16th Parliament · 1st Session
Mr. Speaker (Hon. W.M. Nairn) took the chair at 2.30 p.m., and read prayers.
Newspaper Advertisement - Map of Australia
– Will the Treasurer state who was responsible for the advertising matter issued in connexion with the third liberty loan? Will be also explain why Tasmania was omitted from the map of Australia that was published in connexion therewith?
– Directly, I am responsible for this advertising matter; but there is a special committee which deals with the whole subject. The omission of . Tasmania from the map of Australia was mentioned on the motion for the adjournment last night by the honorable member for Bass (Mr. Barnard). I then explained that, according to my understanding, the map had been printed in Sydney and the omission of Tasmania had been inadvertent. The discovery of the omission was not made until the map was being distributed. Every endeavour was made to recall as many as possible of the maps that had been distributed. Further offence in this respect will not be given.
– by leave - On the 12th March, the honorable member for Adelaide (Mr. Stacey) made allegations concerning the extravagant use of ministerial motor cars. He based his remarks on a press article which had made, inter alia, two separate allegations, which were : (1) one Minister responsible for using four oars in one day to convey himself, family and luggage from Canberra to Sydney; (2) in othercases, ministerial use of cars is reflected in their drivers receiving monthly wage and overtime payments running close to £100 a month.
Both of these allegations had already been investigated and had been found to be entirely baseless. The honorable member, in making his charges, was unable to state accurately even the inaccuracies of the paper which he quoted. He actually amalgamated the two separate charges into a single charge, to the effect that one Minister had been responsible for the use of fourcars in one day, the cost of the expedition being £100. His reluctance to reveal the name of the Minister concerned when asked for it by the Attorney-General (Dr. Evatt) is in keeping with his complete irresponsibility in making charges for which there is no foundation in fact.
– I rise to a personal explanation. Having heard the statement of the Minister, I assert most definitely that I have not been correctly reported. What I said was that the statement had appeared in a leading article in the Canberra Times. I repeat that. The Hansard report of my remarks reinforces my contention. The newspaper statement was that one Minister had made use of four cars for the conveyance of himself; his family, and his luggage from Canberra to Sydney.
– The federal quotas of university students for the present university year have been announced. Will the Minister for War Organization of Industry make available forthwith figures showing the number of students who are to be allowed to attend each faculty in each university, in order that the parents of prospective students may know precisely the limitations that are imposed on each faculty in each university ? I direct particular attention to the federal quota for architecture - 24 students - and for medicine - 360 students - throughoutthe Commonwealth. Will the Minister review those quotas, having regard to the, need to have trained men for the post-war period in those two professions particularly?
– I shall have inquiries made, and shall provide the information that the honorable member seeks in regard to the quota for each faculty in each university. I should like it to be clearly understood that the University Commission advised the man-power authorities of the number of medical students to be provided for in the quota, after it had considered a report that bad been furnished to it by the DirectorGeneral of Health. On the basis of that report, which I have perused, the quota is a very generous one. The average number of doctors who have graduated in Australia annually during the last six years has been 254. The quota of medical students for this year is 360.
Servicemen in Processions - Courts Martial - Leave for 7 th and 9th Divisions.
– I ask the Minister for the Army whether the military regulations contain any provision which would prevent members of the armed forces who are unionists from marching with their unions in the Eight Hour Day procession?
– Members of the armed forces march only with their units in military processions, neither directly nor indirectly in demonstrations by trade unions or other party political organizations. That has been the practice since the inception of federation. I have not received any application from any body of soldiers to march in other than a military procession.
– Having regard to the large number of men detained in military camps after trial by court martial, will the Minister for the Army institute an independent inquiry into the reason for this, and also as to whether, in the treatment of soldiers, there is on the part of the Army authorities a lack of understanding of the personal and domestic affairs of the men?
– The soldier who is charged before a court martial is afforded every opportunity to state his defence. From inquiries which I have made I am convinced that the court martial is a very fair form of trial, and I do not believe that it is necessary to superimpose upon it any other form of trial or inquiry. It can be readily understood that an army in which a high standard of discipline is not maintained would be absolutely worthless when confronted with a well-disciplined, well-trained and wellequipped enemy. Soldiers have themselves told me that they were impressed with the impartiality of courts martial.
– In view of the fact that members of the 9th Division who have returned to Australia have been granted leave amounting to 21 days, in addition to the time occupied in travelling to and from their homes, will the Minister for the Army review the leave that was granted to the members of the 7th Division, which in many instances was quite inadequate, and did not permit men to spend any time at their homes?
– The leave granted to the members of the 7th Division was determined on the recommendation of the Commander-in-Chief of the Allied Land Forces in the South- West Pacific Area, in the light of the strategic position at the time.
– I realize that.
– Similar factors were taken into consideration in determining the leave that should be granted to the members of the 9th Division. I shall discuss the matter with the CommanderinChief, whose desire, I know, is to grant further leave to the members of the 7th Division and other divisions that have been fighting in operational areas. The members of some of those divisions are enjoying special leave. It will be recalled that the leave granted to the members of the 9th Division was special leave on their return from the Middle East, and was in addition to the accumulated two days a month to which they were entitled.
– Will each division be placed on an equality in regard to leave?
– Consideration will be given to the honorable member’s request. The strategic position, and the work in which the divisions are engaged, must, of course, be kept in mind.
– A few weeks ago, I introduced a deputation to the Prime Minister from the Australian Comforts Fund which asked for a remission of the duty on tobacco supplied by the fund to troops in the Darwin area. Can the Prime Minister say whether a decision has yet been reached on the matter?
– The Minister representing the Minister for Trade and Customs will reply.
– This matter has been considered by the Minister for Trade and Customs, who has asked me to make the following statement: -
The Government has decided to waive the collection of customs and excise duties on Australian manufactured tobacco, cigarettes and cigarette papers distributed free of charge by the Australian Comforts Fund or other like organization approved by the Minister for Trade and Customs, to members of the Australian forces stationed in the Darwin area. National Security Regulations will be issued to implement this decision, and the concession will operate on and from the date of regulations. In order to prevent unauthorized trafficing in the article mentioned certain safeguards will be prescribed. It is not proposed to extend the concession beyond the Darwin area.
– I have read a statement from a Red Cross worker that one-fifth of the population of Greece has died of hunger since the occupation of the country by the Germans. Has the AttorneyGeneral received any information in confirmation of that statement? “What action, if any, is being taken by international relief authorities to meet this appalling situation, and to what extent has Australia participated in any such action?
– The honorable member for Batman (Mr. Brennan) mentioned this matter a little while ago. A full statement regarding it is being prepared, and will be made available to the honorable member as soon as possible.
-Did the Prime Minister, when listening to the broadcast of Mr. Churchill’s speech, hear a statement - which was not reported in the Australian press - that the agricultural industry of Great Britain must never again be allowed to slip back to the position it occupied before the war, and that agricultural production must be maintained at its present level even after the war? Has the Prime Minister considered the effect of such a policy upon the primary producing export industries of Australia? “Will he take steps to discuss the matter of British markets with the Government of Great Britain, or arrange for the opening of alternative markets for Australian primary products?
– I heard the broadcast of the speech of the Prime Minister of Great Britain. I cannot vouch for the actual text of the paragraph to which the honorable member has referred, but I think that he has accurately stated the substance of it. I do not know whether that part was, or was not, published in the Australian press. The matter is bound up with the fiscal agreements which may be made between the Government of the United Kingdom and the Governments of Australia and the other Dominions. Certain discussions have already taken place, and the Commonwealth Statistician, Dr. Roland Wilson, has just returned from a conference in which aspects of this matter were considered in what I may call a foundational way. These discussions will be continued by the Attorney-General very shortly.
– Was the Minister for Labour and National Service correctly reported in the press as having said that, because Anzac Day this year falls on a Sunday, it does not follow that workers may not claim compensation for the loss of a holiday? If so, will the Minister say what he means by the word “ compensation “ ? Will he indicate the general policy of the Government regarding Easter holidays?
– I have been correctly reported in the press in regard to this matter. I merely stated what the regulations contain. It is quite true that organizations of workers may apply for compensation for the loss of the holiday because Anzac Day this year falls on a Sunday, but the compensation which they will receive is a matter for the court to determine.
– What is the Government’s policy regarding Easter holidays?
– The matter is already covered by regulations.
– I ask the Minister for Transport to say whether it is a fact that express trains from Sydney to Brisbane and .Sydney to Melbourne do not usually carry their full complement of passengers? If so, will the Minister relax the restrictions on civilian inters til “te travel ^
– It is not a fact that those express passenger trains are not usually loaded to capacity, though upon occasions there may be a few seats vacant.
– Half the trains is vacant sometimes.
– My department has gone into the matter carefully, and I am convinced that the trains carry null loads most of the time. I do not intend to relax the restrictions.
– As - Judge Foster, the chairman, has announced the suspension of the sittings of the Women’s Employment Board pending a Clarification of its position by the AttorneyGeneral, can the Attorney-General indicate to the House the Government’s intentions in this matter?
– I was not aware of that statement having been made. A conference held a few days ago was attended by Judge O’Mara, of the Commonwealth Arbitration Court, JudgeFoster, the Minister for Labour and National Service and myself. The only question which has arisen as to the jurisdiction of the Women’s Employment Board is whether the recent action of the Senate in disallowing an amendment of the regulations has destroyed the whole jurisdiction of the board. The opinion of the Government, which I share, is that the jurisdiction remains. It was neither the intention of the Senate nor was it the effect of what it did that the main jurisdiction as laid down in the Women’s Employment Act should be subtracted or destroyed.
– That raises a very important point, especially in view of recent disallowances.
– I do not know to what the honorable gentleman is referring.
The point is important. But I state my view.
– The Women’s Employment Board has not been suspended?
– Not at all. The jurisdiction still exists in the form set out in the act. In order to make the position quite clear and to remove any shadow of doubt, it is proposed to make regulations declaring the position to be as I state. I am quite certain that the Senate, in getting rid of the doctrine of the common rule, did not intend to destroy the foundations of the jurisdiction. The jurisdiction remains, but the particular regulations which were disallowed by the Senate cease to have effect.
– Before leaving for abroad, will the Attorney-General set in motion the machinery for extending his bureau which will advise soldiers and their dependants in connexion with repatriation matters in order that they may have the benefit of that bureau’s advice as soon as possible?
– A statement on that matter will be made when the Australian Soldiers’ Repatriation Bill is returned to this chamber.
– I ask the Prime Minister what action has been taken by the Government since the right honorable gentleman’s declaration that prosecutions would follow the mass strike a week or two ago as a result of which more than twenty coal-mines were idle? Apropos the same matter, I ask the right honorable gentleman whether he has noticed that yesterday 900 miners on the South Coast ceased work as a protest against the apprehension of several of their fellows who had failed to pay fines imposed upon them by the court?
– The question should have been directed to the AttorneyGeneral. I said that action would follow. The normal processes of that action are being followed. Certain prosecutions aTe pending. Surely the honorable gentleman does not expect me U< do the work of the department. The departmental work is proceeding.
– by leave - The progress of rationalization plans designed to facilitate the release of labour engaged in banking now enables an assessment to be made of the positive results achieved. The plans which have been drawn up in collaboration with the nine chief trading banks, and implemented by them, were first outlined after a conference held early in March of last year. At that conference measures for economizing the labour required to maintain essential banking services were discussed. It was emphasized that although much had been done by the banks themselves in the direction of internal reorganization, there were su’bstantial economies to be effected by the closure of .unnecessary branches, and that this could best -be achieved by co-operation between all banks in a scheme of closures involving a mutual exchange of business. As the result of that conference, the hawks submitted interim proposals which involved the closure of 495 branches throughout the Commonwealth. However, this total included a considerable number of branches in towns where only one bank was operating.’ The plan was considered by the production executive, and it was decided to accept the proposals except insofar as they related to one-bank towns. The banks were accordingly notified in July of last year that closures of branches in one-bank towns were not desired by the Government. They were requested to explore the possibility of substituting closures in centres well provided with banks. There has been some variation with the readiness of the various hanks to meet the Government’s wishes in this regard, hut the number of closures in one-bank towns has been reduced, and in nearly every case provision has been made for limited banking facilities to ‘ be maintained, despite the closure of the branch. However, it must be remembered that the selection of the individual branches to bc closed is wholly the responsibility of the hanks concerned. Power to limit, by order, the number of offices, branches and agencies at which a trading bank may carry on business in Australia was vested in the Minister for War Organization of Industry on the 7th November, last year, in order t6 enable legal effect to be given to closures if the need should arise. It has not proved necessary to use this legal power.
The final plans, which have now been almost completely carried out, provide for the closure of 500 branches out of a total of 2,400 open in September, 1939. More than 400 closures have already been effected, and the rest will not be long delayed. In all, 1,100 persons were employed in the 500 branches closed or to be closed. However, this does not necessarily represent the number actually released for other work. Opinions differ even amongst the banks themselves, but on the best available information it appears that the net saving of labour power resulting from the closure of branches is at least 700 men and women. In addition, the closure of branches has reduced the number of responsible posts to be filled, and thus facilitated the substitution of women for mcn. It is very difficult to separate the man-power released by the closure of branches from that which has been made available in other ways. However, a considerable number of male bank officers has been absorbed into the services, and about twothirds of them have been replaced by females. In the net result, about 2,000 labour units have been released.
It is interesting to note that British opinion confirms the approach adopted in the rationalization of banking, and supports the view that the indirect benefits from closures are perhaps of more importance than the considerable amount of man-power released directly. The Committee on Man-power in Banking and Allied Business presided over by Lord Kennet in its report of the 2nd October, 1942, recommended that the closing of branches should he carried further, though 1,700 out of 8,500 wholetime and part-time offices of the clearing banks had already been closed. It stated -
The closing of branches will undoubtedly have the effect of concentrating business in such a way as to make full use of the marginal time of staffs at present not fully employed throughout each day and to make possible the extension of working hours Where this would reduce the numbers employed.
The Australian Bank Officials Association has supported the view that the position of bank staffs would be considerably relieved by amalgamation of branches, and. that substantial savings of personnel could be effected. They have given considerable assistance in the formulation and implementing of the plans. The rationalization measures already undertaken in the field of banking have made a valuable contribution towards the war effort, and I am giving further consideration to the possibility of achieving additional savings.
- by leaveThe Minister for War Organization of Industry (Mr. Dedman) has indicated that, within the limits of the general policy of rationalization of hanking prescribed by him., he has left it to nongovernmental authorities, namely, the banks . themselves, to decide which branches shall he closed. The first result of the adoption of that course was that the hanks closed down branches in towns where only one bank operated. The Minister has attempted to turn back the clock, because since then he has indicated to the banks that it was not his policy that branches of banks in one-hank towns should be closed. Since that intimation was made, no other branches have been closed in towns with only one banking agency. But the clock has not been put back to the extent of le-opening branches that had already been closed in one-bank towns. The implementation of the Minister’s policy indicates a complete lack of co-operation between government departments- - for example, between the Department of War Organization of Industry and the Department of Supply and Shipping. When the only bank has been closed in a small town, the whole business and farming community has been obliged to proceed distances of 10, 15 and 20 miles or more to the nearest banking town for the purpose of transacting banking business. Obviously, this unnecessary travelling imposes a heavy demand upon petrol and tyres, and increases wear and tear of vehicles. The Minister for Labour and National Service should be interested in the fact that so many persons are wasting a considerable amount of time in travelling these distances for the purpose of transacting their business. Every individual engaged in any business activity is obliged to devote a whole day to travelling to a distant town for the purpose of attending to his banking business. Previously farmers were able to purchase their weekly supplies and transact their banking business at the local town ‘ on the same day. Now, some attempt has been made to adjust the position. With the .partial reestablament of banking facilities, a town m which a bank branch was established may now only have the branch open on half a day each week.
– What are some of the towns that are affected in the honorable member’s electorate.
– I have previously named in Parliament some of the towns affected in my electorate, but I am now dealing with the general policy of closing agencies in towns with only one bank. The re-opening of agencies for half a day a week is not satisfactory. The day on which the branches open may not coincide with the local sale day, so that the farming community is obliged to visit the town twice a week, once for the normal sale-day and again to transact its banking business. The statement that 700 or 1,700 persons - whatever the figure may be - have been released by the implementation of this policy by no mean3 presents a correct picture of the saving of man-power. I contend, first, that it is not good practice to leave to outside bodies the implementation of general policy pronounced by the Government, and, secondly, that this is an example of the need for the closest co-operation between the various Commonwealth departments.
.- by leave - I should like to feel confident that the Minister for War Organization of Industry (Mr. Dedman) is actuated by war-time motives, and that his sole purpose in closing the agencies of banks in various country towns is to release manpower. As one who travels extensively in country districts, I dispute his figures, although he admitted that they were guess-work. They were very optimistic. I know of towns with two banking agencies. One agency has been closed, and the other bank is now doing the combined business, with the result that it has been obliged to increase its staff. Thus, an officer from a branch which has been closed might be replaced by one sent to the other bank in the town. Some officers are above the age for military service. Consequently, the number of bank officers who have been released as a result of the Minister’s policy is not substantial. The Minister now declares that he proposes to proceed further in the implementation of his policy. At the back of people’s minds is the thought that this is a socialistic move towards the establishment of one national banking institution. That suspicion has some foundation. Although some bank officers have been released for other duties, the Government has now established an extensive mortgage bank department of the Commonwealth Bank, which will require a considerable staff. If the Government adopted a similar procedure in other businesses, such as butchers, hotels and stores, no doubt a great volume of man-power would be released. But the Minister has confined his attention to the banking institutions for the purpose of promoting the interests of the national bank.
– Was the Minister for War Organization of Industry correctly reported in the press yesterday as having said that the “ victory “ suit had been a national success as a part of a national plan for austere living, so that the savings could be devoted to the war loan? Will the Minister inform the House why certain stores have stocks of “victory” suits valued at thousands of pounds which they cannot sell? Will those stores be compensated in respect of those suits?
– The answer to the first part of the honorable member’s question is in the affirmative. Secondly, I am not aware that huge stocks of “victory “ suits are in existence throughout’ Australia.
Release of Man-power.
– Will the Minister for Labour and National Service make a statement to the House as soon as possible upon the rationalization of the press of Australia, so that honorable members may contrast the arrangements made by the banking institutions with those made by the press magnates?
– Questions relating to rationalization of industry should be directed to the Minister for War Organization of Industry. If the honorable member requires information about the volume of man-power that has been released from the various newspaper establishments, I shall be pleased to secure it for him.
– A bill to impose a tax on certain rural lands has been introduced into the Parliament of New South Wales by the Minister for Lands (Mr. Tully), although the accounts of the State are showing a surplus of some millions of pound’s as the result of Commonwealth expenditure. I have received the following telegram : -
Are we to keep our money to pay Tully’s land tax or invest it war loans? Many anxious inquiries.
Will the Treasurer take action to stop this irresponsible finance in New South Wales, which is undermining the Government’s war effort?
– No consideration has been given to the policy that the Commonwealth Government should adopt in relation to a proposal by the State to impose a land tax, and none is contemplated.
– The Minister for War Organization of Industry stated a few days ago that he had not interfered with the manufacture of horse-shoes of certain sizes. I ask him whether he is aware that horse-shoes of such sizes are not now being manufactured, and that the cessation of the manufacture of them began shortly after he had made his statement. It is suggested that the manufacture was stopped because the Minister, or some person in authority, had intimated that prices would be the same for all grades of horse-shoes manufactured. Apparently this has caused the manufacturers to cut out the smaller shoes and to manufacture only bigger shoes so that they may obtain a smaller number of shoes from a given quantity of material. Will the Minister make inquiries about the position in the tablelands and mountainous country of New South Wales in order to ensure that ponies in those districts shall not be required to wear their hoofs right down to the quick?
– I made it clear that arrangements have been made for standardized horse-shoes to be manufactured in a full range of sizes and types suitable for all horses.
– The trouble is that we cannot get the shoes that are needed.
– The manufacture of horse-shoes depends upon the supply of shoeing steel and that is controlled by the Minister for Munitions. There is difficulty in the manufacture of this shoeing steel because the rolling mills have to be specially prepared for its production. The practice has been to produce a sufficient quantity to meet ordinary production for a given period. When shoes begin to get scarce more steel is manufactured. This will indicate something of the difficulty in maintaining a regular supply of horse-shoes to the community. I shall bring the subject to the notice of the Minister for Munitions and we shall endeavour to maintain as large a supply of shoeing steel as is possible in the circumstances.
War Outlook in Pacific Area.
– In view of the forecast by the Prime Minister of Great Britain, Mr. Churchill, in his speech this week, that considerable time would elapse before large-scale offensive operations could be expected in the Pacific, I ask the Prime Minister whether Mr. Churchill’s remarks have caused any review of the activities of the Commonwealth Government? I have in mind our munitions programme, in particular.
Will the right honorable gentleman examine the whole subject during the parliamentary recess with the object of making a statement upon it at a secret sitting after Parliament re-assembles, so that, if necessary, the subject may be debated ?
– The subject is constantly under review, but periodically it undergoes a special review based upon an appreciation which is sought from the Chiefs of Staff so that we may, from time to time, found our policy upon principles which, though they may remain constant, yet undergo certain modifications in practice. I do not regard the statement of the British Prime Minister as changing the strategical problem in the Pacific. This is not the first time that it has been declared that what is called the global strategy means the defeat of Hitler first. I have previously intimated to the House that that has become the accepted policy of the major powers and I have said that though this is not comforting to us, in the circumstances there is no other course for countries like China and Australia to take than to play their part in the broad global strategy by fulfilling to the utmost of their capacities the roles assigned to them. This means, that in the Pacific, for good or ill, and whether we like it or not, we must essay a holding war against Japan for some indefinite period, and all the indications suggest that the period will be protracted. For these reasons I do not regard the statements made by the British Prime Minister as effecting a fundamental change in the set-up, or as calling for a fundamental reconsideration of the problem of the Pacific. It must be plain that the resources of this country must continue to be strained. We must expect to endure the existing strain for a relatively long period. Therefore, it is of the first importance that we shall husband our resources from now on, if we have not been doing so adequately hitherto. That applies to the materials of war and, indeed, to all the resources required for the maintenance of the nation.
– This concept of Pacific strategy cannot remain static. It is subject to change.
– Of course; but the circumstances have not yet changed. The Prime Minister of Great Britain said in his speech that he hoped that certain phases of the European campaign would soon reach a climax. When that occurs we may know where we are, but there is no indication at present of an early termination of the Pacific struggle. On the contrary, the indications are that this struggle will last longer than the struggle in Europe. We have to bear in mind that when the struggle in Europe has been completed the assistance that will be given to us will not be stinted by unreadiness to send it, but will necessarily be measured by the capacity to send it. Ships will be an important consideration at that time as they are now. I say to the Parliament and to the people of Australia that there must be no relaxation in any degree of the totality of Australia’s war effort. The strain on our resources will be prolonged. Therefore it is of the greatest importance that we resist the attrition that that strain will impose by practising the maximum economy in all departments of our national life so that we may have available the utmost of our resources for the purposes of war. The holding back of the enemy depends primarily on the resources of this country. We have to supply, not only our own forces, but also to a great degree the forces that may be placed at our disposal, as auxiliaries, and those which may be sent by our Allies. The importance of Australia in the Pacific war has been emphasized by all that is implied in the speech of the British Prime Minister.
– Has the attention of the Minister for Transport been directed to the fact that, in parts of New South Wales in which semi-drought conditions prevail, and it has become necessary to feed stock; land-holders have been refused transport on the railways for supplies of oats purchased for that purpose? Will the honorable gentleman have an investigation made, and see that the necessary permission shall be granted to land-holders who require to transport fodder for their starving stock?
– I have no knowledge of the matter, but shall have investigations made and shall see what may be done.
– I have received the following telegram: -
Firewood company reports no sign release extra men. Man-power authorities apparently slow to act. Wood position very serious. Power company only four days’ wood for all services. Any more rain will mean suspension some mining operations. Can you expedite.
Will the Minister for Labour and National Service, in furtherance of the efforts he has already made, advise the man-power authorities in Perth of the serious position of wood supplies in Kalgoorlie, and endeavour to have the matter rectified before the arrival of the rainy season, which will prevent the continuance of wood-cutting operations?
– The answer is in the affirmative.
Stoppage of Work
– I ask the Minister for Labour and National Service what action the Government is taking with a view to preventing stoppages of work by women operatives in a section of the munitions industry, who claim that they are unfairly treated because they receive only 60 per cent of the male wage rates, whereas women employed under awards of the Women’s Employment Board receive 90 per cent of the male rates?
– The honorable member is not quite up to date in his information. A stoppage of work by a section of the employees had occurred, but negotiations with the trade union officials conducted by my colleague the Attorney-General and myself resulted in an early resumption of operations, and the women are now at work. The Government has referred the matter to the Arbitration Court for an early hearing, and it is hoped that a satisfactory settlement will be effected.
– I have received a number of telegrams from general storekeepers in the Northern Rivers District of New South Wales, particularly at Casino and Lismore, complaining that supplies of kerosene are unavailable in the district and that stocks for only a few days remain. As many farmers depend upon kerosene for running their milking machines and engines, and as satisfaction has not been obtained from the pool in regard to the provision of adequate supplies, will the Minister for Supply and Shipping investigate and remedy the shortage?
– I acknowledge the urgent representations made by the honorable members a few days ago on this subject. Immediate steps were taken at that time to advise the Controller of Liquid Fuels of the situation and a direction was issued to the pool authorities in Sydney to forward adequate supplies without delay.
– I have received the following further advice: -
Power kerosene is at Casino and stocks of lighting kerosene left Sydney this morning. A tanker came in a short time ago and pool petroleum is getting supplies away as fast as ever they can. Sufficient stocks are here now and it is just a matter of transport to which pools are attending urgently.
It will be seen that any shortage is really due to circumstances outside pool’s control and that they are rectifying any shortages as quickly as possible.
– I ask the Minister for Labour and National Service whether the high rate of sickness among industrial workers, which he has said is one of the chief causes of absenteeism, is due to the activities of union officials, who instruct the members of their unions to take the one week annual sick leave to which they are entitled, irrespective of whether or not they are ill. Is it a fact that, although there is a high rate of sickness among ordinary operatives, charge hands and foremen are remarkably free from sickness?
– My statement in regard to the incidence of sickness in connexion with absenteeism was based not upon my own findings but. upon the findings of experts who made a complete inquiry into absenteeism. The latter part of the honorable member’s question has no basis, and is typical of questions which he usually asks in regard to such matters.
– Will the Treasurer bring down at an early date a bill to amend the Insurance Act?
– The matter will receive the consideration of the Government.
Motion (by Mr. Curtin) agreed to -
That Standing Order No. 70 - eleven o’clock rule - be suspended for the remainder of this week.
Motion (by Mr. Curtin) agreed to -
That Government business shall take pre cedence over general business to-morrow.
Motion (by Mr. Chifley) agreed to -
That leave be given to bring in a bill for an act to amend the Superannuation Act 1922-1042.
Bill presented, and read afirst time.
– by leave - -I move -
That the bill be now read a second time.
The main purpose of this short measure is to protect the superannuation rights of approximately 70 employees of the Williamstown dockyard who were contributors to the Melbourne Harbor Trust superannuation fund, and have been taken over with the dockyard by the Commonwealth. Under the bill, an employee who transfers to the Commonwealth Superannuation Fund the amount already paid by him in contributions to the Melbourne Harbor Trust Fund may request that his name be gazetted as an employee within the meaning of the Superannuation Act as from the 28th October, 1942, the date on which the
Commonwealth took over the dockyard. He will then be entitled to continue his contributions to the Commonwealth superannuation fund at the same rate, and for the same number of units, as he was contributing under the Melbourne Harbor Trust Fund. and will be subject to the provisions of the Commonwealth Superannuation Act. If an employee does not transfer to the Commonwealth Superannuation Fund, he will be entitled to a refund of his contributions from the Melbourne Harbor Trust Fund, and may, if he so desires, come under the Commonwealth Superannuation Act as a new contributor.
In addition to the employees who are contributors to the Harbor Trust Fund, there are some hundreds who are not contributors because they have not yet qualified by length of service. The bill provides that service with the Harbor Trust, continuous with Commonwealth service, shall be counted as Commonwealth service. These employees will, therefore, be eligible, on completion of five years’ service under the trust and the Commonwealth, to become contributors under the Commonwealth Superannuation Act in the same way as other temporary employees of the Commonwealth.
The opportunity is taken to include in the bill an amendment of section 13 of the principal act to afford contributors, who are contributing for less than the number of units corresponding to their salary groups, another opportunity to take up the additional units. Under the principal act, these contributors would never again be eligible to elect for extra units, as many of them are on the maximum salary of their class or grade, and cannot receive further increases of salary to entitle them to elect. Under the amendment, the contributors concerned will be able to make such election. Contributions will be in accordance with the rates prescribed by the 1942 Superannuation Act and the contributors will be required to undergo medical examination. I commend the bill to honorable members.
– “Will the money contributed by the board come into the Commonwealth Treasury?
– Tes, in the case of the Melbourne Harbor Board.
.- -As the Treasurer (Mr. Chifley) has explained, the purpose of this bill is to place persons employed at the Williamstown Dockyard, which was recently taken over by the Commonwealth, in the same position in regard to superannuation as if they had all along been employees of the Commonwealth Government. I have no objection to this proposal. The bill also provides that members of the Public Service, who are already contributors to the Superannuation Fund, shall be given a final opportunity to adjust their contributions so that their pensions may be more appropriate to the salaries they are now receiving. There can be no objection to that, either. I suggest that, having regard to the important matters before the House, this bill be given a speedy passage.
.- I do not propose to help to rush legislation through Parliament, however important may be the programme before us. Other matters affecting superannuation deserve consideration, apart from the purpose of this bill, which is to confer superannuation rights upon 70 persons employed at the Williamstown Dockyard, in Melbourne. I have no objection to these 70 persons being added to the contributors at present numbering, I understand, about 48,000, among whom are 25,000 to 30,000 persons employed under the Commonwealth Public Service Act. In addition to those, there are the employees of semi-governmental instrumentalities such as the Australian Broadcasting Commission, who were rendered eligible to contribute by legislation passed through this Parliament not long ago. Others included in this provision are members of the High Commissioner’s staff in London. I have not been able, since the bill was introduced, less than fifteen minutes ago, to find out just how many persons are receiving superannuation benefits. If bills were brought up, and the discussion upon them adjourned so that honorable members other than the Leader of the Opposition might learn their contents, we should be able to discuss them more intelligently. I am concerned over the position of persons drawing superannuation benefits because the purchasing value of their pensions is much less than it was before the war. Parliament has provided that old-age and invalid pensions shall be adjusted in accordance with variations of the cost of living, and I see no reason why the same principle should not apply to superannuation pensions, at least in regard to that portion contributed by the Government. The withholding of this reform is a flat negation of justice. Persons in receipt of superannuation pensions do not receive princely incomes. The average public servant contributes for not more than four or five units, and even five units would give a pensioner only £2 10s. a week. Probably, five units is more than the average. Now, because of a recent amendment of the Income Tax Act, persons receiving an income of as little as £2 10s. a week may be required to pay income tax, which is levied on all incomes of more than £104 a year. Probably old people will not be in a position to claim allowable deductions, so that they will be compelled to pay some taxation on their small pensions, the purchasing power of which has been greatly reduced because of the war. I believe that such pensions should be altogether exempt from taxation. I have had no previous opportunity to raise this matter in the House. I attempted to do so when the Invalid and Old-age Pensions Bill was under discussion, but you, Mr. Speaker, ruled that it was not the proper time, and said that I should wait until legislation to amend the Superannuation Act was before the House. The opportunity has arisen much sooner than I expected, and I am now able to make a plea on behalf of these unfortunate persons. Some of them retired on superannuation before the prescribed age, which is 60 in the case of females, and 65 in the case of males. But the great majority of them are persons who were retired on reaching the age limit. I do not think that we should be guilty of financing our war effort at the expense of those very old people who can at least claim that while they were working they made sacrifices in order to provide for the days when they would no longer be able to work.
– Is the honorable member aware that their own association decided against asking that the superannuation payments be linked with the cost of living?
– I do not know that they have an association or that, if they have, it is very strong. I should be surprised if the organizations at present representing the employees in the Commonwealth Public Service had taken that action. I have received many letters from, and been interviewed many times by, persons in receipt of superannuation benefits who protested against the failure of the Government to help them to meet the increased cost of living. It is only right and proper that they should protest. I am astounded to hear from the Treasurer that any retired public servants have said to the Government, “ We enjoy being able to purchase less with our money, and we do not want you to put any part, not even the Government’s part, of our superannuation on the basis of the cost of living “. It would be against human nature for them to do so. But if they did, the Government should not take advantage of the offer of those old people. Other people have contributed to superannuation funds, notably the former employees of State governments. Those persons should be provided for. It is useless for them to approach the State governments, because they are hopeless authorities for anybody to deal with in matters of this sort.
– The government of New South Wales has been a pretty good Father Christmas.
– I do not know that it has done justice to its retired public servants. I believe that the best and easiest way in which to attend to this matter would be for the Commonwealth Government to adjust its contributions to the superannuation benefits of retired Commonwealth public servants in accordance with the increased cost of living, and to do the same thing in regard to superannuated employees of State governments. It should then recoup itself from the payments of income tax collected by it on behalf of the States and paid to the States annually under the uniform tax. These grants to the States should be reviewed on other grounds at a very early date. It may be argued that we have not the constitutional powers to do this, but in war-time we have the power to do almost everything. We could do this if we had the will. The States would not lose much; in any case, nearly all have swollen surpluses through the misplaced generosity of this Parliament in paying them too much. Victoria received £6,000,000 out of the uniform income tax and could have done with £4,000,000, and New South Wales received £15,000,000 and could have done with £10,000,000. A part of that excess money could have been used for the payment of benefits to the people whose cause I espouse to-day.
-. - The honorable member is forgetting the National WelfareFund.
– And we are getting further away from the subject of the bill.
– I am not forgetting the National WelfareFund.
– I advise the honorable member to do so for the time being.
– I do not desire to forget anything of importance. If the Treasurer has taken advantage of the retired public servants, he has not treated them fairly. I wonder if he would have said, “ I will grant you what you ask “ had their attitude been the reverse. I am afraid that his attitude would have been the same whatever their attitude was, because I have not been able to convince him that it is right and proper for the Government to treat all old people fairly in these days of difficult living. We have done a fair thing by the old-age pensioners, but once again we have given justice because it is electorally desirable to do so. We would have refused that justice if the people to whom it was given numbered only a few thousands.
– The honorable member admits that the Government is out to buy votes.
– I repeat what I have said before in this chamber: justice goes to those who are strong enough to demand it; no one gets justice for justice’s sake. The honorable member for Barker has supported governments which have bought votes, and would buy them again if they could by largesse at the expense of the general public.
– The honorable member for Barker even said that the Oppotion bought its leaders from this side.
– Order !
– I shall not follow the honorable member for Bass into a digression. All I am trying to do is to stir the warmer feelings of the Treasurer so that he shall not continue to deny to many thousands of people something which will make their money to-day equivalent in purchasing power to what it was before this awful cataclysm began.
. -Whilst I agree with the honorable member for Parramatta (Sir Frederick Stewart) that this measure should be passed speedily in view of the limited number of people involved and in view of the fact that it protects the right of public servants, I point out that we are bound to keep in mind the wider aspects of superannuation and the protection of workers in industry generally. Public servants are perhaps in a privileged position as compared with outside workers. They are able to have their interests closely watched because of their proximity to the Administration.
– The Commonwealth superannuation scheme is contributory.
– The Commonwealth public servants are able to have legislation introduced in order to deal with any situation which may arise. Moreover, their salaries are fixed on a basis that allows them to make contributions to superannuation funds, whereas the workers in outside industries, particularly those on the basic wage, are not in a position to make any provision for their security in their old age, especially when their work is intermittent owing to recurring economic crises. Some provision other than the old-age pension should be made for the protection of the worker. I hope that the Government will keep in mind the fact that New Zealand has laid down a scheme of superannuation for workers generally. I realize that it is contributory, but I do not altogether agree with that, because I do not think that wage standards allow workers to make any provision for themselves. We must bear in mind that since the outbreak of war the large industrial concerns of this country have been making even larger profits than they made before the war.
– That is correct. I looked up the facts in the Library last night. I took a number of firms at random. They are making profits ranging from 40 per cent, to 80 per cent, and they pay big dividends to private shareholders.
– The profits are taken by the Treasurer.
– These are net profits. Many of the larger businesses, despite “ watered “ stock, and after allowing for taxes, pay regular dividends of from 10 per cent, to 14 per cent. Some time ago, the Government announced its intention to limit profits to 4 per cent.
– The honorable member’s remarks are not relevant to the bill.
– I ask the Treasurer to keep in mind the larger aspects of superannuation, and to take into consideration the profits and dividends of large companies. They should provide superannuation benefits for their employees. Perhaps the moneys could be paid into the National “Welfare Fund for the purpose of ensuring social security for retired workers.
Question resolved in the affirmative.
Bill read a second time, and committed pro forma ; progress reported.
Message recommending appropriation reported.
In committee (Consideration of
Governor-General’s message) :
Motion (by Mr. Chifley) agreed to -
That it is expedient that an appropriation of revenue be made for the purposes of a bill for an act to amend the Superannuation Act
Resolution reported and - by leave - adopted.
In committee (Consideration resumed) :
Clauses 1 to 3 agreed to.
Clause 4 (Scale of units of pension).
– The amendment of section 13 of tie principal act is for the purpose of allowing persons who are contributing for less than the number of units corresponding to their salary groups another opportunity to take up the additional units.
Under the act, these contributors would never again be eligible to elect for extra units, as many of them are on the maximum salary of the class or grade and cannot receive further increases of salary to entitle them to elect. The amendment will allow the contributors concerned to make such election. Any contribution made possible as the result of the amendment will be as from the date of election, and will be at the higher rates prescribed by the Commonwealth Superannuation Act 1942.
Some employees who are now receiving the maximum salary in their class or group, have no hope of promotion to enable them to take additional units of superannuation. Because of family responsibilities or other reasons they did not take full advantage of the act in the past. Now, their families have been reared, but the officers are prevented from taking out further units. The amendment is designed to give them another opportunity to increase them.
– The fund is protected, because they will be obliged to submit themselves for medical examination before their applications are approved.
– That is correct.
– Will they have to contribute at the rates applicable to their present age?
– They will have to contribute at the rates prescribed when the act was amended last year.
– How many persons are involved?
– I have not the exact number, but it is not great.
.- I do not object to the granting of these benefits, which will involve the Commonwealth in a liability in respect of the additional units which are taken out; but now is the appropriate time for the Treasurer to announce the intentions of the Government regarding those 9,000 men and women who are receiving superannuation benefits under the act, but who find that their money has not the same purchasing power as it had before the war. As the Parliament has already made provision to adjust invalid and oldage pensions on the basis of the fluctuations of the cost of living, we should confer a similar benefit upon the superannuated public servants. I am informed that the average number of units taken out by those 9,000 men and women is slightly more than five, and the Commonwealth’s contributions would amount to £150,000 a year. If the whole of the units were adjusted on the basis of the cost of living, the cost to the Commonwealth would be £300,000. The Treasurer interjected that some organization or organizations representing these people desired that superannuation benefits should not be adjusted according to fluctuations of the cost of living, and doubtless that contention expresses their view. We have provided certain conditions in relation to invalid and old-age pensioners that will apply in peace-time as well as in war-time; but I consider that in war-time, particularly, we should safeguard the purchasing power of beneficiaries under the Superannuation Act as well. Aged people who are drawing pensions from the Superannuation Fund are clamouring for a declaration by the Government on this point, and I ask the Treasurer to indicate whether it is intended to redress their grievances.
– In making a comparison between pensions payable under the Superannuation Act and those payable under the Invalid and Old-age Pensions Act, the honorable member for Melbourne (Mr. Calwell) has overlooked a vital consideration, which is that pensions under the Superannuation Act are based on actuarial calculations. Such calculations could not be made if cost-of-living variations had to be considered, as no actuary can forecast industrial vicissitudes.
– The actuarial calculations presupposes equal contributions from the Commonwealth and its employees. I ask that the Commonwealth contribution be weighted in accordance with cost of living variations.
Sir FREDERICK STEWART.What the honorable gentleman has said has no relation to my argument, which still stands. I offer no objection to this clause, because I consider that the proviso protects present contributors to the Superannuation Fund and will make it impossible for medically unfit persons to join the fund within, say, a few week of their retirement and so benefit from contributions already made by other persons. The provision that new contributors shall undergo a medical examination in certain circumstances is sound.
– The Superannuated Officers Association is not favorable to relating the pension to variations of the cost of living. I understand that the association has made an investigation which shows that over a long period contributors to the fund have been better off without such a provision than they would have been with it. The association is prepared to take the risk and does not desire any change.
.- I still contend that the relation of the pension to the cost of living variations is desirable.
– Order ! The honorable member has already spoken twice to this’ clause, and may not speak to it again.
Clause agreed to.
Clause 5 (Superannuation rights and obligations of former employees of Williamstown Dockyard ) .
.- I consider that the interests of the former employees of the Williamstown Dockyard who will be brought- within the scope of the Superannuation Fund would be better served if the Commonwealth contribution to the fund were weighted in accordance with variations of the cost of living, at any rate for the duration of the war. The war will probably last for a long time, and the financial position of retired contributors to this fund may become precarious unless something be done to give their pensions a purchasing power which they formerly had. I should like to know whether the interests of the employees of the Melbourne Harbor Trust, who have been contributing to the superannuation fund established under the Melbourne Harbor Trust Superannuation Regulations 1927-1940, are preserved under this bill?
– They are being preserved.
– It appears to me that persons may be required to contribute to the SuperannuationFund for five years before becoming eligible for benefits.
– The employees of the Melbourne Harbor Trust contributing to the Melbourne Harbor Trust Superannuation Fund, who will he transferred to the Superannuation Fund will be regarded for the purpose of the fund as having been Commonwealth employees during their term of such service. They will not suffer any disability. Their interests are covered by proposed new section 60am.
.- Proposed new section 60am reads - 60am. Any amount received by the board in respect of contributions made under the Melbourne Harbor Trust Superannuation Regulations 1927-1940 by transferred dockyard employes who, by virtue of sub-section (2.) of section sixty ag of this act, are deemed to be employees within the meaning of section four of this act, shall be paid into and form part of the fund.
In what way does that protect the employees concerned? Will their length of service with the Melbourne Harbor Trust be taken into account?
– Yes; they will be regarded as having been Commonwealth servants for the period of their service with the trust.
– I am glad to have that information.
Clause agreed to.
Title agreed to.
Bill reported without amendment; report adopted.
Bill - by leave - read a third time.
Debate resumed from the 10th March (vide page 1475), on motion by Mr. Hollow ay -
That the bill be now read a second time.
– The House yesterday approved of the principle of this bill when it agreed to a certain clause in the Invalid and Old-age Pensions Bill. At present, widows’ pensions are adjusted on a quarterly basis in accordance with cost-of-living variations. This means that a delay of ten or twelve weeks may occur in making such adjustments. If there be justification for the making of such adjustments there is every justification for reducing the period within which such adjustments must be made. As the bill makes provision for monthly adjustments, which will involve delays of only two or three weeks, I commend it to honorable members.
.- I regret that the bill does not make provision for certain women in the community, who, in my opinion, are entitled to the benefit of this legislation. The act provides that “ widow “ shall include de facto widow - perhaps ersatz widow would be a more accurate term - a wife who has been deserted by her husband, and a wife whose husband is in a mental asylum ; but it does not make provision for wives whose husbands are serving sentences of imprisonment. Such women are entitled to the protection of the legislation equally with all the other classes of women who have been mentioned. As a matter of fact, the woman who has young children is much more entitled to these benefits than is the officially described de facto wife or widow. I regret that, in the caucus of the party and in this House on several occasions, I have been unable to secure support for my view that women whose husbands have been sentenced to imprisonment for twelve months or more should receive the ‘ benefit of the legislation. The amendment made last night to the Invalid and Old-age Pensions Act will confer a benefit of 15s. a week, instead of one of 25s. a week, on the wife of an invalid pensioner. As I shall not have for a considerable time a further opportunity to discuss this legislation, I desire to make my case now, in order that the Minister may frame amending legislation during the forthcoming recess.
– Order ! The honorable member will not be in order in making his case - as he expresses it - for the further alteration of the Widows Pensions Act. This bill has the specific purpose of varying pensions and allowances in accordance with the price index number. It is competent for honorable members to indicate directions in which the bill might have gone in order to afford additional relief; but, because of the limited scope of the measure, it is not competent to go further than that, and expound a general case, as the honorable member for Melbourne proposes.
– In that event, I take it that the amendments proposed By the Minister -will be out of order, because he intends to amend the act in a certain direction, provision for which is not made in the bill.
– The honorable member may speak to the amendment when it is moved.
– If the honorable gentleman is right in his premises, the committee will be the proper body to determine whether or not he is in order.
– If I am right in my premises, will I be in order in discussing the matter? That is for you, sir, to decide.
– I may not anticipate the decision of the committee.
– You, sir, are the Speaker. A ruling from the Chair is desired.
– It is not within the province of Mr. Speaker to give an instruction to the committee, or even to express an opinion upon the matter.
– Then I shall submit to this fresh frustration.
.- I support the proposed amendment of the Widows Pensions Act. In common with other legislation, that enactment has been submitted to a process of trial and error.
As the result of experience, the view is held that the time lag has operated unfairly against those whom the act was designed to benefit. The Minister now proposes to remove this disability, and with that intention I entirely agree.
.- I agree with the very worthy objectives of the bill, but should like the Minister to have proposed further relief to widows, particularly in regard to permissible income, which is to be 12s. 6d. a week. I do not know how the determination was made that that should be the amount which widows and invalid and old-age pensioners should be permitted to earn; but it is altogether too low, and certainly is not commensurate with presentday conditions. A case in point is that of a widow, 26 years of age, who has two dependent children. Under the Widows Pensions Act, the Child Endowment Act, and the provision made by the Government of New South Wales in respect of children, her total income is £2 5s. a week. Honorable members will agree that that is not adequate for the maintenance of three persons. She is ablebodied, and is anxious to engage in some occupation. Work was available which would have employed her for a few days and produced an income of £2 a week. But she would not have been able to make provision for the care of her children other than by the assistance of her parents, and the result of the earning of that income would have been the cancellation of her pension. The basic wage of a man with a wife and two children is more than £5 a week. Surely a widow should be permitted to have an income of £4 a week without having her pension reduced ! Such a provision would enable her to be usefully employed in relation to the war effort, or to make available for essential war work a man who is now engaged in a non-essential occupation. The Minister is giving the matter consideration in view of the representations that have been made by other honorable members and myself.
– Then why raise it now?
– I wish to impress it on the Minister, because of its urgency. The sooner the alteration is made, the better, because such persons could then be usefully employed in the war effort and also obtain necessary relief.
Question resolved in the affirmative.
Bill read a second time, and committed pro forma; progress reported.
Message recommending appropriation reported.
In committee (Consideration of Governor-General’s message) :
Motion (by Mr. Holloway) agreed to -
That it is expedient that an appropriation of revenue , be made for the purposes of a bill for an act to amend the Widows’ Pensions Act 1942.
Resolution reported and - by leave - adopted.
In committee (Consideration resumed) :
Clauses 1 and 2 agreed to.
Clause 3 (Variation of pensions and allowances in accordance with price index numbers).
– One of the purposes of this bill is to reduce as much as possible the time lag between the declaration of the Statistician’s figures with respect to the cost of living and the variation of pensions in accordance with those figures. At the present time, the lag is twelve to fourteen weeks. It is hoped by this provision that the lag will be not more than from two to six weeks. It is not possible to reduce the period still further. It was desired to effect pensions variations at the same time that variations were made to the basic wage, but that was found not to be possible. Wages are paid weekly, and variations can be more readily effected in respect of them than in respect of pensions. The pensioners will not really lose anything because of the greater time lag in respect of pensions because, although they will have to wait longer for an increase when costs are rising, a reduction will be deferred for a greater period when costs are falling.
It is also proposed to amend the act by omitting the term “ de facto widow “ wherever it appears, and inserting in its place the words “ female dependant “.
Clause agreed to.
New clause 2a.
– I move -
That, after clause 2, the following new clause be inserted: - “ 2a. Section four of the Widows’ Pensions Act 1942 is amended -
by omitting paragraph (a) of the definition of ‘ child ‘ and inserting in its stead the following paragraphs: -
a child of a woman and her husband; (aa) a child of a dependent female and of the man in respect of whom she was a dependent female; or’;
) by omitting the definition of ‘ de facto widow ‘ and inserting in its stead the following definition: - “ dependent female “ means a woman who, for not less than the three years immediately prior to the death of a man (in this Act referred to as “ the man inrespect of whom she was a dependent female”), was wholly or mainly maintained by him and, although not legally married to him, lived with him as his wife on a permanent and bona fide domestic basis; ‘; and
by omitting paragraph (a) of the definition of’ widow’ and inserting in its stead the following paragraph : -
a dependent female; “’.
This is the first of several new clauses which I shall move to have inserted in the bill. Honorable members will note that the expressions “ de facto widow “ and ” de facto husband “ occur several times in the act. In the opinion of the AttorneyGeneral (Dr. Evatt) and officers of his department, these expressions are inaccurate, offensive, and have no legal meaning. The term first appeared in war pensions legislation passed in 1917, and from there has found its way into other legislation. The Government believes that the use of the term should be discontinued, and some other term less offensive substituted for it.
– I support the amendment, and accept the Minister’s assurance that its inclusion in the bill will not involve any increased financial liability. We know that the term “ de facto wife “ has given offence to many people. Some women’s organizations, which have been loud in their objection to the use of this term, have no real objection to financial provision being made for the women covered by it. I believe the amendment to be desirable.
.- I do not object to the proposed amendment; my only objection is that it does not go far enough. I should like the Minister (Mr. Holloway) to agree to an amendment to provide for the payment of a pension to a woman whose husband is serving a gaol sentence of twelve months or more. To do so would cost only an additional £27,000, and there ought to be no difficulty in obtaining a message from the Governor-General to cover such an insignificant amount. At present, our pensions legislation covers such contingencies as death, insanity, invalidity, and desertion, but does not cover imprisonment. What I suggest is not revolutionary or innovative. As a matter of fact, provision is made for the wives of men who have been imprisoned in British Columbia and Saskatchewan in Canada; in France; and in Alaska, Arkansas, Delaware, Florida, Idaho, Iowa, Kansas, Louisiana, Michigan, Minnesota, Missouri, Montana, Nebraska, New York, North Carolina, North Dakota, Ohio, Oklahoma, Oregon, South Dakota, Tennessee, Vermont, Wisconsin and Wyoming in the United States of America, and in Hawaii. As other countries lead us so much in this regard, it is not too much for me to make the proposal and for the Minister to accept it, despite the fact that I have introduced it and am persona non grata with some people. In New Zealand the cost per head of population in respect of widows is 9s. 9d. a year compared with 7s. 2d. in Australia. What I ask now would not cost one penny a head of population. If my proposal were adopted we should still lag a long way behind New Zealand in provision for widows. If women have to go to work because their husbands are in gaol, their children will either have no parental control, or just the control that the women can exercise when they return home from work. It is not surprising that children who grow up without parental control are often predisposed to criminal habits. Eventually, society has to pay the price for its neglect. The amount that would be involved by the granting of this concession would be more than offset in future years by the diminution of the gaol population. Women whose husbands go to gaol are not the offenders against society and they should not be punished for their husband s faults by being deprived of the rights that society has conferred upon other women who have lost their means of support. We have been anxious to ensure that the ladies whom we used to call de facto widows shall be provided for, and I now ask that those who are legally married to the fathers of their children be not deprived of their rights merely because I, and not some Minister, first advocated the proposal.
– I have listened with great patience this afternoon on the odd occasions on which I have been here to the speeches from the other side. Some honorable members opposite speak so seldom, so .briefly, and so much to the point, that one immediately apprehends what they are driving at. The honorable member for Bass (Mr. Barnard), who is inclined to interject, is one honorable member whom I have in mind. There are few things which the Minister for Social Services (Mr. Holloway) would not do to oblige me, and so I suggest to him that during the recess he should appoint some of the supporters of the ‘Government to gather together every piece of social legislation in the world in order that when this House meets again, if it does meet again, and I should be happy if it did not, he might bring down the bill to provide for a law of social service embracing everything that every other country has ever done in the way of social service. Another point is that from that arguments advanced by some honorable members opposite one must conclude that no penalties should be inflicted on anybody and the law should foe just something to look at - an old-fashioned thing like the Ten Commandments which we put up on the mantelpiece as a curiosity. If anybody happens to break them, well we can get another lot.
– On a point of order, Mr. Chairman, the honorable member for Barker is not addressing himself to the clause before the Chair.
The CHAIRMAN (Mr. Prowse).That is hardly a point of order. The honorable member for Barker is replying to a request made by the honorable member _ for Melbourne of the Minister for Social Services regarding wives whose husbands have been gaoled. I think that the honorable member should have some licence to make a reference to that matter.
– I make those requests to the Minister with all seriousness. I consider that in conducting its part in the greatest world war in history, the Government would have any amount of time in the recess to attend to a few things like that. I had this matter in mind earlier to-day, and I was half inclined to ask about it at question-time. One of the places which ought to be particularly suited as a reference for social security is the island of Malta. Government supporters might well inquire what the inhabitants of Malta are doing about the new order and pensions for widows. That information would be of value to this Parliament.
.- The Government is proposing to delete from the Widows’ Pensions Act the phrase “ de facto widow “ and substitute therefore the phrase “ dependent female “. The part of the phrase “ de facto widow “ that was most objectionable was “ de facto “. The woman described as a de facto widow was not a de facto wife because the phrase “ de facto “ means “ in fact “, and she was not, in fact, a wife. We should have escaped a good deal of the criticism had we used the phrase used by the Canadian and British parliamentary draftsmen, namely, “ unmarried wife “. During the discussion of the Repatriation Bill, I pointed out that in both Canada and Great Britain an unmarried woman who has been living with a soldier is described as “an unmarried wife”. The suggestion that a woman who is living in an unmarried relationship with a man is necessarily contemptible is thoroughly unjustified. Very many women are living chastely and faithfully with men whose wives for many years have been in lunatic asylums. Many women have innocently contracted bigamous marriages with men, and, when they have discovered it, have continued to live with them. A woman who has lived with a man as a chaste and devoted companion and as the mother of his children, Whether she is married to him or not, is entitled to the great respect of the community. A great deal of the objection to widows’ pensions being granted to those women is unnatural and unchristian.
.- I am pleased to have the assurance of the honorable member for Parramatta (Sir Frederick Stewart) that some organizations of women have their consciences so outraged that they are able to move the Government to alter the Widows’ Pen sions Act because of some objection to the words “ de facto “. I do not know that it means a great deal to those organizations because I suppose that most of the members are neither de facto wives nor de facto widows. It is interesting to know that women’s organizations have such a profound influence on the honorable member for Parramatta that they can move the Parliament of the Commonwealth to alter in this legislation a word the meaning and implication of which every body knows. I should like the Minister to confirm or deny the statement of the honorable member for Parramatta that these women’s organizations, which have no association with the Labour movement, were successful in securing the ear of the Minister for the purpose of having the word altered.
– An “unmarried wife “ appears to me to be a complete contradiction of terms, just as ” de facto wife “ is a complete contradiction of terms. “ De facto wife “ means “ in fact a wife “.
– The honorable member for New England used the expression “ unnatural wife “.
– When the Senate amended the Income Tax Bill recently, dependent females became very important. If the female relative of a widower keeps house for a taxpayer, he is entitled to claim an allowance. I am beginning to wonder whether those perfectly legitimate female dependants, who are mentioned in the taxation law, will take umbrage at the description in the Widows’ Pensions Bill of de facto widows as “ dependent females “. Are we to be worried by the opinions of female organizations such as the Housewives Association, most of the members of which know so little about domestic science that they could not keep house for a six-day bicycle rider? Are
Ave to get into another difficult situation now through having legitimate female dependants, as described in one act, finding fault with the Government because another kind of female dependant is similarly described in another act? Probably the Minister never examined the problem from that standpoint.
New clause agreed to.
New clause 2b.
Motion (by Mr. Holloway) proposed -
That, after clause 2a, the following new clause be inserted: - “ 2b. Section eighteen of the Widows’ Pensions Act 1942 is amended by omitting from paragraph (a) of sub-section (3.) the words de facto husband ‘ and inserting in their stead the words ‘, where the claimant is a dependent female, within three months after the date of the death of the man in respect of whom she was a dependent female ‘.”
.- My submission in regard to women whose husbands are in gaol, though ignored in this legislation, merits some observations by the Minister. I should like him to explain his attitude on the subject.
– I shall do so later.
– I do not want their claims to be ignored.
New clause agreed to.
New clause 2c.
Motion (by Mr. Holloway) agreed to-
That, after clause 2b, the following new clause be inserted: - “ 2c. Section twenty-six of the Widows’ Pensions Act 1942 is amended -
) by omitting the words ’ de facto husband’ (first occurring) and inserting in their stead the words ‘, in the case of a dependent female, at the time of the death of the man in respect of whom she was a dependent female ‘ ; and
by omitting the words ’ de facto husband’ (second occurring) and inserting in their stead the words in the case of a dependent female, of the man in respect of whom she was a dependent female ‘.”.
New clause 2d.
– I move -
That, after clause 2c, the following new clause be inserted: - “ 2d. Section thirty of the Widows’ Pensions Act 1942 is amended by omitting from sub-section (3.) the words ‘de facto husband’ and inserting in their stead the words where the claimant is a dependent female, within three months after the date of the death of the man in respect of whom she was a dependent female ‘.”.
I regret that I cannot accept from the honorable member for Melbourne (Mr. Calwell) an amendment to provide financial assistance for women whose husbands are in gaol. I have considered the matter, as the result of his overtures on a previous occasion, but Cabinet has not agreed to the honorable member’s proposal.
– Is the difficulty one of principle, or cost?
– The granting of a pension to a wife whose husband had been sent to gaol opens up an unlimited field. The Government understands that the States, in a small way, have accepted responsibility for wives in distressed circumstances as the result of their husbands being confined in a gaol.
– So far as I am aware, not one State grants assistance to the wives.
– For those reasons, Cabinet decided that provision for the wives could not be made in the Widows Pensions Act. I studied the reports of the International Labour Office regarding the position in other countries, and I found that some of the North American States grant pensions to the dependants of persons serving terms of imprisonment. Although Cabinet has rejected the honorable member’s submissions, the door is not closed, and I. shall reconsider the matter.
.- I shall raise this matter again in places where I shall be successful. I shall raise it in the conferences of the Labour party, and bring what pressure I can to bear on the Government in order to make it do a reasonable and proper thing.. The cost of assistance to wives who, because their husbands have been sent to gaol are in distressed circumstances, would be only £27,000 a year. Perhaps New South Wales has made some small provision for the purpose of assisting them, but most of the States in the United States of America grant a pension to the wife from the date of the incarceration of the husband, even though he has not been sentenced to imprisonment for twelve months or longer. I am somewhat gratified with the Minister’s assurance that the door is not closed. My impression was that it had been banged, bolted and barred against my submissions. I shall take all the action I can to ensure that the Government concedes this benefit, because I am convinced that most of the States do not intend to extend their existing social services.
New clause agreed to.
Title agreed to.
Bill reported with amendments; report - by leave - adopted.
Bill - by leave - read a third time.
Debate resumed from the 10th March (vide page 1476), on motion by Mr. Hollow ay -
That the bill be now read a second time.
– In speaking on the implications of the conflict in the SouthWest Pacific Area, in which Australia is so vitally concerned, the Prime Minister (Mr. Curtin) has frequently referred to the handicap under which Australia is labouring as a nation whose military personnel must be provided from’ a total population of a little more than 7,000,000 people, compared with Japan, which is able to draw upon a population probably ten times as great as our own. We have been told frequently, also, that, after the war, Australia must do its best to increase its population by a judicious liberalizing of its immigration policy. I hope that we shall do so. I consider that it would be practicable to increase our population substantiallyby applying a policy which would permit the entry into this country of a greatly increased number of selected immigrants. There can be no doubt, however, that our best immigrant is the Australian-born child. Any step that can be taken by legislation to increase the birth-rate is to be commended to honorable members. On other occasions I have referred in this House to the decline of the birth-rate in this country. At the inception of federation our birth-rate was 27 per 1,000 of population. That figure has declined to a fraction above 17 per 1,000 of the population. By a simple arithmetical calculation, it will be seen that the decline we have suffered involves the loss of 70,000 births each year. I do not suggest that the liberalizing of the maternity allowance will greatly improve the birth-rate; but, because I believe that it may effect some improvement, I shall support the bill.
Provision is made in this measure for an increase of the amount of the allowance from £4 10s. to £5 in relation to the first child in the family, and from £5 to £6 in relation to the second child; the former amount of £7 10s. remains in respect of a third and each succeeding child. An amount of approximately £375,000 per annum is involved in this amendment.
The bill also provides for payments to mothers for four weeks before confinement and for four weeks afterwards. This provision will involve an expenditure of about £1,250,000 per annum. Honorable members are well aware that, as a rule, I do not oppose the enlargement of the field of social service benefits, but I must confess that I do not regard with great enthusiasm the provision of this particular benefit in war-time. Mylukewarmness is not due to any inherent objection to the principle, but to a doubt as to whether the time is appropriate for this action. I doubt whether the workingclass community of Australia has ever been in a better position to meet family responsibilities. But my doubt of the wisdom of this provision is tempered somewhat by the realization that the young wives of many of our soldiers will enjoy the advantage of these payments. Unfortunately, our men at battle-stations and in the services generally are not sharing in the prosperity that is being enjoyed by individuals working in war industries.
I hope that the Government will agree to reconsider the proposed method of making the payments. I understand that, though the bill provides for the total payments to be made in three instalments, it was intended that the pre-natal payment and the maternity allowance should be made in one payment and that the post-natal payment should be made four weeks after the birth of the child. I suggest to the Minister (Mr. Holloway) that the payments should he made in one lump sum. I have had considerable experience in the administration of social service legislation, and I know that the disbursement of payments in fractional amounts involves considerable difficulties for both the recipients and the department. As the birth of the child will be a condition precedent to the payments, I suggest that the Government should make the whole amount available to the mother in one sum.
With the qualifications I have mentioned, I support the bill.
– I heartily welcome this legislation; first, because it abolishes, after quite a number of years, the limit upon income as a condition precedent to the payment of the maternity allowance. As the honorable member for Parramatta (Sir Frederick Stewart) has said, the birth-rate is declining. The assistance to be given under this proposal will not correct that fault, but it will at least ensure that the parent of an infant about to be born, particularly if in poor circumstances, will be enabled to a degree to give it a better chance of survival. The tragic fact is that, because of improper care at birth, the infant mortality rate is alarmingly high, even if it is not increasing. The preservation of life is just as important as the encouragement of the propagation of the species. In the light of that consideration, this measure is welcome. The payment of 25s. a week for a month prior and subsequent to birth, and the further payment - ranging from £5 to £7 10s. - at the time of birth, will entail on the department a little moTe work than has been occasioned hitherto. I am not able to subscribe to the view expressed by the honorable member for Parramatta, in advocacy of the making of the eight weekly payments and the maternity allowance itself in one lump sum. Among the poorer section of the community, where the greatest need exists for assistance during the few vital weeks prior to and after birth, and where there is probably the highest mortality rate, the payment of 25s. a week will be a welcome addition to the family income. Just as it is better to close the stable door before the horse escapes, so it will be better to make the payment of 25s. a week during the period when it will be necessary for the mother not only to be in the best state of health but also to have relief from the stress of any worry which might be occasioned by a shortage of cash. The payment made prior to the birth will have greater value than that made subsequent to the birth.
– It is not intended that any payment shall be made until the birth has taken place.
– I hope that that will be altered.
– It will be as good as cash, because the mother will know that she will receive it.
– It will not be as good as cash to her. The provision might suit the honorable member for Forrest (Mr. Prowse), who has plenty of cash, and has been able to establish ample credit if not to increase the population. It is most difficult for persons in poor circumstances to obtain credit where and when it is needed. There is normally a good deal of distress and poverty in my electorate. The stress and worry occasioned to an expectant mother in the four weeks preceding the birth of a child should ‘be obviated.
– As the provision stands, it will not be possible to make the first payment until proof of birth has been established.
– Would not the certificate of a medical officer, that a birth is pending, be as good a warrant for the payment as the actual birth of the child subsequently? I know that the Minister is sympathetically disposed to my contention. Possibly the matter has escaped his notice.
– It has been considered. Every effort has been made to place the matter on a weekly ‘basis. Every feature has been investigated.
– In very many working-class homes in the Minister’s electorate, as well as in mine, there is need on such occasions to provide not only clothing for the prospective child, but also the best of food for the prospective mother. I do not consider that in that particularly dangerous period the mother will be completely relieved by the knowledge that she will later receive a back-payment at the rate of 25s. a week.
– The matter will not be overlooked in the administration of the act.
– But the act will not permit the payment to be made until the child has been born. I hope that the Minister does not regard me as a carping critic. A certificate from a doctor to the effect that a birth is anticipated within a month ought to be sufficient to move the department to commence the payment during that vital and critical time in the life of the prospective mother, when anything which may upset her might prejudice the viability of the expected child. Very few medical officers are not competent to inform the department that a birth is likely to take place in a month. If a doctor furnished a certificate that a birth was anticipated in four weeks, and it did not occur until five or six weeks had elapsed, the Government would not lose, because the matter could be adjusted subsequent to the birth. If payment had been made for six weeks prior to the birth, it need be continued for only two weeks subsequently. The Government would not be out of pocket, and the recipient would be given only that to which she was entitled. The Minister might confer with the departmental officers before the bill is passed by the Senate, in order to ascertain whether this pre-natal payment might be made on the certificate of a medical officer.
.- I am pleased that the Government has brought down this legislation, and has thus established the very desirable principle that the. State can and will afford assistance to mothers for a period before and subsequent to the birth of a child. I support the contention of the honorable member for- Dalley (Mr. Rosevear), that the payment of 25s. a week in respect of the ante-natal period shall commence at the beginning of the period and shall not be delayed until the birth has actually occurred. As a matter of fact, I should like this or some other Government to do even more than is proposed in this legislation. Child endowment should be paid, not from the birth of the child, but should commence at, on the produc tion of a medical certificate, a period of six months before the birth. The expectant mother requires assistance during that time just as much as she does after the birth of her child.
I am glad that it is proposed to abolish the means test which was introduced as part of the Premiers plan during the depression. From the time the act was passed in 1912, the allowance was regarded as a right, and not as a charity. I can remember as a boy reading statements by the Fisher Government that it would not pauperize the allowance - that the money would be paid to every woman who brought a child into the world, and that in no circumstances would the allowance be stigmatized as a charity payment. However, under the Premiers plan, a means test was introduced, and this desirable assistance became a charitable dole. For many years, no protest has been uttered against it. As a matter of fact, I was the first to raise the question of the repeal of this provision, which is the last relic of the Premiers plan remaining on the statute-book. Since 1931, the provision in regard to maternity allowances has been amended, and the amount of £5 has been increased in the case of families in which there is already one child or more. That is all to the good.
The honorable member for Parramatta welcomed the bill, and referred to the birth-rate and the desirability of increasing the population. I support his remarks and share his gratification over the improving birth-rate. While doing so, however, I point to the fact that, according to the last quarterly summary of vital statistics, which takes us up to the end of December last, the Australian birth-rate in 1941 was only 18.94 per thousand, whilst for the first nine months of 1942 it was 19.47 per thousand. That is not so high as it should be if this nation is to survive. I take it that the purpose of this legislation, besides recognizing the claims of mothers, is to promote a higher birth-rate. In 1920, the Australian birth-rate was 2-5 per thousand, and in 1919 it was 23 per thousand. The decline of the birth-rate between 1919 and 1937, when it was 17 per thousand, represents a loss of 360,000 children to Australia. Since nature provides that births are equally divided as between the sexes, that represents a loss of 180,000 males, or nine army divisions, and honorable members will realize the important effect which this has upon the defence of the country. Although there has been a slight increase of the birth-rate, it will have to rise still more before we have any reason to be satisfied with it. If we could restore it to the figure of 25 per thousand, at which it stood in 1920, the future of the nation would be assured. Between 1911 and 1921, the population of Australia increased by 1,000,000; between 1921 and 1931 it increased by another 1,000,000; but between 1931 and 1941, which included the depression years, it increased by only 500,000. Had not the war brought a realization of the manner in which we are rushing to national destruction, much as the Gaderene swine rushed down a steep place into the sea, the chances are that the population of the country in the next decade would have increased by many thousands less than 500,000. I draw the attention of honorable members to the statement of Mr. R. G. Casey, who, when introducing the national insurance bill, stated that, at the prevailing birth-rate, the population of this country would be stationary by 1977, and thereafter it would decline. lt has been reckoned that, by 1999, the population would have been reduced to about 3,000,000. There would be no question then of an Asiatic power having to fight us for possession of Australia; it would just have to move in and take over the continent. I trust that this legislation will help to correct in some measure the evil which has come upon Australia primarily because of the selfishness of people who could have had families, hut did not. Of course, the present situation is partly due to the fact that many people who were willing to have children were not able to do so because of their economic circumstances during the depression years. The Government ought to stress the need for a higher birth-rate, as was done two days ago by the Prime Minister of Great Britain. It should impress upon some people that they should not make of marriage what Bernard Shaw called a state of legalized prostitution. If married people refuse to have larger families, the future of the white race in Australia is doomed. The present war in which we are engaged will be but a prelude to another sanguinary conflict in which we shall not have the certainty of victory which we have to-day, but in which our end will be certain and most unenviable. In the last twenty years or so those instrumentalities in this country which influence the opinions of the public have done the worst service they could have done for the nation. No newspaper has ever “ sold “ the idea of motherhood to the women of Australia. All they have done is to print advertisements which ena’ble a few people to exploit the community by selling luxury goods; goods which the people not only have no need for, but which they often would be better without.
– No newspaper has “ sold “ the idea of fatherhood to men.
– Yes. If I may amend my statement, the idea of parenthood has never been “ sold “ to the people of Australia. That baneful influence of the newspapers to which I have often directed attention is still existent, and it needs to be wiped out if those who are married are to be encouraged to do their duty to Australia “and themselves.
– The declining birth-rate has exercised the minds of most countries, especially European countries, and many schemes have been devised, with varying success, to increase the birth-rate. Australia has tried to encourage the birth of children by means of maternity allowances and child endowment. The Government is now proposing to amend the Maternity Allowances Act. I remember reading a long time ago the work of an eminent authority, Kuychinski, who, in dealing with the possibility of Australia’s population being increased by immigration, made a survey of the various causes and effects of the declining birth-rate in different countries. He struck a warning note when he said that the birth-rate had no relation to the increase of the population unless more female children than male children were born. He was dealing- particularly with the
United Kingdom. He pointed out that unless the number of female babies born in the United Kingdom increased to a marked degree the British race would seriously decline within 60 or 70 years. He said that the British Government was aware of those facts, and therefore we should not expect it to permit migration to the Dominions. Then, dealing with Australia, he found the same set of conditions. He drew an alarming picture and said that 40 or 50 years hence our population would become static; then it would gradually decline unless the birth-rate increased and unless there was a’ greater proportion of females born. He stressed the growing hordes of Asiatics in lands close -by. He also dealt with pre-natal and postnatal treatment of mothers and pointed out that pre-natal care was especially needed to ensure that children should be born healthy and to reduce the number of stillbirths. He pointed out that it was necessary to segregate maternity hospitals from general hospitals, in order to reduce the risk of infection of mothers which seems to obtain at hospitals where the maternity wards are merely annexes of the general wards. In view of those facts, I find a great deal of virtue in the suggestion made by the honorable member for Dalley (Mr. Rosevear) about the proposed new section 7a: -
Hie amount of a maternity allowance specified in paragraphs (a), (6) or (a) of subsection (2.) of section four of this Act, together with the amount of the maternity allowance payable in respect of the four weeks immediately preceding the birth of the child, shall bc payable on the birth of the child and the balance of the maternity allowance shall be payable at the expiration of four weeks after the birth of the child.
I venture the opinion that with the realization of the trend of the birthrate the Government must soon ensure that a woman shall come under the control of the State immediately she becomes pregnant, in order that the greatest possible care may be lavished upon her to ensure a successful birth. “What we are doing now is only a gesture.
– The honorable member does not mean that literally?
– No ; I mean that the State will provide for the care of all pregnant women. In regard to the pro vision that the allowance payable in respect of the four weeks immediately prior to the date of birth shall not be paid until after the birth, I point out to the Minister that a great deal of the worry of approaching maternity would be lifted from the minds of women if they were paid the money, inadequate though it is, during and not after the last month of travail. I appeal to the Minister to give careful consideration to the suggestion of the honorable member for Dalley that a sum of money be made available to the mother before the birth of a child. The country has nothing to lose but everything to gain from the adoption of that policy. Under the present scheme, the money is of value to the mother only for the post-natal care of the child. If the infant were not born, the money would not be paid to her. A sum should be made available for the pre-natal care of something which we prize above all our other possessions, namely, strong, healthy children.
.- I support the bill. The proposal of the honorable member for Dalley (Mr. Rosevear) should be closely studied by the Minister for Social Services (Mr. Holloway). The contention of the honorable member was unanswerable. I am not aware to what degree this suggestion has been examined by the department; but I am of opinion that, if the money is to be of real value to the mother, she should receive a portion of it before the birth of the child. As no “ means “ test will be applied, the money might not be of very great importance to some prospective mothers, but it will be of the utmost importance to a large section of the community. Whether this form of legislation will have a beneficial effect on the birth-rate, experience alone will show. In the past, one of the deterrents to larger families has been the cost of maintaining the children, and the assistance that will be provided .by this bill will help to relieve the burden of expense. In addition, endowment of 5s. a week is paid in respect of all children, other than the first, under the age of sixteen years, and that will help the family budget.
The pre-natal care of the mother, the birth-rate, methods of hospitalization, and the conditions under which children are born, have been closely examined by the Joint Committee on Social Security, which has taken a great volume of evidence on the subject. The trend of medical opinion appears to be that the pre-natal care of a mother, and the conditions under which the child is bom, are of vital importance. The old days, when the midwife brought the child into the world under extraordinary and primitive conditions that were reflected in the high rate of mortality, have gone for ever. It is a good thing that they have passed, because the immeasurably improved conditions must have a great influence on the future health of the child and the welfare of the mother. The Commonwealth Year-Book discloses that 126,347 live births were registered in 1940, and 122,S91 in 1939. The number of deaths, all ages, in 1940 was 68,384, but the deaths of children under the age of one year totalled 4,855, or .03S of the number of births registered. In 1939, the number of deaths of children under the age of one year was 4,698. Therefore, it can be claimed that Australia has a progressive increase of not only live births, but also the births of children who live beyond the age of one year, when they can be reasonably expected to grow strong and healthy. Evidence tendered to the Joint Committee on Social Security shows that the most important period in the life of the child is the first year.
Other evidence submitted to the committee did not bear out the contention of the honorable member for Wentworth (Mr. Harrison). There is a growing tendency on the part of doctors to believe that ma.ternity hospitals should be, if not closely attached to, then associated with, a general hospital as a part of the general organization. This close association is important to the training of medical students and nurses, and for the general benefit of mothers and children, because specialist attention is readily available in the general hospital. The provisions of this bill will undoubtedly be of great value to the nation, and should tend to increase the birth-rate. Proposed new section 7 (2) provides -
A maternity allowance shall not be paid unless the claim therefor is made within three mouths after the date of the birth or within such longer period as the Commissioner, in special circumstances, allows.
Apparently the Commissioner will have discretion after births occur, but I urge the Minister to consider making some, proportion of the total amount available before the confinement. It is of immense importance that expectant mothers shall be assured of some extra money to meet their needs. I am glad that the detestable “ means “ test has been removed. I recall the circumstances of its introduction, and a conversation I had with a former Prime Minister, Mr. Lyons, on this subject before he entered the sphere of Commonwealth politics, and his subsequent action. The “ means “ test should be entirely removed from our social service legislation. I congratulate the Minister upon having’ introduced this bill.
.- This bill provides tangible evidence of the practical steps which this Government is taking to give effect to its national welfare policy. It is an important measure, having in mind the warnings that have been uttered by the honorable member for Melbourne (Mr. Calwell) and the right honorable member for North Sydney (Mr. Hughes) concerning our falling birth-rate. Unfortunately, these warnings appear to have gone unheeded so far. It is, nevertheless, doubtful whether Australia can remain the home of a white race unless its birth-rate be improved. We all are well aware of the steps that have been taken in totalitarian countries to increase the population. Japan, for example, has put plans into operation to increase its population by 30,000,000 during the next twenty years, thus bringing it up to 100,000,000. I have seen photographs of mass marriages in Germany, Italy and Japan, in which large numbers of couples have been married in a single ceremony. Unless we take proper steps to increase our population we shall not be able to hold our position, even though we may be victorious in this war.
I support the views of other honorable members that a proportion of the money to be made available to mothers should be placed in their possession before the confinements occur. Statistics show that when confinements occur under proper conditions, a larger proportion of the infants survive than when confinements occur under poor conditions. The deathrate among children is greater in the poorer suburbs than it is in the better suburbs. That is due to the ability of the parents in the better suburbs to make satisfactory arrangements for confinements. I remember that the honorable member for Parramatta (Sir Frederick Stewart) stated, a year or two ago, when he was Minister for Health, that the birth-rate in Canberra was higher than in any other city in Australia. I have no doubt that this was due in part to the better hospital facilities here and the more placid atmosphere in which the people live.
– It was due also in part to the fact that a larger proportion of the population consists of younger people.
– That may be so. 1 point out, however, that affiliation courts always provide that persons held responsible for the paternity of expected children shall pay to the expectant mothers a certain amount of money before the confinement in order that they may make proper arrangements for the birth of the children. If such an arrangement is desirable for expected illegitimate children, it is also desirable for expected legitimate children.
– The former member for Melbourne (Dr. Maloney) was responsible for that provision in Victoria.
– That late honorable member was well known for his humanitarian outlook, and if he thought it was a good provision it undoubtedly was so. I urge the Minister to give sympathetic consideration to this suggestion.
I also ask that consideration be given to doubling the maternity benefits if twins be born, and to trebling it in respect of triplets. As the bill is drafted only one payment will be made, whether the mother has twins or triplets. The payments, surely, should be according to the number of children born. We all know that the country needs an increased number of children. We know, too, of the popular acclaim and financial help received by the parents of the Dionne quintuplets. Seeing that an additional sum is payable in respect of the second child and the third child of the family, I can see no reason why the amount payable in respect of twins should not be double the amount payable in respect of a single child. Obviously, additional expense will be involved in the care of the twins and triplets in respect of medical attention, nursing, food, clothing and other necessaries. We have been informed that our national debt to-day is equal to £200 per capita. Consequently, the greater the number of children born the greater will be the number of people who will ultimately share the debt. The small additional amount involved in the provision for two or more children would be a worth-while investment, and the nation would still be on the credit side. I agree with the honorable member for Wentworth (Mr. Harrison) that the State must become more and more interested in both pre-natal care and provision and post-natal provision, including the establishment of creches, kindergartens and the like. I congratulate the Minister, with whose high ideals in regard to social welfare I am well acquainted, upon having made this first practical step. I am sure that many more steps will be taken by him and the Government to promote national welfare and social security.
– I offer my congratulations to the Minister - who, indeed, has been overwhelmed with them to-day.
This bill improves in a very necessary way the law in relation to the maternity allowance and matters incidental thereto. I direct the attention of the Minister, the House and the country, to certain factors which underlie it. The original act was passed in 1912. The allowance then provided for the mother of a viable child was £5. There was no means test; the payment was made irrespective of the circumstances of the recipient. My then distinguished leader, Mr. Fisher, made - properly, as we all thought - a great point of the fact that the payment was to motherhood, irrespective of class or social position. The basic wage at that time, so far as I remember, was approximately £2 2s. a week - it may have been £2 8s. - which was applicable generally. It is now £418s. a week. The purchasing value of £5 to-day is approximately equal to that of £2 10s. in 1911. Although this bill is generous, it stops far short of what this Parliament has a right to expect. The Government deserves credit for the step which it has taken; but it ought not to grow weary of well-doing, or hug to itself the illusion that it has reached the limit of what ought to be done. I point out to honorable members, as I have done many times during past years, that the maternity allowance was intended to encourage the birth-rate, which at the time was such that this Commonwealth was advancing in population at least as rapidly as, and I believe I am right in saying, faster than, any other country in the world with the possible exception of Canada. The fall of the birth-rate during the intervening years, has been catastrophic. It has recovered a little during the last two or three years, but is still far on the hither side of the margin of national safety.
The bill provides for the grant of £5 to the mother of a first child, £6 on the birth of a second child, and £7 10s. for any subsequent child. Unless this country is able to encourage the birth-rate by these material means or by a change of moral outlook, there will be no future for it. A family of three is essential to maintain the existing population.
Mr.Conelan. - Four.
– I want to be on the safe side. Making allowance for infantile mortality, unmarried women, and accident to and deaths of adults, a minimum of three children per family is needed to maintain the existing level of population. I shall not develop that theme at greater length, but merely say that whatever may be the views that we hold on the post-war reconstruction policy, increase of the population is the foundation of everything. We cannot rest content with a stagnant population. I have said over and over again, and all are agreed, that there is no surer, better or safer way to increase the population of Australia than by natural means. We speak of migration, and in the days that are gone we have done something to encourage it. The matter lends itself easily to platform treatment. Our schemes have lacked nothing in comprehensiveness and attraction, yet we have failed to induce that stream of suitable migrants which is imperative if Australia is to be developed in accordance with its present ideals and future prospects. So I say that since the world will not for long consent to 7,000,000 people with a stationary population holding a country like Australia, we must face up to whatever may be involved in the way of a fundamental change of our outlook on life. I say, too - and it is hard to say it - that the greatest fall of the birth-rate is to be noticed, not in what may be called the industrial districts, but in those districts in which people of the wealthier class live. That is an odious stigma for any class to bear. They have not the excuse which the poorer classes may have of being unable to provide for a numerous family. They seek other gauds. They prefer the good things of life. We see in all the great cities huge blocks of flats over the portals of which might well be written, “ No children admitted here”. They are, in fact, temples of sterility, inhabited by men and women who have no sense of their responsibility to their country. This bill is an outward and visible sign of the recognition by Parliament that this is a vital matter. I congratulate the Minister upon introducing it, and I suggest to him that he take into earnest consideration the matters which I have ventured to put before him. We can now say that we are back to the base from which we started in 1911, but the women who receive the allowance are much worse off than those who received it in 1911, because the purchasing power of the£1 has fallen abysmally. I should say that it is now worth not much more than 10s., whilst the cost of medical aid has maintained a constant relation to the increased cost of living.
– in reply - All honorable members are prepared to accept this bill. Although they may not be completely satisfied with it, they all agree that it is a step in the right direction. Several honorable members have entered appeals on behalf of the people who are most in need of financial assistance. They have urged that a method be devised to pay to them a part of the allowance before the birth of the child. We all are agreed upon the desirability of this, but there are difficulties in the way. In the first place, it is very hard just how, because of staff shortages, to make any payments at all. Then, before payments can be made, there must be proof of the birth. The Government was, from the beginning, anxious to evolve some system of weekly payments during the pre-natal period. We wanted to ensure that mothers, even against their will, should receive the money in instalments rather than in a lump sum, but the difficulty arose, as I have said, of making payments in respect of the birth of a child not yet born. Moreover, ‘before payments can be made, it is necessary that a claim be lodged, and it has been found that 80 per cent, of the people entitled to draw maternity allowance do not make a claim until long after the birth of the child. That, of course, is all to the good, because it indicates that they are not in need of the money. However, there remains the other 20 per cent., who really do need the money as soon as they can get it. I give an undertaking that, between now and the 1st July, when this measure is to come into operation, I shall try to work out with the officers of my department a method for making payments, in the manner suggested by honorable members, to those who need them. I do not want Parliament to prescribe that the payments shall be made by instalments, because this would involve a great deal of extra work, and 80 per cent, of the people would not want them to be paid in that way.
Question resolved in the affirmative.
Bill read a second time, and reported from committee without amendment or debate; report adopted.
Bill - by leave - read a third time.
Debate resumed from the 23rd March (vide page 2176), on motion by Mr. Beasley -
That the bill be now read a second time.
.- This bill, which proposes to provide £900,000 in order to stabilize the price of superphosphate at £5 ls. a ton, the price prevailing last year, follows the lead which was given by the Menzies Government in 1941 when it appropriated £780,000 in order to provide a subsidy of 25s. a ton to users of superphosphate. In the 1941-42 season, we used 624,000 tons of superphosphate on which the subsidy of 25s. a ton was paid. At .that time the price of superphosphate had increased by about 32s. a ton, so the users were left to make up the difference of about 7s. a ton out of their own pockets. That will still be carried on under this bill, but honorable members will note that it is now proposed to compensate for the increased cost of superphosphate by providing £900,000 on the smaller quantity of 480,000 tons which is all that will be available this year. Since last year the manufacturers of superphosphate have incurred substantial increased costs. The higher cost of the manufacture of superphosphate was largely caused by the loss of our main source of supply, Nauru, owing to enemy action. We have had to obtain from other sources phosphatic rock essential for the manufacture of superphosphate. Most of the rock that we now obtain is inferior to the rock which we used to obtain from Nauru. We have had great difficulty also in manufacturing sufficient sulphuric acid. Sulphuric acid and tricalcic phosphate are the main ingredients of superphosphate. The £900,000 which is to be provided for the purpose of stabilizing the price of superphosphate at £5 ls. a ton will be allocated amongst the various manufacturers of superphosphate, according to the directions of the Superphosphate Industries Committee. As there is considerable misunderstanding in the country as to what are the functions of that committee,
I take this opportunity to describe its personnel and functions. It consists of four representatives of the Government, namely, representatives of the Department of Commerce and Agriculture, the Treasury, the Department of War Organization of Industry, and the Prices Branch of the Department of Trade and Customs, four representatives of the manufacturers and one representative of the employees. Very many users of superphosphate contend that they should be represented, but, I can quite appreciate that it is essentially a committee to deal with the manufacturing side, namely, the obtaining of raw materials and their allocation and manufacture into superphosphate. Therefore, the personnel of the committee is entirely a matter for the Government.
Whilst this £900,000 will stabilize the price of superphosphate to users, it will also very materially stabilize the prices of commodities in the growing of which superphosphate is used. For instance, 70,000 tons of the 4S0,000 tons that will be available, will be used for producing priority crops which the Government urgently needs for war purposes - flax, cotton, blue peas, beans and other vegetables, and vegetable seeds. It will, therefore, be seen that much of this money will find its way back to the Treasury, inasmuch as the contract prices for various commodities will be, to a certain degree, controlled by the fact that the price of the main requirement for production will be controlled by means of this bill. Unfortunately, most soil in Australia is deficient in phosphorus. The only State which has fertile soil is Queensland, .and it is not much concerned about superphosphate, but in the other States, superphosphate is almost the essence of life. Analysis of the soils has disclosed that the phosphorus content ranges from 032 to .041 per cent, as compared with the average of 1.05 per cent, in good soil. Therefore, without the application of superphosphate we should not be able to produce the food we require for ourselves and our Allies in Australia as well as for Great Britain. In the four years prior to the war we were applying more than 1,000,000 tons to our soil per annum. In 1937-38 we rose to as high as 1,250,000 tons of high-class superphosphate. To-day the primary industries must make do with 480,000 tons, of which 70,000 tons has been earmarked for special crops. Therefore, the wheat-growers, dairy-farmers, pastoralists, orchardists, market gardeners, poultry farmers and fat-lamb raisers are obliged to make do with onethird of their normal needs. It requires no imagination to realize how quickly their lands must deteriorate and how difficult it will be for the country to continue to produce the food that it needs for itself and its Allies. It is vitally necessary therefore that we should search every avenue possible for local supplies of fertilizer. One of my first acts when I entered this House as a new member in 1941 was to give notice of motion in regard to .the shortage of superphosphate. While my motion was on the notice-paper the then Government decided to grant the superphosphate subsidy of 25s. a ton. Very early in its career, the Joint ‘Committee on Rural Industries studied the superphosphate position, and made these comments -
The committee is impressed with the imperative necessity and importance of exploring every possible avenue within Australia for the supply of raw materials for fertilizers.
The committee therefore recommends that renewed and comprehensive endeavours be made to locate and develop further deposits of phosphatic rock and other ingredients of fertilizers.
I commend the committee for its foresight in having taken up that matter so early. But I deplore the fact that the State governments have done very little in spite of the fact that the Joint Committee on Rural Industries reported twelve months ago and I raised the same matter in June, 1941, when I made these .comments -
I regard it as the responsibility of the Government to do everything within its power to develop possible sources of supply of superphosphate within Australia.
Then I went on to refer to certain deposits in various parts of Australia which I thought should be thoroughly surveyed and analysed in the hope that we should be able to obtain supplies of lowergrade phosphatic rock to mix with the higher grade that we import from overseas. The position is becoming more desperate daily, but the States have not awakened to the seriousness of their position or to their responsibility. Some
States are coal-minded and some goldminded, but superphosphate seems to be the last thing that will enter their minds. If we are not able to obtain greater supplies of superphosphate it will be utterly impossible for us to produce the food which is essential to our prosecution of the war and in order to help Great Britain. In New South “Wales, there are various broken-down cave deposits at Molong and Ashford. The Joint Committee on Sural Industries visited them a few weeks ago. At Mansfield, in Victoria, fairly extensive deposits exist. During the last war, 15,000 tons of phosphatic rock was taken from the area, although the material is low grade. Other deposits occur at Mornington, Heathcote, Mount Wellington and Mount Tara, in the Gippsland district, and at Jackson’s Creek, near Moraie. It is difficult to find an authority upon the extent and value of those deposits, although official records have been compiled regarding them. A considerable amount of survey work was conducted in South Australia many years ago, and during the last war 120,000 tons of rock was mined in that State. I am firmly convinced that substantial quantities of rock can be obtained from those sources in future. It is the duty of officials of the State Mines and Geological Departments to leave no stone unturned in investigating their potentialities, and the Commonwealth should provide the necesary finance to accelerate the surveys.
Western Australia has considerable quantities of high-class guano, which is very rich in tricalcic phosphate, the essential ingredient in the manufacture of superphosphate. Before 1901, about 150,000 tons was removed from the islands off the coast of Western Australia. For every ton upon which royalty was paid, the Germans, Belgians, and Americans probably removed two tons. The journals of the State disclose that large quantities of rock are still available in Western Australia. In 1897, Surveyor Wells made a thorough investigation of the Abrolhos Islands, and estimated that the deposits contained 100,000 tons of material. As near as I can ascertain, 23,000 tons has been removed, leaving at least 60,000 or 70,000 tons. That rock does not contain acids harmful in the manufacture of superphosphate, such as phos- phate of alumina and phosphate of iron. The phosphates on the Abrolhos Islands are fairly free from those impurities. In 1908, the Recherche Archipelago was thoroughly surveyed by Mr. Woodward, a geologist, who estimated that there was approximately 100,000 tons of material averaging from 30 per cent, to 60 per cent, tricalcic phosphate. That would yield a fairly good grade of superphosphate. At Dandarragan, there exists a bed of copralite which is claimed to be 3 feet thick, and the underlying stratum of rock is supposed to be impregnated to a depth of 7 feet with phosphatic acid. That bed extends for 22 miles. I am not satisfied that its potentialities have been surveyed. Although this deposit is high in phosphate of alumina and phosphate of iron, analyses have proved that it contains from 15 per cent, to 30 per cent, of P.07, which is phosphatic acid. Consequently, the material is still rich enough to yield very beneficial results to our agricultural and dairying industries.
The time is not far distant when we may be forced to control the use of the limited supply of high-grade rock that will be available to us for manufacture into superphosphate. Many users of superphosphate live in high-rainfall areas, where the soil is of a peaty nature. 1 voice the opinion of many experts when I say that we should use a greater quantity of raw phosphatic rock, very finely ground, on that kind of soil, because the effect would be more lasting and beneficial than the result of the continuous application of high-class acid phosphates. Being high in acid content, they soon build up a high acidity in the soil. This causes the. soil to deteriorate unless an abundance of carbonate of lime is applied to counteract the acidity and “fix” the phosphorus. If there are supplies of carbonate of lime within the soil, a much more lasting effect can be obtained on peaty country by using raw phosphate. Raw phosphate could also be used on much of our irrigated pasture areas where the soil contains a fairly high percentage of organic matter. The first essential corollary to the use of that raw phosphate of alumina would ‘be a heavy dressing of carbonate of lime, to act as a neutralizer on the other acids in the soil. That would reconvert the surplus of phosphatic acid, which would he available, into non-water soluble phosphate, and that, in turn, would ‘be released as -the plant required it by the development of citric acid from organic matter in the soil.
If the time comes when Australia cannot import supplies of high-grade rock, it may be necessary, in order to maintain the production of food and to prevent the deterioration of our soils, to direct the use of our various phosphatic materials, such as superphosphate and raw phosphatic rock. The local rocks, which will be mined perhaps at Mansfield and Molong, and in South Australia, and I hope at Dandarragan, in Western Australia, may be high in phosphate of alumina and phosphate of iron, but several patented processes exist for dealing with those impurities. A manufacturer cannot add a great deal of sulphuric acid to that kind of material and thereby release any great quantity of water-soluble phosphates. But if farmers and orchardists were more patient and would be content to use less of water-soluble phosphatic rock and a greater quantity of nonwatersoluble material, which, in effect, is soluble through the action of organic acids, they would ultimately leave for their children a better farm than it was hen they began to work it. They would not rob the soil of that vital element, phosphorus, because it would remain in the soil and be released by the action of citric acid. But it is usual for the farmer or the orchardist to demand the quickest possible return from his investment in superphosphate. Therefore, he purchases a high-grade superphosphate which yields a quick return. He could get a similar return by the addition of 1 part of water-soluble phosphate manufactured from a high-grade rock, and four parts of a lower-grade rook, high in phosphate of alumina and phosphate of iron which can he obtained within Australia. Approximately 7 per cent, of water-soluble acid would be released, and that would be sufficient for the requirements of the plant life on the land for the first year. Thereafter, sufficient plant foods in the soil would be released for the requirements of the crop without converting, as takes place at present, a great part of the water-soluble phosphates and the carbonate of lime into gypsum, which will not release its phosphates through any action that can take place in the soil. It may be necessary in the near future to regulate the use of known deposits of phosphatic rock within Australia.
– What is the extent of those deposits?
– The authorities have acknowledged in the last few weeks that on the Abrolhos Islands there is approximately 50,000 tons, but according te a survey which occupied nearly six months, roughly 60,000 to 80,000 tons is available. From 60,000 to 70,000 tons exists in the Recherche Archipelago, off Esperance, in Western Australia. That is not to mention the deposits on possibly 100 other islands off Western Australia which are known to be fairly rich in phosphatic materials. Many of them, I admit, are now in the danger zone, but the deposits in Western Australia have not been adequately surveyed. In the past the State has been “ goldminded “. We have never had to look for these materials, because we have been able to obtain them from Nauru and Ocean Islands, where the rock is mined by cheap coolie labour. The Parliament of the Commonwealth must find the money to develop these deposits in order to maintain our food supplies. The local deposits must be explored immediately; the survey has been too long delayed. I sincerely believe that the rock can be utilized either blended with another material or finely ground and used on peaty soils in high-rainfall areas without even being blended with high-grade rock. The rock which we are obtaining at pre- o sent is of about 64 per cent, tricalcie content. The average of the samples taken from Abrolhos Islands was about 54 per cent. The tricalcic content of the phosphatic rock in the Recherche Archipelago, would be between 30 and 70 per cent. The deposits in Victoria are of somewhat lower quality, whilst those of South Australia vary between 20 per cent, and 35 per cent. At present, at Geraldton, we are using high-grade S4 per cent, tricalcic rock from Nauru. I consider that that rock should be blended with some of the lower quality rock from islands only 30 miles from Geraldton. If that policy were applied we should be able to maintain continuous production at full time in the Geraldton factory.
– What is the estimated tonnage of phosphatic rock of the islands near at hand ?
– According to surveyors Wells and Woodward, the quantity is between 160,000 and 180,000 tons less, perhaps, the 23,000 tons which has been removed from the Abrolhos since 1897. An exhaustive examination of the Recherche Archipelago was made by Mr. H. P. Woodward in 1908. He estimated that they contained 100,000 tons of rock of from 30 per cent, to 70 per cent, tricalcic content. It is only since some private members of this Parliament and also the members of the Joint Committee on Rural Industries have interested themselves in this subject, assisted by some press publicity, that any activity has been shown in the working of these deposits. If the Prime Minister (Mr. Curtin) were in the chamber at the moment I am sure that he would agree with rue that we have been lax in not making use of these valuable resources. The Joint Committee on Rural Industries had made an investigation of this subject before I became a member of it, and I congratulate it upon its work. I consider that the Mines Departments and the geologists of the various States should be called upon to make an immediate investigation of the position. If I, a lay man, have been able to obtain from the National Library the information that I have made available to honorable members, it is not unreasonable to suggest that the experts have sources of information available which should greatly help in the exploitation of our phosphatic rock deposits. Superphosphate has become of the utmost importance to the nation, and we are warranted in calling upon our experts to make a complete investigation of the whole subject.
I have not referred to Queensland, so far, but I am quite satisfied that in the Keppel and Halbourne Islands, near Bowen, there are substantial quantities of phosphatic rock. Queensland, as a State, possesses a great deal of land of high phosphatic content and so does not need to use much superphosphate, but I sincerely trust that the phosphatic rock resources of that State will nevertheless be drawn upon. It must be remembered that from 310 parts of raw rock it is possible to manufacture 596 parts of superphosphate.
In 1937-38 we used 1,250,000 tons of superphosphate in Australia., but last year we could obtain only 480,000 tons, and of that quantity 70,000 tons had to be allocated to priority groups. Those groups would not have used any more than 8,000 or 10,000 tons before the war, but the production in which they are engaged to-day is absolutely vital to this country. It is essential, also, that the farmers shall be supplied with superphosphate. Unless they can obtain adequate supplies they will be ruined, for they must be able to maintain production in order to meet their interest bills and their soaring overhead costs. Our rural industries cannot survive without superphosphate. They would, in fact, disappear in a year or two unless superphosphate were made available to them. In view of the fact that we must supply foodstuffs for ourselves and our Allies, I suggest that prisoners of war in this country should be put to work to mine phosphatic rock. By such work they would be ensuring their own food supplies as well as making it possible for us to maintain the supplies we need for other purposes.
I compliment the Government upon its decision to continue to meet the extra cost of superphosphate over and above the pegged price of £51s. a ton. It seems to me that the price of this essential requirement will increase rather than decrease. I have every confidence in the Superphosphate Industry Committee which has been appointed by the Government. I believe that it will wisely disburse the money which the Government is making available, and will also help to bridge the gap that occurred last year. In spite of all that has been done to stimulate action in this industry, the Government of New South Wales had not been stirred into action until a few weeks ago. Something is being done in South Australia and Western Australia, but Victoria still has to be awakened to the urgency of the need to develop every available source from which we can obtain phosphatic rock. Superphosphate must be provided as soon as possible, otherwise the people in the capital cities as well as people in country towns may find themselves short of essential foodstuffs.We must adopt scientific methods to restore the phosphatic content to the soil and it is. in order to awaken the whole community to the need to do so that I have made these remarks.
– I congratulate the Government upon having introduced this bill, which provides a sum of £900,000 for the stabilizing of the superphosphate industry. It will be generally agreed that superphosphate is a most important commodity, for it is essential to plant life. The primary producers must be afforded this help if they are to maintain their operations on a reasonable basis. The territories from which we previously obtained phosphatic rock are now in enemy hands, and we must search throughout Australia, and, in fact, elsewhere, to find other sources of supply. With phosphatic rock, as with rubber, so long as we could obtain cheap supplies of raw materials from other countries we did nothing to make our country selfcontained. As a member of the Joint Committee on Rural Industries I participated in the committee’s inquiries into this subject twelve months ago. Most of the members of the committee are primary producers who realize the urgency of this need. I congratulate the British Superphosphate Commission upon its foresight in accumulating, in the years immediately before the war, a two-years’ supply of phosphatic rock from Nauru. In anticipation of a possible shortage, the commission directed the various superphosphate manufacturing companies to proceed at full capacity with the production of superphosphate; consequently large supplies were available when the war occurred. These reserves are fast disappearing. Twelve months ago the Joint Committee on Rural Industries was informed that South Australia had certain deposits of phosphatic rock. The committee made inquiries from the Mines Department of that State, but found its records to be most incomplete and out of date. Such deposits as were known had not been worked to any appreciable degree since the end of the last war. We were informed that South Australia yielded deposits of phosphatic rock estimated at 120,000 tons. It was clear to the committee that such deposits in every State should be developed without delay. The committee recommended to the Parliament that every means should be adopted in order to win that rock, and thus relieve our desperate need of supplies. I regret that action was not taken upon that recommendation. Evidently, no one has been made responsible. Probably the matter was left to the Mines Department of the State. There has been a waste of practically twelve months, and our stocks are fast dwindling. The Minister knows the present source of our supplies, and our dependence upon shipping for the transport of them. The immediate prospecting of our own deposits is imperative, even though they may not be of the same quality as rock from Nauru and other sources outside Australia. The honorable gentleman should make some authority directly responsible to his department. Self-styled experts have said that local deposits are not “ worth a cracker “.
– Australian superphosphate was used during the last war.
– I agree with the honorable member for Swan, whom I congratulate upon a sound speech. The Minister will have to enlist the aid of men who have not preconceived ideas, but have had experience and possess the necessary knowledge. As a layman, I am not satisfied that all possibilities have yet been explored. There has been too much neglect in the matter. Needing supplies quickly, we have been meandering along, believing that they would be obtainable from Nauru.
– That is the psychology from which we have suffered for many years.
– In this and many other directions. A few weeks ago, the Joint Committee on Rural Industries paid a visit to the Orange district. The advice that had been received was that a deposit in that district was not worth prospecting. Portions of the stone were visible, but according to the Mines Department of New South Wales there is not a body of it. It has not yet been prospected, and may be in lodes. According to geologists, there are miles of limestone country. The ‘ Minister surely would not begrudge the expenditure of a substantial sum, under the direction of geologists, at least to explore possibilities. A geologist can only make a surmise. Large sums have been expended in opening up gold-mines. Requisite supplies of phosphate would be far more valuable to Australia than another Kalgoorlie. Gold cannot be made to grow foodstuffs by merely being spread on the ground. Deposits of phosphatic rock have to be located. According to certain evidence, it was believed that there were no known deposits in Victoria, yet at a place named Mansfield, 15,000 tons of superphosphate was won from a little knob on a hill. I am not saying that the deposit continues to any depth; but when the company ceased work the reason was not that the supply had been exhausted but that cheaper supplies from Nauru had come on the market and it was impossible to compete with them. The report of a geologist in Victoria, now dead, who spent many weeks in a thorough examination of numerous other areas, indicates that there are probably greater deposits than were uncovered by the company at Mansfield. From my limited experience and knowledge, gained from the evidence given by geologists, I am led to believe that further investigation and prospecting are needed. The cost would not be great. The Minister may say that labour would be needed. It would be ideal work at which to put prisoners of war or internees. -We are budgeting for 480,000 tons of superphosphates. If we could uncover even 100,000 tons, the position would be eased, and there would always be the possibility of locating big deposits in different parts of the continent. If deposits were found in “Western Australia, there would be no need to take rock to that State from Victoria. The theory in regard to the formation of phosphate has been that on a coral island, the droppings of birds on the limestone during the course of centuries have formed a guano which has become solidified into a. rock by the action of water. This rock is heavily charged with phosphate, and is consequently of very high grade. The big belts in Mansfield and other parts are in a different class; they have been deposited from some sea animal, and have taken thousands of years to form. Australia might easily bc self-supporting in regard to supplies.. Difficulty exists in regard to alumina and iron; that has not yet been solved. I have complete confidence in our chemists, and scientists, and believe that the day will come when they will devise a formula for the release of all the phosphates. I agree with the honorable member for Swan, that what little can be broken down from the raw phosphatic rock cannot contain much sulphuric acid; nevertheless, I should be glad to have it on my farm, 200 or 300 acres of which is likely to revert to its original state in a couple of years, even though I have gone to the trouble of breaking it up.
My experience is not singular. Victoria, which produces largely the most important commodities in dairying and agriculture, must have supplies of superphosphate, otherwise the land will revert to light-carrying country and scrub. Many men in the high-rainfall country have cleared, scru’b-land which at one time was regarded as waste. Without the application of superphosphate, it will immediately revert to its original state. The lack of supplies of superphosphate i3 as great as the shortage of man-power. The same amount of work will have to be done for a yield to the acre which will be less than one-half as great as it was formerly. Even though a larger number of cows may be milked, the same quantity of milk will not be obtained. When pastures are top-dressed, the animals individually give a greater supply of milk.
– And of better quality.
– There is an improvement in every respect. The country that I took up would not previously raise lambs. Clover cannot be grown without the application of superphosphate. I support the representations of the honorable member for Swan. This is one of the most serious problems with which we are faced, and it must be tackled immediately. In all sincerity, I urge the Minister not to lose any time. Already we have lost twelve months. The Government should., appoint a committee of geologists and others to test different fields. The development of existing deposits is an urgent requirement. These would supplement our present meagre supplies and might keep us going with what we were able to obtain from overseas. The Minister is well aware that shipping space is a very uncertain factor on which to depend. He has my sympathy. He should not let the matter drag on for a moment longer.
.- In welcoming the introduction of this bill, I pay a tribute to the honorable member for Swan (Mr. Marwick) for the painstaking efforts which were revealed in the speech that he has made, and the evidence that it furnished of considerable research into all the information that is available in regard to the quantities of phosphatic rock that exist in the different States of Australia and in adjacent islands. In the past, Australia has used almost exclusively supplies of rock from Nauru, Ocean Island and Christmas Island. We are not aware of any deposits in Australia which compare in magnitude with the deposits on those islands; nor are there, to our knowledge, any deposits which compare favorably with those in their phosphatic content. But, in view of the difficulty of obtaining sufficient shipping, the time appears to be more ripe now than it has ever been previously for a much more complete investigation of our own supplies, even though they may bc inferior in. quality. I welcome the introduction of a bill to provide a sum of £900,000 in order to enable superphosphate to continue to be sold at a price no higher than the ruling price’ last year after the subsidy of 25s. a ton had been deducted from the price fixed by the Prices Commissioner, Professor Copland. For many reasons, the cost of manufacture is substantially higher this year than it was last year. Although nearly nine months of this financial year have elapsed, a subsidy has not yet been .paid, with the result that the manufacturers, cooperative and other, have been providing superphosphate to the grower at last year’s prices, which represents to them a dead loss while waiting for the subsidy. Honorable members may wonder why the price of this commodity has risen so extraordinarily, compared with the prices of many other commodities which have been more or less pegged at pre-war levels.. As the Minister has already remarked, the cause is mainly one of freight. For example, high-grade phosphatic rock obtained from Nauru Island before the war was landed by the British Phosphate Commission at ports in all States at a price of .£1 8s. a ton. I am not able to state the exact months in which rises occurred, but I can say that well before Japan came into the war the price of Nauru rock landed in this country had advanced to £5 a ton; whilst the price of sulphur - from which sulphuric acid was manufactured by those companies which had not the necessary plant to produce that commodity from pyrites - was about £6 a ton before the war, and £15 a ton after the war had been in progress for a comparatively short time. I believe that it-is practically unprocurable to-day. Thus, a very substantial increase of price was inevitable. The Government reduced the price to thefarmer by paying a subsidy of £1 5s. a ton,, and this year the understanding was that a subsidy would be paid, but the amount was unknown. It could not be fixed until the committee had made its recommendation. It is not expected that the committee will recommend a flat rate payable to all manufacturers .alike because, owing to circumstances arising out of the war, the cost of manufacture varies to an extraordinary degree, and some manufacturers will have to receive a greater subsidy pelton than others to enable them to sell at the same price as last year. Broadly speaking, there are two methods of producing sulphuric acid for the manufacture of superphosphate. Superphosphate is simply ground phosphoric rock which has. been treated with sulphuric acid. Some companies in Australia have for many years been producing sulphuric acid from pyrites, which is a residue of mining operations in Tasmania and other parts of Australia. Other companies, unable to obtain pyrites becausean insufficient quantity was available, imported virgin sulphur from Mexicoand manufactured the acid from that.. The cost of producing acid from imported’ sulphur before the war was not much, more than the cost of producing it from’. pyrites, but to-day very different conditions obtain. The price of sulphur is prohibitive, with the result that it is much cheaper now to obtain sulphuric acid from pyrites than from sulphur. It is true that most factories have now’ installed, or are installing, the necessary plant for producing acid from pyrites - certainly the more important ones are doing so. I believe, however, that in Western Australia some factories still depend upon imported sulphur, though they, too, are now putting in plant for the treatment of pyrites. In the circumstances, the Government may have to pay some manufacturers a higher subsidy than it pays to others. Even if some delay must occur before the last “ i “ is dotted and the last “t” crossed in preparing the committee’s recommendation, I urge the Government to make a reasonable advance payment to the manufacturing companies in order to enable them to continue production.
– Provision is being made to do that.
– I am glad to hear it. No subsidy has been paid since the 1st July last. The act under which it was paid had a tenure of one year only, and no further payments could be made after the 30th June. Consequently, the manufacturers have been supplying the farmers for the last nine months with superphosphate at prices considerably below the cost of production. I am interested in a company known as the Phosphate Co-operative Company of Australia which does not carry on business with the object of making a profit. Any profit derived from its operations is returned to its farmer shareholders in the form of rebates on the superphosphate which they purchase. In this way the company was instrumentalbefore the war in considerably reducing the cost of superphosphate. During January and February of this year, the company sent out to the farmers an unprecedented proportion of its output. Normally, superphosphate is sent to the farmers mostly in February, March and April, but this year the company succeeded, with the co-operation of its shareholders, in despatching large quantities to various parts of the country during the first two months of the year. This has been done for the purpose of relieving the strain on the railways system, by despatching the fertilizer in the trucks which carried wheat to the seaboard. It is evident, therefore, that the company has made considerable sacrifices in order to meet the needs of its customers, and I urge the Government to make the subsidy available to it, and other manufacturers, as soon as possible. I find myself filling a role somewhat different from my usual one. Ever since I have been a member of this Parliament I have found it more necessary to speak on behalf of the producers, believing that the manufacturers are usually well able to take care of themselves. Now, however, while the primary producers are paying more for fertilizers than before the war, they are paying much less than they would have been called upon to pay had it not been for the assistance rendered by the Government. It is the manufacturers who need help, because they are supplying superphosphate at a price fixed by the Prices Commissioner on the understanding that they would be subsidized by the Government, and the payment of that subsidy has been for too long delayed.
– Did the rock imported from Nauru have to pass through the manufacturing process described by the honorable member?
– Yes. We imported from Nauru plain phosphatic rock which had to be treated with sulphuric acid in order to make it more easily soluble in water, so that the plant food which it contained might be readily absorbed by crops. One can hardly exaggerate the importance of superphosphate to Australia. In many parts of Europe the soil is not noticeably deficient in phosphates. It is fairly well balanced, though it can be improved by the application of artificial fertilizers. For the proper support of plant life the soil must have three chief constituents - phosphate, potash and nitrogen, and they must’ be present in proper proportions. In Australia, most of our soils are sufficiently provided with potash and nitrogen, but they lack phosphate, and plants cannot use the potash and nitrogen already in the soil unless they are balanced by the presence of phosphate. This matter is one of importance, not only to the farmer, but also to every consumer. ‘ Upon the use of fertilizers depends the supply of foodstuffs to the civilian population, to our own soldiers and to those of our Allies in this area, as well as our ability to export food to Great Britain. This is not a controversial measure, and I trust that it will have a speedy passage through Parliament.
.- I commend the honorable member for Swan (Mr. Marwick) for drawing the attention of honorable members to the serious position which exists in Australia because of the shortage of fertilizer, and for emphasizing the necessity for leaving no stone unturned in the search for deposits of phosphate-bearing material. I congratulate the Government upon its decision to make an amount of £900,000 available in order to subsidize the manufacture of superphosphate. As the honorable member for Wannon (Mr. McLeod) pointed out, the Joint Committee on Rural Industries regarded this as a matter of urgency. Every member of that committee, with the exception of the chairman, was a primary producer, but no one could have thrown himself into his work with greater earnestness than he did. He explored every avenue in the search for local supplies of fertilizer. I am disappointed that so little progress has so far been made in developing existing deposits at Mansfield, in Victoria. As the honorable member for Swan pointed out, our use of superphosphate will decline this year to 482,000 ton0 from the peak just before the war of 1,250,000 tons. That must have some effect on our capacity to produce food for our fighting forces and the civil population and for meeting our commitments to Great Britain. No industry will feel the curtailment of supplies so badly as will the dairying industry, and no industry produces food so vitally needed as does that industry. Without it we should have no milk, butter, cheese or nig meats. The application of superphosphate to the land improves not only its carrying capacity, but also the quantity and quality of the milk given by the herds. If we can feed one cow so well that it will give as much milk as two cows would normally give, how much that will do towards solving our man-power problem ! But there is no need for me to dwell on that. Every one knows how urgent it is that we should do everything possible to increase our supplies of superphosphate. If the war ended to-morrow, we know from the chairman of the British Phosphate Commission two years would elapse before Nauru and Ocean Islands could be -restored to full production and that months would elapse before any supplies of phosphatic rock could be obtained from those sources. We should set up in each State some authority that would ensure that every known or newly discovered source of phosphatic rock or substitute fertilizer should be thoroughly investigated. Everybody’s business is nobody’s business. That is why we have not done so much as we should have done to obtain local supplies of fertilizer. I commend the Government for its foresight in bringing down this bill.
.- This bill proposes to appropriate £900,000 towards the extra cost since the outbreak of war of the manufacture and distribution of superphosphate, which is essential to the production of food. The falling off of the production of food in Australia would be disastrous, as the Minister for Supply and Shipping (Mr. Beasley), as the man in charge of the distribution of food in this country knows as well as, if not better than, any other honorable member. Pood production goals have been set, and it is essential for our own armed forces, Allies and Great Britain and our civil community that those goals be attained ; but production will fall substantially below requirements if the burden of reduced supplies of superphosphate is added to that of the increased cost of production and the reduced man-power resources which have been brought about by the exigencies of war. In passing, I must say that I believe that the man-power position has been muddled and that far too many men, especially key men, have been taken from primary industries. To-day, most primary industries, particularly the dairying industry, are trying to carry on with old men and women and boys and girls. It is imperative that everything possible be done to ensure that sufficient supplies of superphosphate shall be made available at a reasonable cost to the primary producer.
Since 1919, our main supplies of superphosphate have come from Nauru and Ocean Islands. In 1919, Great Britain, Australia, and New Zealand formed the British Phosphate Commission, but, in 1925, Great Britain withdrew, leaving the field to Australia and New Zealand. I pay a special tribute to the British Phosphate Commission for the amazing job of work it has done in mining the phosphatic rock at Nauru and Ocean Islands and bringing it, until the equipment was destroyed by enemy action, in ever-increasing supplies to Australia. Right from the beginning the task was difficult. The ocean bed was hopeless and the depth of water around Nauru tremendous. All sorts of mechanical handling and loading devices had to be installed in order to overcome the difficulties. When we first obtained phosphatic rock from Nauru we paid £5 16s. a ton. Gradually through the years from 1933, the price dropped, owing to efficient management and improved handling, to as low as £3 10s. a ton, at which it remained from 1934-35 until the outbreak of war. Since the plant and equipment on both islands was destroyed by enemy action we have obtained phosphatic rock wherever we could get it. Before the war our annual manufacture of superphosphate fi om Nauru rock was as high as 1,’230,000 tons. To-day, we are able to manufacture or obtain not more than 480,000 tons. But before the war our annual requirements of superphosphate were more than 1,000,000 tons for some years. The phosphatic rook we obtained from Nauru contained 85 per cent, of tricalcic phosphate, but the content of the rock which we are obtaining to-day from sources which, for security reasons I cannot disclose, contains only from 60 to 64 per cent, of tricalcic phosphate. It will be seen, therefore, not merely that we are obtaining less rock, but also that the rock contains less phosphate. I also pay tribute to the British Phosphate Commission for having built up a reserve of raw material in Australia when it saw war approaching. Those reserves were sub stantial and they did a lot to carry Australia through.
Last year, the Government made available a bounty of £1 5s. a ton of superphosphate in order to meet a part of the increased cost of £1 12s. a ton. The total amount of the subsidy of £780,000 was granted on 625,000 tons of superphosphate. The users of superphosphate had to bear the difference of. 7s. a ton between the amount of the subsidy and the amount of the increased cost. The 625,000 tons of superphosphate available had to b’e rationed among the users. The Joint Committee on Rural Industries, of which I am chairman, found from evidence and from the experience of departmental officers that there is general satisfaction with the method of rationing superphosphate. The chief difficulty is that all the States have varying bases on which distribution is made. I urge “ that these bases be reviewed by the Superphosphate Industry Committee which was recently set up by the Government. That committee is composed of representatives of the Department of Commerce and Agriculture, the Treasury, the Department for War Organization of Industry and the Prices Branch of the Department of Trade and Customs; the British Phosphate Commission ; four representatives of the manufacturers; and a representative of the employees. I think that the man who uses the superphosphates, the man who knows what he wants, the man who uses the commodities - the primary producer - should be represented on the committee. The amount of £900,000 will be required this year to meet the increased cost of a smaller quantity of superphosphate and to enable the price to be pegged at £5 ls. a ton. As I pointed out earlier, the price was £3 10s. for years before the war. Even with the advance of £900,000 to the manufacturers, the users of superphosphate will still have to pay 7s. a ton increased cost. I ask the Government to reconsider the desirability of relieving the primary producers of that payment. In April, 1942, the Joint Committee on Rural Industries made the following recommendation : -
The committee is unanimously of opinion that, having regard to the national character of the work performed in producing essential food and fodder, the whole of the increase in the price of superphosphate duc to war conditions should bc borne by the Commonwealth. The committee is prompted to make this recommendation by the knowledge that, since the outbreak of war, the cost of almost every item required by primary producers has risen. This i» supported by the following figures supplied by the Commonwealth Statistician, showing the movement in the Melbourne wholesale price for a number of items which occur in the costs of rural production: -
Those figures were calculated by the Commonwealth Statistician early in 1942; we are now in 1943, and I should say that a check would reveal further substantial increases.
I now direct attention to the following paragraph in the third progress report of the Joint Committee on Rural Industries in reference to fertilizers : -
The committee is impressed with the imperative necessity and importance of exploring every possible avenue within Australia for the supply of raw materials for fertilizers. Our whole rural economy demands continued supplies of superphosphate, in particular, as the settlement of large areas of lighter lands in some States is based on its use, whilst the improvement and maintenance of pastures throughout the Commonwealth depend, upon this essential commodity. The committee therefore recommends that renewed and comprehensive endeavours be made to locate and develop further deposits of phosphatic rock and other ingredients of fertilizers.
Before supplies were obtained so readily in peace-time from Nauru and Ocean Island, 125,000 tons of phosphatic rock was mined in South Australia. From other parts of Australia considerable quantities of rock were dug out of hills, caves and quarries in limestone areas. When supplies became available so cheaply from Nauru and Ocean Island, the Australian deposits ceased to be of any real commercial value. To-day, as the result of shipping problems and the loss of Nauru and Ocean Islands, our agricultural industries are, figuratively in Queerstreet. Only a limited number of ships is available to bring supplies of phosphatic rock to Australia from Red Sea ports and elsewhere. If enemy action deprives us of those ships, it will be a long time before they can be replaced, and in the meantime, primary producers on light lands will not be able to produce the food that the country so urgently needs. Not one member of the Joint Committee on Rural Industries is satisfied that adequate action has been taken to prospect for deposits of phosphatic rock and to re-examine known deposits. The Government must tackle this problem seriously.. In April, 1942, the committee recommended that Australian deposits should be worked. I ask the Government immediately to appoint Dr. Raggatt, Dr. Nye or Dr. Fisher, Government geologists, to act as liaison officers to co-ordinate the efforts of the British Phosphate Commission, and the State Mines Departments in prospecting for deposits. Over twelve months ago, we were told of valuable deposits at Hermitage in South Australia and elsewhere, which would yield substantial quantities of phosphatic rock. The Premier of South Australia has complained of the delay in exploiting those resources, and I join with him. The Government should appoint a liaison officer for the purpose of ensuring that sufficient quantities of phosphatic rock shall be mined in Australia to maintain our food production.
The present position is most unsatisfactory. Areas between Orange and Molong in New South Wales which the committee examined recently have good prospects. The deposits at Mansfield and Howe’s Creek, in Victoria have substantial possibilities. Northern Queensland and Western Australia have deposits in encouraging quantities. But all leading geologists are unanimous in regarding South Australia as being the most likely State to repay an exhaustive survey. If the ships carrying supplies of rock to Australia be sunk, our primary producing industries will be in great difficulty. We hope that allied forces will come to Australia in ever-increasing numbers to assist us in this conflict. When those reinforcements arrive, Australia will have considerable difficulty in feeding them unless our production can be maintained by adequate supplies of superphosphate.
The Government has provided 5,000 tons of nitrate of soda for the purpose of assisting the sugar industry in Queensland. The industry used almost exclusively sulphate of ammonia, but this fertilizer has been commandeered by the Department of Munitions. Sugarcane grows in heavy black soil, and the rain falls not in inches but in feet. The soil is leached by these downpours. It is not possible to maintain production unless the growth of ratoons is stimulated, and for that purpose, fertilizer is required. Sugar is needed not only by the munitions industry, but also for the fighting forces and the civil population. As many of the large sugar producing areas in the world are now in Japanese hands, sugar will become a valuable commodity to the Allies. I urge the Minister to see that constant research shall be conducted for the purpose of ensuring the maintenance of adequate supplies.
The bill provides that -
The Minister may, after receipt of a recommendation by the Superphosphate Industry Committee, authorize the making of payments to manufacturers of superphosphate.
The cost of manufacturing superphosphate varies considerably in thedifferent States, so that no uniform rate of subsidy can be fixed. Parliament will be asked to approve the granting of £900,000 for the purpose of providing relief to primary producers by stabilizing the price of superphosphate; but honorable members will not know how the money will be expended. In order that the Parliament may be sure that the money will be properly expended, although I have no doubt that it will, I shall move in committee the following amendment -
That after clause 7 the following new clause be inserted - “ 7a. The Minister shall in the months of January and July in each year, or, if the Parliament is not sitting in any such month, within seven days after the next meeting of the Parliament, furnish to each House of the Parliament a report showing the amount ex pended under this act and the manner in which the amount has been expended -
in the case of the first report - since the commencement of this act; and
in the case of each subsequent report - since the expiration of the period to which the previous report relates.”.
I am sure that the Minister, who is one of our most efficient administrators, will appreciate the fact that the Parliament, the people and the primary producers will be greatly reassured if this amendment is accepted. I commend the Minister for introducing this bill, and I hope that he will heed my suggestion for the appointment of Dr.Raggat, Dr. Nye or Dr. Fisher as a liaison officer to stimulate prospecting for new deposits of phosphatic rock and the re-examination of existing deposits.
– I congratulate the Government upon granting the sum of £900,000 to provide relief to primary producers by stabilizing the price of superphosphate. The three primary necessaries of life are food, clothing and shelter. Food and clothing come directly or indirectly from the soil, and the quantities of food and clothing that we get depend upon the manner in which we maintain the richness of our soil. In all States with the exception of Queensland where the soil is rich in phosphorus, pastures must be top-dressed, otherwise they will not produce sufficient quantities of wool, meat, butter and cheese to satisfy our requirements. Flax, cotton and other essentials also are produced from the soil. Consequently, its richness must be maintained. The plant foods removed from the soil by a growing crop must be restored to it. One of the most important of our plant foods is phosphorus. To ensure that Australia shall produce an adequate supply of food for our soldiers, our Allies and the civilian population, and to meet the demands of Great Britain for meat and dairy produce, we must maintain the land in full production. For this purpose, we require adequate supplies of phosphatic rock. Formerly, we drew our requirements from Nauru and Ocean Islands, but as those sources are no longer available to us, we must find local supplies of rock. Known deposits exist in all States, particularly at Mansfield in
Victoria, and in the Molong district of New South Wales. _ I am sure that deposits also exist on the Carnarvon ranges in Queensland, where traces of an old sea coast containing limestone caves have been discovered. The basis of phosphatic rock is limestone, which is a sea sediment. In these limestone caves in early geological times, tens of thousands of birds made their homes. They lived on fish, which is rich in phosphorus. The droppings of the birds fell upon the limestone, the phosphorus permeated it and in that manner phosphatic rock was formed. Without the limestone and the birds it would be impossible to obtain phosphatic rock. Superphosphate is of the utmost importance to this country. I hope that the farmers and not the manufacturers will receive benefit from the money which the Government is providing.
Speaking last night on the work of the Universities Commission I stressed the need for training scientists in this country. We need scientists to help us to discover the sources of supply of phosphatic rock. As a member of the Joint Committee on Rural Industries I was much impressed by the manner in which Dr. Raggatt and Dr. Fisher went about their work of investigating the areas in which we were informed phosphatic rock was to be found. They used their picks and gathered their own samples, of which they subsequently gave us the analysis. Some people question whether scientists are of much value to a country, but I have no doubt whatever on the point, especially when I remember the manner in which scientists were able to bring the cactoblastus insect to bear upon the serious problem of the elimination of prickly pear in Queensland. In one town in the Maranoa district the people, out of gratitude, have named a hall Cactoblastus Hall.
I do not intend to adopt a parochial attitude on this subject. I consider that we should develop our phosphatic rock resources, bearing in mind the transport facilities that are available. Rock could be brought to the mainland from the Abrolhos Islands, off the Western Australian coast, without great difficulty. I believe that the deposits in parts of South Australia and at Mansfield, in
Victoria, which show considerable promise, could be developed easily. A flying-fox could transport the rock from Phosphorus Hill, at Mansfield, across to the railway line without difficulty.
Fortunately, Queensland does not require superphosphate in large quantity.
In the Darling Downs there are many areas where the decomposed basaltic soil, which has a high percentage of humus, is from 60 ft. to SO ft. deep. When the members of the committee mentioned superphosphate to one farmer in that area he knew so little about it that he asked whether it was something to take for a headache ! I have little doubt that it prevents many farmers in the south from contracting headaches. I have much pleasure in supporting the bill.
.- I compliment the honorable member for Swan (Mr. Marwick) on the manner in which he has brought the importance of this subject to the notice of honorable members. Like myself, the honorable gentleman has used superphosphate in rural production for many years. I have used it for at least 40 years, and I know its importance. We were considering in this chamber, the other day, the food front of the people. If we are to maintain our food supplies we must maintain our superphosphate supplies. The one depends upon the other. The Germans and the Japanese dealt both the Empire and Australia a stunning blow when they destroyed the phosphatic rock works at Nauru Island. A proper dressing of superphosphate trebles the production of agricultural lands. It also trebles the pasture capacity of dairy farms. In some areas in Australia the farms which were not given a dressing of superphosphate would yield only one-third of the harvest they would yield with superphosphate. Without superphosphate some farms would not grow a harvest worth reaping. Consequently, even if more than £900,000 should be required in order to stabilize food supplies it should be provided. As the honorable member for Swan has pointed out, the costs of the primary producers are increasing, and the supply of man-power is decreasing month by month. Unless farmers be provided with adequate supplies of superphosphate they will not be able to maintain production. Notwithstanding the present high price of superphosphate it must be used by the farmers. It must be realized, too, that it would be advisable for the authorities controlling supplies to permit a dressing of 80 lb. of superphosphate on only half of a given area rather than a 40 lb. dressing to the acre on double the area, for a 40 lb. dressing would not be sufficient to stimulate growth on some lands. The statements of the honorable member for Swan and the honorable member for Moreton (Mr. Francis) that the Joint Committee on Rural Industries intends to do its best to ensure the use of the brains of the best geologists in Australia in the endeavour to provide supplies of superphosphate was good news to me. If ample supplies of superphosphate be available for the farmers of Australia after the war, and if adequate man-power be released, our production can be increased to a degree which will enable us to take our rightful place as a nation. If farmers are deprived of superphosphate and man-power it will be a bad lookout for the country. At least 97 per cent, of our exports consist of primary products and we must do everything in our power to maintain the primary producing industries. The Government could give attention to no more important subject except the actual keeping of the enemy from our shores.
– We have a good Minister handling the subject.
– I agree with the honorable member. I support the bill.
.- The reception which has been given to this bill by honorable members generally makes it unnecessary for me to discuss the measure in detail. I compliment the Government upon having introduced the bill, but I ‘hope that care will be taken to ensure that the money being provided will be paid direct to the primary pro?ducers. I am glad that the Government is taking advantage of the agricultural departments of the States to assist in the distribution of superphosphate. The officers of those departments are aware of the situation in the different States and will be able to make the best distribution of the available supplies. In the wheat belt along the Mullewa to Wongan Hills railway line in my electorate it would be impossible to grow wheat without adequate supplies of superphosphate. That fact will be known to the officers of the Department of Agriculture of Western Australia.
When I began my speech, I intended to confine my remarks to the matter of research. In common with other honorable members, I congratulate the honorable member for Swan (Mr. Marwick) on his very able speech on this important problem. I .agree with him that from the Abrolhos Islands north for thousands of miles, there are unexplored possibilities. There has not been a thorough geological survey of the islands along that coast, although some investigations have been made. I was born and reared along that coast, and know every island from one end of it to the other. The islands adjacent to the Geraldton district have great possibilities. Only last November, I received correspondence through the Northampton Roads Board in connexion with deposits north of the Murchison River, approximately 120 miles north of Geraldton. I immediately communicated with the Minister for Supply and Shipping, and received from him the very encouraging reply that the information forwarded to him through the Northampton Roads Board, would receive immediate consideration. I understand that already investigations are proceeding.
– That is so.
– We are exceedingly hopeful of developments as the result of a thorough investigation of the islands. To-day, of course, a great deal of research work cannot be done, on account of the danger of enemy action. But there are other islands south of Onslow, which also have considerable possibilities. I hope that the development of this vital industry, which has been stressed by members on both sides of the chamber this evening, will be given the earnest consideration of the Minister, and that action will immediately follow. Exploratory work has been commenced in connexion with the Murchison River beds. For the information of the House, I point out that prior to the war the whole of the sulphuric acid used in the manufacture of superphosphate in “Western Australia was imported from either Japan or the United States of America. I have obtained the following information from an authoritative source: -
The sulphuric acid used in the manufacture of superphosphate is made from either pure sulphur or the sulphur obtained from pyrites. In the eastern States pyrites is available from places like Mount Lyell, but in Western Australia prior to the war the whole of the sulphur was obtained from sulphur imported from the United States of America or Japan. Under war conditions this is difficult to obtain, particularly because of the shipping difficulties. Therefore, the supply of pyrites from Western Australian sources was investigated and now is available to the superphosphate companies.
At the Burbridge and Iron Duke Mine at Norseman very large quantities of high-grade pyrites have been proven by diamond drilling, and are now being mined by the Norseman Company. The superphosphate manufacturers are altering their furnaces to burn pyrites instead of sulphur. Although it requires 2 tons of pyrites to give the same sulphur as 1 ton of pure sulphur it is expected that the pyrites will be produced at such a price as to add little or nothing to the pre-war cost of manufactured superphosphate from the point of view of supply of sulphuric acid.
Some time ago, the manager of the Burbridge mine, which I was visiting, brought to my notice this possibility. I learned that there had been some diamond drilling, and that certain investigations were in progress. I immediately offered my wholehearted co-operation, with the Minister for Mines, and the geological section of the School of Mines in Kalgoorlie. As the result of representations in this Parliament, and co-operation between the Commonwealth and the State, production is already proceeding at the Iron King at Norseman, and a satisfactory agreement has been made with the manufacturers whereby pyrites may be used instead of sulphur. That is important research work. Out of evil, good may come. The interruption of our overseas supplies as the result of enemy action has compelled the Commonwealth to rely on its own resources. I believe that valuable deposits of phosphatic rock, suitable for the production of the necessary foodstuffs and other requirements of this great country, will be discovered. That should be the aim of every true Australian. Past governments have been too ready to obtain our requirements from overseas. It should be our policy, in the future, to develop the resources of our own country. The Minister must be pleased with the reception which this measure has had. I commend him for its introduction.
– I congratulate the honorable member for Swan (Mr. Marwick) upon his most informative and eloquent speech on this subject, especially upon his insistence - which was followed by that of other honorable members - upon the necessity for research into possible deposits in Australia and adjacent islands. Australian agricultural economy has been largely developed by the use of superphosphate during the last 50 years. This has completely revolutionized wheat-growing. In addition, during the last twenty years it has tended to revolutionize pasture improvement and livestock raising. Supplies of superphosphate are essential, if
We are to maintain our present rate of production. “We should have an ample quantity at a reasonable price; because most of the great exports of Australia have been sold on a contract basis, which prevents an increase of price during the term of the contract. It would be impossible to raise the price of such a basic necessity without seriously interfering with production and the remuneration of the producers.We should not confine ourselves to the discovery of rock; investigation should be made in order to ascertain whether there are other methods by which phosphatic manures may be produced.
– There are some minerals which are high in phosphorus. They might be explored.
– In America, the use of cheap electrical power on lowgrade ores, especially those which the honorable member has mentioned, has enabled cheaper phosphatic manures to be obtained than we are able to procure ; they also have a much higher percentage of phosphate, which means that the total amount of material to be transported from place to place is reduced. Transport is a material factor in Australia.
I desire to recall the history of the fertilizer bounty, of which the present measure is a continuation, in order to show the reason for it in the first place, and then one of its effects. The object of the first bounty was to assist rural industries other than the wheat industry, for which provision was made in another form. The result was enormously to increase the use of superphosphate. By reason of the increased output, there was a substantial reduction of the sale price. The object of this measure is to keep the price at a reasonable level, despite inevitable war charges. The bounty was given in 1932, and was continued for some years in order to stimulate live-stock production by pasture improvement and the use of fertilizers in industries which previously had not used them very greatly. The effect was most noticeable. In every year there was a marked increase of the quantity used. Although the amount of the bounty was reduced from 15s. to 5s., and the area was limited, first to 20 acres and afterwards to 10 acres, there was a tremendous increase of its use, especially in connexion with the improvement of the live-stock industry. I am glad that this measure gives to the Minister substantial discretion in regard to the purposes to which the £900,000 may be applied. I entertain the hope that, in the exercise of his discretion, ho. may consider whether some industries which are not in the wheat class, may be dealt with on lines similar to those that operated in connexion with the early bounty six years ago. Our attitude to that particular use of superphosphate will have a very material effect on the foods produced in this country and on the post-war policy in connexion with food production, as well as, possibly, our relations with other countries. I understand that within the next few days the Attorney-General (Dr. Evatt) will leave to attend an international food conference in Washington. One of the subjects to be discussed there will be immediate post-war relief for countries which will be short of food. That matter cannot be much affected by any thing done now in regard to superphosphate unless, indeed, the war is much prolonged. The conference will also discuss permanent international agreements between the great food-producing countries, and the extent to which we grow wheat, or butter or lamb, in excess of our requirements will materially influence the sort of arrangement which we shall desire to make with other countries. Already, Australia is a signatory to an international agreement for the control of wheat production. The countries which subscribe to this agreement have undertaken not to produce more than a certain fixed quantity of wheat, so that their export surpluses will fit in with the general international arrangement. It is probable that similar arrangements will have to be made in connexion with such products as sugar, wool, beef, mutton and lamb and butter, of which there are sometimes considerable exportable surpluses. The quantity of those foods which can bc produced will depend upon the amount of fertilizer available. For some years new, Australia has been trying to obtain world recognition for a new conception of food production and distribution. We have been trying to obtain general acceptance of the principle that food production and distribution should be associated with the recognition of diets sufficiently varied to promote health, and not merely to avoid famine. If this principle were to be accepted by European countries, and they could be induced to concentrate on the production of protective foods such as milk and eggs, allowing lis to produce such foods as butter .and meat and wheat, which can be easily transported, international trade could be rebuilt in a way not previously thought possible. Many of the world’s troubles during the period between the two wars were due to the attempts of various countries to make themselves selfcontained in the production of food. We have learned much during the last twenty years regarding the relationship between food and health. We now know that where nations, or districts within nations, enjoy adequate diets, people live longer and are more healthy. There ii less infantile mortality, and far less tuberculosis than where, owing to poverty or ignorance, diets are inadequate. New Zealand and Australia have won first and second places respectively in the great race against death. The abundant and various diets available in both these Dominions are reflected in a long expectation of life and low mortality rates, particularly infantile mortality. Statistics show that the general mortality rates in poor districts in Europe are 50 per cent, higher than in the wealthier ones, whilst tuberculosis mortality is almost four times as high in the poor districts. The rate of infantile mortality is proportionately almost equally high. If the -peoples of the world are to be adequately fed, there must be a great increase of food production, and to this end we must employ such artificial aids as fertilizers. It is particularly necessary that we should do so in war-time because, by their use, more food can be produced with the same amount of labour except, perhaps, for harvesting. At the -conference on nutrition held in the United States of America in 1941, it was stated that at least 30 per cent, of the population of that wealthy country was not being adequately nourished. The provision of a diet adequate for health for 130,000,000 people would require a complete reorganization of agricultural production in that country, with a greater concentration on the production of milk, cheese and meat. Some foodstuffs might have to be imported from Australia. Therefore, our delegate to the forthcoming international conference in Washington should stress, as we have been doing for the last ten years, the need for a new world order in which an adequate diet for all the peoples of the world will be assured. If that were done, we could make some progress in the reorganization of agriculture, so that the people would be able to carry the burden of taxation and increased costs. . The application of such a policy would necessitate the establishment in Australia and elsewhere of food reserves to meet food shortages in countries which have been occupied by the enemy, and in which the scorched earth policy has been put into effect. That can be done only by the adoption of a general plan for the stimulation of agriculture. This bill is a step in that direction, because its effect will be to reduce the cost of production. I am glad that, in this connexion, the bill proposes to continue the policy of the last Government, by ensuring that the community as a whole shall bear as much as possible of those increased costs of rural production brought about by the war.
.- The Government, by allocating £900,000 as a subsidy for the manufacture of superphosphate, has demonstrated its interest in the welfare of the primary industries. Superphosphate is essential for maintaining the fertility of the soil. Before the war, we imported from Nauru and Ocean Islands about 1,000,000 tons of phosphatic rock annually. Since Australia obtained access to those sources of supply in 1920, the use of fertilizers has increased greatly in Australia, resulting in increased production from our grazing and agricultural lands.” Land which formerly carried only half a sheep to the acre is now, through the use of fertilizers, carrying two sheep to the acre. Wheat land that formerly produced only four bags to the acre, is now yielding about eight bags. The same proportionate increase of production has taken place on dairying land, also.
Giving evidence before the Joint Committee on Rural Industries, the manager of the Australian Fertilizer Company said that, of the 400,000 tons of superphosphate allocated last year to New South Wales, 90 per cent, was used on grazing and dairying lands. He also said that, if the supply were greatly reduced, there would be a corresponding decline of production. Having regard to our obligation to supply food to the armed forces in Australia and to our allies overseas, we should do everything possible to maintain supplies of fertilizers. Having lost the Nauru and Ocean Islands sources of supply of superphosphate, we have to look around for other sources, and we should do all we can to develop local sources. Within Australia, there are known and believed deposits of phosphatic rock. Before we were cut off from the rich and easily worked supplies of phosphtic rock on Nauru and Ocean Islands no serious investigation had been made of the possibility of developing resources in Australia and on nearby islands. There was hardly any prospecting to discover new fields : even the known fields were subjected to the most cursory examination and hardly any development was carried out. People who tried to sell superphosphate manufactured from Australian materials found that they could not compete with the companies which were manufacturing from the rich phosphatic rock imported from Nauru and Ocean Islands, and they were driven out of business.
The Joint Committee on Rural Industries, knowing the need for more intense investigation of local resources of phosphatic rock, interested itself in the matter and spent much time in taking evidence, in conference, and in investigating rock deposits in situ. The committee spent two or three arduous days climbing hills and descending caves in making a most exhaustive inquiry in order to make itself conversant with the characteristics of this phosphatic rock. In all States, the occurrences of the rock have peculiarities. The rock appears to occur in the limestone country. Because of the limestone, the basic’ features of the occurrences of the rock in the different States are almost the same. The committee on its investigation had the assistance of geological advisers and representatives of firms engaged in the manufacture of superphosphate. As the result of the information they were given and their own investigations, I think that all members of the committee are competent to judge whether there is any prospect of successful development of Australian sources of supply, already known and others which may be discovered by further geological investigation. The various manufacturing companies were very helpful, but they are in business for profit - legitimate profit - and they have hardly been prepared to place before the committee all the intimate details of their businesses. I am inclined to believe that all the companies manufacturing superphosphate from phosphatic rock are financially sound. They have always been fairly high in the scale of dividend producing companies. The committee investigated the Can owindr a-Molong-Wellington district and it saw various “ shows “ in different stages of exploration or development and specimens of phosphatic rock.
There is controversy amongst authorities as to the value of the rock. One company, Australian Fertilizers Limited, was prepared to experiment with rock mined in the Molong district. An order was placed for 100 tons of rock with a phosphorus pentoxide content of from 18 to 20 per cent. One parcel was to go to Port Kembla and another parcel to Cockle Creek, Newcastle. It struck me as rather strange that that company, having at its disposal all the data as to cost of raw material and manufacturing, should have set a low price for ore of a high grade. In this connexion the following extract from a letter from Australian Fertilizers Limited to the secretary of the Molong Chamber of Commerce is interesting -
Will you please let us have your early reply and indicate whether you could deliver suitable phosphate, low in iron and alumina content, at 25s. per ton, free on rail, Larris Leo or Molong?
The specification was for Molong phosphate analysing at from 18 to 20 per cent, phosphorus pentoxide and almost free from iron or alumina. That is practically the same as the specification of the Egyptian phosphatic rock which is delivered in Melbourne by the British Phosphate Commission at 95s. a ton. That does not seem to be an equitable way in which to treat people who are prepared to risk money in organizing man-power and brain-power in order to develop Australian resources.
– I understand that those people have already spent £200.
– Yes, they have already spent a fair amount of money. They are not interested in this project merely for the sake of profit, because they are all interested in farming and know what disaster would confront them and the rest of the Australian farming community if we ran out of supplies of superphosphate, in the contingency of our losing in addition to Ocean Island and Nauru, our sources of supply in Egypt and perhaps Algeria. In view of all these facts the Minister could well consider the desirability of accepting the amendment suggested by the honorable member for Moreton (Mr. Francis). I think that it would be well if the Joint Committee on
Rural Industries, which has already done valuable work in investigating the phosphates position and in urging the various authorities to develop Australian resources, could oversee the expenditure of the £900,000, which the Government proposes to distribute under this bill. The committee met with obstacles in its investigation. There seemed to be a dead-end attitude among many authorities, particularly in the Departments of Mines in some States. The officials seemed to think that all that it was possible to know about phosphatic rock was known to them, and that no good purpose could be served by making further exploration. They seemed to be hostile to any one who suggested that they might not know all that there was to be known about the occurrences of phosphates in Australia.
The facts are here for the Minister or any one else to look at. I have no interest in this matter apart from my desire to ensure that the farmers and primary producers shall be able to carry on their business of producing the food without which we cannot carry on the war. It has been shown that when wars are long drawn out it is because the opposing sides are equally matched in military skill and weapons - otherwise the contest would not be long drawn out - and that victory goes to the people who are able to keep their bodies nourished. That may decide this war. We are quite convinced that the collapse of Germany in 1918 was principally, although not wholly, due to the breakdown of the morale of the people behind the fighting front as the result of lack of nourishment. Having that in mind, we must ensure that where we have the land, the experience and the opportunity to grow food, we shall grow it and not fail in this war through lack of food. I have in the forefront of my mind a statement made only recently by the Chancellor of the Exchequer of Great Britain in which he referred to the acute position of sea transport. He said that Great Britain had only three months’ reserve of raw materials for its manufacturing industries, that sea transport was inadequate to increase that reserve, and that should any major disaster occur on the sea lanes, it would be a disaster of the first magnitude.
But he also said that the reserve would be adequate in such a contingency because Great Britain had less than three months’ reserve of food. That shows that it is the duty of all sections of the Empire and the United Nations that can do so to maintain the supply of food. Aus-‘ tralian soil is deficient of phosphorus and its difficulties are greater in that respect than those of any other country. It is therefore imperative that we shall find and develop as much raw material as is humanly possible for the manufacture of superphosphate for fertilizing the land on which food can be grown.
As a general rule, the method of granting bounties to an economically sick industry is not a proper remedy for restoring it to a sound basis. The effect’ is to create a vicious cycle of high prices and low prices, and the influence on the industry is so disturbing that the final result is always chaos. That truth has been demonstrated in the wheat industry. The principle of fixing the prices of fertilizers to all consumers, irrespective of whether or not their products are required, is wrong. A . bonus is paid to the manufacturers of fertilizers, who, in turn, pass the concession on to the producers in order to enable them to produce their commodity at a constant price. That formula for rehabilitating an economically sick industry is not peculiar to Australia, but is common to every country that produces a surplus of food. The result is that primary producers in every country claim that their industry is not able to carry on at world parity. Satisfactory evidence has been adduced to establish that the Australian wage-earner can pay the equivalent of 5s. 2d. a bushel for wheat required by the millers, but the farmer receives only 4s. a bushel. Proof has been obtained to place the issue beyond all reasonable doubt that wheat cannot be produced economically in Australia at 4s. a bushel. Again, that condition of affairs is not peculiar to Australia, but is common to every country that produces surplus quantities of food.
The result of paying bounties to economically sick industries has been to fix a fictitious price on the open market for that particular product. We hear a clamour from the United States of America, South America, Australia and
South Africa that primary producers are unable to produce their commodities at world parity. The reason is obvious. Wheat cannot be produced at world parity, because world parity is an artificially depressed price. Royal commissions have proved that wheat cannot be grown in Australia economically at 4s. a bushel. Before the purchasing power of our community reached its present level, we proved that wage-earners could afford to pay 5s. a bushel for wheat required for flour. When the Rural Reconstruction Commission took evidence in Perth, the representatives of the associated banks favoured the stabilization of wheat, wool and butter prices. A report of the proceedings stated -
They said that the average farmer in Western Australia could not make progress on world parity. They advocated less wheat and more attention in this State to sheep-growing.
A similar position exists in the United States of America. The farm bloc is at loggerheads with the President over the fixation of the price of wheat. The farm bloc claims that, unless a parity is fixed which takes into consideration all factors contributing to the cost of production, farmers cannot produce wheat at world parity. But the farm bloc is cognizant of the fact that the pumping of credit into the industry from the national pool for the purpose of making a depressed parity will not provide a remedy for the trouble; and farmers are demanding that a true value, taking into consideration the cost of production, shall be declared as the price that the product brings on the international market.
The Commonwealth Government agreed that the wage-earners could pay 5s. 2d. a bushel for wheat required for milling, and the American authorities agreed that parity, on the basis of prices paid at the time when wheat was grown economically and the world demand for it fixed a true price rather than a depressed or inflated value, should be 152 cents, or approximately 6s. 4d. a bushel. That would be the price if the formula which the farm bloc demanded had been accepted. But this price took into account an irregular and possibly exaggerated rate of wages paid in the industry. The high rate was caused by the allocation to the industry of unskilled labour, because a draft for military purposes had extended to labour usually available to the farmers. Consequently, the real price would have been 136.36 cents, or 5s. 8d. a bushel. If world parity were neither inflated nor depressed, Australia would not be obliged in the future, as it has been in- the past, to grant bonuses to primary producers for the purpose of enabling them to produce a commodity without financial loss ‘ te themselves. What happens, under present conditions, when Australia fixes a price of 4s. a bushel for wheat f.o.b. Melbourne? America discovers that, at that price, it cannot compete on the world market with Australian wheat, and forthwith pumps credit into the wheat industry. Other nations follow suit. The result is that world parity is depressed, the farmer is unable to make a living, the industry becomes uneconomical, and taxpayers declare that .bounties should not be provided for it. The Government thereupon announces its intention of scrapping the industry, and the producers go out of production. But when supplies fall short of world requirements, the price hecomes inflated and people rush into the industry. Over-production then occurs, the price becomes uneconomical and the cycle is completed. The only end for such industries is ruin. The system of granting bounties to any industry should be reconsidered, and some other formula should be evolved for the purpose of transferring the surplus wealth from a flourishing industry to one that is economically sick.
– After the full survey that we have heard on this subject from the honorable member for Swan (Mr. Marwick) and the honorable member for Gippsland (Mr. Paterson), it is not necessary for me to attempt to cover the whole field again. Indeed, I have not the scientific knowledge to do it in the way in which they have done it. Therefore, I shall content myself with analysing a few of the features of the bill. The measure itself is, in the main, good ; it is also inevitable. My first objection is to the title. The bill is entitled, “ a bill for an act to provide relief to primary producers by stabilizing the price of superphosphate and for other purposes “, but should be called “ a bill to assist the production of superphosphate “, for an examination of the measure reveals that no payments are to be made directly to primary producers. The money is to be paid to manufacturers. That, of course, is being done for certain reasons. The industry is probably regarded as being’ upon the same basis as the dried fruits industry years ago when the bounty was paid to wine-makers who used a certain kind of grapes. By that method the money was paid to a relatively few manufacturers, instead of to a great many grape-growers. The payments under this bill are to be made to manufacturers, -but three sections will benefit. They are, first, the manufacturers who, though they will not make large profits, will yet, no doubt, make sufficient to pay them for their work with something over; secondly, the primary producers who will be helped by a decrease, or check, on the increase of the price of superphosphate; and, thirdly, the consumers, who undoubtedly will also reap substantial benefits because the use of superphosphate will ensure that more wool, wheat and other foodstuffs will be produced, and better stock,- and also that more dairy produce will be available.
– The Government will benefit, too, in connexion with the priority crops which it has contracted to buy.
– That is so. The manufacturers are in a special position, for clause 4 of the bill provides - 4. - (1) For the purpose of stabilizing the price of superphosphate during the financial year ending on the thirtieth day of June, One thousand nine hundred and forty-three, the Minister may, after receipt of a recommendation by the Superphosphate Industry Committee, authorize the making of payments to manufacturers of superphosphate.
But as the price of superphosphate affects manufacturers, producers and consumers, it is unfortunate that the bill should have been described as a measure to provide relief for primary producers. I have heard it said within the precincts of this building that the bill merely grants another bounty to primary producers. Looked at in the widest sense, the measure provides for the stimulation of the production of foodstuffs which are required not only in Australia but throughout the British Empire.
I do not intend to deal in detail with the provisions of the bill. While the price of superphosphate has risen from £3 10s. to £5 ls. a ton - with some slight variation in the different States - supplies have been reduced to 30 per cent, of the quantity used in 1939-40 in the case of wheat and fodders, owing to the decrease of the imports of phosphatic rock. The quota is likely to fall again. We cannot justly complain on this account, nor can we complain unduly because the quality of the superphosphate has deteriorated; but I consider that we have ground for complaint because proper inquiry has not been made into the possibility of increasing the supply of phosphatic rock. Twelve months ago the Joint Committee on Rural Industries presented a most interesting report on this subject. In fact, the reports which the committee has prepared have been valuable. The report to which I specially refer included the text of a letter which was written to the Prime Minister by the chairman of the committee, under date of the 25th March, twelve months ago almost to the hour. I cite the following paragraphs from the letter : -
The most favorable deposits appear to be situated near Adelaide at a locality known aa Lower Hermitage. These and other deposits in South Australia have been inspected by the representatives of the British Phosphate Commissioners, who are investigating their possibilities. Although the deposits are of low grade, it may be practicable to mix them with the remaining available high-grade material. In view of the importance of the matter, the committee is of opinion that, provided the British Phosphate Commission is satisfied a satisfactory superphosphate can be manufactured from the South Australian deposits, prompt action should be taken to develop known deposits, and intensive prospecting should be undertaken to discover further likely areas.
On page twelve of its report the committee referred in some detail, to the evidence submitted to it relative to possible sources, within Australia, for the supply of materials to replace those hitherto imported. Mr. A. H, Gage, who has been general manager of the British Phosphate Commission since its inception, indicated, according to the report - . . that several deposits of low-grade phosphate existed in South Australia, mostly with high iron and alumina content which made phosphate unsuitable for superphosphate manufacture; but experiments conducted with mixtures with high-grade phosphate had given fairly satisfactory results. Further investigation into the possibility of utilizing material from local sources is being continued by the British Phosphate Commissioners.
Dr. Keith Ward, Government Geologist of South Australia, who is known as a reliable authority whose opinions can be regarded as of real value - . . informed the committee that the distribution of phosphate rock in South Australia was very wide, many deposits having been located over a length of 200 miles from Myponga to Carrieton; the only recent discovery was situated within a short distance of Adelaide, at a locality known as Lower Hermitage. This deposit was regarded by the Mines Department of South Australia as one oil which investigatory work was justified. The total production of phosphate rock raised in South Australia between 1903 and 1941 has been 124.753 tons of 60 per cent, rock, but the lack of development of local deposits for use in the manufacture of fertilizers was explained by the fact that when high-grade phosphate came from Nauru and Ocean Island, local production fell considerably and manufacturers were unwilling to take the local low-grade product because farmers had been educated to use the high-grade material.
Carrieton is in the electorate that I have the honour to represent, and Myponga is in the district represented by the honorable member for Barker (Mr. Archie Cameron). The committee - . . recommends that renewed and comprehensive endeavours be made to locate and develop further- deposits of phosphatic rock and Other ingredients’ of fertilizers.
Provided the British Phosphate Commissioners’ experts are satisfied superphosphate can be manufactured from the known deposits, immediate action should be .taken to develop them, whilst prospecting is being undertaken to discover further likely areas.
The fact that about 125,000 tons of phosphate rock were mined in South Australia prior to the advent of the high-grade product from Nauru and Ocean Island appears to the committee to indicate that it must have been regarded as of some value as a fertilizer; this value could no doubt be improved by the addition of available supplies of high-grade rock and so assist in increasing .the quantity of superphosphate which could be distributed.
Having read the report, I decided to visit Lower Hermitage. I did not know the locality, but eventually a friend and I discovered it and visited the site of the deposits. We were astonished to discover that, though one or two shallow pits had been dug, practically no investigations had been made there although the owner of the property naturally considered that it had wonderful possibilities. Subsequently I wrote to the Minister for Supply and Shipping on the subject, emphasizing the need for developmental work. The honorable gentleman courteously replied and said that the British Phosphate Commission had the matter in hand. That was- about nine months ago, and, in view of the urgent need to increase our supplies of superphosphate I must express astonishment that more activity has not occurred. I have been informed privately that the percentage of the phosphatic content was not considered sufficiently high to justify further action, but, in my opinion, more investigational work should have been done.
– The Premier of -South Australia is of the same opinion.
– The South Australian area referred to by the Joint Committee on Rural Industries stretches for more than 200 miles, and, as we are in urgent need of phosphatic rock, and shall need it at least until we can again obtain supplies from Nauru and Ocean Island, the deposit should have been prospected more thoroughly. If we are to maintain primary production at anything like a satisfactory level we must ensure a. continuous supply of superphosphate. I, therefore, hope that the Minister in charge of this bill will order a thorough examination of the position.
I was pleased to bear the honorable member for Wannon (Mr. McLeod), and the honorable member for Moreton (Mr. Francis) speak as they did about South Australia, and I wish briefly to direct attention to the possibility of obtaining supplies from Kapunda which is 50 miles north of Adelaide. For many years, until supplies of phosphatic rock were obtained from Nauru and Ocean Island, substantial tonnages were drawn from the Kapunda district. If there is to be development, I suggest that the mining and manufacturing operations should, as far as possible, be conducted in the different States, for the outstanding reason that transport would thereby be saved. It is perfectly obvious that at present every State should be so supplied with the means of production that superphosphate would not have to be railed for hundreds of miles. This applies more particularly to Western Australia rather than to South Australia, because of the distance that lies between it and the eastern States.
– There is in South Australia a factory which handled this commodity recently, and still has all the machinery to deal with it.
– There is more than one factory. Western Australia has very strong claims to be considered, on account of its distance from the eastern States. How supplies could be railed to it during the next few years, if the traffic on the trans-continental railway continued to increase, I do not know, particularly if there should be a shortage of coal, as there has been lately. I urge, in the interests of not only the primary producers and the manufacturers, but also the whole of the consuming public, that an attempt should be made to develop these deposits, should real experts not determine that such a course would be useless. It is rather deplorable that just a year should have been allowed to elapse since the Joint Committee on Rural Industries sent an urgent letter to the Prime Minister to put this work in hand as quickly as possible, and within a month supplied all the data which had led it to the conclusion that the matter was urgent.
– It is to Mr. Playford’s credit that he, too, was alarmed at the position, and wrote to the Prime Minister directing his attention to the matter.
– I can only say that the Premier of South Australia has a good many things to his credit. I am not at all surprised to hear even from a federal member, that there is another. I hope that the Minister will enlighten the House upon the subject. If action is to be taken, I urge, in support of the original proposal of the Joint Committee on Rural Industries, that it be taken with the greatest possible expedition.
– I agree with all that has been said by the honorable member for Wakefield (Mr. Duncan-Hughes). There is only one comment that I wish to add ; it is in regard to the deposits in South Australia. I know a little about Kapunda, because it is in the electorate which I represented in the State Parliament for so long. [Quorum formed.] I am grateful to the honorable member for Melbourne (Mr. Calwell) for having secured an audience for me. He has acted in accordance with an agreement that we made, that neither of us would speak to an empty House. As I had already carried out my part of the agreement, it was only right that he should fulfil his, particularly as the benches reserved for the occupancy of members of his own party were so ridiculously bare, leading one. to the conclusion that those honorable members have not the slightest concern in anything that affects the primary industries or the food supplies of this country. That is characteristic of the Labour party, which is completely dominated by members who are elected by huge metropolitan constituencies. Occupying safe seats, they can afford to be completely without feeling in regard to the attitude of the House in matters of this description. The honorable member for Martin (Mr. McCall) has interjected. He is an exception in more senses than one. First, his seat is not a safe one; and, secondly, he has begun of late to take a vital interest in country industries. After he has had some experience in that sphere, he will be a very much better member of this House.
Reverting to superphosphates, the Kapunda deposits are very well known. Over ten years ago, during the period of the depression, certain persons in South Australia desired that better use should be made of local resources. The belief then held was, that the phosphatic content of the rock in that area was not sufficiently high to justify its exploitation in view of the cheapness with which rock could be imported from Nauru and Ocean Island. If my memory serves me, we were then told that in certain eventualities - one of which, no doubt, was war - it might be necessary for South Australia to develop those deposits in the interests of the Commonwealth generally. That situation has arisen; yet so far we have had very little in the way of development, and I am afraid, not quite enough in the way of investigation. Other deposits of which I have some knowledge, and on which I have had correspondence with the Minister during the last twelve months, are the guano deposits at Narracoorte. These were worked for a number of years. But the legislature of South Australia, in common with other legislatures, began to specify, not only the number of spuds that could be bagged, but also the size of the bags. Consequently, it provided that the seller must guarantee that any manure sold had a certain phosphatic content. I have been told by the men who know the facts, that the deposits in the Narracoorte area were left there millions of years ago by millions of bats which inhabited those underground regions. The chemical analysis of them is not consistent, and without quite a lot of mixing, which would involve the erection of machinery, it cannot be made consistent; but I am given to understand by ‘men who know the position locally, that from those caves can be obtained large quantities of manure which, if not of uniform phosphatic content, may at all events be very valuable to’ certain gardeners, particularly those who have to produce so much of the vegetables that are required by the community. Deposits of this sort will have to be investigated. I am not considering this matter purely from the point of view of South Australia. The requirements of Victoria, before long, may be even greater than are those of South Australia. By whichever route the guano might be taken out of Naracoorte, it would have to pass over a railway break of gauge. Therefore, from that point of view, it is just as close to the gardeners in the Victorian areas as to the gardeners in the South Australian areas. I have raised the matter merely in order to inform the Minister, and those who are working with him, that there are in our State resources which have not been properly investigated under the stress of war, let alone exploited for the benefit of the necessities occasioned by the war.
– in reply - All honorable members will agree that from the honorable member for Swan (Mr. Marwick), who initiated the discussion to-night, the honorable member for Wannon (Mr. McLeod), and other honorable members, we have heard a most practical and informative discussion of what can be said to be the most important subject with which the Parliament can deal, in view of Australia’s need for foodstuffs and the development of primary production. I am thankful for the information that has been given. Each honorable member who has addressed himself to the subject has endeavoured to be of assistance. What has been placed on record must be noted by those in the Department of Commerce and Agriculture, to whom has been delegated the handling of the matter. I shall take such steps as may be necessary to impress upon those officers how vital and urgent are the steps which must be taken in order not only to investigate, but also to develop, all the resources that are available.
I am sorry that we are’ prone to overlook the importance of superphosphate to this country. Probably that is due to the fact that we are so much involved in other serious problems relating to the production of war equipment, the organization of our armed forces, and the many other matters that have to be decided in connexion with our foreign policy. I am concerned very vitally with the food problem, which has been stressed particularly by the right honorable member for Cowper (Sir Earle Page). It appears quite clear that we shall have to regard it as of equal importance with the organization of our armed forces and the manufacture of war equipment; because, if we fail in relation to primary production, particularly the production of foodstuffs, we may also fail completely in the very serious conflict in which we are engaged. This matter was discussed in detail from the point of view of not only our own country, but also the United Kingdom, only last Tuesday, at a very important meeting of the Australian Food Council. The council considered the circumstances that must continue to arise, due to the effect which the war is having upon the supplies of foodstuffs which normally are available to the United Nations. The representative of the British Government in this country clearly indicated that Australia will have to make a very important contribution to the food requirements of the United Kingdom. The discussion that we have had to-night has indicated the lines on which we should work.
– Is that commitment additional to the existing commitments?
– It means rather the honouring of commitments already entered into. It is not that we have failed to honour our commitments, but that foodstuffs which were previously available to the United Kingdom from nearer sources than Australia are now no longer available. For instance, foodstuffs cannot now be sent in such large quantities as formerly to Great Britain from the United States of America because of the drain on American man-power resources, together with the fact that America is sending enormous quantities of foodstuffs to Russia. That is a fact which has not been given the publicity which its importance justifies. I fancy that a reference recently to Russia by the representative of the United States of America in that country had a bearing on the subject: in my opinion, it was a statement well worth making public at this stage. These various factors have forced the United Kingdom Government to look to the British dominions to fulfil their original commitments in relation to the supply of foodstuffs. So necessary is it to maintain those supplies that, whatever else goes short, space must be made available for foodstuffs in ships proceeding to the United Kingdom. Honorable members will appreciate that I cannot give details of these matters, but I emphasize the importance of maintaining food supplies. We must regard this matter, not so much from the stand-point of our own requirements, as a part of the global strategy of the war. I appreciate what has been said during the discussion to-night. In normal circumstances, Australia requires about 1,000,000 tons of superphosphate a year. Our supplies have now dwindled to about 480,000 tons. Moreover, the times demand a production in excess of the normal output, so that instead of our supplies of superphosphate being less than usual we require more than 1,000,000 tons a year.
– That is an important point.
– We must regard this as of equal importance to other supply problems.
The honorable member for Swan has asked that a geologist be made available to investigate Australian deposits of phosphatic rock. It is the custom for data in connexion with these deposits to be kept by the State Mines Departments. We shall probably be told that funds must be provided if the deposits in any of the States are to be developed. These matters usually resolve themselves into a question of funds. In peacetime we have not bothered much about these deposits, because we have always been able to obtain supplies of phosphate from sources not far away at prices less than we could produce our own in this country. It is not for me to forecast how long a period will elapse before supplies from Nauru and Ocean Island will again be available to us, but if honorable members heard the recent broadcast speech by. Mr. Churchill, the Prime Minister of Great Britain, they can form their own conclusions. Even when supplies from those sources are again available, probably two years will elapse before the machinery there can be put into working order. It is clear that for some time we must rely on resources from other places, plus what we can develop in Australia. However poor the deposits in some States may be, they could be mixed with higher grade rock, and a good quality product would result. One weakness seems to be that there is no authority to undertake this task on behalf of the Commonwealth. Even after inquiries have been made and reports submitted, the scheme is only on paper, and no real results have been obtained. If it is thought that the services of Dr. Raggatt or some one nominated by him should be made available to undertake an investigation, the ‘Government will consider that course. That would necessitate consultation with the States, because they have a great deal of information on the subject, and I think that it is always desirable for the Commonwealth to cooperate with the States in such matters. It may be well also to co-operate with the British Phosphate Commission. If it is the’ wish of the House, I shall take steps to indicate to the Department of Commerce and Agriculture that Dr. Raggatt, or his nominee, shall be made available for this purpose, and, on the receipt of his reports, the question of approaching the Treasury for funds to proceed with any work recommended can be considered. I believe that the suggested amendment of the honorable member for Moreton (Mr. Francis) is a good one in that it would keep the Parliament informed as to how the money is being expended. That is most desirable. I have pleasure in accepting the honorable member’s suggestion. When the reports are submitted to Parliament, it will be competent for any honorable member to suggest what further steps should be taken.
– What about the deposits in South Australia?
– The honorable member for Barker (Mr. Archie Cameron) referred to them. Dr. Ward, the South Australian Director of Mines, has submitted detailed information and reports on them. They are probably the deposits which Dr. Raggatt will be asked to investigate first.
– The British Phosphate Commission has a qualified man in South Australia now. Some of its engineers from Nauru and elsewhere are in Australia.
– I agree that we should make the best use of their services, but I do not think that we should rely entirely on the British Phosphate Commission. We should act on our own account. The supply of superphosphate is of vital importance to the Commonwealth. I shall be pleased to do what I can along the lines which have been indicated during this debate.
Question resolved in the affirmative.
Bill read a second time.
Clauses 1 to 8 agreed to.
New clause 7a.
Motion (by Mr. Francis) agreed to -
That, after clause7, the following new clause be inserted: - “ 7a. The Minister shall, in the months of January and July in each year, or, if the Parliament is not sitting in any such month, within seven days after the next meeting of the Parliament, furnish to each House of the Parliament a report showing the amount expended under this Act and the manner in which the amount has been expended -
in the case of the first report - since the commencement of this Act; and
in the case of each subsequent report - since the expiration of the period to which the previous report relates.”.
Preamble and Title agreed to.
Bill reported with an amendment; report adopted.
Bill read a third time.
Sitting suspended from11.43 p.m. to 12.15 a.m. (Thursday).
Thursday, 25 March 1943
Debate resumed from the 23rd March (vide page 2177), on motion by Mr.
That the bill be now read a second time.
– This measure should not provoke much contention. The Minister assisting the Treasurer (Mr. Lazzarini) explained that its sole purpose was to give to Commonwealth public servants, who are designated as temporary employees, the same long service leave as is given to permanent employees. Permanent officers of the Commonwealth Public Service are given six months leave after twenty years continuous service. This is not given as a kind of extra emolument, but simply so that the officer may have an opportunity to recuperate after a long term of service. In the year in which this leave is given the officer does not receive his ordinary leave, which shows that the purpose of giving long service leave is to provide an opportunity for recuperation. If it is desirable that permanent officers should receive long service leave after twenty years it is equally desirable that those who are designated temporary officers should receive equal consideration, particularly when wo remember that many of .them are returned soldiers from
I he last war. The practice of continuing to regard) as temporary officers men employed in what are undoubtedly permanent positions has grown considerably in recent years.. Sometimes, the reason is that a returned soldier, although capable of doing the work, has not been able to conform to some of the conditions necessary to enable him to become a permanent employee within the meaning of the Public Service Act. However, I hope the practice will not be resorted to in order to deprive men of .the long service leave which is granted to their more fortunate colleagues in the Service. The Minister has said that the cost of conceding this privilege will be quite small, the immediate cost being not more than £20,000 a year. Sometimes we are restrained from doing justice to our public servants, and to other persons for whom we are responsible, because we are told that the cost is prohibitive. Here is an instance in which we can do justice at a cost which is not prohibitive. Therefore, it seems to me that the House should readily accept the bill.
.This bill is a well-merited recognition of the long and faithful service rendered by many public servants who are classed as temporary, although, for all practical purposes, they are permanent employees. Some of them have held their positions for more than twenty years. I hope that the Government will also take into consideration the long hours now being worked by many public servants. The Postmaster-General stated recently that seme employees in his department were working between 60 and 70 hours a week because of the shortage of staff. Some of them were working nineteen hours a day. Although it may not be practicable to give them leave before the end of the war, an effort should be made after the war fo give them, special leave, in addition to their ordinary leave and long service leave. The Government might well extend the practice to employees in Government munitions factories, and perhaps a formula night be worked out for the granting of special leave to employees in private industries also. This principle lias been recognized in Great Britain.
Recently, a number of leading industrialists in that country drew up what they described as a charter for industry, which recognized the principle of holidays with pay, and reasonable working hours. In our munitions factories many employees were, until recently, working twelve hours a day.
– What about the soldiers?
– They are given leave from time to time, but I hope that they, too, will be given substantial leave after the war on full pay before they are discharged from the forces. Few people who have not visited munitions factories can realize the conditions under which employees are at present working. I went through one factory in company with the Minister for Aircraft Production (Senator Cameron) where the men had been working twelve hours a day. I remarked to the Minister on the worn-out appearance of the men, even the younger ones being obviously tired early in the day. Because bousing facilities were not available ‘ near the factory, some of them had to travel for an hour to and from their work. The manager told me that the hours had recently been reduced to ten a day, since when production had increased by 25 per cent. That proves that long working hours undermine health and efficiency. If holiday periods for workers were staggered, leave could be granted to some of the men without closing down the factory. I hope that these workers will be given long service leave on full pay at the end of the war, particularly during the change over period when many industries will not be able to adapt themselves immediately to peace-time production. These workers will need that break in order to regain their health.
.I support the bill. I should like to know whether it covers temporary employees in the Postal Department.
– It covers all employees in all Commonwealth services.
– I am glad to have that assurance. The measure will remove an injustice which has been a festering sore in the Public Service for many years. Temporary employees of the Commonwealth Government in Launceston have repeatedly made representations to mc on this subject ever since I was elected to this Parliament. They feel the injustice under which they have been labouring all the more because it is due entirely to a technical point in respect of their service. I congratulate the Government on having brought down this measure.
Question resolved in the affirmative.
Bill read a second time, and reported from committee without amendment or debate; report adopted.
Bill - by leave - read a third time.
Australian Army: Conditions on Active Service.
Motion (by Mr. Chifley) proposed -
That the House do now adjourn.
– -I bring to the notice of the Minister for the Army (Mr. Forde) the contents of - a letter which I received to-day from a man who has been serving with a commando unit in New Guinea for the last nine months. The country also should be informed of the’ statements contained in this letter, the writer of which has given me permission to use it as I think fit. It reads -
One point in particular which concerns me is the question of relief for my unit which does not seem to bc forthcoming. We were in forward operational areas for eight months under the strain of contacting the Japanese at any time in addition to which we were exposed to the ill effects of campaigning in tropical conditions. We went over with approximately 250 mcn and have been given over 300 reinforcements since. There are approximately only 50 of the original company left. Although our battle casualties were extremely light the wastage has been due to sickness brought about by the conditions.
As I am able to judge the fault is in the local command who will not release the unit for a spell and specific instructions will have to come from higher head-quarters here to the- effect that forward area service of units must be limited to certain periods. You will understand the outlook of the chaps over there when you read other parts of this statement. They have been pitifully neglected in the way of amenities to make things somewhat pleasant for them and even in the supply of essentials which Mr. Forde probably will say are being supplied to troops.
Rations were always short and generally unsuited to the conditions - much of the sickness could be blamed on inadequate and unsuitable diet over a prolonged period. On more than one occasion threats to withdraw troops from areas had to be made to obtain anything like sufficient rations to keep things going. Troops in forward areas should in addition to adequate diet be given reserve supplies so that in the event of being cut off by the enemy they would have sufficient stores to get them out of the country. We were only a small force in our area and 75 miles from our base and on one occasion we had only two’ days food left.
Amenities were not reaching1 forward troops. If they were sent from Australian ..Comforts Fund they were “ratted” along Lines of Communications and Army apparently does not accept any responsibility for the welfare of troops in this regard. Australian Comforts Funds would do well to ascertain the extent of their work up there and the fate of all comforts sent forward. For months we were smoking native tobacco often roiled in newspaper. If you fmd men coming back and advising their people not to subscribe to Australian Comforts Funds you will know why. Tobacco, soap, tooth brushes, tooth paste, tas., should be regular Army issue and the supply of them to troops should be insisted on by the Government.
Canteens proved a farce. Seems to be a soft job for the board who apparently do not lee! any responsibility to troops in forward areas. I never saw an Australian canteen for nine months. Imagine the thoughts of our coves sitting out on the hills watching the Japanese purchasing tobacco, cigarettes, sweets, &c, from their canteens even in the most forward outposts. The whole set up has disgusted me personally buck hero. Thousands of pounds spent in places back here where other recreation is available. A large hotel has been taken over by the Canteens Board and run as a luxurious officers’ club, and the facilities for the troops, of which there are many, are one practically nil in comparison. Put pips, crowns, &c, on some of these birds and they think they arc in the stud book and the rank and hie so much dirt and not worthy of these amenities.
Mail. - Our second-class mail parcels, &c, were stacked in a shed for months and not sent forward to those who really needed parcels. This mail for our unit numbering hundreds of bags was practically left to rot and no use to anybody.
Curtins statement (no doubt Based on ignorance or due to wilful misleading by those responsible) to the effect that troops in forward areas were receiving every amenity and that particular and active attention was paid to their welfare is so much eyewash.
Time will not permit me to give you much more now but other matters and the handling of them were more than criminal and some heads should fall under the axe. I will have to leave these for a future date.
Ministerial visits serve no useful purpose. Moresby is not the forward area and a few high ranking officers show him what they want to sec and entertain him well in their messes and by a little shrewd flattering send him home bloated with importance and false knowledge.
Members of Advisory War Council with a critical analytical frame of mind should travel around more and see for themselves what is taking place. I have seen and heard something of false reports being sent in. Nothing short of outside inquiry will bring the true facts to light.
That ispractically all he says. This man is a perfectly reliable soldier whom I have known for years. It is shocking that commando troops, facing all the perils of war and frightful disease in forward areas, should not have been relieved for eight months. It is essential that from time to time troops be relieved and sent back to base for reorganization. I refuse to believe that it is impossible for these small bodies of men to be relieved, and regard it as a great reflection on the administration of the Army that they have not been. It would appear that action is necessary to insist that the Australian Comforts Fund shall ensure that troops in forward areas shall receive as many comforts and ameni ties as can be supplied to them. Every one who was at thelast war knows that the Salvation Army took comforts into and conducted welfare work right in the battle zones. If the facts are as stated - and I do not doubt that they are - these troops have not beengiven their rights, merely because they are in the front line.
-Would it not be more the responsibility of the Army than of outside organizations?
– In the last war representatives of the Salvation Army, the Young Men’s Christian Association and padres of all denominations could go forward to provide for the well being of the troops, and the representatives of the Australian Comforts Fund should do the same. There is a good deal in what my correspondent has written about the need for men to be supplied with such things as tooth-brushes, tooth-paste, shavingsoap and tobacco. There may. have been difficulty in delivering second-class mail matter to troops in forward areas, but I impress upon the House the fact that these men have been in those areas for eight or nine months. Surely, in that time, second-class mail addressed to them ought to have been delivered. The Minister for the Army should make inquiries into these matters, which have been communicated to me through a special messenger. But for the fact that he might suffer, I should be prepared to divulge his name privately to the Minister for the Army.
– in reply - A copy of the honorable gentleman’s remarks in which he has made some serious statements will be placed before the Minister for the Army (Mr. Forde) for investigation.
Question resolved in the affirmative.
The following papers were pre sented : -
Agreements between the Commonwealth Governmentand -
Amalgamated Engineering Union and Employers’ Association ;
Australasian Society of Engineers, and Employers’ Association ; regarding temporary relaxation of existing customs to overcome difficulties due to shortage of engineering tradesmen for war requirements.
National Security Act -
National Security (Economic Organization ) Regulations - Order - Exemption.
National Security (Man Power) Regulations - Orders - Protected undertakings (5).
Navigation Act - Regulations - Statutory Rules1943, No. 53.
House adjourned at 12.40 a.m. (Thursday).
The following answers to questions were circulated: -
– Deposits of kaolin are known to exist in northern Tasmania and supplies are being drawn from there for the manufacture of paper and explosives, but, owing to the limited demand in Australia for kaolin, no volume of assessment of the deposits has been made. rented Premises.
– The Minister for the Interior has supplied the following answer : -
Amounts paid in each financial year since the outbreak of the war to the 31st December, 1942, in respect of rented premises for Commonwealth purposes in -
(These amounts are exclusive of amounts paid for accommodation possessed under the National Security Regulations.)
Cite as: Australia, House of Representatives, Debates, 24 March 1943, viewed 22 October 2017, <http://historichansard.net/hofreps/1943/19430324_reps_16_174/>.