16th Parliament · 1st Session
Mr. Speaker (Hon. W. M. Nairn) took the chair at 10.30 a.m., and read prayers.
– On behalf of the honorable member for Lilley (Mr. Jolly), I ask the Minister for the Army whether he has received from Queensland Pastoral Supplies Limited a letter in regard to a reply which he gave to a question by that honorable member on the subject of the impressment oftypewriters for the Army? If so, are the statements in the letter in direct conflict with the reply by the honorable gentleman ? Will the Minister inquire into the allegation that the officer who undertook the impressment was aggressive, and could have smoothed the transaction materially had he been a little more diplomatic? Is it also correct that impressment orders are issued in some instances and not in others, and that this differentiation is resented?
– The letter from Pastoral Supplies Limited has not yet come before me. I am not familiar with all the details, but I shall look into the matter and endeavour to furnish the information.
Milk Supplies to Canteen
-Is the Minister for War Organization of Industry aware that the workers at a Sydney aircraft annexe, numbering 2,500, have been notified that the milk supplies to their canteen are to be discontinued? If so, will he take immediate steps to ensure that these workers shall not be deprived of milk while luxury hotels and high class restaurants receive supplies uninterruptedly, whether the Milk Board or the zoning system be responsible?
– I am not aware that milk supplies to the canteen at this aircraft factory are to be discontinued; but, since that statement has been made, I assume that there is some truth in it. The supply of milk is a matter for which the Government of New South Wales is solely responsible. Zoning of deliveries in Sydney has been effected by the Milk Board, which acts under the authority of the State Government. I agree with the honorable member that it is strange that supplies of milk should be withheld from the workers in a factory engaged in war production and still be available for less essential purposes. I shall have the matter studied, in order to determine whetherI can assist the State Government to have milk supplied to the workers in this factory.
– I ask the Attorney-
General whether it is a fact that, according to the Communist journal Forward of the 29th January, 1943, the Communist party has officially declared that, since June last, it has distributed 3,000,000 pieces of communist literature, notwithstanding the rationing of paper supplies, that it has 1,214 branches, and that Communists had in that period addressed 3,500 meetings? Is the right honorable gentleman aware that the Communist party claims that its membership as at the 31st December, 1942, was 17,667, having increased by 10,647 in the period of six months from June, 1942, at which date it stood at 7,020, and that 1,900 are women members? Does he also know that it advertises the following radio sessions : - Sunday, 1 ; Monday, 1 ; Tuesday, 1 ; Wednesday, 3; Thursday, 2; and Friday, 1; a total of nine sessions weekly?
– Order ! Such detail is unnecessary when asking a question.
– Does the right honorable gentleman fully appreciate the menace to Australia which this organization represents?
– I am not a reader of the Communist publication from which the honorable member has quoted. I have not seen it, and do not even know of its existence. I shall, however, refer the matter to the responsible officer, who is the Director-General of Security.
Closing Down of Annexe
– Will the Minister for Munitions state whether an early inquiry will be held into the closing down of an annexe to a war factory in my electorate, on which there has been an expenditure by the Commonwealth of over £30,000, because of the cancellation of orders? Will the honorable gentleman expedite an investigation of the reason for this cancellation, with a view to a continuance of orders, or have the factory changed over to other war-time production ?
– I have already intimated verbally to the chairman of the Joint Committee on War Expenditure that I shall be forwarding to him a request for an examination of the terms of any agreement that may exist, and the reasons for any cessation of governmental orders to this factory. Instructions have been given for the inquiry to be instituted;
– At an early date?
– As the termination of this sessional period will render it impossible to continue the debate on the motion that I moved last night, in which I stressed the need for complete consideration by the Government of the position of the primary industries, will the Prime Minister, during the forthcoming recess, have an examination made of the points that I have raised, with a view to appropriate action being taken?
– Yes. The earlier the recess, the sooner will it be possible to have the investigation made.
Report of Sir Harry Brown
– I ask the Prime Minister whether the report which he tabled in the Library is the complete report of Sir Harry Bi;own, who inquired into the dismissal of certain clerks from the Allied Works Council, or whether a subsidiary report was tendered dealing with matters disclosed and admissions made in evidence by certain other members of the clerical staff? Has the attention of the right honorable gentleman been drawn to the fact that, in evidence and in cross-examination, the person who is second in charge of the aliens’ section admitted that he had been sentenced to imprisonment for misappropriating £1,000 from the New South Wales Egg Board? Has his attention been drawn to the further fact that one of the chiefs of the personnel section admitted association with the selling of shares in bogus companies connected with the Woolcott Forbes organization, and that evidence was produced that he was a fugitive from a sentence of two years’ imprisonment on a criminal charge at Tapette?
-Order! The honorable gentleman is unreasonably prolix.
– Has the attention of the right honorable gentleman been drawn to the fact that the officer in charge of the claims section admitted in cross-examination that he had a criminal record in Melbourne and Sydney, had five aliases, and had served sentences up to six months for offences ranging from assault and robbery to false pretences?
– Order ! The honorable gentleman is exceeding the bounds of a question.
– In view of the admissions made by these persons, who are still in the employ of the Allied Works Council, and of the fact that no reference has been made to them by Sir Harry Brown in his report, does the Prime Minister, having agreed to the dismissal’ of certain clerks, intend to take similar action against the men who have admitted these past offences?
– The report which I received from Sir Harry Brown in relation to his inquiry into the administration of the Allied Works Council is the report which I tabled. I have not received from Sir Harry Brown any other report on the subject. I should have regarded it as rather extraordinary had there been features of the inquiry other than those that were dealt with in the report. I am quite certain that so far as Sir Harry Brown is concerned, the matter was ended when he had conducted the inquiry, written his report, and forwarded it to me. I have thanked him for the work which he did. I have not read the evidence.
– It is a great pity that the right honorable gentleman has not.
– I was not the investigator. I read the report which Sir Harry Brown submitted, and have acted on his findings.
– Without delay.
– In selecting Sir Harry Brown to make this inquiry, I consider that I chose a man of unimpeachable integrity and wide experience, who would conscientiously examine the matter and make a report which I could regard as the result of a complete survey of all the evidence.
– Yet the facts that I have mentioned were admitted !
– I confess that I did not read the evidence, and that I have acted only on the findings.
– The honorable member for Newcastle has on the noticepaper for to-day, questions relating to entry into universities in the faculties of medicine, dentistry and science. Will it be possible for the Minister for War Organization of Industry to answer them before the adjournment of the House to-day, in view of the fact that the university year is commencing and a decision is urgently necessary? Of special immediacy is the fifth question, which asks whether it would be possible to accept all students who have matriculated in the faculties of medicine, dentistry and science, and, when all had been studying the same subject for twelve months, to fix the quota system on the progress they had made during that period. The position in regard to medical services is becoming acute, and remedial action ought to be taken.
– I shall do all that I can to have the information supplied before the adjournment of the House to-day. The statement that the quota for medical students is not so high as it ought to be has been answered by me previously. I now repeat that it was fixed after consideration of a report that had been furnished by the Director-General of Health. The quota is 360, whereas the average number of students who graduated as doctors from the universities of Australia during the last six years was only 254.
– Will the AttorneyGeneral comment on the opinion of Mr. F. A. Dyer, K.C, that the university quota system is a travesty?
– I have not given consideration to his opinion, but I shall do so.
– Will the Minister for War Organization of Industry (Mr. Dedman) ask the Attorney-General whether he supports the view expressed in the New South Wales Legislative Assembly by his brother, the Minister for Education, Mr. Clive Evatt, K.C., that the regulations fixing quotas for university students may be wholly or partly invalid?
– The AttorneyGeneral has already said that he will have the matter looked at.
Promotions and Political Opinions - Soldiers Employed on Waterfront - Leave from New Guinea.
– Is it the policy of the Army authorities to discriminate, in the matter of promotions, against soldiers who hold “ leftist “ or radical views, or who are students and admirers of the Soviet Socialist system ? Will the Minister for the Army inquire whether there is any truth in this suggestion, having regard to the fact that the Union of Soviet Socialist Republics is now our ally, and its armies are putting up such a valiant fight in our cause? Is any similar discrimination exercised against men who hold “ rightist “ opinions ?
– I was not aware that there was any discrimination against soldiers with “leftist”, “rightist” or “middle-ist” views.
– Or that their advancement is affected?
– I shall inquire into the matter, but I am convinced that a man’s loyalty, efficiency and reliability are the main factors in determining his advancement.
– Can the Minister for the Army tell me when I am likely to receive a reply to my question, which has been on the noticepaper for more than a week, relating to the employment of soldiers on the waterfront ?
– I was not aware that the question had not been answered. If possible, I shall reply to the question some time to-day.
– For a considerable time I and other honorable members on this side of the House have been expressing considerable anxiety about the fact that Australian troops in New Guinea and on neighbouring islands are not being given sufficient leave or frequent change of environment, with the result that war neurosis among them is increasing. Has the Minister for the Army studied speeches dealing with war neurosis made by honorable members in this House, particularly on the Australian Soldiers’ Repatriation Bill ? Can he indicate whether the Government will change its policy in regard to the granting of leave to these men in order that the efficiency of the fighting forces may be maintained and the pensions bill reduced ?
– Ever since Australian troops have been in New Guinea the policy has been that leave shall be given to them as frequently as is possible. Thai policy has been applied by the CommanderinChief of the Land Forces, General Sir Thomas Blarney, and other senior officers. The frequency with which leave can be given depends on operational and strategical requirements. I should prefer to tell the honorable gentleman in my office which divisions have been withdrawn from New Guinea. I could not very well do so publicly. I assure the honorable gentleman that those troops who were* engaged in fighting at Buna and Gona have been withdrawn and spelled and that other troops have replaced them.
– Could not those troops be given leave in rotation every six months?
– The CommanderinChief said that in determining who should have leave he gave preference to those who had been engaged in active operations over those at base head-quarters at Port Moresby. I assure the honorable gentleman that the Government is in full sympathy with his wish that leave be given to troops in New Guinea. All troops given leave must be replaced, and that entails sending other troops to New Guinea. That exchange is going on all the time. If the honorable gentleman is able to supply to me the name or names of any soldier or soldiers who have not had sufficient leave I shall make a full investigation.
– Is it a fact that the aeroplane used on the service on the north-west coast of Western Australia is at present disabled as the result of an accident at Port Hedland? If so, can the Minister for Air say what arrangements have been made for an alternative service so that supplies of essential foodstuffs may be sent to residents in isolated places?
– It is true that an accident occurred this week to the civil aeroplane which was operating the MacRobertson-Miller service in northwestern Australia, as a result of which the service has been slightly disorganized. No member of the crew, nor any of the passengers, was injured, but the aeroplane will be out of commission for some time. Arrangements are being made to carry on the ordinary service, but the extra trips which it was hoped to make will have to be deferred.
– Has the Minister for Labour and National Service seen the judgment of Judge O’Mara, of the Commonwealth Arbitration Court, in a case in which the Federated Iron Workers Association and Keech Castings Proprietary Limited were involved, in the course of which the judge stated that, for the three months ended the Srd February, the employees in a section of the works lost 2,032 man-hours through absenteeism, and worked only 355 manhours overtime? His Honour added that if they had reduced their absenteeism by one-sixth, there would have been no necessity for them to have worked overtime at all. If the Minister has not seen this judgment, will he obtain a copy of it and subsequently make a statement upon it to the House?
– I have not seen the judgment, but I shall obtain a copy of it. I shall examine it, and then give the honorable member the (benefit of my observation upon it.
– Has the Minister for Supply and Shipping yet reached a decision regarding the request placed before him by the hire-car drivers of Hobart?
– The honorable member for Denison made representations to me on this subject some time ago. The Liquid Fuel Control Board examined the request, but was disinclined to meet the wishes of the hire-car drivers. Since then, the honorable member has submitted additional evidence to me regarding the circumstances in which hire-car drivers in Hobart find themselves. He pointed out that many, if not all, were earning less than the basic wage, and he has asked that the petrol ration be increased so as to enable them to earn at least the basic wage. These facts have been placed before the Liquid Fuel Control Board. I regret that a reply has not yet been received, but I shall endeavour to expedite the inquiry, and shall inform the honorable member when a reply is received.
– Yesterday, the honorable member for Hume (Mr. Collins) asked whether the Minister for Commerce and Agriculture (Mr. Scully) had received any information concerning a resolution carried at the 59th Annual Convention of the Graziers Federal Council relating to the Australian Meat Board. I am advised that the Minister has received a copy of a resolution carried by the convention at its meeting in June. The resolution conveyed to the Minister reads as follows: -
That this Graziers Federal Council expresses its confidence in the Australian Meat Board and its conviction that such Board is the appropriate authority to formulate and control any measures necessary for the rationalization of the industry, to meet changing conditions associated with war-time.
To give effect to the above resolution, this convention request the Minister for Commerce to gazette regulations which will extend the present functions and powers of the Australian Meat Board to cover all meat, whether for export, home or service consumption.
The Minister this week received a further resolution on the subject of meat control. This was carried at last week’s conference of the New South Wales Graziers Association. For the information of honorable members I point out that the Graziers Association is affiliated with the Graziers Federal Council. This later resolution reads -
That this annual conference of the Graziers Association of New South Wales deplores the action taken by the Senate in disallowing the National Security (Meat) Regulations, and considers that such action has gravely menaced the interests of producers who, recognizing that Government control of the industry under war-time conditions in order to meet the enormously increased demands of the services, British Ministry of Food and civilian requirements, is justified; and urgently requests the Graziers Federal Council to make immediate representations to the Minister for Commerce and Agriculture to have the Meat Industry Commission reinstated, in order that producers’ interests may be adequately safeguarded on the basis of -
fixing prices of all meats not on the hooks to the producer at seaboard;”
licensing of operators and meat works, making it obligatory upon them to treat stock on producers’ account upon adequate notice being given;
fixing of uniform treatment charges;
provision for price differentials to take care of normal State premiums and seasonal variations;
right of producer to sell - (i) in the paddock; (ii) in the yards; (iii) to works or operators on the hooks; and
that the interest of fat stock selling agents be preserved.
In addition to the resolutions which I have quoted, the Minister yesterday received through the secretary of the Graziers Federal Council a copy of the presidential address delivered at the annual conference of the Graziers Association by Mr. H. R.Cowdery. The portion relevant to the question raised by the honorable member reads -
During the last year your executive has given more time and thought to the problem of organizing the meat industry than to any other single matter. The Commonwealth Government definitely made up its mind to bring forward a plan to control the industry, and in the light of service requirements and of the requirements of the United Kingdom, especially for canned and dehydrated meats, I am satisfied that a measure of control is necessary.
Our concern was to see that whatever bases were determined for various types of meat adequate prices to the producer would be assured. The industry’s representatives upon the Commonwealth Meat Industry Commission and upon the State meat boards were working towards that end. Much valuable work had been done when the regulations establishing the commission were disallowed by the Senate. I want to say publicly that this association was not a party to the action of the Senate, which to me, appears to be irresponsible Whatever may have been the shortcomings of the commission, our attitude was that it was performing an urgent essential work, and we were prepared to co-operate. The Senate’s action invited the introduction of legislation which it might not be able to block, and which would place what should be a temporary wartime control upon the statute book permanently. I hope that the Government will be able to restore the position, substantially as it was, by regulation.
– by leave - Following on my statement yesterday, regarding the use of motor cars by Ministers, I invite the attention of honorable members to page 2 of the Canberra Times, which publishes a letter sent by me to the editor yesterday in the following terms : -
In to-day’s issue of the Canberra Times you state that “ ‘Die Minister responsible for using four cars to transport his family and luggage from Canberra to Sydney was the Minister for Supply “.
This statement constitutes an imputation of improper conduct on the part of myself as Minister for Supply and Shipping, and is untrue and without foundation and defamatory.
I therefore request that you forthwith publish in the Canberra Times in as prominent a position as the statement and in type not smaller than that in. which this statement was printed, a complete withdrawal of the statement and an apology to me for its publication.
The article then proceeds to withdraw its previous statement and offers to me all due apology, and I am having the matter examined by those who are advising me.
Interpretation and Bkeaoh.es of Regulations.
– by leave - In the House of Representatives, on the 10th March, 1943, the honorable member for Parkes (Sir Charles Marr) asked a question concerning a number of companies that arc being forced to refund money to the public for breaches of the prices regulations, and asked whether it would be possible to enumerate the companies by name, and to indicate whether any Adelaide companies are involved. The Minister for Trade and Customs has given the honorable membar’s question consideration, and has referred the matter to the Commonwealth Prices Commissioner who advises as follows : -
The honorable member’s question raises a number of highly technical matters in connexion with the administration of price control. It is not correct to refer to the firms and trades concerned as . necessarily having committed breaches of the prices regulations. Under Prices Regulation Orders, traders are required to conduct their businesses on the basis of the cost to them of the goods in which they deal, plus the gross profit margin they are obtaining on certain prescribed dates. As part of the machinery for policing this system of price control, it is customary for the officers of the Prices Branch to examine balance-sheets and trading accounts with a view to ascertaining what changes have taken place in gross and net profits since the war broke out. If the gross profit percentage on the cost of goods handled has risen substantially, traders are requested to furnish explanations as to why they obtain higher gross profit margins during -the war than before the war. There are quite a number of reasons which have been advanced and accepted by the Prices Commissioner as being consistent with the observance of the National Security (Prices) Regulations.
The National Security (Prices) Regulations ure based upon individual sales of goods. The price of any article during the war should not exceed the cost to the trader plus his basic gross profit margin. It is quite possible, however, for this condition to be observed, and yet for the gross profit margin as a whole, to rise. For one thing, the nature of the trade may alter in such a way as to increase the proportion of goods sold on which a relatively high gross profit margin was obtained before the war. This has taken place, for example, with firms who were handling Japanese goods which sold at a low price, and on which gross profit was relatively low. Secondly, the conditions of a full year’s trading during the war might differ fundamentally from the prewar conditions in that no special sales involving heavy sacrifices of profit were necessary. This would enable a trader to obtain more profit, whilst still observing the conditions that operated on the prescribed date. There would thus be no breach of the Prices Regulations. In another case again, the trader’s business may alter in an important degree as between an indent business and normal wholesale operations. The greater the proportion of normal wholesale operations the greater would be the increase in gross profit as compared with pre-war.
These and other facts have to bc considered by the Commonwealth Prices Commissioner in deciding whether traders have committed a breach of the Prices Regulations. It is the normal practice to supplement the examination of the accounts of a trader by an inspection of books to ascertain what gross profit margin was actually charged on a wide variety of articles. If it is found that the pre-war gross profit margin has been exceeded, there is clear evidence of legal breaches, and the normal course is to take legal proceedings. Already there have been, over COO prosecutions for Prices breaches, and in spite of the legal difficulties involved, only a few eases have been lost in the Courts. Where legal proceedings are not taken, and there is evidence of a substantial increase in gross profit margins, it is the practice of the Prices Commissioner to discuss the position with the trader concerned. In some cases, traders show an increase in gross profit margin during the war, but are still earning a relatively low net profit on funds employed. This is because their business was relatively unprofitable before the war, or might even have involved a loss. Such a position could be corrected by the trader approaching the Prices Commissioner with a view to having his gross profit margin raised. On the other hand, where net profit is very high, the Prices Commissioner is empowered to reduce gross profit margins. In discussing variations in gross profit margins with traders who show substantial increases in both gross and net profits, these factors are taken into account. Without this form of check upon the operations of traders, it would be difficult to maintain an effective system of price control. Normally, agreement is reached between the trader concerned and the Prices Commissioner, and this sometimes involves the trader in making refunds direct to Government Departments where large sales have been made to these Departments. In other cases, the prices of goods to the public are reduced. The Prices Commissioner is empowered to fix the gross profit margin on any ‘ commodity or for a group of commodities as a whole, and he is acting entirely in the public interests in checking the rise in profits that may take place under war-time conditions. There is little doubt that this method of controlling prices has protected the public and the Government against excess profits.
Finally, in the ordinary work of price fixation on estimated future costs, it is frequently impossible to fix a price which will give exactly the results intended. Sometimes the approved prices may be too low; sometimes they may be too high. In the latter cases traders are require’d to refund the excess to the public by a reduction of gross profit margin for future trading. On the other hand, where the results are too adverse to the trader, an increase in gross profit is permitted. These are normal operations under price control.
As indicated already, traders who have been called to discuss their profit position with the Prices Commissioner have not necessarily committed breaches of the Prices Regulations. In some cases where it has been necessary to exercise strong legal control, the Minister for Trade and Customs has “ declared “ the traders, that is, he has declared all goods and services handled by such traders to be declared goods under the National Security (Prices) Regulations. This enables the Prices Commissioner to fix maximum prices for the goods in which the trader in question deals. Where a trader is not “ declared “, no public announcement is made. It would be unfair to the trader concerned to do so, because there is no evidence of a breach of the Prices Regulations, though the Prices Commissioner may think that the gross profit margin should be reduced. I attach a list of the “ declared “ firms.
Declared Persons or Association of Persons.
Allen, Richard, and Sons Pty. Ltd., 164 Flinders-lane, Melbourne, Victoria.
Barbier, E., 805 New South Head-road, Rose Bay, New South Wales.
Bay Butchery, 241 Coogee Bay-road, Coogee, New South Wales.
Bird, Norman, and Co., 4.14 Kent-street, Sydney, New South Wales.
Burns, Johnson and Co., 64 Albert-street, Brisbane, Queensland.
Caldwell’s Butchery, 404 George-street, Sydney, New South Wales.
Campbell’s, 871 New Canterbury-road, Hurlstone Park, New South Wales.
Chaleyer and Co., 353 Flinders-lane, Melbourne, Victoria.
Chelsea Theatres Pty. Ltd., 28 Bond-street, Sydnev, New South Wales.
Clark, F. L. and R. P., 316 Bronte-road, Waverley, New South Wales.
Concordia Woollen Mills, 597-599 Victoriastreet, Abbotsford, Victoria.
Crown Crystal Glass Pty. Ltd., Dowlingstreet, Waterloo, New South Wales.
Debenhams (Aust.) Pty. Ltd., 153 Flinderslane, Melbourne, Victoria.
Demco Machinery Co. Pty. Ltd., 355 William-street, West Melbourne, Victoria.
Dickson., H., 14 Arthur-street, Dee Why, New South Wales.
Dott and Co. Pty. -Ltd., Langford-street, North Melbourne, Victoria.
Earlwood Theatres Pty. Ltd., 28 Bondstreet, Sydney, New South Wales.
Furbank, E., 265 Miller-street, North Sydney, New South Wales.
General Paint Co. (Aust.) Pty. Ltd., 68 Caledonia-street, Paddington, New South Wales.
Gilroy’s Meat Service, 420 Victoria-avenue, Chatswood, New South Wales.
Grotjan and Co., 202-204 Flinders-lane, Melbourne, Victoria.
Grubb, W. A., Pty. Ltd., 88 Darlinghurstroad, King’s Cross, New South Wales.
Gumley, J., 117a Avoca-street, Randwick, New South Wales.
Hayes, G. W., 10 Willoughby-road, Crow’s Nest, New South Wales.
Hibbert and Co., 481-487 Heidelberg-road, Alphington, Victoria.
Janson, E. J., Cowarra
Lane’s Meat Service, 189 Oxford-street, Bondi Junction, New South Wales.
Lane’s Meat Service, 38 Willoughby-road, Crow’s Nest, New South Wales.
Medway, H., 63 Penshurst-street, Willoughby, New South Wales.
Mosley and Kemp Pty. Ltd., 172 Flinderslane, Melbourne, Victoria.
Murray, D. and W., Ltd., all branches throughout Australia.
Myer Emporium Ltd., 314 Bourke-street, Melbourne, Victoria.
Nicholas, J. W. (Chatswood Butchery), 445 Victoria-avenue, Chatswood, New South Wales.
Osborne, A. E., North-terrace, Bankstown, New South Wales.
Parisian Laundry Pty. Ltd., 118-120 Oxfordstreet, Sydney, New South Wales.
Payne, J., 34 Ormonde-parade, Hurstville, New South Wales.
Perry, J. L., and Co., 119 Auburn-road, Auburn, New South Wales.
Psaltis, M. (Macleay Butchery), Macleay - street, Potts Point, New South Wales.
Reid, Robert, and Co. Ltd., 341 Flinderslane, Melbourne, Victoria.
Rideout, W. R., 184 Penshurst-street, Willoughby, New South Wales.
Sargood, Gardiner Pty. Ltd., 01-73 Flinderslane, Melbourne, Victoria.
Stuart Bros., Moore and John streets, Leichhardt, New South Wales.
Sydney Meat Co. Ltd., 88 Miller-street, North Sydney, New South Wales.
Trio Woollen Mills, 358 Johnston-street, Abbotsford, Victoria..
Vaccari and Co., 90 Queen-street, Melbourne, Victoria.
Vidler, L. C, 38 Macquarie-street, Parramatta, New South Wales.
Ward and Co. Ltd., 203 New South Headroad, Edgecliff, New South Wales.
– Will the Minister for Supply and Shipping have roneoed copies of the Prices Commissioner’s statement posted to honorable members?
– I ask the Prime Minister whether it is a fact that the Senate has deferred consideration of a certain measure until the 29th April? If so, is it the intention of the Government to call the Senate together on that date so that the measure may be considered, because, if it is not dealt with then, it will be, I understand, taken off the business paper? If the Government intends to call the Senate together on the 29th April, will it also call the House of Representatives together to receive the measure from the Senate? As that will be Easter week, which also includes Anzac Day, honorable members would be glad to know the intention of the Government, so that those who live in distant parts of Australia may be able to make arrangements to attend the meeting of Parliament if necessary.
– I understand that the .Senate decided that it would consider a certain bill on the 29th April. The Senate is, of course, able to decide, as this House is able to decide, on which days it will meet to do business and what business it will do when it does meet. That is the prerogative of each House. My experience is that if I, as head of the Government, had proposed that this House should meet on the 29th April, honorable members would have been profoundly dissatisfied on the ground that it would not leave honorable members from distant States adequate time in which to take part inthe Anzac Day ceremonies in their electorates and get back to their places in this Parliament. I am quite satisfied that the disregard of that matter is proof that there was total disregard for every other important consideration.
– I have received a letter from a farmers’ organization in Western Australia pointing out that there is no plant in that State for the retreading of tractor tyres and that all such tyres have to be sent to Melbourne for retreading. Subject to an undertaking by a reputable firm in Western Australia to do this work, will the Minister for Supply and Shipping endeavour to make the necessary plant available?
– I would say that it is most desirable that that work should be done in the States where the tyres are needed. I will press the honorable member’s request. In order to get the plant I shall have to obtain the support of the Minister for Munitions who, I am sure, will do his best to meet my wishes.
– I ask the Minister for Labour and National Service whether his department retains any interest in the coal-mining operations? Has he acceded to the request of the leaders of the Miners Federation that a conference be held in order that outstanding disputes may be settled?
– For some time the practice has been for the Coal Commissioner, who is responsible to the Minister - for Supply and Shipping, to report direct to his Minister stoppages in the coal-mining, industry. I understand that stoppages are then investigated by the AttorneyGeneral’s Department. In this particular instance, I did receive a deputation from the miners’ officials who have requested that a conference be convened in an endeavour to overcome the present unsatisfactory state of the industry. I shall meet the officials of the federation in my office in Sydney at 11 a.m. tomorrow for a preliminary discussion. Whatever subsequent steps are necessary to end the national emergency arising out of the stoppages in the coal-mining industry will be taken.
– Is the Minister for Health yet able to reply to the question I asked last week about the reported proposal to replace the bush nursing system in Victoria? If not, will the Minister consider the possibility of his making a statement on that matter on the adjournment?
– I have discussed the matter with the Director-General of Health. We have not been able to find anything about the matter. I shall make a statement at the earliest opportunity.
– I ask the Attorney-General whether the strength of the Russian Legation in. Australia has been correctly reported in the press as 63? How does that strength compare with that of the diplomatic representation in Australia of the United States of America and China and. with the staffs of the High Commissioners of the United Kingdom and Canada?
– I am not sure of the exact strength or number of the legation. I shall obtain the information for the honorable member.
– In the absence of the Minister for Commerce and Agriculture, I ask the Minister for Supply and Shipping whether he is aware that, although up to three months has elapsed since the wheat was delivered, many farmers are still complaining to honorable members representing rural constituencies that payment for the wheat is still outstanding? Will the Minister do everything possible to expedite these payments?
– I remember the honorable member raising this matter previously when the Minister for Com merce and Agriculture was present and that the Minister gave an undertaking that steps would be taken to ensure compliance with the honorable gentleman’s wishes. I shall direct that this matter be treated as most urgent.
Debate resumed from the 25th March (vide page 2385), on motion by Mr. Curtin -
That the bill be now read a second time.
– This bill reaffirms the principle of preference to returned soldiers within the ambit of the powers of the Commonwealth, and- especially in regard to employment in the Commonwealth Public Service. To that extent the bill is welcomed. Because time is short, I shall confine my remarks to those portions of the measure which seem to me to leave something to be desired. The Prime Minister (Mr. Curtin), in explaining the bill, said at the outset that it was inadequate as a fulfilment of the policy of preference in employment for returned soldiers. He hoped, he said, that when that grant of powers which had been recommended by the Constitution Conference had been made, a wider measure, covering the whole field of employment in industry, would be drafted and presented to Parliament. That is what we all hope.
Under this bill the system of preference in making appointments to the Commonwealth Public Service, which has been followed since 1915, will not be varied, other than by such modifications and amplifications as experience has shown to be desirable. This policy has never been restricted during those 27 years, but it has been amplified, though not widely. The degree of preference provided under the bill is-
Temporary Employment. full preference (present practice).
Fourth Division positions -
For positions to be filled by appointment from outside the Service - Full preference (present practice).
For positions normally filled by advancement of young officers who must he provided for (positions such as postman, mail officer, lineman, mechanic) - Continuation, of practice followed since 1926 (50 per cent, of vacancies tobe reserved for returned soldiers). This will involve a restriction of present numbers in recruitment and advancement of young officers.
Third division positions -
For professional and technical positions to be filled by appointment from outside the Service - full preference (present practice).
For positions of clerk - 50 per cent, of appointments to be returned soldiers and 50 per cent, available for youths.
Age limits - present maximum age, 50 years, to stand.
The Prime Minister pointed out that in the present war, problems had arisen which did not exist, or were not substantial in the last war, arising out of the employment of hundreds of thousands of persons in munitions factories and on war work generally. The right honorable gentleman said that many of those workers had wished to enlist, but had been prevented from doing so; and he considered that they were entitled to the same preference and privileges as the returned soldier. The Prime Minister referred also to employees of the Civil Constructional Corps who. work on aerodromes in operational areas. They are subject to all the risks and hazards of war to which they would not be exposed in following their occupations in normal times. I shall deal with that class of person in a few moments.
Whilst much can be said for the principles that the Prime Minister has enunciated, I see no clear line of demarcation between the civilian to whom this preference is to be given and. his fellow employees. They are not soldiers. True, some of them wanted to be soldiers, but the fact remains that they are not soldiers. Will any honorable member contend that the mere fact that they were willing to enlist but were prevented from enlisting is equivalent to service on the battlefield? It is not. That is why we distinguish the soldier from the civilian. When the air raid sirens sound, the order given to civilians is to take shelter. But the order to the soldier when the battle begins is to go into action, to expose himself to danger. That is the vital distinction between the soldier and the civilian. That service - the readiness to die, to place himself in the forefront of the battle and to go where he istold - dwarfs all others. To that discipline and service the civilian is a stranger. For that reason, I make a great distinction between the soldier and the civilian, between the man in the factory and the man on the battlefield. It is necessary to reserve people for other duties than military service. We cannot carry on a war without them. But that applies to every civilian in the Commonwealth. We must all play our part; that is our duty inthe war. But there is a world of difference between the soldier and the civilian. The soldier is exposed to risks from which the civilian is sheltered. I see a very great difficulty in distinguishing between the different classes of persons in the workshop. The preference which the Government proposes will cover such a multitude as to make it worthless. Under present conditions, it may well apply to 600,000 men now under arms. If that number is to be swollen by another 400,000 men, preference will be valueless.
The preference about which I speak is preference to soldiers who have fought, or who have been ready to fight. If they have not been in the forefront of battle, the reason is that the orders of their superior officer placed them where they were, and there they were as necessary to victory as if they had been in the front line. I shall not dwell unduly upon the advantages of civil life compared with army life, because they are so obvious. The day’s work may be arduous, the hours long, but we go home and sleep in a peaceful bed undisturbed by the enemy. Therefore, I am opposed to extending the principle of preference to persons other than members of the services. The principle of preference to soldiers must be confined to members of the forces.
I now desire to refer briefly to the principle of preference to returned soldiers on government jobs. The Prime Minister saw difficulty in granting that preference, but I see none. “When this matter arose during the last war, a Labour government decided that every contractor should give preference of employment to returned soldiers. As to the power to enforce that preference, I am concerned, not with the legal authority, but with the power residing in the person who lets a contract over the person who submits tenders for it. When the Commonwealth Government is practically the only big employer in the country that can allocate work, it is in a very powerful position. Yesterday, honorable members were speaking of the coal-miner. He is in a strong position because nobody else can cut coal. People who speak glibly about the employment of free labour in the mines do not know what they are talking about. If all the free labour in Australia were offered for use in the coalmining industry it would not be sufficient to get enough coal to send one steamship from Australia to Honolulu. Let us look at the position of contractors seeking workers. The ‘Commonwealth Government is the great employer of labour to-day. Hundreds of millions of pounds is being spent by the Commonwealth Government, and it is in a position to say to contractors : “ If you want to share in this work you must give preference in employment to ex-service men “. I shall not emphasize that point further. It is obvious.
I turn now to another point. Whatever the contract forms say, every contractor in Australia knows that in all his contracts he must give preference to unionists. This is not only implied, but it is also explicitly stated in some contracts. If the Government has power to enforce preference to unionists, as, in fact, it is doing to-day, it also has power to enforce preference to returned soldiers. I wish to make my position quite clear. In 1915, when I introduced the original measure which gave preference to returned soldiers, I was the head of one of the most militant industrial organizations in Australia, as well as of the Government. I believed, not only in unionism, but also in preference to unionists. I have retained those opinions through the changing years. But I believed then, as I believe now, in preference to returned soldiers as returned soldiers and not as unionists. I think it is a very obvious evasion of a plain duty to say to returned soldiers, “ Yes, you may have preference if you become unionists “. The returned soldiers could have had such preference by staying at home. But their country was in deadly peril and they rushed to its defence. As soldiers, they have earned and richly deserved preference. I have always said, and have never attempted to hide my opinion, that returned soldiers should join unions, but that is another matter entirely. I say that if a returned soldier is looking for a job an employer who wants a man should be obliged to engage him. That is a point that the Opposition will urge in connexion with this measure. We desire that condition to be stated in black and white so that every man will know where he stands. We are not offering returned, soldiers golden crowns, but we must offer them work if they are fit for work. Of course they must be fit for a job. It would be of no use to give a onelegged ex-soldier the job of carrying bricks up a ladder. Obviously he could not do the work. A man must have some apparent fitness for the job on which he is to be employed.
The Opposition will press for provision in this measure that the preference shall be confined to members of the fighting services, male and female. We do not consider that the preference should go beyond the fighting services to civilians, except those who are employed in the mercantile marine in danger zones and such waters as may be proclaimed.
– And those in civil aviation.
– Yes, I thank the honorable member for Moreton (Mr. Francis) for his reminder. Civilians employed in the mercantile marine and in aviation are engaged in military operations, and the extension of the provision of preference to them would be a recognition of the great work that the mercantile marine and the civil air services are doing - a recognition that is long overdue. I congratulate the Government upon having included such personnel in the bill. Subject to these exceptions, the bill should be confined to personnel engaged in defence services. I point out that the number of persons employed at this moment by contractors for the Government is larger than the number normally employed by the Public Service. Preference to returned soldiers should apply to all work directly done by the Government and to work carried out by private employers for the Government.
The Prime Minister has said that to deal with this subject at present is unreal. Because there were more jobs waiting than we have men available to take them, he would have us believe that there is no need for this measure. In a community in which there were no sick people, it would be of no use passing an act of Parliament to deal with health, and in a country where every body wa3 employed and every body was contented with labour conditions, it would be of no use to bring down a bill dealing with employment and hours of labour. But, as a matter of fact, this bill deals with an existing situation, and a situation that will continue to exist perhaps for years.
I turn now to another point. It is proposed to reserve 50 per cent, of the appointments to the service for youths. In my opinion, this is not justified. There are young men between the ages of IS and “21 years in the fighting forces who are capable of filling positions in the Public Service, and there are many young men who have lied gloriously for their country’s sake in saying that they were eighteen years of age when in fact they were only sixteen or seventeen years of age. The Public Service will have at its disposal youths who could fill, for the time being, the positions which the men on active service would normally fill, and from which they would be advanced. The advancement of the me/, who are in the fighting services must be anticipated and provided for.
I leave the matter at this point. The bill reaffirms the principle of preference to returned soldiers which has been, the law of this country for 27 years, which has served as a guide to the community and as evidence that we . do not forget our soldiers. “We have kept them ever fresh in our memory. Their deeds of valour and sacrifice are not to be repaid by tributes of words, but by deeds. The principle of preference to returned soldiers is the outward and invisible sign of our gratitude - a gratitude which is enduring and must be substantial. The Opposition is determined that it shall be as substantial as our power can make it.
I say to the Attorney-General that I question very much whether there is, at present, any limitation whatever to our power to legislate for the employment of soldiers. I do not believe that our defence powers fall short in anything that it is necessary for us to do for the defence of the country, and in the conditions that arise therefrom. The principle by which the High Court has been guided is that there must be a relation between the thing done, and the defence of the country. The relations between the employment of returned personnel and the war is obvious. I venture to say that if the Government took its courage in its hands and brought in a measure of preference to returned soldiers not only in the government service but in industry generally it would be intra vires the powers of the Commonwealth.
– The speech of the right honorable member for North Sydney (Mr. Hughes) indicates that this bill has no party significance whatever. It is a non-party bill. It is also, I suggest, essentially a bill for examination at the committee stage. As to certain details to which the right honorable gentleman referred there may be differences of opinion. We may agree on the general principle, hut differ as to the proper and just way to give effect to it. For that reason the Government welcomes the contribution made to the problem by the right honorable member. The problem has been stated, in principle, by the Prime Minister (Mr. Curtin) and the right honorable member for North Sydney, but the application of the principle is extraordinarily difficult because of the changing aspects of the war and the great difference between service rendered in this war and service rendered in the last war. The problem of preference in relation to the last war was comparatively simple, but in relation to this war it is most difficult.
I wish to refer to the question of legislative power. The question is: Has the Commonwealth Parliament power to pass a law giving preference to service personnel in respect of all employment throughout Australia? If it has such power, it follows logically that employment in and by State governments and State instrumentalities can be dealt with as well as employment by private employers.
– I do not admit that the power to make a law applicable to employment generally necessarily includes an invasion of the domestic powers of the States.
– If the right honorable gentleman’s view is the right one, the defence power is the only basis on which that legislation could at present bo supported.
– That is right.
– That power, as honorable members know, is for the defence of not only the Commonwealth but also,, as the Constitution says, the States. If the judicature held that preference, not for a limited, period after the war, but for an indefinite period, is supportable under the defence power, I should think that, as the defence power extends to the defence of the States and the Commonwealth equally, preference may be extended to State services. But let that pass. The right honorable gentleman considers that it might apply, at any rate, to private employment and private industry throughout the Commonwealth. I believe that he has said on other occasions that that is not a matter of certitude.
– Yes, of course the matter is not free from doubt.
– That is the point. The legal advisors who attended the recently held Constitution Convention considered that there was a doubt about that. For that reason, in the agreement made at. the convention, a provision was made that the very first power to be referred to the Commonwealth by the parliaments of the States, within the terms of the Constitution, should be the power to do the things that were needed for the protection and advancement of servicemen and their dependants. That proposal has not yet been carried into effect except in, I think, two or three of the States. Therefore, that doubt- is not at present resolved. That is one of the reasons why the Government would have preferred this matter to be dealt with more comprehensively during the next sittings of the Parliament, and in an atmosphere entirely free from party politics. As a matter of fact, unless the principle of preference for ex-servicemen be divorced from party politics, their interests will be prejudiced.
– I do not consider that the right honorable gentleman can say that there was any party colour in my submissions.
– The right honorable gentleman has not given the slightest indication of it.
– What need is there for an inadequate bill at this juncture?
– I do not think that the bill is inadequate. The honorable gentleman has entirely misunderstood what I have said. The point that I have made is not that this is an inadequate hill but that the Commonwealth Public Service may certainly be dealt with within the legislative power of the Commonwealth, and that therefore the Government has tackled this problem in relation to a matter that is clearly within its powers, according to the principle observed in our law for many years. To say that the Commonwealth may have the power to do much more than is proposed, is not to answer the question raised by the bill. I believe that the right honorable member for North Sydney will agree with that submission.
– Is it not possible to attach conditions to Commonwealth Government contracts?
– I shall deal with that matter separately. What the right honorable gentleman now mentions could not be done under a Commonwealth Public Service Act. Still less is a repatriation, enactment the place in which to make such a provision.
The House will agree that the problem of the post-war period will not be preference of employment, because that implies insufficiency of employment for the people of this country. The real problem will be, how can employment, and security in it, be provided, for all?’ Therefore, in dealing with preference, we must always have in mind the outstanding objective that employment must be available to all the people of this country, particularly because in this war, which in Australia is becoming a total war, it may fairly be said that every citizen is doing what he or she is directed to do.
– But surely the right honorable gentleman will subscribe to the contention that the returned soldier should have preference in that employment !
– I entirely agree that he should. 1 am merely pointing out that preference will not of itself solve the economic problem of this country. As the right honorable member for North Sydney has said, it is regarded as essential by people who hold differing political views. Why? Because the soldier who has rendered such service to Australia may find himself behind scratch in the march towards economic security.
– Without preference in employment of certain classes, he might be left as the “ hewer of wood “.
– In this hill the Government is dealing with only one aspect of the total problem of employment - that relating solely to the Commonwealth Public Service. This legislation at least the Commonwealth has the power to make.
– I admit that preference does not solve the matter of employment. But if we are to await that solution we shall wait for eternity. It has never been solved; always more men have been looking for jobs than have been available.
– The Government intends to try to alter that position. I agree with the right honorable gentleman that that is not an answer to the bill, but is merely one aspect of the problem which deserves consideration. We must never lose sight of it.
Three departmental committees have been engaged on the problem. The first committee dealt with it as far back as June, 1941. The points which that committee then made were very important: First, that it was desirable that there should be uniformity of legislation on this topic in the State parliaments as well as the Commonwealth. Apparently, all who were concerned believed at that time that the Commonwealth Parliament could not legislate universally for preference. Further, none of the States has so far dealt legislatively with the problem in relation to the present war; consequently, in that respect the Commonwealth Parliament is taking the lead. Secondly- and this is very important in view of the right honorable gentleman’s recent comment - the committee said this -
The subcommittee is of opinion that the whole question of preference should bo reconsidered if Australia should become a theatre of war. The sub-committee also considered the position of non-combatant auxiliary services, rejected volunteers, munition workers, and persons in other reserved occupations, but was of opinion that there was no present justification-
This was early in 1941 - for the extension of preference to those classes of persons. If, however, Australia should become a theatre of war, their position in regard to preference, and indeed that of the entire Australian population, should be reconsidered.
Although, I suppose, it would not be correct to say that Australia - referring to the continent itself - has become .a theatre of war in the full sense, the danger of that i3 always present. The whole position of war service in Australia has, therefore, changed during the last fifteen months. Thirdly, as the Prime Minister has pointed out, all the committees have agreed upon some system of recruitment of young people to the Commonwealth service. The bill provides that that system shall be continued when the Public Service Board approves, but with a limit of 50 per cent, on such recruits
– Does the right honorable gentleman consider that 50 per cent, is fair and reasonable?
– That is the percentage, recommended by the committee, and it is the maximum. I can appreciate its being regarded as too high. The committee having recommended it to the Government, it has been fixed as the maximum in the bill.
– The Attorney-General has not appreciated what I wish to convey. I do not consider that it is adequate to meet, the needs of the returned soldiers.
– I have understood what the honorable member wished to convey. I consider that 50 per cent., especially at the commencement of the st-heme at the termination of the war, will not give sufficient to the returned soldier. On the other hand, 50 per cent. is merely the maximum which the Public Service Board may fix, having regard to the exigencies of the Public Service in relation to persons other than returned soldiers.
– Why not replace the older men in the Service?
– I come now to the point raised by the honorable member for Dalley (Mr. Rosevear). The bill provides that permitted recruits shall be confined to those who, at the termination of hostilities, were under eighteen years of age, and thus were not old enough to serve the country in the defence forces, or to those who had endeavoured to enlist but had been rejected. The honorable member for Dalley has suggested the addition to the categories of those who were prevented from serving in a combatant service because of some law, or because they were in a protected undertaking.
– Their position is a very hard one.
– They are in a very difficult position. The answer given by the Prime Minister to the honorable member for Dalley was that that presented a formidable and tangible argument.
– He said that the matter would be dealt with in committee.
– Yes, I agree. The right honorable member for North Sydney is mistaken in supposing that the bill proposes to extend preference to the factory worker. It does not. The broad principle is this: The measure of preference is already determined by the Commonwealth Public Service Act, and that will continue. The matter is defined in the proposed new section 6a. I take it that the right honorable member accepts the class mentioned in paragraph a, which reads as follows : -
every person who was a member of the Defence Force who served in the war with satisfactory record -
– That covers everything.
– Paragraph b, clearly, is right. It reads -
That comes within the principle.
– Does that paragraph include those who are engaged in civil aviation ?
– No; they would not be members of the Royal Australian Air Force. They are intended to be dealt with in another provision, to which I shall refer shortly. It is reasonably clear that they were not intended to be included in paragraph b because, notwithstanding the importance of their work, they would not be engaged in “ operational “ flights to sea. I take it that the right honorable member for North Sydney agrees with paragraph c where, for the first time, it is proposed that preference shall be extended to members of the merchant service.
– Will persons such as wireless operators on ships, who have been mentioned in a bill previously dealt with, be covered?
– Yes. Under paragraph c, an Australian mariner who served in the war with a satisfactory record in danger zones will be covered. There is a definition of Australian mariner, which has been drawn in such a way as to make it certain that the wireless operator, by whomever he may be employed, will be included.
– Will his service date from 1939, when the war began, or from 1941, when Japan entered the war?
– It will date from 1939. Every one agrees that members of the merchant service have done a magnificent job since 1939, particularly if they have served in areas declared to be danger zones.
Paragraph d is very broadly drawn, and may include every other person who was a member of the defence force, or an Australian mariner to whom the provision is declared by proclamation to apply, or who is included in a class of persons to whom the provision is declared to apply.
– It would not cover the commercial pilot engaged in bringing wounded soldiers back from the fighting front.
– No, but he can be covered under the next provision. Under paragraph b there is power to extend by proclamation the class to which preference shall apply, and it might be extended to members of the Militia who have not served in combat areas against the enemy. This paragraph was included because it is impossible to determine here and now the course which hostilities may take in Australia. Therefore, it is believed that the Government, which is responsible to Parliament, should have power to extend the class if the needs of war occasion it.
Paragraph e is not limited to members of the forces, and it is against this paragraph that the criticism of the right honorable member for North Sydney has been directed. The paragraph is as follows: -
Every person who served in the war with satisfactory record in such areas as are declared by proclamation to be combat areas or danger zones for the purposes of this paragraph, during such periods and under such conditions as are so declared; and
Under this provision it will be possible to include the civil pilot who, though not a member of the defence forces, has been engaged under conditions of extreme peril in the vital work of conveying wounded soldiers from the fighting front, or in taking reinforcements to the front.
– There is provision to include civil pilots operating between Sydney and Darwin, but there is no provision for members of the Air Force unless they make operational flights out to sea.
– Yes, such members may be included under paragraph d if a proclamation so provides. Paragraph e provides that the Governor-General may, by proclamation, include persons not specifically provided for. For instance, some members of the Civil Constructional Corps may be sent to advanced posts in New Guinea, where they have to work under conditions which, if not the same as those of the fighting men, are analogous to them. It is desirable that there should be power to include such men. I do not think that it would be possible to draft a measure which would provide for all contingencies unless we accept the view that preference should be strictly confined to members of the defence forces.
– Seeing that it professes to be a bill to extend preference to members of the forces, I do not see why it should not be so restricted.
– But the right honorable member is willing to extend preference to mariners, and they are not members of the forces.
– Yes, they should be included.
– Once we admit that preference should be extended to members of the merchant service who serve in combat zones, we admit that there is a case for extending the benefit to persons other than members of the defence forces.
– Preference will not be of much use unless it is limited to members of the forces.
– The honorable member for Denison seems to be opposed to extending preference to seamen, but I believe that they should be included, and I believe that the soldiers are anxious that they should. The Government is asking honorable members’ not to tie the hands of the Executive, but to allow it to exercise its discretion in regard to extensions.
– My . contention is that this will open the door so wide as to make preference worthless. It will admit the civilian, including the fireman who rescues a child from the fifth story of a building during a raid. The mariner is entitled in the sense that the soldier could not carry on without him.
– Equally it may be said that the soldier cannot carry on without other auxiliary services. It is evident that honorable members are agreed on the general principles of the bill. Most believe that preference should be extended to mariners. “With that the Government agrees. This further provision merely puts into effect the recommendation of the departmental committee that preference should not be absolutely denied to those whose service is substantially equivalent to the service of the soldier. I ask honorable members to give the Government power to extend the benefits, of the measure to persons who have served in combat areas or in danger zones. That would hardly include the firemen, and it would not include the factory worker, except in unforeseen circumstances. This debate indicates the necessity for allowing a certain amount of elasticity in defining classes, and in providing for the extension of classes.
Paragraph / of -the proposed new subsection is as follows : -
Every person who was born in Australia, or resident in Australia within six months prior to his enlistment or appointment, and who was enlisted in, or appointed to, and served in the war with satisfactory record in, the Naval, Military or Air Forces of any part of the king’s dominions (other than the Commonwealth) on active service outside that part or served in such areas as are declared by proclamation to bo combat areas for the purposes of this paragraph, during such periods and under such conditions as ave so declared.
That is clearly not open to objection. A further provision reads that the practice of the Public Service Board regarding bringing recruits into the Service will be followed, the proportion being fixed at a maximum of 50 per cent, in any one year.
– “What is the difficulty in bringing within the scope of the bill such services as the Commonwealth Bank and the Australian Broadcasting Commission ?
– It is difficult to do that in this measure, though in principle I see no reason why it should not be done. The right honorable member for North Sydney rightly stated that an amendment to another measure providing that preference should be given to soldiers in the Public Service would he of no effect unless the Public Service Act itself were correspondingly amended. There must be effective machinery for applying the principle once it is accepted.
Then there is the question of including in all Commonwealth Government con tracts the condition that the contractor shall give preference to returned soldiers. That does not arise under this bill.
– I agree that it does not arise under this bill, but the Government can give to Parliament an assurance that it will insert that provision in tenders.
– There has been a complete misapprehension as to the extent of the so-called preference laid down in contracts. I believe that the only contracts in which reference is made to an award or to the organized union are clothing contracts. As all honorable members know, in the clothing trade, great difficulty arises not with contractors who employ persons bound by the award, but with contractors who give out their work to what are called out-workers, namely, sub-contractors, who work under conditions which practically amount to “ sweating “. The objective of the provision in the clothing contracts of the Department of Supply and Shipping is to ensure that clothing shall be manufactured under decent conditions. It has little relation to the general question of preference to unionists. I am assured by the permanent head of the Department of Supply and Shipping that that is the object of that provision. There is nothing that would prevent the inclusion in contracts of some provision as to soldiers, but then that is not adequate. You say to your contractor, “You have to give preference to soldiers “, but he hands out sub-contracts to maybe 50 other people. The only solution is the direct one - compelling preference at the point of employment. The only way in which to deal with the matter would be by a law relating to employment which would require that substantial preference be given, not merely by contractors to the Commonwealth Government, but also by all employers. In that way, you will protect those who have served in combat, or who have served the nation in capacities which, though not equivalent to service in the fighting forces, are fairly analogous.
I favour the broadest application of the principle of benefiting the serviceman. I see difficulties about the Commonwealth’s power, but I do claim that this is the first instalment of this principle in Australia.
No State government has attempted to do H. This hill, I admit, applies only to the Commonwealth Public Service, but it lays down a general principle on which the House seems to agree.
– But preference to returned soldiers has been the law for 27 years.
– I agree, but that law applies only to those who served in the last war. At present, the preference sections of the Public Service Act do not apply to those serving or who have served in this war.
– Whatever the law is, the facts are these: The contractor must employ unionists. If he does not, the unionists strike. That unalterable fact must he faced. The Government has to decide what it is going to do about it. What is the Government going to do about preference to returned soldiers? That preference must be given by contractors. If they do not give it, they will have against them not only the unions, but also the Government.
– The right honorable gentleman knows that few soldiers who were engaged in industries covered by awards are not unionists.
– I do.
– I am confident that there will be no conflict between the unions’ claims and the nation’s insistence that soldiers shall have preference. That is why I believe there should he and will be an extension of this principle in the broadest possible way. This bill may become, with the amendments which the House may see fit to make, a model. This House has the opportunity to discuss the matters regardless of politics and party, affiliations in the interests of those who have served and saved Australia.
– Would the right honorable gentleman say whether the words “ serving on a ship “ in proposed section 6a (2.) (/) apply to the foregoing proposed sub-sections?
– I think that that can be explained in committee.
.- This bill is very curious. In some respects it goes too far, and in other respects it does not go far enough. Let me first of all say a few words about the respects in which it goes too far.
The operative provision of this bill is to be found in clause 2, which adds a new section, 6a, to the principal act. I direct, particular attention to the fact that the proposed sub-sections go far beyond preference to members of the fighting services. In my view, if there is one truth that is elementary in this matter, it is this: That, once you go beyond preference to members of the fighting services, you commit yourself to a sea of possibilities, and you will end by destroying the real value of preference. Preference is to be extended to merchant seamen, for whose work I have, in common with all other honorable members, the greatest admiration. They are men who work in circumstances of the greatest danger. There are also many hundreds of thousands of workers in factories in Great Britain who have worked in circumstances of enormous danger. But they are not members of the fighting services.
– That is not helpful, because there ‘never has been a system of preference to servicemen in Great Britain.
– I am not saying that there has been. I am pointing out that once you go beyond the fighting services, however meritorious some service may appear to be, you will very rapidly reach the point at which you cannot give preference at all. If preference is to mean anything, it must be confined to those people who unquestionably have earned it.
– Will the right honorable gentleman enlarge on “earned it” in a total war?
– I propose to do so. What is the true principle on which preference is given? It is not given because some one has survived, or challenged, or dared danger. It is a very meritorious thing, for people to undertake great dangers and hazards, but that is not the basis on which preference is given. Surely, the basis on which you give preference to a returned member of the fighting services is that something has been taken out of his life. He has gone away from his job, abandoned that task for two, three or four years. When he comes back he finds some one who has not abandoned his task is so much more advanced, perhaps so much more skilled, than he is. Preference is given to compensate him for that loss, to restore him bv preference to the position he would have been in if he had not abandoned it to become a member of the fighting services.
– Does the right honorable member include the Militia?
– Yes, all members of the fighting services. Those people have gone out of civil occupation. But take the case of a man working in the munitions industry. He is doing work of great national value, and he may in certain circumstances, such as a bombing attack, do work in circumstances of danger. But the fundamental fact is that he is, by the very nature of that work, continuing his civil life, so that in point of skill and employability he finishes his war service a better man than when he started it. The man who has been in the fighting services, in point of civil employability, in nine cases out of ten, finishes war a worse man, in that he is less competent and less experienced than he would have been had the war not occurred. That is the true principle on which preference should be based. That is why I say that this bill goes too far in extending preference to people, however meritorious their service may have been, who do not come within the proposition.
My other criticism is that the bill in some respects is completely inadequate. Once the Government decides that it will introduce a Public Service Bill, it confines the subject-matter with which it can deal, and this bill deals only with the Commonwealth Public Service. It touches a small fragment of the problem, and, what is perhaps more regrettable, it exercises only a small portion of the Commonwealth power. I am familiar with all the difficulties and the doubts that exist or arise in relation to the legal powers of the Commonwealth, but I say - and I have no doubt that the Attorney-General (Dr. Evatt) will agree - that, whatever doubt there may be as to the outer limits of the Commonwealth’s legal power to deal with preference, there can be no question as to the Commonwealth’s power to require preference, first, in its own Public Service, with which this bill deals; secondly, in ill authorities set up under Commonwealth law; and, thirdly, in employment under all contracts given to contractors with whom the Commonwealth deals.
– There is no question thai that is right.
– The AttorneyGeneral agrees. Those are the three categories on which there can be no argument about the powers of the Commonwealth. For my purposes, it is sufficient to say that; but, as there is a good deal of public interest in this question of whether the Commonwealth power in relation to repatriation is at present truncated, I refer very briefly to a well-known legal authority on this matter. My own view is, and always has been, that just as the defence power of the Commonwealth takes a large sweep of functions, just as that power enables the Commonwealth Government and the Commonwealth Parliament to convert people from being civilians into soldiers, to convert a country at peace to a country at war, just as it authorizes all sorts of steps for this purpose it leaves us, when the war is over, to reverse the process. The reverse process must equally be within the competence of the Commonwealth Parliament. What a curious view it would be of the defence power of the Commonwealth if you could move people from point A to point B and then have no power to move them back from point B to point A. The true view was categorically enunciated in the High Court in the case the Attorney-General v Balding, with which the Attorney-General is familiar, and which is reported 27 C.L.R. 398. The question that arose had to do with preferential payment in respect of certain money. The then Chief Justice, Sir Adrian Knox, Mr. Justice Isaacs, Mr. Justice Gavan Duffy, Mr. Justice Powers and Mr. Justice Rich, the then Full Bench of the High Court, said this -
In our opinion the Commonwealth Parliament had power under Section 51 (vi.) of the Constitution (the defence power) to enact this provision. It is a provision for the re-establishment in civil life of persons who have served in the defence forces of the Commonwealth when they are discharged from such service. That is a matter so intimately connected with the defence of the Commonwealth as manifestly to be included within the scope of the power.
That is a short but very authoritative and clear statement regarding the extent of the Commonwealth’s power in this matter.
– It states that there is “ power to re-establish “, and that is quite correct. But does the right honorable gentleman consider that that includes, for an indefinite period, permanent preference in private employment?
– I see no reason -why it should not, or why every step necessary for the re-establishment in his civil life of a man “who has served his country in war, should not come within the scope of the defence power of the Commonwealth. For the purposes of this bill, I am quite content to rest upon what I said earlier, namely, that there are at least three categories with which this Parliament is, beyond question, competent to deal. The Attorney-General assented to that view; and, indeed, it would be difficult not to assent to that proposition, because the Commonwealth has, in the course of this war, repeatedly put stipulations in contracts for military supplies. Reference has been made to clothing contracts.
– Is this bill the right place in which to put that provision?
– The provision could not be made in this bill as it is at present drafted, because the measure is confined to the Commonwealth Public Service. Clothing contracts entered into by the Commonwealth Government specifically include a requirement that the whole of the work shall be carried out by financial members of the Clothing Trades Union. I am not discussing the merits of that requirement. I know something of the extraordinarily difficult problems of combating the “sweater” in the clothing trade. I am merely using it as an example of the way in which the Commonwealth Government can impose an industrial condition upon the people with whom it makes contracts. If the Government can impose that condition, it can unquestionably impose a condition that the contractor shall give preference to returned soldiers. The other example which I gave was that of authorities set up under the Commonwealth law. The war bristles with such examples. Some temporary authorities may become permanent authorities.
– What is the use of applying preference to jobs undertaken by the Allied Works Council ? No preference would be extended to returned soldiers in that instance.
– But another form of preference exists.
– I refer to this matter, because I desire to point out how this does lie within the competence of the Commonwealth Government. Recently the Government set up, under regulations, the Wheat Harvest Employment Commission, and armed it with power to deal industrially with the wheat industry and certain allied industries. In the award - no doubt quite valid - the provision was included that preference in employment shall be given to members of the Australian Workers Union. If the Commonwealth Government can authorize a commission to give preference to unionists, it can compel a commission to give preference to returned soldiers. Therefore, I referred to these two examples in passing for the purpose of showing that there is an undoubted area of power within which the Commonwealth can operate in order to give effective preference to the people who come within the true principle upon which preference ought to be awarded. Because I believe that, I consider that this bill is, fundamentally, hopelessly inadequate. It goes too far in the nature of the preference which it awards, but stops too short in the area which it covers, and I arn left wondering why, in such haste, such an inadequate and unsatisfying bill was produced to the > House.
– The Australian Soldiers’ Repatriation Bill is not the place to insert a provision to guarantee preference to returned soldiers.
– I shall discuss that matter when it arises. I shall not be cross-examined as to what will happen when some other matters are before the House. In order to bring my dissatisfaction with this bill to a head, and to provide the Government with an opportunity to give much fuller consideration to it than apparently has been given to date, I move -
That all the words after “ That “ he left out with a view to insert in lieu thereof the following words: - “the bill be withdrawn and redrafted so as to provide for preference to former members of the Forces in the service of the Commonwealth, of all authorities set up under Commonwealth law and of all contractors with the Commonwealth “.
.- Obviously, the intention of the amendment submitted by the right honorable member for Kooyong (Mr. Menzies) is to insert in tins bill certain provisions which the Senate has incorporated in the Australian Soldiers’ Repatriation Bill. For that reason, I shall oppose the amendment. The principle of preference, upon which the Senate insists, is evidence that the Senate is pulling, not only its own leg, but also the leg of the public. The right honorable member for Kooyong first claimed that the bill went too far, and then he inconsistently declared that it did not go far enough. We meet, in all deliberative chambers, the person who claims that a motion goes too far, but that an amendment does not go far enough. Usually, that person has an entirely destructive mind. The amendment is an attempt to wreck the bill in order to rescue some of the sentiments which have been expressed by the Senate.
It is true that any bill which seeks to give preference to returned soldiers in this war will have to solve remarkable problems. This war is, to Australia, entirely different from the last Avar, particularly with regard to preference to returned soldiers. In the last war, Australia was in a zone of comparative safety; but even the greatest optimist would not contend that the country is not in danger now, and that if the forces now screening this country are broken, any part of Australia is a potential battlefield. In the last war, Australia provided soldiers, sailors and some airmen, who fought many thousands of miles from these shores, but Australia made practically little contribution to equipping its army. Since 1939, we have been compelled to adopt new methods, because we are now responsible for equipping our forces. Australia has an army of volunteers and conscripts, and an equally large army in 1he workshops, which is providing the troops with the sinews of war. From time to time, we impress upon the workers that the front line of defence is as much in1 the workshops as on the battle field. We encourage the belief that in these days of mechanized warfare, the responsibility and the duty of the workers is equally as great as that of the fighting forces, even though the danger to life and limb is not so imminent. When we speak of total war, in which all elements of the community, on both the military and industrial fronts, are involved by methods of compulsion, we add to the complications of repatriation, and of the application of the principle of preference to returned soldiers.
The right honorable member for Kooyong asked : “ If the bill is passed in its present form, and men other than those in the fighting forces are included, what will be the value of the preference ? “ He claimed that preference to returned soldiers is granted, not because they went, into danger zones, but because they earned it. Many other sections of the community have also earned recognition in the matter of repatriation. The right honorable gentleman said that these men earned the preference because something was taken out of their lives. During the period of their military service, they lost some of the skill that they possessed when in industry, and some time will elapse after the war before they will regain their touch. Whilst that is largely true of a large number of soldiers, it must be remembered that mechanized warfare has enabled many unskilled men to learn a trade. Aviation will undoubtedly be the most common means of transport in future. At the expense of the Government, many men have been trained as highly skilled aviators. That opportunity would never have presented itself to them if they had remained in civil life.
– They incur tremendous risks.
– I do not question that. I simply submitted a counterargument to the contention of the right honorable member for Kooyong that a soldier earns preference because of the gap that hig service in the forces created in his industrial or commercial life. The aviator certainly incurs tremendous risks, but if he survives he will have an opportunity to participate in what will be the most common form of transport in the future. That man has, by virtue of his service to the community, been able to learn a new profession which probably he would not have had an opportunity to learn in civil life.
Silting suspended from 12.J/5 to 2.15 p.m.
– I ask leave to continue my remarks later.
Leave granted; debate adjourned.
Bill returned from the Senate with a message intimating that it had agreed to the bill as amended by the House, at the request of the Senate, but with amendments.
Bill returned from the Senate with amendments.
– I move -
That the House, at its rising, adjourn to - Wednesday next, at 3 p.m.
I take this action in order that the Government may have an opportunity to consider the state of affairs that has developed in this Parliament, and to consider, also, ways and means by which the Parliament may be made a workable instrument of the democracy of this country, particularly in relation to measures that are bef ore the two Houses. I do not desire to offer any criticism of what has been done or said, or proposed in either House. I inform the country that I accepted a commission to conduct His Majesty’s Government in this country with the full realization that I would not have a majority of supporters in the Parliament, but I believed that there would bo a disposition on the part of the Government and the Parliament to endeavour to make decisions on important bills which would meet the requirements of the country, and would be as satisfactory as could be achieved in the circumstances, and in compliance with the wishes of the majority of the members of the ‘Parliament. I hoped that we would be able to deal with the domestic and internal problems of the country on the basis of good government, and, at the same time, devote the best of our capacities to the overriding duty which the war imposes upon us. I stand by all those desires. I am most anxious that this Parliament shall fulfil its trusteeship to the people. I hoped that any differences of opinion between the Houses would be so composed as to provide a solution acceptable to both, and, at the same time, be of service to the people of Australia as a whole. I very much regret that the circumstances of the last few weeks have made the task of government extraordinarily difficult. Even in peace-time a government meeting Parliament with the balance as it is in this House, and with a majority against it on general policy in the other House, would require to apply its best capacity to the problems of government; hut these are not even normal times. The best capacity of the Government cannot be directed to the carrying on of the routine business of our domestic order in these days; it has to be concentrated upon the task of seeing that the country is sustained against the enemy. I say no more than to express the hope that by meeting again next Wednesday the members of each House of the Parliament may bring to the problems of the Government and of the country a degree of co-operation which will be successful.
– I regret the step the Prime Minister has had to take. At the same time I can quite understand it. The right honorable gentleman has not had the assistance from the members of the Senate that he might have had: I say that with extreme regret, because members of the party to which I belong are involved. I said last week in a somewhat jocular vein that honorable gentlemen of the Senate were acting in a way which would justify the abolition of that body. What they have now done would justify it still more. I do not hold with all the legislation brought in by this Government. I would not wish to go out on the hustings to support what the Government has done, in certain respects. But there was no. need for the Senate to take the step it took yesterday in relation to the particular measure that was before it. The members of the Senate behaved like children in refusing to consider the bill introduced for the purpose of granting votes to certain members of the fighting services. They adopted a childish, and an obstructionist, attitude, such as I hope the members of this House would not adopt. I do not associate myself with them in that connexion. I am ashamed of what was done. I can understand the feeling of the Leader of the Government, and I do not wonder at it. This sort of thing must be abhorrent to the public of this country. I realize that some of the great newspapers of the country are backing the Leader of the Opposition in the Senate, and have said that the Senate has “ come into its own “ and has come to life. In my view the Senate is making itself exceedingly troublesome to the country at a time when such trouble can be dispensed with.
– I rise to order. I ask whether it is in order for a member of this Chamber to make a general criticism of the conduct of the members of the other House of the Parliament.
– The honorable member for Eden-Monaro is not in order in criticizing the action of the Senate.
– I have said all that I wanted to say, and will let it stand at that. I- could say more, but I have said enough. The right honorable member for Kooyong (Mr. Menzies) submitted a certain motion to-day, and he was entitled to do so, but I personally do not wish to be associated with it, because I do not believe that the Leader of the United Australia party was even consulted regarding it.
– I did not even know of it.
– If there is a clique on this side of the chamber I do not belong to it.
– I think that we had better have an election.
– The people of this country do not want an election. In my opinion they are saying, “ A plague on both your Houses “. If the Government tries to do what I consider to be wrong I shall fight it, but when it submits legislation which is warranted it should be given a helping hand.
.- The machinery of government, which consists of State executives and State parliaments, and also the Commonwealth
Executive and the Commonwealth Parliament, has not worked without friction during the war, and most of the causes of friction have been avoidable. The friction has been generated in this chamber itself. As John Selden said, when two men ride on the same horse, one must ride in front. Under the bi-cameral system of government, one House must be in front, and that is the House of Representatives ; but that does not entitle this House to push the other House off altogether. Action taken in this chamber has, I think, provoked the Senate to defer consideration of the Commonwealth Electoral (War-time) Bill. I refer to the refusal of this House to discuss the National Security Bill, which had been sent from the Senate. If the House of Representatives does not wish to discuss measures received from the other chamber, the Senate has the right to refuse to consider proposals made by the House of Representatives. We should try to obviate the causes of friction between the two Houses of this Parliament and between the parliaments of the Commonwealth and of the States.
– The honorable member for Bourke (Mr. Blackburn) has put his finger on the origin of the trouble that has arisen between the two branches of this legislature. If ever an insult was offered to the Senate it was done deliberately by this House when a bill sent from the Senate was rejected out of hand on the first reading. If I were a member of the Senate I should feel justified in “ cracking “ this Government whenever I got a chance. The Government has asked for it. I am not voicing anything new when I say that this Parliament hae never been on an even keel since the last general elections. It would perhaps be more correct to say that it has been on. too even a keel since that time. We have been cursed with a Government that will not govern, and with an Opposition that will not oppose. That situation still obtains, and for all practical purposes, the Opposition to which I belong might as well not exist. It would be a good thing if certain members of the Opposition took their rightful places on the government benches, and did it quickly. The only other alternative is to follow the course which is opposed by the honorable member for Eden-Monaro (Mr. Perkins) and to make an appeal to our masters, the electors. This Parliament, I believe, will go on record as the worst ever selected by. the people and the worst managed in the history of the Commonwealth.
– .1. have a good deal of sympathy for the Prime Minister (Mr.’ Curtin) in the position in which he finds himself during war-time, with grave issues confronting the nation. When I interviewed the Governor-General and handed in -my resignation as Prime Minister, I gave an assurance to His Excellency on behalf of a united Opposition, and as the result of a unanimous decision by the Opposition, that it would co-operate wholeheartedly with ‘the new Ministry in obtaining a maximum war effort. The Opposition I have the honour and privilege of leading has carried out that trust. A t the same time it has discharged the proper functions of an opposition, as my party, my executive and I have interpreted them, having regard to our responsibilities in the circumstances in which the country is placed. The Opposition has the right to offer constructive criticism and to exercise that vigilance over legislative proposals that is demanded of it by the nation. The same interpretation can be placed upon the functions of the Opposition in. the Senate. There the Opposition has the right, and, in fact, the duty, to send back to this House proposals that in its wisdom it regards as not in the best interests of the country. I shall not criticize the Senate’s functions or its actions, hut, on behalf of the Opposition and those who stand with me, I again assure the Government that we shall co-operate to the -greatest possible degree in securing a maximum war effort, for the security of Australia, and in discharging this nation’s responsibilities as a partner with our great allies in this war. I also give an undertaking that we shall be vigilant and critical in our consideration of measures coming before ‘us. and shall strenuously oppose those which we consider are not in the best interests of the country.
.- 1 am unaccustomed to such wide latitude being given to a motion that the House, at its rising, adjourn to Wednesday next. T have had experience of previous Speakers limiting so apparently innocuous a motion to the plain meaning of the terms of the motion. When an honorable member rose to a point of order 1 had a faint hope that he intended to raise the matter which I have ventilated, but the point of order taken was quite a different one. It related to animadversions upon a House, which, for some reason or other, we have fallen into the habit of describing as “ another place “. There are so many “ other places “, that it is very difficult to distinguish what is meant by “ another place “. It would appear that the point of order which you, Mr. Speaker, so readily sustained, after the honorable member for Eden-Monaro (Mr. Perkins) had said everything of which he could think by way of abuse of the ‘Senate, applies only to those speeches which are made in derogation of the Senate, and that those made in praise of it are entirely admissible; consequently, those honorable gentlemen who have told us that the Senate has acted within its rights are approved as having made their expressions conform to the Standing Orders.
– Order !
– Yes, I take the hint. I do not back down on what I have said; but I do “withdraw according to plan”. I consider that another place, alias the Senate, is quite entitled to conduct its business in its own way. I say that as one who would go the whole distance, and wholeheartedly, in company with the honorable member for Eden-Monaro, in conducting the obsequies of a place which does not seem to be entirely necessary for our governmental purposes.
I sincerely hope that the motion submitted by the Prime Minister (Mr. Curtin) will be carried. It appears to be a very reasonable and orderly motion, and entirely coincides with my view of the purpose for which this Parliament meets: that, having failed to complete our work this week, we should decide to work next week. Our position is almost like that of the hod-carrier who, not having carried all his bricks on one day, decides that he will cease work at halfpast five in the evening and resume work at 7 o’clock on the following morning. The motion is quite innocuous. If, under the wider interpretation. that you, sir, have been pleased to give to the terms of the motion, 1 may faintly indicate what I have in mind, I hope that this motion will be followed by another, proposing “ That the House do now adjourn “. Perhaps, when such a motion is submitted, 1 shall have an opportunity to give a new impetus to the general debate which has been initiated under a motion which does not appear to be altogether appropriate to it. I hope that the House will adjourn. I have no quarrel with the Senate. While it is still a part of our constitutional equipment, it is quite entitled to deal with its business in its own way. The Government, through the Prime Minister, rather seems to believe that, in the special circumstances of the case - that is to say, in view of the fact that a dreadful war is being waged - the objects which it has in view, and which, I am sure, it is very spiritedly endeavouring to carry out, have been, in some degree at all events, frustrated. I assure you, Mr. Speaker, that I was a member of a Government which had arrayed against it a Senate which was so unanimous in its disapproval of and opposition to the Government as to make the Senate of the present day appear a pigmy by comparison. Still, we got along as best we could. This Government, I am sure, will also get along as best it can. It has a very difficult task. I sympathize with it, because the balance of the parties, which makes government difficult, is the creation not of this Parliament, but of tho electorate itself. So much must be fairly acknowledged. I am glad that this House is to meet next Wednesday. T hope that we shall come to the meeting like giants refreshed, to grapple with the problems which may then lie before us, possibly as the result of action by the Senate’ alias “ another place “.
.- I consider that the Prime Minister (Mr.
Curtin) has acted wisely in proposing a somewhat longer interval between the sittings than has been the practice within recent weeks, because in the meantime he and his Government will have the opportunity to recover that sense of proportion and balance which apparently they have lost as the result of a condition known as “ endofthesession jitters “. What is it that justifies the extraordinary statements that have been made by the Prime Minister and some other honorable members’? We have heard it said that this Parliament has not been able to do its work on the major matters which the Government has had to introduce in order to forward the war effort of this country. I invite the House to reflect for a few moments on some evidence of the workability of this Parliament. As one of its members, I challenge - and I consider that the House itself is entitled to challenge - the statement of the honorable member for Barker (Mr. Archie Cameron) that this is the worst Parliament in the history of the Commonwealth. I say to him that I know of no parliament in the history of the Commonwealth which, in a comparatively short period, has had to deal with more matters of great moment than those with which this Parliament has dealt. I refresh the memory of the House on the fact that, in the short life of this Parliament, it has dealt with and passed a major measure of constitutional reform in the uniform income tax legislation. The bill dealing with the Militia was another highly important and controversial measure. The House has also dealt with unprecedented financial obligations, imposing new and novel burdens upon the people of the Commonwealth. The legislative and administrative record of this Parliament will have an important and honoured place with the records of past Commonwealth Parliaments. That has been done in the most difficult practical situation in which any Parliament could be placed. The fault does not lie with individual members, or with the people. By a tragic twist of fate, this Parliament assembled after the last elections with the parties almost evenly divided, the two independents in this House not owing definite allegiance, or disclosed allegiance, to one or another set of policies.
Despite those difficulties, this Parliament has carried on. In view of the position in which this Parliament was placed immediately after the general elections, with the parties fairly evenly divided, it is proper to remind the Prime Minister that if he, as Leader of the Government wanted to give to this country the best possible war effort of which it was capable, he was bound to use the talents and political experience of members of all parties in forming a non-party administration. Let the responsibility for that not having been done lie where it should lie. We on this side have at all times generously left the offer open. We have been prepared to make the best talent within our ranks available, not necessarily to a leader of our choosing, but to the Leader of the present Government. That offer has been open to the Prime Minister all the time. If the Prime Minister finds himself in a hopeless administrative situation as regards the work of the Parliament, the people of Australia will demand to know why he has not taken the obvious course, and instead now contemplates plunging this country into a war-time election many months before the necessity for it arises. These are things upon which the right honorable gentleman should reflect, and, therefore, it is well that there will be a long week-end in which he and his colleagues may do so. He may well ask himself whether the Parliament has indeed reached such a stage that it will not work. Let us consider how the present situation arose. We must remember that as late as breakfast-time this morning the Prime Minister and most of his colleagues believed that the Parliament would rise to-day and adjourn for a period of some months.
– Where did the honorable gentleman get that idea?
– The Prime Minister i3 not so disingenuous as to deny that it was a common belief that the Parliament would conclude the present sessional period to-day. What has arisen to change the situation? The Senate has taken a course in respect of one measure; it has said that that measure shall not be dealt with for a number of weeks. The measure is an important one, designed to enlarge the franchise for the forthcoming elections.
– For soldiers.
– At this stage, I shall not debate the merits of the proposal. I merely point out that in the closing days . of the present sittings Parliament is asked not only to consider that measure but also to pass it within a few hours, or days. The public will agree that that measure contains proposals on which reflection is necessary. Another bill deals with the important subject of preference to members of the fighting services and others who are engaged on war work. Even if the Prime Minister had not brought this motion forward, it would have been improper to rush that measure through the Parliament before various organizations representing the persons likely to be affected had had an opportunity to consider it.
– To what organizations does the honorable member refer?
– The measure contemplates the granting of preference not only to returned soldiers but also to mariners and certain classes of government workers. The Government and its supporters are entitled to its opinion on that subject. Obviously, there are many organizations representing the classes of persons who are likely to be affected by that measure. The persons and bodies concerned are entitled to reflect upon it, and to submit their views for our consideration. The Prime Minister would be acting wisely if he allowed both the measures which have been the cause of this difficulty to stand over until the Parliament meets again after the forthcoming recess. The Opposition has not suggested a lengthy recess between these sittings and the next meeting of the Parliament; the gap could be made one month, two months, or three months, to suit the convenience of the Administration. There is no justification at all for forcing these measures through the Parliament, and there can be no possible justification for saying that refusal to pass them in the closing days of this sessional period means that the Parliament has suddenly become unworkable. I hope that over the week-end the attack of jitters will pass, and that a sense of proportion will return, so that the Parliament may continue with the useful work that it has been able to do during this period of the war.
Question resolved in the affirmative.
– by leave - I move -
That leave of absence for one month be given to the right honorable member for Yarra (Mr. Scullin) on the ground of ill health.
– How is the right honorable gentleman?
– His condition is im proving, but not rapidly.
Question resolved in the affirmative.
Motion (by Mr. Curtin) put -
That the House do now adjourn.
Question resolved in the affirmative.
– The House stands adjourned–
– Mr. Speaker, I rose but you refused to hear me.
– I did not hear the honorable gentleman. The House stands adjourned until Wednesday next at 3 p.m.
The following papers were presented : -
Lands Acquisition Act - Land acquired for Commonwealth purposes - Brisbane, Queensland.
National Security Act -
National Security (General) Regulations - Order - Control of ice (Queensland).
National Security (Universities Commission) Regulations - Order - Numbers of students to be assisted.
House adjourned at 2.52 p.m.
The following answers to questions were circulated: -
e asked the Minister representing the Minister for Trade and Customs, upon notice -
In view of the Auditor-General’s statement that the cost of administration of the Division of Import Procurement in 1941-42 totalled £406,871, will he have a statement prepared giving the estimated expenditure in 1942-43 and a comparison of the staffs employed at the 30th June each year since the division was brought into existence and that employed at the end of last month?
– The Minister for Trade and Customs has furnished the following reply: -
y. - On the 17th March, the honorable member for Bass (Mr. Barnard) asked the following question, upon notice: -
I ask the Minister representing the Minister for Trade and Customs whether representations have been made toy the Premier of Tasmania in connexion with the prices now being charged for firewood in Launceston and Hobart? If they have, what is their nature? Has any action been taken for a re-adjustment of prices?
The Minister for Trade and Customs has furnished the following answer : -
No representations have been made by the Premier of Tasmania relative to the prices of firewood in Hobart and Launceston. No action has been taken to re-adjust these prices.
y. - On the 4th March, the honorable member for Parramatta (Sir Frederick Stewart) asked the following question, upon notice : -
What amount of beer was produced and what amount was released for consumption in each of the States during each month of 1941 and 1942?
In reply, I intimated that the information was being obtained. I now am in a position to inform the honorable member that the following figures represent the total production and deliveries of beer for home consumption for the calendar years 1941 and 1942, respectively: -
It is impracticable to give the production and consumption figures for each State month by month, as requested by the honorable member. The production figures given above include beer produced for consumption by civilians and in military canteens and officers’ messes, and also for export. The deliveries for home consumption include deliveries for civilian consumption and for consumption in military canteens and messes. It might also be pointed out that beer rationing came into effect on the 16th March, 1942, and. therefore, the figures for production ana deliveries for home consumption for the year 1942 shown above cover a period during which beer rationing was not in operation.
Australian Army: Hotel Accommodation in Sydney.
– On the 12th February, and again on the 25th February, the honorable member forReid (Mr. Morgan) directed my attention to the shortage of hotel accommodation for troops on leave in Sydney. I now desire to inform the honorable member that, as I previously advised him, there is an acute shortage of hotel accommodation in capital cities which is due partly to the large number of personnel from the fighting forces and to some extent to manpower difficulties. However, a hostel has recently been opened in the Marcus Clark building, Sydney, for troops on leave in Sydney, and it is anticipated that this will relieve the accommodation problem. With a view to ensuring that existing hotels in Sydney accept guests to the full capacity of their accommodation, suitable representations are now being made to the New South Wales Government and the man-power authorities.
n asked the Treasurer, upon notice -
– Inquiries are being made, and a reply will be furnished as soon as possible.
n. - On the 18th March, the honorable member for Moreton (Mr. Francis) asked whether the Government proposed to set up a new body to replace the Meat Industry Commission, and, if not, for what period it was proposed that Mr. J. A. Tonkin, of the Department of Commerce and Agriculture, should continue as Controller of the meat industry.
I desire to inform the honorable member that the Government has decided that Mr. Tonkin will continue as Controller of Meat Supplies, and accordingly National Security (Meat Industry Control) Regulations have been issued. The Minister for Commerce and Agriculture will appoint a Meat Industry Control Committee to assist Mr. Tonkin.
Department of Labour and National Service: Public Relations and Publicity Branch.
n. - On the 16th March, the honorable member for Wentworth (Mr. Harrison) asked me a question, without notice, relating to the staff of the publication section of the Industrial Welfare Division of the Department of Labour and National Service. In the course of my reply, I stated that Mr. Vance Palmer has been engaged for the purpose of assisting in the preparation of material dealing with absenteeism, and that I would ascertain what other cost was involved.
I now desire to inform the honorable member that the cost of the section will comprise the salaries of the persons required to compile and prepare for publication, information about industrial welfare for industry, workers and the public. Arrangements have been made for the section to work in close collaboration with the Department of Information, upon which it will rely for the distribution of material for newspaper publication. The main part of the section’s work is tho preparation of technical bulletins and pamphlets covering such subjects as the establishment and operation of factory canteens, the improvement of working conditions in foundries, the ventilation of factories under black-out conditions, &c. In addition to Mr. VancE Palmer, two persons are employed fulltime on other aspects of publication work, viz., a permanent officer of the Australian Broadcasting Commission lately transferred to the department on loan, and a Victorian public servant who has been on loan to the department for the past eleven months. Further, the department’s plans provide for the engagement of one other journalist. It may be necessary also from time to time to employ other persons temporarily to assist with special work. For example, recently two officers were borrowed for three weeks from the Rationing Commission.
Excluding temporary staff required for special work and the remuneration of Mr. Palmer, who is paid on a fee basis, the estimated cost of the additional employees - including provision for clerical and typing assistance - required to establish the section is approximately £1,750 per annum. It is considered that this sum is moderate in view of the results that will be achieved from the publication for general use of technical and other information on industrial conditions which is becoming available to the department.
Cite as: Australia, House of Representatives, Debates, 26 March 1943, viewed 22 October 2017, <http://historichansard.net/hofreps/1943/19430326_reps_16_174/>.