this matter, but the position to-day is different from the position when those reports were submitted. The Public Works Committee should include in its inquiries the Latrobe shale field, in which the honorable member for Wilmot (Mr. Guy) is interested, and which has already been reported on with great care. I sincerely trust that the inquiry to be made by the committee will be widened in the directions that I have indicated.
.-^ have not the good fortune to have deposits of shale in my electorate, and therefore my approach to the subject is entirely impartial. Vast sums of public money have been invested in the venture at Newnes for the purpose of extracting oil from shale. From time to time we have had evidence of the failure of private enterprise there, and for some years the undertaking has been bolstered up by government capital, provided by both the Commonwealth and the State of New South Wales. We know that at one stage, or perhaps more than one, it did fail, and that, even since vast sums of public money were pumped into it, there have still been rumours of failure. The fact is that a huge experiment is going on, in which an enormous amount of public money has been invested, but so far as I can discover no frank statement has been made by either the Commonwealth Government or the Government of New South Wales of how the venture is succeeding. We are not told whether it is going downhill, as it did when private capital was invested in it. or whether we are virtually chasing a shark down the well, as the saying is, by putting more money into it. There are persistent statements that, even if the venture has not been an. absolute failure, there are grave doubts whether so much money should have been invested in it and whether further money should be spent on it. There have been rumours of defective plant. We have heard that the plant was so designed that, because of the richness of the oil content of the shale, certain parts of it have become carbonized and useless. If attempts are being made to operate the plant by means of some patent scheme that does not really work, it is questionable whether further public funds should be put into the undertaking. I cast no reflection upon the Public Works Committee when I ask whether it, or any member of it, ha3 sufficient technical knowledge to judge whether the report of the American committee is correct or not. The work is highly technical, involving intricate chemical and engineering problems.
– The honorable member must have a poor opinion of some of the members of the Public Works Committee. Does he prefer the opinion of the American committee?
– I did not say that I had a poor opinion of the members of the Public Works Committee, but I have yet to learn that any one of them is a competent chemist or engineer, qualified to advise the Government whether the recommendations of the American committee should be adopted or not, whether the plant is defective or not, whether the money already invested by the Commonwealth and the State is lost, and whether further public funds should be placed at the disposal of the promoters. I should like to hear from the Government a candid statement as to whether the rumours to which I have referred are correct. Prior to the war they could be openly discussed, but since hostilities began the whole atmosphere of Newnes has been clouded for security reasons. Can the Government, with due regard, to tie safety of the Commonwealth, tell the House and the country frankly- whether we are justified in pursuing this venture any farther? If there is any doubt in the minds of Ministers or’ members, can it be removed by the Public “Works Committee, the members of. which, I assert, are not technically competent to decide whether the experiment should be pursued, farther, or whether further public funds should, be put into it? If the committee makes a report, is- it to be debated by the House, and during that debate will a frank statement be made as to the outcome of. the venture to date, and exactly what the financial commitments of the Commonwealth are to be?
– I do- not wish to make any suggestion that will involve- delay ininvestigating the specific project which the- Minister has named. As the Minister who preceded him in his present office, I know something of the difficulties associated with the Glen Davis project, and it is- interesting and rather satisfactory to me, in a sense, to know that the allegation that’ the previous Government was responsible for the difficulties there has now been disproved. I join with the honorable member for Hunter (Mr. James) in suggesting that,, even if’ not immediately, then following the specific investigation now recommended, an inquiry should be undertaken into the possibilities of securing oil by the hydrogenation of coal. I had the privilege a few years ago of spending a few days at Billingham-on-Tees and, while recogniz-ing- the limitations of my own. knowledge, I quite agree with what the honorable member for Dalley (Mr. Rosevear) has said.. I was much impressed with the possibilities and the history of the hydrogenation of coal, not only in Great Britain but. also in Germany and elsewhere.
– Brown coal should a:iso be included’.
– I recommend’ the inclusion of both. It is also true, as was stated by the honorable member for Hunter, that certain tests in government’ laboratories in London demonstrated that Maitland coal had a petrol content much greater than even the very best: of British. Durham coal, which up to that time was reputed to have the greatest petrol content of any coal known. It is true that Australian oil shale deposits- are very limited. Official reports have from time to time indicated, that, their life is as short as twenty years; that term has-, I believe, been varied somewhat since, but nobody with any knowledge of the position would dare to contend that the shale resources of Australia- can compare with its illimitable coal resources. I therefore strongly urge that, immediately following this specific inquiry, an investigation should be undertaken into the possibilities of coal hydrogenation. It may be claimed, as has already been stated here this afternoon, that Australia is not producing sufficient coal to meet the ordinary requirements of industry, but the present situation is an extras ordinary one created by the war effort, and, it is equally true, I fear, that when we return, to normal we shall be again faced with the difficulty of finding employment for all those men who are- now engaged in winning the war. For that reason,, and also for the fundamental reason that it is highly desirable that we- should endeavour to exploit .our own resources in order to make ourselves independent, particularly as regards oil fuel, I strongly recommend to the Minister that the extraction of oil from coal by the method of. hydrogena-tion should very soon occupy the attention of the Government and of the Public Works Committee..
Mr. HUTCHINSON (Deakin) [3M[.- I ask that this inquiry be not confined to the extraction of oil from shale. I am very much concerned, as are many other honorable members from Victoria, regarding the erection of a power alcohol distillery at Warracknabeal. This matter is one of great concern, particularlyto the people of Dimboola, a town in the electorate of Wannon,, and also to the people of Bendigo, who are represented in this chamber by Mr. Rankin. When speaking about this matter on a previous occasion. I pointed out that the cost of producing power alcohol from wheat at this distillery was likely to be consider^ ably greater than it would be had. the distillery been erected at- one of quite a number of other sites which were investigated, and that the cost of erecting the distillery itself would be greater at Warracknabeal than it would have been at some of the other sites. No less than two committees recommended sites other than Warracknabeal.
– Order. I cannot permit the honorable member for Deakin (Mr. Hutchinson) to continue his speech along those lines.
– Bearing in mind all the circumstances, I consider that the erection of this distillery in Victoria should be included in the inquiry which is to be made by the Public Works Committee.
.- I commend the Minister for Supply and Shipping (Mr. Beasley) for the proposal that he has made, and I shall support it. My only doubt is whether the Public Works Committee - I say this without regard to the personnel of the committee because I do not know who its members are - has a sufficiently wide charter under the Public Works Act to permit it to examine this matter as fully as it should be examined. Undoubtedly a committee of this House can give valuable service to the Government and to the nation by making such an investigation, provided it has a wide enough charter. I disagree with the honorable member for Dalley (Mr. Rosevear). Probably his information on this question is not so up to date as mine, because recently I had an opportunity to visit Glen Davis, portion of which is in ray electorate, and I assure him that when it proceeds to carry out its investigations, the Public Works Committee will have at its disposal a large volume of information resulting from expert inquiries - adequate information for a properly constituted committee to sift and report upon. I do not wish to speak of the mistakes that have been made at Glen Davis. I am informed that all the directors of National Oil Proprietary Limited are now government nominees, the former directors appointed by the shareholders having resigned. That is a point which the Minister could make dear to the House. Further, I understand that about 75 per cent, of the capital now employed at Glen Davis has been supplied by the Commonwealth Government and the Government of New South Wales. It appears, therefore, that over a period of time, this project has evolved into an undertaking that is substantially a government venture. The extraction of oil from shale at the present time is -a national venture and one that should he fully investigated. Generally speaking, I support honorable members who have stated that, at a later stage perhaps, the investigation might be extended to a wider field. There are other shale deposits in Australia, and I agree with the honorable member for Hunter (Mr. James) that the hydrogenation process for obtaining oil from coal should he examined if the problem of producing oil fuel in Australia is to be investigated in the most efficient manner. It is within our knowledge that expert evidence is available concerning shale deposits in this country, and that a mission from the United States of America has made a report upon .this matter. In my opinion the Minister has done the proper thing in asking that a committee of this House should make .an inquiry. The only question J ask is whether the Public Works Committee has a charter which is sufficiently wide to enable - it to examine this matter thoroughly in both the economic and the national aspects; whether the -committee is confined in its reports and recommendations to expenditure upon public works. Glen Davis is not a public work in .the sense that I understand it; it is the development of an Australian industry, and of an undertaking which has been acquired by Australia for an obvious purpose. Lf the Minister is satisfied that under the Public Works Act the committee has adequate authority to investigate the matter as widely as it should be investigated, I agree entirely with his action.
.- T support the motion. I am confident -that the Government is doing the right thing in referring the whole matter to a competent body like the Public Works Committee. In view of the vast amount of money which already has been expended, the Government is to be commended for specifically confining the terms of reference to the New .South “Wales shale deposits mentioned, but T would point out that in Victoria, in close .proximity to Ballarat, near Geelong, at Altona, and in Gippsland, there are large deposits of brown coal. Experiments have shown that oil can be extracted from brown coal very economically, and I hope that at a later stage the Government will see fit to ask the Public Works Committee to go into this question very thoroughly with a view to assisting Australia in the national emergency with which we are now faced. Some time ago, the Victorian Government had extensive investigations made in Germany, and the result of those investigations would be available to the Public Works Committee should it undertake an inquiry into this matter in the future. I hope that that aspect of our oil fuel problem will not be overlooked.
Mr. ABBOTT (New England) [3.481. - I shall not oppose the proposal that the extraction of oil from shale at Glen Davis and Baerami be investigated, but I point out, as previous speakers have done, that there are other shale deposits in Australia, besides the two mentioned. One point which I do not think has been taken into account by the Minister or his advisers is the greater accessibility of other deposits. I have never been to Glen Davis, but I understand that it is not very accessible, in its natural state, except to goats and wallabies. Similarly Baerami, which I visited once on a very hot day, is not very accessible, whereas the deposits at Murrurundi and Temi are within 2 miles of our main northern line, and therefore could be much more easily developed on an economic basis. I therefore ask the Minister to consider inviting the committee to express its opinion on other deposits, accessible to our railway systems, which probably could be developed with far greater benefit to the country.
– It is five and a half years since the National Oil Proprietary Limited Agreement Bill, which dealt with the development of the Newnes oil shale deposits, was introduced into this House by the present honorable member for Warringah (Mr. Spender).
The measure evoked a great deal of hostile criticism. I have not had an opportunity, to refresh my memory by reference to the reports of the debate upon it, but I seem to recollect that the honorable gentleman promised us at that time that the Royal Australian Navy would be obtaining crude oil from Glen Davis by the 1st January, 1940. I am well aware that the Navy did not obtain any oil from that source by that date, and I should1 be glad to be informed authoritatively whether, at any time since then, it has obtained any worthwhile quantity of oil from Glen Davis. This enterprise has received very large financial cover from the Commonwealth Government and the Government of New South Wales. The “ show “, as a matter of fact, was born under a cloud, and we have never had any clear statement made to us of what it has cost the ‘Commonwealth Government. We are not entitled to information about how the Government of New South Wales may have squandered the taxpayers’ money, but, in view of our high rates of taxation, we should exhibit some sense of responsibility here concerning the manner in which Commonwealth money is being expended on this project. The proposition now submitted to us is that a considerable amount of new money shall be made available for expenditure at Glen Davis.
– No !
– Then 1 cannot understand all the hullabaloo that is going on. When the present honorable member for Warringah introduced his bill five and a half years ago, we had submitted to us also certain customs and excise schedules which were designed to afford substantial protection to the output of shale oil from Newnes. The situation in relation to oil supplies in Australia has changed greatly since that time, and the costs of petrol and crude oil have risen considerably. Because of war exigencies over which we have had no control, the degree of protection afforded to this undertaking has been greatly increased, yet a demand is being made for still more money. It stands to reason that the project would not be referred to the Public Works Committee unless it was desired to obtain cover from this Parliament, and without very much debate, for the expenditure of additional substantial sums of money.
– The members of the Public Works Committee are not men like that.
– I shall say something on that point presently. 1 agree with the honorable member for Dalley (Mr. Rosevear) - I do not very often find myself in agreement with him - on this subject. The honorable gentle man has asked a pertinent question. The issue is not whether additional public funds shall be expended, but whether, at this stage, any funds at all should be made available. With great respect, I suggest to the Government that the Public Works Committee is not the most competent body to investigate this subject. The members of the committee are not qualified for the purpose by training, experience or knowledge.
– The honorable member might also add the Minister.
– Of course, if the honorable member for Wimmera (Mr. Wilson) were a member of the committee, or if he agrees with its recommendations, everything will be all right ; but the honorable member may not like the recommendations when they are made. In that case the Government may find itself in an awkward position.
– Was not the honorable member for Barker a member of the Ministry which set this enterprise on foot?
– I was not. I fought it from a back bench. I fought the Minister upon it because I could not fight him on anything else at that moment.
Another point merits consideration. References to the Public Works Committee should be confined to the matters prescribed in the statute under which the committee has been appointed. I have grave doubt whether such an undertaking as that being carried on at Glen Davis comes within the scope of the statute. Moreover, it is- customary to give notice of a proposal of this kind so that honorable members may have an opportunity to consider the subject before they are required to debate it. On this occasion the matter has simply been thrown into the ring without any notice. I admit that this is a pleasant afternoon, and that there is not a cloud in the sky; in fact, it is a wonderful afternoon to do a thing like this. But I am perfectly sure that the House should not pass this motion until it has had a better opportunity to consider it, and certainly not before to-morrow.
.- The honorable member for Barker (Mr. Archie Cameron) has said that this project was born under a cloud some five and a half years ago ; but in my opinion this most interesting accouchement took place at a much anterior date. I have heard a great deal over a number of years about the possibility of obtaining oil from shale. As a matter of fact, the subject has been discussed in this House with great enthusiasm for at least a couple of decades by honorable members whose electorates impinge upon the area picturesquely described as Glen Davis. The honorable member for Robertson (Mr. Spooner) is the latest of our number to make a speech vibrant with enthusiasm about this great national venture.
– If the honorable member understood it, he would agree that it was a great national venture.
– The phrases used by the honorable gentleman amply prepared us for his subsequent observation that his constituency impinged on Glen Davis. I can understand the enthusiasm of the honorable gentleman. No doubt he considers that he has a complete understanding of the whole subject.
– Not complete.
– It appears that the honorable gentleman has a complete understanding not only of the value of this project, but also of the narrowness of the Government’s majority. I regret that the subject has been introduced in such an extraordinarily inadequate fashion, and that it has been interpolated in the business of the House in circumstances which have made it quite impossible for honorable members to refresh their memories regarding the long series of debates that have occurred on the possibility of extracting oil from shale in this picturesque part of New South
Wales. I understand that the proposal is to submit the matter to the Public Works Committee. I know that there is such a body, but not what members constitute it, nor what degrees they possess in chemistry, science, or anything else, except the higher art of politics, that would qualify them to deal adequately with such an important subject. As the honorable member for Barker (Mr. Archie Cameron) has run the risk of agreeing with the honorable, member for Dalley (Mr. Rosevear)-
– The risk is all on my side.
– I may now run the greater risk of agreeing with him. I concur in his statement that, although the quantity in which we shall ever extract oil from shale may be somewhat questionable, tha t a great deal of public money is being extracted from the long-suffering taxpayers in connexion with this matter is absolutely unquestionable. I record dissatisfaction with the precipitation of the debate upon a quite unprepared House, and express complete lack of confidence in the emergence from the inquiry of anything except an enthusiastic recommendation that more public money shall bo expended upon the extraction of oil from shale.
. -mi reply - It would appear that I have a few apologies to offer, one of which concerns an alleged improper approach to this subject. I believed that my formal presentation of it was in accordance with the usual practice in matters of the kind. It may be said that I ought to have given notice of my intention. My desire was to have the matter referred to the Public Works Committee as soon as possible, in order that investigations might be commenced without delay. I should imagine that a House which keenly watches war developments clay by day, and realizes the importance of fuel oil and petrol, would not hesitate fer a moment to take whatever steps aru humanly or physically possible in order that, Australia may to a greater degree be made self-contained and so better able to wage the war to a successful conclusion. It is for the House to say whether there is plenty of time to debate this and like subjects. In my view, there is very little time to discuss the problems that confront us. Rather are we compelled to take immediate action if we are to survive. As to the examination being restricted to the fields to which I have referred, I remind the House that the present Government did not decide that the Glen Davis project should be treated as it has been up to date; that decision was made by a previous Administration in the light of the then known facts. It is not for me to relate the history of the project, or to conduct a post-mortem examination of the reasons which actuated the previous Administration in its choice of the Newnes field. It is the duty of the present Administration to make the best of what it had inherited, and it proceeded to do so, because a considerable sum had already been expended at Glen Davis. Many mistakes, for which we are not responsible, have been made in connexion with this enterprise. The previous Administration may claim that it, too, was not responsible for them. Nevertheless, they were made, and we have to remedy them if possible. We have set out to change the retorting system, and provide additional cracking plant and all the other ancillary requirements to raise the project to the original contemplated production of from 9,000,000 to 10,000,000 gallons per annum. It may be asked by some honorable members, “ Why should we throw good money after bad ? “ That is debatable. Is the project to be considered only in regard to pounds, shillings and pence? I hope that the mind of this Parliament has not been in any sense narrowed in connexion with matters of this kind. Millions of pounds are being spent to-day for war purposes. The conduct of war is a wasteful business in every respect. This proposal in the minds of some honorable members may be in that category; but if, by reason of what may be regarded as wasteful or heavy expenditure, means are provided whereby we may wage the war successfully within the boundaries of our country, we are bound to adopt that course.
– This additional 10,000,000 gallons may mean the difference between defeat and success.
– As the Prime Minister has said, the 10,000,000 gallons that we hope to obtain .from this project may well represent the difference between survival and defeat.
– Has not the Government the information upon which it could make a decision ?
– I have informed the House that the proposal is to proceed with the scheme propounded by the previous Administration, and to advance it to an output of from 9,000,000 to 10,000,000 gallons per annum. But in regard to any further development, we consider that we arc in duty bound to refer the matter to a statutory authority, which could examine it and submit its opinion to Parliament. It has been stated that the Public Works Committee is not a. proper or competent body to undertake the task. That may be said of the Parliament as a whole in respect of many of the problems which it is called upon to consider and decide. If the. Public Works Committee is to be attacked, the Parliament as a whole can be attacked with, equal justification. What is involved in this agreementis the democratic principle which the people have accepted, and for which we are fighting. The Public Works Committee consists of members of Parliament, whose duty is to undertake investigations of this character. In the performance of its task, it will seek the advice of persons who possess technical knowledge. If its charter is restricted, as the honorable member for Robertson (Mr. Spooner) has said, and it considers that it ought to be vested with additional power that will enable it to broaden its inquiry, the Government is prepared to confer unhesitatingly all the authority needed, and to make available all the technical advice the committee considers necessary in order that it may bring to this Parliament a report dealing with every aspect of the matter. It has been contended that the investigation ought to be carried further than is proposed. My reply is, that the problem must be viewed in a practical way, and in the light of our1 capacity. In a time of peace’, with an abundance of manpower, and materials, the examination could extend* as far afield as might- be desired. To-day, however, our activities must be confined within those limits which are dictated by the capacity of a country with a. population of 7,000,000 and the extent of aid in materials we can get from the United States of America.
I should have shown a lack of sincerity bad I submitted a motion proposing an examination of shale deposits throughout. Australia, knowing that it would be impracticable to give effect to decisions which the committee might make. Consequently, we are confining the inquiry to Glen Davis, the project which the previous Administration agreed to assist.
– One utilizes what one has.
– Exactly ; the desire of the Government is to develop what has been already commenced. Homes have been built at Glen Davis and other amenities have been provided for the workers. For instance, during last week-end, a . post, office was opened. Many developments have taken place there at a cost of thousands of pounds. Are we to walk out? Because of the vital importance of liquid fuel, the people of Australia would not tolerate a government which abandoned the Glen Davis enterprise at this stage. When the Public Works Corn mi tree has investigated this matter and has presented ite report, an opportunity will be provided for a full debate, should honorable members so desire. The House must then, take the responsibility of deciding what, the next step shall be. Advice which the Government has received from technical men from another country is to the effect that in order to bring the project to the stage which has been recommended by them, additional plant will be required. Such plant is not obtainable in Australia, and there is no hope of obtaining it here while the war is on. We are therefore dependent on the Government, of the United States of America to carry the development to the stage which lias been proposed. That Government has been good enough to offer r’o contribute material to the value of £500,000 within a. short space of time in order- to provide additional development in these areas. America has largo numbers of its fighting forces in Australia and it does not want to see them immobilized through lack of liquid fuel, any more than we wish to see our forces immobilized for the same reason. This subject is therefore one of importance to the United Nations, and should not be treated flippantly. Nor is it a matter which should be debated in this House for several days; it is one for immediate attention. Australia is grateful for the help of the Government of the United States of America in this matter. Members of the mission to which I have referred are still in Australia. That is why I brought the motion before the House early this afternoon. If I have deprived honorable members of an opportunity to debate the proposal at length, I apologize, but I have done so because of the necessity for the committee to act quickly if it would obtain first-hand evidence from the American mission before it leaves Australia. I urge the House to accept the motion as the best course to follow in the circumstances confronting us, so that Australia may become as self-contained as possible in the matter of liquid fuel supplies.
Question resolved in the affirmative.
– Will the Minister for the Army give immediate consideration to the erection of a waitingshed outside the Greenslopes Military Hospital, for the convenience of visitors who now have no protection from rain or sun?
– I am astonished to learn that there is no waitingshed at the hospital. The honorable member’s requestis reasonable, and I shall see that a shed is erected there without delay.
– Is the
Treasurer aware that sales tax has been imposed on such goods as jams, cakes, &c, made by voluntary workers associated with the Red Cross Society, and later sold by other voluntary workers in shops which have been fitted up by voluntary labour, the whole of the pro ceeds being used for the purpose of rendering aid to persons suffering as the result of the war. Will the honorable gentleman give favorable consideration to the immediate removal of the sales tax on such goods?
– There has been a good deal of discussion as to the application of the sales tax to certain goods sold by voluntary organizations. I shall have the matter examined, and a full statement submitted to the House.
– In view of the urgency of obtaining supplies of rubber, can the Minister for Supply and Shipping say what action is being taken to produce synthetic rubber in Australia?
– All the steps which are practicable have been taken by the Department of Supply and Shipping in consultation with Australia’s direct representatives in the United States of America. Every development in that country is being closely watched at first hand. The gentleman who was appointed to watch the various stages of the production of synthetic rubber has arrived in Australia and is attached to the Council for Scientific and Industrial Research. All the information in his possession is to be made available to persons who wish to engage in the production of synthetic rubber. A good deal couldbe said on the subject, but it may be unwise to give details at this stage. I can say, however, that the production of synthetic rubber requires technical plant which is not available in Australia. Nevertheless, the Government is of the opinion that it must keep in touch with developments, and therefore nothing will be left undone in that connexion.
– Is the Minister for
Health and Social Services in a position to tell the House anything of the Government’s plans to assist kindergarten unions in the various States on account of the additional work which is being undertaken by them in looking after the children of mothers who spend a portion of their time assisting in the war effort?
– This matter has been under consideration by the Government. Some time ago a small sum of money was made available to keep the staffs of the various organizations together. Since then the Government has issued a questionnaire to branches of the Kindergarten Union and similar organizations, asking them to say what they can do to assist, and to state the number of children that they can cater for, in the event of financial assistance being given by the Government. When replies to the questionnaire have been received, the matter will be further considered.
– Will the Minister representing the Minister for Trade and Customs consider the granting of additional coupons to farmers and farm labourers because of the heavy wear and tear on their clothes ?
– In certain industries, such as engineering and coal-mining, additional coupons have been granted foi the reason set out in the honorable member’s question. The point raised by the honorable member appears to be worthy of consideration, and I shall have pleasure in referring it to the Minister for Trade and Customs.
– Many requests have been made for copies of the report of the special committee which inquired into the dairying industry, but not more than twenty honorable members have been able to obtain copies. In view of the widespread interest in this report, will the Minister for Commerce and Agriculture have sufficient copies of it either printed or roneoed to supply the demand?
– I have already distributed the limited number of copies available. Owing to difficulties in the printing office it is almost impossible to meet the requests of honorable members for printed copies. We have been trying to save labour and paper at the Government Printing Office. Copies of the report are being roneoed. I shall see if it is possible to make available the extra copies needed.
Debate resumed from the 12th February (vide page 674), on motion by Mr. Prowse -
That Statutory Rules Nos. 47’1 and 487 of 1942, being National Security (Wheat Harvest Employment) Regulations made under the National Security Act 1939-1940, be disallowed.
.- In the course of the debate on the motion for the disallowance of these regulations continual reference has been made to a standard work on the wheat industry, namely, the report of the Royal Commission on the Wheat Industry, of which Sir Herbert Gepp was chairman. That is appropriate, because this report is an outstanding contribution to the bibliography of the wheat industry of Australia. I intend to preface my speech with a quotation from page 88 of that report -
This item is one on which .savings are being made during the depression : Large numbers of farmers are unable to pay .their families even the low rate of wage which has been used in these computations (normally fi per week and keep for each adult male employed) ; many farmers are not in a position to take from their receipts the £125 in cash which the commission considers is a minimum return to the farmer himself for his work and management of the farm. But it would be incorrect to expect that the Australian wheat industry can continue for a long period under such conditions.
It is not a very happy picture to contemplate after 40 years of federation. This state of affairs has not come upon us like a sudden storm. It is the culmination of a long series of events in the wheat industry. The report of the Royal Commission on the Wheat Industry in 1934-35 is not the only pronouncement upon rural industries after detailed inquiry. A similar state of affairs in rural industries was reported by Mr. J. E. McCulloch, who made an inquiry into the fruit industry. He referred to the wage position in the industry as follows : -
Generally the wage rate paid to orchardworkers does not exceed 10s. per day (fi 56 per annum). From this amount a sum of 15s. per week (f39 per annum) has been deducted as equivalent of rent, leaving a balance of f 117 per annum - the cost of a home has been included in “ Costs of Establishment “. lie also made other references to the state of affairs prevailing’ in the primary industries. He stated -
Permanent labour is, not infrequently, paid at a lower rati; than casual labour, on. the ground -that the regular wage is- better and higher than the amount earned at casual rates for occasional hire.
Labour costs are kept to a minimum; at one centre, girls were employed for picking, and paid at the rate of :>s. per day.
Youthful labour is utilized as much as possible, and is frequently paid at the rate of £1 per week, sometimes with and sometimes without keep.
Various speakers on the Opposition side a re cognizant of the facts of the situation, I admit, but their deductions from the various reports differ materially from those made by honorable members on this side of the House. The principal argument raised by honorable gentlemen opposite in explanation of the catastrophic conditions of the wheat industry is that they are due to the high wages that are being paid in the industry. They claim that the farmer cannot carry on unless something be done to enable him ro pay wages commensurate with what is paid to him as a guaranteed price. This is their line of. reasoning. “ Some of us do not object to a decent standard of living for the wheat industry. We represent, electorates in. which wheat is grown. Many of us are wheat-farmers and our families- are employed in the wheat industry. It- would be unnatural if we were to object to the people employed in that industry having- a decent standard of living “. The. continual attack on wages and the wage system by those honorable members on the Opposition side, who pretend to represent the primary producers, has reduced the wheat industry to such a. condition that it has become an incubus on the economy of the Commonwealth.
Twenty years ago, the primary producers of Australia decided that the -political set-up in this country made it impossible for farmers to get a fair deal, and they organized the Country party. They said, “ We will get seats in the State and Federal Parliaments sothat we may get a fair go “. Except for short periods, the representatives of the anti-Labour forces of this cOUnty have occupied the treasury bench in- this Parliament ever since federation. When the-
Labour party was in control of the House of Representatives for a very short space of time its wheels were spragged by the opposition of the anti-Labour representatives in the Senate. Thus its’ efforts were completely frustrated. No matter what it wanted to do in the interests of the primary producers or the workers, it could not succeed1. When the so-called representatives of the primary producers joined the (United Australia party in forming a government, we found that, instead of taking up an attitude in opposition to the people who had brought about the state of affairs against which they had been protesting, they sat cheek by jowl with them on the government benches. In fact, the lion and the lamb lay down, together, the lamb being in the lion’s belly. The farmers of Australia, after giving those who were supposed- to be the representatives of the primary producers an opportunity to prove their bona fides, turned from them- in disgust, and said: “Although we have been told that the Labour party will wreck Australia, and reduce us aJ-1 to bankruptcy; we will risk the bogies conjured’ up- by the members of the United Australia party and try whether, in this desperate situation, the- Labour party cannot do something in the interests of the primary industries “. Consequently, they returned Labour members to the Commonwealth Parliament and to every State parliament. Honorable members opposite have protested against the action of the Minister in setting up a tribunal to draw up, in the present emergency, a code of wages to operate in the wheat-growing industry. They say that the Minister should have stuck to the oldestablished Arbitration Court, which they claim has: proved so beneficial to industry as a whole, and that in that way he would have brought about an equitable scale of wages in- the- wheat industry. To test the sincerity of those protests-, let us examine what the so-called representatives of tho farming industry have said over the years about the arbitration system for fixing: wages in primary industries. Twenty years- ago the first Labour government to attain office in New South. Wales attempted to introduce* the arbitration system, for the> fixation of wages in primary industries, but the representatives of the United Country party made the heavens resound with their protest that the primary industries could not stand award rates, and they succeeded in having abolished the awards applying to primary industries. Since that date the Labour party in the Commonwealth and the States has been endeavouring to have them restored to rural industries, but this is the first time that it has been possible to introduce a stabilized wages system in a primary industry in Australia. The farmers themselves have demanded it. Resolutions have come to me from every branch of the farming industry in my electorate demanding that similar tribunals be set up quickly to regulate wages in primary industries, without waiting for the operation of the tardy system of arbitration that has prevailed for so many years in Australia. So well has this new system worked in the wheat industry that farmers in other branches of primary production, including lucerne and dairy farmers, have urged its extension to them. They want tribunals representative of the farmers, the workers, and the Government to establish codes for every section of primary production in Australia. The special tribunal established by this Government has worked effectively in the wheat industry, and will work just as well in all other primary industries. If there had not been in power a Minister who was prepared to act quickly, the wheat harvest, instead of being safely garnered, would still be lying in the paddocks. Although honorable members opposite have complained about the inability of farmers to pay the rate of wages fixed by the tribunal, .they continually scream about the drift of workers from rural to secondary industries. These cannot be kept in rural industries unless they know that they can earn amounts comparable with those paid in secondary industries. The sensible farmer recognizes that fact, and that is why, when he sought protection, he first asked that there should be set up a code of wages which would enable the worker to satisfy himself that he would be doing the best for his family by staying in the country, rather than by going to munitions-making or other city work. The farmers have now asked that, because of the shortage of labour, the people employed in primary industries at the present time be retained in them even to the degree of depleting the ranks of those called into the defence forces. Honorable members opposite have lately been complaining of the attitude of the Minister for Labour and National Service (Mr. Ward), in not demanding that all awards and codes prescribing labour conditions in industry, shall include a clause giving absolute preference to returned soldiers. I wonder how the returned soldiers would feel if this was the type of employment for which they were to get first preference - the right to work in primary industries at 25s. or 30s. a week, or for no wages at all. The real trouble with rural industries is not in respect of wages. I insist that we must start somewhere in considering what ought to be a definite standard of living in primary industries. Some years ago Mr. Justice Higgins, the President’ of the Commonwealth Court of Conciliation and Arbitration, set, in what is known as the “ Harvester “ award, a standard of living for workers engaged in secondary industries. That standard was regarded as the “ Declaration of Rights “ of workers in those industries. His Honour based his award on the principle that the health of the workers of the Commonwealth was actually the responsibility of the central government. He used the following illustration: If farmer A hired a team of horses to farmer B with which to do a certain job, A had every right to expect his team of horses to be restored to him after the job was done in the same state of health and activity as when B first took it over. His Honour said that when a worker hired himself out to an employer or organization to do certain work, it was the bounden duty of the Commonwealth Government to see that when the task was finished the worker was in a proper state of health to start another task, and not thrown on the scrap-heap as a cripple, and that the industry in which he worked was responsible for his well-being while he was so engaged. It is our responsibility now to obtain a “ Harvester award “ for all those working in primary industries, and to see that in them an equitable standard of living is maintained comparable with that enjoyed by workers in secondary industries. We must start somewhere; the important point around which the whole debate revolves is the standard of living of the worker in the industry. Once that standard has been established, we can proceed to build upon it; when we establish the wages of the workers we can fix the price of the product. Prices must be fixed on the basis of a reasonable standard of living for all engaged in the industry. The real trouble with the primary industries was pointed out by the secretary of the Wheat-growers Union of New South Wales, Mr. J. Hazelton, in a reply to the general president of the Wheat-growers Federation of Australia, Mr. Diver. I may point out that the federation is a loose union of various primary producing organizations. Each organization in the federation preserves complete autonomy. Whatever powers are given to the federation are concessions of a temporary nature and are not binding upon any other autonomous organization. I shall read now from a statement by Mr. Hazelton a portion of which was quoted by the honorable member for Forrest (Mr. Prowse) in his opening remarks upon this motion on Friday. Mr. Hazelton says -
Mr. Diver, President of the Federation and a member of the Tribunal, suggests that our farm women folk will revolt against granting the workers women folk a standard of living exceeding that enjoyed by themselves. This is a libel on our farm women which will be universally accepted with scorn and resentment. Did he further suggest that our women folk were against the standards of luxury living being provided by us for brokers, agents, millers, &c. ? Here again we have no recollection of any action being taken.
The point I wish to make is that the trouble in the wheat industry to-day is caused not by high wages, but by high rents and interest charges. That is borne out by the report of the Gepp Commission which stated that on a cost of production basis of 3s. 6d. a bushel, labour costs amounted to roughly 33 per cent., material costs 33 per cent., and interest charges 33 per cent. Can any industry stand that? Compare those figures with corresponding costs in secondary industries. According to production bulletin No. 35 of 1940-41, production costs in secondary production included 21.39 per cent, for wages and 18.61 per cent, to cover the margin for profits and miscellaneous expenses and charges. If you subtract from that 18.61 per cent, the margin for miscellaneous expenses and charges, the profits in secondary industries amount to approximately 12 per cent. Adding that 12 per cent, to the 21.39 per cent, for wages, we find that the combined return to the workers and the owners is approximately 33 per cent, of the cost of production, leaving a margin of 6 per cent, for rent and interest on money invested, compared with 33 per cent, in primary industries. That is the crux of the matter. Mr. Hazel,ton’s reply should be sent to wheat-growers and primary producers’ organizations all over Australia. I repeat what he said in reply to Mr. Diver -
Did he further suggest that our women folk were against the standards of luxury living being provided by us for brokers, agents, millers.. &c. ?
I ask honorable members can any industry stand rent and interest charges amounting to 33 per cent.? There is a debt burden on the wheat industry of Australia amounting to £140,000,000, which is £14 an acre on 10,000,000 acres of wheat land. Can the wheat-growers stand that? If these so-called representatives of the wheat industry and the primary producers generally, who are sitting on the other side of the chamber, honestly desire to place wheat-growing upon such a basis that the workers in that industry, together with their wives and children, will be able to enjoy a standard of living comparable to that enjoyed by labourers and other workers in the metropolitan areas, they must tackle the rent and interest problem in an endeavour to do justice to the farmers who send them here, rather than pander to the people whose traditional policy is to keep the farmer starving on the land.
.- I do not propose to indulge in any cheap jeers or sneers at any one who has spoken or may speak upon this matter. As one who has engaged in wheat-growing for 29 years, and who has paid more than the basic wage throughout that period, I am not afraid of any criticism which may be levelled against me. I agree with the honorable member for Calare (Mr. Breen) that interest represents one of the heaviest burdens upon our primary producers, and he can rest assured that he will have my full co-operation in any effort which he or his Government may make to reduce interest charges on the primary industries generally. The honorable member also said that farmers throughout his electorate had asked for an award. I take the strongest exception to the wheat-growers of any electorate, including my own, asking for an award which will apply to the growers of barley, oats and hay. Last year, the unfortunate growers of barley had to accept 5-Jd. a bushel as a first advance on their crop. Some months later they received a second advance of 5d., making 10£d. a bushel. Although the growers of hay had to accept anything from 35s. to 42s. a ton for their hay, they were forced to conform to conditions which involved them in the payment of £9 7s. 6d. a week of 4S hours to stack builders, thatchers and the like.
– They usually do their own stack building.
– I do my own stack building, not because I consider it is such skilled work, but .because I consider it easier work than pitching sheaves of bay from the paddock to the wagon and from the wagon to the stack.
The Minister for Labour and National Service (Mr. Ward) had a good deal to say about the minimum rate of 2s. 3d’, an hour provided in this award, but he said nothing about the intermediate rates or the rate of 3s. 3d. an hour for stack builders and thatchers.
– I have done both pitching and thatching, and I consider thatching to be the easier work.
– In addition to paying 3s. 3d. an hour for such work the farmers were required to provide a living allowance and lodgings. The Minister for Labour and National Service said that numerous advertisements had been published in the newspapers offering rates in excess of those provided in the award. I point out, however, that the rates were not fixed for only thoroughly qualified men, because very few qualified men are available to-day. The greater part of this work was done by the aged parents of boys who are in the fighting services, or by old-age pensioners or men who were unfir for employment in war industries. In these days it is impossible to obtain the services of first-class men to drive harvesters, tractors or headers, for the simple reason that in the early days of the war by far the larger proportion of the enlistments were from the rural areas. Farm work is being carried on to-day, in a very large degree, by the parents of the boys who enlisted from the country districts, or by their younger bi others and sisters. I had to engage four men to cart hay on my brother’s farm. My brother has been receiving Ss. a lay as a soldier since the outbreak of the war, but I had to pay 3s. 3d. an hour to each of those four men during the harvest period. Is that just?
– What about the honorable member’s £1,000 a year? He is not willing to cut himself down to 8s. a day.
– I have already pointed out that during the 29 years I have been engaged in farming operations I have always paid wages in excess of those stipulated by the prescribed authorities. The wages in the farming industry should be fixed by the Arbitration Court. That is the only equitable method of dealing with the problem. The Minister for Commerce and Agriculture (Mr. Scully) had a good deal to say about- the Government’s wheat industry plan which provides for payments of £600 for crops of 3,000 bushels. The honorable gentleman’s remarks would give the impression that £600 was poured into the pocket of every farmer who harvested 3,000 bushels of wheat. The fact of the matter is that in the great majority of instances three parts of the money had already been spent in preparing the land, providing artificial manures, and supplying other farming essentials. The farmers received very little of the money. In view of the observations of the honorable member for Calare concerning the high rents of farm lands in New South Wales, it would be wonderful if any of the money got to the farmers. The rent problem is not serious in Western Australia because much of the land is freehold, but interest charges bear heavily upon the farmers in that State.
The Minister for Labour and National Service said that no protest had been made against this award. In view of the backdoor method by which the award was made, it was practically impossible for any member of the Parliament to make a protest in this House. The Parliament met for only two days in December. On the first day no opportunity was provided for the asking of questions. Practically the whole of the time was devoted to debating the motion submitted by the Prime Minister. On the second day, of the 35 minutes of questiontime, a considerable period was used by Ministers in the making of statements. Both the Prime Minister and the Minister for Commerce and Agriculture received many telegrams of protest on this subject from Western Australia. Numerous letters of protest also were written. Among them were communications from the following authorities : -
Pingelly Road and Vermin Board and Local Heal th Authority.
In addition, Mr. E. A. Melhuish, the secretary of a public meeting held at Pithara, Western Australia, wrote to the Government on the subject.
– I can candidly and truthfully say that I have not received a single request to support the award, and I have not heard of any organization which favoured it.
– The Wheatgrowers Union carried a resolution in favour of it.
– The honorable member may be an fait with what goes on in the Wheatgrowers Union. I have received many written and oral protests against the award. Before an award of this character is foisted upon the people in the future they should be given an opportunity to make representations on the subject. I make this statement, particularly, on behalf of the growers of barley, oats and hay. Persons likely to be affected by an award proposed to be made should be given the opportunity to approach the duly constituted authority dealing with the subject. The primary producers generally had no adequate opportunity to make representations to the Wheat Harvest Employment Commission. Even if the honorable member for Calare and some other honorable gentleman opposite received requests for such an award, I submit that all persons likely to be affected should have been given an opportunity to submit their case. If our rural industries are to survive, those engaged in them should be employed under an award arrived at in a proper way. They would then be able to maintain a standard of living comparable with that of persons engaged in other industries in Australia. During my long public life I have never objected to arbitration, and I do not now. My contention is. that both sides should be allowed to present their case, and that those engaged in the industry should enjoy the standard of living that is made possible to every other section of the people by means of the Arbitration Court, the protection derived from manufacturing associations, and the customs tariff. That is all that I ask on behalf of the industries which I represent in. this chamber.
.- I am reluctant to occupy the time of the House on this matter at the present stage of very important sittings, because obviously the debate cannot achieve any good purpose. The honorable members’ for Forrest (Mr. Prowse) and Swan (Mr. Marwick) have had opportunities, had they desired to avail themselves of’ them, to voice an effective protest concerning the regulations in question.
– It can be shown that that has been done.
– The House met on the 10th and 11th December last. It is well known that the motion for the adjournment of the House affords to honorable members an opportunity to voice a protest in respect of any matter that is considered vital. Both the honorable members to whom I have referred. failed to do that. The raising of the matter at the present juncture is obviously dictated by political motives. The hourorable member for Forrest has referred to- what he termed a “ back-door method which he said had been adopted in connexion with this matter. Let us examine what has been done. A tribunal was established, representative of the employers and the employees in the industry; with an independent chairman. The system of compulsory conference is as old as the “ round-robin “ tactics practised by the honorable member for Forrest. Prior to my election to this Parliament, I had frequently heard the honorable member described as “ Roundrobin John “ ; because it was claimed that before he would commit himself on any matter of importance he would issue a “ round-robin “ in order to learn what views were held by the majority, and then set his course accordingly. Apparently he had neither the time nor the opportunity to issue a “ round- robin “ and obtain replies to it, prior to the meeting of the House last December. The debate has shown that in this matter a tribunal was established as the direct result of an appeal by representatives of sections of the wheat-growers. That cannot be denied ; the fact has been established. When the Minister for Labour and National Service (Mr. Ward) stated that a conference had been presided over by an independent chairman, the honorable member for Forrest interjected, “Yes - your henchman”. Mr. Blakeley was not first appointed to a public office by this Government.
– The chairman was not Mr. Blakeley, but Mr. Murphy; it was he who made the threat about what would happen if the proposal were not accepted..
– Mr. Blakeley was the chairman of the compulsory conference.
– The honorable member is mixed.
– That is the state of the honorable member himself. Mr. Blakeley was the chairman of a compulsory conference which was attended by two- representatives of the wheat-growers and two representatives of the Australian Workers Union. His first public appointment was that of an industrial officer, and. it was made by the Menzies’ Government. Only one who is biased would suggest that a man with his knowledge, experience and training would not be a fair chairman. The honorable member for Swan has interjected that at one time he was a Labour politician. If the credentials of Arbitration Court judges and chairmen of industrial tribunals are examined, it will be found that we who sit on this side of the House have much cause for complaint. Judge DrakeBrockman, prior to his elevation to the Bench, was not only a politician who owed allegiance to the Nationalist party, but also an advocate for the Employers Federation in the Arbitration Court. If the honorable member says that Mr. Blakeley, because of his association with the Labour- movement, is not a fit and proper person to adjudicate in an industrial matter, an odious comparison can be drawn by mentioning other appointments that have been, made by Governments behind which the honorable member sat. Although he quoted from a number of communications he had received on the subject, he failed to quote one in favour of’ a system of establishing a living, wage in the farming industry. I have received many protests from farmers in the electorate which I represent. Some of them have said that, until a living wage has been established in the industry, they will have no case for an improvement of their- position. The very- fact that a tribunal has awarded such a wage is the foundation of an ultimate advantage to the farmer himself. What have previous governments done when assessing the assistance that should be given to the farming industry during periods of distress? The wages of the- farmer and his family have been assessed on a- dole basis. Therefore, by having a- wage established by a properly constituted tribunal, the farmer has made an advance which should have been made many years ago. The determination may contain anomalies ; these are to be found in any decision of the Arbitration Court. Invariably, complaint is made by either one party or the other to a decision that has been arrived, ait af ter very serious- ^consideration of all the evidence submitted. The general complaint which I found among farmers was not in regard to the wages that they were called upon to pay, but as to their inability to obtain efficient labour to do the work required. That problem confronts most industries at the present time. On many occasions I have pointed out that, when considering man-power problems, the authorities should have regard to the vital importance of the farming and pastoral industries. Some time ago,. I received a letter from a wheat-grower who, I believe, is one of the biggest wheat-farmers in Western Australia. I respect his opinion so much that I submitted his letter to the Prime Minister (Mr. Curtin) and the Minister for Commerce and Agriculture (Mr. Scully). In it he complained greatly of his inability to secure labour to take the place of the men whom he had released for war service, and he further complained bitterly that other sections of the community were endeavouring to get all they could for themselves. The honorable member for Forrest and those who have supported his motion have had little to say in favour of long-term mortgages at low rates of interest for farmers, as well as guaranteed prices for their product, but only in such ways can a permanent solution of the problems confronting the wheat-growing industry be found. For too long have honorable members opposite supported governments which have failed to introduce legislation for that purpose. The award to which objection has been taken applies only to the harvesting period, which, after all, is only a few weeks in each year. One would think that those honorable members who spoke so strongly on the subject had the interests of the farmers at heart, hut they have not been active to remove the things which have almost ruined the wheat industry. They have continued to support the private banking system as well as a policy of centralization which, particularly in Western Australia, has been so harmful to the farming community. Western Australia will never prosper until a policy of decentralization which will promote the development of country districts is in operation. I regret that the motion has been introduced, and I ask the House to compare it with the stirring appeal made by the Prime Minister to honorable members recently to rise above party political considera- tions and get on with the job of winning the war. The motion, which has occupied two sitting days of this Parliament, can have no good results, even if carried.
– I support the motion of the honorable member for Forrest (Mr. Prowse) and commend him and the honorable member for Swan (Mr. Marwick) for their statements. I agree with everything which, the honorable member for Swan said, but I shall not take up the time of the House by repeating what has already been said so admirably by honorable members on this side of the chamber. I have risen only to reply to a statement made on Friday last by the honorable member for Riverina (Mr. Langtry), who, I regret, is not now in the chamber. I do not think that the honorable member would willingly misrepresent a case to the House; I believe that, like many other people, he is of the opinion that what he said about happenings in this Parliament more than a decade ago was correct. The honorable member said that the Scullin Labour Government had guaranteed to farmers 4s. a bushel for their wheat, and he contrasted that guarantee with what had been done by non-Labour governments. I was a member of this Parliament when the Scullin Government was in office, and I assure the honorable member for Riverina that no such guarantee was given by it. The Minister for Markets in that Government was Mr. Parker Moloney. He introduced a bill under which the Commonwealth would make up to farmers one-half of the difference between the price realized for their wheat and 4s. a bushel on condition that the States made up the other half of the loss. At that time, Australia was in the depths of a depression, and every State treasury was depleted; there was scarcely one shilling to rub against another. The .States certainly had no facilities for expanding the currency such as the Commonwealth is credited with having. Whatever prospects Victoria and New South Wales might have had of making up half of the difference between the price realized for the wheat and 4s. a bushel, it was utterly impossible for Western Australia to do so. Compared with the quantity of wheat which they produce, Victoria and New
South Wales have fairly large populations, whereas Western Australia has a relatively small population and produces a large quantity of wheat. Every State Government was working on a deficit at that time. I repeat that all that the Scullin Government did was to undertake that the Commonwealth Treasury would make up half of the difference between the price realized for the wheat and 4s. a bushel, and then only if the State concerned made up the other half. When the bill came before the House, I suggested to the then member for Swan, the late Mr. Gregory, that he should move an amendment that, in the event of circumstances arising which would make it impossible for any State to meet its obligations under the bill, the Commonwealth would nevertheless pay its half of the difference. I had Western Australia in mind when I suggested that amendment. That amendment, if carried, would have meant that wheatgrowers in Western Australia, although not receiving the full 4s., would have received from the Commonwealth onehalf of the difference between the price realized for their wheat and 4s. a bushel. The Minister was not prepared to accept that amendment. He refused to do so in this House, but said that he would consider the question of embodying it when the bill reached the Senate. But in the Senate the Ministry again refused to accept the amendment. Consequently, the Western Australians were faced with the knowledge that the bill would be unworkable in their State. I repeat that we were .in the depth of a depression. Every State had big deficits, but Western Australia was less able than any other State to meet the obligation imposed on it by the legislation, owing to the fact that it had a large quantity of wheat and a small number of people on whom to impose taxation to meet the obligation. The representatives of Western Australia in the Senate naturally voted against the bill. I think that honorable members will acquit me of being unduly critical of members of other parties; but my impression at the time was that the Labour party regarded it as a very happy way out of their troubles that members of another political party had been com pelled by the position in which they were placed by the Government to turn down the bill. The Labour party had made its gesture - and the bill was no more than a gesture - and considered that it was in a good position to go to the country with that gesture behind it.
– I regret that I did not hear the speech of the honorable member for Forrest (Mr. Prowse) ; but I have heard from other honorable members opposite a pitiful story of the award for harvest hands. I am not surprised at their attitude, because it is traditional for them to criticize and oppose any attempt to protect the workers in any industry. Their attitude was similar when the first award for the Australian Workers Union was made. They have taken that stand against every award made to improve the lot of workers in rural industries. I instance the awards for workers in the dried fruit industry and the canneries. When Labour candidates have stood on the hustings in country electorates, their opponents have always raised the cry, “ If Labour is returned to office, the primary producers will be confronted by all the hardships of the imposition of awards for rural workers “. The honorable member for Forrest and his colleagues in the Country party never have believed, and never will believe, in the wages and conditions of rural workers being regulated; but they will have to accept awards for rural workers, because all the decent people of this Commonwealth will support the Labour party in ensuring that employees in primary industries shall receive as much consideration as is received by employees in secondary industries. I was sorry to hear the honorable member for Swan (Mr. Marwick) and the honorable member for Indi (Mr. McEwen) introduce two very vexed questions, which few people with a decent outlook would raise unless they were prepared to be consistent. The honorable member for Indi raised the matter of preference to returned soldiers. It ill becomes any honorable member opposite to talk about preference to returned soldiers, in view of the fact that the greatest honour in the gift of this House, namely, the Speakership, was bestowed on you, Mr. Speaker, rather than on au honorable member who served in the armed forces in the last war.
– -What about the President of the Senate?
– Never mind about the Senate. We do not preach one thing and practice another. It is humbug for the honorable member for Indi to talk about preference to returned soldiers when he and his colleagues could have ensured the election of a returned soldier as Speaker. The honorable member for Swan contrasted the pay of the soldiers serving overseas with the wage prescribed for harvest hands. I have not heard the honorable member say that members of Parliament should be paid only Ss. a day instead of £1,000 a year or should forgo all their perquisites. Honorable members who ta’lk in that strain should ‘be consistent and place themselves on rations and forgo that part of their salary in excess of 8s. a day. Let them be genuine. Let them not indulge in this humbug, this playing on the feelings of the people.
– Tell us about the ls. an hour which the Minister for Labour and National Service said is paid in the honorable member’s electorate.
– Yes, the Minister for Labour and National Service said that some farmers in my constituency paid their employees as little as ls. an hour. I do not doubt it. That is why I arn an ardent supporter of awards for rural workers. The honorable member for Swan spoke graphically of the trials and sufferings of the wheatgrowers. No doubt he runs a wheat farm, and expects to make a profit and to be an absentee landlord at the same time.
– I object to being misrepresented. Since entering this Parliament I have had no interest in my farm, and I am therefore not an absentee laudlord.
– I withdraw my reflection on the honorable member, but I am sure that he would be an absentee landlord if he could. The honorable member told us that he did not have an opportunity to protest against the establishment of the “infamous” tribunal which produced this “ infamous “ award.
On the 10th December last, the honorable gentleman rose on the motion for adjournment and addressed himself to another matter.
– Which concerned wheat.
– Exactly, but he said not one word about this award.
– It was not then in existence.
– The honorable member made much of the trouble of the wheat-growers, but it has been proved conclusively that a 640-acre farm, operated on the rotational system, can be harvested by one man with a harvester and a tractor. It is on the huge farms that trouble occurs. The owners of those properties expect to be able to increase their profits by employing sweated labour. They should not be allowed to do so ; such properties should be subdivided. Under the co-operative methods which have been forced on farmers by the war, the wages bill of the industry is exceedingly small. I know what I should do to get down to facts and test the pitiful tale we have heard. If I were the Minister for Commerce and Agriculture (Mr. Scully), I would select a judge of ,this Commonwealth whose reputation was beyond challenge and authorize him to go to three wheat-growing localities of different types - the Riverina, the Mallee and the Wimmera - and take sworn evidence from farmers who pay wages. If evidence so obtained was examined, it would be found that the wage payments made in those entirely dissimilar wheat-growing districts were insignificant in comparison with the other outgoings. Let us examine the pitiful story told to-day about the oat, wheat and barley growers. I represent one of the largest hay-growing districts in Australia, stretching from Learmonth in one direction to Burrumbeit in the other, .and I have not received from one farmer in that vast rural electorate a letter of objection to the wage scale fixed by .the tribunal. The richness of the soil, the nature of the farms, and the capacity of the farmers to co-operate with their neighbours, combined with their honest desire to do the decent thing, have enabled them to pull through. Protests have been made that some of the labour available was old, including even old-age pensioners, but do honorable members opposite desire to employ old-age pensioners at a lower wage than is paid to more active workers? The average rural d weller, even if he is an old-age pensioner, is generally as good a man as a stack builder or- pitcher on to a stack as the next one, but honorable members opposite would like the permission of a. court or tribunal to give . the older employee a couple of pounds a week less than is paid to the man. in the prime of life. The sad story that I hear from the benches opposite upsets and appals me. I have been on the land for years, and. the one fact that has worried me is that on one side of the road we find a man with an inherent sense of decency who pays his labourers a fair standard of wages and provides decent living conditions, whilst on the other is a more affluent farmer who- pays only about a quarter of the decent wage that he could well afford to pay. It is because of this state of things that requests have been made for the establishment of some such tribunal as the one in the wheat industry, in order to bring the unfair employer into line with the fair one. By the vast majority of good farmers this award has been weir corned, and I hope that it will be continued in a satisfactory form when the next harvest period arrives.
– “Why did the Government cancel the regulations on the 26th January?
– That was the jointrecommendation of the representatives of the farmers and the employees. No doubt honorable members opposite would have liked wages and conditions in the wheat industry to be referred to the Arbitration Court, knowing that it was so choked with work that it would not have been able to handle ‘the matter until two or three harvests had passed. They allege that the chairman of the tribunal was specially chosen by the Government, but governments from their side of the House have always selected people of their own political and economic outlook for positions on courts and other influential bodies.
– It, was a government opposed to the honorable member’s party that first appointed Mr. Blakeley to a position in the Public Service.
– On that occasion the right thing was done. I was particularly interested in the pathetic tale told by the honorable member for Gippsland (Mr. Paterson) about the 4s. guarantee for wheat. He excused himself and hia party for not supporting it.
– We supported the bill in this House.
– Surely the honormember does not repudiate members of his party in the Senate, one of whom went astray on that occasion? The honorable member said that the senator in question so acted only because he believed that the Western Australian Government would not be able to honour the guarantee given. The honorable member himself was prepared to give the State governments the opportunity to honour the guarantee, but a member of his party in the Senate made sure that the State governments should never be tested. I was a member of a State government at that time, and I know that it had the capacity to raise the money.
– In Victoria, yes.
– And no doubt in Western Australia. It is useless for the honorable member for Gippsland to come along now with the story that the Scullin Government was pleased when the. proposal for a 4s. guarantee was defeated. It was in the power of the honorable member and the rest of his party to wheel the Scullin Government right up to the gate. Instead of doing so, he and his party fell down on the job, and the 4s. was never realized.
– Neither was the 3s., which was subsequently promised. The Government never paid it.
Mi-. POLLARD. - But the honorable member has been shouting for a 4s. per bushel payment, rabbit traps, and all sorts of assistance for the farmers, and has done nothing. I arn tired of listening to these long tales of poverty and woe. I leave it to the good sense of the House to see that the regulations, which I understand have already expired, are not disallowed, and that something of a similar character shall be enacted when the next harvest period arrives.
.- I support the motion. The honorable member for Ballarat (Mr. Pollard) has attacked the Opposition in his usual ultra-enthusiastic manner, making many wild statements, none of which he can substantiate. lie said that members of the Opposition were not sincere in their claim, to support the returned soldiers. That suggestion comes very badly from him, seeing that quite recently honorable members opposite took advantage of the illness of one soldier senator and the absence of another in the field to displace a limbless soldier in a very underhand, and dirty manner.
– We do not protest like the honorable member does.
– No. I protest when I have the facts ; honorable members opposite protest when they have none. Preference to returned soldiers is one subject which the honorable member and his colleagues should never raise, because theirs is the only parry in this country which ever had the audacity to attempt to deprive the returned soldiers of preference. The party which he supports deprived them of preference, but when an outcry came from the public, Ministers and their supporters, including the honorable member, ran for cover. The honorable member knows that, with the exception of a few individuals who themselves are returned soldiers, the great mass of his supporters have no interest in returned soldiers and bitterly oppose the preference to them.
What I have to say in connexion with the award I shall say briefly. First, it has been foisted upon farmers who have experienced years of drought, particularly in the north of Victoria, the Riverina and the Mallee. Their financial position has become worse each year, and then, when it seemed that at last they would get some little consideration in regard to the price of their product, the Government introduced this award, well knowing that the farmers were not in a position to pay these exorbitant wages, and also that suitable labour was not available. No farmer objects to paying £1 a day or more for a reasonably efficient workman who can drive a tractor or build a stack, but, owing to the policy of this Government, the rural areas of Australia, particularly the north of Victoria and the Riverina, have been completely drained of man-power. There are few men left on the farms, and most of them are fully engaged on their own places. The man who has to employ labour has to accept any one who is available, irrespective of his ability to do the job. Men are being employed on farms to-day who in normal circumstances would find it impossible to get a job. Many of them are absolutely inefficient, but the farmers must either accept what is available or allow their crops to go to ruin. The unfair part is that the Government introduced this award before taking any steps to put the wheat-farmers in a position to pay the higher rates. Why is not the wheat industry treated in the same way as the great sugar industry in Queensland, or the dried fruits industry in Victoria and New South Wales? I point out that although there is a guaranteed price for dried, fruits - a very, reasonable and payable price, too - the award for that industry prescribed wages which are considerably less than those prescribed in the award of the Wheat Harvest Employment Commission. The requirement that work in the wheat industry should be on an eight-hour basis is absolutely impracticable. The farmer who works his land and sows a crop and looks after it for many months knows that he may have only a month or even a fortnight to harvest it and that in the meantime, by storm or fire, he may be robbed of the fruits of his labour in a day; yet it is provided that harvesting should be on a basis of an eighthour day, with time and a half for work beyond eight hours! Any man worthy of the name is prepared to work for twelve hours a day on harvesting.
– Yes, if he is paid for it.
– Certainly pay him for it. If a reasonable price were fixed for wheat, the farmer would be able to employ his men for reasonable hours and at reasonable wages and every one in the industry would be fully satisfied. It has been stated that the farmers have no objection to the award. I warn the honorable member for Ballarat, particularly, that when he next faces the electors, the farmers will show that they have a definite objection to an award such as this until such time as the wheat industry is stabilized. I can assure the honorable member for Kalgoorlie (Mr. Johnson) also that quite a number of people in his electorate will be very dissatisfied with the award.
– They are dissatisfied with bank interest now.
– I understand from what the Treasurer (Mr. Chifley) has said that the honorable member will have an opportunity in the near future to see that bank interest is fixed at a reasonable rate so that farmers will be able to obtain finance upon just terms.
– The interest rate is now down to 5 per cent. It was never that before.
– That may be. Many things are happening at present. In view of the taxation measures which the Treasurer intends to introduce this session, I do not see how he can expect the farmers to pay exorbitant interest rates and increased wages as well. It seems to me to be a question of who is to be the first to put his hand, in one’s pocket.
I have no objection, and I am certain that wheat-growers generally have no objection, to a proper arbitration court award, taking into consideration the financial position of the industry, and the ability of farmers to pay, but I emphasize that the employer is just as much entitled to a fair deal .as is the employee.
.- An endeavour has been made by honorable members opposite to exploit for political purposes, the position that has arisen in the wheat industry due to the Wheat Harvest Employment Commission’s award. My views on the matter were expressed publicly some time ago. I am opposed to the award, for reasons which I shall explain briefly, and I shall vote for the motion. I think that the award was brought in at a most inopportune time. No doubt the conditions of farm workers require jUSt as much attention as do the conditions of the farmers who, as has been pointed out by several members, have been in a bad position for a long time. The whole industry needs to be properly organized on a sound economic basis. Those engaged in it have looked to successive governments for assistance, but so far no administration has made a serious and comprehensive attempt to deal properly with the primary producers. There is no reason why those engaged in farming work, whether they be employees or employers, should not enjoy conditions similar to those enjoyed by their fellows in secondary industries. In regard to the wheat industry in particular, although an award was asked for by the wheatgrowers’ organizations, the time for its introduction was inopportune.
– It was asked for by some of their organizations.
– It was asked for by a representative number of them, and the body which was set up to determine an award was fairly well balanced. It appears that in nearly every matter in dispute the chairman was called upon to give .a casting vote,, which he did invariably in the interests of the workers.
I do not wish to cast any reflections upon Mr. Blakeley, who is an estimable gentleman, but his training in the Labour movement undoubtedly inclines him to lean towards the workers. The wheat industry was not in a position to pay the rates stipulated in the award. Moreover, the labour available was largely inexperienced. Practically all of the people capable of doing the work efficiently were in the services or in war industries. An extraordinary drain has been made on the manpower in the country districts. A halt should have been called long ago in the call-up of rural workers. The harvest work during the period this award was in operation was done principally by older men and women, and young lads without adequate experience or strength. Very few of the people offering for work during the wheat harvest were capable of earning the high rates of wages in force.
I register my opposition to the award. I consider that the Government made a mistake in promulgating it in the circumstances, and would have been well advised to have withdrawn it until conditions in the rural areas made such rates practicable. As soon as I became aware that the award was made I communicated with the Minister concerned, and also with the secretary of the Parliamentary Labour party and the secretary of Cabinet and stated a case for its’ immediate suspension. My submissions were acknowledged and consideration of them was promised, but it was not until the harvest was practically over th?+action to suspend the award was taken I must say, however, that I formed the opinion, as I moved about the country, that the award was more frequently broken than observed. Not many farmers paid the prescribed rates. Although I do not condone breaches of the law, I consider that the farmers were justified, on this occasion, in the stand that they took because the labour offering was, for the most part, incapable of earning the rates prescribed. The award was unfair and I intend to vote for the motion.
.- I support the motion and compliment the honorable member for Forrest (Mr. Prowse) upon having submitted it. Something has been said about the back-door method that the honorable member has adopted to have the subject discussed, but scarcely any other course was open to him. I support the motion, not because I am against the payment of decent wages in the rural industries, or any other industries, but because I am convinced that, under existing conditions, the rural industries cannot afford to pay such wages. Primary producers must be assured of a reasonable return for their products before they can be expected’ to pay such high wages as were prescribed in this award. Rural workers are entitled to decent wages and to the standard of living and the amenities of life enjoyed by workers in more prosperous industries. I agree with the honorable member for Bendigo (Mr. Rankin) that the country districts have been drained of their man-power to such a degree that the position is now desperate. Thi Minister for Labour and National Service (Mr. Ward) said that an advertisement had been published in the press offering wages for rural work in excess of those stipulated in the Wheat Harvest Employment Award. That was due to the bungling that has occurred in dealing with our man-power. Unfortunately, many experienced farm workers were refused leave from camps in order to assist in gathering the harvest. Considerable numbers of men were in camps at places in close proximity to their own homes, but even they could not obtain the necess’ary leave to engage in this most important seasonal work. Applications for leave remained undetermined for two or three months, and in some cases- for even longer periods, and it frequently happened that by the time a decision was given the need for the work had passed. In some instances the crops could not be harvested. There has been a serious lack of co-ordination between the manpower and army authorities. Whether this is characteristic of Army administration I cannot say, but I trust that, in the future, more consideration will be given to bona fide applications for leave by men who wish to engage in harvesting operations. The bungling in man-power is obvious in many ways. Farmers who go to towns on business frequently are unable to obtain meals in hotels, whose dining-rooms have been closed, or restaurants because the requisite labour is not available. All this bungling has militated against the successful conduct of business. I agree with the remarks of those honorable members who have spoken about the burden of high interest rates in relation to the farming industry. We all are well aware that interest rates on promissory notes given in respect of the purchase of farming machinery and the like have been far too high. The rates have ranged between 10 per cent, and 15 per cent., and it is impossible for farmers to pay such rates. This Government, and also the previous Government, are to be complimented upon the action that has been taken to reduce interest rates. I commend the honorable member for Wimmera (Mr. Wilson) for the attitude he has adopted. He has shown that he has some interest in the welfare of the men on the land. I hope that the motion will be carried.
– I support the motion. I shall not devote much time to its demerits or merits, though I confess that I cannot find much merit in it. I wish to refer to the manner in which the regulations were promulgated. They became effective after the Parliament adjourned last October. The House met for only two days in .December, and the honorable member for Forrest (Mr. Prowse) had not the opportunity, at that time, to do more than give notice of his intention to move that they be disallowed. The honorable gentleman had the opportunity to do nothing, see nothing and say nothing but to give notice of his motion. The Government, having no business on its programme and not having cleaned up the Militia issue, might very well have devoted the time to the proper consideration of far-reaching regulations such as these. That did not suit the book of some persons; consequently, it was not done. The House decided that it would again meet on the 27th January. Doubtless it was determined that these regulations had better be out of the way before the “ boys “ returned ; in other words, that they were not the sort of things to have about the place when distinguished visitors arrived. That method of framing and disposing of regulations is politically immoral. From time to time, there have been amendments of the law dealing with and clarifying the powers of the representatives of the people in this Parliament in relation to the disallowance of regulations. If this matter is to be pursued, we shall have to press for still further amendments of the law governing the making of regulations; because when that law was passed by a previous Parliament, it was not intended that the Ministry should have the power to make a regulation, keep it in force for a period, and then dispose of it before the House had had an opportunity to deal with it. I declare that practice to be politically immoral.
For once in my life, I do not agree with the honorable member for Hume (Mr. Collins). I consider that the honorable member for “Wimmera (Mr. Wilson) made a deplorable speech. After the regulations had come into force and he had begun to move among the wheatfarmers in his electorate, he must have been “ tickled up “ by some of his good supporters. Whenever he is “ tickled “, he does something, even if it is only to produce a smile. On this occasion, according to his own showing, he adopted the rather unusual procedure of writing letters. He has told us what those letters contained, and to whom he sent them. Apparently, the first letter was sent to his chief, my friend the Minister for Com merce and Agriculture (M.r. Scully), who represents the electorate of Gwydir. I was in that constituency when he was elected, and I wondered why the people had chosen him. Certain things which be has done in connexion with primary industries since he became a Minister have caused me to wonder still more. That the honorable member for Wimmera should have to write to the Minister, is amazing; because according to the muddled method under which this Parliament has been conducted for some time, he - in the language of the “bullocky ‘ - is off-sider to the Minister. Why should the off-sider have to write to the man in charge of the team?
– The honorable- member for .Barker also has written to me occasionally.
– I have never been an “ off-sider “ to the honorable gentleman. He and I would not have the same bullocks in the team. The honorable member for Wimmera, as I have said, wrote to his lord and master. Apparently, the missive was without effect; it did not register. Not to be discouraged, ho sent another letter to the secretary to the Cabinet. Perhaps my education is deficient as to the way in which politics are conducted in this place to-day. Even so, I should rather consider it an act of impertinence to write to the secretary to the Cabinet on any matter. The only person who has the right to send a communication to that gentleman is a member of the Cabinet. I notice that the Leader of the Opposition (Mr. Fadden) is in the chamber. I should say that, if members began writing to the secretary to his Cabinet, he would tell them that it was their business to address their communications to Ministers. We have a perfect right to approach Ministers; but the secretary to the Cabinet is purely an inner officer of the Cabinet, and no member of this House has a right to address a communication to him.
– Who is the secretary to the Cabinet?
– The Lord knows; that is one of the things which the honorable member has not told us - any more than he has told us about Warracknabeal. According to his own statement, lie addressed1 another letter to the secretary to the Labour party. In the circumstances, one would think that the identity of that gentleman should be known; but as I live in utter darkness I am unaware of it. Having regard to the way in which the ministerial party is misrun at present, a fair bet would he the honorable member for Griffith (Mr. Conelan). I may, however, be completely wrong in that assumption. On this important matter, the honorable member for Wimmera saw fit to address three letters.
– And one to the press.
– The press will see him without his approaching it.
– Did he say what response he received to the letters?
– No. I did not ask him, and he did not volunteer the information. Judging by hil announcement that he intends to vote against the Government, I should say that the response was a frigid one, and in a hot summer too. So we have the rather peculiar spectacle of the honorable member, who is supposed to be assisting - and, I also understood, advising - the Minister for Commerce and Agriculture, taking the extraordinary step of addressing letters to the secretary to a party, the secretary to the Cabinet, and the Minister himself.
– He has given me some very useful advice.
– As a country representative, the honorable member should ventilate matters in this chamber. In this matter, he could have made an effective protest here last year, but he did not do so.
– Does not the honorable gentleman, as a reasonable man, realize fully, that the representatives of the industry are responsible for the present position ?
– I have never recognized that certain persons who claim to represent the wheat industry have any justification for that claim. If the honorable gentleman cares to peruse the records, he will find that at the last wheat conference over which I, as one of his predecessors, presided, I would not allow them to participate in the conference. Certain men in this country have ridden on the backs of the farmers for some time. They are the advisers whom the Minister saw fit to take to himself with both arms, after he had assumed office. The price will have to be paid, but not only by the honorable gentleman himself. He has a perfect right to select his advisers. Apparently, he selected the honorable member for Wimmera, or perhaps that honora’ble member suggested that he be given the job.
– Does not the honorable gentleman approve my choice?
– I am not commenting on the choice. If the honorable gentleman cares to accept bad advice, that is his affair. But it is of no avail for him to say that certain so-called representatives of the wheat industry decided this, that, or the other. I happen to know a few of these men, even better than I know the honorable member for Ballarat (Mr. Pollard).
– What are their names?
– I do not intend to name them, even to oblige the honorable gentleman. I say of him only that, judging by his speech of a few minutes ago, he has never paid income tax in his life; because everything he has made he has given away in wages, which have been in excess of what the Arbitration Court’ has obliged him to pay. Therefore, his sole object in engaging in primary production in the electorate of Ballarat is to make sufficient to pay the other fellow what is not taken from him by the “ money bags “. I do not know why the honorable member for Ballarat should have become so excited. Although the honorable member frequently interjects, it takes a good deal to induce him to make a speech, but when he does speak, he. becomes so excited, and speaks so vehemently, that I always think that he would have done better not to have spoken at all.
– What is the honorable member’s opinion of the motion?
– I shall support it. I hope that there will be a division on it, because it is necessary that the House shall indicate plainly that the present policy of government by regulation shall not be persisted in.
Reference has been made to man-power problems. I do not see much of my electorate in these days, but from time to time people living there write to me. They tell me that men for work on farms are almost as scarce as diamonds, and that any man who is worth his money can get a job. They do not object so much to the wages fixed for farm work as to awards providing for an eight-hour day for men taking off a crop. Such an award is stupid. An eight-hour day may be all right in a factory, but if it is to be applied to agriculture, then all engaged in the industry will soon become insolvent. In a report of some value by the Royal Commission on Wheat - and probably the reason no notice was taken of it wag that it was of value - that body said that agriculture was not an occupation in the strict sense of the term, but a way of life.
– It is a rather rough way at times.
– Yes. I know something of that side of agriculture. But however rough it may be, there is no need for the Government to make it rougher. It is a good thing that some old-age pensioners have undertaken work that they are not obliged to do, but I say to the honorable member for Ballarat - and my experience of men is probably equal to his - that very few men in receipt of an old-age pension are able to do anything like a full day’s work on a harvester, or pitching hay, or building a haystack. The building ox a haystack such as I have seen many times in South Australia is not a job for a lazy man or an old man.
– A 100-ton stack?
– In South Australia that is only a stook. In the Freeling, Kapunda and Gawler districts, many haystacks are a quarter of a mile long. Crops there may produce as much as 3 tons or even 4 tons of hay to the acre. Many farmers grow wheat only for hay, and buy their seed wheat each year.
– There is danger that the stacks will encroach on the property of neighbours.
– The honorable member for Wakefield (Mr.
Duncan-Hughes) and the honorable member for Grey (Mr. Badman) know that what I have said is correct.
Sitting suspended from 6.15 to 8 p.m.
– The Minister for Commerce and Agriculture is one of those persons who listen to advice. Some advice was tendered to him on the matter of what was a payable price for wheat. In determining wages we have to take into account capacity to pay. The Ministry embarks on a wheat policy. For want of a better name, I use the word “ policy “. It divides the farmer’s crop and says: “For one portion we will pay you 4s. a bushel and for the other portion 2s.” The Minister who drafted the regulations which the honorable member for Forrest seeks to have disallowed did not say to the farmers : “ You are to pay a certain wage if all your crop brings you 4s., but we will allow you to pay a smaller wage if your crop returns you less than that.” The Government does not say to manufacturers, particularly those engaged in the munitions industry: “Go ahead and manufacture articles and for the first so many thousand items we shall pay you so much, but, if you produce more than that, we shall pay you only half the price.” No, the Government does not say that to the manufacturer, and I. see no reason why it should say it to the wheat-grower. If the principle is good to apply to the wheat industry it should be equally good to apply to other primary industries. If these regulations fixing wages and conditions of labour are a good thing to apply to the wheat industry they should be a good thing to apply to every other primary industry, but I do not think that the Minister for Commerce and Agriculture, even in his wildest dreams, would think of saying to the wool-growers, particularly those in Gwydir: “For portion of your clip we will give you so much per pound, but, if your merinos produce more than the average weight of wool, we will give you only half that price.” He has not told the barley-growers that if their crop exceeds a certain limit they will receive so much up to the limit and half that price for the remainder. There is an over-production of barley. The
Government compulsorily acquired the apple and pear crop, but it did not say to the growers : “ If you grow more than a certain number of bushels, you will receive only half the guaranteed price for the excess quantity produced.” Last year we debated a measure introduced by the Minister for Commerce and Agriculture to deal with the dairying industry. The Minister has made certain regulations under that measure which are far from receiving the unanimous assent of ray dairy-farmer constituents. He has, however, not said to the dairying industry, “ If you produce more than a certain, quantity of butter, you will receive only half the guaranteed price for the excess quantity produced “. The Minister must clear up this point. He must talk to the farmers. If he goes to my electorate and talks to the farmers at Luxton, Waikerie, Mannum, Pinnaroo and one or two other places, he will find that they are annoyed with the policy under which they will receive only 2s. a bushel for that portion of their crop in excess of 3,000 bushels. I represent an electorate where God does not smile very kindly on the weather. The weather is one department which the Minister for War Organization of Industry has not taken under his wing, but, if he had, he would find this was one of his most successful years, because in districts where big yields are unusual the farmers have cropped from ten to fifteen bags to the acre. Those people who are reaping this unusually large quantity of wheat have found two little things which they find difficulty in overcoming. One is the Minister or one of his officers - and the Minister must take the responsibility - has made it necessary for the farmers to pay a high rate of wages. Another authority in the Minister’s department decided that the farmers should not take their wheat to the sidings before a certain date. They had to pay wages to farm-hands to turn the bags over every now and again to prevent the white ants from getting in until such time as it suited the Minister, or his servants, to allow them to take it to the sidings. That is not looked upon with good grace by the people who had needlessly to pay that money.
This afternoon the honorable member for Wimmera came into this chamber with the very best will. I know that he will thoroughly enjoy what I shall say to prove that everything a3 far as he is concerned is fair and above-board. The honorable member is. in a most advantageous position. Thereis no doubt that he is one of the two cabinetmakers in this place, but I had never seen a cabinetmaker try to get inside his own cabinet until we had his admission this afternoon. He goes to the farmer and says : “ I got you 4s. a bushel for your wheat, that is, if you are one of the little fellows ; but, if you are a big fellow, yon possibly will get no more than 2s. a bushel.”
– That is not a fair statement to make, because 2s. is only the first advance.
– How much is the honorable gentleman prepared to pay for their right to a second advance ?
– I am prepared to say that the balance of the wheat will realize in excess of 3s. 6d. a bushel.
– I hopethat the honorable member will not becalled upon to pay it.
– According^ to the honorable member for Barker, the wheat is absolutely valueless.
– Why did the Government pay only 2s. a bushel?
– The 2s. net is only the first advance. The final payment will be 3s. 6d. a bushel.
– That was one of the wickedest acts in the administration of this country, one of unfairest things ever done. I said before the Minister came into the chamber that, he would not tell the merino woolgrowersthat for portion of their clip they would get so much and only half as much for the remainder. There is as much justification to impose that condition on the woolgrowers as there is to impose it on the wheat-growers. What is good for one should be good for the others. The treatment of the wheat-growers is deliberate discrimination and the Minister ought to hang his head in shame.
– Ought to be proud.
-Order ! The honorable member’s remarks are not directly associated with the regulations which are the subject of this motion. “Mr. ARCHIE CAMERON.- I am afraid I do not agree with you Mr. Speaker. One cannot debate this motion without relating the rates of wages to the conditions under which the crop was harvested, or the conditions under which the wheat was sown in Western Australia. The Ministry compelled the Western. Australian farmers to leave onethird of their country unsown. ThatState is nearer to the places where the wheat will be needed than is any other part of Australia. If the wheat is to be worth 3s. 6d. a bushel, as the Minister says it will be, the Ministry was inexcusably wrong in imposing that reduction on the farmers in Western Australia. The Government has to face up to these two propositions : If the wheat is worth 3s. 6d. why pay 2s.? Is it the policy of the Government, that every farm is to be broken up by the means of which the honorable member for Forrest complains, namely, the specifying of a wage which cannot be paid ?
– Which has been paid.
– Some honorable members said that it had not been paid. No doubt, many farmers had paid the wage, to their cost and to their sorrow. They have paid it in the same spirit as they pay their taxes, not because they like it, but because they have to. The wheat industry has been singled out in three instances for discriminatory treatment, and in spite of all the eloquence or ink used by the Ministry, no excuse can be found for its actions and the honorable member for Wimmera cannot be brought out of the mist.
– Does the honorable member say that we could continue the production of wheat on the same scale as heretofore and still prosecute the war ?
– No. And I did not say that the crop was worth 3s. 6d. The honorable member for Wimmera can go through his electorate and say: “I am the off-sider of the Minister for Commerce and Agriculture, and, for portion of your crop,
I have got you 4s. a bushel. I have also got you 2s. a bushel for everything over 3,000 bushels, but you will get 3s. Gd. a bushel for the excess if I am right and you are lucky.”
– When the honorable member was Minister for Commerce, he told the wheat-farmers that 2s. 6d. a bushel was too much for wheat.
– 1 did nothing of the sort.
– That is very close to it.
– The Minister has been misinformed or he misunderstands the position. Perhaps he cannot read. If he can, he will see in the records of October, 1940, just before I left the then Ministry, what I did offer to the wheat-farmers. It was much more than his Government has ever paid the producers for their wheat. The honorable member for Wimmera went to his electorate and said : “ One of my cobbers, Ned Ward, has brought down regulations. I have protested to the Minister, and to the secretary of the Labour party, and gone right, over his head and protested to the secretary of the Cabinet as well “. There is a hat-trick in protests, and not one of them a winner! No notice was taken of any of the cabinet-maker’s protests. This afternoon we saw the spectacle of the honorable member for Wimmera and his evil genius, or guardian angel, whichever honorable members like to call him, the honorable member for Ballarat (Mr. Pollard), actually parting company. The honorable member for Ballarat spoke in opposition to the attitude adopted by the honorable member for Wimmera, which is something that we had not previously seen since this Government came into office. We well remember the occasion when the Government was about to see the light of day. There was any amount of “ pollard “ then in the cocky’s chaff for every hour of the day and night. But as soon as things become a little shaky on the other side we on this side know it at once, because our barometer is infallible. The attention which is paid by his guardian angel to the honorable member for Wimmera, who constitutes half the Government’s majority, is touching in the extreme. The Government must take notice of these matters. The Minister for Commerce and Agriculture is sitting at the table, and alongside him is the Minister for Labour and National Service (Mr. Ward), who will, I suppose, soon take a hand in the debate. My chief protest is against the method in which the regulations were introduced. lt is a very questionable use of parliamentary procedure and of the laws on the statute-book to introduce regulations after Parliament has risen, and cancel them on the very day before it meets again. It is on a parity with what was done in the Department of Commerce and Agriculture last week, when the meat industry regulations were coming under the fire of some of our friends in the Senate. On that occasion two members were added to the Australian Meat Industry Commission by the Minister. That was a public confession that the complaint lodged against, those regulations was justified, just as the complaint lodged by the honorable member for Forrest (Mr. Prowse) last Friday against these regulations is justified. If ever anything done by the honorable member had full and absolute justification, it is the motion to disallow these regulations, even if they have been cancelled. The Government must face up to the question of what it is going to do about rural wages. It has shown its hand on this occasion. On an occasion not very far ahead - in fact very much nearer than some honorable members opposite hope - these regulations will be held up by the Minister and some of his friends, when canvassing the city electorates, as something that they put over the “miserable old cockies out in the country “. They will say : “ Our boy Ned is the bloke, he forced them up to it, he put it over them, and before they could do anything about it, he took it off again. He is one of the shrewdest chaps we have on the front bench “. [Extension of time granted.] The regulations are thoroughly bad. The circumstances in which they were introduced and cancelled were most unsatisfactory. The farming community will demand from the Government an early indication of its intentions, if any, in relation to the next harvest. The honorable member for Wimmera, who, I understand, will shortly travel overseas, will have to stand up a little better to his obligations than he has on this occasion, or else he will earn the name of one who has a tendency, when things begin to look a little stormy, to go for shelter. There are times when it is not advisable for anybody to have the reputation of making for shelter.
– Will the honorable member explain what he means by that?
-I am perfectly certain that every body in .this chamber, except the honorable member, understands what I mean. Let the Government settle on a proper policy in this matter. If it intends to impose an agricultural wages award, let it apply it to all agriculture. Why single out the wheat industry? Why give it a bounty with one hand and take it away with the other? The farmers are entitled to know what the Government is going to do, and as the result of these regulations they are justified in fearing the worst. I hope that their fears will not be entirely realized, but I am afraid that, unless there is a change of mind and heart, and the substance of a policy instead of an apology for one on the part of the Government, they will be fully entitled to expect the worst.
– The debate has been largely wasted effort, because it, was generally understood when the honorable member for Forrest (Mr. Prowse) introduced this motion that to all intents and purposes the regulations were no longer in existence. The commission went out of existence long ago. The third regulation of Statutory Rules 1942, No. 47,1, was as follows : -
Tim object of these regulations is to give effect to a decision reached at a conference of representatives of the Australian Wheatgrowers .Federation and the Australian Workers Union held at Canberra on the sixth day of October, 194.2, in regard to the determination of rates of remuneration and conditions of work for persons engaged in the harvesting of wheat sown during the year 1942, and to the obtaining and directing of man-power for the purpose of such harvesting, and these regulations shall be administered and construed accordingly.
These regulations, therefore, were definitely brought into being for the harvesting of the wheat sown in 1942, at the instance of the representatives of the Australian Wheatgrowers Federation and the Australian “Workers Union. We hear all this talk about a back-door method of appointment, although the approach was made by the representatives of the wheat-growers of Australia to the Minister for Labour and National Service (Mr. Ward) for the express purpose of having these regulations framed and gazetted. I represent a wheat-growing constituency as extensive as any in the whole of Australia, but I have not heard one word of hostile criticism throughout the length and breadth of it. In fact, for years past in that portion of the State wheat producers have paid a higher wage than that awarded by the tribunal set up by these regulations. This was proved by the advertisements which the Minister for Labour and National Service quoted from recent issues of New South Wales country newspapers, when he was replying .to the speech made by the honorable member for Forrest in moving the motion. In those advertisements applications were called for workers on wheat farms at much higher rates than those fixed by the tribunal. I have not had the opportunity of hearing the whole of the debate on the motion, but every honorable member that I have heard speak on the other side of the chamber has said in effect, “ We do not mind a proper approach to the ‘Commonwealth Arbitration Court, and the determination of a fair wage by the court “. One would almost think, to hear them speak, that honorable members opposite were in favour of paying fair wages to all those engaged in the industry. They know that hundreds of the men who have received these wages have sons fighting at the front, just as the producers have, and have the same share of responsibility for the safety of this country as honorable members opposite have, but we know that the latter would deny them fair wages. The honorable member for Forrest has moved a motion which is in keeping with the well-known appellation of the party opposite. It is known throughout the length and breadth of Australia as the low-wage party. Who are they to speak of an approach to the Arbitration Court ? They have been in . power in the Commonwealth Parliament for upwards of twenty years, with the exception of one brief period, but on no occasion did they ever make an approach to the Arbitration Court to obtain the fixation of a fair wage for rural workers. When at the request of those engaged in the industry an approach was made to the Minister for Labour and National Service, he established a tribunal on which both thu Australian Workers Union and the Wheat-growers Federation were represented. An award was made which some of my low-wage friends opposite think was a little too high, but let them compare the position of the wheat-grower to-day with that which he occupied when they were in power. On a 1,000-bag basis the return for his wheat, delivered at the railway siding or the nearest country mill, is £600. The best that honorable members opposite were able to offer him was approximately £400 so that under this Government the farmer is receiving an extra £200 on his first 1,000 bags of wheat. The commission’s award, even taking the figures quoted by honorable members opposite, means that the farmer will pay an extra £10 in wages on the first 1,000 bags; yet the Opposition claims that he cannot carry the additional burden. When the acid test is applied to the arguments that have been advanced by honorable members opposite, it becomes clear that their speeches are merely camouflage and hot air, especially in view of the fact that the tribunal concerned no longer exists, and the regulations to all intents and purposes are inoperative. Their crocodile tears are all so much wasted effort. It is an endeavour to make the wheatgrower believe that he has a grievance when, in fact, no such grievance exists. The wheat-grower has not such a short memory as the Opposition would have us believe. I pity the honorable member for Grey (Mr. Badman), because this is the last Parliament in which he will sit, and I realize that he is endeavouring to make as big a noise as possible in its final stages. I say without fear of contradiction that no bona fide wheatgrower in Australia will deny his workers a fair wage, and honorable members opposite who claim to represent the wheat-growers, are casting a reflection upon them by talking in the way they have done to-day. Is it any wonder that representatives of wheat-growing constituencies among the Opposition parties can he counted on one hand ? Obviously wheat-growers are fast turning to the Labour party because they realize that that is the only party which will ever consider them in any way, and endeavour to give them a reasonable return for their product.
.- m reply - I wish to make a few observations in reply to speeches that have been made from the government bench. The honorable member for Kalgoorlie (Mr. Johnson), for instance, appears to be seriously perturbed because I communicate occasionally with my constituents with a view to ascertaining their views on questions of national importance. I have never been known to interrupt the work of the National Parliament and our war effort to consult the Labour Conference, as the Prime Minister (Mr. Curtin) did, and I ask the honorable member for Kalgoorlie not to be too jealous if I should fulfil my obligations to my constituents so well as to seek their opinion on certain matters. The action taken by the Government in connexion with this industry was one-sided and apparently the feeling amongst honorable members opposite is that so long as Labour swims it does not matter how far the farmer sinks. That is quite clear. The main point I wish to deal with is the statement of the Minister for Labour and National Service (Mr. Ward) and other speakers that there was no agitation against this award. The fact is that there has been no greater agitation against any. regulation tabled in this House. The newspapers prognosticated the object the Minister had in introducing the regulations. I do not think that the Prime Minister had anything to do with it. In fact, I think that he is a bit disgusted with the whole tiling because he has not participated in this debate. After expressing Mr. Forgan Smith’s dictum that to use regulations in war-time for political ends is unjust and dishonest, a subleader which appeared in the West Australian stated -
Mr. Prowse has given notice of a motion to disallow the regulations. Yet the fact remains that by the time any of these remedies has a chance of succeeding most of the 1942 Australian wheat crop will be harvested and most of the inflated wages will have been paid. Thus will be achieved the immediate objective of Mr. Ward and the Australian Workers Union.
On the 16th November, I showed my concern in the matter by writing to no less a person’ than the Prime Minister himself. I realized that it was useless to write to the Minister for Labour and National Service, although I believe that the reply which I received was written by that Minister.
– The honorable member should have written directly to the Minister concerned.
– Ordinarily, yes, but the Prime Minister is the head of the Government, and so important did I regard this question that I wrote to him. My letter was as follows: - fie harvesting award or order recently issued by the Federal Wheat Harvest Employment Commission.
Here again, is a matter of far more serious importance. In the past years of federation no government of any party, in peace or war, has sought to fix an award on our rural export industries; yet, sir, your Government has by regulation fixed, an award for workers in the wheat industry that is not possible for the farmer to pay at a time, when, because of low prices, increased costs and lack of man-power he was never in a worse financial position.
This action on the part of your Government has displayed a definite desire to impose Labour objectives upon the nation in war-time by regulation, whereas, in time of peace a principle that has been laid down in such matters, viz., submission to arbitration, has been totally disregarded.
Apparently the award that has been given in this industry has been made without any regard to its economic repercussions.
Mi1. Ward. - That protest was made after the award was made; why did the honorable member not protest against the appointment of the commission?
– The Minister was cautious enough to promulgate the regulations when Parliament wa3 in recess. When honorable members were brought to Canberra in December, 1942, for a sitting which lasted only two days, they were informed that no legislation would be placed before them and the Prime Minister specially requested that only the war situation should be discussed. However the Clerk of the House announced the laying on the table of these regulations. One second after he did so I rose in my place and moved for their disallowance. Does the Minister for Labour and National Service consider this matter to be of so little importance that it could have been discussed adequately upon the motion for the adjournment?
– The honorable member did not protest against the appointment of the commission.
– I received from the Leader of the Opposition in the Parliament of Western Australiaa letter dated the 11th November, 1942, stating -
At a meeting of the Country party this morning the harvesting award or order recently issued by the Federal Wheat Harvest Employment Commission was fully discussed. And it was decided that at present product prices and with the area restrictions involved, it is impossible for Western Australian farmers to pay the award rates ordered. The following lettergram has, therefore, been despatched to the Prime Minister: - “ State Country party definitely opinion that farmers in Western Australia cannot pay wage rates ordered by Harvest Commission stop while we believe agriculture labour entitled wage equality with industrial farmers are themselves entitled living wage stop both cannot be accomplished at present product prices stop unless Federal Government prepared immediately pay cash on delivery price for all grain crops covering full costs production plus margin of profit to leave farmer proper standard of living should be cancelled stop urge you immediately take action one way or the other to relieve intolerable position stop would remind you 3s. 10d. bulk payable only portion wheat crop off restricted area stop this price is equivalent about1s. 9d. prior last war.”
The party considers that no stone must be left unturned to remedy the present situation. If there is any delay in guaranteeing a definite cost-plus price for all grain being produced the most drastic parliamentary action, it is contended, must be taken. We feel that we can rely on you and your colleagues to assist us, in this matter.
– What about the Prime Minister’s reply?
– With the permission of the House, I shall read not only the balance of my letter to the Prime Minister, but also the Prime Minister’s reply. My letter continued -
I would like to say, most solemnly when your Government assumed office, I resolved to regard the successful prosecutionof the war as paramount over all other considerations, and to give your Government all possible help to that end. However, in the light of the Abovementioned disuniting and contentious actions and other similar legislation on the part of your Government which I need not enumerate to you, it makes the carrying out of my earlier resolve most difficult.
Your own public statements calling for unity in the Commonwealth,I regret to say, are in the main thwarted by the party political actions of your Government.
– That was after the award was made. The honorable member never protested against the appointment of the commission.
– When I moved the motion for the disallowance of the regulations, I gave a detailed account of what has transpired, how the whole matter was “ packed “ and “ stacked “, how the first conference held at Canberra was under the chairmanship of the secretary to the Minister for Labour and National Service, Mr. Murphy, and how, after that conference, the wheatgrowers of Australia met to consider this matter and unanimously came to the conclusion that any award should be on a cost-plus basis.
It is of no use for honorable members opposite to say that the farmers arranged for this award to be made. The fact of the matter is that not only had the workers’ representatives prepared the log, but they had also made provision for preference to unionists. When the subject came up for consideration by the commission one representative of the Australian Workers Union moved, and the other seconded, that the log should be adopted, and that preference to unionists should be provided. The farmers’ representatives voted against the proposal, and the chairman, Mr. Blakeley, voted for it. In his reply to my letter, the Prime Minister said -
With regard to the mutter of the harvest award, it is apparent-
– Read the whole letter.
– The first part of the letter has nothing to do with the award.
– Nevertheless, the honorable member should read the whole letter.
– I am sure that the Minister for Commerce and Agriculture is familiar with the contents of the document, but I shall read that part of it which relates to the award. I doubt whether the Chair would permit me to read the whole of the letter. The relevant part of it reads as follows : -
With regard to the matter of the harvest award, it is apparent that you are not familiar with the developments which led up to this.
Early in August a meeting of the New South Wales Harvest Advisory. Committee, perturbed at the manpower position, discussed the advisability of recommending the establishment of an award for the wheatgrowing industry. On this committee were representatives of the New South Wales Wheat Growers Union and the Farmers and Settlers Association. After exhaustively examining the position the committee unanimously recommended - that in order to establish a reasonable and uniform wage for harvest employees to be applied to all wheatgrowing States of Australia, this Advisory Committee urges the DirectorGeneral of Man Power to immediately convene a conference between the Australian Wheat Growers Federation representing the employers, and the Australian Workers Union representing the employees, for the purpose of discussing and deciding this important question. It is the desire of this committee that the matter of discussing wages and conditions for harvesting should not be referred to any Arbitration Court as it could be best decided at a round-table conference of the parties.
This decision, it was explained, was the direct outcome of happenings during the previous harvest, when farmers were outbidding one another for the small amount of labour available. Later, acting on the terms of the recommendation, the Australian Wheat Growers Federation selected two representatives, the Australian Workers Union two representatives, while the Minister for Labour, Mr. Ward, appointed Mr. Blakeley as chairman of the tribunal. The award was the outcome of their deliberations.
I believe that the industry will accept full responsibility for its actions and thus render baseless your assertion that calls for unity “ are in the main thwarted by the party political considerations of your Government “.
Now the House has heard my letter and also the Prime Minister’s reply to it.
– Only a part of the reply. The honorable member read the whole of his own letter. He should read the whole of the Prime Minister’s reply to it.
– I did not read the whole of my letter. I read that portion of it which related to the award. However, as honorable members are now doubtless curious concerning the first part of the letter, I had better inform them that it relates to the dismissal by the Minister for Commerce and Agriculture of Mr. John S. Teasdale, a member of the Australian Wheat Board. Although the Government dismissed Mr. Teasdale, it forwarded him a letter which was probably more complimentary than any letter it has caused to be written to any other person in Australia. Mr. Teasdale assisted in selling 100,000,000 bushels of wheat in a way which was completely free from complaint; yet he was dismissed from the board and another man, without any experience at all, was appointed in his stead.
Some honorable members opposite have argued that there was no objection to this award at the time it was made. Those who had the privilege of attending the Constitution Convention held in Canberra last December will remember, however, that Mr. A. F. Watts, the Leader of the Opposition in the Parliament of Western Australia, based his opposition to the granting of additional powers to the Commonwealth Government on the ground that he did not believe that the Commonwealth would use such powers honestly, as it had not used its war-time powers honestly, and he instanced as an outstanding case the misuse of powers, the action the Government had taken in connexion with the appointment of the Wheat Harvest Employment Commission. I am sorry that the Attorney General (Dr. Evatt) is not in his place, because he has expressed himself as being jealous of the reputation of the Government in regard to its use of war-time powers.
Action was taken by the Government in conformity with the wishes of what was obviously a packed meeting. I do not suggest that Mr. Blakeley is not an honest man. I have an admiration for him. I sat with him in this Parliament for a number of years. I point out, however, that at one time he was a secretary of the Australian Workers Union, and later he was a member of a Labour Government. He voted with the. union representatives on this commission, and in doing so showed that he was not unbiased. The financial position of the farmer was not taken into contention. I can see the Minister sniggering. No doubt, as the honorable member for Barker (Mr. Archie Cameron) has said, the Minister will say to his friends, “ Look at this ! Didn’t I catch them nicely.”
– The honorable member did not protest against the appointment of Mr. Blakeley until after the award was made.
– I did not have an opportunity to protest about it in the House. The whole business was carried out in a sneakiest way. The regulations were not issued until after the House adjourned in October, and steps were taken to render the commission inoperative as from the day before the House met last month. The following newspaper report of remarks by Mr. Diver and Mr. Cambridge indicates clearly what happened at the meeting of the commission : -
After several minor matters had been dealt with, Mr. Buckland and Mr. Gunn, of the Australian Workers Union, moved the adoption of the determination as a whole. We voted against it. The chairman voting for the determination, it was carried.
Itwill not be difficult for honorable members to picture what happened at the meeting of the commission. It can hardly be suggested by even the widest stretch of the imagination that the tribunal was unbiased. There is no shadow sparring about this motion.
– But there is some electioneering.
– Notwithstanding that remark, I point out that these regulations are not inoperative, for they relate to the harvesting of sowings in 1942. Some barley, rye and other cereals were sown in December last and still have to be harvested. I bring that fact to the notice of the honorable member forKalgoorlie (Mr. Johnson), in particular. Mr. Blakeley is still administering the award, and it may still have application to sowings made last year.
I am glad that the honorable member for Wimmera (Mr. Wilson) recognizes that an injustice has been done to the farmers. I admit that a tribunal such as an arbitration court would probably have taken considerable time to examine all aspects of this subject had it been referred to it; but honest judges would always examine both sides of a question. It is only fair that awards made shall be just to both employers and employees, and I submit that this award was not of that nature. One cannot take out of a property more than one puts into it.
Question put -
That Statutory Rules Nos. 471 and 487 of 1842, being National Security (Wheat Harvest
Employment) Regulations made under the National Security Act 1939-1940, be disallowed.
The House divided. (Mr. Speaker - Hon. W. M. Nairn.)
Majority . . 2
Question resolved in the negative.
.- I move -
That Statutory Rules No. 459 of 1942 and No. 3 of 1943, being National Security (Proprietary Medicines) Regulations made under the National Security Act 1939-1940, he disallowed.
These may be described as regulations which deal with the sale of proprietary medicines. The issue raised in the motion for their disallowance is of prime moment to every honorable member. If the matter be resolved according to a strict party vote, the merits of my argument will not have been given due consideration. Protests have been made by honorable members on both sides of the House with respect to the manner in which the Executive of this country has exercised the executive powers vested in it by the National Security Act. It has been alleged from time to time, in my view with very good cause, that there has been unnecessary use of power. I declare that there has been abuse of power. If I am correct in that declaration, the matter is so serious as to arrest the attention of every honorable member.
I shall first give a short resume of what the regulations provide. “ Proprietary medicine “ is defined as follows : -
Any medicine or compound of medicines prepared according to any formula, whether secret or not, which is held out by advertisement, label, or otherwise in writing or by broadcast by means of wireless telegraphy, as efficacious for - certain specified purposes. Those purposes are, the prevention, cure or relief of any human malady. I direct attention to the fact that proprietary medicines are such as are held out to be efficacious for any of those purposes. Those not so held out are entirely free from the inhibitions of these regulations.
Regulation 4 requires every manufacturer of a proprietary medicine, as well as the agent of any person who manufactures any proprietary medicine outside the Commonwealth, to furnish to the Director-General of Health certain specified particulars as to the advertising matter used by him, and other matters, including a full statement of the formula of the proprietary medicine.’ This regulation obliges agents in this country to reveal to the Director-General of Health the formulas in respect of proprietary medicines that have been on the market for a long time, which do not belong to the agent, but in point of fact may be, and in many instances are, vested in proprietors in the United Kingdom and the United States of America.
Under regulation 6, which is very important, the Minister may, by order, prohibit the manuf acture or sale of any proprietary medicine if he is satisfied that it has not the effects which are claimed on its behalf, that it does not satisfy the purposes for which it is sold, that it is of a dangerous nature, or that it is liable to produce miscarriage. I specially direct attention to the lastmentioned, because I find it somewhat difficult to understand how a regulation dealing with the prosecution of the war can concern itself with miscarriage. Perhaps the Minister for Health (Mr. Holloway) will later enlighten the House on that point.
Regulation 7 prohibits the manufacturer or distributor of any proproprietary medicine, or any person employed or authorized by a manufacturer or distributor, from canvassing or soliciting for the purpose of inducing any person to purchase, obtain, or use any proprietary medicine. Later I shall deal more in detail with this regulation, in order to show the prohibition which it imposes upon a substantial trade in this’ country - a prohibition which cannot be justified by the suggestion that it is connected in any way with the war effort.
Regulation 8 restricts very drastically the publication, whether by way of advertisement or otherwise, of any statement calculated to promote the sale of any proprietary medicine.
Regulation 9 empowers the Minister, after consultation with the chairman of the Medical Equipment Control Committee, by order, to limit the amount of any proprietary medicine which may be manufactured, the amount of- any ingredient which may be included in any proprietary medicine, or the use of any ingredient in any proprietary medicine.
Before I present the gravamen of my objection, I point out that there are already in operation regulations entitled National Security (Medical Coordination and Equipment) Regulations ; these have been in existence since the 19th December, 1939. They provide -
For the purpose of ensuring an adequate supply of medical equipment for naval, military and air forces and the civil population of Australia, the chairman of the Central Committee may make orders for regulating, restricting or prohibiting the production, storage, distribution, sale, purchase and use of medical equipment.
Medical equipment is defined to include all goods and/or all appliances used for medical, surgical, dental or veterinary purposes. It must be obvious that those regulations cover the whole of the subject matter of the regulations for the disallowance of which I am now moving. I have no doubt as to what the purpose of these latter is. We have witnessed the growth of a bureaucracy in this country. A person vested with power seeks to attract more power to himself. Be secures the passage of regulations requiring him to discharge additional duties. These duties lead to his needing an enlargement of the personnel of his department, and this builds up his position in the service. I affirm with great respect that this characteristic is not foreign to the Director-General of Health, who is within the precincts of the House to-night.
An examination of the regulations first discloses the powers that they invoke. This Parliament has enacted the National Security Act, which vests in the Executive of this country the widest possible powers - the plenary powers of this Parliament to do things that need to be done in time of war. The Parliament conferred those powers on the Executive because the war situation demanded that they be given. Itis quite clear that, apart from the exigency of war, this Parliament has not the power to legislate in the terms of these regulations; a matter may be the subject of regulations only if they can be directed to the defence power of the Commonwealth. I have indicated to the Minister that my ground of objection to these regulations is that they are so clearly invalid as to be an abuse of the power vested by this Parliament in the Executive. If I am correct in that contention, I have raised a matter of prime importance. I regret that the Attorney-General (Dr. Evatt) is not present, because I should like to know from him, as the law Minister of the Government, whether he is prepared to say that any argument can be advanced in support of the legality of these regulations. I do not go only so far as to say that in my opinion they are doubtful regulations; I venture to assert that no lawyer would justify them. I have no doubt that if the Attorney-General, with his knowledge of law, were present, he would not seek to justify them. In his absence, I want to know - and every member is entitled to know - from the Minister, who gave advice, if any one did, as to the legality of these regulations. They can be justified only on the following grounds: First, that they are directed to the conservation of drugs which are in short supply in this country; or secondly, that they are directed to the conservation of manpower in this country. I do not think that any one would say that the health of the people of Australia, in the terms referred to in this regulation, is a matter directly associated with the war. The States have full power in respect of health matters. I do not think that any honorable member is unaware that for a long time Departments of Health throughout the Commonwealth have sought to have control similar to that proposed by these regulations. It is obvious to me and to any one who take3 the trouble to look into the matter, that the exigency of war is being used by the Executive to introduce the control of substantial business under the guise of a war effort, when, in fact, it has no relation to the war effort. The gist of the regulations is contained in regulation 6, but before I deal with that regulation I remind the House that the Government has said from time to time that it will use the executive power vested, in it under the National Security Act only for the purpose of prosecuting the war, and so far and no farther tiran that emergency warrants. The Government has said that, apart from those reasons, business shall not be interfered with. I challenge the House to say that this is not a direct interference with business and has no relation whatever to the prosecution of the war.
– The power to make regulations is not limited to the war effort.
– I agree, but I shall be glad to know under what head of power, apart from the defence power, it can be said that these regulations can be effective.
Let us consider, first, what powers are conferred by the Constitution. There is no power under the Constitution for the
Commonwealth to deal with health at all, or with the subject-matter of these regulations. Were it not for the war, this Parliament could not deal with the subject covered by these regulations by means of a statute. If it be said that the conservation of drugs in short supply relates to the defence power I say that the existing regulations, which were brought into operation on the 19th December, 1939, fully cover the position. And even if they do not, any suggestion that these regulations are directed to the conservation of drugs is negatived by a perusal of them. Regulation 6 provides that the Minister may direct that a person may not manufacture a proprietary medicine if the Minister is satisfied that it will not do what is claimed on its behalf. That applies whether the medicine is supposed to relieve biliousness, or to give relief in respect of some other ailment, minor or otherwise. That regulation also refers to medicines liable to produce abortion or miscarriage, and to a number of other matters which are in no sense connected with the war. Particularly since the war, we have had far too many examples of the Executive claiming rights that this Parliament itself would not claim.
In order to show the extent of the regulations, I draw attention to circular No. 2 issued by the Department of Health. When regulations are issued, persons are necessary to police them. Then the department issues rulings, more persons are needed to see that those rulings are obeyed. These things go on a,d infinitum, despite man-power shortages. The regulations refer to proprietary medicines. The definition of “ proprietary medicine “ is most extensive, and so we have the following rulings from the Director-General of Health: -
This applies in respect of medicines, toilet preparations, proprietary food and yeast . . .
As a more detailed statement it is now stated that the regulations apply to medicated confectionery, cosmetics, toilet preparations, toothpaste, corn or other plasters, superfluous hair removers.
It is farcical to suggest that these things are in any way associated with the prosecution of the war. The ruling proceeds to show that the term covers also -
Biological preparations, endocrine preparations, yeasts, and yeast preparations, vitamins and vitamin preparations, cereal foods and disinfectants.
Could anything be more laughable than that a government should try to justify a regulation covering such matters in the manner indicated by these regulations on the ground that it is directed to the prosecution of the war ? And yet under no other head can the regulation be justified. It is significant that the Attorney-General is not in the House. I should like to hear from him, whether in his opinion it is arguable that this regulation can be justified under the National Security Act.
If it be said that the purpose of the regulation is the conservation of drugs in short supply the simple answer is that existing regulations are sufficient for that purpose, and that the Department of Supply and Shipping has already in existence all the machinery necessary to obtain returns showing what supplies of drugs of various kinds are available, and for commandeering those drugs if thought desirable.
– What is the purpose of the regulations?
– For a considerable time the Department of Health has been seeking ways for increasing its own prestige. I say with respect to the Minister for Health, that compared with other departments, the Department of Health has very little to do. Those in control of that department see other departments growing, and they want their department also to grow. And so they say, “ This is our time to get in while the going is good “. I should like to see the files in respect of this particular matter. I venture to say that the papers go back a long way before the war. The regulations cannot be justified on that ground. Will the Minister say what are the grounds upon which this regulation is justified? Will he tell the House whether he has received legal advice in respect of this matter from the Crown Law officers, and if so, who gave it, and what was its nature? The extent of the regulations will be realized when it is noted that they cover cereal foods. Many people who buy certain cereal foods as roughage claim that such foods are the equivalent of a medicinal preparation in that they have beneficial effects. Under these regulations such a cereal food cannot be manufactured unless the formula be supplied to the Director-General of Health. Moreover, any advertisement in relation to a proprietary medicine is limited to so many words and lines. By that means good preparations will be penalized in favour of those which are not so good or are even harmful.
– Who will be the judge of the efficacy of a medicine?
– I take it that it will be the Minister for Health, which in practice will mean his advisers. In order to show how farcical the whole thing is, I shall read some extracts from an appendix to the circular.
– Should not the appendix be removed ?
– Perhaps that could not be done without reference to the Minister for Health. The appendix to the circular contains the following paragraphs : -
For example and without limiting the scope, the use of the following words or expressions will not be permitted in broadcasting and should be used with restraint in other advertising matter: - Bad breath, bladder disorders, bowels, constipation, diarrhoea, flushing the kidneys, festers, scabs, intestines, piles, et cetera. 1.2. In broadcasting the use of other terms which border on the objectionable shall be handled with restraint. For example, and without limiting the scope, great care must be exercised in the use of the following words or expressions: - Body odours, kidneys, keeping regular, sour stomach, ulcers.
Could anything be more stupid than claiming these matters as directly relating to the war ? Regulation 7 reveals further the extent of the regulations as a whole. It reads -
A manufacturer or distributor of any proprietary medicine, or any person employed or authorized by a manufacturer or distributor of any proprietary medicine, shall not -
canvass, or solicit;
employ any person to canvass or solicit. any persons for the purpose of inducing that person to purchase, obtain, or use any proprietary medicine.
These regulations were gazetted without any reference to the trade. One would have thought that when dealing with proprietary medicines, which form a large part of retail trade, the Government would have had the sense, if not the courtesy, to approach the trade before issuing them; but it did nothing of the sort. Proprietary medicines have been distributed throughout the country by wholesale and retail houses, in some instances it has taken place over a period of 40 or 50 years. Should a traveller representing a wholesale house call on a storekeeper or chemist he. may not call over the list of his wares and ask, “ Which of these do you want? “ because that would be a breach of the regulations. When the Director-General of Health was asked whether a traveller could accept an order which had not been expressly sought bv him, he at first said “ no “, but later he agreed that orders could be accepted so long as they were not solicited. What a state of affairs has been reached in this country if this kind of thing can bt- imposed on the public, not by the Parliament, or even by the Minister, although he may sign his name to the order, but in reality by the DirectorGeneral of Health! It is time that the Parliament put an end to such a farce. When we have a clear-cut case of the Executive exceeding its powers by means of regulations such as these regulations we should eschew party divisions and vote according to our convictions to ensure that the powers that we have given to the Executive under the National Security Act shall no longer be misapplied. According to regulation 7 it appears to me that not even the premises of the manufacturer or distributor of a proprietary medicine shall be used by him for the promotion of sales. A manufacturer or distributor with premises in Sydney will not be allowed to send a customer a list of his products with a suggestion that he ought to order a greater quantity of some item or other because of the likelihood of a shortage, because that is canvassing. No one who know3 the meaning of the word and the legal decisions given could dispute that. What relation has that regulation to the war effort? Far from assisting the war effort, it will hinder it, because the manufacturers and distributors of proprietary medicines will have to employ more men to cope with the matters of details which will arise. That is by no means an uncommon result of regulations. No firm engaged in the proprietary medicine trade will be allowed to employ a commercial traveller whose job would be to seek orders or explain to customers why such and such an article was in short supply.
When one examines these regulations one finds that the real reason for their introduction is related to the matter of health, with which I will not deal in detail, because we all know that this Parliament has no power to deal with health matters. That power lies with the States. I am one who believes that health should be one of the primary responsibilities of this Parliament, but I also know that under the Constitution we have no power to deal with health matters, either by legislation or by regulation. Whatever we may think about the need for this Parliament to deal with matters concerning health we are obliged to ensure that the ‘Constitution shall be observed. Tt cannot be suggested that matters concerning the general health of the community, for instance whether we should use this or that, kind of yeast, or this or that kind of breakfast cereal, should be the subject of regulations made with the object of ensuring that we shall continue to prosecute the war. There are, therefore, only two grounds on which these regulations could be justified. First, drugs may be in short supply, and, secondly, there is need to conserve man-power.’ I have already dealt effectively with the matter of drugs being in short supply. These regulations are not necessary from that point of view, because the Government has already power vo require every person in possession of anything in short supply, whether it be a dr-ug or not, to make a return in respect of it. On the man-power ground, the only possible argument that could be advanced in support of the regulations is that they limit advertising. No advertisement of a proprietary medicine shall exceed 30 words in length, but there is no limit to the length of time that an advertiser of a proprietary medicine may broadcast over the air. The only condition in that respect is that reference to the article being advertised shall be made only in .specified ways. No limit has been placed on the space which a 30-word advertisement may occupy in a newspaper. If the space were available, an advertiser could take a whole page and spread his 30 words over it. No Parlia- ment should allow such a farcical state of affairs to continue. These regulations are so clearly invalid as to amount to an abuse of power by the Executive. Even assuming that the regulations were good in law they should not be allowed by Parliament because, first, they will throw the trade into utter confusion, and, secondly, they overlap regulations issued by other Commonwealth Departments Regulation 3 defines medicine in the following terms : - “ Medicine “ includes any drug or preparation of any description whatsoever to be used, whether externally or internally, for the prevention, cure or relief of any malady, ailment, infirmity or disorder affecting human beings; . . .
That includes pimples, warts and hairy moles, anything at all. It is so incredibly puerile to attempt to connect with the war effort or the defence of this country, that it is difficult to imagine that the Government should not only gazette these regulations, but also seek to justify them. The definitions continue - “ Proprietary medicine “ means any medicine or compound of medicines prepared according to any formula, whether secret or not, which is held out by advertisements, label, or otherwise in writing or by broadcast by means of wireless telegraphy as efficacious for the prevention, cure or relief of any malady, ailment, infirmity or disorder affecting human beings, or for increasing height, increasing or reducing weight or increasing personality or reproductive capacity.
If this matter were not so serious the position would be Gilbertian. That definition of “ proprietary medicine “ discriminates between that which is advertised as efficacious and that which is not so advertised. Certain drugs may be bought at any chemist shop. I instance ephredine, which is used for certain human ailments, such as hay fever.
– And epsom salts.
– Yes, epsom salts is a good example. Many firms like Washington H. Soul and Company Limited have in their laboratories scientists of great repute, men who are recognized by the British Medical Association as doing a first-class job in scientific research. Whilst I realize that some proprietary medicines could be described as fakes, a very large number of them - perhaps the great majority - are genuine, and of value in dealing with human ailments.
Regulation 4 contained in the statutory rules provides that -
On or before the fourteenth day of November, 1942, every person who manufactures a proprietary medicine, and the agent of any person who manufactures any proprietary medicine outside the Commonwealth, shall furnish to the DirectorGeneral -
a full statement of the formula of the proprietary medicine.
That demand is made on distributors regardless of whether they are under an obligation to their principals in Great Britain or the United States of America not to disclose the formula. What is the reason for that regulation ? The only justification for it is that the Government desires to ascertain what patent medicines contain drugs which are in short supply. As honorable members are aware I have already disposed of that argument. Therefore, there is no justification for regulation 4. None of the pamphlets issued by the Commonwealth Department of Health has advanced any justification for the inclusion of that regulation. We come to regulation 6, which provides that- -
The Minister may, by order, prohibit the manufacture or the sale of any proprietary medicine if he is satisfied that it has not the effects which are claimed on its behalf or does not satisfy the purposes for which it is sold, or that it is of a dangerous nature or is liable to produce abortion or miscarriage.
That regulation could be justified if the Constitution allowed it, provided there were some provision for an appeal.I direct the attention to the use of the phrase “ if he is satisfied “: meaning if the Minister is satisfied. We all know that Ministers have neither the time nor the opportunity to deal with matters of detail. Therefore, the control of the manufacture of proprietary medicines is vested in the hands of the executive officer. He will say “yea” or “nay” and there will be no right of appeal. Regulation 7 provides that -
A manufacturer or distributor of any proprietary medicine, or any person employed or authorized by a manufacturer or distributor of any proprietary medicine, shall not -
canvass or solicit;
employ any person to canvass or solicit any person for the purpose of inducing that person to purchase, obtain, or use any proprietary medicine.
That prohibits the manufacturers or the distributors from using the normal chan nels of commerce for the promotion of the sale of their products. I doubt whether the House will countenancethat regulation. Not until one examines these regulations does one see the length to which they go. Anything that strikes unnecessarily or without warrant of law at the foundations of trade should be abhorrent to a democratic parliament. Sub-regulation 1 of regulation 8 provides that -
A person shall not publish any statement, whether by way of advertisement or otherwise, to promote the sale of any proprietary medicine, which contains any statement other than -
the trade nameof the proprietary medicine;
the nature of the proprietary medicine expressed in not more than 30 words;
the retail price of the proprietary medicine; and
the name of the manufacturer or distributor of the proprietary medicine and the address of his place of business.
The result of that regulation discriminates against the old-established and wellknown proprietary medicines in favour of rival products of later origin by placing both on exactly the same basis. That cannot be justified. Then we have the final regulation, regulation9, the only regulation which can at all be related to the war effort. It reads -
The Minister may, after consultation with the Chairman of the Medical Equipment Control Committee, give directions in writing to any person -
limiting the amount of any proprietary medicine which may be manufactured by that person;
limiting the amount of any ingredient which may be included in any proprietary medicine manufactured by that person; or
prohibiting the use of any ingredient in any proprietary medicine manufactured by that person.
That regulation applies only to proprietary medicines manufactured in Australia ; it does not apply to those proprietary medicines which are imported and which may contain exactly the same drugs as are contained in the locally manufactured medicines. I have already given reasons why that cannot be justified as a measure associated with the war effort. To me the only justification for regulations made under the National Security Act is that they are connected with the war effort.
Examination of these regulations shows that the claim that they are connected with the war effort is illusory. All members should unite in disallowing these objectionable regulations, which represent a grave misuse by the Executive of the authority given to it by Parliament in the National Security Act. Unless we do that we shall never arrest the growth of bureaucracy in this country.’ We as a Parliament gave our powers over almost wholly to the Executive. Sines last October we have met for two days last year and four weeks this year, and so far have accomplished little. Our powers to a large extent are in the hands of others, who from time ‘to time misuse them. Quite apart from the strict point of legality in this matter, which can be replied to here only by the AttorneyGeneral, who is not present, if in point of fact honorable members are satisfied that these are not the type of regulations which, should they have come before this House in the form of a bill, would not on their merits have received its . approval, it is the responsibility of every one of us to reject them.
.- It may shorten the discussion if I speak now. I am glad that the honorable member for Warringah (Mr. Spender) has brought up the matter; hut I am rather disappointed that he should have made some statements which did not do him justice. For instance, he. made some quotations, as being made by the Director-General of Health or by me, in order to ridicule more or less a very serious subject. As a fact they were not made by either of us, but were a part of the literature used as propaganda by the people whose brief the honorable member holds. I listened patiently while the honorable member addressed the jury. He made a pretty good case out of bad material ; but I shall try to prove that his client is still guilty. My learned friend did not do himself justice when he suggested that the Government had no right to interfere with this industry. I do not think that the honorable member believes that statement, which is part of the general propaganda put out by those concerned. They never had a good case, and the Government had as much right to interfere with them as with any others. They have circulated the suggestion that the Government is using existing war conditions to do something which it has tried for years to do in peace-time. It is suggested, also, that this is something done by the influence of the British Medical Association, by the Director-General of Health, or by the Health Department, because they do not like the morality of the patent medicine industry. I assert at the outset, and I hope that the House will believe me, that the Director-General of Health, the British Medical Association, and the Health Department are neither individually nor collectively responsible for evolving these regulations. I agree with the honorable member for Warringah that the case i3 serious, because this is a war-time measure, and if he knew, as I do, why it was brought into existence, he would be wholeheartedly in favour of it, because I am sure that he is just as anxious as anybody else in Australia to steer everything possible into the war effort. These regulations were evolved by the Production Executive, of which nine members of the Cabinet are members. The chairman is the Minister for War Organization of Industry (Mr. Dedman). I am a member of the Production Executive, and do not propose to “ pass the buck ‘ to anybody else. Every body knows that the Department of War Organization of Industry was evolved to specialize on how man-power and material could be obtained for the war effort, and to distinguish between essential and nonessential industries, the object being to save mental and physical exertion and male and female working hours, and all possible material. The Production Executive evolved these regulations to deal with this industry in the same way as it has had to tackle others. If the honorable member believes that this particular calling should be exempted from interference, that it should be sacrosanct and make no sacrifices, I disagree with him. If he believes, as I think he does, apart from the brief he holds to-night, that the industry should be treated in the same way as all others, then he should withdraw the motion.
– I have no brief here at all.
– I believe that the honorable member is just as earnest about doing everything for the war effort as every body else is; but what he saw in New Guinea should have made him treat the subject much more seriously than to talk about pimples and other little things, to try to ridicule a policy about which he knows little. I repeat that the Department of Health is not responsible for these regulations. The department has been asked to administer them because of their technical nature. The statement that the trade was not consulted is without any foundation.
– When was it consulted ?
– The representatives of the trade were met by me in Melbourne, Sydney, and Canberra. When the subject was too technical for me to deal with, it, was handled by the Director.General, Dr. Cumpston, in Canberra. A dozen times at least I received deputations from all sections of the industry. As a matter of fact, it was so disorganized and it was so difficult to ascertain who represented the largest number of people in the industry, that I helped them to organize themselves so that they might have proper representation. I laid it down that the principle always followed by the Labour party should be adopted in this case. That is that when any industry, calling or profession is likely to be interfered with, it must be consulted and must have a representative on the body which has to make decisions. We knew that the regulations would interfere with this industry and cause some disorganization in it. They could not help doing so. A committee with a representative of the industry on it was formed, and I suggested that not even the Director-General of Health himself, or the War Equipment Medical Committee, should select the person to represent the trade. I said that even the most highly qualified chemist in Australia should not be selected unless the people in the industry themselves nominated him to represent them. I met different groups of the trade, and asked them whether they represented the largest number or not. If they could not prove that they did, I asked them to confer with other sections which had already interviewed me and to come back again, so that I would be assured that the majority of people in the trade were satisfied with the person appointed to sit on the committee on their behalf. All that was done, and on more than one occasion they thanked me for the assistance I gave them. That was the policy adopted all through. I therefore deny that the British Medical Association or the Health Department had anything at all to do with devising this method of trying to get man-power and materials out of the patent medicine industry. The Production Executive has been handling this type of work ever since this Government came into power, and it is the same kind of work that the previous Government began to do. I remember that when it was necessary to make an ignition paste for explosive purposes, the Minister in the previous Government did not know where to get the chemicals to make it with. He finally traced it to the match factories, and asked them to give him half the supply of the particular chemical required, because it could not be obtained elsewhere. That is why the match-boxes in use to-day have an ignition strip only on one side. Because these things are so scarce and dear, and so absolutely essential to keep our men supplied with munitions, something had to be taken out of the patent medicine industry. We decided that it was wrong to squeeze any section of the trade, no matter how small, out of existence, or to boost a remedy manufactured by one maker to the detriment of another. We did not refuse to allow one remedy to be advertised, manufactured or distributed. We said that all must share in the sacrifice, and everything possible was done in the interests of the industry. All this, was carried out purely as a war-time measure. It has no other purpose. I am not at all concerned about the morality of the trade, although I believe that 70 per cent, of the people of Australia would be glad if a royal commision inquired into the whole subject. Still, that has nothing to do with me.
– What is the purpose of these regulations?
– The honorable member knows that it is to save manpower. We discovered that something like 3,000 people were employed in this particular business. We said that some could be released, and some have already been released. The fact that they complain that too many people have been taken out of the industry proves that a great deal of surplus labour was used in it. Because the necessity is growing every day, and the appetite of the war machine is becoming more and more voracious, we must search for more labour and materials. The honorable member, as a member of the Advisory War Council, must know that we have been told by the authorities in the United Kingdom and the United States of America that certain chemicals can no longer be obtained from them. They say that they are just as short of them as we in Australia are, and that there is in fact almost a tragic shortage.
– The Government does not need these regulations to overcome that difficulty.
– I shall try to show that we do. If the honorable member is not satisfied, let him take the case to the High Court, and prove that we are wrong. We are in an even worse position in regard to those chemicals than the United Kingdom and the United States of America, because of the foolish fiscal policy adopted whereby we have depended on bits and pieces from overseas instead of developing our own supplies, and in this war find ourselves dependent on overseas supplies. We were getting these chemicals from overseas, but the honorable member knows that supplies are cut off owing to the shipping position. Even if we could obtain the tons of chemicals which previously came to us from overseas, we could not provide shipping space to bring them here. Our object is to save man-power, materials, shipping and overseas credits. That is the reason for these regulations. There are 250 manufacturers of patent medicines who manufacture 2,500 patent medicines. There is hardly any separate individuality in hundreds of the remedies manufactured, and it is .certain that a great deal ‘of labour can be saved in the organization of factories and staffs. Much labour must be wasted, because of the unnecessary overlapping. This does not matter in peace-time when men are looking for jobs, but it is of vital importance now. Not only labour, but all kinds of materials are wasted. Large quantities of paper are used in advertising, and besides this waste there is the wastage of cardboard, glass, aluminium, tin, and copper containers. Large quantities of materials have been more or less wasted, and we must avoid further waste. We determined, in order to be perfectly fair, not to boost one manufacturer or distributor at the expense of others, because it is not our concern to regard any of these remedies as good, bad, or indifferent. If I said that it was our concern, the honorable member would quickly pin me down by saying that that proved that this was not a wartime measure; but I am not accepting that statement. This is a war-time measure, and at the moment the Government is not concerned with the question of morality; it is concerned only with saving labour and chemicals. For instance, glycerine, camphor and quinine are required urgently. We cannot allow a drop of quinine to be wasted, and we are experimenting with all possible methods of using it in such a way that waste will be eliminated. There are many other chemicals of which there is a serious shortage. I point out to honorable members opposite that the Production Executive, to which this job was delegated, includes representatives of all interested departments, including the Department of Supply and Shipping, the Department of Munitions and the Department of War Organization of Industry. The Production Executive devised these regulations and handed the matter over to the Department of Health to administer. There will not be any prohibition on the manufacture of one single item; and no objection will be raised to the advertising of any product or to writing orders for any product. Originally it was decided that advertisements should be limited to .ten words, but after consultation with the trade the number was extended to 30; yet honorable members opposite claim that the Government has not consulted the trade. It was decided that the name and address of the vendor, price and dosage, and the words prescribed by State law, such as “ poison “ and so on, should not be included in the 30 words. There is no limit to the number of times which an advertisement may be announced over the air or inserted in a. newspaper. If the vendor of a particular product can persuade a newspaper to print a whole-page advertisement, then so long as the advertisement is confined to 30 words, we shall have no objection to it, although, no doubt, other action would be taken to see .that rationed newsprint was not wasted in such a manner.
Finally, I point out that the regulations will not ruin some business people to the advantage of others ; they will not prevent any one from carrying on business; they will not deny the right of any one to advertise, nor are they concerned with the morality of the patent medicine industry.. A. great volume of public opinion would like to see the latter aspect of the matter dealt with, and perhaps some day a more courageous Minister for Health than I may take up the matter. However, for the present, this is merely a war-time measure, designed to save labour and materials. If, after a short while, it is found that it does not save labour and materials, and that the supply of chemicals which are in urgent demand is not increased to any great degree, the regulations will be rescinded. I am collecting evidence in an endeavour to determine whether or not it is worth, while persisting with these restrictions. If I reach the conclusion that it is not worth while, I shall recommend to the Government that the regulations be withdrawn. However, 1 am quite certain that labour and materials will be saved.
– Has the Minister any answer to the charge that the regulations are illegal?
– They can be illegal only if it be proved that they are not a war-time measure.
– Has the AttorneyGeneral been asked to give an opinion on the matter?
– The AttorneyGeneral (Dr. Evatt) is in the chamber now and he is better able to deal with that aspect of the matter than I am. I shall leave the legal points to him. If the regulations can accomplish what we seek to achieve, then there can be no doubt as to their legality; if they cannot, then they may be illegal and will be withdrawn.
This trade cannot escape making some sacrifice for the war effort as all othertrades are doing at present. I admit that the regulations will cause temporary disorganization. Many concerns engaged in this industry have made helpful gestures voluntarily and gracefully. Take, for instance, the firm producing “ aspro “ tablets. To-day, portion of its plant is turning out thousands of green tablets which when dissolved are used for camouflaging skin and equipment of men engaged in jungle warfare. The task that confronted this” company was the production of a green chemical dye in tablet form, which could be applied easily but which would not wash off without the addition of another chemical. That was achieved, and production has now reached a high figure. The same organization is also making large quantities of white salt tablets which the men who are fighting in New Guinea consume in order to replace the salt which their body loses in such a climate.
– The Government could have diverted machinery to the manufacture of war requirements without introducing these regulations.
– No. All concerns do not co-operate so willingly as the firm which I have mentioned, and they must all share in the war effort. No industry is sacrosanct. The Government will endeavour to get what it can from this trade without injuring any individual concerned in an unfair way. I am satisfied that as a war-time measure these regulations are legal. They do not constitute an attempt to fight the medical profession or the manufacturers of patent medicines, and I hope that they will not be disallowed. If they be permitted to stand I undertake .to examine the entire matter and report to the Government, whether or not the restrictions are worth while.
– I had hoped that the Minister for Health (Mr. Holloway) would have replied to the charges that have been made by the honorable member for Warringah (Mr. Spender). Ever since these regulations came to my notice, I. have been endeavouring to understand the reason for their promulgation. Lately we have had an absolute epidemic of regulations. As .the Attorney-General (Dr. Evatt) knows, it was said in olden times that every body should know the law. I say now that nobody knows the law. I have listened to the Minister for Health as one would listen to the Delphic oracle. I hoped that something good would come out of Nazareth, but what did the Minister say? He said that the Director-General of Health, Dr. Cumpston, had not recommended this action, nor had the British Medical Association; it was he himself, together with the other honorable gentlemen on the front bench, including the one who prescribed “ no waistcoat but persists in wearing one himself, who took the responsibility. Apparently when he mentioned the Minister for War Organization of Industry (Mr. Dedman) he was endeavouring to “ pass the buck “. The Minister has claimed that these regulations constitute a war-time measure, but how does he connect them with the war? He says that they do not harm anybody; that those who brought the matter before him did not represent anybody of any importance. Apparently when he said that they did not represent anybody of importance, he meant anybody who could exercise any political influence. The. Minister said that the regulations represented a wartime measure, and if honorable members did not like them they could be altered. What he meant was that if the numbers were against him, he would bow before them, but if the numbers were not against him, then he would see us all in Hades before he would withdraw them. The Minister said that he would not say anything about the morality of those gentlemen concerned in the trade. Obviously what he meant was that he could say a great deal about it but would not do so. He is one of those persons who would never attempt to undermine an opponent by means of innuendoes. Oh, never ! He added that some day a Minister who would have more courage than he might deal with the moral aspect, but for the moment he was not doing that ; he was merely dealing with the regulations as a national measure. How does he support his case? He says that these regulations will save man-power and materials. In dealing with the saving of materials the honorable gentleman said that advertisements could be inserted in the press, but only 30 words could be used to describe and advertise a remedy. But he went on to say that those 30 words may be used over and over again. How can that be said to save material? If a column of a newspaper be occupied in the repetition of 30 words which have no relevancy to the efficacy of an article, it can hardly be argued that man-power and material are being saved. Let us think of the famous “ aspro “ for a moment. That remedy has practically ceased to need advertising, yet it continues to be advertised extensively. Now “ aspro “ is to disappear. We see before us the gentleman who is responsible for its disappearance. For 20 or 30 years “ aspros “ have been taken by tens of millions of people in Great Britain, America and Australia, but now it would appear that they must be taken by stealth. “ Aspros “ become a secret remedy: To advertise them has become a crime.
This whole business falls within almost the same category as a certain case which is at present occupying the attention of a court in New South Wales. Secrecy is of the essence of the matter. The Minister endeavoured to justify these regulations on the ground that the ingredients of proprietary medicines were needed for the war effort. He mentioned glycerine. Glycerine, he says, is in great demand for explosives. What about halibut oil ? Would it be said that halibut oil is necessary to the war effort ? If it is not, why bar it?
This attempt to relate these regulations to the war effort will not bear examination. I consider that the regulations are ultra vires the war powers of the Commonwealth. Alternatively, they are a gross abuse of those powers. The Minister’s defence of the regulations is a shallow pretence. They have no relation to the war effort. The Minister has made a cruel attack upon an industry which he has singled out for the purpose. Why he has done it I do not know. He had ample time to prepare a case in defence of his action. If he could justify his action why has he not done so to-night? The honorable gentleman could not show that his action in regard to proprietary medicines had the slightest relation to the war effort. He said something about glycerine and something about green tablets, but be did not show that those items had any relation whatever to the war effort. I suggest that there cannot be any concern in the honor.orable gentleman’s mind for the public health. If drugs are doing harm to the public health the traffic in them should be suppressed, but that has not been proposed. Apparently, any one can sell proprietary medicines anywhere. A circular that has come into the hands of honorable members throws a flood of light upon the subject. I do not wish to cite passages from it that have already been read. The Minister has told us that the British Medical Association or the Director-General of Health, Dr. Cumpston, are not in any way responsible. The Government must take the full responsibility. The regulations give the following illustrations of the kind of statements that may not be published: -
All skin rashes and blotches, not overlooking rheumatism, neuritis, and other functional disorders. All these complaints ure the direct result of the improper eating of foods and the improper combinations of foods.
If your body has the right food and digests that food properly, then you will be perfectly healthy.
What is wrong with this statement? It lays down sound guiding principles vital to health, yet its publication has been prohibited. As a matter of fact the Minister has not a leg to stand on. The Attorney-General knows this, and he is not game to take the matter to the courts.
– That is the right honorable member’s job.
– I say most emphatically that these regulations are ultra vires the power of the Commonwealth, or else they are a gross abuse of the Government’s war powers. I hope, therefore, that they will be disallowed.
. I suggest that the issue of legality raised in this discussion should not be determined, offhand, by a vote of the House. Any issue as to the legality of the regulations should be left for determination by the courts. As the honorable member for Warringah knows, the courts have given many decisions concerning the war powers of the Commonwealth. The latest decision was given towards the end of last year on what are known as the holiday regulations. Broadly speaking, the test which the court applies te regulations is whether they can conduce to the improvement of the war effort or whether they can in some way assist in the prosecution of the war. If it can be shown that these regulations will result in a saving of man-power and materials necessary for the war effort, as the Minister for Health and Social Services (Mr. Holloway) has argued, I think that the honorable member for Warringah would agree that they would come clearly within the scope of the war powers of the Commonwealth. It is quite impossible to be dogmatic as to whether tie courts would or would not uphold these regulations, and I do not think it is proper for honorable members to ask for a guarantee of their legality. That practice has not been adopted in regard to other regulations. As honorable members are well aware, the National Security Act was passed during the period of office of a previous Government, and numerous regulations have been issued pursuant to its powers. The right honorable member for North Sydney (Mr. Hughes) knows that all regulations are submitted for examination by qualified officers of the AttorneyGeneral’s Department. Those officers advise the departments concerned of their view of proposed regulations. I do not think it would be suggested that the departmental officers should be called upon to certify the legality of all regulations, nor do I think that I should be asked to express a legal opinion upon them. After all, the decision must rest on questions of fact and degree. I agree with the right honorable member for North Sydney that the question whether regulations conduce to an improvement of the war effort is the vital question. Mr. Castieau, the assistant secretary of my department, has given me the following departmental view on these regulations in their amended form : -
The validity of laws can only bc determined by the courts. It is not competent for any person or authority other than a judicial authority to determine whether any particular law or proposed law will survive a challenge i« the courts. All that can be done by a. law-making authority is to satisfy itself that the subject-matter of the proposed law is one within its powers.
If the subject-matter of the regulations is of the character stated by the Minister for Health and Social Services I think it follows that the courts would regard them as coming within the war powers of the Commonwealth.
– I agree with that view.
– Then there .is no difference of opinion as to the law. If it can be shown that the regulations will result in the conservation of man-power and a saving of materials required for the war effort they will be upheld by the courts.
– “Will the AttorneyGeneral indicate to me where such a contention is made in the regulations?
– I do not think it is made in the regulations in such terms, but that is the point of view expressed by the Minister. Mr. Castieau also said -
In the case of regulations under the National Security Act the question to be considered is whether they are related to. the safety or defence of the Commonwealth or ,to the effectual prosecution of the war. In the case of these particular regulations the Minister for Health has already stated the objects sought to be attained. Each one of these objects, if achieved, would add something to the war effort.
No one knows better than the honorable member for Warringah that in specific cases there are difficult questions which the courts determine upon the facts. If such regulations conduce to the improvement of the war effort they would be declared valid, but if they should be deemed an attempt to do something under the guise of the war effort they would be declared .invalid.
– Surely this House may express an opinion on that subject.
– Yes, but the law is a matter for judgment by the courts.
– Surely the Attorney-General does not seriously argue that such a question could be determined only by the courts.
– The courts are the only authority which can finally determine it.
– I consider that it .is matter for determination by thi3 House.
– If the courts reached the opinion that, the regulations could result in a saving of man-power and materials required for the war effort, that is all that would be necessary to uphold them. The extent of the man-power saved, and the quantity of the materials likely to be affected, is a matter for consideration by the Executive. A circular has been distributed to members of the House which indicates that it is extremely likely that the- validity of the regulations will be challenged in the courts. In such circumstances honorable members wilT hardly expect me to express a legal opinion on the subject.
– I believe that there is not much doing in the courts at present.
– If so, there is less reason for us to extend the arena of the courts to this House. The matter should be determined on the issue raised by the Minister for Health, namely, does this as a scheme tend to help Australia’s war effort? The argument of the honorable member for Warringah is not aided by his asking that any question of lawshall be determined by a. legislative body.
– I put it on two grounds..
– I rose to deal only with the first ground.
– I second the motion of the honorablemember for Warringah (Mr. Spender). I do not propose to refer to the legal controversy in regard to this matter. I listened with great interest to theAttorneyGeneral (Dr. Evatt). I maydo him an injustice when I say that in my opinion his heart was not in his argument. He stated the view which,, in his opinion, the House should takeof these regulations, but I am afraid that he did not make any attempt to< justify the regulations or to support his colleague the Minister forHealth (Mr. Holloway). The right. honorable gentleman has very properly urged that the House should treat the regulations upon their merits, and should determine whether or not they are necessary to the war effort on the grounds of policy rather than of law.
The honorable member for Warringah would appear to have unjustly charged the Director-General of Health., the Department of Health and the Minister for Health, with having concocted regulations to control the industry of proprietary medicines - regulations which in fact, have nothing to do with the war effort. The Minister has completely cleared the other persons charged, as well as himself, by passing the responsibility to our friend the Minister for War Organization of Industry (Mr. Dedman).
– He did not, do anything of the kind.
– He did; ho said that these regulations were promulgated by the Production Executive of Cabinet, of which the Minister for War Organization of Industry - in whose department, lurks a. committee known as the Medical Co-ordination and Equipment Committee - is the chairman. Therefore, the matter rests with that Minister.
– I thought that the honorable gentleman would get round to me.
– On the contrary, I intend to clear the honorable gentleman of all responsibility. These regulations, I admit, have about them some of the technique of the Department of War Organization of Industry. A circular that I have in my hand, which emanates from the Department of Health, is not the sort of circular which that department would issue, but bears the imprimatur of the Department of War Organization of Industry; therefore, I have -no doubt that the regulations were “ topped off “ in that department.
– Oh no; they started there.
– I want the Minister to be perfectly clear upon that point. They did not start there. Many people in New ‘South Wales know that these regulations have been in the Department of Health for years. They have been brought out time after time during the last fifteen years.
– No regulations dealing with this matter.
– The same or very similar regulations. Years ago, they were trotted out in New South Wales at regular intervals, and just as regularly protests were made in respect of them.. Minister after Minister has been asked to introduce a bill incorporating their provisions. Government after government, after hearing the protests, has said : “ We shall not h,av« anything to do with such a bill. Put it away in a. pigeon-hole. There may be another Minister some day, and yow will have an opportunity to ask him to do this thing.” That is the origin of these regulations. They do not emanate from the Minister for War Organization of Industry; not even he can take the credit for them. They have not even been inherited by his department. They represent the ambition of the health administrators of New South Wales, who have been agitating for years in the hope that some day a government would enable them to realize their ambition. No government has done so. Then the war came; and the Commonwealth Government, which has not the power to legislate upon such matters - so my eminent friends the lawyers have informed me - discovered that under its war-time powers it could introduce regulations giving effect to what in other circumstances would be ultra vires the powers of the Commonwealth Parliament, Consequently we have these regulations, fulfilling the dream’ of the health administrators, even if for only a little while. I want the Minister to believe that I am correctly stating the position. These regulations are very well known in New South Wales. Attempts to promulgate them have been made time and again. Now even he is commencing to convince himself that they have some remote connexion with the war. They have no connexion whatever with either the war or the saving of man-power. If the matter were one of man-power, why should the Minister for War Organization of Industry follow this roundabout procedure? He has most comprehensive plans to deal with the rationalization of industry. I have seen articles published by him in journals, probably paid for by the Government, concerning his rationalization schemes. He has prepared all the details for doing what is here proposed. He has in his service economists who use long words, and write high-sounding articles upon the subject of rationalization of industry. He is not required to bring down special regulations, and to publish special articles in order to rationalize this industry, he has all the necessary powers without resorting to such an expedient. The purpose of the regulations is quite obvious. If it were necessary to conserve drugs or other materials required for the war effort, there would be no need for the Government to do anything of this kind. These regulations have been polished up and topped off by the Department of “War Organization of Industry.
– “What is the idea underlying them?
– The Department of Health, as my colleague the honorable member for “Warringah (Mr. Spender) has stated, is not a very big department. It would like more activities to administer. It desires to have more officers, and a bigger show generally. It is not fairly in the war. It has decided to take control of all proprietary medicines, and of health matters generally.
– It does not propose to do anything of the sort. The honorable member is not doing himself justice.
– This is nothing but an administrator’s dream. I have said that it’ has all the technique of the Department of “War Organization of Industry. Appendix 2 of a circular issued by the Department of Health sets out to tell people how they may or may not advertise. It will be remembered that, in the administration of the Department of “War Organization of Industry, if a trader wishes to advertise a hat for sale he may publish in a newspaper a picture of the hat, but not beneath it a pictorial representation of a woman’s face, because that would be an inducement for people to purchase the hat. The technique in this instance is very similar. Examples have been given of expressions .that should not be used in the advertisement of proprietary medicines. For example, the advertiser must not say that one dose will immediately effect a cure, that it never fails, that one can always depend on it, or that there is nothing better; but he may give the name.
– How would that affect man-power ?
– The honorable member has asked a question that goes right to the heart of the whole matter. How can any of these proposals affect man-power? At least, how can they do anything that cannot be done by the Department of “War Organization of Industry under its other powers? How can they do anything that cannot be done under the Pure Foods Act, or the general health laws of the six States?
– This has nothing to do with the Pure Foods Act.
– Then why the detail? If the matter be one of saving man-power and material, the honorable gentleman’s colleague can do that without all this paraphernalia. An honorable member has asked what is the purpose of these regulations. They are an attempt on the part of the health administration to extend its sphere of influence and operation. This is a clear example of the bureaucratic trend in Australian governments, and an illustration of how Ministers fall under the influence of officials who desire to rule the nation by the administration of regulations. If these regulations were not challenged and disallowed in this House, if they remained in the administration of the Department of Health, they would give rise in “ X “ months to a very large sub-department. There would be a large number of clerks to police the administration. There would be another body of inspectors to call on the manufacturers of proprietary medicines,’ as well as on chemists and grocers, all over Australia.
– The honorable member is drawing on his imagination.
– I am not. There is no doubt in my mind that the effect would be to build up very quickly a large sub-department in the administration of health. “What reasons there may be for dealing with certain proprietary medicines, I cannot say. I am acquainted with very few, and they seem to be rather effective. I am not an authority on proprietary medicines generally. I am prepared to agree that certain of them should be examined, and that there are some manufacturers who deceive, or attempt to deceive, the public. The States have all the necessary powers to deal with such situations. If the Commonwealth has not the power to deal with them, it should refer the matter to the States. This is certainly not a matter which should be introduced into this Parliament under the guise of helping to win the war. I know that the Minister believes anything that he says in this House, and I want him thoroughly to understand that in what I am now saying I am not expressing any doubt concerning his veracity. I say very respectfully that I do not believe that these regulations have anything to do with the saving of man-power or material. The opportunity has been taken, under cover of the war, as it has been in connexion with a large number of other regulations, to introduce a control that has nothing whatever to do with the war effort.
.- I do not propose to engage in a controversy as to whether or not proprietary medicines are good or bad. I do not know very much about them. My health treats me very well; consequently, I have not had to resort to their use. I was interested in the remarks of the honorable member for Robertson (Mr. Spooner). As I indicated by interjection, the honorable member must have drawn on his imagination in order to support the case that he made out. I do not know a great deal about the Commonwealth Department of Health, but I know that its functions are restricted by the Constitution. Nevertheless, I cannot agree that these .regulations have been kept in cold- storage for years and have now been brought out in an attempt to expand the department by the appointment of an army of officials. I cannot imagine that at such a time in the history of this country the -Government would promulgate regulations merely to give the Director-General of Health an opportunity for aggrandizement, and I do not think that the people will accept that explanation. I draw attention to a pamphlet printed by the Federal Capital Press, which states -
In the opinion of Messrs. K. G. Menzies, P. C. Spender, W. Fullagar, J. V. Barry and B. Sugarman, five leading constitutional authorities, the regulations are invalid.
Every State in the Commonwealth has passed laws (with which these regulations conflict) which control the manufacture and sale of proprietary medicines. The regulations are themselves based on this peace-time legislation.
It is clear that the representatives of “ big business “ in this House have been called upon to advise their masters in regard to these regulations. Their object is to protect the interests of the manufacturers of .patent medicines; but in these troublesome days no section of the community can hope to preserve all its peace-time privileges. The Minister for Health (Mr. Holloway) made out an excellent case in support of the regulations. He made it clear that the Government was not actuated by a desire to vest greater powers in the Director-General of Health merely for that official’s aggrandizement. Ministers have more important things to do than fall into traps of that kind. The suggestion is absurd. The Government is trying to conserve man-power, and the manufacturers of patent medicines, as well as other sections of the community, should make their contribution. I have not been approached by any one in relation to these regulations, except that circulars have been sent to me by the Department of Health and, presumably, by the manufacturers of such medicines. In times of peace the normal practices of business people could continue, and the people would not be any the worse, although I think that some patent medicines are of very little use. However, the nation is fighting for its existence, and every means by which man-power and materials can be conserved must be utilized. Both man-power and materials are affected by these regulations, and surely those two matters should transcend all other considerations ! The honorable member for Warringah (Mr. Spender) has his brief, and must look after his clients, the “ big business “ people. I admit that he serves their interests well, both in the Parliament and outside; but, when an effective reply is given to “the case presented by him, the honorable gentleman attacked those responsible for the reply. I am not capable of dealing with the legal aspects involved ; I am more concerned with the- saving of man-power and materials, and therefore I hope that my contribution to- the debate will be of some value. I shall not receive any pecuniary reward for my participation in this debate. The Minister has promised to examine the regulations in the light of their effect on man-power problems, and he has already told us about their effect on the supply of drugs. The regulations should be given .a trial,, and the House should disregard the statement of the honorable, member for Robertson that an obliging Government has acceded to the representations of the Director-General of Health. I hope that the motion will not be carried.
Debate (on motion by Sir Frederick Stewart) adjourned.
– I have to inform the House that I have received a letter from the honorable’ member for Adelaide (Mr. Stacey) resigning his position as a member of the Public Works Committee.
Australian Army: Leave; Service ok Youths; Women’s Auxiliary Services ; Compulsory Vaccination ; Major Carfax-Foster - Rabbit Pest.
Motion (by Mr. Forde) proposed -
That the House tlo now adjourn.
.- -I regret that it is necessary to bring before the House an important matter which I placed before the Minister for the Army (Mr. Forde) on the 4th February, and again yesterday. I refer to the insufficient and ungenerous leave granted to men of a unit of the Australian Imperial Force, South Australia, after their gallant service in the New Guinea area, in which they suffered heavy casualties. The position has been aggravated by the knowledge that much more satisfactory leave is being granted to Army personnel who have not left Australia. The position has been set out in the following letter which I have received from a reliablesource : -
A unit of the Australian Imperial Force was right through the. Syrian campaign. On their return to Australia it was freely reported that they were to have two weeks’ leave at home. They received one week, and were then transported to the north and were very shortly in the thick of things in the Owen Stanleys.
For reasons of security I, obviously, cannot say what many of us know, namely, that this unit achieved much and also suffered much ; but I can say that it is obvious from the tremendously heavy casualties suffered by the unit that a complete re-organization must take place. There is some feeling that this reorganization should take place in South Australia. The writer of the letter goes on to say -
For weeks thu unit heard rumours of four weeks’ home leave after New Guinea. Then they were granted two weeks at home, although men who have not left Australia are getting much longer leave.
My correspondent also states that the member of this unit in whom he is particularly interested is sick, and that as a medical man he thinks he should have sick leave. After returning from the fighting in the Owen Stanley Range, this man was attached to a commando and later was given such hard physical training that it resulted in a hernia. He was flown from Kokoda to Port Moresby and was operated on there. . Four days after entering a convalescent depot he developed malaria and was sent back to hospital for treatment. He recovered sufficiently to be returned to what was left of his unit, and, although he has been granted only a fortnight’s leave at home, he is still far from well and has attacks of malaria. At the weekend, I received a letter from a parent with a son in this unit, which said -
Some of the unit came down in the train with militia mou who were being given 28 days’ lea-ve and were very sore.
I understand that many of those boys are not fit to go back after only fourteen days because they develop malaria when they come down to the cooler climate of Adelaide. My correspondent, who is well informed, says -
Evidently the feeling is very high, and they are bitter about things.
On receipt of that information, I sought further information, and the following telegram reached me this morning: -
Leave position remains completely unsatisfactory, persistent rumours extra ten days, but no specific instructions appear to have been issued; odd extra days granted some men, but reasons not apparent. Many fortnights rapidly reaching termination. Can you advise further?
On receipt of that telegram, I obtained information, which I think is authentic, showing perfectly shocking anomalies as regards leave and fully explaining and justifying the bitter feeling that has arisen in Adelaide. Men of this unit who fought in Syria and New Guinea have fourteen days’ home leave, whereas men of the same unit who remained at Tenterfield in New South Wales and did not leave Australia are given 24 days’ leave. Men of this unit, who were attached to the Labour Corps in Queensland, and also did not leave Australia, have 24 days or more. Odd lots of men from Darwin and Alice Springs - I do not know whether they are members of the Australian Imperial Force or the Militia - have 24 or 28 days’ leave. One man I heard of to-day had 24 days’ leave in September last and is now home again in Adelaide with a further 28 days’ leave. Yet those boys who. fought over the Owen Stanleys and in other places in New Guinea are home with only fourteen days’ leave. Certain machine gunners who have not left Australia have been given 21 days’ leave. That is a dreadful story. I have no desire to make political capital out of this unfortunate bungling. I went to the Minister on the 4th February and showed him a private letter which indicated how feeling was likely to arise. I went to him again yesterday, after eleven days, and told him how strong a feeling had already been created. I quite realize that the honorable gentleman is sympathetic and is anxious to adjust matters, but all I have had is an unsatisfactory reply, on the 5th February, that the CommanderinChief decides leave for troops in operational areas, that the position is being examined and that no effort will be spared to afford reasonable leave, particularly to those troops who have participated in campaigns involving heavy fighting. That is not satisfactory. Masterly inactivity is not satisfactory when circumstances require vigorous and immediate action. Some of the Australian Imperial Force are naturally sore over the limited liability Militia bill and now this leave question creates a justified grievance and serious ill feeling over the preference shown to men who have not left Australia. I submit that bitter feeling over this clear injustice may not improve the morale of that vital personnel which is doing the actual fighting, and I hope that the House, the Government, and the Minister will take the matter seriously and will ensure that as far as possible these grievances shall be remedied.
.- I support what has been said by the honorable member for Boothby (Dr. Price) about the granting of leave to the fighting forces, particularly the men now in New Guinea and at Darwin. He drew the attention of the House to the fact that the members of a certain unit who fought in Syria and New Guinea had fourteen days’ home leave granted them, whereas men of the same unit who remained at Tenterfield in New South Wales and did not leave Australia had 24 days’ leave. Mon of a certain unit who were attached to the labour corps in Queensland, and also did not leave Australia, have been granted 24 days’ leave. These extraordinary injustices cannot be defended. I have had brought to my notice several instances of men having been kept in New Guinea and at Darwin for quite twelve months without leave. Many men, returned from New Guinea to Australia, broken in health, after- having been treated in hospitals have been given the shortest possible period of leave before being returned to battle stations. I was amazed to hear the honorable member contrast the leave given to those members of a certain unit who have not left Australia with that given to those who have fought in the Middle East, Greece, Crete or Syria and been hurried back to Australia to fight in strenuous engagements in New Guinea. I impress upon the Minister for the Army (Mr. Forde) that it is is necessary that men in advanced battle stations be given regular periods of leave, if only in the interests of economy. I remind the honorable gentleman that we shall soon be debating the amending repatriation legislation. It is essential that all possible steps, commensurate with justice being done to our troops, be taken to ensure that the repatriation expenditure shall be kept at a minimum. Men who have had long service in Darwin and New Guinea have completely broken down. They are being treated in our hospitals to-day. Many of them will qualify for repatriation pensions because their health will -always be impaired. In a great number of instances, their health would have remained sound had they been given regular leave. Many of them are lads little more than eighteen years of age. I am glad that after persistent efforts by me and other honorable members the Minister for the Army has issued, instructions that no man shall be sent into a battle area until after he has reached his nineteenth (birthday. Unfortunately, before those instructions were issued, large numbers of lads of eighteen were sent into a battle zone, in one of the worst areas that one could imagine, and where the climatic conditions are almost unbearable for white people. In order to maintain the health and morale of our troops in the battle areas an effort should be made to grant them leave every six months. Otherwise our fighting forces will be utterly depleted. Security reasons forbid me from giving exact figures, but, as the Minister for the Army knows, the exodus of soldiers from New Guinea because of sickness is extraordinary. Much of that sickness could be averted if the men knew that they would be given adequate leave at regular periods, say every six months. I see no reason why that should not be possible, because we have, or should have, in this country a great number of fully trained soldiers who have not yet seen action. I appeal to the Minister to review the question of leave for the fighting forces.
– In answer to the honorable member for Kalgoorlie (Mr. Johnson), the honorable member for Forrest (Mr. Prowse), and other honorable members representing Western Australian constituencies, who have made representations to the Government concerning the depredations of rabbits in Western Australia, I supply the following information: - All possible steps are being taken by my department to ensure that adequate supplies of poison and wire netting are made available to the primary producers of Western Australia. The three principal distributors in that State now hold stocks of strychnine which are equivalent to about the normal quantity required in six months. It can be taken, therefore, that Western Australia is now in a comparatively strong position to meet current demands. A monthly quota of wire rods is being made available regularly to the Western Australian Wire Netting Company for the manufacture of netting, and sufficient productive capacity is available to meet present demands.
– What about phosphorus ?
– I cannot give the honorable member any exact information about supplies of phosphorus, but I do not know that we are not so fortunately placed in regard to phosphorus as we are in regard to strychnine. It would be wise to use the poisons that are most readily available.
– I thought the position was the other way around.
.- I support the request of the honorable member for Boothby (Dr. Price) and the honorable member for Moreton (Mr. Francis) that the Minister for the Army (Mr. Forde) immediately review the system of granting leave to Australian soldiers in New Guinea. Amongst several cases which have come to my notice I cite the instance, of which I learned this morning, of a boy nineteen years of age who was sent to New Guinea in 1941 after having had only five hours’ pre-embarkation leave, and who .returned to Australia in December, 1942, and has not yet been granted leave. His parents are very concerned. It is most unfair to treat this boy and his parents in that way. I realize that these men are in North Queensland and that there is a transport problem to overcome.
First consideration so far as leave is concerned should be extended to the men who have been away fighting at the various fronts. I urge the Minister to give immediate consideration especially to the allegation - I understand that it is true, although I cannot understand why it is so - that men who have remained in Australia are getting greater consideration so far as leave is concerned than those who have been at the front from the beginning of the war.
– I support the representations of the honorable members for Boothby (Dr. Price), Moreton (Mr. Francis) and Lilley (Mr. Jolly) on the question of leave to members of the Australian forces serving in New Guinea particularly, but also at all advanced stations. I have had complaints from the relatives of soldiers in my constituency that the troops are not obtaining adequate leave, and, which is worse, that differentiation takes place. I recently brought to the notice of the Minister the fact that a first batch of men belonging to a certain unit came to Melbourne on seventeen days’ leave, but that the next batch received only twelve days’ leave. The only reason I could obtain from those of the young men whom I spoke to was that they had been told that the first lot talked too much, and therefore the second lot had to have their leave cut down.
– Can. the honorable member give the name of the officer who said that?
– That is what some of the men told me their commanding officer had informed them. I wrote to the Minister about it, and his advisers framed a reply, which the Minister forwarded to me. I do not blame him for the reply, which was particularly inane, because these men have been serving for nine months and, at the rate of two days’ leave a month, they were entitled to at least eighteen days’ leave. They came from Queensland to Melbourne, and yet they received only twelve days’ leave, which, in the circumstances, seemed ridiculous. It is the differentiation between members of the same unit that often causes almost as much trouble as the fact that they do not get leave at all. There are in New Guinea young men who have been serving there for twelve months or more. That is most regrettable, and it should not be beyond the capacity of the responsible officers to obtain leave for them. I think that I was the first in the House to raise the question of the despatch of men to New Guinea without adequate training. I quoted the cases of the sons of two returned soldiers of the last war, named Kunkel and Keats. On attaining the age of eighteen years, they were called up in the forces. One had been in the Army for two days and the other for three, when they were sent from Brisbane to New Guinea. When they left Brisbane on Christmas Day, 1941, they hardly knew one end of a rifle from the other, and they probably knew very little more when they arrived in New Guinea on the 15th January, 1942. I ask the Minister to ascertain whether those youths are still in New Guinea. Last July a youth named Carlyon was sent from Melbourne to New Guinea at the age of eighteen. The Minister told me that this youth had been sent north against instructions, and that the officer concerned would be reprimanded, but as the youth had gone nothing could be done about it. He was there, and there he would stay. That state of affairs does not encourage feelings of respect for officers who defy instructions. There is a good deal of heart-burning among parents all over Australia due to the fact that so many youths are still in New Guinea and have had no leave after months of service, although others, who have what they think are good jobs in areas which are not near the operational fronts at all, obtain leave. I should like the Minister to try to allay public feeling in this matter as early as possible, and to see that his advisers take some notice of representations made by honorable members in this chamber upon matters affecting his department. I and others repeatedly raise issues here, and nothing ever happens so far as the Department of the Army is concerned. Protests made on many subjects go unheeded. I protested, for instance, against the fact that regulations have not yet been issued - possibly here the Department of Defence rather than the Department of the Army is at fault - governing the employment of nurses in the Air Force, although they were submitted in August, 1940. Many regulations concerning other sections of the women’s branches of the forces have also not yet been dealt with. For example, regulations dealing with the Women’s Auxiliary Australian Air Force Service were submitted at least eighteen months ago, but each time that a new women’s branch of the services is formed an excuse is found for further delay. For three and a half years regulations have been floating round some departments of State, and have not yet been finally gazetted. The Minister had better hurry up, because we are in an optimistic frame of mind at present in regard to the duration of the war, and it may well be over before the regulations are finally dealt with-.
I draw attention to the subject of vaccination, which is compulsory under our Army regulations, but optional in the British Army. The honorable member for Bourke (Mr. Blackburn) and I have urged that the Australian act should be brought into line with the British law. There may be a good case why we should not follow the example of the British Army, but at least no authoritative statement has ever been made in answer to protests made by honorable members. I see no reason why we should be hide-hound with regard to vaccination. The Commonwealth military regulations followed State legislation, which made vaccination compulsory at the time when the regulations were first promulgated. Vaccination is nowoptional in most of the States, and the British medical authorities, although just as eminent as the Australian, see no reason to make vaccination compulsory in Great Britain. The Minister should make a reasoned statement of the grounds upon which he refuses to accede to the request which honorable members have made in that regard. At least our representations should not be ignored. Some unfortunate soldiers who feel strongly on the matter are being harassed by the Army authorities, and one man named Stack has been prosecuted several times, and as recently as the 7th instant was fined £2 for not submitting to vaccination. We treat conscientious objectors with due respect to their religious convictions, and I see no reason why people who believe that they have strong medical grounds for objecting to vaccination should be harassed by the worst traditions that the Army follows upon occasions.
I wish to raise the case of Major Carfax-Foster, of Randwick, New South Wales. He has written to me because he feels that he has been badly dealt with by the Department of the Army in the matter of an appointment in the Australian Military Forces. He is a very distinguished soldier, an Englishman who came to this country some years ago, and obtained command of a battalion in the Australian Military Forces. He claims - and his claims have been checked and verified - that he holds the Military Cross, the Military Medal, the Croix de Guerre with two Palms, the Persian Order of the Sun and Lion, the Russian Orders of St. Stanislaus and St. George, and the Greek Order of the Redeemer. He has served in the Imperial Army, the Indian Army, the Greek Army, the Australian Military Forces, and the Australian Imperial Force in this war. He has been the unfortunate victim of that crass bungling and utter stupidity for which some of our Australian Army “ blimps “ have long been famous. Having greased the skids for him, they slid him from, acting lieutenantcolonel and general staff officer to private, and back up the track to sergeant, all within a few weeks, pushed him out of the Army, and now have called him up for compulsory military service. I should like to tell the House the story in full, but it will perhaps suffice at the moment if the Minister will undertake to let me see the file of this ex-army officer who holds such a good record. I shall then be able to determine what other steps I should take to bring the matter before the House and the public.
– I shall call for the file and have a look at it, and then see the honorable member.
-So long as the Minister gives me that undertaking, I shall leave the matter at that stage and determine subsequently what other action I shall take if the position is not rectified.
– in reply- ‘We can all agree with the representations that have been made by honorable members in regard to the desirability of additional leave for soldiers from New Guinea if the operational position will permit. I sympathize with the motives that actuated them in bringing the subject forward, because, irrespective of party, we all have the greatest admiration for those men who went first to the Middle East and then to New Guinea, and have suffered all kinds of privations and hardships. Many of them have been wounded, have spent a term in hospital, and are now convalescent. They have come back to Australia and many of them consider that they should get a longer period of leave. Honorable members will quite understand that certain matters are left to the Commander-in-Chief, who deals with all operations, and has before him a complete picture of the roles to be played by the various units of the Army, and when the men are likely to be required again. He knows what they have gone through and what leave can, in his opinion, be granted to them. He exercised the authority given to him when he determined what leave should be granted to those men who were brought down from New Guinea. Strong representations were made to me by the honorable member for Boothby (Dr. Price) a few days ago. I submitted these to the Commander-in-Chief for his personal attention, and I hope that I shall be in a position to give the honorable member definite information within the next 24 hours. I realize that a decision will have to be made very soon, because, as the honorable member pointed out when he called to see me, some of these men in whom he is interested, will be expected to leave Adelaide shortly on their return to the locality where they are being re-organized. No Minister can have such a complete picture of the operational position as the CommanderinChief himself, who knows when the men will be required again, the hardships that they have gone through, and to what leave they are entitled. The alleged disparity between leave granted to men who have served in Australia and to those who have been overseas is a matter into which inquiries are being made. At the moment I cannot say what the position is. I am assured that they are all being treated on an equitable basis, and that what has been told to me is absolutely in accordance with facts, but I shall, give to the honorable member who brought these matters forward a reply as soon as possible. “With other honorable members, I have the utmost sympathy for the men who are fighting in New Guinea and it is my desire and the desire of the Government that they should get the maximum number of days leave consistent with the requirements of the war situation. It is the responsibility of the Commander-in-Chief to determine what leave the exigencies of the war position will permit.
– “What about the men serving in New Guinea who have had no leave at all?
– The CommanderinChief has that matter in hand. Obviously I cannot give the dates on which boats are leaving - that would be disastrous - but I assure the honorable member that I am constantly in touch with the CommanderinChief on this question, and everything humanly possible is being done to see that the men are relieved as soon as practicable, and are given as much leave as possible.
Vaccination is a matter upon which no layman can express an authentic opinion. It has been the subject of discussion for many years, by medical authorities in Australia and in other countries, and the overwhelming majority of them favour vaccination. It has been adopted by the fighting forces of this country generally. I shall discuss the question with the Director-General of Army Medical Services, Major-General Burston. I am sure that it is the desire of the medical officers of our fighting services that we should do everything possible to protect the lives of our men who are fighting in disease-infested areas, and from what I have read on the matter, I am satisfied that the consensus of medical opinion is that vaccination has played an important part in the prevention of disease amongst troops. “With regard to the case of Major Carfax-Foster, of Randwick, I shall call for the file of papers and discuss the matter with the honorable member for Melbourne (Mr. Calwell).
– What about the complaint that the Department of the Army consistently refuses to take notice of representation made in this House?
– I cannot accept that statement as being true, because my experience has been that officials of my department are desirous of giving the fullest possible consideration to all representations that are made to them. It is my wish that all requests made by honorable members shall be fully and sympathetically considered, and I know that that is also the view of the Commander inChief, the permanent head of the department, and other officers. I assure honorable members that their representations are taken into consideration, and that replies are given to them as speedily as possible.
Question resolved in the affirmative.
The following papers were presented : -
Commonwealth Railways Act - Report on Commonwealth Railways Operations for year 1941-42.
Lands Acquisition Act - Land acquired for Commonwealth purposes -
Dubbo, New South Wales.
Lithgow, New South Wales.
Nationality Act - Return for 1942.
National Security Act -
National Security (Emergency Control) Regulations - Order - Military powers during emergency.
National Security (General) Regulations - Orders -
Control of -
Jams, jellies and marmalade.
Taking possession of land, &c. (140).
National Security (Munitions) Regula tions - Order - Refrigerators.
National Security (Supplementary) Regulations - Statement of Australian Banking Statistics for the five quarters ended 31st December, 1942.
Northern Territory Acceptance Act and Northern Territory (Administration) Act - Ordinance - 1943 - No. 3 - Mining (Royalty Suspension).
Seat of Government Acceptance Act and Seat of Government (Administration) Act - Ordinance - 1943 - No. 5 - Enclosed Lands Protection.
House adjourned at 11.35 p.m.
The following answers to questions were circulated: -
Mrs. Christina Gavan.
Treatment or Wounded Soldiers.
asked the Minister ‘for Commerce and Agriculture, upon notice-*
e.- On the 10th February, the honorable member for Parkes (Sir Charles Marr) asked the following question, upon notice : -
Can the Minister for the Army say whether it is a fact that .there is in existence a national security regulation governing the disposal of profits earned by canteens in the Middle East? If bo, what action, if any, lias been taken regarding the disposal of such profits which it is suggested in some quarters, arc very large? Will the Minister supply to the House detailed information concerning the trading activities of canteens in the Middle East?
I now inform the honorable member that the Australian Defence Canteens Service is constituted under the Australian Military (Canteens Service) Regulations made under the Defence Act 1903-1941, and gazetted on the 26th June, 1942. The general administration and control of the canteens service is vested in the Central Canteens Control Board subject to the direction of the Quartermaster-General .
Under regulation 13 (4) (a) (vii) the Central Canteens Control Board is empowered to require the Middle East Canteens Board to establish such reserves from profits as it deems necessary, but the Middle East Board has, subject to the regulations, the authority and responsibility for th« disposal of the profits derived from the canteens service in the Middle East without control or direction from the Central Canteens Control Board. The Middle East distributes monthly 8 per cent, of the monthly turnover of sales to unit trust funds and 2 per cent, to the General Officer Commanding special trust fund ; the balance has been accumulated to assist in meeting the capital requirements of the service. The Middle East canteens have been administered by a local board as a branch of the service established by the Australian Military (Canteens Service) Regulations referred to above. “ Waltzing Matilda.”
asked the AttorneyGeneral, upon notice -
t. - I have asked the copyright authorities to- make inquiries into the matter and shall report as to tie result of such inquiries.
Cite as: Australia, House of Representatives, Debates, 16 February 1943, viewed 22 October 2017, <http://historichansard.net/hofreps/1943/19430216_reps_16_173/>.