16th Parliament · 1st Session
Mr. Speaker (Hon. W. lt. Nairn) took the chair at 10.30 a.m., and read prayers.
– Has the Minister for Social Services obtained from the United States of America any information concerning a social security proposal which is referred to in a report in this morning’s press and is claimed to be in advance of the Beveridge scheme in Great Britain ? If he has, will he make it available to the Parliamentary Committee on Social Security, otherwise, will he endeavour to obtain it, in order that it may be placed before that committee, as well as before some members of the Opposition who do not appear to know that proposals in relation to social security are being .considered in other countries 1
– My department will obtain all the information available in connexion with the American proposal. My knowledge of the matter is . confined., to what I have gained from to-day’s” press; but I, in common with all others who have followed the (proceedings of the International Labour Office, a conference of which is at present being held in Canada, know that during the last year Mr. Winant and the other delegates have been discussing programmes of social welfare in relation to America and other countries. At the last conference there was unanimous agreement that the time is now opportune to improve social security and to engage in reconstruction work generally.
– The Prime Minister must have noticed that artificial lighting has now to be used in the early hours of the morning because of the shortening of the daylight hours with the approach of winter. On what date is it proposed to discontinue the daylight saving plan?
– The regulation in respect of daylight saving provides that there shall be a reversion to the ordinary Australian time on the 28th March next.
– My birthday.
– The honorable gentleman will not need to use artificial lighting on the morning of that day. I take this opportunity of wishing him very many happy returns of the day, as a member of this Parliament in the place in which he now sits.
Bunnerong Power House
– by leave - During question time yesterday, 1 gave to the House an undertaking that 1 would report the progress of the efforts of the Department of Labour and National Service to secure a settlement of the dispute which has caused a partial stoppage of work at Bunnerong power house. I am now able to advise the House that, as a result of the co-operation of the department with the power house management and the unions concerned, an agreement has been reached which will assure a continuity of electric power in Sydney and the metropolitan area pending a settlement of the dispute. This result was achieved after arrangements had been made for a conference of all the parties concerned in the dispute at my Sydney office at 10.30 a.m. to-morrow, if no settlement has been previously reached.
The cause of the dispute was an incident that occurred some days ago, when the leading hand in the coal loading gang at Bunnerong struck a workman. On the 9th March, Mr. Justice Taylor. Chairman of the State Industrial Commission, dealt with the dispute that arose and decided that the leading hand should be transferred, without loss of status, to another gang in which ‘he would not come in contact with the coal handlers. On the 10th March, the leading hand was transferred to a labouring gang; but this was not acceptable to the coal handlers, who contended, that, as it was the practice for this gang on occasions to do work on coal handling, they would still come in contact with the leading hand. They maintained that Mr. Justice Taylor’s direction had been interpreted wrongly by the management, and ceased work on Wednesday afternoon. The matter was reported to Mr. Justice Taylor, who called a conference for yesterday morning. This conference, having met, adjourned to 11 a.m. to-day. At it Mr. Justice Taylor will discover whether or not his direction was correctly interpreted and carried out. Meanwhile, the management at .Bunnerong, in order to ensure continuity of work, has agreed to stand the leading hand off pending the conference that is to be held in my office to-morrow morning.
When employees at the power house ceased work, the engine-driving crews remained at their posts. Yesterday afternoon, they met and decided that, in view of the above arrangements, they would continue at work, lt was reported by the management that the coal in the bunkers at the power house would have lasted only until 5 p.m. yesterday. The decision of the members of the Engine Drivers and Firemens Union to continue work pending the conference with me, has prevented a hold-up of vital war work and inconvenience to Sydney residents. Their decision has the approval of the combined unions engaged at the power house.
I express appreciation of the cooperation given to my department by both the management and the unions concerned, and hope that a satisfactory settlement of the dispute will be reached within the next day or two.
– A press report has been published of a nation-wide prohibition of (he employment of commercial travellers. Can the Minister for Labour and National Service amplify the announcement? Is it his policy that there shall bo a nation-wide prohibition, or will it apply to merely those commercial travellers who are within certain age groups?
– The matter is still under the consideration of the Department of Labour and National Service, the aim of which is to ensure the’ elimination of all unnecessary labour in order that the best possible use may be made of the available man-power in the interests of the nation. This, I understand, is the wish of the House generally. Persons who can be more profitably engaged in the national interests will be transferred from their present employment, whether they are commercial travellers or follow any other occupation.
– Is there to be a nationwide prohibition ?
– The matter has not been completed.
Treloar Grenade-Thrower - Hobart Gaol: Detention of MILITARY Prisoners.
– In December last, I asked the Minister for the Army whether he would expedite the tests that were being conducted by the Army Inventions Directorate in connexion with the Treloar noiseless and flashless bomb-thrower. Is the honorable gentleman able to make a statement in regard to that important war weapon ?
– In response to certain inquiries which the honorable gentleman made recently, I am now pleased to furnish the following information: -
Mr. Treloar’s compressed air grenadethrower was originally submitted to the Army Inventions Directorate, who rejected it as offering insufficient advantages over existing equipment to warrant development. The basic method of using compressed air for the projection of projectiles was already known to the Army authorities, and it was not considered that the mechanical translation of this idea, as proposed by Mr. Treloar, was practicable. Shortly after this rejection, Mr. Treloar re-submitted hia (proposal. The submission on that occasion embodied certain modifications of the grenadethrower. The idea again received careful investigation by the Army Inventions Directorate, and it was decided that the modification did not render the grenadethrower any more worthy of consideration as an Army requirement. In response to further representations, arrangements were made for trials of the device. Accordingly, trials were conducted by technical Army officers on the 16th February, 1943. Working with hand pumps, four men, working in relays of two, took 60 minutes to attain a pressure of 200 lb. and it was considered almost impossible to attain the suggested 300-lb. pressure by a means adaptable to service conditions. Twelve rounds were fired, the ranges varying from 180 yards to 300 yards, which is very much less than the ranges obtained from standard mortars. The firing zone was 120 feet by 9 feet and the efficiency weight ratio was found to be not comparable with that of standard mortars; also the method of operation was shown to be complicated and laborious. At a distance of 300 yards from the device, observers noticed a flash during firing. The sole possible advantage associated with the idea is that it projects a grenade for a short distance without the use of propellant compositions. However, as had originally been anticipated, the disadvantages associated with its use would outweigh any benefit derivable from this sole advantage.
The matter was considered by the newMunitions Committee on the 4th March, 1943, and it was decided that ‘the device is not required by the Army. This decision, and the results of the trials, are to be passed on to the inventor. They will also be transmitted to the Volunteer Defence Corps authorities, who have shown some interest in the matter.
– Yesterday the honorable member for Denison (Mr. Beck) asked a question concerning a number of soldiers serving sentences in Hobart gaol. I have looked into the matter, and find that the subject was originally raised by the honorable member, together with another matter, in a letter addressed to me on the 18th December, 1942. It was not brought up in the House. In the course of his letter, the honorable member stated -
During my visit yesterday to the gaol, I was amazed to find 50 to 60 soldier prisoners undergoing sentences for military offences. If this is general throughout Australia, there must be a great amount of 7nan-,power not being used. These men seem to do nothing. Could they not be used in some way where, under guard, their services could be utilized instead of them being allowed to loaf in gaol? It appears that a good deal of man-power is being wasted in this way.
The receipt of the letter was acknowledged on the 24th December. On the 6th January, a reply was sent to the honorable member with regard to the other matter, relating to certain foreign seamen also in custody, and promising a further communication in connexion with the soldiers. On the 8th March, the Department of the Army advised that, according to an interim report received from the Commander, Tasmanian Force, there was a total of eighteen soldiers in Hobart gaol, eight of whom were serving sentences for civil offences at the time of the honorable member’s visit, and not between 50 and 60 as had been stated in his letter of the 18th December. The department added that inquiries were, however, being continued. I am endeavouring to have these inquiries completed, and shall further advise the honorable member as early as possible.
– I desire to make a personal explanation. The Prime Minister, in the statement which he has just read, accuses me by implication of having overstated the position in regard to the detention of soldiers in Hobart gaol. The report by the Army authorities that eighteen prisoners were undergoing detention for military offences may be correct. There may bo 18 or 80 there, for all I know, serving sentences for military offences.
– The report states that there were eighteen in the gaol altogether, eight of whom were serving sentences for civil offences.
– The report is incorrect. I visited the gaol, and I know how many soldiers were there. I make this explanation now because I believe that there has been an honest mistake in regard to this matter, and I do not want an incorrect statement to go out when I know that the. position is as I have said.
– Is the Minister for War Organization of Industry aware of the unfair discrimination against the University of Queensland in respect of medical students, the quota of whom is only 40 compared with one of 180 at the Sydney University? Will the honorable gentleman have the matter reviewed, so as to increase the Queensland quota and thus place it on a basis comparable with that of other States?
– My attention has been directed to what is alleged to be a verysmall quota of medical students at the University of Queensland. I shall have the matter investigated, and when I have obtained the necessary information shall make a short statement upon it.
– Will the Minister for Supply and Shipping give early consideration to an augmentation of the coal supplies of Victoria, by re-opening the Jumbunna and Outtrim coal-mines which, approximately 40 years ago, were worked by private enterprise, but were subsequently closed as the result of the influence of the colliery proprietors of New South Wales ?
– I shall have the request examined, in order to see what action may be taken.
– I ask the Prime Minister, in the absence of the Minister for Commerce and Agriculture, whether he will take advantage of the visit overseas of the Attorney-General, to place before the Government of the United Kingdom a request for further consideration of the price paid by it for purchases of Australian wool, on account of the increased cost of production?
– I am not able to say, off-hand, whether or not that is a matter which I shall ask the Attorney-General to take up; but I shall have it examined. I point outthat not long ago the Government of the United Kingdom agreed to a variation of price.
– The growers had no voice in the matter.
– The arrangement was made by the only buyer. I consider that what the Government of the United Kingdom has done for Australia generally, and its wool industry in particular, illustrates its concern for the economic stability of Australia. I should be very loth to commit myself to any pressure upon it for a further variation of an agreement that has so recently been varied.
Appointment of Mr. E. G. Theodore
– Yesterday, the honorable member for Moreton (Mr. Francis) asked a question about the appointment of Mr. E. G. Theodore as chairman of the Allied Works Council, and wanted to know whether the appointment had been formally made. In the first instance, Mr. Theodore was informed by me by letter of his appointment to the position. Subsequently, his formal appointment to the position was made by the Minister for the Interior (Senator Collings), who is the Minister administering the National .Security (Allied Works) Regulations. This formal appointment was not gazetted, but its validity is not in any way affected thereby, as the regulations constituting the office do not require the gazettal of the appointment. In view of the fact that, in connexion with prosecutions of breaches of the Allied Works Regulations consented to by the Director-General of Allied Works; it was necessary to prove, in various .courts, the signature of the Director-General to such consents, an Order in Council was obtained under section 4 of the Evidence Act 1905, providing for judicial notice being taken by courts of the signature of the DirectorGeneral. This Order in Council was made and gazetted.
Visit to the United States of America and Great Britain.
– Has the Prime Minister seen in that excellent weekly journal, the Standard, which is published in Sydney, a report of an interview with Dr. Lloyd Ross, the secretary of the Australian Railways Union, who has recently visited war plants in the United States of America and Great Britain, in which he stated -
I’m tremendously impressed by what I’ve seen. Records everywhere are being broken. These Americans are miraculous. Employers and employees are co-operating fully. Technical and human problems are finding a common solution in a common effort.
Having regard to the fact that Dr. Lloyd Ross is an experienced industrialist of high repute, will the Prime Minister call for a special report from him when he returns ?
-I have no doubt that Dr. Lloyd Ross, upon his return to Australia, will have seen a great deal, and will have gathered impressions which, when stated to the Australian people and trade unionists in Australia, will be of great benefit. May I say, however, that I do not believe that anywhere, not even iri the United States of America, or in the United Kingdom itself, can there be found a record of industrial war production and adaptability superior to that of our own Commonwealth. Apparently, some honorable members in this Parliament are disinclined to give credit where credit is due. People who have visited Australia speak just as highly of what has been done in this country as Australian visitors speak of what has been done overseas.
– Will the Prime Minister consider introducing an amendment of the electoral law of the Commonwealth to provide that any one who goes on strike, takes part in a strike, or engineers a strike shall be automatically disfranchised?
– It has been already announced that amendments to the Electoral Act are to be introduced for a variety of purposes, and I suggest that, when those amendments are before honorable members, an appropriate opportunity will be provided to consider matters relating to the franchise.
Release of Men from the Army
– Has the Minister for the Army noted that, because of a shortage of milk, it is proposed to introduce milk rationing in Sydney? Is he aware that, because of a shortage of man-power on the dairy farms, it is probable that butter rationing will also have to bc introduced, unless remedial measures be taken? Having regard to the serious position which is developing in regard to the supply of these vital foodstuffs because of the shortage of man-power, will the Minister give instructions that more sympathetic consideration shall be given to applications by fathers for the release of their sons from the Army, so that they may return to the farms and assist in production?
– I have read in a section of the press that the temporary rationing of milk has become necessary in Sydney, but I understood that that was due to seasonal conditions, and not to a shortage of labour.
– It has been one of the best seasons on record.
– From May of last year, exemption from military service has been granted to all men engaged in essential primary industries.
– I have in mind those who were called up before that.
– It is true that some men were called up from the farms before May, whilst others enlisted in the Australian Imperial Force and the Royal Australian Air Force. Others, again, left country districts in order to obtain more lucrative employment in munitions factories. I remind honorable members that the defence of Australia must be the first consideration. Many of the men from dairying centres who joined, the defence forces have been moved to operational areas, and this makes it extremely difficult to release, them now without endangering the security of the country. I assure the honorable member that the Adjutant-General’s Branch gives sympathetic consideration to applications for the release of essential workers. Up to the present time, 3,500 persons have been released from the services for seasonal work in the primary industries. Within the last twelve months that number was as high as 17,000. That shows clearly that the Adjutant-General’s Branch, while giving full attention to the matter which is of paramount importance, namely, the defence of Australia, also gives sympathetic consideration to applications for the release of men foi1 seasonal work. During the week-end, I hope to have a further discussion with the AdjutantGeneral on this most important subject. However, I cannot give any guarantee that we shall be able to go through the war without accentuating the difficulties which at present confront primary producers and other employers. We cannot, haphazardly, withdraw from the fighting forces thousands of men for work in various parts of the Commonwealth, and at the same time maintain the security of the country.
– I have received from the right honorable member for Darling Downs (Mr. Fadden) an intimation that he desires to move the adjournment of the House for the purpose of discussing a definite matter of urgent public importance, namely, “ The detrimental effect upon the war effort of Australia and the Allied Nations caused by strikes, industrial disputes, absenteeism, and ‘ go-slow ‘ practices in industry “.
– I move -
That the House do now adjourn.
– Is the motion supported ?
Five honorable members having risen m support, of the motion,
– My object in submitting this motion is to direct, the attention of Parliament and the nation to the detrimental effect upon the war effort of Australia and the Allied Nations caused by strikes, industrial disputes, absenteeism, and “ go-slow “ practices in industry. The Opposition would be failing in its duty to the people of Australia if it ignored the industrial lawlessness in Australia to-day. The people of this country expect and are entitled to demand of the Government that it shall outlaw strikes during the period of the war. Likewise, they expect that the Opposition shall not remain silent concerning occurrences which are hampering the nation’s war effort at a time when every one should pull his or her whole weight in the war against the Axis. In taking this action, the Opposition fully recognizes the magnitude of the task of government in war-time. We cannot, however, ignore the fact that the failure of the Government to take a determined stand against this industrial lawlessness is damaging Australia in the eyes of the world.
The history of this Government’s handling of industrial disputes is a very sorry one indeed. It is one of inaction instead of resolute action. Its Ministers, from the Prime Minister (Mr. Curtin) down, have expressed themselves in strong terms concerning strikes and strikers. They have issued threats over and over again but, taking into account the extent of strikes, working hours lost, and dislocation to the war effort since Labour came into office, the action taken has been negligible. In submitting this motion, the Opposition’s sole desire is to emphasize the importance of the Government making a courageous approach to the problem of maintaining industrial peace in Australia. The Opposition is just as prepared to co-operate with the Government to-day as it was when Labour came into power. While the Government permits industrial anarchy to continue ; while it allows industrial workers to flout its authority and to treat its warnings with contempt, Australia is not getting a 100 per cent, war effort. Deliberate strikes and “ go-slow “ tactics are reprehensible even in peace. In war-time, such action i* criminal.
– ‘What about the employers?
– I exclude none, employer or employee. I hold no brief for any particular section. My only concern is that Australia should co-operate 100 per cent, with its Allies in this war. Any one responsible foi’ militating against that war effort, whether he be a boss or a worker, should be ruthlessly dealt with, without differentiation or discrimination, by the Government. It is reprehensible at any time that the strikes, “go-slow” tactics and the rest should occur, but when Australian men are fighting in the fever-infested swamps of New Guinea to hold this island continent, and when other troops have returned from more distant theatres of war where they fought-
– And men have died and are dying.
– Tes. When men are making the supreme sacrifice, ‘being maimed for life, contracting malaria and other jungle fevers in order to maintain freedom as we understand it, other men are going on strike. What must he the reaction of our fighting men who have borne the brunt and heat of battle when their fellow Australians strike, adopt “ goslow “ tactics, and absent themselves from work ?
As far back as November, 1941, General Sir Thomas Blarney told the nation that the men of the Australian Imperial Force were staggered at the strikes that took place in this country. The war then did not have the same meaning for Australians as it had immediately Japan came into the conflict. What, then, must ,be the feelings of the fighting forces to-day with strikes and “ go-slow “ tactics occurring every week ? I wish to be perfectly fair in what I have to say within the terms of my motion. No one would suggest for one moment that it is only since the present Ministry came into power that there has been industrial trouble. Every government, irrespective of its political affiliations, has had its share of strikes. The chief concern of the Opposition is that in a country at war, men should show such an utter disregard of the safety of their nation, of their homes and their families as to indulge in strikes and “ goslow “ tactics for which there is not the slightest justification.
Since hostilities broke out in September, 1939, we have had a sorry story of industrial unrest and strikes in the coalmining industry. When we consider how the international ‘situation has deteriorated, particularly in the Pacific, over the period during which the present Government has been in power, happenings in the coal industry have been such as to call for the strongest condemnation of every fair-minded Australian. It will be seen that the Menzies Government believed in action rather than talk. The steps taken by the preceding Government aimed to achieve peace in industry. However, shortly after Labour came into power the Minister for Labour and National Service (Mr. Ward) began a review of the machinery for dealing with disputes in the coal-mining industry. He was, so the Attorney-General (Dr. Evatt) pointed out subsequently, “ carrying out a broad charter to ‘ streamline ‘ conciliation and arbitration methods “. Apparently, these efforts at “streamlining” were not very successful because, early in 1942, the Government was gravely concerned at the diminishing coal production. In January, the Prime Minister warned the northern miners that if they did not return to work within 24 hours drastic action would be taken. The miners defied the Prime Minister’s ultimatum, and the Government introduced National Security Regulations directing, in short, that the owners must keep the mines open and the miners must work them. The result was that the position improved temporarily. In the- same month, the Minister for Labour and National Service, in stating that he was considerably disturbed and alarmed at the frequent interruptions to industry caused by disputes which rightly should have been the subject of inquiry by established tribunals, said that if the Government could not enforce its authority, it ceased to be a government. Within the. next few days, however, several mines were again idle in New South Wales, and when the National Security (Coal Control) Regulations were applied to striking miners at Millfield colliery, other miners went out on strike.
More than 500,000 tons of coal having been lost in New South Wales in the first three months of 1942, the Government in April amended the Coal Control Regulations forbidding those engaged in the industry to refuse or fail to attend for work without reasonable excuse. At that time the Prime Minister stated specifically, that some of the New South Wales miners were contemptuous of the country’s requirements and the orders and directions of the Government, as well as hostile to the authority of their union and their officials. He declared that the greater number of stoppages was due to strikes against awards or interpretations of awards as given by coal reference boards. He was equally emphatic that a great majority of the strikes arose in respect of matters which were not associated in any way with relations between employer and employee. The Prime Minister declared that not more than 20 per cent, of all stoppages related to matters between owner and employee and there was little evidence that provocation played a material part in loss of production. He quoted instances of what he termed “ frivolous strikes “. Notwithstanding the Prime Minister’s emphatic declaration on this point, the Minister for Labour and National Service three days later declared that he was quite satisfied that efforts were being made by certain unscrupulous employers to create industrial stoppages. When the Prime Minister indicated that the well-known Statutory Rule No. 77 of 1942. would be brought into operation against certain miners in April last, the Minister for Labour and National Service declared that so far as he was concerned that statutory rule would never be used against the workers. This was shortly after he visited the northern coal-fields in New South Wales.
I cite this to indicate to the House the impossibility of attaining peace in industry while the Minister charged with the control of labour and industry is at cross-purposes with the Prime Minister and his own Cabinet. I say quite frankly that the Prime Minister provided evidence of his own personal concern at the strikes in the industry when he spoke to Parliament on the 13th May last year. He declared that he accepted the duty to enforce the law. He called upon the striking miners to return to work and, with all the emphasis he could command, said to Parliament and to the nation that, stand or fall by the issue, the Government would invoke all its authority to compel the strikers to return to their employment. It is interesting to note the events that followed. A conference of owners and miners took place, and agreed upon a standard code of rules and procedure to be observed by the management and employees of collieries in connexion with local matters in dispute so that coal production would be maintained at the highest possible level. Apparently, so far as the miners were concerned, this new code meant nothing, because, following immediately upon its announcement, strikes continued on the coal-fields of New South Wales. In July, the Prime Minister again conferred with the representatives of the miners, and decided that stoppages of production were to be a breach of the National Security Act. New regulations were introduced making it an offence for any person to strike unless the strike was sanctioned in advance by the governing body of the organization to which the person belonged. This, it was pointed out at the time, gave the Miners Federation the right to sanction strikes. I concede that in August last, prosecutions were launched and penalties imposed. Further prosecutions were launched in November of last year and January of this year. In January, the chairman of the Coal Commission also indicated that four wheelers would have their names reported to the man-power authority for appropriate action, as they would no longer be regarded as being engaged in a reserved occupation. In November, the Government in a further attempt to put an end to stoppages, which the AttorneyGeneral said he regarded very seriously, appointed a commission of inquiry. The Attorney-General stated that it was utterly pitiful and disgraceful, to Australia that these stoppages should recur while Australians were giving their lives in New Guinea, Africa and Britain. He said that to stop work over such trivial matters as a shortage of potatoes, alleged hardship resulting from the introduction of daylight saving, and the theft of a pair of trousers, especially in cases where it was impossible to prosecute because no witnesses could be found to give evidence, amounted to reckless, if not wilful sabotage against Australians fighting in the front line.
Within the last week, the strike position on the coal-fields has assumed serious proportions. According to press reports IS mines were idle on Monday, 22 on Tuesday, 26 on Wednesday, and 27 on Thursday. I suppose that at that rate of progression 28 mines will be idle to-day, Referring to stoppages in the coal-mining industry, the Prime Minister stated yesterday that legal proceedings were pending against offenders. I have no desire to prejudice such proceedings in any way, but it must be obvious that legal proceedings taken in the past have had absolutely no effect on an irresponsible section of the miners who are determined to hinder our war effort at every opportunity. Yesterday, the honorable member for Indi (Mr. McEwen) cited the case of an ownerfarmer whose refusal to engage in another rural occupation at the direction of the man-power authorities resulted in the cancellation of his exemption from military service. I invite the Prime Minister to indicate whether a similar policy has been adopted in respect of miners who have deliberately gone on strike. Whilst the mass call-up of miners for military service could result only in a reduction of output, the . Government has admitted that stoppages in the industry have been caused by the actions of undisciplined youths. The Government should explain to them bluntly that if they are not prepared to work for their country, they will be compelled to get into uniform and fight for it.
No one could have done more, in recent weeks, than the president of the Miners
Federation, Mfr. Wells, to promote harmony in this industry. He has attended aggregate meetings, appealed to the miners, and in all ways done his utmost to make them see sense and discharge their duties in an honorable manner. That proves that resolute and definite action must be taken by the Government in this matter. The Opposition is prepared to co-operate, but responsibility for initiating action rests with the Government. This is not a matter for party politics. The preservation of the country depends to a large degree upon the maintenance of production and, in addition, we have an honorable duty to discharge to our Allies in this conflict.
War work has been greatly hampered by a strike of workers in the textile industry towards the end of last month. The Prime Minister, the Minister for Labour and National Service, and the Minister for Supply and Shipping (Mr. Beasley) appealed unsuccessfully to the employees to resume work, and it was not until 8,000 employees were involved in a general strike that a settlement was reached. [Extension of lime granted.] By 630 votes to 137, the strikers at a meeting convened by Mr. J. S. Garden, an officer of the Department of Labour and National Service, decided last Sunday to resume work. According to a press report, which has not yet been denied, Mr. Garden stated that the strike had been worth while. A statement by a departmental officer that a strike in war-time is worth while deserves the strongest condemnation. I am only repeating what appeared in the press, and I hope that in the interests of loyal industrialists and of the honour of the country, Mr. Garden did not make that statement.
Absenteeism is occurring in the metal trades, with disastrous effects, because they are dislocating the war industries. Admittedly, prosecutions have been launched, but that action in no way makes up for the damage. In a vast majority of cases, employees deliberately absent themselves from work, and when they are. prosecuted the court imposes a small fine or requires them to enter into a bond. Only yesterday, a case was cited in this House of men engaged on shipping repair work presenting themselves for employment in large numbers on Saturday and
Sunday, when penalty rates are paid, but absenting themselves on Monday. The Prime Minister consoled himself with the belief that shipping repair work is proceeding more satisfactorily in Australia than in any other part of the world. He pointed out also that the work of Australian industrialists compares most favorably with that of the workers of other countries. Honorable members know that the loyal Australian workers are without peer. Fortunately, they are in the majority. The emergency conditions demand a maximum effort from every worker. “When men absent themselves on Monday after having worked a* penalty rates on Saturday and Sunday, it is small consolation to say that the Australian worker “stands on his own “.
Recently, a meat shortage threatened Sydney when mutton slaughtermen decided to join the beef slaughtermen on strike at the Homebush abattoirs. For a considerable period the activities of the mutton slaughtermen have caused grave concern. The Minister for Labour and National Service, I am informed, visited the abattoirs and interviewed the members of the union. “Within 48 hours the beef slaughtermen, for the first time in three years, downed tools and went home. Worse than that, the immediate reaction to his visit was the commencement of a general strike, the first of its kind for years. I do not declare that the honorable gentleman was responsible for that development; the men probably defied him as they defied governmental advice and authority. The efforts of other agencies of the Government to prevent strikes in this industry have been an utter failure. The men completely disregard threats of prosecution. When hundreds of industrialists in essential industries were prosecuted and fined for their refusal to work last New Year’s Day, not one of the strike leaders at the abattoirs was summoned to account for the loss of production of 600 head of cattle and 20,000 sheep and lambs, through absenteeism and “go-slow” tactics.
Recently the Director-General of Man Power was asked to release from the Army 50 men for the purpose of relieving the position at the abattoirs. As the result of this appeal, 47 members of the Australian Imperial Force and the Citizen Military Forces were released. Of that number, only fourteen were slaughtermen. The remainder were shop butchers or labourers whose subsequent work at the abattoirs could have been done by any other skilled labourer. Their transfer from the Army to the abattoirs resulted in a worsening of the position. The man-power authorities then investigated the situation, and reported an improvement especially with regard to absenteeism. Ironically enough, on the day the report was published, 28 employees of the Meat Commissioner absented themselves. They included fourteen slaughtermen, and not one of the 28 men presented himself for .medical examination or compensation. To say that dislocation of industry is happening weekly is not to exaggerate the case. Tn 1942, more than 42 stop-work meetings were held. During that year, slaughtermen failed on 140 different days to kill the tally provided in the award. This year, the position continues to deteriorate. In January the sheep and lamb tally was down by no fewer than 58,000 head, showing that the men were killing 3,000 fewer sheep and lambs a day than the number provided in the award. The Commissioner has stated that this month the position is as bad as, if not slightly worse than, it was in January. These “ go-slow “ tactics reveal a complete disregard of the seriousness of Australia’s war position.
I forecast that as on previous occasions, the Minister for Labour and National Service will rely upon comparative statistics of industrial disputes during the term of office of the Menzies and Fadden Governments and the present Government to justify the action of the strikers. The basis of that argument is untenable, because with the enemy threatening our shores and Australians dying in our own territories, conditions are now vastly different from what they were in 1941. Notwithstanding the critical war position, industrial labour failed to co-operate with governments led by the right honorable member for Kooyong (Mt. Menzies) and myself. When I cited figures in November, 1941, in relation to industrial disputes, the Minister challenged their accuracy, and declared that the Commonwealth Statistician had assured him that it was impossible to calculate a reasonably accurate figure. Probably he has forgotten that incident, because I am sure that he will proceed to cite figures in rebuttal of my charges.
– =-The Leader of the Opposition appears to be troubled with a guilty conscience.
– Some people have no conscience. Doubtless the Minister will also claim that new machinery has been created to settle disputes. Two years ago the Labour press published articles asserting that the unions would not work with non-Labour governments, but would cooperate fully with a Labour government. If the strikes, absenteeism and “ go-slow “ tactics that now occur are an example of the co-operation of the unions, I should not like to see them in a noncooperative mood.
The Prime Minister has indicated that the Government is considering the advisability of declaring all war-time strikes illegal. The Opposition is prepared to co-operate whole-heartedly with the Government in the taking of any definite’ and resolute steps to that end. It is entirely beside the point, and a deplorably weak argument to declare that coal production has been greater during this Government’s term of office that during the term of office of preceding governments, if it were not greater we all should be pulling rickshaws. It is poor consolation to the country to find the Government encouraging striking miners by telling them that they are producing more coal than has ever been produced in Australia. We must produce more coal. Just as taxation is greater, just as the number of men and women drawn from their ordinary avocations and from their homes and conscripted for industrial service is greater, just as production of all other kinds is greater, so coal production roust be greater. Every effort of the Australian people must be greater. Our patriotism and our integrity must be greater than ever. The Government must be more resolute in its determination to increase production. We must be more expeditious and wiser in the discharge of our international responsibilities.
.- Every member of the Government regrets that stoppages in industry are still occurring, yet I consider it necessary to examine the motives which have caused the Leader of the Opposition (Mr. Fadden) to make this motion.
– The Minister is never able to see things in their true light.
– It is regrettable that the Leader of the Opposition and the parties on the other side of the House should endeavour to make political capital out of the difficulties of the country, without submitting a single constructive suggestion to ‘overcome those difficulties. The right honorable gentleman said, in effect, “We are prepared to co-operate with the Government so long as it will use the big stick against the workers”. No endeavour was made by the Leader of the Opposition to discuss this subject impartially, or to try to discover the actual causes of the disputes with the object of removing them. He was not able to deny that the position to-day was very much better than it was when the previous anti-Labour Government was in office. It would be of far more advantage to the nation if, instead of declaring, inaccurately, to the world that interminable strikes were occurring in this country, and that the workers were not engaging in a maximum war effort, he took some pains to direct attention to the notable achievements of the workers in many war industries. One would imagine that Australia is unique in that it alone among the allied nations is faced with industrial disputes. Let me remind honorable gentlemen, opposite that, although Labour governments are not in control in a number of countries which are fighting against Nazi aggression, strikes occur there to a much more serious degree than in Australia. Here are certain figures in relation to industrial disputes in Great Britain -
– That is under a national government.
– Quite so. Here are the monthly figures for 1942 in relation to Great Britain -
That is the last month for which figures are available. Recently, we were told something about the great war work that has been done in America; yet in 1941 2,360,000 workers in that country were involved in 4,288 strikes, and 23,000,000 man-days were lost. Nearly one-third of the trouble occurred in the mining industry. In the United States of America last August, which is the last month for which figures are available, 450,000 man-days were lost through industrial stoppages and idleness through strikes. In fact, stoppages in war work increased by 14 per cent, in August, compared with July.
These figures clearly show that other nations are having their troubles in relation to industry. The Leader of the Opposition said that we promised that, if a Labour government assumed office, all industrial troubles would disappear. We did not promise anything of the sort. We said that, through a sympathetic approach to, and a proper handling of, disputes, stoppages would be considerably reduced. It would be impossible for any Labour government to eliminate industrial disputes, because certain people in control of industry would not co-operate with such a government to remedy grievances. Early in his speech, the Leader of the Opposition tried to discount the advantage to the nation of the improvement that had occurred since this Government assumed office. I remind him that in 1939, industrial stoppages caused a loss of 459,154 working days.
– What government was in office at that time?
– An anti-Labour government. In 1940, when it might be inferred from the right honorable gentleman’s remarks that a resolute government was in office, 1,507,252 working days were lost. During the period of prime ministership oi the right honorable member for Kooyong (Mr. Menzies), a general stoppage of work on the coal-fields continued for almost ten weeks. I suppose the Leader of the Opposition would have us believe that, during that period, also, a resolute government was in office. In 1941 - I remind honorable members that this Government did not assume office until the 7th October of that year - 984,174’ working days were lost. In the first threequarters of 1942 - figures are available only up to the end of the third quarter - the number of working days lost was 278,888. Those figures show that the Labour Government has achieved good results, and results count. On a recent occasion, I directed attention to. the average number of days lost during the period of office of the Menzies Government and the Fadden Government. Under the Menzies Government the average was 21,152, and under the Fadden Government it was 51,664. Under the Curtin Government it has been 8,976. Those figures ‘ include the latest statistics available. If the Leader of the Opposition had desired to discuss this subject fairly, he could have drawn attention to such figures. At least he could have said that the position has vastly improved.
In referring to the textile strike, the right honorable gentleman said, “We are prepared to co-operate with the Government “. A great deal of dissatisfaction and unrest in the textile industry is’ due to the unhygienic working conditions, the hours of work, and the lack of adequate periods of leave. Has the Opposition indicated, in any way, that it is prepared to co-operate with the Government in improving the welfare conditions in the industry in order to remove the causes of unrest? Whenever we attempt to improve the welfare conditions, honorable gentlemen opposite say, “ We believe that better conditions should be provided, but the time is not opportune to bring such conditions into operation “. We all are well aware of what happened when this ‘Government introduced its industrial lighting .regulations. The honorable- member for Fawkner (Mr. Holt J said that the regulations were .all right, but he did not think that they should be put into effect at present. The same attitude was adopted in regard to tire provision of canteen services in industry.
– The Welfare Division of the Department of Labour and National Service, was established! by the previous Government.
– But the Welfare Division did not function under the previous ‘Government. It was left to this Government to take action. So much for the attitude of honorable gentlemen opposite in regard to welfare conditions.
The matter which the Leader of the Opposition intimated in his notice that he desired to discuss was “ the detrimental effect upon the war effort of Australia and the Allied Nations caused by strikes, industrial disputes, absenteeism, and ‘ go-slow ‘ practices in industry “ ; but the right honorable gentleman devoted the greater part of his time to a discussion of affairs in the coal-mining industry. I suppose he considered that he could make out the best case in that way. It is true, as the right honorable gentleman stated, that I visited the coal-fields some time ago to .ascertain the causes of the various disputes. I was perfectly satisfied that many of the troubles were due to the irritation tactics adopted by the coal-owners. I considered that the proper thing to do was for the Government to nationalize the coalmining industry and take over the mines. Honorable gentlemen opposite have shown no disposition to co-operate with the Government in a policy of nationalizing the coal-mining industry, although that policy has been applied in other countries. Their first consideration, of course, is that profits must be sacrosanct. Profits must -not be touched.
– The Minister then went .to Lithgow, where he found a strike in operation in a publicly owned coal-mine.
– The conditions in the coal-mining industry are peculiar to itself.
Many old-established customs prevail in the industry, and they vary from pit to pit. lt is necessary to have a knowledge of the ‘complexities of the position in order to apply adequate control methods. The approach must be sympathetic. When managers of coal-mines are answerable to directors and ‘shareholders and are charged, primarily, with the responsibility of ensuring maximum profits, it is not difficult to realize that they cannot do a great deal to solve .the problems of the industry. During many years hostility has developed between the coal-owners and the coal-miners. The coal-miners naturally desire to obtain a little more money for their work, ;and the ‘coal-owners invariably try to chisel the workers out of benefits to which they are entitled. The coal-miners ‘have had to wage a ceaseless fight for the conditions under which they work to-day. Honorable members know very well that during the depression years a great deal of unem.plloyment occurred in the coalmining industry. Many boys .grew to manhood in the coal-mining districts in those .years without being able to obtain ia ‘day’s work. Did honorable gentlemen opposite show any desire to .co-operate with the Labour party of those days in solving the problems of the industry? The miners nata rally desire to obtain a decent, regular rate of pay. They want proper pay for work in deficient places ; they want make-up money. Surely it will not be .suggested that there is anything wrong in the miners federation attempting to obtain fair conditions for their members, who work as hard as any men cam work. The coal-miners are entitled to a minimum wage, to safety appliances, and to reasonable rates of pay when they must work in wet or dry .places. Honorable gentlemen opposite who wish to criticize the workers should first obtain some real experience of work in industry.
I hope that the coal-miners will go back to work, and that they will work continuously at the pits. The Government is anxious to improve their conditions and to remove many of the difficulties that exist in the industry. We hope, also, that a proper spirit of cooperation with the Government will be displayed. I ann convinced that it is necessary to proceed with the nationalization of the industry, as the most practicable way of securing maximum and continuous production of coal. 1 wish now to refer to the dispute in the meat industry, to which the honorable member for New England (Mr. Abbott) referred recently. In order to inflame public opinion against the slaughtermen at Homebush abattoirs, the honorable member endeavoured to make it appear that they were injuring the war effort, .and that they were refusing to enable supplies to be sent to the troops. The honorable member made the most extravagant statements.
– Not at all.
– As a matter of fact, the slaughtermen at Homebush abattoirs did not cease killing meat for the troops, and there was no interruption of supplies ; but because the honorable member wanted to to make as good as he possibly could his case on behalf of the interests outside this Parliament which he represents, he said, “ These men are holding up the war effort; they are refusing to send supplies to our troops”. He did not bother to ascertain the reasons for the reduction of the number of sheep and cattle slaughtered. One would imagine that the men had deliberately adapted a policy for the reduction of production.
– They did, and the Minister knows it.
– That is not the case. If honorable members were impartial, and were to approach the matter fairly, they would recognize that the men engaged in the meat industry are no different from any other section of the community, in that they too have sons, brothers and other relatives in the fighting forces, and consequently are no more disposed than is any other section to prevent supplies of food from reaching them. I at least visited the abattoirs in order to observe at first hand the conditions under which the men were working, and to judge whether or not they had just grounds for their complaints, with a view to determining whether anything could be done to remove their, difficulties and maintain a continuous flow of work. That cannot be said of the Leader of the Opposition, who doubtless has obtained his information from a prejudiced source. I saw the men working at the abattoirs.
– So did I.
– I discovered that one section, working in what is called the “ stick hole “, where the slaughtering actually takes place, was subjected to abominable conditions, which the Department of Labour and National Service is now endeavouring to improve. I did not see any “ go-slow “ tactics. I discussed the problems of the mm, and discovered that they had reasonable grounds for complaint. There was not a strike. Was any attempt made to learn why fewer sheep and cattle were coming off the chain? I have the .official figures in regard to the total number of men absent from work from the 18th January to the 12th February. On the 18th January, 36 men were absent, of whom 2S were on compensation, whilst the absence of five was due to sickness. Of a total of 192 slaughtermen, only three were absent for no given reason. That was the position up to the 12th Feburary, on which date 35 men were absent, of whom 28 were on compensation, three on account of sickness, and four for no given reason. I do not know whether honorable members are aware that when labour was plentiful, any vacancies on the chain could easily be filled. To-day, however, the necessary skilled labour cannot be obtained; consequently, when some men have to drop out of the “ stick hole “ or some other part of the chain because of the arduous nature of the work, experienced slaughtermen from some other section of the chain have to-be moved up to the “ stick hole “, and this necessarily lessens the speed of the chain- and reduces production. The slaughtermen, in an effort to maintain production, placed an extra man in the “ stick hole “ at their own expense; they did not ask the Meat Commission, the graziers, or the agents to bear the cost. The number of men was increased from six to seven, in order that the speed of the chain might be maintained, yet not one word of commendation of that action has been uttered by the honorable member for New England.
– Will the Minister lay on the table the figures he has in regard to absenteeism?
– If the honorable member wants the figures, I shall give them to him; there is no need to lay them on the table of the House. He can rest assured that all the figures I give are authentic, because I have obtained them from a reliable source. That was the sole instance of “ go-slow “ tactics given by the Leader of the Opposition. There have not been “go-slow” tactics at the Homebush abattoirs. If any honorable member wishes to visit the abattoirs in order to observe the conditions under which the men are working, I am prepared to accompany him.
An examination of the whole of the disputes mentioned by the Leader of the Opposition would have similar results. He and the honorable member for New England have mentioned an alleged dispute in connexion with certain ship repair work.
– I did not mention it, but asked a question as to what the judge had said. [Extension- of time granted.^
– The Minister for Munitions on, I believe, Wednesday morning last, informed me that it had been reported to him that men had refused to accept work on certain ship repairs that were urgently required, although they were available for it. The statement submitted was that the men had asked for a wage which the court was not prepared to concede; therefore, they were not offering for work. I immediately communicated with my office in Sydney, and an officer was despatched to the spot to ascertain the facts. The discovery was made that there was no refusal by the men to accept work that had been offered to them, but that the work was such that skilled men had to be engaged on it and, because of the large tonnage of shipping in the Port of Sydney, sufficient skilled labour was not available. Because of the urgency of the work, an officer of the department was instructed to endeavour to obtain the labour required. His efforts resulted in the release of ten men from Cockatoo Island Dockyard, all members of the union - proving that no dispute existed; otherwise, they would not have accepted engagement - six men from Mort’s Dock, six from the Adelaide Steamship Company, and another four, found by the union. At the 2 o’clock call-up on Wednesday, an officer of the department secured 24 unskilled men to work with the skilled men. Although the matter had been brought to our notice only on Wednesday morning, on the evening of that day over 50 men commenced work at the place at which it had been alleged there had been an industrial stoppage. Evidently, there is a campaign to decry the efforts of the Government and injure its prestige in the handling of these matters. I consider that a good deal of the dissatisfaction in industry to-day is due to the fact that in many instances the management has not a sympathetic approach to the workers, who are employed for long hours to the impairment of their health.
The Leader of the Opposition made a passing reference to absenteeism in industry. He probably considered that it was necessary to make some mention of that matter; otherwise, his real object in submitting the motion would be too pointed. I have made a few inquiries in respect of absenteeism, and have discovered that the proposal of honorable members opposite for dealing with it by the wholesale prosecution of absentees has been abandoned in every country in which it has been tried. I have always argued, and I now repeat, that Australian workers cannot be coerced in order to obtain maximum production. They can be conferred with and reasoned with, because they are more reasonable men than are their critics. If you explain to them the difficulties of the war, and discuss their problems with them–
– Has not the Government done that?
– The honorable member for Barker (Mr. Archie Cameron) asks whether the Government has done that. My reply is that it has, and that the great majority of the workers have cooperated with the Government; but we have not received similar co-operation from certain vested interests which the honorable gentleman represents1 in this Parliament. If we- were able to remove one party from the coal dispute, the major part of our difficulties would .be overcome. If, instead of the coal-miners having to bargain with innumerable coal-owners, many of whom are irresponsible and are concerned only with extracting the greatest profit from the industry, the Government managed the mines and the miners were able to confer with it, there would be a much happier state of affairs in the coal-mining industry. I have already said, in regard to absenteeism, that honorable members opposite and the opponents of the Government generally will have nothing to do with any programme which interferes with the interests of private industry. I assure the honorable member for Parramatta (Sir Frederick Stewart), in case he should have any illusions in regard to the matter, that had I been the determining authority in New South Wales when he disposed of his obsolete and unserviceable omnibuses to the Government, I would have opposed the purchase, because I do not consider that the Government made a good deal. The only proposal which honorable members opposite make in order to cope with absenteeism is to prosecute all of the offending workers, no matter who or where they are and without any regard to the circumstances. Summonses must be scattered, and convictions obtained, so they argue, in order to cure the ill. What has been the experience in other parts of the world? An investigation by the British Ministry of Labour showed that a solution of the problem of avoidable absence from work is more likely to be found by those establishments which look for that solution within themselves than by those which do not, but rely more on external powers of discipline and punishment. The Opposition has charged the Government with not having applied the law. The Government has applied the law. I understand that there have been numerous prosecutions and convictions for absenteeism in the coal-mining industry; yet, according to the assertions of honorable members opposite, it has not been cured or dealt with effectively. That has been the experience, also, on the other side of the world. A very exhaustive survey has disclosed that the percentage of absenteeism varies in different, factories, and that a great deal of it is preventable. It was discovered during a recent survey of government factories that the figures were - In the ordnance factory at Maribyrnong, males 5.4 per cent., females 12.2 per cent. ; at the explosives factory, Maribyrnong, males 6.8 per cent., females 13.9 per cent.; at the ammunition factory, Footscray, males 10.52 per cent., females 16.72 per cent. ; at the ammunition factory, Finsbury, males 2.6 per cent., females 6.4 per cent.; at the ammunition factory, Hendon, males 0.58 per cent., females 2.57 per cent.; at the small arms factory, Lithgow, males 12 per cent., females 16 per cent. ; and at the explosives factory^ Salisbury, males 7.4 per cent., females 13.8 per cent. Those figures prove by the varying percentages that the problem can be greatly reduced by a proper approach.
– The percentage, of course, differs with the nature of the work.
– There are many factors which contribute to the variation; but a great deal of absenteeism is preventable by a proper approach.
– Has the Minister noticed that the percentage is lower in the modern than in the old factories?
– That is true. I had intended to make that point as I proceeded. Industrial fatigue is one factor which has contributed to absenteeism. It has been proved, not only in this country, but also elsewhere, that industrial workers are capable of increasing production for a short period by working very long hours; but, after that period is passed, the production begins to decline; consequently, the advantage of the longer hours is lost. The Government, having examined the problem, decided that the hours of work in certain industries were too long, and fixed a maximum working week of 56 hours for males and 52 hours for females. It believes that further inquiry may reveal the necessity for another reduction, because the figures and the information that are being made available disclose that in many industries which entail more arduous work even the hours fixed are- too long. That has been the experience in other parts of the world. The chief inspector of factories in Great Britain made the following report in 1941 :-
Reference ls also made to the growth, in the number of reportable accidents. The length of the working day, and therefore the period of exposure to risk, is one of the contributory factors. This increase is of the order of 20 per cent, in the case of fatal accidents and of 12 per cent, in non-fatal accidents, in comparison with the previous year. The approximate accident rate per thousand employed varies as between adult male and adult female workers, and as between male and female young, workers. But if all the accidents were equally shared out the figures show that whereas one adult man in 25 would be liable to accident at the 1.938 rate, there would be one in 20 at the 1940 rate, and the corresponding figures for women would be one woman in 105 in 1938 and one in 56’ in 1.941. Accident prevention, the report emphasizes, should be the concern of: a safety committee in the factory. The chief inspector points out that production committees are now being developed, and he suggests that it would not be outside their province to consider accident prevention - perhaps through a sub-committee. A’s accidents in factories cause from 20,000 to 30,000 workers to be constantly ofl” work, with a loss of over 50,000,000’ man-hours per month, it is evident he observes that accident prevention has serious production value.
I have previously advocated, and I now repeat, that one of the best ways of dealing with the difficulties associated with the carrying on of industry is to give to the workers a greater share in the ‘management and control. Production committees . should be esta.blisb.ed, but,, unfortunately, their establishment has in the great majority of cases been resisted in this country. Those engaged in the management of industry resent the suggestion that the workers should be given- some share of control. They are concerned with profits, and they believe that, if the workers are given a share in management, they might be; inclined to do things which would be detrimental to the making of exorbitant profits. However, production committees have’ been appointed overseas, and the system has recently been extended with good results. I hope that similar committees will be appointed here. The workers should be called into consultation, not merely when the management wants to use them ; they have the right to meet regularly representatives of the management, and to discuss all matters affecting the industry, including- the accounts. A recent report of what has been done in regard to the appointment of labour management committees in the United1 States of America shows plainly that they have been responsible for an increase of war production. The report states -
In the U.S.A. there are 1,000 Labour Management Committees operating. . . . Speaking to the 16th Annual Meeting of the Labour Management Committee of the Canadian National Railways, Mr. N. B. Walton,, vice-president in charge of operations, praised the spirit of co-operation engendered through these committees. He said it would have been impossible to move the tremendous amount of war material it has moved without this spirit. … In the plant of this company is a mau in his early twenties, Rene- Conge, who had done only three’ months’ work in a machine workshop when, through one of these committees, he carnie up with a suggestion which, by a change in. technique, reduced an important process from an. average of ten hours to one of two and a half hours. The operation previously needed a skilled workman, but now can be performed by an apprentice. . . .
Over in Britain, a trade union with 600,000 members in the most vital of industries - the Amalgamated Engineering Union - made a survey of 740 plants, employing 900,000 workers. They wanted to find1 out how much workers had contributed to production increases in these factories. In plants where there were no Labour Management Committees the suggestions from workers had been responsible for production increases of C’.2 per cent. In the 100 plants employing 270,000 workers where these Labour Management Committees were in- operation, the suggestions from the workers had been responsible for production increases of 34.5 per cent. - a difference of 500 per cent, in the flow of actually productive suggestions. . . .
– The Minister- has exhausted his time.
Motion (by Mr. Rosevear) put -
That the Minister for Labour and National Service (Mr. Ward) be granted a further extension of time.
The House divided. (Mr. Speaker- Hon. W. M. Nairn.)
Majority . . . . 5
Question so resolved in the affirmative.
In spite of opposition from certain vested interests .this Government has made giant strides in removing the causes of absenteeism by promoting the welfare of the workers. Absenteeism has many causes. ‘One is the long distances employees have to travel to work. Another is the increased employment of women in. industry, especially married women with domestic responsibilities. Many women are apt to absent themselves from work when their husbands are home on leave from the Army. Yet another cause .of absenteeism is the difficulty experienced by day workers in doing their shopping. Officers -of my department have recommended that workers, particularly women, be allowed Tegular shopping leave at ‘least once a month. Honorable gentlemen who , cite absenteeism in order to attack this Government forget that at least one-half of absenteeism is attributable to sickness and industrial accidents. Both have increased considerably as the result of the strain and fatigue of long hours of work. The percentage of absenteeism in Australia is seven in the .case of males and thirteen in the case of females, which is much less than it is in many other countries cited by honorable gentlemen opposite as examples that this country should follow. We hope to be able to treat on the job many of the illnesses and to prevent many of the accidents. We aim at the installation in all factories of adequate first-aid kits. In many factories we have already installed them. We hope also to be able to place in the various establishments trained nurses ; but there is a shortage of trained nurses which may limit us in that direction. We propose to place in various enterprises welfare officers who will attend to the needs of workers. Particularly in dangerous and unhealthy trades employing large numbers of workers, we propose, if we can obtain them, to place medical officers. Those are the things that the Labour Government is doing. We must apply that policy, not only in government factories and annexes, but also in private industries. In private industries, we are, however, meeting with difficulty. It must be remembered that many of our advisers have outside connexions and they know that, once amenities are established in government factories and annexes, there will be a demand from privately employed people for the same consideration. Some people engaged in private enterprise place profits before national interest. If we were unhindered by the opposition of private enterprise in giving effect to the Government’s programme, we should be able to step up production of war industries to an extent which would amaze the Australian people.
Opposition members hope by discrediting the workers and their organizations to be able to establish a charge against the Labour party which will- confer an advantage on them at the next general elections. Yet the Leader of the Opposition has been compelled to admit that industrial stoppages are less frequent 6ince the accession of Labour to power than when the United Australia party held the reins. He sought to deny the responsibility of the Labour Government for that diminution by declaring that it was owing to the entry of Japan into the war and not to the activities of the Government. In the year before this party took office approximately 1,000,000 man-days were lost to industry by stoppages of work. So it is evident that the Labour Government, by its sympathetic handling of industrial problems, has effected an improvement. A change of government would bring industrial chaos. The workers would have no confidence in an anti-Labour government. They would feel that they were in the power of the political representatives of vested interests. This Government is working towards the elimination of strikes, but if the parties opposite regained power the workers would be so outraged that there would be a renewed surge of industrial unrest and stoppages of work. My message to the people is that they should not only ensure the continuance in’ office of the Labour party, but also strengthen it in order that it may ensure that the worker shall have just treatment which will include a greater share of the management of industry.
– I move -
That so much o,£ the Standing Orders be suspended as would prevent the debate being continued until 3.30 p.m.
I have ascertained that the Minister for Labour and National Service (Mr. Ward) has been granted two extensions of time in order to enable him to state the case on behalf of the Government.
– And he did a good job.
– Yes, I congratulate him. I consider, ‘however, that in view of that fact and the importance of the debate, the time in which the adjournment motion may be discussed should be extended.
– One hour and twenty-five minutes of the time provided for in the Standing Orders has already elapsed.
– Yes. That is why I am proposing this extension.
– There being an absolute majority of the members of the House present, and no dissentient voice, I declare the question resolved in the affirmative.
– I call for the paper from which the Minister for Labour and National Service quoted.
– The figures will be in Hansard.
-The rules provide that when a Minister quotes from a document which is a matter of public concern that document can be called f or and made a public document unless it is certified that it is of a confidential nature. The honorable member for Swan is in order.
– The Minister for Labour and National Service is quite willing to table the paper.
– Does the Minister produce the paper ?
– Yes. I lay on the table the following paper -
Homebush Abattoirs, New South Wales - Statement regarding absenteeism amongst slaughtermen, for period 18th January to 12th February, 1943.
-Order! The document is now public property.
.- The Minister for Labour and National Service (Mr. Ward) accused the Leader of the Opposition (Mr. Fadden) of having launched, for political reasons, his attack upon the Government’s industrial policy, which has resulted in a state of industrial anarchy in Australia. If the Minister has not read about or noticed the mounting indignation of the Australian people against industrial disturbances, he has very much misinterpreted the temper of the people. No person could fail to be concerned at the serious disturbances in industry to-day. With the number of strikes that are occurring one cannot but contrast the attitude of industrial workers with the sacrifices of the men who are fighting beyond Australia in order to protect this nation. This motion was brought on in order to draw the attention of the House and the country to some aspects of industrial unrest which we think call for the resolute intervention of the Government. The Minister for Labour and National Service has repeated to-day figures which he has given on other occasions in an attempt to show that the state of affairs in industry now is much more satisfactory than it was when we were in office. I direct the attention of honorable members to the fact that the statistics for our period of office were inflated by stoppages which were really political. For instance, there was the demonstration about the internment of Ratliffe and Thomas and the demonstration by the industrial movement against certain aspects of the Fadden budget. As a direct protest against certain features of the Fadden budget, sections of the industrial movement placed a ban on the working of overtime. These stoppages were purely political. There was no pretence that they arose out of a particular dispute in a factory. They were due directly to political causes. They were a part of the political weapon which the Labour movement used in order to defeat first the Menzies Government, and later the Fadden Government. Obviously, when reference is made to the loss of 987,000 days in any one year, we should subtract from the total the general stoppages over the whole field of industry arising from political causes. That will give a truer picture of the industrial situation. If the Minister will present an honest picture to the House of the industrial situation, we shall find that there are more disputes and stoppages to-day than at any other time since the outbreak of war. I base that statement on information which reaches me not only from employers but also from other sections of industry. I invite the Minister to discuss this matter with his departmental officers. They will tell him that the number of disputes which to-day come before them for determination is greater than at any time since the outbreak of war.
Honorable members opposite have sought to explain the stoppages on the coal-fields in various ways. I should be more inclined to accept such explanations at their face value if I did not know that coal is produced in States other than New South Wales. What is the record of production in other States? They do not experience these stoppages in the industry. Presumably the miners have to putup with the same working conditions and the same difficulties with the employers; they make, no doubt, the same requests for higher wages, and the same demands for the appointment- of tribunals to which they . may submit their troubles for amicable discussion. What is their record of production,compared with that of the coal-fields in New South Wales? I quote from
Ihe miners at Wonthaggi are a very happy family, and are giving 100 per cent, coal production, a representative of the men said to-day.
Me added that, there was no. question whatever of deviation from the decision reached about eighteen months ago for maximum production.
Since that decision, there has not been a work stoppage at the Wonthaggi mines.
So keen is the desire to maintain the maximum output, veteran miners are eager to continue at work after they reach 60, and on Tuesday will ask the Premier (Mr. Dunstan) for permission.
– Wonthaggi is a Stateowned mine.
– Not all the mines in Victoria, Western Australia, Queensland and Tasmania are State-owned; and the fact that the Wonthaggi mine is owned by the State did not prevent serious industrial trouble from occurring there in the past. But the Wonthaggi miners are convinced, apparently, that if is their duty to their country in war-time to maintain production, regardless of the issues that, arise in the meantime.
– At Wonthaggi there is no private enterprise seeking profits.
– The Labour Government has considered the problem of nationalization of coal-mining and’ has definitely refused to accept- it as a solution of the difficulty. Several panaceas have been tried in an endeavour to restore harmony in the coal-mining industry. The Minister accused the United Australia party of trying to discredit the Australian worker. That is wrong. Those of us who ha ve had some contact with the Australian worker have the greatest admiration for him. His output and efficiency are not excelled in any other part of the world. But honorable members on this side of the chamber contend that the solutions which have been propounded, though appearing to be satisfactory in theory, have failed to achieve the result which, it was alleged in defence, would be forthcoming. No industry in the Commonwealth is more highly unionized than is the coal-mining industry. Yet we- were- told1 that compulsory unionism would solve the problem of industrial troubles in many industries. But the incidence, of stoppages, is greater in the coal-mining industry than in any other industry. Another panacea was the payment of higher wages. Here again, the coalmining industry pays higher wage rates for the work actually performed than are paid in any other section of industry.
– Miners are paid by results.
– If they are prepared to work, their- remuneration- is more generous than it is in any other section of production. A third panacea has- been suggested. We were told that the miners experienced great difficulty in submitting their grievances to a satisfactory tribunal for consideration and determination. After the Government had discussed the matter with representatives of the Labour movement, including the honora;Me member for Hunter (Mr. James)., a new system was introduced. A judge was appointed to preside over the coal tribunal; the miners- made a special request for him to be appointed chairman. Three district tribunals, were set up, presided’ over in each case by a. man who had himself been a miner. Despite this action by the Government, stoppages continued to occur on the present tragic scale, particularly in New South Wales. Yesterday 27 mines out of 60 in that State were idle. It does not require much thought to realize the magnitude of the effect of this loss of coal on our greatly expanded industrial activity. Unless the position be speedily remedied1, serious coal shortages will occur in every State, seriously hampering the war effort. The Minister suggested the appointment of production committees. If all other proposals have failed, I have little faith, in that suggestion as a solution.
– .Production committees have not yet failed. Why not give them a chance to succeed?
– I share the bewilderment that the Prime Minister must feel in this matter as to the causes and solutions of these troubles. [Extension of time gran.ted.~] Two causes suggest themselves to me. First, it is well known, because the- policy has been widely practised, that the coal-miners are at all times reluctant to produce coal which will increase the reserves available to industry. They fear, apparently, that the production of large reserve stocks will weaken their hand if they become involved in any industrial disputes. I do not know whether the position of reserves to-day is so satisfactory that these stoppages will not reduce appreciably below the normal level the quantity of coal available to our manufacturers. That is ona of the explanations why we are experiencing such serious hold-ups at the present time. The Government should analyse it for the purpose, first, of determining whether there is any justification for the fear, and, secondly, of persuading the miners to increase reserves so that manufacture will not be hampered, at least in war-time.
I come now to the second reason. “We have been told that the leaders of the men themselves are, working strenuously in an endeavour to maintain production. In articles which they have published in the press, they have spoken of ‘” anarchy and sabotage “, resulting in a loss of output. Prom my experience of the industrial movement, I believe that the leaders have a tremendous influence with the mcn. I have never known an occasion when the leaders, after setting out definitely and deliberately to secure a particular result, failed to achieve their objective. “When I am told that the leaders have lost control of the men, particularly in a highly unionized industry, I do not believe it.
– It seems a contradiction in terras that the elected leaders should lose control of the men who chose th em .
– I agree. That is why I ian completely mystified in this matter. I have met many of the leaders of the miners and my impression of them as individuals was highly favorable. The manner in which they have dealt with the problems which we had mutually to discu?s was most commendable.
– Then the honorable member must admit that there is something wrong.
– Yes, I am mystified. I have a high opinion of Mr. Grant. I had not had the pleasure of meeting Mr. Wells. In the past the leaders have exercised a strong control over the men.
That has been proved in the history of the development of the coal-mining industry. Tha Government must have its own views on the motive behind the widespread stoppages, but I remind the’ Minister that one explanation is possibly contained in a statement by the general secretary of the Ironworkers Union, Mr. Thornton, shortly after Russia entered the war. Describing the change of front on the part of his associates and himself, he declared that they meant to secure the maximum output for the purpose of aiding what had then become a common cause. Mr. Thornton wrote -
Our union has deliberately and in a planned way been involved in more strikes than other unions in the lust few years. They were not just the sporadic strikes that are typical of the coal-fields, but planned strikes, because we made strikes our business.
Mr. Thornton referred .to “.sporadic strikes “ on the coal-fields. If his statement be correct, it would appear that in his own view the leaders of the coalminers did not have the same organized control over their men that Mr. Thornton exercised in the. Ironworkers Union. Now that Russia is involved in the war, the Communist element is probably endeavouring to secure the maximum production, but, even within the movement itself, there may be divisions of opinion between Trotskyites and Stalinites. That may be an explanation of the problem.
The Prime Minister referred this week to the “ stooges “ who, he said, were fomenting trouble in industry. The right honorable gentleman was vague and indefinite about what he meant, ,and the country will demand from h’im a more explicit indication. As originally uttered, the implication was that some employers were introducing agents into industry, in order deliberately to foment strikes. If that bo true, no punishment can be too severe in war-time for an employer who engages in that practice.
Sitting suspended from 12J/5 to 2.15 p.m.
– It has been suggested that a state of affairs bordering on industrial anarchy is developing on the coal-fields of New- South Wales. Yesterday work had stopped on 27 of the 60 major mines of the State. In the limited time at my disposal, I do not wish to go over ground already covered, but the
Leader of the Opposition has pointed out that a grave, if less spectacular, state of affairs is also manifest in other industries. Rumours are abroad of a general hold-up in the metal trades group as the result of dissatisfaction with rates of pay for women workers. I direct attention to the following paragraph from the March issue of the Metal Trades Journal - a publication not to be confused with the Metal Trades News, which has been elevated, under the name of the Standard, to the official organ of the Labour party in New South Wales. The paragraph reads -
Industrial unrest, dissatisfaction, demands, threatened strikes, uncertainty, confusion, stoppages of work, meetings, lost time, worry, in an important war industry!
This is the proud achievement of a tribunal known as the Women’s Employment Board, which has been set up to do some of the work usually done by Arbitration Courts.
We have had occasion, previously, to bring to the notice of the Government the chaotic condition that has occurred in industry by reason of the functioning, parallel with the Arbitration Court, of the Women’s Employment Board.
The Prime Minister has said that no strike is justifiable in war-time.
– Hear, hear !
– We have only too clearly in our mind the huge problem that faces us in the. defence and production spheres in this country if, with our limited population, we are to discharge, patriotically, the duty that rests upon us to maintain activities at the maximum pitch. Whilst it is proper and commendable for a Prime Minister, particularly the Prime Minister of a Labour Government, to say that no strike is justifiable in war-time, it is the height of absurdity and irresponsibility for the officer of a government department - I refer to Mr. J. S. Garden - to say during the recent dispute in the textile trade, that the strike had been worth while because certain concessions had been gained and certain principles emphasized.
– I ask i le honorable member whether aspersions and attacks upon the Women’s Employment Board, which is a judicial tribunal, are any more justifiable than attacks and aspersions on the Arbitration Court?
– I was criticizing the existence of a tribunal having jurisdiction in a particular field of industry concurrently with another tribunal. I have cited the passage from the Metal ‘Trades Journal in order to show the difficulties that occur when one tribunal has authority over approximately half the workers in an industry and another tribunal has authority over the other half of them. It is impossible to avoid chaotic conditions and friction in such circumstances. I have not criticized the personnel of the Women’s Employment Board. In fact, last week I stated that a satisfactory solution of the dilemma would probably be to appoint Judge Foster as an Arbitration Court judge, specializing, perhaps, in industrial problems in relation to women.
The Leader of the Opposition has submitted this motion because it is felt that, in recent weeks, there has not been the improvement in industrial relations which many of us hoped would result from the accession to office of a Labour government. Some of us fear, in fact we are convinced, that industrial difficulties are increasing, and not decreasing, as the result of the policy that this Government is applying. We say that no government, irrespective of its political affiliation, which, in war-time, cannot maintain maximum production and ensure a responsive effort from all sections of the people, and particularly a proper observance of the law of’ the land, is worthy to retain office. We re-echo the remark of the Prime Minister, made on another occasion, that no government which is not able to maintain authority in wartime has any right to remain in office. We challenge this Government to act with the authority of a government, in order to awaken and maintain, a sense of responsibility among the people, and to justify its right to maintain leadership in time of war.
.- The subject of industrial relations warrants debate in this House, because there are always two sides to every question. The Opposition invariably places the blame for industrial unrest wholly and solely on the workers, yet the workers are just as patriotic as is any other section of the people. The sons and daughters of the workers, as a matter of fact, are involved in this war to an even greater degree than are the children of members of the Opposition. The story of the responsibility of the unrest of the workers on the coal-fields cannot be told in a few words. I have had 40 years of practical experience in the coal-mining industry, and I say quite definitely that the coalowners are responsible for 70 per cent, of the trouble that is occurring.
– The Prime Minister does not say so.
– The Prime Minister has not been on the job as I have been. Every week-end for a long time past, I have been connected with negotiations with the leaders of the Miners Federation with the object of maintaining industrial peace. Some people have had the audacity to criticize the miners’ leaders and to say that they are not pulling their weight in endeavouring to maintain production on the coal-fields. The fact is that the present-day leaders of the coalminers have done unprecedented things in endeavouring to get the men to suffer the pin-pricking of the employers and the pinching away of conditions which have been won in the industry only after a long struggle. The miners’ leaders have done everything possible to maintain production at its zenith. It is to be regretted that the treatment which the coal-miners and their leaders have received for many years past has been such as to cause them to lose faith in other people. The treatment meted out to them in the period 1928-30, culminating in the lock-out in the industry which lasted for thirteen months, was utterly deplorable. We all know that the government in office during that period allowed the coal-owners to lock out their employees in order to force them to accept a reduction of their wages bv 12£ per cent. The miners carried on the unequal conflict for thirteen months, but were starved into submission.
Not so long ago, a conference of representatives of the miners and the owners was held at Canberra at which an agreement was reached for the setting up of production committees. Unfortunately, some of the coal-owners have declined to allow such committees to function. Honorable gentlemen opposite have said nothing about a recent celebration on the coal-fields to mark a succession of 1,050 unbroken shifts in a coal-mine. In that mine the management has acted decently and has shown a sincere desire to preserve peace. I do not like making accusations, but I am compelled to say that some coal-owners wilfully and deliberately foster trouble. I shall refer first to happenings in a colliery at South Bulli. The underground manager was charged with a breach of the regulations, as also were some of the men. The magistrate adjourned the case against the underground manager until after the charges against the men had been determined. In another colliery on the South Coast, a manager refused to pay well-recognized yardage rates for work done in narrow places. Soon after this Government assumed office, I presided over a conference on this subject, and I was able to prove to the satisfaction of everybody that the management had been guilty of a breach of the agreement. It leased a certain area from the local water board and undertook to work it in 6-yard widths, so as to avoid any possibility of damage. The management, however, got the men to work 8-yard widths, in order to get as much coal as possible from the lease, agreeing to pay the rate for narrow places. Subsequently the men were removed to another area, and when they applied for the yardage rates for working the same widths the management declared that such rates had never been paid. The men were able to prove, by going below, that the owners did not carry out their agreement to work 6-yard widths, but had worked Syard widths. There has been a lot of trouble at Millfield. The honorable member for Wentworth (Mr. Harrison) is a particular friend of Mr. Gregory Foster, an ex-New Guardsman; both served under the same zone commander.
– I have never met the gentleman, and do not know him. The honorable member is misrepresenting me.
– He has supplied the honorable member with information which he has used in this House. There was a long stoppage in connexion with the abolition of the afternoon shift. Although that shift was abolished in 1916, the management endeavoured to compel the men to shoot coal during that period in order that it might be ready to be filled on tie day shift. A penalty rate is involved for work done on the afternoon shift. Can honorable members wonder that the men are dissatisfied? The dispute was sent to Mr. Connell, but he did not give a decision upon it, considering that it was outside his jurisdiction. He sent it to His Honour, Judge Drake-Brockman, who ‘ returned it to him. Yet the Government considers that it has a system of streamlined arbitration!
At Hebburn No. 2, the men have been on strike for approximately three weeks because of the refusal of the management to make up the wages of men in deficient places. The shift-workers, numbering 38, went down the mine, as the award provides for payment from bank to bank. They proceeded right into the working face, but were told that there was no work for them to do. The distance to and from the working face, which they had to walk, was three miles, yet they received no payment. On the following day they sat at the pit bottom, waiting for men to follow them, believing that, if they proceeded to the working face, they would in all probability be sent home again. When the over-man saw them sitting at the pit bottom, he said, “ You can go in to work “. They did so, and a deduction was made from their pay because they had not proceeded immediately to the working face. They resented such treatment. There would be some merit in encouraging men to go down into the mine instead of remaining on the pit top and causing congestion. [Extension of time granted.] At Stanford Main No. 1, the manager has wilfully endeavoured to discontinue a custom in respect of seniority which has been in operation for many years. When 22 men were summoned to appear before a police magistrate at Lithgow, 21 of them walked out of the court because the magistrate would not consent to a short adjournment in order that they might brief counsel. The president of the western district, Mr. Jamieson, wished to appear on their behalf, but the magistrate would not allow him to do so because he was not a member of the legal profession. I shall not be astonished if there is further trouble in that district; but I hope that there will not be. I have mentioned the matter to the AttorneyGeneral, who intends to see whether a dispute can be obviated.
Viewing the position as a whole, and considering the background of the disputes, one has to realize that there is some cause for them. What is that cause? Surely a remedy for it can be found ! The men realize full well the dangerous nature of their calling. The coal-owners have more concern for the welfare and safety of their machinery, and the horses that they have to buy, than they have for the miners. The honorable member for Fawkner (Mr. Holt) has said that the miners will not build up stocks of coal. They are doing so. The quantity of coal won during the first two months of this year is far in excess of that won in a similar period last year, although the men have had holidays extending over ten days. I may chastise the miners at a meeting, but I shall not remain silent while others who have no knowledge of the subject are ridiculing them. I am sure that the honorable member for Wentworth-
– I have not said a word.
– But the honorable member will; and he will descend to the murky depths of the sewer, for party political purposes. This motion was supposed to have been moved yesterday. The cohorts of the Opposition in the Senate are making arrangements for a prospective election, and this is to be one of the election “ stunts “. I invite opposition in my electorate on the mining issue. I shall always defend the miners. I have worked in various coal-mining districts, in some of which the contract system has not operated, and in them there is greater continuity of work than in districts “which observe the system. I say advisedly that the sooner it is abolished the sooner will there be continuity of operations.
– Is that the official attitude of the Miners Federation?
– That is my candid opinion, and I express it even though I may have my ankles caned for doing so. In order to avoid the fatigue which exists among the men, we have asked that they shall be transported to and from the working face. If they were taken in and out of the mine, instead of having to walk a total’ of 4 to 5 miles daily, they would reach the face more quickly and, being fitter, would hew more coal individually each day. The men realize that they are injuring themselves, and that the. casualties among them are greater because of the grave risks which they take under the contract system. I am confident that peace in the industry would ensue upon the abolition of the contract system. It is of no use for honorable members opposite to try to form an opinion of these men. They live unto themselves, and all the social benefits they enjoy have been obtained by mutual arrangement.
– And they pay for them.
– That is so.
– They believe in the contributory system.
– But the payment is not so great as was proposed under the national- insurance scheme. The honorable member for “Wentworth and others may criticize, the miners. Why do. they not make themselves conversant with the conditions of coal-mining? The right honorable member for Kooyong (Mr. Menzies) at least had the courage to visit the fields, in order to acquaint himself with the conditions of the miners, but very few others have emulated him. The miners are. not heathens, but are democrats who would welcome a visit. I have accompanied the honorable member for Flinders (Mr. Ryan) and the honorable member for Deakin (Mr. Hutchinson) to the fields, and am prepared to accompany any other honorable members who may wish to go there. When they had learned the conditions under which the men labour and the risks which they run, they would not condemn them as they now do, let alone attempt to make out of their difficulties party political propaganda on the eve of an election. The Government has done everything that is humanly possible, and nobody has done more, to maintain continuity of work.
In my final words, I pay tribute to the leadership of the Miners Federation. Those who, because they belong to a different political party, say that the miners’ leaders are fomenting trouble, deliberately misrepresent them ; the officials have done everything that men could1 do to maintain continuity of production.
.- The purpose of the Leader of the Opposition (Mr. Fadden) in bringing this matter to a debate in this House to-day was to direct the attention of the Government and the country to an intolerable state of affairs, and to advance suggestions which may lead to the termination or at least an abatement of the existing widespread industrial disputes. All that has dropped from the lips of the Minister for Labour and National Service. (Mr. Ward) and the honorable member for Hunter (Mr. James) has been in complete justification of those stoppages. One can understand why, when those gentlemen were in opposition, they should have felt obliged to justify industrial stoppages which occurred under a government that they opposed ; but that they should occupy their time in attempting to prove to the country that such stoppages are not only unavoidable, but also- justifiable, passes my comprehension. The plain fact of the matter is that this country stands, as we have been assured by the Prime Minister and other Ministers, in dire peril of its free existence. The man-power of Australia has been marshalled and organized and equipped to defend our freedom. Australian brothers and sons and fathers are shedding their blood and giving their lives in defence of the country, but they can defend it effectively only if they have placed in their hands a sufficient quantity of military equipment. The industrial stoppages against which we are voicing our protest will have an immediate effect on the quantity and flow of that equipment. I am amazed that no representative of the Government has attempted to reply to the case made out by the Leader of the Opposition (Mr. Fadden). It is not the. desire of the Opposition to blackguard the working men of Australia, or to try to make political capital out of these occurrences. It is our desire, as well as our duty, to point out that there exists at the present time a state, of affairs which cannot, be permitted to continue.
The Minister for Labour and- National Service attempted to smother the case of the Leader of the Opposition under a maze of statistics, allegations and quotations, all of which may be of interest in themselves, but constitute no effective reply to the demand that the Government should accept its responsibility, and grapple with the existing situation. The Prime Minister himself has been very frank in certain of his speeches, in the course of which he has admitted that responsibility for industrial stoppages rests neither exclusively nor principally on the shoulders of the employers. The worst example of persistent industrial stoppages is provided on the coal-fields of New South Wales. It is surely more than a coincidence that practically all the stoppages take place in New South Wales. One rarely hears of a stoppage of work in a coal-mine in Victoria.
– There has been continuous production at Wonthaggi for the last two years.
– I accept that fact as a tribute to the Wonthaggi miners. No doubt, they have had excellent political leadership from the honorable member for Gippsland (Mr. Paterson) who represents them, but we must give them the credit due to them for their continuous production effort. The honorable member for Swan (Mr. Marwick) tells me that, in Western Australia, there has been scarcely a single instance of a stoppage of work in the coal-mines. The only stoppage in recent times was when the men ceased work and gathered together to discuss how they could increase output. Queensland has also been almost entirely free from industrial disputes on the coalfields. Why is it that New South Wales is the only State which provides this never-ending sequence of stoppages? The Prime Minister has given some explanation of it. I have a document here, issued under the Prime Minister’s signature, in which is reproduced a speech made by him on this subject. I wish the honorable member for Hunter (Mr. James) and the Minister for Labour and National Service were present to hear it. This is what the Prime Minister said -
As to statements by representatives of the miners about what is termed “ provocative tactics of owners in forcing stoppages T –. say that, as not more than 20 per cent, of all stoppages relates to matters between owner and employee, it is’ suggested that there is little evidence that provocation plays any material part in loss of production.
The greater number of stoppages was due to strikes against awards or interpretations of awards as given by the Central Reference Board or the various local reference boards. Two other main causes were promotion or seniority; inter-union disputes where a mine is held up because a section of the men assert that some particular employee is in the wrong union. “ Frivolous “ causes of strikes include : Protest against a report made by the miners’ own check inspector; miner claims that Iiia drill was not properly sharpened; wheelers were reprimanded for coming out early; water placed in the boots of a clipper; bathroom attendant not being on duty; wheeler’s horse too fast “. Two eases should be described as provocation on the part of the management. In one case, because of the careless action of one boy, the manager issued a peremptory order that nobody was to smoke near the pitmouth. While there is prohibition against smoking underground, men smoke at or near the mouth at nearly every pit.
The Prime Minister has declared that a great majority of the stoppages in this basic industry, on which the country’s whole war effort depends, are trivial and unjustifiable. Sure, then, it is some one’s responsibility to take action in regard to such trivial, frivolous and unjustified strikes. Without coal, ships cannot be built, guns cannot be forged, and ammunition cannot be made. Without it transport must cease. And we have been told, not by the employers, or even by members on this side of the House, but by the Prime Minister himself, that by far the greater number of the stoppages which threaten the supply of this basic commodity are frivolous and unjustified. It is the duty of the Government to deal with these cases. If it fails to do so it will abrogate every principle of democracy, and abdicate the functions of government. Indeed, it has done so already in regard to the coal-mining industry, because, for the first time in the history of the nation, it has authorized a strike in that industry. When an attempt was made to deal with the problem of stoppages by threatening action under Statutory Rule No. 77, the Government explicitly excluded from the operation of the statutory rule any strike authorized by the miners federation. [Extension of time granted.] The Government was not justified in making that exception in the case of an industry so vitally important to the. country’s war effort. It should not have said, in effect, that a strike was justified provided it was authorized by the elected representatives of the strikers. The union officials must look to the members of their unions for re-election. Without their support they cannot continue as industrial leaders. The Government has failed to face its responsibilities in this matter, and has thereby proved itself neglectful of the interests of the fighting forces and of the safety of Australia.
Whilst I have devoted most of my time to discussing the coalmining industry, the same tendency to bring about unjustifiable stoppages of work is apparent in other industries. Recently, there has been a widespread strike in the textile- industry, in connexion with which an appointee of the Minister for Labour and National Service - Mr. Jock Garden - himself an ex-member of this Parliament, is reported as having said that the strike had been worthwhile. In my opinion, there can be no justification for any strike in war-time. We have declared ourselves, without division of opinion, to be in favour of industrial arbitration and conciliation. It is the duty of the Government to provide adequate machinery for the settlement of industrial disputes in their incipient stages, and it should provide for the punishment of those who decline to obey the law. Unfortunately, however, the trade unions are passing progressively under the control of men who have continuously advocated the strike weapon. A powerful key union has been formed in Australia recently by the merging of the organizations to which formerly belonged the iron and steel workers, and those engaged in the arms, munitions and explosives industries. The new organization has a membership of over 100,00§ii It is to-day under the dictatorial direction of Mr. Thornton, who is reported - and apparently delights in the fact - as having made the following statement : -
Our union has deliberately and in a planned way been involved in more strikes than other unions in the last few years. They were not just the sporadic strikes that are typical of the coal-fields, but planned strikes, because we make strikes our business.
That is a statement by a man who is now the principal executive officer of a union which controls 100,000 ironworkers, and employees in private factories and Government annexes engaged in the production of arms, munitions and explosives. There should be no toleration in any position of authority of men who hold and express such opinions. The Government should take action in regard to them.
– I agree that the problem of war production is one of the most important with which the people and the Government of Australia are. confronted. It is wise that we should debate those matters which hold up production, but I believe that such debates should take place in camera - not in open parliament, where they may do a disservice to the country. Relations with our allies are likely to ba prejudiced by gross statements of the kind which have been made here to-day. Talk by responsible men about strikes and industrial anarchy being rife in Australia is not calculated to strengthen our ties with our allies. Even if the charges made by honorable gentlemen opposite were true, it would be unwise to make them. That they are not true is proved by the fact that the loss of industrial time now is considerably less than it was in peace-time. I do not believe that industrial time should be lost by the country, whether it is at peace or at war. There is no justification for loss of time in peace, but it is abhorrent while a war is in progress.
– The loss of time is far more than we can afford.
– I agree ; but it is not nearly so bad as honorable gentlemen opposite say it is. If some of the things that supposedly responsible members of this House have said to-day had been said outside during the last war, the people who said them would have been gaoled. Many men during the last war were fined or gaoled for having made statements which the authorities considered were likely to disturb the harmony between Australia and its allies. Outrageous statements have been made to-day to the effect that this country is not interested in production, and that a state of anarchy exists in which the people do not care whether they work.
– ‘That is nonsense. No such statement was made.
– The Leader of the Opposition said that a wave of industrial anarchy was sweeping over the country.
– Not the country - New South Wales.
– New South Wales is the leading industrial State of the Commonwealth. It produces 90 per cent. of the coal.
Br. Price. - And 90 per cent, of the strikes.
-Since this ‘ war began, not five minutes has been lost by industries dependent upon the coal industry for fuel because of a shortage of coal brought about by strikes among the people who hew the coal.
– Ask the people in . South Australia what they have to say about that.
– No South Australian industry has lost time because of a shortage of coal brought about by strikes in the coal-mining industry. Any shortage of coal experienced by South Australia is the result of lack of shipping to take the coal from the mines to South Australia. That does not, of course, justify stoppages of work on the coalfields.
The honorable member for Darwin (Sir George Bell) last week asked the Prime Minister (Mr. Curtin) to consider the desirability of holding a secret meeting of senators and members at which problems such as this could be discussed. I should like the Prime Minister to comply with that request for there are many things that I would say in camera which I could not say in open session. Undoubtedly, the problem of production is most serious, and it is becoming more so. It is true that “go-slow” methods are operating in some sections of Australian industry; but I am as sure as I am standing here that they start at the top and percolate through industry down to the meanest hand. At a private meeting I could say what I know. All I can say now is that some of the moat important parts for aircraft are being held up and the overhaul of vital aeroplane engines is being delayed by the “go-slow” tactics employed by the staff, and that no one is exempt from the charge, whether he be a worker, a manager, or a director. The plain fact is that nobody in that factory “ cares a hang “. The workers take their lead from the top. The attitude of the men on top is dictated by the fact that they are not paid by the units they produce. We cannot avoid the cost-plus system in producing some things that we require in waging this war. An army of experts has failed to devise an alternative method. But the fac? remains that some of the most important work in Australia is not being clone half so fast as it ought to be. The workers are not to .blame. They are the victims of corruption at the top.
– What does the Minister mean ?
– I do not mean thieving; it is carelessness.
– That is a serious charge.
– A “don’t care” attitude has developed, either consciously or unconsciously.
– Yet the Government leaves those people in control.
– In order that we might be able to discuss that situation a secret meeting would be helpful.
– The Government has all the authority it needs to displace people who hold up the war effort.
– The motion for the adjournment of the House was made by the Leader of the Opposition for the purpose of discussing the general subject of strikes, absenteeism, and lost time. Almost without exception, honorable gentlemen opposite have concentrated on a speech which they allege was made by Mr. J. S- Garden - I do not know whether that speech was made or not - and the coal-mining industry. They have not dealt with the general problem of absenteeism. They made no suggestions about how we ought to alter things in order to be able to cope with absenteeism. Honorable gentlemen opposite, in seeking to les-en this party in the eyes of the electors, as I said, concentrated on what they described as the terrible slackness in the coal-mining industry in New SouthWales. They contrasted the coal-mining industry in that State with the coal-mining industry in Victoria. The remarks made by honorable members about the coalmining industry in Victoria cover what I intended to say. Not one man-hour has been lost by it since the outbreak of war [Extension of time granted.]
– Not one man-hour has been lost by the coal-mining industry of Western Australia.
– And Tasmania.
– And Queensland.
– In Victoria we have the government-owned mine at Wonthaggi. I know the State coal-mine, and I know the men in chargeof it, both managers and union leaders. That mine provides a splendid example of cooperation in ensuring the maximum output so that Australia’s industrial effort shall not be in any way impaired. I emphasize the fact that that mine is conducted by the State. I know this : that no honorable gentleman opposite has suggested that we should emulate Great Britain’s example in the last war and this war by taking over the control of the coal-mines in New South Wales, in order that they may be operated in the same way as the Wonthaggi coal-mine is operated, namely, uninterruptedly without one day’s loss of production. Why are honorable gentlemen opposite not big enough to say that the Government should end the strife in the coal-mining industry of New South Wales by taking over the mines?
As a side issue, honorable members opposite insinuated that the coal-miners were not concerned that Australia’s . manhood is falling in war. I give that charge the lie direct. Statistics prove that more volunteers for the Australian Imperial Force have come from the coalmining industry than from any other section of the community. Hardly one family on the coal-fields has not a blood relation who has fought, died or been wounded in this war.
– That applies to every family in Australia.
– Yes ; but it is a slander to say that the miners are not concerned about the war. During the last war I was associated, not as a recruiting agent, with Donald Mackinnon, who was in charge of recruiting all over Australia. He asked me one day why the enlistment of trade unionists was diminishing.
– That was because of the conscription issue.
– It was not. It was because there were very few trade unionists left. Most of them had already gone to the war. I told Mr. Mackinnon that several recruiting sergeants who had gone to Broken Hill had returned and reported that the miners were cowards. Mr. Mackinnon wrote a long article in a journal which he was conducting in connexion with the recruiting campaign - I fancy its name was the Arrow - in which he said that it was a lie to say that miners were cowards, and that the first 250,000 of “ Kitchener’s army “ were British coal-miners. It is a well-established fact that miners are always the first to go to their country’s aid in time of war. I agree with the honorable member for Indi (Mr. McEwen) that the secretary of the Ironworkers Union, Mr. Thornton, addressing the council of the union, said that it was no good wasting powder and shot in foolish strikes, and that if the ironworkers did go on strike they should have a plan and something to strike for. The honorable member for Indi took exception to that statement. I do not. It was a very good statement. I entirely agree with the sentiments of it. But it was made before the war.
– It was made afterRussia entered the war.
– The date is immaterial. The fact remains that Mr. Thornton was telling the members of his union that they must not strike, except under the greatest provocation. In fairness to Mr. Thornton and his executive, honorable members opposite must admit that they have declared strikes “ black “ until the war is over.
– That is admitted.
– It is not fair to say that Mr. Thornton and his executive are deliberately planning strikes; the opposite is the truth. I am sorry that this debate has taken place in public. I hope that we shall have the opportunity to have a heart-to-heart talk at a secret meeting, at which we shall be able to bend all our efforts to finding some way in which the industrial turmoil may be prevented. There is a reason for the turmoil, and it is the duty of every responsible citizen to try to discover it.
– I think that the coal problem is the greatest industrial problem that we have to solve in Australia to-day. Coal is vital to our war effort. It warms up the coking ovens in the steel industry, and if the furnaces die down to dull ashes the rolling mills will cease. When that happens we shall no longer have the steel .we need for our aeroplane engines, cylinder heads and ordnance. Ever since the war began, trouble in the coal-mining industry, mainly in New South Wales, has been constantly recurring. The Minister for Health (Mr. Holloway) was quite right when he said that about 90 §er cent, of our coal came from New South Wales; but he forget to say, as was interjected by the honorable member for Boothby (Dr. Price) that 90 per cent, of the strikes took place in that State. In the other States there has been a reasonable awareness among the coal-miners that the production of coal is vital to our war effort. It is true that a strike has not occurred at the Wonthaggi mine for nearly two years, but it is equally true that strikes have not occurred at privately-owned mines in other States. Therefore, the implication that State-ownership of mines will solve the problem of strikes cannot be substantiated. Some time ago, at the Paddington Town Hall, the Minister for Labour and National Service (Mr. Ward) advocated the nationalization of the .coal-mining industry. FroM the statement of the Prime Minister yesterday, it appears that the Minister has not been very successful in convincing Cabinet of the wisdom of his proposal. Despite the absence of strikes at Wonthaggi last year, the mine showed a loss of £2,377 a week or over £121,000 a year. Honorable members opposite talk glibly about “working for use and yet not for profits “ ; but I have not heard it claimed in this House that even a State-owned mine should work at a loss. Whenever an enterprise ‘ is controlled by the State losses seem to occur.
Strikes have occurred at the Stateowned mine at Lithgow, just as in privately owned mines in New South Wales. This coal-mine has had a bad record, not only for strikes but also financially. Only once in the last four years has it paid expenses. The loss in 1941-42 was £16,500. Incidentally, the Lithgow mine charges a higher price for its coal than any other mine in the Western District of New South Wales. Before honorable members opposite advocate the nationalization of the coal-mining industry, they should carefully consider those pertinent facts. The whole history of State-controlled mines in Australia, economically and industrially, is deplorable.
I agree with the statement of the honorable member for Hunter (Mr. James) that it would be of advantage to the country if honorable members visited the coal-mining areas for the purpose of studying working conditions and the problems of the industry. Too little is known in this House about the industry, and that ignorance is shared by the general public. With the object of gaining some knowledge of the conditions, fie honorable member for Flinders (Mr. Ryan) and I paid a visit, some time ago, to the northern coal-fields. Although we do not regard ourselves as experts, we have acquired a valuable knowledge of conditions, and of the psychology of the miners and their families. The miner is a fine type, and is most loyal. When he works he works hard. Most of the men trace their ancestry to England, Wales and Scotland, and, unfortunately, their background is coloured by the Industrial Revolution. This tradition is at the root of the difficulty in dealing with the miners. Australia has not known the struggles and trials of the miners, and the constant pressure on labour that was experienced in Great Britain during the Industrial Revolution. In Australia, wages and conditions in the industry have shown a steady improvement. But we must realize that the industry has this unhappy background.
One of the mines which we visited was the Richmond Main. Although it is not the worst mine in New South Wales, itis recognized as the worst in the J. and A. Brown Abermain and Seaham group. We found that the conditions were extraordinarily good. If any honorable member were to descend the mines, he would be astonished by the excellent conditions under which the men work. I thought at the time of the men who draft sheep in the heat of summer in dusty yards, and the navvies who work on the roads, and I compared their lot with the almost air-conditioned environment in which the miners work. They have a five-day working week of 40 hours. They begin at 7 a.m., and finish at 3 p.m., but that period includes the “ bank to bank” - the time occupied in travelling to and from the face - and 30 minutes crib time. The actual working time is between six and six and a half hours a day for five days a week. In those six and a half hours, it is possible for a miner on contract to earn from £2 to £i. In one mine which we examined the average earning was £2 5s. a day. After 3 p.m. the men go to the surface and return to their homes for recreation. I do not imply that the miner does not work. No charge of loafing can be laid against him. He can be accused, with justification, of continually going on strike for trivial reasons, or absenting himself, but no one can find fault with him as a. worker.
Reference has been made to the increased rate of production since the Labour Government took office, as if the greater output were due wholly to the changed political circumstances. In 1913 Australia produced 12,404,000 tons of coal and this year the Government hopes to increase production to 13,000,000 tons. But the production of nearly every industry has increased substantially since the outbreak of war. The real reason why the production of coal has increased is the development of managerial ability and technical knowledge, and. mechanization. In 1939 the industry was only ‘20 per cent, mechanized, whereas to-day it is nearly 40 per cent, mechanized. I shall indicate to the House the effects of mechanization in the industry. In the Richmond Main, which is partly mechanized, the output per man is 1£ tons a day. The. Burwood mine is completely mechanized, and the daily output is 5£ tons per man. For modernity and cleanliness the Burwood mine is unsurpassed. But it is not a State coal-mina It belongs to the much-maligned firm, the Broken Hill Proprietary Company Limited. [Extension of time granted.] Coalmining has possibly the most elaborate machinery of any industry in Australia for avoiding and settling industrial disputes. Although the Government has appointed local reference boards and central reference boards and so on, the system still contains certain faults. First, the chairmen of the local reference boards have no real security of tenure. They may be dismissed at any time at the will of the Minister of the day. As these chairmen are usually drawn from the coal-mines, honorable members can imagine that it requires a plucky man to give an impartial decision, because he may jeopardize his job. Again, real facilities are lacking for appeals from the local reference board to the central reference board. Often the appeal has to be laid before the Minister, and that causes delay and produces industrial difficulties.
A good deal of the coal trouble is traceable to the internal politics of the industry. Before Russia entered the war, the Communist cells in the industry were always causing trouble. The statement read by the honorable member for Fawkner (Mr. Holt) indicates the activity among certain elements to retard production. They endeavoured to foment strikes. With the dismissal of Mr. Nelson, men of the type of Messrs. Wells and Scanlon took office, and I have been told that they have avowed Communist leanings. Since Russia entered the war these men have become loyalists. They would conscript every body and every thing for service overseas. This Leftist element has been delegated by the Government to enforce discipline in the industry, and loyal Australian miners are at a loss to understand’ the change of policy. They remember that until Russia became our ally these leaders were responsible for a good deal of the trouble. To-day the leaders tell the men to work as hard as they can, or they will be penalized. This has caused a good deal of discontent. The traditional Australian Labour man “has a feeling of frustration because these gentlemen, who formerly caused all the trouble, are now urging greater output.
– The extended time allotted for this debate has expired.
Gas Masks - Public Expenditure : Parliamentary Control - AuditorGeneral’s Department - Australian Aborigines - Housing Census - Screen Advertising - Man-power : Call-up of Market Gardeners; Gem Slipper Company - Civil Constructional Corps : Leave for Workers at Tennant Creek - Purchase and Use of Government Motor Cars - Parliamentary Joint Committees - Number ,-of Ministers - Income Taxation: Service Men at Darwin and Port Moresby - Australian Army : Absence Without Leave - Timbrol Limited : Employment Questionnaire - Phosphate Deposits at Mansfield - War Situation : Need for Parliamentary Discussion’ - Advisory War Council - Royal Australian Air Force: Punishment of Sergeant Pilot K. M. Gregor - Censorship - Division of Import Procurement - Pricks Control - Essendon Aerodrome Extensions.
Motion (by Mr. Forde) proposed -
That the House do now adjourn.
.- On the adjournment last Friday, the honorable member for Wakefield (Mr. DuncanHughes) raised the question of the supply of respirators to civilians, and the training of the public in the use of such equipment. The honorable member mentioned that this matter had been first raised by him seven years ago, and that he had raised it on several subsequent occasions. So far as this Government is concerned, a.icl so far as I am aware, the first occasion on which the honorable member raised the question was two weeks ago. He said last Friday that, on the occasion on which he had first raised the question, Sir George Pearce, then
Minister for Defence, indicated that no respirators had been issued to State governments apart from a limited number made available to civil defence personnel for training purposes; and that, further, it- was not the policy of the then government to undertake the instruction of the general public in their use. That position obtained up to the time the present Government took office, with the exception that it had been decided to issue to civil defence organizations a number of service respirators for the use of civil defence personnel only. It was not until this Government assumed office and the war had been in progress for over two years that steps were taken to place an order in the United States of America for the supply of respirators for civilians. The reason why sufficient supplies for the civilian population in Australia were not then quickly obtained was solely the impossibility of securing sufficient equipment either locally or from the United Kingdom.
The Department of Home Security has been consistently pressing for supplies of civilian respirators both from the United” Kingdom and the United States of America, with the result that, at present, large quantities of respirators are on hand and stored in the areas of high priority, as laid down by the Defence Committee. With the supplies already on hand, and judging horn, advices as to future supplies, it should not be long before sufficient respirators are available to meet all Australian requirements.
Preliminary steps have been taken to give instruction to the public in the use of respirators, and only last week a conference was held between my officers and certain State officers to consider making arrangements for fitting trials for the public. There is no point, however, in carrying these arrangements too far until supplies are available to enable such trials to proceed. Appropriate instructions are being prepared and will be issued for the guidance of the public.
There has been a considerable measure of anti-gas training in all States, apart from ‘any instruction in the wearing of respirators. Advice has been furnished as to the method of gas-proofing rooms, and other general precautions to be taken in the event of a gas attack.
.- I direct attention to a subject which I regard as of the greatest importance. I refer to the urgent need for the Parliament to tighten up its control of the public purse. Parliament cannot ignore the serious charges which have been made, not only in this House but also in the country recently, of wasteful expenditure. This calls for prompt action, and I wish to make certain suggestions with the object of tightening our control of the public purse. I realize that owing to the magnitude of the war effort and the rush nature of much of the work being done to-day some mistakes are unavoidable; but every effort should be made to reduce leakages to a minimum.
I have some grave misgivings concerning the present system of checking and controlling public expenditure. I consider that Parliament should hear from the Auditor-General more frequently. In view of the fact that public expenditure has increased from £100,000,000 per annum, at which figure it stood in peacetime, to over £600,000,000 in war-time, I suggest that the functions of the Auditor ^General should be extended so that Parliament may be kept fully advised of any irregularities that may occur. The Auditor-General is regarded as the watch-dog of the public purse, but, under present conditions, he has few opportunities to bark. Parliament receives a report from the Auditor-General once a year, but this becomes available so long after the expenditure has been incurred that it is almost ancient history. For instance, the report on the accounts for the year ended the 30th June, 1942, has not yet been presented to Parliament. This is a very unsatisfactory state of affairs. I appreciate the difficulties which have to be faced in this connexion, not only in respect of the activities which the Auditor-General is required by statute to survey, but also in respect of the very wide range of other Commonwealth expenditure which, under existing conditions, should be under constant surveillance.
The Auditor-General should submit more frequent reports. I suggest that an arrangement should be made for him to submit to the Parliament frequent interim reports on irregularities, the misuse of public funds, and any other matters to which he thinks attention should be drawn. To illustrate the necessity for such action, I refer to a serious defalcation in connexion with the military funds in Sydney recently. Under present methods Parliament will not hear anything from the Auditor-General on that subject and on other charges mentioned recently in the House, for at least another twelve months. Frequent interim reports by the Auditor-General on irregularities would serve as a very healthy check, and would act as a deterrent to the wasteful expenditure of public money.
It is impossible for Ministers, especially those in charge of service departments, to keep an adequate check on expenditure, or to supervise activities as they could do in normal times. I make it clear that, in offering these suggestions to the Government, I do not in any way reflect upon Ministers. I believe that it would be in the. best interests of Cabinet to adopt my suggestions, for thereby early information would be available of any irregularities or extravagances.
I understand that some departments which control largo war activities have instituted their own system of internal check, but grave doubt exists as to the effectiveness of some of these systems. I know of a government factory which had a large staff engaged on a costing system which proved to be as futile as it was unreliable. Indeed, it was worse than useless, for it was misleading. All such internal checks should be subject to the direct control of the Auditor-General, who is the independent officer to whom the Parliament looks for an assurance that so far as our. public accounts are concerned, all is in order.
I know that my statements concerning the government department to which I have referred are true, because, after I first heard of this futile check, I made it my business to consult the departmental head concerned. Any internal auditing of this nature should be subject to control by the Auditor-General’s Department.
I have had considerable experience in auditing work. I know the value of an effective system of checking public expenditure, and I emphasize that I am far from satisfied that the Parliament has made proper provision to ensure that the colossal expenditure that is being incurred to-day is being adequately supervised. It will be necessary, of course, to enlarge the staff of the Auditor-General’s Department if the Auditor-General is to keep an effective control over the huge expenditure which is now taking place, but this’ can be done without any increased use of man-power or costs, by the transfer of officials who are now engaged in such futile work as I have already indicated.
I also suggest that the time has arrived for the appointment of a deputy auditorgeneral, so as to relieve the AuditorGeneral of a considerable amount of detailed work, and leave him free to give his attention to more important matters. The State governments have appointed deputies to their auditors-general, and such a move by the Commonwealth Government is highly desirable.’ The appointment of a competent officer to this position would mean that we should have a person in training to take over the more responsible work of the AuditorGeneral himself when he reaches the age of retirement.
Immediate action along the lines I have suggested will help to remove the suspicion existing to-day that much of the money spent in connexion with our war effort is being squandered. It is imperative that we shall inspire confidence in the community if we are to get full support for the loans to be floated in the future. People have said to me that they cannot see why they should subscribe to loans in view of the fact that so much money is being wasted. I frankly admit that investigation of some rumours of wasteful expenditure proves that exaggerated statements are frequently made, but because of the other occasions when it is proved that the complaint is justified, we ought to do everything possible to reduce the dangers inherent in the present position.
.- I bring to the notice of the Government a subject of considerable importance in view of the fact that the Commonwealth Powers Bill has been passed by the Parliaments of New South Wales and Queensland. I refer to the position that is likely to arise in relation to 77,000 Australian aborigines and half-castes who may come under Commonwealth control in accordance with the provisions of that measure. Very many white people may also be affected by future government policy in relation to the Australian natives. Apparently, although certain Parliaments are not prepared to transfer to the Commonwealth some of the powers that have been sought, all of them are prepared to transfer power over the Australian aborigines. I had no intention of dealing with this matter in detail until after the war, had the Government notbrought forward the Commonwealth Powers Bill, and had there not been rather serious allegations from Central Australia of the ill treatment of natives in the Northern Territory. It is essential that any public misgivings, as well as those of natives protection societies, should be allayed if the Commonwealth is to assume control of all the natives.
Whilst our relations with our native people have somewhat resembled those of Canada, the United States of America and New Zealand with theirs, our record is probably less creditable than that of those countries. In Tasmania, the negrito aborigines were exterminated by 1876.
– Very largely.
– An expedition was sent out to exterminate them.
– That is not correct.
– The natives in the most closely settled areas of the mainland have been exterminated ; but, as has happened in most countries in which that has been occurring, they are now “ getting one back” in that, as has happened in the United States of America, Canada and New Zealand, the crossbreeds are increasing. Our full-blood aborigines have fallen in the last few years from 60,000 to 51,000; but the half-castes are increasing at a rate of 1,000 a year. This has become a very serious matter. Protector Cook, in the Northern Territory, stated at the conference held in Canberra in 1937 that if something were not done, the black in the Northern Territory would soon absorb the white. Mr. Neville, protector in Western Australia, made a similar remark - that there had been a considerable increase of the number of half-castes in the south-western portion of that State. Our problem has been beset with very great difficulties. We have had to deal with a widely scattered people, with a lower standard than that of a Canadian or American Indian, or the Maori, and our natives have suffered from what is called the problem of the unstable frontier, which often causes fear, suffering and cruelty on both sides. Our policy has suffered because of two faults : We have not understood the native scientifically, and we have been scandalously neglectful of him in connexion with finance. In 1939, Victoria expended £13 4s. 4d. a head on the natives, South Australia £5 10s. lOd. a head, New South Wales £5 5s. a head, Queensland £2 10s. 7d. a head, Western Australia £1 10s. 2d. a head, and the Commonwealth £1 0s. lOd. a head. The Australian average was £2 3s. a head, compared with an expenditure of £10 5s. a head bv Canada and of £21 a head by the United States of America. The story is dreadful, particularly in relation to the Commonwealth Government and its most miserable financial neglect. I know that statistics can lie, and admit that my figures may need some slight adjustment; but the proposition from the other side cannot be denied, in view of the hospitals, schools, and health services that have not been established for the benefit of our native people. Up to 1934, the history of Commonwealth administration was a scandal. In 1933, the Commonwealth expenditure on our natives was only 6s. lOd. a head. I congratulate the honorable member for Indi (Mr. McEwen), who trebled the expenditure. He established, a more efficient and scientific administration, brought in patrol officers, and instituted training in native crafts. All his efforts were directed to the establishment of a longrange native policy. I also congratulate Senator Collings, for the excellent work that he has done in establishing health services, pensions, and so on, for the natives. The war has impeded progress in this matter. The Army has taken certain officers. Keen young men of the type that we need are unobtainable. The presence of troops in the north has given rise to great difficulties. On the 11th December last, I asked the Government to table the files covering native illtreatment over the previous twelve months. The Government did not table them, but very kindly gave me access to them, and I was able to check the information that I possessed. I am sure that the Government will admit that recently there have been in the central areas four or five very unpleasant incidents in connexion with some natives. For quite a long time, there have been instances of starvation and ill treatment on a northern gold-field. We have to remember, however, that the department is carrying on under the very great difficulties caused by the war and that, despite such happenings, extremely good work has been done. Native women have been removed from contact with the Army, and native men have been put into Army work under proper supervision. Reserves have been extended and money has been expended on widows’ and invalid pensions, and child endowment. The natives have also been removed from areas which might be threatened by the enemy.
– In the north, Government assistance has drawn the aborigines away from the stations; they will not work.
– I agree that that is one of our problems; nevertheless, the proper development of cattle stations in the reserves, on which the natives may be employed, is also a solution. That these troubles have occurred in Central Australia, supports my argument that the Commonwealth must devote more adequate funds to native administration if it is to assume control of the whole of the native population of Australia. I have travelled across the continent, as well as in the central areas. Any one who has travelled in those areas will agree that the conditions under which many of our natives and half-castes are living on the stations to which the honorable member for Wakefield has referred are a disgrace to any civilized community. Mr. Norman B. Tindale, who has just published a work on the Harvard- Adel aide Anthropological Expedition of 1938-39, points out that many natives and half-castes are living in a state of semistarvation; they receive only 5s. a week and rations. The expedition has shown to the world that these people, like the poor whites of South Africa and the West Indies, are too under-nourished to work hard or to have any of the joys of living. The natives are a tremendous asset to us. Any one acquainted with the northern regions knows that, in the tropics, there is practically not one cattle station which could operate without them.
I ask the Government, if it takes over these people, to give to them a real “ new deal “ such as President Roosevelt has given to the Indians of the United States of America. I bad the great honor of working in America under Mr. Commissioner Collier, of the American Department of Indian Affairs, and of seeing the magnificent work that could be done by scientific treatment and the right kind of employment in raising the standing of. Indians who had fallen almost to the level of our natives. The matter is largely one of finance, and we shall not achieve anything with an expenditure of only £1 Os. lOd. a head.
There is an argument for the control of the natives by the States, which are more experienced in the matter and have a greater knowledge of geographical conditions and conditions of environment. But there is also a very strong argument in favour of control by the Commonwealth. It is not fair that Queensland and Western Australia - in which, apart from the Northern Territory, the great majority of the natives are located - should have to incur the expenditure involved in looking after them. The second argument is that the outlook of the Commonwealth Government has been improving since the honorable member for Indi took the matter in hand. I urge the Government and the House to consider the matter very earnestly. These 77,000 people have not the right to the franchise. If they had votes, and particularly if they were aggregated in one electorate, dozens of members on each side of the House would yell for social justice for “ the grand old pioneers who first trod the pathways of this undeveloped continent, with its great potentialities”. These poor souls have no votes, and in their weakness, and in their need for help, I commend them to the good offices of this Government.
.- I support the remarks of the honorable member for Boothby (Dr. Price). The honorable member apparently believes that specific power will be vested in the Commonwealth by the Commonwealth Powers Bill to deal with this matter. I do not agree with that, because I do not think that the proposed reference of powers by the States to the Commonwealth will come to anything at all. In any case, it will not be necessary for the Government to seek additional power in this regard. It could adopt the American system, which has been found to be effective, of advancing money to the States on condition that it be expended in certain specified directions. If this matter is to be dealt with by the Commonwealth Parliament, we should insist upon having a report upon the conditions of aborigines tabled by a responsible Minister, so that it could be thoroughly discussed. Numerous valuable reports have been prepared in the past, but no opportunity has been given to discuss them. Unless discussion be initiated by a Minister, there will be no discussion. The best method of tackling the problem would be for the Government to advance money to the States upon an agreement that it be expended for this specific purpose.
Every detribalized native who is capable of exercising a vote should be enfranchised. I understand that at present, acting upon one interpretation of the Commonwealth Constitution, the only Australian aborigines who are enrolled as voters are those who had votes in the various States, prior to 1901. There can be very few such people left. The AttorneyGeneral (Dr. Evatt) does not believe that that is the correct interpretation of the relevant section of the Constitution, and the same opinion has been expressed by Sir William Harrison Moore. I urge that, in preparing the forthcoming electoral bill, provision be made for the granting of the franchise to civilized aborigines.
.- I congratulate the honorable member for Lilley (Mr. Jolly) on his very clear statement on the need for increased parliamentary supervision to prevent waste of public funds. I have made representations in regard to this matter myself from time to time. Last week I produced a questionnaire relating to post-war housing ; but I have not since heard anything more about it. The filing and recording of these returns will require a great amount of work on the part of local-governing bodies. In Western Australia most local government authorities are working with skeleton staffs. In some cases the town clerk or shire clerk has to carry out not only the entire work of his office, but also the supervision of roads, &c. In addition, in many cases he is also the secretary of various advisory bodies dealing with such matters as man-power, petrol, wheat acreage, and so on. Surely this is not the time to impose additional work upon already over-worked local governing authorities. Additional man-power will be required to do the job, and I am beginning to wonder where the constant expansion of’ the personnel of various government and semigovernment instrumentalities in this country is going to stop. They are growing and growing. Many people who have been absorbed into various government undertakings could be better employed in war jobs, or in uniform.
I have here another example of waste of man-power. It is a closely-typed document setting out the National Security (Rationing) Regulations for the guidance of advertisers, publishers and others. I point out that there is a considerable difference between the advertising matter which i; permitted in respect of newspapers, periodicals and journals, and that which may be used on the screen. For instance, whereas illustrations may be used in newspapers, they cannot be used on screen slides. I hold no brief for any of these interests, but I am concerned about the man-power that is being used in imposing a censorship upon advertising. There is a censorship authority operating within the Rationing Department, and this is the sort of rubbish that it issues: A screen advertiser cannot use the words “ lovely “ beautiful “, “ becoming “, “ exclusive “, “ glamorous “, “ exciting “, “ definitely a must-have ‘ in your wardrobe “, “ up to the minute fashions “ and so on. I can see no good reason why the services of men should be used for this purpose when man-power is so scarce.
– I should be inclined to think that old women would be more appropriate.
– Even the services of old women can be put to better use. I have here a card bearing an advertisement to be photographed for screenadvertising purposes. It will be noted that the censor nas eliminated the words “ new season’s “, “ in all latest colours,, styles and materials “, “ fair prices “. Here is another advertisement showing ladies’ frocks from which the three pictures have been eliminated. The words “ very reasonably priced “ also are struck out. I would have no objection to this sort of thing if it were in the interests of the war effort; but I have yet to be shown just how the war effort is being assisted. This control requires labour, and those who prepare the advertisements must submit them to the departmental officers for examination, and take them away again. This, again, involves the use of man-power. If it is believed that the war effort would be helped by abolishing this advertising altogether, I should be agreeable, but I cannot see why a distinction should bn drawn between screen advertising and advertising in the newspapers, in periodicals and in trade publications. As a matter of fact, it is only by studying screen advertisements that many country people are able to see how they should spend their few coupons. This matter was referred to me. and it is my duty to bring it under the notice of the Government.
I desire to bring under the notice of the Minister for the Army (Mr. Forde) the case of a market gardener in Western Australia who has been called up for military service. I do not know the man but he is one of my constituents, and it is my duty to see that he gets a fair deal, and that, if possible, the production of essential foodstuffs is not interfered with. His name is Rainoldi, and he has contracts to produce 40 tons of carrots, 20 tons of cabbage, 20 tons of silver beet, 10 tons of red beet and 5 tons of runner beans. He has two employees, one of whom tried to enlist but was turned down on medical grounds, whilst the other was “ man-powered “, and told to go back to the garden and continue work. When Rainoldi appealed for exemption from military service on the ground of hardship, his case was heard before a magistrate on the 4th March. “We have frequently been told that there exists the closest co-operation between the Army authorities and the man-power authorities. I believe that the Minister for the Army has made statements to that effect, and I know that such statements have been made by the Minister for Labour and National Service (Mr. Ward). This, however, is contradicted by statements made during the hearing before the magistrate. I quote the following extract from a report of the hearing : -
In June last, when Rainoldi was previously called up he. saw his area officer and was told to “go back to his garden and grow vegetables “. “ That doesn’t concern us “, interjected Mr. L. Gorman, representing the man-power office. “ The area officer has nothing to do with the Man-power Department “. “ It should do “, said Mr. Seaton. “ I have read in the papers that there is close cooperation between the Army and man-power authorities. “ It is entirely wrong “, replied Mr. Gorman.
Mr. Craig, the magistrate who heard the case, said that the best he could do was to recommend that Rainoldi be given ‘two months’ exemption so that the matter might smooth itself out. I was astounded to read the statement of the solicitor representing the man-power officer that there was no co-operation between the man-power office and the Army authorities. As a matter of fact, I believe that he was wrong. I know of mein who have received every consideration from both departments, and it is not right that this solicitor’s statement should go out to the public as true. I trust that the Minister will correct it.
– The statement is quite wrong. Generally speaking, there is close co-operation between the two departments. They work very well together.
– I have always found it so. As for the case itself, I believe it to be wrong that the two employees of this market gardener should be exempt from service while the principal is himself called up. He asserts that he must cease producing from his garden if he has to go into camp.
– Was the decision given by the man-power officer or by a magistrate ?
– -Rainoldi appealed on the ground of hardship. The magistrate stated, by interjection during the hearing, that he thought the matter should be dealt with under the -regulations covering reserved occupations, but as the appeal had been made on the ground of hardship, he had to hear it.
Another case from Western Australia has to do with a man who is one of the proprietors, and also working manager and designer of the Gem Slipper Company in that State. He appealed for exemption from military service and, owing to the intervention of the honorable member for Dalley (Mr. Rosevear), as controller of leather and footwear, he has been granted exemption for one month. The firm employs a staff of four females, two of whom are juniors, while two are, presumably, over the age of sixteen. There is also a crippled boy on the staff. The factory produces 800 pairs of slippers a week. I have attempted, without success, to have the industry declared an essential one. I realize .that, in the strictest sense, it is not essential, but the factory does produce 800 pairs of slippers which certainly afford great comfort to women who are obliged to wear them during long working hours. I understand that in New South Wales similar industries have been declared to be essential. I am entering no complaint against the Deputy Director-General of Man Power in Western Australia, Mr. Stitford. who is one of the finest public servants in the State. Unfortunately, he is doing his job with too much zeal. For my part, I do not want this factory to be closed down and 800 pairs of slippers brought into Western Australia each week, thus placing a greater strain upon transport facilities. I have been given to understand by this man’s solicitor that the business will have to be closed down if he goes into camp. So far as the man-power officer is concerned, the case is closed. He has decided that it is not an essential industry, and the manager is supposed to go into camp on the 15th of this month. I believe that decision to be wrong, but I say, in fairness to the man-power officer, that it represents, on his part, a conscientious decision. I now ask for intervention from those higher up in order to preserve this industry in Western Australia.
– Yesterday, the honorable member for Bourke (Mr. Blackburn.) and the honorable member for Melbourne (Mr. Calwell) referred to telegrams which they had received from various construction camps in the Northern Territory on the subject of leave for employees of the Allied Works Council. The Minister for the Interior (Senator Collings) has informed me that the matter has recently been carefully considered by the Director-General of Allied Works, the Honorable E. G. Theodore. The Minister attached for my information a copy of a memorandum dated the 1st March, 1943, which Mr. Theodore had addressed to the secretary of the Department of the Interior. Mr. Theodore states -
The question of leave has always been a difficulty in the Northern Territory. Before the A.W.C. organized the Civil Constructional Corps, State instrumentalities and Main Roads Boards had promised their employees leave after six .months’ service. When the Civil Constructional Corps was formed, it involved the transfer to the Northern Territory of large increased numbers of civilian workers, and it became necessary to apply conditions relating to leave similar to those applying to the Australian Army. Also as a consequence of the difficulty- of transporting men back and forth, as explained to the A.W.C. by Army Movement authorities, the conditions of leave were altered to provide leave after “ twelve months’ service, and .rules were made relating to those men who were sent to the Northern Territory under promise of leave after shorter service.
The way in which this applies is set out in the Director-General’s memorandum of the 1st March, which he directed to the Department of the Interior. He said that he had decided that all Civil Constructional Corps personnel sent to the Northern Territory, prior to the 30th November, 1942, should be granted leave on the following basis: In the case of those arriving in the Northern Territory in September, 1942, leave should be granted from April, 1943 ; those arriving in October, 1942, should take leave from
June, 1943, and those arriving in November, 1942, should take leave from August, 194”3. The memorandum continues -
These arrangements have been made after discussions with Army Movement Control, who advised that no difficulty is anticipated in carrying them out.
It will be noticed that, as far as possible, Civil Constructional Corps personnel, who arrived in the Northern Territory in September, 1942, will receive leave after seven months’ service; those who arrived in October, after eight months’ service; and those who arrived in November, after nine months’ service.
This programme will be observed subject only to the movement of personnel in numbers that will not retard the progress’ of works. To this end it is proposed to grant leave to the men in groups of from 100 to 150, commencing in April, 1943.
With 7-egard to all personnel arriving in the Northern Territory after 30th November, 1942, the conditions of the roster system already defined regarding the granting of leave will apply. That is, leave will commence after ten months’ service and- be so spread that, after fourteen months’ service, all personnel will have received leave.
– They say that that is a breach of the agreement.
– It is not.
.- I propose to add a few remarks to those of the honorable member for Boothby (Dr. Price) with regard to the Australian aborigines. All honorable mem.bers will agree that they have had rather a raw deal. The early history of Australia shows that when the white settlers landed here they received very little opposition at first from the blacks; in fact, they were assisted in every way by the natives until the latter were pushed back. I well remember seeing large numbers of aborigines on their hunting grounds on the river Murray, in South Australia, but they have been gradually driven back, with the result that the great majority of them are now found in the northern parts of Australia. Many mistakes have been made by governments in the treatment of the aborigines. I refer chiefly to those in the Northern Territory and Central Australia. Where the aborigine has been brought to a state of semi-civilization, he has become a “ hobo “ and a mendicant and practically useless. Great injustice has been done to the natives by taking from them the land over which they formerly roamed. Much of the land has been divided into huge cattle stations. I am now referring to the area on the western side of the Northern Territory, which is well watered and where game was once abundant. The aborigine has been driven from that country, which is being used for cattle runs. It is the duty of the Commonwealth Government to see that some of that land is returned to the aborigines, so that they may live under conditions which God intended them to enjoy. Under such conditions they thrive and look well ; but, removed from that environment, they become mere “ hoboes “. They certainly are not fond of work, but they would be happy if allowed to live under natural conditions. The further the whites are kept from them the better.
I rose chiefly to support the remarks of the honorable member for Lilley (Mr. Jolly) with regard to extravagant expenditure by the Commonwealth Government. I cannot help being critical, but the remarks that I am about to make are presented with good intentions.
– The honorable member is a constructive critic.
– The people are taxed at present at high rates, but they are not objecting strongly to it. They are also asked to subscribe to various war loans. The £100,000,000’ Austerity Loan was fully subscribed, and a similar loan is to- be launched, in a few days. I think that the people will subscribe ‘to that also, but they expect that the money to be raised will be expended wisely. The savings which I am about to suggest may seem small; as compared with those contemplated by. the honorable member for Lilley, but, when sums amounting to hundreds of millions of pounds are needed,, the money should be wisely expended, even to the smallest detail. I heard a member of the Public Service in Canberra state last week, that he had subscribed to every war loan to the utmost of his capacity, but he refused to subscribe to another. He was then at a certain hotel, and, referring to the £100 that he- had subscribed to the Austerity Loan, he remarked, “ I see by the new faces here that my contribution has been absorbed in one week, owing to additional appointments to the Public Service “. About a fortnight ago the Canberra
Times stated, in a leading article, that the Government had now placed orders for a fleet of motor cars. I do not know whether the number was ten or twenty. I have heard that it was eight, that it was ten, that it was twenty. Whatever the number, it is wrong, when people are being asked to subscribe to liberty loans, to waste money on needless cars. The same article levelled the charge that one Minister was responsible for using four cars in one week-end. I do not think that he could have signed for them all, because he could not claim to have used them all himself. I understand these cars went to a part of New South Wales. The cost of that expedition was £100. The people will not tolerate such extravagance. They expect the Government to set the example.
– I should, like to know the facts of that case.
– If the AttorneyGeneral (Dr. Evatt) asks some one else> not me, he will be supplied with the name of the Minister concerned.
This Parliament has appointed a number of joint committees, some of which are utterly useless. Practically every private member on the Government side and a good many Opposition members are members of those committees. Some honorable members are on two or three committees. These committees travel all over Australia, taking staff with them at God only knows what cost. I concede that a. few committees of this Parliament do good work, and that their reports are of value;, but most of the reports are pigeon-holed and forgotten. That is another example of reckless extravagance at a time of alleged austerity.
When I entered this House there was a Cabinet of ten Ministers. The strength of the Ministry rose progressively from ten to twelve to fourteen to sixteen, and eventually to nineteen. Not this Government, but its predecessor, made the strength of the Ministry nineteen members. . With the formation of every new ministry came the establishment of new Commonwealth departments. To my mind the whole system is unbalanced and wasteful, and needs drastic alteration.
.- I desire to bring to the notice of the House, and, particularly, the Minister for the Army (Mr. Forde) some matters concerning the administration of the Department of the Army. I do not know whether the Minister is aware of the fact that discrimination is being shown in respect of taxation and service stripes between troops serving at Port Moresby and troops serving at Darwin. The troops serving at Darwin receive no service stripes, although Darwin has been more heavily bombed than Port Moresby.
– I have authority-
– The honorable member is wrong. On that point I have better knowledge than he has.
– That may be so; but I have a letter from a highly-placed officer, who served at Darwin, contradicting the honorable member. At any rate, I am not making comparisons, because they are always odious. If service stripes are issued to troops at Port Moresby, they should also be issued to troops at Darwin Troops at Darwin should no more be called upon to pay income tax than troops at Port Moresby.
– Troops should not have to pay income tax at all, wherever they are.
– My complaint about the taxing of troops is directed to those who are serving in operational areas. Some people in uniform are a long way from operational areas, and. it could not be claimed that they endure the risks and privations of men in the firing line.
– The honorable member is right there.
– I make no reflection on the honorable member for Barker (Mr. Archie Cameron), but I am pleased to have his agreement.
I now refer to one of the saddest cases of maladministration that has ever come to my notice. I refer to the facts in the case mentioned in the following paragraph which appeared in the Canberra Times -
Melbourne, Wednesday. Mrs. Grace Bradley, of Cheltenham, was fined £10 to-day for having harboured her son, Jack Bradley, who was a.w.l. from the defence forces. The defendant said she would go to gaol rather than pay the fine.
It so happens that for a considerable period I have been in correspondence with the Minister for the Army about the son’s case. On the very day, which was last Wednesday, that that paragraph appeared in the press announcing the prosecution and persecution of Mrs. Bradley for having harboured her son when he was absent without leave, I received a letter signed by the Minister in the following terms: -
I am in receipt of your letter of the 5th March, enclosing one from Mrs. G. E. Bradley, 216 Charman-road, Cheltenham, further regarding her desire that gome reduction be made in the sentence which, she states, has been imposed on her son, V1 10337 Gunner J. Bradley, Holding Compound,Royal Park.
I shall write to you again on this matter at an early date.
That letter was an answer to the fifth letter written by me to the Minister about this case. I say, parenthetically, that the treatment that this lad received from the court martial was considerate and that the Army authorities who dealt with him had regard to all the circumstances of the case. I make no complaint about the treatment of the lad. But I certainly resent the fact that the Department of the Army, after having charged, court-martialled, sentenced, and imprisoned young Bradley, proceeded to prosecute his mother for having harboured him. I deny the right of this Government, or any other government, to prosecute any mother for obeying her natural instincts in harbouring her son. In this particular instance the action of the department is made the more disgraceful by the fact that Mrs. Bradley is a widow and the mother of fifteen children. The Minister has had letter after letter urging that the sentence on the youth should be reduced in view of the fact he went absent without leave in order help to keep the family. We have out-Hitlered Hitler in some respects when we have the widowed mother of fifteen children dragged into court, fined £10, and told by the magistrate that she ought to be sent to gaol. No wonder she said that she would go to gaol rather than pay the fine. I hope that the Government will order that the fine be remitted and that the woman be sent home to look after her little children. A woman who brings fifteen children into the world is worthy of respect, not persecution. I wonder what strange and extraordinary collection of pathological exhibits the Minister for the Army has in his department when it practises Such sadism against an old and invalid woman. I should not speak in this way had I not recently been made aware of the circumstances or had I not exchanged considerable correspondence with the Minister on the subject. I do not hold the Minister personally responsible, but I do hold some highly placed officers of his department responsible for what has occurred. The Minister should dismiss them. Any government which tolerates such action deserves to be dismissed. I know what would have been done if the Labour party were in opposition and this kind of thing occurred. I should not have had any trouble in securing the unanimous approval of my colleagues to a proposal that I be permitted to move the adjournment of the House on the subject. In such an event, we should have made a strong protest; and had the two hours’ limitation of debate been enforced before all honorable members had an opportunity to speak, I believe that there would have been trouble. On such a subject honorable members would have waxed most eloquent, and none more so than the Deputy Leader of the party who is now Minister for the Army. I know that the honorable gentleman has a lot of the milk of human kindness in his nature, and I ask him to do justice in this case by dealing with the officers concerned and announcing publicly that the fine is to be remitted and that the woman is not to be persecuted any more. I ask further that he will issue instructions that no other mother shall be dragged before an Australian court and charged with harbouring her son who is absent without leave. Many good men who have fought for this country have been absent without leave at some time or other. That is not the worst crime in the military calendar.
I support the remarks of the honorable member for Lilley (Mr. Jolly) that interim reports should be made to the Parliament by the Auditor-General, and that the Audit Act be amended accordingly.
– There is power now for him to do so.
– The Government should ask the Auditor-General to issue interim reports, so that the Parliament may be kept informed regarding the expenditure of the vast sums of money which are voted for the prosecution of the war.
I agree with the honorable member for Boothby (Dr. Price) and the honorable member for Adelaide (Mr. Stacey) regarding the scandalous maladministration of native affairs in this country. Not only have we robbed the Australian aborigines of their heritage, but we have also debauched them. Now we find that some other people who have come to our shores are treating them more generously than we ourselves have done. In the northwest portion of the continent we have a problem in that we have there a number of half-castes - the children of Japanese fathers and aboriginal mothers - who have more sympathy with the Japanese than with the white race. I hope that effect will be given to the desires expressed by the honorable member for Boothby, and that a Department of Native Affairs will be established to control the whole of the members of the native race of Australia, and also that the Parliament will not fail. to vote the money necessary to give a fair deal to them. Prom time to time we vote money for various social services, not always, I fear, because we believe that such services are justified - although I am always prepared to vote money to improve our social services - but because we think that electorally it is wise to do so. Where there are votes to be gained we are prepared to be generous; but when dealing with the disfranchised native race we are not only unfair, but also, at times, cruel and unjust.
Another matter to which I propose to refer is obnoxious to me, but as a representative of the people I must draw attention to it. Some time ago I was informed that Timbrol Limited, of Sydney, was discriminating between persons seeking employment with the company. I therefore made inquiries through the Deputy Director-General of Man Power in New South Wales, Mr. Bellemore, for a copy of the form which applicants for employment with the company have to sign, from whom I received a copy of the application form. It is a most fearsome-looking document. Persons seeking employment with the company are required to state the date and place of birth, and must produce either a birth certificate or a statutory declaration in support of their statements. They have also to state whether they are married or single, or a widower, and. must give particulars of their dependants, and of any previous employment. They are required to state the occupation or position desired, and whether any near relations are already in the employ of the company. Particulars of any service with the Navy, Army or Air Force must be given, whilst junior applicants must give particulars of service rendered by their male parent. Applicants have also to give their identity card number and must state their nationality. The gravamen of my charge is that they have also to state their religion. As Timbrol Limited is a company which produces chemicals, I asked the Minister for Munitions (Mr. Makin) whether the company was engaged on any government contracts. In reply, I received, from the Minister’s private secretary the following letter: - With reference to your inquiries relating to Messrs. Timbrol Limited, of Sydney, I desire to inform you that this firm is engaged in the manufacture of certain chemicals on behalf of the Department of Munitions.
If this were merely an insignificant company the offence would be bad enough, but when I investigated its finances in the Wildcat Monthly I found that the capital of the company at the 30th June, 1942, was £205,795 in fully paid-up shares. The capital expanded rapidly from about £70,000 in 1938 to £205,795 in 1942. I found, too, that its profits in 1941 amounted to £12,680 and in 1942 to £19,256. In those sums- there is a good deal of cost-plus profit and a considerable amount of money raised from the taxpayers of Australia regardless of their nationality or religion. I am not greatly concerned about the capital structure of the company, and have mentioned it only to indicate that this is not an insignificant company, but I am concerned about the discrimination that is being exercised. I suggest to the Attorney-General (Dr. Evatt) that regulations under the National Security Act be gazetted immediately making it an offence for any one to ask an applicant for employment questions relating to his nationality, or the school which he attended, or the religion which he professes.
– Or what union he belongs to.
– The union to which a person belongs is a matter of individual choice. His nationality and religion are matters of birth and have nothing to do with any one else, and should not be inquired into for the purpose of discrimination. [Extension of time granted.] I sought further to discover who the directors of this company are. The directors are Robert iC. Dixson who is chairman, Sir William Dixson, Mr. James Taylor and Mr. J. G. Peake is the general manager. The secretary is Mr. K. J. Polkinghorne ; the solicitors, J. Stuart Thom and Company, and the auditor, Mr. W. V. Davidson ; and the bankers, the Bank of New South Wales. When I refer to Who’s Who in Australia 1941, which is produced by the Murdoch Press, I find that the Sir William Dixson mentioned is a knight and that he is a director of many companies. He became a director of Dixson and Sons Limited in 1899 and a director of the British Australasian Tobacco Company Limited in 1903. He is, therefore, one of the tobacco kings of Australia. That is the source of the capital for this chemical firm. If any business should be nationalized for its anti-social activity, it is surely the chemical industry. The Attorney-General, instead of devoting so much of his time to problems of absenteeism in industry, should give his attention to the anti-social acts of these “ big shots “. The chairman of the concern is Mr. Robert Craig Dixson, a brother of the gallant knight. He, too, is a member of some of the exclusive clubs of New South Wales, and he lives on, among other things, director’s fees.
– Did the honorable member obtain an extension of time just to read that information?
– I obtained an extension of time for the purpose of concluding my statement on a despicable action on the part of Timbrol Limited.
– I understood that the Minister stated that the information was required in connexion with the welfare scheme.
– I do not believe that this information should be sought, whether for welfare or other reasons.
The question of whether a person is a believer or a non-believer is his own private concern and should not be probed by strangers. I can understand why the information should be desired by the Army; but I strongly object to a private firm asking such questions.
– Is such information sought from applicants for positions in the Commonwealth Public Service?
– No, and any government which insisted upon being supplied with the information would deserve dismissal.
– Have any employees protested to. their union about it ?
– I obtained the information from a woman who had been asked the question. She flatly refused to give any information, or sign any form. She wrote to me subsequently as follows : -
Conditions have considerably improved at Timbrol Limited. Going to you did some good, as one of the girls called and thanked me for doing what I did because she said they were all overworked and underpaid, but now they have much better working conditions, so it is an ill wind that blows nobody any good.
At least her protests did good for some people. I again ask the Attorney-General to gazette regulations immediately for the purpose of preventing the asking of the questions against which. I have protested. They are an outrage to the conscience of the people of this country.
.- I bring to the notice of the Minister for Supply and Shipping (Mr. Beasley) the importance of developing phosphate deposits at Mansfield, Victoria. Because of the shortage of supplies, pastoralists now obtain only 55 per cent, of the superphosphate that they used in the year 1942, and the future is most disturbing. Unless deposits in Australia are developed quickly, very little superphosphate will be available next year for agricultural and pastoral purposes. What the position will be in the following year is impossible to conjecture. Therefore, it behoves the Government to examine every known deposit in the Commonwealth. In a large measure, the food supply of Australia depends upon superphosphate. Apart from that, farmers and pastoralists will be financially embarrassed because lack of supplies of fertilizers will reduce their production, and that will make their obligations almost intolerable. More than a year ago I brought this matter to the notice of the Government and the former Minister for Supply and Development (Senator McLeay) and the present Minister informed me that the deposits, being of low grade, were too costly to work.
– Several thousand tons of rock were obtained from Mansfield years ago.
– That was during the last war. The superphosphate position is becoming acute and deposits that were too costly to work fifteen months ago may have to be developed now. Information relating to the extent of the deposits is obtainable from the Department of Mines, Melbourne, and the Department of Supply and Shipping knows the firm which controls them. I urge the Minister to examine their potentialities without delay.
– I desire to associate myself with the protest of the honorable member for Melbourne (Mr. Calwell) against the fine imposed upon a woman for harbouring her son, who was absent without leave from the Army. I have no knowledge of the circumstances in which the son is said to have been absent without leave, and I make no comment upon it. Nor have I much knowledge, beyond what I have derived from the press, of the circumstances surrounding the charge of harbouring the lad. But I know that allegations have been made with respect to the circumstances repeated by the honorable member for Melbourne, and as to the kind of woman she is. When somebody offered to pay the fine on her behalf, and when she was asked if she wanted time to pay, she replied that she would go to gaol. This is a matter more for the Attorney-General (Dr. Evatt) than the Minister for the Army (Mr. Forde). I ask the AttorneyGeneral to remit the fine. I submit that to fine a woman in circumstances of the kind mentioned in this, case shocks the public conscience, and should be discountenanced as a matter of policy by the Government. Tor the sake of my argument, I am prepared, in order that I shall not be considered to be speaking without knowledge of the case, to concede that the defendant had, in some active way, participated in the concealment of her son, and that he, through the process of that harbouring, actually tried to defeat the law. I cannot concede more than that. I am putting the case at its- worst; probably, it was not so bad. But, putting it at its very worst, I still ask the Attorney-General to review the case as a matter of Government policy. He should ask himself, and the Government, whether in any circumstances a son returning to the parental roof, and being sheltered under that roof, where, presumably, he was nurtured and reared, sets up facts upon which a charge of harbouring can be levelled against the mother. Not only should this case be reviewed, and the fine remitted ; in addition, the regulations should be amended so that it should never be possible to make the return of a son to the parental roof, even with the active co-operation of the mother, or of the father - but, certainly, the mother - the basis of a charge of a criminal offence. It is1 very difficult to know how the mother could prevent her son from coming back home. Probably, she could not help it at all. The son knows the by-paths leading to the home, and the lay-out of the home, and can come there at a late hour of the night and seek shelter. I have put the case at its very worst. Even if the mother actively co-operated in harbouring her son, it would be entirely an abuse of power to make it a criminal offence for the mother to give shelter to the son upon his returning to his own roof, under which the mother, probably, had borne him, or, certainly, had reared and nurtured him. Whether it was actually the house in which these events actually took place makes very little difference, provided it was the home in which he had lived for any length of time. In any event, it was the home of his mother.
– Within a few minutes we shall have completed seven weeks’ sittings, and, excepting for the statement made by the Prime Minister (Mr.- Curtin) at the opening of the session, and one or two casual references to the war, one would hardly think a war was in progress1. Practically the whole session has been devoted to such matters as the new order, pensions, social welfare, and minor matters of taxation; but practically nothing has yet been said about the war.
– Do not forget the old order.
– We must say something about that in order to remind ourselves that there is an alternative, and a very good one, to the so-called new order. It would be a great pity if the Parliament went into recess next week without having been given an opportunity to discuss the trend of affairs in this country. Several honorable members have mentioned the need for some such meeting. One Minister this afternoon deplored the fact that the debate on the coal-mining industry had taken place in public. I do npt deplore that fact. I deplore the fact that, on a motion of such unusual importance as that moved by the Leader of the Opposition (Mr. Fadden) this morning, the Prime Minister (Mr. Curtin) did not pay the Opposition and its leader the courtesy of remaining in the chamber to hear what our leader said.
– The Prime Minister had to fulfil very important engagements in his office.
– It gets down to this’, that if the Prime Minister, who is the head of the Government, and the leader of the Government in this House, has engagements of such importance outside that he is not able to remain in the chamber to hear what the Leader of the Opposition has to say on a matter of such importance as that which he has raised this morning concerning the stoppages at 27 coal-mines-
– Order ! The honorable member will not be in order in referring to a debate which has taken place in the current sitting.
– It is the duty of the Prime Minister to give to the House another opportunity to debate that matter; otherwise, the Government might just as well shut down the Parliament. It would be bad for the credit of Parliament, which has a few shreds of its reputation still left - and sooner or later we must face our masters - if we were to go into recess without having said something definite about the general trend of affairs in this country. Whether that opportunity will be provided to honorable members I do not know; but the Opposition must accept some responsibility in the matter. I know the terrible toils in which we are bound through being mixed up with the infernal Advisory War Council - and I am not using that adjective without knowing what it means. It is utterly futile for honorable members on this side to be hammering at the Government while their representatives are tied up in that body. The Opposition has no alternative but to stand and fight. It compromised its way out of office. It cannot compromise its way back to office ; it must fight its way back. The sooner the Opposition realizes that fact the better it will be for it, because the day is drawing closer when we must deal with matters in respect of which we have certain alternatives to put up. Attention is being drawn to things which, in the opinion of many of us, do not matter, and should not at this stage be discussed at all, whilst too much success is being exhibited in an attempt to avoid discussion of matters which are of the greatest importance to this country.
– Is the honorable member asking for a secret .sitting ?
– I am not asking for a secret sitting. Certain subjects would have been discussed openly in this Parliament if it were conducted in the same way as the British Parliament or the American Congress. I referred on Friday last to some things which were said, but regarding which there is a complete blank in the records because of the censorship. Nothing is allowed to be said over the air, or otherwise published, about them, yet they are known and it is useless for the Ministry to try to keep them bottled up, while men’s reputations are being blasted and their careers damaged behind the scenes. That is not fair, and sooner or later these matters must come out. There are a number of them, and when they do come out there will be a day of reckoning.
– The honorable member’s leaders must bear their share of the blame.
– They cannot escape their share of responsibility so long as they remain members of the Advisory War Council. I think that that terrible institution is the worst in this country, and the greatest possible obstacle in the way of honorable members getting a proper look at what ought to be done in the conduct of the war. Whilst it may be unpalatable to some of my colleagues, I shall go on saying it so long as that institution remains in existence. Before long, honorable members on the other side of the chamber, when it comes to an election, will be using it for all it is worth for their own purposes, which, of course, will be different from those for which I shall use it.
– With equally good results, may be.
– It will be with better results, although it may not suit us on this side so well. I hope that Ministers will have something to say about this matter next Tuesday.
The Minister for the Army (Mr. Forde) might also remind the Minister for Repatriation (Mr. Frost) that he has not yet produced the quotations from Hansard which he attributed to me last Friday, and which he promised to produce during this week. It may seem unfair of me to ask the Minister to do the impossible, but it was he, and not I, who volunteered to do it.
.- On the motion for the adjournment of the House on Friday afternoon last, I referred to the case of Sergeant Pilot K. M. Gregor, who was sentenced by court martial to twelve months’ imprisonment owing to an air force accident which occurred at Narrandera some time ago. Sergeant Pilot Gregor appealed to the Air Board a few weeks later, but his appeal was subsequently dismissed. Last Friday afternoon I drew the attention of the House to the difficulties that I experienced in attempting to obtain, through the Prisons Department of New South Wales. an appeal from Gregor to be lodged with the Governor-General. I understand that the Minister for Air (Mr. Drakeford) kindly intervened and did whatever was possible to secure the appeal papers from the State Prisons Department. Will the Minister inform me whether the appeal has yet been placed before the Governor-General, whether a decision, has been given, and, if so. what is its effect? In the Royal Australian Air Force, as in the Army, the final court of appeal is the Governor-General. Since there is a great deal of public interest in this case, and I understand that the appeal was placed in the hands of the Minister at the end of last week, I shall be glad to learn from him whether a decision has yet been reached.
– I wish to refer briefly, in the first place, to the censorship to which reference was made by the honorable member for Barker (Mr. Archie Cameron), who said that matters of very great importance discussed in this House were not allowed to be published. I am, as you know, Mr. Speaker, a man of peace, but if anything I said in this chamber were not allowed to be published in Hansard, or elsewhere, I should cause one of the greatest rows on. record. The work of censorship generally is, I think, very badly done. One can easily understand that important information which might be of use to the enemy must be kept from publication, but on the one hand, one reads and hears over the air many things that I am really surprised should be made public at all, whereas on the other hand information is not allowed to be published which cannot possibly be of use to the enemy. . One little incident may be given as an example. The ship carrying men on leave to Tasmania calls at a port on the north-west coast of the .island. No one is given any information as to the number of troops travelling in either direction, although on that ship are men going towards Hobart and intermediate stations, and others going towards the north-west and west coasts. There is no train to take them to Burnie and the west coast, and so the representatives of the Australian Comforts Fund and the Returned Sailors, Soldiers and Airmen’s Imperial League of Australia have been expected to provide accommodation for them. They have tried hard to get information as to the numbers of men arriving at different times. I have discussed this matter with the authorities in Tasmania, who have told me that they themselves cannot get information as to the number of men on the ship, or their destinations. Is not that an absurdity? Every body knows that the ship is coming in. Taxi drivers and other people doing business with the vessel know the approximate hour at which it is due to arrive, and that it is carrying troops. Civilian passengers cannot get berths on the vessel. I have been refused a berth myself because the ship was carrying troops. Every body knows that the boat is coming, and that it has soldiers aboard. That might be useful information to the enemy if a submarine were about, but it is ridiculous that people cannot be given information as to the number of men going in different directions. It cannot be said that information of that kind would be of use to the enemy. The whole thing is so absurd that the way in which this job is done by the Army, or whoever else is responsible, cannot be excused’.
I wish to comment also on the case to which the honorable member for Melbourne (Mr. Calwell) referred, of a mother who was punished by fine or, alternatively, imprisonment, because she harboured her soldier son who was absent without leave. That is a shocking thing, and I can only accept the honorable member’s word that it actually happened. So far, the Minister has not had an opportunity to reply, but if the facts are as stated, such a prosecution cannot be excused, and I am astonished that the Attorney-General or any of his officers should sanction it. I wish to tell the Minister, because I am afraid that he does not know, where the real fault lies with regard to men being absent without leave. When a man has been absent without leave for three, six or nine months, and is caught and tried by court martial, it is not the first time that he has offended. I know personally of cases where men frequently go away without leave. The roll is called by some one in camp, but the absentee is not reported, [f he is reported his absence is winked at. One man told me himself that he went home from a camp which was adjacent to a town and slept home every night that he was supposed to be in camp. Frequently he was not back in time for the early parade, but he was not reported. Some day he will not come back. Many of the men have started in that way. A criminal does not as a rule start by embezzling a large sum of money belonging to his employer, or by breaking into a bank and stealing thousands of pounds. He begins only in a small way. The fault lies with the authorities, who are responsible for not having checked breaches immediately they were committed. I can say without egotism that I have some knowledge of this matter. When I was in the Army, if a man was absent without, leave, he was not court martialled or imprisoned. For the first offence he was confined to barracks and had to report to the guard every hour. It was made perfectly certain that he would not leave the camp during the period of his confinement to barracks. That was a fitting punishment for the first breach. Absence without leave for six months, for which a man is court martialled and sentenced to 90 days’ detention when caught - instances of which have been published in the newspapers - is not the first breach committed by the man concerned. The fault lies with those who wink at the offence on the first occasion. If the Minister has no knowledge of the matter, he must inform those who ought to know better that, having winked at earlier breaches, they’ are principally responsible for later, serious offences.
.- All of us are very much concerned with the steep increases of prices over the whole range of commodities in Australia. This is neither the place nor the time to analyse all the factors that are having that effect. The financial policy of the Government is one factor which the House has debated within recent weeks.
I regret that the Minister for Supply and Shipping (Mr. Beasley) is not present, because I wish to raise a matter which I believe come3 within his jurisdiction. There is one aspect of this problem of price increases which I consider could be largely remedied if the facts supplied to me are correct; it is in connexion with the prices of goods purchased by private organizations through, or with the assistance of, the Division of Import Procurement. The Commonwealth Prices Commissioner has pointed out that one of his very serious difficulties is that he has no control over the prices of imported goods. It would appear, from the case that I am about to cite that in this particular instance the price of an article procurable from overseas was inflated, not because of a. substantia] increase in the country of purchase, but because of the administrative changes loaded on to it by the Division of Import Procurement. The facts supplied to me by the Victorian firm of H. V. McKay, Massey Harris Proprietary Limited, are these -
The facts of the matter to which we wish to draw your attention in the present case are as follows: -
With the depletion of staff since the war began we have been more than ever dependent on calculating machines, &c, to facilitate factory clerical work, and in October, 1941, we purchased in the ordinary course of trade through Messrs. Peacock Bros., of Bourkestreet, Melbourne, a comptometer adding and calculating machine, for which we paid £180.
Being in need of some more machines of exactly similar type, we placed an order a few months ago with Messrs. Peacock Bros, for two more machines, which they have now imported for us through the Division of Import Procurement.
For these two machines the Division of Import Procurement charged Messrs. Peacock Bros. £360 8s. 2d. (equalling £183 per machine) ex ships’ slings, i.e., before payment of customs duty, primage, sales tax, &c.
This price of £183 per machine would seem to be very nearly the retail price (£180) at which we purchased a similar machine eighteen months ago plus the 5 per cent, additional sales tax which has been imposed since that date, although Messrs. Peacock Bros, have information from the manufacturers that prices have not been increased since they made the previous purchase.
The Division of Import Procurement gave Messrs. Peacock Bros, instructions as to the value which they were to use for their customs entry, but no information whatsoever as to how this value was determined was obtainable.
The actual figures on the transaction are as follows: -
This is the actual amount which we paid Messrs. Peacock Bros. for the machines, and they were content to add no margin of profit, relying on commission from the manufacturers in U.S.A., and in the result therefore we have paid£278 for a machine in comparison with £180 for an exactly similar machine purchased through ordinary trade channels eighteen months ago.
I emphasize that the price charged by the manufacturer was exactly the same on this as on the previous occasion. The letter continues-
Messrs. Peacock Brothers have made an estimate of the charges and are of the opinion that the machines were bought at retail price and all subsequent charges added, but even so there is a difference unaccounted for of about £80 on two machines - which at a rough estimate would be 25 per cent. or 30 per cent. even on the inflated cost price.
We think a transaction of this nature is absolutely scandalous, and would ask you to be good enough to put the following questions to the Minister for Supply and Shipping: -
How is it possible for acalculating machine purchased recently through the Division of Import Procurement, to cost £278 including sales tax at 25 per cent., when an exactly similar machine purchased through ordinary trade channels in October, 1941, cost £180 including sales tax at 20 per cent., and when manufacturers’ prices in the United States of America have not been increased during that period?
Does the Division of Import Procurement purchase machines in the United States of America at retail prices?
What basis does the Division of Import Procurement use when instructing the importer as to the valuation for duty purposes? Is it the price paid for the machine, or a figure arbitrarily fixed, or the previous retail price here including duty, primage, sales tax and all charges?
Is it fair that the importer or final purchaser here should have to pay duty, primage, war tax and sales tax on prices arbitrarily inflated by the Division of Import Procurement?
What basis is used by the Division of Import Procurement for making additional charges other than freight and insurance represented by the difference in price paid to the manufacturer in the United States of America plug freight and insurance, and the final price charged by the Division of Import Procurement to the importer?
Is it not clear that government-managed trade is 40 per cent. less efficient than private enterprise?
I have quoted in detail the queries put to me by this firm, because, although the letter relates to a particular instance, that instance could be multiplied indefinitely, having regard to the enormous number of transactions that are now being conducted through the Division of Import Procurement. The Minister for Supply and Shipping would do a service to the House and to industry generally if he had the queries analysed and made a statement of the results of his investigations.
A matter which I desire to bring to the attention of the Minister for Air (Mr. Drakeford), is based on communications and representations which have reached me from the Shire of Keilor and from Mr. G. L. Chandler, M.L.C., of Victoria, regarding the proposed extension of the Essendon aerodrome. Mr. Chandler has written to me in the following terms: -
I desire to support the request made to you by the Keilor Shire Council that the Commonwealth scheme to acquire many hundreds of subdivisional blocks and approximately 30 houses for airport extension in the semiresidential area of North Essendon be ventilated in the Federal Parliament.
The scheme no doubt is strongly supported by civil aviation authorities and is being pressed as a war necessity. I feel this is not justified by anything mentioned by the Minister in replying to recent deputations.
The scheme will seriously depreciate the value ofworkers’ houses in the neighbourhood apart from the demolition of about 30.
These facts and others have, I understand, been supplied by the shire secretary, but I would respectfully suggest that you study the powerful arguments advanced at a recent deputation to the Minister for Air by the shire president, Councillor Jolly and also Councillor Parsons who resides in the affected area.
The airport extensions should be in a northerly direction where thousands of acres of open country is available, thus safeguarding the interests of hundreds of small homeowners.
I trust you will see fit to ventilate this matter.
The secretary of the Keilor Shire Council has supplied me with the data presented to the Minister for Air at the time of the deputation referred to in Mr. Chandler’s letter, and I shall read some brief extracts to the House. I confess to the Minister that I do not claim to be fully cognizant of all the facts. I have no doubt that there are reasons behind the department’s decision against which the protest by the Keilor Shire has been launched. However, I have been asked by a public man in the person of Mr. Chandler and by the people of the shire, to ventilate their objections here, and I believe that there is an obligation on me to do so. The data placed before the Minister by the deputation to which I have referred include the following passages : -
The Keilor Shire Council has always been totally opposed to any expansion of the Essendon Aerodrome, west of Bulla-road at North Essendon, because it firmly believes that the establishment of what might be termed the “ airport “ of Melbourne, within one of the superb residential areas, which is only seven miles distant from the General Post Office, will unquestionably ruin the particular locality affected thereby, and should not under any circumstances whatever be countenanced by the Commonwealth Government.
The amended aerodrome expansion scheme at present under consideration provides for the closure of Bulla-road for a distance of approximately 100 chains and the acquisition of 1,200 excellent building allotments (more or less), or about 250 acres of good building land, which includes probably 25 to 30 house properties which are situated in the acquisition area between Bulla-road and Matthews-avenue.
The five principal arguments advanced by the shire authorities against this proposal are as follows: -
I know that the Minister is fully aware of the details of the case, and I think that what I have read is sufficient to inform the House of the views of the shire on this matter. Obviously the expansion of anaerodrome in a residential area is bound to cause difficulties. Some time ago the Government was urged to acquire a site at Fisherman’s Bend, which, it was claimed, would be ideal for the Melbourne airport. Not only was there ample land available at that time, but the site was quite close to the city, and thus would have afforded great convenience to travellers. However that was not done, and it now appears that serious practical difficulties have been encountered at Essendon aerodrome owing to the development of modern aircraft which require greater space for landing and taking off, and extensions have become necessary. The point I wish to emphasize is that in Mr. Chandler’s letter it is stated that another area, in which there are thousands of acres of good open country, is available in the same locality. The use of that location, it is claimed, would overcome the objections that have been raised by residents in the vicinity of Essendon aerodrome, and would obviate the destruction and depreciation of household property. There is a serious shortage of houses in Melbourne at present, and any scheme involving the destruction of household -property will add to the difficulty. In view of the representations that have been made I ask the Minister to review the proposal.
– The honorable member for Richmond (Mr. Anthony) referred to the case of Sergeant Pilot Gregor. This matter was raised previously by the honorable member and by other honorable members, some of whom also wrote to me making representations on his behalf. I a-m pleased to state that Sergeant Pilot Gregor’s appeal was dealt with by the GovernorGeneral to-day, and no doubt it will give satisfaction to the honorable member for Richmond and to other honorable members interested in the matter to know that the Governor-General has reduced the sentence from one of imprisonment to one of detention. The reduced sentence will terminate on the 31st March next.
– Will the stigma of imprisonment be erased from his record?
– Unfortunately, the fact that he has already served a part of his prison sentence cannot be undone, but from now on the sentence will appear on his record as detention and not imprisonment. Sergeant Pilot Gregor will now be removed from the Emu Plains prison farm to an air force detention camp. I should like to point out that there was no delay in the presentation of the appeal. It is only a fortnight since the appeal was first prepared, and, in the latter stages at least it has been dealt with as promptly as possible. Certain difficulties may have arisen owing to the fact that the governor of the gaol had to comply with State regulations, but every effort was made to expedite the matter.
– I appreciate the fact that the Minister has done everything possible to expedite the hearing of the appeal.
– The matter raised by the honorable member for Fawkner (Mr. Holt) is one in relation to which there has been considerable misrepresentation in the local press of the district concerned, although, so far, there has been little reference to it in the metropolitan press. Whatever work has been carried out on this aerodrome, or is to be carried out, is in the interest of the war effort, and notwithstanding the extravagant language used in the criticism of the Government and of myself in relation to this matter, I have endeavoured to refrain from joining in the controversy. I am quite prepared to give a full explanation to any honorable member who is interested in the i matter, but it seems to me to be undesirable that as the result of criticism from local residents a Minister should be called j to advertise the fact that certain war I work is being undertaken. It is true that some dissatisfaction has been caused. The matter has been under consideration for some time, and representations have been made to me upon it. In December last I received a deputation. Delays took place in arranging a suitable date for a deputation, but I had decided that, before Cabinet dealt with the matter, those concerned should have every opportunity to present their case.. Several municipal councils were represented. There were representatives of the Keilor Council, several from Broadmeadows, and one from the Bulla Council. With the exception ‘ of the brief time occupied by my reply, the hearing of the deputation occupied one and a half hours. Councillor Jolly was given full opportunity to state his case. Members of parliament representing that area were present, and nominated ‘ a spokesman. The president of the shire spoke at length, and was followed by others, who were not prevented from stating their case in the way they pleased. I can assure the honorable member for Fawkner that a full hearing was given to those interested. I told members of the deputation that I would examine the sites, and two days later I did so. I saw the present site, and also the alternative one. I realize that there is a good deal of feeling among the people who have invested their money in that area in building blocks, because they fear that they will not get back all the money that they have paid. At a recent public meeting, at which very strong words were used, one of the persons present was the representative of a wellknown firm of estate agents in Melbourne. He appeared to support everything that was said, and eventually a resolution of protest was carried, in which it was resolved to write to every Victorian member of parliament in order to have what was described as this “ monstrous injustice and colossal blunder “ rectified. The honorable member for Fawkner has put the case in very temperate language, and I appreciate that. I do not say that the decision will not cause inconvenience, and perhaps anxiety, to those who are likely to have their homes removed, but only four or five homes will be removed during the next twelve months. Immediately the Government’s decision became known, a telegram containing some hundreds of words was sent to me protesting against it. I replied that the decision had been made after full consideration by the Government and could not be altered. I had no desire to take up a rigid attitude on this matter, but the honorable member for Fawkner, who was himself once a Minister of the Crown, knows that, a decision having been made, and steps having been taken to give it effect, it is very difficult to recede from that decision. I maintain that, in the interests of the country’s war effort, it was necessary to accept the recommendation of officers of my department to proceed with the extension of the Essendon aerodrome.
– But the Government should take a generous view of the claims of the property owners for compensation. Many of them paid a lot of money for their blocks.
– My opinion is that people should not have to suffer because their property is taken over. During the term of office of a previous government, I took an active part in advocating just treatment for those whose land had been resumed. The Lands Acquisition Act 1906 provides that a tribunal shall be set up to fix the value of land compulsorily resumed by the Government. The trouble is that the blockholders affected by this decision paid boom prices for their land, and they hope to get back what they paid. It is doubtful whether the tribunal will award them so much. Unfortunately, people sometimes pay more for building blocks than they are worth. A member of my own family, in a fit of enthusiasm, and out of a desire to become a property owner, was induced to pay £110 for a block of land not very far from this area, a block to which she had been taken by an agent in a fast motor car. I am sure that the price paid will not be realized for years to come. The price of land in the area under consideration has increased, and a tramline has been built to serve it, because a large number of people are employed there. Near the aerodrome are two factories engaged in the servicing of aeroplanes, and that work cannot be interrupted. At the present time, labour and material could not be found for transferring those factories elsewhere. The alternative site, which is 2i miles farther out, is quite a good one, but we cannot at this time consider making a transfer, nor can we take the material or man-power away from other urgent war work to commence building a new aerodrome. Some of the people who are now objecting to the extension to the Essendon aerodrome were enthusiastic supporters of the proposal to place the aerodrome there twelve or fifteen years ago. Now, however, when their personal interests are affected, they raise difficulties. An agitation was raised some time ago to have an aerodrome built at Fisherman’s Bend, and to-day aeroplanes operating from there are flying over Port . Melbourne and Melbourne for hours every day running in their engines. This aerodrome is the property of Aircraft Production Commission, and residents in those localities are undoubtedly suffering inconvenience ; but, from a military point of view, it is an advantage to have an aerodrome so handy from which aeroplanes may go up to defend the city. In my opinion extravagant language has been used in the presentation of the case on behalf of the Keilor Shire. The Government gave its representations every consideration, but I cannot hold out any hope that it will alter its decision in view of the fact that this work has, for its objective, the promotion of this country’s war effort. When the aerodrome is completed, the largest types of aeroplane will be able to land there. I regret that I have been forced to make this statement, because I believe it to be undesirable that we should publish facts about the extensions it is proposed to make. I hope that no injustice will be done to residents in the locality concerned and that fair values will be fixed for the land. If property owners are not satisfied with the decision of the tribunal, they have the right of appeal to an arbitrator. I do not think that the procedure is expensive, or that it is even necessary to engage legal assistance. In any case, it affords an opportunity for dissatisfied property owners to have their case reviewed. I shall do whatever I can to ensure that satisfactory compensation will be paid. Only four or five houses will be removed during the next twelve months. The total number to be removed will not be more than 27, and some of them will not be affected for from twelve to twenty years. It will be seen, therefore, that the immediate disruption of home life will be in relation to only about half-a-dozen houses, and some, though not all, can be removed to other sites. In order to avoid the demolition of a greater number of houses the original road, which will be a by-pass road, has been put further south. That seems to have given rise to the impression that an additional area is to be taken. It is an alternative area, not an additional area. I pointed out all these facts to the Keilor Council, and offered to send an officer to the council to place the facts before it; but I do not think that the offer was accepted. The matter was discussed in the absence of persons who could have given the council a detailed explanation. I am afraid that the council will maintain its attitude, and I am sorry that the decision had to be made; but I believe that it was the right decision. I cannot offer any prospect of a change.
– in reply - The representations made by honorable members will be brought to the notice of the Ministers concerned.
The honorable member for Lilley (Mr. Jolly) spoke of the necessity for a careful check on public expenditure. All honorable members subscribe to the views expressed by him. As the cost of the war has risen to about £500,000,000 per annum, the taxpayers’ of Australia are paying unprecedentedly high taxes and are entitled to know that their money is being wisely expended. However, wars are wasteful and extravagant. An organization cannot be expanded from a few thousand men to hundreds of thousands of men in a brief period without some loss of efficiency. It is impossible to avoid a measure of waste and extravagance. The Government is doing everything possible to. avoid waste. The Treasury has its inspectors, and the Treasurer (Mr. Chifley) himself takes a big interest in this matter. Moreover, the service departments have their own system of inspection and check, and are doing their utmost to avoid waste. Those checks will be more effective as time goes on. I shall supply a copy of the honorable member’s speech to the Treasurer, who, I am sure, will give to it his personal attention.
The honorable member for Boothby (Dr. Price) made a thoughtful speech on the subject of the control and treatment of Australian natives. One of the powers sought from the States by the Commonwealth Government is adequate power to control and cave foi Australian aborigines. This matter will be referred to the Minister for the Interior (Senator Collings) and other Ministers. I was glad that the honorable member for Boothby expressed his satisfaction with the sympathetic and helpful attitude of the present Minister for the Interior, as well as of his* predecessors, in connexion with this matter.
The honorable member for Swan (Mr. Marwick) alleged there is a waste of man-power, in connexion with the censorship of advertising. I shall bring his remarks to the notice of the Minister concerned.
The honorable member also mentioned the case of a man named Milne, who is manager of the Gem Slipper Company in Western Australia which makes about 800 pairs of slippers a week. He said that this work would be interfered with by the call-up of the manager for service in the Army. I was impressed by the tributes paid by the honorable member to Mr. Stitford, the Deputy Director-General of Man Power in Western Australia, and I presume that that officer investigated this case before calling up the manager. Nevertheless, I shall bring the honorable member’s representations to the notice of the Minister for Labour and National Service (Mr. Ward). These matters are not dealt with personally by the Minister, but must be delegated to various officials ; but I appreciate the need for uniformity of treatment. I do not know any more about this case than the honorable member has mentioned to-day; but in other instances it has not always been found that factories would have to close down if certain men associated with them were called up for military service.
– My information came from a firm of solicitors, not from the manager of the factory.
– I prefer to accept the decision of Mr. Stitford rather than that of a firm of solicitors who may be acting for a client. Mr. Stitford is responsible for calling up men and for seeing that essential business is not disrupted thereby.
– Mr. Stitford is a capable civil servant, but he lacks a practical knowledge of commercial affairs.
– The matter will be referred to the Minister under whose jurisdiction it comes.
The honorable member for Adelaide (Mr. Stacey) criticized the committee system operating in this Parliament. That system, which was established by the Menzies Government, has been found to work satisfactorily and has resulted in the saving of hundreds of thousands of pounds. The honorable member also said that a Cabinet of nineteen Ministers is too large, but if he were a Minister in a war-time administration, he would know that nineteen Ministers are not too many, and that, even with that number, Ministers are working to the limit of their physical endurance.
The honorable member for Melbourne (Mr. Calwell), and the honorable member for Batman (Mr. Brennan) referred to the case of a youth who was absent without leave from the Army because he went home to help his widowed mother to look after a large family of children. I cannot recall this case - there are hundreds like it - therefore, I ask the honorable member, for Melbourne to let me know the name of the youth. The gravamen of his charge is that the Army has taken action to prosecute the mother for harbouring her son. In the absence of further information I shall not make a statement as to the reasons for the action taken. Honorable members will feel deep sympathy for the mother; we appreciate the natural instincts of every mother. Before I comment upon the matter, I shall examine the file for the purpose of ascertaining the facts. The honorable member for Batman mentioned that he had read in a newspaper a reference to the case. I have been Minister for the Army long enough to know that every question has two sides, and I shall study the matter fully before I pass judgment upon it.
The suggestions of the honorable member for Melbourne regarding Timbrol Limited will be brought to the notice of the Attorney-General (Dr. Evatt). The suggestion of the honorable member for Melbourne that uniform rates of tax be .applied to service men in Darwin and Port Moresby will receive attention. The honorable member for Deakin (Mr. Hutchinson) empha sized the necessity for developing phosphate deposits at Mansfield, Victoria. Because of shipping difficulties, the need for the development of local supplies of phosphatic rock is urgent owing to the importance of superphosphate to the agricultural and pastoral industries. We have the problem of feeding not only the civilian population but also Australian and Allied troops, and production must be maintained. This matter will be brought to the notice of the Minister for Supply and Shipping (Mr. Beasley).
The member for Barker (Mr. Archie Cameron) asked the Government to provide an opportunity to debate the war situation, and I shall discuss the matter with the Prime Minister (Mr. Curtin). Of course, developments in the war are fully explained at weekly meetings of the Advisory War Council, in which the honorable member evidently has not much confidence. On the Advisory War Council, the Opposition is represented by four former Prime Ministers and also two former service Ministers - the honorable member for Indi (Mr. McEwen) and the honorable member for Warringah (Mr. Spender). Yesterday, the meeting of the Advisory War Council was attended by the Chiefs of Staff, and there was a full exchange of views upon the war situation. The discussion included developments in the South-West Pacific Area and further afield. I realize that the honorable member for Barker is not a member of the Advisory War Council and has probably some misgivings about the development of the war in the area mentioned. I shall bring his views to the notice of the Prime Minister.
The honorable member for Darwin (Sir George Bell) complained that the censor had prohibited the despatch of news regarding the approach of ships carrying troops to a Tasmanian port with the result that the authorities knew nothing of their movements. Honorable members will appreciate the necessity for imposing a ban upon the publication of news, or on telegraphic or telephonic communications relating to the movements of such ships; I shall call for a report on the matter.
The honorable member for Fawkner (Mr. Holt) directed attention to the necessity for imposing further control in order to regulate prices, and his contentions will be referred to the Minister for Trade and Customs (Senator Keane) and the Minister for Supply and Shipping. Other matters raised by honorable members will be communicated to the Ministers concerned, and replies will be furnished as soon as possible.
Question resolved in the affirmative.
The following papers were presented : -
Supply and Development Acts - Regulations - Statutory Rules 1943, No. 43.
Trade Marks Act - Regulations - Statutory Rules 1943- No. 36.
House adjourned at 6 p.m.
The following answers to questions were circulated: -
Australian Army: Leave: Pay Defalcations.
e asked the Attorney-General, upon notice -
– Such of the information as is available or can be obtained without incurring considerable expense or research will be furnished as early as possible. Some of the information relates to functions of the Department of the Army.
l asked the Minister for External Affairs, upon notice -
Will the Government use the treaty making powers in the Constitution to ratify the Convention of the League of Nations establishing a 40-hour working week, thus making’ such working week applicable throughout Australia ?
– The general conference of the International Labour Organization on the 22nd June, 1935, adopted a draft convention which is cited as the Fortyhour Week Convention 1935. By article 1, each member of the International Labour Organization which ratified the convention declared its approval of the principle of a 40-hour week so applied as not to reduce the standard of living in consequence of the adoption of the 40-hour week. By article 1, each member ratifying the convention undertook to apply the principle to classes of employment in accordance with detailed provisions to be prescribed by such separate conventions as were subsequently ratified by the member. The position at present appears to be that the only member of the Independent Labour Organization which has unconditionally ratified the convention and registered such ratification with the Secretary-<General is New Zealand. Accordingly, by article 3, the convention i.« at present binding upon New Zealand only. The honorable member has raised questions of general importance (1) as to whether, seeing that the Commonwealth Parliament has no general authority or legislation in relation to employment or working hours, the ‘Commonwealth ‘Government can effectively ratify the convention so as to make it binding internationally upon the Commonwealth, and also (2) as to whether the Commonwealth Parliament can legislate effectively under the External Affairs power so as to give effect throughout Australia to the general principle laid down by the convention. These questions are closely related to the general problem of post-war reconstruction and I shall discuss them with my colleague, the Minister for Post-war Reconstruction, and my Cabinet colleagues.
t asked the Minister for Social Services, upon notice -
What was the number of pensioners in each of the following categories at the 31 Bt December, 1942, and what is the estimated total cost of pension payments in each group for the year ‘ 1942-43, (a) invalid, (6) old-age, (c) widows, (d) war, and (e) service?
– The answer to the honorable member’s question is as follows : -
Royal Australian Air Force : Seagull Aircraft.
d. - On Wednesday, the 10th March, 1943, the honorable member for Deakin (Mr. Hutchinson) asked the following question, without notice : -
I ask the Minister for Air whether the Seagull, an old type of aircraft, is being used for dive-bombing exercises and whether any deaths have resulted from its use; will the honorable gentleman also state whether it is considered that this obsolete or old type of aircraft is suitable for use in dive-bombing exercises ?
I am now in a position to answer the honorable member as follows: -
Seagull aircraft have been used for divebombing. One of these machines recently dived into the sea whilst carrying out dive-bombing practice, resulting in the death of three personnel. On that occasion, the Seagull was piloted by an exceptionally well-experienced Seagull pilot, who” was also the Flight Commander. The full circumstances associated with the accident have been investigated, there being no indication that it was due to any irregularity in airframe or engine. In the opinion of the responsible Air Force technical authorities, the Seagull is suitable for low bombing.
Cite as: Australia, House of Representatives, Debates, 12 March 1943, viewed 22 October 2017, <http://historichansard.net/hofreps/1943/19430312_reps_16_174/>.