House of Representatives
22 June 1943

16th Parliament · 1st Session



The House met at 3 p.m.

page 5

ME. SPEAKER

Resignation of this Honorable W. M. NAIRN - Election of Mb. J. S. Rosevear.

The Clerk:

– I have to inform the House that I have received from His Excellency the Governor-General the following message : -

I desire to acquaint the House of Representatives of the Commonwealth that I have received a letter dated 21st June, 1943, from the Honorable Walter Maxwell Nairn, M.P., tendering his resignation as Speaker of the House of Representatives, which resignation I have accepted.

Accordingly, I invite the House, at its next sitting, to proceed to elect a new Speaker.

Mr CONELAN:
Griffith

– I move- -

That the honorable member for Dalley (Mr.

Rosevear) do take the Chair of this House as

Speaker. .

Mr MULCAHY:
Lang

– I have much pleasure in seconding the motion.

Mr Rosevear:

– I accept nomination.

Sir CHARLES MARR:
PARKES, NEW SOUTH WALES · NAT; UAP from 1931

– I move -

That the honorable member for Hunter (Mr. James) do take the Chair of this House as Speaker.

Mr James:

– I decline to accept nomination.

There being - no further nomination, Mr. Rosevear was declared elected.

Members of the House then calling Mr. Rosevear to the Chair, he was taken out of his place by Mr. Conelan and Mr. Mulcahy and conducted to the Chair.

Mr. SPEAKER ELECT, standing on the upper stop, said - I am deeply conscious of the responsibility which the House has placed upon me in having elected me as its Speaker - the highest office in the gift of the House. I trust that during my occupancy of the position I shall discharge its functions in as fitting a manner as they have been discharged by the long line of honorable gentlemen who have preceded me.

Mr. Speaker having seated himself in the Chair,

Mr CURTIN:
Prime Minister · Fremantle · ALP

– I extend to you, -Mt. Speaker, the congratulations of the House.- I am sure that you have earned and will continue to deserve the signal honour conferred upon you to-day. You may rely on the decorum of the House being maintained, and loyal and patriotic attention to duty by every honorable member. I- am certain that your remark concerning the maintenance of the traditions of a long line of predecessors will be amply fulfilled. I hope that you commence to-day a long tenure of office.

Mr FADDEN:
Darling DownsLeader of the Opposition

– I extend to you, Mr. Speaker, the congratulations of the Opposition upon your elevation to the honorable and high office of Speaker of this House. I assure you that the desire of the Opposition and of myself personally will be to make the responsibility and burden of your duties as little onerous as possible.

Mr BRENNAN:
Batman

– I first tender to you, Mr. Speaker, hearty congratulations upon your election to what, as you have rightly observed, is the highest ‘office in the gift of this House. Your election was unanimous, and has the unequivocal and enthusiastic approval of the whole of the House. There is some suggestion that the enthusiasm is likely to be modified by impending events, but in that view I do not concur. Your elevation, sir, has occurred in circumstances that are unique in my parliamentary experience. I have never known of a Speaker having lain down his staff of office during the term of a Parliament, and certainly I have no knowledge of one having gone on strike at a time when strikes were being deprecated in all quarters. I regard that as not only unique but also deeply regrettable. I have no doubt that your immediate predecessor, in. tendering his resignation to the GovernorGeneral, acted according to law; and indeed, I understand, in accordance with the express requirements of the Constitution under which this Parliament works. Therefore, his action was technically correct. But I take leave to say that the manner of your coming and his going - especially the latter - has been characterized by a display of very little courtesy to this House, by which he was chosen to be its Speaker. Yesterday, when he put to the House the motion,’ “ That the House do now adjourn “, he gave us not the slightest indication that to-day at -3 p.m. ho would not normally enter this chamber preceded by his orderly, bearing the customary bauble on his shoulder, and continue to preside as Speaker. I believe that the familiar words of Shakespeare, taken from Macbeth, are inapplicable in his case - “ Nothing in his life became him like the leaving it”. It was not a graceful act towards this Parliament, but inasmuch as it had the effect of installing you, Mr. Speaker, in office, the House is, to that degree at least, the gainer. The party of which I am a member will sustain a great loss in debating strength through your elevation to the Chair. I regret that we shall lose the benefit of your debating talents on the floor of the House, but I consider that the House as a whole gains distinction from tho fact that you have been elevated to the high position which you now hold.

Mr NAIRN:
PERTH, WESTERN AUSTRALIA · NAT; UAP from 1931

– I join in the congratulations which have been extended to you, Mr. Speaker, on your election to your high office. I almost regret that I have not an opportunity to offer congratulations to the honorable member for Batman (Mr. Brennan), who, I have no doubt, feels that he could have adorned the position much more satisfactorily than you, sir. I much regret the suggestion that I was discourteous to the House in not intimating to honorable members yesterday that I proposed to resign from the Speakership, but the manner of the retirement of Mr. Speaker is provided for in the. Constitution. According to that, the notification of retirement must be made in writing to His Excellency the Governor-General. I considered, therefore, that it was my duty to make the notification to His Excellency. I regret, Mr. Speaker, that your term of office has opened in a somewhat contentious atmosphere. For my own part, I trust that you will receive from honorable members on both sides of the House the same generous measure of support and cooperation as I was fortunate enough to receive during my occupancy of the Chair.

Mr. ARCHIE CAMERON (Barker).I congratulate you, Mr. Speaker, on having enabled the Government to rectify the serious blunder which was made when the present Ministry was elected. Since then you have no doubt been a thorn in the side of the Government, and I congratulate you upon having accepted this opportunity to’ enable the Prime Minister (Mr. Curtin) to silence the wisdom of Solomon by transferring it from the back benches to the Speaker’s Chair. It is patent to me that not even your elevation to the distinguished position of Controller of Hides and Leather was quite able to disguise your dissatisfaction with some of the deeds of the Government, which is now about to stand the test of parliamentary criticism. Your own surname starts with the letter “ R “, as does also that of the honorable gentleman who, I believe, will be appointed Chairman of Committees. I sincerely trust that that does not portend that the elevation to two distinguished’ positions of honorable members whose names begin with “R” means that for the short period they will occupy those offices “Rafferty rules “ will prevail. If so, only my friend the honorable member for Bendigo (Mr. Rankin) and I will be able to stand up to the rulings that will be given. Having congratulated you, Mr. Speaker, upon having got the Government out of a tangle, and yourself into one of your own making, I hope that you will not- be kept in your present position very long.

Mr SPEAKER (Hon J S Rosevear:
DALLEY, NEW SOUTH WALES

– I sincerely thank the Prime Minister (Mr. Curtin), the Leader of the Opposition (Mr. Fadden) and other honorable members for their congratulations and good wishes. Mentioning the fact that my surname and that of the honorable member who is likely to be chosen as Chairman of Committees begin with the letter “R”, the honorable member for Barker has expressed the hope that “Rafferty rules” will not apply in this chamber during my occupancy of the Chair. Let me assure honorable members that only the rules of the House will apply.

Mr. CURTIN (Fremantle - Prime Minister). - I have ascertained that it will be the pleasure of His Excellency the Governor-General to receive you, Mr. Speaker, in the Prime Minister’s suite immediately.

Mr SPEAKER:

– I shall be pleased if Ministers and other honorable members who wish to do so will accompany me to the Prime Minister’s suite and there be presented to His Excellency.

Sitting suspended from3.19 to3.30 p.m.

Mr SPEAKER:

– I have to report that, accompanied by honorable members, I proceeded to the Prime Minister’s suite and there presented myself to His Excellency the Governor-General as the choice of the House, and that His Excellency was kind enough to congratulate me on my election as Speaker.

page 7

CHAIRMAN OF COMMITTEES

Mr SPEAKER:

– I have received the following letter from the honorable member for Forrest (Mr. Prowse) : -

I hereby tender my resignation from my position as Chairman of Committees of the House of Representatives. In so doing, I desire to express my appreciation for the help and courtesy extended to me by all honorable members and officers of the House.

Yours faithfully,

John Henry Prowse

House of Representatives, Canberra, 21st June, 1943

Motion (by Mr. Curtin) agreed to -

That the resignation be accepted, and that the House proceed forthwith to appoint a Chairman of Committees.

Mr MARTENS:
Herbert

.- I move -

That the honorable member for Kennedy (Mr. Riordan) be appointed Chairman of Committees of this House.

Mr James:

– I have pleasure in seconding the motion.

Question resolved in the affirmative.

Mr CURTIN:
Prime Minister · Fremantle · ALP

.- On behalf of the House, I express our congratulations to the honorable member for Kennedy (Mr. Riordan) on his appointment as Chairman of Committees. The honorable gentleman is one of the younger members of this Parliament, and I am sure that he will carry out his duties with impartiality and efficiency, and that when in time he vacates that office he will do so only in order to be translated to a more important one.

Mr FADDEN:
Darling DownsLeader of the Opposition

– I join with the Prime Minister (Mr. Curtin) in extending congratulations to the honorable member for Kennedy (Mr. Riordan) on his elevation to the important position of Chairman of Committees of this House. Unlike the Prime Minister, I hope that the honorable member’s occupation of that position will be only temporary; but I agree with the right honorable gentleman that the duties of the office will be discharged by the honorable member for Kennedy with credit to himself and honour to this House.

Mr PROWSE:
Forrest

.- I, too, congratulate the honorable member for Kennedy (Mr. Riordan), and I assure him that I shall be happy to render any assistance in my power during his term of office.

Mr RIORDAN:
Kennedy

.- I thank the House for the honour which has been conferred upon me in electing me to such a high office. It is my fervent hope that I shall be able to carry out the duties of the position in accordance with the high standard which has been set by a long line of predecessors.

page 7

QUESTION

MOTION OF WANT OF CONFIDENCE

Motion (by Mr. Curtin) - by leave - agreed to -

That so much of the Standing and Sessional Orders be suspended as would prevent Notice of Motion No. 1 - Want of Confidence in the Government - taking precedence of all other business until disposed of.

Mr FADDEN:
Leader of the Opposition · Darling Downs

– I move -

  1. That the Government no longer possesses the confidence of this House.
  2. That a copy of this resolution be forwarded to His Excellency the GovernorGeneral.

I take this action because it is the considered opinion of the Opposition, and, I am sure, of an overwhelming majority of the people of Australia, that the Curtin Government has shown itself unfitted adequately and impartially to govern Aus- tralia in the circumstances of today. Australia is facing a grave “war situation and it is imperative that the whole of the resources of the country shall be controlled and administered impartially, and not in the interests of any one section of the community. Since coming into office in October, 1941, the present Ministry has, on numerous occasions, demonstrated its inability to give to Australia that kind of government which the people are entitled to expect of a war-time administration in respect of not only internal affairs but also international obligations. A previous Prime Minister (Mr. Menzies), realizing that no one political party could adequately’ govern Australia in the exceedingly critical situation caused by the war and secure the nation’s maximum war effort, approached the present Prime Minister (Mr. Curtin), who was then Leader of the Opposition, concerning the formation of an all-party administration, and offered to give to the Labour party five, or possibly, six, seats in the Cabinet. That offer was made on the 12th July, 1940. The then Prime Minister stated also that he would not permit his occupancy’ of the office of Prime Minister to stand in the way of the formation of a national government. In reply, the leader of the Labour party curtly intimated that the proposal had been considered by the party, and rejected. No reasons for that decision were given, but the four words “the proposal was rejected “ sounded the death-knell of Australian unity. As the result of that decision of the then Opposition an appeal was made to the electors in 1940. The then Prime Minister intimated that, if returned to office, he would do everything possible to induce the Labour party to share, on a full and fair basis, the responsibilities of government, so that Australia could present a united front to its enemies. That promise was honoured. As Acting Prime Minister during the absence from Australia of the right honorable member for Kooyong (Mr. Menzies), I invited the Labour party to share in a national government; but again the proposal was rejected. When my Government went out of office in 1941, a Labour Government was formed; but the Labour party in office has been just as uncompromisingly opposed to the formation of an all-party administration as it was when in Opposition. Recognizing that the security of Australia transcends all party political considerations, I have repeatedly and consistently indicated to the present Government the willingness of the Opposition to participate in a national government. I mention these facts, not in self-complacency, but as a contribution to current political history. As head of the Government, the Prime Minister must accept full responsibility for the administrative acts of his Ministers and for all actions by his Government which, instead of furthering the nation’s war effort, have retarded it. If members of the Government do things that are detrimental to the war effort, if they are inefficient in their administration and if they use their positions surreptitiously to introduce Labour policy, the Prime Minister is a party to such actions. Every member of the Government is deserving of severe censure. By its actions the Government is branded as one whose administration has been distinctly partisan ; as a government that has placed party political before national considerations ; as a government that has deliberately misrepresented the actions of its predecessors for party advantage; and as a government that has permitted industrial anarchy to prevail because of its craven fear of its trade union masters. The Opposition has submitted this motion of no confidence because the Government has shown itself incapable of giving Australia a total war effort. The Opposition declares that the Government has no mandate from the people of Australia to implement its socialistic doctrines or to legislate or to administer for sectional and partisan interests. Many of its actions have damaged and are damaging the war effort, while its inaction has injured and is injuring the reputation of Australia at home and abroad.

Immediately upon his Government taking office, the Prime Minister was given a firm assurance of Opposition cooperation. We have honoured that assurance in every way. Our criticism has always been constructive. Our actions, both inside and outside Parliament, have been taken irrespective of party political considerations. We have -.co-operated with the Government in the Advisory War Council. We co-operated with the Government by agreeing that the right honorable member for Cowper (Sir Earle Page), who had been despatched overseas by my Government, should continue his mission on behalf of the Curtin Government. On his return his services were offered and accepted as a member of the Advisory War Council.

Mr Curtin:

– Is it suggested that I invited him to serve on the Advisory War Council, as the result of a suggestion made to me?

Mr FADDEN:

– I did not say that at all. I said that the offer of his services was accepted.

Mr Curtin:

– I say that the initiative and the sole responsibility was mine.

Mr FADDEN:

– So far as I can see, that is a distinction without a difference. What the Prime Minister has said confirms what I have said, namely, that the services of the right honorable member for Cowper were used by the Prime Minister as a part of the cooperation of the Opposition.

Mr Curtin:

– Hear, hear!

Mr FADDEN:

– There can be no quibble about that. We co-operated in every way possible. As practical evidence of our co-operation and sincerity we left two of our own members in the positions of Speaker and Chairman of Committees. We co-operated in many other ways, because we were imbued with one desire and one desire only - to give Australia a 100 per cent, war effort. I, as Leader of the Opposition, and also the Deputy Leader of the Opposition (Mr. Hughes), have extended every consideration and co-operation to the Prime Minister and to members of his Ministry. That cooperation has been misinterpreted in very many circles, and very much to our detriment. It has been misinterpreted as a weakness on our part, whereas we accepted it as our duty and as a responsibility that transcended all party considerations. I set out these facts to show that the Opposition has persevered in its attempts to co-operate with the administration of this Government as long as it possibly could, having regard to its responsibilities and duties as a vigilant opposition. We have co-operated to the greatest possible degree in providing the maximum war effort for the nation. But we have responsibilities which it is our duty to discharge. Having regard to what happened during the parliamentary recess, we realized that the searchlight of investigation had to be thrown upon the administrative acts of the Government. The motion of want of confidence that I have made to-day is the result of that investigation.

After twenty months of Labour rule, we have in Australia to-day a government whose Cabinet Ministers are at variance on major questions of policy; inefficiency in administration, because of lack of ability and inexperience; unwanted and unwarranted regulations, government interference with industry, bureaucratic control and the subordination of immediate national needs to socialistic theories; strikes and absenteeism in vital war industries allowed to go unchecked ; ministerial and departmental differences where there should be complete coordination of effort’; shortages of essential commodities in a time of teeming production and restricted foreign markets ; an unfair and inequitable financial policy, endangering the structure of the Australian economy and jeopardizing the prospects of successful post-war reconstruction; gross bungling on the food production front and of rural man-power plans ; and the use of the war emergency to introduce Labour’s socialistic policy, quite regardless of its adverse effects upon the war effort; For these, and other important reasons the Curtin Government is deserving of the strongest censure.

The actions of the Government, particularly during the recently parliamentary recess, emphasized more than ever our responsibilities as a vigilant opposition. Whilst the Prime Minister has been able to enlist and has received the co-operation of the Opposition and, as a consequence, has been able to control Parliament; whilst he has obtained the support of a large section of the Australian community, and the services of those thousands of men of the fighting forces who have made and are making untold sacrifices, many of whom, dying for their country, it is undeniable that he has been unable to control the trade union movement and is the victim of its domination. The Prime Minister has been forced to approach these trade union bosses and organizations - which have no direct responsibility for the conduct of the war - on every major issue. “We had the spectacle of the Militia Bill. Under the industrial set-up of Australia, the government of the day has to receive instructions from the trade unions and the Labour movement before it is able to carry out its policy. He has had to go to them to get their approval to legislate at a time when Australia’s very existence is threatened. He has had to go to them to get his instructions. He has not, however, been able to win their unanimous support. This is particularly the case in the industrial field to which I now refer:

Our Avar effort depends upon the maintenance of harmony on our industrial front. I charge the Government with having failed to discharge its obligations to the Australian people, to the men and women who are members of our fighting services, and to our Allies. I declare with all the emphasis at my command that the Government’s failure to stamp out continued industrial lawlessness is a gross betrayal of all those to whom I have just referred. Three months ago, I moved the adjournment of the House to direct attention to the detrimental effect of strikes, industrial disputes, absenteeism and “ go slow “ practices in industry upon the war effort of Australia and of the Allied Nations. At that time, industrial lawlessness was rife. The Government had revealed itself as being incapable of dealing with the irresponsible section of trade unionists who, by their actions, showed a contemptuous disregard for the nation’s security. The Opposition and the Australian people were becoming weary of the repeated antistrike warnings of the Prime Minister and his colleagues. They were becoming weary of the Government introducing regulations and then f ailing to give effect to them. There was a general recognition of the fact that no matter how often the Government might issue threats, or how drastic those threats might be, it had not the courage to take determined action. Obviously, the position was that the Labour Government, while demanding sacrifices of the citizen and appealing to our Allies for help, was not prepared to put in their proper places those industrial outlaws who by strikes and absenteeism were playing into the enemy’s hands. Bluntly, the Government’s refusal to deal with industrial anarchy amounted to a callous “ letting down “ of those Australians who had fought, and were fighting, in the fever-infested swamps of New Guinea. What is more, it was a “ letting down” of our Allies.

On the 12th March last, I moved the adjournment of the House in order to discuss industrial disputes. On that occasion I traced in detail the sorry history of the Curtin Government in relation to industrial disputes. Therefore, I do not propose to cover that ground again. My indictment of the Government is recorded in Hansard. Notwithstanding the gravity of the issue involved, the Prime Minister did not attempt to defend the Government against the Opposition’s charges. His only contribution to the debate was to congratulate the Minister for Labour and National ‘Service (Mr. Ward) upon his reply on behalf of the Government. The Opposition offered to co-operate whole-heartedly with the Government in the taking of any definite and resolute steps to declare war-time strikes illegal. The Government preferred to go its own way. It continued its policy of all talk and no action. Ministers continued to threaten the strikers. There were more conferences. A few prosecutions were launched; but industrial lawlessness continued unchecked. Later that month, we had more brave words from the Prime Minister. Declaring that absenteeism was one of Australia’s most serious wartime industrial problems, the Prime Minister said -

While Australian troops are fighting a life.anddeath struggle, the nation cannot be satisfied with anything less than a 100 per cent, effort on the home front.

Brave words! But, again, were they anything more than mere words ? Strikes continued to occur in important war-time industries. Employees in those industries deliberately absented themselves from work. The nation’s war effort suffered. Industrial lawlessness has gone unchecked. I shall now substantiate my charge.

Mr Ward:

– It is time the right honorable gentleman said something.

Mr FADDEN:

– It is time the Minister, for the benefit of his own party, stopped saying anything. Stoppages in the coal industry have been so frequent that I shall not weary the House by particularizing them at this stage. Suffice it to say that some of them were for particularly trivial reasons. There was not the slightest justification for certain of these hold-ups, especially the one which took place as a protest against butter rationing. It mattered not to the coalminers how seriously their action hampered the war effort. It was of no concern to them that they were letting down their fellow-Australians in the fighting forces and were acting to the detriment of our war effort. Those coalminers who have deliberately gone on strike have been guilty of what the Prime Minister has described as “ treachery “. War production was also seriously affected by a strike in the textile industry which began on the 22nd February last and continued until early in March. From ten to twenty factories were idle and from 8,000 to 10,000 employees were involved. The Government stands condemned for its failure to take determined action to deal with strikers in the metal trades industries. These industries are engaged on war-time work of front-rank importance, and it is imperative that there should be no interruptions of production. Honorable members are aware that a succession of strikes has occurred in these industries. This afternoon I intend merely to deal with the major stoppages that have occurred since the 1st March.

One of the worst cases related to the hold-up of urgent work on a ship for three days. Sixty painters and. dockers were required to do certain work on this ship. They refused to work at award rates and went on strike, and though fresh .rates were awarded, the men still refused to work. Because of the extreme urgency of the job, the employers yielded and a higher rate was paid. Since March, there have been four strikes in relation to the Women’s Employment Board and nine altogether since the board commenced to function. The most serious hold-up in the metal trades industry since war began was related to Anzac Day. Metal trades employees in New

South Wales decided not to work on the 3rd May because the Government did not grant the unions an extra holiday when Anzac Day fell on a Sunday. When the Arbitration Court was notified of the men’s decision, Judge O’Mara described it as “ deliberate and organized defiance of the law”. With one exception, none of the rank-and-file members of the unions made the decision not to work. The decisions were made by the executive officers of five unions. In this connexion I quote a very pertinent observation by Judge O’Mara -

The employees have been instructed by their unions not to work on Monday, and while they may be prepared to disobey many of the laws of God and man they appear always to give unquestioning obedience to a union’s order to stop work. . . .

The other major strike, to which I shall refer in some detail later, is that which has been in progress at the establishment of Duly and Hansford Proprietary Limited. This strike commenced in a munitions annexe on the 15th May, following the failure of the ironworkers’ union to persuade ten non-unionists to join a union. Notwithstanding the Prime Minister’s bold words and the judge’s stringent comments, the head of the Government, who, in March, had spoken so scathingly of absenteeism, did nothing. More than 30,000 metal trades employees took the day off on the 3rd May, the loss of man-hours being estimated at 240,000. On the same day, sixteen mines in western New South Wales, employing 1,500 men, were idle because the men refused to work on May Day without penalty rates. And, worse still, servicemen were working ships because of the refusal of wharf labourers to do so. On the following day, seven coal-mines in northern New South Wales were idle, resulting in a loss of more than 10,000 tons of coal, while 750 Australian and Allied servicemen were working on the Sydney waterfront. On the 5th May, strikes by more than 1,000 workers stopped vital defence work at two factories and a naval establishment in Sydney. Eight hundred servicemen were working on the wharfs. So the sorry story of industrial stoppages went on through last month and into the present month.

While the Government was prepared to sit back and let our fighting men and those of our Allies work at the wharfs when waterside workers refused to do so, it allocated £125,000 for amenities on the wharfs. I take no exception to the provision of amenities; but, surely, in these critical days of war, the Government’s main responsibility is to ensure that those who enjoy the protection given to waterside workers shall follow their particular calling. At the very time the Government made this decision, men walked off the job on the Sydney wharfs and the troops were called upon to do their work.

We come now to the 17th May, when the Prime Minister described interruptions to war work as “ treachery “. On the same day, 250 girls employed at the munitions annexe of a large war factory decided not to return to work until ten non-unionists joined a union. On the 18th May, the Prime Minister announced the decision of Cabinet to make both the workers and employers who cause the dislocation of war production liable to the summary cancellation of their protected industry privileges. On the 27th May, the new regulations were issued, and the Prime Minister was given complete and sole power to enforce them. The significant inference to be drawn from ‘ this fact is that the Government realizes the complete inability or disinclination of the Minister for Labour and National Service to give effect to the decisions of Cabinet. But these regulations that the Government claimed would end strikes, were not favorably received by its trade union masters. The Government was criticized most trenchantly by trade union leaders who have talked so freely of co-operation with the Government in an all-in war effort. For example, in Sydney, the district secretary of the Amalgamated Engineering Union, Mr. Carney, went so far as to declare that Australia, has been singularly free from strikes. Such a statement is utter nonsense. The secretary of the New South Wales Trades and Labour Council, Mr. King, M.L.C., stated -

We cannot agree with the new regulations prohibiting entirely the right to strike under threat that the workers will be called up.

The general secretary of the Miners Federation, Mr. Grant, expressed the opinion that the Prime Minister should have held his hand until the rank and file had voted on the federation’s own code of discipline. The president of the Australasian Council of Trade Unions, Mr. Monk, hoped that no steps would be taken to implement the regulations before the Prime Minister and his Ministers had conferred with trade union leaders at the conference held in Melbourne last Friday and Saturday.

From those statements, honorable members will see that when the Government announces a definite plan of disciplinary action, belated though it may be, the industrial movement to whom Cabinet always has to go cap in hand for the purpose of receiving its instructions, adopts a hostile attitude. Certainly, no one could accuse the Government of acting precipitately against the strikers. Although the regulations may be used against employers as well as employees, I have not heard of any protests from employers that they had not been consulted concerning the drafting of these regulations to prevent strikes. I ask the House to remember that the latest set of anti-strike regulations was gazetted nearly a month ago. Three weeks ago, Judge O’Mara, in declaring that the strike over the employment of the ten non-unionists was illegal, intimated that the papers dealing with the case would be sent to the Prime Minister. I respectfully invite the right honorable gentleman to inform the House what has happened. What is the reason for the Government’s delay in taking action? Why has the Government failed to use its new powers against coal-miners, wharf labourers, and other war workers who have gone on strike since the new regulations were gazetted? Why does the Government hesitate about using those powers in Queensland when, according to the Deputy Director of War Organization of Industry, Mr. Colin Clark, industrial absenteeism in Brisbane averaged 30 per cent.? These questions are very pertinent to the issue, because in the Arbitration Court last week, Judge O’Mara said that it was the responsibility, not of the court, but of the Commonwealth Government to punish people who illegally absented themselves from work, or unions which encouraged strikes.

I shall now offer some observations on the strike against the employment of nonunionists, to which I have already referred, because I realize, just as the Government apparently ‘realizes, that an important principle is involved. The ten non-unionists, in response to an appeal by the Commonwealth Government, took up war work at a munitions annexe. When they offered their services, they did not think that attempts would be made to force them to subscribe to political organizations with which they did not wish to be associated, and with which they have no sympathy.

Mr Sheehan:

– This case has not yet been concluded.

Mr FADDEN:

– I am aware of that; and I have invited the Prime Minister to explain to the House why it has not been concluded.

Ma-. Frost. - The Leader of the Opposition is giving his verdict now.

Mr FADDEN:

– What protection from the extreme trade union element will this Government give to those who respond to its appeal to help the war effort, and who come from all walks of life temporarily into industry for the purpose of doing a war-time job? In this instance, the ten non-unionists are being persecuted. The only sin which they have committed has been to exercise their right as free citizens to decide whether they shall or shall not join a union. Hundreds of other persons are similarly placed. Surely people of this class are entitled to some protection! They should not be subject to ‘ partisan administration at the hands of the Commonwealth Government or the unions. One of the women involved in this matter is the wife of Mr. W. .T. Cassidy, K.C. She summed up the position admirably when she explained that she was working for our fighting men in New Guinea. She said -

I prefer to be dictated to by their needs rather than by trade unionists who provoke strikes. This is an all-in war effort. Strikes have no part in such a programme. In the past few months, the union has found one excuse after another to call strikes.

On the 24th May, following directions from two unions, 233 more employees went on strike. They themselves did not decide to go on strike; they followed trade union direction. On the 31st May, Judge

O’Mara, in saying that the non-unionists were “not responsible for the hold-up of important war work”, stated that under the existing law they were free to decide for themselves whether they would join a union. It was at that stage that His Honour sent the papers dealing with the case to the Prime Minister.

Subsequent to the 31st May, many attempts have been made both by intimidation and persuasion, to get the nonunionists to join <a union. But the Government has done nothing to endeavour to prevail upon the strikers to obey the law and return to work. Instead of the Government giving effect to the regulations to combat strikes, Mr. J. S. Garden was deputed to deal with the matter. The Deputy Director of Man Power in New South Wales, Mr. Bellemore, also took part in the conferences. According to tho press of the 7th June, following representations from the unions, the Prime Minister has declined to intervene directly in the strike. The House will recall that Mir. Garden was deputed earlier this year to settle a strike in a textile industry. His contribution was to tell the trade unionists that “ the strike had been worth while”. When Mr. Garden interviewed the non-unionists, he apparently recognized that they would not be coerced into submission so easily as those upon whom the Labour party relies for support. Therefore, he adopted new tactics. On behalf of the nonunionists, it is alleged that Mr. Garden said to Mrs. Cassidy : “ If you want war effort, Mrs. Cassidy, I’ll put you where you’ll get plenty - up to your neck in dirt “. Surely, people who are playing their part in helping the war effort, while the Government allows trade unionists to impede it, are entitled to more courteous treatment from an employee of the Government. Does the Prime Minister approve of this kind of thing? These non-unionists offered on the 10th June to join a union, provided the union would guarantee that there would be no stoppage of work in war-time ; that it would abide by arbitration court decisions even if they were against the union ; and that it would use the secret ballot bef ore deciding to go on strike. Convincing evidence that the Curtin Government, in its clumsy handling of the industrial situation, is actuated solely by party political considerations is provided by the speeches of Ministers at the Trade Union Conference which began in Melbourne on Friday. According to press reports, no fewer than fifteen Ministers of the Government attended in order to convince the trade union movement of Australia that its duty was to make the maximum war effort in the interests of Australia. The Minister for Supply and Shipping (Mr. Beasley), according to the press, told the conference that if the Labour Government was to win the coming federal elections strikes must cease, ,and there must be no absenteeism. These are the Minister’s reported words -

I ask you as representatives of workers to ask members of unions not to stop work in the next four or six months, and there must not be any absenteeism. If there is further industrial turmoil, it will lessen the chance of the Labour Government being returned to office at the next election.

He is reported to have stated further -

Avoid hold-ups in industry, make some reasonable attempt to reduce absenteeism, do not give the Opposition political propaganda to flog us with.

The Deputy Prime Minister and Minister for the Army (Mr. Forde), who also addressed the conference, said that the people within their own movement, apart from people outside, were dissatisfied and grieved at the industrial stoppages that had taken place. He added that some solution would have to be found.

Is not all this clear evidence that the Government fears the consequences of bringing into operation against trade unionists the regulations it has promulgated to stop strikes? In other words, the Minister for Supply and Shipping suggested to trade unionists that if they stopped striking and stuck to their jobs until after the federal elections, and Labour was returned, they could then revert to strikes and absenteeism, and do what they liked. That is the only inference to be drawn from that appeal. It would appear from this that the only concern of the Ministry is that it should get back to power at the coming elections. If the statement of the Minister for Supply and Shipping represents the view of the Prime Minister and the other members of the Ministry, it can be regarded only as wanton disregard by the Government of the security of the nation. The Minister for Supply and Shipping put it ‘quite plainly to the trade union conference that, if the Labour party is. to win the coming elections, strikes must stop. What I put to this House and to the people of Australia has no relation to party politics. I say quite frankly to the industrial workers of this country and to the Curtin Government that, if we are to win this war, strikes must cease. lt is the responsibility of the Government, and of the Government alone, to stop them. There rests upon it a responsibility, regardless of political considerations and of possible consequences at the polls, regardless also of the Government’s tie-up or association with the trade union movement to use the extensive powers that it has possessed for many months past, and the new power that it has recently taken, in order to outlaw industrial stoppages and absenteeism. This it must do out of consideration for the hest interests of the nation, and because of the urgent and inescapable necessity for a maximum war effort. These considerations all demand that strikes, absenteeism and industrial lawlessness shall be disciplined and eliminated.

The plea made by the Minister for Supply and Shipping for a respite from strikes in order to assist the return of Labour at the coming elections is a clear indication of the Curtin Government’s weakness. The Government says, in effect: “ We do not want to fall out with the industrial movement, so give us three, four or six months to enable us to get back, because that is more important to us than giving Australia a maximum war effort “. The Opposition’s view is that the effective prosecution of the war to hasten the day of victory demands that the Government should act immediately to outlaw strikes and industrial dislocation in every form. It has not done this, but, as in other matters which called for resolute action, it has considered the interests of the industrial movement in preference to those of the nation.

Whenever his incapacity to carry out the duties imposed upon him as a Minister is demonstrated, the Minister for

Labour and National Service, realizing that be bas no defence, falls back upon comparative statistics of working days lost under the Menzies, Fadden and Curtin Governments. These figures, quite apart from the fact that they provide odious comparisons, because the circumstances of Australia to-day are entirely different from what they were when the Menzies and Fadden Governments were in power, are well worthy of dissection to reveal the basis upon which they are computed. According to the press of last week, figures which are expected to be issued soon will reveal that there were more strikes in Australia in the first quarter of 1943 than in any other quarter since the war began. Certainly there is ample evidence .that, notwithstanding the gravity of the war situation,- industrial lawlessness has increased rather than diminished. In the metal trades in New South Wales alone, since the 3rd March last there have been 22 strikes and stoppages, more than 43,000 employees have been involved, and the manhours lost exceed 623,000.

The Curtin Government, particularly the Minister for Labour and National Service, is to blame for the industrial anarchy which exists to-day and is a constant threat and impediment to our war effort. How can one expect anything but industrial turmoil when one finds the Minister for Labour and National .Service, whose responsibility it is to promote industrial peace, continually launching offensive attacks upon members of the judiciary? Obviously, this Minister can see nothing good in our arbitration system. The only kind of arbitration system that would have any virtue in his eyes would be one that favoured the workers, irrespective of whether they were right or wrong. Such an attitude is typical of the Minister for Labour and National Service, who is notorious for his bias against employers. In fact, the whole ministerial career of the honorable gentleman has been marked by actions which have encouraged irresponsible elements in industry to defy constituted authority. He declared that Statutory Rule No. 77 - aimed at securing peace in industry - would never be used against the workers, so far as he was concerned. His opposition to the industrial arbitration system and his venomous criticism of the Arbitration ‘Court are prominent activities of the Minister. At the Trade Unions Convention, in Melbourne last year, the Minister said that some judges of the Arbitration Court seemed deliberately, on occasions, to create difficulties, and he was not satisfied that many men in judicial positions in Australia were assisting the Government to the degree that they might in industrial matters. In recent weeks, the Minister for Labour and National Service has continued his campaign of vindictiveness against members of the judiciary. His attacks upon men who are charged with the administration of the law are without parallel in the history of responsible government. Things are coming to a sorry pass when a Cabinet Minister descends to attacks of the kind in which the Minister has been indulging.

It is possible to gain an insight into what is in the mind of the Minister for Labour and Na’tional Service from a statement he made at the Trade Union Conference in Melbourne at the week-end. He told delegates that he wanted to do a job for the workers, and the Cabinet would not let him.

Mr FORDE:
Minister for the Army · CAPRICORNIA, QUEENSLAND · ALP

– Be fair to him. That is not true. He did not say that.

Mr FADDEN:

– He is reported to have said it, and surely he is not again incorrectly reported. He went on to say that it was evident that the regulations which had been brought down by his department, and which he had to implement, were not of his making and were not acceptable to him, but he had to carry them out. Those are extraordinary statements to be made by a responsible Cabinet Minister; they show an utter disregard of the responsibilities which are his as a member of the Government team.

I shall deal specifically now with compulsory unionism. The Government is introducing compulsory unionism by back-door methods. It has introduced compulsory unionism in relation to certain contracts, and into Commonwealth departments, and there is every indication that although the Ministry is not prepared to come out into the open in this regard, that policy is being forced upon the nation quietly, but none the less effectively. At the trade unions conference on Saturday one delegate said that in June, 1942, the Prime Minister had promised that compulsory unionism would be introduced. He asked the Deputy Prime Minister what had been done to give effect to that promise, and was told that nothing could be done because of a hostile Senate.

Mr Forde:

– There were no newspaper reporters at the conference; the reports which the right honorable member is quoting are second-hand, and are not true.

Mr FADDEN:

– I am quoting reported statements.

Mr Forde:

– There were no reporters at. the conference.

Mr FADDEN:

– I am merely following the example set by honorable members opposite when they were on this side of the chamber. The plain fact is that even a hostile Senate has not deterred the Government from introducing a substantial measure of compulsory - unionism by duress. The Minister for Labour and National Service was much more outspoken than his colleague, the Deputy Prime Minister, and said that although compulsory unionism was supposed to be Government policy, his experience in endeavouring to implement it had been unpleasant. The Minister for Labour and National Service makes no secret of the fact that, as with other matters, he has no conscience when it comes to doing things for which the Labour Government has no mandate. When asked about compulsory unionism in Government workshops and Government-controlled establishments, the Minister for Labour and National Service gave a direct incitement to further industrial lawlessness by saying that workshop committees should keep union establishments operating and hold up non-union establishments. I suggest to the Prime Minister and to other Ministers who are appealing to the workers not to strike until the elections are over, that, in making a declaration such as that, the Minister for Labour and National Service revealed his unfitness to continue to administer* his department. Was he voicing Government policy? What has the Prime Minister to say about advice to strike being given to industrialists by a member of his Cabinet? The Prime Minister has also played his part in the introduction of compulsory unionism, although his Government has no mandate to do so. In March, 1942, the Federal President of the Australian Labour party (Mr. Fallon) and others conferred with the Prime Minister and the Minister for the Army in Canberra. According to a report released by Mr. Fallon, following a deputation from the Australian Workers Union, the Prime Minister promised that every effort would be made by administrative action to cause persons employed on Commonwealth Government works to become financial members of whatever unions usually catered for employees performing the class of work involved.

Mr CURTIN:
ALP

– If the right honorable member will substitute the word “ encourage “ for “ cause “ he will be right.

Mr FADDEN:

– I have quoted exactly what Mr. Fallon said, according to a report in The Worker.

Mr Curtin:

-. - The right honorable member is only quoting a newspaper report.

Mr FADDEN:

– Yes, but it is. a Labour newspaper. I invite the House to note the Prime Minister’s words “by administrative action “. Why did the Government not come but into the open instead of adopting this back-door method of introducing compulsory unionism? Mr. Fallon also revealed that the Prime Minister had agreed to his proposal that the whole q.f the Queensland conditions, including those prescribed by the preference clauses of Queensland awards, should apply to all Commonwealth Government jobs in that State.

I shall refer now to the appalling conditions on the food front, with which is linked one of the most important resources of this nation - man-power. The Government’s procrastination in forming a balanced man-power policy deserves the strongest condemnation. The results of the bungling that has taken place are only too apparent, especially in the rural industries, which have been denuded of man-power to such a degree that rationing of essential commodities has been introduced in a last-minute attempt to maintain vital supplies to the fighting forces, and to Great Britain and our Allies. . In relation to the man-power shortage, only to-day I have been informed that all lead and zinc production at Mount Isa has ceased because the Government has declined to make available sufficient labour to enable production to continue.

Mr Curtin:

– That is not true.

Mr FADDEN:

– It is the information that has come to me to-day.

Ma-. Curtin. - It is misinformation.

Mr FADDEN:

– I hope that it is not true, and if that be so honorable members opposite will have an opportunity later in the debate to tell the House just what has happened. The Comptroller of Metal in the United Kingdom, through the Agent-General for Queensland and the Queensland Government, protested to the Prime Minister against the failure to maintain supplies, but so far nothing has been done by the Commonwealth Government.

Mr Curtin:

– Supplies of what?

Mr FADDEN:

– Supplies of zinc and lead.

Mr Curtin:

– But Mount Isa is crossing over to copper production.

Mr FADDEN:

– Mount Isa went into copper production at the urgent request of the Commonwealth Government, but a “ go-slow “ strike has reduced copper production by 50 per cent. The company has filed a plaint with the State court asking that normal production be resumed, but I am advised that nothing can be done for a fortnight as the president and secretary of the AustralianWorkers Union are absent from Brisbane.No action has been taken by the Commonwealth Government. I offer that information in the course of this debate because of its association with the manpower problem. I repeat that I hope that it is not true. I do not guarantee that it is correct, because I have had no opportunity to verify it.

Australia, a land which literally was flowing with milk and honey, a land whose greatest economic problem for decades has been over production of primary products, has been forced because of a muddling rural man-power policy to introduce stringent rationing of butter and a total prohibition of the sale of cream for domestic use. Otherwise we should have been unable to meet our commitments to the Mother Country. It was inevitable that, to a great degree, the war-time role of Australia as a great primary producing nation would be to augment Great Britain’s food supplies ; to supply butter in exchange for guns, bales of wool in return for bombers, and sugar for Spitfires; yet the advice given to the Government concerning the food position and man-power went unheeded. The Government became panicky at the entry of Japan into the war, and immediately denuded the primary industries of man-power. That the results of this precipitate action have not yet been erased, is shown by the chaos of rationing with which Australian people are confronted to-day. The necessity to ration butter can be laid definitely at the door of this Government. It has been due entirely to the fact that the Government disregarded the many warnings given to it regarding the plight of the dairying industry. Now it finds that in order to meet its overseas obligations, somebody in Australia has to do without. That would not have been necessary had this problem been handled effectively. The Government was well aware of these obligations many months ago, and the increasingly dangerous situation was brought under the notice of the Government persistently by honorable members on this side of the House.

Loss of man-power, the refusal of the Government to pay adequate prices to primary producers, lack of organization, inexcusable delay, divided control, and the general overlapping that has been evident, have done untold damage to the war effort generally. In an official statement issued on Thursday, the 17th June, the Commonwealth Government Statistician said that estimates indicated that the total number of males engaged in rural industries had declined from 500,000 before the war to approximately 350,000 to-day - a decrease of approximately 30 per cent. ; yet at this critical period, besides supplying essential foodstuffs for munition workers and the civil community generally, the primary producer is called upon to meet the extraordinary demands of thousands upon thousands of Allied Forces stationed in our territories, as well as our kinsfolk overseas. More than a year ago, in May, 1942, the Rural Industries Committee presented an interim report in which it warned the Government, in no uncertain terms, “that Australia, even then, was threatened with a food shortage. The warning went unheeded, so the Government must take full responsibility for this neglect. The Minister for Commerce said, at that time, that he considered the report a very valuable document. He also said that he regarded the conservation of the man-power necessary to enable food production to be increased as most vital. The honorable gentleman failed to translate his words into action; yet action, even at that time, was vital. The only apparent result of the committee’s report was the belated introduction of the Dairying Industry Assistance Bill, in October, 1942, which provided for a subsidy of £2,000,000 to the dairying industry. At that time the Government had actually had in its possession for several weeks the report of the special committee on this industry. The contents of that document were kept a deep secret because the report recommended an increase of the price of butter by 3£d. per lb. The Government was not prepared to implement that proposal because it hoped that the subsidy would be acceptable, though the amount proposed was equivalent to only Id. per lb. In the last few weeks the Government has been compelled to increase the subsidy by about £4,500,000, which, it has been stated, will be tantamount to a return to the dairy-farmer of approximately the amount recommended by the special committee many months earlier. The horse got out of the stable ten months ago, but the ‘Government is only now making frantic efforts to lock the stable door.

As yet, no real solution of the problems of the dairying industry has been applied. The announcement that an award has been made for employees in the dairying industry coincided with that of an increase of the subsidy to the industry. Whilst every worker in this industry is undoubtedly entitled to reasonable wages and working conditions, the paramount consideration should be to place the industry on a sound economic basis so that it may be able permanently to bear the burden of increases of wages and costs generally.

Mr Scully:

– That was a recommendation of the committee of inquiry.

Mr FADDEN:

– That recommendation was made twelve mouths ago. The Government is twelve months behind time.

Mr Scully:

– What did the Fadden Government do for the dairying industry?

Mr FADDEN:

– A week after the Curtin Government took over the reins of office from my Government the Minister for Commerce admitted that Australia’s food position was better than that of any other country, and he added that “ it would show improvement “. After eighteen months of muddling, this prophecy has been confounded by the necessity to introduce butter rationing. There is also a prospect that rationing may be extended to some other staple commodities. [Extension of time granted.’] Last month the Minister for Commerce and Agriculture accomplished another complete reversal of form. On the 25th May he said that man-power for food production could not be obtained by the weakening of the armed forces and would have to be secured by the elimination of the production of nonessential goods, and by the enlistment of women. Within a week of the making of that statement, he said that consideration was being given by the military authorities to the release of dairymen with practical knowledge of the industry, who sought permission to leave the Army and return to their farms. The food front of Australia is a raging tornado of chaos whipped up by the bungling of the Minister for Commerce and Agriculture, the muddling of the Minister for Labour and National Service, the indecision of the Minister for the Army, and the “ dead hand “ of the Minister for War Organization of Industry. The destruction caused by this tornado must be checked and the damage already done must be repaired before permanent and irretrievable harm is done to that which, in the final analysis, is the only real wealth, and the mainspring of a successful war effort, namely, the primary industries of the nation.

I wish to make a few observations concerning finance. The Government has chosen to ignore repeated warnings- about the effects of its policy of undue credit expansion. In June, 1941, when I was

Treasurer, treasury-bills outstanding on behalf of the Commonwealth Government totalled about £1,750,000. On the 15th June, 1943, the latest date for which information is available, the total had grown to the alarming figure of £269,000,000, an increase of over 15,000 per cent. That is an enormous expansion of our short-term debt. The danger inherent in .this lavish use of central bank credit is that of uncontrolled inflation. The most reliable barometer for indicating signs of inflation is the rate of change in the cost of living. Official cost-of-living indexes for Australia tell some of the story of inflation, although they vastly understate it. By March this year, the allitems index had increased since the beginning of the war by 22.6 per cent. Our £1 note has lost a quarter of its value. In Britain the cost-of-living index for all items has not increased since June, 1941 ; in fact, the cost of food has actually fallen. The burden imposed on the poorer classes because of inflation is ever increasing in Australia, whilst in Britain, by the use of a sounder financial policy, the burden has actually been lessened during the last two years.

Inflation is the worst enemy of the worker and the poor man. He is compelled to pay more for the necessaries of life. This Labour Government, which proclaims its concern for the small man, has done more than any previous government to impose hardship upon him. The present financial year will end no better than I prophesied last September when speaking in the budget debate. To the end of May, less than onequarter of our war expenditure, or 24 per cent., had been met from taxation. Even if the 28 per cent, visualized by the Treasurer’s supplementary taxation and expenditure figures, given in February, be realized, it will compare with a figure of 44 per cent, in Canada, where postwar credits and a pay-as-you-go system of taxation are helping the revenue position greatly without affecting public support for government loans. Only 20 per cent, of Canada’s war spending is financed by the use of bank credit. In Australia we have used this dangerously easy method, just twice as much, to the order of 40 ner cent, of our defence expenditure.

None of these factors can be disguised, and combined they show that Labour’s financial policy has endangered the whole structure of Australian economy, and has jeopardized the prospect of successful post-war reconstruction. This policy has reacted to the detriment of every individual in Australia. It has meant dearer and poorer clothing for the family man, greatly increased prices -of food and groceries for the housewife, and a devaluation, by at least one-quarter, of the savings and insurance policies of the thrifty. The reckless financial policy of this Government renders it liable to censure from this and succeeding generations of Australians. It exposes the Australian people and our economy to the destroying influence of unbridled inflation, which, throughout history, has been a potent cause in the downfall of many great states and empires. This evil influence of inflation hurts most of all those whom it should be the concern of any government most to protect.

To some degree, no doubt, the extension of pettifogging controls over every aspect of our lives may brace the Australian economy against utter chaos. Those very controls, however, are absorbing too large a proportion of the time and energies of the Government and its administrators, and they are causing many patriotic housewives to waste hours each week in shopping and in other ways - precious hours which might be devoted directly to war activities. At the same time these controls are transforming the face of Australian life, and the possibilities of their removal become more and more remote as actual, although not recorded, inflation takes place. If we are not very careful, if financial policy be not drastically changed, we shall find ourselves after the war with a completely totalitarian economy, without any possibility of its liberalization. It will be to the everlasting shame and economic detriment of Australia if a halt is not called before the time is too late. Common sense demands a curb on the excessive use of bank credit ; common justice demands the institution of an equitable system of post-war credits; and common humanity demands the introduction of a pay-as-you-go system of taxation.

I shall now deal with that much discussed, vexed, and misrepresented subject, the Brisbane lie, known as “ the Brisbane line”. It is desirable that I should place the facts in their proper sequence before Parliament and the people, so that they may be able to judge the degree to which party political use has been made of this unchecked propaganda. The allegation concerning this particular aspect of defence strategy, which has received so much publicity in recent weeks, is not new. Although the Minister for Labour and National Service (Mr. Ward) made it at other public meetings which he addressed, I shall confine my remarks to such reports of his utterances as will be sufficient to show that he has been indulging in this campaign of deliberate misrepresentation for at least eight months. .So far as I have been able to gather, this campaign began in October of last year, when the Minister for Labour and National Service visited Tasmania. Addressing a meeting in the Hobart Town Hall on the 20th October, the honorable gentleman said -

Ho wondered how many people were aware that the Government found, when it came into power, that plans were in existence to evacuate valuable portions of northern Australia without firing a shot.

In the following month, the Minister visited Wonthaggi, Victoria, where, according to the press, he stated -

You will be surprised to learn that, prior to Labour taking office, there was a plan - and 1 know that plan was in existence - to evacuate North Australia in case of attack. In short, they were going to let an enemy get a footing on Australia; to let him prepare aerodromes to bomb and attack our southern areas. It was a “ sell out “.

When he spoke during the debate on international affairs in this House on the 11th December, 1942, the Minister said that the country was practically defenceless despite the fact that the war had been in progress for two years. He continued -

We were defenceless to such a degree that there was a plan in existence which, if put into effect, would have meant the abandonment of the whole northern part of Australia. . . If Opposition members of the Advisory War Council spoke their minds, they would admit that the High Command was so alarmed by the situation shortly after the entry of Japan into the war that it prepared plans for the abandonment of the whole of North Australia from Queensland to Western Australia.

I pause to direct the attention of honorable members ‘to the phrase in the statement, “shortly after the entry of Japan into the war “. Whilst in one statement the Minister alleged that when Labour came into office in October, 1941, it found this so-called evacuation plan in existence, in Parliament he stated that the High Command had prepared these plans after the entry of Japan into the war. Asked by the right honorable member for North Sydney (Mr. Hughes) whether the matter had been brought before the Advisory War Council, the Minister replied that “it was in the knowledge of the council that such a plan existed and that the High Command had said that, with the equipment and material available, it would be impossible to defend large and important areas of North Australia “.

This propaganda inspired other members of the Labour party to go about the country making somewhat similar allegations about the allegedly defenceless state of the Commonwealth in October, 1941. These members included the Minister for War Organization of Industry (Mr. Dedman), and the honorable member for Darling (Mr. Clark), whose utterances were given wide publicity in the press. I point out that up to this time there had been no mention of what has become known as “ the Brisbane line “ ; all previous references had been to an alleged plan to abandon portions of northern Australia. It is not without significance, therefore, that with the approach of an election and the possibility of Labour losing seats in Queensland, and also in an endeavour to discredit me in the eyes of the people of that State, the Minister for Labour and National Service should seize upon the term “ Brisbane line “.

Last month, during a visit to Western Australia, the honorable gentleman addressed two meetings in Perth. At a public meeting in that city on the 2nd May, 1943, he said -

Until the Curtin Government caine to power the defence plan of Australia provided for all of Australia north of a line north of Brisbane and following a diagonal course to u point north of Adelaide to be abandoned to the enemy.

Speaking in Perth on the 4th May, the Minister said -

It was proposed, according to the Brisbane line plan to abandon Western Australia without providing any adequate method of evacuation. No doubt there would be some people who would get a prior warning and be able to escape, but the workers who were tied to their jobs would be left in Western Australia. Once the Japanese got a foothold on Australia they would bomb and blast every other part of it. Labour’s attitude was to defend every foot of Australian soil while it had the material to do so.

From “Western Australia, the Minister for Labour and National Service carried his campaign into South Australia. Addressing a meeting on the 6th May, he is reported to have reiterated his charge that the last Government had been prepared, in the event of an invasion, to allow the enemy to occupy a great part of Australia by agreeing to “ the Brisbane defence line”. On the 7th March, he again referred to the matter. His next -statement was made in Sydney on the 15th May, when he said -

When the Fadden Government was in power Australia had hardly the means at her disposal to ward off a native canoe. When Mr. Fadden was in power, Australia’s defences were almost non-existent.

So concerned were members of the Advisory “War Council at this continued campaign of deliberate misrepresentation, that on the 13th May last, the matter was brought personally before the Prime Minister. On the following day, I communicated certain further facts to the Prime Minister by letter, in which I stated that Opposition members took an exceedingly serious view of the statements of the Minister for Labour and National Service, and awaited a public statement by the Prime Minister setting out the facts of the matter and repudiating the Minister’s allegations.

Following discussions at a meeting of the Opposition executive in Sydney on the 18th May, it was decided to register with the Prime Minister an emphatic protest against the repeated deliberate misrepresentation by the Minister for Labour and. National Service in stating that when the Curtin Government came into power plans were in existence to evacuate portions of northern Australia without firing a shot. The executive’s resolution also directed the Prime Minister’s attention to statements by the Minister for Labour and National. Service in “Western Australia and South Australia concerning “ the Brisbane line “ ; further, that “Labour’s predecessors were resigned to the possibility of the great bulk of Australia being left in the hands of the Japanese “. Attention was also drawn to the fact that, subsequent to a letter which I addressed to the Prime Minister on the 14th May, the Minister for Labour and National Service had stated that, ““When the Fadden Govern-, ment was in power, Australia had hardly the means at her disposal to ward off a native canoe “. (Further extension of time granted^] The executive requested the Prime Minister to take immediate steps to make a public statement denying the specific statements of the Minister for Labour and National Service, as well as statements in a similar strain by the Minister for “War Organization of Industry, and other members of the Labour party. This resolution reflected the grave concern that was felt by members of the executive and by the Opposition generally, at the frequency with which members of the Labour party, and certain Cabinet Ministers in particular, had endeavoured for party political purposes to misrepresent the actions of preceding governments. I announced the text of the executive’s resolution to the press, and sent an urgent telegram to the Prime ‘ Minister conveying the text of it, particularly that portion of it which related to the making of a public statement repudiating the allegations.

This was followed by a further .statement by the Minister for Labour and National Service, which was reported in the press of the 26th May. In this statement, he said -

If the nation had known the facts of “the Brisbane line “ strategy when it was adopted by the previous Government, the morale of the people would have been shattered.

After some delay, I received a letter from the Prime Minister in reply to my telegram. I desire to put that letter on record -

With further reference to your telegram of the 18th May regarding a resolution passed by the Federal Parliamentary Opposition executive concerning statements dealing with the defence of Northern Australia, the facts are that Sir Iven Mackay waa appointed CommanderinChief of the Home Forces by the Menzies Government.

On Japan coming into the war, the CommanderinChief, Home Forces, submitted to the Minister for the Army proposals relating to the defence of Australia, the essence of which was concentration on the defence of the vital parts of Australia. This involved holding what is known as “ The Brisbane Line “.

This Government rejected the submission and took steps to defend the whole of the continent. Included in these steps were the recall of Sir Thomas Blarney from abroad to take the post of Commander-in-Chief in Australia, the recall of Australian Imperial Force divisions abroad, the appointment of General MacArthur as Commander-in-Chief of the South-west Pacific Area, and representations for the despatch of naval, land and air forces to the South-west Pacific Area, together with aircraft and other supplies for the equipment and expansion of the Australian Forces.

I repeat the statement I made when releasing the Prime Minister’s letter to the press: It was a cunning piece of evasion. Perusal of the letter will show that the Prime Minister completely ignored the request of the Opposition executive. He did not even mention the name of that Minister. What the Opposition requested, was entitled to demand, and now requires is a public.denial of the allegations of the Minister for Labour and National Service. Surely, that was not too much to ask of the Prime Minister who was well aware that the Minister concerned had been going around Australia indulging in a campaign of lying and abuse in an endeavour to discredit the Menzies and Fadden Governments, merely for political advantage. What did the Prime Minister do? He framed his letter to me in such a way that it reached an all time “ high “ for lack of frankness. In the opening paragraph he introduced into the controversy for the first time the name of Sir Iven Mackay. By referring to the fact that this officer had been appointed by the Menzies Government, the Prime Minister endeavoured to create in the public mind the impression that the so-called “Brisbane line” plan had, in the first instance, been submitted to either the Menzies Government or the Fadden Government. That alone was an action unworthy of a Prime Minister. The right honorable gentleman having dragged Sir Iven Mackay into the controversy, one is entitled to ask whether the right honorable gentleman was actuated by some further motive when he did so. He did not mention in the letter that, whilst the Menzies Government appointed Sir Iven Mackay, it also appointed Sir Thomas Blarney, and it also enlisted, equipped and despatched overseas the Australian Imperial Force. In view of subsequent passages in the Prime Minister’s letter, it would appear that, notwithstanding the right honorable gentleman’s later tribute, there still remains in the public mind the impression that a Commander-in-Chief, appointed by the Menzies Government, had submitted a defence plan which was immediately rejected by the Curtin Government. This suggests inefficiency on the part of Sir Iven Mackay, and, in fairness to Sir Iven, I ask the Prime Minister to make it clear to the House and the country that this officer was dealing with the military situation as he saw it when he submitted the plan. Let the Prime Minister be frank enough to say that his appointment by the Menzies Government has no relation whatever to the subject under discussion. Turning to the second paragraph of the Prime Minister’s letter, I ask the House to bear in mind these words -

On Japan’ coming into the war, the CommanderinChief submitted to the Minister for the Army proposals

It is important that we should pay particular attention to this paragraph. In the first place, Japan came into the war in December, 1941. The Government in power in December, 1941, was not the Menzies Government. It was not the Fadden Government. It was the Curtin Government, of which the honorable member for East Sydney was a member. The right honorable member for Kooyong had ceased to be Prime Minister more than three months previously. My Government had been defeated two months previously. In the second place, the occupant of the office of Minister for the Army when Japan entered the. war was the present Minister (Mr. Forde). Yet, two days before the Prime Minister’s letter was published, the Minister for Labour and National Service stated that “ the Brisbane line “ strategy was adopted by the previous Government. He declared, further, that, his allegations were not misrepresentations but statements of fact. That the Minister’s statements were gross and deliberate misrepresentations is proved by bis own Prime Minister’s statement, However lacking in frankness, in his letter to me. Notwithstanding that, notwithstanding the injustice that had been done to members of previous governments, the Prime Minister refused to repudiate his Minister’s allegations.

I come now to the next instance of lack of frankness on the Prime Minister’s part. He goes on to say in his letter that “ this Government rejected the submission and took steps to defend the whole of the continent”. Why was not the Prime Minister honest? Why was he not candid enough to say that the submission was rejected, not only by his Government, but also by the Opposition members of the Advisory War Council. for such was the case? To show just how false are the allegations of the Minister for Labour and National Service, I reiterate that the first knowledge members of the present Opposition had of the so-called “ Brisbane line “ proposal was in February, 1942, or five months after the Curtin Government came into power.

Mr Ward:

– That is deliberately untrue.

Mr FADDEN:

– It is true. Yet, from the Prime Minister’s letter, the public is led to believe that a proposal submitted “ on J apan coming into the war “ - in December, mark you - was rejected by his Government. Actually the plan, if it was submitted to the Curtin Government in December, 1941, was still in existence two months later - in February, 1942 - when it came before the Advisory War Council. The fact that the first time Opposition members of the council knew of the plan was in February, four months after the Curtin Government took office is further evidence that the allegations of the Minister for Labour and National Service are nothing more than deliberate lies. As I stated last month, the submission was rejected by the Advisory War Council, the Government members of which were just as strong in their opposition as were the Opposition members of that body.

At least, I was fair enough to say that. The Prime Minister, however, having very grudgingly, and only after he was forced by the Opposition to come into the open, admitted that “ the Brisbane line “ plan was submitted to his Government, did nothing further to repudiate his colleague’s allegations. Doubtless, encouraged by his Prime Minister’s refusal to repudiate what both knew to be a deliberate lie, the Minister for Labour and National Service, some days after publication of the Prime Minister’s letter, made a broadcast. I propose to quote only the passages relevant to this issue -

  1. . I do not withdraw one word of what I have said about the Brisbane line.

I charge them (the Menzies and Fadden Governments) with becoming so panic-stricken, as the threat of invasion increased, that they turned to a treacherous plan under which large portions of Australia were to be given away to the enemy.

I do not intend to take back one word of what I have already said about the Brisbane line nor the guilt of the previous governments in bringing the country to such a state of crippled feebleness that a plan under which large portions of the country were to be overrun by the Japanese was ever given serious consideration, let alone being offered as a strategic policy for the defence of our nation.

Again, nothing but silence from the Prime Minister who previously had - not directly I will admit, but by the statements in his letter - convicted the Minister for Labour and National Service of having told deliberate untruths.

Next, we find that Minister addressing a meeting in a Melbourne suburb on the Sth June, when, according to the press, he said, referring to “ the Brisbane line “, that he had not spoken without facts, and would never have made any charge which he could not support with evidence. The Minister added -

All the previous Government had was this defeatist plan to retire from position after position, abandoning the country, and, worse, the Australian people, to the Japanese.

Again, not a word of denial came from the Prime Minister. How can the Prime Minister regard the matter as having been “ cleared up “ when he is content to allow his Minister to continue his dishonest campaign, even after it had been stated that the plan was submitted to the Government of which the honorable member for East Sydney is a member? The Prime Minister’s apparent indifference to this slanderous campaign which one of his own Ministers is conducting is almost incomprehensible. I am sure it is beyond the comprehension of all fair-minded Australians. Knowing from the commencement of the campaign the falsity of the allegations of the Minister for Labour and National Service, the Prime Minister might have been expected to take immediate steps to repudiate them. Instead, the Prime Minister has allowed one of his subordinates to continue this campaign, and in doing so has condoned the misrepresentations of the Minister for Labour and National Service.

I remind the House that during the controversy the honorable member for Bourke (Mr. Blackburn) said that the statements of the Minister for Labour and National Service had been made by him at least twice from the Government front bench, on which were seated colleagues who must have known the facts, but who neither contradicted the assertion nor corroborated my denial of the assertion. We are entitled to expect better from the Prime Minister. The plain facts are that the Minister for Labour and National Service persists in endeavouring to throw upon previous governments the responsibility for a policy of handing over the whole of the north of Australia to the Japanese. In doing so the Minister for’ Labour and National Service has branded previous administrations as traitors to their country. He has branded me as a traitor to my native State, the State of which my wife and family, and a great many of my associates, are natives - a traitor to the State where all my affiliations are, and which is the home of my constituents. He has accused me of abandoning the people who live in the most vulnerable part of that State - northern Queensland. Is it likely that I would have let them down - that I would have no regard for the defence of northern Australia? Is the Prime Minister going to let this .baseless lie, this scandalous propaganda, to be persisted in? There is one man in this Parliament who should clear the matter up, and that man is the Prime Minister. I expect a denial from him of the assertions by the Minister for Labour and National ‘Service. I expect from him a statement of the facts that will present in a true light the position of myself, my colleagues and my supporters.

Mr CURTIN:
Prime Minister · Fremantle · ALP

– The Leader of the Opposition (Mr. Fadden), for .the first time since Germany declared war, has submitted a motion of want of confidence in the Government of the day.

Mr Holt:

– What,, then, was the motion that the Prime Minister (Mr. Curtin.) made when he was Leader of the Opposition?

Mr CURTIN:

– I repeat that, for the first time since Germany declared war, a Leader of the Opposition in this Parliament has moved a direct vote of want of confidence in the Government. The Leader of the Opposition has not specified the grounds on which his motion is founded; they have to be searched for in the speech which he has just delivered. The greater part of the speech consists of a denunciation of the administrative work of the Government. There was no reference whatever to the fact that the war has been the overriding responsibility of the Government. The right honorable gentleman discussed strikes, the financial policy of the Government, rationing, shortage of rural manpower, and the muddling which, he says, has occurred in connexion with the restrictions placed upon women shoppers. This amounts, really, to a survey of the domestic scene - as though there could be a normal domestic arrangement in this country in the circumstances in which my Government has had to administer the affairs of State.

First, let me make it clear that this Government has given to Australia a total war effort. We have had to step up every phase of the war effort in order to make it complete. More than 50 per cent, of the nation’s income is being devoted’ to the war effort, and controls have been designed to utilize the nation’s resources for war purposes. No investment is permitted that is not directly for war purposes. There is man-power control; there is restriction of nonessential production; there is rationing of goods in short supply, and control of over-spending; there is restriction of transport; there is control of materials for war needs ; there is control of income, interest, profits and prices. -It is my firm belief that no other country has done more in these directions, and our effort will compare favorably with that of any other country.

The Leader of the Opposition complained of restrictions on, and interference with, industry and trade. I say that this control represents the very bone and marrow of a total war effort. Without those inconveniences and restrictions we could not have a total war effort. As a matter of fact, these inconveniences and restrictions, together with much of the moaning that has gone on in Australia are the measure of the war effort that this Government has organized.

In ‘surveying the scene, I do not propose to go back beyond the date upon which my Government -came into office. The motion of want of confidence is an attack upon this Government for what this Government has done, .and I am answerable only for what this Government has done. It is an extraordinary thing, indeed it is a significant thing, it may -even he a sinister ‘thing, .that it is just twelve days since I announced to the .people -of Australia that the threat of invasion to ‘this country had passed. It is only nineteen ‘days since I expressed the satisfaction of the Australian Government “with the decision of Mr. Churchill and President Roosevelt that the war in the Pacific would be prosecuted with the same vigour as the war in Europe. This decision justified the arguments which had been ‘continuously urged over a ‘long period by the Australian ‘Government. My ‘Government assumed office in October, 1®41. I do not think that many honorable members on your left, Mr. Deputy Speaker, would desire a postmortem examination of *the circumstances in which the present -Government caine into office.

Sir FREDERICK Stewart:

– !One honorable member on the Government ‘crossbenches certainly would not Tike it.

Mr CURTIN:

– I assume that the honorable member for Parramatta (Sir Frederick Stewart) refers to the honorable member for Henty ‘(Mr. Coles’), font I remind him that, up ito .that time, there had been two Prime Ministers since the war commenced, and that I did nol make any motion of want of confidence against either of ‘.them until a ‘budget “was introduced, almost immediately -after the transfer from the leadership of the Government of the man who had been its leader since the war commenced. That transfer was effected as the result of internecine conflict in the parties of the then Government. I did not act to disturb the government of the day until it had been made manifest to me, and to the country at large, that the internal squabbling and discomfiture, and the incompatibility of the elements then composing the Goverment made a maximum war effort impossible. It was in those circumstances that the present Government assumed office in October, 1941. I had heard previously, in this House, the statement by a responsible Minister of a former government, that one Japanese division could have walked through. Australia. That was the position when the present Government came into office.

Mr McEwen:

– That was never said.

Mr CURTIN:

– Shortly after the present Government came into office it was faced -with the greatest responsibility ever thrust upon any Australian government - the defence of this country against aggression by a (powerful foe. Bad as were the circumstances which previous governments ‘had had to .face, this Government -has had to face them and, in addition, the fact of an act of war by Japan. The nation had to .be ‘organized against that new development. The issue upon which I expected that the Government would be judged was: How far has Australia been served by the Government in resisting the aggression of .Japan? These are times in which not only great principles are at stake; the safety of peoples and the inV10 ability >of their .soil also are at state. These are the over-riding considerations in this era of world war. This country, beset by all .-sorts of impediments and difficulties; far removed geographically from -Che resources in the possession of its allies ; holding a vast territory which contains only a small population; with a considerable part of its fighting forces already away from their homeland; ill<equipped to meet an attack; and with a strategy insofar as strategy had been evolved by previous .governments, based upon , title presumption that Singapore was impregnable-

Mr Fadden:

– Whose presumption-?

Mr CURTIN:

– The advisers of previous governments had based their plans on the impregnability of Singapore.

Mr Fadden:

– That was the view of the defence experts of the Empire.

Mr CURTIN:

– It does not matter who held that view; the fact is that during the whole of the time that the present Government has been in office it lias been faced with terrible peril, and has had to hold Australian soil against invasion. The Government has had to organize on that basis. It was faced with the fact that all the strategic areas which previously had been regarded as buffers against the Japanese had fallen before the enemy and had, in fact, become stepping stones in the enemy’s progress towards Australia. Wherein has the Government failed in the discharge of the supreme task of organizing Australia for the preservation of its soil, and the safety of its people ? That is the supreme test which should be applied to a government in time of war, when enemies are thundering at our gates. I claim that that test shows that the Government has discharged its trusteeship to the Australian people. It has not failed them. The stage has now been reached when it can be said that the battle of Australia has been won as assuredly as has the battle of Britain. That does not mean that the war in the Pacific has not yet to be won; but it does mean that the security of Australia as the base for the concentration and development of offensive power has been assured. The Government’s war effort has been unparallelled in the history of Australia. What were the circumstances when Japan struck? Four divisions of the Australian Imperial Force were overseas, three of them being as far afield as the Middle East. Singapore, which had been built as a bastion for the defence of British interests in the Pacific, fell, and the expected fleet that was to be based upon Singapore in order to meet Japanese aggression did not arrive. That meant a complete transformation of the problem of Australian security. It meant, too,, a transformation of the conceptions of strategy held by previous governments. Whatever proposals previous governments might have had - good, bad, or indifferent - they all collapsed in the face of realities. The Japanese advance spread over the islands to the north of Australia. However, we maintained a slender hold on Port Moresby, which was the final gateway for direct attacks on the northern and eastern coasts of Australia. So dire was the threat, and so limited our resources, that the Commander of the Home Forces and the ‘Chief of the General Staff felt impelled to point out to the Government that their resources were sufficient only to admit of a concentration for the defence of the vital areas extending from Brisbane to Melbourne. In Western Australia the situation was too grievous for description. The Premiers of three States - Queensland, Western Australia and New South Wales - came to Canberra on special missions, and when the Premier of Western Australia returned to his State, he arranged for the Deputy Premier to visit Canberra in company with the then Leader of the Opposition in the State Parliament. The latter is now a member of this Parliament, and I invite him, if he so desires, to enlighten honorable members as to the state of affairs then existing in Western Australia and that State’s inability to meet any onslaught by the enemy. Plans of evacuation were formulated by three States as the result! of consulations which they had had with the military commands in those States, and this Government rejected them all. , Those plans were formulated on the basis of the then resources of Australia and on the fact that Japan had made almost catastrophic advances from its home base towards the frontiers of this country and that our resources of man-power and equipment were such that the Chief of the General Staff and the Commander of the Home Forces, having regard to what they had available and to the problem which confronted them, put up their proposition.

The Government immediately sought to achieve three objectives. First, in cornjunction with the Government of New Zealand, it urged the establishment of appropriate machinery for the higher direction of the war in the Pacific. This resulted in the establishment of the Pacific War Council in Washington, with the President of the United States of

America as chairman. It suggested that the general strategical control of the South- West Pacific Area should be vested in the Combined Chiefs of Staff at Washington. This was done. It recommended the appointment of a supreme commander to exercise operational control over the naval, land and air forces in this area. General MacArthur was appointed with responsibility to the Chiefs of Staff of the United States of America.

Simultaneously, it sought to augment the strength of the forces in the SouthWest Pacific Area, so that the security of Australia itself could be reasonably ensured. As a correlative to this, it urged that global strategy and the decision to defeat Germany first should be varied in its relation to the Pacific, so as to prevent the enemy from becoming so firmly entrenched in the conquered territories that the task of ejecting him would be intolerably long and costly. At long last this view has now been accepted by the United Nations.

In the problem of helping ourselves, the first step was to secure the return of the Australian Imperial Force to Australia. Some day the Australian people will be told how close a call we had in New Guinea.

As Australia is in the sphere of American strategical responsibility, the main assistance had therefore to come from the United States of America, though we have had much valuable aid from Britain in the form of the Spitfire squadrons and the. special types .of equipment for the services. We are also indebted to Mr. Churchill for more than he has sent to us from Great Britain, because he has always given warm support to our case in Washington. President Roosevelt has shown a sympathetic understanding of the needs of the South- West Pacific Area. The governing consideration, however, has been that demand from the various theatres has exceeded available supply. Nevertheless, the strength of the American land forces in or assigned to the South- West and South Pacific Areas corresponds approximately to the strength of the Australian forces, which have preponderated to date. I can by presenting the information in a certain form give to the House some indication of the demand for man-power for the forces, without revealing compositions and other matters which may be of use to the enemy. At the end of March. 1943, the latest date for which figures are available, the Australian Imperial Force was more than a quarter as big again as the Militia. There were five men in the Australian Imperial Force to every four in the Militia. At the same date, the gross enlistment figure for the three Australian services totalled 820,500. Of these, 530,000 had volunteered to fight anywhere in the world as members of the Australian Imperial Force, the Royal Australian Air Force, and the Royal Australian Navy. The net. enlistment figures for the same period show that 70 per cent, of all men in the three Australian fighting forces have volunteered for overseas service and can be sent to fight anywhere in the world.

Mr Menzies:

– Was the right honorable gentleman not quoting gross enlistment figures?

Mr CURTIN:

– Yes, for a reason, which, I am sure, the right honorable gentleman will understand. Since the outbreak of war with Japan the strength of the Australian Imperial Force has been increased by more ‘ than 158,000 and the vast proportion of these have been transfers from the Militia to the Australian Imperial Force. One proud reflection that every man can form, as he contemplates that marvellous contribution to our fighting forces, is that it indicates most clearly that, if we removed the prohibitions against enlistment which, apply for various industrial purposes, it would be very difficult to find a man in Australia, now that this country is faced with a struggle for its existence, who would not be ready, provided be were militarily eligible, to offer himself in the defence of his soil and his fellow citizens. The desire to serve Australia and fight for it that marks the manhood of this country could not be excelled anywhere in the world. The fact is, however, that the strength of the American forces in or assigned to the South- West and South Pacific Areas, the two theatres with which we are concerned, now approximately corresponds to the strength of the Australian forces.

Mr Spender:

– Does that not disclose information to the enemy?

Mr CURTIN:

– It does not, because hitherto the Australian forces have preponderated. The number of American air combat squadrons in the South-West Pacific Area slightly exceeds the number of Royal Australian Air Force combat squadrons. As the result of representations by General MacArthur and myself and the mission to Washington led by General MacArthur’s Chief of Staff, the strength of American air forces in the South- West Pacific Area will be greatly increased in the near future. There is also a large strength of American air forces in the South Pacific Area. All the heavy naval forces in the Pacific which give cover to the lines of communication to Australia are also provided by the United States of America.

The reason why American forces have been enabled to come to Australia and why it has been possible to reinforce and supply them and provide supplies from the United States for the Australian forces is that American sea-power in the Pacific Ocean - by its victories at Midway Island, the Coral Sea and the Solomon Islands - has kept open the trade routes of the Pacific. The American fleet based on Hawaii has done what, we expected that a fleet based on Singapore, would do.

As General MacArthur said, when the Australian Chiefs, of Staff advised that a vast army, far beyond our capacity, was necessary for the defence of Australia, 100 divisions would be insufficient without adequate command of the. sea and air.

Mr Spender:

– One hundred?

Mr CURTIN:

– Suppose, we had no sea or air power at all. The honorable gentlemen will not tempt me to- make unfortunate revelations. In. the. absence of air or sea power the number of divisions, which would be required here would be- very considerable.

Mr Spender:

– Australia could not be defended without sea power;

Mr CURTIN:

– -No. Never before have- naval, land and air forces; of such strength been raised for- the defence, of the Commonwealth.

The Government has not hesitated in imposing the maximum sacrifices and re-adjustments necessary to enable the national ‘ man-power, material and financial resources to.- be concentrated, or the

Avar effort to the greatest possible degree.

What are the results so far as it is possible for me to state them ?

In 1939, 1 per cent, of the man-power was in the forces and munitions and war factories. The figure to-day is 41 per cent.; 31 per cent, of the man-power is engaged in other essential services ; 28 per cent, is engaged in less essential services and other activities. These figures show a close correspondence with the parallel classification of Britain’s war effort. Of the woman-power of the country, 12 per cent, is engaged in the forces, munitions and war factories and other essential services. Since October, 1941, the strength of the personnel in the Navy has been increased by 50 per cent., the Army by 70 per cent., and the Air Force by 120 per cent. The aggregate increase for the three services is approximately 77 per cent. I accept full responsibility for having, pressed for these increases, for I have felt that during the last year the fate of Australia to resist would be determined by the strength of the forces we had to- use- and dispose against the enemy in order to resist the attack that he could bring against us. Frankly, I acknowledge that in order to provide that man-power for the fighting services, we have been obliged to impose upon the industries of Australia a degree of regulation and regimentation, and: probably even, a degree of starvation of man-power, which have greatly affected aw economic capacity. A year ago- in this Parliament I said that if I had to choose between the risk of being short, of fighting power in the next year, and- the risk, of being short of food the year after,. I should take the risk, of being short, of food the year after;- because, while we hold this country, we can, having regard to- its sources, reapply our labour power to its- reproductive processes, whereas were, we too concerned for the preservation, of our material resources and the carrying on of industries as we had previously known them-,, and, at the same time1,, not adequately concerned, for the preservation: of the freedom of this, country - that is, if: we kept our fighting power down in order to keep up our economic- power - we could easily have become, one of the- occupied countries that Japan, is now able to exploit. However, it has so happened that the demands which we have made for fighting power have had to be met from the great source of our total man-power, and that has produced complaints, infirmities, grievances, dissatisfaction and discontent. I am now in the proud and happy position to be able to say, honestly and genuinely, because of the advice that has been given to me of the resources now at our disposal, that Japan, which has for so long been on the ‘offensive, is being driven back upon the defensive - that the initiative at long last is changing to the lovers of freedom, and is being taken from those who so wantonly ravage the world merely to exhibit their lust for power. We were concerned, not only “with getting men into the fighting forces, but also with the provision of the equipment and means to wage war. Consequently, on the outbreak of war with .Japan, on the recommendation of the Chiefs of Staff, we approved of the expansion of the Air Force to a strength which the .service advisers considered adequate for the defence of Australia against invasion. This programme of expansion was also endorsed by the British Chiefs of Staff. We are .quite capable of providing and training the necessary man-power for this force; but the essential consideration is the provision of the necessary aircraft.Owing to the demands for aircraft for other theatres, the Combined Chiefs of Staff in Washington have only ‘been able to allot aircraft for a programme to the end of this year. The main object of the mission of the Minister for (External Affairs (Dr. Evatt) was to secure a firm basis for the provision of the remaining aircraft in order- -to complete the whole programme as soon as possible. I am very gratified to be able to announce that, in spite of many difficulties and setbacks in his negotiations, the Minister for External Affairs bas been able to secure the approval of the President for the remaining aircraft required for the completion of the programme. This will represent a 60 per cent, increase of the present strength of ‘the Royal Australian A-ir Force. This is a nota’ble achievement on the part of t’he Minister for External Affairs. He has performed a great service for Australia in securing these additional air reinforcements. I am grateful to the President for his generous action in approving of the additional aircraft, and to Mr. Churchill for his support of our case in Washington. I have expressed, too, the thanks of the Government for all that they have done.

The equipment and stocks of munitions of the Australian forces have been immensely improved during the Government’s term of office by assignments from overseas and local production. I acknowledge what previous governments have done to increase the organization of munitions and aircraft production. In this preparation of Australia for war, for this improvement of our munitions production programme and the increase of our industrial capacity to wage war, I also pay tribute to the value of the fiscal policy which my friend the right honorable member for Yarra (Mr. Scullin) laid down in this country when he was Prime Minister. This ‘development, however, has been greatly expanded by the present Government. The volume of production of many classes of munitions has been multiplied many times, whilst .the manufacture of munitions and aircraft of numerous new types has been established. An index of the dimensions of the Government’s war effort can also be gained from the fact that -our war expenditure in 1940-41 was £170,000,000, and in 1941-42 was £320,000,000, whilst for 1942-43 it is estimated to be £560,000,000. The aggregate expenditure of the Allied Works Council at the 31st May, 1943, was -£80,000,000.

Mr Rankin:

– There is a lot of danger in paying that.

Mr CURTIN:

– The Allied Works Council has been a vital factor in the efficiency -of our fighting forces in their essential work in the defence of Australia. The Allied Works Council has provided works, services and communications in places -where ‘those things did not previously -exist. Its achievement has been the measure -of the strength we have been able to build up at Darwin. I need not say what that strength was when Japan entered the war, or what it is to-day. -However, our capacity to defend this country was limited by our ability to provide and maintain essential roads and aerodromes, where none previously existed. We have had to take men from the factories, the farms and the workshops, and put them into the fighting forces. We have also had to get them into the Allied Works Council for the purpose of getting this work done. This twofold demand upon our man-power has made inevitable a shortage of commodities and an increase of the difficulties involved in the economic maintenance of this country. We must also take into account our transportation problem. Before the war, over 90 per cent, of interstate trade was seaborne. A continuance of that trade has not been practicable during the war. Consequently, a very great proportion of it has had to be taken by land route. .We must also remember that our road transport has been enormously curtailed because of petrol restrictions. Much of the burden resulting from the stoppage of sea-borne trade has been placed upon the railways and our transport system generally. The submarine is a threat, not only in these seas, but throughout the world; and this has considerably reduced the tonnage that can be carried by sea. In view of all these facts only a fool would imagine that we could carry on such a terrible war, so stupendous in its scale and sweep, penetrating every form of production, and making demands from practically every man and woman, without completely disrupting our economic structure. The Government has accepted the responsibility for such disruption.

Mr Spender:

– Is it correct to say that there were no roads or. aerodromes in the northern areas?

Mr CURTIN:

– I said .that there were no roads or aerodromes in certain places. The honorable gentleman takes hold of a worm and makes an alligator out of it. The Government had one supreme task, namely, to organize the forces for the defence of Australia against an invader who had moved down rapidly, who had commenced his movement before even the Government came into office, and whose unexpectedly mighty strength was so treacherously and heavily delivered that the great bastion of Singapore was destroyed, and another great bastion, Pearl Harbour, was greatly impaired for some time. As a consequence, the footholds that the enemy gained in his organization for an attack against Australia gave to him all the advantages of the initiative. This Government had to improvise the defence of Australia against the enemy in circumstances which no previous military conceptions had entertained as practicable. Previously, the view had been held that the very most we could expect would be raids by naval vessels. For the five years prior to the beginning of the war in 1939, this Parliament had no realization of the enormous influence that air power would exert in any subsequent war.

Mr Francis:

– Why not?

Mr CURTIN:

– I do not blame any particular person or party. I am taking my share of the responsibility. It is true of ourselves, and it is true of others.

Mr Francis:

– Many reports were available to this Parliament on the part that air power would play in a future war.

Mr Paterson:

– Could any one foresee what air power could achieve?

Mr CURTIN:

– The interjection of the honorable member for Gippsland shows a fairer appreciation of the fact3. It bears out my contention that the war has assumed an entirely unexpected character. This Government had to face a completely “ un-blueprinted “ problem when Japan struck at Pearl Harbour and at Singapore, and moved in a short space of time to within striking distance of our shores. The Government had to call up and equip men, and obtain aid from other countries. I pay a tribute to the valour of the fighting men. I recall the afternoon when I announced to this House, as it was about to adjourn for the week-end, that the Battle of the Coral Sea was in progress. At that time I knew that, if the battle went against us, the burden thrust upon us to defend this country would be grievously heavy and possibly beyond our capacity. On that occasion I stated that, if the enemy did not succeed in the Battle of the Coral Sea, Australia would be given a breathing space in which to become increasingly strong. Fortunately, because of the skill and valour of the Allied forces which were employed, including our own, the enemy did not prevail in the Battle of the Coral Sea, and victory gave us time in which to strengthen our defences. This Government took advantage of that opportunity. Admittedly, the Government has rationed butter and petrol, frozen supplies of rubber and drugs, kept men working in munitions factories, and introduced the system of “ protected “ industries. It is perfectly true that strikes have occurred which have shocked me, and many classes of workmen have, in my judgment, knocked off work without adequate justification, and in circumstances which did not reveal a true appreciation of the interests of the country. But I am not a novice in the contemplation of the problem of labour. It is the supreme problem of the world. No government is able to ensure that industry will comply completely with the demands of the State, unless it is a government of the kinds we are fighting in order that we shall not become like them. The United States of America, I regret to say, has problems of industrial management, labour production, and unionism, which perplex the administration. The Opposition declares that I have not the courage to enforce the regulations which have been promulgated to prevent strikes.

Mr Francis:

– That is perfectly correct.

Mr CURTIN:

– I shall not mention my own attributes; but I have at least exerted myself to the very utmost for the purpose of bringing home to the working men and the trade unions all that is involved in the period through which we are passing. I have also taken the responsibility for administering the regulations. That charges me with the responsibility of seeing that they are justly administered. I have to know why a man knocks off work. As I informed the House yesterday, I have been a member of the Labour movement since I was 21 years of age, and I know the story of Labour in Australia, the injustices that it has suffered and the manner in which it has had to build its own protection against tyrannical interference with its rights and liberties. During the last 27 years, the Labour party has occupied the treasury bench on only two occasions, and then for short periods. The Leader of the Opposition declared that we believe in compulsory unionism. We do not believe in compulsory unionism; but we believe in preference to unionists.

Mr Abbott:

– The Prime Minister stated that he would grant it.

Mr CURTIN:

– I did not. The honorable member obtains his information from press reports of proceedings, at which no newspaper reporters were present.

Mr Abbott:

– The Leader of the Opposition quoted extracts from Mr. Fallon’s report.

Mr CURTIN:

- Mr. Fallon is not a Commonwealth Minister, and he is not the mouthpiece for announcing the policy of the Government.

Mr Abbott:

– Will the Prime Minister inform Mr. Fallon that he was under a wrong impression?

Mr CURTIN:

Mr. Fallon is the president of the Australian Labour party in a State where the law provides for compulsory unionism. The reason why it is not the policy of the Federal Labour party is that it would be a vain illusion. As I have pointed out a score of times, this Parliament has no power to introduce compulsory unionism. Unlike the State of Queensland, it has no general power to regulate industry. In those circumstances, to incorporate such an aim in the platform of the Federal Labour party would be merely to humbug the workers, because we could not possibly give effect to it.

Mr HARRISON:
WENTWORTH, NEW SOUTH WALES · UAP; LP from 1944

– The Federal Labour party would give effect to it if it were able to do so.

Mr CURTIN:

– No doubt, the knowledge of the honorable gentleman on the subject is vast, but what he understands about it is not so great.

The charges of financial muddling I shall leave in the capable hands of the Treasurer (Mr. Chifley). I shall content myself by pointing out that every country is faced with the fact that borrowing and taxation combined will not provide sufficient revenue to meet war expenditure. But its conduct of the physical struggle is not limited by the mere fact that it cannot obtain sufficient money. There is no more danger of inflation in this country during the war than there is in the United Kingdom, Canada, New Zealand or the United States of America. In fact, the United

Nations are not only engaged jointly in the struggle to preserve the freedom of the world and devote themselves to that task with the maximum collaboration, but also have contracted to assist one another in solving the problems of the post-war era. We hope by association and by definite covenants to make the world at least a place where decency willbe not merely a label that you place, upon a political programme, ‘but a fact which will enable every human being to have a chance to live. That applies to certain parts of the things which the right honorable gentleman has criticized. He has criticized parts of our programme, and I understand that when this motion is defeated there is going to be some opposition to certain legislative proposals of the Government. I have only this to say, that social welfare and the preservation of the nation’s freedom are to me complementary parts of the one duty. I believe that the Government owes it to the country, fo-om which it demands so much sacrifice in order to keep it free, that it shall to the utmost of its capacity shape such proposals as will ‘enable those who fight, and the dependants of those who fight, to be more hopeful of a better social era than was possible when the war commenced. We look back upon not only periods of unemployment and black despair for hundreds of our fellow citizens, but also widows having to work to maintain’ their children because their husbands had met with premature deaths. This Government has built up, I believe, the beginnings of what I hope will be a new social charter for the people of. the world. I answer the right honorable gentleman’s accusation by saying this.

Mr Fadden:

– How about answering Mr. Ward’s accusation?

Mr CURTIN:

– I answered that in the course of my speech. In my letter to the right honorable the Leader of the Opposition I said explicitly that the plan was presented to my Government.

Mr Fadden:

– The right honorable gentleman said in his letter: “When Japan entered, the war “.

Mr CURTIN:

– The right honorable gentleman not only writes letters to me; but he also wants to write my ‘replies to them. I have no fear of the facts5, and I see no purpose in avoiding them. I believe that it is the duty of every Prime Minister to face them honestly and fairly. This plan was submitted to my Government, and my Government had been in office two months when Japan struck. We then had the obligation of meeting the situation. The plan was formulated by the chiefs of the fighting services on the basis of the resources that they had at their command. I do not for a moment wish it to be assumed that I regard the Chief of the General Staff, or the CommanderinChief of the Home Forces, as lacking in military capacity, or suffering from any impediment which would prevent the performance, by either, of his high and responsible duties.

Mr Spooner:

– Will the right honorable gentleman also say that the statements which the Minister for Labour and National Service is making are untrue? If he will say that, he will have admitted everything that is necessary.

Mr CURTIN:

– A motion of no confidence has been moved by the Leader of the Opposition in a time of war. The Goernment has been in charge of the affairs of the country during the whole period since Japan went to war. It has not only had to meet the attack which Japan has essayed against this country, but it has also been in collaboration with other great powers. We have left nothing undone to serve this country. We have asked for the maximum of service from the people and we have had a magnificent response from them as a whole. When war came, this country was in dire peril. It could not afford political disputation, and. I have- never been a party to such disputation. No motions were made by me which would have been an embarrassment to the orderly conduct of the affairs of State. No motions of tha’t nature have been submitted for a considerable period-. I could understand a. bill being thrown out after hav-ing been discussed at length on its merits, and- I could, understand a budget having to be reshaped because it did not meet with the approval of Parliament, or even a Government being thrown out of office in time of war because it had failed to satisfy the high test that war had imposed upon it. And I could also understand, the complete absurdity of a Parliament saying to a Prime Minister : “ You have held the country against the Japanese, but there are half a dozen coal-miners on strike.”

Mr MENZIES:
Kooyong

.- This debate is- one of great importance, but so far it has pursued a very curious course. The Leader of the Opposition (Mr. Fadden) made a powerful indictment of the Government. He made it on a series of matters which are admittedly matters of domestic administration, although none the less important because of that. The Prime Minister (Mr. Curtin) made an extremely skilful replyIts skill consisted in the fact that it was not a reply at all. What the right honorable gentleman did was to put on one side all the allegations of the Leader of the Opposition.

Mr Langtry:

– Perhaps the right honorable member for Kooyong could write a reply?

Mr MENZIES:

– I should probably write a very good one. The Prime Minister, being confronted with a series of particular statements by the Leader of the Opposition, determined that the appropriate course to pursue was not to meet those charges, but to go off into general dissertations on the problems and the progress of the war since the end of 1941. That was a very interesting oration, but it did not contain anything fresh, although it was most interesting all the same. It had, however, nothing to do with the subject-matter of this debate. I wish to make some small contribution to the discussion, and to do so without repetition, and so I take leave to begin by clearing the ground a little. I do hope that we are not going to have in this Parliament a debate on a noconfidence motion which becomes a general debate on the questions that have arisen in the military administration of this war. That is a matter of first-class importance, but it is not germane to this motion. I want therefore to admit certain thing3 in order to clear the ground. I want no false issues in this matter so far as I am concerned. Everybody will admit that when Japan came into the war this Government found itself confronted very quickly by a state of emergency. Whatever Government had been in office would have been confronted by the same difficulties, and would have expected to devote the whole of its energies to meeting the emergency. I am not prepared to accuse the members of the Government of having been lazy or indifferent in essaying their task. I put that on one side. They were confronted by an unprecedented task, and of course I agree with the Prime Minister that when you have an unprecedented task you must resort to unprecedented measures. In the second place, I admit that any Government, any Minister for War Organization of Industry, any Minister for Supply, any Minister for Labour confronted by these circumstances would have been called upon to interfere, and if necessary, interfere ruthlessly, with the ordinary conduct of affairs. Business cannot go on as usual when a nation is making a supreme war effort; the old practices cannot continue without interference when a nation is undergoing a supreme trial. All these things may be admitted. I should have a poor view of myself if I endeavoured to make political capital out of the fact that this Government has found it necessary to interfere with the ordinary affairs of business men arid ordinary citizens. Of course these things had to be done. All that we as ordinary citizens can do is ask that they be done with as much skill as possible, as much understanding as possible, as much good, unbiased administration as possible, and without any ulterior or political doctrine in the background.

The next matter to which I direct attention is the fact that but for the enormous help obtained from the United States of America, the position in this country to-day would be much more precarious than it is. I do not feel called upon to express admiration of any administration, whether it was my own or not, merely because it asks for help. That may be a very normal thing to do, but it is not something for which any of us should pat ourselves on the back. This country needed help, and I point out that, in the course of this war, it has received help from two great sources.

Mr Beasley:

– There was a good deal of criticism when help was asked.

Mr MENZIES:

– Yes, criticism of the manner in which it was asked ; criticism of the fact that the dire needs of this country were being shouted from the house-tops for all the world to hear; criticism of any doctrine which gives the people of the United Kingdom or the United States of America to understand that this nation howls for help. Australia as a nation does not howl for help.

Mr Beasley:

– The response is the answer to that statement.

Mr MENZIES:

– I shall come to that later. It is true that there was an emergency, that there was a need, that a request was made, and that there was a great response ; but why was there a great response ? It is becoming almost commonplace nowadays for politicians to claim that they have saved the world or their country or that they have been responsible for achieving certain results. The people who, more than any one else, are responsible for the help that this country has received in the last eighteen months, are the men of the Australian Imperial Force, the Royal Australian Air Force, and the Royal Australian Navy.

Mr Beasley:

– Who is denying that?

Mr MENZIES:

– The Government of which I had the honour to be leader has no apology to make to history; it made no small contribution to the help received by this country in the last eighteen months. It was that Administration which raised and equipped the Australian Imperial Force, and sent it abroad where it fought so magnificently and created such a name for this country that the whole world had a sympathetic ear for Australia when the Japanese hordes descended in our direction. If a country is to make requests to other nations, then it is as well that it should have some merits. People do not give us things merely because they like our beautiful blue eyes. There should be merits, and the merit that this country had at the end of 1941 was this: Australia, lonely as it is in this world, small as it is in population, and limited as it is in resources, had ventured its men, its goods, the results of its labours and its services into almost every corner of the world. I take leave to think that when the American people saw that a country of 7,000,000 people had been prepared to send between 100,000 and 150,000 soldiers abroad to fight thousands of miles away from Australia, they might have thought that such a country was deserving of the services of hundreds of thousands of American citizens who might come here to fight.

The other great source from which Australia has received help - it is one which is occasionally overlooked in these modern times - is Great Britain. Implicit in what has been said recently by various Ministers in connexion with the so-called “ Brisbane line “, to which I shall refer more fully later, is the suggestion - I know that my friend, the Minister for Supply and Snipping (Mr. Beasley), will not quarrel with this as a statement of an issue - that governments supported by honorable members on this side of the chamber denuded Australia of man-power by sending forces abroad, and that the Labour party would not have sent forces abroad. That is a clear issue, and a clear line of demarcation between our policies.

Mr Conelan:

– Ve did not object to our soldiers going overseas.

Mr MENZIES:

– Unfortunately, in the brief time which I have at my disposal to deal with this motion, I cannot attend to the political instruction of the honorable member for Griffith (Mr. Conelan), but plainly he has forgotten that he was one of a number of honorable members opposite who voted for a motion that the Australian Imperial Force should not be sent out of this country. In fact, he was Opposition Whip when the vote on that issue was taken, and should remember it very clearly. I think that the incident occurred at the end of 1939, and in the middle of 1940, the greatest crisis of this war took place. I make that statement with due deliberation. No crisis that we in Australia faced early in 1942 can be compared to the crisis that humanity faced in the middle of 1940. Early in 1942 the question may very well have been whether Australia was to be invaded, .and to us that was a matter of the greatest concern, because Australia is our land. But in the middle of 1940, Great Britain and the British countries of the world, with no allies of any substance, and no second front except that which they could open for themselves, stood to guard the very frontiers of humanity. I should have thought it a strange and shameful thing if at a time when the Mother Country stood in such a plight, boldly fighting against a world which seemed to be hostile to it, we had said, “ “We are sorry for you ; we sympathize with your plight ; but we cannot send our soldiers to fight on your second front in the Middle East. We shall tend our own affairs, huddle our forces into our own country, develop our own capacity for manufacturing, and sell to you what we can at as good prices as we can get”. That is not my understanding of belligerency; it is my understanding of benevolent neutrality. Honorable members opposite may gather some comfort from the fact that this Government brought the Australian Imperial Force back to Australia. I shall always gather comfort from the knowledge that when I had the honour to hold ministerial rank no apologies were made for this country. The Government of the day stood for belligerency - the kind of belligerency which meant readiness to fight with the United Nations wherever the fight was required to be carried on.

Mr Beasley:

– Was not the fight at home very important?

Mr MENZIES:

– I shall come to that. Towards the end of 1941, about two months after the Curtin Government took office, Japan came into the war. At that moment the whole strategic position of Australia was obviously affected. The Government, from that time, was bound to devote rapidly increasing attention to the problems of the local defence of this country.

Mr McLeod:

– Did the Menzies Government foresee that?

Mr MENZIES:

– So clearly did we see the always contingent problem of the local defence of Australia that when we went out of office this country had a local defence force and local materials of war such as had never before been dreamed of in its history.

Mr Fadden:

– A going concern was handed over !

Mr MENZIES:

– I want honorable members to understand the suggestion that is behind the propaganda speeches that have been made by at least half a dozen Ministers of this Government in the last two or three months. At the moment I am not discussing the general war statement that the Prime Minister has made, for I wish to devote attention to the implication in the statements that have been made that when Japan came into this war, and by reason of its tremendous onrush, this country became physically imperilled, those whose duty it was to provide for Australia’s defence found that the country was defenceless.

Mr Ward:

– That was the position, too!

Mr MENZIES:

– I am not talking about the position of Australia at the moment. It has been said that at that time Australia was defenceless. The whole force of the suggestions made by the Ministers to whom I have referred is that the Menzies Government, and the Fadden Government in its turn, did not understand the problem of Australia’s defence, or shamefully neglected it, or decided, in a cowardly fashion, to abandon certain areas. I am happy to see that the one completely frank member of this Government, the Minister for Labour and National Service (Mr. Ward), nods his head in approval. He agrees with my statement ! Of course, he has made the allegations in words of one syllable so that every one may understand them. Others have whispered such allegations, and the Leader of the Government has condoned their conduct. The Minister for Labour and National Service has definitely made the statement that previous governments had no conception that there was a real problem of Australian defence.

Mr Sheehan:

– There was plenty of scrap iron !

Mr MENZIES:

– I should hate to dip into ancient history in discussing the problem of Australia’s defence.

Sitting suspended from 6.15 to 8 p.m.

Mr MENZIES:

– When the sitting was suspended, I was discussing the defensive position of Australia at the end of 1941; because that is a matter which is involved in some of the propaganda that has been issued and listened to in the last few months. I remind honorable members that I was relating the help that we had had from other parts of the world. I recalled to the attention of honorable members the very great help that this country, in common with all civilized citizens of the world, had had in 1940 as the result of the magnificent battle of Britain. Justice requires that one should add a reference to the almost equally important Battle of the Atlantic. It is very natural and proper that in Australia we should have an immediate concern with our own position in world strategy. But we must always remember that we are significant in a world war only insofar as we have a place in world strategy, It is not merely a matter of holding our hands in our own corner and saying : “ Australia first and the rest nowhere”; because the fact is that at the end of 1941, and even at this moment, Australia would have been in a very poor defensive position had it not been for the magnificent work that has been done by the Royal Navy in the Battle of the Atlantic. That battle is crucial for us. What does it matter if 10,000 factories in the United States of America are producing aircraft, guns, tanks and ammunition on a scale undreamt of in Germany, if these things cannot be taken to the point of combat ? The essence of winning this war is bringing superior forces to the point of battle ; and in that task shipping is of the first importance. Open sea lanes are veritably the life stream of countries like Australia; and in the Atlantic, long before we bad begun to talk about the Battle of the Atlantic, ships of His Majesty’s Royal Navy had been on patrol day after day, week after week, month after month, incurring all the risks of attack by the submarine and raiding aircraft, and fighting with U-boats that were based on the entire European coastline. When the history of this war is written, a very great volume of it will need to be devoted to the Battle of the Atlantic. To my mind it has always been, among other things, a crucial battle for Australia.

Then there is the Battle of North Africa. Has that had nothing to do with the security of Australia? I have never been able to understand the argument of those who have said, for example, that the 9th Division, when it stood at El Alamein, was not fighting the battle for Australia. Of course it was. At the Battle of El Alamein the 9th Division spoke in language more eloquent than all the political speeches in the world.

Mr Paterson:

– And all the efforts of the Attorney-General.

Mr Conelan:

– That is not fair.

Mr MENZIES:

– If we are to cast up the accounts, and give credit where credit is due - and I should be the last person to seek to deprive any one of his just credit - let us give credit to the men of the 6th, 7th and 9th Divisions in the Middle East, and of the 8th Division in the Far East, who, through all their various vicissitudes, very far from home, have been fighting the battle for Australia. Everything that those men have done, and that they had done by the end of 1941, was material in the highest degree to the security of this country. I reject this nice mathematical method of asking, “ How many troops did we have in Australia when Japan came into the war?” That is a false basis for calculating the safety of Australia. How false it is was very eloquently shown by the members of the Government; because, when those divisions came home - those members of them who were to come home - great testimony was paid to them by the Government of this country, and expressions of gratitude were voiced on account of the fact that we then had in our own country not divisions which had been kept in Australia but divisions which had been seasoned in battle; divisions that were versed in modern warfare ; divisions which, it was our proud boast, were as great fighting organizations as any which the world could produce. Had they had nothing to do with the safety of Australia ? Inside Australia itself, at that very time, as the Prime Minister himself knew and admitted at the time, we had 200,000 troops at least in the Australian Military Forces with a degree of training which no militia had ever previously had in the history of Australia.

Mr Mulcahy:

– And not a gun with which to arm them.

Mr MENZIES:

– The honorable member for Lang has made the inevitable comment, “ And not a gun with which to arm them “.. I have a great personal friendship and regard for the honorable member ; therefore, I shall content myself with saying that he has been grievously misinformed; because, had he gone into the position in Australia, he would have discovered, as his colleagues who now sit on the treasury bench and who then sat on the Advisory War Council might have told him, but for their oath of office, that in the first two years of this war this country put forth an effort in the production of guns - not the bringing of guns from countries which at that time needed them more - which I venture to consider is without parallel. What is the use of saying to me that there were some troops without guns? Of course there were! If I am told that there were some troops without rifles, my answer is “ Of course there were “ ! But there would have been many thousands more without them had it not been for the unremitting labours of my colleagues in the then Government and myself in the first two years of this war. Honorable gentlemen opposite cannot with a wave of the hand dismiss a tremendous munitions effort which literally had to start from the ground in Australia; a munitions effort on the part of a country which, only so recently as the last war, produced rifles and small arms ammunitions, and nothing else.

Mr Holt:

– We sent munitions workers to Britain.

Mr MENZIES:

– We sent munitions workers to Britain because we had no scope for them in this country. I jotted down to-day a short and by no means comprehensive list of the things that we undertook to make, and that we brought into production with infinite pains and labour in the first two years of this war. They include Bren guns, Bren gun carriers, 25-pounder artillery, 3.7 antiaircraft guns, anti-tank guns, trench mortars, “Vickers machine guns, pistols, aircraft bombs, mines, shot and shell of a hundred different kinds, respirators, and engineers’ stores of a thousand varieties. Does one conjure these things out of empty air?

Mr Conelan:

– Does one conjure them, without the assistance of the workers?

Mr MENZIES:

– Mention of empty air, naturally suggests the honorable member for Griffith. I put it to my friend the Minister for Munitions (Mr. Makin) that he knows what the munitions effort of Australia has been. He has been responsible for munitions production for the last eighteen months, and I have not the slightest doubt that he has applied himself with the greatest assiduousness to his responsible task. I am not here to decry the efforts of people who have been doing honest service for this country. The honorable gentleman knows that the volume of work which had to be done, not by me or, with great submission, by him, but by those who have been concerned in the munitions organization of Australia, in the first two years of this war, was colossal. Because some clever fellow can secure access to a secret document, and can say, “But you are still short of so and so “, or “ At the end of 1941 we were short of so and so “, are we to be told that that means that nothing had been done, that we were panic-stricken, that we were defeatists? I have never heard such a falsification of argument.

Mr James:

– Did not the right honorable gentleman enforce the exportation of pig-iron to Japan?

Mr MENZIES:

– The short answer to that is, “I did not”. When we have a suitable occasion, I shall enlighten the honorable member on the point.

Mir. James. - The right honorable gentleman went down to the waterside workers.

Mr MENZIES:

– I did, when I was Attorney-General in a previous government. I was not afraid to do so.

Mr James:

– They were on strike against the exportation of pig-iron.

Mr MENZIES:

– When there was industrial trouble in which I was concerned, I was not afraid to go down to the waterside workers, or to the miners at Kurri Kurri.

Mr James:

– But was not the trouble caused by the exportation of pig-iron?

Mr MENZIES:

– I am addressing myself to the subject of munitions production. Nobody knows better than the honorable member for Hunter (Mx. James) what steps had to be taken, what foundations had to be laid, if we were to have a munitions effort that would be worthy of this country. Somebody comes along and says that there was a shortage of munitions. I assure honorable members that I could give a more complete list of shortages at the end of 1941 than could any other honorable member of this House ; and that doe3 not make me blind to the fact that if I had to make out a list of shortages two years earlier, its proportions would be astronomical by comparison.

The time allotted to me runs on, because the hands of the wretched clock have a habit of moving; consequently, I must leave this matter, because I want to deal with the real heart of the allegation that is being made. You will have noticed, sir, that I have tried to make it clear that I have no quarrel whatever with this Government, or any other government that has the grave responsibility of leading a nation at war, having a just and honest pride in the work that it has done. I do not belong to that race of tiny men who want to deprive other people of the credit to which they are entitled for the work that they have done. This Government is perfectly entitled to honest pride and satisfaction in all the good work it has done during the last eighteen months. But, sir, when a government turns aside from that decent instinct and endeavours to blacken the reputation of its predecessors, by imputing to them a form of cowardice, a panic-stricken condition, and this strange combination of defeatism and at the same time willingness to adventure scores of thousands of Australian men abroad - how the two can be reconciled I have not yet learned - when a government turns aside to make these noxious allegations, in an endeavour to cast a murk over the reputation of those who, in their own time and turn, have served this country, then it is high time that a few words were spoken and the truth exposed.

That brings me to the last and most grievous of all the lies - the Brisbane lie. Something has been said about it to-day by the Leader of the Opposition and by the Leader of the Government; singularly little, I am sorry to say, by the latter. I shall pose a question or two on this matter. The right honorable the Prime Minister, to my intense astonishment and infinite regret, thought fit this afternoon to quote a remark made by a former Minister in a secret session of this Parliament.

Mr Ward:

– But it was accurate.

Mr MENZIES:

– The Minister for Labour and National Service, who is seated at the table and has thus now assumed his proper place as head of this Government, says that the statement was accurate. [Extension of time granted.] That, in my opinion, is eminently characteristic of the Minister. He says, in effect, “I am not concerned with these trifling questions as to whether confidences have been broken or secrecy not observed. These are old-fashioned capitalist tricks. They have no place in my ethical world “. But I thought that they had a high place in the ethical world of the Prime Minister, and I regret that he saw fit to refer to that matter. Since he is in the mood to refer to matters of this kind, I wonder whether he would enlighten the House as to this one: “When the story about “the Brisbane line “ was put forward, repeated, never checked, and repeated again, it was not one about Australia’s defencelessness. A very clever attempt has been made since to side-step the original allegation and say, “Anyhow we were short of tommy guns “ .or something to that effect. This “ Brisbane line “ allegation was a specific one. It was put into specific terms by the Minister himself.

Mr Ward:

– That is so.

Mr MENZIES:

– He said in the plainest possible terms that there was a plan of the Menzies and Fadden Governments to evacuate ; that is, it was a military plan dictated or approved, I do not care which, by the then Government. I put this to the Prime Minister: Every record of the Department of the Army, and every relative record of the Advisory War Council have been searched, and there is no such plan before February, 1942. That is a fact.

Mr Curtin:

– I said that. I stated that the plan was put to my Government.

Mr MENZIES:

– Two things are necessary if the Prime Minister is to vindicate his own position on this deplorable matter. I say that because those are words which will be echoed by all decent people in this country. In the first place, the statement is that the plan was presented to the Minister for the Army now sitting at the table, and subsequently to the Advisory War Council, where it was unanimously put aside. That is the plan of February, 1942. But the second statement is that there was never any other plan before the council. Does the Prime

Minister admit that? Before the last meeting of the Advisory War Council, the Leader of the Opposition said, in writing, “ Put all your cards on the table. I invite you to put before us every record that has any bearing on such a matter “. That was fair enough. I have not discovered that many people with something to hide are keen about putting their cards on the table. The cards were placed on the table, and I challenge denial of the statement that there never was such a plan until that which was produced to the present Minister for the Army in February, 1942.

Mr Makin:

– The plan revealed the hopeless position in which the right honorable gentleman left this country.

Mr MENZIES:

– A few moments ago I used words of mild congratulation to the Minister, but I am afraid that I must withdraw them, because I am shocked to hear him obviously associating himself with this filthy campaign of falsehood about the position of Australia in 1941.

Mr Makin:

– The right honorable gentleman has something to answer for to the people of this country.

Mr MENZIES:

– The Minister for Munitions, who has become unduly proud, I am afraid I observe, of what he has done in the munitions world, says that I shall have something to answer for. There is nothing I shall not be most happy to answer for, and the sooner we go to the people and answer for these things the better. That is all that need be said about “ the Brisbane line “. A statement was made, a charge was levelled by a responsible Minister - responsible in the technical sense, at any rate - and that statement is demonstrated to be utterly untrue.

The people of Australia are entitled to put two questions to the Prime Minister. The first is, “Was that statement untrue?” I understand that the right honorable gentleman’s answer, in a devious sort of fashion, must be “ Yes “. The second question the people will put is, “If it was untrue, why did you allow your Government to take the advantage of this He for months before you said so?” This will be the great test of the personal standing of the Prime Minister before the people of this country. My last remark is apropos of the interjection from the

Minister for Munitions, who seems to think that I am going to squirm some day in the witness box of history. I am not. I shall enjoy the evidence more than my friend will, if he is to do the crossexamining. As he is obviously disposed to let it be understood that he and his party are the first and true begetters of the munitions effort of this country, and that the Opposition left this country’s defences riddled with holes, let me remind him of this: I looked to-day through a little green volume which has just been circulated by the Government. It contains a valuable list of the organizations and boards that exist in Australia. They enable one to learn who are doing the job while we are arguing. I looked at the reference to the Munitions Department and I saw the names of Essington Lewis, Jensen, Brodribb, Donaldson, Hartnett, Fraser, Thorpe and Nixon. Then I thought, “ That is very odd, because I appointed all of them “. They are still in their positions and running the business. Of course, I recall that the Minister for the Army, in one of those flights of eloquence to which he is occasionally addicted, said in the middle of 1941, shortly before I went out of office, “ When we come into power we shall take over the Broken Hill Proprietary Company Limited “. Then the reporters got busy and sent a message to Perth, where the present Prime Minister then was, and asked him what he had to say about it. The reply was, “I stand by my colleague “.

Mr SPOONER:

– Did not members of the then Opposition say it would abolish the cost-plus system?

Mr MENZIES:

– Yes, and a great many other things. In particular, they were going to get rid of the great men versed in business affairs whom we had brought in on the widest charter in the world in order to make munitions for this country, but to-day those men are still at their posts. I suppose that at the bar of history the Minister for Munitions will be heard to say to the judge, “ True they set up an organization and installed plants in the factories. True they got all these various productions going, but after all it must be understood that Messrs.

Essington Lewis, Jensen and Brodribb and the others, most of whom are .the embodiment of private enterprise and capitalism, worked twice as hard for me as- they did for Menzies”. If there is one thing that is clear to-day it is that there will he no political health in this country until all this miasma of miserable allegations is swept away by the clear draught of a general election. I am for it.

Mr FORDE:
Minister for the Army · Capricornia · ALP

.- We have listened to one of those characteristic rhetorical and gymnastic oratorical speeches that wo have heard from time to time from the right honorable member for Kooyong (Mr. Menzies), but I think that he has failed miserably to convince the House that there is any justification for the motion now before it. The fact that he has so soon jumped into the debate is a clear indication that he is again making a run, if somewhat belated, to supplant the right honorable member for North Sydney (Mr. Hughes) as Leader of the United Australia party. If Labour should be defeated, we would be faced with another Menzies government.

Mr Menzies:

– It was- suggested to me that I should wait and answer the Minister, but I said that I wanted a harder job than that.

Mr FORDE:

– The Labour party has been criticized to-day for not joining in a national government. We have been told that if we had done that all would have been well. Much propaganda has been indulged in by members of the Opposition with regard to a national government. They have said that there would be complete unity if such a ministry were formed. Whilst it is admitted that the Labour party and the parties opposed to it have the ‘one objective of primarily winning the war, we are, nevertheless, divided as to how this should be accomplished, and we are definitely divided on all matters affecting the social and economic welfare of our people. We all know that there is no unity whatever on the Opposition side of the House. For some time internecine strife has been rampant in the ranks, first, of the United Australia party, and now of the Country party. This has developed to such a degree that recently seventeen members of the Opposition broke away and formed themselves into what they call the National Service Group. If they are unable to achieve unity in their own ranks, how can they expect to make workable a National Government composed of parties from both sides of the House? It is well known that the real purpose of this move by seventeen members of the United Australia party was to depose the right honorable member for Darling Downs (Mr. Fadden) from the leadership of the Opposition and the right honorable member for North Sydney (Mr. Hughes) from the leadership of the United Australia party. The right honorable member for North Sydney characterized the members of this breakaway group as wreckers. This is what he said -

What miserable humbug all this is. Mr. Menzies deplores self-seeking, whispering campaigns and intrigues: he passionately urges the need for unity, but is himself the great self-seeker, the man behind the scenes in every intrigue, the fountain-head of every whispering campaign, the destroyer of unity.

Nothing short of leadership of the combined parties will satisfy Mr. Menzies or them.

My opponents have been intriguing for months . . . instead of showing that they place the interests of the party and the country above their petty intrigues, they set to work to split the party.

He talks about strikes on the waterfront, but when the Government orders the Military Forces to do the work, instead of supporting this action, as both Mr. Fadden and I have done, he forms this reactionary group of wreckers.

It is only a few weeks ago that he expressed that opinion, yet honorable members opposite now say that all would be well if the Labour party would agree to the formation of a national government. If honorable members opposite want unity, let them put their own house in order first. Let them show that they can agree among themselves, that they

Can achieve unity of purpose among the two parties opposite, whose political platforms are, in fact, almost identical.

Indeed, there is no great degree of unity, even in the ranks of the Country party. It is well known that that party has been torn asunder by the same sort of intrigue which has afflicted the United Australia party. This is what the honorable member for Barker (Mr. Archie Cameron) wrote on 26th October, 1940 -

I devoted my time for thirteen months to reconciliations and reunions and endeavouring to produce harmony out of discord.

Everlasting intrigues and manoeuvring for personal advantage reached its zenith in ruptures of the seal of Cabinet secrecy. . . .

I trust that it will soon redeem with unity of purpose and of will all that it has lost for so long and which did not materalize to my efforts.

So little fitted are the members of the United Service group, of which Mr. Menzies is the unofficial leader, to participate in a united government that they nave even refused to sit with other members of the Opposition in the one party room. It is obvious that any attempt to form, a united government with men of that kind as members would be doomed to failure.

The right honorable member for Kooyong (Mr. Menzies) fell much below his usual debating standard when he sought to cast aspersions on the Prime Minister, the man who has given this country real leadership; who, when he was Leader of the Opposition, played the game in a manly way with the then Government. The right honorable membe]1 for Kooyong was then man enough to acknowledge as much. Contrast his words then with the sneers and cheap jibes which he uttered to-day. They were characteristic of the behaviour which caused him to be deposed from the leadership of a government that had a majority in both Houses of Parliament, and to be tossed ignominiously out of office. Two years ago, when referring to the right honorable member for Fremantle (Mr. Curtin), the right honorable member for Kooyong, who was then Prime Minister, said -

It is a tribute I can pay to the leader of the Labour Party. … I say that _ no man could have given more loyal co-operation. 1 shall ask for no more honorable and co-operative a leader of any Opposition. He has given me very frequently in these dark days a human comfort and friendship that I have valued and I acknowledge it now.

This motion of want of confidence cannot be justified. In peace-time we were accustomed to motions of want of confidence of this kind, but not since 1938, as the Prime Minister pointed out, has a direct motion of want of confidence been moved. This time, however, the Leader of the Opposition chose to move his motion while the country was at war, when it had been at war for nearly four years, and the dreadful menace of Japanese aggression was hanging over Australia.

Sir Frederick Stewart:

– No, that is all over!

Mr FORDE:

– We have here an example of party political control, and of the dictation by outside interests to parliamentary office-holders. The Speaker and the Chairman of Committees were directed to quit, to run away from their responsibility in an attempt to embarrass the Government in its war effort. No doubt, Tokyo will like to hear this news. It is no wonder that the Canberra Times, commenting on this incident, wrote as follows : -

Unless some higher principle is put forward by Mr. Nairn to justify his resignation he will be judged to have’ taken a step which degrades the high office of Speaker and given an example to his successors in office that should be distinguished by their studious avoidance of its repetition.

That is a well-deserved rebuke. Every fair-minded Australian will admire the Prime Minister for the straight-forward statement which he made last night after notice had been given of this motion of want of confidence. This is what he said -

I am willing to carry on with the task which fate gave me and to fulfil it to the end.

I am happy that whatever may be the Opposition’s opinion towards the Government the terrible burdens thrown upon us to defend this country in dire peril have been carried out.

I have no doubt that, when the general elections are held, be that soon or late, an overwhelming majority of the people will show, by their support of this Government, that they appreciate what it has done to ensure the defence and security of Australia, so that it may play its part with the other democracies in the defence of liberty.

The fact is that Australia had no national leadership in the war effort until the right honorable member for Fremantle became Prime Minister. Since then, tremendous progress has been made. Australia has passed through the most dangerous crisis in its history, and has emerged stronger than ever. On the strength of its war effort alone, the Government” deserves the support of a majority of the members of this House and of the electorates. What was there in the way of national leadership before the Curtin Government came into office? Does any one wish for a return to the vacillating and bickering Governments which preceded it and which led Australia to the brink of disaster? The right honorable member for Kooyong, who was returned at the 1940 elections with a working majority, gave an example of uninspired leadership. It is true that he had great eloquence, that he was an orator with a nimble wit. He could make delightful after-dinner speeches, but he was not able to follow them up with the “hard work and inspiring leadership necessary to lead the country in time of war. That was why he lost favour even among his own followers. He was not able to lead the country in a constructive war effort, a fact which was recognized by members of Parliament, by the people outside, and even by the press which had formerly supported him. The press deserted him, and took steps to depose him. One of the leading newspapers of Australia, the Sydney Morning Herald, which cannot be said to be a supporter of the Labour party, had this to say of the Menzies Government in a leading article -

The country is by no means satisfied that the Menzies Government possesses either the vigour or efficiency which is needed to carry our war effort into top gear.

For one thing, there has been far too much wrangling and indecision within Cabinet itself If the confidence of the country is to be securely held, the stamp of mediocrity upon the Ministry’s general complexion and character must be removed … It has been a year of delays, a lack of policy, and of repeated shirking of responsibility.

And still honorable members opposite say that if only they were in power everything would be well - that there would be no industrial upheavals, and that there would be greater efficiency in all departments. “We can judge them only on their performances when they were in power. At that time, their Government fell to pieces, and they jettisoned their leader. It was then that the right honorable member for Darling Downs (Mr. Fadden) was sent for to f orm a government, and he held office for a few weeks.

Mr Fadden:

– It seemed longer !

Mr FORDE:

– No doubt it did. Unfortunately, he did not receive from his own party the backing to which he was entitled. He did not get the co-operation to which he was entitled. During the 21 months that he has been Leader of the Opposition frequent attempts have been made by small, but powerful, groups on the Opposition party and in the National Union outside to depose him from that office, and also to supplant the right honorable member for North Sydney (Mr. Hughes) from the leadership of the United Australia party. Yet these are the gentlemen whom we are told desire to form a national government and could be relied upon to give loyal support to the present Prime Minister! Such talk is a sham and a delusion, but the people of Australia will not be hoodwinked by it. Contrast with such actions the record of the Labour party since it has been in office. The present Prime Minister has led a completely unified party, every member of which has been loyal to him. The right honorable gentleman has given to the nation leadership of the highest order, and the result is that the nation’s war production has reached proportions which were undreamed of and thought to be impossible a few years ago. I do not say that everything in connexion with Australia’s war effort under the present Government has been perfect. It is only natural that, with the nation working at such high pressure, mistakes would be made. The Minister for War Organization of Industry (Mr. Dedman) is subjected to a good deal of abuse, but he had a tremendous task in transferring 300,000 workers from peace-time activities to war industry. When such drastic changes in the lives of the people are taking place, some complaining and dissatisfaction is inevitable. Honorable gentlemen opposite have indulged in misrepresentation and vilification of the Minister for War Organization of Industry who, despite great difficulties, has done a splendid job. Before the present Prime Minister took office he showed that he had the necessary qualifications for leadership by the way in which he co-operated with previous governments. Here, I give credit to the present Leader of the Opposition for his efforts at co-operation, but the right honorable gentleman’s task has been made most difficult by members of his own party, who evidently think more of election propaganda and petty party political moves than of the interests of Australia. Although he did not have a majority in either House of the Parliament, all fair-minded people will agree that the present Prime Minister grasped the reins of government firmly and gave a lead to the nation in its darkest hours. Under him new life was put into the nation’s flagging war effort and Australia began to take a prominent part in the councils of the allied nations, particularly after Japan entered the war and the United States of America became our great ally in the Pacific. For 21 months the Prime Minister, without a party majority in either House, has been able to hold the Parliament firmly together and to give a lead to the nation - a lead which has secured the nation from a threat of invasion which hung over it for many months. He has mobilized the nation for war, notwithstanding that certain elements in the community have done their best to hinder him. The present Cabinet recently established, a record in Australian politics by continuing without any change of Ministers since it was sworn in on the 7th October, 1941. It is well to contrast that stability of government with the frequent changes which took place when the parties now in opposition occupied the treasury bench. I believe that the whole Australian nation is proud of the way in which the present Prime Minister has consolidated this country’s relations with its Allies, particularly the United States of America. It was largely because of the action of the right honorable gentleman that the present South-West Pacific command, which has been the means of such successful operations against the Japanese in the south-western Pacific and south Pacific theatres of war, was established. The Australian Prime Minister has also worked harmoniously with the Prime Minister of Great Britain, Mr. Churchill, in the determining of world war strategy, and, as a result, the bonds of Empire have been greatly strengthened. He has given to Australia that real leadership which previously was lacking. Should the motion before the chair be agreed to, and a change of government be made, can any one say who the leader of the nation will be? Will it be the present Leader of the Opposition (Mr. Fadden), the Leader of the United Australia party (Mr. Hughes), or the right honorable member for Kooyong (Mr. Menzies) ? No one knows. Indeed, the parties forming the Opposition themselves do not know, because they are so torn with strife, and so riddled with underground intrigues and plots to cut one another’s political throats. How can .the nation hope for strong leadership from the parties opposite should they hoodwink a majority of the electors into voting for them? I ask the House not to turn its back on the present Prime Minister, a man who played a glorious part in bringing Australia safely through the darkest hours of its history, and who has done so much to prepare this nation for the great task ahead. The question before the House should be decided on what the Government has done for the security of Australia and not on the small mistakes which have been made at a time when swift and drastic changes were necessary in order to obtain an all-in war effort. In March last, the people of Australia were treated by a section of the Opposition to what the right honorable member for North Sydney described in a broadcast talk as “ a deplorable exhibition of intrigues and reckless disregard of national interest calculated to bring into well merited contempt the institutions of democratic government “. That is what we would get again if a change of government took place. We have been told that the right honorable member for Kooyong is responsible for the present healthy state of the defences of Australia In my opinion, the finest Minister for Defence that the conservative parties in this Parliament ever had was a former member for the district of Warringah, Sir Archdale Parkhill. When that honorable gentleman was Minister for Defence in 1937 he went to an Imperial Conference, and on his return to Australia he submitted a proposal for a substantial improvement in the defences of Australia which was estimated to cost between £3,000,000 and £4,000,000, but the Lyons Government which was then in office cut the programme down to one involving an expenditure of £800,000. The right honorable member for Kooyong was AttorneyGeneral in that Government which deprived Australia of what would have proved to be the foundation of an effective defence policy. Yet, we are told that thi Labour party, which was then a minority, was responsible for Australia not having an adequate defence scheme. Speaking in Adelaide on the 9th August, 1941, the right honorable member for Kooyong said : “ More than 400,000 men have been trained and equipped for the fighting services in Australia “. The right honorable gentleman made that statement when accepting delivery of the 100th twopounder anti-tank gun produced in Australia. His satisfaction at receiving the gun does not appear to have been diminished by the fact that at that time no ammunition for those guns was being produced in Australia, the ammunition production programme being many months behind schedule and supplies of anti-tank ammunition being only about fifteen rounds for each gun in the Commonwealth. The statement that 400,000 men had been trained and equipped was intended to convey the impression that they had been fully trained and equipped, but my predecessor in office shocked this House a few weeks later when he told the truth regarding the condition of the Army in Australia. It is a fact that at the time that the right honorable member for Kooyong made the statement referred to there was not one unit of the Army in Australia which was trained or equipped to fighting standard. That was after two years of war. Yet the right honorable gentleman talks of having laid the foundation for the defence of Australia and for the present healthy condition of its defences. How could generals like Sir Iven McKay, or General Sturdee, the then Chief of the General Staff, provide an adequate defence scheme for Australia in such circumstances? They had to cut their garment according to their cloth. I wish to place on record some striking facts regarding the appalling state of Australia’s defences when the present Government took office. There was then not one modern fighter aeroplane in the Commonwealth, and it would have been possible to count on the fingers of one hand the number of tanks we had. To-day we have hundreds of each of the best types of imported tanks ; our armoured divisions are fully equipped. At that time we had only about fifteen rounds of anti-tank ammunition for each gun; we had less than one week’s supply of field artillery ammunition for fighting on a moderate scale; we had only about 60 per cent, of the rifles required to equip our forces, and at the then rate of production it would have taken three or four years to fulfil our requirements; we had only about 20 per cent, of the number of the light automatic tommy guns required; there was a serious shortage of the machine guns we needed, whilst we were in a hopeless position in respect of supplies of spare parts. For many years this country had had a large number of 310 calibre rifles, but when the present Government took office there was no ammunition whatever in Australia for them. On assuming office I conferred with my colleague the Minister f or Munitions (Mr. Makin), with the result that the production of .310 ammunition was proceeded with, and to-day we have large supplies of this class of ammunition, and the rifles’ which were previously stored are now being used by the Volunteer Defence Corps. The Volunteer Defence Corps was a sham, a make-believe, when this party took office. I am proud that it was I who recommended to the “War Cabinet that it should approve the expenditure of £100,000 in order to appoint full-time officers who would by their organization and control put flesh on the skeleton. The efficiency of the Volunteer Defence Corps has been so increased as the result of its administration by capable and enthusiastic men, the great majority of whom have given their time gratis, that it will be able, should the need arise, to play an important role in the defence of this country and thereby make available the. younger men for more combatant service.

To-day there is a vastly different story under each of the headings “that I have mentioned to tell as the result of the fresh outlook, keenness and enthusiasm of the new Ministers that took control of the various Commonwealth departments, and the organizing ability of the Prime Minister, who inspired every one of his Ministers to work with him in the interests of the country. [Extension of time granted.] One of the most urgent problems facing this country when this party took office was the provision of reserves of petrol and fuel oil. During the whole two years that it was in office, the previous Government watched our petrol reserves dwindling from week to week, until, when this Government took office, they had reached a perilously low level. To-day, the fuel supplies are in a very healthy condition.

Those are only a few examples which indicate the Opposition’s complete incapacity to conduct the affairs of this nation in war-time. I cite them because each and every one of those deficiencies was occasioned by the sheer neglect of the Government of the day to look into the future and provide the most elementary requirements of our defence forces. Had appropriate and energetic steps been taken by the Menzies Government - one cannot lay so much blame on the right honorable member for Darling Downs (Mr. Fadden), because he was not allowed to stay long enough in office -upon the outbreak of war, every one of these deficiencies could have been largely remedied before this ‘Government took office.

So much for the Opposition’s preparations for the defence of Australia. It failed lamentably. Yet now it is trying to vamp up among the people hostility to this Government by referring to industrial strikes. It is true that there has been stoppages of work. We all deplore them. But strikes are not confined to Australia. Five hundred thousand coal-miners are on strike in the United States of America. Statistics show that there are many industrial stoppages in the United Kingdom. They are inseparable from the economic system and the stress and strain of the times through which we are passing. We can only hope that they will be eliminated.

Sir Frederick Stewart:

– But what will the Labour Government do to eliminate them?

Mr FORDE:

– What shall we do? What did the previous Government do? It failed miserably. We have done a great deal by setting up machinery to facilitate the hearing of grievances, to bring employer and employee closer together, and to avoid stoppages. We have been told about the loss of coal production. But the year 1942 produced an all-time record for the production of black coal in Australia, the output being 14,966,191 tons. The year 1940 was a very bad year because of a lengthy strike on the Maitland coal-fields, the production being 11,725,68.2 tons. The Menzies Government was in power in 1940. Yet the right honorable member for Kooyong’ now says, “If I were Prime Minister, I should be able to deal with industrial stoppages “. What did he do then ?

Sir Frederick Stewart:

– He went to the mines, which is more than the Labour Ministers are game to do.

Mr FORDE:

– Yes, with a fanfare of trumpets, the right honorable member for Kooyong went to the coal-fields. He saw the miners. They called him “ Bob “ and he, flippantly, called them “ Jack “ or “Tom”, and said, “What good fellows you are ! “ but he did not get them back to work. Now he tells us that, if he were Prime Minister, he would be able to put an end to the strikes. What balderdash! In 1939, 13,535,142 tons of coal was produced. In 1942 there was an increase of about 1,500,000 tons over the production in 1939. If there had been no strikes, we realize that production would have been greater. We do not stand for strikes. By every means within our power we seek to put an end to them.. We have been more successful in reducing strikes than was the Opposition when it was in power. The Opposition failed to deal with the strike problem when it occupied office and it would fail again.

In view of the propaganda of the Opposition, it is of interest to compare the time lost through strikes during the regime of the previous Government with that lost since this Government took office. Under the Government led by the right honorable member for Kooyong the average number of man-days lost each week because of industrial stoppages was 21,000. Under the Government led by the right honorable member for Darling Downs the average number of man-days lost each week -through industrial stoppages rose to 51,000. The right honorable member for Kooyong evidently regarded his figure of 21.000 man-days lost as being eminently satisfactory, for, when questioned about strikes during his visit to Ottawa in May, 1941, he replied, “ The number of strikes in Australia is really surprisingly few “. But he says to-day, “ The Government should be removed from office because it has failed to stop strikes “. Whereas the average number of man-days lost each week under this regime is only half what it was when he was Prime Minister, and it must be remembered that the industrial field now is ever so much greater than it was then. The figures I have given are compiled from the latest available statistics. The right honorable gentleman’s cant and humbug will not hoodwink the people of Australia.

The plain fact of the matter is that during the two war years in which the Opposition held office it took no effective action whatever to reduce the time lost through industrial disputes. Action taken by this Government has halved it.

Regarding supply problems, the right honorable member for Kooyong stated as far back as the 2Sth December, 1929 -

We must keep before our eyes two great questions. What must we do in Australia to protect our soldiers against the danger of attack in our own waters or on our own shores? Having made all proper provision for that, in what way can we best contribute to the victory of Great Britain?

A year later the right honorable member said -

Any one who believes that Australia’s war danger is any less than Britain’s is living in a “ fool’s paradise”, which can in a few days become a “ fool’s hell “.

It is obvious that even then the right honorable member for Kooyong was aware of the danger threatening Australia. He frequently emphasized the necessity to use all Australia’s resources for war, but in fact he made no attempt to mobilize fully the resources of the Commonwealth for war. Instead, he was a devotee to the “Business as Usual “ slogan, which pleased the great vested interests of this country, and proved to be the easy path down which the Government irresponsibly drifted. The right honorable gentleman went to Great Britain, stayed there for many months and, coming back to Australia, stayed at Auckland and made one of his characteristic oratorical efforts, one of those efforts that have caused the people to admire him for his power of rhetoric. He made an equally eloquent appeal at the Sydney Town Hall on his ultimate return. The people then said, “At last we have a Prime Minister who takes a realistic view of things, and who will re-organize this nation to fit it for war “ ; but as day followed day his stocks, and those of his Ministers, went down and down, and, finally, the Ministry disintegrated as the result of the Ministers quarrelling amongst themselves. After a brief period, in which the right honorable member for Darling Downs vainly endeavoured to re-build the ministerial structure, it fell to the Labour party to assume office and to put proper organization behind the essential war departments, for instance, the Department of War Organization of Industry, of which the honorable member for Corio (Mr. Dedman) is the ministerial head. When the honorable member for Corio took over the Department of War Organization of Industry all he found was a shop window behind which no business was being done. He was called upon by the War Cabinet t!o supply many thousands of additional men for the fighting forces and the war industries in order to step up the production of armaments. He found those men. Admittedly, some of his actions did inconvenience some people, but it was either that or allow the nation to go over the precipice to disaster. He and the Government took the difficult but thorny path. The previous Government would have procrastinated.

One of the great shortcomings of the Opposition, when it was in power, was that it talked about what should be done, but lacked the moral courage to do it. During its term of office nothing more was accomplished than talk. It fell to this Government to do things which were very unpopular, but which were vital if this country was to be saved. This Government established the Civil Constructional Corps, in which I think about 75,000 men are now enrolled, and which now has an £80,000,000 works programme. The Civil Constructional Corps has done, and is doing, a splendid work. It was not in existence when we took office. T remember the American generals declaring that, if Japan were to be kept out of Australia, scores of aerodromes and thousands of miles of roads, including the

North-South Road and other roads in other strategic places, would be needed and would have to be completed within a lew months. The roads were needed to enable the movement of army transport, and aerodromes and landing strips were needed to enable the operation of aircraft, without which we should have been powerless to withstand Japan’s blows. So there had to be a great deal of inconvenience for some people. Those men who were called into the Civil Constructional Corps suffered varying degrees of inconvenience and hardship. The Government knew that they would suffer that inconvenience, but it did not shirk its duty, and it went straight on with the job.

Li came in for a lot of criticism. We all realize that things of such magnitude cannot be done without mistakes being made, and without earning criticism, but, at least, the Curtin Government had the courage to do the job. The previous Government would have hesitated, and then would have postponed action. The work of the Civil Constructional Corps is a monument to the efforts of those associated with the organization. “Without it it would have been impossible for the aircraft in this country to operate against the enemy.

I now wish to say a few words about some of the other propaganda that has been indulged in by the Opposition. The people are told that they cannot trust this Government because the Minister for. “War Organization of Industry (Mr. Dedman) has regimented industry, that he believes in socialism in our time, and that, as the result of his decisions, citizens will not be able to call anything their own. I thought that those days of socialistic bogys were gone. All of us remember the socialist tiger in the days of Sir George Reid, and the specious propaganda that was disseminated in those years with respect to the dangers of socialism. “What did the people and statesmen of Great Britain do about the regimentation of their industries in order to gear their country to a full war effort? Mr. Attlee, the Deputy Prime Minister of Great Britain, speaking recently on this subject, said -

Britain is increasingly adopting socialist principles in conducting the war. We envisage a planned economy in which the nation’s resources will be used in peace, as they have been in war, to serve the community’s needs. There must be public ownership and control over a wide field.

And the British Home Secretary, Mr. Herbert Morrison, declared-

It is an illusion to suggest that the only people being bossed are the masses. Capitalists are being bossed as well. They retain their titular ownership of property, but the property is theirs only in that sense. The State requires manufacturers and others to do what they are told. They are more heavily taxed than ever before. Every one is being required to make his best contribution to the war effort. There will bo a terrific battle about the future of controls and economic planning.

These are the outspoken statements of members of the British “War Cabinet, and they clearly indicate that British statesmen take a realistic view of the regimentation necessary for an all-in war effort. Honorable members opposite should bear these matters in mind when tempted to indulge in false propaganda in this critical period.

Mr SPEAKER (Hon J S Rosevear:

– The Minister has exhausted his time.

Mr SPENDER:
“Warringah

.- I support the motion moved by the Leader of the Opposition (Mr. Eadden). I do not propose to answer what has been said by the Minister for the Army (Mr. Forde’ because he has not advanced any worthwhile arguments. He has simply indulged in a tirade of “tarradiddle which, as usual, has been prepared for him by one of his many offsiders. I am becoming used to the Minister parading before the country as a heaven-sent deliverer of Australia. I have seen him in recent months in all kinds of battle dress, some of which I must confess are most illfitting; and I have no doubt whatever that he believes that he has just delivered a Churchillian statement.

Mr Forde:

– I did not make. myself a lieutenant-colonel.

Mr SPENDER:

– Apparently the only retort the Minister is capable of making te me is that I made myself a lieutenantcolonel. If that were true, it would not cause me regret. To-night, we have listened to the Minister’s usual stuff - very badly read, shockingly written, and much of it false or misleading. Within a short period in this House, I have learned that among some honorable members opposite it does not matter whether their statements be true or not. That is beside the point. The important thing is to say something false, and the greater the falsehood the greater its party political value. We have become accustomed to the Minister for the Army touring the country, attired in strange battledress, almost telling the people that at last he has come to deliver the country.

I shall now direct myself to a few of the remarks he has just made. I refer first to his talk about the shortage of equipment for the armed forces when the present Government came into office. Honorable members will remember that on the last occasion when the Minister told the same story in this House he got great publicity. I spent some time going through all’ the relevant reports for the preceding two years, and showed that his statements were completely false. But such is this man, that he now repeats the same falsehoods. I shall be very surprised indeed if he knows what he is talking about. I doubt whether he knows the difference between a 17-pounder and a 25-pounder, or the difference between either of those guns a.nd a Bofors gun. But in this House he claims to be responsible for the great military defences of this country.

Reviewing those defences I shall deal first with our production of munitions, for which Ministers and their supporters claim to be responsible. As the right honorable member for Kooyong (Mr. Menzies) has pointed out, the officers now iti charge of the production of munitions were appointed to those positions by the Menzies Government. Our plan for the production of munitions was laid down in June, 1940. I recall an occasion when all the officers in charge of the various branches of the Munitions Department, including Mr. Essington Lewis, the Director-General, and each of his directors, assembled in conference in Melbourne, and members of the present Ministry attacked Mr. Essington Lewis, alleging that he was guilty of dereliction of duty in his capacity as DirectorGeneral of Munitions. Honorable members on this side remember that similar charges were made in this chamber by several members of the present Ministry, particularly by the Minister for Supply and Shipping (Mr. Beasley). Time and time again, that Minister, in this chamber, alleged that Mr. Essington Lewis, and other gentlemen holding important positions in our war production programme, were using those positions to advance their own private interests, and were not primarily concerned about the welfare of the country. Yet this Government has retained the same gentlemen in those positions. That fact in itself requires some explanation. I know that the Minister for Munitions (Mr. Makin) claims that he is primarily responsible for our present production of munitions. I thank heaven that neither he, nor that intellectual Goliath, the Minister for Aircraft Production (Senator Cameron), has interfered with Mr. Essington Lewis. Yet both those honorable gentlemen claim that the great effort we have made in the production of munitions has been made solely since this Government came into office. This afternoon, when the spotlights were being thrown upon the members of the Ministry for the purpose of taking a film, I could not help hoping that the operator would get a good closeup of the Minister for Munitions and the Minister for Aircraft Production in order that the people of this country might have an opportunity to become better acquainted with great men of their kind who have been responsible, so they claim, for our magnificent record in the production of war materials and aircraft. What are the facts? Mr. Essington Lewis was in charge of the production of munitions in July, 1940, when the government of the day laid down its production programme. He appointed various men as directors of sub-branches of ordnance and munitions production, and those men are still carrying out that programme. In the light of those facts, how can any Minister claim to have been responsible for that production? Indeed, Mr. Essington Lewis, who was condemned by some members of the present Government, because they alleged he was prepared to advance his own interests against those of his country, and from whom the Minister for the Army declared that the Government would take control of the Broken Hill Proprietary Company Limited, has been given extended power.

He is now also Controller of Aircraft Production. I always thought that the ranks of Labour were replete with men of outstanding ability who could have done a better job in these departments than Mr. Essington Lewis. The fact is that when we examine our effort in the production of munitions, credit for that work cannot be given to any political party, but solely to the Director-General of Munitions and his officers. The same observation applies to our achievements in the production of aircraft in this country.

I face the issue now before this House in this way: A charge has been made against a previous government that it left this country defenceless when the present Administration took over; and, in the space of twenty months, the present Government has rescued the country, and, hey presto ! Australia is free from invasion. No greater humbug has been put before the public. The cold fact is that the freedom of this country from aggression has been due principally to the forces which the United States of America has sent to the South Pacific and the SouthWest Pacific zones, and to the record of the Australian Imperial Force, a body of nien which members of the present Government did their utmost to prevent from being formed, and from being sent to theatres of war overseas. “What hypocrisy !

Mr Beasley:

– And the honorable member tried to stop them from coming back. Burma or Australia!

Mr SPENDER:

– I shall deal with that point later. Let us cast our minds back to the days prior to the outbreak of the war. Honorable members opposite parade themselves as the great martial leaders of the people, best fitted to carry the war to the enemy. Let honorable members recall the signing of the Munich Pact. Since that time, we have heard many statements from honorable members opposite about how we should have stood by Russia and smashed Germany before it recovered full power, how we should have sent men over there to fight - not us but other people; and we have heard a good deal from them about second fronts since the outbreak of the war in which Russia is engaged. I shall refresh the memory of honorable members on these points from the records of this House. I am not amazed to find that in 193S the Prime. Minister (Mr. Curtin), when speaking as Leader of the Opposition in this chamber, lifted his hand to heaven and thanked whatever gods there be that no war had eventuated at the time of Munich, and that the cause of pacifism had triumphed. He said that in no circumstances would he send one man from these shores to fight for one form of government against another form of government. It is interesting to recall what the Prime Minister then said, because he has since changed his views so much, particularly during the last few months. On the 5th October, 1938, he said-

I want to know now, and the people of this country are entitled to know now, whether this Government would have committed Australia to war in the event of a struggle in Europe having resulted.

He was then a pacifist; but now he has been walking with the mighty, and is a martial person -

If the Government has not committed Australia to support a war against Germany in the event of an agreement not having been reached, .then there is absolutely no distinction of any sort or kind between the policy of honorable members who sit behind the Prime Minister and those who sit on this side of the House in this respect.

Let me examine that point. “When the late Mr. Chamberlain went to Munich, the question was whether Britain would declare its intention to fight if Germany attacked its neighbours, or endeavour to make a peace pact. Since that time, I have heard ad nauseum from honorable members opposite that the United Australia party Government was pacifist and that the Labour party was always martially inclined, and favoured direct action. But the then Leader of the Opposition happened to declare -

I say that Labour is not organized to determine the political systems of other countries, and that it believes that we should not be dragged into war thousands of miles away from here merely to uphold one form of government against another. “What is this global struggle of which we hear so much from the Prime Minister but a titanic struggle in which two forms of government - democratic and totalitarian - are at issue. In 1938 the then Leader of the Opposition made it clear that he would oppose the despatch of Australian soldiers to fight for that cause.

In passing, I shall mention his attitude towards Czechoslovakia. He seems to have had some sympathy for the Sudeten Germans. He said -

Certain undertakings were given by the Czechoslovak republic - that it would cantonize its Government and give certain autonomy to the Sudeten Germans. It then made the treaty with Prance. It did not carry out the reforms it had undertaken to effect. It is quite true that France had a treaty with Russia, and also it is true that Great Britain had a treaty with France. Thus it is conceivable that the Czechs felt that they could delay the reformation conditions in respect of the Sudeten Germans because, for other reasons, Russia and France would resist Germany, and Great Britain, because of its contract with France, would be brought in as a further impediment in the obtaining of the reforms by the Sudeten Germans.

I am happy to say that, during the debate on the Munich Pact, quite contrary to the views held by honorable members opposite, I made it clear that we could not rely upon the word of Germany. The Labour party, which now accuses us of being pacifists, was not prepared to send one man to fight Nazi-ism or Fascism in Europe. From that time onwards, the Labour party was totally opposed to Australia making preparations to defend itself. In 1939, the United Australia party Government endeavoured to introduce a small defence programme. What was its fate? The Labour party resisted the Government at every point. Indeed, until Japan entered the struggle, the Labour party hardly realized that Australia was at war. This party, which now declares that it was always prepared to defend Australia, would have been content in the early days of the war to keep Australian soldiers in this country and sell our products overseas at the best price, not that which it could get, but what it could exact for them. In December, 1941, the Labour party took office.

Mr Beasley:

– That is too long ago.

Mr SPENDER:

– It is always too long ago for the Minister for Supply and Shipping, who has suddenly become very bellicose. I recollect an occasion in August, 1941, when the present Prime Minister said to me : “ I think you have too many men under arms in this country “.

Mr Forde:

– Tell that to the marines!

Mr SPENDER:

– Does the Minister declare that the Prime Minister did not utter those words?

Mr Forde:

– He did not.

Mr SPENDER:

– Fortunately for me, there is a record of the incident. The exact words which the Prime Minister used, so far as my memory serves me, were: “Having regard to the lessening tension in the Pacific, I suggest that you have too many men under arms in Australia, and, in addition, those under arms are in training for too long “. That occurred in August, 1941, a few months before Japan entered the war. The words were uttered by the Leader of the Labour party, who now tells the public that he knew that the tension existed and that he fought for increased defence preparations in the Pacific. The truth is that the Labour party resisted the defence programme of the United Australia party Government at every point before the outbreak of the European war, although honorable members opposite now accuse the previous Government of having left this country defenceless. The Minister for the Army will apparently deny anything, regardless of whether or not he knows the facts, if it is politically expedient for him to do so.

M’r. Forde. - I tell the truth, and that is foreign to the honorable member.

Mr SPENDER:

– The Minister claims that he tells the truth. He wishes to appear in the role of the only George Washington in the House. He never looks as though he is telling the truth, even when he happens to be.

Mr Forde:

– The honorable member judges me by his own standards.

Mr SPENDER:

– Let us pass to another point. We have descended to a new level in politics in this country when matters discussed at a secret meeting are later debated in public, particularly when it is the Prime Minister himself who breaks the confidence. I shall clarify the matter, and I make no apology for doing so. In March, 1941, I think it was, I addressed honorable members’ at a secret meeting of the House. .Since then, I have learned that it is not wise politically to tell the truth, even at a secret meeting, because opponents do not give one credit for telling the truth, but break the confidence, distort the information given and use it against one politically. The records show that in March, 1941, I informed honorable members at a secret meeting that if we could not prevent the enemy from landing because of the absence of air and naval power, we had not the forces to resist an armoured division landed at any point on our coast. To-day, the Prime Minister declared that General MacArthur expressed the view that if we were without air and naval cover, 100 divisions would not be sufficient to protect this country. Therefore, I do not know what comfort the Government derives from my comment. I was endeavouring to direct attention to the state of this country’s defence early in 1941, and I have said that events had revealed that the Labour party fought bitterly prior to 1940 against every effort to improve our defences. Because of events in Europe, Australia was deprived in May, 1940, of supplies of munitions from overseas and the Government of the day was obliged to formulate a programme to meet our own requirements. That programme has now been carried out. Unfortunately, for political purposes, the Prime Minister was prepared to reveal to the public a statement made at a secret meeting two years ago.

Mr Falstein:

– The honorable member was not dealing with air and naval power at that time.

Mr SPENDER:

– It is in the records.

Mr Pollard:

– There was no record of the proceedings at the secret meeting.

Mr SPENDER:

– I can produce the record.

Mr Ward:

– Where is it?

Mr SPENDER:

– -It is in the speech from which I read.

Mr Pollard:

– We have only the honorable member’s word for that.

Mr SPENDER:

– It is quite sufficient. I always write my memoranda before the event, and not afterwards.

Mr Ward:

– I think that the honorable member must have torn up that memoranda and written another one.

Mr SPENDER:

– From the remarks which I have made, honorable members will see that, before war broke out, the Labour party .resisted any attempt to improve the defences of Australia. In October. 1941, it came into power. From that time, the strength of the Army has been increased. In fact, the increase of the total strength of the Australian Imperial Force and the. Citizen Military Forces from October, 1941, to the present day is only 30 per cent.

Mr Forde:

– The Prime Minister announced the percentage increase this afternoon.

Mr SPENDER:

– I shall give the figures, if necessary.

Mr Ward:

– The increase was 77 per cent.

Mr SPENDER:

– I have taken the figures from the’ report of the Chief of Staff. I shall not reveal them to the House, but I shall incorporate them in Hansard.

Mr Forde:

– I rise to order. The honorable member for Warringah, as a member of the Advisory War Council, should not disclose that information, for security reasons.

Mr SPENDER:

– I say deliberately that the increase of strength is only 30 per cent. A great deal of humbug has been indulged in regarding the great increase of the strength of the Australian Imperial Force. The House has been informed that the ranks of the Australian Imperial Force have been augmented by 150,000 men as the result of transfers from the Citizen Military Forces, but I am astonished that no new divisions of the Australian Imperial Force have been formed. The explanation is that the whole system is a hotch potch. The men who have been transferred have been placed in various units, even the Pay Corps. The Government has not one army but two armies, because it has never been prepared to face up to its responsibilities. I direct to the Minister for the Army a pertinent question on this matter: If this country is now free from the threat of invasion, as the Prime Minister has realized in the last four or five weeks, will the Government reconsider the question as to where the Militia will serve? If the Government is not prepared to reconsider the matter, it shows precisely where the Labour party has always stood. It is isolationist in outlook and in deed. Now the Labour party is claiming the credit for the improved situation, although the United States of America deserves the credit because it is sending the requisite assistance to Australia. This afternoon, a remark was made by the Government Whip (Mr. Conelan) that the Minister for External Affairs (Dr. Evatt) has done more for Australia on his mission to Washington than the whole of the Australian Imperial Force has achieved. As the right honorable member for Kooyong (Mr. Menzies) clearly pointed out, the Government would not have received any assistance from the United States of America if it had persisted in giving effect to its original policy. If Australia had not sent troops to fight against the enemy overseas, Great Britain and the United States of America would not have displayed any overwhelming goodwill towards this country.

Mr Rankin:

– Australia would have been left to “ stew in its own juice “.

Mr SPENDER:

– I agree; it is not impossible that that would have happened.

Mr Beasley:

– That is not true.

Mr SPENDER:

– Then what is true?

Mr Beasley:

– The honorable member knows perfectly well the attitude of the President of the United States of America on this matter. Regardless of where our men might go, he will send American troops to Australia.

Mr SPENDER:

– The attitude of the Minister is that we should have kept all our men in this country and, in addition, call for assistance from the United States of America. That is a fine policy to announce to the Australian people.

Mr Beasley:

– We would not send them to Burma, where the honorable member desired to send them. If he had had his way, there would have been 20,000 Australian prisoners in Burma.

Mr SPENDER:

– The present Government sent some Australians to Java.

Mr Beasley:

– That is true.

Mr SPENDER:

– They were captured. They did not have full equipment.

Mr Beasley:

– Because the previous ‘ Government left them without arms in Syria.

Mr SPENDER:

– The Minister asked for this, and he is getting it. Those men were fully armed when they were in the Middle East, but this Government recalled them.

Mr Beasley:

– The previous Government sent them without arms to the Middle East.

Mr SPENDER:

– The Minister for Supply and Shipping admits that the charge I have made is true. The fact is that the Government panicked and sent the men to Java, where they arrived without all their equipment.

Mr Forde:

– That is absolutely untrue, and the honorable member knows it. It is a bit of fifth column work on his part.

Mr Beasley:

– The honorable member’s Government sent them to Greece, and also to Crete, without arms. The honorable member and his colleagues have a lot to answer for to the Australian people.

Mr SPENDER:

– We know the issue that arose with respect to the areas m which our men should serve. Had the Minister for Supply and Shipping had his way not one member of the Australian Imperial Force would have served overseas.

Mr Beasley:

– If I had had my way they would have served in Australia.

Mr SPENDER:

– I have a clear record of the Minister’s past activities. I recollect distinctly what happened in regard to Greece and Crete. I remember that at that time we did not have sufficient arms to meet the Germans on equal terms, particularly as to air cover, and I remember the Minister particularly, if I may say so, lifting his voice very high in the land in regard to sending into battle men who were not fully armed. Had we followed the course advocated by the Minister, we should have ‘withdrawn every man from the Mediterranean because we did not have sufficient arms and equipment to enable them to meet the Germans on equal terms. Had we done so, a different history would have been written to-day. Apparently, the idea of the Minister, and other members of this Government, was that, unless your men have completely full equipment, you should not give battle to the enemy, but should retire and surrender the ground to him.

Mr Ward:

– Why were they not fully equipped ?

Mr SPENDER:

– That question comes very extraordinarily from the Minister for Labour and National Service. Let me remind him that in July, 1940, Great Britain bad suffered the disaster of Dunkirk. The British Army in Great Britain hourly awaiting invasion, was far from fully equipped, and, indeed, I remember the Prime Minister of Great Britain telling me that to equip their field units they had to obtain arms from the museums. Although Great Britain was not fully equipped then, it did not howl to high heaven about it, but gave battle to the enemy, who was not more than 20 miles away - considerably nearer than any enemy has ever been to us. I have no regrets in respect of Greece, Crete or Syria. They will form glorious pages of the history of the British people and of the Australian Imperial Force, who then showed that they were of different calibre from those who were behind them and wanted to withdraw them from those areas. Indeed, the attitude of the members of this Government, both in opposition and since, has been tinged with the desire to see our men retained solely in Australia, and fighting nowhere beyond its shores.

Mr Calwell:

– Because they were needed in Australia.

Mr SPENDER:

– In 1941 there was no war in Australia, and tip to June, 1941, the British Empire was fighting alone in the world. Is it the idea of the Government and those who support it that we should not go to the aid of Great Britain in such circumstances? We are told here time and again of the condition we were in in December, 1941, but we know that we sent equipment to Great Britain at the time of Dunkirk and after, and we had to re-equip the Australian Imperial Force on two occasions. I was one who was responsible for sending that equipment to Great Britain, and I make no apology whatever for doing it at that time. The only reason for an apology would have been if we had said : “ No, we will not send any one from this country, it is true that there is no war here now, but probably there will be one, and no assistance will be given to you”.

On the issue of the plan known as “ the Brisbane line “, the Prime Minister has on no occasion, since it was raised by the Minister for Labour and National Service, directly answered our charge that his Minister was making a statement that was completely untrue. The letter which he wrote to the Leader of the Opposition, when he was asked for a refutation of the charge made by the Minister for Labour and National Service, was unpardonable. That charge was that the plan called “ the Brisbane line “ had been in existence before our Government went out of office.

Mr Ward:

– That is right.

Mr SPENDER:

– The Minister for Labour and National Service repeats the charge now, despite the denial which the Prime Minister has reluctantly given. As Minister for the Army at the time I give the lie to the statement of the Minister for Labour and National Service. I have a fairly good memory, and I know that there was never a suggestion in my time of abandoning any part of Australia.

Mr Ward:

– Why does not the honorable member tell the truth?

Mr SPENDER:

– That remark comes very strangely from the Minister. May I ask in reply why we were sending our men to Darwin and to Port Moresby if the idea was to abandon all Australia north of a line running from Brisbane to Adelaide? It is interesting to note also that as late as July, 1942, there was a proposed line of abandonment in Western Australia. [Extension of time granted.] In September, 1942, which was nine months after Japan entered the war, the honorable member for Kalgoorlie (Mr. Johnson) said in the House, as reported in Hansard of the 23rd September, 1942, on page 645 -

Before leaving Canberra in July last, for Western Australia, I asked the permission of my party to be absent from the next sittings so that I could visit the north-western portion of that State, which had already been attacked by the enemy. When 1 told the Leader of the Opposition (Mr. Fadden) of my intention he said that his party would grant me a pair during my absence. However, when I reached Western Australia and discussed my proposed trip to the north-west with Major-General Plant, who was in charge of the defence of that State, I was astonished to hear him say that it was no use for mc to go there, as instructions had been received to abandon all the north-west of the continent.

The honorable member for Swan then asked, “ When was that? “, and the honorable member for Kalgoorlie replied, “In July last”. That meant in July, 1942, which, if my recollection does not fail me, was about a year after we went out of office. The honorable member for Kalgoorlie went on -

From my discussion with Major-General Plant I learned that the whole of the northwest was to bo abandoned. When I inquired what area was included in the territory to be abandoned the General said that the most northern defence line would be More River, which is 05 miles north of Perth as the crow flies. When I asked whether that meant the whole of the north-west of the State, which includes Geraldton, with its valuable harbour, and Mullewa, with its important railway station, as well as all the rich midlands, he replied, “ That is the position. With the forces and equipment at my command there is no alternative “. It was then that I advised the Government of the position in Western Australia.

Mr Forde:

– The Government rejected any such proposal.

Mr SPENDER:

– But the plan was in existence.

Mr Forde:

– Let the honorable member go over there now and see the condition of things.

Mr SPENDER:

– I have no doubt that the Minister for the Army has been there in the meantime. I do not raise this matter in terms of criticism, but as an objective fact. We have heard a great deal about “the Brisbane line”, which apparently is being paraded before the people as a mark of cowardice and defeatism on our part, but we have heard nothing about the “ Perth line “, which was in existence nine months after “the deliverer “ came into office.

Mr Forde:

– Does the honorable member say that the “ Perth line “ was decided upon by this Government?

Mr SPENDER:

– It certainly was not in our time, and it certainly was existent nine months after the honorable member’s Government took office.

Mr Forde:

– I give the lie direct to it. What has been done by this Government in Western Australia speaks for itself.

Mr SPENDER:

– As I say, I have mentioned the matter purely as an objective fact, but the extraordinary thing is that the views of military advisers are now being used for political purposes. We have come to a strange pass in this country when the views, whatever they may be, of the most highly placed military advisers are made public and bandied about as the football of politics. I charge the Prime Minister with deliberately dragging in the name of General Sir

Iven Mackay for one purpose only, and that was to give some sense of verisimilitude to the charge made by the Minister for Labour and National Service. When asked whether the statement of his Minister was true or false, he began by saying, “ The facts are “. One states only facts which are relevant, and one relevant fact, so .he thought, was that General Sir Iven Mackay was appointed by the last Government. He went on to say, “ Upon Japan’s entry into the war he submitted to the Minister for the Army a plan “, meaning a plan upon the lines that we have heard described by the Minister for Labour and National Service. I particularly draw attention to those words: “ Upon Japan’s entry into the war he submitted to the Minister for the Army a plan”. Whoever drafted the letter - and I hope for the sake of the Prime Minister’s prestige that he’ did not - those words are deliberately designed to convey to the public that there was such a plan in existence, although it was not submitted to the political advisers of the last Government. They were used deliberately, for the purpose of showing that the plan had been prepared during the lifetime of our Government. From that time onwards we have endeavoured to get from the Prime Minister an unequivocal denial of the statement, but we have not yet got it in clear terms. Although the Prime Minister admitted that the plan was for the first time submitted to his Government, the Minister for Labour and National Service has time and time again stated that what he himself said is true, and that what the Prime Minister now says, and we have always said, is false.

There has been in existence for nearly three years an Advisory War Council, of which I have been a member during the whole of that period. All the strategy, all the preparations of this country to meet aggression, all our war effort, all our approaches by way of cablegrams to America and Great Britain, have been before that body.

Mr Pollard:

– How does the honorable member know?

Mr SPENDER:

– Because I have been a member of it since its inception. Whatever blame may attach to any shortcomings during that period must be shared by us all. The fact remains that, although from my leader down we have endeavoured to give the utmost assistance to the Government in the way of advice on that council, all that we have received in return has been political abuse and misrepresentation. That is a fair commentary upon the level to which men in the public life of this country have descended. The Prime Minister has not been frank. He has yet to justify in my mind his title of “ Honest John “? nor will he justify it until he unequivocally and categorically says that the statement made by one of his senior Ministers was false. Nothing less is expected of him.

Before I resume my seat, I wish to direct attention to another matter touching upon the defence of this country, which I consider is worthy of some comment. Much has been said about the shortcomings of- previous governments. In May of this year, au article which appeared in the Sydney Daily Telegraph was censored after its first publication. I asked the censor on what grounds the cuts had been made, and his reply was that the article revealed military information which had come into the possession of the author, Captain Wentworth, whilst he was a military intelligence officer. Of course, it is quite beside the point to say that the portions of the article which were deleted by order of the censorship authorities directly criticized the Minister for the Army. It would also be a long shot for me to suggest that between the original publication of the article and it3 subsequent censorship, certain telephone calls were made between two centres. I shall read several portions of the article which were deleted, and. honorable members will be able to see for themselves that, although they represent a challenge to the Minister for the Army by an independent person, they reveal nothing of military importance.

Mr Forde:

– The honorable member is not suggesting that I had anything to do with the censoring of the article?

Mr SPENDER:

– That would be the last thing . in the world that I would suggest. The article stated -

I then brought the matter to the notice of the Army Minister, Mr. Forde. In a letter I pointed out to him the weakness of our defences.

By some mysterious agency, the whole file disappeared from Mr. Forde’s table.

Mr. Forde wrote to me acknowledging the loss of the papers and promised to see me immediately. This promise was not honoured for twelve months, and then only at my repeated insistence.

Then appeared the headlines, “Blames Forde “, which were omitted, from subsequent issues, together with the following statement : -

The state of chaos and inefficiency in Sydney’s defence preparations during December, 1941 and January, February and March, 1042, was beyond belief.

I remind honorable members that, about that time, the Minister for the Army was calling every body to battle stations. The article continues -

All through these months, when an attack was believed to be imminent, Mr. Forde connived at this appalling state of affairs, and as the responsible Minister, must bear responsibility for it.

In .these vital months, Australia’s defences were a sham, and steps which could have been taken to improve them were shamefully and negligently delayed.

I should like to know why those portions of the article were censored. In what way can they be said to contain information of any security value? We have been told a great deal about what occurred in this country prior to Decern-, ber, 1941. Apparently, it is open to the Government to say how helpless were our defences when it assumed office, but not a word may be said about what has occurred immediately after. There we have another example of what is taking place in this country. “ The Brisbane line “ controversy is important, if only for this reason: At some time in the near future general elections will be held. I am informed that .there is a scarcity of paper, and that all political parties will have difficulty in obtaining sufficient paper for propaganda and publicity purposes, except, of course, the Government party. I should like to know if it is a fact that, anticipating the paper shortage, the Labour organization has in existence large numbers of pamphlets upon “ the Brisbane line”, and, having beaten the rationing, will use them in the forthcoming elections? I should like a definite answer to that question, because I believe that what I have said is true. For the benefit of the Prime Minister, if for no other reason, I trust that before this debate is finished we shall be given an unequivocal denial of the allegations made by the Minister for Labour and National Service. Until that is done, I contend that the Opposition should refuse to co-operate with the Government.

Mr WARD:
Minister for Labour and National Service · East Sydney · ALP

– I do not propose to take up very much of the time at my disposal arguing about matters of military strategy with LieutenantColonel Spender, the Baron of Bardia. I shall give just one or two reasons why I believe that this attack is being made upon the Government, and then I shall give the whole of the facts in regard to “ the Brisbane line “. First it is evident that honorable members opposite are skipping over the fact that the Labour party assumed office in October, 1941, not because it had received a mandate from the electors, but because those who previously occupied the treasury bench knew the frightful state into which they had permitted the defence of this country to drift, had become panicstricken, and were glad to be released from the responsibility of government. Now, however, seeing the great improvement that has been effected by a Labour government, and realizing that the party which wins the next elections will determine the post-war policy of this country, honorable members opposite find that their own privileges, and those of the people whom they represent in this Parliament, are in danger, and they realize how important it is that they should be successful at the polls. Their greatest fear is that Labour will retain the reins of government, and will undertake the planning of the post-war reconstruction of this country. So we find that there is a conspiracy between the jackals and the mouthpieces of capitalism in this Parliament to discredit this Government through the anti-Labour press, and to bring about its defeat before it is too late.

I shall now give to honorable members one or two facts in regard to “ the Brisbane line “ which so far have not been disclosed. I say emphatically that it was the present Opposition parties, then in power, which were responsible for the state of affairs in this country which made it impossible to have any other plan than a defeatist plan. Further, I say that the plan was actually concocted whilst honorable members opposite occupied the treasury bench. Let us deal with the facts of the matter. In a recent broadcast over station 2UE, the right honorable member for Kooyong (Mr. Menzies) said that he first heard of “ the Brisbane line” in February, 1942. I point out, however, that when I first mentioned the matter the right honorable member joined with the Leader of the Opposition (Mr. Fadden) and the right honorable member for North Sydney (Mr. Hughes) in a chorus of protest in the press, and stated that there was no such plan. Now they admit that they knew of such a plan in February, 1942. When the issue was first raised, these right honorable gentlemen, apparently believing that the facts would never be disclosed, suggested that this was a lie by the Minister for Labour and National Service. The right honorable member for Kooyong said that it was a figment of my exuberant imagination. Now, however, these very gentlemen who accused me of telling an untruth have, by their own admissions, proved themselves to be deliberate liars when they said there was no such plan in existence. They were not prepared to disclose their knowledge of the plan at the time, but now, hoping to place the guilt upon the Curtin Government, they rush in to take full advantage of the situation. Let us consider for a moment the statement that there was no such plan and that no such line was ever contemplated. I contend that, as members of the previous Government, these right honorable gentlemen knew full well that inevitably Japan must come into the war. It is no use arguing that Japan did not enter the war until two months after the Labour Government assumed office; it was obvious that Japan must, sooner or later, join its Axis partners, and, in view of that probability, there was an urgent necessity for a plan to defend the shores of this country. It is no use honorable members opposite talking about their faith in Singapore, because, in the Melbourne Age of the 3rd

December, 1941, the following report appeared : -

Suggestions that the former Federal Government had not been fully informed concerning the land, sea and air defences of Malaya were refuted yesterday by Mr. Menzies, M.P.

There had been no illusions, he said, about the position of those defences, but any public statement regarding weaknesses would have been of assistance to the enemy. Sir Robert Brooke-Popham and others had emphasized the problems involved, and the strongest representations, some of which had borne fruit, had been made in the proper quarters regarding the defence of Singapore and of Malaya. The matter had been discussed by the former War Cabinet and by the War Council, on which the present Government was represented for many mouths, and had been one of its greatest preoccupations.

Mr. Menzies denied the cabled suggestion that his Government had refused a British offer to release 400 American planes to Australia. The Government, he said, would not have been foolish enough to refuse such an offer. While in the United States he had negotiated foi the earliest possible delivery of the best available planes.

Yet it has been said that an attack by Japan was not contemplated. If that was so, why had Australia to be defended, and why was there a need to obtain aeroplanes from Britain or America? From where would an invasion have come, other than from Japan? The fact is that honorable gentlemen opposite were all aware that there was a threat of an invasion by Japan hanging over our heads. The honorable member for Warringah (Mr. Spender) has talked about the divulging of confidences. Why do we have secret sessions? Simply because we want information made available to us which, if released to the general public, would be of use to the enemy. Of what value is it to the enemy to know now that he missed a wonderful chance to invade this country whilst the honorable member for Warringah was Minister for the Army, and, according to his own statement, one enemy armoured division successfully landed in this country could have overcome all resistance. Obviously such knowledge is of no use to the enemy now, and the same thing applies to the defeatist plan known as “ the Brisbane line “. Is the enemy helped in any way now by the knowledge that such a plan existed? It could be argued just as logically that it is dangerous to tell the people of Germany that, following Dunkirk, they missed a wonderful opportunity to invade England, yet that is freely admitted all over the world.

In his broadcast from station 2TJE, the right honorable member for Kooyong said that when the Fadden Government was defeated in October, 1941, there was no actual threat of attack by Japan. It appears now that the right honorable member was deliberately misleading the public, because he says that when his Government was in office, it was always contemplated that Japan would enter the war, and that this country would be called upon to resist an invasion. But here is something very important which has not yet been mentioned : Despite the fact that the right honorable gentleman has said that Australia was not directly threatened with attack when the Fadden Government was defeated in October, 1941, on the 10th June, 1941, some five months before we assumed office, and shortly after his return from abroad, the right honorable member made a statement to War Cabinet in which he indicated that the General Staff had reported the probable early entry of J apan into the war, and the need for a co-ordinated plan for the defence of Australia against probable invasion. What I want to know is, following upon the right honorable member’s statement to War Cabinet on the 10th June, 1941, what plans were evolved. Was the first plan that was produced the one that was revealed on the 4th February, 1942? Is it suggested that the Chiefs of Staff of this country are so lacking in military science that they took eight or nine months to evolve a plan for the defence of this country against a probable early invasion? The facts are that on that occasion the War Cabinet directed the Chiefs of Staff to evolve a plan for home defence. General Sir Iven Mackay, who has been mentioned in the course of this debate, was then in the Middle East. He did not return to Australia until August, 1941. Lieutenant-General Sturdee was Chief of the General Staff in Australia at the time. We want to know what plan was submitted to the government of the day following that submission to War Cabinet. Is it not a fact that there was an earlier plan than the proposal of the 4th February, 1942? I am not contradicting or denying that the available records disclose that the first plan was dated the 4th February, 1942, but I am most reliably informed that one important report is now missing from the official files. If honorable members opposite have nothing to hide, they should be able to indicate why no plan was submitted to the War Cabinet from the 10th June, 1941, to the 4th February, 1942. I am also reliably informed that this earlier plan was submitted while the honorable member for Warringah (Mr. Spender) was Minister for Defence.

Mr Spender:

– That is wholly false, but I expected the honorable member to make such a statement. He does not care about the truth.

Mr WARD:

– The right honorable member for Kooyong said in this Parliament -

Ho would be a complacent fool who believed that at any time during the last two years war with Japan was not a distinct possibility.

It is well known that a large and important aerodrome was constructed in New South Wales just outside the Victorian border. The land for the purpose was resumed in February, 1942, four months after the present Government took office.

Mr McEWEN:
INDI, VICTORIA · CP; LCL from 1940; CP from 1943

– Incidentally, that land has not been paid for.

Mr WARD:

– I do not intend to allow the honorable member for Indi (Mr. McEwen) to cloud the issue, and I shall have something to say later about his work as a service Minister. My purpose, at the moment, is to show that a plan was actually in existence at the time to which I am referring. The aerodrome cost approximately £2,000,000. Will it be suggested that a plan for the construction of such an aerodrome could be prepared in five minutes? I ask honorable members opposite why the aerodrome at Tocumwal was constructed? Its purpose, of course, was to accommodate large American flying fortresses, which could not be accommodated on smaller aerodromes. These fortresses were required to defend from hostile air raids the industrial areas adjacent to Melbourne and Sydney. That is a fact that cannot be denied.

Mr McEwen:

– It is not a fact.

Mr WARD:

– If no plan was in existence, and if it was not expected that a retirement would have to be made to the south, why were preparations on foot to defend this southern area, and also the south coast of New South Wales and the Melbourne industrial area? The Tocumwal aerodrome, as a matter of fact, was a part of the present Opposition’s defeatist plans. The Opposition must be fully aware that such a plan as I have described was actually in existence, and it is not likely to succeed in its attempts to confuse the issue by using the name of General Sir Iven Mackay, who was recalled from the Middle East in August, 1942. Lieutenant-General Sturdee waa Chief of Staff from August, 1940, to August, 1942, and was in office when the threat of early invasion was first reported to War Cabinet, and the right honorable member for Kooyong was Prime Minister at the time. On the facts I have put to honorable members, there is ample evidence to justify the statement that a plan existed.

The right honorable member for Kooyong has said that I have stated that a plan existed for the evacuation of the area in question. I did not say that a plan for evacuation existed. I said that a plan existed for the abandonment of it. It would have been impracticable to completely evacuate areas in Western Australia and north Queensland, for sufficient transport was not available. The intention was to abandon those territories. In other words, it was intended to desert our own people there! The men, women and children in that country were to be left to the mercy of the invading Japanese. Honorable gentlemen opposite are now becoming alarmed because they know that the people of this country will not support those who would stand for such a defeatist policy. They desire a government which is prepared to take the necessary action to defend every foot of Australian soil. They realize now that we can show not only that this Government was not responsible for “ the Brisbane line “ and for other defeatist plans of that nature, but that it is able to govern this country in the best possible way.

I did not interject while honorable gentlemen opposite questioned my ver- acity, but I intend now to make some references which will indicate that their own veracity can be challenged. I remind the Leader of the Opposition that some time ago, when he was a member of a government, he was involved in an inquiry concerning the use of secret funds. The judge who conducted that inquiry found the evidence to be so conflicting that he adjourned the hearing on a certain occasion to give the Leader of the Opposition and the right honorable member for North Sydney (Mr. Hughes) an opportunity to reconsider their evidence. If a charge of handling the truth carelessly can be levelled against any one, it can be levelled against the Leader of the Opposition, who has never had a high regard for telling the whole truth. The right honorable gentleman read from a .press statement which purported to be the report of happenings at a trade union conference at which the press was not present, but he did not have the decency to read the correction by myself which was published in a later issue of the same newspaper. The reports he read were misrepresentation and lies from start to finish. I was fortunate because, at this particular conference, some of my ministerial colleagues were present. When the anti-Labour press tried to drive a wedge into the ranks of the Government by misrepresenting what I said, my colleagues were able to repeat what I actually did sAy. In the past the anti-Labour press has succeeded, to a certain degree, in its attempts to misrepresent my statements, because at certain conferences I was not supported by the attendance of my ministerial colleagues; but on this occasion such efforts met with utter and dismal failure.

Whatever else honorable gentlemen opposite may be assured of, whether a general election be held next week or during the next two or three months, they can be assured of this fact, that, although they will have their divisions and sections and factions, the Labour party will go to the country as a united body. We shall be able to convince the public that not only is Labour competent to govern and to legislate during- war-time, but it is equally competent to do so in peace-time. The

Leader of the Opposition was enthusiastic in describing what he termed the misdeeds of this Government which, he said, were leading towards socialism. He suggested that the country was alarmed, in particular, by the actions of my colleague, the Minister for War Organization of Industry (Mr. Dedman), in seeking to have discontinued, during the war-time, the use of certain trade marks. The right honorable gentleman said that this was a step towards socialism. He said, in effect, “You are interfering with trade marks. What will you do next?” Evidently he does not know much about socialism. Perhaps he has read something about Karl Marx and is confusing him with trade marks. At any rate, he is attempting to inflame the public mind by alleging that sinister influences are operating within this Government.’ I assure him that we have nothing to hide. He said that the Government was endeavouring to introduce Labour policy during the war period. What is wrong with that? Surely the Labour party will not be called upon to apologize for attempting to introduce its own policy! We believe that our policy is best for both war-time and peace-time and we are not ashamed of it. We believe that our policy will provide effectively for the needs of the people not only now, but also in the important reconstruction period. We have an effective legislative programme for that purpose.

I wish now to say a few words about the unpreparedness of this country to face attack at the time the Labour party took office. Honorable gentlemen opposite have made contradictory speeches on this subject. Some have said that we sent ill-equipped divisions to the Middle East, to Crete, and to Greece; and others that it was not because our troops were illequipped that they suffered defeat. The Minister for the Army (Mr. Forde) has indicated the position that this Government faced when it assumed office. The honorable member for Warringah tried, in a shrewd way, to get out of the difficulty in this connexion. He said that he knew that if he used the knowledge of the facts he obtained as a member of the War Cabinet objection would be raised, but he added that it wa3 wrong for the

Minister for the Army and for the Labour Government to say that since they assumed office the armed forces of this country had been increased by 77 per cent., because the figure was only 30 per cent. I wish to say that the information that I have been able to obtain indicates to me that the position has improved by 77 per cent.

Mr Spender:

– The honorable gentleman is in error; there is not an atom of truth in what he is saying.

Mir. WARD. - I shall not quote remarks made by the Minister for the Army in regard to our unpreparedness, but I shall quote some other authorities. In May, 1940, the right honorable member for Kooyong said that the local- defence of Australia had never been as strong at any other time in our history. Twelve months later the honorable member for Warringah said that if one armoured division were landed in Australia it could successfully overrun the whole of our territories.

Mr Spender:

– I did not say anything of the kind.

Mr WARD:

– The honorable gentleman made the statement during a secret sitting. He also -said that Australia’s unpreparedness was due to the fact that the Labour party had always opposed the defence estimates and resisted expenditure on defence works. What an incompetent body the present Opposition must have been if, when it had a majority in both Houses of the Parliament, it allowed a Labour minority to prevent it from carrying out the defence policy it claims that it wished to apply! Any responsibility for the unpreparedness of Australia in the years gone by must be laid at the door of the present Opposition, who were the then Government, and at no other door. When I made my first statement about the previous Government’s defeatist plans in relation to what has been termed “ the Brisbane line”, I was accused of speaking untruths. I do not think that either the Leader of the Opposition or the right honorable member for Kooyong would accuse General MacArthur of telling un- truths, and he has had something to say about the defenceless position of Australia. The following paragraphs appeared in an article written by Mr. W. E. Lucas, special correspondent with the United Forces in the Southern Pacific, which appeared in the American newspaper, The Christian Science Monitor, following an interview with General MacArthur : -

In no particular was Australia equipped to meet this threat. Its best troops were still on their way back from the Middle East.

Airfields in this vast country were few and far between, while, in threatened parts of the country, strategic roads and railways did not exist.

The picture that faced General MacArthur was indeed a gloomy one. Once again he was in charge of forces which were unprepared for an expected assault, and he was in for what looked for all the world like another forlorn hope.

From that day to this there has been a remarkable metamorphosis. From Darwin to the east coast of Queensland, northern Australia is girthed with a string of interlocking strategic airfields and covered by a network of roads which have been hacked out from the wilderness. Harbour facilities have been expanded to bear the terrific burden of wartime traffic.

Port Moresby which could then handle only a few hundred tons a day now can provide docking facilities for over 100 times that volume. One airfield at Port Moresby, capable of taking a few small transport planes, has been developed and supplemented by many others, so that it is possible to maintain there sufficient strength to keep the Papuan skies and, as far east as the Solomon sea, an area where Japanese have few rights of trespass.

In those terms, General MacArthur indicated that when he took over the command of the South- West Pacific Area the defences of this country were in such a condition as almost to place him in the position of fighting a forlorn hope.

Let us consider the equipment of our troops in other -theatres of war. There seems to be a conflict of opinion in regard to the matter. The right honorable member for Kooyong has said that when our troops were sent abroad they were fully equipped. The honorable member for Warringah (Mr. Spender), on the other hand, has said that they were not fully equipped ; that there were occasions when they had to go into action with insufficient equipment.

Mr Spender:

– I said that their equipment was not equal to that of the Germans.

Mr WARD:

– Let me now quote the honorable member for Parkes (Sir Charles Marr), who now sits with the honorable member for Warringah on the Opposition benches. On the 2nd October, 1941, that honorable gentleman said -

We ure proud of the work that Australia has done in the manufacture of munitions; but I repeat that the famous 6th Division would have done better had it been adequately equipped. Members of the Advisory War Council know that it was not adequately equipped.

It is all very well, and is very brave talk, for members who sit in this Parliament to refer to the heroic deeds of our troops, and to ask why they should not join action, even if not so well equipped as their opponents. I say that, to send Australian troops into action anywhere, unless their equipment is equal to that of the enemy whom they have to face, would appear to be absolute treachery on the part of those responsible. What consolation is it to the mothers who lost their sons, and the young widows who lost their husbands, to know that the honorable member for Warringah applauds their gallant deeds, knowing that they were sent into action without being given a chance of survival? These are things for which honorable members opposite will have to answer.

I want to say another word about the right honorable member for Kooyong. I like to refer to military authorities such us that right honorable gentleman and the honorable member for Warringah. I remember clearly the remark of the honorable member for Batman who, in referring to the right honorable member for Kooyong, said that a distinguished military career had been interrupted by the outbreak of the last war. I also know that the honorable member for Warringah,, who promoted himself to the rank of lieutenant-colonel, has had very little actual war experience, although he claimed, upon his return from a trip abroad, that he had met the generals at dawn, just before our troops captured Bardia. I do not know whether he also claims that his consultation with the generals had determined the successful outcome of that attack.

Let us deal with the right honorable member for Kooyong, who speaks in such glowing terms of (he men who are sacrificing their lives in the defence of this country. On the 11th March, 1941, dur ing his trip abroad, the right honorable gentleman said -

We have already produced some hundreds of a plane that we call the “ Wirraway “. You regard them here, under another form, as a trainer, but we, of necessity, have been compelled to use them also as operational craft. It is not of a high order of performance as operational craft, but it is, at any rate, capable of dealing with all those seaborne craft that may come along to trouble us.

Members of the Opposition, when they were entrusted with the Government of this country, said that they believed that the converted Wirraway, which was never intended to be used as other than a training aircraft, was quite good enough for our airmen to use in combat against the Japanese Zeros. Everybody knows what happened in the early conflicts which our airmen had with the Japanese ; while our men were struggling to get into the air,, they were shot down like lame ducks, and valuable lives were sacrificed because of the incompetency of the then Government, the members of which now sit in Opposition. The position is different to-day. Australian airmen, who have no superior in any other country in the world, are equipped with Spitfires, as well as the latest American aircraft. The present Government does not ask them to take to the air in antiquated,, suicide, Wirraway planes. We have heard mention of the heroism of the Japanesewho entered Sydney Harbour in midget submarines. Undoubtedly the Japanesewho manned those submarines were bravemen; but they were no braver than the Australian boys who attempted to takeWirraways into the air in order to combat the Japanese Zeros. Those men actually sacrificed their lives in defence of their country. Do honorable members believe that the men of the Air Force, the Army and the Navy are not aware of the great improvement that has been effected since this Government assumed office? I recall argumentsin this Parliament, and outside it, as well as statements in the press, in which it was alleged that the Prime Minister of this country was unpatriotic in looking toAmerica for aid in the form of the most modern aircraft. In order that honorable members opposite might paradethemselves as patriotic gentlemen in the eyes of British conservatism, they wanted’ to continue to allow our boys to use antiquated planes, instead of accepting modern aircraft that was being produced in America. I assure them, and the community generally, that this Government will accept aid from whatever quarter it can be obtained, if, in its opinion, such aid is necessary for the adequate defence of this country.

Mr McEwen:

– I shall have a word to say about that.

Mr WARD:

– I well recollect that when the honorable gentleman was Minister for Air, and Australian ships were being sunk by mines believed to have been placed around the Australian coast by suspected Japanese minelayers, he said, in reply to a question, “ I cannot imagine how it happened, because the weekly patrol did not see them”. He and his colleagues to-day hold themselves up as the only persons who are competent to govern this country in the critical period through which we are passing.

Reference has been made to strikes. Let us examine one or two of the strikes that have been mentioned by the Leader of the Opposition, in order to’ ascertain whether or not there is a sound basis for the statements that he made. My colleague, the Minister for the Army (Mr. Forde), has given comparative figures which show that the average loss of mandays weekly was 21,000 under the Menzies Government, 51,000 under the Fadden Government, and 11,000 under the Curtin Government. The right honorable gentleman discussed a strike which has occurred at a munitions establishment operated by Duly and Hansford Proprietary Limited. I say to the right honorable gentleman that, in my opinion, the strike at that establishment is not in respect of any industrial matter. I am perfectly satisfied that it is a political Strike, which has been engineered and fomented by the opponents of Labour, assisted by their representatives in this Parliament, with the deliberate intention of embarrassing the Government. Then we have the disputes arising out of the refusal of certain employers to pay wages in accordance with the decisions of the Women’s Employment Board. Honorable members are as well acquainted as I am with the history of the Women’s Employment Board, and the reason for the institution of it. Why have the employers and their representatives in this Parliament done everything possible to cripple the operations of that board? Members of the Opposition talk about the brave deeds of the boys at the front. Yet they would destroy the Women’s Employment Board, and thus give to the employers a reservoir of cheap female labour which would, in turn, lead to many of those who returned never again being reinstated in their previous employment. When the boys returned from the front, unscrupulous employers would oblige them to seek food relief from the different State governments, whilst keeping in their jobs the more cheaply-paid female labour. [Extension of time granted.] Let us examine more closely the facts in relation to the strike at the works of Duly and Hansford Proprietary Limited without going into the whole of the arguments that have been advanced in connexion with it. Mrs. Cassidy, the wife of an eminent King’s Counsel who, I am informed, has been interested in the United Australia party in the past, has said that her only desire is to assist the boys who are fighting in New Guinea. She has one young child. To care for that child, she employs one domestic. Therefore, in order that one woman may be employed in a war factory the other woman, who has to care for the young child, is lost to war production. If Mrs. Cassidy were to remain at home, and thus remove the cause of the stoppage of work by 800 employees, she would do more for the war effort than by continuing in her present position. Her reason for not doing so is that both she and her husband want to assist the United Australia party. Party politics govern the situation. I have been asked what steps have been taken to settle the dispute. Conferences have been held between all the parties concerned in it. Members of the Metal Trades Employers Association have conferred with representatives of the union and of the firm in question. Officials of the Department of Labour and National Service have been sent to the works to interview the parties on the spot, and to point out the foolishness of the stubborn attitude that is being adopted. We know that it is not the ten employees whom we are fighting, but those who are backing theIr - the United Australia party and the Employers Federation; anti-Labour organizations who wish to foment industrial trouble in order to embarrass the Government.

I have mentioned the- Women’s Employment Board. I say to honorable gentlemen, opposite, “ When the boys return from the front, do you intend to give them back their jobs? If their positions are filled by women who, if their wage rates have been fixed by the Arbitration Court, are receiving 54 per cent, of the male rate, do you believe that the employers will engage returned soldiers, to whom they will have to pay the full male rate, or will keep in their employment the more cheaply-paid female labour?” If there is any interference with the functioning of the Women’s Employment Board, if it be destroyed by’ action either inside or outside of this Parliament, industrial chaos will be the result, and the protection which the present Labour Government has provided, not only for the women against exploitation, but also for the men who are now fighting at the front, will be withdrawn, causing damage which it will be impossible to repair.

Mr Abbott:

– Is the honorable gentleman in favour of preference to returned soldiers?

Mr WARD:

– The honorable member for New England has interjected. Whenever I look at this potential leader, this pretender to the throne, 1 recall a passage that I read in a work in the Parliamentary Library : “ As stolid as the ox, with the vacant stare of centuries upon his brow “. This gentleman has asked me whether or not I am in favour of preference to returned soldiers. We had a form of preference to returned soldiers after the last war. It was not much of a preference to many of the returned men, who had to carry their swags in the outback seeking an opportunity to enjoy the right to work and to live. A large number of them was registered with different governments for food relief. Many of them fruitlessly appealed to anti-Labour members of Parliament for some form of assistance. I do not talk about preference to returned soldiers. I believe that when the war is over, if this country be properly organized and developed by a government that is capable of undertaking that task - naturally, it would be a Labour government - there will be no need for preference to returned soldiers, because employment will be available for every person who is able to undertake it. The present Government says to the members of the fighting services, “ We do not talk about preference. We give you guarantees “. The experiences of returned soldiers after the last war was that jobs were usually given to men who were able-bodied, and that those suffering from disabilities arising from war service had little chance of obtaining employment. The Labour party has been accused of opposing the defence estimates of anti-Labour governments, but it did not send war equipment to a member of the Axis when war was impending, as was done by the Government led by the right honorable member for Kooyong. In reply to an interjection, ha said that on a later occasion he would give the facts. The facts are that he threatened the Port Kembla waterside workers that unless they loaded pig-iron for Japan coercion would be used against them, and the full weight of the law would be applied. He was backed up by the parties which supported his Government, because he could not have taken that action unaided. In 1938, Sir Isaac Isaacs had something to say with regard to the Port Kembla waterside workers. He remarked that the enforced loading of pig-iron was a direct aid to Japan. He also said -

This incident is, in my opinion, one of the most regrettable episodes in the whole history of the Executive Government of the Commonwealth. I believe that Port Kembla, with the sturdy but peaceful and altogether disinterested attitude of the mcn concerned, will rind a place in our history beside the Eureka Stockade - with its more violent resistance of a more settled time - as a noble stand against Executive dictatorship and against an attack on Australian democracy.

Honorable members opposite who talk about the greed of the workers who go on strike should speak of what has been accomplished by Australian workmen. They should tell the people that, because of ‘the efforts of those workmen, the position of Australia is now so safe from the defence point of view that the Minister for Munitions (Mr. Makin) is able to divert men from munitions factories to other activities. This is possible because of the action of the Labour Government, in cooperation with the trade unions and the industrial workers. To-day Australia is producing more steel in proportion to its population than is Great Britain. Australian workmen have a record without parallel with regard to ship construction and ship repairs. One of our great difficulties to-day is that of transport. The Prime Minister has said that we experienced great difficulty, because, when the war began, 90 per cent, of our interstate trade was carried by our interstate shipping lines. It must not be forgotten that the Australian Commonwealth Line of Steamers was disposed of by an antiLabour government. If that line had been retained and expanded Australia might have been independent to-day of private shipping interests. The sacrifice of our mercantile marine has been due to the action of anti-Labour governments. If we are to develop this country and increase its population, we must provide means of maintaining an increased population, and the only way to do that is to consolidate and extend our industries. The -only governments that have proved their capacity to do that are those formed by the Labour party. I hope that the people will return the Labour party to power at the next elections with a ma jority in both brandies of the legislature, so that we shall be free to puisne the policy that we believe to be in the best interests of this country.

I have been challenged about my criticism of the judiciary, but if members of .the judiciary criticize the action of the Government they cannot expect to be free from criticism hy those whom they attack. I have criticized them, as I would any other members of the .community when I have believed them to he in the wrong. One of the great drawbacks to-day is that the Commonwealth Parliament is mot the supreme constitutional authority in Australia. Honorable gentlemen OPPO, s]te who claim that they do not play the game of party politics are highly delighted when a majority of the High Court overrules government regulations. Why, I ask, should the High Court be. above .the ‘Commonwealth Parliament? The day is approaching when the people of this country should determine that this Parliament should be the supreme constitutional authority, and that any other powers should be delegated by the Commonwealth authority. Honorable members opposite have tried to lead the people to believe that the present Government is not doing its best to prevent industrial stoppages. According to the Opposition, members of the Government have not endeavoured by all means in their power to avoid hold-ups in war production. Much as the Government regrets these stoppages and has tried to eliminate them, a section of the employers is prepared to place its own interests before those of the nation. When a strike occurs they say :to the Government, “ What do you suggest should be done about it?” The Government, by fully considering the circumstances of each dispute, has been able to prevent industrial stoppages to a great degree, but I hesitate to think how serious the industrial position would become if an anti-Labour government were returned to power. Knowing the calibre of members of the Opposition, I have no doubt that they would viciously attack the trade unions and force women, many of whom are enjoying 90 per cent, of men’s wages and .are doing work as efficiently as men were formerly doing it, to accept seduced rates of pay. The result would be that industrial chaos would occur. Therefore I believe that the people, when given an opportunity, will return the Labour party to office with a majority in both Houses. Thus the security of the country, both during the war .and in the post-war period, will be assured, and the prospects of the people for the future will be bright.

Sir CHARLES MARR:
Parkes

– We have listened to a remarkable speech by the Minister for Labour amd National Service (Mr. Ward).. He quoted a passage from a book which he had obtained from the Parliamentary Library, and made a disparaging reference to the honorable member for New England (Ma-. Abbott) . There is .another book in the Library which is written under a nom de plume, and I have endeavoured .to trace the name of the author for a long while. The title is The Autobiography of an Ass, and it might be worth investigating whether the author is the Minister for Labour and

National Service. To-day I read a letter in the press which I desire to place on record .as the views of a member of the Australian forces serving overseas. The writer states -

Sir. - May I be permitted to place before the general public a few very pertinent remarks on a situation which is disturbing, to say the least, to us at battle stations in New Guinea.

Doubtless you have seen our excellent news sheet Guinea Gold. Can you imagine our feelings when daily we read of strikes at home?

I am fully aware that strikes are not always due to the workers only, that often they are brought about by the pin-pricking tactics of an unscrupulous employer. Many are putting up a magnificent record of hard and honest toil, working in unison with their employers, like :* well-oiled machine.

With this thought in mind, let us consider those who strike and those who needlessly cause strikes, taking as an example three of the main branches of labor and industry - coalmining wharf-laboring and munitions.

Can they justify their actions? The average soldier here does not think so.

First, the miners supply fuel for the transport of our food and other necessaries. If they strike might they not affect us by causing a possible shortage of food, of fuel for our planes, and ammunition for our guns? Stop and think what that would mean.

The wharf-laborer can bring about the same state of affairs by refusing to load ships. If the efficiency of the Army is thus affected, they are no better than enemy agents.

And what of the munition worker? He has a job which brings in possibly ten to twelve pounds a week. Yes, he works long hours, but so do we, if necessary - 24 hours a day. He has his home and a reasonable amount of comfort and family life, but what will all that avail him if, through shortage of ammunition, out guns, which are very hungry beasts, have insufficient food to keep them tiring, and Australia becomes a bloody battleground?

I’ll wager that then they would slave to save themselves. Is the situation so different? The conflict, though perhaps not in their backyard, is really only outside the gate.

The Army doesn’t strike. That would be contrary to our oath of allegiance, and a punishable offence. The Gs. (id. a day man volunteered to do a job. Best assured, he will carry on to the end. He had a home, family, friends, and all that used to make him happy, but he gave it up to help his people and his Empire for a mere pittance. Strikers and you also who cause strikes - stop and think for a moment what we feel when we read of stoppages of work and loss of production. That does not savor of a hundred per cent, war effort.

We have the enemy to contend with, as well as fever, disease and all the tropical discomforts. Surely you can spare us such disheartening news items as I have mentioned.

If my poor effort can cause some among you to pause and think, the effort will not be in vain.

For your own homes and families, for us, and for victory, work and keep on working till we can all return to a peaceful way of life.

Listening to this debate so far as it has gone, one would imagine that the war effort put forward by Australia was due almost entirely to members of Parliament, and particularly to members of governments. Everybody will admit that Australia has done a great job in the war. Everybody will admit that Australian workmen are producing a wonderful quantity of munitions, manufactured to the n-th degree of accuracy. One might think that the men who have been doing this work are the only ones upon whom the success of the war depends. However, I have just read a letter from a man who is serving in New Guinea. He and his comrades are serving in danger zones, but they do not get danger pay. There have been no fewer than 700 strikes since this Government has been in office. Most of them have been caused, not because the men- were demanding higher rates of pay, or the alleviation of some hardship; they have taken place at a time when thriftless people are receiving more money than ever before, at a time when money is being freely spent and even wasted. Disputes are being engineered by those who should be encouraging the workers, not to strike, but to produce more and more munitions. It is true that there has been established in Australia a great industrial structure devoted to war purposes, and the credit for laying the foundation of that structure belongs to the Government of which the right honorable member for Kooyong (Mr. Menzies) was leader. I well recall a late Minister for Air (Mr. Fairbairn), who met an untimely end, outlining to us, when he returned from overseas, the policy which had been adopted, long before the change of government, for the inauguration of the Empire Air Training Scheme, under which airmen ‘were to be trained in Canada and the United Kingdom. When he told us the figures that were being aimed at we were astounded. Those figures have been increased several times since. The Prime Minister said to-day that nobody had ever thought that the aerial arm would play such a devastating part in the war as in fact it was doing. In the light of that admission, I cannot understand how he and his colleagues can accuse their predecessors in office for not having done more.

Mr Barnard:

– The Prime Minister said in his policy speech years ago that Australia should concentrate upon the building up of an air force.

Sir CHARLES MARR:

– To-night, the Prime Minister said that all previous conceptions and preparations had been proved to be wrong. Then why blame each other? We were all to blame.

Mr Barnard:

– The matter was raised by honorable members opposite on this motion.

Sir CHARLES MARR:

– Accusations have been made regarding a plan to defend a particular line in Australia. The existence of that plan should never have been published.

Mr George Lawson:

– lt was referred to by General MacArthur.

Sir CHARLES MARR:

– It was not lie who took the documents out of Cabinet files. When the Menzies Government was in office it invited members of the Opposition- to join a National Government, but the request, was declined time after time. Then it was suggested that an advisory war council be formed, and this was agreed to by the then Opposition. Some of their members were’ appointed to the Advisory War Council and from that time right up to the present moment the council has consisted of practically the same members who have been acquainted with all the war plans of Australia almost since the war began, and have unanimously agreed to them. At the beginning the present Prime Minister was a member of the council in his capacity of Leader of the Opposition, and the council was presided over by the right honorable member for Kooyong as Prime Minister. Now it is presided over by the right honorable member for Fremantle (Mr. Curtin) as Prime Minister, and the right honorable member for Kooyong attends as a private member. The present Prime Minister was generous enough to admit that there had been developments never anticipated in the early days of the war by the members of the Advisory War Council or by those outside it. He was generous enough to admit that the previous Government was responsible for the creation of the Australian Imperial Force. I well remember the speeches made by some members of the present Government at that time. I could quote extracts from those speeches, but no good purpose would be served by so doing. However, one is bound to refer to them to-night, because accusations have been made against ex-Ministers on this side of the House for their alleged lack of foresight.

Mr Baker:

– Honorable members opposite have asked for it.

Sir CHARLES MARR:

– They have not. These lying accusations have been made, and honorable members on this side would be less than men if they did not defend themselves. The Prime Minister has always been looked upon as a generous opponent. I have seen him stand in his place as Leader of the Opposition and support the then Prime Minister, even against members of his own party. Now that he has become Prime Minister we expect him to be equally fair, and to correct the untruthful statements which have been made regarding plans which had been drawn up for the defence of the country. So far, however, he has not had the courage to get up, as he did when Leader of the Opposition, and give the lie direct to such false statements.

Mr Barnard:

– The statement has not yet been proved to be wrong.

Sir CHARLES MARR:

– The Prime Minister admitted that the report was not submitted to the Government until February, 1942, when his Government was in office. No one can contradict that. The Labour Government had been in office for five months when the report was submitted.

Mr Blackburn:

– I do not think that he went so far as that. I understood that the right honorable member for Kooyong asked him, and that he would not answer.

Sir CHARLES MARR:

– He admitted that the plan was submitted to his Government in February of 1942.

Mr Blackburn:

– And he was asked by the right honorable member for Kooyong whether it had ever been submitted before, and he did not answer the question.

Sir CHARLES MARR:

– I think that the right honorable member for Kooyong said that accusations had been made by the Minister for Labour and National Service that members of the present Opposition knew all about the plan. Then the ex-Minister for the Army (Mr. Spender) and the ex-Prime Minister (Mr. Menzies) denied all knowledge of it. The Prime Minister was asked whether the plan had been submitted to the previous Government and he did not reply to that question.

The Advisory War Council has operated successfully and harmoniously under this Government and under its predecessor. The members of the council knew everything that was being done in connexion with the war. If Australia was practically defenceless, and if men had been sent overseas without arms, they knew of it. It is a fact that the 6th Division, in which I had a personal interest, because those near and dear to me were members of it, were sent away ill equipped, but members of the Advisory War Council knew why. They knew that the British Army lost in Belgium practically every gun it possessed, and that Britain was without guns except for those they were able to rescue from the museums. I remember the rifle clubs in Australia complaining to me, and to other honorable members, about their rifles being taken away from them. They wanted to keep their rifles and to be issued with more ammunition. They were not told then - they could not be told - that every rifle and every bit of ammuni- tion that could be gathered up in Australia had been sent to Britain to help the people there to defend themselves against the threatened invasion. What man who comes of British stock would not willingly go to the aid of any part of the British Empire if it were threatened? If Hitler made one major mistake in the early days of the war it was that his armies did not cross the English Channel and invade Great Britain when that country was illequipped to resist an enemy. We have been told that Australia was without tanks when the present Government came into office, but every honorable member knows how long it takes to manufacture these weapons of war. Machine tools and other equipment, such as jigs and dies, had to be obtained; they could not be provided merely by the waving of a wand. I agree with the Minister for the Army (Mr. Forde) that this country owes a great debt of gratitude to a former Minister for Defence, Sir Archdale Parkbill, who laid the foundation of aeroplane construction in this country when he advocated that land at Fisherman’s Bend in Victoria should be utilized for the purpose. He had a hard fight before his proposal was accepted. About twenty men under Wing Commander Wackett were sent overseas for special training, and it was expected that on their return the manufacture of 40 aeroplanes in two years could be undertaken. To-day the aeroplane industry of Australia has reached enormous dimensions and is a credit to the country. Just as “mighty oaks from acorns grow”, so the present aeroplane manufacturing industry has grown from the small beginnings for which Sir Archdale Parkhill was responsible. Australia’s munitions establishments, which to-day are turning out large quantities of ammunition of various kinds, were established by the Menzies Government, and were coming into production when the Fadden Government was defeated, yet Government supporters would have us believe that the whole of the credit for what has been achieved belongs to the present Government.

In various capacities Australian men are doing good work - some as members of the Australian Imperial Force, others as members of the Militia forces, and others as employees under the Allied Works Council. Some weeks ago I saw the men of the 9th Division who had returned from overseas march through the streets of Sydney. A better disciplined body of men never marched. Such discipline can be obtained only on active service. Australia has an armoured division, which, so far, has not fired a shot, or heard ohe fired, in battle. The men of that division have had three years’ training, but they would comprise a much more powerful force if they had had the advantage of practical training overseas.

Mr Holloway:

– Does the honorable member suggest that they would fail in an emergency?

Sir CHARLES MARR:

– No, There is not a Militia unit in Australia which can compare with the least efficient unit of the Australian Imperial Force

Mr Makin:

– That is not what members of the Australian Imperial Force say of the Militia who fought at Milne Bay and other parts of New Guinea.

Sir CHARLES MARR:

– The Militia did a wonderful job in New Guinea. I would be the last man to say otherwise.

Mr Makin:

– Then why make a distinction between the Australian Imperial Force and the Militia?

Sir CHARLES MARR:

– I repeat that the Militia cannot compare with the Australian Imperial Force. Otherwise, why are men of the Australian Imperial Force scattered through the Militia forces? Members of the Militia who fought in New Guinea are better trained than men who have not seen service overseas, because they have learned much of the tactics employed by the enemy. It is true that a high price was paid for that knowledge, but it had to be paid. We shall make a great mistake if we think that the Japanese can be defeated easily. At such a time as this, we cannot afford to have political differences. We should follow the example of Great Britain where the Labour leaders are working in the closest harmony with the leaders of other political parties. There is only one policy there, and there should be only one policy here ; our war effort should be a combination of the efforts of men of all political parties. If we expect to retain the privileges of democracy, such as fair rates of pay and good conditions in employment, we must fight for them not only in the Arbitration Courts, but also on the battle-field ; and the only way to fight is for everyone to be on an equality, [n my opinion, every man employed by the Allied Works Council, as well as every man in the Navy, the Army and the Air Force, should be in uniform and should be maintained and paid by the country. I would give to the soldier the same “danger pay” as is given to other men working in less dangerous areas.

About six months ago I approached the Minister for the Army on behalf of some men who, after their return from fighting in Egypt, Greece and Crete, had been placed in gaol. When the history of the campaigns in which they fought is written and their sufferings known, we shall agree that a country which makes criminals of such men for being absent without leave for a few days and commits them to gaol for 26 months, is not worthy of them. Last week, there was a public holiday, but the Government said that only certain employees could regard it as such; yet out of 96,000 men who should have worked in New South Wales on that day only 8,000 turned up at their places of employment. Why is there one law for the man in industry and another law for the man in the Army? It is true that workers in industry cannot leave their employment without permission, but I would put all such men, as well as those serving in reserved occupations, in uniform, and subject them to the same conditions as apply to soldiers. I agree with the Minister for Labour and National Service that workers in industry are doing a wonderful job and are playing -their part in the war effort, but in addition to being paid three or four times as much as is paid to soldiers they can absent themselves from work without incurring heavy penalties, whereas the soldier who overstays his leave is severely dealt with. The Prime Minister says that this is the first motion of want of confidence which has been moved in this Parliament since war was declared against Germany, but, in my opinion, the motion which resulted in the defeat of the Fadden Government was equivalent to a motion of no confidence. It attacked that Government’s financial policy, and if. as I believe, “ finance is government and government is finance “ an attack on the financial proposals of a government is equivalent to a motion of censure.

Mr Makin:

– The method adopted on this occasion is much more direct.

Sir CHARLES MARR:

– Tha’t may be, but motions of censure can take many forms, one being an attack on the financial proposals of a government.

Mr Makin:

– There is no harm in asking a government to reconstruct its budget.

Sir CHARLES MARR:

– No ; but it amounts to a motion of censure nevertheless. The Minister for Labour and National Service has left the chamber after making another of his soap-box orations.

Mr Falstein:

– The Minister made a good speech.

Sir CHARLES MARR:

– If it was a good speech I hope to be spared from hearing a bad one.

Mr Makin:

– The people will not agree with the honorable member.

Sir CHARLES MARR:

– They will when they have the opportunity. All that the Government has to do to give them that opportunity is to accept this challenge.. [Extension of time granted.]

As matter in which I am keenly interested is preference in employment to returned service men. Our soldiers, sailors and airmen who have yet to return will be vitally interested. Those who have already returned are equally interested. The policy of preference to exservice men should be applied. The Prime Minister said that the Government was not in favour of compulsory unionism, but that its policy was preference to unionists. But what about preference to ex-service men? Where will the honorable member for Watson (Mr. Falstein) be when ho returns from service in the Air Force? Our soldiers, sailors and airmen will demand preference in employment on their return from overseas.

The agitators in industry, not this Government, are running this country. Trade union secretaries have banded themselves into a powerful combine which dictates to the Government what its policy shall be and what laws shall be passed. Every week we see the Prime Minister appealing to the workers to stay at work and not to strike, and saying that they should loyally stand by the Government and produce more armaments than they are turning out. Instead of ensuring that these appeals shall be answered by the workers, the Prime Minister merely resorts to empty threats, and when his bluff is called, he runs for cover. I hope that in the short space of time that the Government will remain in office it will take a more severe stand in regard to the manner in which industries shall be managed and strikes settled. We have the courts of the land to make awards setting out wages and conditions of employment and those awards should be followed, or the legal processes to have them altered should be used. If this motion be carried and we are given the opportunity to go to the people, that will be a plank of our policy which the people will endorse in order that our soldiers fighting overseas shall not be hindered, as they have been in the past, by the nondelivery of guns and ammunition and all the things needed to bring the war to a successful issue.

Mr FALSTEIN:
Watson

.- It is with pride that I rise to-night after an absence of many months from this chamber to oppose the motion moved by the Leader of the Opposition (Mr. Fadden). As I am the first private member on the Government side to oppose the motion I claim that that is evidence of the fact that the private members on this side are solidly behind the Government, and what it has achieved for the Australian people during its tenure of office. It has been said that the Australian Labour party is not solid. Nothing is farther from the truth. It has never been more solid. That will be demonstrated at the general elections whenever they may be held.

Questions have been raised by the Opposition on various subjects. All are concerned with matters for which the Government is held by the Opposition to be responsible. It has been stated that there has been some failure or dereliction of duty on the part of the Government, but, if honorable members look at the facts closely,’ they will see that the problems are inseparable from the waging of war. I cite for example, absenteeism. No government could be saddled with the responsibility for that. I know very well from having read American literature that the problem of absenteeism is as virile in and as difficult to the Government of the United States of America as it is to our Government, Just because absenteeism occurs in the industrial sphere, it is not true to make it appear that the Government is not concerned. It is. But, unfortunately, some people, regardless of what government is in power, cannot see that their way of living is not in agreement with that which is required from them by the majority of the people in order that the war may be prosecuted for the common good.

My speech will be somewhat disjointed because so many matters have been raised, and each of them, I feel, merits some attention. The honorable -member for Parkes (Sir Charles Marr) raised the matter of compulsory unionism. He said that the Prime Minister (Mr. Curtin) had stated in this House to-day that compulsory unionism in the Commonwealth sphere was the policy of the Australian Labour party.

Sir Charles Marr:

– No; the Prime Minister said that it was not the policy of the Government, but that preference to unionists was.

Mr FALSTEIN:

– I am sure that the Prime Minister could not have said that, because there is no power under the Commonwealth Constitution for the Government to apply preference to unionists as a policy. The position is that the Commonwealth Arbitration Court has power to grant preference whenever a particular claim is made to it. Only in those circumstances can preference to unionists be granted. I believe that in one industry, the clothing industry, there is a measure of preference to unionists, but the Prime Minister knows very well that preference to unionists cannot be adopted as Government policy, because the Government has no power to enforce it.

Mr Blackburn:

– Except in Government employment or in war industries.

Mr FALSTEIN:

– Quite.

Sir Charles Marr:

– The Minister for Labour and National Service (Mr. Ward) said that he was not in sympathy with preference to returned soldiers.

Mr FALSTEIN:

– I took what the Minister for Labour and National Service said about that as being that he considered that the problem involved the provision of employment to all persons when the war ended.

Mr Makin:

– He gave a guarantee.

Mr FALSTEIN:

– Yes. That guarantee is the minimum proposition that any government could put forward, if it has invited persons to sacrifice their lives in order to maintain for Australia the democratic way of living.

The Leader of the Opposition stated, amongst other things, that the Government had no mandate for this and that. As all members are aware the Government came into being, not by virtue of an election, but because, as the honorable member for Barker (Mr. Archie Cameron) told me once, it was considered politically expedient to allow the Labour party to occupy the treasury bench for a short period, after which it was contemplated that it would have incurred public disfavour. Then it would be opportune to seek an opinion from the people. It was hoped that the United Australia party and the Country party would then secure a substantial majority in this House and that, backed by their majority in the Senate, they would be able to perpetuate their will on the people. Unfortunately for them, their plans went astray, because the Labour party did such a good job of work that, instead of incurring public disfavour, it has steadily gained favour. I have no doubt, therefore, that the Government will bc returned with a handsome majority in this House. I cannot speak for the Senate, because so many confusing things arise there, but I do believe that there will be no loss of members by the Labour party in that chamber.

Amongst charges levelled against the Government is the fact that there have been many strikes. This matter of strikes has always been raised by the Opposition, and many people are inclined to accept it as a part of the duty of a Labour administration to deal with persons who are members of that party.

Mr Calwell:

– There are fewer strikes to-day than ever before.

Mr FALSTEIN:

– I will not argue that aspect. What I say is that before honorable gentlemen opposite put these things forward, if they are honest in their statements, they ought to consider what merit there is in particular strikes. I cite, for example, the strikes that occur on the waterfront. For security reasons, I cannot state the whole facts, but I put it to honorable gentlemen opposite that there now are coming into the ports of Australia cargoes which have never previously been handled in Australia.

Mr Stacey:

– Is that why soldiers have to handle them?

Mr FALSTEIN:

– Yes, they are trained in the particular class of work.

Mr Rankin:

– Would that apply to soldiers who have just been conscripted and are working on the wharfs?

Mr FALSTEIN:

– I do not know. There have been strikes on the waterfront because members of the Waterside Workers Federation have declined to handle under certain conditions, cargoes of certain types that have never before been handled in Australia. To honorable members who may not be aware of the facts I say that arising out of these cargoes there has already been a number of casualties and that at least one person has died. Soldiers are trained in this particular class of work which I cannot define. Honorable members may gather what I mean. Because of their training, the soldiers are qualified to handle the cargoes. It is obvious, therefore, that they should handle them.

In regard to other things which occur on the waterfront, objection has been raised to the gang system. I am sure that many honorable members do not understand what is meant by that system. I was able to say early in my career in this Parliament that I had worked for 15 months on the waterfront at one period of my life. I know and understand the troubles that the waterside workers have. One trouble under the gang system is this: an agreement was reached before the system was placed in operation whereby there were to be eight men in. each gang in the hold of a ship. The award provided that there could be a minimum of six men in a gang. Instead of abiding by the agreement which provided for eight, the employers decided to foment trouble by cutting down the number to six. That has been the whole trouble with the gang system. In view of the cargoes that the men have to handle I assure the House that six men is not sufficient.

Sir George Bell:

– The Stevedoring Commission introduced the gang system.

Mr FALSTEIN:

– Yes, and the commission agreed with the employers that certain conditions should be observed. There was no obligation on the employers to reduce the number to six, but, as the award provided for a minimum of six in a hold, the employers decided to abide by the award instead of honouring the agreement into which they had entered.

Sir George Bell:

– What did the employers gain?

Mr FALSTEIN:

– The employers have this to gain; they can have published in the press throughout Australia that yet another dispute has occurred on the waterfront. Apart from working on the wharfs, I have had some experience in the Royal Australian Air Force, and I am able to tell honorable members that waterside workers have worked through the night without pay unloading aircraft. But no reports of that kind appear in the press.

Mr Jolly:

– Where did that happen?

Mr FALSTEIN:

– That has occurred not only in one port but in many ports where aircraft has been unloaded in this country. I have personal knowledge of those facts.

Mr Harrison:

– By waterside workers without pay?

Mr FALSTEIN:

– Yes. Waterside workers have worked through the night without pay unloading aircraft; and they did that work as a contribution to the war effort. Do honorable members opposite, suggest that the watersiders are not making any contribution to the war effort apart from their labour in their calling? Many of them, have sons serving in the front line, and many have lost sons in the firing line. Further, many waterside workers themselves share the risks that I run as a member of the Royal Australian’ Air Force. Many others serve in naval vessels on the Australian coast and on foreign seas. Can it be said that these men go on strike when they have no merit in their case? Unfortunately, honorable members on this side do not enjoy the same facilities as honorable members opposite to ventilate instances of the kind I have just cited.

The right honorable member for Kooyong (Mr. Menzies) always makes a very interesting speech, but, unfortunately, he always fails to deal with the particular subject before the House. He said that he assumed responsibility for the appointment of Mr. Essington Lewis and Colonel Massey and other gentlemen’ whom he named to the Directorate of

Munitions, and claimed that his Government laid the keel of our present war effort. In his next sentence, however, he alleged that this Government, in the prosecution of the war, was putting into operation its socialist doctrines. If that be the case, Mr. Essington Lewis, on the right honorable gentleman’s own admission, is a party to the implementation of socialist doctrines.

Mr Abbott:

– If it comes to a matter of argument, the right honorable gentleman has done very well at the bar.

Mr FALSTEIN:

– If that is a fair sample of the right honorable gentleman’s argument in support, of the Opposition’s motion that the Government does not possess the confidence of this House, it is a pity that the people of Australia are being humbugged by this debate. As to the right honorable gentleman’s success at the bar, I am assured that very many lawyers could have handled, with equal efficiency, the cases handled by the right honorable gentleman, but they would not have received the same fees for their services as were paid to the right honorable gentleman, because they have never had the backing of the heavy industries group which is now sponsoring the right honorable gentleman’s leadership of a section of a party in this chamber. The particular section which he leads is closely akin in its aims and objects to the National Socialist party which is still in power in Germany. Although the right honorable gentleman has the backing of the heavy industries group in this country, he complains that this Government always consults the trade union movement in respect of matters of policy. If that be the case, this Government is not receiving from the trade union movement anything like the pay and the campaign contributions which honorable members opposite receive from their masters outside of this House.

The principal point which the Leader of the Opposition intended to make .when he moved his motion was that the country did not owe any debt of gratitude to this Government for its contribution towards the defence of Australia, but that our safety to-day was due to some cumulative development which had been brought about by the Menzies and Fadden Governments. The people and the members of the fighting services realize only too well the debt of gratitude which they owe to this Government. The members of our fighting forces have never been reluctant to bear arms, but while the Menzies and Fadden Governments were in office no arms were made available to the forces. As the Minister for Labour and National Service has pointed out, the “Wirraway machines which were used in the defence of Port Moresby were suicide machines. Nothing was done by either the Menzies or Fadden Governments to obtain for our airmen aircraft capable of combating the Zero fighter. “When the present Government assumed office, the Prime Minister made continuous and energetic appeals to the United States of America and succeeded in obtaining first-class aircraft. He ignored the custom of making such representations through diplomatic channels, and in that way avoided the delay inevitable in red-tape methods. Because the Prime Minister followed that course, some honorable members opposite immediately raised the cry that this Government was prepared to allow Australia to become an American colony, and that it was prepared to “ cut the painter “ so far as the Mother Country was concerned. Having regard to the facts, that kind of propaganda was most vicious. It is due primarily to the urgent representations which the Prime Minister had the courage to make in that way that honorable members are now able to participate in this debate. The country is being humbugged by a discussion of this kind, because until a decision is reached on this matter, important executive decisions must be held up. I hope that a vote will be taken on the motion within the next few hours. It is obvious that the actions of the Government of which honorable members opposite now complain are inseparably linked with the prosecution of the war. In respect of any of the Government’s actions which do not come within that category, the Government has no reason to apologize. The people of Australia are as much aware as honorable members opposite of the fact that it is due solely to the Curtin Government that Australia has not been occupied by the Japanese.

Mr Jolly:

– Has the honorable member given any consideration to the part which members of the fighting services are playing in the defence of this country?

Mr FALSTEIN:

– I happen to be serving in the Royal Australian Air Force, in which I have risked my life, having flown for 200 hours, and, naturally, I have given consideration to that aspect.

Mr Jolly:

– We are hearing too much of what members of Parliament have done in the defence of this country.

Mr FALSTEIN:

– I agree that the claims made by honorable members opposite on behalf of previous governments with respect to the prosecution of the war are unfounded. If they believe that they are assisting in the prosecution of the war by bringing forward a motion of this kind at this juncture, all I can say as a member of one of the fighting services is that they are rendering a disservice to Australia. Thank God the people of Australia possess sound common sense. I have no doubt that they will judge the Government on its merits. This is the second occasion in a very long period that a Labour government has held office in this country, and, in the short time that it has been in power, the present Administration has done a very creditable job. I repeat that it alone has been responsible for the preservation of Australian democracy in this conflict.

Sitting suspended from 11.58 p.m. to 12.80 a.m. (Wednesday).

Wednesday, 23 June 19US.

Mr ABBOTT:
New England

– I support the motion submitted by the Leader of the Opposition (Mr. Fadden), because the Government has undergone an enormous change since it took office. When Japan overran Malaya, Burma and the Netherlands East Indies, the Government was keyed up to a full war effort, but as the war situation improved, the Government’s war effort deteriorated in inverse ratio. No government is fit to occupy the treasury bench when the Cabinet includes such a man as the Minister for Labour and National Service (Mr. Ward). He claimed that “ the Brisbane line “ plan existed although his leader has, in effect, denied it. Oblivious of the truth, the Minister declared that the plan existed either at the time the Labour Government took office, or beforehand, and that certain relevant papers were missing from a file. To build up this story, the Minister wove a statement around an aerodrome at Tocumwal. Evidently he has forgotten that on the 5th January, 1942, the Prime Minister (Mr. Curtin) requested me to assist the Government by accepting the office of Chairman of the Administrative Planning Committee, the purpose of which was to facilitate and obtain as speedily as possible the requirements of American troops in Australia. The personnel consisted of the Chief of Staff of the United States Forces in Australia, the Quartermaster-General of the Australian Army, the second Naval member, and the Air Member for Organization and Engineering representing the Royal Australian Air Force. One of the functions of the committee was to undertake certain works in Australia, submit the proposals to the Ministers concerned, and obtain the requisite financial authority for them. Amongst the projects which came before us was a work which the Minister described as an “ aerodrome He stated that the work was commenced at Tocumwal in February, 1942, and was intended as an aerodrome for Flying Fortresses to protect the industrial centres of the Commonwealth. He claimed that such a large work could not have been arranged suddenly, and therefore must have formed a part of a preconceived plan. As a matter of fact, the work was not an aerodrome for the use of Flying Fortresses. For the information of the House, I shall briefly outline the history of the project:

Shortly after Japan entered the war, certain conferences were held in Australia, with Allied generals and a representative of General Wavell’s staff in attendance, and plans were evolved for the functioning of the AmericanBritishDuutchAustral ian-Com m and and for the holding of a chain of islands as a bastion against the advancing Japanese. At that period, neither the Philippines nor any of the other territories in the Pacific area had fallen. The Japanese campaign developed rapidly, and, despite the protests of the American generals, the logistical plan of the American High Command was altered so that certain works which were to have been carried out in Northern Australia were transferred to the south. One large project which afterwards was carried out at Tocumwal, was the construction of an aerodrome and large repair shop for aircraft. Originally, a conference attended by American and Australian generals had agreed that the work should be undertaken at Townsville. It constituted one of twenty projects which came before the Administrative Planning Committee for consideration when I assumed the chairmanship of that body. As the campaign developed unfavorably to the Allies, it was decided to transfer the project from Townsville to Geelong. I emphasize that this decision had the concurrence of the Minister for the Army (Mr. Forde), the Minister for Air (Mr. Drakeford), the Minister for Defence Co-ordination (Mr. Curtin) and presumably the Minister for the Navy (Mr. Makin). Later, it was decided to transfer the project from Geelong to Tocumwal in order to avoid a danger of attack by sea-borne aircraft. Accordingly, the project was undertaken at Tocumwal as an aircraft repair shop and aerodrome. Tocumwal was selected because it was an inland centre, the terminal of New South Wales and Victorian railway systems, easy of access, and, unlike Albury, was not on the main railway line. That is the true history of the Tocumwal project, and I relate it to the House with a full knowledge of the subject, because I presided at the meetings of the Administrative Planning Committee which was responsible for carrying out the work. But the Minister for Labour and National Service, with utter disregard of the truth and in order to concoct a story for public consumption has deliberately and wilfully lied in the House to-night about the matter. Therefore, no government which includes him is fit to continue in office.

The Minister also referred to the Chief of Staff’s appreciation of the position in June, 1941. I do not know how he came to have access to papers in the Depart- ment of the Army or the Department of Defence, because he is not a Service Minister, or a member of the War Cabinet. Of course, there is a plague of rats in the country, and these rodents make holes in the walls of rooms Perhaps the Minister for Labour and National Service got through one of the rat-holes and scrutinized the papers. He declared that in June, 1941, the Chief of .Staff’s appreciation of the position recognized that Japan might enter the war; and from that the Minister assumed that Australia would be invaded. No belief was entertained at that time that an outbreak of war in the Pacific would necessarily mean the invasion of Australia, because it was thought that the Philippines could be defended. Much has been heard of General Douglas MacArthur, who, I believe, is a very great man and an excellent general. The resistance that he organized on the Bataan Peninsula will probably be spoken of in the United States of America hundreds of years hence. General Douglas MacArthur does not say things lightly, but being human he is probably not infallible. The noted American war correspondent, Hallett Abend, mentions in The Ramparts of the Pacific, that General Douglas MacArthur told him in October, 1941, that if he were given six weeks for preparation and reinforcements to come in, he could hold the Philippines almost indefinitely. Therefore, no evidence can be adduced that, because the Chief of Staff considered, in June, 1941, that war might break out in the Pacific, there was any reason to suppose at the time that Australia would be invaded. So long as the Philippines were held and the American Fleet was in the Pacific Ocean, this country was threatened with little danger of anything but sporadic raids. I shall not pursue that matter further. My only purpose in mentioning the subject was to show that no reliance <can be placed on the statements of the Minister for Labour and National .Service.

I charge the Government with having failed to exercise its full powers for administering the country for the benefit of the people and the war effort. One of the most dangerous things which the

Government is doing at the present time is the permitting of an alarming growth of industrial disturbances and strikes throughout the Commonwealth. Ministers themselves are worried about this development, which is due mainly to the weakness of the Government in dealing with strikes, and its subservience to the trade unions. This Government, representing the Australian Labour party, is tied hand and foot to the unions and is bound to consult them in formulating governmental policy. The Railroad, of the 13th April, 1943, contains an article entitled, “ State Secretary Lloyd Eoss Tells America “. According to this article, “ Australian trade unions dominate the most powerful independent Labour party in the world “. That statement, which appears to be correct, is supported by the interjection attributed to the Minister for the Navy at the Trade Unions Conference last Saturday, in Melbourne, when he said: “In every important project the Government undertakes, the trade unions are consulted “. This was fully borne out by the action of the Prime Minister in regard to the bill limiting service by the Militia to a portion only of the South-West Pacific Area, after he had wilted away from his original proposals to General Douglas MacArthur and his undertaking to the American Government. This had a very bad effect indeed in America.

Mr Drakeford:

– He did not wilt away at all, and the honorable member knows it.

Mr ABBOTT:

– The Minister for Air knows that what I am saying is perfectly, correct, and that the action of the Prime Minister had a very bad effect in America. I am going to quote the same gentleman to-night as the Minister for Labour and National Service quoted this afternoon, namely, Mr. Joseph Harsch, of the Christian Science Monitor, who remarked on the very bad effect that this had had in high quarters in Washington. If anything that takes place in Australia has a bad effect in Washington, this country will have to look out for squalls. Mr. Harsch wrote “ There were objections in Washington to the restriction of the ambit of military service “. Mr. Harsch is a gentleman whom I sometimes quote, and he is quoted by members of the Government; so we both use him, and he is probably a pretty fair witness as to what takes place in Washington. No government which is . at the beck and call of the trade unions, and has to consult them on every major item of policy, and indeed, on everything that it is going to do, is worthy to be called a government for the whole of the people of Australia. The members of the Government are so anxious to placate the unions that we have the spectacle of the Minister for Labour and National Service repudiating Cabinet decisions, and yet being allowed to stay in the Cabinet. That is probably the most extraordinary position in regard to responsible government that has ever existed in the British Empire, either in the mother of parliaments at Westminster or in the parliaments of the dominions. The result of this weakness is that at the present time there is a growing number of strikes in the Commonwealth. Testimony to the Ministry’s subservience to the unions was given last week by the attendance of fifteen Ministers at the Trade Union Conference in Melbourne. The Sydney Morning Herald of 17th June, 1943, published the following from Canberra : -

It is expected that figures which will be issued soon will reveal that there were more strikes in Australia in the first quarter of 1943 than in any other quarter since the war began. It is not known whether the number of man-days lost was also a record. It is believed that strikes in the quarter numbered more than 200.

In the speeches made by members of the Government this afternoon, and by the honorable member for Watson (Mr. Falstein), some credit has been taken from the fact that there are strikes in the United States of America and in Great Britain. That is apparently regarded by honorable members opposite as a sort of soporific to their consciences, but because other people are going wrong and not producing their total war effort, it does not excuse the great increase of the number of strikes here, or indeed any strikes in a time of war. If a Labour government which has been in office for twenty months, and has installed the most modern arbitration machinery in the world, is still not able to control the unions, and prevent them from striking, the lookout for the Commonwealth is bad. The Deputy Director of War Organization of Industry in Brisbane, Mr. Colin Clark, is a man whom nobody would ever accuse of being a conservative. He is, in fact, very liberal-minded, and in some respects has very advanced views. He is a world authority upon many subjects. He has estimated that absenteeism in Brisbane equals 30 per cent, of the workers, which means that at the very most only two-thirds of our war effort is being put into those particular industries. When I was a member of the Parliamentary Committee inquiring into man-power and resources, of which the Minister for Air was also a member, I visited the Ipswich railway workshops. I shall never forget seeing probably some of the best heavy machinery in the north of Australia, and being told that, in a time of war, that machinery was working only to 30 per cent, of capacity.

Mr Conelan:

– Because the Government of which the honorable member was a member would not give contracts to the workshops.

Mr ABBOTT:

– That statement is about as wise as most of those made by the honorable member. The witness told us . that the machinery was not working to capacity because the works were dominated by trade union control.

Mr Conelan:

– What rot! They have done some of the best jobs in Australia.

Mr ABBOTT:

– I am not responsible for what the witness said, but I am sure that he was speaking the truth. I understood that there was plenty of work offering, but he could not take it.

During the very intellectual speech of the Minister for Labour and National Service to-night, when he showed his true culture in its nicest light, he applied to the right honorable member for Kooyong the delectable nickname of “Pig-iron Bob”, and said that the right honorable gentleman had sent pig-iron to Japan almost up till the day that war began. The Minister for Air will recollect as well as I do that in those railway workshops at Ipswich in or about May of 1941 we saw cases with Japanese markings on them, and containing machine tools, lathes and other machines which had been brought down from Japan at that time, and had been used in large workshops in Australia to turn out munitions to be employed, as it turned out, against the Japanese themselves. We do not heaT the fair-minded gentleman opposite telling that story, although they tell the story about pig-iron being sent to Japan, but the fact is that the total amount sent from Australia was less than 5 per cent, of what was sent from the United States of America during the same period’, and the Japanese were quite able to get pig-iron from the United States of America then in the quantities they wanted, whether they got any from Australia or not.

Turning again to the subject of industrial disturbances, the Government is becoming very disturbed about the way in which they are growing under its rule, because the public, poor simple souls, cannot help thinking that strikes must have a deterimental effect on the war effort, and cannot understand how the Prime Minister and other Ministers can tell them that there is a 100 per cent, war effort taking place in Australia. One of the most important needs in this war to-day is the feeding of the people belonging to those nations that are fighting on our side. Although I have as much respect for the working men of Australia as members opposite have,. even if I have none for some of their leaders, I say that it is no credit to the leaders of the trade unions of Australia that at the Homebush abattoirs last year, owing to stop-work meetings, strikes and absenteeism, 500,000 fewer sheep were killed than could have been killed in the time laid down for the operatives to work in. That “was at a time when Britain was crying out for food, and our lines of supply were open. There is also going to be a tremendous demand from the Middle East for supplies for the armies which are about to burst their way into Europe. As regards the alleged 100 per cent, war effort, the mutton slaughtermen at Homebush are working the 35-J hours a week, whilst the beef slaughtermen work 22-j hours a week. If that is a 100 per cent, war effort I hope that the Japanese and Germans realize that it is a standardized effort, and out their labour down to the same extent. I propose to examine the industrial story of the metal trades of New South Wales since the 1st March, 1943, in support of my statement that there is growing up in Australia a state of industrial anarchy which is largely due to the weakness of this Government in controlling industry. I do not say that every employer, merely because he i3 an employer, is a saint or that every workman is a sinner. I believe that there are sinners amongst the employers and amongst the trades union leaders also. The stoppages and strikes in the metal trades industries in New South Wales from the 3rd March to the 14th June, 1943, involved 43,289 workers, and the man-hours lost totalled 623,805.

Mr Drakeford:

– What percentage was that of the whole time worked?

Mr ABBOTT:

– Not having a differential calculus in1 my head, I cannot give the honorable member an answer quickly.

Mr Drakeford:

– It is an important fact which the honorable member should disclose if he knows it.

Mr ABBOTT:

– A total of 623,805 working hours lost does not look to me like a low percentage. Some of the reasons given for the strikes were : “ against the decision of the Arbitration Court “ objection to foreman “, “ dismissal of union steward “, and “ Anzac Day “. The strikes may be grouped under five broad headings. The first is the hold-up of the Queen Mary, the second is the Women’s Employment Board, the third is Anzac Day, the fourth is non-unionists, and the fifth is against the Arbitration Court. I mention the Queen Mary without any fear of giving away information to the enemy, because the vessel has been gone from the Australian coast for a considerable period now. Honorable members will realize that the Quean Mary is probably one of the greatest war winners that the Allies possess in the present conflict, because of its enormous capacity for carrying troops, and therefore it is essential that it be not delayed in port. The hold up of that vessel is one. of the worst cases, and the strike delayed for three precious days the completion of urgent work on it. Sixty ship painters and. dockers were required to remove soot from the uptakes and trunk-ways of the ship’s boilers. The men refused to do the work at award rates and went on strike. A Conciliation Commissioner of the Court investigated and awarded 4s. 6d. an hour for the work. The men still refused to carry it out, and owing to the extreme urgency of the job, the employers yielded to the gun-point demand m order to get the ship under way, and 5s. an hour was paid for the job. It is no credit to anybody that this vessel was held up for three days in an ‘Australian port when its services were urgently needed elsewhere, and the fact should not be forgotten that it had brought many of our troops back from the Middle East. The strike in regard to Anzac Day was the most serious hold-up in the metal trades industry since the war began. It was a strike not against the employers or the Arbitration Court, but against the elected Government of this country, because it did not grant the unions an extra holiday when Anzac Day fell on a Sunday. Judge O’Mara epitomized the position by saying-

The question of whether some thousands of employees spend next Monday in idleness ls a minor one compared with that raised by this deliberate and organized defiance and disobedience of the law.

With one exception, none of the rank and file members of the unions made the decision not to work. Those decisions were made by the executive officers of the following unions: Australasian Society of Engineers, Electrical Trades Union, Sheet Metal Working Union, Boilermakers Union, and Engine Drivers and Firemen’s Union. In the case of the sheet metal workers the decision of the executive officers was endorsed by the shop stewards.. To sum up, other than the ironworkers, only a handful of men decided to call the strike. Apparently, there was no ballot, but the employees were ordered by the unions to strike, although it was against the law of the land. There were four strikes against the decisions of the Arbitration Court, and these are in keeping with the attitude that has grown up in industry towards the observance of the laws of the country. They are most serious in that they undermine the whole arbitration system.

In the case of the C.C. Engineering Industries Proprietary Limited, the men objected to working with a foreman, and the decision was given against the men. The judge said -

It is deplorable that an incident such as this is made an industrial issue. There were man-power authorities to determine Bullock’s suitability for employment, there were, and still are, criminal courts to punish him for any offence he may have committed, and there were and still are civil courts to compensate Wong for any pain or suffering occasioned by any wrongful act of Bullock. This being the case, the resort to a strike and a trial by a crowd is indefensible. I suggest that very few, if any, of those who have’ condemned Bullock can consciously say that they were ever in a position to judge him fairly and impartially.

Another strike occurred at the works of Cockatoo Docks and Engineering Company Proprietary Limited, on the 14th June, when 25 plumbers were concerned. A dispute had arisen between the Plumbers Union and the Australian Engineering Union as to which union should be allowed to do the work on voice pipes for ships. The decision of the Conciliation Commissioner was that the work should be done by the engineers. The plumbers would, not accept the decision and went on strike. They held a meeting and instructed their secretary to appeal against the decision of the Conciliation Commissioner. They said that they would remain on strike “ with a view to getting a quick hearing of their appeal”. There was no necessity .for them to remain on strike. Their appeal would have been heard in the usual way but they attempted to force the hands of the court. [Extension of time granted.]

I shall now refer to the strike over non-unionists which occurred in the munitions annexe at the works of Duly and Hansford Proprietary Limited, on the 15th May, following the failure of the Ironworkers Union to persuade ten non-unionists to join the union. The ten non-unionists are independent persons who took up a war job in this annexe in answer to an appeal by the Commonwealth Government. The principle involved in this case is one that should be clarified by the Government. The representatives of the Ironworkers Union informed the management late on the afternoon of the 14th May that there would be a strike unless every one was in the union by 7 a.m. the next day. This strike commenced in the annexe and involved 340 employees. On the 18th May the matter came before Mr. Conciliation Commissioner Mooney, who made some pertinent remarks as to the rights of free citizens and limitation of the authority of the unions. Mr. Mooney said, among other things -

So far as the question of people joining the union is concerned - and I am now speaking personally as a member of a union since its foundation - I agree with you that people should join the union, but the question of compulsion is quite another matter. … If the unions are in a position to wave the big stick, if that is to be the rule of law in this country, I do not know what the war is about, for the war is supposed to be fought for liberty. What you are putting up on the ground of force is the very negation of liberty and that is what I put to you.

There are two vital matters of principle involved in this attempt to make trade unionism compulsory throughout Australia. Mrs. Cassidy and the -other nonunionists concerned in this case are putting up a fight for the individual which is similar to that of John Hampden, who, in the reign of Charles I., refused to pay ship money. He objected to the illegal imposts levied by Charles without the authority of Parliament. I am reminded also of the Todpuddle martyrs, who were transported to Tasmania because they believed in the rights of free men to associate, and desired to form a trade union in England. We have heard of the Atlantic Charter, which declares that there shall be freedom from want, freedom from fear, freedom to worship and freedom of thought. But what freedom can there be for an individual who is compelled to join a trade union in which his voice cannot be heard. That is the very negation of what we are now fighting for. We are fighting against the tyranny of Fascism and Nazi-ism. The people never thought when Australia entered this war to fight an external tyranny, that an internal tyranny, which is not responsible to the elected representatives of the people, would . be permitted in Australia. That kind of tyranny is a hotbed which promotes the growth of Nazi-ism and Fascism. Therefore, I say, let us appeal to the electors as soon as possible and let them decide whether they stand for human liberty or whether they desire to arise in this country an authority which is causing disastrous strikes and imperilling the war effort at a time when the tide of victory is flowing in our direction. I believe that the decision of the people willbe in one direction only, and that they will return to power a party that is willing to co-operate with other parties and see that the basic elements of human liberty are preserved. Attempts have been made to coerce these women employees into either joining a union or leaving their employment. Their only sin is that they have obeyed the law, yet they are subject to browbeating by the man-power authorities and Mr. “ Jock “ Garden from the department of the Minister for Labour and National Service because they are attempting to carry out the law of the Commonwealth. As long as the Government allows this state of affairs to continue, Australia will not be able to throw its full weight into the war effort.

The Labour convention held in Melbourne last week was a sad commentary on how representative government has deteriorated in Australia. It has been said in this House that fifteen Ministers were present, but according to the newspaper reports which I read only seven attended. The honorable member for Watson (Mr. Falstein) said he considered that this debate was unnecessary because it would prevent Ministers from attending to their duties. Has he ever considered that, in attending a conference of this kind for a couple of days in Melbourne, Ministers were prevented from attending to their departmental duties much more so than by being present in the House at certain hours during the course of this debate? The Minister for Supply and Shipping (Mr. Beasley) is reported to have said -

I appeal to you to give us a go. The federal elections are coming on. If we are to win, the strikes must stop.

This Minister has not yet claimed that he has been misreported. Strikes should stop, because the Government wants to win an election, not because they are detrimental to the war effort. Such sentiments can only cause consternation among people who have relatives at the front. They are an affront to the patriotism of people who desire a 100 per cent, war effort. One might well paraphrase Barrington’s opening lines in the prelude to the first theatrical performance in Australia -

True patriots all

For be it understood

We left our country

For our country’s good.

I suggest this paraphrase: -

True patriots all

For be it understood

We ask you not to strike

Not for your country’s, but your government’s good.

That is what they asked of the delegates to the trade union conference. The Minister for Labour and National Service was reported in Saturday’s issue of the metropolitan press as saying that workshop committees should keep union establishments operating and hold up non-union ones.

Mr Ward:

– That is a lie !

Mr ABBOTT:

– Is it the same kind of lie as the Minister’s “ Brisbane line “ lie, or is it some special kind of lie? The fact is that one cannot draw a distinction between what the Minister for Labour and National Service says with regard to these matters and the Prime Minister’s views. The Prime Minister said -

I have never been opposed to my Minister, and he has never been at odds with me.

Mr Ward:

– I think that is an excellent statement.

Mr ABBOTT:

– I am glad that the Minister approves. It is clear, therefore, that there is no real difference between the Prime Minister and the Minister for Labour and National Service in regard to such matters, and we can discount all the talk that one hears in the country, and in the city, about John Curtin having done a good job, but being unfortunate in having with him a Minister such as Mr. Ward, who prevents him from doing a better one. We have it on the authority of both the Prime Minister and the Minister for Labour and National Service himself that such a view of their relations is mistaken, and that they are, in fact, as close as Siamese twins. This Ministry, which condones strikes in factories where the management is obeying the law of the land, and even strikes against the Government itself, is unfit to govern Australia, and the sooner it goes to the country and gets a verdict from the people the better.

Mr Barnard:

– It is not true that the Government condones strikes. .

Mr ABBOTT:

– It is true. What happened in the Duly and Hansford case? The Government is ruled by an outside oligarchy, which in turn is ruled by the Communists. Until members of the Government put themselves through the dip and get rid of the ticks of communism, they will not be respected by the people of Australia.

For months past the Government has been warned that a food shortage was pending. Although the Prime Minister said this afternoon that he would prefer to take the risk of being short of food rather than risk being short of munitions, the fact is that there is no longer a shortage of munitions. There is a surplus of production, not only in Australia, but also in the United States of America and Great Britain. However, there is no surplus of food anywhere in the world. Last January, the honorable member for Warringah (Mr. Spender) and I brought to the notice of the Government the need for a complete overhaul of the munitions industry in order to damp down production in some directions, and to shift men from the munitions industry to the production of essential food for the nation.

Mr SPEAKER:

– The honorable member’s time has expired.

Mr LANGTRY:
Riverina

– I was astounded to hear the arguments advanced by the members of the Opposition to-day. From the beginning of this debate they have indulged in nothing but abuse of the Government. Everybody knows what the position was in regard to the defence of Australia when the Government took office less than two years ago. We all know that Australia was, in fact, utterly defenceless. I was informed by a high military officer that, at the time of the Coral Sea battle, there was not one soldier or one gun between Brisbane and Townsville. When this motion of want of confidence was submitted I thought that I should hear something constructive from honorable members opposite, but apparently they can speak of nothing but strikes. One would think that the Government, and the men employed in the munitions works, had done nothing to make Australia able to defend itself.

The Leader of the Opposition (Mr. Fadden) dwelt at length on what he described as the neglect of the primary producers by the Government. Why are the primary producers in such a desperate position to-day ? Why is there a possibility of shortage of food ? It is entirely due to neglect by the previous Government. Apparently it was no concern of that Government that thousands of men were forced off the land because they could not obtain payable prices for their products in time of peace, or even for a considerable time after the country was at war and Labour took over the government of this country. Members of the previous Government sought to throw dust in the eyes of the primary producers, and for a long time they were very successful. Now, however, the men on the land are beginning to understand how they were deceived by a government which purported to be their friend, but was in reality their enemy. Had it not been for the neglect by the previous Government there would not have been so many bankruptcies in rural areas, and men would not have left their farms to work in munitions factories in order to earn the money which they could not earn on the land.. Many men from my own district left their land because they saw the opportunity to earn a few shillings for themselves elsewhere. On the land they worked fourteen to twenty hours a day in order to “ go broke “. Suddenly honorable members opposite have become greatly concerned with the production of foodstuffs. Why are we likely to be short of foodstuffs? Because the previous Government would not give the primary producers any encouragement to go on producing. They would not assure them a fair price for their products. So little concern had the Menzies Government for the production of adequate supplies of food that the then Minister for Commerce, the right honorable member for Cowper (Sir Earle Page), actually advised farmers to reduce their output of lambs. The Curtin Government, on the other hand, eliminated the levy of 10 per cent, on lambs in order to step np production. The right honorable member for Cowper refused to accede to the request of the Primary Producers Union for a subsidy to enable dairy-farmers, pigraisers and poultry-farmers to buy wheat. The Curtin Government, at a cost of £1,000,000, made supplies of wheat available in order to maintain production. The right honorable member for Cowper failed to help the pig producers when the bottom fell out of the market in 1941. I myself inspected porkers and baconers at a time when the Government had appealed to the growers to produce more pig meat, although the Government did not say what farmers would get for the meat. They reared more pigs, with what result? Pork was sold at from 2d. to 3£d. per lb., and suckers at ls. a dozen, the lowest price in the history of Australia, and probably in any other country. For this the previous Government was responsible, and again it led to great loss for the producers. When the present Government assumed office it found the dairying and pig-raising industries in such a deplorable condition that it agreed to the recommendation of a special committee that assistance be given. The Minister for Commerce and Agriculture (Mr. Scully) immediately interested himself in the matter, and I am pleased to say that to-day there is a guaranteed price for porkers of Sd. per lb. dead weight, which is a reasonable and payable return. The Fadden and Menzies Governments ignored the representations of the butter producers for increased prices, but the Curtin Government approved of the granting of subsidies to the industry which will place it upon a sound footing. Every one knows that the dairying industry used to be carried on under conditions amounting to slavery, conditions which the previous Government did nothing to improve. Mothers and their daughters had to go out’ into the sloppy cowyards in all kinds of weather in an attempt to keep the industry going, and, as often as not, all their efforts ended in bankruptcy. Now the Curtin Government has come to the rescue, and granted subsidies which will amount to £6,500,000 per annum.

In times of peace previous governments subjected the people to a form of rationing - the dole - not because pf the shortage of commodities, but because there was too much of them. There was no money to give employment, and people had to go hungry. To-day things are different. The drain on the available man-power for the defence of Australia has created a shortage of supplies. The present scarcity of butter is due to the neglect of past governments, and the result is that this commodity has to be rationed to the people of this country.

During the regime of the Menzies Government little consideration was given to the wheat growers of this country. From the No. 1 pool they were paid less than 2s. a bushel for their wheat. The present Government pays 4s. a bushel for the first 3,000 bushels delivered by any farmer who receives a full quota, and accepts all risks in connexion with the disposal and sale of the wheat. At present wheat is a commodity which cannot be disposed of, but the Government realizes that the wheat-growers have to live. How different is the position to-day from what it was when the Menzies Government was in office! Considering thai there is little or no shipping available for the transport of our wheat to other countries, the Government has done well in this matter. It recognizes the claims of the man on the land.

Almost “ since Adam was a boy “ there have been disputes in the coalmining industry. That state of affairs has existed in all countries. Coalmining is an industry which has its own problems. Any broadminded person will agree that the Government and its supporters have done their best to increase the production of coal, and, despite all that has been said regarding disputes in the industry the output of coal in Australia to-day is greater than ever before. I do not know a great deal about coal-mining, but I can understand the published figures comparing the production to-day with that in other years. They show clearly that, far from the production of coal falling off, the output to-day is greater than ever. Coal-miners have to work in difficult and dangerous conditions; frequently they have to work in water, and almost always they are obliged to work in confined spaces. “Wherever a big body of men work in an industry there will be stoppages of work from time to time. No person can prevent occasional stoppages. The present Government has asked the leaders of the unions to do their best to increase the output of coal in the interests of Australia. It is not the fault of Ministers that stoppages have occurred in this industry. There are some who urge that disaffected coal-miner3 should be put into the Army or the Navy or the Air Force. but what advantage would that be and how would the production of coal be increased thereby? It is not always recognized that coal-mining is skilled work. The danger of explosions, causing destruction of life and property, is always present, and therefore the industry requires trained men. The problem of increasing the output of coal is a difficult one to solve. The control of coal-mining is vastly different from the control, of work on the waterfront. It is comparatively easy to load and unload ships by transferring to that work men from the Army, or from other industries, but that condition does not obtain in the coal-mining industry. Those facts should be recognized when members feel disposed to blame Ministers for the troubles which have arisen among the coal-miners. “We hear a great deal of the danger of inflation, but little about deflation. If we are to have a new order, we must have a new financial order. I have a great respect for the Treasurer (Mr. Chifley), but I think that he has not gone far enough in using central bank credit. Inflation is a bogy used by the Opposition to influence the electors against the Labour party.

Transport problems loom large in these difficult days. “Why are we short of ships? The fault does not lie with the present Government but with a previous Government -which sold the Australian Commonwealth Line of Steamers which enabled primary producers to export their products at lower freight rates than were charged previously. It must be remembered that high freights have to be borne by the primary producers and the consumers, not by the middle men. The combines which “ farm the farmer “ have been kept in power by the parties now sitting in opposition. “When the Lyons Government was in office a request was made for the allocation of £100,000 in order to provide a fortnight’s work to tide unemployed workers over the Christmas period, but it was refused bluntly, the reason given being that no money was available for the purpose. That was in times of peace. The men concerned asked only for the right to work for a fortnight, but their request was refused. The position is entirely different under war conditions. The provision of a fortnight’s work to enable unemployed men to earn enough to ensure a Christmas dinner for themselves and their families would have caused inflation ! The bogy of inflation is frequently resorted to in times of peace in order to defeat some scheme which has for its object the improvement of the conditions of the people.

Reference has been made during this debate to the subject of compulsory unionism. When I was a boy there was no Australian Workers Union and I know that some squatters got many sheep shorn for nothing. The shearers were not always paid for their work. Moreover, they were compelled to purchase the commodities they required from the squatters who frequently charged double the proper price for such a necessary commodity as flour. The shearers formed a union, with the result that their conditions of employment were greatly improved. It is a pity that primary producers do not band themselves into unions for their protection as workers in secondary industries do. A good deal has been said on the subject of freedom, but what freedom wad there for shearers, who, after working all day, were not paid for their labour? I sincerely hope that at the next elections the Labour Government will be returned with a big majority in both Houses, so that it will in fact rule this country. At the present time a Labour Government governs this country with the assistance of two independent members, whom I am glad to say continue to support the Government. It would be a sorry day for Australia should a Labour government not be in office in the post-war period. There are good men in the present Ministry. The Attorney-General (“Dr. Evatt) has rendered wonderful service to Australia, and he has been supported by every other member of the Cabinet. Recently, the Prime Minister was able to announce that the danger of the invasion of Australia had passed. That he was able’ to do so reflects great credit on himself as Leader of the Government, and also on his colleagues in the Ministry. I have no doubt of what the result will be, when, within the next few months, an appeal is made to the electors. The sooner that appeal is made the better pleased I shall be. The Government stands high in the estimation of the great majority of the Australian people because of the magnificent job that it has done in a short time during the . greatest crisis which this country has ever faced.

Mr PROWSE:
Forrest

.I support the motion. I was hopeful that this Parliament would continue for its normal term, and it certainly would have done so had the Government carried on its administration as it promised and kept before it as its first duty the winning of the war. The ex-Premier of Queensland, Mr. Forgan Smith, once said that it was dishonest for any government to use war-time powers in order to introduce and implement party objectives; but that is something which the. Minister for Labour and National Service (Mr. Ward) frankly admits is his policy. Under war-time powers he admits to trying to implement the policy of the Labour party, including socialization of industry.

Mr Calwell:

– There is nothing wrong with that.

Mr PROWSE:

– Apparently, in the . opinion of the honorable member for Melbourne (Mr. Calwell), that is all right, so long as it is the Labour party’s policy which is being implemented. After the last election the representation of the Labour party and of the non-Labour parties in this House was almost equal. In my opinion, that indicates clearly that the people wanted a national government. On the 9th September, 1939, the Minister for Labour and National Ser vice made this statement - Hansard, volume 161, page 76 -

I believe that, if this is a free democratic country, the right place in which to make a decision binding on the country is in this Parliament.

We are. entirely in agreement with him, but is he still in agreement with himself? He is not. We had very definite evidence of his prejudiced mind during this time of peril when he took the law into his own hands in order to put party policy into practice. It was the most definite evidence one could possibly have. He stealthily deprived this House of tb opportunity to debate an important matter by bringing down regulations when Parliament, was not in session. I refer to the Wheat Harvest Employment Award. By means of those regulations he imposed a system under which the right of the Arbitration Court to make an award for certain people was transferred to a prejudiced, packed tribunal. Yet he claimed very definitely that this Parliament was created to determine such important matters. That is all right when it suits him, but not when it pleases him to depart from that principle.

During this war when their very existence is at stake the people are prepared to set aside every other consideration and they want the best brains of all the parties to govern the country. When the right honorable member for Kooyong (Mr. Menzies) returned from his visit to Great Britain and the United States of America he broadcast a certain speech from Sydney to the whole of the Commonwealth, and the people way down at Albany in Western Australia, along with others, heard that speech. The war had imposed upon them extreme conditions. Their shipping services had been taken away and their business interests had been shattered by the war. Nevertheless, on hearing the speech of the right honorable gentleman suggesting a national government, the Albany Municipal Council carried a resolution and sent to me a communication asking me to do my utmost to support the establishment of a national government in the Commonwealth. Not content with merely doing that, it circularized all the other roads boards and municipalities. I still have the sheaf of replies. One of them is from the Upper Chapman Road Board, in the electorate of the honorable member for Kalgoorlie ( Mr. Johnson). It says -

I have to advise you that my board supports the Albany Municipal Council in its opinion that it is desirable to form a national government.

The Honorable Victor Johnson, M.H.R., has been informed. 1 was advised by the secretary of the Williams Road Board that he had been directed by that board to ask me to convey to the Commonwealth Government the following resolution: -

The Williams Road Board, representing the citizens of the Williams district are unanimously of the opinion - that in furtherance of the war effort of Australia and with particular reference to the address to Australian citizens by the right honorable the Prime Minister of Australia on Monday, 20th May, 1941, it is desirable that the utmost effort be made to form’ a national government forthwith.

My prompt assistance in the matter was requested. Similar letters came to me from the Albany and Busselton Municipal Councils, and the Phillips River, Greenbushes, Balingup, Upper . Chapman, Bridgetown, Tambellup District, Drakesbrook District, West Arthur, Collie, Cranbrook, Preston and Sussex Road Boards. These bodies are representative of the people. One realizes that there is sound ground for their wish that there should be a national government, since they know that only 50 out of every 100 people are represented on the present Government and that that Government must go to an outside body in order to determine certain national matters. We have had repeated here to-day the evidence that that is so. A leading Minister for whom I have a great deal of respect, begged an outside conference to hold back. “ Hold your horses until the elections are over; do not have a strike until then “, is, in effect, what he said. Is there not solid ground therefore for the anxiety of these people ? I was prepared when the previous Government fell to carry on as Chairman of Committees if the Labour Government acted impartially in the prosecution of the war, but I submit that it has not even attempted to be impartial and has not applied an undivided mind to the winning of the Avar. The Prime Minister to-day tried to draw a distinction between this want of confidence motion and a motion, tantamount to the same thing, which defeated the previous Government - during war-time ! That sort of dog will not bark. Such specious reasoning does not appeal to me at all. I consider that, in the face of what the Minister for Labour and National Service is doing, this Government is not acting impartially. Why, the city of Perth is without bread to-day because of one action of that Minister. He is supposed to have power to veto the decision of the Court, and when the Judge in Arbitration in Western Australia came to an amicable finding regarding the baking business, the Minister for Labour and National Service, in order to make himself a Labour hero and a greater dictator in the community, ran his pen through the judgment and would not ratify it, with the result that there is a strike and the people of Perth are breadless. I was hopeful that the grand statements made from time to time by the Prime Minister meant something, but now I doubt his sincerity because he supports the actions of the Minister for Labour and National Service.

Anybody with a reasonable amount of common sense will see that the Minister for Labour and National Service is in the wrong in regard to “ the Brisbane line “.

Mr Johnson:

– The honorable member himself went on strike yesterday and took direct action.

Mr PROWSE:

– I went on strike, if the honorable member likes to put it that way, in the interests of Australia. Those of us who are old enough to weigh things and have regard for the truth and for fairness will look at the facts and also at the fallacies which are being distributed for electioneering and other purposes. We shall .find the truth about the war work of the previous Government. Looking back in political history, we shall find that the Scullin Government destroyed the defences of this country. It did not even leave a skeleton. It did away with the Royal Military College at Duntroon. It did away with universal training. It reduced the defence expenditure of this country to less than £3,000,000.

Mr Johnson:

– Succeeding anti-Labour governments did nothing to rectify the position.

Mr PROWSE:

– The succeeding governments followed the error for which the Scullin Government was responsible, and that Government is blameable. The honorable member cannot trick me that way. Labour has had to be dragged into line to bring into being any defences in this country. It is shouted abroad by those who are thinking of the next general elections that the Menzies and Fadden Governments left Australia in a hopelessly defenceless position.

Mr Clark:

– Yes.

Mr PROWSE:

– Does the honorable member believe his Prime Minister?

Mr Clark:

– I do.

Mr PROWSE:

– Do not be doubleminded dien. This is what the Prime Minister is reported in Hansard, volume 169, page 722, as having said on the 21st November, 1941 -

The policy that has been applied in Australia has brought about an increasing war effort and Australia was never before so well prepared for war as it is now.

That is when he took the reins. Here we have another statement by the Prime Minister in volume 167, page 25, of Hansard, on the 28tb May, 1941 -

Notwithstanding that there are political parties in this country, I claim that the war lias been prosecuted to the maximum of Aus tralia’s capacity and I doubt if any great improvement could have been made upon what has been done by the Government working in collaboration with the Opposition.

Are honorable gentlemen opposite to believe their own Prime Minister or are they to continue to repeat the lie that this Government’s predecessors did nothing? They must either believe their Prime Minister or perjure themselves.

Mr Johnson:

– Does the honorable member believe what the Prime Minister said to-day?

Mr PROWSE:

– The honorable member claims to believe in the Prime Minister. I tried hard to believe in the Prime Minister until I found him in association with the Minister for Labour and National Service. The Prime Minister also said -

During the absence of the Prime Minister abroad, Mr. Fadden set a standard of service to Australia and of association with Parliament which I greatly admire. I believe that during the past four months there has been a vigorous development of the policy for which the Prime Minister (Mr. Menzies) himself stands.

Those statements were made voluntarily; they were not made in a secretconference, but were placed publicly on record. The Sydney Morning Herald of the 20th October, 1941, reported the following statement by the Prime Minister to a press conference on the occasion of his taking office: - _ The Navy was at the highest pitch of efficiency as demonstrated by the exploits of some of its ships overseas. The Home Defence Army waa well trained, and its equipment had been greatly improved. The strength of the Air Force had been largely increased, both in respect of Home Defence Squadrons and the training resources of the Empire Defence Scheme. The equipment of the Air Force had also been much improved.

I want the House to realize that, when the war first loomed on the horizon, no standards of defence existed in this country. The Menzies and Fadden Governments had to start from scratch.

Mr Ward:

– Who was to blame for that?

Mr PROWSE:

– Statements made by the Prime Minister himself are proof that everything that could have been done by those governments for the defence of Australia was done by them. Further, the present Government has not dismissed the capable men whom previous governments appointed to organize our war effort. The Prime Minister has been frank enough to admit that the change of government did not make any vastdifference in that respect. This is what the Prime Minister told a Labour meeting in Sydney in October, 1942, after his Government had been twelve months in office -

I have to pay tribute to the governments which preceded my own for the constructive work they have done in defence, and the foundations they have laid. The Labour movement accepted responsibility for not making preparations for war; it thought the world had finished with the determination of disputes in that fashion.

For the benefit of the Minister for Labour and National Service, I repeat that in that statement the Prime Minister reasonably apportioned the responsibility of previous governments as far as our war effort is concerned. A government politically akin to the present Government was primarily to blame for the weakening of our defences ; and a portion of the blame must be accepted by succeeding governments for not having rectified that position. Here i3 the kind of statement by responsible members of the present Ministry to which I have been referring. Speaking at Moree recently, the Minister for Commerce and Agriculture (Mr. Scully) referred in detail to the failure of the previous Government to take adequate measures to provide for the defence of Australia. He said that it was an act of Providence that the Labour Administration had come into power when it had. “ I feel “, he said, “ that this fact no doubt saved Australia from a probable Japanese invasion”. That is an instance of a responsible Minister, who is in a position to do very great harm, disagreeing with the Prime Minister.

When the harvesting award was issued by the federal Wheat Harvest Employment Commission, I protested to the Prime Minister on the ground that such action was in contradiction of his broad statement that he desired to make the war effort our primary responsibility - that when we had ensured a continuance of our freedom we should then be able to settle all other matters. He said that our primary consideration was to keep our country free. The appointment of this tribunal was in no way connected with the war effort. Indeed, its existence was a disrupting factor in primary industry. I am pleased to note that the Government has referred this matter to a more appropriate tribunal. The Wheat Harvest Employment Commission was one-sided. In my letter to the Prime Minister I said -

I would like to say, most solemnly, that when your Government assumed office I resolved to regard the successful prosecution of the war as paramount over all other considerations, and to give your Government all possible help to that end. However, in the light of the above-mentioned disuniting and contentious actions, and other similar legislation on the part of your Government, which I need not enumerate to you. it makes the carrying out of my earlier resolve most difficult, your own public statements calling for unity in the Commonwealth, I regret to say, are in the main, thwarted by the party political actions of your Government.

T gave the Prime Minister that warning. I endeavoured in an impartial manner to see this Government through in the interests of Australia. But 1 found it impossible to follow that course because of the actions of the Government. I had every reason for relinquishing my position as Chairman of Committees in this House. I was convinced that the Prime Minister was siding with certain members of his Cabinet, who openly admitted that they were endeavouring to bring in socialism in this country. The Prime Minister said that he did not favour such a policy. Nevertheless, those Ministers made their intentions plain by their actions. That constituted a breach of faith with me, and with the honorable member for Perth (Mr. Nairn) while he was Speaker. It is evident to me that such Ministers do not understand what is really meant by fighting to maintain the freedom of our country. Unlike the Labour party in the Mother Country, they are not prepared to sacrifice certain party political considerations in order to obtain unity in the community, by forming a national government in order to fight our common enemy and to maintain our freedom.

Mr JOHNSON:
Kalgoorlie

– In submitting this motion the Leader of the Opposition (Mr. Fadden) seeks to destroy a government that has saved Australia. That is not an idle statement. It is substantiated by the hard, cold facts revealed by a comparison of the position in this country when the present Government took office, with our position to-day. The Opposition now seeks to destroy a government that has proved itself capable of galvanizing our people to a maximum war effort and of organizing the country efficiently for its defence. In order to achieve this objective, drastic inroads have been made into the man-power resources of many of our vital industries. When the present Government took office, our fighting forces were dangerously short of man-power and equipment. Labour was urgently needed to provide aerodromes, roads, bridges and various forms of transport. All this work had to be done as quickly as possible. Australia was racing against time. I gained my first intimation of the seriousness of our position when I’ discussed with the Treasurer (Mr. Chifley) the man-power position in the gold-mining industry in Western Australia. I was so disturbed by the facts disclosed to me that I pleaded with the Prime Minister (Mr. ‘Curtin) to give me permission to enter the stronghold of my electorate for the purpose of advising the people in that area of the demands which must inevitably be made upon the man-power in the industry. Those facts were definite evidence that the Menzies and Fadden Governments had made no provision whatever for the protection of Western Australia. However, unlike many people, I did not shirk my responsibility in the matter. I had learned sufficient to convince me that Australia could be saved only if the greatest possible use was made immediately of our man-power. When the history of Australia’s defence in this war is told many of our politicians will be revealed in a very unfavorable light. It will be shown that whilst they were aware of the dangers threatening this country they lacked the necessary courage to stand up to their responsibilities, because they feared unfavorable political reactions as the result of any action they might take to make the requisite manpower available for the defence of this country.

This Government, which the motion seeks to condemn, devoted its attention to the undefended parts of the Commonwealth, and stepped up the production of war materials, with the result that the Prime Minister was able to announce only recently that Australia was reasonably safe from invasion. What a transformation! The honorable member for Warringah (Mr. Spender) sought to make capital out of a statement which I had made regarding what he referred to as the “Moore River line”. Does the honorable member suggest that the Labour Government could correct, in a few months, all the deficiencies that it inherited from its predecessor? As Minister for the Army in the previous Government, the honorable member must accept his share of the responsibility for deciding to abandon to the Japanese a large portion of Western Australia. Even aerodromes were not available. When American air crews arrived at Broome on the afternoon preceding an enemy attack on that town, they warned the citizens that if the Japanese were to launch a raid, the Allied planes would not be able to leave the ground because of the unsuitability of the aerodrome. When the Japanese raided Broome, the aircraft were destroyed on the ground.

The long coast-line of Western Australia was virtually undefended. I say, in reply to the innuendoes made by the honorable member for Warringah, that I had intended at one period to visit Broome and Wyndham. I discussed my projected tour with the officer in charge of the defence of Western Australia, Major-General Plant, who advised me that the Army had reached the decision to abandon the whole of the north-west. When I questioned him on the matter, he said that the Moore River, 65 miles from Perth, was the most northern part of the State that would be defended. MajorGeneral Plant advised me that this intention was a strict Army secret, and I informed him that I would respect his confidence as far as I was able, but that I considered it my duty to visit every executive body within the area proposed to be abandoned for the purpose of protesting against the Army’s decision. I do not wish to imply that Major-General Plant was responsible for the plan. With the meagre forces and equipment, at his disposal, he was unable to defend the whole of Western Australia. On many occasions I discussed bottlenecks with the then Minister for the Army (Mr. Spender) but no remedial steps were ever taken. The Labour Government galvanized the war effort, and improved the defences of the State.

Men were called up from many industries for military service, and, unfortunately, politicians, who knew that recruits were required for the Army and for the Allied Works Council, challenged the Government’s action in withdrawing men from industry. How could our Army have been strengthened and our defences improved without additional personnel? I received the following letter from the municipality of Geraldton, dated the 20th April, 1942:-

In recent weeks there has been evidence of an improvement with defence matters, particularly as it affects Geraldton, and the activities here indicate that something much more satisfactory is being arranged in regard to defending Geraldton in the event of enemy attack.

From what the council knows of your activities in this matter, we feel that the people of Geraldton are indebted to you for the influence you have brought to bear with the powers that be and that the improvements shown must bc, to some extent, due to your efforts. It is therefore the desire of the council, on behalf of the people generally, that you be informed how much we appreciate what you have done in this matter.

Although the members of the Opposition have condemned the Government, “they cannot agree among themselves, and in the circumstances it is futile for them to seek the support of the people at this critical moment. When I became a member of this chamber, the anti-Labour group consisted of two parties. Now there are three parties, and after this motion is defeated there might be four parties, because the National Service Group, headed by the right honorable member for Kooyong (Mr. Menzies), will not retain all its members and there will be another breakaway. How can they expect the people to place their trust in an Opposition which -cannot achieve unity within its own ranks? Honorable members opposite have accused the Government of neglecting to take action against strikers. We admit that strikes have occurred, and we deeply regret them. The eff orts and influence of every member of the Labour party has been directed towards securing a cessation of industrial turmoil, but the problem is most difficult. The workers are not always responsible for stoppages. Having had many years of experience as a trade union secretary, I know that workers are reluctant to go on strike. When they cease work, they consider they have a just reason for doing so. The right honorable member for North Sydney (Mr. Hughes) has said, when a stupid suggestion has been made by honorable members opposite for combating strikes, that men are not prepared to go home to their families without their weekly pay envelope unless a vital principle is at stake. Strikes cannot be justified at this critical period, and every worker must pull his weight if the country is to avert the danger of invasion. But many strikes are fomented by men of the calibre of honorable members opposite. I shall cite an instance. The staff and the rolling stock of the EastWest railway has been overtaxed in order to convey troops and equipment to Western Australia, and trains have been 24 hours behind schedule because the Army has priority over the traffic, and locomotives are breaking down through overwork and lack of attention. But the honorable member for Forrest (Mr. Prowse) suggested to me that the train in which we were travelling was “ running on time for a change “ and expressed the view that a lot of sabotage must have occurred previously along the line. His mind can work in only one direction. He had never sought to ascertain the truth. He did not know that fitters had been despatched from South Australia to assist in the overhaul of locomotives. He placed the blame on the man on the footplate, and hinted that sabotage was the reason for the late running. Men with evil minds of that kind are always ready to put the blame on the workers. The engine-drivers on the East- West line have done a good job, and by their untiring efforts and devotion to duty have contributed to the security of Western Australia.

Last November, I accompanied the Minister for Air (Mr. Drakeford) to the north-west of Western Australia, and I was gratified with the defence preparations that had been undertaken by the Commonwealth Labour Government. The previous Government had not even attempted to construct strategic roads in that area. The honorable member for Forrest is afraid to explain the position.

Mr PROWSE:

– Ask .the Prime Minister to explain the position.

Mr JOHNSON:

– Did the honorable member protest to the Government which he supported? He did not, because he did not know .the position. He was not aware of the defenceless condition of Western Australia. As an Australian, I was proud to see the transformation that has occurred since the Labour Government took office. Our fighting men in Western Australia are now well equipped to meet any attack.

Mr PROWSE:

– Who was responsible for that?

Mr JOHNSON:

– The present Government.

Mr PROWSE:

– In what period?

Mr JOHNSON:

– Is that important? The vital thing to be borne in mind is that the Labour Government acted in time to save this country.

Although this motion will get the support of honorable members opposite, not more than 25 per cent, of the general public will favour it. Australians generally will be disgusted with the Opposition for launching a time-wasting motion that will not get us anywhere. Honorable members opposite have criticized workers for going on strike, but they are impeding the war effort and delaying the business of the country in order to ventilate petty grievances and make electioneering speeches. Personally, I am ready at any time to face my constituents. I shall not “ squib “ or run away from the issue. On a previous occasion, I went straight to the workers and told thom that the country was in desperate straits and they must not go on strike if they desired, to keep Australia immune from invasion. What happened? An anti-labour senator hastened to Kalgoorlie because he thought that he would be able to make political capital at my expense. Let him go to Kalgoorlie now and attempt to damage my reputation ! The people appreciate the courage I have shown with regard to the matter. The criticism levelled at the Government for the control it has exercised over man-power and for its rationing scheme is wholly unjustified, because it must be admitted that the internal position of Australia would have been much more serious than it is but for the action of the Government. The Minister for War Organization of Industry (Mr. Dedman) has been roundly abused because of the restrictions which he has found it necessary to impose, and the Opposition has seized the opportunity to make political capital out of the activities of his department. I deplore the time-wasting tactics of the Opposition in bringing about this debate. It has tried without success to patch up its internal quarrels, and I am sure that the people generally are wholly dissatisfied with it.

Mr HUTCHINSON:
Deakin

– One of the mo3t curious sidelights on the debate is the fact that honorable members opposite are prepared to bandy about what they themselves admit is secret military information. We have just heard from the honorable member for Kalgoorlie (Mr. Johnson) that there was a plan to abandon certain parts of

Northern Australia in the event of a Japanese invasion. The honorable member stated that the information had been given to him in secret, but he admitted that he discussed the matter among certain executives.

Mr Johnson:

– I did not use the press, but I conferred confidentially with the executive bodies of all organizations in my electorate.

Mr HUTCHINSON:

– That is most extraordinary. I can well imagine that service leaders are wondering whether there is full confidence between the Government and its defence advisers. In the absence of such confidence the situation would be serious. The honorable member failed to tell the House that the defence policy of this country was evolved by the Advisory War Council, which then included members of his own political party. If any blame is to be laid at the door of the Menzies and Fadden Governments it must be shared by the present Government, but the fact remains that “the Brisbane line” plan came to light only after the Curtin Government had assumed office. Therefore, no slur can be placed on any administration with which members of the Opposition were associated. The Leader of the Opposition (Mr. Fadden) does not claim to be one of the world’s greatest orators, but he speaks with clarity and knows how to marshal his facts. He dealt in this debate with specific points directly bearing on the war effort of Australia, and we know that if we are to have a satisfactory war effort there must be complete co-operation on the home front. In his reply to the Leader of the Opposition, the Prime Minister (Mr. Curtin) was, I am sure, as disappointing to members of his own party as he was to the Opposition. It was a most evasive speech, for the right honorable gentleman completely dodged the irrefutable arguments of the Leader of the Opposition. He told the House and the country that practically all that had been achieved during the last twenty months had been due to him and the members of his Government. It was rather amusing to hear him suggest that Mr. Churchill and Mr. Roosevelt had at last “ seen the light “, and had adopted the strategy advocated by his Government ever since it came into power. In other words, Le claimed that Australia had assumed the leadership in Allied strategy. It would he very foolish for Australia to arrogate to itself a dominant voice in the world’s councils. I remember a gentleman, no other than the present Prime Minister, stating in the early days of the war that the role of this country would be mainly that of a producer of foodstuffs and raw materials. It was the same gentleman who, when speaking on a defence bill, said that there should be no conscription of Australians for service outside Australia, even to the territories o’f Australia. When I heard the Prime Minister refer to the position in New Guinea, and the way in which the Japanese had been driven back, thus saving Port Moresby, I wondered whether he was the same gentleman who completely under-estimated the needs of the situation a short year or so ago. Then the Minister for Labour and National Service (Mr. Ward) spoke of the inevitability of war with Japan,, as if he had 3een the war coming. At page 1149 of volume 187 of Hansard, the Minister said - lt is amazing to hear people say we shall not give up New Guinea. To those people I should say that if it should become necessary to defend our Mandated Territory they should defend it themselves.

At page 823 of Hansard, volume 161, the Minister is reported to have said -

Members of the Opposition have no objection to the Government having the power to raise forces in the Territories for local defence purposes, but we take very strong exception to its arrogating to itself the power to compel Australian troops to go OUt of this country and defend these particular territories.

Is it not curious that the party which is responsible for the shocking state into which our defences were allowed to drift, and which completely under-estimated the true position of Australia at the outbreak of war, to-day poses as the saviour of the nation? We find the Prime Minister posing as the pilot, who, having weathered the storm, is now able to say to the people, “ We are safe now, and alone we did it all “. To Mr. Churchill and Mr. Roosevelt the Prime Minister exclaims, “ What grand people we are. We have at last been able to induce you to accept our idea of global strategy “. Of course, as time has gone on the war situation has improved.

Tunis and Bizerta have fallen. Pantellaria is no longer an Italian possession. The Mediterranean is a British lake, and the relief to our shipping is tremendous. The British Navy is more powerful than it has ever been. It is so strong in the Atlantic that large numbers of vessels of the American Fleet have been able to move to the Pacific area. The war factories of ‘Great Britain and the United States of America are to-day pouring out their supplies. If increased supplies are to flow to the Pacific area and to Burma and other parts of the East, it is not due to the advice given by this Government, but rather to the factors which I have already mentioned.

In the course of his speech the Prime Minister stated that we could not expect normal conditions to be maintained during the war. He also spoke of the peril in which this country was placed. I agree with him in regard to both statements, but one would have imagined that he, if he believed them - and I have no doubt that he did - would have agreed to something being done about the administration of the country. The last elections were unsatisfactory from the point of view of all parties. No one party was returned with a majority. So evenly balanced were the parties that the common-sense course would have been to form a stable administration to see the country through this difficult period. It was obvious that in war-time it would be necessary to reorganize the nation, to plan, to acquire, and in a dozen ways to interfere with the nation’s commercial and industrial life. It was desirable, therefore, that men who had had experience in different walks of life should have been called together to form an all-party administration, so as to give the people an example of unity in the higher spheres of public life. The person who must take the responsibility for failing to bring this about is the present Prime Minister. He has been the arch opponent of any real unity in this Parliament. As the Leader of the Opposition pointed out, the parties on this side have time and time again offered to co-operate in the formation of a national government, but their offer has been refused. The result is that there is now more class enmity in the country than ever before, and there is maladministration by people with little knowledge of the work that they were called upon to do. It is because we believe that the proper government of the country is being hindered by these factors that we make no apology for submitting the present motion. It is clear that the Government does not truly represent the people. It backs and fills at the behest of a trades hall junta. It is evident that the real bosses of the Government are not the people of Australia, but those who meet in trades halls in Sydney and Melbourne, and dictate the policy of the Government even in military matters. Moreover, the men at the head of the trade unions frequently do not represent the views of the workers. That was amply demonstrated on the coal-fields recently when matters arising out of a miner’s convention were put to the ballot, and of a total of 10,550 who were qualified to vote only 334 showed sufficient interest to do so. Decisions are made, not by lie rank and file of the unions, but by a small coterie. “When they, in turn, dominate the Parliament, we have a prostitution of democracy which cannot be tolerated. Therefore, we take this opportunity to bring the Government before the people as soon as possible.

This outside dictation to Parliament has led to an abuse of freedom which is exemplified in the application of backdoor methods to bring about compulsory unionism. There has also been abuse of law as demonstrated by the case of the two union secretaries who attempted to organize a strike upon what Mr. Theodore described as vital defence work. These men were exonerated of all blame by the Attorney-General, and we are still awaiting his explanation of his action. It is apparent that if union secretaries are to be placed above the law, there is little hope of enforcing the law against unionists generally. It is no wonder, therefore, that there has been an increase of the number of strikes and industrial disputes in Australia, which was extremely damaging to the war effort and injurious to the dignity of the country. Socialistic measures introduced by the Government have resulted in the ruin of thousands of small traders, and jeopardized the rights which we have set out to defend. If the Government abuses the nation’s confidence, and introduces partisan measures designed to benefit one section of the community at the expense of others, it deserves censure. “When this Government took office we were led to believe that we should have industrial peace. We were told that a Labour government would get more out of the workers than would any other kind of government, and 1 must confess that some of us, in our more absent-minded moments, even thought that this might be so, but the reverse has been the case. During the last four years there have been no fewer than 1,733 strikes - 350 in 1940, 561 in 1941, and 602 in 1942. According to figures recently released, the number of industrial disputes for the months of January, February, and March of this year will number about 200. Is there any real reason for these disputes? Is it not a fact that we have the finest industrial arbitration machinery in the world? Is it not true that, since the war began, wages have risen constantly? War loadings have been granted, facilities not known in peace-time have been provided in factories, and welfare committees have succeeded in obtaining many benefits from managements; yet, at a time when the Japanese are almost on our door-step, the tendency to strike is greater than ever.

Reference has been made to the coal industry. I listened to the honorable member for Riverina (Mr. Langtry) saying how the miners were required to work up to their knees in water, and sometimes to crawl along on their bellies. That is quite untrue. Perhaps at times they are required to work in water, butso are a great many other workers at times. The fact is that the conditions under which coal-mining is carried on to-day are excellent. I do not know of any better working conditions anywhere than those which obtain in a fully mechanized mine. So long as certain precautions are taken the work is safe. The percentage of accidents is very little higher in this calling than in others, and it is admitted by the men themselves that when accidents do occur they are frequently due to carelessness or to greed which leads to neglect of proper safety precautions. What are the facts in regard to miners’ pay ? It is interesting to learn that the lowest paid adult labourer since the war has received a 3S per cent, increase of the daily rate, so that the lowest wage paid amounts to £6 2s. 6d. for a five-day week of 37-£ hours. AH employees have been granted two weeks’ annual leave, and a pensions scheme has been introduced, whereby, when a man retires at the age of 60, he and his wife become entitled to a pension of £3 5s. a week. In contract mining the average returns range in the northern collieries from 43s. a shift to 59s. 3d. a shift. In certain other collieries the average daily wage is even higher. However, in spite of these high wages and favorable conditions, we find that the incidence of absenteeism is very high. The following statement was made, not by representatives of the owners, but by a representative of the workers, Mr. W. Orr, a former general secretary, and now a federal representative on the Coal Commission. Mr. Orr is reported as follows : -

Mr. Orr explained that the coal stoppages accounted for a loss of 312,578 tons for the northern districts, 105,000 tons for the southern districts, and 32,400 tons for the western districts. Added to that was a loss through absenteeism which gave an aggregate loss of 750,000 tons, and this amount of coal represented in terms of steel 250,000 tons.

This enormous loss was caused by stoppages over a period of only twelve weeks. It is no wonder, therefore, that attention was drawn to this matter by the Leader of the Opposition and other speakers, because steel is indispensable to the war effort. Armies without equipment cannot obtain results. The Minister for Labour and National Service says that most of the trouble on the coal-fields is caused by the coal-owners. I shall quote a statement by Mr. “Wells, the president of the Miners Federation : “ Your officers are doing their best to obtain results, but for every case we got against the owners there are ten pending against the men.” Moreover, many of the stoppages are due to frivolous causes. Such a state of affairs should not be allowed to continue. I believe that most of the stoppages are the result of lack of control of the industry by successive governments. I certainly charge the present Government with not having taken a firm hold of this industry. The time has come for the irresponsible element in the trade unions movement to be controlled in the interests of the people. The country should not be endangered in time of war because of disputes over trivial matters.

Any one who knows the position existing at the Melbourne abattoirs knows that the gangs there are not working nearly as well as in normal peace-times. The output in certain busy periods has been between 10,000 and 12,000 fewer sheep and lambs a week than before the war started. .Slaughtermen to-day will not even consider working overtime, although overtime was worked before the war. Early this year, sheep died in the yard because they were not killed quickly enough.

Mr Dedman:

– Many of the younger men in the industry have been taken, and less efficient men have been brought in.

Mr HUTCHINSON:

– That is not so to any great degree. There is no reason why the rate of killing in pre-war days should not be maintained to-day. If a little overtime were worked, the killings each week would increase. Notwithstanding that sheep have died in the yards, slaughtermen sometimes leave work as early as 3 p.m., and go home. I am not conversant with conditions at the Homebush abattoirs, New South “Wales, but I believe that the position there is worse than it is in Melbourne. Both on the food front and on the steel front, there is absenteeism which the Government should not tolerate. “When the war broke out, the Government of Great Britain adopted two simple methods to increase the food supply. It raised the prices of commodities, and at the same time it raised the value of wages. Had similar steps been taken in this country, we would not have had the food problems which now confront us. For instance, butter rationing has been forced upon the people because of bungling in connexion with man-power problems.

Mr Dedman:

– I shall have something to say on that matter later.

Mr HUTCHINSON:

– I know that men were put into the Army to meet the danger from the Japanese, but the call-up that took place last year did not involvea great number of men. However, when. they were called up there was no equipment for them, nor was the organization ready to train them,

Mr Dedman:

– More men were taken out of rural industries by previous governments than by the present Government.

Mr HUTCHINSON:

– The last callup did the damage. I do not say that the present Government is entirely to blame because of lack of equipment, as I realize that time is required to equip large bodies of men. I do say, however, that thousands of the men who were called up were of little or no use to the Army, and would have been more useful had they been left on the food front. It may be possible to carry on a sheep station or a cattle station with a reduced staff, but that cannot be done in the dairying industry. Dairying involves, not only the milking of the cows, but also the ploughing of the land and the growth of fodder. [Extension of time granted-] I thank the House for granting me an extension of time. The calamity which has overtaken the dairying industry is of the Government’s own making, and I warn the Government that unless it studies the position with regard to meat there will be trouble in connexion with that commodity also. If we are to have reasonable conditions in these industries, seasonable fluctuations must be taken into consideration.

The rationing of manchester goods, which is the latest example of bungling on the part of the Government, will have the effect of driving numerous middle class families out of business.

Mr Dedman:

– The honorable member is considering the profits of the community rather than the needs of the people.

Mr HUTCHINSON:

– We are told that the reason for rationing manchester goods and for the obligation on purchasers to give coupons for them is an extreme shortage of such goods. I should like the Minister for War Organization of Industry to say whether or not that is correct.

Mr Dedman:

– I shall supply that information at the right time.

Mr HUTCHINSON:

– Goods in course of purchase on the lay-by system now require coupons. Will the Minister explain why the situation wa3 not known earlier and steps taken to remedy it?

Mr Dedman:

– What does the honorable member mean by that statement?

Mr HUTCHINSON:

– The shortage must have been known to the authorities who should have faced the situation earlier.

Mr Dedman:

– Does the honorable gentleman say that these goods should have been rationed earlier?

Mr HUTCHINSON:

– Much of the harshness associated with the present system of rationing could have been avoided if the situation had been tackled earlier. It is not fair to expect clothing coupons to be given in respect of goods which were in the process of purchase before the 5th June. Shortly before that date the Chairman of the Rationing Commission, Mr. Coles, who represents the electorate of Henty in this chamber, urged the people to hand back as many coupons a» possible, stating that the scale of values would not be greatly altered for the next rationing period. He certainly led the people to believe that no considerable degree of hardship would be imposed. The Government must have known the situation when the Chairman of the Rationing Commission made that statement, because the machinery for the rationing of manchester goods was not prepared in one night. These are pertinent questions which should be answered by the Government, and the honorable member for Henty. I hope that on reconsideration the Government will make coupon-free, goods which were in the process of purchase up to the 5th June. To do otherwise would be to act unjustly. Many small firms which have been dealing principally with materials for curtains and furniture coverings are facing the complete loss of their businesses. The materials in their establishments were, in many instances, either completed or in the process of manufacture, before the 5th June. Now, if the purchaser wants to collect the articles made from such materials he has to present coupons for them. That is decidedly unfair, and I hope that the matter will be further considered by the Government. Material for curtains and for loose chair covers, either in process of being made up or already made up, would not be suitable for any other purpose and would be wasted.

Mr Dedman:

– What about the firms that cut up that material in order to evade rationing?

M* HUTCHINSON.- If any did so they must have had prior advice from the Rationing Commission. Does the Minister for War Organization of Industry insinuate that the Rationing Commission would let its intentions be known ?

Mr Dedman:

– Leakages are bound to occur. Books have to be printed, and there are other reasons.

Mr HUTCHINSON:

– That is the fault of the commission or its employees. It does not remove’ the injustice that is being done to many small firms and to hundreds of purchasers on layby. It does not get over the public statements made by the honorable member for Henty, as Chairman of the Rationing Commission, that if the people returned unused coupons at the end of the last rationing period, they could rest assured that the scale of issue for this year would not be diminished. Doubtless, the Government must have known when such statements were being made by the honorable member for Henty that the clothing coupons issue would be diminished in this rationing period by holders of ration books having to give coupons for manchester goods.

Our points of attack have not been answered by the Government, but it will not be long before we shall take those points to the people. Neither this House nor the Government any longer has the confidence of the people. We have a Government that is creating class distinctions and dissension. The Labour party, since the beginning of this Parliament, has been the one party that has been against the establishment of unity in this country, and, because of that, we have been unable to attain the necessary degree of unity in Parliament that is a prerequisite to the unity :of the people, without which it is impossible to achieve a maximum war effort.

Mr Dedman:

– Did the honorable member not play a part in disrupting the Menzies Government?

Mr HUTCHINSON:

– I am not denying it for certain good reasons.

Mr Dedman:

– The honorable member is not denying it.

Mr HUTCHINSON:

– What has that to do with this question?

Mr Dedman:

– The honorable member was talking about unity.

Mr HUTCHINSON:

– Yes. More unity was achieved on this side. The right honorable member for Kooyong resigned on an offer to establish an allparty administration and to bring about greater unity. He even offered the Prime Ministership to the then Leader of the Opposition, but the offer was refused. Therefore the Labour party will have to answer before the people the charge that it is responsible for the failure to give to this country real unity. I hope that that time will not be far distant.

Mr BARNARD:
Bass

.If the only charge against this Government is that contained in the points made by the honorable member for Deakin (Mr. Hutchinson), and if those points are soon to be placed before the electors, I am quite certain what the result of the appeal will be. The honorable member for Deakin spoke for about 50 minutes, but made not one practical suggestion to overcome the difficulties that have been freely admitted from this side of the House, namely, the weaknesses on the home front. The honorable member said, amongst other things, that the points made by the Leader of the Opposition (Mr. Fadden) in his speech bore directly on the war effort, but they had very little, if anything, to do with the war effort as such. The Leader of the Opposition did draw pointed attention to some of the weaknesses -in the organization of our man-power and woman-power and to the time that has been lost owing to industrial holdups, but, like the honorable member for Deakin, he offered no remedy and no solution. We could all criticize things that have been done since the war began, but, unless we can suggest some remedy, criticism is not worthwhile. The honorable member for Deakin said that the Prime Minister evaded the charges levelled by the Leader of the Opposition, but my leader dealt with the outstanding issue of the day, namely, what this Government had done during its term of office to organize this country for -war. He pointed out the increased enlistments in the Army and the work that has been done to increase the output of armaments. Those seem to be the real things, the practical things, in organizing this country to wage war. Then the honorable member for Deakin referred to the suggestion that was made by the Prime Minister, when he was Leader of the Opposition, that Australia should send £1,000,000 worth of food to Great Britain.

Mr BAKER:
MARANOA, QUEENSLAND · ALP

– A very good offer.

Mr BARNARD:

– An excellent offer; and at that time it was practicable but the suggestion was not accepted by the then Government.

I offer the Leader of the Opposition my sympathy. He made very heavy weather of lids speech in support of his motion of want of confidence. I sympathize with Lim because I do not think that his heart was in the job. I believe that In; was jockeyed by the National Service group, the corner group associated with the Opposition, into the position of having to submit the motion. The honorable member for Deakin said that this party would have to answer in the electorates the charge of not accepting the offer of the present Opposition to form an allparty government, and suggested that, unless we could offer some acceptable explanation, the people would throw us out and replace us with some other government. But he has not explained to us, or to the country, just whence that Government will come, or what will be the constructive policy which will remove the difficulties that confront us and will organize the country, as the honorable gentleman says it should be organized, in the interests of the people as a whole. Let us examine the Opposition. It is constituted of the so-called United Australia party and the so-called United Country party, and we have sitting on the same benches the National Service group, which so far has not reached the height of having the word “ united “ as a part of its title. How the word can be applied to the Country party or to its partner in opposition has not been made very clear. The plain fact is, as has been pointed out by the Prime Minister, that we took charge of the treasury bench because of the disintegration of ihe parties opposite. They fell to pieces because of disorganization within their own ranks, and the honorable member for Deakin rendered conspicuous service in bringing about that disintegration. The process which led to the downfall of the Menzies Government and then of the Fadden Government has continued since the parties opposite have been in opposition. The Opposition has been split into fragments, and talk about lack of unity and strikes does not come well from it.

Mr Makin:

– The Opposition parties are incapable of leadership.

Mr BARNARD:

– Yes. Who is the leader on the other side? Is it the right honorable member for Darling Downs (Mr. Fadden) ? He is described as the Leader of the Opposition, but we on this side can be pardoned for wondering whether he really is or whether it is the right honorable member for Kooyong (Mr. Menzies) or the honorable member for Warringah (Mr. Spender). There seem to be several other aspirants for leadership.

Mr Dedman:

– Yes, even the honorable member for Deakin.

Mr BARNARD:

– I understand that he is a candidate. Then what about the honorable member for Barker (Mr. Archie Cameron) ? Is he not a candidate for the leadership? So it goes on. The right honorable member for North Sydney (Mr. Hughes) is the leader of the so-called United Australia party. The honorable member for Robertson (Mr. Spooner) will not deny that two candidates run for the same job on his side of the House, because he will not have forgotten that he owes his seat in this Parliament to his having defeated the former Whip of his own party at the general elections of 1937. I am left wondering how honorable gentlemen opposite have the temerity to talk about unity, especially when I cast my eyes at a little booklet entitled, Mr. Menzies and Unity, by W. M. Hughes, which was sent to me by it3 author.

Sir Frederick Stewart:

– The Minister for the Army built his speech on that booklet.

Mr BARNARD:

– There are a few more gems left in it for me to read. It is a reprint of a broadcast made by the right honorable member for North Sydney from station 2TJW on the 6th April, 1943. In this booklet, the right honorable member for North Sydney states -

A week from the clay when the ballot confirmed my leadership, they handed me a letter signed by seventeen members notifying me that it was their intention to form a national service group, but that although they remained within the party they could not attend party meetings under existing conditions.

The first thing to be said about this latest development of the intrigues of a reactionary clique is that it is a palpable sham - a smoke screen to cover the real purpose of these party saboteurs.

These men, whom their leader describes as party saboteurs, compose the Opposition.

They pretend that they are “gravely anxious “ about many vitally important matters, which they allege justified their action. But the real reason is that they failed to depose me and put Mr. Menzies in my place. Had they succeeded we should not have heard a word about any of these things about which they pretend they are so “ gravely anxious “. On the other hand, the imperative need for unity and loyalty to the leader would have been shouted from the house tops. For a brief season the intriguers might have ceased to plot, but after a short breathing spell would most certainly have concentrated all their forces against Mr. Fadden, for nothing short of leadership of the combined parties will satisfy Mr. Menzies - or them. They know by a sure instinct that he is the man for them, that in his capable hands the new order will be reserved for the right kind of people - their kind.

On Saturday, Mr. Menzies spoke over the air; he was heard all over Australia. The title of his talk was “ Happenings at Canberra ‘», but beyond saying that “ seventeen of us had decided to form a group - the National Service Group “ - and that there would be no doubt some criticism of their action, he said nothing at all of those happenings at Canberra in which he had played so prominent a part, but at once launched an attack on the policy of the Labour Government. He covered the whole field with one wide sweep of condemnation.

The Parliament had not discussed the war; there were still two armies; the amendment to the Militia Bill was a poor miserable substitute for that broad national policy our circumstances imperatively called for; Labour’s financial policy was just heading for inflation, already the fi was only worth los. ; the industrial policy of the Government was one dictated by the unions; the fighting services upon whose valour and endurance the very existence of the country depended were not paid overtime. The remedy for all this and much more, for I make no pretence to cover the whole of Mr. Menzies’ speech, was - so he told his listeners - the National Service Group which had been formed under those intriguing circumstances about which he forbore to say one solitary word.

Once more I remind the people of Australia that he was a member of the Executive that formulated, and of the party which endorsed, the policy of the party. For all that the party has done or failed to do, for its policy on all the matters referred to in his speech, he and his supporters, Senators McLeay and Mc]3 rid( and Mr. Harrison are responsible.

He talks about one Army! He was Prime Minister for the first two- years of the war, he could have merged the forces, but he did nothing. He is contemptuous about the miserable amendment of the Militia Bill - but when he had the power he did not even attempt to extend the area in which our Militia could be made available!

Ho expresses alarm at rising prices, about strikes, absenteeism, lack of food and manpower organization - but when these great bunting questions about which he professes to be so concerned are brought up for discussion in Parliament he is either absent or silent!

He deplores double and treble rates for overtime, but if men are getting double or treble rates it is because awards of courts and tribunals that he appointed or supported have so determined. And Mr. Menzies must accept his full share of responsibility for all that these tribunals and courts have done.

Under our parliamentary system of government, majorities rule. This applies with especial force to the popular chamber which makes and unmakes governments. In this chamber the Government has a majority, but the group has only seven members - of whom four come from South Australia.

That is the hard core of conservatism to which I have referred.

The honorable member for Wakefield interjecting,

Mr BARNARD:

– Recently, I visited South Australia, and from a controversy which was raging in the local press, I learned that the honorable member for Wakefield (Mr. Duncan-Hughes) either actively discouraged people from subscribing to the last £100,000,000 war loan, or he damned the loan with faint praise. Such an attitude on the part of a member of this Parliament is despicable. The right honorable member for North Sydney, in his booklet, continued -

Seven is considered in certain circles a lucky number, but in a House of 75 it will not cut much ice. It can, of course, help to keep the Government in, but it certainly cannot put it out. Yet this is the one thing it must do if it is to justify its existence. Beyond making a noise and providing the Labour party with ammunition to use against the Opposition at the election, the group in the House of Representatives will be as helpless as a beetle on its back. As an integral part of a united Opposition mustering half the House - less the two independents - they could do something effective - as a party of seven they can do nothing.

The action of the men in this group of wreckers has dealt a shattering blow at our prospects of obtaining it.

I should not have referred to that booklet because I do not like to make quotations of that kind a feature of a speech. However, when a group within the Opposition stays out of the party room but throws into it an ultimatum that if the Leader of the Opposition does not move a motion of no confidence in the Government they will do so, and the Opposition as a whole supports such a motion upon such flimsy grounds without attempting to offer any constructive criticism whatever, supporters of the Government must combat the attackers by using the latter’s own methods. It is for that reason that I have taken this opportunity to have recorded in Hansard what the right honorable member for North Sydney has publicly stated with regard to his colleagues.

The Leader of the Opposition stressed the fact that the Government consults the trade unions on matters of policy. I make no apology in that respect. By securing the collaboration of the trade union movement, the Government has brought about the complete conscription of man-power in this country. The workers have agreed to go wherever their services can best be utilized in the prosecution of the war. Five years ago I did not think that such an achievement was possible. However, we must face the facts. Men have been transferred, for instance, from Hobart to places as far north as Townsville, and even to New Guinea itself, to work in .the Civil Constructional Corps which is under the control of the Allied Works Council. That body, despite all its weaknesses and defects, and the criticism which has been levelled against it by some honorable members on the ground of its expenditure, has done a wonderful job with men who have been up-rooted from their private lives and transferred to all parts of the Common- wealth. That achievement has been made possible by the Government’s policy of consultation with trade union leaders. Without the whole-hearted co-operation of the men and women of this country we could not achieve a maximum war effort. It is true that industrial troubles have occurred. No democratic country is entirely free of such disturbances. For example, over 500,000 miners are at present on strike in the United States of America; and Britain, despite bombing attacks upon its cities, has not been free from industrial disputes. The blame for these disturbances cannot be laid solely at the door of .the workers. Many of them are caused by people whom the Prime Minister has described as “ stooges “ who want to foment trouble in order to be able to use such disturbances to the disadvantage of the workers in an endeavour to delude the people into believing that our men and women are not pulling their weight in this conflict. To those who are loud in their condemnation of the working men and women of this country I say they should be complimenting our people on the magnificent war effort they are making. To-day, we hear much talk about absenteeism in iudustry, particularly in respect of females. To some degree such absenteeism is to be expected, because the bulk of women now employed in war industries have been transferred from occupation? with which they have been associated nearly all their lives and are best suited, to engineering works and similar undertakings. They deserve our highest praise for the work they have already achieved, but honorable members opposite offer nothing but adverse criticism of them. Such an attitude is unworthy of members of the national Parliament. I shall examine some of the reasons for absenteeism. A young woman received word that her fiance had been wounded while serving in the Middle East, and she absented herself from her employment for two or three days in order to recover from the shock. When the fiance returned to Australia after having been abroad for three years, they were married and she absented herself from work for a month. In my opinion, that form of absenteeism is quite excusable. Probably there are also frivolous reasons for absenteeism, but, at the same time, our women have rendered to Australia wonderfully loyal service and they deserve the gratitude of the nation for it.

Some honorable members have complained that the Labour party has omitted to reply to criticism of its actions which has been published in the press from time to time. I propose to quote from an article that appeared in the Hobart Mercury on the 22nd April. In an address to the Australian Women’s National League, the honorable member for Denison (Mr. Beck) urged the “ serious danger to the war effort of the Government’s pre-occupation with socialistic legislation. The National Service group of the United Australia party, he said, had been formed to fight properly and not to conduct a sham fight “.

Mr James:

– Boots and all !

Mr BARNARD:

– That is so. The honorable member for Denison then proceeded to give to his audience examples of how trade unions dictated to the Government. According to the press report -

Mr. Beck said a dredger was taken from one port to another. The union concerned dictated the terms. Fourteen days were occupied in the trip, and the men were returned to their port first class. The captain received £180 for the fortnight and the cook’s assistant £05. That was typical of what was going on.

Can any one imagine a greater libel on the men who go down to the sea in ships? These men contracted to do a certain job and they take their lives in their hands, as seamen do, particularly in these perilous times. They delivered their ship in a fortnight. If the voyage had taken six weeks, they would not have been paid any more money. Yet the honorable member for Denison cited that as a “ typical example of what trade unions are doing in the Commonwealth “. It is not worthy of a member of this Parliament to use such scurrilous arguments. The honorable member also informed his audience -

A cook in the Civil Construction Corps had a job of boiling the billy. One day he worked for 24 hours. He received £35 for the week. Men had earned £12 10s. a day for working a shift up to their knees in water. Soldiers were fighting in mud to their knees for Cs. or 7s. a day. There was nothing sincere about the Government.

If the United Australia party Government which the honorable member sup ported had remained in office, the soldiers would have been fighting for less than 6s. or 7s. a day. It is cant and humbug to use that kind of propaganda to poison the minds of citizens with the object of damaging the reputation of the Government and the workers who are rendering such yeoman service to the country. At the time this article appeared, the Minister for Repatriation (Mr. Frost) and I were in Hobart and after consultation we decided that the Minister should submit to the Mercury a reply to the remarks of the honorable member for Denison. That reply was never published. (Extension of time granted.] I now place the reply on record in Hansard. It reads -

page 98

ATTACK ON CURTIN GOVERNMENT

Social Legislation and Wah

The Minister for Repatriation, Mr. C. W Frost, referred iri strong terms yesterday to the attack on the Curtin Government made by Mr. Beck, M.H.R., in an address to a meeting of the Australian Women’s National League, at Hobart, on Wednesday.

Commenting on Mr. Beck’s statement that the present Government was not fit to be trusted with the government of Australia, Mr. Frost said that he felt quite sure that Mr. Beck was quite out of touch with the actual views of the people of Australia as to the outstanding work which had been done by Mr. Curtin and his Government since it assumed office eighteen months ago. The Government of which Mr. Beck was a member appeared to have done very little when it was in office, but yet men like Mr. Beck had the temerity to criticize the efforts of the present Government as being of a socialistic nature.

As far as the Militia proposals of the Government were concerned it was really astounding to find men like Mr. Beck stating that his party had supported a bill to extend the area of Militia service as much as they hated it.. Surely, Mr. Beck was aware that the step taken by the Labour Government had been done as a result of deliberate conference by the Prime Minister with General MacArthur and other leaders of the Allied Forces.

As far as the “ socialistic “ allegations were concerned and Mr. Beck’s particular reference to the National Welfare Fund Bill as being a confidence trick, Mr. Frost pointed out that what would be a confidence trick would be to toll the people of the world that they were fighting for a new order and after victory had been won to have made no provision for the establishment of such a new order.

It was somewhat extraordinary, added Mr. Frost, that Mr. Beck should have associated himself with a new party known as the National Service Group immediately following a meeting of the Opposition at which Mr. W. M. Hughes’ leadership was established in no unmistakable terms by 25 votes to 15. Mr. Beck stated that his group “ still accepted Mr. Hughes as leader until they could change him “ - as all Australia and the world knew Mr. Hughes, despite his age, was still a man of outstanding ability in national affairs and had given, like the Leader of the Opposition, Mr. Fadden, generous support to the Curtin Government in the conduct of our war effort.

In his address to the members of the Women’s National League, concluded Mr. Frost, Mr. Beck admitted that his party had been sham-fighting during the time his party had been in office. This, said Mr. Frost, seemed an extraordinary statement coining from a man representing the electors of Hobart, at a time when real fighting was the one essential to victory.

An attack of another character appeared in a Tasmanian newspaper. A few weeks ago, the Labour Government created a record by the completion of 612 days in office without an alteration in the personnel of Cabinet. In a leading article on the subject, the newspaper used this record as an argument against the Government. It said -

It was announced a few days ago that the Curtin Government had established a federal record by the completion of 612 days in office without a change either in membership or the allocation of portfolios. The previous best was the611 days of the second Fisher Government some 30 years ago. Records in politics, it would appear, are now watched as closely as in cricket or racing. A significant feature of these records is that Labour governments make them. The reason is to be found in the manner of selecting the members of a Labour Government. They are the choice, not of the Prime Minister but of the caucus. A Minister in a Labour Government is not there by invitation of his chief, the caucus voted him there, and only the caucus can remove him. He may be a thorn in the side of the Prime Minister and a constant worry to him and to the majority of the Cabinet, but the party has put him there and he stays put.

That statement is untrue, because the Prime Minister has the right at any time to remove a Minister from office. This unfair method of attack is adopted consistently by most of the capitalist newspapers throughout Australia against the Labour Government which has performed such a wonderful work in accelerating Australia’s preparations for defence, and in keeping the enemy from our shores.

The honorable member for Deakin (Mr. Hutchinson) referred to the “ food front “. I direct the attention of the House to remarks made by the honorable member for Ballarat (Mr. Pollard), on the 25th September, 1941. Referring to the call-up of men for military service, he said -

To-day, the Government was asked what action it proposes to take in the direction of relaxing the obligation imposed on certain compulsory military trainees in order not to deplete unduly the supply of labour available for harvesting operations. The Minister replied that the matter is receiving consideration. It is so important and urgent that not only consideration but also immediate action is demanded. A letter addressed to me reads -

I do wonder if you can give any advice re the problem of labour for the forthcoming harvest. I am in a predicament, as I am on my own farm of 150 acres of crop to stack and stook.

Shortly afterwards, I made the following observations : -

I join with the honorable member for Ballarat (Mr. Pollard) in urging action by the Government in relation to the supply of labour for harvesting and dairying operations. In reply to a question that I asked, the Minister for the Army (Mr. Spender) informed me that he is looking into the matter. I stress its urgency. Clearly, unless labour be available for harvesting operations, the harvest cannot be garnered. The problem is a serious one. The same conditions apply to dairyfarmers, whose operations are adversely affected because of the scarcity of labour, caused partly by the call-up for compulsory military training.

I read those passages because it is important for the House to be advised of what occurred before the Labour Government took office. The attention of the Menzies Government was definitely directed to the shortage of labour in rural industries. Farmers also pointed out to me personally that the lack of man-power in the dairying industry constituted a serious problem. Therefore the depletion of our farm labour was not the sole responsibility of the Labour Government. The blame, if any, must be shared by Labour and anti-Labour governments alike. If our man-power had been organized in the early days of the war. as it should have been, and as it was after the Labour Government took office, the position would have been much better. When a government is solidly supported and has a splendid record of achievement in regard to the conduct of the war, and is planning for the post-war era, I believe that electors will return it.

After all, the people need a government of action, not only for the prosecution of the war but for the planning of the peace, if we are to bring about the condition of affairs which we hope to experience after the conclusion of peace.

Mr FRANCIS:
Moreton

– I express my appreciation of the able speech delivered by the Leader of the Opposition (Mr. Fadden). I was amazed to notice how studiously the Prime Minister (Mr. Curtin) avoided reference to the charges levelled against the Government. The Government no longer has the confidence of the House or the people because of its partial administration and its lack of inspiring leadership. “We hear Ministers of the Crown speaking with half a dozen different voices, and the Minister for Labour and National Service (Mr. Ward) completely repudiates the statements of his leader concerning “ the Brisbane line “. An all-in war effort is being prevented because of the Government’s ineffective way of dealing with industrial lawlessness. The fact that the Government has lost the confidence of the House and of the country has retarded .the war effort. The threats of the Minister for Labour and National Service to the judges of the Commonwealth Arbitration Court, and his partisanship in administration make him worthy of censure. Justice is not being equitably administered, particularly as one notices that the cases of trade union officials, when prosecuted for breaches of the law, are speedily withdrawn from the courts. The Government is controlled by irresponsible outside organizations, secret juntas and individuals not responsible to the electors of this country. Today the Government cannot make a decision of a major character without seeking the authority of the trade union leaders.

Arising out of the Labour conference at the week-end the Deputy Prime Minister (Mr. Forde) said that industrial stoppages and absenteeism were hampering the war effort. Repeated threats by Ministers against strikers have been treated with derision. The Leader of the Opposition quoted from a report of the Deputy Director of War Organization of Industry in Queensland, Mr. Colin Clark, who had pointed out that industrial absenteeism in Brisbane averaged 30 per cent. The honorable member for Griffith (Mr. Conelan) said that this was not true, but he should know that Mr. Clark was appointed by the Curtin Government to his present position, and that for some years previously he had been Director of the Bureau of Industry, having been appointed to that position by Mr. Forgan Smith. Industrial stoppages and absenteeism are hampering the war effort, and repeated references to the fact by the Prime Minister and other members of the Government have brought about no improvement. The Prime Minister has denounced strikers in many instances as traitors to their country. Conferences have taken place with the men who have defied the law. Several special statutory rules have been promulgated in order to deal with stoppages in industry, but in no case has a serious attempt been made to overcome the difficulties. Industrial trouble has never been more pronounced than it is to-day, and I regard as reprehensible the action of the Government in requiring members of the fighting forces to work on the wharfs loading and unloading cargoes while it refuses to take disciplinary action against waterside workers who for the flimsiest of reasons refuse to work. This country is being governed to-day by the trade union “ bosses “, and the main energies of Ministers are absorbed in an effort to foist socialism on the people and in planning for the next election.

Members frequently indulge in electioneering activities. Last week-end fifteen Ministers attended the Labour party conference in Melbourne, but they should have concentrated their efforts upon the task of winning the waa-. Trades union “ bosses “ have been asked by some Ministers, particularly the Minister for Supply and Shipping (Mr. Beasley), to eliminate strikes for the next four or five months, so that the Government may have a prospect of winning the elections. Their energies should be concentrated on eliminating strikes to win the war, not to improve their prospects of winning the elections. The Minister for Supply and Shipping made it clear in his speech that his appeal was to eliminate strikes to win the elections. The people are becoming weary of the repeated anti-strike warnings of the Prime Minister and his colleagues. There is a general recognition of the fact that, no matter how often the

Government issues threats, or how drastic the threats may he, it lacks determination to give effect to them. Obviously. the position is that the Labour party, while appealing to the citizens for their help, is not prepared to put industrial outlaws into their proper place. The Labour Government, while demanding sacrifices of the citizens, and while appealing to our allies for help, is not prepared to put in their proper places those industrial out- laws who, by strikes and absenteeism, are playing into the enemy hands. Bluntly, the Government’s refusal to deal with industrial anarchy amounts to a callous letting down of those Australians who have fought and are fighting in the feverinfested swamps of New Guinea. What is more, it is letting down our allies. Last month, while declaring that absenteeism was one of Australia’s serious war-time industrial problems, the Prime Minister said -

While Australian troops are fighting a lifeanddeath struggle, the nation cannot be satisfied with anything less than a 100 per cent, effort on the home front.

Those are bold, brave Words, but are they anything more than mere words? Strikes continue to occur in important war-time industries. Employees in those industries deliberately absent themselves from work and the nation’s war effort suffers. Industrial lawlessness has gone unchecked. Stoppages in the coal industry have been so frequent that I need not weary the House by giving instances. There has not been the slightest justification for some of the hold-ups, particularly that which occurred as a protest against butter rationing. It mattered not to some coalminers how seriously their action hampered the war effort. It was of no concern to them that they were letting down their fellow Australians in the fighting forces. The miners who have deliberately gone on strike have been guilty of what the Prime Minister has described as treachery

I am sure that honorable members all know that most of the trouble in the coalmining industry has occurred in New South Wales. At no time has coal been more urgently needed than now, but Ave cannot obtain maximum production when thousands of men are on strike. Any person who condones the action of the miners is not acting fairly.

Mr James:

– What percentage of the miners in New South Wales have stopped work ?

Mr FRANCIS:

– The stoppages have seriously interfered with the war effort. The honorable gentleman himself has appealed to the miners and they have turned a deaf ear to his request. In Queensland, no industrial disturbances have occurred in the coal mines for an extraordinarily long period. The disrupters and the saboteurs are the men in the industry with whom the Government should deal, but the miners in Queensland are worthy men. I went to school with many of them ; I have played football with them. These men were loyal - they were extra loyal, because while coalminers are on strike in New South Wales miners in Queensland are continuing to produce coal.

Mr GEORGE Lawson:

– -How does the honorable member suggest that the Go- vernment ought to deal with them?

Mr FRANCIS:

– The Government has failed to do its job. “If the Minister for Transport (Mr. George Lawson) agrees that the Government has fallen down on its job he should vote for the motion, and so help to remove the Government from office. It is of no use crying that the Government does not know how to do its job, and appealing to others to tell it what it should do. The Government is charged with being unable to do its job, and for that reason honorable members should vote in support of the motion, and against the Government. There has been persistent industrial trouble in the textile industry. A strike which began in February last continued until early in March, during which time ten to twenty factories were idle and between 8,000 and 10,000 workers were involved. The Government has failed to take appropriate action to stop strikes in the metal trades industry. Nothing could be more serious than industrial dislocations in this industry which is engaged on work of front rank importance. We cannot afford an interruption of this work. Honorable members are aware that there have been a succession of strikes in the metal trades industry, and the trouble is continuing even at the present time. One of the worst cases related to the hold-up of urgent work on a ship for three days.

Sixty painters and dockers were required to do certain work on this ship. They refused to work at award rates and went on strike, and although fresh rates were awarded the men still refused to work. Because of the extreme urgency of the work the employers yielded and a higher rate was paid. Since March last, there have been four strikes in relation to the Women’s Employment Board, and nine such strikes altogether since the board commenced to function. The most serious hold-up in the metal trades industry since the war began related to Anzac Day. Metal trades employees in New South Wales decided not to work on May 3rd because the Government did not grant the unions an extra holiday when Anzac Day fell on Sunday. When the Arbitration Court was notified of the men’s decision, Judge O’Mara described it as “ deliberate and organized defiance of the law “. With one exception, none of the rank and file members of the unions made the decision not to work. The decisions were made by the executive officers of five unions. In this connexion I quote a very pertinent observation by Judge O’Mara -

The employees have been instructed by their unions not to work on Monday, and while they may be prepared to disobey man3’ of the laws of God and man, they appear always to give unquestioning obedience to a union’s order to stop work.

The trade union bosses are governing this country and are controlling the unionists in such a way that, whether they are loyal or. not, it is impossible for them to decide for themselves whether they shall remain at work or go on strike. One could cite a great number of instances in which the unions have disregarded the orders and even pleadings of Arbitration Court judges, thus bringing about severe dislocation of important war industries. I referred briefly to the conference in Melbourne which was attended by fifteen Commonwealth Ministers of the Crown, their chief purpose being to urge the union bosses who attended the conference to go back and try to control the unions in the hope that, if there were no serious industrial disturbances for the next three or four months, the Government might have a chance of winning the general election. The people know that this Government has failed, as no other Government has failed, to deal effectively with industrial disputes in time of war. It is urgently necessary that those ‘ employed in industry should produce the commodities necessary to maintain our war effort at its highest peak. The war effort is being seriously affected by absenteeism and almost continuous industrial disputes. There is no hope of this Government achieving a total war effort until it overcomes the industrial lawlessness that prevails in industry to-day.

The honorable member for Bass (Mr. Barnard) said that the blame for the present dislocation in rural industries “could not be laid upon this Government. I remind him that there is no other group in the community which has received less consideration from the Government than those engaged in rural industries. During the last few weeks, statements have been made by the Minister for the Army (Mr. Forde), who is also Deputy Leader of the Government, that 10,000 soldiers are to be released from the forces in order to assist in food production. I ask all those honorable members here who have sponsored applications to the Minister for the Army for the release of men from the forces what sort of reception their applications have received? We know that appeals from aged men and women living on dairy farms for the release of one of their sons to help them when they have fallen sick have been turned down with hardly any consideration at all. Such requests have not received from the Government the sympathetic treatment to which they are entitled.

Australia must produce more food. Greater supplies are needed both for our own people and for the ever-increasing number of Allied soldiers arriving in this theatre of war. We must also produce more food so that we may discharge our obligation in this respect to Great Britain. During the last year in which the Menzies Government was in office Australia exported to Great Britain 110,000 tons of butter. I have been informed that our present exports are not anything like as much as one-half of that; in fact, that they may amount to only 40,000 tons. I know that it is impossible to continue the war without interfering with rural industries in some degree, but the

Government has proved itself to be unsympathetic to the most urgent representations put forward on behalf of the rural industries. From time to time I have made representations to the Minister for Trade and Customs (Senator Keane) in regard to extra supplies of working clothes for those engaged in rural industries. I shall not take the time to read the reply which I received, but it shows complete indifference to the matter involved. Persons engaged in industry in dirty or dusty jobs may obtain extra clothing coupons, but those engaged in rural industries have been denied this consideration. It is absolutely unjust. At the present time, farmers are trying to struggle on in the face of a shortage of almost all commodities required for the running of their farms.

Mr Pollard:

– That is an utterly false statement.

Mr FRANCIS:

– I shall quote the list of articles in respect of which I have made representations to the Government. It is as follows: -

Concentrates, fertilizers, plough shares, plough chains, split links, scufflers (cultivators), diamond harrows, corn planters, tractors, tractor ploughs, single disc ploughs (horse), mouldboard ploughs (horse), mowers, rakes, double disc ploughs, chaff-cutters, windmills, pumps, cultivators (tyne and disc), and spare parts for these items, engines for driving milking machines, &c, cream cans, fencing wire (barbed and plain), horse collars, buckets, milk strainers, filter wads, K wire, yard brooms, scythe handles, wire gauze, strainer bottoms, iron for tanks and roofing, spouting, down pipes, and galvanized iron nails, horse shoes, tools, bolte and nuts, saddlery for farm use, crosscut saws, vulcanizing outfits, float valves, iron for blacksmiths to do repairs, galvanized or black piping, engines of all kinds, grinding mills.

I asked the Minister for Supply and Shipping (Mr. Beasley) to make these goods available, but I was informed that the matter was one for the Department of War Organization of Industry, or perhaps, for the Department of Trade and Customs, or it might be the Department of Commerce and Agriculture. When each of these departments was approached individually I was told that the matter would he brought up at the next meeting of the Australian Agricultural Council, but no one could tell me when that meeting was likely to be held. In the meantime, farmers are unable to get equipment in order to cultivate their land, and the Government stands condemned for its muddling.

The efforts which have been made so far to establish a Women’s Land Army in this country have been an absolute farce. Compare the achievement here with that in Great Britain. During the last war, the Women’s Land Army in Great Britain numbered 228,000. In this war despite the fact that there are over 2,000,000 women in munitions work and in the Services, there are 80,000 women in- the Land Army. The area under cultivation in Great Britain has been increased by 6,000,00T) acres. Nothing like that has occurred in Australia. Every newspaper one picks up contains advertisements of the sale of dairy herds because of lack of labour. Stud Jersey herds are being sold because the owners are unable to carry on. All over the country dairy cattle are being slaughtered, and Australia will never be able to make up the number lost. In Europe the Germans are taking dairy herds in occupied countries which have taken yeai’3 to establish. After the war, Europe will have no dairy herds and there will be a big field there for Australian dairy products. Before the war Britain obtained 34:0,000 tons of butter annually from Denmark alone, in addition to large quantities from Belgium and Holland; btU as the Germans have killed the dairy stock of those countries it will be impossible for Britain to obtain supplies from those sources after the war. We in Australia are losing our dairy herds and the dairying industry is declining. It has received no sympathy from the Government. At a time when our dairying industry is declining, dairying is on the up-grade in Great Britain. Women could help greatly in our primary industries and relieve men for the fighting services. . Instead of having between 35,000 and 45,000 women working in primary industries, Queensland has only 500 women so employed. A woman who wishes to join in any form of war work has to apply to the Department of Labour and National Service. All applicants for service with the Australian Women’s Army Service, the Women’s Auxiliary Australian Air Force, the Women’s Royal Australian Naval Service or the “Women’s Land Army, are interrogated at the same office, and when they find out that by joining any of the services they become entitled to canteen benefits, concession rates on trams and trains and on letters and telegrams, whilst members of the Women’s Land Army have no such privileges, it is easily understood why the ranks of the Women’s Land Army are not filled. Moreover, after a member of the Women’s Land Army has worked from dawn till dusk for six days, she is not entitled to attend a picture show on a Sunday night, although women engaged in the services can do so. In these circumstances it is ridiculous to expect the Women’s Land Army to grow. These things constitute further evidence of the indifference of the Government towards those engaged in land work. Australian primary industries are playing a vital part in the’ nation’s war effort, and it is most important that they be encouraged and assisted in every way possible.

The Government has been condemned on a number of counts. It has repeatedly ignored advice given to it in financial matters, particularly advice to refrain from an undue expansion of bank credit. The Leader of the Opposition indicated this afternoon that in June 1941, the treasury-bills in existence were valued at about £1,750,000, whereas in June, 1943, the value of treasury-bills in existence had grown to £269,000,000- an increase of 15,000 per cent. That is uncontrolled inflation which will hit the worker and every man on low wages, and will reduce the value of every investment in this country. These things prove conclusively that the Government has failed to look after industry, particularly primary industries and has also failed to raise the money necessary for the proper conduct of the nation’s affairs, and because it has shown itself to be hopelessly incompetent. I” shall have pleasure in supporting the motion.

Mr JAMES:
Hunter

.I oppose the motion moved by the right honorable the Leader of the Opposition (Mr. Fadden) because it is unwarranted. The honorable member for Moreton (Mr. Francis) says that he knows the coalminers as he went to school with them and played football with them. He does not say that he has ever worked in the mines with them. He criticizes the miners of New South Wales, but not those in Queensland, particularly those in his own electorate. It would not be wise for him to criticize them, as his political future might be endangered. But when he speaks of the treachery of the miners, I tell him that the miners in his own electorate, as well as those in other parts of Australia, are just as loyal citizens as he is. Enlistments in the last war from mining centres represented a percentage of the population greater than that of any other section of the community. Despite what he said about the miners, the honorable member for Moreton knows nothing about the conditions under which they work. He criticized the miners of New South Wales, but I do not think that he knows how the production of coal in that State compares with the production in Queensland. Does he know the comparative figures ?

Mr Francis:

– Certainly.

Mr JAMES:

– What are they? As the honorable member does not answer, I shall give to the House some authentic figures on the subject. They will demonstrate what has happened in the coal-mining industry in the last fifteen or sixteen years because of the mechanization of the mines. There is no mechanization of coal-mining in Queensland. The production of coal in 1927 in New South Wales by 24,494 employees amounted to 11,126,114 tons, an average of 439 tons per annum for each employee. For the honorable member’s benefit, I point out that even to-day Queensland produces less than 1,500,000 tons of coal per annum. I wish to make it clear that these quantities are produced by only 50 per cent, of the employees who are actually engaged in filling coal.

Mr Francis:

– The miners in Queensland are not on strike as they are in New South Wales. That is the only point I wished to make.

Mr JAMES:

– There are coal-mines in New South Wales, but in Queensland they are only “ rat-holes “ in comparison. One mine in New South Wales is capable of producing in a day as much coal as one Queensland mine produces in a week. The honorable member for Moreton spoke of industrial troubles of which he knows nothing. The miners employed in New South “Wales number many more than the miners in Queensland. In 1935, there were in New South “Wales 12,788 employees in the coal-mining industry, and the total production for the year was S,698,579 tons of coal. That represents an average of 652 tons per annum for each employee, compared with 439 tons per annum for each employee in 1927- Mechanization has speeded up production, but it has caused much trouble, because it has been the means of killing men. I could give figures showing the number of casualties which occurred in the mines, but I shall not do so now. By 1941, there were 17,351 employees in the industry in New South “Wales, and their production of coal reached 11,765,698 tons - an average of 678-J tons per annum for each employee. In 1942, the number of employees in the industry fell slightly to 17,067, but the production rose to 12,227,8S8 tons, an average of 715 tons per annum for each employee. If the honorable member for Moreton were to work in a coal-mine he would know more of the conditions applying to miners than by playing football with them. Between 1927 and 1942 the increased production was at :the rate of 276 tons per employee per annum. Surely that is a remarkable record. ‘ Queensland, Tasmania and “Western Australia have all increased their output, but I speak only of New South Wales, because it was the miners of that State whom the honorable member for Moreton criticized. For the three weeks ended January, 1943, which period contained three fewer days than in the corresponding period of 1942. 682,284 tons of coal were produced. In January, 1942, the output amounted to 683,524 tons. It is true that the figures for 1943 show a slight decline compared with 1942, but this year the miners took ten days holiday in January which they had not done in the previous year. A lot has been said about the miners whom I know well, for I know their outlook and their troubles. Some of their stoppages I could not describe as being anything else than foolish, and with the use of a little tact on both sides, they would not arise. I go among the miners and tell them when they are wrong. But not all the troubles on the coal-fields are solely due to the miners. Much capital has been made of the fact that a few lads caused a stoppage of work at the Hebburn No. 1 colliery because of the butter ration. The Prime Minister took action as the result of which three men have been called up by the military and will go into camp to-day. It had been reported to the Prime Minister that they were responsible for the stoppage. He could only act on the reports and in the application of his sole powers he ordered that the lads be taken into the military. Now it has been found that they were not responsible. ‘ The miners themselves have found who were responsible and they were penalized last night by the miners.

Many people, members of Parliament, myself .among them, and others, even ordinary citizens, are in too great a hurry with their daily routines to do more than read the headlines in the newspapers. They see headings that say that thousands of tons of coal production has been lost and that so many mines are idle, but they should read the letterpress and ascertain the cause - that is, if the newspapers are fair enough to publish it. There was only one mine idle yesterday. The newspaper I read did not say why, but I have ascertained that the cause was due to a mechanical breakdown. I say to honorable members, give credit to. those 150 odd mines that are working and do not condemn all the miners because 1,000 tons of coal production has been lost through one stoppage. What is that in comparison with the coal that is continually coming out of the mines as the result of the loyalty of the great majority of the miners, who, day after day, take their lives in their hands and sometimes spill their life blood in getting the coal which is so vital to the conduct of this war. I counsel honorable members to go to the mine-fields and see for themselves. Let them not be content with saying that they understand the miners because they have played football with or against -them. Bather let them see what the miners have to put up with and what their life is like.

Mr Francis:

– I have been down dozens of mines.

Mr JAMES:

– What interest in the miners did the honorable member show when they were looked out in 1929 and 1930?

Mr Francis:

– I have letters from the miners’ federation thanking me for what I did.

Mr JAMES:

– The honorable member did not interest himself in them by condemning in this House those who were responsible for the lock-out. I do not want to be misunderstood, for I am not condoning all the stoppages that occur, but I will not have the whole mining community condemned by somebody who claims that he understands the miners but does not understand them at all. The honorable member for Moreton has never seen a mine in his life from a worker’s point of view.

Mr Francis:

– Do not be silly !

Mr JAMES:

-Where is it and what is its daily output? I warrant that the honorable member does not know whether its output is 100 tons or 1,000 tons a day. I invite the honorable member to come to the northern coal-fields of New South Wales and go down pits which produce from 1,000 to 4,000 tons a day.

Mr Francis:

– My only concern is to ensure that the miners shall work.

Mr JAMES:

– The honorable member should look after his own miners. I will look after mine. I will not allow the honorable member to make political capital out of the miners of New South Wales. I think that all honorable members will concede that I have endeavoured always to be fair when dealing with the coalmining industry. They should know that I understand it. In order that they may understand it a little, I commend to them the reading of the following poem by Jock Graham, almost next-door neighbour of mine, who lost a leg in a coal-mine: -

page 106

THE OTHER SIDE

You’ve learned to know the miner - the “black” man, the “slack” man,

But come with me below ground amid the sweat and stress

And watch him at his hard work, his drill work, his skilled work,

See for yourself his true life before you read your press.

Come down and breathe the dank air, the foul air, the rank air;

Fill up your lungs with coal dust, disease dust, for proof;

Come down and see the cave man, the slave man, the brave man

Risk life to save his mate’s life beneath a falling roof.

Learn of the grim disasters, the churned up, the burned up;

Go seek the mining churchyards and count the growing roll;

Weigh justice then, so feted, so treated, and meted

Against the dark stain spreading, the blood upon the coal.

You’ll see conditions slipping, thro’ tricking, pin-pricking;

The guilt with which he’s burdened you’ll place where it belongs;

And you will be a just man, a fair man, a rare man,

And you’ll raise coal production by righting miners’ wrongs. - Jock Graham.

Perhaps honorable members opposite may not be so ready to condemn the coalminers regardless of circumstances when they have read that. Jock Graham is a man who understands mining and miners as I do. I remember as a lad, the youngest of a family of eleven, my eldest brother’s dead body being brought home from the mine, and my father being crippled for the rest of his days. So, when people ignorantly condemn men amongst whom I have lived all my life and with whom I am proud to be associated, it hurts because I know that their hearts are good and that they ring true every time the nation’s call is made to them. There are malcontents amongst them., but there are malcontents everywhere. In the Army, or in any association of thousands of men, you will always find some recalcitrants, men who will not agree with the others. We have them amongst the ranks of honorable members opposite. Why, the Opposition is split three ways, although it went as two parties to the people in 1940. Those two parties are now factions. I do not desire to dwell any further on the condemnation of the miners expressed by the honorable member for Moreton.

Mr JAMES:

– I ask the honorable member to be fair and to read his newspapers thoroughly. He should accompany me around the northern coalfields in order to make himself conversant with the mines and the miners. I ask the honorable gentleman to follow the example of some of his colleagues, to whom I willingly pay tribute because they have gone into the real mines, not little holes, to acquaint themselves with this vital industry and those who work in it.

I oppose this motion mainly because the Opposition has never co-operated with the Government to the same extent as the Prime Minister, as Leader of the Opposition, co-operated with the Menzies Government and the Fadden Government. The right honorable gentleman cooperated with those governments to such a degree that both former Prime Ministers, amongst other people, applauded him so frequently that they did him an injustice by causing members of his own party to begin to believe that he had sold out lock, stock and barrel. The right honorable gentleman’s answer to the critics amongst his supporters was that he had not sold out and would never sell out, but that the waging and the winning of the war were more important than playing the measly game of politics. No one was more honest with both those governments than was the present Prime Minister when he occupied the position now occupied by the right honorable member for Darling Downs (Mr. Fadden) ; but no one opposite could say that he has received an equal measure of support from that side. The Opposition’s cry has always been “ Let us form a national government”. It has wanted a national government mainly because of its desire to share in the spoils of office. I do not desire to he nasty, but I must tell the truth. How could we form a national government with such a mutinous crew as that which is on the Opposition benches. They never could and never will agree amongst themselves simply because, I suppose, there are not sufficient tarts in the tart shop to go round. At the last general elections they wanted a national government. Admittedly, they were prepared to offer the Labour party half the portfolios, but that was because there was a chance of the Labour party winning and because they considered that if they were beaten they would have the right, on the grounds that they had made the offer, to expect the Labour party to allow them to share in the portfolios. We went close to winning that election. The then Prime Minister ( Mr. Menzies) could not go back on his word and he offered to the

Labour party the opportunity to share in the administration. The offer was spurned. I hope I shall not be regarded as being unduly hard when I glance back over the history of some honorable gentlemen opposite. First, I shall take the rats. The Leader of the United Australia party, the right honorable member for North Sydney (Mr. Hughes) ratted on the Labour party some years ago. The right honorable member for Kooyong (Mr. Menzies) ratted on the late Mr. J. A. Lyons. The right honorable Leader of the Opposition ratted on the right honorable member for Cowper (Sir Earle Page) and formed a separate group within the Country party. At that time, the right honorable member for Kooyong, who was then Prime Minister, co-opted the right honorable member for Darling Downs, in order to widen that split and thereby retain the reins of office. I come now to another section of honorable members opposite whom I shall describe as cuckoos because they have fouled the nests of party colleagues. The honorable member for Perth (Mr. Nairn)’ has endeavoured to bring about a crisis at this juncture by resigning the speakership in order to give the Opposition an extra vote in its present effort to oust the Government. He fouled the nest of a political colleague, Mr. Mann, when the latter was member for Perth. We come to the gallant and noble captain, the honorable member for Wentworth (Mr. Harrison) who fouled the nest of poor old Walter Marks. We have also the gallant colonel, the honorable member for Warringah (Mr. Spender), who ratted upon Sir Archdale Parkhill. And last, but not least, the honorable member for Robertson (Mr. Spooner) who ratted on Syd. Gardner. The honorable member for Robertson also ratted upon his leader, Sir Bertram Stevens, who was then Premier of New South Wales, by forming a cave within the government party in the State Parliament. At least, it can be said of Sir Bertram that when he resigned his seat in the New South Wales Parliament he did not go after another seat which was held by a party colleague, but stood against a political opponent in the person of my friend the honorable member for Lang (Mr.

Mulcahy). We know what happened to Sir Bertram in that contest. Nevertheless, he went out fighting, faithful to his party. I am sorry that I cannot say the same about the honorable member for Robertson. I relate these facts in order to emphasize the attitude of honorable members on this side towards the proposal of honorable members opposite for the formation of a national government. How could we possibly work with such a crowd? Honorable members opposite cannot work among themselves. We on this side are united, and shall go to the electors as a united party. No doubt, honorable members opposite will endeavour to persuade the electors that they are united in spite of the fact that they are divided to such a degree that it is difficult to sort out the relics of the many different parties to which they belonged. Honorable members opposite have repeatedly changed the name of their political party.

Mr RANKIN:
BENDIGO, VICTORIA · ST CP; UCP from 1940; CP from 1943

– Let the honorable member tell us something about his old Messiah, Jack Lang.

Mr JAMES:

– He was never my old Messiah. I have never been a member of the Parliament of New South Wales. Jack Lang played his part in the State political sphere; and I am not one of those who would endeavour, under cover of privilege of this House, to abuse anybody who is not a member of this Parliament. I have told honorable members of the rats and cuckoos within the Opposition parties. What is their latest treachery? We find that those honorable members opposite who are continually harping about the necessity for forming a national government are now ratting upon the rats and cuckoos. They have formed what they call a national service group under the leadership of the right honorable member for Kooyong and the honorable member for Wentworth. The gallant colonel, the honorable member for Warringah, was reputed to have been among them, but when it came to a showdown, he ratted upon them. He was noi game to face the wrath of his party in New South Wales. He recognized that he might have to run the gauntlet, that Sir Archdale Parkhill might obtain the United Australia party endorsement as his opponent, and recapture Warringah f rom him. Some people at least place one proposal to the credit of the honorable member for Warringah when he was Minister for the Army. He wanted to send Australian women to the Middle East because he thought they would have a softening effect upon our troops.

The Leader of the Opposition has referred to what he has described as ten non-unionists in an industrial dispute in a war factory in Sydney. It is quite obvious to anyone who has had anything to do with persons of the political kidney of those non-unionists that their part in that particular dispute is a political move. They are stooges of the United Australia party. They are not anxious to keep the wheels of production going, but wish to see them stopped. If they were anxious to keep the wheels of production going, why do they not relinquish their jobs and release the domestic servants in their own homes, thereby enabling the latter to work in the factory in which they themselves are now holding up work? Their part in that dispute is a deliberate and wilful political move. Every organization, whether it be the United Australia party or the Labour party, has its rules. Unfortunately, the -United Australia party has no rules whereby it can discipline its members. [Extension of time granted.] The Leader of the Opposition had something to say about “ the Brisbane line”. His remarks have been effectively answered by the Minister for Labour and National Service (Mr. Ward). Honorable members opposite claim that neither the Menzies nor the Fadden Government had anything to do with “ the Brisbane line “. However, it seems strange to me that General Sir Iven Mackay, who recommended “the Brisbane line “, was appointed by the Menzies Government as late as August, 1941, to the position of CommanderinChief in Australia after he returned from the Middle East. The Minister for Labour and National Service has disclosed that one of the files dealing with matters about that time is missing. No honorable member who has spoken since the Minister resumed his seat has attempted to deal with that allegation. It. seems to me that there may be something in the allegation. The missing file may contain conclusive evidence concerning the origin of “ the Brisbane line “. Honorable members opposite claim that neither the Menzies, nor the Fadden, Government had anything to do with the line mentioned. At the same time, a person can generally get somebody else to do a job and then place responsibility for such action upon that other person. I do not cast any reflection upon General Sir Iven Mackay. He is a gallant and able soldier, and it would be a great pity if the reputation which he has built up in the field is to be smeared in the sewer of preelection party politics.

Mr Rankin:

– The honorable member is suggesting that he became a stalking horse for a previous government.

Mr JAMES:

– Such things have been clone in the past. For instance, in 1931, a political party in New South Wales made an election promise to the people of that State that it would not reduce the basic wage below £4 2s. 6d. When that party assumed office, it did not itself reduce the basic wage, but it appointed to two vacancies then existing on the Arbitration Court Bench two gentlemen who reduced the basic wage below that figure. At the same time, the political party concerned disowned responsibility for that action. Much has been said in this debate regarding industrial disputes; but n’o credit whatever has been given to the Government for the fact that 99 per cent, of our workers in all industries are continually on the job. When 1 per cent, of the miners go on strike, the newspapers seize upon the fact. Of course, the press never supports the Labour party. We seldom receive even a kindly word from it, because it is controlled by the interests represented by honorable members opposite.

One unfair thing is the continual amplification and exaggeration by the press of reports of losses of production as the result of stoppages for the purpose of inflaming the public against the Labour Government. Is the position any different in Australia from what it is in other countries? Have our miners during war-time reduced production by onequarter of the quantity they are capable of producing? Can that also be said of the British coal-miners? It cannot; but honorable members opposite do not condemn the National Government of Great Britain for not taking vigorous measures against the miners. To-day 500,000 coalminers are on strike in the United States of America; honorable members opposite do not mention that. They refer to stoppages on the Australian coal-fields for rotten political motives. If the Leader of the Opposition had heard my references to the production of coal, he would not be misled by the press in future about reports of losses of production. Millions of tons of coal are being produced in Australia, but honorable members opposite squeal when a small percentage - a drop in the ocean - is lost. Mining operations cannot possibly be continued year after year without interruption. Mechanical breakdowns are inevitable; but we never read in the press that thousands of tons of coal have been lost from this cause. All we read is that a number of pits are idle, resulting in the loss of thousands of tons of coal. I invite the Leader of the Opposition to accompany me on a visit to the mines in order to make himself conversant with the conditions. The honorable member for Moreton claims that he understands coal-mining. Perhaps he has some knowledge from a surface point of view of these small mines in Queensland which are yielding a few tons of coal, but he has no knowledge of the conditions on the great coal-fields in New South Wales. The honorable member for Deakin (Mr. Hutchinson) and the honorable member for Flinders (Mr. Ryan.) were enterprising and courageous enough to accompany me on a visit to the mines in order to become acquainted with the conditions.

Mr Francis:

– It is more courageous to go. down the small mines in Queensland than the large electrically-lit pits in New South Wales.

Mr JAMES:

– When I asked the honorable member to tell me how much coal was produced in Queensland, he was unable to do so; and I gave him the information. Queensland produces from 1,300,000 to 1,500,000 tons of coal per annum, and New South Wales produces 12,000,000 tons a year. Of that quantity 75 per cent, is mined in the electorate of Hunter.

Mr Francis:

– And large quantities are being lost. None of the coal-miners whom I represent is on strike.

Mr JAMES:

– Even if they went on strike, the newspapers would not refer to the matter, because they are the honorable member’s constituents.

The motion submitted by the Leader of the Opposition is an attempt to cement into a united party the many factions represented on the opposite benches. The United Service group formed a breakaway party, its members contending that the Leader of the Opposition was not sufficiently militant, and they spurred the honorable member for North Sydney (Mr. Hughes) to even greater efforts. During the last few weeks, interviews with him have appeared in the press day after day. I have a great personal respect for the Leader of the Opposition and the right honorable member for Kooyong, but I am certain that even if they succeed in welding their factions into a united party, they will never be able to smash the Labour Government.

Dr PRICE:
BOOTHBY, SOUTH AUSTRALIA · UAP

.The actions of the Government have absolutely forced the moving of this motion of want of confidence in the Administration. Having refused to join with the United Australia party and the United Country party in a national government which was desired by the majority of the people, the Labour party decided to rule alone and as the months passed it has shown that it is operating a policy of ever-increasing self-interest. This was obvious, particularly after the return of the Attorney-General (Dr. Evatt) from his first mission abroad. On that occasion, the right honorable gentleman used the war in a great attempt to implement the unification policy of the Labour party. Last September, the Minister for Labour and National Service (Mr. Ward) openly admitted in the House that the Labour party should use the war as ‘ an excuse to implement its policy. He repeated that statement with increased emphasis last night.

During the last few weeks, we have witnessed the beginnings of a pre-election Labour campaign. The Prime Minister (Mr. Curtin) and other Ministers have rushed to many parts of Australia, and have made most wicked misstatements in the form of “ the Brisbane line “ lie, and the claim that the Menzies Government left Australia undefended. They have placated the unions right and left and interfered with justice in the interests of the unions. Finally, the Acting Attorney-General (Mr. Beasley) begged the unions last week not to go on strike during the next three months because of the approaching general elections. That was evidence of party politics being carried’ to their extreme and most abysmal depths. The Government has made every effort with a vast campaign of publicity on the ether and in every other possible way to proclaim its virtues and to conceal its faults. This all-night debate is an example. During the last period of the session, honorable members spent eleven weeks in Canberra. The first week was completely wasted in a ridiculous debate. Now, a motion of vital importance to the country has been introduced, but the Government immediately staged an all-night sitting in order that as little criticism as possible shall appear in the press. Ministers are playing at politics. All this rubbish and mouthing of the Prime Minister that “ there are no debates at Rabaul “ are unconvincing when we recall that a few weeks ago, the Government wasted the first week of the sessional period. In spite of this tremendous propaganda campaign and attempts to conceal faults, it is obvious that the country is losing its confidence in the Government.

The Government deserves to be censured for its domestic and foreign policies. The Prime Minister very wisely yesterday afternoon, deliberately informed the House that he would not delve into either his own history or that of the Labour party. I shall leave the historical side to honorable members of long experience like the honorable member for Wakefield (Mr. DuncanHughes) and shall’ content myself by going back to the beginning of the war, when the Labour party proclaimed its isolationist policy towards the rest of the Empire. At the beginning of the war, the leader of the Labour party stated that the party stood for the maintenance of Australia as an integral part of the British Commonwealth,- but the party would maintain its own political plat1 form, would oppose conscription and would oppose the despatch of an expeditionary force. Following on its isolationist policy, the Labour party opposed the re-introduction of home service until June, 1940, when the fall of France pushed it into some sleepy wakefulness. Subsequently, the Labour party opposed the despatch of the Militia to New Guinea. That Ls the party which now proclaims that it has saved Australia.

I shall say a few words about the statements of the Minister for Labour and National Service regarding appeasement. He has accused anti-Labour governments of appeasing Japan because they permitted the export to that country of a small quantity of scrap iron. I remind the Minister that our gallant American allies sold to Japan hundreds of thousands of tons of scrap iron. That policy of keeping Japan quiet was brilliantly successful. Japan did not strike when an anti-Labour government waa in office. When it struck, it struck too late. It is most amusing to hear the Minister for Labour and National Service, of all people, criticizing the appeasement of Japan, because in 1936 he forecast a war with Japan and begged us to appease that country by every possible means. In his own words, he asked us to make every endeavour to maintain friendly relations with Japan. Now he rushes around the country, digging up the old story about scrap iron. Turning to the real Japanese danger, we find that members of the present Government sought to deceive the people of Aus-, tralia for their own political purposes. On the 11th August, 1941, the Tokyo radio was telling the Japanese people that it was “ touch and go “ in the Pacific, but that week the present Minister for the Army (Mr. Forde), the Minister for Supply and Shipping (Mr. Beasley), and the Attorney-General (Dr. Evatt), or at least the two last mentioned Ministers, were at a Sydney picture palace telling the people of Australia that the danger in the Pacific was greatly exaggerated. The Minister for Labour and National Sendee (Mr. Ward) went even further with that inaccuracy. On the 21st Aug ust, 1941, four months before Japan attacked, he said -

I join with other members of the Opposition in saying that the gravity lias been grossly exaggerated by the Government for the purpose of obtaining a political advantage.

To-night the Minister says that everybody saw that war with Japan Was inevitable. In other words, he said to-night that on the 21st August, 1941, he lied to the people of Australia in order to gain political popularity. When Japan struck, this Government experienced one of the greatest disasters that has ever befallen a ministry in a British dominion. We have heard the Minister for Labour and National Service and others speak in this House again and again about the misfortunes of the Menzies Government with respect to Greece and Crete. Under that Government the Royal Australian Navy gained a spectacular victory as part of that glorious token force in the Mediterranean. The Curtin Government lost a very large part of our valiant fleet. In the Greece and Crete campaigns which delayed Hitler’s attack on Russia, the Menzies Government took off most of the Australian troops successfully, but the Curtin Government lost practically the whole of the 8th division at Singapore. We do not wish to hear any more about the brilliant success of the Curtin Government. As Japan advanced this Government wailed to the United States of America, in the words of the Prime Minister, free from the traditional ties to Great Britain. That was a statement which made a great deal of mischief. The London Daily Mail summed the position up in wise words when it said -

There should exist between Australians and ourselves a fellow-feeling born of common danger successfully withstood. This sentiment seemed to be missing in the first months of Japanese aggression - Australian politicians have been often somewhat vocal.

Australia has been saved, not by the Labour Government, but because Britain returned to us the battle-trained Australian Imperial Force which was sent abroad by the wisdom of the Menzies Government. It was sent back in Allied ships, despite the shipping shortage, and with full equipment which was partly British. Apart from the fact that it was vital for us to defend the Suez Canal and the western approach to Australia, and that it was vital for Australia to have a good name with its Allies, the Menzies Government gave us fully experienced and equipped forces to win the battle of New Guinea. All we should have had in the event of a Labour Government being in office would have been a partly trained and illequipped militia force.

Under the plans of High Allied strategy the United States of America sent us naval, air and ground forces, for which we are eternally grateful. In other words, the Labour party, which had so long and vigorously opposed the defence of Australia, was “ yanked “ to safety by the scat of its “Dedman duds”. All the while the wailing for help continued. Twice the Government sent the AttorneyGeneral on appeal missions to the United States of America. Although those missions were to a great degree successful, they caused certain very dangerous complications and criticism of High Allied strategy, and embarrassment to high allied leaders. They played into the hands of American isolationists and aroused scorn in sections of the American press. Here i3 a good example, from a leading article in the Boston Herald, of the kind of result which we get from frequent appeals to the United States of America : -

Our Australian friends, valiant fighters, have shown their courage in all parts of the world, hut they are extremely assertive at home and disposed to be impatient at the methods nf non-Australians. Their leaders have spoken at times as if their continent were the very centre of the global war and should receive a great deal more aid than the United States and England have seen fit to furnish.

In the recent debate at Canberra, the capital, on the bill extending the area where Australian militia may fight, but limiting it to what Americans will consider indefensibly narrow boundaries, Mr. Curtin has made provocative and inaccurate statements. The Australians realize that wo are in a global war but some of their own war measures are carried to the point of parochialism. Americans probably think they have done a’ great deal for Australia and could do a great deal move, but Prime Minister Curtin’s expression “ too late and too little “, on the part of the United Nations in behalf of Australia, seems untimely, ungracious, harsh, and unjustifiable.

That is a direct American statement which does not reach us through the publicity put forward by the AttorneyGeneral.

Previously, I quoted from the British and American press the results of our militia bill providing for limited liability conscription. These quotations from leading newspapers in allied countries show that the present Labour Government has injured the good name of Australia overseas. We know that the coming peace conference will be vital to our country. Such documents as the Atlantic Charter cut right across policies which are vital to Australia, and which we must maintain at all costs. If we abandon the White Australia policy for a moment this nation will perish, because the end of our white civilization in this country would be immediately in sight. We must also retain the tariffs that protect our secondary industries. These matters will be decided at the peace conference. At Versailles only the tenacity of the right honorable member for Sydney (Mr. Hughes) saved the White Australia policy for the Australian people. Our geographical position will always compel us to face the menace of Asia with its increasing populations and growing industrialism. Our only hope lies in closer alliance with the British Commonwealth and our American cousins. We have seen the present Government loosening the organic ties of Empire by confirming the Statute of Westminster, although we know from history that inorganic unions never last. We have seen this Government upset the Governments of both Britain and the United States of America by making appeal after appeal, even after we have received help. From the recent attitude and remarks of the Prime Minister, I am afraid that this country, as soon as it shows signs of safety, will lapse back to the policy of isolation which was that of the Labour party at the outbreak of the war. Take the statement of the Prime Minister that Australia cannot afford to be a policeman in Europe. As the right honorable member for Kooyong has said, Australia has been saved in this war, because the men of the first and second Australian Imperial Force and members of other fighting services have given it a great name as a plucky and unselfish fighting people. If we are to say that our men shall not be policemen in

Europe, God help us, because no other nation will then come to our assistance.

Another untruth is the statement that the Menzies Government left this country defenceless. Statements have been made by the honorable member for Forrest (Mr. Prowse) and others, as to the number of troops and equipment in this country at that time. “When the Menzies and Fadden governments went out of office in 1941, the present Prime Minister said, without divulging the numbers, that about 400,000 men were in the fighting forces of Australia. I have before me .a book by Hartley Gratten, an American, who came to Australia to examine our war effort, and who was able to publish in the United States of America the work done by the Menzies and Fadden governments on relinquishing office. The record of those governments is a magnificent one. He said that the Menzies Government began Australia’s war effort by providing a stronger navy than we had in 1914, and that by the middle of 1941 it had 500,000 men under arms and 170,000 men directly employed, in the production of munitions. The Menzies Government had also overcome in a remarkable way the bottle-necks associated with metals and machine tools which were holding up production. They were turning out on mass-production lines a magnificent range of equipment of every type. Now we have the spectacle of a party, which steadily opposed all proposals for Australian defence, claiming that the Government which did all the work that I have enumerated neglected the defence of Australia. The Sydney Bulletin summed up the position excellently when it said that there may have been funnier accusations, but surely never an accusation that was more specious and more ungenerous.

I have dealt mildly with the faults of the Curtin Government in regard to its overseas policy. Let me now say something of its mistakes at home. The first one that comes to the mind is its attitude towards the industrial disturbances which are destroying our good name abroad, and creating the greatest discontent among members of the fighting services, as well as causing alarm among the people generally. Take the position abroad to begin with. Here is an extract from the Christian Science Monitor of October last, a newspaper published in the United States of America -

Ships have been held up at quaysides for days and hours longer than necessary, and have sailed with unimportant goods, leaving essential goods in wharf sheds. “Westbrook Pegler, one of the most widely read of American newspaper columnists, publishes two damning statements from American marine publications, Voice, the organ of the Marine Stewards Union, and Pilot. The first refers to the fact that American sailors had to unload ships because Australian wharf labourers refused to work because of heavy rain. The paper states -

That longshoremen in a country so close under Japanese guns should refuse to unload military cargo because of rain is almost incredible but true. Delay might have cost the lives of Australian women and children.

The second allegation is even more serious. It is a statement based on a letter from Mr. Healy, secretary of the Australian Waterside Workers Federation, setting forth that the Americans have attempted to use American soldiers on Australian wharfs. Mr. Healy said that the union had agreed on two occasions to allow American soldiers to receive training on Australian wharfs before proceeding to a battle area. Upon this the American publicist makes the following scathing comment : -

Australians kindly let American soldiers practice on their docks to learn how to handle cargo for the fighting zone where the longshoremen will not go.

Those charges ought to be investigated by the Government. If the Americans are dissatisfied with the industrial disturbances in Australia, so are our own fighting men. This is how the Government treated one of our own battalions on the Sydney wharf, and this also should be investigated. I have been informed that these men were required to work thirteen hours on day shift and ten hours on night shift. They were given no additional pay, and they were required to clear up their camp, which was on a race-course, in order to prepare for a race meeting.

Sir Frederick Stewart:

– And the Department of the Army collected the full award rates of pay for the work on the waterfront from the Stevedoring

Commission, but did not band it over to the soldiers. I learned that from the Minister for the Army (Mr. Forde) himself.

Dr PRICE:
BOOTHBY, SOUTH AUSTRALIA · UAP

– It was a disgraceful thing to do. Honorable members need only discuss these matters with any returned soldier in order to learn what the Army thinks about this Government. There are other matters in respect of which the Government has failed in its treatment of the fighting services. 1 previously raised the question of leave for some of the troops, and for military reasons I refrain from telling the story of the handling of troops, both in Australia and in the New Guinea campaign. The Government might also inquire into the treatment of Voluntary Aids Detachments who have just come back after fourteen months of service in the Middle East. The Government might find out why they have been enlisted as privates in one of the women’s organizations; why these women, many of them in their late twenties and middle thirties, have been put into camp under girl noncommissioned officers in their teens. These women are at Seymour, and the Government might ask why they are not allowed to dance with officers - these women who have served their country so well abroad. The Government might also find out why it is that they have had to refuse invitations to dinners at the officers’ mess. This is a democratic country, and matters of this kind should, I think, be investigated.

The honorable member for Hunter (Mr. James) referred to industrial disturbances on the coal-fields. I would not dream of attempting to pass judgment on coal strikes, because I know nothing about the industry. However, I recently went down into a colliery at Newcastle because I wanted to see for myself the conditions there. I was told that that mine had, at the outbreak of war, been working two shifts. At the time I was there it was working only one shift of eight hours, the men working about six and a half hours at the face. We were told that there was no reason whatever, other than the refusal of the men to work a second shift, why the mine, which was so fully mechanized, should not be producing twice the quantity of coal. We all know that the Government has allowed the coal position to become desperately serious. We know that troop trains on the east-west line take nine days to travel from Port Augusta to Kalgoorlie. Some of the munitions factories are finding that the coal sent to them is so bad as to be almost useless. Yet the mine which I mention is not working at anything like its full capacity. Now the Minister for Supply and Shipping (Mr. Beasley) has asked the workers not to strike for the next three months. Why? He does not ask them to refrain from striking because it might hinder the war effort, or out of consideration for the boys fighting and dying in New Guinea. He does not ask them to remain at work in order to assist our gallant Allies.

Mr Pollard:

– You are a liar.

Mr SPEAKER:

-Order! .

Mr Pollard:

– Of course he is a liar. The Minister asked ‘ the workers not to strike at all.

Dr PRICE:
BOOTHBY, SOUTH AUSTRALIA · UAP

– I ask that the honorable member be required to withdraw his statement.

Mr SPEAKER:

– What is the statement complained of?

Dr PRICE:
BOOTHBY, SOUTH AUSTRALIA · UAP

– The honorable member called me a liar. I understand that the expression is unparliamentary.

Mr SPEAKER:

-Does the honorable member ask for a withdrawal?

Dr PRICE:
BOOTHBY, SOUTH AUSTRALIA · UAP

– I do.

Mr SPEAKER:

– I ask the honorable member for Ballarat (Mr. Pollard) to withdraw his statement and to apologize.

Mr Pollard:

– Out of respect for the Chair I withdraw the statement.

Dr PRICE:
BOOTHBY, SOUTH AUSTRALIA · UAP

– The financial policy of the Government has been touched upon briefly. Up to the 31st May of this financial year the Government has expended £501,000,000 on the war, of which only £118,000,000 has come out of revenue. In other words, Australia is finding only 23.6 per cent, of its war expenditure out of revenue. [Extension of time granted.] The Prime Minister said to-night that Australia was in no more danger of inflation than was Canada or New Zealand. I looked up the position with regard to Canada, and found that, whereas we are financing only 23.6 per cent, of our waT expenditure out of revenue, Canada is financing over 50 per cent, out of revenue or through postwar credits. It is obvious that this huge release of credit in Australia is producing very serious results. I do not say that the present condition is due wholly to this fact, but it is partly so, and the fact remains that the value of the £1 has fallen to 15s. 6d. We have all lost 4s. 6d. in the £1 out of our capital and incomes before ever we pay any taxation at all. It is this decline of value which has forced the Government to introduce price fixation, combined with the payment of subsidies, which provide an excellent excuse for log-rolling, and a disguise for inflation. At the recent Labour conference in Melbourne, the Minister for Labour and National “ Service said that he was not responsible for keeping wages pegged. As a matter of fact they are not really pegged at all. He said that he would like wages to be increased. I point out that the whole success of the pricefixing scheme depends in very large measure upon the pegging of wages. Those who are trying to administer the scheme are very well aware of this. When the Minister for Labour and National Service says that wages should be increased he is going against a policy which his own Government introduced as something absolutely vital.

Before I close I wish to refer to tha socialistic and regimentation schemes which are being introduced by .the Government. Supporters of the Government will claim that this matter has only local application, but it is something which affects Great Britain and the United States of America as well as this country. Numbers of people in Australia realize that the war is creating a problem of the utmost difficulty - the setting up of departments which more and more interfere with the liberty of individuals. Many supporters of the Government recognize these difficulties as we do. After the war the question will be whether the people will have become so sick of regimentation that they will strive for greater individualism or will accept the socialism which is preached by the Labour party. I believe that what we need is individualism, and that we must guard the freedom of the individual man, his family, and his home. There are indications that the freedom of the people may be endangered by the policy advocated by certain members of the Government. One of the most serious aspects of this matter has been the attack on President Dwyer of the Western Australian Arbitration Court by the Minister for Labour and National Service (Mr. Ward). The president replied that it would be an ill day for Australia if our priceless liberties, which had been gained with great difficulty after many generations of struggle, should be filched from us. It would indeed be a tragedy for this country if the freedom of our law courts and the strength of our system of justice were filched’ from us by political action.

I come now to the attack on the law by the Acting Attorney-General (Mr. Beasley). That he should let down the head of the Allied Works Council was bad; .that he should support men who were holding up war work was disgraceful; but that he should write a cringing letter of apology to the leader of the union has filled the nation with undisguised disgust. As the right honorable member for North Sydney (Mr. Hughes) has said, the Minister placed the union bosses above the law. That is typical of a government which has forfeited .the confidence of the House and of the nation, because, as the Bulletin says, it stands for the government of the people by the union bosses, for the union bosses. I support the motion of want of confidence notwithstanding that in some respects I believe that the Government has done reasonably well where it has built on the foundation laid by previous governments as in connexion with our munitions programme. In other respects however, the Prime Minister has made Australia a laughing stock abroad, whilst at home he has unnecessarily burdened the community and shown great weakness. The Opposition believes that the nation is tired of a Prime Minister who in wartime meekly follows the dictates of the trade unions,, who condones the extremism of the Minister for Labour and National Service, and more and more places party considerations before the interests of the nation.

Mr BAKER:
Maranoa

.The motion of want of confidence submitted by the Leader of the Opposition (Mr. Fadden) is but another example of a party playing “ the diabolical game of party politics “. I was astounded to hear what the honorable member for Boothby (Dr. Price) said about Australia. It certainly was a bad advertisement for this country. Usually we expect people to get wiser as they get older, but, unfortunately, the honorable member for Boothby does not seem to improve. The motion is a glaring example of how the several sections of the Opposition - that party of shreds and patches - co-operates with the Government in this time of national stress. The Opposition consists of the United Australia party, the United Country party, the United NationalCountry party, and last, but by no means least, the disruptive section of the Opposition, the cave which comprises seventeen troglody tes who have called themselves the National Service Group. The Opposition is a conglomeration of warring elements which haveunited for the sole purpose of trying to destroy the Labour party. Should they succeed, the masters of that party of shreds and patches would be free to exploit the poor, as history has shown they have done down the years. During the last 26 years, the Labour party was on the treasury bench for only two years before the present Government took over the reins of office in October, 1941. Previous governments must therefore accept the responsibility for the unprepared state of this country when war broke out. It is useless for , any one to say otherwise, because governments opposed to Labour were in office continuously from 1931 to 1939. We are told that “ the evil that men do lives after them “. It is certainly true that the evil of previous governments lives after them, because, for twenty months, the present Government has been trying to clean up the mess which it inherited. It is said that every agriculturist knows that one year’s seeding means seven years’ weeding. That is true of the mess left by previous governments. Were it not that a Labour government came into office in October, 1941, I believe that this country to-day would be a Japanese province even as Java, Sumatra, the Celebes, and other lands are now Japanese provinces. If we studied the history of recent years, we should get eventually to “ the Brisbane line “. The Menzies Govern ment planned for this war on the basis of the blue prints, plans and specifications prepared for the 1914-18 war; it either ignored or did not understand that Japan, which had been an ally in that war, was now in reality a deadly enemy prepared to pounce on Australia at the first opportunity. The Menzies Government had no imagination whatever, and could not understand that an ally in 1914 could be an enemy in 1939. Its idea of war strategy was to send as many able-bodied men as possible out of Australia. It called for volunteers, and they came forward in great numbers. However, as I have said, that Government was obsessed by the one idea of sending as many men as possible out of Australia. Those men were sent away without adequate supplies of rifles, aeroplanes, tanks and other munitions. Why did that Government think it necessary to send across the seas everything it had in the way of men and materials for defence? Just as Piccadilly and Tower Hill are a part of the British Empire, so also is Australia. Whilst the Labour party is in accord with sending men overseas, thereby demonstrating to the world that the British nation is united, it is reluctant to deplete this country of its man-power. However, that is what was done. This nation of a little over 7,000,000 people, with a territory of 3.000,000 square miles and a coast-line of 12,000 miles to defend, needed all the men and materials it had for its own defence. The sending abroad of so many men was a tragic mistake because, when Japan struck at Pearl Harbour, Great Britain could not help us. The position was similar to that of two men walking in a dark alley, one of whom is attacked by two ruffians and the other by one. If the man who had only one opponent called to his companion for help, the other could not do more than say that help would be forthcoming when he had dealt effectively with his own two opponents. That was, in effect, the predicament of Great Britain at the time. It was not the fault of the Mother Country that that situation arose. Since then, Britain has given to us’ a lot of help for which we are thankful; but at that time Australia turned to our cousins in the United States of America - people who have a community of interest witu us in the Pacific. Because the present Government asked the American nation for help, it has been charged with disloyalty and with letting Britain down. Far from doing that, it helped to save a part of the British Empire for the British race. The Americans caine here. They wished to avenge Pearl Harbour. They had large numbers of men, hut no bases from which to attack the Japanese, whereas we had only few men, but numerous bases from which to strike at the enemy. “We joined hands in the common struggle. First, there came to this country a tiny trickle of help from the United States of America. Before long, that trickle had become a stream; then it reached the dimensions of a river ; to-day that river is in flood. We owe a considerable debt of gratitude to the people of the United States of America who have come to our aid. Of course, I realize that, in helping us, they are helping themselves. When the danger threatening Great Britain became less, help was sent to us from -that source also. Throughout the war, Britain has been helping China, Russia and North Africa also. I think that these nations form a wonderful combination. The credit for asking the United States of America to send forces here is due to the Labour party, and primarily to the Prime Minister.

The Sydney Daily Telegraph of the 18th March, 1943, reporting an interview with General Douglas MacArthur on the first anniversary of his arrival in Australia from the Philippines, said -

Australia’s war strategy was drastically revised after General MacArthur took command of the South-west Pacific front.

Our defence plan then conceived that the islands to the north would he lost and that North Queensland and Darwin would be overrun.

Provision had been made for an organised resistance behind a line drawn west from Brisbane.

General MacArthur considered the conception of this strategy defeatist and fatal to Australia’s safety.

He changed the strategic conception with the basic thought that the battle for Australia would be settled in the littoral islands to the north, north-east and the north-west.

The new strategy was to make these islands the battleground - win, lose, or draw.

Like Pushed FORWARD

By the swift development of airfields and roads in North Australia, and the expansion of Moresby as a war base, the bomber line was pushed northward.

Movement northward of ground ‘troops has since taken up the slack from the old Brisbane defence line.

The Japs have been repulsed in the five major actions since the development of the now strategy.

These actions were fought in the Coral Sea, at Buna, Milne Bay, in the Owen Stanley ranges, and in the Bismarck Sca.

The vital enemy error of moving forward without command of the air contributed largely to their reverses.

Captured enemy documents have since disclosed that the Japs planned to take Moresby with a force of 20 transports.

I now ask leave to have published in Hansard a map, with a hachured area showing the section of Australia, the defence of which was contemplated by the adherents of “ the Brisbane line “. That line runs from Maryborough, slightly north of Brisbane, to Port Augusta, in South Australia.

Mr ACTING DEPUTY SPEAKER:
Mr. Rankin

– Is there any obection?

Mr ARCHIE Cameron:

– I shall agree only on condition that a photograph of the Minister for Labour and National Service (Mr. Ward) shall also be published.

Mr BAKER:

The Worker, published in Brisbane on the 7th June, 1943, said -

The following extract from the Brisbane “Telegraph” of May 6, 1039, headed, “The Defence of the North - Mr. Hanlon and the Courier-Mail,’ “ well and truly nails the Melbourneowned monopoly journal: “Late on Thursday afternoon (May 4) Mr. Hanlon made a most important statement to the Labor Conference at Canberra, in which it was implied that the high military authorities of Australia do not consider that Queensland, or at least the northern portion of it, is worth defending. Mr. Hanlon pointed out that there was no anti-aircraft defence in north Australia, and that again and again the Queensland Government had asked the Commonwealth for an air-base in the northern part of the State, but the invariable reply had been that the expense did not justify the work.

The Brisbane Telegraph, mark you, gave prominence to that statement, believing that it was of importance, not only to Queensland, but also to Australia as a whole. The article continues -

The Telegraph’ gave prominence to that statement, believing it to be of high importance, not only for Queensland, but for Australia as a whole. “ The ‘ Courier-Mail,’ which omitted to publish Mr. Hanlon’s statement on Friday, now tells us that all Canberra is laughing at Mr. Hanlon’s statement. If that be true, which we take leave to doubt, it is high time that there was a change of outlook at Canberra. “ It does not need any great military knowledge to appreciate the fact that it Australia is attacked, the first blow struck will be in the north-east, and yet that area is the most neglected in the whole of Australia from the point of view of defence. “ It is well known that the attitude of big business interests in Melbourne and Sydney is directed towards securing by far the greatest part of the defence expenditure for the protection of Sydney and Melbourne. In their eyes the rest of Australia does not count. The attitude of the Minister for Defence, who hails from Melbourne, apparently is that all Queensland needs is a few popguns and an occasional small solatium. It is evident that in his view, for every million pounds spent in Melbourne and Sydney, a mere five-pound note will suffice for Queensland. For instance, Queensland possesses highly efficient railway workshops at Ipswich, which could be extended and developed for the manufacture of military munitions and weapons. It is noticeable, however, that although several annexes are to be erected to the railway workshops of Melbourne and Sydney, not even one can be spared for Queensland, “It is lamentable that a newspaper published in Queensland should be content with this short-sighted attitude shown by the military authorities and backed by the Minister for Defence.”

In the same issue of The Worker the following appears: -

Speaking in the Queensland Parliament on October 30, 1942. Mr. E. M. Hanlon (Minister for Health and Home Affairs) recalled a discussion he had with the late BrigadierGeneral Street (then Minister for the Army), who afterwards met his death in an unfortunate plane accident. Said Mr. Hanlon: “ At a conference in Canberra, when I made charges that there was to be no defence of North Queensland, that it was not intended to defend North Queensland, and that there was not a gun in North Queensland capable of putting up a fight, Brigadier-General Street handed to the Press a reply prepared by a permanent officer of his department, the Department of Defence, in which he said that Mr. Hanlon was wrong in saying there were no guns or artillery in North Queensland, as there was a battery of artillery at Gympie! “

There was a battery of artillery at Gympie! The only armament in the north then was an old iron cannon, which I think had been left by Captain Cook.

Under the heading “ This is no time for party post-mortems “, the Brisbane Telegraph of the 28th May, 1943, pub lished an editorial from which the following is an extract: -

Granted that Queensland’s importance as a front line barrier against the enemy was for long insufficiently realized, and that there was intolerably short-sighted neglect of this State’s defences, acrimonious post-mortems about it for the sole purpose of political aggrandisement will be a grave dis-service to the nation, which needs above all else co-operation, unity of purpose, and a sense of responsibility among its political leaders.

In other words, an auditor who discovers defalcations at a railway station should write to his superior and say, “ Why worry about acrimonious debates and post-mortems? Let this man carry on.” In a little while the agglomeration of parties that forms the Opposition will ask the people to renew their confidence in them for a period of three years. I distributed amongst some of my electors out in the west, copies of a map which shows the small section of Australia, the defence of which was envisaged by “the Brisbane line” strategy. I asked them to look at it and said that the sergeant of police and his men, who were present, could arrest me if I said anything wrong. I then said, “ They threw you to the wolves, and now they are about to come back for a renewed vote of confidence. If you give it, I hope you get what is coming to you.” I intend to distribute 10,000 copies of that map to my constituents, and I shall tell them what terrible consequences would have attended the invasion of Australia by Japan because of the application of “ the Brisbane line “ policy. Any invaded country is in a terrible predicament. Great Britain’s predicament would have been appalling if it had been invaded by Germany, but that predicament would have paled into insignificance compared with the awful fate that would have befallen our men, women and children had they been left defenceless, because they were outside the area which the exponents of “ the Brisbane line “ strategy thought was worth defending in the event of invasion by the Japanese. The Japanese are ruthless. They destroy the resistance of the men in conquered territories by enslaving them to heroin and other drugs from which there is no escape but death. The women are raped until merciful death releases them from torture. That was to be the fate of our loved ones beyond “the Brisbane line “. I am astounded, appalled, that men who have wives and daughters could conceive such a plan as “ the Brisbane line “. Last year from this very place I said that I had lost my wife and two daughters some time ago, and that rather than lose them to the filthy torture of the Japanese I should be glad that they were dead. I would leave none of our women to that fate that would befall them if the Japanese landed here. I know the Japanese for what they are. Perhaps no member of this Parliament knows them better than I do. They are ruthless and bestial. We saw the threat from Japan long before the blow fell, but because we said that we should not deplete the country of manpower in order to fight in distant theatres of war we were said to be disloyal. Then when the Japanese struck and we invited the United States of America to send aid to us we were stigmatized as being unpatriotic. Such criticism is playing a low-down game. I hold that the Government has done a very fine job of work. We invited the Americans to come here, and they came gladly. They could not have come to this country without our invitation, but had they done so they would have committed, an act of war. But our invitation does not mean that we are turning American, or that Australia is to be the 49th State of the United States of America. Such talk is rot. By blood and association, we are closer to Great Britain than we are to the United States of America, but we are not above accepting aid from the United States of America at a time when Britain cannot help us, despite its eagerness to do so. In any case, Great Britain itself is accepting aid from the United States. Surely, therefore, we are not disloyal in accepting help from the people of America. I hope that we shall continue to do so. The Government was responsible for the appointment of General MacArthur as CommanderinChief in the South- West Pacific. That was a happy choice. The Government also brought back two divisions from the Middle East. They were on their way to Burma, but we knew that our need was great. At that time some of us had in mind Goldsmith’s couplet -

Such is the patriot’s boast, where’er we roam, His first, best country ever is at home.

We thought of our dear ones, and were concerned because we did not have sufficient man-power to protect them. For that reason, we diverted those two divisions to Australia; and they have vindicated our judgment in driving the Japanese back across the Owen Stanley ranges. Kokoda, Buna, Gona were, a short while ago, but the names of obscure villages. To-day they have become highlights in the history of this country and will inspire future generations of Australians. The proof of the pudding is in the eating. I need not traverse the battles of the Coral Sea and Midway, the Japanese raid on Sydney Harbour, and the battles of the Solomons and Guadalcanal. Those were the issues that have vindicated our actions and attitude.

I now propose to deal with the achievements of the Government in spheres not so directly related to the war. It has stabilized the wheat industry by giving what is practically an increase of 25 per cent, of the price of wheat for the first 3,000 bushels produced by each grower. The Attorney-General (Dr. Evatt J, on his previous visit to Great Britain, secured an increase of the price of wool by 15 per cent., which increased the nation’s income by £9,000,000. Since this Government took office, the price of tobacco has been increased by 20 per cent., and similar increases of the prices of butter and dairy products have been effected, allowing for the latest distribution of £4,500,000 for the assistance of primary producers. Ninety-five per cent, of the work on dairy farms is carried out by family labour. The price obtained for pig meats has risen by 33 l-3rd per cent. All of these increases have helped the primary producers as a whole. What have honorable members opposite ever done for the man on the land ? Governments politically akin to that of honorable members opposite have been in office for practically 40 years, but they abandoned the primary producer. They left him in the wilderness. They gave him words. They told him he was the backbone of the country, hut did nothing for him. During their regimes, woman and child labour was the general rule on the land.

This Government has increased the rate of invalid and old-age pensions, and has established pensions for widows and orphans. It has introduced a national welfare, scheme. It has increased the pay of members of the fighting forces and given substantial concessions to them. Much has been said about a man-power muddle. For two years, honorable members opposite were in office, but they did not attempt to organize our man-power in any way whatever. When this Government assumed office the position was chaotic. We must remember the old saying that one year’s seeding means seven years’ weeding. The Allied Works Council has expended £80,000,000 in building roads, bridges, aerodromes, wharfs and graving docks in order to increase the efficiency of our fighting services. Once again honorable members opposite have raised the old bogy of inflation. If the worker is not taxed, or if his wages are not reduced, honorable members opposite squeal about the danger of inflation ; but in their view it is simply good business if a profiteer gets away with a few millions. To-day, the old bogy of inflation cuts no ice whatever. Inflation cannot occur so long as the Government retains control of the economic structure. The most effective way of doing sp is by pegging prices, wages, interest and costs. In supporting the motion of no confidence, the Opposition has revealed itself in its true colours. To honorable gentlemen opposite I apply the words of a great leader before the battle of Dunbar, who, when he saw that the enemy had taken the wrong turn, declared, “ The Lord has delivered them into our hands “. Honorable members opposite, when they again go to the people, will find that I am justified in applying that observation to them as the result of the action they are now taking.

Mr STACEY:
Adelaide

– As honorable members on this side who have spoken in this debate have thoroughly dealt with our war effort, I intend to confine myself to certain legislation which was passed last session. The Minister for the Army (Mr. Forde) declared that the Menzies Government came into office with a majority in both Houses. That statement is far from the truth. The Menzies Government did not have a majority. At that -time “our little

Arthur “ was floating around. We did not know how he would vote on any issue. Consequently, the Menzies Government legislated by appeasement. The Minister for the Army declared to-day that the measures presented to the House by the Menzies Government had been wrung from the Government by the Opposition which would wrest more legislation from the Administration to suit thani.

Mr COLES:
HENTY, VICTORIA · IND

– The honorable member seems to be under a misapprehension. The Minister for the Army was referring to the pre-election period when he made that statement.

Mr STACEY:

– Any sensible person would know that such statements are not correct. At all events the history of the Menzies and Fadden Governments is well known to the people of Australia. The issue upon which the Fadden Government was removed from office was the proposal for compulsory loans in conjunction with increased taxes on low incomes. Within a short period of the defeat of that government, practically the same budget was presented to this House by the Treasurer (Mr. Chifley), the exception being that persons on the lowest ranges of income were eliminated from the Government’s taxation proposals. No doubt, the persons coming within those ranges believed that they would be exempt from income tax under a Labour Government. During the last session, however, it was made clear to those persons that they were not being treated so favorably by this Government, as the Fadden Government proposed to treat them. The rates of tax on the lowest incomes is now practically double the rate which the Fadden Government proposed to impose as a compulsory loan to be repaid after the war with interest added. All of the workers of this country are not fools. Already, they are squealing about the treatment they have received at the bands of this Government. Only last week I met a man who informed me that with a wife and four children and with an income of £250 he was exempt from income tax when the Menzies and Fadden Governments were in office, whereas to-day, although he is only earning a little more, he will pay tax up to £60 of taxation. Naturally, he will not support this Government. To the Income Tax Bill which was submitted last session, the Government, as a sop to the workers, tacked a national welfare bill under which it is proposed to pay into a trust fund the sum of £30,000,000 annually, which will later be used to finance a welfare scheme embracing extended social services. “Why could not the Treasurer have been honest and told the people that the money must be used for war purposes? When the last Commonwealth loan was floated, the Treasurer and others declared that they expected 400,000 or 500,000 subscribers. Australia has approximately 3,000,000 salary and wage-earners. If contributions to the loan had been made compulsory, there would have been 3,000,000 subscribers instead of 400,000 voluntary investors, and the Government would not have been obliged to increase income tax so steeply. It would have been easier for 3,000,000 subscribers to provide £200,000,000 than for 400,000 subscribers to provide £100,000,000. The compulsory method would have been fairer than the voluntary method. Why should some low wage-earners scrape and screw to invest £10 in the war loan when thousands of persons in receipt of good incomes do not invest any money? All persons should be compelled to invest in the loan according to their incomes, and, if that were done, taxes could be reduced. South Australians realize this truth, and in consequence I feel very happy about my prospects of being re-elected to this House. For the last twelve years my defeat has been confidently predicted by my opponents, but events have always proved them wrong.

When the Government introduced the Australian Soldiers’ Repatriation Bill recently, some honorable members on this side of the House believed that the Minister had inadvertently omitted to include a clause granting preference in -employment to returned soldiers and endeavoured to rectify the omission. The Government rejected the proposal. I assure Government supporters that their attitude on that occasion will not be forgotten by returned soldiers at the appropriate time. The Government also proposed to tax the deferred pay of soldiers, but senators of the United Australia party eliminated that unfair provision. That will also be remembered at the forthcoming election.

Industrial turmoil flourishes in New South Wales to a greater degree than in any other State. I am gratified to be able to say that South Australian industry experiences very few stoppages. The contempt of waterside workers for the law and their moral responsibilities to the community, deserves the severest condemnation. Hundreds of servicemen are called upon to unload ships that have been chartered to carry munitions and food to our troops, while waterside workers lounge idly in the neighbourhood of the wharfs. If they deigned to do the work, they would be paid at the rate of 2os. or 30s. a day. The servicemen receive 63. a day. The honorable member for Parramatta (Sir Frederick Stewart) declared that the Commonwealth Government collected the award rates for the work performed by the servicemen, and retained the difference between the award rate and the service rate of pay. The soldiers will not forget that. They should have been paid the award rates for the work that they performed on the wharfs. If the waterside workers refuse to do their job, they should be called up for military service.

I warned the Government that the Defence Act (Militia Forces) Bill would arouse intense hostility, and my forecast has proved correct. It will not be forgotten for a long while. America has come to the rescue of Australia with thousands of troops and an abundance of equipment. The least we can do is to send our armed forces to areas in which the Americans will be fighting. Honorable members were hoodwinked in connexion with the introduction of that legislation. I examined a map of the area within which the Government proposed the Australian Imperial Force and the Citizen Military Forces should fight as one army, and I was perfectly satisfied with it. The area included New Zealand, and territories occupied by the Japanese. That map was vastly different from the area which the bill defined as the region within which the Citizen Military Forces may be used. The position is ludicrous. The Citizen Military Forces may now fight side by side with the Australian Imperial Force and the Americans as far north as central Java, but it may not accompany them beyond that point. Is it right for the Government to “ squeal “ to America for assistance, as it has done, when it is not prepared to support United States forces in the reconquest of American territory? The American soldiers who are helping us today are conscripts. The Australian people will not accept that travesty. If New Zealand had been attacked, the Government could not have sent the Citizen Military Forces to the aid of our sister dominion.

I realize that Ministers have much to contend with and are bound to make some mistakes, but the man-power position requires close scrutiny. During the last few weeks hundreds of men have been dismissed from a factory at Finsbury Park in South Australia. To comply with the law they reported to the manpower authorities and were told that they must wait until “ something turns up “. Instead of remaining idle they should be put to work in rural districts, replacing members of the Women’s Land Army. I spoke at some length during the last parliamentary period on governmental waste. Some degree of waste is inevitable, but I am still dissatisfied with attempts to prevent it. Last week, I accompanied the honorable member for Wakefield (Mr. Duncan-Hughes) . on an inspection of nearly 300 cabin cottages at Salisbury. Some time ago I condemned the design of those dwellings. The specifications had been sent to Canberra and fortunately they were altered slightly in order to effect improvements, but, even so, they were still a disgrace to the community. No man should be asked to live in them. The Housing Trust of South Australia is erecting- dwellings of a much better class. A permanent structure, it is built of brick and has four good rooms, bath room, all conveniences and a sleepout. The rent, which is 12s. 6d. a week, includes rates and taxes, interest and sinking fund payments. Such houses are a credit to the State. But the 300 dwellings at Salisbury are a disgrace.

Mr MARWICK:
SWAN, WESTERN AUSTRALIA · CP

– They are slums.

Mr STACEY:

– Although the Commonwealth Government has repeatedly condemned slum conditions, it will perpetuate them at Salisbury. The area will be so wet by the end of winter that living conditions will be most, uncomfortable. The cottage has three rooms and a “ hip “ roof. The specifications originally provided for a flat roof but that was altered. The roof consists of asbestos cement, corrugated, and no gutter is provided. The rooms are very small. One bedroom is 11 feet by 9 feet and the other is 11 feet by 10 feet. Theliving room is 11 feet by 11 feet and the kitchenette i3 approximately 4 feet by 4 feet. A stove is set in a small alcove and there is just room for the housewife to stand in front of it. About ten yards from the building there is a set of wash troughs, to which two houses have access, and the lavatories join them. There is no drainage whatever. The closets which have a pan system are a disgrace. No attempt has been made to form streets, and the drainage from the laundries seems to find its way into a small pit about 2 ft. 6 in. deep. The ground is not porous, and on the occasion of my visit a stench arose from the pit. In the summer the conditions are likely to cause an outbreak of disease. The residents are most uncomfortable. In one house visited there are seven permanent residents, and at week-ends twelve persons sometimes occupy the premises. How they manage to do so I do not know. The erection of such slums is highly reprehensible. I was told that the buildings would be dismantled after the war, and I estimated that if ever they were dismantled the value of the material in each house would be about £30. The timber used is flimsy. The roofing material would be greatly damaged in the process of dismantling, and the fibrous plaster would be almost worthless. This matter has been widely discussed in South Australia. If the Commonwealth Government can win the votes of the occupants of these houses, I shall be greatly surprised. A loud cry has been raised by the Government about the necessity for disposing of slums, yet it has established in South Australia one of the worst slum areas I have ever seen. Some houses of this type are being built in the Hind- marsh electorate. Some of them were to have been erected in my own district, but the residents strongly objected, with the result that the buildings are not to be erected in thickly populated areas. I trust that the Government will reconsider the matter before proceeding further with the scheme. The Housing Trust in South Australia had guaranteed to build as many houses as were required at a cost of £900 a pair, but the cost of the wretched shacks that have been put up is said to be £400 each. The rent charged for premises erected by the Housing Trust is 12s. 6d. a week, yet 15s. a week is charged for these shacks, and where a small sleep-out has been added an extra charge of 2s. a week is levied. I understand that the Commonwealth Government will not allow the State Housing Trust to continue, and intends to erect more of these wretched things that I have described.

The last speaker said that the present Government had increased the invalid and old-age pension, but I think that I have convinced pensioners that the increase is more imaginary than real. .When the payment was £1 a week, the pensioner was able to purchase goods to the value of £1, but the purchasing power of the £1 has so decreased that, despite the increase of the pension, the pensioner is probably 2s. 6d. a week worse off than he wa3 before. I rose to support the motion submitted by the Leader of the Opposition, and I hope that the Government will, in the face of the condemnation by the Opposition, appeal to the electors.

Mr BREEN:
Calare

.- The Leader of the Opposition (Mr. Fadden) traversed a wide field in his attack on the Government. He made the subjects of strikes, man-power shortage on the food front and socialism the first points of assault. Then, after a noisy speech, which appeared to be an attempt to distract attention from its lack of logic, he fell back on “ the Brisbane line “ controversy. It is apparent that the attack on the Government is really an attempt to defend “ the Brisbane line “ strategy, which is the natural outcome of the mismanagement by the Opposition parties during their long occupancy of the treasury bench. Where the blame for Australia’s helplessness in 1941 lies is quite clear, but it ill becomes the United Australia party and Country party combination to belittle the continuing efforts of the Labour Government to render this country secure against invasion. When the Prime Minister (Mr. Curtin) made his historical appeal to the United States of America in the fateful February of 1942, the tories, still unconscious of the nation’s peril, raised the stupid cry of disloyalty to Britain, despite the fact that their homes and womenfolk and children were already potential victims of the Japanese plunderers. When the stark truth finally penetrated their minds they sought means of escape. They cried to the Government to give them arms and to provide pistols and knives for the halfarmed militia in New Guinea. When the Americans arrived, and it appeared that the frontiers would be held, they immediately declared that Australians should be nazified to demonstrate to the Americans that we were grateful to them for coming to our assistance. Our people were to accept harsh conditions as proof of our gratitude. It is rather twisted logic but typical of the Opposition, and it shows the state of affairs that would have eventuated with regard to “the Brisbane line “ defence, had the Opposition remained in office. When honorable members opposite finally awakened to the fact that the public regarded them as humbugs they fell back on the foolish policy of belittling Australia’s ambassador overseas, the Attorney-General (Dr. Evatt). I shall quote from a typical tory journal, the Industrial Australian and Mining Standard, of the loth May, 1943, which reflects the mental reactions of those who control big industries in Australia -

The rampaging of our Attorney-General (Dr. Evatt), in the United States of America has at last been stigmatized for what it is by one of our public men. We have had occasion during both during this and the last tour abroad of Dr. Evatt, to point out how damaging to Australia, in the eyes of Britain particularly, and of our other Allies, have been the insinuations of his Government and himself concerning supposed want of regard for this country’s strategic interests. Now Mr. J. P. Abbott, M.H.R., summarizes the ill effects of Dr. Evatt’s crude lime-lighting methods. He said that the Attorney-General was causing bacl feeling between the United States Government and the Commonwealth. If the clanger to Australia was as great as Dr. Evatt would lead the American public to believe, then the Prime Minister (Mr. Curtin) should go and put Australia’s case before President Roosevelt and Mr. Churchill. He feared that the manner in which the Australian Government was attempting to procure more aid from the United States was very detrimental to the interests of the Commonwealth. Since his arrival in the United States Dr. Evatt had been emphasizing the dangerous position in this area, the massing of the Japanese to the north, and, according to the Minister, the comparatively small amount of aid which has been sent to the South- West Pacific.

Even twelve months after the crisis had passed, tactics were being employed by the spokesmen of the Opposition that were similar to those used by them when the Prime Minister first made his appeal to the United States of America to come to the help of Australia in its hour of need. It has been said by our opponents that we were squealing before we were hurt. The right honorable member for Kooyong, in referring to the war effort with regard to the production of munitions, mentioned the name of Mr. Hartnett. Presumably, members of the Opposition would regard this man as qualified to speak authoritatively regarding the state of affairs in our munitions and heavy industries and relative to Australia’s capacity to defend, itself. I quote the following newspaper cable message from Bridgeport, Connecticut : -

Mr. Hartnett, of the Australian Munitions Department, who is touring American defence plants, addressed the General Electric Engineers Club yesterday.

He emphasized that Australia needs materials to do her share in the war but before asking for help, utilized every resource at her command. “Australia’s requests for complete fighting equipment are absolutely paramount and urgent. It is important that the United Nations should strengthen Australian .production which, in many instances, could be achieved by making available comparatively small quantities of American equipment and machinery, thus overcoming the weaknesses in Australia’s industrial war economy,” he added.

That proves conclusively that Australian Ministers, in their appeal to America for help, were not squealing in the face of an imaginary danger. The danger was real. I quite agree that the defence policy that has come to be known as “ the Brisbane Line “ strategy, was not the policy which the then governments of the day - I refer to both the Menzies and the Fadden Governments - visualized as the one that would be put into effect to defend Australia should the Japanese attack; hut I say that those governments, with the information which they had at their disposal regarding the trend of affairs in the Pacific, should have placed Australia in a much better position to defend itself. I remember that in July, 1940, when the Burma Road was closed it was suggested that the Australian Government, fearing that the Japanese might attack Australia before we could place ourselves in a position of defence, and before Britain could come to our aid, brought pressure to bear on the British Government to close the road in an attempt to mollify Japan, and this was done despite opposition from the United States of America, and the cries of protest from the Chinese that Britain was selling out China for fear of the J apanese. I quote from the Argus of the 10th October, 1940, a. newspaper report of a statement by Mr. McEwen, the then Minister of External Affairs -

Mr. McEwen recalled that the views of the Federal Government were a real factor in the consideration of the Burma Road question in July.

As the time drew near for the expiration of the agreement, however, the United Kingdom Government, and all other Governments of the British Commonwealth had to face the fact that no progress at all had been made toward, the objective of n general settlement in East Asia.

From that time onward, unfortunately, the atmosphere has remained unpropitious for discussions of questions leading to a wider understanding with Japan.

Entry of Japan into alliance with Germany and Italy and military occupation of partsof Indo-China made war inevitable.

With war inevitable, our troops were being trained, volunteers were being called for, and the flower of Australia’s manhood was being rushed overseas,, while Australia was left naked. I do not say that the Government of the day was treacherous, but it must accept responsibility, in the light of what has happened, for the policy which it applied at that time. I leave the matter there.

Reference has been made to strikes in Australia and to man-power shortages on: the food front. I do not defend thestrikes, or the policy of striking as a method of getting better conditions for- wage-earners, but I suggest that if it is unpatriotic and treacherous for the workers to strike at a time like this, it is also treacherous for any one deliberately to provoke industrial unrest. I quote from the journal Australian Coal, Shipping and Steel, which expresses the political views of the coal owners, the ship-owners and the stevedoring companies. It is evident from the extravagant language used that they are hardly the people who would do anything to cool heated tempers, or to pacify those irritated by a long period of industrial strife. This is what the paper published in its issue of the 1st March, 1943-

What at first looked like one of the most devastating acts of public humiliation upon this country - and it has not really altered materially since - was committed during the month when the Federal Government, kowtowing to the left-wingers of its supporting party, to the isolationists, and to those frankly anti-British (and to that extent at least pro-Axis), introduced into the Australian Parliament a militia bill designed to secure an amendment of the Defence Act to widen Australia’s war effort.

That is characteristic of the outlook of those who control the coal industry and the shipping industry. Here is what the journal published about the wharf labourers -

In Melbourne, during the past month, Judge Magennis observed in his Court that he was surprised that so many men with criminal records were allowed to work on the Melbourne wharfs …” there had been a procession for three days of wharf labourers passing through the dock at Central Sessions “. Why then, are these remedies not applied? For the simple and concise reason that because of political considerations - because of voting considerations in the industrial electorates along the waterfront - Governments have refrained from taking action, or deliberately refused to take it.

And then honorable members opposite hope to get peace on the waterfront ! In view of statements of that kind, can one place the blame wholly on the wharf labourers when disputes occur? Those who control such an important section of our transport system should not use extravagant language of that kind if they want peace on the waterfront, but they do not want peace. I quote the following report from another issue of the same journal,’ that of 1st January, 1943: -

The chairman of Northern Collieries Limited, Mr. Telford Simpson, has protested to the Attorney-General, Dr. Evatt, against the procedure which the Coal Commission is adopting in its inquiry into the coal-mining industry.

Mr. Simpson said that of all the actions of the Government which could be called into question, the circumstances of the appointment of the commission and its subsequent procedure were as immoral as anything could be.

In his communication to Dr. Evatt, Mr. Simpson said he pointed out that it was not reasonable to expect any proprietor to go before it with any degree of confidence. He asked that the Government should cancel the appointments and that it should appoint a High Court judge to make the necessary inquiry as he must, of necessity, be taken as impartial.

Sitting suspended from 7.80 to 10 a.m.

Mr BREEN:

– I shall make several more quotations from the Australian Coal, Shipping and the Harbour journal to further my purpose. In the issue of the 1st January, 1943, the following article appeared: -

Production efforts on the coal-fields had materially improved in the last four days, said the Commonwealth Coal Commissioner, Mr. N. Mighell, on the 23rd December.

That was the result of Dr. Evatt’s mission. Here is a striking example of the approach to this situation made by the coal-owners and their managers - a situation which always is fraught with the possibility of industrial trouble. Industrial disputes on the coal-fields are traditional, and people who have grown up in such an atmosphere are not likely to be converted overnight, even although there is a war on. That has been the experience, not only in Australia, but also in every other country of the world, including the totalitarian countries. The article continues, referring to Dr. Evatt-

As an exhibition in political classconsciousness, this will take some beating. Dr. Evatt, the Federal Attorney-General, addressing the coal-miners at Maitland: “ I am here this week he said, “ because of the necessity for finding out the cause of the stoppages in the coal industry. These stoppages have been described as being merely pinpricks, but too many pin-pricks can kill anybody, and they will have to stop. I do not know the object of these stoppages. It could no.t he to injure the Government, because it is a Labour Government. It must be some other objective “. Truly we are living in days - unlike those of ancient Borne sung so convincingly by Macaulay - when the appeal is to the party far rather than to the State. And, yon will note, the presiding genius on this occasion was none other than the Federal Attorney-General, formerly of the High Court Bench.

That report makes obvious the cynical outlook of many mine-owners. That is the attitude which they adopted when some one with as high a reputation as Dr. Evatt made it his personal task to endeavour, to solve the problems of industrial disputes on the coal-fields by personally examining the disruptive forces which are at work. The article continues - “ We want another 2.000,000 tons of coal a year added Dr. Evatt.’ He was loudly applauded by the nien, who pledged themselves to break production records. Lot no word of ours mar that fine resolution. God speed the day of its realization. But we are bound to add - in order to have a correct perspective for this strange, eventful history that is unfolding itself before our own eyes - that within ten hours after this pious resolution had been recorded, two of the largest mines in the State - Richmond Main and Hebburn No. 2 - were idle.

That would appear to indicate a certain degree of wishful thinking on the part of those people who, after all, are partners in the task of producing this vital industrial commodity. If both sections of the industry - those engaged in supervision and the workers - do not work together, coal will not be produced. The onus is on one section just as much as on the other to approach all industrial problems in an amicable spirit and endeavour at all costs to see that sufficient coal is produced for our war industries.

Reference has been made to the manpower shortage on the food front. In that connexion, I shall read to’ honorable members a statement from a newspaper dealing with this important matter. It is as follows: -

Yet there are symptoms of a dangerouslydegenerating agriculture that must be stopped. We have uncanny parallels with the same degenerated forces that have been so disastrous in Europe.

Like them, we have drawn undue manpower from the farms. Our farm machinery is wearing out faster than the replacement. Our protein feed for animals is short.

We are compelled to divert our nitrate fertilizers to explosives.

We have a price system that often strangles production and distribution. And prices are often below the farmers’ costs and just wages.

If we want more evidence of this degeneration, we can find it in the despair that leads to auction sales to abandonment of farms.

We can find it in undue killing of dairy cattle, in the shops without supplies for the housewife for days at a time, in local famines of meat, butter, potatoes, or something else.

We can find it in the epidemic of black markets all over the country.

Reading that statement one would assume that it was part and parcel of the challenge to the Curtin Government that is being made by members of the Opposition; but it is not. It is a report of an address by Mr. Herbert Hoover, a former President of the United States of America, on the 29th March of this year to the farmers of the black loam country of Iowa - the heart of the farming lands of the United States of America. It is apparent that the conditions that prevail in rural industry in Australia to-day, prevail * also in American farming production, yet it is to America that we look as an example of a nation bending every effort in a 100 per cent, war effort. To what can honorable members opposite ascribe the state of affairs in the United States of America? Surely in their wildest dreams they cannot blame the Curtin Government for that. All the charges that have been levelled against this Administration in regard to shortage of man-power, scarcity of commodities on the food front, &c, are symptomatic of what happens when a nation finds itself obliged to abandon its normal economy, gird up its loins, and organize itself for total war. That is the state of affairs which exists in the United States of America, in England, Canada, South Africa, New Zealand, Australia, and every other allied country at war. Even, honorable- members opposite cannot possibly blame the Curtin Government for that. Let us examine how the Farm bloc in the United States of America has handled the situation. Did it ally itself with those who were responsible for conditions that have led to such a state of affairs in the past. Do we find the Farm bloc in the United States of America allying itself with the big financial institutions which have made life unpleasant for the farmers for generations? No ; the farmers of America rightly claim that the man on the land should have equal status with the industrial worker in shaping international and national affairs. The following newspaper report was published on the 29 th September -

Administration leaders in Congress have rejected the Farm Bloc’s new proposal to include fanners’ costs plus reasonable profit in farm prices in President Roosevelt’s antiinflation bill.

Did the farmers of the United States of America sell out for some immediate gain? No, they kept the fight going and this is the result. The full report also is interesting : -

The Senate by 48 to 43 votes, approved of the farm bloc amendment revising agricultural parity standards upwards to include labour costs.

What is the attitude of honorable members opposite in this matter? They talk about their firm, belief in arbitration and fair wages for workers in rural industries, but they always stipulate that no Arbitration Court tribunal should be set up to fix wages until such time as a fair price is guaranteed to the farmer for his products. (Extension of time granted.-] Are not labour costs an integral part of production costs generally in primary industries ? How can we fix a logical fair price for a farm product if we do -not know what labour costs will be? The claim by honorable members opposite that they favour a fair wage for rural workers is obviously shallow because they know that it is impossible to fix a price for a primary product unless wages are fixed first. I have come to the conclusion that it is pure hypocrisy on the part of many honorable members opposite to talk about their belief in a fair deal for the man on the land.

We have heard much about settling people on the land in this country in family units. That has been the ambition of all political parties. We do not want large holdings run by squatters, and worked by black or coloured labour. We want to see family units settled on our farms, and everybody knows that the family unit would be better off if a reasonable figure is paid for labour costs, because farmers of that kind do not employ outside labour, and they get the benefit in the fixed commodity price when this is done. We hear howls from honorable members opposite, who profess to be the champions of the man on the land and the rural workers generally. Reverting to the question of food rationing, we find that in regard to . commodities such as butter and cheese and other dairy produce, large quantities of which we are endeavouring to ship to Great Britain, that the same conditions that operate here also prevail in the United States of America. That is the case also in regard to beef. I draw attention to the following article which appeared in the Sydney press : -

The chairman of the Anzac division of the American Red Cross, who has just returned to Sydney, said ho saw more beef in a week in Sydney than he saw in America in three months. So much foodstuff was sent to the fighting forces that people there were severely rationed.

Every one knows that although we are a large mutton-producing country, as a beef producer we are not in the same class as the United States of America or Argentina. Yet the Government has been attacked on the ground of its alleged mismanagement of the meat trade. The honorable member for New England (Mr. Abbott) stated that mutton was in short supply because of the misdoings of the mutton slaughtermen ; but, in my own electorate at present, a big meatworks is operating only four days a week, because insufficient stock is available. Another meatworks is operating only one day a week, although it is capable of dealing with 16,000 head of stock weekly. Still another meatworks is closed down altogether because stock is not available. No one can suggest that the honorable member for New England does not know the meat industry, and particularly the mutton section of it ; therefore, the only conclusion we can draw is that he has deliberately made these misstatements in order to confuse the issue and malign the Government.

Mr Calwell:

– He is using sheep’s brains.

Mr BREEN:

– Possibly so. I come now to the subject of the organizing of the food front in order to ensure better supplies and distribution. The farmers’ friend, the Sydney Morning Herald, stated recently on this subject -

Because of the non-existence of anything approaching an over-all plan, the Government has sat back and allowed every farmer to grow any commodity he chooses, and as much of it as it suits him.

I wonder whether this friend of the friends of the farmers, the Sydney Morning Herald, has any knowledge of the many boards which the Government has appointed, in order to ensure a better organization of the food front. These authorities have been constituted with the approbation of the farming community. Has that newspaper ever heard of the war agricultural committees that have been appointed? Has it ever heard of the action of the so-called farmers’ friends in the Senate who jettisoned the authority constituted by this Government to protect the interests of the producers in the meat industry against the actions of the operators in the metropolitan area ? Possibly not. Has the Sydney Morning Herald heard of the boards created by the previous Government for handling the food surpluses? I have in mind, in particular, the Apple and Pear Marketing Board constituted by the previous Government. The Chief Justice of the High Court, Sir John Latham, declared that regulation 17 of the regulations governing the acquisition of apples and pears by that body contained no provision entitling a grower to even the most elementary justice in the assessment of compensation. I could cite other regulations of the same kind promulgated by the previous Government which gave no consideration whatever to the people engaged in our primary producing industries.

Twelve or eighteen months ago, which was not long after this Government came into office, the dairying industry of this country was in such a serious state that the farmers were abandoning their properties, and fodder stocks had become depleted to such a degree as to be almost non-existent. In this situation, the Curtin Government, despite the opposition of powerful .financial and commercial interests, has done more for the primary producing interests than any other government. It has provided subsidies for sugar, flax, potatoes and other commodities, and it is proceeding vigorously with its policy of decentralizing industries and population. Its subsidies to assist production steps up such production by more than £150,000,000 a year at the present guaranteed minimum prices: In these circumstances, it cannot he said that the

Labour Government has, in any sense, neglected the primary industries. The very reverse is true,- and this is characteristic of Labour governments everywhere. I refer to the Labour Government of New Zealand as an example. After two years of Labour administration in New Zealand, the average income of small farmers had increased, in 1937, from £102 to £295 per annum. The honorable member for Maranoa (Mr. Baker) gave detailed information on this subject, and I do not desire to repeat the figures he cited. The accusations that have been made by honorable members opposite against this Government in respect of its treatment of the primary producing industries are merely red herrings drawn across the trail in the hope of diverting attention from the real facts in relation to the anti-Labour Government’s treatment of primary producing industries.

Honorable gentlemen opposite are alleging that the Government is attempting to socialize industry, but, in this respect, they have been thrown upon the defensive just as they have been thrown upon the defensive in relation to “ the Brisbane line “. I do not believe that the cry of socialization is likely to frighten either the Government or the electors, and in uttering this cry honorable gentlemen Opposite have shown themselves to be entirely out of touch with modem trends of thought. In my electorate there is a small place called Millthorpe, which may be regarded as the spiritual home of tories who are as deeply steeped in their conservative outlook as are the people of the most conservative areas in South Australia. A resident of Millthorpe recently, had published in the press a letter which dealt in detail with this socialization argument. I quote the following paragraphs from it: -

Mr. W. M. Hughes suggests that no soldier should be discharged till he has been given a job. That plainly suggests that there was well-grounded suspicion and fear that jobs will not bc found for all men. To keep a man as a soldier (undischarged) may be the better of two bad choices, but I submit that it was not what he was promised. His right is to return to civilian life and have a job. Industry cannot function efficiently under our present system: that is if experience of the past is any guide. Neither can we plan for social security except on a basis of high industrial efficiency.

An increasing number of people want to socialize industry, not because socialization is a kind of fetish, but because they believe these industries can be made more serviceable to the community when they are owned and controlled by the community, or controlled by representatives of the community. There are two main reasons for this : -( 1 ) The exploitation of the resources of production for private profit necessarily involves the exploitation of human beings - the piling up of vast fortunes by the rich out of the sweated labour of the poor. This unjustified exploitation has been softened by trade- unionism and other social legislation, but it still exists. Yet, because of this softening of the original harshness of labour, many have lost their crusading zeal for social change. Hence the necessity for reason. (2) Capitalism has been showing itself falser and falser to its historic role of liberating the forces of production by restricting the output of goods and services for fear of glutting the market.

This letter was signed by G. J. Dillon, the Parsonage, Millthorpe.

Mr DEPUTY SPEAKER (Mr Riordan:
KENNEDY, QUEENSLAND

– -The honorable member’s extension of time has expired.

Mr DUNCAN-HUGHES:
Wakefield

– I join with the honorable member for Boothby (Dr. Price) in expressing regret that this debate is being carried on in a continuous sitting. We have now been here since 3 p.m. yesterday, and many of us have sat in the House throughout the night. Some of us have had no sleep, and others have had only a little.

Mr Holloway:

– What about getting on with the work of the country?

Mr DUNCAN-HUGHES:

– I agree that the work of the country must bo done, but I do not think that honorable members can do justice to it if they have to remain in this chamber practically continuously for eighteen hours as I have done before getting an opportunity to speak. Some honorable members will have to wait a considerably longer time for their opportunity. I remind the Minister for Health (Mr. Holloway), quite politely, that during most of the time the House has been sitting only one or two Ministers have been in the chamber at a time. I realize, of course, that Ministers have heavy duties to perform, but I submit that they would have a much better opportunity to do their work if the House sat for reasonable hours. If Ministers and members could get a break which would enable them to get from four to six hours’ sleep, they would all be better able to discharge their duties. This is an important debate, for the fate of the Government hangs upon the decision that we make. For that reason, two or three days could quite properly have been devoted to it. We should then have been able to do more justice to the important subjects which we are discussing.

Mr FROST:
Minister for Repatriation · FRANKLIN, TASMANIA · ALP

– The Prime Minister’s view is different from that of the honorable member, for he considers that this motion should be disposed of as quickly as possible, so that other important Government legislation may be brought down.

Mr DUNCAN-HUGHES:

– The Prime Minister (Mr. Curtin) is, of course, much better informed upon the business that has to be done than I can be; but I know that during our most recent sittings, a considerable time was wasted in this House. Seeing that, in the view of the Prime Minister, the war situation is much easier now in relation to Australia than it appeared to be six or eight weeks ago, we ought to be given a little more time to debate this motion. Even six weeks ago we were told that the country was in the utmost peril, but we are now told that there has been such a miraculous change somewhere, that people who then thought the situation was worse than I, with my small knowledge, thought it to be, now tell us that it is very much better than I, with my small knowledge, think it to be. Consequently, there is not the urgency that there would have been a few months ago.

Many of the difficulties into which we have been plunged have been caused almost solely by the fact that we have not had what most people would call a national government, but I prefer to call a war government. I speak as one who belongs definitely to a party; but ever since the outbreak of the war, I have held the view that the proper course for this country was to have a war government, consisting of representatives of both sides in this Parliament. Surely that is still more necessary in view of the -fact that this House is almost equally divided. Our opponents, however, would not agree to participate in a national government. What lias been the result? In the first place, as one honorable member said last night, the party that now sits in opposition gradually disintegrated. It was subject to frequent attack both inside and outside this House, and a crumbling process began. That is .the almost inevitable effect of an equal strength of parties. What then happened to us is also happening, I believe just as quickly, to the party that now occupies the Government benches. I cannot imagine that the general situation is anything like so rosy as the speech of the Prime Minister yesterday would lead one to believe. The right honorable gentleman is “a fine speaker, and all of us listened to him with much interest; but as I heard his glowing account of matters generally in Australia I found myself differing very greatly from him. The constituents whom 1 represent, and the people of South Australia as a whole, have not such a glowing idea as he outlined of either >the splendid position of Australia or, if I may say so with deference, the great merits of the present Government.

Mr Makin:

– The honorable member is not in a position to offer an opinion on that point.

Mr DUNCAN-HUGHES:

– I am in a very good position to form such a judgment. The Minister for Munitions (Mr. Makin) has been busily engaged in other, parts of Australia whilst I have been in my own State.

Mr Makin:

– I, too, have been in South Australia.

Mr DUNCAN-HUGHES:

– I know that .the honorable gentleman has been in South Australia; but, through no fault of his own, because he has had work to do elsewhere, he has not been there’ very much of late. I have had greater opportunity to hear what the people in the different districts of South Australia consider of the situation generally, and of the Government in particular, than he could have, at all events from personal contact with them. I have been as far north as Hawker. I have also been along the River Murray, and in many other parts of the State. The people would be delighted- if they could believe that the situation at present, or the prospects, could, be regarded in the light in which they were depicted yesterday. The lack of a war government has led to a great deal of unnecessary bickering between the two sides of the House. We smile, and some of us may feel annoyed, when we read of the difficulties that are being encountered by .the different factions of the French people in North Africa, in arriving at an agreement. Are we not in substantially the same position, and just as much open to the mirth if not the criticism of other portions of the British Empire, as well as of the world, because we appear to be totally incapable of coming to a friendly arrangement? Without any great pleasure, I suggested at the end of 1941 that the formation of a national government would obviate some of our difficulties. I put forward the idea that there might be an arrangement in regard to elections similar to that which has existed in Great Britain since the outbreak of the war, under which the different electorates would continue to be represented by the parties holding them, thus ensuring stabilization for the duration, of the war. With the parties in Australia having equal strength in the Parliament, that could easily have been arranged. Lack of cohesion has resulted in a tremendous pull towards the political side, with the result that the programme of the Government has been devoted to party politics as much as to the essential needs of war. A combination of both sides would have conferred other advantages also. There would not have been anything like the number of strikes that have been mentioned by earlier speakers, which have left us open to a great deal of criticism in other parts of the world. Further, the existence of a war government would have removed the major difficulty which has prevented the Prime Minister from paying a visit to America and Great Britain.

Mr Drakeford:

– The party to which the honorable member belongs has had insurmountable difficulties.

Mr DUNCAN-HUGHES:

– They may have arisen partly from the fact that there has not been cohesion between the two sides of the House.

Mr Drakeford:

– The honorable member is preaching unity to us while there is disunity in the ranks of his party.

Mr DUNCAN-HUGHES:

– Nobody is perfect, and some of us may be more difficult to get on with than are others.

It is a thousand pities that we have not been able to work together more harmoniously in the eyes of the world. I hold the view that in war-time the right place for the Prime Minister, even if there were not the difficulties that now exist, is in his own country.

Sir George Bell:

– That is not the view of Mr. Churchill.

Mr DUNCAN-HUGHES:

- Mr. Churchill is an exceptional man. One cannot lay down rules for the guidance of his conduct. Particularly with a country the size of Australia, and isolated as it is, the right place normally for the Prime Minister is in his own country rather than in other parts of the world. But the Prime Minister of every other dominion has paid a visit to the Homeland during this war. The right honorable member for Kooyong (Mr. Menzies) did so when he was Prime Minister. The Attorney-General in the present Administration (Dr. Evatt) has made two visits abroad. A visit to England by the Prime Minister would have been wise, and in every way helpful to the Empire as a whole. We should also be much more cordial in our invitations to leading Englishmen to visit Australia.

Mr Prowse:

– The present Prime Minister will not now be able to visit England.

Mr DUNCAN-HUGHES:

– He may he a bie to do so after the elections.

Mr Drakeford:

– Probably he will do so as Prime Minister.

Mr DUNCAN-HUGHES:

– That possibility is based on the assumption by honorable members opposite that their success at the polls is assured, and that their majority in this House will be. largely increased. I do not see any prospect of the number of Government members in the Senate being increased, and according to present indications I do not believe that it will be increased substantially, if at all, in this chamber. But whoever may be the Prime Minister after the elections, he should visit the Homeland as soon as possible, in order that he may be in close touch with the British Cabinet. Is it not also desirable that we should have out here distinguished visitors from Great Britain, who. would be able to learn at first hand what ‘has been done in this country? Even if our Prime Minister doe3 not visit Great Britain, they should come out here in order to keep in touch with us. We were pleased at the recent visit of certain gentlemen from the United States of America. Since the outbreak of the war we have not had a visit by a British Cabinet Minister except for the short visit that was made by Mr. Duff.Cooper. Sir Ronald Cross, the High Commissioner for the United Kingdom in Australia, is here, but he cannot, in the nature of things, be so closely in touch in all respects with recent developments in Britain as would be a Minister of the Crown. Visits by members of the British Cabinet and other prominent persons would be extremely popular with the people of this country.

I desire to say a few words concerning the unfortunate position that has developed as the result of the lack of real combination between the parties in this Parliament. I take first the matter of one army. Is there any member of this House who would venture to say that one army would not be better than two armies ? If there be such a person, I ask him to consider a comment that was made at the 27th annual conference of the South Australian branch of the Returned Sailors, Soldiers and Airmen’s Imperial League of Australia, held on the 28th April of this year, which summarizes in a clear-cut manner the position in relation to the admission of militiamen to that organization. I quote the following from the Adelaide Advertiser : -

After a long debate, the conference decided to postpone the question of admitting militiamen into the league until the cessation of hostilities.

Mr. Millhouse is South Australian president of the league. I do not need to emphasize that the president of this organization is not chosen at random, and that he usually speaks with the full support of the. very strong body that he has behind him. Mr. Millhouse said -

Returned men almost without exception have said that if militiamen were admitted they would not join. He considered that the question was premature.

Could one imagine a more dreadful criticism of the present situation than that the outstanding returned soldiers’ league in this country should be so strongly against the admission of militiamen that, according to their president, “Almost without exception the returned men had said that if militiamen were .admitted they would not join “, meaning that they would not even be members of the same club? It is simply deplorable that we by our failure to bring those two branches together have created a position where one group will not join the same league as the other. I cannot imagine anything much worse. It just shows what a muddle we have got into with regard to the question of one army. I do not believe very much in quoting history. A tremendous lot of it was quoted yesterday and some of it I found most interesting, particularly when it happened to lean towards my particular side of things. I do not propose to quote a great deal of history myself, but I am going to quote one thing, because for years I belonged to a small group which tried, very unsuccessfully, to awaken this country to the fact that there was going to be another war. In that effort we had, so far as. I remember, no genuine support from anybody on the other side. There were some of us in the Senate and some in this House. The former occupant of the seat I hold now, the late Mr. Charles Hawker, was one, Mr. Harrison of Bendigo was another, while the late Mr. Fairbairn was a third. There were others, but there were only about half a dozen of us altogether. I am going to be so unwise as to quote briefly from a speech which I made in the Senate, of which I then had the honour to be a member. On the 4th November, 1932, Senator Collings, now Leader of the Senate, made a speech, and a few days later I quoted him. In doing so, I am quoting a distinguished man, who is one of the leaders of the Labour party.

Sir CHARLES MARR:

– What is he distinguished for?

Mr DUNCAN-HUGHES:

– For being one of the leaders of the Labour party and also for being -a remarkably young man for his age. He had said -

When I was a lad my father who was then as I now am, opposed to war of any kind, at any time and under any circumstances, pointed out. . . .

It is not very helpful to find the Leader of the Senate quoting his father as having the same view as himself, which was opposition to war of every kind, at all times and in any circumstances. A few days afterwards I said in the Senate, as reported in Hansard -

I was interested in the remarks of the Minister-

That was Senator Sir George Pearce. I quote this now to show honorable members how extraordinarily difficult it was even to get a hearing on this particular subject in those days. Now we have strategists on every side, students of foreign affairs and men willing to pronounce judgment on international affairs and on military tactics and strategy generally. Then, however, there were very few who took any interest at all in those subjects. This is what I said then -

I was interested in the remarks of the Minister on the general question of defence. For the last five years the Defence Estimates have been steadily decreasing.

Senator Collings said, “ Hear, hear “, but I said that I did not applaud it, and went on to point out that Australia’s expenditure on defence had declined’ from £8,000,000 in 1926-27 to an estimate of under £3,000,000 for 1931-32. At this Senator Collings interjected - and we have all had this interjection flung at us -

Has any enemy country taken advantage of that fact?

I answer him now by saying that an enemy took advantage of us all the time, because we would not wake up to what was going on even when we were told about it. Then Senator Collings said -

I take this opportunity of registering my protest against this proposed vote-

That was’ a vote for under £3,000,000 for defence in 1931-32- and to express the hope that during my time in this chamber, whether it be short or long, this will be the largest sum that will ever be appropriated for defence purposes. Instead of the amount increasing, I hope that it will progressively decrease.

That was .Senator Collings’ opinion. I shall say no more on the historical side for the time being. It may be that some body will some day in black and white set down what did happen and who did take an interest in the subject. If that were done this would be a very interesting quotation, I suggest, to put into such a book.

I should like now to say a word on the question of munitions. I am glad to see that the Minister is present, and also to see that in the press recently he said that there does now exist a surplus of manpower and machine capacity. He added -

As to the man-power a displacement and reallotment of labour will be necessary. The Government has already taken decisions designed to increase production of foodstuffs and processing of food products. These will call for diversion of man-power.

The reason I mention this subject now is that it is apparently reported that we have not only in the matter of certain munitions, but also in certain materials a far greater amount in reserve than we are ever likely to require, and that some undertakings if they have not been closed down in the past should be closed down as quickly as possible. After all somebody has to pay the bill for the production of munitions’ and other defence materials. It is very much to the credit of this country that it has been able to produce as much as it has in those directions, but we certainly do not need to go on producing a lot of stuff which becomes obsolete and will have to be kept in stores, although in some cases it would bc very valuable immediately for civilian use. I put it to the Minister that while we are keeping considerable supplies of clothing, for instance, in reserve, a large number of people in civilian life, particularly working men, are crying out for the necessary clothing that they require. In my own State, to quote one instance, it is extraordinarily difficult to get worsted cloth, particularly for men’s trousers, and material for men’s shirts and overalls. These are for men who are doing hard work and whose clothes cannot stand up to the wear and tear. I have put up one or two special cases to the Minister for Trade and Customs (Senator Keane) and he has passed them on to the Rationing Commission, which, I believe, has made an effort to meet them. It is rather ridiculous to think that, .as I have been told, it is still impossible to get outsizes in men’s trousers and that that difficulty is not likely to be overcome. Men require to wear trousers as well as shirts and overalls, and why should the big man have to suffer because he cannot get the necessary working clothes, whereas a. small man can? I suggested to the Minister as it was suggested to me that to some extent the difficulty could be got over by an issue of this cloth in the piece to various firms.

Mr Paterson:

– It seems to be rather a part of the prejudice against the “ big man “.

Mr DUNCAN-HUGHES:

– I do not imagine that the Minister for Trade and Customs would share that prejudice. It seems ridiculous that it should be impossible for big men to get these things. Apparently some one thought that there were no longer very many people of the big size, and therefore trousers were standardized, and they are not making outsizes at all. If that is so, why not issue the necessary quantity of material in the piece and let clothing firms or tailors make them up for those unfortunate men who happen to be big.

Mr Martens:

– Why unfortunate?

Mr DUNCAN-HUGHES:

– They are unfortunate in this particular case, especially in this cold weather. I am glad to see that the Minister for Munitions is apparently closing down on the production of a number of things of which we have a surplus. That is refreshing news. I do not think that in saying this I am giving any valuable information to the enemy: on the contrary, it would be rather a blow to him to realize that we have so much of certain things that we can close down on them and turn to something else. “We do not want to end this war with an immense mass of stored material for which there will be no earthly use and which in some cases will be perishable after a few years. The Minister for Munitions can probably guess some of the things which I have in my mind.

Another drawback caused by our lack of power to work together is the lamentable drive that is going on towards, and the troubles arising from, compulsory unionism. I suppose that in a sense I used to belong to a union myself.

Mr Martens:

– Was that the pastoralists union?

Mr DUNCAN-HUGHES:

– I still belong to that, but I was thinking of another one, so that I have no intrinsic objection to unionism. I think it is a sound principle that all people should tend to combine with those in a similar occupation to themselves. It is good for them even if they do not attempt to do very much for any particular union, but I feel the most profound dislike to anybody being forced to join a union which he does not desire to join. Particularly do I think it is detestable if the sort of thing happens which is happening to my own knowledge in quite a number of cases to girls who have volunteered for the duration of the war. They have hardly begun their job before they are pestered and bombarded by people and told they must join this, that or the other union. Why should they be obliged to put up with that? They are only acting for the duration of the war and not taking up the work as a permanent occupation. Their whole desire is to help to win the war,- so why should they be subject to the views of people who in some cases have nothing like their intelligence? The best answer I have heard given to such a request came from by no means a young man. He went voluntarily into a particular plant and immediately after he had begun work the representative of a union came along and asked if he belonged to a union. He said, “ Yes “, and when asked, “ What union?”, he said, “ The Liberal Union “. I consider that an excellent’ reply and my opinion of him went up even higher than it had been before.

Mr Drakeford:

– The liberality of that union is much more notable than its unity.

Mr DUNCAN-HUGHES:

– I belong to the Liberal Union and call myself a unionist. I am a liberal before I am a member of the United Australia party or anything else. I have no reason to be ashamed of the political party to which I belong, and I do not think it is at all mean and grasping or what many members opposite would call a capitalist body. It is very much better than that.

Mr Drakeford:

– I merely suggested that it is famous for its liberality but not for its unity.

Mr DUNCAN-HUGHES:

– Does the Minister mean in this House?

Mr Drakeford:

– Yes.

Mr DUNCAN-HUGHES:

– I shall give the Minister for Munitions a little information in regard to that matter. Although I speak for myself, I am confident that my colleagues will not object to my saying that the reason why at times we find it not altogether easy to cooperate with members of similar organizations in other States is that we ourselves are elected on a platform, and we do not chop and change that platform every day. The platform on which I have been elected is not that of the United Australia party or of the Country party.

Mr Drakeford:

– Who drew it up?

Mr DUNCAN-HUGHES:

– It has been drawn up in the last 40 or 50 years, with occasional changes. We change a little more regularly than does the Labour party; that is how we show our liberalism.. We do not make a song about dropping a comma here and inserting a colon instead.

Mr Morgan:

– What features of the honorable member’s platform has he been successful in putting into operation during the last 40 years?

Mr DUNCAN-HUGHES:

– In that respect, probably we have not been a3 successful as we could have wished, but does that not apply equally to both sides of the House ? We have heard much from honorable members opposite about introduction of socialism and nationalization of industry as part of a new order, but little has been accomplished except what has been done during the past two years virtually under duress. [Extension of time granted.”] I have this final word to say before leaving the question of unionism and manufacture of munitions: it follows upon what was ably said last night by the right honorable member for Kooyong in a splendid speech. The right honorable gentleman referred to the fact that the munitions work of this country had been started by the predecessors of this Administration, and that it had fallen to others to bring the programme up to its present stage. I cannot help thinking that in some respects the position resembles the growth of a tree. The first seven years, say, in the life of a tree are most important, and intense care and culture is required, because during that period there is the greatest danger that the tree will not grow at all. In the following seven years, the growth may be two or three times as great as it was in the first seven years, and in the case of our munitions industries it -may well be that the growth has been increased 100 times, but it was the early stages of development which really determined whether the project would live at all.

Mr Dedman:

– The early stages of the growth of munitions industries were relatively easy because there was no manpower shortage.

Mr DUNCAN-HUGHES:

– I shall deal with that aspect shortly. At the moment I wish to deal briefly with the extreme difficulties of our primary industries which were referred to yesterday by the Leader of the Opposition. I think one is entitled to ask oneself is this the type of government in whose hands one would desire to place the future control of our primary industries? “While I agree that one can go a little bit too far in the criticism of one’s opponents in such matters, my emphatic view is that the handling of the primary industries by honorable members opposite, with .the exception perhaps of those industries which have been paying their own way, such as the wool industry, the dried fruits industry, and the wine industry has been calamitous. Throughout the entire range of primary production, there have been constant changes of plans and personnel and much talk of more adequate growers representation; but let us see what happened in connexion with a representative gathering of the wool industry regarding the establishment of additional wool appraisement centres.

Mr Morgan:

– The committee to which the honorable member refers consisted mainly of brokers’ representatives.

Mr DUNCAN-HUGHES:

– No. The 24 members of the committee included representatives of all interests associated with, the wool industry - the Central “Wool Committee, the Australian “Woolgrowers Council, the Australian “Wool Brokers Association, and the National Council of “Wool Selling Brokers. Those 24 members came to a unanimous decision - an almost incredible achievement for a body of that kind - that there should not be any new country wool appraisement centres. However, the Minister for Commerce and Agriculture (Mr. Scully), on his own authority, announced that he did not propose to allow himself to be swept aside by people who had personal interests in the matter, and he cancelled the decision, with the result that country wool appraisement centres have been increasing ever since. What is the use of talking about more grower representation if unanimous decisions of controlling authorities are to be overridden by ministerial authority in that way? I should like to say a few words about the zoning of sheep shearing which has been applied to South Australia this year. I consider that to be a purely political move and I cannot see any valid reason for it. Not only is that the view of the organization to which I belong, but I happen to know that the South Australian branch of the Australian Workers Union recommended that the order should not be gazetted this year in South Australia. However, it has been gazetted in accordance with the general policy of applying control to organizations which show initiative and independence. What happened to the Apple and Pear Marketing Board? After many announcements that it would continue to operate, that body was allowed to lapse overnight in four States. Consider also the position of the wheat industry with the limitation of price according to the quantity of wheat that a grower produces. That is the very opposite of what should have been laid down, especially in view of the grotesque wages that the wheat-farmers have been obliged to pay to harvest employees. The barley industry also has been left in the air. I shall not say much about the dairying industry because that question was ably covered by the honorable member for Moreton (Mr. Francis) yesterday. Looking at all these things, I can only come to the conclusion that the present Government is not the one in whose hands the future control of our primary industries should rest. These are industries which can be pulled through only by the strength of will, determination, initiative, hard work and ability of the men engaged in them. Once we start to clamp all sorts of control upon these people, we shall ruin the industries and produce, if not a chaotic condition, at least a much more unsatisfactory one than has prevailed in years gone by. In order to ensure that the man on the land wl. I not get too much for his product, the Government has introduced a system of price control which starts at the wrong end. Instead of starting by ensuring that the primary producer will be able to make a small profit, the price controlling authorities have gone to the other end and endeavoured to determine what the consumer can afford to pay. The results of such a system is apparent in the case of firewood. Last year thousands of people in Adelaide were unable to get firewood because the price fixed by the prices authorities was so low that nobody would offer to cut the wood and transport it to Adelaide for sale. That is the result of price-fixing from the wrong end. I hope that there will be no more of this type of bungling.

Mr Makin:

– There were man-power difficulties as well.

Mr DUNCAN-HUGHES:

– Of course there were, but those problems also should have been taken into consideration. A man cannot be expected to provide firewood unless he has sufficient m.T.i-power to do it, and knows that he will receive a reasonable return, for his wor’:.

Mr FROST:

– Is it not a fact that the owners of the land on which the wood was grown will receive an excessive royalty?

Mr DUNCAN-HUGHES:

– I do not think so. It may be that certain individuals would try to obtain an excessive royalty. There are always such people about; but I point out that what may appear to be an excessive royalty to the purchaser of wood may not appear excessive to the seller, who has to ensure that tho wood is available at certain points of delivery.

At present there is hopeless overlapping of ministerial control of manpower. When a person goes to one Minister seeking information he is often sent to another. Let me give an instance of this: A short time ago a new munitions establishment was built in a town in South Australia. To house the factory workers 300 cabin cottages were erected. Then came the question of hospital accommodation for them, because there was bound to be some sickness, particularly in families where there were children. Afterwards, the question arose of appointing a new matron at the district hospital as the present matron was about to leave. To do that, it was necessary to obtain a permit to insert an advertisement in a newspaper calling for applications. At the request of the district council concerned, I wrote to the Minister for Munitions (Mr. Makin) asking if he would arrange for this. That Minister wrote back to me stating that the matter was one which more appropriately could be dealt with by his colleague the Minister for Health and Social Services (Mr. Holloway), and that the correspondence was being forwarded to that Minister for consideration and reply. About a fortnight later, I received a letter from the Minister for Health and Social Services stating that, as this was a matter entirely within the jurisdiction of the Deputy Director of Man Power, the case had been referred to him. It would appear that the overlapping is so close that the Ministers themselves do not always know who is the appropriate authority to deal with various matters. That case is by no means an isolated one; such things are happening every day. I have here a report of a statement by the Premier of South Australia, Mr. Playford, which appeared in the Advertiser last Saturday, which I shall quote to emphasize the point -

In pointing out the tendency of the Commonwealth Government to extend the scope of its control in every conceivable direction, Mr. Playford said that recently four Commonwealth Ministers were conducting separate inquiries into the housing problem.

Incidentally, I must state that the housing scheme does not appear to have been a very successful one. The honorable member for Adelaide (Mr. Stacey) and I inspected these cabin cottages, and I was really staggered. Most of them were clean and well furnished, but they were poor structures in which to house anybody. In addition, I am informed that when they are demolished they will return only £40 each, despite the fact that they cost £400 each. Such a state of affairs hardly indicates that it is a better proposition to erect temporary dwellings than permanent ones. The Premier’s statement continues -

First, they had the Minister for Labour and National Service (Mr. Ward), who waa in charge of housing for war workers and under whom the Commonwealth War Workers Housing Trust carried on its activities. Then there was the Treasurer and Minister for Post-war Reconstruction (Mr. Chifley), who had officers conducting inquiries into postwar housing construction. Next there was Mr. Dedman, whose department controlled the granting of permits for new buildings, and whose officers were also engaged on the fascinating task of making a survey.

Mr. Playford added that he also understood the Minister for Social Services (Mr. Holloway) “considered that housing as a social service rightly came under his jurisdiction.

I am quite sure that some Ministers are tremendously overworked. I do not wonder that they hardly know whether they are tramping on one another’s feet. This surely must lead to friction. One Minister may say, “ This is my pigeon “ ; another may say, “No, it is not; it is mine “. In the end, the pigeon escapes, and nobody gets it.

Mr Dedman:

– There is no friction.

Mr DUNCAN-HUGHES:

– I am glad to hear the Minister’s remark, but there is certainly overlapping. The two instances that I have given prove this.

Mr Dedman:

– The functions in relation to housing are quite distinct.

Mr DUNCAN-HUGHES:

– Then, perhaps the Minister will explain how the trouble occurred in relation to the hospital? One Minister said that another Minister would deal with the matter, and the second Minister transferred it to another authority, and in the end, it was dealt with by one of the heads of the department of a third Minister. “Was the Minister for Munitions right, or was his colleague right?

Mr Coles:

– Surely there could be a shared responsibility ?

Mr DUNCAN-HUGHES:

– I found that the subject was being dealt with in a third department which told me nothing about it. [Further extension of time granted.]

I thank honorable members for giving me this further extension, because I still have two matters to which I desire to refer. The first of these was mentioned by the honorable member for Bass (Mr. Barnard) and I said that I would deal with it. The incidents concern a war loan meeting that was held in Kapunda during the recess. The meeting followed upon a political meeting which a number of us had arranged. We were asked by the mayor of the town whether we would object to a Avar loan meeting being held immediately after our meeting, when there were people there. We offered no objection. The mayor asked us to speak, and we did so, though I do not think with very great enthusiasm. I talked of the loan in a way that I considered I was entitled to. Men should not be expected to blow the trumpet and beat the drum in such circumstances, unless they feel that they can do so wholeheartedly. I took what I regard as a fair line of .argument. I gave some reasons why I thought people were not investing in the loan as freely as they might have been expected to do, and at the end of my speech, I gave two reasons why, in spite of what I had already said, I thought the people should invest. One of these was that the war loan carried .the security of the Commonwealth Government, which was bound to ensure the safety of subscribers to it to the maximum of their ability. The second reason was that if people invested their money in this way, they would not spend it on unessential goods and services, and that thereby they would reduce the risk of inflation. There was no pressman reporting at the meeting, although one was present at the earlier political meeting. I received a telephone message next day from an Adelaide newspaper. I may mention at this stage that the Prime Minister made some remarks during yesterday’s debate about newspaper reporters reporting proceedings at which they were not present. When the report appeared, it contained several mistakes. I had been able to correct some of the worst, but not all of them. At the war loan meeting, a warrant officer made a very good speech from his point of view. He had in mind his experiences in North Africa, and he appeared to be obsessed with the idea .that the whole of the money invested in the loan would be used to purchase war material. We have had something to say on that subject during recent months in this House, and I have no illusions about it. If the whole of the money subscribed were expended on war material, we should feel that we could blow the trumpet and beat the drum with our whole heart ; but, unfortunately, from my point of view, and also that of a good many other people, a considerable proportion of the money that is being subscribed to war loans is being spent on social services of one kind or another, which, in the opinion of many citizens, of whom I am one, are being hopelessly overdone at present, when the money is required for more important purposes. In the circumstances, I do not withdraw one word that I said on that occasion. It was right that I should let the people know my views, particularly as they were people who might rely on my judgment. I do not consider that honorable members should be criticized for expressing their views on this subject, especially when they conclude by advising people to invest in the loan. The honorable member for Bass said that there was a great deal of discussion on the report of this meeting, and that the people of Adelaide were perturbed about it. That does not unduly disturb me. As I already had the subject down on my notes, -and as the honorable member for Bass has referred to it, I put my point of view to the House.

The other matter to which I desire to refer relates to the outlook of the people on our general situation. I believe that many of the electors are worried about the position. Can it be said that they regard everything as going well? I should be surprised if that were so. There is a good deal of grumbling - more so than there was some months ago. The people consider that there is a disposition on the part of the Government to put into effect its own political programme at a time when more important work needs to be done, and when at least half of the electors are against the Government. The grumbling that is going on is similar to that which occurred when our party was in a somewhat similar position, although in our case we were forced to do so, because the then Opposition would not co-operate with us. The people want to know the attitude of this Government towards peace problems. They are asking whether security is likely to be achieved with a party in office which would not cooperate with, the party on the opposite side of this chamber. If the Government and its supporters will not co-operate with the Opposition, how can it be expected to co-operate with Great Britain, with the other dominions and with our Allies? The public, and I believe many honorable members, are greatly concerned about the outlook. They do not desire everything to be nationalized and socialized. What they desire is that we shall make the most efficient war effort possible, and at the same time retain as much of our independence and initiative as possible, so that after the war we shall be able to avoid unnecessary restrictions.

For the reasons I have given, I have the greatest pleasure in supporting the motion.

Mr COLES:
Henty

.It is patently absurd to think that on a calm survey of the pros and cons of its deeds this Government should be removed from office on a vote of no confidence. Considering the difficulties of the position facing it on its assumption of office and the tremendous decisions it has been called upon to make since, the Curtin Government has a very meritorious record of achievements indeed.

Mr Archie Cameron:

– It is all right, John ; he is supporting your Government.

Mr COLES:

– The active entry of Japan into the war in December, 1941, placed a test on the new Government that was unprecedented in the history of Australia. For the first time our country stood in real danger of being attacked and perhaps invaded. Faced with this responsibility the Government immediately proved that it was worthy of the trust with which it was charged. It dropped all semblance of adherence to the old beliefs it had voiced as a political party when in opposition, and set its mind to the task of thoroughly organizing Australia to meet this challenge.

Mr Archie Cameron:

– Ned Ward did not write this speech.

Mr COLES:

– Asked by Britain whether our only equipped troops, then serving in the Middle East, could be sent to the Far East to strengthen Malaya, a request that was changed later, to defend the Netherland East Indies, the Prime

Minister agreed at once. We all know the history of that campaign. The Japanese advance was so strong and swift that before the manoeuvre could be completed these strongholds had fallen. These troops were then routed to Australia to become the mainstay of Australia’s own defence.

America was invited to co-operate by using Australia as a base for its southwestern Pacific operations and, in conjunction with New Zealand, the offer of command was made and General Douglas MacArthur, who had conducted such a magnificent defence in the Philippines, was nominated. Simultaneously, the Government moved on the home front. The compulsory registration of all persons over sixteen years of age was effected.

Mr Holt:

– Honorable members opposite opposed national registration.

Mr COLES:

– Large numbers of men were compulsorily enlisted into the forces. The Allied Works Council was brought into existence as an adjunct to the fighting forces, and workmen were enlisted or compulsorily called up for the Civil Constructional Corps. The value of this work alone is sufficient to entitle the Government to the confidence of the people. Its achievements in the construction of roads, aerodromes and buildings, &c, enabled the defence of the north to be undertaken so that by August, 1942, we had built up a substantial force in Papua, and in October we moved forward to drive the enemy out of the Owen Stanley Ranges and subsequently Buna and Gona. I say without any fear of contradiction that the co-operation of this Government with General Douglas MacArthur made possible the victory of the Bismarck Sea.

I need not enumerate the myriad details of administrative acts that have been performed under the threat of imminent invasion, such as the speed-up of the manufacture of munitions and equipment, including many new types; a new Inventions Directorate established, consisting of capable, experienced men; the change-over of the Army command, abolishing the ineffective Army Board, and substituting a unified command system, comprised of efficient and experienced officers.

Mr Rankin:

– That was done before this Government assumed office.

Mr COLES:

– The Army Board was still in existence at that time. Many domestic controls and variations of conditions were instituted of which I shall name only the following: -

Petrol pooled.

Control of rents and prices.

Grants to primary producers.

Rationing of goods in short supply.

Increased pay to soldiers and dependants.

Reduction in drinking and betting.

Restriction of unnecessary travel .

Supplies of vegetable seeds ensured.

Provision made for production or import of essential needs.

Many other variations were made which are too numerous to mention, covering the whole war-time organization for a nation.

This motion is designed to waste time when there is much to be done. I hope that it will be defeated, not only by the usual Government supporters, but by others who must see what it really is. It is an attack instigated by certain interests who have never taken kindly any war-time restrictions of their normal activities and incomes, and who hope that under a change of government they might be able to bring sufficient pressure to bear to gain some benefit for themselves.

The Government has not failed in its first duty to the nation, which is to ensure the safety of the nation. The Leader of the Opposition (Mr. Fadden), stating the case for his party, charged the Government with weak administration of domestic affairs. This charge, if examined critically, will be found to be based on the grumblings of those who are not willing to accept even the minimum discomforts which cannot be dissociated from war.

The first charge was that the Government had failed to prevent strikes and stoppages in industry. Strangely enough, it was coupled with criticism of the Prime Minister for having convened a conference of union leaders with the object of enlisting their co-operation and support in the administration of regulations designed to discipline those whose actions are proved to be a hindrance to the war effort. The Prime Minister has frankly admitted the difficulty which the Government has experienced in dealing with this problem, which is not peculiar to this country; yet, when a real attempt is made to deal with it, the Government is subjected to destructive criticism. No suggestion has been advanced as to how the problem might be solved. The action of the Government in having made use of a military unit to unload ships when trouble occurred on the waterfront, is characterized as weakness. In my opinion, it is strong, positive action, and is in keeping with the needs of the moment; therefore, it should be commended rather than criticized. The first and only objective should be, to keep supplies moving.

The complaint of an inflationary tendency by the issue of treasury-bills has again been voiced. Surely, the fact must sink into the minds of these people at some time that a war expansion cannot be restricted by peace-time methods of finance !

Mr Perkins:

– I rise to order. Is the honorable member in order in reading the whole of his speech?

Mr DEPUTY SPEAKER:

– The Standing Orders provide that an honorable member may not read his speech. The honorable member for Henty is merely referring to notes.

Mr COLES:

– Finance must be provided ahead of needs. Loans and taxation can come only out of savings or earnings, and are quite inadequate by themselves. The degree to which Treasury credit may be used is governed by the degree and speed of the expansion of spending power for war purposes. The advisers who are guiding the Treasury to-day are the same as those who advised the last Government; the difference lies merely in the size and swiftness of the job, not in the methods employed. Every country that is on our side in this war is using substantially similar methods.

The next grievance voiced concerns shortages of commodities. Does the Leader of the Opposition really believe that Australia can transfer to war purposes 68 per cent, of its men and women between the ages of fourteen and 65 years and still provide a supply of commodities for civil consumption equal to that which could be provided when those people were normally employed? The stocks of essential needs for war purposes are in good shape. .Sound reserves are held of all essential basic commodities not produced in Australia, such as fuel oils, raw cotton, rubber, lubricating oils, &c, and emergency stocks of food are stored throughout the Commonwealth. In addition, a good start has been made on the new task of building up an enormous quantity of specially packed goods of a great variety, so as to enable supplies to be swiftly forwarded to and maintained in any region in which our forces or those of our Allies may have to fight, and to garrison them as they move forward to attack the enemy. The Government has effectively handled that part of its work, with the result that our position in this regard has been tremendously improved compared with what it was when the Government took office.

The Government is further charged with the socialistic tendency of bureaucratic controls which make the normal conduct of business, and the shopping of the housewife, more difficult than it otherwise would be. Surely such complaints are not to be taken seriously! If they are, then we must be prepared to become the laughing stock of the world. Controls such as the fixation of prices and rationing, have proved most valuable in the prevention of inflation and maldistribution. Of necessity, they have been resorted to by all the nations engaged in this war. The rationing of butter has been attacked on the ground that had production been safeguarded it would have been unnecessary. The reply to that is that since the United States of America found itself unable to keep up its shipments to Great Britain even though its people had been placed on a weekly ration of 4 oz., Britain entered into a contract with both Australia and New Zealand, under which those countries agreed to restrict the domestic consumption of butter to 8 oz. a week a head, and to ship the whole of the surplus to Britain, which has undertaken to supply the necessary shipping. The minimum quantity guaranteed by Australia is 70,000 tons a year. I have no doubt that the Leader of the Opposition knew of this arrangement, yet made the charge purely for party political purposes.

I submit that what I have mentioned is a maudlin list of complaints on which to challenge a government which has been responsible for a splendid war administration.

The Prime Minister, in his recital of the action taken by his Government in discharge of its obligation to ensure the safety of the nation, made generous reference to former administrations. His reply, generally, was of such a character as to warrant the placing of confidence in him in his difficult task. His statement was that of a war-time leader who is working in harmony with others to a definite plan. He has frankly admitted that some difficulties have not yet been overcome; yet he has achieved much, and is still striving with all the resources at his disposal to implement the whole of the plan in order that victory, when achieved, may be complete.

An attack of the nature of that which has been made naturally leads one to consider the achievements of the attackers, in order to determine whether or not history is merely repeating itself. I recall that in 1941 the then Prime Minister, the right honorable member for Kooyong (Mr. Menzies) returned to Australia from a visit to Britain, America and the battle front in North Africa. He then announced a determined policy for the organization of Australia as a complete partner in all respects with Britain in what he believed to be a struggle against odds for our very existence. He appointed a Cabinet with new ministerial portfolios, designed to take charge of the work. The position looked pro- mising, and all Australians expected strong, positive action. What was the result? Within two months, his own members had forced his resignation. The only interpretation which the world could, and did, place on this action, was that the party which the right honorable gentleman led was not willing to go through with the sacrifice that was required. Honorable members may recall that, as a protest, I withdrew my support, although up to that time I had not cast a vote against the Menzies Administration. An attempt was made to carry on the Government with the right honorable member for Darling Downs (Mr. Fadden) as Prime Minister. That Government brought down a budget without once stating its policy or the reasons for its members having forced the resignation of the former Prime Minister. No reason has since been given, although one is long overdue. The only legislation of note during the short career of the Fadden Government was the appointment of a royal commission to investigate a charge against the Treasurer of misuse of public moneys - to bribe a union leader in an attempt to obtain the co-operation of the mine-workers.

Mr Fadden:

– The honorable gentleman has forgotten child endowment.

Mr COLES:

– That was introduced by the Menzies Government, not the Fadden Government.

Mr Fadden:

– It was not.

Mr COLES:

– It was introduced while I was absent in Great Britain, and that was prior to the return of the Prime Minister to Australia. The short-lived Fadden Government went on record as the most ineffective Government that had ever attempted to administer the affairs of this country. It had no ideal, and no policy other than that of being popular, in order that it might win an election. It achieved no results. In passing, it is interesting to note that eighteen months later the right honorable member for Kooyong and several other members recognized what I then saw, and, styling themselves the National Service group, withdrew their support from what they described as an ineffective Opposition. Now this same Opposition, with the courage of desperation, and forced by the National Service group, has bared its teeth and challenged the Government, whose positive achievements have resulted in Australia and its people being considered safe to-day ; a Government which, faced with danger and a state of emergency, has not faltered, but has fearlessly placed increasing burdens on the people in order to create the organization which is required to raise our fighting forces to the standard which, with the help of our Allies, will enable us to inflict defeat on the Japanese in New Guinea. The task is still being carried on, but it now takes the shape of extracting further sacrifices from the people in order to build up resources that will enable us to take our place in a forward movement to drive the Japanese from the territories they have occupied and inflict a complete defeat upon them so that we and our children may be safe. Again, the same coterie, under the same leader, has shown its unwillingness to -make the sacrifice that is needed. It threw out the right honorable member for Kooyong when he outlined a tough programme that would have led them on to an honorable path. It now proposes to throw out the right honorable member for- Fremantle, at a time when it is a matter of the first magnitude that Australia shall wholeheartedly continue to adhere to the plan which the present Government is following, in close cooperation with Britain and the United States of America - a plan which, if carried to its conclusion, will ensure victory to our arms. I shall vote against the motion.

Mr McEWEN:
Indi

.I have listened attentively to the honorable member for Henty (Mr. Coles) in the expectation that he would relate his remarks on this important motion to those requirements which he stipulated with such great force and wide publicity prior to his taking up in this House the position which he has occupied during the last twenty months. I have endeavoured to ascertain how he proposed to reconcile his present position with the charges of the Leader of the Opposition (Mr. Fadden) and the omissions of the present Government.

The charges of .the Leader of the Opposition were wide. ‘ They were headed by the charge that the Curtin Government has denied to this country unity at the top; it has denied to it the. opportunity to achieve national unity, to escape from party politics, and to achieve that to which it is entitled, namely, a non-party government during the war. That was the first point of the 23 points that were made by the honorable member for Henty when he propounded a policy for Australia. He has now made an apology for his support of the Curtin Government, without having made one reference to the matter of a national government or to the charge levelled yesterday afternoon by the Leader of the Opposition that the present Administration has committed Australia to disunity and to the propounding of class-conscious doctrines by every occupant of the front treasury bench, from the Prime Minister (Mr. Curtin) down.

Mr Holloway:

– He has only told the truth.

Mr McEWEN:

– We shall have something to say about members of the Government who do not tell the truth. That brings me to the second charge levelled by the Leader of the Opposition as one of his counts in the motion of want of confidence that he has moved. It is, that this Government has shown every evidence of destructiveness of the traditional British system of joint Cabinet responsibility. It has been proved beyond cavil to any fairminded person that one occupant of the front treasury bench has lied, andlied, and lied ; yet not one word has been uttered by the honorable member for Henty to excuse his maintenance in office of a Government which has in its ranks at least one man who has no hesitation in lying himself out of any position in which he may find himself.

Mr Frost:

– That is an easy statement to make.

Mr McEWEN:

– And it is an easy one to prove.

Mr Frost:

– Then prove it.

Mr McEWEN:

– It has been proved and I will quote the evidence. There are many counts upon which a government’s title to govern can be challenged. It may be challenged on its policy, its ability, its industry, its unity or disunity, but there is one challenge that, if sustained, no government can stand up against, and that is a challenge to its honesty and honorable purpose. The charge of dishonorable conduct and dishonesty has been made against this Government, and proved. In the hundreds of years covering the development of our present system of government, it has been accepted both in the Mother of Parliaments and in every subsidiary parliament of the British Empire that, when one Minister speaks, he speaks for his Cabinet, and that, unless it be denied by his Cabinet colleagues, every Minister, including his Prime Minister, stands by his statement. What is this lying statement of the Minister for Labour and National Service (Mr. Ward) - one of several that he has made? He said - he has been reported as repeating it, and this is one of the few reports that he has not subsequently denied - in Hobart, Melbourne, Sydney, Adelaide, Perth, and, I think, in Brisbane, according to one version, that -

Until the Curtin Government came to power the defence plan of Australia provided for all Australia north of a line north of Brisbane, and following a diagonal course to a point north of Adelaide, to be abandoned to the enemy.

Mr Baker:

– Quite true.

Mr McEWEN:
INDI, VICTORIA · CP; LCL from 1940; CP from 1943

– Amongst the 36 members of the Government party, one man raises his voice and says, “ Quite true but the 34 others and the Minister concerned remain silent.

Mr Frost:

– The Minister explained it yesterday.

Mr McEWEN:

– The Minister, with hig quick but unscrupulous mind, invented a stolen document to try to escape from the proof of his guilt. B!e has got to talk his way out of that yet, and the Prime Minister has yet to explain where he stands on it. Here the Minister is quoted as saying, and this he does not deny, that when Labour came to office there existed a plan. A military plan is something that remains in the archives of the Government unless an extraordinary incident, such as a theft, occurs, and yet there is no such plan. The Prime Minister has been invited to say whether there is one, and to produce it if it exists, but he has been unable to do so. I am sorry to say that he has not been fair enough to come out in a straightforward manner and admit that the allegation of the Minister for Labour and National Service was untruthful, because there never was such a plan during the existence of the Menzies or Fadden Governments. If such a charge, levelled against public men such as those who comprised those two previous governments, that they’ planned to abandon their native country to the enemy without firing a shot, can be proved, there should be no place in the public life ‘of any country for them.

Mr Holloway:

– Nobody ever said that. Nobody charged any one with abandoning his country without firing a shot.

Mr McEWEN:

– The Minister for Labour and National Service said it, and I can produce evidence that he did, unless he denies the accuracy of the report as he so readily does.

Mr Holloway:

– He said something, but he did not say that.

Mr McEWEN:

– Just as there is no place in the public life of a country for men who would plan to abandon it without firing a shot, so there is no place in public life for the man who would make the dastardly allegation as an invention of his own mind, or for a Prime Minister or Cabinet colleagues who would allow him to say it and not deny it. Nor should there be a place in the public life of this country for an independent member who, after being elected to this Parliament for the purpose of supporting one party, lends his vote, voice and influence fo maintain a lie and does not open his mouth on this occasion to say where he stands.

Mr Pollard:

– The honorable member for Indi (Mr. McEwen) was elected to oppose coalition governments, but entered one at the first opportunity.

Mr McEWEN:

– These people have been condemned again-

Mr Beasley:

– The honorable member had better “ pull off “ the lecturing.

Mr McEWEN:

– I know that the Minister for Supply and Shipping (Mr. Beasley) would like me to do so, because what I am saying makes him uncomfortable. As I was about to say, these people have been condemned again by the honorable member for Bourke (Mr. Blackburn), whose integrity no man will challenge. When this controversy was raging, he wrote to the Melbourne papers as follows : -

Whether Mr. Ward’s statement is accurate or inaccurate I am sure that Mr. Ward believes it to be accurate. Until the Prime Minister’s letter was published I believed with government supporters generally that before the Curtin Ministry took office there had been laid before the Advisory War Council military opinion that, in the event of war with Japan, we should be unable to defend Queensland north of the Tropic of Capricorn. I do not remember when I was told, but 1 was told by more than one Labour member that this advice had been given to the War Council while the Labour party was still in opposition. I did not at first believe this, but I was so often and so strongly assured of it that 1 could hot help believing that such advice had been given. It was freely discussed by government supporters. The statements recently made by Mr. Ward have been made by him nt least twice from the government front bench. on which were seated colleagues who must have known the facts, and yet neither contradicted Mr. Ward’s assertion, nor corroborated Mr. Fadden’s denial of that assertion.

The statements recently made by the Minister for Labour and National Service have been made by him at least twice from the Government front bench, on which were seated colleagues who must have known the facts, and yet have not contradicted his assertion or corroborated the denial of the Leader of the Opposition. The Prime Minister has been forced under pressure in this place to deny that there ever existed such a plan, and yet the honorable member for Bourke, who was returned to this Parliament as a Labour member and who is a supporter of the present Government, says that it was freely discussed in the ranks of the Labour party on many occasions. The Minister for Labour and National Service therefore stands convicted of a dastardly act, yet no action has been taken to discipline or contradict him. The Prime

Minister, finally driven into a corner by the Leader of the Opposition, who published a letter for the information of the Australian people, and confronted with the necessity of giving an answer as to whether there was such a plan or not, wrote a letter in reply. Did he write a fair, straightforward reply which could be understood? No, of course he did not. We have heard the words of his letter. The charge was that there existed a plan.

Sir Frederick Stewart:

– Before the change of government.

Mr McEWEN:

– Of course, and the Prime Minister, in reply to the question of whether that was true or not, wrote -

On Japan coming into the war, the CommanderinChief. Home- Forces, submitted to the Minister for the Army proposals relating to the defence of Australia, the essence of which was concentration on the defence of the vital parts of Australia. This involved holding what is known as “The Brisbane Line “. This Government rejected the submission. . . .

Those are the words of the Prime Minister, and no man in this Parliament can make a better choice of words an the English language than he can. No man here has a better evaluation of words than he has. He was asked, “ Is there a plan in existence which was propounded before the fall of the Menzies and Eadden

Governments, or is there, not?” He replied by bringing a general’s name into it, saying that the Menzies Government appointed General Sir Iven Mackay, and then adding, “ On Japan coming into the war the Commander-in-Chief of the home forces submitted to the Minister for the Army”, &c. The Prime Minister has a far fuller choice of words than I possess, so that he knew the meaning of what he wrote. In that letter he fixed a date. He said that on Japan coming into the war the CommanderinChief submitted proposals. Tha.t meant that he did so on the 7th December, 1941. Now the Prime Minister has had to deny that, because it was untrue. The CommanderinChief of the home forces did not submit proposals to the Minister for the Army on Japan coming into the war. I learn that he submitted proposals to the Minister for the Army after certain catastrophic events had occurred, after the whole foundation on which the strategic defence of Australia had been planned for two decades had dissolved, after the greater part of the American Pacific Fleet had gone to the bottom of Pearl Harbour, after it was shown that British capital ships could not safely be based upon Singapore, after Singapore itself had fallen and the base was lost, after the Malayan barrier, as the Netherlands East Indies archipelago was called, had fallen - after all those bulwarks had gone, the CommanderinChief of the home forces of the Commonwealth submitted his proposals. He was not the only man who was recasting plans for defence. The great nation of America was recasting its plans for the defence of all its possessions. Great Britain was recasting its plans for the defence of its possessions. This was after this unpredictable, unexpected and catastrophic event of the fall of Singapore had occurred. The Dutch nation was recasting its plans, and of course the Australian nation had to do the same, yet the Prime Minister lends himself to this lie by saying, in effect, that; on the entry of Japan into the war on the 7th December, 1941, this plan was submitted to the Minister for the Army. When we get outright lies from the Minister for Labour and National Service and lots of subterfuge from the Prime Minister himself, that is sufficient to make this House forfeit any confidence which it ever had in the Government. That charge remains to be answered. The Prime Minister, not content to go so far as I have described, went to a Labour conference in Sydney and poured more mire over the men on this side of the chamber, who worked to the best of their ability, whatever that may be, and with all earnestness, to prepare for the defence of this country as they conceived it to be their duty. The Prime Minister said : “ The home defence plan of the previous governments had been defeatist in outlook and preparation.” That came from (he man who attended as a delegate the conference of Australian trade unions, held in Melbourne as early as 1922, which carried a resolution that military training of the young manhood of this country for the defence of their own birthplace was “morally degrading”. The motion was moved by the present Minister for Aircraft Production (Senator Cameron) under the presidency of the present Minister for Health and Social Services (Mr. Holloway), and in the presence of the present Ministers for Air (Mr. Drakeford), Munitions (Mr. Makin) and Transport (Mr. George Lawson), and of the present Prime Minister himself. These are the gentlemen who regarded as morally degrading the compulsory training of the young manhood of this country for the defence of their land which by its geographical situation is destined to rest for ever beside the teeming millions of Asia. One of the first acts of the Labour Government in 1929 was to abolish compulsory military training. Yet it is we who are defeatists in outlook! We know the record of the Labour party. Honorable members opposite have always been opposed to compulsory military training, and in addition to abolishing it at the first possible opportunity they also closed the Royal Military College at Duntroon. They opposed every defence budget introduced in the pre-war years by governments formed by honorable members on this side of the chamber; yet it is we on this side of the chamber who are defeatists in outlook, not honorable members opposite, whose party, a few months before the outbreak of war, opposed a move to bring Papua and Australian mandated territories within the scope of the Defence Act, and even strenuously opposed the taking of a national register of manpower as a war precaution. It is we who are defeatists in outlook, and not the Prime Minister, who has been converted at the last hour, and who did not succeed in persuading his party to abandon its declared view that compulsory military training for the defence of this country was morally degrading until France had fallen and the Dunkirk evacuation had occurred. The right honorable gentleman and those who back him have something to answer. Yesterday the Prime Minister stated in this Parliament that when his Government assumed office there was not a strategic road and not an aerodrome in the north of Australia; but he is not the first one to have said that. His Minister for Labour and National Service said it some time ago, and I am inclined to wonder just who prompted the Minister to say it. I have seen the famous Bulletin cartoon “ Praise the Ward and Pass the Ammunition “, and I am just beginning to realize who was passing the ammunition to the “ Ward “ although so far that member of the Government has not enjoyed very much praise from his own leader. The Minister for Labour and National Service was the first to come out with the statement that when Labour assumed office there was not an aerodrome and not a strategic road in the north of Australia, and then, strangely enough, the Prime Minister repeated the same vile lie - because it is a vile lie and a dirty lie.

Mr Clark:

– I rise to order. I ask you, Mr. Deputy Speaker, whether the honorable member for Indi (Mr. McEwen) is in order in referring to a statement by the Prime Minister (Mr. Curtin) in such unparliamentary language?

Mr DEPUTY SPEAKER:

– I ask the honorable member for Indi to withdraw the remark.

Mr McEWEN:

– I bow to your direction, Mr. Deputy Speaker, and I withdraw the remark. Instead, I will say it is an extraordinary untruth to be uttered by a man holding the office of Prime Minister. It was a dirty untruth and the. only answer that one can make to the charge-

Mr Clark:

– I again rise to order. I object to the unparliamentary language of the honorable member for Indi, and I ask that he withdraw the words “It was a dirty untruth “.

Mr DEPUTY SPEAKER:

– I ask the honorable member for Indi to withdraw the remark to which objection has been taken.

Mr McEWEN:

– Once again in deference to your direction, Mr. Deputy Speaker, I withdraw the remark, and, driven to my “ Brisbane line “ of defence, I say that it was an incorrect statement. The only answer that one could make to the charge that there were no aerodromes in northern Australia when the Fadden Government went out of office would be to say that there were aerodromes, but that, of course, is not likely to be accepted as a reply. One could support the case by enumerating the aerodromes that did exist, but I do not intend to be provoked into doing that.

Mr Menzies:

– The Prime Minister knows that the honorable member must not do it without infringing security considerations.

Mr McEWEN:

– He knows that I would not do it. Apparently new standards of conduct are fast being introduced into this Parliament. Last night the Prime Minister quoted the exact figure of total enlistments in the armed forces of Australia. Surely that was a breach of censorship. At least it is something which we on this side of the chamber have never done, either in support of our case, or to defend ourselves. The right honorable gentleman also quoted, or rather misquoted, in circumstances which prevented a direct challenge, something which he claimed had been said by a former Minister for the Army at a secret meeting of this Parliament.

Mr Frost:

– What is wrong with that ?

Mr McEWEN:

– What is wrong with it? It is evidence of the new standards to which I refer. I am beginning to understand now why the Prime Minister took certain action in regard to the holding of secret sessions when his Government assumed office. When the right honorable member for Kooyong was

Prime Minister he relied upon the personal integrity of honorable members not to divulge information disclosed to them at secret sessions, but when Labour took over the treasury bench a national security regulation was passed, making it an offence to repeat anything that was said in a secret session of Parliament. Yet now with the greatest publicity at the command of any man in Australia, the right honorable gentleman himself is the first to offend.

Mr Menzies:

– Probably he relies upon the fact that the regulation was not made retrospective.

Mr McEWEN:

– These are the new standard.” which are being set up in this place. They are damnable and regrettable standards, and I hope that we shall not be committed to them. A government which behaves in this manner is not entitled to the confidence of Parliament and on that ground alone I should be prepared to support this motion. When honorable members opposite were driven out of their corner, they admitted that there was no defence plan of “ the Brisbane line “ character in the days of the Menzies Government. They have been driven to admit also that the CommanderinChief of the Australian Military Forces did not produce such a plan on the day that Japan entered into the war. So, their final retreat is to the allegations of a general character including the claim, that there were no aerodromes in northern Australia when Labour took over the reins of government; that there were no strategic roads, and no bombers, or fighters in this country. They know full well that these matters cannot be adequately dealt with unless we on this side of the chamber are prepared to adopt their own tactics and divulge confidences. The Prime Minister has set the standard by quoting the total numbers in the armed forces of this country; but I do not propose to follow his example. I know the location of aerodromes in our northern areas, and I know the roads that were built. I know also the numbers of aeroplanes of various types that we had in this country at that time, and I could further mv case very well by quoting them. I will take the liberty of assuming that the numbers of aircraft in this country in October, 1941, could no longer be regarded as information of value to the enemy, and I shall quote some facts to disprove one of the other lies of the Minister for Labour and National Service. I shall say something about aerodromes in this country, and I am sure that my colleagues on this side of the House at least will believe me without forcing me to name them, although unfortunately I cannot hold such a high hope in regard to Government members. We have been told that in October, 1941, this country was defenceless in the air. That is one of the general allegations, and is one of the charges of defeatism in outlook. It was not an easy thing to organize the air defence of a country, 12,000 miles removed from the nearest enemy, at a time when the world was clamouring for aircraft and for all the materials required in the construction of aircraft to fight an enemy. It was not easy to secure that material, but we did something in that direction. Far from being defeatists in outlook, I point out that the Curtin Government inherited from its predecessors the nucleus of a great air force. Tremendous planning had been done. Of what does an air force consist ? It consists of men, ground organization, aircraft and armament. This Government inherited from the Menzies and Fadden Governments an air force of trained men, men in the course of training, or men who had been enlisted and were awaiting call-up for training of approximately 70,000, and about 1,000 women. It inherited a dual conception of Australia’s responsibility in respect of the air - our contribution to the war effort where the war was then being fought and plans for the home defence of our own country. We had squadrons of the Royal Australian Air Force doing valuable work for ‘Great Britain. The public are learning only now of the great job that has been done by Royal Australian Air Force Sunderland squadrons of the Coastal Commandagainst the and the famous No. 3 Fighting

Squadron which tookpart ineverybattle in North Africa. These are some of the things that the Curtin Government inherited, and which have entitled that Government to ask that Spitfires be sent here in our time of desperate need.

It inherited Australia’s contribution to the Empire Air Training Scheme - the greatest military conception of this war. We had thousands of men abroad wearing proudly the uniform of the Royal Australian Air Force, as our representatives in the Empire Air Training Scheme. Not one of these men would have been abroad if the present Prime Minister had been able to carry in this Parliament a motion which he moved within a month or so of the outbreak of war. Every one of the 70,000 men of the Royal Australian Air Force at the end of 1941 had been enlisted for service overseas or within Australia, but had the motion to which I referred been passed, not one of these men would have been available for overseas service. As a former Minister for the Army pointed out yesterday, although according to the Prime Minister 150,000 men - enough to form ten new divisions - had transferred to the Australian Imperial Force from the Citizen Military Forces since the Labour Government had assumed office, and had thus become available for service abroad, not one new Australian Imperial Force division had been formed. [Extension of time granted.] I thank honorable members for their courtesy. I have described the situation that existed in relation to the Army. Likewise it would have been with 70,000 members of the Royal Australian Air Force who had been formed into squadrons abroad and at home. It would not have been possible to separate that force, just as it is not possible to separate the Australian Military Forces now. Therefore, Mr. Curtin’s Government should be grateful for the policy of the Menzies Government of enlisting all Royal Australian Air Force personnel for service anywhere.

This Government inherited a tremendous air service. There were in existence at the time it assumed office, about 40 great air schools which had been organized at a cost of up to £350,000 each. Many of them were equipped with aircraft which had cost from £500,000 to £1,000,000 for each school. This, let me observe, was part of the inheritance from what members of the Curtin Government have called a government with a defeatist complex. How were these men to be trained to use Spitfires, Beauforts,

Portresses, Kittyhawks and the like? How were they to obtain their advanced training and undertake their navigational courses? The Curtin Government inherited from previous governments on the 7th October, 1941, 462 elementary trainers built in Australia, plus those which had been purchased from aero clubs and private owners in this country. It also inherited, a3 advanced trainers, apart from operational aircraft, 372 Wirraways. Of course, it was not possible to train men adequately with only single-engined aircraft, and these were single-engined machines, but provision had been made by the Menzies Government for twinengined aircraft for bombing and navigational training. Great Britain had undertaken, not to sell, hut to give us aircraft for this purpose. This was a most generous offer because a few months before, in fact at the very moment when Great Britain undertook to give us the aircraft which we needed here for training squadrons, such aircraft, including Avro Ansons, were being used for operational purposes by the Coastal Command. The Fairey Battle machines were used in the early stages of the war to cover the British Expeditionary Force in Belgium and France, and they had also helped to cover the British Expeditionary Force during the Dunkirk evacuation. I repeat that Great Britain undertook to give us these machines for use for our home defence and training at a time when it was using them operationally. The result was that when the Curtin Government assumed office, it found itself in possession of 458 of these twin-engined bombers, plus 200 Fairey Battles, so that it had 65S bombers, either here or almost within sight of our shores.

Mr Frost:

– Almost within sight of our shores, yes !

Mr McEWEN:

– What is the Minister for Repatriation (Mr. Frost) sneering about?

Mr Frost:

– Tell us what machines were here.

Mr McEWEN:

– I am telling the Minister that we had here, or on ship, consigned here, the machines to which T have referred. It is true that sometimes shipments of aircraft promised to us did not arrive; sometimes the factories in which they were being made were bombed; and sometimes the crates in which they were already packed were destroyed on the wharfs in Great Britain. Sometimes the ships carrying them were torpedoed at sea. But did Great Britain say to us, “That is your bad luck, Australia?” Not at all ; Great Britain said nothing of the kind. More aircraft were provided to replace those that had been lost. Actually, on the 7th October, 1941, we had 658 British bombers and aircraft of the bomber type of what might fairly be described as of second-line value. If we add to that number the Wirraways, the Curtin Government inherited on the 7th October, 1941, 1,030 secondline bomber aircraft. Of the firstline aircraft which had been ordered in America by the Lyons Government first, and subsequently by the Menzies Government and the Fadden Government, I can say, although I cannot give exact figures, that we had 150 Hudsons, less those that had been lost in crashes in this country. None had been lost, at that -stage, by Japanese action. At any rate, I can say that on conservative figures, at that time we had 130 modern twinengined Hudson aircraft and squadrons of Catalina aircraft. We had 100 further Hudsons and certain fleet cooperation aircraft on order also, that were being prepared for shipment and were due to arrive here in the early and critical days of the war with Japan, This is part of the inheritance which the Prime Minister received from preceding governments which, in an ungenerous moment, he has described as “ defeatist complex governments “.

I can add to the craft that I have already mentioned the first Australian bombers, the Bristol Beauforts, that were coming off the line at that time. The Minister for Labour and National Service has said that at that time there was only one Beaufort bomber in existence in Australia. That was a typically incorrect statement by the honorable gentleman. In actual fact there were a few Beaufort, bombers available. The number may have been six, or it may have been ten; but of what use is it to argue the point seeing that in a few months there were hundreds of Beauforts coming off the line, not by reason of any action by the Curtin Government, but because a -plan had been brought to fruition which had been prepared and developed by the Lyons, Menzies and Fadden Governments. Every one knows how long it takes to produce these aircraft, but we have never received generous recognition of the action, that we took to ensure that modern bombers would be available in Australia. A little more than two years before the Curtin Government came into office, by the action of the honorable member for Henty, we did not even have a blue-print for the production of Beauforts, and we did not have jigs, or tools, or engines, or technicians, or aluminium for the fabrication of these aircraft.

Mr Frost:

– Yet governments supported by the honorable member had been in office for eight years.

Mr McEWEN:

– Two years after that time these aircraft were coming off the assembly line. I measure this record against the record of the Curtin Government. When that Government came into office there was a new twin-engined bomber which had been designed by a man who had been given his chance by the Lyons and Menzies Governments, and which had been constructed with funds provided by the Menzies Government. The bomber bad what were reregarded by Air Force authorities as novel and most valuable features. . It was completed and flying, and orders were placed for a number of these machines. Those orders still stand, but twenty months later not one bomber has yet been produced in spite of our desperate need. When we set out to build Beauforts we had neither factory, material nor technicians. The Curtin Government had all of these things to enable it to produce this bomber to which I refer, yet not one has come off the assembly line. I could make quite a story on that point.

Mr Dedman:

– Did not the first machine crash?

Mr McEWEN:

– That is so- the prototype plane to. which I have referred - but that was only a few months ago, and it did not affect the programme at all. However, I hope I shall not be as ungenerous as our opponents have been. I direct attention to the difficulty that is always encountered in the production of new aircraft. I well understood what it meant to have to set out to produce Beauforts without blue-prints, without factories and without materials, and I have no doubt that difficulties have been encountered in connexion with the production of the new bombers to which I have referred. I take it for granted that there are explanations for the delays that have occurred.

Sir FREDERICK STEWART:

– It is a pity that honorable gentlemen opposite cannot reciprocate in that respect in relation to the Beauforts.

Mr McEWEN:

– I recognize that great delays have occurred in every country which has set out to design and produce modern aircraft. There is an explanation ready for any man of a reasonable mind why there were not more firstline aircraft in this country when the Fadden Government went out of office. This is in no sense au apology. It should be remembered that when the Curtin Government came into office the war, at its nearest point to this country, was far off in Libya; but it was within 20 miles of Great Britain ! At that time, Great Britain had been bereft of its allies, and it still had to regard the United States of America as a neutral. Although we had ordered aircraft from Great Britain, and from America, we took the sane, reasonable and responsible view that while there was a terrible shortage of these machines we would not press for Spitfires, Kittyhawks, Aerocobras, and the like, to be sitting on the ground in Australia, 12,000 miles from the battle areas, where they were so urgently needed. We had received an assurance from Great Britain that, if we were ever threatened, or were in any dire peril, aircraft would be despatched to us immediately, even from battle areas. In the meantime, Australian allocations were being made in the United States of America, and the Government of this country was doing its utmost to obtain aircraft. We were working here with all our force to secure modern fighter aircraft, but it must be remembered that the fighter is, essentially, a defensive weapon and, contrary to the declaration of the Prime Minister, the previous Governments were not concentrating completely upon the defensive aspect; they were concentrating on fighting our enemies. Wherever they were, we were going after them.

Mr Menzies:

– Any where in the world.

Mr McEWEN:

– Yes, and we wanted above all ocean reconnaissance aircraft to enable us to acquaint ourselves of the possible movements of our potential enemies.

Mr Beasley:

– They were coming at our back door while you were looking for them all round the world.

Mr McEWEN:

– I shall say something about that matter later. Our attention, at the time of which I am speaking, was concentrated upon providing ourselves, first and foremost, with aircraft of the ocean-reconnaissance type, such as Hudsons and Catalinas. Of all the types of aircraft that will enable ocean reconnaissance to be maintained, not one has a longer air endurance than the Catalina. [Further extension of time granted.] We were searching the world for new, firstline, operational aircraft. I read in a newspaper a couple of days ago that Vultee Vengeance dive bombers were in operation 20 months after the Curtin Government had come to office. That, I understand, is the first intimation that has been given of those dive bombers having been in action. I inform the House that these Vultee Vengeance dive bombers were ordered by the Menzies Government more than a year before the Fadden Government was defeated. That illustrates the length of time that it takes to obtain such aircraft, so precious are they.

Mr Menzies:

– I arranged the schedule for deliveries to be made in March, 1941.

Mr McEWEN:

– Here is a point to which I direct particular attention : In our constant search for aircraft of the type that we most needed, it came to our knowledge in September, 1941, that it would be possible for us to obtain a few more of that aircraft that was most precious to our needs in those days - the Catalina. As Minister for Air, I immediately prepared a submission for the then War Cabinet, recommending^ the purchase of the number of Catalinas, which were then available for purchase with their spares, to the value of approximately £1,000,000; because we had been advised in America that if we ordered them we could secure them. We were put out of office, with the assistance of the honorable member for Henty, before I had had a chance to bring the matter before War Cabinet formally, although in informal discussions it had been indicated that approval of the purchase would be given. On the day on which I handed over the Department of Air to the present Minister, I placed this submission in his hands, informing him that it had come to our knowledge that it would be possible to get what would complete another squadron and a half of Catalinas. I pointed out to him how desperately we needed them, and said that, had the Government not been defeated, I would have taken the matter to War Cabinet within a day or so. I urged him to convey the submission to the War Cabinet. I acknowledge that my successor in -the Department of Air has never flicked even a speck of the mud that has been flung in regard to the alleged inadequacy of the Royal Australian Air Force when the Curtin Government came into office. He has been completely decent and fair, and my remarks are not intended to cast the slightest reflection on him. But the fact of the matter is that those Catalinas were never ordered by the Curtin Government.

Mr Drakeford:

– The honorable gentleman does not suggest that we did not order Catalina aircraft, and get them?

Mr McEWEN:

– Having taken such an interest in this matter, I happen to know that they were ordered only after I had urged for months in the Advisory War Council that the Government should order them.

The incident that I now relate is not to be found in any document that has been purloined, such as the document referred to by the Minister for Labour and National Service. What I say can be verified by a perusal of documents that are in the archives of the Government to-day. I charge the Government that, within. two months of the ‘outbreak of war with Japan, it declined to purchase operational aircraft of the type that we most needed. Of all the records of the Government which may be either admitted or denied, it possesses at least one record that is unchallengeable; that is, that it is the only belligerent Government in the history of the war which has refused to order operational aircraft when they could have been purchased.

It is all very well to say, “But there were no aerodromes; consequently, how could aircraft have been used had we had them ? “. Of course, we had the aerodromes. What I now say can also he verified. Around the coastline of Australia when I vacated the Department of Air there was a chain of major air bases or advanced operational air bases, which made it possible for fast bombers to protect the whole of the eastern littoral of this continent after a flight of not more than 30 minutes from an aerodrome. Prom Horn Island aerodrome in Torres Strait, adjacent to Thursday Island - which I can mention without breach of security because the Japs have bombed it and consequently know of its existence - to Bass Strait, and through Bass Strait to a point beyond Adelaide, the Curtin Government inherited a chain of aerodromes so close together that a fast bomber would never have been more than 30 minutes’ flight from one of them. There were aerodromes at Darwin. There was another at Mullingimbie in Arnhem Land, which the Japs bombed recently, and many others in the Northern Territory which I am not free to name. Down the north-west coast of Australia, and along the coast north and south from Perth, there was a chain of aerodromes. Squadrons could be sent at the shortest notice from Laverton to Perth, from Perth to Darwin, or from Richmond to Darwin. The country was laced with strategically disposed aerodromes for the very purpose of ensuring maximum mobility to what we knew was an inadequate air force. That was the whole conception of the air defence of Australia - that we should apply to it the maximum degree of mobility and conduct reinforcing exercises. But our plans for the defence of Australia were not confined within the sandy shores of this continent. We wanted, if possible, and by preference, to meet the enemy on his own territory. Therefore the Curtin Government, when it came into office,, found that there were squadrons of Australian Hudson aeroplanes in Malaya, and a squadron at least of modern fighter aircraft. That was our first plan to cover our 8th Division, and to assist our British and Dutch Allies. We were prepared, even without their co-operation, to act on our own account and for that purpose the northern littoral of this country was screened by a complete chain of bases. Upon these I am now free to break my silence, because some of them have been in the news and others are in the possession of the Japanese. Therefore, I am able to inform the House that, apart from this gigantic development of the air force within the continent of Australia, we had Australian flying boat bases and aerodromes in Timor and in Amboina. In co-operation with our Dutch Allies, Australian aircraft were moving backwards and forwards between those places. We had major bases at Port Moresby, at Rabaul in New Britain and we had advanced operational aerodromes and flying boat moorings at Kavieng in New Ireland, at Buka on the northern island of Bougainville, at Gizo on the southern island of Bougainville, at Tulagi in the Solomon Islands and also in the New Hebrides, and in New Caledonia. Those are the plans that had been made by the Government which the Prime Minister, in a scurvy fashion, told a Labour conference had nothing but a defeatist complex. The whole of the north of Australia was screened by a chain of aerodromes and bases, every one of which was provided with essential wireless requirements, moorings equipment, bomb dumps, fuel dumps, ammunition, and first-aid equipment.

Mr Beasley:

– The honorable gentleman should not say too much about the fuel dumps; it is a sorry story..

Mr McEWEN:

– The Minister for Supply and Shipping may now say what he likes about petrol in the general sense; but during the last general elections he said that there was no need for petrol rationing.

Mr Beasley:

– There would not have been any need for it had the Government of which the honorable gentleman was a member done the right thing. He should not talk about supplies of fuel, because there was hardly any of it.

Mr McEWEN:

– I do not ask that my word be accepted. The archives will prove that when the Eadden Government was defeated, and the Curtin Government came into office the aviation spirit requirements of the Royal Australian Air Force as stipulated by that force were adequate. That is not equivocal, but is a plain statement of fact. The records will prove whether it is true or false. Here is the answer to the charge of the Prime Minister that there were no aerodromes and no roads: With the exception of that great military road which America built to Alaska, I believe that there is not another strategic military road in the world so great as tha’t which was built by the Menzies Government from Darwin south, or that which was undertaken by the same Government across the desert from Western Australia to South Australia, or from Mount Isa to Tennant Creek. That is the inheritance which the present Government received from what the Prime Minister has described as a defeatist government. The story speaks for itself. A government which has within its ranks men who He, which is led by a man who not only fails to refute a lie that is uttered by one of its Ministers but also almost reiterates it, is not fit to govern. On that account, I say that the motion of the Leader of the Opposition should be carried. The honorable member for Henty declared himself before he had heard a word from this side of the House. If that is to be his attitude, he had better describe himself as the Labour member for Henty. Had he pretended to retain an atmosphere of independence, he ought to have waited until the motion was moved before declaring himself.

Sitting suspended from 1245 to 2.15 p.m.

Mr BEASLEY:
Minister for Supply and Shipping · West Sydney · ALP

– Before the suspension of the sitting, we listened to an address by the honorable member for Indi (Mr. McEwen) which I am sure indicated to all that the remarks of the honorable member for Henty (Mr. Coles) really got under the skin. It was pretty clear that not only the declaration of his intention to support the Government on this motion, but also the very telling points he made as reasons for supporting the Government, went home. In a few words, he indicated what had been done since this Government took office. Coming from a man who has watched developments since the last general election and particularly since the war began, and, who, to say the least of it, watched them from the cross benches, his references are worthy of repeating from platforms throughout Australia. There is no doubt that his declaration has caused a good deal of misgiving on the part of the Opposition, and that they also prompted the attempted defence by the honorable member for Indi. It is not my intention to discuss the statistical details with which the honorable member dealt, because I think they are rightly more appropriate for the attention of my colleague,, the Minister for Air (Mr. Drakeford). It is sufficient to say, that the circumstances in which we found this country, from the point of view of air support and cover, need very little elaboration to-day, particularly if we have regard not only to conditions in our own country, but also to those under which our men fought in other parts of the world. The history of the campaigns in North Africa, Greece and Crete were marked particularly by the fact that these men were asked to defend a great cause with little or no support from the air, and thousands of gallant fighters lost their lives on that account. The same set of circumstances existed in Malaya and at Singapore, and it may well be said that apart from those who lost their lives, thousands more are to-day languishing in prison camps and no doubt longing for the opportunity to be released and return to their native land. The honorable member for Indi, however, made some reference to what had been done in the provision of air strips and landing grounds throughout Australia. Either he let his imagination’ run riot, or his memory became something like a concertina, in connexion with this subject.

Mr McEWEN:
INDI, VICTORIA · CP; LCL from 1940; CP from 1943

– Every statement will bear investigation.

Mr BEASLEY:

– Yes, up to the point that in many instances the only evidence of landing strips was the surveyors’ pegs that had been placed in the ground. The answer to the honorable member’s claim is quite simple. Why was it necessary to recruit thousands of men in the Civil Constructional Corps and the Allied Works Council if the landing strips that the honorable member referred to had been dotted up and down the Australian country-side ? There would have been no need for that organization. If what the honorable member has said were true and as meeting the defence requirements of the country and in keeping with the country’s needs, all this could have been avoided ; all that the Curtin Government needed to do was to walk in and add to what was then existing, because, according to the honorable member, all the landing strips and all the other facilities were available to be used without any additional effort. Still further, if that were so, no necessity would have arisen to deplete the farms and pastoral lands of Australia, as actually happened, of the normal labour which the primary producers needed to maintain production at the level necessary not only for our own needs, but also for our export trade and for the help of our Allies. The answer to what the honorable member has said is obvious on the facts as we found them, and what has had to be done since. The honorable member talked about landing strips in Timor and at Rabaul and other places. Taking Rabaul as an illustration, whatever landing strips existed there were organized by the Civil Aviation Department long before the war was even thought about.

Mr McEwen:

– That is not true.

Mr BEASLEY:

– To get plant into Wau and other places landing strips were set down by private enterprise associated with gold dredging in Australia. They discharged their sea cargoes at Lae and flew them inland, for which purpose the landing grounds were constructed. This was long before any suggestion of a defence organization for that area was ever entertained. So in regard to landing strips, apart from the pegs that were in the ground, all the organization in the development of aerodromes in that country was done by civil aviation or private enterprise as the case may be. Civil aviation had laid down and maintained air strips, but, whatever these were built for, they were for the use of smaller and lighter aircraft which did not require anything like what would be needed in war-time. Therefore, what the honorable member claims was done by his Government had been already done for an entirely different purpose. The assertion that this was a part of the organization made available to the Curtin Government by the previous Government is disproved when the facts are disclosed.

Dealing with the subject of aircraft generally, we are mindful of the fact that the honorable member took a great interest in his department, but it is a pity that he and his party did not take a greater interest in the economic development of this country, particularly aircraft construction, years ago. It is well to reflect that six years ago, the leader of the Labour party, who is now the Prime Minister, made the development of aircraft production for the defence of Australia one of the outstanding features of his policy speech. For this he was howled down and ridiculed. Those who sit opposite us to-day and who succeeded in convincing the public at that time that the development of the aircraft industry was unnecessary and that sea power was the all-important factor in the defence of Australia, ridiculed the idea that aircraft would play in future wars the important part that they are playing to-day. Perhaps at that time war was not contemplated in the dimensions in which it is being waged to-day, but it was at least contemplated then in some form or another, and because of the failure to recognize the Prime Minister’s view six years ago nothing was done in Australia.

Mr Hutchinson:

– Who built up the Commonwealth Aircraft Corporation Proprietary Limited ?

Mr BEASLEY:

– I was about to refer to that at this very stage of my speech. It was a government composed of the parties on the other side of the House that dismissed Wing Commander Wackett from the job of manufacturing aircraft in Australia. They did not want him, but the Scullin Government which came into office in 1929 picked him up off the streets in order that his talentmight not be lost to the country. Strange as it may seem, I was the Minister who was delegated to make provision for him at Cockatoo Island, in order that he could carry on. his experimental work in the development of aircraft production in this country. The very man around whom the whole programme of aircraft manufacture, particularly of training aircraft, has developed, was thrown to the wolves in 1928 by the honorable member’s party before the Scullin Government came into power. All this is very interesting, because the parties opposite never did believe in th development of these industries in Australia to the level at which Australia really needed them. They wanted Australians to be merely hewers of wood and drawers of water. That is the policy they pursued right from the beginning of their political history in this country. The same thing applies in connexion with secondary industries generally, and this has reference particularly to the Country party. Its members have always opposed the development of secondary industries in Australia. Many around me here will remember the long discussion; that took place in this Parliament when we tried to establish the industry of manufacturing motor-car engines in Australia.

Mr Hutchinson:

– Did not we support that?

Mr BEASLEY:

– The Country party sat up all night in this Parliament in an endeavour to prevent that industry from being established in Australia. If that plan had been agreed upon when it was first projected, we should have had in Australia, when war was declared, additional machine tools and equipment which would have been of immense value to us in the war effort that we had to put forth for our protection. The members of the Country party never believed in the project and did their best to destroy and prevent any such development. It can be said that the Labour party right from the beginning has constantly fought and struggled for the development of secondary industries in Australia.

I ask honorable members to think for a moment pf what would have been our situation in respect of the manufacture of the munitions that we had to provide and now have, if we had not developed those industries. “Where would we have got our skilled labour or our artisans to go into the shipyards and other estab lishments? The whole history of Commonwealth politics under the direction of the. parties which sit opposite is one long record of disastrous antagonism to the ideal of this country becoming selfcontained. I had personal experiences in the shipbuilding industry after the last war. When every attempt was being made by us to keep the industry going, nothing was done by the governments then in power to see that those who had been trained in the industry were kept in employment so that their experience would be available in circumstances such, as we are now passing through. It is as well that these thoughts should be kept in mind in connexion with the problems we are now facing, and they apply particularly to the last two years.

Much has been said about the number of training aircraft in this country, and the figures will be dealt with by the Minister for Air, but it is interesting to note that when the Government came into power there was not one aerial torpedo in Australia. There were some bombers, but nothing to put in their racks. That was the situation which we had to face. We had only one complete set of radio directional finding equipment in this country when this Government came into power. That deficiency was most serious. What was the value of even the training aircraft that we had? They could have been shot up on the ground before they had even got their engines hot. Enemy planes could have come over the landing strips and aerodromes and rained their bombs on them, and the first knowledge we would have had of their presence would have been the drone of their engines and the whistling of their bombs as they fell from the racks upon the grounded aircraft. It cannot be denied that not only would the aircraft of which the honorable member for Indi speaks have been left in a helpless position, because they would have been all at the mercy of Japanese raiders, but also thousands of people in our cities and other places would have been targets for the enemy without any interruption if his aircraft carriers had come down the coast. These are the serious factors in connexion with this question. They are the things that count in the minds of the Australian people. The figures quoted by the honorable member for Indi may be correct, but I emphasize that they referred only to training aircraft. I do not for a moment wish to belittle the importance of training aircraft. Such machines are essential if our airmen are to be fitted to play their part, and in that regard, I give due credit; but I point out that training aircraft by themselves are of little or no value. There must be the added protection of combat planes, otherwise the training side counts for little.

In this debate, much has been said about things which occurred in the pre-war years, and it seems to me that if these matters are to be discussed, quite apart from the administration of thi3 Government, we should be willing to discuss them in every detail. Let us go back to the depression years for guidance. Who ruled this country during those years? For how long has Labour held office in the Commonwealth Parliament since federation? If the condition of this country late in 1941 was as hopeless as has been indicated - and the existence of a deplorable state of affairs cannot be denied - then surely the responsibility for that condition rests with those who occupied the treasury bench in the preceding years. The fact is that the reins of government in this Parliament have been held almost continuously, by parties of which honorable members opposite and their predecessors were members. Surely these governments had plenty of time to make this country secure. They had all the necessary opportunities and all the required resources at their disposal.

Mr Paterson:

– And consistent opposition from the Labour party.

Mr BEASLEY:

– Is that the only excuse that can be offered? If so, then honorable members opposite have not deserved to hold the reins of government at any stage of our history. Did they expect to come into this Parliament and carry on the government of this country without opposition? Did they seek a parliament in which they could do what they pleased and put into effect whatever platform or policy they desired. It was due to the Labour party drive in this House that we possess what has helped to save us so far in this conflict. The point is that antiLabour governments held office during seven years immediately preceding the outbreak of war, and for the first two years of the war, so that the responsibility for the condition of this country when the conflict with Japan started, rests solely with honorable members opposite and their predecessors. That cannot be denied. Let us examine what occurred during the years of depression, when the powers with which the United Nations are now struggling were organizing their resources and man-power to obtain maximum war production. What were the workers of Australia doing at that time? Thousands of them were on the dole, and were able to secure only bare sustenance for themselves and their families. And whose responsibility was that? Was it the responsibility of Labour, or was it the responsibility of the anti-Labour governments that held office during those years? Obviously it was the responsibility of those governments. The result was that when war came to this land, we did not have the strategic roads necessary for our defence, although that work could easily have been done in the years when so much manpower was available; we did not have a standardized railway gauge, although that also could have been achieved during that period. Time and time again, members of the Labour party advocated the elimination of the breaks of gauge which to-day more than at any other time in our history are one of the greatest evils of this country. ‘Just how great an evil it is I know full well, because of the many transport problems with which I have to deal, in relation to not only the carrying of troops, but also the carrying of vital war material all over the country. An immense task confronts the Government in transport alone. The depression years would have provided a wonderful opportunity to standardize our railways but nothing was done; there were idle hands everywhere and men were left to rot and decay. That was the history of this country for nine years. Boys leaving school were denied an opportunity to become skilled men, despite the fact that they had passed all the necessary examinations and qualified in the techni co, schools. They were told that no money was available to provide jobs for them.

Mr Holt:

– The Government of which I was a member provided money for the training of unemployed youths, but our proposals were resisted by the Trades Halls.

Mr BEASLEY:

– Can the honorable member for Fawkner state honestly that his Government provided money to give jobs to the unemployed during the depression? Of course, he cannot. He would merely be bumping his head against a brick wall if he tried to convince this House of such an assertion. The history of these appalling years is on record in our archives, but in addition an indelible mark has been left upon the minds and bodies of thousands of people in this country, who in those days were undernourished and to-day, as a result of their physical deficiencies, are unable to stand up to ihe rigours that they have been called upon to face in the conflict in which we are now engaged. Because our memory of these years is still fresh we on this side of the chamber are attempting, by virtue of the power at our disposal, to ensure that at least we shall lay the foundation of a plan of social service and social welfare for the people of Australia which will ensure that these tilings shall never happen again. Of course, there is resistance to our proposals. The action, we are informed, that will be taken in the Senate in relation to certain legislation that will be passed through this House when this motion is disposed of, will be evidence of that resistance, and of the insincerity of some individuals who profess to be concerned about the rights and living standards of the men who are now fighting our battles and of succeeding generations. That will be the test of the bona fides of these individuals. “We shall know then whether they honestly believe that the social security of the people of this country should be established definitely for all time. I stress the fact that a contributing factor of no small importance to our unpreparedness for this war was the loss of time and of skilled labour in the depression years. Probably the worst feature of the Menzies and Fadden Administrations was their attitude to the defence of Australia as a whole. “When war broke out, they were prepared to accept the Chamberlain policy. The first feature of that policy was the defence of the United Kingdom, and with that, I have no quarrel. The second feature was the protection of the trade routes to the United Kingdom in order to maintain supplies of essential war materials and foodstuffs. That principle also is one to which any Australian would subscribe. However, the third feature was that the Dominions should be helped as much as possible, but that they might be lost to the enemy, although it was hoped that they would be won back later on.

Mr Spender:

– That is not true.

Mr BEASLEY:

– That was the Chamberlain policy and the honorable member for Warringah is well aware of it, because the Government of which he was a member supported it. Right along the line honorable members opposite when in office subscribed to that policy, and accused the Opposition of being too Pacific-minded.

Mr McEwen:

– I think that must be another document which has been stolen.

Mr BEASLEY:

– It is a pity that the memory of the honorable member for Indi, which apparently is so short in regard to this matter, is so enormously elastic when it comes to landing strips and pegs in the ground. He also was a member of the Government which supported the Chamberlain policy, the result of which was the denudation of this country’s man-power. Honorable members opposite talk of “ the Brisbane line”. To my mind, it is amazing that there was any line at all in this country, in view of the deplorable state of our defences.

Mr Spender:

– The statement made by honorable members opposite in regard to the alleged “ Brisbane line “ are complete falsehoods.

Mr BEASLEY:

– The Opposition has played this matter out to the bitter end and has been caught red-handed by the Australian people. Now they are like a lot of children repeating mere phrases of denial which will convince no one, once the facts are disclosed. I repeat that the Menzies and Fadden Administrations subscribed to the ‘Chamberlain policy, the result of which was the denudation of this country’s man-power. I do not agree with the right honorable member for Kooyong that this principle is merely a matter of opinion. Such a policy was a different matter in the last war when the conflict was 12,000 miles away from our shores, but no one in this Parliament will deny that the circumstances of this war are entirely different from those of the last war. It was obvious from the outset that, in contrast to Japan’s friendship in the last war, its attitude in this conflict was distinctly hostile. We knew what was taking place in Japan. The right honorable member for Cowper (Sir Earle Page) who now sits at the table knows that for years past production in Japan was being stepped up to the highest possible level. Upon his return from one of his visits to the United Kingdom some time ago, he approached me to help in regard to the inroads Japan was making upon British shipping lines in China and other parts of the Pacific. The Japanese were pushing the British mercantile marine off the seas in these areas. Day by day, and year by year, they were making their position stronger. The importance of these operations cannot be over-estimated. It must be recognized that, being an island country, Japan was dependent upon sea-going transport services to a very great degree.

Sir Earle Page:

– “We tried to help the British shipping interests.

Mr BEASLEY:

– I know that that is so, but. the effect of these developments must have been apparent to even the most casual observer. Their significance must certainly have been realized by persons in administrative office not only in Australia but also in the United Kingdom. These Japanese plan3 have been developed over many years. In the circumstances, I cannot see how any government in this part of the world when the war broke out could have subscribed to a policy of neglect or indifference to the seriousness of the likely events in the Pacific. “What would have been the lot of the people of this country had Australia been captured by the Japanese? Even though steps might have been taken later to free the country of the enemy, there would have been few of us left when that day came, and the plight of our women and children in such circumstances must be so clearly visualized by all honorable members that I need not further stress it. Yet when, shortly after this Government came into office, the Prime Minister made an appeal to the United States of America for aid, there was at once a “ howl “, a “ squeal “ and a condemnation of an extraordinary nature. Yesterday when I interjected while the right honorable member for Kooyong (Mr. Menzies) was speaking, he said that Australia was entitled to aid from the United States of America because it had sent its men abroad to fight. I then asked what the right honorable gentleman was complaining about, and he said that his complaint was about the methods that had been employed. What methods did the right honorable gentleman expect u3 to employ? Did he consider that we should adopt “ the old school-tie “ approach ? We did nothing of the kind. We made a plain and frank statement of our circumstances to the Government of the United States of America. We intimated clearly that we did not think that we would be able to hold this country without aid from America. How could 7,000,000 ‘ people hope to stand against such a powerful enemy as the Japanese, particularly as they had gained considerable additional external resources of both man-power and raw material almost overnight? The fact is that unless we had obtained help we could have done little to save this country from invasion. We needed desperately the assistance of a powerful ally.

I do not raise this issue with any idea of drawing distinctions between the United States of America and the United Kingdom. At that time . the United Kingdom could do nothing more than it was already doing to help to defend Australia, for it was exerting every endeavour to defend itself against imminent invasion. In those circumstances what happened to the British Dominions had necessarily, for the time being, tobe a secondary matter. I understand what the fall of France meant to Great Britain and to the French Empire itself. When the heart of an empire falls it cannot be very long before the nation as a whole begins to disintegrate and loses- control of ite possessions, which must necessarily either fall into the hands of the enemy or come under some other authority. For the reasons I have given it was obvious that an appeal for additional help from the United Kingdom must prove ineffective. The Government therefore turned to the United States of America. Honorable gentlemen opposite have said that we did not do it in the right way. “What way should we have done it?

Mr Forde:

– At any rate, we succeeded.

Mr BEASLEY:

– That is the answer; results count. The means we employed in making our appeal were honest and straightforward. We know, however, that powerful newspaper interests in this country did their best to create opposition in the United States of America to the appeal that had been made for help by the Australian Prime Minister. Those interests cabled great slices of their leading articles to New York and Washington in criticism of the Australian Prime Minister’s appeal. Did they desire that the Chamberlain policy should be persisted in, even to the point of allowing Australia to be conquered, rather than that the United States of America should be asked for help? That is the question that should be answered. The influences that were at work behind the scenes in this attempt to vitiate the appeal of the Prime Minister were concerned in creating a wrong impression in America, and those influences have always been violently opposed to the Labour party and, I will add, violently opposed to the interests of the people of this country as a whole. There are many men behind barbed wire in Australia, but there are many at liberty who should also be interned in the interests of the safety and welfare of the country. Politics have reached a low level when the interests opposed to the Labour party will go to the length of trying to discredit the country, not only in the United States of America, but also in the United Kingdom. The low level that had been reached by these despicable people was indicated to the Minister for External Affairs (“Dr. Evatt) when he made his first visit to the United Kingdom. One of the first references of the British Prime Minister to him was in connexion with reports that had been cabled, under the lap, by external communications from Australia. [Extension of time granted.]

It looks as though aid would not have been sought from the United States of America if the parties at present in opposition in this Parliament had remained in power. Honorable gentlemen opposite did not intend to ask for this help. With all this clamour now as to what the Opposition has done to save this country, J ask specifically what was their real intention in regard to aid from the United States?

Mr Spender:

– The honorable gentle- “ man knows that when this subject was discussed in the Advisory War Council we were in concert on the subject, but not about the means to be employed. We did not agree with the ‘public clamour that had taken place.

Mr BEASLEY:

– The right honorable gentleman refers to “ the means to be ‘ employed “. The fact is that honorable members opposite were never enthusiastic about seeking American aid ; they were never the least bit keen about it; in my opinion, they would have sacrificed this country rather than press for American aid. I believe that the Australian people well understand this, and they will see through all these “ behind the scenes “ machinations against the Prime Minister when he approached the Government of the United States of America. This country, or parts of it, would have been left to the mercy of its enemies. It is an unfortunate fact that at that time 150,000 of our most gallant men were on distant battlefields. Something has been said in the course of this debate about the action of this Government in bringing the Australian Imperial Force back to Australia. It has been said that these men had gained great experience and were better soldiers because of it. I do not deny that they had had great experience. But it is also true that the experience they gained in North Africa and in desert fighting was not suitable for the kind of fight they were required to wage in the islands of New Guinea and elsewhere. The honorable mem her for Bendigo (Mr. Rankin) must agree with that statement.

Mr Rankin:

– It is absolute rot !

Mr BEASLEY:

– I did not expect the honorable member, with his military experience, to challenge such a statement. The fact is that the chiefs of the military machine in this country have sent these particular divisions into places in Australia where they can train for jungle warfare, because the training they received in North Africa was unsuitable for the kind of warfare in which they will have to engage in the islands to the north of Australia. Yet the honorable member describes the judgment of our military leaders on this subject as “absolute rot”. I had some respect for the honorable member’s judgment in these matters until he made that statement; but I do not see how he can argue against military leaders of such wide experience and knowledge of this war.

Mr Rankin:

– Has the Minister had any experience?

Mr BEASLEY:

– I am not judging this matter on my experience, but on that of men who are qualified to speak. Apparently the honorable member puts little value on their knowledge. I do not deny that the men of the Australian Imperial Force are the better for the experience that they gained overseas, but the point that the’ Opposition must answer is that the previous Government denuded this country of its best men and did not intend to bring them back here. If it had not been for the action of this Government in this connexion most of those men would probably now be prisoners of war in Burma. That is the charge that the Opposition must face. The people of Australia, in turn, must face the fact that if honorable members opposite should again assume office in this country the men of the Australian Imperial Force might be sent to Burma. It is important that the men themselves, as well as the people of this country, should realize this. Their place is in this country and their skill and training is needed for its defence against the mighty weight of the Japanese military machine that misfit bp piled up against it at any time.

When I interjected yesterday during the speech of the right honorable member for Kooyong, I was told that we were given help from the United States of

America because we had earned the right to it by sending our men to other parts of the world to fight. The facts of the case are very different. The President of the United States of America has never once made it “ a condition of American assistance that we must send our men to other parts of the world. On the contrary, he has declared more than once that this Government is best able to judge where its troops should be sent. The judgment of this Government will always be respected by the United States of America in this matter. It has never and, I am sure, will never, be a matter to be questioned, but rather irrespective of our decision the President has declared that his country will be always by our side. The contentions of the right honorable member on this point fall to the ground when the attitude of the United States Government is made known.

I am satisfied that the thing that is worrying honorable members opposite is that this Government has succeeded when they fully expected it to fail. When the Government assumed office, it was confidently predicted by some honorable gentlemen that it would collapse within three or four months.

Mr Holt:

– Give us a fair go !

Mr BEASLEY:

– The fact that this Government has succeeded is the real thorn in the flesh of honorable gentlemen opposite, who hated, like hell, the statement that the Prime Minister made a few days ago that Australia was no longer in fear of invasion. Members of the Oppo.sition thoroughly disliked that expression of opinion, and considered that it was a terrible thing for the Prime Minister to make such a statement. They would have been glad had he made some other statement, for then they might have been able to say that, by and large, the Labour Government had failed to protect the country or to make it safe from invasion. Honorable members opposite have developed a most remarkable complex during the past few months. They hate the thought of the Prime Minister being able to say that, since this Government has been in office, a great deal has been done to lessen the number of industrial disputes and to check absenteeism in industry. They do not like members of this Government attending trade union congresses, because they realize that by doing so the Government will by its direct contact with the trade union leaders impart a closer knowledge of the problems of war and thus obtain a better understanding in the ranks of the workers throughout Australia. I am perfectly satisfied that the real trouble with them is that they hate to have to reconcile themselves to the knowledge that the Labour party has been successful in its term of office, and that, for that reason, the Prime Minister was able to make his statement, thereby giving the people a. feeling of security which they had not had since Japan entered the war, or even before that time. When this Government assumed office, the country was approaching the stage when the idea of evacuating certain areas was gaining ground; also plans were prepared and, in some cases people may have departed. This proposal had actually been discussed by State Governments, and vital attention was being given to it. State Governments, as a matter of fact, had complete plans of evacuations of one kind and another. They had no alternative, for they did not control the machinery for the defence of the country. Their only chance to do something for the people in their territories was to try to get them away from the coast, particularly on the eastern side, to parts not so likely to be invaded by an enemy. Those States hoped and longed for protection for these people, either from within or without. This is the task Labour had to face when taking office. It was not possible to correct that evacuation idea until the people could be convinced that we would get such support as would justify us in directing them to stand toe to toe with the enemy if the occasion should arise. The Curtin Government successfully changed the outlook of the people, for they gave them heart, courage, trained men and equipment, and now they are ready to face any enemy, and fight it out to the finish, rather than turn their backs upon him. Today, the position in northern Queensland is different from what it was eighteen or twenty months ago. More than 5,000 persons left Townsville, Cairns and other places for districts that offered greater security. These are facts, not fiction. Cattle were driven from the coastal towns of New South Wales as well as of Queensland.

Sir Earle Page:

– By the order of State Labour Governments.

Mr BEASLEY:

– Because they had no alternative. Air protection or, in fact, any substantial kind of protection at ail, was not provided. The Australian Imperial Force was in the Middle East and in Malaya. There was very little ammunition, guns, or anything else with which to protect our people. The position was tragic. What else could a State government have done ? I would not have a high opinion of a government which did not take steps to give to its people some chance to save themselves. “Passing the buck “ to a State government will not carry any weight on the present occasion. The right honorable gentleman may have been a good footballer in his day, but he cannot adopt passing tactics in this game. We prevailed on the evacuees to return to Cairns, Townsville and other places in the northern part of Queensland as well as the coastal towns of New South Wales, with the determination that they would resist the enemy inch by inch should the occasion to do so arise. We provided air protection for them, and sent trained men to the operational fronts, in order to make certain that their lives, if lost, would not have been sacrificed in vain.

This discussion has convinced me that this no-confidence motion is not one for the Government, but rather for the Opposition. Honorable members opposite have been on the defensive from the word “go”; they have been defending themselves every inch of the way. The honorable member for Indi has made a lengthy pleading defence of his administration of the Department of Air, because he realizes how faulty and ineffective it has been disclosed to have been. The motion, therefore, has been misdirected. Who the guilty men are - who are the men responsible for our defenceless condition when war broke out - has been made clear.

The Leader of the Opposition, in hi3 attack upon the Government, covered many points, apart from those to which I have referred. He mentioned in particular a shortage of essential commodities in a period of teeming production and a restriction of foreign markets. It is true that our foreign markets have been restricted. The reason is that we have not the necessary shipping facilities to provide adequately for the needs of the export trade. The right honorable gentleman conveniently ignored the fact that since the present Government came into office it has assumed responsibility for the provisioning of the American Forces that have arrived in this country, the number of which may not be disclosed, as well as our own forces, our civilian population, and thousands of other persons on islands adjacent to our shores. Do not these efforts of the Government count for something?

Mr Curtin:

– Many of them are a long distance from our shores.

Mr BEASLEY:

– They are almost outside the area in which -we might reasonably be expected to meet a commitment of that character. Week by week, when shipping is available, large quantities of foodstuffs and other products, including flour, are being sent to the United Kingdom., India, South America, and other places. [Further extension of time granted.]

A further charge against the Government is that it has been guilty of bungling in connexion with the man-power associated with primary production. At the present stage of the development of the great effort we were called upon to make, it is easy for honorable members to talk about bungling. Had the Government interfered, in the early stage of the call-up of man-power for the fighting forces, it would have been accused of political interference with the Army command. The Prime Minister specifically set out to give almost unrestricted control to those who were in command of the armed forces of this country. He considered that they were the planners of strategy, and that upon their plans rested not only the success of our arms but also the security of our soil and the preservation of everything else that we hold dear. Primary production in some isolated parts, or even in general, may have had to suffer temporarily while we were making sure that the soil which would later be tilled would remain in our custody. Although the steps that were taken may have resulted in some shortage of production, they were totally warranted. When the history of this war is written, the Prime Minister will be praised for the action that he took in that regard. The air cover which this Government has provided had to be obtained from outside Australia, from countries whose population is larger and whose resources are much greater than ours. Aluminium has had to be imported because it cannot be manufactured locally. Our production of steel is limited by the means that we have at our disposal. We could not provide from our own resources the aircraft that was needed for the number of squadrons that had to be formed. What has been achieved has been due to the close cooperation, goodwill, mutual understanding, and high regard which exist between the Prime Minister and General Douglas MacArthur. The result has been of great benefit to Australia. When all is said and done, the outcome of wars often depends upon the esteem and respect in which the persons in high places hold each other, and the confidence which exists between them. The relations between the Prime Minister and General Douglas MacArthur have been on the highest plane throughout their association. The Australian people will be grateful to the Prime Minister for what has been accomplished. Both he and General Douglas MacArthur deserve credit for their handling of a most difficult and delicate problem. I admit that there has been a shortage of man-power in rural industries. Young men who have considered that they were in a dead-end occupation have been attracted to munitions undertakings. Nevertheless, the Government has “ held the fort “ on the food front. No American or Australian soldier has gone hungry since we assumed office, and no civilian has lacked what is necessary to maintain body and soul. That cannot be said of the nine years of the depression, to which I have already referred, during which many persons went hungry. The seriousness of the possibility of invasion having diminished, the Government is now making adjustments with a comprehensive knowledge of the exact requirements of both the fighting forces and primary production in relation to man-power. It would have been a case of “ God help us “ had the Australian Imperial Force not returned to Australia. The Leader of the Opposition has spoken ‘ of bungling and shortage of man-power. Where would we have been had we not had those men in Australia? What would he have said in regard to shortage of man-power had it been necessary to place the whole -of our man-power in the Army in order to defend, for instance, the long . coast-line of Western Australia and lie northern portion of Queensland, as well as New Guinea and other places in which our forces have fought so gallantly, with the result that we have been saved from the terrible dangers and horrors that have been associated with the occupation by the Japanese of Hong Kong, Singapore and Malaya ? It is easy to be wise after the event. From the commencement, honorable members opposite have never accepted serious responsibility. They have said that we were too Pacific minded ; they accepted the ‘Chamberlain policy, which we rejected and have contested throughout. We were responsible for the establishment of the Pacific War Council at Washington, on which account honorable members opposite chided and laughed at us. It was said that if we wanted a council we would be given one to play with. Yet only three weeks ago the Prime Minister of Great Britain attended a meeting of that council, at which the Commonwealth AttorneyGeneral (Dr. Evatt) pleaded the case of Australia. When the facts are revealed it will be learned that that presentation of our case produced exceptional results which will give considerable satisfaction to the people of this country. Apparently, our opponents are now annoyed by the success that has attended our administration. We have ensured the safety of Australia, and kept it free for the white race.

Sir EARLE PAGE:
Cowper

.- The able and skilful speech of the Minister for Supply and Shipping (Mr. Beasley) is characteristic of the utterances of members of the present Government. The nature of it is a puzzle to the whole of the people of Australia, because the points taken .by the Minister have already been answered by the Prime Minister (Mr. Curtin) on innumerable occasions. When the right honorable gentleman took office, eighteen months ago, he said -

The Navy was at the highest peak of efficiency, as was demonstrated by the exploits of some of its ships overseas. The Home Defence Army was well trained, and its equipment had been greatly improved. The strength of the Air Force had been largely increased, both in respect of home defence squadrons and the training resources of the Empire Defence Scheme. The equipment of the Air Force had also been much improved.

In October, 1942, after he had been in office for twelve months, he said -

I have to pay tribute to the governments which preceded my own, for the constructive work they have done in defence and the foundations they have laid. The Labour movement accepted responsibility for not making preparations for war. It thought the world had finished with the determination of disputes in that fashion.

Those tributes are quite different from the sentiments expressed by the Minister for the Army (Mr. Forde), the Minister for Munitions (Mr. Makin), the Minister for Labour and National Service (Mr. Ward) and the Minister for Supply and Shipping (Mr. Beasley). That is the manner in which the Prime Minister has answered his Cabinet colleagues.

I shall say only a few words concerning the balance of the speech to which we have just listened, because the facts are well known, and refute the whole of the Minister’s statements. The first matter upon which I shall touch is our desire to secure American aid in the development of our defence measures. For eighteen months before the present Government came into office, preceding governments had done their utmost to secure a maximum amount of aid through the lendlease arrangement. Just before the last Government went out of office, arrangements had been made with the Government of the United States of America to establish large new aerodromes which would enable the biggest bombing aeroplanes that America could produce to land safely on our shores.

There has been a diatribe concerning alleged opposition of the parties that sit on this side of the House to the development of secondary industries in this country. The only time that there has been prosperity in the secondary industries, with peak employment, has been when governments from this side have been in office, such as in 1926-27, when the peak of manufacturing employment showed a total of 452,184 employees, and there were 180,000 people at work in secondary industries in New South Wales. That was the highest peak of all time, and the only figure that approached it was the number of men who were at work during the late “ thirties “ when the Lyons Government was in office. I do not intend, however, to follow the Minister for Supply and Shipping in all his statements, because it will be found that the facts answer them all. What I desire to do, if I may, is to try to bring the debate back into proper perspective, so that we may look at the problems facing Australia in the right light. It is because I occupy a unique position in this Parliament that I think I am able to do that. During the life of the Parliament, I have given of my best to both sides, and, therefore, I am able to see the problems from the points of view of both sides better than any other man could do. What Australia needs at the present time is the best and greatest war effort of which it is capable. I do not suggest that every one is not trying to do his best in his own way and according to his own lights, but I cannot see how blackening what other men have tried to do, or have actually done, is going to help to improve the war effort at all. What we must do is to make certain that we get the best from what has been done.

It has been said that Australia is safe from invasion, but I believe that we have a long way to go before we win this war, and we need every effort in this country and in all the United Nations to make certain of victory. I hope, therefore, that there will be no slackening of effort and that there will no longer be these recriminations between different sides. My attitude to the Government has been clear. I represented it to its satisfaction in London for nearly a year. As soon as the Fadden Government was defeated I cabled to the Prime Minister offering to come back, but he asked me to continue my voyage and take up my job in England in order that Australia should not be unrepresented during the hiatus resulting from the change of government here. This I did, as I say, for nearly a year. On my return the Prime Minister asked me to assist him in the War Cabinet and on the Advisory War Council. I have given advice directly to the Government whenever I have been asked for it, and I have endeavoured to give it to others as well. During the last few weeks I have carried out investigations in regard to the best treatment of Australian and American soldiers who are affected with malaria and into the best methods of preventing malaria from becoming endemic in the Commonwealth. In the House my criticism has been constructive and fair, and the proof of its constructiveness is that although frequently the Government has rejected it in Parliament it has adopted it as soon as Parliament rose. An instance of this occurred last October when the Government brought down its proposition to pay £2,000,000 as a butter subsidy. I suggested that the amount should be at least £6,000,000, and three or four weeks ago it was made £6,500,000. I pointed out that there should be a ceiling of prices and a subsidy to assist producers in order to keep the cost of living down. That plan was adopted by the Government on the 12th April last. I urged also one single control of the whole problem of the production, distribution and consumption of food, and that has now been vested in the Minister for Commerce and Agriculture. Wherever I could possibly do so during the last three years, I have tried to put our real position to the people of Australia. I have devised methods of improving that position, and have seen Ministers, heads of departments, officials, State Ministers of Agriculture and various committees, and offered constructive suggestions. Only when I cannot get these adopted have Ministers been attacked by me in the press or in the House. This proves that I have no animus against the Government, but have tried to help it in every possible way. Despite that, I say frankly that I am going to vote for the motion of the Leader of the Opposition, for the simple reason that I believe that this Parliament should go back to it3 masters in the country at the earliest possible moment. It is only by securing an expression of opinion from the people of Australia that we shall be able to get an all-in war effort in this Parliament. If we can obtain some degree of parliamentary unity, it will be an example, a stimulus and an inspiration to the people of Australia and enable us to iron out all sorts of difficulties that arise at the present time. Unless we show that example, as has been done in England, we shall never be able to secure throughout every section of the community that wholehearted support for the war effort that is absolutely necessary to enable us to succeed. The Minister for Labour and National Service and various other Ministers have accused previous governments of having left various deficiencies in equipment, but the Prime Minister has already said, in his speech yesterday, that all parties were to blame for them. He said that nobody could foresee the exact nature of the present trouble, and especially no one could foresee the extraordinary part that air power was going to play in this war. “When one examines the past, as Ministers have been doing, one can see that Labour has been more responsible for Australia not having an adequate defence than any other party that has been in power in Australia has ever been. As the Prime Minister said in the speech from which I have already quoted, we all must share the blame. I say that Labour should take more than any, and that I personally should not take so much, because during the years that I was in office I went farther than any one else in trying steadily to increase the defence vote. That is evidenced by what took place during the term of the Bruce-Page Government, and also during the term of the Lyons Government when I was a member of it, because there was then a steady increase year by year, as public opinion permitted us to make it, of the defence vote, and a corresponding expansion of our means of defence. We should be especially commended for the fact that in 1935 we had the prescience to bring into being the Commonwealth Aircraft Corporation. It took three years of preliminary work to get the dies and jigs, the buildings constructed and the plant installed, but by the time the war actually came all these things were in full operation, and we were able to have those invaluable training aircraft which enabled our pilots to become famous in every theatre of war throughout the world. I therefore have nothing to defend myself against in that regard. It is quite obvious that these deficiencies would never have become apparent had not the British lost much of their naval supremacy even before Japan came into the war. It was lost in the first place on account of the defection of France, but during the next eighteen months or two years where were the British battleships and the rest of the British Fleet? Were they rusting in funk-holes, as the German Fleet did during all the months of the last war, or, as many of the German warships have been doing in this war, rusting away in their ports, terrified to go out? No, the British Navy and our own Australian Navy have been on every ocean, trying to beat the U-boats and destroy the raiders that were interrupting our communications with the rest of the world, in order to enable us to get munitions from America and machine tools from Great Britain. They have been keeping our life-lines open to prevent us from being isolated completely from all help. They have been fighting in the North Atlantic to get supplies to Great Britain and to make sure that Russia obtained all the equipment necessary to enable it to withstand the furious onslaught of the Hun. They have been fighting in the Mediterranean to keep our life-lines free, and to save the shipping that had to carry cargoes, munitions and fighting men 12,000 miles around the Cape to Benghazi and Malta. AH this helped Australia to be militarily safe, even before Japan came into the war. Hearing the speeches of Labour members during this discussion one would think that we were the only people that had deficiencies. Great Britain and Russia had them. It was because Russia had such great deficiencies, and was opposed so bitterly and strongly by the Hun, that it was necessary during the whole of 1941, after Russia came into the fight, to give it every assistance in the form of arms and munitions that Great Britain could supply, so as to help it to hold the fort. Because the Russians, who had the man-power, had been able to do that, victory is now in sight. Not only was Russia an active theatre of war, but so also was North Africa, where our own men were fighting. Who could say that we ought to have given absolute preference to Australia when those active theatres of war were actually in the direst need, and when the effect of having an extra squadron of aeroplanes or an extra corps of tanks might mean all the difference between victory and defeat? When we were driven back beyond the border of Libya and Egypt, we know how close we were in 1942 to having the German and Italian armies overrunning the whole of the Mediterranean littoral. In the fights in the Mediterranean, the North Sea and the Atlantic the British Navy suffered very great losses. That was so especially in the Mediterranean, where it was keeping Australia’s lifeline clear. As a result, it was not able to put into position at Singapore, at the time when Great Britain always hoped to be able to put it there - namely, when Japan actually threatened to come into the war - anything like a full-strength fleet, including battleships and aircraft carriers. Where were our aircraft carriers? Some were lying on the bed of the Mediterranean. Some of our battleships were lying in the harbour of Alexandria, or undergoing repairs in big docks’ in America and England. But what did Great Britain do? Despite the terrific losses which the Navy had suffered in the eastern Mediterranean, despite the fact that it could spare only one- third of the fleet which it had always intended to send to Singapore, despite the fact that it could not send accompanying aircraft carriers it gallantly sent out Prince of Wales and Repulse in an effort keep faith with Singapore and with Australia. Yet some honorable members opposite ask what Great Britain has done. They say, “ Why should we help Great Britain? Why send the Australian Imperial Force abroad to assist Great Britain? Why not sit down here in Australia and try to defend ourselves?” The Prime Minister said that, if we adopted that policy, we would need at least 100 divisions, the equivalent of 3,000,000 fighting men. There are not 3,000,000 able-bodied men in Australia. To reach that number we would have to put every old-age pensioner in the Commonwealth, and damn nearly every woman as well, into the fighting line; yet 100 divisions is the limit which the Prime Minister himself yesterday put on the number required in Australia if we sat here and passively defended ourselves. Still the Labour party says that its policy is to wait here until the enemy comes and “ cracks “ us, instead of going out and fighting him wherever he is to be found. When the Prime Minister spoke to the Labour conference recently, he must have been talking with has tongue in his cheek, because he told us here quite frankly what was necessary to be done to make Australia secure and to put it in a position to realize its destiny. Therefore, it is not for us in this country to mouth all these deficiencies, when we compare them with what has happened elsewhere. It certainly does not lie in the mouth of the Labour party or of the Minister for Labour and National Service to blame us for them, because the Labour party was more than anybody else responsible for them. Least of all does it lie in the mouth of the Minister for Labour and National Service who has tried consistently to prevent the development of our war industries.

Here, in this Parliament, however, is a deficiency which we can cure and for which Labour is solely to blame. The other deficiencies we could not cure. I agree with the Prime Minister that we could not foresee them and that we did not have the backing of public opinion to a sufficient degree to enable us to develop our defences to the right stage. But the Labour party is entirely responsible for the fact that the brains of this Parliament are not pooled so that the maximum capacity of the Parliament can be used to handle the resources of Australia in such a way as to ensure a united national effort. I believe that for our war effort, and especially for our national effort, the pooling of the brains of this Parliament is absolutely imperative. I am prepared to do all I can to secure it. The first step is to dismiss this Parliament so as to- obtain an expression of opinion from the people, who, I believe, want an election.

I think it will be found that, despite the Prime Minister’s great eloquence and dialectic skill, and the manner in which he marshals his facts and frequently evades the issues put by the Leader of the Opposition, as he did yesterday, history will discount his record, because he has failed to bring about unity in this nation, simply because his followers would not permit him to do so. I should like to pay a tribute to what he has done. I do not detract from what has been done by various Ministers. I know their difficulties and am prepared to help them in- every possible way. I know the Prime Minister’s difficulties also, but if he were to speak his mind frankly he would admit that he has found his greatest difficulties in the control of his own party. He has had the full co-operation of the Opposition during the eighteen months that he has been in power in trying to deal with the war problems, and if he could have had complete control of his own party, I believe that he would have been able to establish that control and direction of the whole nation which would have ensured the whole-hearted national effort that we so much need. When he was speaking yesterday he took very great credit for the improved position of Australia. He admitted quite frankly that he built on the foundations laid by previous governments, and then went on to say that the improved position is mainly due to the great help given by the American and British Governments. That help came so quickly, and not as in the case of the unjust judge, through much speaking, or much asking, by the Australian Government, but because the Australian Government, at the very outset of the war, determined to fight to the utmost wherever the war was fought, whether in the Atlantic or the Pacific, in Europe, Asia, or the islands of the Coral Sea. It was a war for the freedom of the world, and we could not afford to stay outside it. Our Government, therefore, promptly sent our Australian Imperial Force and airmen and sailors wherever they were most needed to win imperishable renown in this tremendous fight against odds. We got this help from Great Britain and America, and from every body with noble and generous impulses, because we sent our men to help in those early stages of the struggle. Nobody can tell how much the presence of Australian soldiers, airmen and sailors in the Mediterranean, in Great Britain, and on the various oceans, meant in strengthening the morale of Great Britain in facing, during 1940 and 1941, the grimmest and most terrible fight that it ever had to wage. Great Britain knew what it was up against, but it knew also that it had not merely all the sympathy and fine words of Australia, but also all the practical assistance that could possibly be given by the finest and most valorous soldiers ever born - men who were willing to go 10,000 miles to help Great Britain fight its battle. The assistance that the right honorable member for Kooyong (Mr. Menzies) - he was Prime Minister - the High Commissioner (Mir. Bruce), the Attorney-General (Dr. Evatt), and I were able to obtain from Great Britain was not given because the Menzies Government, the Fadden Government or the Curtin Government was in office; it was given because the people of Great Britain realized that we in Australia were of their own flesh and blood and because the men sent overseas by Australia had earned it a hundred times over. The people of Great Britain realized and appreciated the fight that, as a nation, we were prepared to make, despite the partisan attitude adopted in this Parliament towards many problems. Long before America came into the war, the Government of that country was endeavouring to find means whereby heavy bombers such as Flying Fortresses could be sent to our shores. The United States of America was even prepared to undertake the construction of airfields in this country so that those planes could land, and as the honorable member for Indi (Mr. McEwen) said in his brilliant speech to-day, the plan was not to send fighter planes which would be used only when the enemy reached our shores, hut bombers to carry the fight thousands of miles to the Japanese island outposts and to the fortresses of Japan itself. What did the people of Great Britain do in 1941 and 1942 when Australia was gravely threatened? They actually stopped production in whole factories so that the machine tools could be sent to this country where they were required urgently. Also, guns were taken out of their emplacements and sent to this country. Those things were done not because the Curtin Government was in office in this country, but because in the last war, and also in this war, we were prepared to make the world our battlefield, and to carry the .fight to the enemy. I was in America just prior to the entry of that country into the war in 1941, and at that time the pro-Australian sentiment was 100 per cent. However, when I returned to the United States of America in 1942, after there had been loud appeals from Australia for help, the prestige of this country was not nearly so high. We have been helped, not because of our frantic appeals for assistance, but because of the fact that throughout the war the people of this country have done a valuable job. The Prime Minister and several members of his Cabinet have claimed great credit for ‘ having brought all the Australian Imperial Force home from overseas when this country was in peril. They have claimed that such a move was necessary in the interests of our own local strategy. I venture to say, however, that as the years go by that action will be seen as a very short-sighted one. Events during the last few months have proved that such a course was not absolutely necessary. Let us examine just what did happen : The men of the Australian 7th Division were within two or three days’ sailing of Rangoon and could have been landed there a month or six weeks before the Japanese got there. A British armoured division was already there. No ships could be provided to transport additional forces to that area because all available vessels were engaged, in bringing the Australian Imperial Force home to Australia. Do honorable members opposite imagine that that action will be forgotten by China for a long time? I heard the scurrilous broadcast made the other day by the Minister for Labour and National Service charging the right honorable member for Kooyong with agreeing to the closing of the Burma Road by Great Britain in 1940. The fact is that we had no say in the matter at that time; but we did have a say in letting the Burma Road be closed eighteen months ago and so depriving China of essential war supplies by that route ever since. It is said that had the Australian Imperial Force landed in Burma, there would be 20,000 more Australian prisoners in Japanese hands to-day; but I point out that the British forces arrived in that area a month after the Australian Imperial Force could have been landed, and, under the leadership of General Alexander, performed one of the greatest military feats in history, by making their way through Burma to India. These men are still fighting in all parts of the world, as Dr. Walter Elliott pointed out the other day. It will take many years to explain to China the action of the Australian Government on that” occasion. Nobody else could help, but we let the . chance slip.; If we wish to hold our place in international affairs after the war, we must abandon the narrow parochial view that it is only our own skins that matter. What would have happened to the world had the British people adopted that attitude in regard to the small nations of the world ? Labour’s attitude towards Empire defence has not changed. It is traditional. In 1924 it was against the establishment of the Singapore base and the Empire scheme. When the then Prime Minister, Mr. Bruce, returned, to this country after attending the Imperial Conference in Great Britain, he placed before members of this Parliament three resolutions, one of which dealt with preference to our primary products. Such preference would have been of vital importance to this country’s industries, but Labour members of Parliament would not speak on these resolutions simply because Imperial defence was bound up with them. They sat there like a lot of stricken cattle, terrified to open their mouths. It was the most disgusting exhibition that I have over seen; but let us see what the Prime Minister said at the Australian Labour party conference on the 9th January. I shall read this quotation from the Australian Worker, so that no honorable member opposite can doubt its authority or contradict it. According to this report the right honorable gentleman said -

Mr. Curtin said there would he no future for Australia and its white population, and no prospect of an increasingly higher standard of living if the Japanese were to remain in south-eastern Asia and the islands surrounding Australia. We would live under perpetual threat of invasion, and the burden of armaments production would drag Australian living standards down to coolie level. “No one should be under any misapprehension that, at the Peace Conference, when terms are dictated which will determine the future destiny of nations, the most influential voices will be those of the countries which played their full part in defeating the enemy. The destiny of Australia and its future security may well be determined by the distance we are prepared to go in using our forces to defeat the Japanese,” Mr. Curtin said. “ If the experience of this war has shown that the future security of Australia requires greater’ guarantees in regard to the security of islands adjacent to Australia, we cannot demand such guarantees if we are unwilling in war to use our forces in the ejectment of the enemy from these threatened points of attack.”

We, on this side of the chamber, have watched the Labour party’s policy for many years. The excuse given by the Minister for Supply and Shipping (Mr. Beasley) to-day is, “ We did that because we were in opposition; we did not have any responsibility for the defence of Australia. You were the Government “. Apparently they did not believe that they should stand up in their places and say, “ We shall help you with the defence of this country”. Instead, they blocked every move that was made to put the defence of this country on a sound basis. The Labour party opposed the purchase of cruisers by Australia after the Washington Disarmament Conference, and by the Menzies Government.; now the Minister for Munitions (Mr. Makin) derives considerable satisfaction from the fact that corvettes and destroyers are being turned out at Commonwealth shipyards, but he omits to mention that the groundwork for this valuable shipbuilding activity was carried out by previous administrations. He attends the launching of these vessels and wishes them and their crews God-speed, but he never gives a word of commendation to those who have made the launchings possible. The honorable gentleman has said that this country was left absolutely unprepared. I consider that his attitude, and that .of all the other members of this Government except the Prime Minister, in this matter, are the most despicable and dastardly that I have ever experienced in public life.

I come now to the question of “ the Brisbane line”. The Minister for Labour and National Service (Mr. Ward) knows that he has been deliberately stating untruths on this subject, for the Prime Minister has given him the lie in this House; yet the honorable gentleman says that there is a file missing! I have not seen all the files, but I know that there is in existence a certain appreciation of the position that would have to be met in Australia if Singapore fell.

Mr Paterson:

– The file had to be missing in order to save * the Minister’s face !

Sir EARLE PAGE:

– It will be appreciated that the Chiefs of Staff in Australia, for years past, have realized that there was no real danger of a big scale invasion of this country, so long as our naval forces could hold the Coral Sea. There is nothing new about that point of view. It has been held by responsible people for the last twenty years. That was the doctrine behind the Singapore base and our whole naval policy, and it was reiterated ten days after Singapore fell. Its truth has been borne out by the fact that, since the Allied Forces proved victorious in the Coral Sea, no real danger of a big scale invasion has faced this country. It would be impossible for the Japanese fleet to approach Australia, unless Japan had control of the seas, especially as its fleet would have American forces on one flank.

Something has been said about the number of men that would be necessary to hold Australia. The Prime Minister stated yesterday that we had 820,000 men here. Does anybody dream that the detailing of 20,000 or 30,000 of those men to hold “ the Burma line “ could have jeopardized the safety of this country in any serious way?

Mr Fadden:

– It would have ensured its safety.

Sir EARLE PAGE:

– That is so, for our forces would have been on one of the enemy’s flanks, and the Americans would have been on the other. Such forces could probably have compelled an enemy retreat many months ago, and that would have saved the heavy fighting in New Guinea, with the consequent loss of countless lives. It might also have enabled us to hold

Rabaul, and it would have made it possible, probably, for the countless thousands of China to engage in the war in their full strength, whereas they have had to fight with the assistance of a thin trickle of munitions that has been maintained by air transport. As a matter of fact, if our troops could have held “ the Burma line “, the whole position might have been transformed. [Extension of time (/ranted.]

It has been said by the Labour party that the policy of the previous Government was passive defence, when it ought to have been active offence.

Mr Barnard:

– Because it was passive defence, many thousands of people in this country were left starving and without employment.

Sir EARLE PAGE:

– There were fewer unemployed during the period of office of the previous Government than during the period of office of the ‘Scullin Government. During the depression, while the Scullin Labour Government was in office, a man lost his job every minute.

Mr Calwell:

– Thirty-three per cent, of people were unemployed while the previous Government was in office.

Sir EARLE PAGE:

– The figure was 37 per cent, during the Labour Government’s regime. The Prime Minister told us yesterday that we would require at least 100 divisions to hold this country if we had not active naval and air support. How could we possibly obtain 100 divisions from a population of 7,000,000 people, 3,500,000 of whom were under age, and another 500,000 were women ?

Mr Menzies:

– The Prime Minister could have said that, if bows and arrows were used, we should need 500 divisions !

Sir EARLE PAGE:

– The sooner this “Brisbane line” controversy is put behind us, the better it will be for everybody, for then we shall be able again to co-operate reasonably.

Mr Drakeford:

Mr. Drakeford interjecting,

Sir EARLE PAGE:

– I hope that the Minister for Air (Mr. Drakeford) does not intend to participate in the debate on that subject. I have always found him to be fair-minded, and I do not believe that he would “ put any lies across “. I hope that he will be able to do something to put an end to this dirty business.

The statement made by the Minister for Supply and Shipping in regard to munitions was one of the most disingenuous that I have ever heard. The tendency is for members of the Government to throw out their chests and say, “look how much we have done “. The facts are that, in the eighteen months before this Government came into office, £47,000,000 was provided for capital expenditure on munitions factories and equipment. In the next eighteen months £46,000,000 was provided for this purpose, a decrease of £1,000,000, during a period when the peril of Australia was 1,000 times greater than in the earlier period. During the last eighteen months also, our rural industries have been absolutely denuded of their man-power, and brought to a chaotic condition, because men have been taken from them and put into munitions work. In the Grafton district, practically all the lathes were taken from machine shops and put into munitions annexes, and no regard whatever was paid to the need to leave a certain amount of machinery available to maintain in proper condition the implements needed to carry on food production and to keep the timber lorries on the roads. An attitude of panic was adopted by the Government. The Minister for Supply and Shipping spoke of an evacuation complex. We did not start it. It was started because of the lack of leadership in this country during the period of office of this Government. We all know that a move was made to begin shifting cattle from the coast to the tablelands. The Minister for Commerce and Agriculture (Mr. Scully) was the only member of the Government who took a sensible view of that procedure. He said it was the silliest thing that could be done, and he was right. It was due to panic, and the previous Government was not responsible for it. I believe that the Government still has a certain number of officers going round the country to ascertain how many extra cows and how many extra sheep can be accommodated on this, that, or the other property in inland areas.- That also is a ridiculous procedure.

But let me return to the subject of munitions manufacture.

Mr Calwell:

– There was only one Beaufort bomber in the country when this Government assumed office.

Sir EARLE PAGE:

– The fact is that over 22 munitions annexes had been established up to the time the war occurred, and they were placed alongside the biggest industrial establishments in Australia. That was done while Mr. Thorby was Minister for Defence. Up to the time when the Fadden Government left office, the number of factories actually in operation for the production of munitions was six government establishments, with another nineteen planned or under construction, making a total of 25. By June, 1943, 33 factories were operating. In October, 1941, 76 annexes or subfactories had commenced work, or funds had been authorized for them. In the light of these facts, I cannot understand how honorable members opposite can argue that the Curtin Government must be given the whole of the credit for the great increase that has occurred in munitions production. If I were to say that 10 per cent, of the present production in munitions was coming from factories which this Government had been responsible for establishing, I would be overstating the position. The Minister for Munitions stated last week that such wonderful developments had occurred in munitions production that we were now overstocked. It will be realized who was responsible for this development, and how wrong is the charge of neglect levelled against the previous Government, when I say that we have sent great quantities of munitions to Fiji, New Zealand, India, Netherlands East Indies, Malaya, New Caledonia and Burma. There are men in the forces in England who are still using the rifles that we were able to send across to them when they were in such need.

Mr Calwell:

– About 100,000 men were short of weapons in this country twelve months ago.

Sir EARLE PAGE:

– I point out to the honorable member, and to the House generally that during the term of office of the previous Government, a complete system of technical training for munition workers was established which has proved to be of extraordinary value. Under that system, 10,000 highly-trained munitions workers were made available to teach operatives in other factories, with the result that our pool of skilled workers was very greatly enlarged. In addition, a training course for tool and gaugemakers was established, which has achieved results of which this country may well be proud. Training courses were provided for skilled optical munitions craftsmen and for foremen and engineering draughtsmen. There is little need for me to say. much more under this heading. “We ought to thank God for what has been done. Honorable gentlemen opposite are not at all disposed to give credit to any one apart from the members of this Government. I cannot understand how they can say that nothing had been done. In the light of their statements, it is little wonder that cartoons are published in the press, in which the throwing of mud is depicted.

I come now to a consideration of the man-power position. The organization of the Australian Imperial Force was a great achievement. Our men have brought great glory to this country. In spite of the statements that have been made that their training has not fitted them for jungle warfare, we know that they are men who fight like the very devil. “Whenever inquiry is made of these men about their achievements and experience, we find that they have had very little leave. Moreover, the Americans and others, who have been in their company when fighting has had to be done, have spoken in terms of the highest praise of their ability. These veteran troops are to be found wherever there is fierce fighting, and those who fight alongside of them appreciate their calibre.

The Empire Air Training Scheme also was organized during the period of office of previous governments, and it has proved to be of incalculable value to the country. We read in the press day after day of whole squadrons of Australian airmen who are fighting over Germany and Italy, in the Middle East, the Far East, and in the islands. Words cannot be found to describe adequately the- exploits of the men of the Royal .Australian Navy. I have in mind those who manned the Sydney, the Perth, the Hobart, and our destroyers and submarine craft. It is impossible to chronicle their doings. These men were able to fight because of the administration of previous governments, which provided for the use, in the best possible way, of the services of 800,000 of the 960,000 males between 18 and 45 years of age who were physically fit for fighting. If these men had not been available, the defences of our country would have been in an absolutely chaotic condition.

I wish now to discuss briefly the position on the food front. One of the greatest contributions that Australia can make to the cause of the United Nations is the maintenance of adequate food supplies. But .unfortunately, no proper provision was made for priority for agricultural machinery and essential equipment. They were put low on the list, on the same level as other lessessential goods. Therefore, it was impossible to make up for the shortage of man-power by the use of machinery. Then, the quarrel between the Department of Supply and Shipping and the Department of Commerce and Agriculture on the subject of control further complicated matters. The Department of Supply and Shipping said that it would handle food matters relating to the Army, leaving the rest to the Department of Commerce and Agriculture instead of allowing the Department of Commerce and Agriculture to deal with the whole matter as previously. Thus, for a year to eighteen months, there was trouble and chaos, which has only now been removed by restitution of the system of single control. [Further extension of time granted.] I am glad that the Government is now attempting to bring order out of chaos. The trouble is that, once production has been allowed to decline, a great deal of organization, including the breeding of fresh supplies of stock is required before production can be restored. “When I left for England in 1941, a food programme had been drawn up in collaboration with the British authorities, providing for the purchase by Great Britain of Australia’s entire surplus food production, and shipping arrangements had been made to take as much of it as possible. Provision was made to cover the cost of storing such perishable foodstuffs as could not be conveniently shipped. At that time, there was a surplus of about 100,000 tons of potatoes. The great difficulty was to obtain markets for them. We tried to get shipping to export them, and something was done in the way of dehydration. In order to deal with surplus food products, I arranged for the cold storage capacity of Australia to be doubled. An arrangement was made with those controlling the meat and butter industries by which they were to provide some additional space, and the Government was to finance the provision of yet more space. The meat industry was asked to provide storage space for three months, and the Government found half the cost of additional space above that requirement. We obtained the active cooperation of those in the meat and butter industries to build extra cold storage. I have recently been told that the existence of this additional storage space has proved of immense value. The Hamilton cool stores at Brisbane have been filled three or four times already. We brought into active operation many canneries which had gone out of use. We made arrangements with stock-owners to provide stock on a plan which provided for equal financial contributions by the meat industry and the Government. We brought seventeen eggdrying plants from China, and several were made in Australia, being copied from the imported ones. We dried eggs so that they could be shipped to Great Britain on ordinary liners, thus saving a great deal of shipping space. We carried out dehydration experiments with meat. I understand that the present Minister for Commerce and Agriculture has been able to make a commercial proposition for meat dehydration as a result of our experiments. The Sydney Morning Herald, in May, 1941, stated in a leading article that the Government had dealt with the matter comprehensively, completely, practically and with imagination. Unfortunately, food production has been held up because of a shortage of man-power and the absence of priorities for essential machinery. This has led to a shortage of certain commodities during the year just past. Seasonal conditions, particularly droughts, have been to some extent responsible, but the situation could have been alleviated bad there been better organization. I am prepared to assist the Government in every way possible in order to bring about an effective system of decentralized control with which the farmers themselves would be associated. It is essential to the conduct of war, the maintenance of international trade after the war, and the security of our industries, that we should all stand together at this time. Therefore, it is necessary that the people should, by their votes, say whether they want this Government to continue in office or whether they want a national government representative of all parties which will have a wide outlook that will enable it to secure and retain the respect of the public. I hope that, although there are perhaps only three or four months to run before the elections must be held, something might yet be done to enable Parliament to present a united front to the people so as to make sure that every section of the community will feel that it is represented in the Government, and has a sympathetic and active Minister to attend to its wants. In this way, the people might be assured of a fair deal and of better conditions than we could otherwise expect in these hard times of war.

Mr SCULLY:
Minister for Commerce and Agriculture · Gwydir · ALP

– I desire to reply to the unjust attack made by the Leader of the Opposition (Mr. Fadden) in his speech on this motion regarding the food position of Australia. For fear that his remarks should go unchallenged I wish to state the facts relating to food production at the present time. An attempt has been made for political reasons to work up feeling on this subject. The Opposition has chosen the food front and the industrial front as two points for attack. However, their carefully prepared arguments have all been exploded during the course of this debate.

Much nonsense has been spoken and written regarding the food position in Australia. Statements made by a number of people tend to create an impression that the position is serious - in fact, that there is danger of a serious shortage of food affecting the health and general welfare of the people. They are frequently made by persons who are in a position to know better. When made by such people, statements of that kind are reprehensible, and react to the detriment of Australia.

The food position in Australia is essentially good. It is not by any means perfect. Every one knows that, but the situation does not justify public comment tending to undermine the confidence of the people as to the quantity and quality of the food supplies. No country in the world is in a better position than Australia in regard to food, and I doubt whether any other country is in such a sound position. I need only point to the severity of rationing in America and Canada to emphasize my point.

Let me refute allegations that Australia has failed to honour its obligations to Great Britain. Lord Woolton, in a widely distributed press statement, said that Australia had never failed to keep its promises to the British Ministry for Food. That constitutes a most effective reply to the Government’s critics.

It is well that I should briefly survey the factors affecting food supply and consumption, giving some information regarding trends in production, and indicating the organization now set up to deal with all problems affecting supply and distribution. There are many reasons for the pressure on food supplies at the present time. Factors tending to reduce supplies may be stated as follows : -

First, the fact that there was a surplus at the outbreak of war occupied the mind of the Government of the time, and tended to create an impression that food surpluses in war-time would continue to be a pressing problem. Consequently, the Menzies Government did not take precautions to guard against losses in production of the major agricultural commodities.

Secondly, early in the war, when agricultural production was in excess of requirements, and munitions production was short, certain agricultural implement manufacturers were diverted to the production of munitions. I am not criticizing this action; it was necessary at that time to increase the production of munitions, and agricultural production seemed likely to be sufficient for prospective needs. Nevertheless, this conversion of agricultural implement works bad led to a very serious shortage of implements and spare parts, as well as of internal combustion engines, throughout the agricultural areas. The effect of this diversion on production is apparent everywhere.

Thirdly, the loss of the usual sources of phosphatic rock, the necessity to use sulphate of ammonia tor munitions purposes, and the difficulty of using shipping for the importation of nitrates from South America, have all had a serious adverse influence upon agricultural production. Nearly ali of Australia’s agriculture depends upon the use of fertilizers. The serious shortage of these fertilizers has greatly reduced yields, and affected food totals.

Fourthly, man-power problems are met with at all stages in the production of food, and have been felt with particular severity on the farms. The Government does not deny this. It fully recognizes that the mobilization of man-power for the war effort left other branches of industry, including agriculture, with much less than a normal supply of labour. Looking back over the past eighteen months, the Government believes that the speedy mobilization of man-power at a time of great national peril was essential for the preservation of Australia. No government with the support of the people could have let commerce and industry continue on a normal basis when the enemy was fast approaching our shores. It would have been ridiculous to have adhered to the principle of business as usual, and to have presented a weak front to the enemy. The mobilization of man-power was one of the numerous steps which the Government took, to show the enemy and the world that, Australians were determined to defend their country, and that they were taking adequate steps l.o do so. It shows the poorest spirit, now that the war position has improved,, and the country is so much safer, for people to assert that the men should never have been called up.

The production of food in Australia has been sufficient for all purposes, although there have been some shortages which have caused irritation rather than distress to the general public. What should be recognized is that supplies have been maintained only by the exercise of very great efforts by farmers and their womenfolk. I take this opportunity to pay a tribute to the work of the farming community under such difficult conditions. We should be proud of their effort, and recognize that they have played a notable part in the task of saving this country.

The factors tending to an increase of . the consumption of some foods in Australia are insufficiently realized. The entire situation in regard to food requirements changed in Australia when Japan and the United States of America entered the war. Our own soldiers returned from overseas, American forces were based on Australia, additional men were called to the colours, and increased demands were made by naval units as well as by service forces in nearby and, in some instances, distant countries. Moreover, the widespread employment caused by war activities increased the spending power of the people, and for the first time enabled many families to purchase adequate supplies of food. Another factor was that allied demands for special foods generally increased, and the food production capacity of Australia was severely tested. The combination of factors tending to reduce food supplies, and those which greatly increased the demands for food, naturally led to some stringency. There has not, however, been’ any breakdown in Australia’s food supplies. This is not because everything has been easy, but because very great efforts have been exerted to maintain agricultural production without depleting the armed forces, and to step up the factory production of certain classes of commodities. Much has been achieved which has passed unnoticed. We have reason to be proud of our performances. Yet some persons, for party political reasons, create the impression that this country is suffering serious shortages and that Australia has failed to play its part in food production. There is justification for informed people taking the opposite view.

Let us examine the figures in relation to our principal products. The production of wheat in the last pre-war year was 155,000,000 bushels. The production for 1942-43 was 152,000,000 bushels. In the intervening period, we had a considerably higher production, and the total has been far in excess of our requirements and our export opportunities. Under the Wheat Stabilization Plan, the acreage under wheat has been controlled in all States. It has been reduced deliberately in Western Australia in order to avoid the accumulation of surpluses beyond the capacity of that State to handle and store. In other States, the acreage has been reduced for various reasons - partly manpower, partly climatic, partly superphosphate. The production, however, is adequate for all purposes, and the Government’s plan for the guarantee of 4s. a bushel for the first 3,000 bushels will assist the farmer to withstand the effects of a reduced output. On account of the large surplus of wheat, the Government has adopted the principle of making wheat available at reduced prices for feeding to live-stock and poultry. The reduction has been at the rate of 6d. a bushel on wheat for feed purposes. The object is to increase the production of dairy products, pig meats, and eggs. The pre-war use of wheat for similar purposes was at the rate of about 10,000,000 bushels a year. The demand is now nearer to 16,000,000 bushels per annum.

The dairying industry is one of the most important of Australia’s primary industries. It needs much man-power, and has lost a great deal through the exigencies of the war. Despite this, the dairy-farmers have carried on magnificently. With less efficient implements and machinery, and less fertilizers, they have maintained the volume of production at a much higher level than is generally understood. Compared with the last prewar year, the total milk production in the year 1942-43 shows a decline of only 8 per cent. There have been great changes, however, in the disposal of the milk. The quantity used for butter production has declined by 18 per cent.; the quantity used for cheese production has increased by 21 per cent.; that used for condensed and dried milk has increased by 78 per cent.; whilst the quantity used for other purposes, chiefly fresh milk consumption, has increased by 16 per cent. Those figures clearly indicate that the diversion of milk to other urgent purposes has had more influence upon the reduction of butter production than has the actual decline of the total milk production. Out of the quantities of milk diverted to the purposes mentioned, great increases have taken place in the production of powdered milk, condensed milk, and processed cheese. The figures are as follows, the comparison being between the years 1938-39 and 1942-43 .–Dried milk increased from 24,000,000 lb. to 38,000,000 lb., or nearly 60 per cent.; condensed milk increased from 35,000,000 lb. to 102,000,000, or 190 per cent.; and processed cheese increased from 8,000,000 lb. to 16,000,000 lb., or 100 per cent. These changes have been due entirely to the impact on demand created by the presence of very large numbers of soldiers in Australia.

There have been shortages of eggs in capital cities during the last two winters. A shortage is always in evidence at such a time, but it w.as accentuated last year, due entirely to the demands of the services. It is estimated that, although it is not possible to secure precise figures, egg production has increased greatly in Australia. The quantities of eggs delivered to the New South Wales and Victorian Egg Boards have increased from 36,000,000 dozen in 1938-39 to 56,000,000 dozen in 1942-43, a rise of 60 per cent. These figures may not, of course, be a true indication of the measure of increase, because the sphere of operations of these boards has been extended. Apart from the total production of eggs, there has been a development in the treatment of the surplus production in the flush of the season. Several million dozens of eggs are dehydrated annually. The production of egg powder is at present at a level of about 1,000 tons per annum. It is expected that the production next year will be nearly double this figure.

The meat industry has been subject to adverse seasons in Queensland, and to heavier demands. The production of beef and veal was 559,000 tons in 1938-39 and 535,000 tons this year, a reduction of about 4 per cent. The production of mutton and lamb, on the other hand, increased in the same period from 320,000 tons to 405,000 tons, a rise of 27 per cent. The production of pork has increased from 37,000 tons to 38,000 tons, and the production of bacon and ham from 33,000 tons to 39,000 tons. These figures show an overall rise in the production of meat in Australia. The most significant changes, however, are to he seen in the use to which production is being put. Australia’s canned meat production before the war was about 14,000 tons. In the year ending the 30th June, 1943, it is estimated at 68.000 tons, an increase of nearly 400 per cent.; and for the calendar year 1943 the objective is 100,000 tons, which will be an increase of more than 600 per cent, on the pre-war figures. This stupendous advance has been attained only by the exercise of great enterprise and drive by all concerned. It Ls not easy to step up factory production when the demands on labour and material for other purposes are very great. I can only say that the general position in relation to canned meat is beyond anything that could have been expected .

The dehydration of meat in Australia was on an experimental basis before 1939. Certain experimental shipments were made to the United Kingdom after the outbreak of war, and, following favorable reports, arrangements were made to undertake a substantial production programme. The output at the 30th June, 1943, will be about 1,000 tons, but we expect that the total output for the calendar year will be about 3,000 tons, and that this will rise, subsequently, to 5,000 tons per annum. Dehydrated meat will be supplied principally to the United Kingdom. Economies in shipping space, and the avoidance of the necessity to use refrigerated space, are self-evident.

The vegetable position in Australia has been one of the most difficult. Unlike the other industries which supply basic foods, the vegetable industry had not, in peace-time, an export surplus upon which heavier domestic war-time demands could be cushioned; consequently, it has been necessary quickly to lift production in order to cope with suddenly increased demands. -The need is to provide fresh and preserved vegetables for the forces, and to maintain as large a supply as possible of fresh vegetables to the civil population. It is impossible, because of the character of pre-war statistics, to give a comparison item by item between pre-war production and the present rate. The best comparison is on the total acreage. In 1938-39 the area devoted to vegetable production throughout Australia was 244,000 acres. For the year 1942-43 it is estimated at i00,000 acres. The acreage under blue peas has increased from 4,400 acres to 35,600 acres. Before the war, there was practically no production of navy beans in Australia. In the latest year, 9,300 acres was sown. There have been great increases of the acreage under carrots, cabbages, beetroot, and tomatoes, and probably increases in respect of most classes of vegetable. The maintenance of vegetable production, considering all the man-power difficulties involved, has been truly remarkable. It has been due to the unremitting efforts of growers, and has been stimulated by the letting of contracts on a large scale for the principal classes of vegetables required. In some instances, these contracts have been for service requirements only; but in other instances, such as potatoes, blue peas, and navy beans, the contract with the growers has been in respect of total production.

In view of the importance of potato production, the shortage of this vegetable which occurred in 1942 from the plantings made from August to October, 1941, was a most unfortunate occurrence. The Government decided to remedy the position by the stimulation of production through the contract system, with reasonable prices to the growers. The acreage was increased by about 50 per cent, in 1942. The resultant production has not been 50 per cent, greater, because of adverse climatic conditions in some areas, but reasonable supplies are available to consumers at a fair price. There have been some dislocations of supply, due to shipping difficulties between Tasmania and certain mainland ports, but on the whole the position in regard to potato supplies must be regarded as satisfactory.

Whilst the effort to maintain vegetable supplies has not been generally recognized, still fewer persons realize the great increases which have taken place and are under way in regard to the processing of vegetables. Canned vegetable production before the war was on the basis of about 4,500 tons per annum. For the year 1942-43 it is approximately 24,000 tons per annum, and further increases are planned. Before the war, there was no dehydration of vegetables. Early last year, the Government planned the establishment of a large number of dehydration plants. Much difficulty has been encountered in the provision of labour and material, as well as sufficient factory capacity for the manufacture of the necessary equipment. We started from nothing. In respect of the year ending the 30th June, 1943, we expect an output of over 1,000 tons, whilst the programme for the ensuing year will aim at a production of more than 10,000 tons of the dehydrated product.

Fruit production and distribution before the war was chiefly for domestic requirements. The outstanding exception was the apple and pear industry, which provided a very large export surplus for the United Kingdom. Although the war has prevented us from continuing the export trade in apples and pears, it has also prevented us from distributing these fruit freely in certain States. Ships cannot be allocated in sufficient numbers to carry the apple surplus from Tasmania and Western Australia to New South Wales and Queensland. Furthermore, the fruit production of Queensland, which has always been called upon to supply certain needs in the southern States, is in much greater demand now than it is normally because of the presence in that State of large service personnel.

Another adverse factor in civilian food supplies is the necessity to take large quantities of citrus fruit for the provision of juice for the service. Fruit production cannot quickly be stimulated, and because of transport conditions it is not possible to promise that the distribution of surpluses from one State to another will be made easier. There has been, however, a very large development of the dehydration and canning of apples. The total production of these two products is now as follows: -

The quantity of fresh fruit processed for this purpose is 1,500,000 bushels. In addition, 500,000 bushels of apples is utilized for the manufacture of apple juice, apple jelly, and apple butter. Most of these products go to the Army, but some supplies of dried apples and canned apples are available for the civil population.

The figures which I have given show that agricultural production of the principal basic foods has been well maintained and that remarkable developments have taken place in food manufacture. These developments are matters for congratulation. They show that, in spite of the difficulties, Australia has done a good job on the food front. That does not mean that there have been no dislocations or shortages of any kind, but, surely, the dislocations and the shortages have been of a relatively minor character. Nevertheless, it is the purpose of the Government not only to maintain the standard of performance, but also to increase production in both the field and the factory, in order to make available, as far as possible, all the food required by Australian and Allied Services, and to correct, as far as can be done, the difficulties in the way of food distribution to the civil population, particularly in some parts of Queensland, and to maintain as large a volume of export to overseas services and to the United Kingdom as can be managed.

The production, manufacture and distribution of food is now under one control. The Department of Commerce and Agriculture is virtually the Food Department. Its activities almost entirely concern food, and the efforts of the department and myself will be devoted to the limit of our capacity to the great tasks of maintaining and increasing production, and effecting the smooth distribution of foodstuffs. The Secretary of the Department of Commerce and Agriculture has been appointed ControllerGeneral of Food. The former Controller of Naval Victualling, Mr. Claude Massey, has been appointed Deputy Controller-General, and Mr. C. N. Critchley, Australian Trade Commissioner in New Zealand, who for the past two years has been in charge of the civil food emergency supplies scheme, will be Assistant ControllerGeneral. The Honorable F. W. Bulcock, as Director-General of Agriculture, will devote his entire energies to securing increased agricultural production of food. Dr. A. R. Callaghan,

Assistant Director in the Department of War Organization of Industry, will function in association with food control as Director of Agriculture Organization. A division has been established for the direction of food manufacture, and a well-qualified business man is being appointed to act as director of this division. He will have under his control a team of qualified experts, and his function will be to secure from the existing food factories the maximum output, and to plan and effect improvements in factories, with the object of increasing their capacity and improving the quality of the output. The Director of Food Manufacture will be responsible for overcoming current obstacles in food production and for planning the future expansion of factories and the establishment of additional factories where necessary. A division of Civil Food Distribution has been established. The nucleus of this is the Emergency Supplies Organization ; but the new division will be responsible for dealing with all the problems of distribution of food to the civil population and will maintain a liaison with the Shipping Control Board and Land Transport Board on transport problems. Marketing plans for fruit and vegetables are being organized, and, generally speaking, the division will give constant attention to all problems of distribution. The following is a complete subdivision -of the work which the food control organization will perform : -

  1. Overall direction of policy which, under Cabinet and the Minister, will be performed by the Controller-General and his staff. The Controller-General will have associated with him a consultative committee consisting of the DirectorGeneral of Man Power and the Prices Commissioner. The purpose of the consultative committee is to ensure continuous co-operation with other important government activities for food production and distribution.
  2. Agricultural production. - This, as was formerly the case, will be carried out through the Director-General of Agriculture and the State Departments of Agriculture. An agricultural planning committee has been established, on which the Council for Scientific and Industrial Research and the Department of War

Organization of Industry will be represented. This committee will assist the Controller-General of Food and the Director-General of Agriculture in the planning of agricultural policy. Dr. Callaghan, who will be a member of this committee, will direct agricultural organization and thus keep in constant running order the entire machine of organization which will carry out the policy of production controlled by the Director-General of Agriculture.

  1. Food manufacture, to which I have already referred.
  2. Procurement of food for the Services. - This activity was formerly carried out by the defence foodstuffs section of the Department of Supply and Shipping. It will function in future as a part of the Food Control Organization.
  3. Civil food distribution, which will be directed in the manner which I have already described. b’. Technological and research services and ihe inspection of factories and food supplies.
  4. Export policy. - Control and direction of exports and the Commerce Act Inspection of Export Goods.
  5. Liaison with the British Food Mission and the United States Army specialists.
  6. Liaison with trade unions, housewives’ organizations and public relations generally.

In addition to the central organization, strong State organizations are being established to deal on a decentralized basis with the particular problems affecting the States concerned. It is necessary to have particularly strong organizations in New South Wales, Queensland and Western Australia. New South Wales requires a strong organization because that State is of very great importance in agricultural production and food manufacture, and also because its civilian food demands are great. Queensland must have a strong organization because of its dependence on New South Wales and Victoria for a considerable proportion of its manufactured foodstuffs, and also because there are in Queensland large numbers of service personnel to feed, with attendant risks of dislocation of civilian supplies. Western Australia must be strongly organized because of its distance from the sources of much of its manufactured foodstuffs in the eastern States, and because that State must be secured, as long as the war lasts, against any likely food emergency.

I now refer to steps which are being taken to increase agricultural production, particularly vegetable production and dairy” production. The Government established the system of war agricultural committees, and will continue to build and strengthen them, and to work through them. Each district committee consists of a State government official, as chairman, and representatives of farmers and other rural dwellers. These committees are required to organize district and local facilities for the maximum production. They are asked to report the problems and difficulties which they themselves cannot solve to the State Department of Agriculture, which, in turn, submits those of a national character to the central organization in the Department of Commerce and Agriculture. Through these organizations we shall continue to direct our efforts to securing increased production of the most urgently needed foods.

I have already mentioned the conversion of certain agricultural implement works to the production of munitions. It has now been arranged that these works shall revert to their normal activity. The Government is going further than this ; it is directing the organizational and technical skill of the Department of Munitions into the task of increasing rapidly the output of agricultural implements and spares, internal combustion engines, and the whole range of equipment which will correct the existing deficiencies and even increase the farmers’ facilities for’ enlarging production. It is fully recognized that farmers have bad to carry on in a make-shift manner, with old, worn-out and, in some cases, disabled implements. I hope that the services of the Munitions Department, as an aid to the Food Control Organization, will quickly correct this position.

Man-power will be secured for the vegetable and dairying industries to the fullest degree compatible with the maintenance of the services and the conducting of other essential activities. Experiments are being made in the use of prisoner of war labour. It is possible that this form of labour will be found to be of great assistance in the vegetable and dairying industries. The Government, however, believes that it will now be possible to withdraw from the services a limited number of men who enlisted, or were called up, from certain primary industries, and in the administration of this policy it will give preference to the vegetable and dairying industries. The responsibility will rest upon farmers to nominate the individuals whose return to agricultural production is desired. The applications of farmers will be examined by the war agricultural committees and the National Service officers of the Man Power Directorate. Those which are endorsed will be submitted to the Man Power Directorate in the capital city concerned and machinery now being established will operate between the Man Power Directorate and the Army to secure their early release, provided that the number involved does not exceed the total number which the Government releases for this purpose.

The Government is confident that, through the improvement of the position in relation to man-power and agricultural implements which is now being arranged, vegetable and dairy production also will be improved. Dairy-farmers will be encouraged through the substantial subsidy announced by the Government to produce increased quantities of milk, and they will secure more man-power and better implements and machinery with which to secure the greater production. The growers of the principal classes of vegetables will operate under a system by which they will have a guaranteed minimum price and a liberal ceiling price determined by the Prices Commissioner. The guaranteed minimum price will be fixed at such a level that growers will be protected against undue losses, and there will be a sufficient margin between the minimum price and the ceiling price to permit of growers exercising their judgment in regard to the market. Further, the Government will ensure that all growers who make contracts for the production of vegetables in 1944 on a basis which is now being prepared will receive the fertilizers which they require for the contract production. The contracts will not be solely for defence purposes, but will operate in a manner similar to the contracts for potatoes and blue peas.

I have said sufficient to show that the charges of food bungling levelled by the Leader of the Opposition are entirely baseless, and, in addition, my colleagues have shown the marked improvement which has characterized war-time planning in other directions since the Curtin Government came into office. I believe that this House recognizes the excellence of the present Administration and will reject the motion. Moreover, I believe that the opinion of this House will anticipate the opinion which will be expressed by the electorate when the people have the opportunity of giving their verdict. I hope that the explanation which I have given will convince those who repeat the parrot cry that there has been bungling on the food front and danger of a food shortage that, far from their fears being well founded, the Government’s planning has been unparalleled in the history of this country, and is in keeping with the planning which has been so successful in the United Kingdom.

Mr SPEAKER:

– The Minister’s time has expired.

Mr JOLLY:
Lilley

.- After hearing the speeches of the Prime Minister (Mr. Curtin), the Leader of the Opposition (Mr. Fadden) and the right honorable member for Kooyong (Mr. Menzies), I am convinced that no report on what is now known as “ the Brisbane line “ was submitted to either the Menzies Government or the Fadden Government, and that therefore neither of those Governments could have approved of that plan. I do not propose to say any more on that subject, because I deplore the unseemly wrangling which has taken place, not only in this House, but also throughout the country generally, as to which party has done the most for the war effort. T submit that the only question that matters at this time is whether the nation as a whole is doing its best. We do not hear of the Parliament of Great Britain wasting time in futile post-mortems of this kind. When he became Prime Minister of Great Britain, Mr. Churchill had to tackle a task which was un paralleled in British, history; yet he never indulged in fault-finding. If there was one man in the British Empire who was entitled to say something about the lack of preparedness for war, it was Mr. Churchill, because for many years before the outbreak of war he had issued warnings as to what was likely to happen. Mr. Churchill and his colleagues got on with the job, and their example has inspired the Empire. I submit that it is our duty to do as they have done. Members would do well to remember that it is not this Parliament, but the men and women of the services of this country and the United States of America who have saved Australia from invasion. Members of the forces have had to face death, not the wordy warfare which is indulged in here. When I think of the heroic achievements of the members of the Navy, the Army, and the Air Force, and of what they have had to endure, I feel somewhat humiliated at the part which we who stay at home are playing in this struggle, however important that part may be. For those reasons I deplore statements which are made from time to time that this or that person, or group of persons, has saved Australia from invasion. When the honorable member for Watson yesterday evening said that the present Prime Minister had saved Australia from invasion, I interjected, because I am sure that Mr. Curtin would be the last man to claim that he himself had done any such thing. It is only fair to say that when speaking yesterday the Prime Minister paid a tribute to the members of the forces. In all solemnity and seriousness I suggest to the House now that before this Parliament is dissolved we should pause for a brief period to pay a tribute to the gallant men and women of the fighting forces. We should pass a fitting resolution placing on record the heartfelt gratitude of the nation to those who are fighting and dying for us. What a monument of service and sacrifice this already represents ! The figures recently released by the Minister for the Army show that 5,257 have been killed on active service, 12,150 wounded, 30,064 are prisoners of war, and another 7,712 are missing. I submit that while we are doing all this more or les3 boasting about the part that we have played, the time has arrived when this Parliament should in all seriousness give a little more thought to those who really have saved and are saving this country from invasion and the terrors of war.

I am sorry that the Minister for the Army is not in the chamber, because I want to say something about what I regard as an apparent waste of manpower in the Army, and to a certain degree in the Air Force. I realize that it is necessary to keep the military forces up to the required strength for the defence of the country, but I am doubtful whether, to adopt a term much used by the Man Power Department, many members of the forces are “ gainfully employed “ from the military point of view. Many men in Australia who are members of the forces are becoming very discouraged and discontented because they feel that they are not serving any useful purpose in this war effort. Some of them have already indicated to me that they feel that they belong to the lost legion. I met the other day in Sydney a member of the 15th Battalion, and. he only expressed to me what I had heard on a number of occasions previously. He said, “ I think that military head-quarters has forgotten all about us “. I have already indicated that I appreciate the fact that the first consideration must be the defence of the country, but I do suggest, particularly in view of the statement made by the Prime Minister the other day, that the time has come when the Government should review the whole position. If some men are not required for military purposes, they should be released so that they may be available for essential civil services. In view of the fact that many members of the military forces have no definite jobs at the present time, I should like also to suggest that longer leave be granted to the members of the forces who return from New Guinea and other theatres of war. I mention this because I know that some men who were granted only a few weeks’ leave when they returned from the Middle East and New Guinea, then had to report to a camp where they were for months, and still are. The Minister for the Army should give serious consideration to utilizing men who are without occupations in such a way as to enable further leave to be granted to those who have returned from the Middle East and New Guinea. I know of men who have been out there for fifteen or eighteen months; indeed, two or three men came to me who had been there for two years. They represented a party of others, and were so annoyed that they told me frankly that they were not going back. I persuaded them to see the Minister for the Army, who kindly consented to interview them although he was very busy. When these men are available, and we know that some of them are becoming very discouraged and disheartened because they have nothing definite to do, we should at least see that we give the men from New Guinea and other places longer leave. The irony of the whole thing is ‘that men here who never go away at all are granted longer leave than the men who were in the firing line in New Guinea and elsewhere. So far as man-power is concerned I understand that there are a large number of non-commissioned officers who are at a loose end. They are told that they can get their release from the Army, but they refuse or hesitate to do so as they say that they would in time be liable to be called up as privates. These men are in one camp and have been there for some time without definite jobs, and doing no effective work. The Minister should give serious consideration to their position, but first thought should be given to the mien who have been fighting in the jungles of New Guinea and on the dry plains of Libya. On a number of occasions men have come back from those places wearing their summer clothes, and have had to get new uniforms and other garments. They have found great difficulty in doing so. Their complaint is that members of the home forces, who do not go away at all, have first call on the goods available, and the returned men get only what is left. Very often they find that very little is left for them.

I want to offer a word of criticism of whoever is responsible for what has been taking place recently in Brisbane and possibly in other cities of the Commonwealth. I am sure that every member of the House will agree with me in this matter. The military authorities have recently taken over an old home in Brisbane, and are building a lot of quarters. Some of the girls in the services are employed there, and an official of the Department of the Army has been going round to various people in the district asking them to provide sleeping accommodation for them. I have no objection to that at all. If it could be mutually agreed to billet the girls in that way, it would be a good thing, but I take strong exception to the fact that the military authorities are offering a paltry pittance of 9d. a night to the householder for providing the girls with quarters. That is unfair, first to the householder, and secondly to the girls themselves, who will be embarrassed because they will feel that they are to a degree under an obligation to any person who accommodates them for 9d. a night. It is true that the military authorities have nearby a mess arrangement by which they feed the girls, but any one at whose home they stop has to look after them for the night, provide a bedroom and bedding, and allow them the use of the gas and electric light. Ninepence a night is a very poor sum to offer to anybody undertaking that work. If it is desired to billet members of the forces in. this way we should have a definite policy. In view of the extravagant payments that we are making in other directions we should be prepared to pay a fair and reasonable sum for the service. I take this opportunity also of voicing a very strong protest against the way in which this billeting is done. In a number of cases the official concerned has said to the woman of the house, when she has demurred about taking the girls in: “If you do not take them voluntarily you will be compelled to do it”. No official of the Department of the Army has any right or authority to act in that way. If it is the policy of the Government to make this compulsory, it should say so. In some instances in which an official has talked in that way, all the sons of the family have been away on active service. What has happened in some cases has been a scandal. If the Minister for the Army does not know what is going on in his department, the sooner he learns it the better. In one case the lady concerned was asked to take some girls in on the day after she had received a telegram informing her that her son in the Air Force had been killed in combat on the other side of the world. When the official- came to her place, she said that she did not think that she could take the girls in, and he asked her if he could ring up her husband. She said, “ Tes “. When the official rang him up, the husband said that he could not do it, whereupon the official came away from the telephone and said to the lady, “It is people like you who are making us lose the war “. I speak feelingly about this matter, because it is wrong that the mother of a son who has paid the supreme sacrifice should be insulted in that way. If the Department of the Army is a party to what is taking place, I am sure that the House will disapprove of it. It would be much better to ask the (people to take the girls in free of charge. I am sure that they would sooner billet them free than be paid 9d. a night. That is a ridiculous sum, which is certainly not worthy of the Commonwealth Government.

The prices regulations are causing considerable confusion and will drive many people out of business. The regulation that compels business people to sell new stocks at the old price is unfair. It is absurd to expect traders to buy an article at £1 15s. and sell it at £1 5s. because the cost of the same article previously was only £1. It is true that the trader will receive a subsidy if it is shown later that the net profit for the year is less than previously, but the effect will be that many people will refrain from stocking lines which they would be compelled to sell at less than cost. Traders will not buy stock at a higher price than that at which they will be permitted to sell, in the expectation of receiving a subsidy later from the Government. Either the Treasurer or the Prime Minister said that if they did not do so the Government would, but if the Government does it will be taking on a gigantic task. The already large staffs employed by the Government to administer the multitudinous war-time regulations will need to be further increased to settle all the claims that will be made for subsidies.

The legality of the Prices Commissioner’s orders to business people to refund lump sums in respect of what he deems to be excess profits has been challenged by the opinions of leading King’s Counsel, and it would be interesting . to hear the view of the SolicitorGeneral on this point. I cite a concrete case. The profit made by the partners in a business amounted to £23,000 in 1942. Of that £23,000, £20,000 will be taken by the Taxation Commissioner because the partners are on the maximum rate of income tax. The Prices Commissioner then comes along and examines the balance-sheet and says, “ You have made an excess profit of £10,000 and you must pay that back”. That means that £30,000 has to be paid to the Government out of a profit of £23,000. Little imagination is needed to realize that people will not be able to remain in business under those conditions.

The work involved in complying with the regulations and making the returns required in respect of price-fixing and prices control and rationing is tremendous, and retail traders are having a most difficult time, because they have to face not only the problem of a shortage of stocks, but also all this additional work. In order to show the ridiculous lengths to which the demand for returns to be made has gone, I cite an instance of one man who wanted to buy a 3s. 6d. oil stove. Before he was able to do so he had to fill in several forms and had even to make a sworn declaration before a justice of the peace. All those formalities were really designed to cover such things as electric stoves. One does not object to that, but one could not by the greatest stretch of the imagination think that the most bureaucratic person ever intended, when framing the regulations governing the sale of stoves, that such a triviality as a stove worth 3s. 6d. should be covered by them. There should be some power of veto when regulations are carried to such absurd lengths. I am not the representative of a rural constituency, but I know the value to the country of the provincial storekeepers. I am sure that honorable members from rural districts will agree that they, particularly, are the victims of this bureaucratic control. So many returns are required under the regulations that many of the storekeepers are inclined to take the easier path of going out of business.

I regret that none of the members of the Rationing Commission is here. I should have liked the chairman, the honorable member for Henty (Mr. Coles) to hear what I shall say. Some of the requests made under the rationing system are ludicrous. For instance, the proprietor of a cafe in Brisbane has been asked not only to make a return of the number of customers he serves each day, but also the number of sandwiches and scones he sells.

Mr Prowse:

– Absurd !

Mr JOLLY:

– Yes.

Mr Marwick:

– An enormous bureaucracy is being developed.

Mr JOLLY:

– Yes, it is top-heavy.

Mr Paterson:

– A huge building will bc needed to store the records.

Mr JOLLY:

– Yes, and a larger one to accommodate the staff. I do not know where it will end. The responsibility is with the Government even more than with the Rationing ‘Commission for the grave blunder that was made when the ration books for the last rationing period were called in. The result was an immediate rush on the stores by people to use their remaining coupons before they expired. Scenes reminiscent of the panic buying that marked the first excursion into rationing by the Minister for War Organization of Industry (Mr. Dedman) were witnessed. People were queued up outside shops long before they opened. I consider that if the people had been allowed to retain those coupons which they had not used in the last period the panic buying would not have occurred, and many of the coupons would never have been used.

I protest against the raw deal which has been handed to the outer States in respect of the supply of essential commodities.

Mr Marwick:

– Hear, hear!

Mr JOLLY:

– I am not familiar with the conditions in Western Australia, but I understand that they have had the same experience as in Queensland, where goods which are readily available in Victoria and New South Wales are unprocurable. I am referring more particularly to necessary articles of clothing, toilet paper, tooth, brushes and certain line of groceries, but the shortage in Queensland goes over the whole range of commodities. If it is necessary to ration such goods, the rationing should be equitable, and available stocks should be spread evenly throughout the States, according to population requirements. The population of Queensland has been swollen enormously by the influx of large numbers of troops, and it can be seen readily that what may have been sufficient in normal times for the ordinary civil population of Queensland can in no way meet the needs of the population now. The principle should be share and share alike, not that Sydney and Melbourne should get the lion’s share. .

As a part of its post-war reconstruction policy, the’ Government has appointed the Housing Commission to investigate housing problems. The problem in Queensland to-day is one to which that commission and the Commonwealth Government should immediately direct their attention. The shortage of houses is lamentable. The Housing Commission should not confine its investigation to post-war needs; it should immediately go into the matter of providing even temporary housing in Queeusland. One way in which the situation could be relieved with little trouble and little expenditure is this: As honorable members are generally aware, the houses in Queensland have spacious verandahs. If Venetian or other blinds could be supplied, those verandahs could-be equipped for sleeping purposes, but without them they are unsuitable, because unprotected verandahs expose sleepers too much to the rigours of the weather. The suggestion that such blinds should be provided was made to the Government, but it was turned down. I hope that it will reconsider the proposal. Another way to ease the shortage of accommodation, which is common to all the cities of Australia, is to utilize rooms in hotels which hotelkeepers, because of staff shortage, are not able to use.

Although the use of paper is supposed to be heavily restricted, the Government has seen fit to grant to the Communist party a permit’ to publish several newspapers. The permit to publish necessarily indicates that the paper on which to publish will be supplied, otherwise the permit would be purposeless. In addition to this, the Communist party has been able to flood Australia, even military camps; with literature, whilst requests of other organizations for permission to print circulars and pamphlets have been refused by the Department of Trade and Customs. How the Government can justify one and refuse the other is beyond comprehension.

Mr MORGAN:
Reid

.- It has been said that those whom the gods wish to destroy they first make mad: judging by the way that the Opposition has gone berserk during the course of this debate, it is obviously rushing to its doom. The Opposition is crashing on the rocks of discord, both external and internal. Whilst that may be a good thing for the country in the long run, to my mind it is pitiable that this controversy should have occurred and valuable time wasted in a debate of this character in the course of which recriminations have flown from one side of the House to the other. It is hardly a worthy example to the people of this country. The attitude of the Opposition reminds me very much of the occasion when the Germans first used poison gas in the last war. They made one great mistake - they did not allow for a change in the direction of the wind. They launched their gas campaign when they thought the wind was’ favorable to them, but unfortunately for them the wind changed, their own weapon was turned against them, and they had to rush for their own gas masks. As the Minister for Supply and Shipping (Mr. Beasley) has said, it appears that this motion is directed rather at the Opposition than at theGovernment, because the Opposition has been on the defensive ever since the motion was .submitted. Soon they will be running for cover and donning their own gas masks. I realize, of course, that when certain honorable members opposite start, we all shall probably have to run for our gas masks. When the Opposition speaks of national unity, obviously it talks with its tongue in its cheek. It is more in sorrow than in anger that I refer to the attitude adopted by honorable members opposite, not only in this debate, but during the whole time that this Government has been in office, and to the unco-operative spirit shown by many members of the Opposition, including the right honorable member for Kooyong (Mr. Menzies), who is a former Prime Minister, and, admittedly, is one of the most brilliant men in this country. Can it be said that the attitude of that right honorable gentleman has been cooperative? I think not. The attitude of the Leader of the Opposition (Mr. Fadden) also has been hardly helpful at any time since this Government took office. For instance, I understand that that right honorable gentleman sent a circular letter to all honorable members opposite, asking them to dig up matters on which the Government could be attacked, on any subject. That is typical of the unco-operative attitude of the Opposition ever since Labour came into power, and it contrasts sharply with the co-operative spirit shown by the Prime Minister (Mr. Curtin) when he was Leader of the Opposition. At least so far as the prosecution of the war was concerned, that right honorable gentleman co-operated with the then governments to such a degree that he was sometimes misunderstood by his own supporters. He set an example which might well have been followed by the present Leader of the Opposition and his supporters. Instead, however, they have adopted obstructive tactics. However, I realize that post-mortems do not get us very far; not much can be gained by talking about the past. After all, it is the future that counts. The past is only important as a guide to the future, and as an indication to the people whom they should elect to office. Quite obviously, this debate is a prelude to an election campaign. Believing that they had a favorable wind, because of the anti-Labour press campaign which has been carried on in recent months, and that discontent might exist in certain sections of the community in regard to the various restrictions that have been imposed owing to war conditions, the Opposition has seized upon the opportunity to make an attack upon the Government. I am confident, however, that honorable members opposite will soon realize that their favorable wind is purely an artificial one and will turn against them.

There is no need for me to go into this Government’s record. That has been dealt with very fully already. The honorable member for Henty (Mr. Coles) has referred in glowing terms to the achievements of this Administration during the short time it has been in office. He is the jury of one which will be called upon to give a verdict, and from what has been said already, it is quite obvious that this motion will be defeated. I feel sure that a verdict favorable to the Government will also be given in the very near future by the people of this country.

Without delving into past history, I shall touch upon some matters that have been raised by the Opposition - side issues raised in an endeavour to cloud the true issue that will be before the electors. One of those side issues is the so-called “Brisbane line”. Very astutely, and under the leadership of an eminent King’s Counsel, the Opposition has seized upon a few phrases and words used in the course of speeches by the Minister for Labour and National Service, and endeavoured to show that these phrases and words are strictly incorrect. At the same time honorable members opposite are clouding the real issue. For instance, reference has been made to the fact that the Minister said that at a certain date there was in existence a plan known as “ the Brisbane line “ ; but that is not the real issue. Whether or not there was such a plan in existence at that specified date is not important. What we arc concerned with is whether circumstances did exist when this Government came into office which necessitated such a defence plan.

Sir Frederick Stewart:

– Surely the integrity of a Minister is of some consequence.

Mr MORGAN:

– It is not merely a question of the integrity of a Minister. I shall not bother arguing whether or not the Minister concerned was strictly correct in the wording that he used. Instead, I shall quote the words of some one for whose integrity and reputation every honorable member will have the highest regard, General MacArthur. I shall quote from an article published in the Sydney Daily Telegraph on the 18th March last, and written by Hugh Dash, a Daily Telegraph war correspondent, who, with other war correspondents, attended a conference with General MacArthur in Melbourne at that time. The article states -

General MacArthur yesterday met war correspondents on the first anniversary of his arrival in Australia from the Philippines. He told them that no brake would bc applied to criticism, except when it was based on false premises or incomplete information. After the war correspondents had all the facts, no attempts would be made to shade or dictate their own opinions, even if they involved the most violent criticism. He had given the press reports almost as fast as they had been received from the front line. The minute details of General MacArthur’s review of the Pacific war answered in advance a barrage of planned press questions. General MacArthur did not minimize the problems ahead, but spoke with quiet confidence of the Allies’ ability successfully to sustain the holding war.

These remarks were made by General MacArthur only three months ago, and they indicate clearly that even at that time this country was in a relatively safe position. That statement surely bears out the Prime Minister’s recent announcement that Australia was no longer in danger of invasion. The article continues -

page 185

STRATEGY REVISED

Australia’s war strategy was drastically revised after General MacArthur took command of the South-West Pacific front. Our defence plan then conceived that the islands to the north would be lost and that north Queensland and Darwin would be over-run.

General MacArthur says that there was a defence plan. The article continues -

Provision has been made for an organized resistance behind a line drawn west from Brisbane.

I ask honorable members to note the words “ provision has been made “. How could provision be made if no plan existed? Clearly there was a plan in existence. The report continues -

General MacArthur considered the conception of this strategy defeatist and fatal to Australia’s safety.

Has the Minister for Labour and National Service said anything more than that?-

He changed the strategic conception with the basic thought that the Battle for Australia would be settled in the littoral islands to the north, north-west and north-east. The new strategy was to make these islands the battleground - win, lose, or draw.

It should not be forgotten that it was the Labour party which brought to this country the man who laid down that policy -

page 185

LINE PUSHED FORWARD

By the swift development of air-fields and roads in north Australia .

Apparently these roads or landing grounds had to be made after General MacArthur came here - and the expansion of Moresby as a war base, the bomber line was pushed northwards. Movement northward of ground troops has since taken up the slack from the old Brisbane defence line.

Who coined the phrase “ Brisbane defence line “ ? Did the Minister for Labour and National Service coin it? Here are the published remarks of General MacArthur to a conference of war correspondents. The report continues -

The Japanese have been repulsed in the five major actions since the development of the new strategy. These actions were fought in the Coral Sea, at Buna, Milne Bay. in the Owen Stanley Range, and in the Bismarck Sea. The vite! enemy error of moving forward without command of the air contributed largely to their reverses. Captured enemy documents have since disclosed that the Japanese planned to take Moresby with a force of twenty transports.

That shows how close to the wind we were sailing prior to General MacArthur being brought to this country by the Curtin Government. When dealing with what his Government had done, the right honorable member for Kooyong claimed that unparalleled results had been achieved in the production of guns. Perhaps in some respects these results were unparalleled, but then it must be remembered that the circumstances also were unparalleled. There never had been such a crisis in our history. But it is not a question of whether the efforts were unparalleled, but rather whether they were sufficient. I do not claim for a moment that all the mistakes have been made by honorable members opposite, but I claim that they made a big mistake early in the war. The right honorable member for Kooyong claimed that his Government had been responsible for the production of the 25-pounder gun, which has proved such a valuable piece of equipment during the campaign in New Guinea. I happen to know something about the production of that weapon, and I know that in accordance with the policy of the

Menzies Government of concentrating the production of munitions in the hands of certain large industrial enterprises, mostly in the southern States, the manufacture of this gun was placed entirely in the hands of a Melbourne firm, Charles Ruwolt Proprietary Limited. For two years, the firm hung on to that contract, trying to produce all the components of the gun, but finally had to relinquish the job, which subsequently went to New South Wales as a part of the campaign with which I was associated for greater munitions production in that State. When I was elected to this House, in September, 1940,-many factories in my electorate, as well as in other parts of New South Wales, were idle, or operating below their full capacity. At that time 3,000 men in my electorate were unemployed, whilst the number of unemployed in New South Wales was 30,000. Yet the war was then in its second year. That is why we started that campaign. We believed that instead of continuing the policy of setting up costly annexes, we should first utilize our idle man-power and factories. The United States of America adopted a similar policy immediately upon entering the war. However, the Government of the day was prepared to continue its foolish policy of setting up huge and costly annexes alongside big monopolistic establishments. As the result, our production of munitions in the first two years of the war was most unsatisfactory. Honorable members on this side made repeated representations to the Government of the day that that policy should be abandoned ; and it was abandoned. A few days ago I visited the main assembly works of General Motors-Holdens Limited, al Kingsford, where I inspected a 25- pounder gun. It was a fine piece of equipment, and a credit to all who had played a part in its manufacture. I hold no brief for our larger industrial concerns, but I admit that General MotorsHoldens Limited has done a fine job on the 25-pounder gun, although it acted only as the principal co-ordinator after passing out the work to about 200 factories, large and small. Those in charge of General Motors-Holdens Limited told me that on this job they obtained the best service and efficiency from the smaller manufacturers. Apparently, with smaller staffs, those manufacturers were able to maintain closer personal contact with their employees, with the result that the interests of the latter were always promptly and sympathetically considered. This Government has introduced a new policy in connexion with the manufacture of explosives. Indeed, with respect to “the manufacture of war material generally, this Government gave to New South Wales a new deal. Numerous factories were established in that State,, whilst existing factories were stepped up to full production. The production of munitions has been increased ten-fold in some factories in New South Wales. This has been due principally to this Government’s policy of decentralization. To a large degree we can thank that policy for our recent victories in New Guinea. No matter how brave the members of our fighting service may be, their efforts in the field would be futile unless they were adequately equipped. Thanks to this Government’s policy of decentralization in the manufacture of equipment, our forces in New Guinea had adequate supplies of 25-pounders, trench mortars and tommy guns, considerable quantities of which are manufactured in factories in my electorate. I have not the slightest doubt that had we continued the policy of previous governments of concentrating production in a few big concerns we should not be able to tell so favorable a story to-day. Let us contrast our victories in New Guinea with the fate of our soldiers in Greece and Crete, who lacked necessary equipment. The honorable member for Warringah (Mr. Spender), when he was Minister for the Army, admitted that Australian soldiers were in Palestine and North Africa for six months before they received a single piece of field equipment. They did not have a rifle. What was the use of sending men to battle areas without equipment? Even the Italians would have been able to annihilate our troops were they aware of that fact at that time. A similar story can be told of the experiences of our soldiers in Greece and Crete. Last year I met a -member of the Australian Imperial Force who won the Military Medal in the campaign in Greece. He was one of the fortunates to return from that campaign. He told me that prior to going to Greece our soldiers were paraded in North Africa before General Sir Archibald Wavell, who was then Commander-in-Chief of the Allied Forces ia North Africa. He is a gallant officer, and I am pleased to note that he has just been appointed Viceroy of India. This man said that General Sir Archibald Wavell told the Australian troops that they were going to Greece. He said that for many of them it would be a one-way journey. He told them that the project was against his better judgment as a military leader. The campaign was more political than military. We know from the reports that were cabled from overseas at the time that the idea was conceived as a grand gesture. It proved to be a tragedy. The same soldier told me that the Australian troops were without rifles for the first four days after they landed in Greece, and that not an allied aeroplane appeared in the sky to give them protection. Finally, they were driven back to the sea. It is all very well to send our troops to the other side of the world to fight in the cause of freedom, but it passes my comprehension why the number of Australians sent to Greece was four times greater than the number of soldiers from other allied countries. For the previous two years 4,000,000 men were standing to arms in Great Britain. Great Britain’s primary consideration was the preservation of its own shores. For the same reason, many people in. this country considered that it was the duty of the Government of the day to retain sufficient trained personnel in this country to defend our own shores in the event of attack. The Australians who survived finished that campaign in Greece by spending days on the open beaches waiting to be rescued by the Navy. During that time they were unprotected from the full fire of enemy aeroplanes. I remember reading in the Sydney Sun, the communications which were despatched to that paper at the time by its war correspondents, James Aldridge and John Hetherington. They told an ugly story of the Australians’ experiences in Greece. That campaign can be described as a grand gesture; but that is no satisfaction to the men who lost their lives in Greece, or to their relatives.

Much the same story can be told of the experiences of the Australians who were despatched to Malaya. That was another grand gesture ; but who can take any satisfaction at all from the fact that 17,000 of our soldiers were either killed or taken prisoner in Malaya. I recall the time when these men were sent abroad. Their transports departed within a week of the day on which the then Minister for the Army, the honorable member for Warringah, admitted in this House that our defences were in such a state that we could not then withstand an attack by one armoured division. Selfpreservation, like charity, begins at home. For that reason, the great majority of the Australian people will endorse the view of this Government that the policy of its predecessors was wrong; that those Governments should have given primary consideration to the preservation of this country by keeping sufficient trained men here during those dark days. The fact that those Governments despatched men to Singapore clearly indicated that they knew in May, 1941, that we would most probably be attacked by the Japanese. Fortunately for the people of Australia, our position has been redeemed by the present Government. I shall not deal in detail with the repeated appeals for aid which were made by this Government to the United States of America after the entry of Japan into the war. Nevertheless, some honorable members opposite declared that such action by this Government could only be interpreted in relation to the Mother Country as a desire to cut the painter. Likewise, when this Government declared that the proper place for our trained men in the dark days in the past was within Australia, some honorable members opposite contended that the divisions which it was proposed to bring back from the Middle East should be sent to Burma. Had they been sent there, they would probably have met a fate similar to that which their comrades suffered in Malaya.

I shall now deal with the proposal to curtail the production of certain classes of war material on the ground that to-day, supplies of such materials are satisfactory. I trust that before any workers are dismissed, or the production in any factories curtailed, the

Government will carefully determine whether the production of which we are capable is not required by any of our Allies. On this point I draw attention to the following article dealing with the sudden decline of output in the United States of America, which was published in the Sydney Daily Telegraph: -

New York. - Because of the belief that the Allies are winning the war there has been a serious falling-off in U.S. arras production, says the Under-Secretary for War (Mr. Patterson ) .

U.S. production in May fell below April production, and was more than 5 per cent, below schedule.

Only aircraft production was encouraging, Mr. Patterson says. He attributes the production drop to three factors -

1 ) Over-confidence caused by the Tunisian victory and the successful bombing of Europe.

A mistaken impression that the war was practically over.

Baseless rumours that vast war supplies were accumulating in the U.S.

Buckle Down. “ The nation will have to buckle-down to the job of producing war materials, or the opportunity to exploit recent military successes will be lost.” he says. “ Unless there is improvement, American troops overseas will suffer from shortage of equipment.

The U.S. Army at home will not even have its basic equipment by the end of the year “.

Before the Commonwealth Government reduces the production of munitions in Australia, it should ensure that none of our Allies will lack equipment.

Reference has been made to strikes in industry, and stoppages have been “ played up “ considerably by honorable members opposite and the press.

Mr MORGAN:

– Of course. When men resume work, honorable members opposite get quite peeved about it, because it deprives them of ammunition with which to assail the Government. Strikes are inherent in the present capitalist system, under which the means of production are in the hands of private enterprise. It is significant that no strikes occur in Soviet Russia.

Mr HARRISON:
WENTWORTH, NEW SOUTH WALES · UAP; LP from 1944

– Because the O.G.P.U. would put the strikers against a wall.

Mr MORGAN:

– Nearly 500,000 coalminers are on strike in the United States of America, and, so far as I am able to gauge from press reports, strikes are relatively more extensive in Great Britain than they are in Australia. Why do these disputes occur in war-time? Why do workers, who are only too anxious to engage in an all-in war effort to support the troops, become restive? We have only to read of the machinations of international cartels and trusts in order to learn the reason. Evidence was given before a special committee of the United States Senate recently, which revealed a relationship between the Standard Oil Company and the Mitsui organization of Japan, and the existence of a secret agreement between them to restrict trade after the war. Those things unsettle the workers, because they fear that there will be another “ sell-out “ and that post-war conditions will be no better than they were after the last war. Instead of Allied countries being lands fit for heroes to live in, they had poverty, unemployment, and the dole. The workers also become unsettled when they read exposures about the cost-plus system which was introduced by the Menzies Government.

Mr HARRISON:
WENTWORTH, NEW SOUTH WALES · UAP; LP from 1944

– Has the Labour Government abolished it ?

Mr MORGAN:

– Unfortunately, the Labour Government has been obliged to continue many of the things introduced under the previous regime, because it is unwise to swap horses when crossing a stream. I do not condone that, and I hope that at the appropriate time, the Government will institute a better system than the cost-plus. The Joint Committee on War Expenditure, of which I was a member, took a good deal of evidence about the functioning of the cost-plus system. After we visited several business concerns, they refunded to the Commonwealth Government a sum of £200,000, representing excessive charges. The Cockatoo Island Dockyard voluntarily refunded to the Government £100,000 when the management learned that the Joint Committee on War Expenditure proposed to visit it. The knowledge of these happenings unsettle workers, not only in Australia, but also in other democracies. I read recently in the British press the following article: -

page 188

BRITISH CHECK ON SHIP PROFITEERS

London, Tuesday. - New safeguards to prevent excessive shipbuilding costs such as those of 1” H. Porter, Ltd., Liverpool, whose claim in 1041 for £1,500,000 was found to be an overcharge of £750,000, have been inaugurated by the Admiralty and Ministry for War Transport.

The Departmental inquiry covered 32 ships, including a battleship, cruisers and submarines, and disclosed that profits ranged from 10 per cent, to 80 per cent.

Shipbuilders, while disputing the general picture painted by the report, have agreed to waive claims against the Admiralty for extras totalling £2,250,000.

The Admiralty has informed the AuditorGeneral that its policy now will be to obtain fixed prices wherever’ possible, that data on which prices can bc negotiated will be under constant review, and that actual costs will be ascertained when this appears desirable.

Porter, who committed suicide when the prosecutions commenced, was well known in Liverpool, where he was a prominent churchman and member of the Conservative party. He entertained many notabilities when they visited Liverpool.

The ring-leader was ex-Councillor Charles Roland Clare, a naturalized German, who rose to a high position in Liverpool politics and was regarded as a likely Lord Mayor. He was sentenced to ten years’ imprisonment at the November Assizes.

They took advantage of the cost-plus system to charge Government departments for the wages of 000 fictitious workers over a period of eighteen months, averaging £4,500 a week.

Each week thousands of notes were taken in suitcases and hidden in a northern village. When police made the arrests they found £300.000 in notes, of which £150,000 was discovered in one cottage alone.

I Extension of time granted.] Earlier, the honorable member for Wentworth (Mr. Harrison) declared that the O.G.P.TJ. would deal with any worker who dared to go on strike in Soviet Russia. But in England, a naturalized German who took advantage of the costplus system to defraud the Government was sentenced to only ten years’ imprisonment. As another instance of the great inequalities and discriminations that occur under the present social system, I cite the following article: -

page 189

QUESTION

RAILWAY COMPANY RETIRES WORKER ON PENNY A WEEK PENSION

(Sunday Telegraph Service.)

London

Some ex-employees of the Southern Railway Company are paid pensions of 2d. a week; one man gets Id. a week.

This was revealed when an old-age pensioner was summoned for having drawn a supplementary pension without having informed the authorities.

His supplementary pension, from the Southern Railway Company, was 3d. a week. The company allowed the man 10s. 3d. a week, subject to reduction of 10s. when he drew the old-age pension at 65.

A company official said, “ These old men are not really entitled to anything “.

The man was ordered to refund £4 ls. Gd. and pay 25s. costs.

Workers also express concern regarding what will become of the costly annexes that have been erected with the taxpayers’ money near large private concerns.

Mi*. Makwick. - Does the honorable member suggest that the happenings in England are unsettling the wharf labourers in Sydney

Mr MORGAN:

– The same influences are at work in both countries, and create disruption in industry. Their purpose in Australia is to make the Labour Government unpopular, in the hope that a government representing big business will be in office in the postwar era. Many Australian manufacturers have one eye on the production of war materials and the other on the costly munitions annexes. Does the honorable member for Swan (Mr. Marwick) agree that after the war the annexes should be retained for the benefit of the public generally? In the electorate of Reid a large aircraft factory has been erected for the Commonwealth Government at a cost of £3,000,000. Although the Commonwealth Aircraft Corporation manages it, it does not own the building or machinery. The workers are anxious to ensure that after the war a government will be in office which will not sacrifice that valuable plant to vested interests. They have excellent reason for their fears. After the last war the Australian Commonwealth Line of Steamers was sacrificed in that way. The Joint Committee on War Expenditure discovered that the Munitions Department, during the regime of the Menzies Government, laid down the principle that the machinery which was being installed at the expense of the Government should bear a rate of depreciation of 20 per cent, per annum. That scale implied that after five years the value of the machinery would be nothing. In the normal course of events, those machines would be good for twenty years. Who would have the best chance of getting them and installing them elsewhere, the business concern that had to dismantle them and instal them elsewhere, or the enterprise alongside whose factory the annexe had been established ? Fortunately, the Minister for Munitions has ruled in some cases that the machines shall not be sacrificed to vested interests. After the war these plants must be diverted to the production of peace-time- requirements, thus absorbing large numbers of men, and obviating competition between returned soldiers and workers for employment, such as occurred after the last war. The Minister for Labour and National Service (Mr. Ward) pointed out that the strike in the factory of Duly and Hansford has a strong political flavour. The honorable member for Calare (Mr. Breen) also mentioned- stoppages in the meat industry. The largest abattoirs in Australia is situated at Homebush in my electorate and the Sydney Meat Preserving Company Limited are located at Auburn. I know of the conditions that prevail there.

Sir Frederick Stewart:

– There is another slaughterhouse, . in which Mr. Lang will do some execution shortly.

Mr MORGAN:

– The largest cemetery in New South Wales is also in my electorate where we could inter the Opposition on its demise.

Mr Menzies:

– Is it a political cemetery ?

Mr MORGAN:

– Judging from press reports, one would think that the workers in the meat industry are bad citizens. One newspaper described them as “ knights of the knife “, who defied the Government.

Mr Marwick:

– Hear, hear!

Mr MORGAN:

– Nothing is farther from the truth. The honorable member for Swan believes all that he reads in the press. I shall reveal the facts.

Mr SPEAKER (Hon J S Rosevear:

– My attention has been directed to the fact that, as the result of man-power difficulties, the dinner hour at the hotels is strictly limited to the period between 6 and 7 p.m. For the convenience ofhonorable members, I shall resume the Chair at 8 p.m.

Mr MORGAN:

– The honorable member for Calare referred to the experience of the meat-workers in the abattoirs in- his electorate. Their experience was in line with that of the meat-workers at the Sydney Meat Preserving Works at Auburn. There the men are working only 20 to 30 hours a week, and an average of 4 to 5 hours a day. After they have worked that number of hours they must go home because there is no further work for them. Yet one might think, from reading the press that the men are holding up the industry by industrial disputes. The real reason for the hold-up is that an insufficient number of sheep is being sent down to keep the works going. The manager of the works wrote a letter to the editor of one of the newspapers setting out the true position, and pointing out that there had not been an industrial dispute at the works for fifteen years, but the letter was not published. The real cause of the hold-up was disclosed in a letter written recently by the president of the Graziers Association to the Sydney Morning Herald, stating that the graziers were not getting enough for the sheep which they sent for slaughter, and that it paid them better to keep the sheep for wool. At the Riverstone Works many men have been put off because there is not sufficient work for them, and the same thing happened at Homebush. From press reports it would appear that the mcn are holding stopwork meetings every day, thus delaying production. It would also appear that there is a shortage of meat, but even that is not so. The workers state that the freezers are full of meat, held there on behalf of the Government for the fighting services and for export overseas. The Government pays about 3d. a lb. for the meat which it practically commandeers. The graziers and the master butchers hope that, by creating a shortage, they might be able to force the price up to 5d. a lb. That is the real story behind the alleged shortage of meat supplies. It is evident that the patriotism of many of these people is in their pockets.

The Minister for Labour and National Service pointed out, in reference to the employment of women in industry, that many of the employers wished to continue employing women after the war, and to pay them a lower rate than the standard male rate. That accounts for a good deal of the unrest of which the honorable member complains. I am glad that the Prime Minister intends personally to investigate these matters. The union leaders are doing their best to keep industry going, and the great body of the workers are behind the Government, and the war effort, but they are being obstructed by certain interests. [Further extension of time granted.] The Prime Minister will find that there are fifth column elements at work in the community, and agents provocateurs are doing their best to bring about disruption in industry. One section seeks to bring about fascism and another section, the extreme militant element known as “ Trotskyists “, still seeks world revolution. They say that this is a capitalist war, and they seek to create internal disturbance in the hope that it will lead to revolution. There are those who would willingly make peace with Japan so that they might set up in Australia a totalitarian state. There are spies at work on the waterfront and elsewhere. There have been too many coincidences associated with the loss of shipping off the Australian coast for us to be able to feel comfortable about the position. It seems clear that there are people here who are in touch with the enemy. I trust that the Prime Minister will deal drastically with all disruptive and subversive elements, but that he will not do anything to penalize the great body of the workers who are loyal to the Government and are doing their best to back up the men of the fighting forces.

I trust that the Minister for Labour and National Service will be given a fair opportunity to put his policy into effect. Eight from the time be first assumed office the Opposition has directed a campaign against him, in an effort to divide and bring about the collapse of the Government. He has also been attacked mercilessly by the press, though I am glad that some sections of the press have dealt fairly with him. I instance the Sunraysia Daily, published in Mildura, which has printed an article written by the Minister for Labour and National Service at its invitation. I quote the following: -

page 191

WHAT LABOUR IS DOING TO WIN THE WAR

By E. J. Ward. (Minister for Labour and National Service.)

The following article was written by the Minister for Labour and National Service, the Honorable Edward J. Ward, at the special request of the Sunraysia Daily, which has invited leading statesmen and politicians of various shades of political opinion to use these columns for presenting their views. The Minister stated - “ In the face of a continual barrage of attack from the anti-Labour interests, th Labour Government is continuing with its policy of winning the war as the prelude to winning the peace.

When Labour came to power sixteen months ago, it inherited a legacy of muddled administration and unpreparedness to meet the enemy. Australia was muddling along, and the germs of a defeatist policy were to be seen in the plans to abandon part of northern Australia in the event of an invasion.

In the months that Labour has controlled the Government all that has been changed. Man-power and materials have been effectively organized so that to-day Australia stands armed and alert for any eventuality.

The presence on our shores of American forces alongside members of the Australian Imperial Force, who were brought back from overseas, is due to the planning and administration of the Labour Government. The impressive figures of Australia’s war effort are almost entirely the result of the Labour rule.

As Minister for Labour and National Service, my task in preparing Australia for a total war effort was centred about the workers. My job was to organize the labour army that is the necessary reinforcement of the fighting army.

Far-reaching legislation was introduced and accepted by the workers to secure the marshalling of Australia’s man-power. Longcherished principles were voluntarily surrendered by the unions, who have stood firmly behind their Government since its accession to power.

From a long experience of the workers, I knew that while they could be persuaded they could not be driven; while they could be reasoned with, they could not be intimidated. From the very outset I aimed at securing harmony among the workers and the increased production that such harmony brings.

That the policy of consultation of the workers is the right one was proved by the resulting industrial peace. Official figures show that the loss of man-days under the Labour Government average 8,477 “a week, as against 21.152 a week for the Menzies Government and 51,664 a week for the Fadden Government.

Despite this proof that the best way to secure industrial peace and maximum production was by having contented workers, men who could take a pride in their production, the majority of employers in private industry have not been willing to provide amenities in working conditions or a share for the workers in the management of their particular industry.

Much has been written in the press about absenteeism from industry, and the impression has been given that absenteeism in Australia is inordinately high. Ill-informed comment has also performed the disservice to the country of stirring resentment in the community generally against the industrial worker.

Recently industrial inspectors and health officers of the Commonwealth Industrial Welfare Division carried out an exhaustive inquiry into absenteeism and its causes. It is significant that one of its major recommendations to overcome unauthorized absence was to provide decent working conditions for workers.”

Mr SPEAKER (Hon J S Rosevear:

– No point of order is involved. The honorable member was quoting from a newspaper ; he was not reading his speech.

Mr MORGAN:

– That is the policy of the Government, and I appeal to honorable members on the other side to give the Government an opportunity to put its policy into effect. I realize that the Minister for Labour and National Service hits back pretty hard. In the fight between him and the Opposition the gloves seem to be off all the time. The policy of the Government to bring about co-operation in industry between employers and employees, and to improve the conditions of the workers, is designed to bring about an all-in war effort. In this direction the Government should have the co-operation of the Opposition and the press. It is all very well for the press to tell the Government and politicians where they get off, but before telling politicians to remove the mote from their eyes, the press should remove the beam from its own eye. I remind that section of the press which has been conducting a campaign against the Government to read the code of ethics recently adopted by the Australian Journalists Association. The president of the association, Mr. G. F. Godfrey, referring to this matter, said - “ In the knowledge that the press is the most powerful factor in moulding public opinion, and is, therefore, democracy’s strongest force for social progress “, said the president of the association (Mr. G. F. Godfrey) to-day, “ members of the New South Wales district of the Australian Journalists Association pledge themselves to stand by their fellow members in observing and enforcing the following code: -

  1. To report and interpret the news with scrupulous honesty.
  2. Not to suppress essential fact and not to distort the truth by omission or wrongful emphasis.
  3. To respect all confidences in all circumstances.
  4. To observe at all times the fraternity of their profession and never to take unfair advantage of a fellow member of the Australian Journalists Association.
  5. Never to accept any form of bribe nor to permit personal interest to influence their sense of justice.
  6. To use only honest methods to obtain news, pictures and documents.
  7. To reveal their identity as members of the press before using any personal interview or picture for publication.
  8. Always to maintain, through their conduct, full public confidence in the integrity and dignity of their calling. “ The great majority of pressmen “, added Mr. Godfrey, “ follow an unwritten code in the daily course of their activities, but New South Wales journalists believe that the acceptance of a written code will in itself be beneficial to the public mind in demonstrating the high ideals of the members in this State.”

I know that individual journalists are trying to carry out this code, and I hope that the editors of the newspapers in the capital cities of the Commonwealth will try to give effect to it, thus proving the contention of the president of the Australian Journalists’ Association that the press is the most powerful factor in moulding public opinion, and democracy’s best instrument for achieving progress. By applying this code the press would help to create national unity.

Mr HARRISON:
Wentworth

– I doubt whether, in the history of this Parliament, there has ever been such an unseemly spectacle as that presented to us during the debate on the motion submitted yesterday by the Leader of the Opposition (Mr. Fadden). Following his spirited attack upon the Government, we have witnessed an extraordinary series of incidents. First, the Prime Minister (Mr. Curtin), who is supposed to enjoy the confidence of the people, has violated that confidence and has brought his high office to a record “ low “. As a result of repeated accusations from the Opposition with regard to “ the Brisbane line “, the right honorable gentleman was eventually forced to acknowledge grudgingly the irrefutable facts placed before kim, and to accept them without modification. Then the Minister for Labour and National Service (Mr. Ward), who is responsible for this dastardly canard, rose in his place, and, notwithstanding the rebuttal by the Prime Minister, challenged the right honorable gentleman from the floor of the House and got away with it, as he has got away with many other challenges. He followed that up with another canard. He said that certain records had been taken from the files of the Advisory War Council. What confidence can the Opposition place in this Government? What confidence can the people repose in a Ministry that can descend to such ]mv levels in its efforts to retain office. Then the Prime Minister violates all the ethics of his high office by disclosing in a distorted manner a statement made by a Minister in the Menzies Government in a secret session.’ This is unforgiveable; it is disgusting and reprehensible in a marked degree. The whole incident is noxious to the people, and when this Government is forced to appeal to them they Will tell it what they think of it.

In a characteristic electioneering broadcast, such as one would expect to hear on the Sydney Domain, the Minister for Supply and Shipping (Mr. Beasley) took us back to the depression years. What can be said of a government which tries to justify its existence by what happened in 1931 and 1932? Difficulty is experienced by the Government in trying to justify its actions in the present war period, so he sought to transfer attention from their shortcomings to the Opposition. The Minister asked why members of the Opposition when they were in power were not Pacific-minded then with regard to our unreadiness. Who are the guilty men? I think that Ministers should look within their own ranks in order to find those who were responsible for Australia’s unpreparedness for war. I shall endeavour to expose them by drawing attention to a few extracts from the records of this Parliament? Selections from remarks made at some of the Australian Labour conferences would also make interesting reading. The claims made by speakers om the Government side would lead the people to suppose that the Labour party was entitled to the credit for what has been done in preparing this country to take its part in the present titanic struggle. In the short period allotted to the Menzies and Fadden Governments prior to, and at the outbreak of, the war, when they were endeavouring to prepare for a total Avar effort, members of the Labour party gave to them the maximum amount of opposition. I shall first arraign before this House the Prime Minister, who, according to Hansard, volume 157, page 1093, said, immediately after the Munich pact -

The international crisis has passed. The threatened danger is no longer as great as it was, for it must be apparent to every body that the Munich pact has lessened the probability of a European Avar in the near future. . .

Continuing, he said -

I say that any increase of defence expenditure after the Munich pact so far as Australia ‘ is concerned, appears to me to to be an utterly unjustifiable and hysterical piece of panic propaganda. That is what I say in respect of the alarmist statements that have been made.

Even at the time of the Munich pact, the then Opposition was prepared to disarm Australia. That is characteristic of the Labour party. The next member of the Government whom I shall bring before the House is the Minister for Social Services (Mr. Holloway). He said -

I do not charge the Government with not expending enough money on defence. I make it clear at the outset that I think it is expending too much. When a government begins to expend on defence money which should be used for the internal development of the country, then, in my opinion, it is doing wrong. The Government is expending much too rapidly on defence. It is making plans for more than the adequate defence of Australia. I make no excuse for saying that.

That statement was made when the government of the day tried to provide some modicum of protection for this country. I shall now refer to the Minister for Home Security (Mr. Lazzarini), who is referred to as the black-out or brown-out expert. According to the Sydney Morning Herald of the 22nd January, 1940, he stated -

All it (the enemy) could do would be to send a few aeroplanes, throw a few bombs, and, perhaps, send a few battleships to batter down some of Sydney, Melbourne, Brisbane and Adelaide. If they knocked down those cities we would solve our unemployment problem building them up again.

What an extraordinary statement from a man who is now a responsible Minister of the Crown !

I turn next to another irresponsible member of the Government, the Minister for Labour and National Service (Mr. Ward). In 1936 he gave his views on foreign affairs. Honorable members will find the reference at page 1570 of Hansard of that year. They were foreign as far as Australia was concerned. He remarked -

Surely no one imagines for one moment that if Australia were unfortunate enough to come under the heel of some foreign country the whole of the existing population would be wiped out of existence, or that the material conditions of the people relatively would be much worse than they are at present.

That is another extraordinary statement, seeing that it was made by a man who is now in complete control of the man-power of a country at war. Can we expect anything other than dastardly statements from this irresponsible “ cheer-chaser “ ? He speaks clearly, but when he is challenged regarding his observations he says that he has been misreported. According to Hansard of the 25th November, 1936, page 1570, this irresponsible Minister made a statement in which he tried to excuse Japan, arid it is rather interesting in view of his challenge to the right honorable member for Kooyong (Mr. Menzies) on the subject of pig iron. This is what he had to say about trade with Japan -

Japan is denied a market in this country, and it is only natural, therefore, that the Japanese should resent the treatment that they have received.

Mr Collins:

– Was it scrap iron or pig iron ?

Mr HARRISON:

– The right honor- able member for Kooyong was charged with having shipped pig iron to Japan, but as he has made his own ample explanations there is no need for me to go farther into that subject. Having dealt with Japan, this impartial, broadminded, gallant and very honorable gentleman from East Sydney made another broad sweep with his brush in the course of which he smudged in a most unsightly fashion an otherwise fairly well-smudged sheet of canvas, for he had this to say about Germany -

I should not be prepared to take up arms against the workers of any country, whether they be German or other nationality. As a matter of fact, because I am not prepared to do that, I am not prepared to tell others to do so.

There was a lot of truth in that statement, and it may be that the honorable gentleman, in the visits he still makes to workers at industrial establishments, is supporting the statements that I have read. Those observations indicate clearly the philosophy of the Minister. In 1938, according to Hansard, page 1149, volume 157, he made a statement in regard to New Guinea which comes strangely from a gentleman who has seen fit to charge the Menzies and Fadden Governments with failure to provide for the defence of Australia. This is what he said -

It is amusing to hear people say that we shall not give up New Guinea. To those people I would say that if it should become necessary to defend our mandated territory, they should defend it themselves. As far as I am concerned, all I can judge about the necessity for retaining New Guinea is that a handful of exploiters have got hold of the country, some interested in aerial transport, some in gold-mining, and some in the search for oil, which, according to reliable reports, has already been found. These people want to retain New Guinea in order to preserve their commercial interests.

Is that the present opinion of the Minister concerning the retention of New Guinea? Obviously it is. On the 3rd September, 1939, ‘ at page 1220 of Hansard, after the war broke out, the honorable gentleman made the following enlightened statement : -

The only sensible thing to do is to adopt the suggestion of the Leader of the Opposition (Mr. Curtin), namely, that instead of carrying on this stupid conflict ‘ that cannot bring benefit to the workers of any country, an effort should be made at the earliest possible moment to summon a conference of the major nations for the purpose of ending it.

I remind the House that at that time the Empire was at war and its very heart was being uncovered and exposed to deadly attack. We were fighting a titanic battle. Of course, the honorable gentleman was in Australia, many thousands of miles from the scene of the conflict, so his skin was safe.

Mr Spender:

– Peace by negotiation!

Mr HARRISON:

– The honorable gentleman was an isolationist pure and simple, and a pacifist in the third degree. He frequently attends meetings in his own electorate, and sp’eaking at a meeting in Darlinghurst, in the heart of hi3 electorate, on the 4th April, 1940, at a time when the Menzies Government was in office and was entitled to more than lip service from the Opposition, the honorable gentleman rendered only a twisted lip service, for he said -

There will he no vacillating in regard to my attitude to this war. Since the outbreak I have opposed it as one not in the interests of the working class. I am opposed to a force going overseas, and to reinforcements for any Australian force now overseas.

In other words, he was prepared to allow the noble ranks of the Australian Imperial Force in Libya to fall away, for he would not support any move to reinforce them. In his opinion, the 9th Division should have been allowed to face disintegration. He would first have forced the formation of smaller battalions, and then he would have allowed the whole strength to disappear though the men were fighting a wonderful battle in the interests of this country. The then Opposition, which is the Government of to-day, voted against every proposal of the then Government which was designed to gear up the country to a total war effort. It had already voted against the sending of the Australian Imperial Force abroad. It had opposed Australian participation in the Empire Air Training Scheme and it had resisted every move to increase the efficiency of the Australian Military Forces. The Empire Air Training Scheme, of course, has brought a reflected glory to this country. Australians trained under that scheme have rendered magnificent service on numerous battlefronts. They gave air cover to our troops fighting in Libya, and they have. fought heroically in assuring air supremacy for the allied forces. The attitude of honorable gentlemen of the Labour party when they were sitting in opposition, made it impossible for the government of the day to secure the full co-operation that was necessary to enable the nation to make a maximum Avar effort.

The Minister for Supply and Shipping (Mr. Beasley) said that until this Government assumed office Labour had occupied the treasury bench in this Parliament for only two years in more than two decades. I have no particular wish to go back to the history of those times, but the Minister did not mention to us the details of the Premiers plan nor did he refer to certain actions taken by the Scullin Government during the days of the depression. He did not tell us, either, that he was one of the persons guilty of causing one of the most serious cleavages in the ranks of the Labour party in the whole of its history. Honorable gentlemen opposite do not like to be reminded of the peccadilloes that arise in their own ranks from time to time, but in view of the charges that have been made against the Menzies and Fadden Governments in respect of their defence administration I feel justified in mentioning that the Scullin Government closed the Duntroon Military College which was the only institution in the Commonwealth for the training of military staff officers. It attempted to cut out the Army altogether. It also closed Jervis Bay Naval Training College, which was our only institution for the training of naval personnel. In addition, it completely abandoned the system of compulsory military training which previously had been the backbone of our defence system. In view of these actions it is not surprising that the Government remained in office for only two years. It is necessary for us to examine history to ascertain the records of these guilty men. Right up to the time of the outbreak of the war honorable gentlemen opposite continued their isolationist and antiAustralian propaganda. Their attitude was anti-British to the n-th degree. In support of my statement I bring to the notice of honorable members a most interesting pamphlet that was printed some time ago over the signature of Max Brodney, Box 39, Trades Hall, Melbourne. It consisted of a statement by John Curtin in support of Labour’s policy on defence. I shall content myself with quoting the heading, which was, “ Corruption, Treachery and Reaction “, and reading the final paragraph, which was extraordinary. It was -

Therefore, stand together in defiant protest against an infamous and unconstitutional proclamation intended to wreck your unionism, lessen your standard of subsistence, terrorize yow hearth and home, and manacle you and your children. Refuse to be bullied or lied or voted into the slavery of military control, under which your progress - the admiration of the world - will bo stayed and your life made unendurable.

Already behind the scenes the foe is in high glee at the “ split “ he has successfully manoeuvred in the Labour movement by breeding an insolent disregard of the mandate of the rank and file. For the rank and file it is now or never that it must justify itself, its rights and its duties.

Fellow workers, trades unionism is your trendies, emancipation is your flag, solidarity is your bayonet, and the stop-work meeting your machine gun.

It seems to me that many of the machine guns of the stop-work brand are being fired to-day within the ranks of industrial labour. It is clear from this pamphlet that at that time the Prime Minister was opposed to compulsory military service. Industrial labour is still opposed to that policy. These machine guns of the stop-work brand are fully loaded even to-day, and are being brought into action in various places week by week.

On the 24th March, 1940, long after the outbreak of the war and at a period when the Empire was fighting for its very existence, the New South Wales branch of the Australian Labour party by 195 votes to 88 passed an anti-British resolution which contained the following statements : -

We declare that the Australian people have nothing to gain from the continuance of .the war. The management of this war in the hands of the anti-Labour Menzies Government, in association with the anti-Labour Chamberlain Government, means that the war is being pursued in the interests of big finance and monopolists. Conference is opposed to Australian participation in oversea conflicts. The Labour party unhesitatingly demands that no Australian troops be permitted to leave Australia.

Mr MORGAN:
REID, NEW SOUTH WALES · ALP

– That motion was not carried at an Official Labour party conference.

Mr HARRISON:

– The resolution clearly indicated the attitude of the party, and I ask honorable members to give close consideration to the sentiments expressed in it. The Minister may find the guilty men among those who supported this subverse and disloyal resolution.

I direct .attention now to a published report of the Australasian Council of Trade Unions conference, held on the 18th April, 1940, in which statements appear that reek with disloyal, subversive, antiwar and anti-British sentiments. No doubt the contents of this report were of a delectable flavour to some people, but to many honorable* members of this House they will be distasteful in the extreme.

This motion, which was proposed by Mr. Crofts, a member of the executive, supporting the war against Hitler and fascism, was carried by only two votes; 68 delegates voted for it and 66 against it. The following is a comment that was made at the time: -

The constantly recurring strikes in the coal mines in New South Wales and Victoria, the strikes of the builders’ labourers and carpenters building munitions works and camps for the soldiers, and at the military hospital at Heidelberg for soldiers, sailors and airmen wounded in this war, the strikes at the Maribyrnong and Deer Park munition works, the aircraft factory, the small arms factory at Lithgow, .the ship-building yards at Williamstown, and at the wharfs at Darwin and Sydney, explain why our men who enlisted in the Australian Imperial Force and the Royal Australian Air Force to defend us were not armed as well as the enemy forces were armed, and .that is why they were forced out of Greece, Crete, Malaya and overwhelmed in Singapore.

The enemy had more bombers, fighter planes, tanks, artillery and tommy guns than our men. Was that because Australians on the home front will not work as hard or as constantly to arm our defenders as the Germans and Japanese work to arm their forces? While Mr. Ward’s ministerial colleagues were squealing for help from Great Britain and America, some of their supporters were still ordering stop-work “ meetings and strikes.

While the Prime Minister was appealing to the United States of America to come to our aid, he was not prepared to send one of our men to the aid of a sister dominion should it be in great distress. I have no doubt that quite a number of honorable members opposite still use the machine gun of stop- work meetings about which the Prime Minister spoke so many years ago. The use of the strike weapon still happens to be their established policy. The instigators of strikes and go-slow tactics pretend that they are defending the standard of living. In reality, the personnel of the Royal Australian Air Force, the Australian Imperial Force and the Royal Australian Navy are fighting and laying down their lives in order to preserve the standard of living in Australia, not the go-slow strikers and absentees, not those who would use the machine gun of stopwork meetings in order to hold up production. There may be different reasons for the strikes that have occurred than those with which we have been fobbed oft, because clause 2 of the amendment that was submitted to the motion proposed at the AH Australian Trades Union Congress, which I invite the House to note particularly, stated inter alia -

Wc recommend that on the declaration of war, organized labour should resolve itself into a council of action .to obstruct military operations by direct action or other means.

There is something very significant and sinister in that phrase “other means”. We know what is meant by “ direct action “ but “ other means “ leaves a very nasty taste in the mouths of honorable members who sit on this side of the House. [Extension of time granted.] I suggest to the Minister for Supply and Shipping (Mr. Beasley) that some of those guilty men to whom he referred as being responsible for the unpreparedness of Australia, and who, he said, were to be found in the ranks of the Opposition, may be identical with the authors of the resolutions and statements that I have read.

Let me proceed a little further in this regard. The Prime Minister has taken to himself a lot of credit for the appointment of General MacArthur as the Commander-in-Chief of the Allied Forces hi the South- West Pacific Area. I agree with the right honorable gentleman that the appointment of General MacArthur to that position was probably one of the best things that could have happened to Australia. But I ask him to state why, having made the appointment, he did not give to this Commander-in-‘Chief of our forces everything for which he asked in order that he might prosecute a war that would reflect credit upon not only Australia but also all its allies. I have a very lively recollection of the right honorable gentleman saying that, if he were asked for anything by General MacArthur he would not await the result of debate, but would, give it to him.

Mr CURTIN:
ALP

– Hear, hear! That still stands.

Mr HARRISON:

– The Prime Minister says, “hear, hear”. I accept this assurance, but I remind him that he did wait upon the doorstep of a trades union conference, with cap in hand, seeking permission to introduce legislation. The right honorable gentleman certainly waited upon his masters, if not upon debate. Was the permission that he sought granted to him? Of course it was not! This conference to which I have referred said to the Prime Minister of this country, the first citizen in the land.. “ Look here, my good fellow, go away and compose yourself for a fortnight. Then come back to us and we shall tell you what we will allow you to do “. In a fortnight’s time the Prime Minister returned. I have no doubt that he scratched upon the door in the approved fashion, asking permission to join the gathering. When he was admitted, did he obtain permission to consent to the use of the whole of the Australian forces within the area mentioned by General MacArthur, an area that I shall not define but which was shown to us in the right honorable gentleman’s cwn room? Of course not! The area that has been defined excludes Lord Howe Island and leaves it in the South Pacific Area. It misses Malaya, cuts Java in half, and, travelling along the equator, splits in twain a number of the islands that have been referred to as the vital perimeter of Australia, with the result that, as the right honorable member for Kooyong (Mr. Menzies) has said in a bitterly facetious way, every battalion will need to have a battalion astronomer in order to determine when the line has been crossed and the order may be given, “ Halt the C.M.F. ; forward the A.I.F. “. All credit is due to the Prime Minister for having asked that General MacArthur be sent to Australia ; but he is not entitled to any credit for having hamstrung the endeavours of that officer to conduct a total war throughout the South-West Pacific Area. There is nothing strange in this; because, has he not said that Australia is entirely free from the likelihood of invasion? He must have known this a long, long time ago. But if we are free from invasion, what is to be done with the Australian Military Forces? Are they to be kept within the boundaries of Australia, and allowed to operate only within a circumscribed area ? Are the black troops which we would not permit to enter Australia under peace-time conditions, but which we have allowed our American allies to bring with them, to be left with the task of preserving to us our White Australia policy, whilst our own men remain in a country which the Prime Minister has said is free from invasion; or does he intend that all our forces shall be converted into one array and be given an opportunity to move forward to a total conquest? That is the question which is on the lips of every thinking person in Australia to-day. Who has made Australia free from invasion? Notwithstanding the wonderful fighting qualities and bravery of the Australian Imperial Force, it could not have achieved that result unaided. It has been achieved with the help of those who have been regimented, made into one army, and sent to protect Australia. There is nothing strange in what has occurred, because there is not an ex-soldier in the War Cabinet. How can the members of that Cabinet be expected to understand the ramifications of defence?

Mr Makin:

– That statement is not true.

Mr HARRISON:

– The sole exception, for overlooking whom I apologize, is my friend the Minister for War Organization of Industry (Mr. Dedman). Everything that has been done has resulted in chaos within the Army itself. The Citizen Military Forces and the Australian Imperial Force are not a particularly harmonious force. It is a great pity that they were not welded into one army, in which event all the differences that now exist between them would be resolved. This chaotic bungling is perpetuating embarrassment and ill-feeling between these boys, and it should not be tolerated by this country for one minute longer.

I draw attention to the differentiation that exists in the industrial and other conditions that are applied ‘to the men of the Civil Constructional Corps in New Guinea, and the men who are fighting -not only in the Owen Stanley Range, in jungle swamps and mire, but in camps a few hundred yards away. I have in my hand an interesting extract from an article that was written by Mr. Allan Jones in regard to a luncheon menu that was prepared for the men of the Civil Constructional Corps. I invite honorable members to compare it with the bully beef and hard tack that are served up to the men who are fighting to preserve the standards of living of this country. This is the menu of a corps that has been given a war loading, and enjoys conditions that are entirely different from any that are applied to any other regimented corps in the history of the world.

Mr Pollard:

– Many of them are exsoldiers.

Mr HARRISON:

– A lot of them are not. I have the highest regard for returned soldiers.

Mr Pollard:

– Many of them have brothers who are soldiers and fathers who are ex-soldiers.

Mr HARRISON:

– Some of the bricklayers, carpenters and other young men up there at the moment are not exsoldiers. The luncheon for the day in respect of which the article was written consisted of pork luncheon meat with baked potatoes and fresh cabbage, a rice and sultana sweet and tea. There was a plentiful supply of bread and butter on the table, and three different varieties of jam. The correspondent was told that the workers had breakfasted that day on oatmeal porridge, bacon and chipped potatoes, bread and butter, and strawberry, quince and peach jams. For the evening meal, they were to sit down to fresh roast beef and potatoes, with onion gravy, and apple pie. For afternoon tea they could have hot scones and cake, and before going to. bed, two men to a tent, they could make themselves a cup of tea. They were within a few hundred yards of men in the fighting services who were bedded down under war-time conditions and were living on bully beef and biscuits. These pampered Civil Constructional Corps workers, who had been regimented by a Labour government, lived under luxurious conditions compared with men of the services, who were fighting to preserve Australian standards of living. In addition, the members of the Civil Constructional Corps are paid almost fabulous wages - as much as £20 a week is paid to an assistant cook - whereas soldiers fight for 6s. 6d. a day. The Minister for Air (Mr. Drakeford) laughs. He laughs because he knows that his vote3 come chiefly from industrial workers.

That brings me to the man-power muddle. This country is unfortunate in having as Minister for labour and National Service a man who is particularly class conscious, and “ butts into “ every argument whether or not he has any knowledge of the subject under discussion. “ The Brisbane line “ controversy reminds me of an irresponsible, dirty little boy who. plays with mud, and spreads it everywhere he goes. The person responsible for the man-power bungle is the Minister for Labour and National ‘Service. He seeks, by subterfuge and cunning, not only to socialize and regiment the people under a system of compulsory unionism, but also to control almost every detail of their lives. He is the complete commissar. He foments strikes and dissension wherever he goes; he refuses to implement regulations promulgated under the authority of the Prime Minister. To-day we have strikes and dissension on the waterfront, with the result that men of the fighting services, who have been sent home on leave from New Guinea and Darwin have had to be called on to load and unload vessels, whilst wharf labourers whose job it is to deal with the cargoes of vessels, sat by and watched them. It is significant that these soldiers, most of whom are without experience in loading and unloading ships, have performed from 50 to 75 per cent, more work than is done by experienced wharf labourers. Moreover, the soldiers do it for only 6s. 6d. a day.

Sir Frederick Stewart:

– And the Government is taking from the shipping people the full amount of wages for such work, and paying the balance into Consolidated Revenue.

Mr HARRISON:

– Yes; the Government is profiteering at the expense of soldiers who, instead of getting the leave to which they are justly entitled, have to do the work of the wharf labourers. Let us consider the facts. A vessel which is to travel in convoy must leave port at a pre-arranged time, otherwise it may miss the convoy. [Further extension of time granted.] I thank honorable members for the further extension of time, as it enables me to place these facts before the country. Honorable members know what is. happening- in the waters adjoining our coast; they know how important it is that ships travel in convoy, as otherwise they may be sunk, and human lives, as well as valuable cargoes, be lost. But what do we find? One ship, which was supposed to sail in convoy on the 17th February last was unable to do so, because the engineering tradesmen refused to work overtime on account of a refusal to grant them’ 2s. tea money. I shall not give the whole of the details of that incident, although there is no harm now in mentioning the date, but I shall give to the House some extracts from a statement of Judge O’Mara on the subject -

I am not going into the merits of that. You made a statement of fact which appeared to me to demand investigation. I am not going to investigate it or decide it one way or the other. If, for the purpose of obtaining about 2s. tea money for two or three days, men are prepared to prevent a ship joining with a convoy to which it was to have been attached, that seems to me to be a matter which ought to be looked into; and all I am going to do is, if you give me the names, declare what the obligations are under the award, and let those who are responsible for the enforcement of the law look into it.

That is another of those “ machine-gun stop-work “ meetings, of which the Prime Minister spoke some time ago.

Let us consider some other strikes which have occurred recently. Last night the honorable member for New England (Mr. Abbott) gave some examples. I shall comment on two of them. The first was the refusal of men to work on Anzac Day - the day which commemorates the birth of Australia as a nation.

Mr Mulcahy:

– Many of the strikers were returned soldiers.

Mr HARRISON:

– I challenge that statement. Out of that strike another strike, in which some wives of service men are concerned, has arisen at the works of Duly and Hansford Proprietary Limited. These women aimed at a maximum production of supplies for the troops, but because they would not join a union, between 700 and 800 employees went out on strike. The women have been subjected to the crudest and cruellest form of intimidation possible. Even the storm troopers of the Nazis could not have treated them worse. The women then said that they would be prepared to join a union on the following conditions: - First, that the union would guarantee that there would be no stoppage of work in war-time ; secondly, that it would abide by the decision of the Arbitration Court, even if it went against the union; and, thirdly, that a secret ballot should be taken before a strike was decided on. It is rather strange that one of the conditions should be acceptance of the decisions of the Arbitration Court by. the union, when the law provides that disputes in industry shall be dealt with by the Arbitration Court. The Arbitration Court has been fair game for the Minister for Labour and National Service, who has sought to supplant it and to direct its officers what they shall do. We cannot wonder that men in industry go on strike when a Minister holding a responsible position incites them to do so. Let us see the action taken in connexion with this dispute. First, Mr. Bellemore, the Deputy Director of Man Power in New South Wales, interviewed the women and told them that he could send them to the “ back of Bourke “ if they were not prepared to join a union; but that did not make any impression on them. Accordingly, other action had to be taken; and so Mr. “Jock” Garden, who, honorable members will recall, was associated with the slogan, “Lang is greater than Lenin “, interviewed the women and said, “ I can give you war work up to your neck in dirt if you do not joint a union “. He is an authority on dirt. Honorable members will recall that during the seamen’s strike he said to some of his associates, when action against non-unionists was proposed - “ remember, dead men tell no tales “. Referring to these non-unionist women, Mr. Tannock, M.L.C., described them as ‘ loathsome toads “. The great majority of workers in Australia to-day are nonunionists, and they will remember that epithet at the next election. An election has a wonderfully chastening influence on my friends opposite; they will do almost anything to secure votes. A number of returned soldiers who fought in Libya, Greece, Crete and New Guinea, and are working in munitions factories in Australia to-day, are not trade unionists. They must subsequently come under the caption of “ loathsome toads “ that Mr. Tannock so generously spread about in his remarks in the Upper House of the New South Wales Parliament. Those men have been fighting to preserve his miserable hide, because he is of an age which could have taken him to the last war, as it could have taken quite a large number of honorable members opposite. Those who apply such a name to them will have a pretty parcel of trouble on their hands before the general elections are over. It is remarks of that kind that are forcing the people to withdraw their confidence from the Government, and causing honorable members on this side of the House no longer to repose any trust in it. Those are the people who, with the consent of the Government, are exploiting the country and building up extraordinary conditions under that wonderful machine-gun stop-work-meeting policy of the Prime Minister, at the expense of the fighting men of Australia. They are building up conditions of high wages, absenteeism in ordinary time, and double pay for overtime, during a period of war-time emergency, and creating standards that they are not game to go out and protect. Let me give another instance of the control exercised by the Minister for Labour and National Service and his Deputy Director of Man Power, Mr. Bellemore, to expose the fascist tendency of their policy. It is the case of a little girl who fell in love with an American major. She applied for permission to go to America to marry him, and obtained a visa from the American Consul, a permit from the Department of the Interior, and a clearance from the Taxation Department. She also got together all the goods, that she would require. ,She went to Mr. Bellemore, who said that he could not allow her to leave Australia. I saw him and said to him, “If this lass happened to be married, would you let her go?” He said, “Yes”. I said, “ Had she happened to be in an interesting condition would you have let her go?” He replied, “Yes, I would”. I said to him, “I see, then you place a premium on. immorality, because you would permit this girl to go if she were in a certain condition or married, but will not let her go because she is single “.

I put it to the House that that shows the extraordinary control exercised by officials over the life and happiness of ordinary individuals in Australia. The powers of these men are assuming proportions which were never dreamt of in the greatest fascist philosophy. I know of no set of conditions under the strictest fascist regime that would approximate to these. In Australia, these men now have the right to enter dwellings, stop one in the street and check up identity cards, question one in any place of amusement, and exercise unnecessary authority. For all these reasons, I shall support the motion of no-confidence against the Government.

Mr MAKIN:
Minister for the Navy and Minister for Munitions · Hindmarsh · ALP

– The speech that we have just listened to by the honorable member for Wentworth (Mr. Harrison) does a terrific disservice to Australia at a time which should call for the highest effort that the manhood of this country can possibly make in its service. It is, however, characteristic of the honorable member and those with whom he associates. It indicates that even the most delicate aspects of private life are to him things to be made the subject of a cheap jeer when he wishes to tell a story to the House. All clean-minded and respectable men and women must feel the greatest contempt for an utterance of that description, coming from a man- who breaks the ordinary canons of decency. The honorable member has to-night branded himself forever as a man of extravagant utterances, without the ability to appreciate the very serious situation of the moment. He can certainly get right down into the sewer. These are the alleged constructive thoughts of a member of the National Service group, and of a man who is on its headquarters staff, a man who retreats from the front to the back ‘bench, and carries out the very strategy of defence by retreat for which his own party stands. He is possibly now in. his right place, and if he be permitted in the future to take any part in the public life of this country he will no doubt bc required to remain there for many days to come. He was to-night responsible for an inexcusable indiscretion, because he brought into the debate, among statements about contentious political issues, a matter relating to the Supreme Commander of the SouthWest Pacific Area. We have no right to discuss in the realm of politics any demand made by that officer upon this country in our fight for freedom. The honorable member’s indiscretion lay in saying that General Douglas MacArthur made a demand upon the Prime Minister. That statement is untrue. Evidently the honorable member will stoop to the lowest depths of vilification. He has brought within the ambit of this debate those who have every right to expect us to honour and respect the position that they occupy in the defence service of this country. I record my strong disapproval of the honorable member’s action. After listening to this tirade of abuse, and the vilification that he has sought to heap upon this Government, I recall that he and his associates on the other side of the House have been indicating their sincere desire to be identified with honorable members on this side in a national government. Could any reasonable and honorable man, possessed of the least element of decency, and having regard for his own integrity and honour, agree to associate himself in a government with a man who had such an opinion of him as the honorable member for Wentworth expressed to-night? Honorable members of this side have too much regard for their good name and reputation to be identified with any one who would descend to such depths as the honorable member plumbed. Nothing is too base for him. I was aware, before the House met this week, that there was to be a concerted effort on the part of honorable members of the Opposition to destroy the good reputation and honoured position that the Prime Minister enjoys in the estimation of the people of Australia. They realize that they cannot destroy this Government upon its record in office, and they know that the Prime Minister’s name stands very high in the opinion of the people in view of his personal character and capable leadership, so they feel that they have to do something desperate to bring him down. For a miserable political end they are prepared to make the most ungenerous and slanderous statements in an effort to defame one of the greatest Australians who has ever lived - a man who has rendered to this country services that in the future will cause him to he regarded as one of the most able of our public men. Honorable members opposite cannot even be honorable towards one another. What was it that brought this Government into power to give leadership and stability to the conduct of the affairs of the nation? It was the internecine warfare engaged in by honorable members opposite, who could not even be loyal to one another. I am reminded that that condition of affairs still prevails among them. It is still part of the stock-in-trade of those gentlemen, who to-night have tried to defame one who has served his country in the highest place, and in its hour of its direst need and peril. Not one honorable gentleman opposite could aspire either to show the high excellence of character of the Prime Minister or to equal the conspicuous public service that the right honorable gentleman has rendered at all times and especially since he has been at the head of affairs in the days of the nation’s direst peril.

For weeks the Opposition has been gravely disturbed by the fact that the time is imminent when it shall be required by the people to answer to them for the serious plight in which it left the Commonwealth after having occupied the treasury bench, almost without interruption, for about 25 years. The parties opposite, up to the time of the last general elections, were the most comfortably circumstanced government in the history of the Commonwealth. When in power they always had a substantial majority in both Houses, and, even when out of office, they hare had a majority in the Senate. They had the opportunity, but not the will, to take the steps necessary to ensure the safety of the Commonwealth, but they frittered away the years, with the result that, when they left office, almost on the eve of the outbreak of war against Japan, Australia was found to be almost utterly powerless even to resist invasion, let alone to stave’ it off. Little wonder that honorable gentlemen opposite quail at the prospect of the general elections, for they know full well what the people’s verdict will be. The electors will adjudge them guilty men and pronounce the sentence of oblivion. Like drowning men clutching at straws they are desperately trying to make it appear that the Minister for Labour and National Service has misrepresented “ the Brisbane line “ strategy and all its implications. No matter what technical points the Opposition may raise in trying to elude responsibility for the condition of Australia’s defences, which was the precedent necessary to the formulation of that plan, it will not be able to avoid the bald fact that “ the Brisbane line “ did exist. Records prove it. Immediately after this Government took office, the General Officer Commanding the Home Forces reported to the Government that on the forces available - I remind the House that our predecessors, have had about 25 years in which to prepare - it would be impossible to resist the enemy everywhere and that the general staff could only try to draw a cordon around and defend the important industrial portions of Australia, particularly those between Newcastle and Port Kembla or, if possible, the area from Brisbane to Melbourne. I challenge the Opposition to show that there was one anti-aircraft gun north of Brisbane at that time. I will show the honorable member for Barker (Mr. Archie Cameron), who seems keen to be heard, in his true colours, not as an ‘ authority on defence, but as a false prophet, by reading a prophesy which he made in this House as late as August, 1937, when he said -

The Leader of the Opposition was good enough to tell the House this afternoon of the manner in which we could save expense by placing our reliance upon an air force. This fetish of the air force is one of the most cruel things ever put across humanity. The idea that aircraft are going to light the next war is absolutely wrong. Aircraft will, undoubtedly, play a big part; but their principal duty will be to obtain information. The defensive capacity of aircraft, on account of the heights at which the machines can fly, is very uncertain; it is so easy for thom to evade one another. Their limited capacity for hitting targets by bombing has been proven in Shanghai quite recently, where the poor old Chinaman, in trying to hit a Japanese warship, bombed the International Settlement. That is not the only occasion on which that has occurred; if we required any lesson on the futility of aircraft as the means of arriving at a quick decision in war, we can obtain it in Spain to-day, where at least four European powers are fighting each other by proxy with some of the best aircraft and the best armoured vehicles that science can produce; yet, during the last few months, there hae been a stalemate in the war in that rather unfortunate country. When it comes to placing reliance for the defence of our country entirely on aircraft, I doubt whether the Opposition has given consideration to the fact that aircraft become obsolete even more quickly than units of the fleet. To-day flying machines are obsolete almost before they have taken to the a.ir.

That drivel came from a man who tries to impress upon the House that he is a strategist. I believe not only that when this Government took office there was not one anti-aircraft gun north of Brisbane, but also that there were grave shortages in all directions. I do not ask the country to accept my word for that. I bolster it with facts contained in an article by a staff correspondent of the Sydney Morning Herald, one of the most reputable journals of this country, but one. which certainly could not be described as being a partisan of this Government. On the 18 th March last the Sydney Morning Herald’s correspondent stated -

Memories are short, and a succession of recent Allied victories from Gona-Buna to Guadalcanal, from the Coral Sea to the Bismarck Sea, relegate to the shades of history the bad, dark days of March, 1942, when, illprepared to face an all-out Japanese assault, Australia lay wide open to invasion by air, sea and land.

Singapore had gone. So had Java, Rabaul and Salamaua. We were surprised at Darwin by 90 Japanese bombers. Round a 12,000-mile coast-line an intried Australian army stood at bay behind barbed wire.

The pick of our land forces (four divisions of the Australian Imperial Force) were abroad, or still on the water, and 15,000 of them were prisoners of the Japanese. We were short of rifles, machine-guns, tommy-guns, tanks and ammunition. Our Navy, totally unfitted to face the Japanese alone, had lost two cruisers and had seen the decimation of British and Dutch squadrons in the Java Sea and at Singapore.

Knowing how ill-equipped Australia was, one can scarcely wonder that when the Japanese made lightning-like progress through Malaya and the Dutch East Indies almost to the shores of this country morale sank so low that even State authorities contemplated the evacuation pf the civil population from what were regarded as the more vulnerable areas. That was the legacy we inherited, and it is no wonder that those honorable members who left it to us fear the searchlight of public opinion on the disclosures that have been made about their inadequacies as administrators. In spite of this motion of the Leader of the Opposition which challenges our right to hold office, I do not believe that the Opposition seriously thinks that the people will wipe the slate clean and give it another chance to conduct the affairs of the Commonwealth. The ranks of the Opposition members have been split by party disloyalists. When members of a party cannot be loyal one to another, how could they have been loyal to the Commonwealth, and supplied its needs ? But this party, in the eighteen months or so that it has held office, has so secured the safety of Australia that the drooping morale of the people when the Japanese armies plunged toward us has given way to heightened spirits. That is the best answer to those who accuse this Government of having failed to do its duty to the country. Ask the Australian people whether their- cities have been laid waste and the answer will be “ No “, and honest people will say “ No “ if they are asked whether they have had to go without one thing necessary to their comfort and well-being. That those two questions can be answered in the negative with the enemy standing on the very perimeter of this continent i3 entirely owing to the measures taken by this Government to protect our people who were so long neglected by those who preceded us. That is a definite answer to those who would leave the impression that we have been recreant to our trust and have failed to do our duty to the land.

Mention has been made of rationing in this country; but I say that any one who would compare unfavorably the sacrifices that the people of this country are being called upon to make with those that are being made by other countries with which we are intimately associated in this war, should hang his head in shame. Although honorable members opposite seek to criticize the Government for its alleged shortcomings in many directions, when it comes to a department in respect of which they are unable to offer any criticism because its record stands second to none, an endeavour i3 made to claim much of the credit for what has been accomplished. I recognize that in the early stages of the war the Menzies and Fadden Governments did have certain ideas in regard to the expansion of munitions projects in this country, and at this stage I should like to state that I deprecate strongly the action of the right honorable member for Kooyong (Mr. Menzies) and the honorable member for “Warringah (Mr. Spender) in introducing into this debate in a manner calculated to suggest an association with party politics, the name of Mr. Essington Lewis. If I know Mr. Essington Lewis, as I think I do, I am sure that he will despise any one who seeks to use his name in that way. He has too high a conception of honour and service to his country to allow himself to be made the plaything of politics. If he had an opportunity to express an opinion I am sure that he would voice indignation at the attempts that have been made by honorable members opposite to make it appear that the wonderful work that he has accomplished was due in some strange way to the administration of the Menzies or Fadden Governments. The results that have been achieved are in themselves ample testimony to the loyal and able service which Mr. Essington Lewis and many other men associated with munitions production have rendered to this country. The right honorable member for Kooyong never tires of claiming credit for the vast development of our munitions programme; but figures provide an effective answer to that. Up to September, 1941 - the month immediately preceding that in which the Fadden Government was obliged to hand over the administration of this country to the present Government £28,600,000 had been expended on government munitions establishments ; up to the end of last month the figure had risen to £55,000,000. The figures for private industry are respectively, £5,200,000 and £17,500,000 ; purchases of materials, £14,300,000 and £35,000,000; purchases of machine tools, £6,500,000 and £20,000,000; and shipbuilding and ship repairs, £6,000,000 and £12,000,000. In regard to electricity supply for which no provision was made by previous administrations, the expenditure has now reached £500,000, and, similarly, although no provision was made by its predecessors for the purchase of new rolling stock for railways, expenditure in that avenue has now reached £1,600,000.

Mr Collins:

– But war conditions have altered greatly.

Mr MAKIN:

– I remind the honorable member for Hume (Mr. Collins) of what has been done at a place where he and I happened to meet shortly after I became Minister for Munitions. The honorable member knows that the people of that locality were grievously disappointed because of the procrastination, indecision and delay that had taken place under a previous administration in regard to the establishment of a munitions factory. “When I assumed office I was able to go to that town with a definite promise that a factory would be erected there. Furthermore, I immediately made the final selection of a site upon which the factory was to be erected. Previously, there had been only a nebulous idea in regard to the erection of that establishment. No definite action had been taken and the people of the township had become so exasperated with that state of affairs that a deputation waited at the Albury railway station asking me if I would visit that centre with a view to taking some definite steps. [Extension of time granted.] That was the position not only with regard to that particular factory, but with regard to many undertakings. Of some of the major munitions factories in operation to-day, all that existed when I came into office were the blue-prints. It was the task of this Government to provide the finance for these projects, the personnel to carry out the Constructional work, and the operatives to staff them. Also, when this Government assumed office it found that all our munitions factories were situated on our vulnerable coast-line, and were open to attack by the enemy. There had been no attempt to decentralize our war industries. It fell to the lot of this Government to undertake and complete many factories which were only in the planning stage at the end of 1941, and in addition we have undertaken the establishment of 24 factories in country areas. Some of these are now in operation and others are in the course of construction. The following figures are extremely interesting : in September, 1941, we had six government munitions factories and 76 armament annexes employing 37,789 operatives; at the end of last month, we had 4S government factories in operation or in advanced stages of construction, 178 armament annexes, and the total number of operatives had grown to 79,000. The result has been that we have been able to increase greatly production of all types of munitions. Taking production in December, 1942, with an index figure of 100 the following are the figures for the respective articles: artillery, 4,830, rifles, 800, machine guns, 741, small arms ammunition, 406, gun ammunition and fuses, 1,984, and aircraft bombs, 2!2,326. These figures are evidence of the remarkable progress that has been achieved with the loyal support of the many thousands of men and women engaged in our munitions industry to-day.

I am pleased to state that in all our undertakings we have received the greatest co-operation and the utmost loyalty from our employees. Honorable members opposite like to exaggerate and advertise those dislocations which are inevitable in a programme of this kind, but I am able to inform them that no stoppage of a major character has occurred to interrupt the flow of munitions. There may have been isolated stoppages, but no major stoppage has occurred in our munitions programme,

Mr Spender:

– What about the dispute at Lithgow?

Mr MAKIN:

– By no stretch of the imagination can that dispute be said to have involved any major problem. I have given sufficient facts to reveal the splendid record the Government has achieved in the manufacture of munitions. Whilst honorable members opposite accept every opportunity to condemn the Government’s war effort, Lord Burghley, speaking over the air only to-night to the people of Australia, expressed his admiration of the splendid efforts this country has made, and is making, in supplying the United Kingdom with food and munitions. He paid a tribute to the achievements of our fighting forces, and to our people as a whole for the effort we are making to preserve the cherished rights for which we are fighting in our great crusade against the common enemy. A few months ago another distinguished visitor to Australia, Mr. Brockington, in an address to his fellow countrymen in

Canada, also paid a tribute to the magnificent work our people are doing in this war. To-day, the Government is able to point to a record in the prosecution of the war of which honorable members opposite are extremely envious, and which they would like to claim for themselves. However, the’ fact is that most credit for this country’s achievements in this conflict is due to this Government, and to those who have co-operated with it in order to make a maximum war effort. In addition to making a substantial contribution to the common cause of the United Nations, we have established a notable record in the direct defence of our own country.

When I assumed office as Minister for Munitions I detected a certain degree of laxity with regard to costing methods employed in the department. .1 immediately proceeded to tighten up the costing system generally. The following comparative costs indicate that substantial savings have resulted: -

Substantial savings have been made in respect of all the items manufactured- by the department. These facts are evidence of the splendid service which is being given to the country by the officers in charge of the various branches of the department, “and those who work under them. These men and women are serving Australia as loyally and as faithfully as any citizen could possibly serve it. Due to the efforts that have been made by Australia’s sons and daughters in the factories, the members of our fighting services can now meet the enemy at least on even terms as far as equipment is concerned. We have ensured that in this respect at all events it will not be the old story of too little too late. Whereas during the regime of the Menzies Government, the number of tanks in this country could be counted on the fingers of one hand, to-day we have twelve months’ reserves. In the face of these facts, the vilification of the Government indulged in by honorable members opposite will not damn its record. Those honorable gentlemen have also sought to slander the good name of the Prime Minister. We can confidently stand upon the record of the Government. The very fact that this country is free from the immediate menaces which threatened it when Japan entered the war is eloquent testimony of the sound and effective administration of this Government and to the magnificent leadership of the Prime Minister as well as the loyalty of his colleagues. He has led this country through the dark days of despair, and to-day, we are assured of victory. We can now look forward with every confidence to the days of peace, and the continued well-being of our people.

Mr HOLT:
Fawkner

.- The Prime Minister (Mr. Curtin) has been brought up in the hard school of trade union politics and that experience has given’ him a political cunning which he has revealed very clearly in the tactics he has employed in this debate. First, he has directed that the debate shall be of a non-stop variety. He has used the specious argument that great international decisions are hanging in the balance so long as this debate proceeds. He asks, “How can my Government involve this country in obligations overseas until I know definitely the outcome of this debate? “ While these tremendous decisions hang in the balance we must go on with the debate until a decision is reached. That is so much humbug and poppycock. The life of this Government cannot be said to be in the balance because the Prime Minister’s personal lackey, the Labour member for Henty (Mr. Coles) gave him an assurance of survival before the debate even commenced. There can be no question of any urgency so far as the tasks of Ministers are concerned, because only last Friday, fifteen Ministers were able- to take time off to pay a visit to their trades hall masters in Melbourne to give a twoday account of their stewardship. Further, in spite of the Prime Minister’s statement that matters of urgency must await decision until this debate concludes, it is remarkable that nearly every honorable member opposite who has spoken in this debate has been given an extension of time. Any one who has had any .experience at all of the conduct of affairs in this House knows that ordinarily we would have dealt with a supply bill, and that a full week of this session would be devoted to that measure. .Therefore, we must look further for the real reason for the decision of the Prime Minister in conducting this war of attrition. It does not require any great degree of astuteness to realize that he desired to compress into as short a space of time and as limited a space as possible, in the public press, the criticism being levelled against the Government by the Opposition. The Prime Minister has also shown his cunning in another direction. The Leader of the Opposition (Mr. Fadden) made a damning attack upon the administration of the Government, but the Prime Minister did not bother himself to answer those issues, damaging though they were. He preferred to adopt the sound- principle that attack is the best defence. Consequently, with a wave of his hand he tossed aside issues involved in the Government’s bungling of food production, maladministration, the processes of bureaucracy, and the disturbances on the industrial front; and having assured us that his Government had saved this country from invasion by the Japanese, he declared that the security of Australia counted more than the loss of coal production from half a dozen coal mines. In that way he tried to set the course of the debate. With a brazenness and a meanness that has shocked fair-minded people in this country he has attacked the defence records of his predecessors who laboured and planned to such good effect that his Government has been enabled to reap a profitable harvest from their efforts. I do not propose to fall into that trap. I shall endeavour to bring this debate back to the issues upon which it was launched. I shall confine my remarks regarding the defence record of the Menzies Government to a quotation from a speech, not by General Douglas MacArthur or Lord Burghley whose names were dragged into this debate for party purposes, and not by

Mr. Essington Lewis, from whose services the Minister for Munitions derived so much comfort, but by the fair-minded and less loquacious Minister for Social Services (Mr. Holloway). On the 27th August, 1941, a few weeks before the Labour party took office, the honorable member for Melbourne Ports said -

I do not join with those Who say that Australia has failed in its war effort. I know something of the organization of industry, and when we compare what has been achieved with what we previously thought to be possible, we realize that somewhat of a miracle has been wrought. Australia is now manufacturing arms and munitions, light and heavy equipment and scientific apparatus which is being used on every battlefront.

The Labour Government is now trying to take a paltry political advantage by pointing to deficiencies in the defence programme of its predecessors, although it knows that those deficiencies were largely created by the assistance that Australia was trying to render to its comrades in Great Britain and to other Allies. But enough of that! I shall not be led any deeper into that trap. I simply ask the Government to stand up to the issues raised by the Leader of the Opposition when he submitted his motion to the House.

In the forefront of that statement was the reference to the failure of the Labour party to form a national government with the United Australia party and United Country party. It is all very well for honorable members opposite to sneer at the proposal, to describe it as the “King Charles’s head of the Opposition “ and to laugh it off. They point to what they allege to be disunity in the ranks of the Opposition and to the difficulty that its members would have in working in harmony with us for the better conduct of the war. But the Minister for Munitions found no great difficulty in working in harmony with Mr. Essington Lewis, the big bad wolf of the capitalist world. Only a few weeks ago the Minister for the Army (Mr. Forde) wanted to nationalize the Broken Hill Proprietary Company Limited.

Mr Spender:

– Now Labour Ministers are walking hand in hand with Lord Burgh ley.

Mr HOLT:

– They are working with Mr. Essington Lewis, and mixing socially with. Lord Burghley. When such a flexibility of conduct on the part of the Government is so evident, there can be no real reason why the Labour party cannot combine with the United Australia party and the United Country party for the purpose of forming a wartime national government. Whatever may be the achievements of the Prime Minister (Mr. Curtin) as a wartime leader and whatever may be the advantages that he has brought to this country, he will stand condemned at the bar of history because he was not prepared in the hour of our greatest peril to sink his own petty political advantages in order to give Australia that unity of purpose and action that can accrue only from a national government. Whatever else he may do, he will have to face that accusation throughout his political career. He was not prepared to place this nation before his own political party. He was not prepared to place the security of Australia before the petty partisan advantages which he sought by resisting any move towards the formation of a national government.

That, of itself, is bad enough. It is bad enough to deny to the country in wartime a unity which alone will enable a maximum war effort to be achieved. It is bad enough to divide the people on political issues. But when a party has decided not to assist to form a national government, and accepts the responsibility for the administration of the country, surely we can assume that it will give justice and impartial administration to all sections of the community! To its everlasting discredit, the Government has provided the most partisan administration in the history of the federation. It is British tradition to refer to “ His Majesty’s Government “ in any particular dominion, such as “ His Majesty’s Government in the Dominion of Australia “. By tradition and theory, the Government is the Government of the King. But whenever we hear this Government mentioned, it is always described as the “ Labour Government “. The “ Labour Government” is rammed down our throats ad nauseam. I remind the House just what this means when translated into governmental practice. That great American, Abraham Lincoln, summed up the principles of democracy in the sentence : “ Government of the people by the people and for the people “. In Australia at the present time, we have “government of the people by the Labour party and for the Labour movement “. When I use the words “ by the Labour party”, I do not overlook the fact that the Labour party is itself merely the political machine through which the Trades Hall bosses give their directions.’

We did not have to wait very long to see the influence that the trade unions would exert upon this Administration. The Government had scarcely taken office when it responded to the clamour of militant trade unionists to release two selfacknowledged saboteurs from the internment to which an independent tribunal had sent them. The two gentlemen concerned, Mr Ratliff and Mr. Thomas, had been convicted by a court of a number of subversive offences against the National Security Regulations. Following their conviction, an independent tribunal was appointed for the purposes of examining those offences and determining what should be done with the men. That, tribunal found that these comrades had not only been engaged in Communist propaganda, but also deliberately hindered the war effort of Australia by every means in their power. It recommended that for the greater security of the Commonwealth they -should be interned. Sundry outbursts of indignation were heard, and strikes occurred in some of the Communist-controlled unions against the internment of these men, but the Menzies Government resisted their demands. The Labour Government, however, bowed and scraped to its Trades Hall masters and one of its first acts of administration was to order their release from internment. Their new-found loyalty was to be given an opportunity to express itself.

I shall give another illustration. The Minister for Labour and National Service (Mr. Ward) showed what the country could expect from the Labour Government in the way of “ impartial and equitable administration “. He presented to this House a set of “ cookedup “ figures in an industrial statement which was notable for its omissions and distortions. He made unfavorable com- atr. Holt. parisons with Great Britain, and sought to show how much more successful his own methods had been in dealing with the industrial movement than had those of the British Minister for Labour, Mr. Bevin. Perhaps the Minister had in mind. that, the great Labour movement of New South Wales - that stormy petrel State - had raised to great eminence Mr. J. T. Lang, and the slogan which it attached to him was “Lang is greater than Lenin “. By making those favorable comparisons with the situation in Great Britain, the Minister doubtless hoped to earn the reputation in Labour ranks that “Ward is greater than Bevin”. The Minister gave us clear evidence that he was not prepared to give impartial and equitable administration.

Mr Collins:

– He engaged “ Jock “ Garden as an industrial officer.

Mr HOLT:

– “Jock” Garden is the flunkey of the Minister, and uses Gestapo tactics to force loyal war workers into submission. The Minister for Supply and Shipping (Mr. Beasley), as he thumped his tub this afternoon, assured us that the Government had maintained the civil rights of the people.

Mr SPENDER:

– That is very funny.

Mr HOLT:

– The Minister, who should be familiar with the problems of the waterfront, might remember that the Labour Government, through its war-time emergency powers, promulgated a regulation to cover waterside workers. Two unions operate on the waterfront namely, the Waterside Workers Federation and the Permanent and Casual Wharf Labourers Union. The Waterside Workers Federation is the senior organization in point of time, and the Permanent and Casual Wharf Labourers Union committed the heinous industrial offence of coming into existence at a time of industrial trouble during the last war. A stoppage of work had occurred on the waterfront, and volunteers who responded to the appeal of the Government to work the ships, formed themselves, as was their right, into the Permanent and Casual Wharf Labourers Union. That union has persisted ; but this Government using the war-time powers entrusted to it, is slowly strangling what it describes as a “ scab “ union by ensuring that no additional members shall be admitted to its ranks. In that way, the Waterside Workers Federation will blot its rival out of existence. By what principle of elementary justice can this action be justified? It is just another of the ruthless Fascist tactics which this Government employs when entrusted with supreme war-time powers.

Mr Ward:

– I thought that we were accused of being Communists, but evidently we are Fascists.

Mr HOLT:

– There is an extraordinary similarity between them. Another piece of impudence was the appointment to the Women’s Employment Board of Miss Cashman.

Mr Ward:

– A good appointment.

Mr HOLT:

– No doubt it was a good appointment from the point of view of the Minister. To start with, he had a “ loaded “ tribunal, but it was considered that some representation should be given to the employers who, after all, had some slight interest in the matter. Accordingly, the Government decided that an eminently suitable appointment would be that of Miss Cashman, a former trade union official. That she was to be a representative of the employers seemed at first to be a very good joke. We thought that it was just the Minister for Labour and National Service up to his tricks again. In fact, it was becoming so commonplace that one hardly attached any significance to it.

Mr Blackburn:

– The Prime Minister stated that he made the appointment.

Mr HOLT:

– The accurate memory of the honorable member for Bourke has my admiration. We discovered that the Prime Minister had more than enjoyed the joke; he had perpetrated it. I say, in fairness to the Minister, that he may often be required to pull the trigger but he has some very willing No. 2 and No. 3 gunners behind him to pass the shells to him. Frankness, after all, may be the one redeeming attribute with which we can credit the Minister for Labour and National Service. I am trying to give the House just a few illustrations - each of which would justify a debate in itself - of the way in which this Government has been prepared, with its oneparty administration, to pervert the emergency powers given to it for war purposes to its own political and partisan requirements. Reference has been made to the Government’s policy of compulsory unionism. A little while ago, it was the subject of a motion for the adjournment of the House. The fact is that the Government, by the exercise of its administrative powers, and without being compelled thereto by the necessities of the war situation, is doing its damnedest to coerce tens of thousands of men and women, who have entered industry temporarily as part of the war effort, into giving their financial and electoral support to unions and to policies completely abhorrent to them. Here is an illustration of the kind of policy which they are being asked to follow: One of the most influential unions which temporary war workers are being required to join, is that controlled by Mr. E. Thornton, the well-known communist. This is what Mr. Thornton has placed on record -

Our union lias deliberately and in a .planned way been involved in more strikes than other unions in the last few years. They were not just the sporadic strikes that are typical of the coal-fields, but planned strikes, because we made strikes our business.

That was before Russia came into the war. Mr. Thornton is a consistent “ comrade “, and when Russia entered the war he saw the light, as is illustrated by the following statement by him: -

At our previous Ironworkers’ Federal Council in .1941 we characterized the war that was then on as an imperialist war, and we then declared in favour of a democratic peace.

We have abandoned that policy not because the Ironworkers Association has ceased to believe that the strike weapon is the most important weapon that the working class has. Strikes arc a continuation in violent or nonviolent forms of the class struggle that is always with us.

Mr Calwell:

– Is he not the gentleman who is in favour of all-in conscription, just as is the Opposition?

Mr HOLT:

– -That is his policy to-day because Russia is on our side, but if Russia were to make a separate peace with Germany to-morrow, he would resume the sabotaging tactics in which he was openly engaged up to 1941.

Although compulsory unionism is put forward as a panacea for all industrial ills it is interesting to note that the greatest number of industrial stoppages, and the greatest number of lost man-hours, are in those industries in which there is a preponderance of unionists as is shown by the following statement: -

In a typical year 95 per cent, of industrial stoppages occurred in the most highly unionized industries, the Australian Metal Trades, the coal-mines and in shipping. More than 86 per cent, of the man-hours lost were in those industries.

Another illustration of how this Government exhibits partiality to its real masters is furnished by the action of the Acting Attorney-General (Mr. Beasley) in dropping prosecutions launched by the Director-General of Allied Works against trades union officials who fomented strikes in connexion with undertakings under the control of the director. There has been a most significant silence in regard to this matter, and no explanation has been forthcoming from the Prime Minister or the Acting Attorney-General. The public, who have seen prosecutions against other sections of the community, will wonder why these persons are so highly favoured. If these illustrations are not enough to justify a loss of confidence in the Government, let me refer to the three clashes which have occurred in recent weeks between the Minister for Labour and National Service and members of the judiciary. I remind honorable members that the judiciary occupies a special place in our Constitution. It has become a tradition that a man, when appointed to the bench, whether of a county court, the Supremo Court or the High Court, cannot be removed from office except upon proof of misbehaviour. He is there for life, or, at any rate, till a late retiring age. In the ordinary course of events he cannot look forward to any improvement of his position. This was done deliberately, the reason being obvious. If we have as judge, a man with security of tenure, and without any expectation of self-advancement, we may expect from him independence of thought and impartiality of action. It therefore becomes a matter for the gravest disquiet when we find a Minister of the Crown in open conflict with three different members of the judiciary in the course of a few weeks. His first clash was with Judge Piper, Chief Judge of the Arbitration Court. The matter is reported in one newspaper Under the heading, “Ward hits at Judge Piper “. This is hardly calculated to strengthen the faith of the people in the Government’s administrative discretion. According to the newspaper report, the judge was attacked because he was alleged to have said that decisions by the Women’s Employment Board had placed the whole conception of the basic wage in danger. On this statement the Minister for Labour and National Service made sundry comments. It is true that the Minister later apologized to the judge. After rushing into print he found that he had, in fact, been criticizing something which was not the judge’s statement at all. One would have thought that the Minister for Labour and National Service, whose unfortunate experience it is to be misreported in the press every time he speaks in public, would have made sure of his ground before criticizing the judge for an alleged statement. The Minister’s next clash was with Judge O’Mara, who, during the hearing of a case in Sydney, said -

I do not know whether your client, the Minister for Labour, was correctly reported or not, but he expressed some very quaint views on the position of the judiciary under the Constitution.

But perhaps the Minister’s strangest encounter was with Mr. Justice Dwyer, the president of the State Arbitration Court, of Western Australia. The incident is reported as follows : -

Arising out of a recent day baking dispute in Western Australia, Mr. Justice Dwyer, president of the State Arbitration Court, declared that one paragraph in a letter to the court from Mr. Ward might be construed as contempt of court. . . .

Announcing the court’s decision and referring to Mr. Ward’s letter, the president said perhaps one could not be too exacting these days when industrial systems had become the plaything of politicians. He wondered at what stage in legal history the court had arrived. Although the Arbitration Act required the court to act according to its good conscience and the equity and substantial merits of the case, the Minister had instructed the court in effect what decision he wished delivered.

Those are typical of the ways in which the judicial system of this country has been attacked by the Minister, who, from the statements which he made in the House yesterday, has obviously a very low regard for the place which the judiciary occupies in this country as the protector of our civil rights.

It is clear that a state almost of anarchy exists in some industries, and this is becoming more accentuated with every day that passes. I know that there are many trade union representatives who themselves have given great service to the country in one capacity or another. Some of them have members of their families in the fighting forces. I acknowledge that there are members of the working community who have made splendid efforts to ensure that the country has adequate supplies of material for war purposes. However, acknowledging all that, I say that there exists a planned policy by some trade union executives who make the most of the favorable economic situation created by the war in order to secure objectives which they would be less likely to secure in time of peace. I refer honorable members to the statement of Mr. Sutherland, a trade union secretary, who said that now was the time to go on the economic offensive. In a few months more, he said, they might be on the defensive again. That has been the policy of many trade union leaders ever since. This policy has, in the case of many of the secondary industries, led to a high percentage of absenteeism, and to the adoption of go-slow tactics, as mentioned by the Minister for Social .Services (Mr. Holloway) in a previous debate. It is significant that the latest records disclose that there were 34 more industrial disputes during last year than there were in the previous year, the total being more than 600, while for the first quarter of this year there were over 200 industrial disputes.

I have given to honorable members a number of illustrations which show that this Government has legislated for purely sectional interests. I do not know whether this has suggested any pattern to the minds of honorable members, but, as I glanced through my notes, I was struck with this extraordinary circumstance. For a moment, let us consider in retrospect the illustrations that I have given. First, we have seen one party pandering to the interests of its own followers. We have seen the Labour Government consulting its Trades Hall “ bosses “ for its instructions. [Extension of time granted.’] In the second place, we have seen the favoured treatment of those who are prepared to support the Government and work for it. We have observed this, in the distortion of the legal processes, the release of offenders against the law, and the dropping of prosecutions. Thirdly, there has been coercion of people who are not willing to support the Labour party, and attempts to compel them to give financial and electoral assistance to it. My fourth point is that the political party is placed above the law. The Minister for Labour and National Service said yesterday that the elected representatives of the people should be placed above the High Court of this country. He meant that the court should be subservient to the elected representatives of the people, and even to a majority of those who were kept in office by the subservience of one or two socalled independents. The fifth and final point of my argument is that the socialist programme provides for compulsive methods. It is not intended for the benefit of the community as a whole, but for the preferment and aggrandisement of members of the Labour party. Does not that suggest some pattern to the minds of honorable members ? Does it not produce some familiar echo over which to ponder? Are these things happening in Nazi Germany, Fascist Italy, or Communist Russia? No, they are occurring in sunny Australia, and they represent the degree of national socialism in existence to which this country is slowly but assuredly becoming awakened. Whether consciously or unconsciously, these policies are in evidence and are becoming accentuated. Because they represent the attitude of the Minister for Labour and National Service and other honorable members like him, and because the Prime Minister, perhaps unconsciously, accepts that policy, it is time this Government was thrown incontinently out of office. In view of these conclusions, which to me are inescapable, I support with enthusiasm the motion submitted by the Leader of the Opposition.

Mr DRAKEFORD:
MaribyrnongMinister for Air · ALP

– I was astounded to hear the final remarks of the. honorable member for Fawkner (Mr. Holt). I am sure that he does not believe in what he said in his concluding points. His attempt to compare the policy of the Labour party, in the making of which everybody may share, with what happened in Germany, under the National Socialist party, is too absurd for words. The Opposition has found difficulty with its efforts to justify itsaction in trying to remove the Labour Government from office for having done a good job after having thrown out of office the parties now forming the Opposition. My colleagues who have already taken part in this debate have produced a mass of irrefutable evidence that the Curtin Government has acted in a way that commends the confidence of an overwhelming majority of the people. I realize that one does not read that in the columns of the press, because, generally speaking, the press desires to prevent the Labour party from being in power.

Mr Spender:

– No government has received a better deal from the press than has the present Ministry.

Mr DRAKEFORD:

– Many of the mistakes of the honorable member for Warringah (Mr. Spender) have been glossed over by the press. The Opposition is not genuinely of the opinion that the Government is deserving of censure. This motion would have been submitted to the House, even if the Government had done 50 times as much good as it has already accomplished. With the elections approaching, the Opposition considered that it had to do something to give an appearance of unity in its ranks. It has been an utterly disorganized body and almost a rabble. This has had a disturbing effect on the unseen power behind the Opposition that wields a great influence in political life. The Labour party stands for the good of the people as a whole, and, because the present Government has done well, the Opposition has become envious of it. The United Australia party and its bitter kernel, the National Service group, are intent on playing at party politics, and with an election just over the horizon are determined to keep pouring out a river of criticism, in the hope that some of it may register in the public mind.

In order to show that, of the parties in this House, the Labour party alone is deserving of public confidence, let us examine the history of the present Government. It came into being because members of the Menzies and Fadden regimes were hopelessly divided among themselves. They were incapable then of governing Australia, and they are still incapable of governing it. To-day the Opposition is still hopelessly divided, despite its patched up truce in an effort to damage the Labour Government. The right honorable member for Kooyong (Mr. Menzies) is the bomber in the political air battles now in progress, and the right honorable member for North Sydney (Mr. Hughes) is the fighter. They have performed all kinds of stunts which have been amusing but not elevating. They cannot make up their minds to agree, but temporarily, for the purpose of dislodging the Labour Government, they are making some show of agreement.

Mr Spender:

– The people will throw the Government out.

Mr DRAKEFORD:

– The Ministry is willing to carry on its responsible task while it has a majority, but it is prepared to appeal to the people as soon as necessary. The Prime Minister has already indicated that he regards it as his duty in war-time to carry on the present Government, and I am prepared to follow that lead. The Opposition cannot give a lead to Australia. This is a people’s war, and because honorable members opposite represent the economic interests of wealthy sections - small in numbers, but powerful in wealth and influence - they are incapable of carrying on the affairs of this nation during a people’s war.

Imagine the struggle for the leadership, the invective and manoeuvring that would go on for the leadership if by a miraculous illwind for Australia, the responsibility of government passed to honorable members opposite. The people of Australia cannot, and dare not, go back to the inefficiency of the pre- Curtin days. When the Curtin Government came into office in October, 1941, a few weeks before Japan struck, it found that Australia had never been so insecure. The enemy was not only approaching, but the way was open for it to strike, after years of anti-Labour government. I do not suggest that there were no planning and preparation, but I say, without hesitation, that the planning and preparation on the whole were ineffective. I give to the Opposition credit for doing its best, but the facts show that its best was hopelessly inadequate. The grave deficiencies in Australia’s defence must, in a large measure, be laid at the door of the present Opposition parties, which, with a short break, were in power from 1915 to 1941 - a period of over twenty years. All the oratory in the world cannot get over these facts. The Opposition parties had the power to provide for the defence of Australia, but they failed to provide adequately for it. In June, 1941, the chiefs of staff reported on the probable entry of Japan into the war. Did this momentous news, with its heavy import for Australia, cause the Opposition, which was then the Government, to stop squabbling and concentrate all its energies on the job of defending Australia? No. The internecine bickering continued until Mr. Fadden took the place of Mr. Menzies, after which, in the midst of further dissension and strife, Mr. Fadden lost the capacity to command a majority. Since coming into office, the present Government has obtained security for Australia. The shadow of invasion has lifted. The defence record of the Government led by Mr. Curtin, stands out as one of the greatest, if not the greatest, achievement of any government in Australia’s history as a nation. The Opposition realizes that the majority of the people of Australia are conscious thant this country’s war effort has been speeded up marvellously, and accordingly it tries to appropriate the credit to itself by saying :. “ We laid the foundation of that war effort.” Australia was not geared for total war before the present Labour Government came into office a few weeks before Japan struck so treacherously and effectively. Almost overnight, the Government created a colossal and effective machine and mobilized Australia’s man-power. It organized and equipped fighting forces to hold the last great bastion of white civilization in the South-West Pacific. The honorable member for Indi (Mr. McEwen) said that when the Fadden Government left office aerodromes were dotted around the countryside. That is true, but the dots were too far apart; there were not sufficient of them. Since then, the space between the dots has diminished. I do not suggest that there was no planning or preparation by previous governments, but it must be admitted that most of the work that to-day forms the basis of Australia’s defence has been planned and carried out by the present Government.

Mr Spender:

No.

Mr DRAKEFORD:

– Since Labour came into office, aerodromes, ancillary flight strips, roads, railway and harbour improvements and defence works generally have increased tenfold.

Mr Spender:

– “ Rome was not built in a day.”

Mr DRAKEFORD:

– That is so; but the fact remains that these ‘things did not exist when the present Government took office. When I first visited Queensland as Minister for Air, I was struck with the weakness of the defences there. To-day, the position is vastly different; ar. enemy which attempted to land in Queensland would get a warm reception. The people of that State and of other portions of the north of Australia who were once defenceless and living under the threat of invasion know what has been accomplished in the last twenty months. All these huge defence works could have been constructed years ago by the parties now in opposition at a time when Australian workmen were hungry and seeking work; but it remained for the Curtin Government to do the job. The Prime Minister and the Treasurer have referred to the need for a better deal for the common people. Members of the fighting forces and men of the Mercantile Marine are entitled to some guarantee that the future will be different from the past, and that on their return from this war they will receive better treatment than they received from non-Labour governments at the conclusion of the war of 1914-18. I am reminded that recently Sir Stafford Cripps said that the confident expectation of a new order may not be realized, because the realization that a new order was necessary, which grew out of the comradeship of war and the unity created by common peril, did not necessarily imply that a new order would be established after the peril had passed. There is evidence in this House that the privileged and selfish interests in this country will try to cast the future in the mould of the past. I listened attentively to the remarks of tie honorable member for Indi on air defence. Naturally, he set out to put t]ie best construction on the disappointing job done by the Menzies and Fadden Governments which contained elements not so conscientious as the honorable member himself. In support of his case, the honorable member for Indi also referred to a motion moved by the present Prime Minister at a Labour conference in 1921.

Mr McEwen:

– I did not suggest that the present Prime Minister moved the motion, but that the Minister for Aircraft Production (Senator Cameron) did so.

Mr DRAKEFORD:

– The honorable member suggested, I thought, that the Prime Minister was linked with that motion, but I accept the correction. Let us get back to 1921. In that year, an anti-Labour government was in complete control of the government of this country and there was no obstacle to prevent it from doing everything that was necessary for the defence of Australia. Some of the remarks of Opposition members during this debate seem to me to be childish. They have talked of opposition to their defence efforts by the Labour party, but as previous governments had a majority in both Houses of the Parliament they could have done anything they liked in the way of providing for the defence of this country.

Mr Spender:

– The point is what did members of the present Government do in those years?

Mr DRAKEFORD:

– I am replying to some of the ill-based assertions from the Opposition benches, among them being a charge that the Labour party opposed the defence programmes of previous governments.

Mr Spender:

– Is not that so?

Mr DRAKEFORD:

– Yes, in some respects; but the fact remains that those governments had the power to put their programme into operation. That they did not do so is only too evident. Those governments must accept the responsibility for Australia’s unpreparedness when war broke out. Instead of aiding tie aerial defence of Australia in 1921, anti-Labour governments allowed many of our outstanding fliers, who could have done much for the air defence of Australia, to live on the breadline. The political party which was in power in 1921 remained in office until 1941, except for one short period, yet, when war broke out, Australia’s air force was, in the words of the honorable member for Indi, inadequate. “Who wa’s to blame for that state of affairs?

Mr McEwen:

– That was true of almost every air force in the world.

Mr DRAKEFORD:

– During the speech of the honorable member for Indi, the names of places at which Australia had some measure of airpower rolled off his tongue. I repeat that I have never said that the Menzies and Fadden Governments did not do anything to provide Australia with air defence. In a quarter of a century, during which the development of aircraft was an outstanding feature, one would expect the most mediocre government to do something in that direction, but they did not do enough. Opposition speakers have purported to show that they left to the Curtin Government a heritage of a well-filled Christmas stocking, and that the present satisfactory position in regard to the defence of Australia is due to their efforts. In the final analysis, the whole purpose of any air force is to put fighter, bomber and reconnaissance aircraft in the air. But what did the present Government find when it took over the reins of office? It found that Australia had not learned the lesson of air-power, with the result that gallant lads had been forced to meet overwhelming hordes of fast modern Zero fighters in pathetically outmoded “Wirraways. One sublime page in Australia’s history will relate to those five “Wirraway pilots who, in the early days after Japan struck, went up over Rabaul to engage over 100 fighters and bombers. Those facts show that what this Government inherited from its predecessors was an air force totally inadequate to meet the terrible threat from J apan.

Mr Spender:

– Does the Minister suggest that since the present Government came into office it has produced fighters and bombers to beat the Japanese machines? I remind him that the fighters and bombers that we now have in Australia came from America.

Mr DRAKEFORD:

– That may he; but the present Government obtained them. It “was this Government which has given to Australia some effective measure of air defence. I have never suggested that previous governments made no effort to defend Australia, but I do say that their efforts were a complete failure. The various sections of those governments could not agree among themselves. Behind the scenes there was always conflict, as there must be when opposing capitalist influences meet, each section wanting for itself something different from what others want. Naturally, such governments were unable to achieve anything worth, while. I believe that the honorable member for Warringah realizes that. However, those governments tried to carry on, and the result is that Australia was left completely unprotected. The honorable member for Indi was astonishingly unrealistic when he somewhat triumphantly pointed out in his speech that “ When the Curtin Government came into office the war was still no closer to Australia than Libya and only 20 miles from Britain “. In that statement he has perhaps unwittingly given to us the key to the reason why the Menzies Government failed to push on with the strengthening of Australia’s defences. The fact is that when this Government took over from the Fadden Government the war was to all intents and purposes on Australia’s doorstep; four months earlier the chiefs of the fighting services had reported that Japan would almost certainly enter the war on the side of its Axis partners. The Fadden Government had that report.

Mr Marwick:

– The authorities in the United States of America did not know that.

Mr DRAKEFORD:

– It was known in Australia, but the Government of the day took no steps to meet the situation.

Mr McEwen:

– What did the Minister for External Affairs do?

Mr DRAKEFORD:

– The point is that the Fadden Government had that report, but failed to act on it. It is fallacious to suggest that in October, 1941, any reasonable body of Cabinet Ministers should have regarded the war as still being as far away as Libya. The honorable member for Indi admits that he did not ask for Airocobras and Kittyhawks when the war was 12,000 miles away. Instead, he obtained assurances that, if Australia were in peril, Britain would send to .us operational aircraft. Britain, in fact, did so. Is it not clear that the enemy attacked us at our own door while, as the Minister for Supply and Shipping (Mr. Beasley) put it, we were looking around the world for him? As Britain was sorely pressed, the logical place in which to look for help was the United States of America. That country has great economic and strategical interests in the oceans that wash Australia’s shores. The Prime Minister rendered great service to Australia when he summed up the position so accurately and made an appeal to the American nation that brought immediate results and made possible the victorious battle of the Coral Sea which did so much to prevent the enemy from setting foot on these shores. There is no phase of our Air Force to which the Opposition can point in respect of which I cannot show that its strength has been increased substantially since the present Government came into office. For every aeroplane that we inherited from the previous Government we now have four machines, and what is more, we are pushing on with the job. I submit that it is a queer way to prove that the Government no longer deserves the confidence of the House by the accuser admitting that the Government has done a good job on the foundation provided by the accuser.

Honorable members interjecting,

Mr SPEAKER:

– This cross-firing across the chamber must cease.

Mr DRAKEFORD:

– I do not wonder that honorable members opposite get restless when they hear what the Government has done. The honorable member for Indi made some statements to-day which rather astonished me. He cited figures purporting to show the strength of two sections of our Air Force. I have not at any time made public any information in respect of the Air Force which might be of advantage to an enemy.

Mr McEwen:

– I did not give a figure until the Prime Minister did so last night.

Mr DRAKEFORD:

– I cannot venture into the same field, because I would be giving information to the enemy ; and that, to my way of thinking, would not be right. According to the figures that have been supplied to me, which relate to the date on which we took office, the estimate was considerably overstated. On the other hand, the figures given by the honorable member for Indi in regard to certain aircraft which, he said, were inherited by us, are approximately correct. But the class of aircraft handed to us was by no means satisfactory. It is true that we had a certain number of Fairey Battles, Ansons and Wirraways, all second -line aircraft, and other trainer types. We had a limited number of Hud sons which have done good work. To-day, we have more than double that number. Further, in every instance we have more than double the number of the personnel that we then had. The honorable member made reference to the Wackett bomber.

Mr McEwen:

– I did not name any bomber.

Mr DRAKEFORD:

– The honorable member referred to a bomber that was being built by the Commonwealth Aircraft Corporation Proprietary Limited.

Mr McEwen:

– I did not mention any corporation.

Mr DRAKEFORD:

– It was firmly fixed in my mind that the honorable gentleman mentioned the Commonwealth Aircraft Corporation Proprietary Limited.

Mr McEwen:

– The Minister knew what I was referring to.

Mr DRAKEFORD:

– Although a prototype of this aircraft underwent certain trials in 1941, owing to certain difficulties, more particularly concerning armament, none of those aircraft has yet been available for service. Efforts to solve the difficulties which were encountered are still proceeding, and production will commence as soon as the prototype satisfactorily passes the rigid service tests. The Commonwealth Aircraft Corporation Proprietary Limited is working to full capacity on aircraft of other types, as well as the manufacture of engines for both single and twin-engine aircraft, those requirements being of exceedingly high priority. I stress the fact that the whole of the manufacturing and repair potential of this important aircraft corporation is being used to full capacity. Whatever delay has arisen in the production of the completed bomber has been due to the urgent production of engines and other requirements.

The honorable member for Indi referred to his having prepared, just prior to vacating office as Minister for Air, a War Cabinet agendum recommending the purchase of Catalina aircraft, involving the expenditure of £1,000,000, and that my Government did not proceed with the proposal. I assure the honorable member that, shortly after assuming . office, I placed before War Cabinet the full position in relation to Catalina aircraft, and it approved of .full . inquiries being made by the Australian Trade Commissioner in New York regarding the prospects of obtaining supplies of those aircraft, and the extent to which they could be obtained from the United States of America under lend-lease arrangements.

Mr McEwen:

– That is the whole point. We were prepared to buy them, but the present Government wanted to see whether it could get them “ on the nod “.

Mr DRAKEFORD:

– Let me finish, the story. What I have to say will rather destroy the value of the honorable member’s suggestion. After full investigation, it was ascertained that deliveries of the Catalina type of aircraft could not be made in 1942 because, owing to the then very serious situation in relation to Allied shipping in the Atlantic, the whole of that production to the end of 1942 was required for the purposes of the United Kingdom in- that connexion. It may reasonably be assumed that it was the duty of the honorable gentleman to be aware of this.

Mr SPENDER:

– Probably the Government was faced with that position because it. had delayed the purchase.

Mr DRAKEFORD:

– There was no delay. Inquiries were made immediately, and it was learned that the whole of the production was required in the United Kingdom. In view of that position, and of the fact that our requirements were of such an urgent character, representations were made to the United Kingdom for the release for service in Australia of certain flying boats which were serving in the coastal command in the United Kingdom.

We made those representations because we realized that Britain’s need was greater than ours. Honorable members opposite, for party political purposes, talk a lot of nonsense about our not wanting to support Britain. That allegation has been made on several occasions to-day. They fail to appreciate that we realized that Britain’s need was greater than ours, and in consequence sought to have our flying boats returned to us. Realizing our position, and the value of our flying boats then in the United Kingdom, the British Government promised that it would give favorable consideration to the release from an American allotment of an equivalent number of Catalinas, instead of releasing our flying boats. This arrangement was accepted by my Government, and the Catalinas referred to were flight-delivered to Australia and taken into service in March and April, 1942. I may add that the number received agrees with the number mentioned by the honorable member for Indi. Since that time, we have received a further allocation. There has never been any delay in procuring whatever aircraft could be brought to or produced in Australia, in order to make really effective the ineffective fighting force which the Opposition left to us, and thus conserve the interests of this country.

The plea made by Mr. Curtin in 1937 for an. immediate strengthening of Australia’s air defences was scorned by many members of the United Australia party who sit opposite to-day and talk about what they have done to build up Australia’s air defences. The Battle of the Bismarck Sea demonstrated what can be done by superior aircraft to a hostile convoy. This could have been anticipated by a previous government had it possessed vision and something better than the negative policy of keeping Labour out of office, in consequence of which it let the country clown. In. order to counteract the suggestion that we were not concerned with the interests of Australia, let me give an illustration of the policy of the Labour party. The present Prime Minister, speaking to the Australian people in 1937, said-

The strength of Australian defence must lie in aviation. A member of the present Government, the right honorable W. M. Hughes, de clared that aerial defence is the only defence within our capabilities. Yet to this “ best defence “ the Lyons Government has so far provided only eight squadrons, or 90 planes, while there is not far away from us a power equipped with a sea-borne plane strength of not less than 300 planes. For a capital outlay of £7,500,000, Australia could have an aerial fleet of 25 squadrons, or 300 planes. Ships of the Australian Navy which cost double that have been towed out to sea and sunk as obsolete.

That action was taken, not by a Labour government, but by an anti-Labour government. The quotation continues -

Twenty-five squadrons equals the existing sea-borne planes of any nation which could be regarded as a potential danger to this Commonwealth. If we cannot afford, as we cannot, a floating navy equal to that of a world power, it is yet within bur means to sustain an aerial fleet equal to that of a world power, it is yet within our means to sustain an aerial fleet equal to any that can be brought against us.

Aerial defence represents one of the features of the Australian defence services which the Labour party will develop and strengthen to the utmost efficiency, while at the same time it will maintain our land and shore organization to the highest strength within our power and resources.

That is the policy which was put to the people. Unfortunately, it was rejected. Had it been accepted, we might have been in a much happier position when Japan struck; we might have been able to provide air cover for the forces which had been sent to Malaya. We were not able to do that, because honorable members opposite had not had the vision and foresight to procure the necessary equipment when the opportunity to do so arose. In 3936, the present Prime Minister stressed the importance of a huge air force. After his speech in 1937 he continued to advocate the building up of a huge air force, with aerodromes and stations throughout Australia. [Extension of time granted.]

Mr McEwen:

– The honorable member is making quite a good speech, even though it contains a few inaccuracies.

Mr DRAKEFORD:

– There is too much truth in it to suit the honorable member. He attempted to “ get away with” a lot of wild, stuff. He thumped the table, and did his utmost to ensure that we would be scraped off the treasury bench, realizing that the task which we have performed is of such merit that his party has no hope of being returned to power. In 1937, our opponents laughed at Mr. Curtin and told him that he did not know what he was talking about. The right honorable member for Cowper (Sir Earle Page), posing as a great military strategist, stated -

The defence policy of the Labour party was just a plain invitation to the people to commit suicide.

He went on to say that Labour was asking the people to bury their heads in the sand. On another occasion, in an attempt to belittle Labour’s war policy, the right honorable gentleman said -

He is going to have a defence force of aeroplanes, the best air force money can buy.

He went on to show the uselessness of such a force without oil reserves and a navy to protect our sea routes. The late Mr. Lyons, giving reasons why the electors should oppose Labour in 1937, said -

A vote for Labour will mean the isolation of Australia from the rest of the Empire and a defence force which will consist mainly of aeroplanes.

To-day, Australia bitterly regrets that the job of building up a great air fleet was not put in hand years ago. It is ironical that the right honorable member for North Sydney, referring to Britain’s position in February, 1942, said -

If Britain had heeded the warnings of farsighted men who had noted the ominous sounds of the growing storm she could have built up an air force in that country which would have made aggression by a predatory power an enterprise so full of hazards that they might well have deterred it.

The right honorable gentleman- took Britain to task for not having done what he and his colleagues had an opportunity to do but had refused to do. That is the sort of thing that we are getting from the Opposition all the time.

Air power has emerged as a new factor in modern war. The Labour Government has strengthened Australia’s air power immensely. It is also mindful of the need for the post-war development of civil aviation. I can tell the House frankly that there is no phase of Royal Australian Air Force activity which has not been stepped up to an immense degree since October, 1941. When I became Minister for Air in that month, my predecessor received me quite courteously, and in handing over the administration stressed the necessity for procuring Cata- linas. He is naturally courteous except when he loses control of himself, as he did to-day. Maybe, his demeanour on that occasion was governed very largely by the belief that I would not be in office very long and that he would soon be again in charge of the department. However, he was disappointed. It was considered that we would not be able to do the job that was set us. We have done it, and the Opposition has now had recourse to a motion of want of confidence in an attempt to remove us from office.

When I became Minister for Air in October, 1941, our Air Force was comparatively insignificant. Whatever the plans were, it cannot be denied that we had no modern fighter aircraft, and that the Royal Australian Air Force was concentrating on carrying out its man-power obligations under the Empire Air Training Scheme, which’ aimed at providing a large body of air crew members for service with the Royal Australian Air Force overseas. As soon as possible, the new Government overhauled the whole of Australia’s defence plans. When Japan struck, an immediate expansion of the Royal Australian Air Force became necessary. The Government planned to enlist and train many more thousands of men, to provide many more aerodromes, to produce in Australia a constant stream of aircraft, and also to obtain from overseas as many modern aircraft as could be procured. To-day the Royal Australian Air Force is a formidable striking force which is co-operating on a substantial scale with the .Allied Forces in air operations in the South-West Pacific Area. The Government has arranged for the Royal Australian Air Force to provide communications, radio and other services for the use of the American and other Allied Air Forces. The Empire Air Training Scheme now makes provision for the training of a large number of air crew in Australia in order to meet the constant expansion of the Royal Australian Air Force. An appreciable proportion of these trainees will serve in the South-West Pacific Area instead of in other distant theatres of war as originally intended. A great deal of nonsense has been spoken in this debate about the Government’s lack of interest in the Empire Air Training Scheme, but the fact is that it extended the scheme to 1945, and air crew personnel trained in Australia will be called upon first to satisfy the requirements of the Royal Australian Air Force in the South- West Pacific Area. The remainder will go overseas. An expanding air force called for more and still more machines. Fresh supplies of aircraft_have been delivered from overseas, and from our own production lines, new types are coming into service. Special Royal Australian Air Force units have also been provided in order to quicken the tempo of certain urgent maintenance and new constructional work. There. is now a strategic network of aerodromes from which offensive and defensive air operations on a big scale can be carried on against the enemy. Since October, 1941, the building programme of the Royal Australian Air Force has been of very considerable proportions and this was necessary to transform Australia into an air power.

The Government is bringing back to Australia such numbers of Royal Australian Air Force personnel, with operational experience overseas, as will provide a stiffening of experienced men for the new squadrons being formed in Australia. The men who have returned to Australia have proved their worth in operations against the Japanese in the South-West Pacific Area. Most of the returned personnel have had considerable experience in the Middle East and in the United Kingdom. The demand for air crew to meet the Japanese has been heavy, but Australia has continued to meet its commitments under the Empire Air Training Scheme and Australians are serving in increased numbers in the Middle East, United Kingdom, Canada, and in India. Since September, 1941, the Government has increased Royal Australian Air Force air crews serving abroad by 200 per cent., and Royal Australian Air Force squadrons by 50 per cent, lt will be realized that we cannot maintain expansion at that rate, but the Government intends to continue to expand the Royal Australian Air Force to the limits of our man-power. Honorable members on both sides of the chamber have stated, in the course of this debate, that in their view we have reached almost the peak of our man-power possibilities, but so long as it is possible for the Government to do so, it will continue to develop the Empire Air Training Scheme. Considerations of security prevent me from giving full data concerning the present strength of the Royal Australian Air Force, but since this Government came into office, operational squadrons have doubled in number and many of them have been given the most modern types of aircraft. There has been a 300 per cent, increase in the strength of our ancillary units. These units relate to operational training and maintenance units. Increased efficiency has resulted. Since October, 1941, the numerical strength of the Royal Australian Air Force has increased by 150 per cent, and members of the Women’s Auxiliary Australian Air Force are now being given new musterings so as to release more airmen for duty in forward areas. Since this Government took office there has been an increase of more than 400 per cent, in aircraft required for actual operations. Aircraft being used for training purposes has increased by 70 per cent. These facts speak louder than all the oratorical flights of fancy in which honorable members opposite have indulged. They prove beyond a doubt that this Government deserves well of Australia. The present political move to censure it, therefore, should, and I believe will, be defeated.

There are many other subjects which I am tempted to discuss, but as Minister for Air, I have felt that my first responsibility was to deal with the issues that have been raised as they affect my department. If every honorable member allowed himself to speak on all the subjects in which he is interested, the debate would never end. I believe that I have said sufficient to indicate that a good job has been done by those concerned in the administration and service of the Department of Air. I claim, of course, that the Government, as a whole, has done a good job. Honorable members opposite have been hard put to it to find any grounds to justify this motion of want of confidence. I do not say that there are no grounds for some criticism. No honorable member on this side of the chamber would suggest for a moment that, in a time of war, everything has been done as it could have been done under other conditions; but I believe that the Government has satisfied the people of Australia that it is competent to administer the affairs of the nation without being hampered by considerations of the moneyed interests in the community. These have not been able to prevent us from doing the job that we have had to do. We have ignored the big vested interests of the country and have indicated to the people that, as a Government, we are fit to govern and have a policy which will make this country fit for heroes to live in. I believe that the people at large appreciate the fact that they will get better treatment from this Government than they have received from anti-Labour governments in the past.

Mr SPOONER:
Robertson

.- I shall vote for the motion of want of confidence moved by the Leader of the Opposition (Mr. Fadden), because I am convinced that the Government can no longer efficiently discharge the duties demanded of it. I support the motion in the hope that by the unanimous consent of all members of the House, the Government will agree to go to the country immediately; but unfortunately, there does not appear to be any desire on its part to take this obvious step in order that the Parliament may become a workable institution. The” Prime Minister (Mr. Curtin) made no attempt to answer the charges brought against the Government by the Leader of the Opposition, and his attitude has been emulated by other Ministers who have participated in the debate. As a matter of fact, the honorable member for Henty (Mr. Coles) has been the main spokesman for the Government.

Mr Frost:

– And a good man too.

Mr SPOONER:

– I hope that the honorable member may be listening intently to my remarks but his posture does not disclose that this is so. He made such an effective speech, from the point of view of the Government, that the Minister for Supply and Shipping (Mr. Beasley) said that it would be used from many platforms during the forthcoming election campaign.

Nobody has suggested that the Government should not proceed with proper plans for the internal organization of the affairs of this country, nor has it been suggested that the people, in general, are not prepared to suffer special tribulations under war conditions. It is obvious that no nation can hope, in these days, to continue to live under the conditions of some years ago. All that we have asked of the Government is that it shall organize the affairs of the country fairly and efficiently and in a manner calculated not to disturb the established policy of the nation. We have asked that our industry and economic affairs shall be maintained in a condition entirely dissociated from any policy that may lead to socialism or some other “ ism “ in the future. Naturally, I was disappointed with the speech of the honorable, member for Henty. I knew that he did not intend to support the motion of want of confidence, because he had already declared in the press that he would not do so. He made his declaration without waiting to hear the grounds on which the Leader of the Opposition moved the motion. I was disappointed, too, because the honorable member did not take a stand consistent with the attitude he adopted on the 3rd October, 1941. On that historic night, in this chamber, the honorable member said -

The people of Australia require that this branch of the legislature should he cleaned up.

He went on - lt might not be a, bad idea to go to the country and allow the people of Australia to give expression to their opinion by returning a government which would be workable. That would be far better than that we should continue as we are at present with a Gilbertian assembly which might not be workable if we were to run into a period of serious national emergency.

He also said -

I take this step well knowing the gravity of it, in the hope that Australia will return a government that will be able to command a majority in this Parliament.

Honorable members will appreciate the irony of the next observation of the honorable member which I shall quote from that speech. It is -

I am not handing over to the Labour party; the people of Australia will decide which party is to govern.

In view of those remarks, and of the attitude which the honorable member is now adopting, I consider that he stands accused of the greatest degree of hypocrisy that could be charged against any member of this Parliament. He said in 1941 that he would vote against the Fadden Government so that there could be an appeal to the people which would give them the opportunity to place in power a government which could handle efficiently the affairs of this country. Why did not the honorable member take the same attitude on this occasion? He knows very well that in the course of a month or two, or of four months at the very longest, there must be an appeal to the country. The Parliament is an unworkable institution at present and whatever reasons may have actuated the honorable member to vote as he did in October, 1941, in order to send the Government of the day to the country, I could offer ten times as many reasons why the honorable gentleman should support this motion of want of confidence in order that the Parliament might be converted into a workable instrument. Instead of doing so, the honorable member has preferred to become a spokesman for the Government and his utterance was so fulsome and clear in its defence that the Minister for Supply and Shipping has indicated to us that it will be used extensively on the hustings in the next few weeks. The honorable member for Henty stands charged with having sold his soul for some political support from the Labour party at the forthcoming elections. He hopes by giving this vote and refraining from putting the Labour Government out of office, and from doing the obvious thing to precipitate an election, which is due right now, to secure an arrangement whereby there will be no Labour candidate in Henty, and he will be able to secure the Labour vote there on the next occasion.

It has been said that no direct censure motion has been moved in this Parliament since 1938. That may be, of course, technically correct, although I do not think that it is. The motion moved by the then Leader of the Opposition (Mr. Curtin) early in October, 1941, was in effect a direct censure motion. It was an amendment of the budget for the year 1941-42. I shall show the House that all the weaknesses which were enumerated by the Leader of the Opposition in his speech yesterday, and which now confront this country on the economic and financial front, result from the motion moved by the present Prime Minister on the 1st October, 1941. It is well known that on that occasion the Labour party sought office against the better judgment of its wiser heads, and on the promptings of some of its hotheaded members, and so it challenged the policy of the Fadden budget and, with the assistance of two alleged independents, defeated the budget of 1941-42. Time has proved, however, that the Labour party has no alternative to offer to the financial proposals embodied in that budget statement. Time has also proved that the refusal of the Government to adopt the major plans incorporated in that financial statement has involved the country in a series of predicaments on the economic front, and in difficulties that will take some time to overcome. The honorable member for Henty, who has been asleep and now attempts to interject, may not have noticed the quotations I have just made from his own speech of 1941, giving the reasons why he assisted to dismiss the Fadden Government from office. I am sorry that I have not time to read them to him again. It was early in October, 1941, that the surging ambitions of certain members of the Labour movement decided that that was the moment to strike. The amendment actually moved would have been moved somehow or somewhere in order that the Government should be defeated. It just happened that the budget of October, 1941, was selected as the opportunity for an amendment, and that the time was ripe for support to be given to- the then Opposition. The irony of the position is that that amendment has given rise to all the ills to which the country is subject to-day.

Mr Coles:

– Will the honorable member tell the House what he told his Cabinet after he asked me what my reaction would be in certain circumstances?

Mr SPOONER:

– That sounds so involved that I cannot work it out. Evidently the honorable member is not quite awake yet. The fact is that although the budget of 1941:42 was defeated by an amendment which demanded that it should be re-framed and that a new financial policy should be adopted, up to the middle of 1943 no attempt has been made to introduce anything that could be called a financial policy at all. Because of the lack of that financial policy and the rejection of the Fadden budget of September, 1941, the country is now suffering many serious disadvantages, some of which I propose to recite to the House.

Mr Frost:

– Why does not the honorable member answer the interjection of the honorable member for Henty?

Mr SPOONER:

– Because I do not understand it, and I do not think that the honorable member himself knew what he was talking about.

Mr Coles:

– The honorable member understands it quite well. He knows that he took the lie back to his Cabinet. It was all due to him that it happened.

Mr SPOONER:

– During the time that the honorable member for Henty was asleep I read to the House his own words of October, 1941. He helped to dismiss the Fadden Government from office, because he said that it was time for the Parliament to go to the country, and for the country to elect a government with a majority. Now, in June, 1943, he says in a plausible way. “ This is a good Government, I endorse everything it has done, I will write its election policy for it, and there is no need for it to go to the country at all “.

At least five major questions are raised as the result of the non-adoption of the budget of 1941, and I shall recite them to the House. In the first place, the heavy public expenditure that has been occasioned as the result of the failure of the present Government to impose extra taxation or compulsory borrowings during 1942 has led to a public spending power which has competed for materials that were required for war purposes. By competing for materials, it has competed for man-power which was required to manufacture materials. By competing for man-power and materials, it has set up ruthless machinery called the Man Power Organization that has sought to drag away from industry and from other business organizations the manpower required for various branches of war service. The muddle that we have seen in man-power, and the competition for material and man-power during the past eighteen months, is a direct result of the public spending fund that was set up through the failure of the present Government to impose additional taxation and provide for compulsory loans in 1942. A second difficulty that still besets this country is the maze of profit and price control regulations that have mystified all . who have been concerned with them. They have been created because of the need to deal with, exceptional circumstances caused by that heavy spending power. If the spending power had been regulated, as it should have been, there would have been need for normal price control as it exists in Great Britain and Canada to-day, but not for the type of price control that has done damage to industry and caused trouble which will need to be repaired in Australia later on. The third difficulty that confronts Australia because of the position that I have described is the fact that this country has been taken to the very brink of inflation. I tell the Government now that the application of artificial ceiling prices will not of itself avert inflation where the public spending power is so great and so far in excess of the available production goods as is the case in Australia to-day. That is a difficulty, the solution of which confronts this and other governments in the future. It will not be overcome merely by applying artificial ceiling prices. This trouble will have to be dealt with in a complete and thorough manner by some government in the future. It is going to be impossible to clean it up, as the result of this Government’s failure to do the right thing in 1942. Again, because of the failure of this Government to adopt a financial policy in 1941, there began early in 1942, a series of chaotic conditions brought about by the freak endeavours of the Department of War Organization of Industry, which was trying to achieve impossible results. The efforts of this department were rather directed to achieving the impossible.

Mr Ward:

– Oh, no, it has done a great job.

Mr SPOONER:

– It has not done a great job, because it has been endeavouring to achieve the impossible. It has been fighting against a public spending power that made the proper functioning of the department an impossibility. How was it possible for the Department of War Organization of Industry to divert material and man-power to the war effort, and to carry on all the rationalization of which it spoke, while there was a demand from the public that far exceeded any possible chance of the department, to control it? The last ill-effect to which I propose to refer at this stage is the existence in Australia of a bureaucratic system of government that would astound anybody who had the opportunity a few years ago to peep into the future. It has arisen from the need to administer all those conditions that have been created by excess spending power. As this got out of hand, and it became impossible for the Government to cope with it, the Government set up separate watertight organizations one after another, with control by commissioners and public officials, in an endeavour to dam the river that already was in flood. All those five weaknesses in Australia’s economic body arose from the fact that early in October, 1941, the Government refused to adopt a financial policy suitable to the needs of a country which was at war with Germany and Italy, and was shortly to be engaged in a Avar with Japan.

Sitting suspended from 11.58 p.m. to 1845 am. (Thursday).

Thursday, 8£ June, 19 b$.

Mr SPOONER:

– Unfortunately these conditions have given rise to a large number of regulations which govern and control industry and the lives of the people of this country. On some occasions, at any rate, the administration of these regulations would make it appear that the public and industry are not cooperating in the Avar effort. Under ordinary peace-time conditions it is the easiest thing in the world for an individual to break a regulation, but under the conditions which exist to-day, when regulations are being promulgated at a tremendous rate without proper provision being made for acquainting the people of their contents, it is an extremely simple matter for some one to commit an offence. I know of an unfortunate case of a regulation being broken by a person who had no knowledge whatever of the existence of such a regulation. With harsh administration in some instances, these regulations are tending to make criminals of decent people. They have unleashed a pack of official inspectors to hound the people down, and much of this is directly attributable to the nation’s financial position. The cases that could be cited in regard to the application of regulations are endless, but I shall content myself by referring to one case which is quite up to date. It illustrates completely the height of absurdity that has been reached in this country in the application of regulations, in the restriction of personal liberties, and in the preventing of normal activities. A few weeks ago, I had occasion to write to the Minister for War Organization of Industy (Mr. Dedman), enclosing a letter which had been forwarded to me by a woman in my electorate, informing me that her small son, a school boy, had been indulging in the profitable business of running messages on Saturday mornings for the people in the street in which he lived. Because grocers, butchers and other tradesmen were unable to give attention to their customers owing to restrictions placed upon them by law. the lad was able to make a few shillings in this way. However, a policeman caught him and told him that he Was breaking the law. In her letter to me, the lad’s mother asked me to ascertain whether or not that was the case, and I forwarded her letter to the Minister for War Organization of Industry. Yesterday, I received a very courteous reply from the Minister and I am obliged to him for the attention he has given to the matter. I shall quote the honorable gentleman’s reply so ‘that this House may realize the height of absurdity that has been reached in the administration of this country. The letter states -

I desire to acknowledge your letter of the 3rd June enclosing a letter from Mrs. I. ~L. Cole, 30 Stewart-street, Kandos, New South Wales, who desired to know whether her young son has been breaking the law by doing messages for some of her neighbours.

The Control of Retail Delivery of Commodities Order gives to my colleague, the Minister for Transport, power to order any person to perform or to refrain from performing any act specified in relation to the delivery or carriage of any commodity. This provision was included because of the many means by which delivery was being effected in contravention of the spirit of the Order.

Master Cole would not, therefore, be breaking the law unless he has been directed personally or as a member of a class by the Minister for Transport or an officer delegated by bini to refrain from doing messages as he does.

I am forwarding your communication to my colleague with a request that ho communicate with you direct on this matter. I am not myself aware of what action has been taken under this amendment but he will, no doubt, be able to tell you exactly whether Master Cole has been breaking the law or not.

So we find two Ministers of the Grown occupying their time in writing letters and examining the law to discover whether or not a small school boy has been committing an offence by running messages on .Saturday mornings. That is a terrible state of affairs, but it is only one of many hundreds of things that are happening in this country every day, owing to the application of impossible and impracticable regulations, and their administration - I am not referring to the political heads at the moment - by theorists who have had no experience of the job, or by individuals who are endeavouring to foist their own pet schemes and theories upon this country. I say emphatically that many of these regulations have been necessitated by the Government’s action in replacing ordinary sound finance with a set of artificial conditions. Even although the Government did not take action in 1941, in 1942 at the latest it should have adopted schemes supplemental to its “budget proposals.

Because of the short time at my disposal, and in view of the fact that other more suitable opportunities will be presented at a later stage, I shall not dwell on the details of the two major proposals that the Opposition has urged upon the Government, namely, the adoption of a plan of post-war credits, and the application of the “ pay-as-you-go “ taxation system to provide for the introduction of modern taxation methods such as those already in operation in Canada and the United States of America. I have asked honorable members opposite consistently to consider at least these two major reforms in their financial pro- posals, but so far no progress in that direction has been made. The Government has pumped out money for expenditure on the war to the amount pf many millions of pounds, apparently in the expectation that that money would be voluntarily loaned back to it. Sometimes it is loaned back, but only by comparatively few people. By far the great majority of people either put their money into savings banks where, of course, it is of some value for war purposes or, they spend it, with the result that the unfortunate conditions to which I have referred are set up. These people are not only causing embarrassment to the Government, but also they are causing embarrassment to their fellow citizens. They are causing constantly increasing prices, all because the Government has refused to adopt as its policy something that would undoubtedly lead to the proper regulation of moneys as they passed from the Government to the hands of the people. In a few days from now, the Government will complete another financial year, and in the light of the periodical statements that have been made, it would not be out of place for me to endeavour to estimate the position that will arise. In September last, the Treasurer told us that war expenditure for the current financial year would amount to £440,000,000. Then, in February of this year he gave an amended estimate of £540,000,000. Now, according to the statement of the Prime Minister yesterday, the figure will reach £560,000,000. That, of course, is war expenditure only. In addition, there is ordinary departmental expenditure, expenditure on social services and other very proper expenditure totalling £112,000,000. These figures combined give a grand total of £672,000,000. As against that, receipts are expected to amount to £262,000,000-1 am using a figure constructed upon the statement made to the House by the Treasurer in February last- so that there will be a deficiency of £410,000,000. Any figures which I shall use now are subject to what the Treasurer will tell the House a few weeks hence. Loans will return to the Government approximately £200,000,000 and the central banking system will provide £23 0,000,000 worth of credit. Those two amounts total £410,000,000, which is the deficiency for the current financial year. [Extension of time granted.] The total amount of central bank credit which will be issued by the 30th June, 1943, will be approximately £275,000,000. My figures might be incorrect by a few millions of pounds, but I am speaking of a principle and am not endeavouring to state a mathematical sum. I am reconstructing the position from the latest information available to me; but I believe that my figures will be approximately correct. By the 30th June, the treasury-bill issue will be £275,000,000 and that figure does not include a total of £40,000,000 for old treasury-bills issued on behalf of the States. With the exception of less than £2,000,000, the whole of this sum has been raised since July, 1941. That position is bad enough; but what appals me is the consideration of the future. This system of disregarding any consideration except the bridging of the difference between revenue and expenditure by central bank credit is having a snowball effect, and the snowball gathers in size.

What of the next financial year which will commence on the 1st July, 1943? I predict that the Government will not present a budget to this Parliament before it goes to the country. Personally, I do not consider that there is any great need for the presentation of the budget, because the figures can be reconstructed. Some of my figures may prove to be incorrect, but even so the Treasurer’s own estimates were incorrect by £100,000,000 between last September and February.

Mr Dedman:

– The honorable member does not imply that that is the fault of the Treasurer.

Mr SPOONER:

– Certainly not. I realize the Treasurer’s difficulties. I am criticizing the system and the lack of policy, and none of ray remarks should be regarded as personal criticism of either the Treasurer or the Minister for War Organization of Industry (Mr. Dedman). The position can be assessed in a manner sufficiently accurate for my purposes, in order to give an indication of what we shall experience in the next financial year. I. have already told the

House that war expenditure for the financial year 1942-43 will be £560,000,000. Am I unreasonable in saying that during the next twelve months it will be £650,000,000? War expenditure is constantly rising. The Treasurer will not surprise me if he announces at the end of the next financial year that the expenditure is £750,000,000. I