17th Parliament · 1st Session
Mr. Speaker (Hon. J. S.Rosevear) took the chair at 10.30 a.m. and read prayers.
– by leave - Towards the end of last year a special Constitution Convention was summoned at Canberra to deal with proposals to extend the powers of the Parliament of the Commonwealth in order to enable the problems of post-war reconstruction to be dealt with effectively. Those who attended comprised representatives of both Houses in the Commonwealth Parliament, including the party leaders in each House. The States were represented by the Premiers and the Leaders of the Opposition. It was unanimously agreed that additional powers in relation to post-war reconstruction were required by the Commonwealth. However, it was considered more practicable, in order to avoid a referendum during the war, that the additional powers should be conferred upon the Parliament of the Commonwealth by reference from the State legislatures under section 51 (xxxvii) of the Constitution. Accordingly, fourteen heads of power were defined and agreed to by representatives of the Commonwealth and by the Premiers of the six States. In order to give effect to the arrangement, a draft bill was also agreed upon. The present position of the draft bill is as follows: The State legislatures of Kew South Wales and Queensland have passed the bill. South Australia and Western Australia have passed bills, but in each case the powers granted are less than those agreed upon tit- Canberra. Victoria has passed the bill, but has imposed the condition that it shall not operate unless the other five States have previously passed a bill in substantially the same form as the Canberra draft bill. In the State of Tasmania the Upper House has shelved the bill.
All State governments had their legal advisers at the Canberra convention, and the point was not then raised that it was not constitutionally competent for the State legislatures to refer the matters to the Parliament of the Commonwealth for the time agreed upon, namely, a period to terminate five years after the cessation of hostilities in the present war. However, legal opinions were subsequently obtained by several State Governments, to the effect that, under section 51 (xxxvii) of the Constitution any references of matters by the State legislatures must be made without limit of time. This opinion is by no means accepted by the Commonwealth, and endeavours will be made to obtain an authoritative ruling from the courts as to whether or not the method of reference provided for in the draft bill is permissible under the Constitution. The Commonwealth Government is of the opinion that the matter cannot be allowed to rest where it is. It might, of course, be possible for the Commonwealth to pass legislation on post-war reconstruction to operate only in those States that have passed ‘the Commonwealth Powers Bill. This would probably be detrimental to the interests of those States which, not having passed the bill, would necessarily be excluded from the scope of Commonwealth legislation on certain aspects of post-war reconstruction. However, such Commonwealth legislation could not be regarded as satisfactory from an Australian point of view. For these reasons, I am in agreement with the Attorney-General that, unless the substance of the Canberra arrangement be carried into effect in all six States, it will be necessary to submit proposals for the alteration of the Constitution to the electors of the Commonwealth by referendum. Admittedly, additional powers are required by the Commonwealth Parliament for post-war reconstruction purposes. The present intention of the Government is to deal with these important matters of Constitution alteration at the next session of the Parliament. By that time we should be acquainted with the final decision of the State legislatures as to whether or not they intend to carry into effect the arrangements made at the Canberra convention by all six State Premiers.
– -by leave - Adopting the suggestion of the Leader of the Opposition (Mr. Menzies), the Government will appoint, in collaboration with him, a special parliamentary committee to examine the pay-as-you-earn taxation plan and alternative proposals.
The Taxation Advisory .Committee, consisting of Messrs. <T. A. L. Gunn and H. W. Buckley, with Mr. H. H. Treblico Deputy Commissioner of the Taxation Central Office, as chairman, has been examining and reporting upon various taxation matters that, have been referred to from time to time by the Treasurer (Mr. Chifley). At the present time this advisory committee is examining, at the Treasurer’s request, several of the most important aspects of this problem. This particular inquiry is directed specifically to the problem arising from cases of hardship upon retirement, death, or where there are violent fluctuations of income from one year to another - which is the crux of the whole matter. I understand that the solution is not proving easy. If the report, which is expected this month, puts forward a solution to meet cases of these types a much simpler reform in taxation administration will be evolved than would be the case if a full payasyouearn plan of taxation were adopted.
Quite apart from this taxation advisory committee’s report, however, the Commissioner of Taxation has had the payasyouearn proposals examined and reported upon by a panel of his own expert officers. When the advisory committee’s report is to hand, the Government will refer both reports to the proposed parliamentary committee for examination and report to the House. Should the House be in recess when the report becomes available, by arrangement with the leaders of the Opposition parties, T propose to nominate the parliamentary committee and allow it to function until the House re-assembles, w”hen it may be formally constituted by resolution of the House
– For some time I have been making representations to the Minister for Commerce and Agriculture in regard to what are known as backyard poultry flocks. Has the honorable gentleman yet been able to make a decision in the matter?
– The honorable member has requested that householders be permitted to keep more than a maximum of twenty birds without being obliged to submit to registration. A similar request lias been received from many portions of the Commonwealth, and one has come from the Department of Agriculture of a leading State. As there is an acute shortage of eggs, I shall readily acquiesce in the taking of whatever action may result in an increase of egg production - or of food supplies generally. I have requested the Egg Control Board to consent to the variation of the existing arrangement in order that individual householders may keep a maximum of 40 birds without being obliged to register.
– Is the Treasurer yet in a position to supply an answer to the question that I asked recently concerning matters associated with the report of the National Debt Sinking Fund Commission?
– The AttorneyGeneral was ill when the right honorable gentleman requested that I should table certain legal opinions that had been obtained. I considered that the matter should be discussed with him; consequently, I deferred consideration of it until he had resumed duty. I shall now take it up, and furnish a full, reply as early as possible.
– .Has the attention of the Attorney-General been directed to the decision of Mr. Aitken, Police Magistrate, Brisbane, that the Allied Works Council has not power to direct the disposition of labour? Does the right honorable gentleman agree with that decision?
– I have just seen the decision, but have not had an opportunity to consider it in detail. I shall do so, and then communicate with the honorable gentleman.
– In the first week of the present session I placed on the noticepaper a question seeking certain information in connexion with the War Damage Insurance Commission, and was informed that the information would be supplied. Can the Treasurer state when it will be available?
– I had hoped to have an opportunity to make recommendations to Cabinet in regard to certain matters affecting the “War Damage Insurance Commission, but pressure of more urgent business has prevented, me from doing so.
– My question relates merely to details of administration.
– I am having those details prepared for the honorable member.
– Because, of rationing on account of the shortage of coal, will the Prime Minister endeavour to have stated as early as possible the conditions that may be imposed on electrical services dependent upon the generation of electricity by means of water power or the use of brown coal, in order that users may know exactly where they stand?
– The Fuel Coordination Committee has the matter under its care, and, I am quite sure, will make an early announcement.
– Can the Minister for Munitions give the assurance that supplies of galvanized iron and barbed wire, which are vitally needed in connexion with primary production, will be speeded, up, in view of the fact that the reserves upon which we have been drawing for a couple of years are now exhausted and the lack of further supplies immediately may prevent an increase of many lines of primary production?
– I promise to give to the matter the most sympathetic attention.
– Can the Prime Minister say whether meat rationing was considered yesterday by the Production Executive of the Cabinet? In view of the widespread confusion in the public mind caused by conflicting statements of Ministers and by press speculation, will the Prime Minister inform the House in specific terms what is the Government’s intention in regard to meat rationing?
– The matter will be considered by the full Cabinet as soon as a meeting can be held.
– If it is proposed to transfer surplus munitions workers to other occupations, will the Minister for Labour and National Service take steps to ensure that those first transferred shall be men with the least number of dependants, and that those with established homes in the metropolitan area shall, as far as possible, be found occupations in their own districts?
– It will be necessary for me to consult with the Minister for Munitions on this subject. It is hoped that the Munitions Department will be able to transfer men from one branch of its own activities to another where they may be needed. If there are surplus men in the Munitions Department, the man-power authorities will certainly try to place them in the city or town in which they are now residing.
– Committees have been set up to advise the Controller of Rubber regarding priority in the issue of rubber tyres for motor vehicles. Although these committees are working well, it sometimes happens that no tyres are available at a particular place when they are urgently required for the carrying on of essential services. Will the Minister for Supply and Shipping establish in important country towns small stocks of tyres which can be released by the local committee in an emergency?
– I remind the honorable member that the position in regard to rubber is desperate in this country, as, indeed, it is in all countries engaged in the war on our side. It is not necessary for me to stress that point - it is obvious to every one. For that reason, we have had to exercise extraordinarily strict con trol over the use of rubber. However, the honorable member’s suggestion is worthy of sympathetic consideration in order to meet those cases in which it is absolutely necessary to provide transport for the maintenance of essential services. I. shall look into the matter.
LIEUTENANT-COLONEL N. L. Fleay-
Release of Personnel
– On the 13th October, the honorable member for Lang (Mr. Mulcahy) asked certain questions in regard to the exploits of LieutenantColonel Fleay, who was recently awarded the Distinguished Service Order. The honorable member referred to certain press statements about this officer, and asked whether a full and complete investigation could be made to determine the truth of the statements which he is purported to have made in regard to his service in the front line in New Guinea. I have made inquiries, and now desire to inform the honorable member that it is not proposed to make any investigation of the nature suggested by him, as there is no evidence to indicate that Lieutenant-Colonel Fleay made any such statements. Allegations have been made that the award of the Distinguished Service Order to this officer was associated with such press statements, and in order to assure the honorable member that such was not the (use, I quote from the citation of his General Officer Commanding at the time he was recommended for this award -
Lieutenant-Colonel Fleay was in charge of Kanga Force when I assumed command of New Guinea Force. Up to that stage hia commando operations had been distinguished by vision, enthusiasm and the utmost determination to hamper the enemy to the greatest extent possible in the Lae and Salamaua areas.
Although it was not possible to reinforce Kanga Force before fresh enemy troops arrived towards the end of August, LieutenantColonel Fleay continued his offensive tactics with such force as was available. As a result little, if any, fresh penetration was made by the enemy.
Lieutenant-Colonel Fleay ‘6 general outlook, his personal gallantry and his powers of leadership combine to make him an inspiration to the troops who have kept going in spite of very great difficulties.
The award of the Distinguished Service Order to a commanding officer of a unit is regarded as a mark of commendation, not of the commanding officer alone, but also of the valuable and gallant services rendered by the whole unit. To those who are aware of the outstanding performances of the individual members of the special force which was commanded by Lieutenant-Colonel Fleay, there can be no doubt that the award in this instance was a well-deserved recognition of the unit as a whole. The Commander-in-Chief of the Australian Military Forces, with whom I have consulted, has confirmed this view, and, in addition, has stated that he was in constant touch with Lieu tenant- Colonel Fleay during the period that he was in New Guinea, that he was visited frequently by senior officers, and that he commanded a small detached force with gallantry, enterprise and vigour, and proved himself a first-rate leader in tactics of this kind. Lieutenant-General Blarney added: “I am. satisfied that Lieutenant-Colonel Fleay is a very gallant and enduring officer, and that he is the last person who would attempt to take away credit from other persons “.
Prior to his service in New Guinea Lieutenant-Colonel Fleay, who, in 1939, joined up in the ranks, had a record of excellent service with the Australian Imperial Force overseas. He went to the Middle East with the 6th Division, fought in the “Western Desert and in Greece, was wounded in Crete, and returned to Australia with his division, and subsequently served in New Guinea. The honorable member referred to the service of members of the 5th Independent Company. This was only one of the companies under Lieutenant-Colonel Fleay during the period to which he refers.
– I rise to a personal explanation. For some time I refrained from making any reference to this matter, but in view of correspondence which I had received from officers attached to the same unit, I decided to ask a question in the House. If the Minister is convinced that the report from General Blarney is satisfactory, I have nothing more to say. My only desire was to have the matter cleared up.
– In view of the confusion existing in the public mind, and especially in the minds of soldiers who desire to be released from the Army, will the Minister for Labour and National Service have a statement published indicating the proper way in which to make applications for release?
– I shall be pleased to confer with the Minister for the Army in order to see whether a statement can be issued as the right honorable member has suggested. Naturally, when considering which men should be released, the authorities must have regard to the kind of work they will be called upon to do. The right honorable member is interested in getting more rural labour, particularly for the sugar industry. The Army authorities would not release blacksmiths or clerks for, say, cane cutting.
Bill presented by Mr. Chifley, and read a first time.
– by leave - I move -
That the bill be now read a second time.
The main purpose of this bill is to provide for the issue of national savings stamps in connexion with the raising of Commonwealth war loans. It has been found that the most convenient method for wage-earners to subscribe to loans by instalments is by means of deductions from wages. Where employees remain continuously on the one pay-roll, this presents no difficulty, and deductions are made regularly until the payment for bonds has been completed. There are, however, people whose employment is constantly changing, and in these cases it is not practicable to make deductions from wages in this way. In order to provide for such subscribers, and also for those who wish to set aside small amounts as they become available, it has been decided to introduce the 5s. national savings stamp. Folders containing 40 stamps will be provided, the face value of which will amount to £10, and these may be accepted in payment for treasury bonds. Alternately, stamps to the face value of £2, or multiples thereof, may be accepted in payment of instalments for bonds. National savings stamps may be paid to the credit of depositors’ accounts with all savings banks. The banks will, in turn, exchange the stamps for war loan securities. The stamps will be on sale at all savings banks, money order post offices, and such other selling points as are decided on from time to time. This measure makes provision for the protection of war savings stamps and national savings stamps against forgery and uttering, similar to that made in regard to treasury-bills in the Treasury Bills Act.
.- The Opposition enthusiastically supports this measure for the issue of national savings stamps, by which the Treasurer . (Mr. Chifley) hopes to widen the field of investment in liberty loans. No effort should be spared to ensure that people whose earnings have risen as the result of the war shall contribute a part of those earnings to the national war fund by means of investment in loans. I believe the issue of 5s. war savings stamps will attract many more subscribers than might otherwise have been the case. It is essential that the loans be filled if we are to conduct the war to our full capacity.
– I support this measure, but I regret that the bill does not go farther and contain an amendment of the Commonwealth Inscribed Stock Act, to provide that treasury bonds shall be converted to inscribed stock. Time and again during the budget debate honorable members stressed the fact that one of the most fruitful methods of evasion of income tax is investment in treasury bonds. No record is made of the owners or of people to whom interest is paid. In effect, treasury bonds are another form of currency at a time when the Treasurer (Mr. Chifley) himself admits that the slightest slackening of controls on the monetary system may lead to heavy inflation, with disastrous results. The Treasurer, as a member of the Royal Commission on Monetary and Banking Systems, should know that when all the resources of the nation are fully employed, when it is impossible to produce more goods, and when treasury-bill finance is being used, there is great danger of inflation of the currency, with a steep rise of prices, unless all the necessary controls are maintained. One of the most effective controls would be the conversion of bonds to inscribed stock. That would enable the Treasurer to know exactly who are the holders of the stock issued in return for moneys lent to the Government. He would then be able to watch closely the holders of the inscribed stock, with a view to preventing evasion of taxation. It is probably too late to insert in this measure such a provision as I have in mind, but the Treasurer should take early action to do as I have suggested.
.- I again urge the Treasurer (Mr. Chifley) to reconsider my proposal made on a previous occasion that Commonwealth bonds be accepted by the Treasury as payment of probate duty. I have been in touch with many people -who would be willing to invest more heavily in liberty loans and other loans but for the fact that they are compelled to keep in reserve money in some form more easily negotiable than bonds, lest their estate should be suddenly called upon to pay heavy probate duties. I believe the objection to this proposal in the past was that executors of estates of deceased persons would be able to buy on the market at a discount, bonds which would be tendered at their face value in payment of probate duty, but now that the prices of bonds are pegged that objection no longer holds good.
– “What is there to prevent the executors of deceased persons from selling bonds on the stock exchange in the ordinary way in order to obtain the money necessary to pay the probate duty?
– It is not always possible to find a buyer in time, and the Taxation Department is not prone to wait. Therefore, people are apt to take the prudent course of holding reserves against probate duty in some more easily negotiable form than treasury bonds or inscribed stock. Any abuses could be quickly rectified. The objections to the change no longer exist. The granting of the concession would, I believe, result in very many more subscriptions to war loans.
– m reply - There is something to be said for the proposal made by the honorable member for New England (Mr. Abbott), and it will be examined, but I point out that the general public, as a rule, prefers bonds to inscribed stock.
– Many things the people do not like have to be accepted by them.
– Yes, but it must not be forgotten that we are asking people to invest in loans and we have to take their desires into consideration. My recollection of the matter raised by the honorable member for Richmond (Mr. Anthony) is that the Loan Council discussed the proposal that probate duties should be payable with bonds, but the objection taken was that executors of deceased persons would perhaps be able to buy bonds at a discount. I concede that the pegging of the prices of bonds has changed the circumstances. I think that bonds issued before 1934 are accepted in payment of probate duty. At any rate, r agree with the honorable member for Fawkner (Mr. Holt) that bonds can always be sold to either the general public or the National Debt Sinking Fund Com-, mission. Payments into the sinking fund are increasing in proportion to the increase of the national debt, and next, year it is expected that the commission Will be on the market for £20,000,000 worth of bonds. However, the honorable member’s suggestion will be re-examined by the Treasury and further discussed by the Loan Council.
Question resolved in the affirmative.
Bill read a second time, and reported from committee without amendment or debate; report adopted.
Bill - by leave - read a third time.
” THE BRISBANE LINE.”
REPORT ov Royal Commission.
Debate resumed from the 2Sth September (vide page 73), on motion by Mr. Curtin -
That the following paper be printed: - ‘ Alleged missing document relating to defence plans - Report of Royal Commission “.
.- On the 28th September the Prime Minister (Mr. Curtin) tabled the report of the royal commission on the alleged missing document relating to defence plans. He made no comment, but simply moved that the paper be printed. The Opposition considers that this important matter cannot be allowed to rest at that point. We have no wish to revive the controversy over “ the Brisbane line”; we believe that that has been dealt with fully by the royal commissioner in his report and the Prime Minister in statements from time to time. That particular canard has been disposed of, but there are issues affecting the responsibility of Parliament upon which Parliament must be expected to have a definite view. A part of my purpose will br- to record in Hansard the developments since Parliament, last met. I regret that the Prime Minister is not present because what I shall say on behalf of the Opposition hasa direct bearing on what we consider his responsibility to be as a custodian of the prestige of Parliament. I hope that he will be able to make some comment, ata later stage of this debate, on the representations which will be made to him as’ to his duty. A good deal of my speech will consist of the reading of documents relevant to this matter, which the Opposition desires to place on record. In order to refresh the minds of honorable members on the subject, I take them back to the statement made in the House on the 22nd J une by the then Minister for Labour and National Service. It, reads -
We want to know what planwas submitted to the government ofthe 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 reords 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.
Following that statement, the Prime Minister reported to the House on the 24th June, as follows: -
The Leader of the Opposition (Mr. Fadden) has given notice of his intention to submit a motion for the purpose of seeking a certain inquiry, and I have decided to adopt towards it the attitude which I believe any Prime Minister would adopt to a representative request from the Opposition on a matter affecting a Minister or the administration of a Minister. Such an inquiry the head of the Government would immediately consent to institute. Therefore, I have already informed the Leader of the Opposition that I am ready to constitute a royal commission to inquire into certain matters. I have informed the right honorable gentleman also that I am quite ready, in accordance with practice, to consult him respecting the terras of reference to be given to the royal commission for the purpose of conducting the inquiry. I am ready, too, as I believe any other Prime Minister would be, to consult with the right honorable gentleman on the selection of the person or persons who shall constitute the commission. As the inquiry of the royal commission will affect the position of a Minister in my Cabinet, I have adopted the normal procedure of relieving him of his administrative duties until such time as the report of the royal commission is tabled in Parliament.
On the following day, the Prime Minister was reported in the press as having said -
Until the royal commission has completed its inquiry and reported to the Government, the Minister for Labour and National Service (Mr. Ward) will, at my request, refrain from carrying out the duties attaching to the administration of his office. During that period, arrangements have been made for the Minister for Health and Minister for Social Services (Mr. Holloway) also to. act for and on behalf of the Minister for Labour and National Service.
The next document to which I desire to refer is the royal commission itself. I shall omit the formal text, and read only the relevant portions. The royal commissioner was appointed and was given power to inquire into and report upon the following matters: -
The question whether that Minister was informed in the terms or to the effect specified in the statement set out above. 3.. If that Minister was so informed - (a.) the particulars of the information given to that Minister and referred to in the statement set out above; and
The royal commissioner conducted his investigations. Honorable members will recollect the circumstances, but I ask their indulgence to quote extensively from His Honour’s report. It does not appear elsewhere in Hansard, and I desire to place it on record as being relevant to the subject under discussion. On the 14th July, the Prime Minister released the report of Mr. Justice Lowe. The document reads - “ I have the honour to forward my findings of fact in relation to the questions about which
I was asked to inquire and report in the Letters Patent, dated the 28th June, 1943, appointing me a Commissioner. “ The commission sat in Melbourne on the 5th,6th and 7th July, 1943, the first and last sittings being held in public, while that held on the6th instant took place wholly in camera. Mr. Eric Miller, K.C., and Mr. W. J. Dignam, both of the Sydney Bar, appeared as counsel to assist the commission. Mr. Barry, K.C., and Mr. Fraser, of the Melbourne Bar, represented the Honorable E. J. Ward, Minister of State for Labour and National Service. Mr. Villeneuve Smith, K.C., of Adelaide, and Mr. P. D. Phillips, of Melbourne, asked leave to appear to represent the Menzies and Fadden administrations. This application I did not accede to, but allowed counsel to attend and watch the proceedings on behalf of these administrations, both in public and in camera, and reserved leave to them to apply at any stage to take part in the proceedings. No such application was made, save that at the conclusion of the final sitting Mr. Villeneuve Smith made a written submission to me as to the findings which I should make and report. “ Fifteen witnesses were called and examined before the commission, of whom only one, Sir Frederick Shedden, gave evidence in public. His evidence is recorded in the transcript of the proceedings. Theproceedings in camera were not recorded by the shorthand writers and of them no transcript is available. I personally took such notes as appeared to me to be necessary to guide me in making my report. “ At the outset of the proceedings Mr. Barry submitted to me that the whole of the questions which I was asked to report upon were beyond the power of the commission to deal with, on the ground that they arose out of and necessarily depended upon a statement made by Mr. Ward in Parliament, namely, the House of Representatives, on 22nd June, 1943. The first question, he contended, showed on its face that such was the position, and the remaining questions were mere appendages to the first question and their fate must be determined by the fate of the first question. I asked Mr. Villeneuve Smith whether he wished to address me on the question so raised. He replied that he was instructed to make no submission on the point. After hearing Mr. Miller, I ruled that, even assuming Mr. Barry’s submission to be correct in regard to the first three questions, the fourth question stood on a different plane, and required me to report in any event on an independent question of fact. Thereafter, I proceeded to take evidence mainly in relation to the fourth question, reserving for further consideration my decision as to the correctness or otherwise of Mr. Barry’s contention in relation to the first three questions. Ultimately, on the final day of the sittings, I ruled, forreasons which are set out in the transcript, that Mr. Barry’s submission must be given effect to in relation to Mr. Ward himself and that Mr. Ward could not be compelled by the commission to attend or to give evidence in regard to his statement, the subject matter of the first question. I ruled, however, that the privilege which de barred the commission from examining Mr. Ward himself did not debar it from investigating the truth or otherwise of any aspersion contained in the statement which reflected upon persons who were not members of Parliament, or officers of either House of Parliament. This ruling necessarily involved my putting a construction upon the statement itself, and in particular determining what were the implications of the phrase ‘ most reliably informed ‘. I thought that these words would convey to any reasonable reader or hearer of them that information had been given to Mr. Ward out of Parliament and otherwise than in the course of his or their duty by a person or persons whose position was such that he or they would in all probability have access to accurate information, and that his or their credibility was such that there was no reason to doubt his or their statements. I interpreted the statement as meaning that the information was given out of Parliament and otherwise than in the course of duty, for these reasons: If the information had been given in Parliament, it would have been recorded in Hansard, and, if given to the Minister in the course of the duty of the informant, or informants, I could see no reason why the Minister would not have so stated. I then asked myself what persons came within such a category. I thought that the proper custodians of ‘official files’ and such other officers as properly had access to those files certainly came within it. If any of such officers had divulged information to the Minister that a document was missing from the official files as alleged, it seemed to me that such officer might be subject to criminal prosecution either under section 73a of the Defence Act which provides -
Any member of the Defence Force or officer in the Public Service of the Commonwealth who communicates to any person otherwise than in the course of his official duty any plan, document or information relating to any fort, battery, field work, fortification or defence work or to any of the defences of the Commonwealth or to any factory or air force aerodrome or establishment or any other naval, military or air force information shall be guilty of an offence,’ “ or under section 70 of the Commonwealth Crimes Act, which provides that - “‘Any person who, being a Commonwealth officer, publishes or communicate any fact which comes to his knowledge by virtue of his office and which it is his duty to keep secret, or any document which comes to his possession by virtue of his office and which it is his duty to keep secret, except to some person to whom he is authorized to publish or communicate it, shall be guilty of an offence ‘ “. “ I think I should state specifically that I had evidence from members of the Defence Committee before whom plans would come and from the Chief of Staffs Committee. In order to answer the questions put to me it was necessary for me to determine what was meant by the expression ‘ official files ‘ and ‘ Brisbane
Lino’. To take the latter first. I informed my mind by reading the debate of 22nd June, 1943, as recorded in Hansard of the sense in which the expression was used, and witnesses were also questioned as to their knowledge of the expression. No officer either of the Australian Military Forces, the Royal Australian Navy or the Royal Australian Air Force knew of any plan which related to a Brisbane Line’ so called and all stated that their only knowledge of such an expression was derived from press reports or like sources. They did have knowledge, however, of what was called an ‘appreciation’ submitted I Sir Iven Mackay in February, 1.942. Thi9 appreciation, Sir Iven Mackay stated in evidence before me, was submitted by him voluntarily of his own motion to the Government of the day. No officer who gave evidence before me was aware of any plan other than this in relation to the matters Sir Iven Mackay dealt with. I sought from witnesses evidence as to all the files which related to matters which were the subject-matter of Sir Iven Mackay’s report, and I was given precise information as to those files. There was called before me every officer whose duty it was to have the custody of any of those files, and also every officer who had the right of access to any of them. Each of those officers, without exception, swore that he or she had given no information to Mr. Ward in relation to any document, and most of those officers did not even know Mr. Ward. I accept the testimony of all these officers. “ It occurred to me that, apart from the officers I have referred to, the words ‘ most reliably informed ‘ might point to members of the War Cabinet or of the Advisory War Council to whom copies of documents are, in the usual routine of procedure, distributed. I considered whether I should cause to bc called before me all or any of such persons in order to question them in relation to any aspersion which might rest upon them by reason of the implication of the words. I assumed (without determining) that my ruling on the question of privilege would not affect such members, but on consideration I carnie to the conclusion that I should not have them called. Some of those in this particular class are Ministers of the Crown, all are members of Parliament, and those who are not Ministers of the Crown, are all or almost all persons who have been Ministers of the Crown. It is inconceivable to me that if any honorable member had given information to Mr. Ward, he would not, after hearing Mr. Ward’s assertion, have made some statement himself in regard to the allegation. If he had given the information, I should suppose he would have stated so, and Hansard fails to disclose that any of them did. It also occurred to me that it was possible that some officer not within the category of those I have already mentioned might have had temporary access without authority to official files, and might have surreptitiously obtained information from the files, and communicated it to Mr. Ward. I considered whether I should make any inquiry calculated to investigate this possibility. I determined that I should not, because I thought that no
Minister of the Crown receiving information from such a source would consider the person giving it a most reliable informant within the implication which I have attached to the words ‘ Most reliably informed ‘. I hope that these two assumptions will do no injustice to any one. It is of course possible that Mr. Ward has attached some meaning to the words Most reliably informed ‘ other than that which I have indicated above but, as Mr. Ward’s evidence was not available on this commission, this possibility is one that I have been unable to investigate. “ The whole of the evidence, without exception, was to the effect that the official files were intact and that no document relating to the ‘ Brisbane Line ‘ had been or was missing from thom. I should add that, beyond satisfying myself as to the method of recording documents, and that the system was adequate to keep trace of the fate of a document, and would disclose whether or not a document was missing, I did not personally investigate the liles. To have done so would have been a herculean task incapable of accomplishment within any reasonable time, and one which I felt to be unnecessary in view of the fact that I thought the evidence of the witnesses who spoke to the completeness of the files entirely trustworthy, and, moreover, no challenge was made of it by cross-examination. “I now address myself to the particular questions asked in the commission : - “ 1 . I am unable to answer this question, for the reasons which I have already stated. “ 2. I can give only a limited answer to this question, namely, that the Minister was not informed by any officer who had the custody of the official files or by any officer who had access thereto, or by any member of the Defence Committee or by any of the Chiefs of Stan’s Committee. “ 3. In view of the above answers, no answer is required to this question. “ 4. No document concerning the matter known as the ‘ Brisbane Line ‘ was on 22nd June, 1943, or is now, missing from the official files.”
The next document is a letter, dated the 14th July, 1943, which the Prime Minister sent to the then Minister for Labour and National Service. It reads -
I have forwarded to you, under separate cover, a copy of the report of the Royal Commissioner in the matter of an inquiry into a statement that there was a document missing from the official files. I will not release the report to the press until you intimate that you have received the report.
You will note that, because of the plea advanced by your counsel, vital questions in the terms of reference were beyond the power of the Commissioner to deal with, the Commissioner ruling that counsel’s submission must be given effect. As a result, question No. 1 was not answered, question No. 2 was given only a limited answer, and question No. 3 was unanswered because of the manner in which questions Nos. 1 and 2 were treated.
On considering the report of the Royal Commissioner, the Government decided that it to clear that the raising of the issue of the rights and privileges of members of the Parliament precluded a determination of the substance of the questions involved in the terms of reference! These matters, therefore, have not been decided and the Government has directed that, as the question of the rights ii nd privileges of. members of the Parliament is involved, the matter is one which cannot be completed until a submission has been made to Parliament of the -matters that litiv.1.1 arisen. The Government has directed that, this submission bc made at the earliest opportunity. Therefore, the substance of questions Nos. 1.. 2 and .3 in the terms of reference are in effect sti.ll nub judice.
The reasons which caused me to direct you to abstain from the administration of your alice. therefore, continue and will continue until the Parliament has dealt with the matters involved. For these reasons, I now repeat my direction to you to abstain from performing any of the duties of your office and have arranged for the Honorable E. J. Holloway, M.P.. to continue to act for and in your place.
I desire to make certain comments on the facts which the documents disclose. First, I am sure that honorable members will be glad to have confirmation of their belief that no senior officer of .the defence administration was implicated in any way in this matter. The report of the royal commission, limited though it was in -.cope, owing to the attitude adopted by counsel for the Minister then under suspension, was quite emphatic on that point. No senior officer connected with our defence administration has any cloud of suspicion banging over him. The House will welcome that exoneration. Secondly, the commission was equally emphatic that no document was missing at the date at which the statements were made in this House by the then Minister. Thirdly, the commission found, as a fact, that no military appreciation was submitted to any government before February, 1942, which waa four or five months after the Curtin Administration assumed office. Therefore, no “ Brisbane line “ had been drawn prior to February. 1942, by the Curtin Administration, or by any previous administration. Fourthly - and this returns Ure matter to the purview of this Parliament - I come to the circumstances in which the then Minister claimed privilege as a member of the Parliament in order to refrain from answering the first three questions .submitted to the royal commission. Those questions were: first, whether the Minister was .most reliably informed on a certain matter; secondly, whether he was informed in the terms, or to the effect, specified in the statement which he had made; and, thirdly, if the information was given to him, by whom, in what circumstances, and for what reason it was given. The commissioner was prevented from making any inquiry into these circumstances by the plea made by counsel on behalf of the Minister that to do so would amount to a breach of hi3 privilege as a member of this Parliament. The privileges of members of Parliament are traditional and long-standing, and I agree .that the members of this House must jealously guard them. But, on behalf of the Opposition, I ask the Prime Minister to consider whether Parliament did not waive its privilege in order to secure the desired information. I .submit that the claim to privilege was waived, in effect, if not specifically, when the right honorable gentleman reported to the House that a royal commission had been appointed to make its inquiries and the House took no objection to that procedure. I believe that it can be truthfully claimed that the action of appointing the commission was endorsed by all honorable members except the .honorable gentleman who was under suspension, and the then honorable member for Bourke, Mr. Blackburn. I have no doubt whatever that if the Parliament had been asked to intimate that it waived the claim of privilege in order that the desired inquiries could be made it would have done so and would have given the royal commission complete authority to make the investigation. Because the claim of privilege was made before the commission, the inquiry was balked, and this is the first time that the matter has since come before the Parliament for us to express our view as to whether investigation should have proceeded and the plea of privilege waived. My next comment is that, although the then. Minister was suspended from his office pending the answering of the questions by the royal commission, the important questions remain unanswered. The Prime
Minister regards the issues raised as being important, for in his letter to. his colleague he said that, because of the plea advanced by the honorable gentleman’s counsel, vital questions in the -terms of reference were beyond the power of the commissioner to deal with, and the commission had not dealt with them. The Government had decided that, because the issue of the rights and privilege of members of the Parliament had been raised a submission should be made to the Parliament. The Government had, therefore, directed that such a submission should be made at the earliest possible moment, and that until that was done the matter was still- sub judice, and the Minister would continue to abstain from, the performance of his duties.
The only question which was answered was the one in regard to which there was no dispute, for both- the Prime Minister and the then Minister for Labour and National Service had already stated publicly that they did not believe that any document was missing. So far as the Parliament was concerned, therefore, the only question which the royal commission answered was the question which the Parliament considered had already been answered.
If there was adequate reason for the Prime Minister to continue the suspension of his colleague after the report of the royal commission was submitted, and until the unanswered questions had been resolved, there is still adequate reason to continue such suspension, for the matters are still unresolved. The Prime Minister said that the Government had decided that a submission should be made to the House at the earliest possible opportunity. I claim that he is, therefore, called upon to make such a submission. As he has not done so, the House is entitled to know the reason why. Although these questions have remained unanswered, the suspended Minister has been given a portfolio in the new Government in a new capacity. The Opposition considers that an obligation rests upon the Prime Minister, as the custodian of. the prestige and authority of the Parliament, to clear this matter up at the earliest possible moment, and to take all necessary steps to protect parliamentarytraditions and maintain the high stan dard of conduct that is expected from ministries and Cabinet Ministers. As the right honorable gentleman considered it necessary to relieve his colleague of his duties while these matters remained, undetermined, he should take steps to have them determined at the earliest possible moment, and make a submission to the House in regard to them. The House cannot be satisfied with the present attitude of the Government on this subject. If there was good cause to suspend a Minister- in order to hold an inquiry, and if, as I believe, to be the fact, the House waived the. plea of privilege in order to have the. matters investigated, the Opposition considers that the Minister involved should not be allowed to take refuge in the technical plea of privilege. Wo feel that an obligation rests upon the Government and the House to reach finality on these issues. We therefore press the Prime Minister to make a submission to the House in- the terms of his letter of the 14th July, and to indicate the attitude of the Government on the subject. We surely cannot allow the highly important issues to which T have referred to remain undetermined.
.- I am astounded that the Leader of the Opposition (Mr. Menzies), who is said to be an eminent legal practitioner, and who previously considered this subject to be of so much importance as to demand the appointment of a royal commission to investigate it, should now apparently consider it to be so unimportant that he is not in attendance when it is being dealt with by the House. I am astounded, that the honorable member for Warringah (Mr. Spender), who also had a great deal to say on this subject when it wa3 previously before the House, should now also have deserted the Opposition. The brief has been left to a junior member, if not the office boy. of the firm. I recognize that, under very difficult circumstances, that honorable gentleman has been called upon to make a face-saving speech for the Opposition. He has read copies of several documents, the contents of which were already well known, and’ on these he has made certain submissions.
He began by saying that he had no wish to revive the subject because the canard had been exploded. There has been an explosion, but all of the casualties have been among Opposition members. On the last occasion on which I addressed the House on this subject the Opposition benches were fairly full. A decision in the matter has been given by the highest authority in the land, an authority higher than the Parliament or a royal commission, namely, the people; hence the many casualties in the ranks of the Opposition parties. To the honorable member for Fawkner has been entrusted to-day the task of submitting a case on behalf of the Opposition. I remind him that when the terms of reference of the royal commission were mentioned, I told this House that the inquiry would prove abortive, because the terms were so limited as to make impossible an investigation of the charges I had made against the Menzies and Fadden administrations. ‘ The honorable member now wants to place on the Prime Minister (Mr. Curtin) responsibility for the result. At the time of the appointment of the royal commission the Labour party did not have a majority in this House; consequently, because of pressure by certain honorable members the Prime Minister was compelled to submit to the royal commissioner distinctly limited terms of reference, which prevented that gentleman from making an inquiry into my charges. Those terras had the approval of the Leader of the Australian Country party (Mr. Fadden) who was then the Leader of the Opposition; he was consulted continuously before they were announced. Surely he was advised by the legal men on his side as to what the powers of the royal commission would be ! The honorable member for Fawkner now talks about the privileges of members, and claims that they must be protected. Surely he and -other members of the Opposition must have known that the royal commission would not have the power to compel me to give evidence concerning any utterance I had made in this House! In any event, parliamentary privilege is not held by every member individually, but is the privilege of the Parliament as such ; in other words, the privilege of the people. It would be fundamentally wrong, and a blow at the basis of democracy itself, if any member of Parliament could be subjected to interrogation outside in respect of statements he had made inside this legislature. I have never balked an inquiry; I would have welcomed the most complete investigation of my charges. But that was not desired by members of the Opposition. They were not anxious that I should be given the opportunity to have a complete investigation. They knew that they were approaching a general election, and they wanted a “facesaver”. They wished to be able to say to the people, “ A royal commission was appointed to investigate the matter, and it has found nothing “. The royal commission could not find anything, because the terms of reference were so limited that it could not inquire into the charges 1 had made. Being most vitally affected, I considered that I should have had a voice in the framing of the terms of reference. Certain suggestions and recommendations were made by me for their extension, but when the terms were announced they were found to be identical with those requested by the Leader of the Opposition. The honorable member for Fawkner has conceded that before the Parliament, had been prorogued one of the questions into which the royal commissioner was appointed to inquire had been answered in this House. A great deal was made of my- statement of the 22nd June concerning a document. The Opposition, seized upon that statement. Honorable members opposite believed that they would be able to divert attention from the merit of my charges, to some argument in relation to my statement concerning a document which, I had been informed, had been missing. My charges were not based upon that document. I had received this information after I had made charges against the Menzies and Fadden administrations in Victoria, and during my visit to Tasmania. What the public wanted to know was, whether or not there was any truth in those charges. The honorable member for Fawkner now asks why the Prime Minister, having suspended the Minister for Labour and National Service, does not take positive action. The Prime
Minister was impelled to the action he took, because members of the Opposition demanded it, and were able to enforce their demand. Never on any occasion did my colleagues doubt my integrity. The Prime Minister has presented the report of the royal commission for which the Opposition asked. The honorable member for Fawkner says that the right honorable gentleman has not taken positive action. The motion for the printing of the report has the effect of submitting the matter to the House. If the Opposition wants further action to be taken, it can move in that direction. All the legal luminaries opposite are absent from their places to-day, and it has been left to a junior member to make the best case of which he is capable. I have not been advised that the Leader of the Opposition has met with an accident, that he is ill, or that he has been called away on urgent national business. He knew that this matter was to be debated. The motion in regard to ifc has appeared on the notice-paper for some time, and only a few days ago the Prime Minister stated that an opportunity to debate it would be afforded. If those members of the Opposition who are absent consider that it is important, why are they not in their places, prepared to debate it? The honorable member for Fawkner has quoted extensively the report of the royal commissioner. It can readily be imagined that by the limited terms of reference the commissioner was seriously hampered. In his report, he has stated that certain officers of the department were not those who had advised or informed me. I agree with that, and am prepared to say that, on the evidence that the commissioner had before him, he has reported correctly. When the announcement of the appointment of the royal commission was made in this House I said that, having had a consultation with the Prime Minister, I was satisfied that at that stage no document was missing from the official files. If honorable members care to engage in a lengthy debate as to what constitutes official files, and how many persons have access to them at one time or another, I can easily show them that, because of the limited scope of the inquiry, it would be quite impossible to say that every person had been interrogated who at one time or another may have had access to what are known as official files. Official files need not necessarily mean files in the possession of the administrative head of the Department of Defence. That was never suggested. There are all sorts of reports and recommendations in respect of defence matters on innumerable files, and numerous persons have access to them. From the outset there was never any doubt in my mind that there was no need for a royal commission if the terms of reference were to be framed to prevent a full inquiry into my charges concerning “ the Brisbane line” strategy. Members of the Opposition now have the opportunity, if they so desire, to take positive action to ensure, as the honorable member for Fawkner has said, that the will of Parliament shall not be balked. Of the way in which the will of the Parliament has been balked, as he implies, I am unaware. The people have expressed their view. My electors have shown clearly their attitude in regard to the charges that I made; they returned me with the largest majority that any man had ever received in the East Sydney electorate - an absolute majority of more than 20,000 votes over the votes of four other candidates. I am satisfied that the Opposition has never desired a full inquiry into my charges. The honorable member for Fawkner may consider that, because of the stand taken by my counsel, I balked an inquiry. I had not to determine whether or not the point that he took should be put to the royal commissioner. Mr. Barry, K.C., my counsel, advised me that it was his duty as a legal man to draw the commissioner’s attention to the law, and said that if I wished to act contrary to his advice I should have to arrange for other counsel to appear on my behalf. The Menzies and Fadden administrations were legally represented before the commission by Mr. Frank Villeneuve - or villainous; I am not certain of the correct pronunciation - Smith. When Mr. Barry raised the point, Mr. Justice Lowe asked Mr. Villeneuve Smith whether or not he wished to make any comment. The right honorable member for Kooyong (Mr. Menzies) was present. Mr. Smith conferred with him, and then said to the commissioner, “I am advised not to offer any objection “. Why did the honorable member for Fawkner not quote thatportion of the commissioner’s report?
– I quoted every word in the report.
– The honorable member for Fawkner, with the subtlety which characterizes most legal gentlemen, abstracted from the report, and the evidence placed before the royal commissioner only those portions that suit the purpose of the Opposition.
Mr.Holt. - I rise to order. I have given the documents to Hansard. They will show that I quoted every word of the report of the royal commissioner. I ask that the Minister be required to withdraw what is a deliberate misstatement.
– There is. no point of order.
– I have no wish to misrepresent. If the honorable gentleman objects to what I have said, I shall amend it by saying that he carefully selected portions of the evidence submitted to the royal commission in order to make out soma sort of caseon behalf of the Opposition.
– I didnot quote any evidence, but I did read the whole of the report presented to this Parliament.
– Mr. Villeneuve Smith, who appeared’ for the Henries and Fadden administrations, had no objection to offer when the matter of privilege was raised which prevented the royal commissioner from requiring me to give evidence. The present Leader of the Opposition and his followers wanted lightly to dismiss my charges when the royal commissioner had made his report and it was received by the Government and released for publication. They said, “ That is the end of ‘the Brisbane line ‘ “. It may have been the wish of the Opposition to consider that the end of “the Brisbane line “ controversy, but I had other views about it. The honorable member for Fawkner said that he wanted to place on record the report of the royal commissioner. I, too, am anxious to place an record certain matters that relate to his subject. Shortly after I had made my charges, the Leader of the Opposition (Mr. Menzies) said -
It was, a false picture, scandalous in its content, and intended to deceive.
When the Fadden Government fell in October, 1941, Japan was not in the war, and Australia was not actually or directly threatened with attack:
Of one thing the right honorable gentleman evidently was not aware - or probably he thought that others were not aware of it. On record were other statements he had made, which showed clearly that months before Labour took office, and long before Japan actually struck, he knew that that country was a potential enemy of and danger to Australia. In December, 1940, during another discussion, he said -
Any one who believes that Australia’s wasdanger is any less than Britain’s is living in a fool’s paradise, which can in a few days become a fool’s hell.
In this House, on the 16th December, 1941, when replying to criticism by the present Attorney-General (Dr. Evatt), he said -
Hea ring some of the things that have been said to-day one would think that war with Japan literally came like a thief in the night. He would have been a very complacent fool who did not think that at any time in the last two years war witht Japan was a distinct possibility.
The basis of my charge was that the Opposition, knew, when it was in power, of this danger that was; impending, yet did nothing to meet it. On the 10th June, 1941, a submission was made by. the then Prime Minister (Mr. Menzies,) to the War Cabinet just after he returned from abroad. He said that he had been advised by the Chiefs of Staff of the possibility of the early entry of Japan into the war, and the threat of early invasions; yet honorable members opposite say that the first they heard of” the Brisbane line “ was on the4th February, 1942. It is obvious that if Mr. Menzies was able to warn his colleagues on the 10th June, the Chiefs of Staff must ‘have evolved some plan to meet the threat - or does the honorable member suggest that from the 10th June, 1941,. to the 4th February. 1942, there was no plan in existence to meet the possible threat from Japan?
– We are considering now the proceedings before the royal commission.
-Now the honorable member is beginning to protest. There is no shadow of doubt regarding the truth of the charges which I made against the Menzies and Fadden administrations. They allowed the country to remain in a defenceless condition. They knew of the Area from Japan. Members ofthe Oppo sition tried, during the recent election campaign, to create the impression that I stood alonein making these charges, that none of my colleagues was with me, and thatI was making charges which nobody believed.I propose to quotestatements made, not by irresponsible persons, but bythose of some standing and integrity. Mr. Hanlon, Minister for Health and Home Affairsin theQueenslandGo- vernment said on the 7th February. 1942-
Right up to and until Japan came into the war the northern defenceline was right here, just north of Brisbane.
The same gentleman wasreported later as having said that the statement which he had made in 1939 to the effect that there had been no intention to defend Queensland in the event of an invasion in force still stood.He added, “ Subsequent developmentsproved the correctness of that statement”. Mr. Wise, a Minister in the Government of Western Australia, is reported in , a Sydney newspaper of the 29th June, 1943. as having said that Western Australian defences were chaotic, and that there wasno chance of defending any part of the State north of Berth. Mr. Dwyer-Gray, Treasurer in the Government of Tasmania, gave me some very important information In June, 1939, just after the death of the then Premier of Tasmania, Mr.Ogilvie, a meeting of the Loam Council washeld in Canberra. Mr. Dwyer-Gray attended it. In going through Mr. Ogilvie’s papers, Mr. DwyerGray discovered some very important and confidential military documents which disclosed the intention of at least considering the defence of Tasmania, ‘Queensland and some other parts of Australia as of only secondary importance. Mr. Dwyer-Gray demanded that the defence of those outpostsshould be considered by the council. Mr. R. G. Casey was Commonwealth Treasurer at the time, and chairman of the Loan Council. Every member of the council was supplied with a memorandum setting out the information contained in the documents referred to by Mr. Dwyer-Gray, and there was a discussion on the subject. Mr. Forgan Smith, the Premier off Queensland, said -
The Queensland strategy contemplatedby the military authorities, appeared to be the evacuation of its north.
Mr. DwyerGray, as late as the 1st July, 1943, made this statement ;
Iam quite satisfied that the Brisbane line originated threemonths at least before the war. It is a simple statement of fact to add that, for a very long period after the outbreak of war no proper preparations, and no really definite plans, had been made for the adequate defence of Western Australia and Tasmania, whilethe military strategy long remained the evacuation of the whole of the north of Australia.
Threeare the very things that I had been saying. Mr. Dwyer-Gray continued -
Tosuppose that the Minister for Labour and National Servicehad lied about the Brisbane line is absurd.
Mr. Cooper, thePremier of Queensland, in a speech at Dal by, spoke of “ theBris- bane line “ as follows : -
Whenthe enemy was veryclose to Australia, Queensland had been practically without defence. Inquiries into the strategy of the day showed that Queensland had been left out of the defence plans.
Nowlet us see what one of the members of the Opposition hadto say. The exMinister for Air, the honorable member for Indi (Mr. McEwen), said -
The honorable memberfor Bourke(Mr. Blackburn), whose integrity no man will challenge, when this controversy was raging, wrote to the Melbourne papers as follows: - “ I believed, withGovernment supporters generally, that beforetheCurtin 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 I was told bymore than , one Labour member that this advice , had been given to the WarCouncil while the Labour partywas still in Opposition. I did not at first believe this, but I was so often and so strongly assured of it thatI could nothelp believing that such advicehad been given. It was freely discussed byGovernment supporters.”
The present Minister for theNavy and Minister for Munitions (Mr. Matin), speaking in this House on the 23rd June of this year, said -
Like drowning men clutching at straws, they are desperately trying tomake 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. I challenge the Opposition to show that there was one anti-aircraft gun north of Brisbane at that time.
In the light of that statement, how can honorable members opposite argue that it was intended to defend those areas? How can they deny that it was proposed to leave them to the mercy of the Japanese? I come now to what the present Prime Minister (Mr. Curtin) had to say on the subject -
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.
– The statement was not made in those terms.
– I have been accused of lying, but surely the honorable member is not now accusing the Prime Minister also of having lied. The statement referred to was made in this House by the then Minister for the Army, the honorable member for Warringah (Mr. Spender). It clearly indicated the condition of the defences of Australia shortly before the Labour Government came into office. Now honorable members opposite try to deny that it was proposed to desert large territories in the north and west of Australia, thus allowing the Japanese to walk through.What, I ask, was to stop the Japanese from walking through? The Prime Minister continued -
That was the position when the present Government came into office. 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.
That is even worse than I charged them with - I spoke of a line north of Brisbane. It is clear that the defences of the country were in a shocking condition as the result of neglect by the previous Administration. The Prime Minister said further -
Before the war with Japan the primary consideration of the other governments had been co-operation overseas, with the result that the home defence plans had been defeatist in outlook and preparation.
– This is merely a smoke screen.
– I am quoting what was said by the Prime Minister at a conference in Sydney. The honorable member forFawkner, who a little while ago was making such insistent demands for information, is now getting more than he wants. I continue to quote the Prime Minister -
With the forces then at his disposal, and the absence of aerodromes, road communications and workable harbours in the northern parts of Australia, Sir Iven Mackay had the soundest military reasons for avoiding a wide dispersal of an inadequate force.
We have never blamed Sir Iven Mackay. Obviously, he had to do the best he could with the inadequate forces provided by the last Government. The statement, goes on -
To provide the strength for the defence of Australia is the responsibility of the Government. To use the provided strength to the best advantage is all military commanders can do. The basic facts are undeniable - Australia’s trained and equipped military forces were away from the Commonwealth. We had no fighting air power here, and the enemy was moving towards Australian areas in which no preparations had been made for military operations. The works services, and the fighting strength of air and land forces in the north had to be provided after Japan had struck.
The Labour Government had to provide defences in the north after Japan had struck, because the anti-Labour administrations had neglected to provide them. In order that honorable members may not believe that I am making charges that cannot be substantiated it is necessary that I cite my authorities as to the state of the defences when Labour took office. According to the Brisbane Telegraph of the 9th September, 1942, the Minister for Health and Home Affairs in the Queensland Government pointed out in the State Legislative Assembly on the 6th May, 1939, 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, hut the invariable reply had been that the work did not justify the expense. That was when the anti-Labour forces were in control. The work did not justify the expense! The honorable member for Herbert (Mr. Martens) said in the House of Representatives on the 24th lune, 1943 - in the electorate that I represent there were aerodromes, if they can be so described, mi which even a small Douglas machine could no.t land and from which it could not take off. Aeroplanes were compelled to pass daily over a number of towns, because of the lack of accommodation on the aerodrome and the shortness of the runway.
The honorable member for Kalgoorlie (Mr. Johnson) also said on the 23rd June, 1943 -
When American fighting planes landed 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 bc able .to leave the ground, because of the unsuitability of the aerodrome. When the Japanese raided Broome, these aircraft were destroyed on the ground.
The Opposition parties had had the opportunity for many years to provide facilities for modern aircraft to be operated. The Attorney-General (Dr. Evatt) said in this House on the 16th December, 1941 -
But what of the defence of these shores? Che Government has been stock-taking. It has inherited a situation in which the defence of our country has been treated as a subordinate and subsidiary part of a distant war.
The honorable member for Henty (Mr. Coles). who is not a member of the Labour party, said on the 23rd June last, referring to the Labour Government -
Its achievements in the construction of roads, aerodromes and buildings, etc., enabled the defence of the north .to be undertaken. lt is logical to argue that, if the honorable member for Henty admits that only the works constructed by the Labour Government enabled the northern part of Australia to be defended, the Opposition left the north in a state in which it could not be defended. The Minister for the Army (Mr. Forde) said -
I propose now to give to the House some particulars regarding the appalling position of Australia’s defences when this Government took office. There was not one modern lighter aeroplane in the Commonwealth. You could count on one hand the number of tanks we had when the Menzies Government was in office. We had only about fifteen rounds of anti-tank ammunition per gun. We had less than one week’s supply of field artillery ammunition for fighting on a very moderate scale. We had only about (5u per cent, of the rifles required to equip our forces. We had only about 20 per cent, of the number of light, automatic tommy guns required and there was a very serious shortage of the machine guns we needed, with hopelessly inadequate supplies of spare parts. We had had in this country for many years a large number of .31 calibre rifles, but when we took office there was no ammunition whatever in Australia for them. The last Government stood idly by and watched our petrol reserves dwindling from week to week until, when this Government took office, they had reached a perilously low level. There were no aerial torpedo bombs. There was only one radiodirectional finding equipment .set. *[Extension of time granted. *
That was the state of the defences of this country when this Government took office. If honorable gentlemen opposite want any further authority, I will quote the statement made by General Douglas MacArthur on the anniversary of his arrival in Australia. The honorable member for Fawkner (Mr. Holt), in trying to make out that there was no such thing as “ the Brisbane line “, declared that witnesses before the royal commission had said that they had never heard of “ the Brisbane line “. I do not dispute that. It only goes to show that probably some of the members of the forces are not so alert as they should be. General Douglas MacArthur knew about it, because he was the first to use the term “Brisbane line”. The Christian Science Monitor published on the 1Sth March, 1943, the report of an interview with General MacArthur, from which the following is an excerpt : -
Disclosure that Australia was so defenceless a year ago that its defence plans were laid for a defence line as far south as Brisbane was made to-day by General Douglas MacArthur. Airfields in this vast country were few and far between, while in the threatened part of the country, strategic roads and railways did not exist. At that time the role of Port Moresby was to hold the enemy to enable mainland defences to be brought into action.
I quote that particularly because members of the Opposition on previous occasions have said, “ If we had intended to abandon sections of Australia, why did we have troops at the outposts?” But they were only holding forces consisting of a handful of Militia and a few native troops at Port. Moresby.
The position is different to-day. The Brisbane Telegraph on the 18th March, 1943, said-
All we had wasa handful of Militia at Port Moresby, a fewnative troops and nothing else. Port Moresby, the key to the air situation, had a broken-down- port with little shipping facilities. Its airfield was merely a stopping-off. field used by air transport.
I am very thorough in ray investigations, as honorable gentlemen no doubt realize, and I went to great trouble to ascertain whether General MacArthur gave a personal interview; I found that he did.. I understand: that it was one of the very few occasions on which he has given a personal interview to war correspondents. Finally, I quote the Sydney Daily Telegraph, which the honorable member would not say was well disposed towards the Government or me personally. On the 29th December, 1941, that newspaper said about the firstCurtin Ministry -
They are starting behind scratch with a country unprepared for war, a country that even after two and a half years of war still lacks essential weapons and supplies.
I ask members of the Opposition whether, when we took over Australia did not lack weapons and materials and had no aerodromes or strategical road’s prepared’ for defence of the north ? How could they expect that the north would be adequately defended - simply by, their saying from time to time that they intended that the north would be def ended? Let us hear what the then Lender of the Opposition said on the 31st August, 1939’-
For the first time in history, Australia hasso thoroughly prepared for eventualities that it has complete plans, fully documented for taking all those steps’ which would need to be taken after an actual declaration of war. The Army is prepared. The R.A.A.F. is in a very good state of preparation. on the 22nd July, 1940, he said-
The local defences of Australia had never been as strong at any. previous time: in our history.
Who is lying? What a lot of bunk to give to the people of this country!
– That is what the Prime Minister said when he took office.
– That is true, but what choice did he have? Could he advertise to fine world at that time that this country was defenceless ? We had to play for time.
We had tobluffthe Japanese while we prepared to meet them. Would honorable gentlemen opposite say that he should have broadcast to the world that we had practically no defences ? I do not deny the amazing ability of leading members of the- Opposition to twist words and distort facts. Opposition members believe that an all-in war effort consists in going, from function to function and making speeches. The Leader of the Opposition went to a little celebration of the delivery of the 100th two-pounder anti-tank gun, manufactured in Australia, and said -
More than 400.000 men have been trained and equipped for the fighting services in Australia.
But he did not say that although the 100th anti-tank gum had been manufactured, no ammunition for those guns was being or had been produced in this country. Such things were not told to the public. The right honorable gentleman said -
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.
He also said -
What is the use of saying to me that there were some troops, without guns? Of course there were! If I am told that flier’.’ were some troops without rifles, my answer is, “Of course there were”.
That was the position when we took office. I said in this Parliament that the Opposition had left this country absolutely defenceless, and. that the Japanese had been practically given an invitation to walk in and overrun large sections of Australian territory. The Opposition had been so panic-stricken that it had run away. We had become the Government,, not as the result of a general election, but because the Menzies and Fadden Ministries had fallen to pieces. They had been incapable of governing. Aware of the defenceless state of this country,, they had panicked and left it to the Labour party to take over. I shall, before concluding, give some facts to show that the Opposition has. not. disposed of the pointsI raised when I spoke them. The honorable member for Fawkner said that dates were important. I shall give him some.. In October, 1941, Labour took office. In March, 1942,
General MacArthur came to Australia.
In October, 1942, I first publicly made my charges. In October, 1942, the Tight honorable member for Kooyong and the Tight honorable member for North Sydney .denied the charges. They said there was no basis for them and that i hey weise figments of ray imagination. On’ the 17th March, 1943, General MacArthur’s statement was published in the Australian press.
If the Leader if .the Opposition knew of ‘Our defenceless state and heard for the first time on the 4th February, 1942, of the existence of “ the .Brisbane line “, why .did he deny in October, 1942, that there was any base for the charges I have made? He said then that the charges were a figment of my imagination. Honorable members opposite were daily appealing to the Prime Minister. ‘They wanted Ward shut up and prevented from making the charges which were proving very damaging to them in the electorate. In order to divert attention from the real charges to something that was of relatively less importance, they demanded a royal commission. They had it. It proved as abortive as I predicted it would. I said that it would not clear up this matter, and. it did not. Even after the report became known, t’hey said, “ This does not dispose of it. The questions have not .been answered. The Royal Commissioner was unable to conclude his inquiry, and therefore the matter is one for the Parliament.’” Although the Royal .Commissioner’s report found absolutely nothing in regard to the charges that I made, honorable members opposite still demanded the continuance of .my suspension. The Prime Minister agreed that the Opposition might desire .an inquiry for the purpose of finding out whether there was any basis for my charges. So I remained in ‘suspension. Then, in August, T was returned to the House of Representatives with a record majority, and later my ‘colleagues expressed their confidence in me by restoring me o Cabinet. But members of the Opposition are still dissatisfied. They contend that the matter has not been disposed of, .amd .demand to know what the (Government proposes to do. Their lack of sincerity is indicated by the Ea-ct that only six members of *the United Australia party, and most of them junior members, are listening to this debate. All the prominent members of the United Australia party have “gome into smoke “, because they were afraid to face a thorough debate of my charges.
Tire Royal Commissioner found nothing. He was obliged to come to the finding that he did. I was never afraid of a proper inquiry into nay charges, amS the majority of the Australian people are quite satisfied that the greatest tragedy which could have befallen this country would have been the return to office of the bunglers -and “worse, who comprised ‘the anti-Labour Government. As the Baily Telegraph said, the Labour Government started from behind scratch. When the Curtin Government took office Australia had been at war for two years, but the Labour party required only a relatively short period in which to put the defences of the country in such a healthy condition that the Prime Minister was able to announce on behalf of the Government that the threat to this -continent had passed. I am now completely satisfied that the charges which I .made against the Menzies-Eadden Administration have been fully justified by the revelation of the facts.
– I am very happy to have this opportunity to follow in debate the Minister for Transport and Minister for External ‘Territories (.Mr. Ward). In his speech, he -covered a good deal of ground, and I propose to. follow .his example. The absence from this chamber to-day , of ‘certain members of the party to which I belong is absolutely inexcusable.
– It was to be a fighting Opposition !
– I am a member of that section of the Opposition which .does believe m fighting. Every one of those dreadful statements which were the subject of bitter .debate in tie last Parliament has been repeated to-day by the Minister. Every insult which was heaped upon my colleagues -of the Opposition, every brand and ‘Stigma that has been put on them, has been renewed., and I should 5ike to know whether they “propose to continue their -association with -the
Australian Advisory War Council, out of which this controversy arose. Probably, they will retain their association with that body, because they willingly carry every insult which the Minister heaps upon them. That is my view, and it is for publication.
I propose to examine the defence position of Australia, and to remind “FieldMarshal” Ward of a few things that he has said in the past. No doubt the Minister desires to be promoted to the rank to which the leader of the Russians elevated himself not long ago. I recommend to honorable members a book entitled The Day of the Saxon. I have not read it for twenty years, but the Parliamentary Library has a copy of it. Published in 1910, the book contains maps of Australia and of the Pacific generally, and honorable members will find clearly laid down in those pages by one of the greatest military minds that the United States of America has produced, the areas that Australia would be able to defend in the event of a war with Japan. For nearly nine years, I have been a member of this chamber and in that period I have heard many debates on external affairs and the defence of Australia. Often I have heard the Minister declare that defensive preparations in Australia were not necessary. His colleague, the honorable member for Batman (Mr. Brennan), even after this war ‘broke out, asked, “Who is this enemy against which the Government proposes to defend Australia? “ In 1937, the Lyons Government decided to increase the Militia forces from 35,000 to 70,000 men. I challenge any honorable member opposite, and I include the new vintage, to say that he assisted the Lyons Government in that matter.
– I did.
– Probably in Adelaide where the honorable member is not known. I invite any Minister to admit, as the honorable member for Griffith (Mr. Conelan) has done, that he rendered any assistance to the Government of the day in that matter. What did the Minister for the Navy (Mr. Makin) do? How often has the Minister for Transport and Minister for External Territories spoken in favour of increasing the strength of the Militia?
– When I spoke on the subject of universal training I did not have the support of the honorable member.
– Ever since I entered public life I have stood for complete, absolute .and unqualified conscription. I cannot be more definite than that. The Minister for Repatriation (Mr. Frost) would not have advocated universal training when he did if it had not been for the action of the then Premier of Tasmania in leading the Tasmanian Labour party along that line. The honorable gentleman will advocate conscription, calathumpianism, or anything else which the Australian Labour conference instructs him to advocate.
– What is wrong with that ?
– There is everything wrong with it. The point which I make is that the Lyons Government received scant assistance from the Australian Labour party in its efforts to strengthen the defences of Australia. When hostilities began in 1939, the Labour party declared the struggle to .be a capitalist or imperialist war. When, in December, 1939, the Prime Minister of the day (Mr. Menzies) sought from Parliament authority to despatch units of the Australian Imperial Force overseas, every member of the Australian Labour party opposed the motion. Worse still, when the then Minister for the Army, Mr. Street, introduced a bill to empower the Government to employ units of the Militia in Papua, New Guinea and the islands, which are now in the tender care of the Minister for Transport and External Territories, the honorable gentleman opposed the measure in one of the most vigorous speeches that I have ever heard him make. If he will refer to Hansard, he will see that his words were in this strain : “ If New Guinea and Papua have to be defended at all, they should be defended by the people who are foolish enough to live there. It is none of my business “.
– That is not true.
– Words to that effect appear in Hansard, unless they were expunged, as other statements have been. The Minister voted against the despatch of the Militia to New Guinea.
Before the outbreak of war, the Menzies Government decided to compile a register of man-power, and the Labour party prevailed upon the right honorable gentleman to delete from the bill the provision that empowered the authorities to seek from each male person information regarding his military service. Instead of talking about having defended Australia, the Minister is one of the last men who should refer to the subject. He has done absolutely nothing to support even the most elementary defence precautions. He has only attempted to divide the country on “ the Brisbane line “ controversy. On various occasions I have assisted in the preparation of certain plans. Although I have not worked on “ the Brisbane line “ plan, I have no doubt that two or three different lines have been proposed .for the defence of Brisbane. I am sure that there is a line for the defence of Townsville, and other lines for the defence of Coffs Harbour, Port Stephens, Newcastle, Sydney, and Port Kembla. I know personally something about the plans for the defence of the southern parts of this continent. For instance, there are plans for the defence of Melbourne from attack from either the east or the west. It may surprise the Minister to learn that I was associated on one occasion with the preparation of plans for the defence of Adelaide. Therefore, on his reasoning, if it be reasoning-
Mr. Clark interjecting,
– The honorable member would be quite safe west of the Darling. One of the things which “ tickled me pink “ was the way in which certain honorable members opposite found it convenient to reside in Canberra after Japan entered the war. Before Pearl Harbour, you could not have kept them here with a battleship’s anchor tied to each hand. They used to be on the train regularly on Friday afternoon, regardless of what was happening. These little things cause me great amusement. I watch my fellow men go by, and, still possessing a sense of humour, I can afford now and then to have a good laugh at some of the new-born patriotism of honorable members opposite.
– We should study carefully this rather momentous piece of political jugglery known as “ the Brisbane line “. The Minister for Transport was at great pains this morning to quote the views of a great number of people on the subject. Among others, he quoted the opinion of Mr. Hanlon, a Minister of the Government of Queensland. I have just met that honorable gentleman, and I have come to the conclusion that he is not at all a dangerous man. The Minister also used the name of Mr. DwyerGray, the Treasurer of Tasmania. I know him moderately well. He has never struck me as a gentleman who knows very much about military problems in Australia or elsewhere. If he had to conduct military operations I believe the weapons would be feather dusters. I was not impressed by the remarks of the Minister in that regard. I do not wish to speak at great length on this subject, for some honorable members much more important than I may want to say something on it. Not one authority mentioned by the Minister this morning could be considered, by any stretch of the imagination, as being qualified to express a weighty opinion on this subject. So far as I know, the Minister himself was the first person to make a reference to “ the Brisbane line “.
– Tell us what General MacArthur said.
– I am sorry that the honorable member for Bass (Mr. Barnard) has mentioned General MacArthur’s name. It is unfortunate that he has done so. I have an effective reply to the honorable member’s interjection if I choose to use it. As one who has some understanding of military matters, I would say to the honorable member for Bass, who always becomes vocal on Friday afternoons, that I, also, have some knowledge of international relations and the customs and courtesies inevitably linked with the successful conduct of international affairs. For that reason, I regret that the Minister for Transport imported into this debate the name of any person who is not one of our own citizens. Some time after the Minister had first mentioned “ the Brisbane line “ in the kindly and friendly way for which he is so distinguished., he reiteratedhis statements.The right honorable member for Darling Downs (Mr. Fadden), who was then Leader of the Opposition, quite rightly took violent exception - well, perhaps not violent exception, but exception - to the statements of the Minister, and insisted that the Prime Minister (Mr.. Curtin) should clarify the position, because if the right honorable member for Darling Downs and certain other honorable gentlemen who now sit on this side of the House are guilty of the things that were charged against them before the elections, and that have been charged against them again this morning in a most emphatic and violent way, theyshould be impeached for what could only be fittingly described as treason. Certainly, the conduct alleged against them amounts to criminal negligence. From his place at the table in this House, not long before the elections, in the presence of myself and a number of his henchmenthe Prime Minister in his wisdom - and he has quite a lot of political wisdom - repudiated everything that the then Minister for Labourand National Service had said. So strong were the Prime Minister’s convictions on that occasion that he suspended the Minister, who thereupon took a seat on. the back bench beside the honorable member for Melbourne (Mr. Calwell). The question of an inquirythen arose. I am not one of the legal gentry of this place, but I well remember discussing the subject with the then honorable member for Bourke (Mr. Blackburn). As soon as the question was raised I naturally took it for granted that leading King’s Counsel who, at times, adorn the benches on this side of the chamber, would have taken into consideration the effect that parliamentary privilege would have on this issue. Any honorable gentleman who gave thought to the subject at that timeshould have recognized that that issue was likely to arise. I do not desire to : say very much about the inquiry.
– Does not the honorable gentleman think that Parliament waived any question of privilege when it endorsed the action of the Prime Minister in appointinga royal commission ?
– There may be something in that contention. I am only acommon “ cocky “ and cowpuncher. Onrural subjects I am always ready to talk “ turkey “, though I do not wish to mix the flavours. Toe honorable member for Fawkner (Mr. Holt) was,in my view, entitled to advance that argument. I take the opportunity to say that he put the case very well this morning from the Opposition point of view, but we have to recognize that it is not what the honorable member for Fawkner or I think; it is what the royal commission has done. That is the all-important thing. The next most important thing is the action of the Prime Minister after the royal commission had reported to the Governor-General. At that time the Prime Minister said publicly that the then Minister for Labour and National Service would remain under suspension until Parliament had met and dealt with him. That is the crux and kernel of the whole question, and, in my opinion, it was not the Minister forTransport but the Prime Minister who should have answered at the table this morning. That responsibility is now more weighty and deadly than ever, seeing that the Minister forTransport reiterated hischarges this morning. . Are we to accept the statements of the Minister for Transport or those of the Prime Minister? Are we to accept the view that in order to deceive Japan, the Prime Minister had to put up a bluff or a smoke screen? This morning the Minister for Transport conveyed the impression to the House, on behalf of the Prime Minister, that because of the fine political balance in this chamber before the elections the Prime Minister, in a Machiavellian sort of way, was entitled to tell honorable members and the country that if theroyal commission reported in a certain way he would do something which he did not really intend to do.
The Opposition is entitled to be satisfied on these points. In my view, there should be some drastic action on this subject. I do not consider that this debate should terminate to-day, because the Minister for Transporthas imported two or threenew factors into the discussion.
Hehas impugned the reputation of men who should be here to-day, and who should be given an opportunity to answer for the attitude they have adopted. I. am not one who considers himself to be his brother’s keeper-
– Why are they not here?
– They must answer that question for themselves. Why is the Prime Minister not here?
– He is here.
– He is not in the chamber. After all, the Prime Minister is the Leader of the Government, just as the right honorable member for Kooyong is the Leader of the Opposition.
– The Prime Minister has more important things to do than to listen to this sort of “ tripe “.
– The honorable member for Griffith need not listen unless he is fascinated by “tripe”. The Minister for Transport made, a lot of quotations this morning about the state of the defences of this country when the Curtin Government assumed office. I took the opportunity during the luncheon recess to consult a volume of Hansard. I shall direct attention to a debate which occurred in this House on external affairs, in 1938, after the Munich crisis. On that occasion the present Prime Minister - this great champion of Australiandefence, this gentleman whose picture, with that of an eminent leader overseas was posted in many parts of my electorate during the election campaign - said -
I conclude by saying that a practical policy of economic progress in Australia: - the development of our industries, the payment of. decent wages, and the ensuring of good conditions so as to attract here citizens of the best type from other parts of the world - will in itself be an enormous contributor to our security.
Shortly afterwards, the Estimates were discussed. I shall not quote the remarks of the right honorable gentleman about collective security during the discussion of the Defence Estimates, though I feel strongly en the subject, because I was at that time a Minister in the Government which is. now being charged with the neglect of Australia’s defence. But on that occasion one of the first things that happened was that the honorable member for Dalley - the gentleman with whom you, Mr. Speaker, are well acquainted - moved that the proposed vote for the Department of Defence be reduced by £1 as a protest against the action of the Lyons Government in providing for the establishment of the munitions annexes in which so much work is now being done in connexion with the munitions production of Australia. In speaking to that amendment the present Prime Minister, who was then Leader of the Opposition, said -
We, as an Opposition, are opposed to the principle of incubating private vested interests in Australia in connexion with the defence needs. Under the old feudal system,, in return for certain baronial rights which the King gave to his favorites, those favorites undertook to raise armies onhis behalf. We can say that that was a period in which defence was established on the basis of private enterprise. At the present time, however from the viewpoint of the community, it is made in substance a communal obligation.
I shall not quote at greater length from the right honorable gentleman’s remarks because I have more important things to say, and honorable gentlemen opposite may read the speech for themselves. I remind them, however, that, many years ago, Jonathan Dymond, a noted English essayist, wrote an essay entitled, “ On , a man’s writing memoirs of himself “. Such recordsare available concerning many honorable gentlemen opposite, and, if we were so minded, we could employ some industrious minions, as the Minister for Transport has done, to collect extracts which could be hung, like a string of pearls, round the necks of some of the honorable gentlemen who adorn the treasury bench to-day.
– Such a collection of extract’s concerning the honorable member would be like a. crown of thorns on his head. .
– I am quite prepared to stand up to anything that I have said. Long before the war occurred, as far back as 1935, I informed this House that the next time a world war occurred and we had France as an ally, France would let us down and crash. Men who were very friendly to me at that time took violent exception to my remarks. If honorable gentlemen opposite care to examine the volumes of Hansard they will find also that long. before this war occurred I prophesied the boundaries in which a second Australian Imperial Force would serve. I said that they would lie well within the Cape, Cairo and New Zealand. Our Australian Imperial Force has not yet shifted beyond those boundaries. I said, too, on that occasion that a second Australian Imperial Force would never fight in France. No doubt some honorable gentlemen who were then sitting opposite me said things, though not quite loud enough for me to hear them !
– Let the honorable member tell us what he said about Russia.
– What I said about Russia is well known, and I do not qualify one word of it. I say now to honorable gentlemen that, in any peace negotiations, Russia will be firm in regard to its frontiers in Western Europe. I am quite sure that Finland, Lithuania, Latvia and Esthonia will not be able to make any representations against the aggressive, imperialistic republic which has its seat of government in Moscow. Only a few days ago, a Newcastle newspaper published the information that seven of ten American bombers that were missing from a raid on Paraninshur in the Kurile Islands had escaped in the wrong direction and landed on Russian soil. Their crews were interned, as were other American crews after the raid on Tokyo. Honorable gentlemen opposite would be well advised to have little to say about Russia for some time to come, because big moves are ahead and big contests are going on behind the scenes, of which, I presume, they know nothing and, I feel sure, would understand less if they were told anything about them. All that I had to say in regard to Russia in August, 1941, still stands; there is nothing that I have yet to qualify. At the moment, however, we are on “ the Brisbane line “.
Mr. Calwell interjecting,
– My honorable friend who is interrupting my discourse is one of many gentlemen opposite whose attitude towards fighting is expressed by Robert Burns in the following lines : -
Imurder hate by field and flood,
Though glory’s name should screen us.
In wars at home I’ll spend my blood,
Life-giving wars of Venus.
That has universal application.
– Translate it.
– Doubtless a translation would benefit my honorable friend, who has in him a strain of the same nationality, which displays itself on numerous occasions. My electors were told in most emphatic language, pictorially and in other ways, “ These two men saved Australia “. Listening to the Minister for Transport (Mr. Ward) this morning, one would think he had done it almost off his own bat. I expect him to come here one of these days with a motion declaring that he was responsible for digging the river Murray channel and Sydney Harbour. He would require parliamentary approval of that statement; and no doubt, with the House as at present constituted, he would get it without much debate. In the matter of the salvation of this country, I quite frankly allow a little to Providence and a little to the mistakes of human enemies. Honorable gentlemen opposite must recognize that whatever measure of salvation we have achieved has been due to the introduction into this country of the conscript forces of other countries, to back up our own Militia forces.
– We did not ask for conscripts.
– Conscripts were sent to our aid.
– It was the business of those countries to determine whom they should send.
– Among the warring nations generally, practically only conscripts are fighting to-day. The Dutch forces, the Free French, the British forces, the American forces, the New Zealand forces - every man jack of them in Australia is a conscript. If the voluntary principle be involved, let me say that I went through the first World War as a volunteer, and that I have been a volunteer for the last sixteen years. I volunteered for the second Australian Imperial Force, but the powers that be would not let me leave Australia, doubtless because they held the view that I would be missed too greatly by my friends opposite and there would be casualties among them due to heart failure, whilst others would die of remorse. I put this to those honorable members opposite who have been such unqualified champions of the voluntary principle when it did not look as though volunteers would be needed: At the outbreak of the war, the volunteers had thundering little for which to thank the Commonwealth
– They had no arms or guns for which to be thankful.
– If that can be said of this country at the outbreak of the war with Japan, let me tell the honorable member for Calare (Mr. Breen) that I was partly responsible for it. After the evacuation of Dunkirk, the Menzies Government, of which I was a member, packed up guns, ammunition and everything else that could be spared, and sent it to the defence of the United Kingdom. I dare any man in the Labour party - I would dare even the devil himself - to say that we were wrong. In the history of the British race, there never was a grander moment than that which followed the evacuation of Dunkirk. Had Winston Churchill been brought out here during the last three or four years, he would have been condemned as a nitwit in this Parliament, the simple reason being that* Winston Churchill, like certain men in this Parliament, in his day and generation was fool enough to go on active service. For too long throughout this war, in parliamentary and political circles, has active service and a knowledge of his subject by any member of this Parliament been regarded as a disqualification. (Extension of time granted.]
– The honorable gentleman is rough on his colleagues.
– I am not here to consider the feelings of any one. What, above all else, we want imported into this Parliament, is greater respect for political truth and honesty. I am not one who would stand with the Minister for Transport (Mr. Ward) and say that, just because it happened to suit us, we had put up an excellent big bluff. I have a counter for that sort of method. When one cannot afford to tell the truth in political or military matters, the safe and honest course is to say nothing at all.
– The honorable gentleman could not do that.
– My capacity to hold my tongue on matters that ought to be kept secret will bear comparison with that of any honorable member of this House. Perhaps I am guilty of having said in this chamber, even during the course of this debate to-day, what not many other honorable members would say. It seems to be the view of too many honorable members that the great body of our fellow citizens, who have not graced and adorned these green benches, do not understand what is happening here. Most of us are average men, and realize that the generality of mankind is not altogether foolish, but can judge the motives of other men. When putting out a smoke-screen, do not run away with the idea that the people outside are not ‘able to judge what is happening behind it. They may not be able to detail happenings. They may not be able to lay a finger on this one and that one, and say that he has done this, that or the other; nevertheless they are keenly conscious of what is going on. The statement of Abraham Lincoln that “you cannot fool all the people all the time “ still holds good.
– The results of the elections proved that.
– The results of future elections will prove it again. Some day, when I shall still be here, my distinguished friend from Griffith will be once more working somewhere in the neighbourhood of “.the Brisbane line “. You cannot fool all the people all the time. There has been too much of a tendency to import into the controversy on “ the Brisbane line “ a political insinuation which the facts do not justify. No member opposite other than the Minister for Transport, would do that, and none has attempted to do it. I hope that there will be some clarification of the position by the Prime Minister (Mr. Curtin). Perhaps, having gained the most remarkable victory ever achieved by any leader at an election in Australia, he considers that matters of this sort are beneath his notice. He has not looked a very happy man since he came back here ; f have seen only one smile on his face during the sittings of this Parliament.
When I look at what he has behind him, I have no doubt as to the. reason for his rather gloomy appearance. Before a year has passed, the people outside who selected most of my friends on the government side will have a clear appreciation of what they did on the 2.t.st August. This issue is one of the worst - in fact, it is one of the foulest - ever imported into Australian politics. I do not care what the Minister for Transport says. We have a country of 3,000,000 square miles, with a coast-line of 12,000 miles, and a population of 7,000,000, of whom 50 per cent, are congregated in three or four big capital cities.
– The honorable gentleman wanted only one Army, to fight everywhere in the world except in Australia.
– That is the only way in which you can effectively defend the country. On too many occasions throughout .this war have the very ABC principles of strategy been violated; because, in time of peace, owing to the pacifist attitude of too many honorable gentlemen opposite - too many “ Ramsay MacDonalds “-
– And too many “Baldwins” on the Opposition side.
– Th a i may be. I should like to witness a meeting between Baldwin, Ramsay MacDonald and Churchill. I know 6n whom I would put my money. In time of peace, there were too many who believed that the day had gone when disputes would be settled by recourse to arms. There were not many who, like myself, said in this place that he did not believe in the League of Nations. I have never believed in it. I have said that all we had succeeded in doing, after we had fought a war to end war, was to sign a peace to end peace. I never believed that sanctions would work. I believe that you, Mr. Speaker, were one of those who agreed with me.
– That was a temporary aberration.
– As was the inclusion of my friend in the Ministry. There were altogether too many Oxford Groupists and pacifists who believed that we could turn our swords into ploughshares’. It. is useless to tell me that there was only one gun north of “ the Brisbane line “. But for the work of the Menzies Government before this Government took office, honorable gentlemen would not to-day have anything to put north of “the Brisbane, line”. Munitions are not produced in a hurry. I was a member of the Menzies Government for eight months in 1940, and I know what was done towards putting this country on a sound munitions footing. I also know the obstacles which some of us had to surmount.
The Prime Minister was too wise to take office until he knew that the Australian munitions factories founded by his predecessors were about to come into full production. The right honorable gentleman is a shrewd politician. He is, I should say, the shrewdest party tactician I have met in my seventeen years in politics. I have no time for party tactics. I am a plain, man, in method as well as in looks. ‘ believe that the only fair and honest way is to choose your objective, and go towards it. I have no time for the political manoeuvring which seems to delight the hearts of some of my Machiavellian friends, but which usually gets them into a position where they can go neither forwards nor backwards. I regret that this matter was ever intruded into our public life. One day, the issue will be tried before the tribunal of history. The record may not be written for a while yet. but eventually all the relevant documents will be brought to light. Some day men will sit down, dispassionately and write the truth about “ the Brisbane line “. When that day comes, I have no doubt that the reputation of the man who originated, the controversy will be described by a word of three letters - mud.
– The reason for this debate is obvious. The honorable member for Fawkner (Mr. Holt) has,, with his usual clarity, put the case on behalf of the Opposition. The matter is now before the House, because, I understand,, the Leader of the Opposition. (Mr. Menzies) asked the Prime Minister (Mr. Curtin) to move that the report of the royal commission be printed, thus affording an opportunity for it to be debated. Therefore, as one whose name has been associated with this unsavoury matter, I am naturally disappointed to find to-day, when it is called on for debate, that only six or seven members of the Opposition are in their places. The public can be excused for not treating the matter with the seriousness it deserves when some of those directly concerned in the allegations evince so little interest. I compliment the honorable member for Fawkner upon hisspeech. He possesses qualifications which should have received greater recognition from members of his own party on a recent occasion.
An important principle is involved., namely, the privilege enjoyed , by members of Parliament. As for the allegations themselves, they are on record in Hansard, and also in the report of the royal commissioner.. Honorable members must have been impressed by the fact that, although the Prime Minister had previously repudiated the statements of the Minister for Transport (Mr. Ward,), as is recorded in correspondence between the Prime Minister and myself, the Minister in hisspeech to-day re-opened the whole subject and repeated his allegations. On the 14th July last, the Prime Minister wrote the following letter to the Minister for Transport : -
I haveforwarded to you, under separate cover a copy of the report of the royal commissioner in the matter of an inquiry into a statement that there -was a document missing from the official files. I will not release the report to the press until you intimate that you have received the report.
You will note that, because of the plea advanced by your counsel, vital questions in the terms of reference were beyond the power ofthe commissioner to deal with, the commissioner ruling that counsel’s submission mustbe given effect. As a result, question No.1 was not answered, question No. 2 was given only a limited answer, and question No. 3 was unanswered because of the manner in which question Nos. 1 and 2 were treated.
On considering the report of the royal commissioner, theGovernment decided that it was clear that, the raising of the issue of the rights and privileges of members of the Parliament precluded a determination of the substance of the questions involved in the terms of reference. These matters, therefore, have not been decided, and the Government has directed that, as the question of the rights and privilegesof members of theparliament is involved,the matter isone which cannotbe completed until a submissionhas been made to Parliament of the matters that havearisen.
The Government has directed that this submission be made at the earliest opportunity. Therefore, the substance of questions Nos.1, 2 and 3 in the terms of reference are in effect still sub judice.
The reasons which caused me to direct you to abstain from the administration of your office, therefore, continue and will continue until the Parliament has dealt withthe matters involved. For these reasons, I now repeat my direction to you to abstain from performing any of the duties of your office, and have arranged for the HonorableE. J. Holloway, M.P., to continue to act for and in your place.
What is the position now? ‘The Minister was certainly suspended, but the suspension did not continue until ‘Such time as the matter was submitted to Parliament.
– The Prime Minister has made no submission to Parliament.
– That is true. Nothing has happened since the writing of that latter to justify the Prime Minister in lifting the suspension. I repeat that it is regrettable that the Opposition has not taken more seriously its position as the watchdog of the people. I recall that the Leader of the Opposition said only a little while ago that what the Opposition lacked in numbers it would make up in the vigour of its debating. Obviously, he said, because of its numerical weakness, the Opposition could not ensure that its policy wouldbe implemented. It would have to depend on vigorous debate to rouse the -Government to an appreciation of its point of view. As a matter of fact, this is not a party matter - it concerns the Parliament as a whole.
The Minister for Transport, capable debater that he is, skillfully evaded the real issue. He brought the fight to our corner withhis allegations that Australia was defenceless atthe time the Labour Government assumed office. He has placed on record many statements in support ofhis case, and so I can he excused for quoting from speeches and statements in order to show what was the defence policy of the previous administration, and what was the attitude of responsible members of ‘the present Government to proposals for strengthening Australia’s defences. The Minister for Transport said that the defences of Australia were in a deplorable condition when the Labour party assumed office on the 7th October, 1941. At the time of the election in 1940, the war had been in progress for twelve months. It broke out in September, 1939, and Australia, as a member of the British Commonwealth of Nations, automatically became a belligerent. Our Government went to the country in 1940 with a twelve months’ record of war administration, and the people gave us a mandate to carry on, and confirmed our defence policy. Admittedly, the mandate was not a very effective one. Because of- the relative strength of the parties, it was difficult to make of Parliament an effective instrument for legislation. “What happened? En October, 1940, by arrangement with the then Opposition, we formed the Advisory War Council on which the Government and the Opposition had equal representation with four members each. The Labour party’s representatives were the Leader (Mr. Curtin), the Deputy Leader (Mr. Forde), the present Minister for Supply and Shipping (Mr. Beasley) and the present Minister for Munitions (Mr. Makin). Something akin to an all-party government to conduct the supreme direction of the war was set up within a month of the 1940 general elections.
– It was not an all-party government.
– It was an all-party administration.
– It was merely an advisory council.
– It was set up to consider and give advice upon all defence matters - matters involving the strategic direction of the war. The Labour party representatives were most active. They attended meetings of the council armed with volumes of advice and complaints and the results of their inspection of munitions factories and annexes. Were the Labour party representatives dissatisfied ? Did they think that Australia was in a defenceless position? Did they believe that our policy was to throw Australia, particularly Queensland, to the wolves? If the answer to those questions is “ Yes “, they failed in their duty to their party and to the people as a whole by remaining silent and by remaining members of the council. But the answer is not “ Yes “ ; it is a decided negative. They were so satisfied with the condition of Australia that their leader asked me when I was Acting Prime Minister during the absence abroad of the right honorable member for Kooyong, to increase the membership of the council, which I readily consented to do. The right honorable member for Barton (Dr. Evatt) was added from the Labour party’s side, and the honorable member for Indi (Mr. McEwen) from our side, so preserving the balance. If all the claims made to-day by the Minister for Transport were true and Australia was in an utterly defenceless position when Labour took office, instead of asking for the appointment of the right honorable member for Barton to the council, the right honorable member for Fremantle and his colleagues should have resigned and protested to Parliament and the country that the then Government was not doing the right thing by Australia. A further _ denial of the charges made by the Minister for Transport is contained in a statement made by the right honorable member for Fremantle on the 18th October, 1941, only eleven days after he became Prime Minister. The Minister for Transport to-day admitted that the Prime Minister had made the statement, but offered as an excuse that it was necessary to bluff the Japanese.
– The Prime Minister made that statement before the Japanese entered the war.
– Yes, six weeks before. This is what he said -
Through their membership of the Advisory War Council, most Ministers of the War Cabinet were familiar with Australia’s war effort, and, since assuming office, the Government had made a broad review of the situation with the Chiefs of Staff and the Commander-in-Chief Far East.
The Navy was at the highest pitch of efficiency, as demonstrated by the notable 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 Air Scheme. The equipment of the Air Force had also been -much improved. Finally, munitions production and the development of production capacity over a wide range of classes, including aircraft, was growing weekly.
That is a clear and unequivocal statement by a sincere man entrusted with the destinies of the country. Who would cast doubt on the sincerity of that statement? The Prime Minister, when he made it, had been a member of the Advisory War Council for more than twelve months and knew the facts. If that statement is not sufficient to convince honorable members that the facts are not as the Minister for Transport would have them believe, I point out that the Minister for the Army (Mr. Forde), who had also attended meetings of the Advisory War Council, was equally emphatic about our preparedness, because on the 20th October, 1941, less than a fortnight after Labour had taken office he said -
Our Army, Navy and Air Force are at a high standard of efficiency and are improving daily.
On page 25 of Volume 167 of Hansard, the right honorable member for Fremantle, five months before he became Prime Minister, is reported as having said -
I claim that the war has been prosecuted to the maximum of Australia’s capacity. “ Maximum “ can mean nothing else but maximum. That statement was made by a man with a full sense of his responsibilities and an intimate knowledge of the facts. At a Labour rally at the Sydney Town Hall, on the 12th October, 1942’, the Prime Minister 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.
If those statements are not true and are not sincere, it is hard for any one to assess what the responsibilities of a public man are.
After Labour took office, the Advisory War Council was not only continued, but also expanded and given enlarged powers. Therefore, the claim by the Minister for Transport that the Menzies and Fadden administrations had no regard for the need to defend Australia is completely refuted. But in case some honorable members yet remain to be convinced, I produce further evidence of the falsity of the allegations made by the Minister for Transport. It is contained in a publication T’he Job Australia is Doing issued on behalf of the Commonwealth Government by the Department of Information in March, 1943-
Before this war, Australia had not even built a motor car. But when Australia came in she had already supplied a wide range of war equipment to allied countries, including Great Britain, Egypt, South Africa, New Zealand, Fiji, the Netherlands East Indies, Hong Kong, Malta, Malaya, Burma, India and the Fighting French in the Pacific.
Who supplied that equipment - this Government or that which preceded it? Will any responsible’ member of this House doubt that it was our Government that, by its acceptance of the global strategy, enabled this country, when it was threatened with invasion, to claim and receive strong aid from its Allies, notably the United States of America? The isolationist policy which would have been applied in this country had the Labour party occupied the treasury bench in September, 1939, when war broke out, would have disqualified us from ever being able to ask for, let alone receive, the aid which has conferred on Australia its present degree of safety. Australia became entitled to the aid it received because it raised, equipped and despatched overseas the Australian Imperial Force, men of the Royal Australian Air Force, ships and men of the Royal Australian Navy, and stripped itself of armaments in order to help Great Britain when it stood with its back to the wall after the withdrawal from Dunkirk. We paid for our right to ask for help in the battle to retain our title to this country. That aid came. It included American conscripts, men enlisted to serve wherever sent - a contrast with the limitations of service we have placed on our conscripts.
The Minister for Transport cited as an authority in support of his claims as to the defenceless position of Queensland in 19^39, Mr. Hanlon, the Minister for Health and Home Affairs in that State. It is well, therefore, that I should place on record a statement made by Mr. Hanlon on the 5th March, 1936 -
The Minister for Health and Home Affairs, Mr. Hanlon, indicated yesterday that he favoured the return of its war-lost colonies to Germany. Mr. Hanlon was discussing a cable message which stated that the possible return of New Guinea or any of the former German colonies had never been contemplated in British Government quarters. it was obviously to the advantage of the Australian people, Mr.. Hanlon said, to have strong European nations interested in t’he Pacific, and possibly Australians would not feel so lonely if they had such a neighbour.
nation like Germany -with an ever growing population must seek colonial expansion.
That was Mr. Hanlon’s classic contribution to the basic defence of Australia, and the security .of Queensland. When relations with Japan became very grave in February, 1941, I was Acting Prime Minister. As the result of a decision of the Advisory War Council, the then Leader of the Opposition (Mr, Curtin), the Leader of the Non-Communist Group of the Australian Labour party (Mr. Beasley) and I sounded .a joint note of warning to the Australian public. Wo pointed out -that the gravity of the .situation and the immiscence of war with Japan. When and where hostiles would break out was a matter that we could not gauge. Shortly afterwards, the Parliament assembled, and on the 13th March, the present Minister for Transport and External Territories said -
The Acting Prime Minister knows that the Government issued the warning in an endeavour to hoax the public.
When I protested against the use of that expression, he withdrew it and substituted the phrase “unwarranted scare “. He declared that the warning had been issued if or political purposes to frighten the workers, so that they would discontinue strikes. Subsequent events proved that the warning was justified. The Minister’s attitude on that occasion was consistent with many of his public utterances. For example, oh the 5-th November, 1936, he stated -
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 bc wiped out of existence, or that the material conditions of the .people relatively would be much worse than they are at present.
Speaking on the Estimates on the 8th September, 1937, he said -
I .again ask the Minister for Defence to see that any warlike equipment at .present in the East Sydnev electorate is removed.
I am not satisfied, therefore, that there is any necessity for this extreme haste on .the part of this Government to arm Australia to the teeth in order that we might fight an imaginary foe.
On the 2nd November, .1938, he spoke these words -
It is amusing to hear people say that we shall not give up New Guinea. To these people I would say that if it should .become necessary ,to defend our Mandated Territory, they should defend it themselves.
Om the 5th November, 19 36, when speaking on the Estimates he declared - 1 should not be prepared to take up arms against the workers of any country whether they he German or of any 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.
I believe, and judging .by statements made by honorable members on ‘both sides of the committee it seems to be generally agreed, that Australia would find at very difficult, if not impossible, to defend itself against an aggressor.
On the 17th November, 1936, he said -
I am dealing with a particular item - tha Minister himself has mentioned it - the proposal .to construct a naval vessel. I oppose such a proposal on the ;ground that a naval vessel is not an arm of defence but is one of offence; and I suggest that if this Government were concerned purely with the defence of Australia, it would lbc providing .only arms of defence and would not bc building up -a navy having a range extending far beyond the coast of Australia with the object of using it in the wars of other .peoples. The Australian Labour party .should not support such a policy.
When the Loan Bill was being debated on the 28th April, 193S, and the defence of Darwin was receiving attention, the honorable ‘gentleman said -
The Schedule to the bill sets out that £20,000 is to he expended upon defence works at Darwin. Can any of the military experts sitting behind the Government tell the House m what way the strengthening of the defences ut Darwin can affect the -defence of Australia V
The reason for the proposed expenditure at Darwin is that it is desired to establish an auxiliary base there, ‘so mat. in the event nif the British Fleet being -driven from Singapore, it would .have another base to retire to in order that it might continue to defend Britain’s possessions in the East.
He would have left New .Guinea in a defenceless condition - an easy prey to an aggressor - and he resisted the expenditure on -defence works at Darwin. This matter should -be .clarified. The Minister has reiterated his charges regarding “ the Brisbane line “. On a previous occasion, the Prime Minister repudiated them in no uncertain manner; and I ask the right honorable gentleman ‘ again to repudiate1 these unfair, unwarranted and malicious allegations. If, as alleged, Australia had been in a defenceless condition when the Curtin Government took office, the Auatrali.au Labour party can not, escape its share of the responsibility because of its partnership with the United Australia party and. the United Country party in the Advisory War Council.
Motion (by Sir Earle Page) proposed -
That the debate be now adjourned.
– I sec no necessity for that.
,- Never before in my long parliamentary experience has an official arrangement with the Government Whip been -broken. I point out, Mr. Speaker, that the Govern mont Whip (Mr. Sheehan) asked me to move the adjournment of the debate, and I appeal to the Prime Minister (Mr. Curtin) to honour that arrangement.
– Order ! The Chair is not aware of any such arrangement.
– The Minister for Transport and External Territories (Mr. Ward), who has spoken in his own defence, has endeavoured to obscure the three simple points at issue in this matter. The first is the important question of parliamentary privilege, the second concorns a matter of opinion or political judgment.,, and the third relates, to a matter of fact. On the question of parliamentary privilege, the House was. entitled to a declaration by the Prime Minister early in the debate regarding the position of the Minister whom he suspended. He made a definite statement when that gentleman had appealed -through his barrister for the maintenance of his privileges as a member of Parliament. He said that the Parliament should be the judge in this matter, and added that, in the meantime, the honorable member would be suspended from his ministerial duties. Yet before the Parliament has dealt with the matter, the Minister is again in his place, and is actively carrying out his functions as a Minister. The whole subject of parlia mentary privilege is also involved in another aspect. It would- be intolerable, indeed, if an honorable member should be able to make statements in this Parliament regarding matters or persons without regard to the interests of people outfide who might desire an inquiry into the truth of the. statements. This matter of resting behind parliamentary privilege should not be dealt with in the off-hand manner which the Government is adopting. We are entitled to a statement by the Prime Minister before the debate is concluded. As the Leader of the House he must guard its traditions. I consider that it should have been made at the beginning of the debate. The other two matters raised are of vital importance, and they should have been dealt with by .the head of the Government, and not by the Minister who has spoken. What will be the position if, as soon as an inquiry is desired as to the truth of certain statements, the sittings of the House are brought to a conclusion? In this particular instance. F am discussing a political issue which could be determined by the electors. Apparently they have given -a verdict tip on. it and I do not cavil at it, but I am concerned about the preservation of the privileges of this Parliament and about the redress of just grievances of individuals. From the first meeting of the British Parliament the practice has been, and the Standing Orders have been framed accordingly, to ensure freedom of debate, so that any legitimate grievance may be ventilated. A definite obligation rests on the Parliament to ensure a fair deal to the public. I am gravely concerned at the off-hand way in which this matter has been treated at a time when the whole of the members of the Opposition are not in attendance. So much for the question of privilege.
The matter of opinion that remains to be decided is whether the retention in the Cabinet of a Minister, who has practically given to the Prime Minister and to his colleagues the lie direct and ih<> lie indirect, will lead to a negation of responsible government and tho destruction of Cabinet authority. For 240 years, parliaments have been building up the tradition of Cabinet responsibility with regard to the control of the Executive. Having done so much in that direction we should be most careful that we do not break down that principle. The electors of East Sydney and a majority of the Labour caucus have expressed the opinion that the retention of a Minister in the circumstances to which Ihave referred is not a negation of responsible government.I ask leave to continue my remarks at a later date.
– I am sorry about the inmisunderstanding.
Leave granted; debate adjourned.
The following bills were returned from the Senate: -
Without requests -
Appropriation Bill 1943-44.
Without amendment -
Appropriation (Works and Buildings) Bill 1043-44.
Commonwealth Inscribed Stock Bill 1943.
– I move -
That the House, at its rising adjourn to a date and hour to be fixed by Mr. Speaker, which time of meeting shall be notified by Mr. Speaker to each member by telegram or letter.
The Government needs time to deliberate upon important matters now engaging its attention. In the event of an emergency or any matter arising which warrants the calling together of honorable members, the Parliament will be summoned forthwith.
– I cannot allow this motion to be agreed to without protest. I am mindful of other days, when the country was already at war, and when the Prime Minister (Mr. Curtin), as Leader of the Opposition, was most emphatic as to the necessity for a monthly meeting of the House of Representatives. I recall that later, on a Friday morning he agreed on behalf of the Government to a proposal to that effect. During the last Parliament the general practice, when an adjournment of the nature now proposed was granted, was to place a maximum, time limit on the power of Mr. Speaker to keep the House in recess. As the present motion is worded there is no such time limit. It has been customary in times gone by for the Minister submitting such a motion to acquaint the House of the maximum period for which he proposed that the House should remain in recess.
– We shall meet again early in the New Year, unless an emergency arises in the meantime.
– I look upon that as a long recess. When the new regulations with regard to coal are promulgated, and the citizens of Sydney are told that they cannot have so many tram-cars as in the past to take them to the beaches, there will probably be some interesting developments. I agree wholeheartedly with what the Prime Minister said from the Opposition benches over three and a half years ago, when he declared that in time of war it was the duty of the Parliament to keep a close watch on the actions of the Executive. For all the information we have received during the present sittings regarding the intentions of the Government, this Parliament need not have met at all. We are no better informed to-day regarding what is in the air than we were when we adjourned last June. In view of the present position with regard to the coal-mining industry, and bearing in mind other developments that may occur, it is of the utmost importance to place a time limit upon the period for which you, Mr. Speaker, are to be permitted to keep the House in recess. To-day is the 15th of October, and there is still a period of over two months to Christmas. A lot of Cabinet work can be done in a month if Ministers concentrate on their work and are of one mind and heart. The suggestion that a long time is required for the preparation of legislation leads me to believe that things may not be just what they seem.
My. FADDEN (Darling DownsLeader of the Australian Country party) [3.41]. - The Australian Country party is of the opinion that the Parliament should not go into recess for any long period. Many important problems, both internal and external confront us, and the representatives of the people should be kept in close touch with what is happening in the world.
The only means by which that can he clone is for the Parliament to meet frequently with as short recesses as possible. I have no desire to embarrass the Government in its administration, because I have some appreciation of the difficulties with which it is faced. It has just come back from the electors and must have time to prepare its legislative programme. However, having regard to the gravity of world conditions, I urge that every opportunity be given to the representatives of the people to meet so that they may be kept in touch with developments in international affairs. The Opposition wishes to co-operate with the Government in assisting to solve the problems facing this country by meeting as frequently as possible.
– in reply - I agree with the views which have been expressed. I would have put in the motion a date limiting the period for which the Parliament should remain in recess but for the dangers inherent in such a motion; we may fix a date a week or a fortnight too early. The statement that I made yesterday in relation to the coal-mining industry relates to a matter concerning which the Parliament is entitled to explanations should the Government’s proposals not be productive of good results. I say that frankly. I shall ask you, Mr. Speaker, to summon the Parliament immediately the Cabinet is in a position to place legislation before it, or, in the event of some development, either within or outside Australia, which would of itself provide adequate justification for our assembling here. I do not know what period will be required to prepare the legislative programme for our next sittings, nor do I know the nature of all the legislation that will then be brought forward. Some of it will be of a highly technical character and may take longer to prepare than we expect.
– Could not the House meet in the interval, and discuss international affairs for a couple of days?
– On other occasions I suggested that course, only to discover that honorable members, who come here from all parts of Australia, have expressed great resentment at being dragged to Canberra to attend a sitting lasting only a week or a fortnight. Previous governments experienced the same difficulty, but having regard to what has been said to-day and to the fact that the views expressed reflect my own mind on this subject, I shall arrange for the Parliament to be summoned immediately the Government’s legislative programme is ready for submission to the Parliament; or if prior to that time, there is any development, either internal or external, which would of itself justify the summoning of Parliament, I give an assurance that honorable members will be called together.
Question resolved in the affirmative.
– I move -
That leave of absence be given to every member of the House of Representatives from the determination of this sitting of the House to the date of its next meeting.
I regret that one member of the Parliament who has not yet been sworn in because of sickness has been prevented from participating in these sittings. I refer to the honorable member for Batman (Mr. Brennan), one of the veterans of the Parliament, and I am sure that all honorable members sympathize with him in his illness. The motion will, of course, include him.
Question resolved in the affirmative.
” Digest of Decisions and Announcements “ - Broadcasting of Sporting Even ts - Valedictory .
Motion (by Mr. Curtin) proposed -
That the House do now adjourn.
.- On the 13th October, 1943, the honorable member for Fawkner (Mr. Holt) asked me a question relating to the Digest of Decisions and Announcements. This publication was commenced by the present Government in October, 1941, and is issued on the authority of the Prime Minister (Mr. Curtin). The purpose of the publication is to provide honorable members and members of the Senate, Commonwealth and State departments, the press, and a large number of organizations in Australia, with an authentic and factual digest of decisions and announcements made by the Commonwealth Government. It is also distributed overseas; where it has been found to be of great value to our representatives in other countries. I believe that the majority of honorable members find this publication of value in their work, and only to-day the honorable member for Fawkner himself quoted extensively from it during the debate on “the Brisbane line “. Issue No. 62 of the Digest did contain the verbatim text of the Prime Minister’s policy speech at the general election. It was included because it was thought desirable that it should be permanently on record. That issue was not published until after polling day.
– What about the policy speeches of the leaders of the Opposition parties ?
– It will be quite competent for any future government to continue publication of the Digest, which is not a political publication but an uncoloured record of decisions and announcements.
On the 12th October, the honorable member for Adelaide (Mr. Chambers) addressed to me a question concerning the broadcasting of records of sporting events. The Postmaster-General (Senator Ashley) has submitted the following reply:-
The Australian Broadcasting Commission advises that arrangements are already in force foi- broadcasting through the short-wave transmitters on Saturday evenings for the information of the fighting forces in New Guinea and other areas a programme summarizing results of, and commenting on, sporting events. The commission is giving consideration to extending the programme of these evening sporting sessions to include running descriptions of important interstate racing events.
.- Am I justified, Mr. Speaker, in assuming that answers to any questions remaining on the notice-paper and still unanswered will be forwarded to the respective members as early as possible after the House rises ?
– I understand that that is the usual practice, and I have no doubt that it will be followed on this occasion.
– I take this opportunity to wish you, Mr. Speaker, ais well as the Prime Minister (Mr. -Curtin) and his colleagues, and also the officers of the House, a happy Christmas and a bright and prosperous New Year. I do so- now because I arn certain that we shall not reassemble hero before Christmas.
– in reply - Had I been conscious of any expectation by honorable members that me House would not again meet before Christmas, I should most certainly have availed myself earlier of the opportunity to convey to you, Mr. Speaker, and to the officers of the House, our felicitations and good wishes; but I cannot guarantee that the House will wot reassemble before Christina’s. I am hopeful that there will be no occasion for it to do so. Should it not meet, yon and your officers can rest assured of the good wishes of all members for a better Christmas than was experienced last year.
May I convey to members as a whole the hope that during the recess all will bc able to recover from the strain of the recent election campaign, so that the tasks upon which we shall be engaged in the future will be so well performed that the country will benefit.
.- -by leave - I took the view which the Prime Minister (Mr. Curtin) has expressed, that the probability, o-r at least the possibility, of the House again meeting bef ore Christmas, had deterred him from offering the customary felicitations to you, Mr. Speaker, and to the officers of the House. Should we not meet, members of the Opposition desire to he associated with the Prime Minister and the Leader of the Australian Country party (Mr. Fadden) in the good wishes they have extended to you and to the officers of the House, whose duties have not thus far, in the life of this Parliament, been made quite so burdensome as they may prove to be later, in more arduous sessions. We appreciate, on this as on previous occasions, the courteous assistance we have received from all in this House. In the absence of my leaders I, on behalf of the Opposition, associate myself with the remarks of the Prime Minister and the Leader of the Australian Country party.
– In the expectation, that the House may not meet before Christmas, I thank the Leader of the Australian’ Country party (Mr. Fadden), the Prime Minister (Mr. Curtin) and the honorable member for Fawkner (Mr. Holt) - who spoke on behalf of the Leaders of his party - for the good wishes extended to me and to the officers of the House.I am sure, that the officers keenly appreciate the fact that at least once a year we recognize, even if only verbally, their excellent services during the year. If the House should meet again before Christmas,. I believe that they would enjoy an encore.
Question resolved in the affirmative.
The following papers were presented : -
Australian Soldiers’ Repatriation Act - Regulations - Statutory Rules 1943.No. 233.
Canned Fruits Export Control Act - Seventeenth Annual Report of the Australian Canned Fruits Board, for year 1942-43, together with Statement by Minister regarding the operation of the Act.
Dairy Produce Export Control Act - Eighteenth Annual Report of the Australian Dairy Produce Board, for year 1942-43, together with Statement by Minister regarding the operation of the Act.
Judiciary Act - Rule of Court, dated 4th October, 1943.
Meat Export Control Act - Eighth Annual Report of the Australian Meat Board, for year 1942-43, together with Statement by Minister regarding the operation of the Act.
National Security Act - ,
National Security (Capital Issues) Regulations - Order - Exemption.
National Security (Food Control) Regulations - Order - No. 1 .
National Security (General) Regulations - Orders -
Prohibited places (2).
Taking possession of land, &c (128).
Use of land (5).
National Security (Industrial Property)
Regulations - Orders - Inventionsand designs (110).
National Security (Man Power) Regulations - Orders - Protected . undertakings (38).
National Security (Prisoners of War) Regulations - Rules - Camp.
Wine Overseas Marketing Act - Fifteenth Annual Report of the Australian Wine Board, for year 1942-43, together with Statement, by Minister regarding the operation of the Act.
House adjourned at 3.53 p.m. to a date and hour to be fixed by Mr. Speaker.
The following answers to questions were circulated: -
asked the AttorneyGeneral, upon notice -
– The answers to the honorable member’s questions are as follows : -
y asked the Minister for Supply and Shipping, upon notice -
– The answers to the honarable member’s questions are as follows :: - 1 and 2. No moneys have yet been paid. Thecircumstancesare that about six week? ago, the owner ceased operations at this mine, and intimated thathe would not re-open unless he received an increased price of approximately 3s.6d. a ton. The Coal Commission directed that the mine be immediately re-opened, and simultaneously gave an undertaking that it would investigate the finances of the mine and pay such subsidy as was reasonably justified. This undertaking was limited to a period of six weeks, as in that time it was thought that a complete investigation would be concluded. It was found, however, that no proper books of account were kept, and consequently the investigation was more prolonged than anticipated. A report, which will be referred to the Prices Stabilization Committee, is now being made to the Commission.
n asked the Minister for Commerce and Agriculture, upon notice -
– The metropolitan farm at Werribee is a State undertaking, and the Commonwealth is not in a position to supply the desired information.
n asked the Prime Minister, upon notice -
– The answers to the honorable member’s questions are as follows : -
n asked the Minister representing the Minister for the Interior, upon notice -
Works Council for the pre-fabrication of hospital huts for the United States Army?
– The Minister for the Interior has supplied the following answers : - 1. (a) The property at the corner of Bourke and Botany roads, Waterloo, is owned by the Industrial Brick Company Limited; (b) the property in Canal (not Connell) road, St. Peters, is owned by John Baker; (c) the property in Canal and Burrows roads is owned by the Municipality of Alexandria. 2. (a) Property corner of Bourke and Botany roads, Waterloo, rent £18 per week as from 1st April, 1943, weekly tenancy. The Commonwealth reserves the right to remove or dispose of all improvements effected thereon at the termination of the tenancy. Excess water has to be paid for by the Commonwealth; (b) property in “Canal-road, rent £78 per annum, monthly tenancy as from 2nd August, 1943. The Commonwealth reserves the right to remove or dispose of all improvements effected thereon at the termination of the tenancy. Excess water has to be paid for by the Commonwealth; (c) property Canal and Burrows roads. Owners - Municipality of Alexandria. Negotiations for a tenancy are proceeding between the Commonwealth and the Municipal Council.
y. - On the 7th October the” honorable member for “Wilmot (Mr. Guy) asked the following question, upon notice -
The answer to the honorable member’s questions is as follows: - 1 and 2. Under a contract entered into on the 24th July, 1941, by the previous Government the Aluminium Company has received advanced payments of $2,500,000 Canadian against deliveries of aluminium valued at $8,150,000 Canadian. This is the only advance made to the Aluminium Company of Canada.
Australian Army : “Warwick Detention Camp; Canteens Profits.
– On the 28th September, the honorable member for Griffith (Mr. Conelan) asked a question, without notice, regarding the alleged ill treatment of men at the Detention Barracks at Warwick.
Investigations in this matter are nearing completion and it is anticipated that a full report will be available within the course of the next few days.
n asked the Minister for the Army, upon notice -
– The answers to the honorable member’s questions are as follows : -
Any profits remaining undistributed as per paragraphs 2 and 3 above will be dealt with in accordance with Statutory Rules 1942, No. 290, as amended by Statutory Rules 1943, No. 227, Australian Military (Canteens Service) Regulations, regulation 23.
Women’s Land Army
y. - On the 7th October a question, without notice, was asked by the honorable member for Moreton (Mr. Francis) of , the Minister for Commerce and Agriculture in relation to the Women’s Land Army. It must he pointed out; that- the Australian Women’s Land Army is not an enlisted service as are the Women’s Auxiliary Australian Air Force and the Australian Women’s Army Service, the Australian Army Medical Women’s Service and the Women’s Royal Australian Naval Service, and therefore has not been, granted exactly the same privileges, as have been accorded to the services. Cabinet did approve of the Women’s Land Army being granted a status akin to that, of the women’s service auxiliaries, and pursuant to this decision similar privileges have been granted as far as possible. For example, members of the Women’s Land Army are granted free railway travel to their homes for the purpose of enjoying their paid annual holiday leave of twelve working days. The question of extending travel concessions to enable members of the Land Army to visit their homes more frequently is at present under consideration by the Director-General of Land Transport. Members of the Women’s Land Army are also admitted to a number of clubs and hostels on equal footing with members of the women’s service auxiliaries. Recently the uniform and clothing issue has been increased, so that to-day the issue compares very favorably with that made to members of the services. The question of granting special post and telegraph concessions was taken up with the PostmasterGeneral’s Department. However, there are certain, technical difficulties in the way of granting such concessions, as correspondence to members of the Land Army would be addressed to private addresses and there could ‘be no suitable check on .correspondence sent by members. Moreover, it was considered that if post and telegraph concessions were granted to members of the Land Army similar claims would probably be made by other nonservice organizations, such as* the Civil Constructional Corps.
So far as attendance at special picture programmes for the services is concerned, this is a matter entirely for negotiation with the appropriate bodies, and therefor I am asking my deputies in the various States to approach such persons with a view to obtaining for members of the Australian. Women’s. Land Army the same privileges as are extended to the women’s services.
Cite as: Australia, House of Representatives, Debates, 15 October 1943, viewed 22 October 2017, <http://historichansard.net/hofreps/1943/19431015_reps_17_176/>.